Today’s liberal elites are the new virulent racists. When you agree with them, they honor you as an African-American. When you contradict their orthodoxy, they abuse you like a dog.
Today’s liberal elites are the new virulent racists. When you agree with them, they honor you as an African-American. When you contradict their orthodoxy, they abuse you like a dog.
I finally understand why Elijah Cummings wanted so badly to persecute Catherine Engelbrecht. And as far as democrats go, it’s lies all around.
True the Vote is a organization made up of volunteers who are interested in preventing voter fraud.
Our initiatives include:
•Mobilizing and training volunteers who are willing to work as election monitors
•Aggressively pursuing fraud reports to ensure prosecution when appropriate
•Providing a support system for our volunteers that includes live and online training, quick reference guides, a call bank to phone in problem reports, information on videotaping at polling places, and security as necessary
•Creating documentaries and instructional videos for use in recruiting and training
•Raising awareness of the problem through strategic outreach efforts including advertising, social networking, media relations, and relational marketing
•Voter registration programs and efforts to validate existing registration lists, including the use of pattern recognition software to detect problem areas
Engelbrecht’s private company is Engelbrecht manufacturing, which makes precision machined parts. It has no political operation.
Which makes all this very odd.
Engelbrecht had the wrath of God visited upon her by the Obama regime for the crime of creating a tax exempt organization:
In July 2010 she sent applications to the IRS for tax-exempt status. What followed was not the harassment, intrusiveness and delay we’re now used to hearing of. The U.S. government came down on her with full force.
In December 2010 the FBI came to ask about a person who’d attended a King Street Patriots function. In January 2011 the FBI had more questions. The same month the IRS audited her business tax returns. In May 2011 the FBI called again for a general inquiry about King Street Patriots. In June 2011 Engelbrecht’s personal tax returns were audited and the FBI called again. In October 2011 a round of questions on True the Vote. In November 2011 another call from the FBI. The next month, more questions from the FBI. In February 2012 a third round of IRS questions on True the Vote. In February 2012 a first round of questions on King Street Patriots. The same month the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms did an unscheduled audit of her business. (It had a license to make firearms but didn’t make them.) In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration did an unscheduled audit. In November 2012 more IRS questions on True the Vote. In March 2013, more questions. In April 2013 a second ATF audit.
All this because she requested tax-exempt status for a local conservative group and for one that registers voters and tries to get dead people off the rolls. Her attorney, Cleta Mitchell, who provided the timeline above, told me: “These people, they are just regular Americans. They try to get dead people off the voter rolls, you would think that they are serial killers.”
This week Ms. Engelbrecht, who still hasn’t received her exemptions, sued the IRS.
And it has been a costly experience:
“We had never been audited. We had never been investigated, but all that changed upon submitting applications for the non-profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street,” she told the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee.
“Since that filing in 2010, my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, my family and I have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies,” she added.
Engelbrecht’s personal and business tax returns were audited in 2011 – “each audit going back for a number of years.” Her business was inspected by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2012 when neither she nor her husband was present. She said she was later fined over $20,000 even though “the agency wrote that it found nothing serious or significant.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms audited her business in 2012 and 2013, and the FBI contacted her non-profit group six times since 2010 in an attempt to “cull through membership manifests in conjunction with domestic terrorism cases,” she claimed.
“They eventually dropped all matters and have now redacted nearly all my files,” Engelbrecht said.
Cummings lied about his involvement in this persecution:
Ms. Mitchell: We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out whether any – if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies. We don’t know that, but we – we’re going to do everything we can do to try to get to the bottom of how did this all happen.
Mr. Cummings. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Meadows. Yes.
Mr. Cummings. I want to thank the gentleman for his courtesy. What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.
But it is true. Not only did the Oversight Minority Committee group put True the Vote on the radar, they all but demanded that the IRS eviscerate it.
◦The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff.
◦Five days after Cummings contacted True the Vote seeking “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” the IRS sent True the Vote a letter requesting True the Vote provide “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “…the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed … following the training they receive by you.”
◦On or before January 25, 2013, Cummings’ staff requested more information from the IRS about True the Vote. The head of the IRS Legislative Affairs office e-mailed several IRS officials, including former Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner, that “House Oversight Committee Minority staff” sought information about True the Vote. On Monday, January 28, Lerner wrote to her deputy Holly Paz: “Did we find anything?” When Paz informed her minutes later that she had not heard back about True the Vote’s information, Lerner replied: “thanks – check tomorrow please.
◦On January 31, 2013, Paz attached True the Vote’s form 990s, which she authorized the IRS to share with the Minority staff. Neither Cummings nor the IRS shared these requested documents with the Oversight Majority. None of the Minority’s communications about True the Vote with the IRS were shared with the Committee Majority even though Ranking Member Cummings frequently complains about the Committee Majority contacting individuals on official matters without the involvement of Minority staff.
◦Cummings denied that his staff, “might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies” at a February 6, 2014, Subcommittee hearing:
So where does this begin? Engelbrecht’s original sin was committed in 2009 when she touched the democrats’ third rail:
This was True the Vote’s crime: They found irregularities in Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s turf and an ACORN affiliated group — and told on them.
What exactly did she do? Try to eliminate voter fraud:
The predominantly Democratic districts themselves had large variations between them in the number of instances with six or more registered voters at one address. The first had 7,560, the second 8,981, and the third—the district of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the prominent, outspoken Democratic congresswoman—had 19,596 instances with six or more voters registered at one address.
True the Vote then compared the socio-economic demographics of the three predominantly Democratic congressional districts in an effort to explain why Jackson Lee’s district could have such a high number
In comparison. Engelbrecht told Townhall, the group had found no significant difference to explain such a drastic variation in the numbers.
The group began doing research into the abnormalities in Jackson Lee’s district. They took the first 3,800 registrations of the flagged 19,596 instances with six or more registrants at one address and began to investigate further. The group visited addresses and scoured property tax records. The group found many of the addresses were vacant lots or business addresses. Thirty-nine were registered at businesses and 97 of the addresses were nonexistent. One hundred six of the registrations revealed the same registrant registered more than once, and 207 of the addresses turned out to be vacant lots.
Meanwhile, 595 registrations had registrants with driver’s license addresses not matching the registration, and many were voting in a district they did not live in. Of the random 3,800 registrations from Jackson Lee’s predominantly Democratic district, 25 percent had critical errors.”
Care to guess who wrote a letter to Eric Holder asking that True the Vote be investigated?
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate election integrity org True the Vote and its associated Tea Party group, King Street Patriots, immediately before the IRS and DOJ began targeting the group in June 2010.
Rep. Jackson Lee sent a letter to Holder which alleged that True the Vote was intimidating voters and their election monitors were crossing the line in unspecified “instances” of voter intimidation. The letter went on to directly assert that the “alleged events” were factual and that the True the Vote effort was behind the crimes. The letter offered no documented instances or data of any kind.
