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15 Jun 18:20

The Disposable Life of a 20-Year-Old Confidential Informant

by Anthony L. Fisher

On June 27, 2014, the body of 20-year-old Andrew Sadek, a promising electrical student at the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton, North Dakota, was pulled from the Red River bordering North Dakota and Minnesota.

Missing for two months, the young man was found shot in the head, wearing a backpack filled with rocks. 

The grisly death of a college student in one of the safest towns in the state, where violent crime is extremely rare, did not lead to a sweeping investigation. In fact, police immediately said they did not suspect foul play.

Such a supposition strains credulity as it is, but what would be slowly revealed over the following months is that Andrew had been working as a confidential informant for the police, and that his school knew that authorities were busting its students and using them as bait to catch drug dealers

This is a story of overzealous prosecution of minor drug offenses by a task force answerable only to itself, callous official indifference toward a grieving family, and a lack of transparency by authorities that raises more questions than it answers. 

Paramount among these questions: Why are police using non-violent, first-time offenders in the very dangerous role of confidential informant?  


Growing up on a family-owned farm in Rogers, North Dakota, Andrew Sadek was active with the raising of their cattle and particularly close to his parents, who lost their older son, Nick, in a car accident in 2005.

Andrew was a few weeks shy of graduation when he went missing in May 2014. Days later, the Sadeks received the shocking news that a warrant had been issued for Andrew's arrest for two felony counts of distributing a controlled substance. 

In an interview with Reason TV, Andrew's mother, Tammy, described her deceased younger son as "kind of a homebody" whose only previous brush with the law was a speeding ticket.

"His dreams were to become an electrician and take over the family farm," Tammy says of Andrew. "We sent him off to college, he was excelling at college. That's why this was such a shock to us."

For two gut-wrenching months, the Sadeks prayed Andrew would come home to the farm to help with the spring calving, while police continued to assume Andrew was on the lam.

Then, Andrew's body was found.

Shot. Wearing the backpack filled with rocks. Not wearing the clothes he was last seen in. Without his wallet. An autopsy proved inconclusive in determining suicide or homicide, and no weapon has yet been found.

But according to the Sadeks, Sgt. Steve Helgeson of the NDSCS Campus Police, the lead officer in charge of the investigation, tried to convince them that their son put on the rock-filled backpack, shot himself in the head, and somehow propelled himself into the river. 

Tammy says Sgt. Helgeson told her "That's what kids do in that area, they commit suicide," referring to the golf court bridge over the river that connects the Bois de Sioux golf course.

No one who knew Andrew supports this theory. His friend Justin Rippentrop told Reason TV that Andrew was a "laid-back, generous, fun-loving guy," who never showed depressive tendencies and seemed in particularly good spirits as his graduation date approached. Crucially, no one at the college has indicated that Andrew was exhibiting any signs of emotional distress, and no suicide note has been found.


What the police knew but continued to keep from the Sadeks, was that Andrew had been working as a confidential informant for the Southeast Multi-County Agency (SEMCA), a drug task force answerable only to its own board, a 12 person committee made up of local senior police officers and elected officials.

Andrew first came into contact with SEMCA in April 2013, after he twice sold marijuana, a total of 4.5 grams or $80 worth, to a confidential informant. Shortly thereafter, a police raid on Andrew's dorm room turned up nothing but a small plastic grinder and some marijuana residue. 

But the grinder, plus the two sales to SEMCA's informant in a "school zone," which in North Dakota includes colleges, was enough for authorities to threaten Andrew with two Class A felony charges, each carrying a possible 20 year sentence. Or, he could "voluntarily" agree to work as a confidential informant.

Upon enrolling at NDSCS, Andrew signed a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waiver obligating the school to inform his parents of any disciplinary issues, but the school never notified the Sadeks following the raid on his dorm room, or any time thereafter.

Faced with the prospect of spending the bulk of his life in prison, and without consulting a lawyer or his parents, Andrew chose to become an informant, agreeing to make two controlled buys from each of three SEMCA-targeted drug dealers. 

When Andrew was last seen leaving his dorm building on May 1, 2014, he still owed SEMCA one last controlled buy. 

Refusing to accept authorities' speculation that Andrew had committed suicide, the Sadeks hired a private investigator, who discovered a significant amount of water in the wheel wells of Andrew's car, suggesting that someone may have driven Andrew's car to the banks of the river where his body was found, before returning it to the campus parking lot. 


Because Andrew's body was found on the Minnesota side of the river, the NDSCS campus police claimed the case was not in their jurisdiction, which the North Dakota Attorney General's office confirmed. But the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension told Valley News Livea newscast in Fargo, North Dakota, that they have nothing to do with it. For all the agencies involved with busting Andrew Sadek for selling a small amount of pot, no agency is willing to take the lead in solving his violent death. 

Valley News Live reporter Nicole Johnson told Reason TV, "It took a long time to get the results of the autopsy. So I called (Sgt.) Steve Helgeson, the officer in charge of this case, and he told me it was not a top priority." Johnson adds that no one who has directly worked on the case has answered a question of theirs since Andrew was found in June 2014.

Finding no help from the local authorities, the Sadeks' demanded a state-wide investigation, which culminated in a report from the North Dakota Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, released in January 2015.

The report revealed for the first time that Andrew had been working as a confidential informant for SEMCA. 

That the school knew of the raid on Andrew's dorm room in 2013, but allowed his parents to learn this news only after he went missing raises significant ethical and legal questions in its own right. But the fact that SEMCA only disclosed Andrew's status as a confidential informant because they were forced to by the Attorney General, more than a year after the young man was first targeted by the task force, demonstrates a heartless lack of concern for confidential informants even after they end up dead.

The SEMCA report runs all of four and a half pages, nearly half of which merely names the board members and the authors of the report.  And despite the obvious dangers inherent with being an informant working for the police to bust drug dealers, the report found that SEMCA had acted appropriately when using Andrew, a non-violent first time offender, as a C.I. The report's conclusion offered four minor tweaks to protocol, such as having a "Pre-Ops briefing" and assigning a supervisor to each case. 

In February 2015, Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote about Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson, a SEMCA board member, and his response to the violent death of a confidential informant in his town:

Thorsteinson conceded that police informants work in "a dangerous subculture" but said cops usually "bend over backwards to protect their C.I."

Thorsteinson said Sadek's death is no cause for reflection on the methods used by drug warriors in North Dakota. "These types of investigations are conducted the same way pretty much everywhere where people breathe in and out," he said. "They never did anything wrong that needed to be changed." Thorsteinson, who acknowledged that Sadek's mother "had to go through a difficult ordeal," explained that busting drug offenders is a thankless but necessary job. "Law enforcement... we're generally not popular," he told KVLY. "The sheep dog is not loved by the flock, and they're hated by the wolf, but we do it anyway." In Thorsteinson's view, the citizens he serves are sheep, while harmless pot dealers like Sadek are wolves.

The lack of a statewide chain of command allowed SEMCA to operate as an entity answerable only to itself. And though SEMCA's board remains intact, the agency now falls under the jurisdiction of the North Dakota attorney general. When contacted by Reason TV about the use of college students as confidential informants, Liz Brocker, a spokesperson for North Dakota's Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, replied, "We have no opinion about confidential informants." 

The Wahpeton Police Department, Richland County State's Attorney, SEMCA, and both NDSCS and its campus police department all either declined to comment or did not respond to Reason TV's request for comment.


