Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Does Trump Understand How The Federal Budget Works?

You'd think someone as politically savvy as Trump would at least understand the basics. The Obama Administration's last fiscal year is the current year. Bush's last fiscal year was 2009, so Obama actually inherited a $200B increase in his first month and Trump inherited a $12B decrease in his first month. The debt level also fluctuates with changes in economic output among other factors. Even if Trump were to reduce the national debt by $12B in 2018 it would be insignificant in the grand scheme of things considering that the national debt is nearly $20T.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 23)

Non-Practicing Entities Should Be Wiped Out

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

The EFF wrote an interesting piece on personal jurisdiction in cases in which a non-practicing entity, commonly known as a patent troll, sent demand letters to productive companies outside of their jurisdiction and forced said companies, by federal court ruling, to challenge the validity of the patent or their claim in a distant court. The gist is that demand letters do not establish personal jurisdiction over out of state NPEs, but productive companies that provide a product or service nationwide, can be sued for patent infringement anywhere. This gives NPEs a clear legal advantage over productive companies. Overturning the two federal rulings that established this precedent would be a step in the right direction, but the larger problem of NPEs themselves still lies unaddressed. NPEs cost productive companies 29 billion per year, a cost that is ultimately passed on to consumers. Now patents are government granted monopolies, like private property in land, and as such the returns on them are rents. They should be taxed at a high rate so the benefits of them are reciprocated back to the public at large and over proliferation of patenting is discouraged. Optimally, a graduated royalty income tax and patent sales tax would replace the corporate income tax, the capital gains tax, and other taxes on profits. To ensure that patentees actually produce something of value, NPEs should be forced to pay a 100% royalty income tax, which would effectively wipe them out, the same way land speculation would be wiped out if land rent were taxed at 100%. Furthermore, a high tax rate on patent royalties and patent sales would be more of a user fee than an actual tax and would not penalize productivity. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Equal Liberty vs. Equal Outcomes

One of the things that struck me as odd in the ACLU write up about the rigged proceedings used to take Amerindian children away from their parents is that they cited the fact that Amerindian children are placed in foster care more often than white children on average. I did not include this fact in my post because it was irrelevant for reasons I will explain below.

‘In addition, statistics compiled by the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) show that although American Indians comprise less than 9 percent of South Dakota’s population, 52 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system are American Indians. An Indian child is 11 times more likely to be placed in foster care than a white child in South Dakota.’

What if Amerindian children comprised only 49 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system. Would it make the state’s actions any less egregious if they comprised less than half of the children in foster care as opposed to more than half? What if the percent of Amerindian children that comprise children in foster care perfectly corresponded to the percent of Amerindians that comprise the total population in South Dakota? Would the state then be in good standing? Injustice is not a statistical discrepancy. The principle of the matter is that in most of these cases the Amerindian parents’ were not given a fair hearing. The fact that Amerindian children were disproportionately placed in foster care compared to white children does not necessarily make the state’s actions unjust. Non-experimental studies cannot demonstrate causality. In order to demonstrate causality you would first have to determine directionality and rule out a third variable; the ACLU did neither. Even if they had, the fact that Amerindian children were disproportionately placed in foster care compared to white children would still not be the damning fact that makes the state’s actions unjust. It is the action itself, of not giving fair hearings, not the short term effects, that makes this an injustice.

Even though the ACLU is a left wing organization, I agree with them most of the time on issues of constitutional rights (not so much on immigration policy or anti-discrimination laws). But like most leftists, they fall for the same fallacy of equating statistical discrepancies with injustice when it neither proves injustice nor points out the reason why a policy is unjust when they happen to stumble upon the truth. The ACLU relied on the same fallacy, a few years ago, in their argument against ‘stop and frisk’. For this issue also, the fact that it was disproportionately used against blacks and hispanics did not make the policy unjust; the fact that it violated everyone’s fourth amendment protection against searches of person or property without probable cause made it unjust. Whenever the left happens to be correct on any issue, they usually arrive at the truth from the false premise that statistical discrepancies prove that some injustice is occurring. The drug war is another such instance. The left’s claim that the drug war is racist is both dubious and irrelevant. The principle of the matter is that people have an exclusive right to control what they put in their own bodies, not the federal government. The same is true of their opposition to perpetual wars abroad, which they oppose not because it exceeds the proper function of government nor because it has only tended to diminish our freedom and move us closer to absolutism, but because they’d rather spend the funds used to maintain U.S. hegemony abroad on more welfare programs. Every such instance only further demonstrates that you can arrive at a true conclusion from a false premise.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In South Dakota, Officials Defied a Federal Judge and Took Indian Kids Away From Their Parents in Rigged Proceedings