Lots of bluster, zero evidence:
Jackson Lee provided no documented evidence for True the Vote’s alleged violations of electoral integrity in her letter to Holder. Nevertheless, the group consequently underwent a series of 17 inspections, audits and visits by the FBI, IRS, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A group inspired by True the Vote took an interest in Cummings’ back yard.
Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, Maryland’s two largest counties, have the largest numbers of inconsistencies so far.
In Prince George’s County alone, the group identified nearly 500 dead people still on active registration rolls. Several hundred voters were found to be registered twice – primarily in Maryland and another state, and 400 voters listed vacant lots or businesses as their residential addresses.
Cummings took exception to this and went on to accuse Engelbrecht of being a racist:
The IRS has done nothing but lie from day one when Steven Miller denied that there was any targeting of conservative groups and the IRS has still not provided all the requested emails.
And all roads lead to Lois Lerner who can and should be compelled to testify. The marvelous Trey Gowdy:
Some questions that need desperately to be answered:
- Lerner testified that she had done nothing wrong. So why does she need immunity? If Lerner does need immunity then she perjured herself in her opening testimony.
- Through her lawyer Lerner said that were she to testify in Congress her life would be in jeopardy. Why? Who is the threat to her life?
- How did Engelbrecht Manufacturing get on the OHSA radar?
- How did Engelbrecht Manufacturing get on the BATF radar?
- Who sent the FBI?
All emails between Cummings, Sheila Jackson Lee, the IRS, FBI, OSHA, the BATF and the DOJ regarding Engelbrecht Manufacturing and True the Vote need to be obtained and see the light of day. After all, Cummings said this was all supposedly all about “publicly available information.” Then there is nothing to hide or redact.
Who has the juice to initiate essentially simultaneous investigations by the IRS, BATF and OSHA? Who has the power to weaponize Federal Agencies? Probably only two people- the President and the Attorney General of the United States.
This has been a planned and coordinated effort right from the beginning
The Left establishment’s attack began in a full on assault; there was no warning shot over a bow and no effort to communicate or negotiate differences. The year was 2010. The Democratic Party of Texas and the ACORN front group, Houston Votes, filed lawsuits against True the Vote. Though the lawsuits were a direct response to True the Vote’s effort to call out apparent irregularities in their local Harris County/Houston election and voter registration processes, their lawsuits came as an assault on True the Vote’s nonprofit status. It was a collateral attack, using one pretext for lawsuits when their disagreement stemmed from another reason all together.
Though the lawsuits chose the indirect path, the left-of-center media outlets went straight for the target allegation — they alleged True the Vote stemmed from the “racist” Tea party movement and was an effort to marginalize or otherwise prevent “communities of color” from having a voice. Al Sharpton and MSNBC, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee with the help of the Houston Chronicle and local left-of-center news stations, and the Huffington Post were among the many who immediately attacked in a coordinated manner.
Cummings and Jackson-Lee were instrumental in the persecution of Catherine Engelbrecht and without a doubt the complicity goes very high up. They caused Engelbrecht pain and expense without so much as a shred of evidence of wrongdoing.
The story of Catherine Englebrecht is a story of the abuse of Federal agencies for a vengeful and vindictive democrats angry at a Supreme Court decision. All for the crime of wanting to protect the integrity of the voting process.
Integrity in voting is one of the greatest of left wing fears.
Harry Reid is an execrable human being. He is the brown stain in the Senate’s undershorts.
Reid has always been a jerk, the master of the insult:
About George W. Bush:
About Clarence Thomas:
About DC tourists:
About Mitt Romney:
about John McCain:
To his colleagues in the Senate:
Reid once told the NY Times:
“I’m just who I am, O.K.?”
What he is is a classless POS.
Dana Bash of CNN once asked Reid:
“But if you can help one child with cancer, why won’t you do it?”
And Reid answered:
“Listen,” Reid said. “What — why would we want to do that?
Reid has called cancer victims “liars.” He insists they’re faking cancer.
More recently, Reid has been obsessed with Koch. It seems that every time you see Reid he has Koch in his mouth. The irony is that Reid has taken money from a Koch lobbyist.
Harry Reid is so obsessed with Koch that he’s mentioned the Koch’s 134 times on the Senate floor:
David Koch is so evil that he’s given $100 million to MIT for cancer research.
CAMBRIDGE, MA—MIT today announced a $100 million gift from Koch Industries executive and MIT alumnus David H. Koch that will usher in new paradigms in highly integrative cancer research. The gift will bring together MIT scientists and engineers under one roof to develop new and powerful ways to detect, diagnose, treat, and manage this often deadly disease.
The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research – the cornerstone of a major research initiative comparable to MIT’s spearheading the development of radar technology in World War II – will be housed in a new state-of-the-art cancer research facility, scheduled to open in 2010. The new Koch Institute will build on the pioneering research of MIT’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR), founded by Nobel Prize winner Salvador E. Luria in 1974, and will bring to the next level MIT’s longstanding commitment to unraveling the molecular core of the disease.
The only thing Harry Reid has given anyone is bullsh*t.
And guess who else has been the recipient of Koch brothers largesse? (Hint- a lot of democrats)
Harry Reid is worth somewhere between $3-6 million as of 2012.
So how did Harry get so rich as a public servant? Let’s have a look.
In 2004, the senator made $700,000 off a land deal that was, to say the least, unorthodox. It started in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land with attorney Jay Brown, a close friend whose name has surfaced multiple times in organized-crime investigations and whom one retired FBI agent described as “always a person of interest.” Three years after the purchase, Reid transferred his portion of the property to Patrick Lane LLC, a holding company Brown controlled. But Reid kept putting the property on his financial disclosures, and when the company sold it in 2004, he profited from the deal — a deal on land that he didn’t technically own and that had nearly tripled in value in six years.
When his 2010 challenger Sharron Angle asked him in a debate how he had become so wealthy, he said, “I did a very good job investing.” Did he ever. On December 20, 2005, he invested $50,000 to $100,000 in the Dow Jones U.S. Energy Sector Fund (IYE), which closed that day at $29.15. The companies whose shares it held included ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips. When he made a partial sale of his shares on August 19, 2008, during congressional recess, IYE closed at $41.82. Just a month later, on September 17, Reid was working to bring to the floor a bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would cost oil companies — including those in the fund — billions of dollars in taxes and regulatory fees. The bill passed a few days later, and by October 10, IYE’s shares had fallen by 42 percent, to $24.41, for a host of reasons. Savvy investing indeed.
Here’s another example: The Los Angeles Times reported in November 2006 that when Reid became Senate majority leader he committed to making earmark reform a priority, saying he’d work to keep congressmen from using federal dollars for pet projects in their districts. It was a good idea but an odd one for the senator to espouse. He had managed to get $18 million set aside to build a bridge across the Colorado River between Laughlin, Nev., and Bullhead City, Ariz., a project that wasn’t a priority for either state’s transportation agency. His ownership of 160 acres of land nearby that stood to appreciate considerably from the project had nothing to do with the decision, according to one of his aides. The property’s value has varied since then. On his financial-disclosure forms from 2006, it was valued at $250,000 to $500,000. Open Secrets now lists it as his most valuable asset, worth $1 million to $5 million as of 2010.