Andrew Sadek is not the only young person to be terrified into working as a C.I. In 2014, a confidential informant at the University of Massachusetts died of a drug overdose, prompting criticism that if his parents had been notified, he might have been able to receive treatment for substance abuse. In 2015, Buzzfeed reported on the widespread use of confidential informants on the campus of Ole Miss.

Most notably, in 2008, Florida State student Rachel Hoffman was murdered when police compelled her to make an illegal gun purchase. A sweeping 2012 New Yorker article recounted Hoffman's tragic fate:

She had never fired a gun or handled a significant stash of hard drugs. Now she was on her way to conduct a major undercover deal for the Tallahassee Police Department, meeting two convicted felons alone in her car to buy two and a half ounces of cocaine, fifteen hundred Ecstasy pills, and a semi-automatic handgun.

The operation did not go as intended. By the end of the hour, police lost track of her and her car. Late that night, they arrived at her boyfriend's town house and asked him if Hoffman was inside. They wanted to know if she might have run off with the money. Her boyfriend didn't know where she was.

"She was with us," he recalled an officer saying. "Until shit got crazy."

Two days after Hoffman disappeared, her body was found in Perry, Florida, a small town some fifty miles southeast of Tallahassee, in a ravine overgrown with tangled vines. Draped in an improvised shroud made from her Grateful Dead sweatshirt and an orange-and-purple sleeping bag, Hoffman had been shot five times in the chest and head with the gun that the police had sent her to buy.

Hoffman's death led to state-wide reforms regarding the use of confidential informants, including common-sense modifications such as forbidding the use of recovering drug addicts as informants, additional training for informants and officers, and more robust recordkeeping requirements so that unsuitable candidates are not needlessly placed in potentially lethal situations. In March 2015, a new proposal made it through Florida's Senate Criminal Justice Committee to "add teeth" to "Rachel's Law," which includes criminal penalties for officers who fail to follow protocol or endanger their assigned informants. 


When the police aggressively prosecute young people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system and then use them as confidential informants, they assume a certain amount of responsibility for their safety. But the lack of interest by the agencies that ensnared Andrew Sadek in vigorously investigating his death as potential murder suggests they wish the case would just go away.

Which only begs the question, why?

Why are the authorities not investigating this case with the same aggressive zeal they continue to use on the campus of NDSCS busting small-time drug sellers?

The heartbroken Sadek family searches for justice for their son, though they are not confident that any law enforcement agency will continue to investigate Andrew's death. Tammy hopes that Andrew's death can serve as a cautionary tale to other young people who get in over their heads and feel they have no other choice but to work as an informant.

"I don't want other kids to end up in this situation," Tammy says. "Talk to your parents. Talk to a lawyer. Don't do the police's job for them."

About 9.45 minutes. 

Written and Produced by Anthony L. Fisher.

Camera by Alex Manning.

Special Thanks to Jim Wareham, Ike Walker, Nicole Johnson and Bradford Arick of Valley News Live.

MUSIC: "I Was a Boy" and "Dishonest" by Wooden Ambulance (; "Old" by Smokey Hormel (

Scroll down for downloadable versions of this video, and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.

15 Jun 10:00

Missing Footage

by Charles Oliver

Chicago police erased 86 minutes of video taken from the security camera of a Burger King located 100 yards from where a cop shot a 17-year-old boy to death, according to the store's manager. Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times, nine in the back. The missing video runs from 9:13 to 10:39 p.m. McDonald was shot around 9:50 p.m. Police deny erasing the video.

12 Jun 15:45

Bobby Jindal on Obama’s socialism

by Mark Perry

The comments below by Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared in yesterday’s WSJ in its “Notable and Quotable” feature (emphasis mine):

From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response to a question on Mike Gallagher’s June 10 syndicated talk-radio show about the “moral case” made this week by President Obama for ObamaCare:

Let’s call Obama’s remarks exactly what they are. The president made the moral case for socialism. Let’s not sugarcoat it, that’s exactly what he believes. He doesn’t hide it, he doesn’t pretend, we shouldn’t either. This isn’t new. Those who favor socialism always make the moral case for it. The truth is, maybe they actually believe in it, but in the real world, socialism harms, it weakens the economies of countries that have tried it. It just does. Weaker economies hurt everybody in them. Socialism kills incentive, opportunity, freedom. It is the opposite of what America is all about. Look, socialism always harms the people it claims to help the most. It handicaps them, leaving them weaker, less self-determined, less free.

We should have this debate out in the open. His “moral case” for ObamaCare is actually immoral. Spending money you don’t have is immoral. Borrowing more money than you can pay back is immoral. Lying to the American people is immoral, so it’s ironic he chooses to use the terms “moral case” or “moral imperative” to make the case for what I think is a very flawed law. The Supreme Court, I hope, rules the correct way. We need to repeal this, replace this. Mike, we cannot measure success by how many people are dependent on government. That’s what President Obama wants. That is the opposite of what America stands for.

The post Bobby Jindal on Obama’s socialism appeared first on AEI.

12 Jun 23:14

Here’s a story about government abuse of power that’s so incredible and scary, you almost can’t believe it

by Mark Perry

There’s a very disturbing two-part series by Lenore Skenazy on Reason’s “Hit and Run Blog,” here are links to those articles and some excerpts:

Part I. “11-Year-Old Boy Played in His Yard. Child Protection Services Took Him, Felony Charge for Parents”:

One afternoon this past April, a Florida mom and dad I’ll call Cindy and Fred could not get home in time to let their 11-year-old son into the house. The boy didn’t have a key, so he played basketball in the yard. He was alone for 90 minutes. A neighbor called the cops, and when the parents arrived—having been delayed by traffic and rain—they were arrested for negligence.

They were put in handcuffs, strip searched, fingerprinted, and held overnight in jail.

It would be a month before their sons—the 11-year-old and his 4-year-old brother—were allowed home again. Only after the eldest spoke up and begged a judge to give him back to his parents did the situation improve.

Cindy and Fred cannot be sure who called the cops and turned their lives upside down. (They have their suspicions.) But they do know who told them they needed to take parenting classes, get therapy, and promise never to let their kids play in their own backyard without a watchman again. They know who took their children away. And you know, too.

Part II.Trouble Not Over for Florida Parents of 11-Year-Old Taken in CPS Dispute”:

Yesterday I ran an interview with the Florida mom whose children were removed from their home for a month after a neighbor reported the family to Child Protective Services because their 11-year-old son was left outside by himself for 90 minutes.

This story is so incredible, some people almost can’t believe it—and I can see why. It is as crazy as Maryland’s Child Protective Services accusing Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of negligence for letting their kids walk home from the park in Silver Spring. Unfortunately, sometimes this kind of thing happens. But when it is sufficiently publicized, change can happen—which is why publicizing these cases is important. And in fact, as Donna St. George reported in yesterday’s Washington Post, Maryland’s CPS has just issued new guidelines, saying, Children playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised.”

I hope this starts a trend.

The parents from yesterday’s story—”Cindy” and “Fred”—want their anonymity preserved. They don’t want to provoke the government officials handling their case, and Cindy has very real concerns that she would lose her job if her identity was revealed. But to quell the idea that this couldn’t have really happened, here is page 1 below of the county court documents ordering the children to be removed from their home. (I blacked out anything I thought might reveal their identities. The full, unredacted document has been viewed by Reason editors.)


After this legal mess is safely behind her, Cindy may talk to the press—or not. Right now, the kids are back with their parents, but the family remains in limbo. At yesterday’s court appearance the judge instructed the family’s lawyer and the prosecutor to try come to a mutual arrangement and return to court at the end of the month.