Source: ACLU

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Indian children were abducted from their parents and forced to attend government funded christian boarding schools to ‘kill the Indian, save the man.’ Up until the mid 1970s, Indian children were still being abducted by states and placed into the custody of white christian families. According to a congressional investigation, between 25 and 35 percent of all Indian children were taken from their parents. Many of the forcible removals were unwarranted. This prompted congress to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 which, among other things, gave tribal courts jurisdiction over child custody proceedings for children that resided on reservations and prioritized placing Indian children within Indian foster homes, but in the 21st century, the old policy is still carried out at the state and local level. Since 2010, more than 1,000 Indian Children have been taken from their parents, and placed disproportionately in non-Indian homes, by state employees in Rapid City. According to District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, state employees held court hearings within 48 hours of removing children from their parents custody. During the hearings, parents were not assigned legal counsel, they were not made aware of the accusation against them, nor were they allowed to testify, call witnesses, or cross examine state employees involved in their case. Some of the hearings lasted only a minute and the state won 100% of the time (for obvious reasons). Furthermore, the district Judge found that parents were not allowed to challenge their loss of custody until their child had been in foster care for two months or more.

UN Convention 1021 defines forcibly transferring children of one group to another group as an act of genocide. Attempting to exterminate a people’s culture by stealing their progeny is no less genocide than attempting to physically exterminate them. Doing it under the false pretense of the white man’s burden makes it no less a violation of moral law and international law than if the intended outcome is fully admitted. The same paternalistic attitude towards Amerindians underlies the entire reservation system from Trust land ownership to the pervasive welfare state. The result has been a dire poverty that only complete self-determination can alleviate, and self-determination requires, among other things, being allowed to impart your culture on your own children.

Trump Didn't 'Drain The Swamp': He Conned His Gullible Supporters

One of the most reoccurring themes of the Trump campaign, aside from illegal immigration, was that only he would remove 'special interests' from control of the executive office, but Trump quickly reneged on his campaign promise and filled his cabinet with 'special interests' of a conservative bent. The only question is where is all the faux outrage from Trumpbots who criticized other candidates for what they perceived as a weakness that made Trump unique. All of the Trumpbots that criticized Clinton for being bankrolled by Goldman Sachs were silent or even supportive when Trump appointed several Goldman Sachs veterans to his cabinet including Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, Diana Powell as senior counselor for economic initiatives, Gary Cohen as an economic advisor, Jay Clayton as head of the SEC, and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. If Hillary had won and done the same thing they would be throwing a shit fit right now. The point is not that their criticisms of Hillary were illegitimate, I assure you most of them were, but that they were hypocritical in light of recent events and their corresponding silence on the matter. If you recognize the pattern you'll understand why Betsy Devos, a woman who has never taught in her life, was appointed as the Secretary of Education. For one thing, she is the sister of Erik Prince, the infamous Blackwater founder, who just happened to donate $150,000 to Make America Number 1, a SuperPac that backed Trump after he became the inevitable nominee in April, and historically her family has been big donors to GOP candidates. Rick Perry is also a strange pick for a position he wanted to abolish four years ago, but couldn't remember, and is no less a sketchy figure given the fact that he was on the board of directors for Energy Transfer Partners not too long ago. It seems like Trumpbots have a bias memory and attention just like every other kind of partisan hack. Their 'GodEmperor' isn't going to save America; like every other president, he'll just be another puppet to 'special interests' and 'donors', as Trump said of Jeb Bush.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 22)

Startups Flourish After Occupational Licensing Is Abolished 

Source: Institute for Justice

Minnesota recently lifted licensing and inspection restrictions on the cottage food industry; as a result there are now over 3,000 registered cottage food bakers within the state. The exemption allows entrepreneurs who otherwise could not afford the overhead cost of renting commercial space to start their own business. However there are caveats. The exemption only applies to the preparation of shelf stable food that doesn’t require refrigeration. Cottage industry bakers cannot exceed $18,000 in annual sales to consumers, so they can only be partially self-employed. They are also still required to pay a $50 registration fee and complete a 3 hour class on food safety.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Police Brutality Cost Baltimore 13 Million In 5 Years