How Reid acquired that land is interesting, too. He put $10,000 into a pension fund his friend Clair Haycock controlled, to take over the 160-acre parcel at a price far below its assessed value. Six months later, Reid introduced legislation that would help Haycock’s industry, a move many observers said appeared to be a quid pro quo, though Reid and Haycock denied that the legislation was the result of a property deal.
Pretty darned good for a public servant. And that brings us to more current events. Reid saw fit to hand out $17,000 in campaign funds as gifts to his granddaughter:
Sen. Harry Reid — under pressure from the Federal Election Commission — revealed that he gave about $17,000 in campaign cash to his granddaughter in two separate payments that were recorded in his books as “holiday gifts.”
Shortly after the payments came to light, Mr. Reid also announced he was refunding the money, The New York Post reported.
The checks were cut in amounts of $5,417 and $11,370 and given to his granddaughter last October, the media outlet said. On paper, they were listed as amounts to a person named “Ryan Elisabeth.” It was later learned that the recipient was actually Ryan Elisabeth Reid, 23, who’s the daughter of Mr. Reid’s son, Rory, the New York Post said.
A journalist from Las Vegas actually contacted Mr. Reid’s office to ask about the “Ryan Elisabeth” payments and was told that the individual was a campaign vendor — but was not told that she was Mr. Reid’s granddaughter, the New York Post said. Mr. Reid’s office than said that the checks were actually for purchases from “Ryan Elisabeth’s” jewelry shop to give out to donors of Mr. Reid’s campaign.
The full truth of the matter came to light when the FEC contacted Mr. Reid’s campaign and reminded that all disbursements “must include a brief statement or description” and that failure to do so could “result in an audit or enforcement action,” the New York Post reported.
Reid has made great efforts to make Warren Buffett even richer.
Harry Reid and his connections to the green energy mafia and the Bundy Ranch situation are coming out. The full connections are enormous. While most sites have stopped at the Chinese company deals, Misguided Children is moving past that, as someone has to buy the energy from them and that is Democrat supporter and Obama insider Warren Buffet. Some of the green energy mafia in Nevada did an impressive move last June that shows the groups involved with the push for green energy that has crossed into the gray area, at the very least.
Now Reid has been fingered as being directly involved in trying to drive the Bundy family off of land they’ve ranched for 120 years.
The Bureau of Land Management, whose director was Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) former senior adviser, has purged documents from its web site stating that the agency wants Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle off of the land his family has worked for over 140 years in order to make way for solar panel power stations.
Deleted from BLM.gov but reposted for posterity by the Free Republic, the BLM document entitled “Cattle Trespass Impacts” directly states that Bundy’s cattle “impacts” solar development, more specifically the construction of “utility-scale solar power generation facilities” on “public lands.”
“Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle,” the document states.
Another BLM report entitled “Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone” (BLM Technical Note 444) reveals that Bundy’s land in question is within the “Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone and surrounding area” which is part of a broad U.S. Department of Energy program for “Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States” on land “managed” by BLM.
Dirty Harry and his son are all over this:
Back in 2012, the New American reported that Harry Reid’s son, Rory Reid, was the chief representative for a Chinese energy firm planning to build a $5-billion solar plant on public land in Laughlin, Nevada.
And journalist Marcus Stern with Reuters also reported that Sen. Reid was heavily involved in the deal as well.
“[Reid] and his oldest son, Rory, are both involved in an effort by a Chinese energy giant, ENN Energy Group, to build a $5 billion solar farm and panel manufacturing plant in the southern Nevada desert,” he wrote. “Reid has been one of the project’s most prominent advocates, helping recruit the company during a 2011 trip to China and applying his political muscle on behalf of the project in Nevada.”
“His son, a lawyer with a prominent Las Vegas firm that is representing ENN, helped it locate a 9,000-acre (3,600-hectare) desert site that it is buying well below appraised value from Clark County, where Rory Reid formerly chaired the county commission.”
Rory is not the only fascist thug Reid inserted in this event:
The Bureau of Land Management is headed by former longtime Reid aide Neil Kornze, who was confirmed by the Senate as BLM director on Tuesday, just as federal authorities descended on the cattle ranch outside Mesquite, Nev.
Pefect for the job, says Harry:
Mr. Kornze, 35, worked as a senior policy adviser on land-use issues in Mr. Reid’s office from 2003 to 2011 before joining the BLM. He was confirmed by the Senate on a 71-28 vote after serving as the agency’s principal deputy director, even though Republicans had qualms about his lack of experience compared with past BLM directors.
During the confirmation hearing Dec. 17, Mr. Reid called his former aide “just perfect for the job,” even as Republicans noted that previous BLM directors Bob Abbey and Jim Caswell were career federal land managers each with more than 30 years’ experience.
Despite the standoff winding down largely without incident today Reid said it wasn’t over:
“Well, it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over,” Reid said.
Unless you belong to the Black Panthers. Or you’re the President of the United States. Or you’re Harry Reid misusing campaign funds.
Or maybe it’s not over because Harry hasn’t gotten his 30 pieces of silver yet.
Ironically, gay Americans seem to agree with conservatives on how best to make a life for themselves.
"It's kind of a weird thing that's happened with American society—this idea that you have to have a college degree to be a respectable member of the middle c...
|Time: 19:04||More in News & Politics|
After serving 25 years in prison for a Brooklyn murder he did not commit, a New York man was released Tuesday and his conviction for murder was overturned. The New York Times reported that Jonathan Fleming was in Florida when the 1989 murder took place and new evidence proving that fact is what led to the indictment being dismissed. The valuable piece of evidence was a phone bill from the hotel where Fleming was staying during his Florida trip. In court yesterday, both parties agreed that the bill proved his innocence.
Fleming was convicted of the murder of a rival drug dealer and sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars despite his alibi of being in Orlando for a family trip to Walt Disney World. Plane tickets and video from the vacation were ignored by prosecutors who said he could have taken any number of flights back to New York to commit the murder. An eyewitness identified Fleming at trial in exchange for a dismissal of a grand larceny charge. When she recanted before sentencing, the prosecution claimed she was lying.
The Times reports that after Fleming's attorneys presented new evidence proving that their client was out of town when the crime occurred, an assistant district attorney, Mark Hale, told the judge, Matthew J. D'Emic, "Had it [the evidence] been available at the trial, the likely outcome of the trial would have been different."
Fleming is among dozens of wrongful conviction cases that the new Brooklyn District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, inherited from Charles Hynes when he took office this year. It is a separate group from the 50 murder cases that resulted in a guilty verdict that were investigated by Louis Scarcella that the Brooklyn District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit reopened last year. Scarcella was not involved in Fleming's case.
Hale said based on the evidence, the state cannot retry Fleming.
Read the full story.