MP: This story illustrates perfectly why it’s so dangerous to grant too much power to government authorities, and how concentrated government power eventually affects even the most innocent, law-abiding citizens. A government that will lock you up in a cage for smoking weeds grown in your back yard is a government that will take your children away from you for playing basketball unsupervised in your own yard. That same government will also seize your cash and keep it from you even if you broke no law and are not charged with a crime. They’ll anally probe you against your will with a forced colonoscopy if they suspect you are hiding a small amount of drugs. They’ll break into your house with a SWAT team kill your dogs and throw stud grenades that explode in your toddler’s face, scaring him for life, etc. etc. etc. You get the point……

A case like this is almost unbelievable because it goes way beyond nanny statism into the dangerous realm of state totalitarianism. For those of you who put faith in the government and tolerate them regulating your life, allow them to tell you what you can and can’t put in your body – which plants and weeds and what type of milk you’re allowed to ingest, accept government laws that force employers to pay their workers a mandated wage, etc., be careful what your wish for…. and watch out when a neighborhood snitch calls your government and they come and seize your unsupervised children.

Update/Related: An eye-popping op-ed in today’s WSJ by Brian T. Majeski (editor of Music Trades magazine, where you view the entire article) documents how the once-boring music industry has come under attack on various fronts by teams of federal regulators who have tormented the industry with punitive fines, armed raids and even threats of jail. Here’s an excerpt of “The Federal Marching Band of Music Regulators“:

For more than a century, the music industry escaped the gaze of government agencies thanks to its small scale—$6.8 billion now in the U.S.—and its wholesome, noncontroversial products. Few things seem less deserving of federal regulation than a 5th grader with an oboe. On the rare occasions in history when prominent officials took notice, the magazine I edit, Music Trades, ran celebratory headlines: “President Taft At Baldwin Piano Plant Opening,” or “Clinton Says Playing Music Made Me President.”

Over the past seven years, however, the tenor of the government’s interest in the music business has changed. Our magazine now regularly carries accounts of punitive fines, armed raids and threats of jail time.

Here are six examples from the article of the “federal marching band of music regulators” harassing the music industry:

1. In 2007 the Federal Trade Commission launched a broad and far-fetched price-fixing investigation against instrument and equipment manufacturers.

2. In March 2013 the FTC then turned its sights on the Music Teachers National Association, a 139-year old organization comprised primarily of women who give piano lessons in their homes.

3. In 2009 armed FBI agents burst into the Gibson Guitar plant in Nashville, Tenn., seizing pallets of ebony and rosewood. Two years later, agents staged an encore at the Gibson plant in Memphis.

4. Last year Gold Tone Banjo was fined $110,000 by the Fish and Wildlife Service over a few bits of oyster shell. These aren’t endangered species, but farmed oysters like on menus everywhere.

4. Then there’s the Federal Communications Commission, which evaluates electronic devices to ensure that they don’t emit radio waves that interfere with broadcast signals, wireless communication or other electronic devices. Recently, the FCC has used this authority to extract fines for technicalities: $50,000 for displaying a pre-production prototype of an audio effects processor on a website before it was FCC approved; $25,000 for placing the FCC labeling on the wrong side of the package of a digital mixer; and an inexplicable $425,000 fine for a guitar effects pedal that included a chip—the same kind found in virtually every smartphone—that it claimed was not compliant.

5. Proposition 65, a California statute covering potential carcinogens, has forced the industry to defend the legality of guitar strings because a nickel alloy that has been used for decades contains trace elements of lead.

6. Bans on ivory cause hassle for musicians traveling to the U.S. because 50-year-old violins and guitars contain a few grams of the stuff.

And what is the overall effect of these overzealous regulators and its sprawling bureaucracy on the music industry?

The fines and legal fees associated with these investigations have topped $35 million, a pittance in Washington, D.C., but a significant sum for a small, low-margin industry. In addition, they divert time from management and have depressed industry spirits, as many wonder what’s next. It isn’t coincidental that this increased attention from the feds has been accompanied by a period of stagnant industry growth. If the sprawling federal bureaucracy has sapped the vitality of the little music industry, is it having a similar effect on the rest of the economy?

MP: Thanks overzealous federal regulators with your sprawling federal bureaucracy, you’ve made America a much safer and better place. Not.

The post Here’s a story about government abuse of power that’s so incredible and scary, you almost can’t believe it appeared first on AEI.

13 Jun 11:15

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


… is from page 159 of the 1997 Johns Hopkins University Press edition of H.L. Mencken’s 1956 collection, Minority Report:

No politician is ever benefited by saving money; it is spending it that makes him.

12 Jun 21:10

The "Rodney Dangerfield" President

by Tyler Durden

Good ol' Rodney...

Presented with no comment...



12 Jun 16:15

Your Government At Work

by admin

Statists believe in a kind of alchemy.  They will say that individual citizens cannot be trusted with, say, selecting their own health plan.  This must be entrusted to a government official who gained such lofty powers by ... being selected by the self-same citizens that couldn't be trusted to choose a health plan.  How is it that schlubs who cannot be trusted can be elected by the mass of schlubs who cannot be trusted, placed into a monopoly with guns and no competition, and miraculously suddenly be trusted?

As you probably know, the institution that demands ever more power because of external threats to our security and constantly bashes private companies for not being careful enough with privacy had most of its employee data  stolen by a group of Chinese hackers. After the hack was made public, the government claimed the hack was discovered due to their diligent internal security efforts.  This turns out not to be the case, and the reality is pretty damn funny:

At the time, OPM said the breach was discovered as the agency “has undertaken an aggressive effort to update its cybersecurity posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to its networks.”

But four people familiar with the investigation said the breach was actually discovered during a mid-April sales demonstration at OPM by a Virginia company called CyTech Services, which has a networks forensics platform called CyFIR. CyTech, trying to show OPM how its cybersecurity product worked, ran a diagnostics study on OPM’s network and discovered malware was embedded on the network. Investigators believe the hackers had been in the network for a year or more.

Update:  Extra points for this one:

The breach has expedited plans by the Senate to vote on cybersecurity legislation, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) saying Tuesday a vote now could be held in the coming days.

Mr. McConnell said he planned to use an annual defense policy bill currently on the Senate floor to advance the cybersecurity measure, which is aimed at responding to a growing prevalence of data breaches at large U.S. companies.

So the government gets breached because it is using outdated software major private companies have long-ago replaced or patched, and the reaction is new demands on private companies?

11 Jun 13:28

Fatal Flaw in the USGCRP Climate and Health Assessment

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

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”


Yesterday, we posted some excerpts from the Background section of our submitted Comment on the draft report on climate and health from the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). In that section, we argued that the USGCRP was overlooking (ignoring?) a vital factor that shapes the influence of climate change on the health and well-being of Americans—that is, that the adaptive process is actually spurred by climate change itself. Without recognition of this fact, projections are often alarmist and pessimistic.

Today, we wanted to highlight what we found to be the fatal flaw in the entire USGCRP report—that the USGCRP fails to describe the net impact of climate change on public health, instead, presenting only a narrow and selective look at what they determine to be negative impacts (and even those examples tend to be miscast).