Source: Baltimore Sun

Since 2011, the City of Baltimore has paid more than 13 million in settlements to the victims of police misconduct. In the most recent case, the city agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement to the family of Anthony Anderson, after he was killed by police in 2012. Anderson was initially stopped for questioning after officers suspected he was involved in a drug deal. When the officers approached him Anderson hide a bag of heroin gel capsules in his mouth. Then, one of the officers tackled him causing him eight broken ribs, lung bruises, and spleen lacerations. Anderson would eventually succumb to his injuries.

The only way to hold cops personally responsible for using excessive force and violating the constitutional rights of civilians is to abolish qualified immunity and force police departments and sheriffs' offices to purchase personal liability insurance so that the taxpayer would no longer be on the hook for the thuggish and reckless behavior of police, something that is all too common nowadays.

The Red Tape Times (article 21)

A License To Cut Hair 

The asininity of occupational licensure may have reached its peak. In a contemptuous display of the lengths cartelized industries will go to inflate their profits, the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology opened an investigation against a Tucson cosmetology student for providing free haircuts to homeless people without a license. In Arizona, it is illegal for parents to cut their children's hair, to provide a free haircut to a homeless persons (who otherwise couldn't afford one) or to cut hair without a license outside of an approved barbershop or salon in general. Barbering and cosmetology licensing laws are defined so vaguely that just about anyone who 'cuts, clips and trims hair' or who 'applies oils and creams', even without compensation, is guilty of a class one misdemeanor. For his own charity, the aforementioned cosmetology student could be denied a career he has been trained years for and wind up on the street again.

This incident is only one of several in a growing trend of attacks on private charity by local governments. The federal government has failed in its capacity to eliminate poverty so it is only natural that the spontaneous sympathy of private citizens would step in to fill the void. Bottom - up solutions such as building small houses for the homeless and providing them with free meals has been stunted at the local level by anal retentive bureaucrats whose sole purpose in life is to enforce frivolous codes that don't add anything to human progress.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

San Diego Police Illegally Collected DNA Samples From Minors

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

On March 30th of last year, SDPD officers detained five black minors, walking through a park, for wearing blue clothes. The detention was escalated into a search when the officers handcuffed them and searched their person without finding any contraband; police did however find an unloaded revolver in a bag that one of them was carrying. The officers promised four of the minors that they could go free on the condition that they sign a consent form stating that they voluntarily agreed to provide a DNA sample (cheek swab) to Police that would be entered into SDPD’s local Database. Having no other option, the four minors submitted to the cheek swab and went on their way. The fifth minor, arrested for carrying an unloaded revolver, was also forced to submit to the DNA collection and was brought to the police department. The DA filed several charges against him, but they were all dropped after it was determined that the officers had conducted an illegal detention, search, and seizure. However, the DNA samples obtained during the illegal search and seizure were not destroyed.

Walking through a park wearing blue is not reasonable suspicion that someone or a group of people have or are in the process of committing a crime. Just because the color is associated with a gang does not mean that everyone that wears that color is a member of that gang. If the police didn't have reasonable suspicion, they certainly didn't have probable cause that the five minors had committed a crime. The fourth amendment dictates that police cannot conduct a search and seizure of evidence without probable cause; placing them in handcuffs and searching their person and possessions was illegal. The officers attempted to circumvent the fourth amendment by having the minors sign consent forms stating they agreed to a DNA collection, but it should be noted that consent cannot be given if cooperation is obtained using the threat of arrest or the promise of leniency in return for cooperation. At every step the San Diego officers violated the fourth amendment rights of the five minors. Furthermore, California Penal Code 296 only permits DNA collection from minors in cases where they have been convicted of a felony, plead guilty to a felony, or if they are required to register as a sex offender. As a result of the illegal detention, search and seizure, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the SDPD on behalf of the families of the five minors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Refugee Resettlement is Just An Expansion of The Welfare State

A little over a year ago, the Center for Immigration Studies assessed the cost of refugee
resettlement in the U.S. and discovered a number of startling findings using data from the numerous federal agencies involved in the resettlement process.