Six months ago, Capitol police shot and killed Miriam Carey after the mother, accompanied by her one-year-old daughter, allegedly tried to ram a checkpoint at the White House before speeding off and leading cops on a chase toward the Capitol building. Reports of shots fired on Capitol Hill resulted in media coverage focusing on a potential shooting in the nation’s capital. A photo of an officer being loaded into a helicopter was captioned by the Associated Press as a “victim from a shooting.” The photo was actually of a Capitol police officer being medevac’d after crashing into a barricade while chasing Carey. Carey was the only victim of a shooting on October 3, 2013.
Initial reports indicated police fired at Carey’s vehicle five to ten times. An autopsy now reveals she was hit five times, all from behind. Via CNN:
The office of the District of Columbia medical examiner said in the autopsy that one round struck Carey in the left side of the back of her head, and she was also hit three times in the back and once in her left arm. The report didn't determine in what sequence Carey was hit.
Toxicology tests determined Carey didn't have alcohol or drugs in her blood.
Her family has questioned since the day of the incident whether shooting Carey was the only way to end the chase, which went through the heart of the nation's capital.
[Family attorney Eric] Sanders said on Tuesday that Carey's family members still feel police should have considered other options. The autopsy only "confirms what we said. It was unjustified."
Carey’s sister filed a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Secret Service and the Capitol Police earlier this year.
Court documents related to the killing of Carey largely remain sealed. According to a public information officer with the Capitol Police, the shooting remains under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C.
Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:
George Will writes that “tax simplification would reform politics by shrinking opportunities for transactions between private factions and the political class. This class confers favors as much with the tax code as with appropriations. ‘You can drain the swamp,’ says [Sen. Ron] Wyden. ‘They did it in ’86′” (“A tax reformer’s uphill push,” April 6).
Alas, matters are more complicated.
In 1986 Milton Friedman, along with my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan and many other economists, while applauding the tax simplification enacted that year, pointed out that it was politically feasible only because by the mid-1980s the tax code had become so flooded with fiscal favors dispensed to special-interest groups that there was little room left for politicians to dispense any further such favors. So politicians drained the swamp. They did so, however, not to shrink opportunities for them to exchange political favors with private factions, but to make such exchanges once again easy and profitable. The swamp was drained, in short, only so that it could be refilled with the foul water and stench of interest-group politics.
This reality is no argument against tax simplification, but it does counsel realism about the motives of politicians who seek it and about the permanence of that simplification.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
I am writing a study on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and looking at the issue of presidential disaster declarations. Under the 1988 Stafford Act, a state governor may request that the president declare a “major disaster” in the state if “the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments.”
The main purpose of declarations is to impose on federal taxpayers the relief and rebuilding costs that would otherwise fall on state and local taxpayers and individuals in the affected area. Federalism is central to disaster planning and response in the United States, and federal aid is only supposed to be for the most severe events. Unfortunately, the relentless political forces that are centralizing power in just about every policy area are also doing so in disaster policy.
Below is a chart of FEMA data showing the number of “major disasters” declared by presidents since 1974, when the current process was put in place. The number of declared disasters has soared as presidents have sought political advantage in handing out more aid. Presidents have been ignoring the plain language of the Stafford Act, which allows for aid only in the most severe situations.
In the chart, I marked with red bars the years that presidents ran for reelection. In those years, presidents have generally declared the most major disasters. That was true of Ronald Reagan in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1992, and Bill Clinton in 1996. George W. Bush declared the most disasters of his first term in his reelection year of 2004. The two presidents who do not fit the pattern are Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
Most content on Facebook is shared a few times but some can be shared millions of times. Now computer scientists are beginning to understand the difference.
One of the defining features of social content is the way pictures, video and text is shared among many users. Inevitably, some content becomes more popular than others and this leads to cascades in which the number of reshares can be huge. While most pieces of media have only a few shares, some are reshared many millions of times.
A system called Mylar makes it possible to build online services that can never decrypt or leak your data.
Reminders that data entrusted to online services can easily be leaked or stolen aren’t hard to find. Major companies commonly have passwords and other data taken by attackers, while governments have their own ways to get hold of user data.
I used to think that knowledge was strongly transferable. I believed that learning physics could make you a better mechanic. I believed that learning mathematics could make you a better physicist or computer scientist.
After learning a lot of physics and mathematics, I realized that I still found it difficult to write good software, learn about mechanics, design circuits, or understand economics.
This has fundamentally affected my worldview. For example, I no longer take for granted that studying theory can be useful in practice. For me, this is a radical change from my twenties when I believed that computer science wasn’t worth studying since it was just “applied mathematics”.
Since I no longer believe that knowledge is strongly transferable, I have become critical of schooling in general. I used to think that you got smarter with each new college class you took. So I took a lot of them. I took about 30% more classes necessary to graduate in college. In high school, I took extra mathematics classes outside of the regular schedule (by choice, I don’t even think my parents knew). Thus I know a lot about useless topics.
Some of these classes have turned out to be useful. But less because of the knowledge that they have given me, and more because they have built up my confidence.
For example, all my training in abstract algebra helps me a bit when I want to study random hashing. How much did it help? Well, at some point, I realized that I needed to brush up on Galois fields. I picked up an undergraduate text, read one chapter, and I was good to go. That is, I knew that I could learn quickly about Galois fields if needed.
However, taking dozen of classes is an expensive way to build up your confidence. A better way would be for you to learn a few difficult things on your own. For example, I hardly know anything about electronics and I never took any class in it, but I know that I could become good at it because I have mastered similar skills.
In any case, because I believe that knowledge is only weakly transferable, I favour learning practical skills that are immediately useful. If you want to become a great software engineer, learn to program better… don’t study latin.
Given a chance, many parents would cram their kids’ schedule with as many academic classes as possible. The hidden assumption is that kids get “smarter” as they take more classes. But this is almost surely wrong. Of course, there are clear benefits to taking swimming lessons (you learn to swim!) or karate lessons (you learn to fight!), but taking an extra mathematics class might not help as much as you think.
Monday, TechFreedom submitted comments urging the White House to apply economic thinking to its inquiry into “Big Data,” also pointing out that the worst abuses of data come not from the private sector, but government. The comments were in response to a request by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“On the benefits of Big Data, we urge OSTP to keep in mind two cautions. First, Big Data is merely another trend in an ongoing process of disruptive innovation that has characterized the Digital Revolution. Second, cost-benefit analyses generally, and especially in advance of evolving technologies, tend to operate in aggregates which can be useful for providing directional indications of future trade-offs, but should not be mistaken for anything more than that,” writes TF President Berin Szoka.
The comments also highlight the often-overlooked reality that data, big or small, is speech. Therefore, OSTP’s inquiry must address the First Amendment analysis. Historically, policymakers have ignored the First Amendment in regulating new technologies, from film to blogs to video games, but in 2011 the Supreme Court made clear in Sorrell v. IMS Health that data is a form of speech. Any regulation of Big Data should carefully define the government’s interest, narrowly tailor regulations to real problems, and look for less restrictive alternatives to regulation, such as user empowerment, transparency and education. Ultimately, academic debates over how to regulate Big Data are less important than how the Federal Trade Commission currently enforces existing consumer protection laws, a subject that is the focus of the ongoing FTC: Technology & Reform Project led by TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics.