Here’s what we had to say about this:

The first sentience of the Climate and Health Assessment exposes the report’s fatal flaw “Climate change is a significant threat to the health of the American people.” This statement is based upon the untested assumption that the climate of the mid-to-late 20th century in the United States is the optimal one for the health of Americans. Yet nowhere, to our knowledge, can the basis for such an assumption be found in the scientific literature. Without establishing the ideal climate, it is pure speculation to make a statement like the one noted above. The USGCRP Climate and Health Assessment is not a comprehensive review of how climate impacts all aspects of the well-being of Americans, but rather a narrow and selective look at how projected changes in climate (projections that are largely grounded in climate model projections which have known faults and limitations) may impact some narrow and selective facets of human health. Sure, there are negatives associated with any change, but that is not the overarching question. The relevant question, and the one not answered by the USGCRP, is what is the net outcome of climate change on the population of Americans.

Admittedly, answering such a question is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. There are so many confounding factors in play. Obvious examples include changing population demographics (including age-structure), changing medical technologies, changing health care, changing diets, and changing habits. On the climate side of things, additional complicating factors are to be found including improving weather forecasts, improving warning systems, improving observational systems, and improving preparation. But it is quite likely that it is the non-obvious influences which are most at play.

Compounding the situation is that the impacts of a changing climate are not constant over various timescales. Climate change provokes the development and adoption of adaptive measures-measures which insulate us against future impacts and lowers the future threat. Depending on the types of adaptive measures deployed, these may become effective on timescales from weeks to decades (or even longer). For example, an unusual summer heatwave may increase daily mortality in unprepared localities for a few days, but adaptive measures ranging from simple actions (community awareness programs and cooling centers) with deployment in times in weeks to months, to more elaborate (heat watch/warming systems, building design), with deployment horizons from years to decades.

And one must be careful not to fall prey to confusing climate change with climate (including climate variability).  Too often reports like these are written with blinders on that mislead the authors into thinking that all impacts are a result of climate changes, when, in fact, climate change plays but a tiny role in the overall climate—with the role of human-caused climate change extremely difficult to identify, much less even be anticipated in a robust manner.

Perhaps the largest hurdle the USGCRP has to overcome to establish a growing threat from climate change is that the simplest measure of human well-being, life expectancy, shows a large increase since the beginning of the 20th century (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Life expectancy at birth, United States, 1900-2013 (data source: Centers for Disease Control,

Life expectancy is indicative of the sum total of all influences on the well-being of Americans and shows that the overall climate has been increasing favorable. This has occurred at the same time as a rise in global and national temperatures (from whatever the cause).

But, climate (including variability and change) is eminently more complex than a simple annual average of a large area temperature can indicate (a parameter that no individual experiences). As we try to decrease the temporal and spatial scales to those relevant for human health, the complexities of the climate overwhelms our abilities to project them more than a few days into the future.

Oversimplifications therefore become commonplace, such as using coarse resolution climate model output involving a limited number of variables to downscale to local time and places. This procedure is one is widely recognized as being fraught with uncertainty, and thus produces non-robust and unreliable results.

 Our bottom line is not pretty for the USGCRP and their Climate and Health Assessment:

[This] compounds to produce a nearly intractable situation in which determining the role on anthropogenic climate change in the overall health and well-being of Americans, now and in the future, becomes fraught with nearly unavoidable pitfalls, many of which the USGCRP has stepped directly in. In doing so, the USGCRP has produced a document that serves not to inform the public as to the existing state of robust science on the topic of climate and human health, but rather to misinform them and local, state and national policy as well.

11 Jun 12:06



(Third column, 3rd story, link)
Related stories:
11 Jun 11:05

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


… is from page 115 of the 5th edition (2015) of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics (original emphasis):

To many people, even today, high profits are often attributed to high prices charged by those motivated by “greed.”  In reality, most of the great fortunes in American history have resulted from someone’s figuring out how to reduce costs, so as to be able to charge lower prices and therefore gain a mass market for the product.  Henry Ford did this with automobiles, Rockefeller with oil, Carnegie with steel, and Sears, Penney, Walton and other department store chain founders with a variety of products.

10 Jun 23:12

REASON MAG ANGER: User Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech...

REASON MAG ANGER: User Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech...

(First column, 4th story, link)
Related stories:
10 Jun 20:48

Log of Members Who Read Bill -- Also Locked in Private Room!

Log of Members Who Read Bill -- Also Locked in Private Room!

(First column, 11th story, link)
Related stories:
10 Jun 16:44

Fighting for the Right to Control Other People's Property

by admin

Deborah Vollmer appears to be a nightmare neighbor in this story from the Washington Post (via Maggie's Farm).  She is absolutely hell-bent on preventing her neighbor from doing anything to their house that she would not do to it.  If her neighbor's aesthetics don't match hers, she takes them to court.

“Some people may question my motives,” Vollmer said. “But what’s happening in this town, these developers, tearing down old homes. I’m standing up for my rights. . . . And then this whole thing just kind of evolved” from that...

What could possibly be driving this woman? Friend and Chevy Chase resident John Fitzgerald said that her stubborn streak has roots deep in her past. Vollmer forged her career defending the rights of those without means. And that, he said, inculcated in her a desire to protect principles until the bitter end.

What right or principle is she fighting for?  The right to micro-manage her neighbor's property.  Read the article, this woman seems to be a total nightmare, all because she wants everyone else's house to look exactly like hers.

She should move to California.  She would fit right in.  She would be a perfect candidate to sit on the California Coastal Commission, for example.

We have a sort-of similar fight brewing here in Phoenix where a few local residents were trying to prevent another resident from tearing down and rebuilding his tired old house, which happened to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's studios.  I appreciate Mr. Wright's work, but also know he designed some unlivable crap.  He was an artist, experimenting, and sometimes the experiments were not great.  He was also a businessman, always short of money, and sometimes his projects did not get his full artistic attention.  In my view, this was such a house.

I have the same answer for Ms. Vollmer that I do for those Wright house enthusiasts -- if you want to control a piece of property, buy it.  If you don't have the money, encourage other people to chip in.  But if you can't get enough people who similarly value your vision for the property to fund its acquisition, don't take the shortcut of using your influence with the government to impose the cost on taxpayers, or worse, on the individual property holder.

10 Jun 16:05

Obama Extends War With Eastasia Hours After Declaring He Has Never Been At War With Eastasia

by admin

Via Zero Hedge:

Just when we thought the absurdity that marks every single day of Obama's reign could not possibly be surpassed, we learned that 4 hours (3 hours and 47 minutes to be precise) after the US president vowed to sign a new law banning bulk data collection by the NSA (named, for purely grotesque reasons, the "USA Freedom Act"), the Obama administration asked the secret Fisa surveillance court to ignore a federal court that found bulk surveillance illegal and to once again grant the National Security Agency the power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans for six months.

Or, as the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, who spotted this glaring page out of Josef Stalin's playbook, summarized it:

June 2, 6:03pm: Obama says he'll sign law banning bulk collection. June 2 9:50pm: DOJ asks secret court for 180 more days of bulk collection

— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) June 8, 2015

According to Ackerman, this latest travesty by the administration "suggests that the administration may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop."

09 Jun 20:33

EPA Power Plant Rule Can Go Forward, Says Federal Court

by Ronald Bailey

EPA LogoThe EPA is the process of promulgating rules that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide electricity generation plants may emit. The regulatiolns are part of the Obama Administration's efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases thought by many researchers to be the main contributor to global climate change. Since coal emits relatively greater amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than other fuels, the new rules would significantly cut back on the amount of coal used to produce electricity. In an effort to forestall the adoption of the new rules, several states and power companies sued the agency in federal court arguing that the regulations are unconstitutional. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled narrowly that the courts should not now intervene before the EPA rule is actually made final. That is likely to happen in August.