Key Findings by the Center for Immigration Studies
  • Each refugee will cost taxpayers $64,370 or $257,481 per household after five years. 
  • 91% of refugees will be dependent on food stamps.
  • 68% will be dependent on cash assistance. 
  • The average refugee only has 10.5 years of education: less than a high school education
As if having 44 million people dependent on food stamps in the past year and spending 740 billion on means tested benefits wasn’t enough, the rolls will be expanded to include 85,000 non-citizens who have no cultural or political affinity to the U.S. While feigning concern about the constitution on the subject of Trump’s immigration moratorium, the left has failed to realize that taking from citizens to pay aliens who have no allegiance to this country is unconstitutional. The constitution doesn’t grant the federal government any power to provide charity to its own citizens much less foreigners. The argument for accepting refugees, unlike the argument against it, is not based on its constitutionality or any sound reasoning, but the appeal to emotion fallacy, which is commonplace on the left. If we were to consistently consider the constitutionality of every act of government, the vast majority of our alphabet soup executive agencies would be abolished.

The sole purpose of government is not to become a charity for the world or engage in nation building; it's to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Had the Obama admin not waged an illegal proxy war against Syria by funding Al-Qaeda front groups like the FSA and Al-Zenki the war there might have ended by now and we would not have this mess. As usual, expanding government purview in one area has lead to its expansion in other areas in a vicious cycle of ever-increasing control over our finances.

Trump has proposed several unconstitutional and immoral things, but banning Syrian refugees isn’t one of them. The Anti-Trump Movement is just as unprincipled as the man they are protesting. If one group of authoritarians protests the actions of another group of authoritarians of a different flavor, it does not make the former the victim and the latter the aggressor; if the roles were reversed, as they were in 2009, you would hear them singing a different tune dismissing any concern about the constitutionality of the president’s actions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump Cites Non-Existent Law In Executive Order And Weakens Appointee Ethics Commitments

In an executive order from January 28 titled Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees, Trump referenced the term 'particular matter' used in the appointee ethics pledge to U.S.C. title 28 section 207, which does not exist
Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee: 
"6. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts. 
(r) "Particular matter" shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.
The executive order prohibits executive branch employees from lobbying the specific executive agency they worked for within five years of their termination. However, as Propublica points out, the pledge does not prohibit appointees from working at executive agencies they formerly lobbied; it only prohibits them from participating in any 'particular matter involving specific parties' that they formerly lobbied for. The Office of Government Ethics defines particular matter as 'any matter that involves deliberation, decision or action that is focused upon the interests of specific persons, or a discrete and identifiable class of persons.' Particular matters may also include matters that do not involve specific parties, though Trump restricts the applicability to the first category, which is particular matters that involve specific parties. Former lobbyists that fall into the second category, particular matters that do not involve specific parties, include those who 'at least focus on the interests of a discrete and identifiable class of persons, such as a particular industry or profession.' Thus, former lobbyists of the second category can participate in particular matters that they formerly lobbied for. According to Propublica, both categories were excluded from participating in particular matters they formerly lobbied for under the Obama administration's ethics pledge, which meant that former lobbyists were not permitted to work in the executive agencies they formerly lobbied with the exception of a few waivers.

Political Superstitions (part 4): Gentrification and Identity Politics

This is a somewhat obscure topic that is of exclusive concern to the left, since the right dismisses it entirely, that despite being controversial is shrouded in superstition. Merriam Webster defines gentrification as the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. It is most often viewed through the lens of identity politics as wealthy young whites displacing minorities from traditionally minority neighborhoods because they can no longer afford the rent. The solutions prescribed range from rent control to subsidized housing all of which merely address the symptoms.

The difficulty arises when rent is spoken of as a single unit instead of a composite. Rent in its common usage refers to both interest payments for the use of a building and rent for the use of a specific site or location. The latter is economic rent. Property values are a combination of the value of the building or any improvements to the land (e.g. drainage, pavement, water supply) and the rental value of the land that arises from demand for a fixed supply of it (e.g. amenities and proximity to business district). The law of rent stipulates that increases in population density, growth in commerce, improvements in education, improvements in infrastructure and basic government services like policing all add to the rental value of land and drive up the cost of living, especially housing. The unintended consequence of urban renewal is that wages are consumed by incrementally growing rent, as their purchasing power decreases in proportion to rent. A lower margin of production, the floor of wages, would inevitably hit the lowest income earners the hardest.