More important than the private sector’s use of Big Data is the government’s abuse of it, the group says, referring to the NSA’s mass surveillance programs and the Administration’s opposition to requiring warrants for searches of Americans’ emails and cloud data. Last December, TechFreedom and its allies garnered over 100,000 signatures on a WhiteHouse.gov petition for ECPA reform. While the Administration has found time to reply to frivolous petitions, such as asking for the construction of a Death Star, it has ignored this serious issue for over three months. Worse, the administration has done nothing to help promote ECPA reform and, instead, appears to be actively orchestrating opposition to it from theoretically independent regulatory agencies, which has stalled reform in the Senate.
“This stubborn opposition to sensible, bi-partisan privacy reform is outrageous and shameful, a hypocrisy outweighed only by the Administration’s defense of its blanket surveillance of ordinary Americans,” said Szoka. “It’s time for the Administration to stop dodging responsibility or trying to divert attention from the government-created problems by pointing its finger at the private sector, by demonizing private companies’ collection and use of data while the government continues to flaunt the Fourth Amendment.”
Readers — Here’s an alarming idea with no basis in fact, as far as I can fathom. The idea:
Have a picture of little Bobby in his football gear and a “My Son is an Honor Student at Kelley Middle School” bumper sticker?
Congratulations, you just told the world and anyone who may want to harm your child, where they can find him.
Because otherwise, no predator could ever find a school football player at…a school? Possibly playing football? This smug reporter is suggesting that:
1) Someone is out there who wants to harm your child specifically, for some reason, but
2) Simply could not figure out how to find him. Ah, but by reading the hieroglyphics on your bumper, he is set! I especially love the fact that a stick figure dog tells him that he need not worry, because it’s a “non guard dog” — a fact one can easily ascertain, thanks to the incredibly accuracy of stick figures.
“Congratulations” — author. You have just succumbed to Worst-First Thinking: Thinking up the very worst thing that could happen thanks to some dumb little stickers, and are now spreading this bizarre fear around. And what of all those predators who only pounce on honor students of the month? – L
Or else what? Or else you will be destroyed. E-lynched. Hounded by packs of snarling snotty nincompoops unencumbered by the burdens of thought and reason and unrestrained by decency and commonsense. A rabble which feeds on hate and delights in cruelty, ruffians intent only on demolishing and demonstrating what they believe to be their superiority. For a generation that knows only irony this is truly astonishing.
There was none. There was no crime. Eich did nothing wrong.
His tormentors, however, are full of sin. These include the employees of Mozilla who first erupted into irrational public petulance and their vulgar and eager imitators on the Internet. Eich had recently had a disagreement with the board of Mozilla, an organization he co-founded, some of whom fretted of his leadership skills. It might have been from they (or those who recently resigned) who sought to sully Eich’s name. It may have been from the political arm of the IRS. Who knows? In any event, Eich resigned yesterday.
The Mozilla organization, true to the breed, had this to say about Eich’s ouster:
Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.
We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.
Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness…
This is so poor it could only have been written by someone inflicted with a modern university education. “We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right”. Right? Right? Right that none except those willing to publicly espouse the belief-of-the-moment shall be employed?
“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech.” The thing about lying boldly is that the lie is more likely to be believed than a lie uttered shyly. I’ve long warned that progressives are holding truth “to a different standard” and that “freedom of speech” is being redefined as freedom to think whatever you like but not freedom to utter or act on these thoughts.
It therefore does no good to shove the Constitution under the nose of a progressive (easy to do, their noses are always aloft). He sees the words but thinks they mean all speech but “controversial” speech is free. What’s controversial? Opinions which differ from his. Has nobody noticed campus speech codes and calls to arrest scientists who do not agree with the party line? Worse is coming.
“Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO.” Eich “chose” to step down in the same way a convicted man “chose” to mount the stairs to the hangman’s noose. No other option was possible. Doing what you’re told is what a progressive means by free will.
“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech.” A lie, a bold in-your-face self-contradictory preposterous lie. It is the same lie progressives who joined the e-lynch mob told themselves. “We’re stringing you up to support your right to free speech!”
“Equality is necessary for meaningful speech.” Tripe. It is because there is inequality there needs to be free, unimpeded speech.
“Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness…” It is fitting Mozilla ends its performance with a punchline bereft of all mirth. The only emotion left for us, the sane remnant, is sadness; sadness over the suicide of a once-great culture.
If you've been reading the news recently, you might think that corporate America is doing its best to thwart NSA surveillance.
Google just announced that it is encrypting Gmail when you access it from your computer or phone, and between data centers. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg personally called President Obama to complain about the NSA using Facebook as a means to hack computers, and Facebook's Chief Security Officer explained to reporters that the attack technique has not worked since last summer. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and others are now regularly publishing "transparency reports," listing approximately how many government data requests the companies have received and complied with.
On the government side, last week the NSA's General Counsel Rajesh De seemed to have thrown those companies under a bus by stating that -- despite their denials -- they knew all about the NSA's collection of data under both the PRISM program and some unnamed "upstream" collections on the communications links.
Yes, it may seem like the the public/private surveillance partnership has frayed -- but, unfortunately, it is alive and well. The main focus of massive Internet companies and government agencies both still largely align: to keep us all under constant surveillance. When they bicker, it's mostly role-playing designed to keep us blasé about what's really going on.
The U.S. intelligence community is still playing word games with us. The NSA collects our data based on four different legal authorities: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, Executive Order 12333 of 1981 and modified in 2004 and 2008, Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001, and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008. Be careful when someone from the intelligence community uses the caveat "not under this program" or "not under this authority"; almost certainly it means that whatever it is they're denying is done under some other program or authority. So when De said that companies knew about NSA collection under Section 702, it doesn't mean they knew about the other collection programs.
The big Internet companies know of PRISM -- although not under that code name -- because that's how the program works; the NSA serves them with FISA orders. Those same companies did not know about any of the other surveillance against their users conducted on the far more permissive EO 12333. Google and Yahoo did not know about MUSCULAR, the NSA's secret program to eavesdrop on their trunk connections between data centers. Facebook did not know about QUANTUMHAND, the NSA's secret program to attack Facebook users. And none of the target companies knew that the NSA was harvesting their users' address books and buddy lists.
These companies are certainly pissed that the publicity surrounding the NSA's actions is undermining their users' trust in their services, and they're losing money because of it. Cisco, IBM, cloud service providers, and others have announced that they're losing billions, mostly in foreign sales.