The Examiner reports:

The proposed EPA regulation, called the Clean Power Plan, seeks to curb electricity sector carbon emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It would allow states to reduce emissions by upgrading power plant energy efficiency, converting coal-fired power to natural gas, adding renewable power and enhancing customers' energy efficiency.

"EPA is pleased that the court has denied the challenges to our proposed Clean Power Plan and confirmed our assessment that they are premature," EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said.

But the ruling is just a temporary reprieve for rule supporters, with the real slog coming once the agency finalizes the regulation in August. The federal court didn't consider the merits of the plaintiffs' arguments in its opinion, noting that it didn't have purview to do so when the rule was in draft form. ...

Plaintiffs, led by attorney Laurence Tribe — a mentor of Obama at Harvard Law School — argued the proposal was unconstitutional because it calls on potential emissions reductions outside of individual smokestacks and delves into states' energy planning.

Interestingly, Tribe (who works as an attorney for one of the plaintiffs) testified before Congress earlier this year, asserting:

EPA lacks the statutory and constitutional authority to adopt its plan. The obscure section of the Clean Air Act that EPA invokes to support its breathtaking exercise of power in fact authorizes only regulating individual plants and, far from giving EPA the green light it claims, actually forbids what it seeks to do.

Even if the Act could be stretched to usurp state sovereignty and confiscate business investments the EPA had previously encouraged and in some cases mandated,as this plandoes, the duty to avoid clashing with the Tenth and Fifth Amendments would prohibit such stretching. EPA possesses only the authority granted to it by Congress. It lacks “implied” or “inherent” powers.

Its gambit here raises serious questions under the separation of powers, Article I, and Article III, because EPA is attempting to exercise lawmaking power that belongs to Congress and judicial power that belongs to the federal courts. The absence of EPA legal authority in this case makes the Clean Power Plan, quite literally, a “power grab.”

EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts - all at once. Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.

Alas, burning sections of the Constitution has been policy for a while now. We shall how these arguments fare later this year.

09 Jun 17:16

Feds Subpoena Reason Foundation

by Tim Lynch

Two killers are on the loose, having escaped from a New York prison, but federal prosecutors in New York are hunting for some individuals who posted comments to a blog post over at the Reason web site.  Stay with me as I try to explain…

By way of background, Reason’s Nick Gillespie wrote a blog post about the federal prosecution of the man behind the Silk Road project, a sophisticated narcotics distribution operation. (If you’re tempted to comment on that post, please finish reading this post first. Seriously.) That man, Ross Ulbricht, was recently sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.  Like Cato, Reason has been a long time critic of the drug war.  Thus, most of Reason’s web site readers believe that nearly all criminal prosecutions for narcotics violations are misguided and unjust.  So it was no surprise to learn that the comments to Gillespie’s post had harsh things to say about the government, including the sentencing judge, in that case.  Some evidently went so far as to say the judge should be killed.   Enter the federal government with subpoenas to Reason so agents can track down those anonymous commentators for further investigation.

Ken White at Popehat broke the story and has a very good post that dismantles the government’s actions in detail here (be advised that there is some profanity).

I have not spoken to our friends at Reason on this matter, but it seems safe to say that they are likely outraged by this subpoena.  (Remember that failure to comply with a subpoena will be considered a federal crime!  Being threatened in these circumstances is outrageous!)   They are being asked (excuse me, ordered) to assist the government to track down and harass (perhaps even arrest and prosecute) some of their readers.  And for what?  Expressing opinions that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution.  Our friends can try to fight the subpoena by going to court and having it quashed, but that could entail thousands of dollars in attorneys fees – and the chances of success are not that great. 

Perhaps as the word gets around, the feds will withdraw the subpoena under pressure.  That might happen, but the downside of that is that this subpoena power will, in law, remain virtually unchecked.  When will it resurface, and against who?  Maybe a person or organization that is in an even weaker position to resist and fight back in court.  Establishing a legal precedent would be desirable here, but, again, it could be very expensive to wage a court battle.  

For Cato scholarship regarding the power of grand juries, go here.

For another example of what New York federal prosecutors think about their power vis-a-vis free speech, go here.   


09 Jun 15:15

This Map Details Whether Asset Forfeiture Laws in Your State Are Good or Awful

by Scott Shackford

The liberty-loving activists at FreedomWorks has produced a useful tool to examine the quality of civil asset forfeiture laws (the rules that allow police to seize and often keep money and property from busts) across the states. They've put together a new map that grades each state and the federal government on the basis of the following questions:

  • What is the standard of proof the government must meet to forfeit a person's property?
  • Who has the burden of prove innocence or mistake—the government or the property owner?
  • What percentage of forfeiture funds are retained by law enforcement?

In case it's not immediately clear, the best states would be ones that require the highest standards of proof of criminal behavior (beyond reasonable doubt) for seizure, states that require the government prove the property was involved in crimes rather than the citizen having to prove innocence, and states where law enforcement retains less (or none) of the forfeited funds, thereby avoiding economic incentives to abuse the system.

As the map below shows, very few states can proudly declare that they've put their citizenry first in the creation of their asset forfeiture laws (click the map for a larger picture):

Click for larger map

Note that the top grade goes to New Mexico, which recently passed massive reforms to its civil asset forfeiture rules. They are the only full "A" grade on the map. FreedomWorks' full report explaining each state's grade notes:

The Legislature recently passed reforms and they were signed into law by Governor Martinez. The state now requires a criminal conviction before property can be forfeited and all forfeiture funds now go directly to the state's general fund. Additionally, state and local law enforcement are prohibited from sending seized property to the federal government for "equitable sharing," where they would receive up to 80% of the proceeds.

The only other state on the top of grade chart is North Carolina, which earned an A-. They don't get full credit because the state puts the burden of proof on the property owner to prove his or her innocence. After that, the grades start going downhill very quickly. Only a handful of states (and the District of Columbia) get B's, and the rest are all C's or lower.

FreedomWorks also grades the federal asset forfeiture system and gives it a dreadful D-, something people should keep in mind whenever they think the Department of Justice can fix whatever ails our local law enforcement agencies. The standard of proof for federal asset seizure is low, the property owner bears all the burden of proving innocence, and the feds can keep it all. The "Equitable Sharing Program" allows state and municipal law enforcement agencies to "partner" with federal agencies for busts, allowing (even encouraging) local agencies to bypass whatever restrictions states put into place to cash in on this D- system and keep 80 percent of what they seize. New Mexico's new regulations forbid the law enforcement agencies in the state from participating in this system. California is now poised to possibly do the same. Michigan is working on a package of reforms that don't go nearly as far.

An important note on these grades: The state grades do not take into account whether law enforcement agencies bypass the state laws and use the Department of Justice's program. The Institute for Justice, the legal activists who also help fight for forfeiture reform, had their own set of grades they produced back in 2010. North Carolina, for example, got a lower grade (a C+) because law enforcement agencies would get millions in proceeds from asset forfeiture from the federal government, even though the state itself does not let police keep what they seize.

Below the fold, the full FreedomWorks report is embedded.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: Grading the States

08 Jun 17:47

Monday afternoon links

by Mark Perry

Several good charts today.