These companies are doing their best to convince users that their data is secure. But they're relying on their users not understanding what real security looks like. IBM's letter to its clients last week is an excellent example. The letter lists five "simple facts" that it hopes will mollify its customers, but the items are so qualified with caveats that they do the exact opposite to anyone who understands the full extent of NSA surveillance. And IBM's spending $1.2B on data centers outside the U.S. will only reassure customers who don't realize that National Security Letters require a company to turn over data, regardless of where in the world it is stored.
Google's recent actions, and similar actions of many Internet companies, will definitely improve its users' security against surreptitious government collection programs -- both the NSA's and other governments' -- but their assurances deliberately ignores the massive security vulnerability built into its services by design. Google, and by extension, the U.S. government, still has access to your communications on Google's servers.
Google could change that. It could encrypt your e-mail so only you could decrypt and read it. It could provide for secure voice and video so no one outside the conversations could eavesdrop.
It doesn't. And neither does Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, or any of the others.
Why not? They don't partly because they want to keep the ability to eavesdrop on your conversations. Surveillance is still the business model of the Internet, and every one of those companies wants access to your communications and your metadata. Your private thoughts and conversations are the product they sell to their customers. We also have learned that they read your e-mail for their own internal investigations.
But even if this were not true, even if -- for example -- Google were willing to forgo data mining your e-mail and video conversations in exchange for the marketing advantage it would give it over Microsoft, it still won't offer you real security. It can't.
The biggest Internet companies don't offer real security because the U.S. government won't permit it.
This isn't paranoia. We know that the U.S. government ordered the secure e-mail provider Lavabit to turn over its master keys and compromise every one of its users. We know that the U.S. government convinced Microsoft -- either through bribery, coercion, threat, or legal compulsion -- to make changes in how Skype operates, to make eavesdropping easier.
We don't know what sort of pressure the U.S. government has put on Google and the others. We don't know what secret agreements those companies have reached with the NSA. We do know the NSA's BULLRUN program to subvert Internet cryptography was successful against many common protocols. Did the NSA demand Google's keys, as it did with Lavabit? Did its Tailored Access Operations group break into to Google's servers and steal the keys?
We just don't know.
The best we have are caveat-laden pseudo-assurances. At SXSW earlier this month, CEO Eric Schmidt tried to reassure the audience by saying that he was "pretty sure that information within Google is now safe from any government's prying eyes." A more accurate statement might be, "Your data is safe from governments, except for the ways we don't know about and the ways we cannot tell you about. And, of course, we still have complete access to it all, and can sell it at will to whomever we want." That's a lousy marketing pitch, but as long as the NSA is allowed to operate using secret court orders based on secret interpretations of secret law, it'll never be any different.
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the others are already on the record as supporting these legislative changes. It would be better if they openly acknowledged their users' insecurity and increased their pressure on the government to change, rather than trying to fool their users and customers.
This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.
Most people don’t see postmodernism and libertarianism as sharing much in common. After all, the former refers to a philosophical trend embraced by largely leftist academics over the past half-century, while the latter refers to a political ideology of limited government that many characterize as center-right, originating to a great degree in the Enlightenment. One would be hard pressed to find someone subscribing to both schools of thought.
But have libertarians too quickly dismissed postmodernism without critically examining the philosophy in depth? Some of its elements are compatible with libertarianism and can enhance the libertarian critique of the State.
Libertarian stereotypes of postmodernism have a grain of truth. Foremost, postmodern philosophers are notoriously obscure in their writing. Trying to comprehensively understand the work of thinkers like Jacques Derrida or Judith Butler is extremely strenuous, leading many who undergo the task to abandon the project altogether. Such opacity is the unfortunate result of a French intellectual culture that emphasizes density over substance. As Michel Foucault famously remarked to the American philosopher John Searle, “In France, you gotta have ten percent incomprehensible, otherwise people won’t think it’s deep—they won’t think you’re a profound thinker.”
Furthermore, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact definition of postmodernism, since most so-called postmodern academics deny that they’re such. Derrida, Butler, and Foucault have all shunned the term at one point or another, despite their work being largely classified into the same school of thought. Adding to the confusion, historians have trouble distinguishing postmodernism from modernism, its supposed predecessor. As literary critic Andreas Huyssen once said, “One critic’s postmodernism is another critic's modernism.”
But a comprehendible explanation of postmodernism does exist. The clearest definition probably comes from the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, who wrote in 1979, “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives.”
As the word’s etymology implies, metanarratives are narratives about narratives, giving a grand structural story to human history. In plain English, they’re the tales we’ve been told all our lives about existence from various perspectives. Christianity’s metanarrative, for example, is that humans have been sinful since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, but there is hope for salvation in accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Enlightenment’s metanarrative is that rational thought grounded in empiricism leads to human progress. Marxism’s metanarrative is that the history of the world has been one of class oppression, and a revolution of the proletariat is the only solution to end poverty, scarcity, and injustice.
Postmodernism, as Lyotard explains, is fundamentally defined by skepticism toward these metanarratives. The postmodernist examines, scrutinizes, or “deconstructs” such metanarratives (as Derrida would say), calling into question the premises behind metanarratives’ assumptions. Contrary to the common stereotype of postmodernism muddling philosophical thought, the underlying aim of the school of thought is ultimately to bring greater clarity to our complex world.
Much like various religions and philosophical schools, the government tells its own metanarratives to justify its purpose in exercising a monopoly on violence. Every citizen is familiar with the State’s metanarrative, especially if they’ve read a little Hobbes. Namely, the government monopolizes violence in order to prevent society from devolving into chaos.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren provides a contemporary example of this metanarrative in a 2012 speech that President Obama famously regurgitated later that year:
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory—and hire someone to protect against this—because of the work the rest of us did.
A good postmodernist, therefore, would challenge this metanarrative, questioning Warren’s underlying assumptions about the State being a necessary force of protection and progress in a cruel, Hobbesian world.
Do roads have to be publicly funded, or do contemporary examples point to the possibility for large-scale networks of private thoroughfares? Does education have to be a function of the State, or would a truly free market provide schooling? Do police always serve to protect, or do they create more violence than peace? Would life truly be “nasty, brutish, and short” without the State, or can market coordination provide the peace and prosperity needed for individuals to flourish?
In this way, a postmodern outlook on politics could be a libertarian one, calling into question the government’s power structure, which has been thoroughly rationalized and accepted for centuries. While most left-leaning postmodernists may shudder at the thought (and libertarians for that matter), these two schools of thought can indeed be compatible.
A postmodern political outlook, however, would not simply reaffirm libertarians’ radical questioning of the State. Many postmodern philosophers like Foucault have pushed beyond this, toward analysis of society, in ways that can add meaningfully to traditional libertarian analysis.
Foucault, for instance, was interested not just in how the State directly regulated society through coercion, but also how indirect arms cultivated citizens to regulate themselves—what he coins “biopower.” According to Foucault, the State has “numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations” beyond the traditional institutions of coercion (like the police, the military, and the judicial system).
Hospitals, for instance, regulate a social norm of how to care for one’s own body. Mental institutions regulate what “normal” behavior is. Schools regulate what historical knowledge and political attitudes citizens should be taught.
As German sociologist Thomas Lemuke summarizes Foucault’s view, “What we observe today is not a diminishment or a reduction of state sovereignty and planning capacities but a displacement from formal to informal techniques of government and the appearance of new actors on the scene of government (e.g., NGOs) that indicate fundamental transformations in statehood and a new relation between state and civil society actors.” The government’s reach into civil society has become so broad through indirect means like grants, tax breaks, accreditation, and regulations that it is constantly creating and reinforcing norms of how a citizen should act—and, in turn, justifying itself as society’s protector.
What’s interesting about this analysis from a libertarian standpoint is that these indirect institutions of the State have so often been wrong throughout history. Hospitals once displayed posters of a Department of Agriculture-approved food pyramid that encouraged citizens to eat largely grains and less meat, only to replace it in 2005 because of nutritional concerns. Mental institutions once used severe shock treatment for a number of psychological ills such as depression. Public schools once showed their students public service announcements warning children of the danger of homosexuality.
The underlying point is that the State’s metanarratives allow it to exert control over the population. Even that point is something we can draw from postmodernism, though it’s not the only source of that insight. But the analysis—and even deconstruction—of metanarratives is postmodernism’s bread and butter. Libertarians can learn a thing or two from this. What’s more, it’s consistent with more familiar thinkers in our tradition, like F. A. Hayek, who saw government power as being at odds with a complex, emergent social order. (In fact, Foucault is believed to have developed an interest with Hayek's work later in his life and encouraged students to read it.) Liberal economics and postmodern philosophy, then, can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Both call us to expose problems with the ways the State justifies its existence and perpetuates its own power.
Why did a SWAT team raid Bob and Addie Harte's house in Leawood, Kansas, two years ago, then force the couple and their two children to sit on a couch for two hours while officers rifled their belongings, searching for "narcotics" that were not there? KSHB, the NBC station in Kansas City, reports that the Hartes made two mistakes: Bob went to a hydroponics store in Kansas City, Missouri, with his son to buy supplies for a school science project, and Addie drank tea. It cost them $25,000 to discover that these innocent actions earned them an early-morning visit by screaming, rifle-waving men with a battering ram.
The Hartes, who tried to reassure their neighbors by showing them the search report indicating that nothing was taken from their home, were naturally curious what they had done to attract police attention. But the Johnson County Sheriff's Office would not say, so the Hartes hired a lawyer to help them obtain the relevant records, which according to KSHB is not easy in Kansas because state law favors darkness over sunshine. Eventually the Hartes learned that a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper saw Bob at the hydroponics store on August 9, 2011. Seven months later, state police passed on this hot tip to the sheriff's office, which sprang into action (after a few weeks), rummaging through the Hartes' garbage three times in April 2012. On all three occasions, they found "wet plant material" that a field test supposedly identified as marijuana.
Such tests are notoriously unreliable, confusing chocolate with hashish, soy milk with GHB, and soap with cocaine, among other hilarious errors that result in fruitless searches, mistaken arrests, and false imprisonment. But the cops did not bother to confirm their field results with a more reliable lab test before charging into the Hartes' home, three days after their third surreptitious trash inspection. When the Hartes starting asking questions about the raid, the sheriff's office suddenly decided to test that wet plant material, which it turned out was not marijuana after all. The Hartes figure it must have been the loose tea that Addie favors, which she tends to toss into the trash after brewing. Field tests have been known to misidentify various possible tea ingredients, including spearmint, peppermint, lavendar, vanilla, anise, and chicory, as marijuana.
Since mistakes like this are pretty embarrassing, the Hartes think Kansas cops would be more careful if obtaining police records were easier. "You shouldn't have to have $25,000, even $5,000," Addie Harte tells KSHB. "You shouldn't have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state."
Except for the definition and mechanism of proving treason, no area of the Constitution addressing the rights of all persons when the government is pursuing them is more specific than the Fourth Amendment. The linchpin of that specificity is the requirement that the government demonstrate probable cause to a judge as a precondition to the judge issuing a search warrant. The other specific requirement is identity: The government must identify whose property it wishes to search or whose behavior it wishes to monitor, because the Fourth Amendment requires that all warrants specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.
The principal reason for these requirements is the colonial revulsion over general warrants. A general warrant does not specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized, and it is not based on the probable cause of criminal behavior of the person targeted by the government.
With a general warrant, the government simply gets authority from a judge to search a haystack looking for a needle, and in the process, it may disturb and move all the straw it wants. Stated differently, a general warrant permits the government to intrude upon the privacy of persons as to whom it has no probable cause of criminal behavior and without stating what it is looking for.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court has been issuing general warrants to the National Security Agency (NSA) since 1978, but it was not until last June that we learned that these general warrants have been executed upon the telephone calls, text messages, emails, bank records, utility bills and credit card bills of all persons in America since 2009.
The constitutional requirement of probable cause is not political fancy; rather, it saves us from tyranny. Probable cause is a quantum of evidence that is sufficient to lead a neutral judge to conclude that the person about whom the evidence has been presented is more likely than not to possess further evidence of criminal behavior, or has more likely than not engaged in criminal behavior that is worthy of the government’s use of its investigatory tools such that the government may lawfully and morally invade that person’s natural right to privacy.
Last week, Robert S. Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which runs the NSA, engaged in a curious colloquy with members of the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Litt complained that presenting probable cause about individuals to judges and then seeking search warrants from those judges to engage in surveillance of each of those individuals is too difficult.
This is a remarkable admission from the chief lawyer for the nation’s spies. He and the 60,000 NSA employees and vendors who have been spying on us have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution. There are no loopholes in their oaths. Each person’s oath is to the entire Constitution — whether compliance is easy or difficult.
Yet the “too difficult” admission has far-reaching implications.
This must mean that the NSA itself acknowledges that it is seeking and executing general warrants because the warrants the Constitution requires are too difficult to obtain. Stated differently, the NSA knows it is violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, because that amendment expressly forbids general warrants.
In my career as a lawyer, judge, law professor, author and television commentator, I have heard many excuses for violating the Constitution. I reject all of them when they come from one who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, yet I understand the intellectually honest excuses — like exigent circumstances — when they are based on duty. The NSA’s excuses are not intellectually honest, and they are not based on duty. They are based on laziness.
But there was more than met the eye in Litt’s testimony last week. Two days after Litt admitted to the use of general warrants, and while the president was in Europe, the White House leaked to the press its plans to curtail the massive NSA spying. Those plans, which would change only the appearance of what the NSA does but not its substance, have three parts.
The first change relieves the NSA of the need for general warrants to require delivery of massive amounts of data about innocent Americans as to which the NSA has no probable cause, because the second change requires the computer servers and telecoms to preserve their records — instead of the NSA preserving them — and make them “immediately” available to the NSA when it comes calling. And the third is the requirement of a warrant from a FISA judge before the NSA may access that stored data. But because that warrant is not based on probable cause but rather on NSA whim, it is a foregone conclusion that the general warrants for examination, as opposed to delivery, will be granted. The FISA court has granted well in excess of 99 percent of the general warrants the NSA has sought.