1. Chart of the Day I. The chart above is an updated version of one I used for this CD post last November, and shows the relationship from 1990 to 2014 between: a) real annual median household income and b) the number of US retirees as a share of the US adult population. In the five year period between 2009 and 2014, the number of retired Americans increased by 5.5 million, which was the largest five-year increase in US history, and more than double the 2.5 million increase in the previous five-year period. Given that wave of recent retirements, there have been millions of older, experienced, highly-paid workers going from their peak earning levels to a much lower retirement income that would typically include Social Security payments, pensions, and distributions from retirement accounts. As those millions of retirees are replaced in the workforce by younger, less experienced, lower paid workers, median household income could be falling even though the average income of working Americans could be rising.

A regression analysis of the 2005-2014 period shows that a 1% increase in the retirees’ share of the US adult population is associated with a $1,861 decline in real median household income (R-squared = 72.5%).



2. Chart of the Day II (above). Based on new data released by the NHTSA last week, the US traffic fatality rate fell last year to 1.08 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles, the lowest fatality rate in history, and 85% below the rate in 1950 (7.24).

3. Who-d a-Thunk It I? A politician — Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) — is a proponent of increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2020 for low-skill, limited-experience workers, unless they work for him as unpaid interns? Source.

4. Who-d a-Thunk It II? Portugal decriminalized drugs 14 years ago – and now hardly anyone dies from overdosing? Source.

5. Drug War Updates from WaPo: a) Harsh sentences, a legacy of the “War on Drugs,” have left elderly behind bars (source), and b) In the meth corridor of Iowa, a federal judge comes face to face with the reality of congressionally mandated sentencing (source).

6. Ethanol Fact of the Day I: Last year’s production and use of 14 billion gallons of corn ethanol resulted in 27 million tons more carbon emissions than if Americans had used straight gasoline in their vehicles. Source.

7. Ethanol Fact of the Day II: On an energy-equivalent basis, ethanol has been more expensive than gasoline for more than three decades. As Robert Bryce showed in a recent report for the Manhattan Institute, the Renewable Fuel Standard now imposes about $10 billion annually in additional fuel costs on motorists over and above what they would have paid for gasoline alone.

8. Markets in Everything. Allstate Corp. is expected to start rolling out insurance for drivers working for app-based car services such as Uber and Lyft, beginning on a limited basis in just a few states this year.



9. Chart of the Day III (above). The male labor force participation rate (LFPR) has been in a steady decline for more than 65 years, due to the aging of the US male population, and helps explain in part why the overall LFPR is at the lowest level since 1978.


10. Chart of the Day IV (below). From The Economist, showing that “Workers in poor countries have never had it so good. Two decades ago the extremely poor accounted for more than a third of all workers in developing countries, around 750 million people. Today their numbers have halved. The fastest-growing group are those considered “middle class”: they now represent 40% of the labor force in poor countries.”



The post Monday afternoon links appeared first on AEI.

08 Jun 05:00

4gifs: Spiderdog does a 12 foot wall climb. [video]


Spiderdog does a 12 foot wall climb. [video]

08 Jun 15:37

Is Obamacare's Medical Socialism Working?

by Shikha Dalmia

The real curse of Obama-don’t-care is that instead of discussing how to fix America’s admittedly crazy health care Obamacare Socialismsystem, we will now be arguing about how to make this exercise in socialism work — or prove to liberals who want to believe that it is working that it is not.

They’ve been touting the tremendous success of the law ever since stopped crashing anytime four people logged on simultaneously. Their new tactic is to take the direst predictions of the law’s critics, show how those didn’t come true, and, voila, declare that everything is just peachy.

But on the real world test of what the law is actually doing to the wallets of exchange customers, a very different picture emerges, I point out in The Week. I note:

Every year, companies selling coverage through ObamaCare's exchanges have to ask state regulators to approve their premiums for the following year — a practice more appropriate for the Soviet Union than an allegedly free-market economy. And this year, according to several news reports, some are requesting increases of over 50 percent…

What's more, these hikes are likely just a prelude to far bigger ones in future years. Why? Because two programs — risk corridor and reinsurance — that were meant to "stabilize" rates in ObamaCare's first few years so that insurers could obtain the right mix of enrollees are set to expire next year...

So, to recap: ObamaCare has fallen short of its enrollment target, hiked insurance premiums, failed to cut down on ER visits, and flopped in its attempt to improve hospitals' bottom line.

Other than that it’s working great.

Go here to read the whole thing.

08 Jun 16:34

Honest Leftist Admits Desire for Spite-Driven Tax Policy

by Daniel J. Mitchell

Every so often, I’ll assert that some statists are so consumed by envy and spite that they favor high tax rates on the “rich” even if the net effect (because of diminished economic output) is less revenue for government.

In other words, they deliberately and openly want to be on the right side (which is definitely the wrong side) of the Laffer Curve.

Just in case you think I’m exaggerating in order to make my opponents look foolish, check out this poll of left-wing voters who strongly favored soak-the-rich tax hikes even if there was no extra tax collected.

But now I have an even better example.

Writing for Vox, Matthew Yglesias openly argues that we should be on the downward-sloping portion of the Laffer Curve. Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, “the case for confiscatory taxation” is part of the title for his article.

Here’s some of what he wrote.

Maybe at least some taxes should be really high. Maybe even really really high. So high as to useless for revenue-raising purposes — but powerful for achieving other ends. We already accept this principle for tobacco taxes. If all we wanted to do was raise revenue, we might want to slightly cut cigarette taxes. …But we don’t do that because we care about public health. We tax tobacco not to make money but to discourage smoking.

The tobacco tax analogy is very appropriate.

Indeed, one of my favorite arguments is to point out that we have high taxes on cigarettes precisely because politicians want to discourage smoking.

As a good libertarian, I then point out that government shouldn’t be trying to control our private lives, but my bigger point is that the economic arguments about taxes and smoking are the same as those involving taxes on work, saving, investment.

Needless to say, I want people to understand that high tax rates are a penalty, and it’s particularly foolish to impose penalties on productive behavior.

But not according to Matt. He specifically argues for ultra-high tax rates as a “deterrence” to high levels of income.

If we take seriously the idea that endlessly growing inequality can have a cancerous effect on our democracy, we should consider it for top incomes as well. …apply the same principle of taxation-as-deterrence to very high levels of income. …Imagine a world in which we…imposed a 90 percent marginal tax rate on salaries above $10 million. This seems unlikely to raise substantial amounts of revenue.

I suppose we should give him credit for admitting that high tax rates won’t generate revenue. Which means he’s more honest than some of his fellow statists who want us to believe confiscatory tax rates will produce more money.

But honesty isn’t the same as wisdom.

Let’s look at the economic consequences. Yglesias does admit that there might be some behavioral effects because upper-income taxpayers will be discouraged from earning and reporting income.

Maybe…we really would see a reduction of effort, or at least a relaxation of the intensity with which the performers pursue money. But would that be so bad? Imagine the very best hedge fund managers and law firm partners became inclined to quit the field a bit sooner and devote their time to hobbies. What would we lose, as a society? …some would presumably just move to Switzerland or the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes. That would be a real hit to local economies, but hardly a disaster. …Very high taxation of labor income would mean fewer huge compensation packages, not more revenue. Precisely as Laffer pointed out decades ago, imposing a 90 percent tax rate on something is not really a way to tax it at all — it’s a way to make sure it doesn’t happen.

While I suppose it’s good that Yglesias admits that high tax rates change incentives, he clearly underestimates the damaging impact of such a policy.

He presumably doesn’t understand that rich people earn very large shares of their income from business and investment sources. As such, they have considerable ability to alter the timing, level, and composition of their earnings.

But my biggest problem with Yglesias’ proposals is that he seems to believe in the fixed-pie fallacy that public policy doesn’t have any meaningful impact of economic performance. This leads him to conclude that it’s okay to pillage the “rich” since that will simply mean more income and wealth is available for the rest of us.

That’s utter nonsense. The economy is not a fixed pie and there is overwhelming evidence that nations with better policy grow faster and create more prosperity.

In other words, confiscatory taxation will have a negative effect on everyone, not just upper-income taxpayers.

There will be less saving and investment, which translates into lower wages and salaries for ordinary workers.

And as we saw in France, high tax rates drive out highly productive people, and we have good evidence that “super-entrepreneurs” and inventors are quite sensitive to tax policy.

To be fair, I imagine that Yglesias would try to argue that these negative effects are somehow offset by benefits that somehow materialize when there’s more equality of income.

But the only study I’ve seen that tries to make a connection between growth and equality was from the OECD and that report was justly ridiculed for horrible methodology (not to mention that it’s hard to take serious a study that lists France, Spain, and Ireland as success stories).

P.S. This is my favorite bit of real-world evidence showing why there should be low tax rates on the rich (in addition, of course, to low tax rates on the rest of us).

P.P.S. And don’t forget that leftists generally view higher taxes on the rich as a precursor to higher taxes on the rest of the population.

P.P.P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, Yglesias says I’m insane and irrational.

08 Jun 13:31

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Know Your Linguistic Philosophies

07 Jun 21:54

103 Years Later, Wall Street Turned Out Just As One Man Predicted

by Tyler Durden

In 1910, three years before the US Federal Reserve was founded, Senator Nelson Aldrich, Frank Vanderlip of National City (Citibank), Henry Davison of Morgan Bank, and Paul Warburg of the Kuhn, Loeb Investment House met secretly at Jekyll Island in Georgia to formulate a plan for a US central bank just years ahead of World War I.

The result of their work was the so-called Aldrich Plan which called for a system of fifteen regional central banks, i.e., National Reserve Associations, whose actions would be coordinated by a national board of commercial bankers. The Reserve Association would make emergency loans to member banks, and would create money to provide an elastic currency that could be exchanged equally for demand deposits, and would act as a fiscal agent for the federal government.

In other words, the Aldrich Plan proposed a "central bank" that would be openly and directly controlled by Wall Street commercial banks on whose behalf it would solely operate, instead of doing so indirectly, behind closed doors and the need for criminal probe of Yellen's Fed seeking to find who leaked what to whom.

The Aldrich Plan was defeated in the House in 1912 but its outline became the model for the bill that eventually was adopted as the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 whose passage not only unleashed the Fed as we know it now, but the entire shape of modern finance.

In 1912, one person who warned against the passage of the Aldrich Plan, was Alfred Owen Crozier: a man who saw how it would all play out, and even wrote a book titled "U.S. Money vs Corporation Currency" (costing 25 cents) explaining and predicting everything that would ultimately happen, even adding some 30 illustrations for those readers who were visual learners. 

The book, which is attached at the end of this post, is a must read, but even those pressed for time are urged to skim the following illustrations all of which were created in 1912, and all of which predicted just what the current financial system would look like.

Or, in the words of Overstock's CEO Patrick Byrne, "that's uncanny"

@zerohedge that's uncanny.

— Patrick Byrne (@OverstockCEO) June 5, 2015

From "U.S. Money vs Corporation Currency" (which can and should be read for free on Google), here are the selected illustrations:


None of this was rocket science: should the power to create money fall into the hands of a private few, or an entity working purely on their behalf (and lest there is any confusion, a multi-trillion bailout of the US financial system and the ongoing ZIRP/QE regime has benefited almost entirely that handful of people who stood to lose trillions in paper wealth should US banking as we know it end), it would "inaugurate a financial and industrial reign of terror." It was clear as day 103 years ago.


Fast forward 103 years when who should end up with that power? A group of central banking career academics, currently in the midst of a criminal probe what and how much information they leaked to a select group of private Wall Street interests and commercial bankers.

Why? Simple.


The country now knows: "Democracy" forgot.

* * *

Full book below (link for free ebook):

04 Jun 08:12

Sign Of The Times: Warrant Canary Management Software Is Now A Thing

by Glyn Moody

Warrant canaries -- regularly-updated public statements that an organization has not been served with a secret government subpoena -- are not a new idea, but it's interesting to observe how they are still evolving. As Mike noted in an article that appeared in November 2013, they were originally suggested for libraries, and then were picked up by major Internet companies like Apple. Now there's a move into the world of publishing. The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, has just unveiled its first warrant canary:

Status: All good
Period: April, 2015

During this period, First Look Media Inc. has received:

Zero National Security Letters
Zero Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders
Zero gag orders that prevent us from from stating that we have received legal process seeking our customers' information

Lynn Oberlander
General Counsel, Media Operations
First Look Media, Inc
As The Intercept article announcing this move points out, there is a site called Canary Watch, which keeps track of warrant canaries. That's one sign of the increasing normalization of the idea. Another is the release of new software from First Look called AutoCanary:
AutoCanary is a desktop program for Windows, Mac, and Linux that makes the process of generating machine-readable, digitally signed warrant canary statements simpler.
Here's how it works:
Choose one person in your organization (probably your General Counsel) to be responsible for signing warrant canary statements. This person must have a PGP key.

Choose how often you wish to issue canary statements (available options include weekly, monthly, quarterly, and semi-annually).

Set a recurring event with a reminder in your calendar to sign your canary statement. This is important: failing to publish your canary statement on time could result in automated alarms ringing. If your canary stops tweeting, it may lead your users to believe you’ve received a gag order when you haven’t.

Create a page on your website to publish your warrant canary message
That's hardly a complicated process, but it's good to see First Look making it even easier with AutoCanary, especially since the software has been released as open source, along with pdf-redact-tools, "a set of tools to help with securely redacting and stripping metadata from documents before publishing." Partly as a result of this move, we can probably expect to see many more warrant canaries being published in the future.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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04 Jun 13:14

Documents Show DEA Running Ever-Increasing Number Of Wiretap Applications Through Friendlier Local Courts

by Tim Cushing

It looks like the DEA has upped the amount of surveillance it's performing, most likely not as a result of increasing drug trafficking, but more likely due to other contributing factors. According to information obtained through a USA Today FOIA request, 2014 was a record year for DEA wiretapping -- another in a decade-long string of consecutive "record years." (A slight, probably-Snowden-related dip in requests notwithstanding.)

The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.
At first glance, it would appear that the DEA is simply being more aggressive in its drug enforcement efforts. But more likely this is a sign that the DEA is just getting better at streamlining its wiretapping request procedures. To begin with, it appears the DEA doesn't feel federal courts need to be involved in federal investigations -- at least not when local courts will perform the same function but faster and with fewer questions asked.
DEA agents now take 60% of those requests directly to local prosecutors and judges from New York to California, who current and former officials say often approve them more quickly and easily.
Not only does this allow DEA agents to more easily obtain permission to deploy wiretaps, but its "BUY LOCAL!" plan allows it to dodge additional scrutiny from the DOJ. While state courts are supposed to adhere to DOJ guidelines while approving wiretaps, it appears smaller courts are less likely to challenge DEA requests.
Agents said many of the cases in which state judges authorize wiretaps end up being prosecuted in state courts, where challenges to wiretap evidence are less common. According to records the district attorney submitted to California's attorney general, for example, only about 2% of the 1,400 wiretaps authorized in Riverside County over the past five years were later challenged in state court.
As USA Today's Brad Heath points out, the DEA seems to love Riverside County. Judges there approved more wiretap applications than any other jurisdiction in the country, leading to the applications routed through it doubling from 2013 to 2014.