Litt must have known what the White House planned to leak when he made his “too difficult” complaint, as it fits nicely with this new scheme. Yet the scheme itself, because it lacks the requirement of probable cause that the Constitution requires, is equally as unconstitutional and morally repugnant as what the NSA has been doing for five years. Moreover, the NSA will not exactly go hat in hand to the computer servers and telecoms once it wishes to hear telephone calls or read emails or credit card bills. Its agents will simply press a few buttons on their computers when they wish, and the data they seek will be made available to them.
These so-called changes should be rejected by Congress, which should overhaul the NSA instead. Hasn’t Congress seen enough? The NSA and the CIA spy on the courts, Congress, the military, the police and everyone in America. This keeps none of us safer. But it does lessen our freedom when those in whose hands we repose the Constitution for safekeeping look the other way. What other freedoms are slipping because Congress, too, thinks upholding the Constitution is too difficult?
My name is Jeff, and I’ve been with the Tenth Amendment Center for almost a year now.
I’d followed TAC on Facebook™ for a while and had signed up for their newsletter. In early May ’13, after moving back to my home State from Missouri a month earlier, I joined the 2A Kansas group in the wake of the Second Amendment Protection Act being passed there. By mid-May, after sending in a comic I had done, I filled out a volunteer application; and by early June, I had completed a short series of test posts to demonstrate my abilities as a blogger. Coincidentally, just a few hours after submitting the last of these trial blogs, I would meet Michael Boldin.
I should take a moment to explain something: Up to this point (and for a little while afterward) I was under the impression that the Tenth Amendment Center was some moderately large, reasonably well-funded think-tank. I had watched the videos and read as many of the articles as I could, had seen them referenced by countless others, and pictured them as having offices and big-time donors and a team of writers and journalists and all the usual things that I’d associated with advocacy groups—I was wa-a-a-ay-y off!!
As I would come to understand it, the “Tenth Amendment Center” is actually a small group of geographically disconnected volunteers, working with (primarily) their own funds, in their own homes, in their spare time, under their own steam, with minimal donations; coordinating through telephone and social media a massive grass-roots effort to restrain federal tyranny by means of blog posts, clever memes (to which I’m partial), the occasional festival, a self-produced documentary, a handful of books, a stack of pamphlets, and some home-brew legislation; all of which had originated a few years earlier—in response to the usurpations of the Bush administration—as a Word Press™ blog in Boldin’s LA apartment.
So, as it turns out, while I was giddy and grateful and overjoyed for being accepted by Michael Maharrey (who’d conducted my “entrance exam”) into this massive think-tank, they were just happy to have another volunteer involved with their modest grass-roots effort!
After submitting the last of my trial blogs, I hopped in the car and headed to Topeka for the Kansas Celebration of Liberty Event, honoring the signing of the first nullification bill I’d ever paid attention to, where Boldin was a keynote.
To be honest, while having a vague understanding of the principles of nullification, nothing really hit home so much as when Boldin belted the phrase, “Dogs beg!” in response to his own comments regarding “federal supremacy.” I’d never witnessed anything like that in all my life. Here was “some dude” shaking his fist strongly in the face of government and demanding, not asking—and certainly not pleading—to know what right they had to impede on his liberties in violation of their own charter. I was floored.
A short time later, I found myself shaking his hand and babbling compliments like a confused—albeit smiling—idiot. I had no idea what was going on, but I was getting involved, dammit! As Edmund Burke had famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing;” and I was going to do all I could!
By mid-July, I had a handful of articles under my belt (that I had been stealthily sneaking comics into), and had even seen a couple of them picked up by other blogs and shot across the web! At about that time, one of the standard staff-calls went out through the usual TAC channels for a series of much needed articles to be written. I volunteered to grab what I could and made mention of my desire to write more than one-per-week. It was then that Boldin chimed in and suggested I write less—saying that my help could be best used elsewhere.
While you may not have read anything else of mine, you’ve certainly seen my work: I’m the TAC graphics guy. Those memes you ‘like’ and ‘share’ on the TAC facebook page: I build the bulk of them, 10 to 15 a week. A little over a year ago, I was doing nothing.
Sure, I’d gripe on Facebook™ and get into discussions about “this piece of legislation” or “that politician,” but I never actually did anything. I listened to talk radio and ‘shared’ posts with my friends, I occasionally gave money to grass-roots groups or bought their stuff, but that was about it. I always just assumed that someone else was picking up my slack and that some symbolic support on my part was enough to keep them going. That just isn’t true and it certainly isn’t enough—we’re not, unfortunately, at a point in history where passive support can cut it any longer. More and more of our rights are being stripped from us every day, and not just at the federal level either. There’s so much work to be done that it cannot be listed.
The point is this: If anything is ever going to change, YOU need to be involved. YOU need to take part. YOU need to stop supporting passively and step into the proverbial trenches with the rest of us. Our passivity is what paved the way for tyranny to triumph as it has, and the ONLY thing—the ONLY THING—that will stop it, is YOU.
I’ve been with the Tenth Amendment Center for almost a year now. My efforts range from 30-minutes to several hours a day, depending on my schedule. I have a regular, full-time job, and all the usual responsibilities that come with a girlfriend, a car payment, a dog, a niece and nephews, and a lawn. There’s nothing exceptional in my day-to-day routine that allows me to fight, but I make the time and do it any way. What’s your excuse?
I’m just some guy who’s drawing pictures to help combat tyranny: what will you do to help?
Ask 10 people what is "social justice" and you'll probably get 10 different definitions? Ask them if it's a good thing and most will probably say 'Yes'. Jonah Goldberg dares to disagree:
The next time you encounter a Leftist blethering on about social justice, check that your wallet is still with you and then back away slowly.
“The most recent climate model simulations used in the AR5 indicate that the warming stagnation since 1998 is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level.”
Now who are the deniers?
That is the title of a paper attempting to explain (away) the 17-year nothing that happened while CAGW models were predicting warming driven by increasing CO2. CO2 increased. Measured GAT did not.
Here’s the money quote: “The most recent climate model simulations used in the AR5 indicate that the warming stagnation since 1998 is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level.”
That is an establishment climatologist’s cautious scientist-speak for “The IPCC’s anthropogenic-global-warming models are fatally broken. Kaput. Busted.”
I told you so. I told you so. I told you so!
I even predicted it would happen this year, yesterday on my Ask Me Anything on Slashdot. This wasn’t actually brave of me: the Economist noticed that the GAT trend was about to fall to worse than 5% fit to the IPCC models six months ago.
Here is my next prediction – and remember, I have been consistently right about these. The next phase of the comedy will feature increasingly frantic attempts to bolt epicycles onto the models. These epicycles will have names like “ENSO”, “standing wave” and “Atlantic Oscillation”.
All these attempts will fail, both predictively and retrodictively. It’s junk science all the way down.