The DEA, however, claims there's no venue shopping or DOJ-ducking going on here. It's all just part of the magical complicated world of drug enforcement.
Moses said DEA agents were "making no attempt to circumvent federal legal standards and protections by instead pursuing state wiretap authorizations." Instead, he said, the rapid growth of state-authorized eavesdropping reflects local prosecutors' increased willingness to take on complex wiretap investigations, which often involve teams of local police and federal agents. At the same time, he said, some federal prosecutors "may be unable to support wire intercept investigations due to manpower or other resource considerations," so agents take their cases to state officials rather than see them dropped.
That all sounds very plausible, but still doesn't explain why the DEA is running so many joint operations out of Riverside County. Be that as it may, the uptick in requests can also be attributed to the agency's long-running parallel construction schemes, which may now include communications gathered with the assistance of purchased exploits and malware. While many judges may be a bit hesitant to sign off on man-in-the-middle attacks to implant spyware on cellphones, they're perfectly happy to John Hancock normal law enforcement methods like wiretaps that achieve the same end.

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04 Jun 13:35

Kids in Police-Run Youth Camp Allegedly Beaten, Threatened By Cops

by Robby Soave

This is disturbing...

DrillCalifornia children who “talked back” to their parents or teachers were encouraged to enroll in a police-run boot camp designed to build character. But the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the camp for allegedly physically and verbally abusing the kids—many of whom came home beaten and bruised.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The children, ages 11 to 17, suffered cuts and bruises after being beaten in what was described as “the dark room” during the weeklong boot camp in San Luis Obispo, their attorney, Greg Owen, said. One boy suffered broken bones in his hand when an officer stepped on it because he was not performing a push-up properly, Owen said.

After returning from the boot camp, the children remained silent about what happened because they feared retaliation, the lawyer said.

“They were threatened [that] if they told they would be found and get hurt badly,” Owen said, adding that he was representing 10 children but believes that there may be more, including from previous camps. …

The children’s parents had paid $400 for an educational and physical activity program to improve their behavior, Owen said. He said some of the children were recommended for the intervention program by their schools after talking back to their teachers and parents.

South Gate police officials said the program spans 20 weeks and is designed to “change the destructive behavior of an at-risk youth” by introducing a structured regimen and educational trips. The boot camp took place during one of those trips.

I don’t know if these kinds of programs are generally effective (I tend to doubt it), but one thing I’m sure won’t improve the kids’ behavior and authority issues is treating them like conscripted soldiers and beating the crap out of them. One kid even told KTLA 5 that a drill sergeant stood on his hand and broke his fingers.

A spokesperson for the police department that runs the boot camp said no had ever made complaints along these lines in its 20-year history. It’s not yet known whether charges will be filed.

04 Jun 11:16

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


… is from pages 62-63 of a selection from Oscar Wilde’s February 1891 Forthnightly Review essay, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” – a selection that appears in the superb just-published reader, Individualism, edited by George H. Smith and Marilyn Moore:

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.  And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them.  Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type.  Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it….  For the egoist is he who makes claims upon others, and the Individualist will not desire to do that.

04 Jun 04:00

Video: Stuffed Toy Tiger Intimidates German Shepherd

03 Jun 15:40

The DEA Bypasses Federal Oversight to Better Snoop on Us All

by Scott Shackford

Broken windows policingReason has written extensively in our coverage of police asset forfeiture about how local law enforcement agencies bypass state restrictions by turning to the Department of Justice’s looser federal sharing program. Doing so allows some law enforcement agencies to keep more of the money and property they seize.

It seems as though the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reversed this dynamic, all in the name of more easily snooping on people. USA Today has determined that the DEA has drastically increased its use of electronic surveillance over the past decade by deliberately bypassing its own federal oversight and turning to local prosecutors. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has tougher requirements to permit eavesdropping than states and local judges:

The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.

Most of that ramped-up surveillance was never reviewed by federal judges or Justice Department lawyers, who typically are responsible for examining federal agents' eavesdropping requests. Instead, DEA agents now take 60% of those requests directly to local prosecutors and judges from New York to California, who current and former officials say often approve them more quickly and easily.

Drug investigations account for the vast majority of U.S. wiretaps, and much of that surveillance is carried out by the DEA. Privacy advocates expressed concern that the drug agency had expanded its surveillance without going through internal Justice Department reviews, which often are more demanding than federal law requires.

Wiretaps — which allow the police to listen in on phone calls and other electronic communications — are considered so sensitive that federal law requires approval from a senior Justice Department official before agents can even ask a federal court for permission to conduct one. The law imposes no such restriction on state court wiretaps, even when they are sought by federal agents.

A DEA spokesperson insisted their agents weren’t trying to bypass oversight, but rather the states and local prosecutors have gotten more willing to participate in wiretap investigations and bring in local police to assist. Also, DEA agents still have to follow federal safeguards for wiretapping, even if they don’t go through the DOJ or federal judges for approval.

It occurs to me to go back to my initial comparison to federal asset forfeiture rules. By bringing in local police to assist, whatever these cases are must almost certainly then become joint operations, which means the police can then use the federal program to try to seize and keep more of whatever they find in these investigations.

The USA Today piece does not attempt to look at or correlate these investigations with participation in the federal Equitable Sharing Program, but there has been a similar increase in law enforcement agencies turning to the federal program for civil asset forfeiture. The story notes increases in turning to local courts for wiretap approval in Southern California, a doubling in Riverside.  In April, the Drug Policy Alliance released a report showing that revenue California cities have seen from participating in the federal asset forfeiture reform has tripled over the same time frame covered as this USA Today report, while revenue from state asset forfeiture has remained the same. No doubt local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies are thrilled to help the DEA with their wiretapping. There’s quite the financial incentive involved.

03 Jun 00:58

When Ideology Takes A Back Seat to Party Politics

by admin

The brief time I led the Equal Marriage Arizona efforts to amend the Constitution to allow gay marriage was a real eye-opener for me.  I expected that since I was not a member of the largest gay activist groups, I might have to work to build up trust.  But it turned out, trust was not an issue.  I seldom had anyone question my sincerity.  However, I quickly found all the major gay rights groups (excepting the ACLU, bless their hearts) not just neutral or skeptical but actively opposing our effort.  Several people in these organizations dragged me in the figurative back room and explained that the leadership of their group would never accept a non-Democrat getting credit for such a success.  And one member of prominent organization (hint:  has same initials as Hillary Rodham Clinton) told me that their internal position was that they did not want gay marriage to come to Arizona until after 2016 because they wanted Hillary to be able to run on the issue and hoped to flip AZ blue in 2016.

So, a couple of years ago I would never have believed this story, but now it seems all too familiar

Just this week, legislators introduced a bill that would encourage drug companies to apply to sell contraceptives without a prescription.

But if Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, along with four other GOP senators, were expecting flowers from Planned Parenthood and others for their bill, the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, they should brace for disappointment. Suddenly, the idea doesn’t sound so great, and the former supporters aren’t mincing words.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said the bill is a “sham and an insult to women.”

Karen Middleton of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado even got personal, saying, “Cory Gardner can’t be trusted when it comes to Colorado women and their health care.”...

Beneath the fear-mongering lies the more likely reason for the change of heart on the left. The bill was simply introduced by the wrong party.