A single tax on land rent would raise the the margin of production, providing higher wages, and recapture the value added by public services and private businesses for public expenditure. Unlike property taxes and sales taxes, a land value tax would not be passed onto tenants and consumers because they are not paying for a good or service, but a government granted monopoly that is fixed in supply. This concept is not new. Cities that charge parking rates on busy streets already levy a form of land value tax. Similarly, states that require hunting and fishing licenses are levying a form of land value tax and countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Canada, and Norway already have them at either the local or national level, though none recapture all rents.

Side Note: To ensure each person’s natural right to use the earth, a citizen’s dividend could be funded from the surplus revenue providing low income tenants with a non-paternalistic dole instead making them dependent on a plethora of social services.

Should Child Marriage Be Illegal?

An issue that is so obscure that not even I have thought about it recently crossed my mind when I received this newsletter from HRW.
Dear Alexander, 
In one of his first acts as President, Trump signed an executive order that will restrict women’s health and threaten their lives. As Trump continues his attack on our core rights values, we need your help now on another vital women’s rights issue.

Did you know 14-year-olds can legally marry in New York State? And that from 2001 to 2010, nearly 4,000 teenagers younger than 18 married in New York?

In the vast majority of these cases, the girls wed adult men.

True, to marry at 14, girls need permission from their parents and a judge. But that doesn’t change the fact that child marriage is harmful to children; nor does it adequately protect children from being forced into marriage by their parents.

Studies show that girls in the United States who marry before age 19 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school than unmarried children, and girls who marry before 16 are roughly 30 percent more likely to live in poverty. Research strongly links child marriage with mental and physical health problems in the United States.

This month, a new bill that would end child marriage was introduced in New York’s state assembly.
I did a little digging and further discovered that 27 states don’t have a minimum age requirement for marriage, including my own (no surprise there), and some of those that do have a minimum age set it in the early teens. Child consent is a slippery issue. Legally we recognize that children cannot give their consent for a number of things such as participating in scientific studies, entering into contracts, and sex with adults. We also recognize a minimum age requirement for driving, drinking, smoking and purchasing a firearm. But what is illegal is not necessarily what should be illegal and vice versa.

Intuitively we understand that children and adolescents have diminished autonomy, a fact corroborated by developmental psychology, due to their greater susceptibility to authority figures.This is even a legal doctrine called undue influence. A free and informed choice about something as monumental as choosing a spouse, which in theory will affect your entire life, cannot really be made by someone who has only recently taken an interest in it. There is a lack of perception of the risks involved and commitment required. It would also be difficult to tell whether a marriage is forced or not due to the aforementioned diminished autonomy; a child or adolescent could simply be going along with their parent’s wishes to stay in their good graces. Perhaps a couple of centuries ago child marriage may have been morally permissible, but in the modern world the gulf between childhood and adulthood has grown wider, and consequently, our laws must reflect this change in norms. Therefore, the minimum age requirement for marriage should be the age of majority or 21 years of age.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The FBI Can Use One Warrant To Conduct Indefinite Searches

 Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation 

Last year, during a criminal investigation of Playpen, the FBI used one search warrant to take over the pedophilia site and hacked thousands of computers that visited the site for two weeks. Overall, the FBI searched 8,000 computers located in 120 different countries. This set the precedent for the the FBI to search people who are not even subjected to a criminal investigation. As EFF explains: 
Recent changes to federal rules for issuing warrants may allow the government to hack into thousands of devices at a time. These devices can belong not just to suspected criminals but also to victims of botnets and other hacking crimes. For that reason, courts need to send a very clear message that vague search warrants that lack the required specifics about who and what is to be searched won’t be upheld."  
Unfortunately our fourth amendment right to freedom from arbitrary searches and seizures  continues to be eroded with each precedent that places expediency over principle. Allowing the FBI to search thousands of computers with one warrant is just one assault in a long litany of assaults against the fourth amendment that will only grow larger in the information age.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Conservation Is A Pretext For Genocide

Source: Survival International

The World Wildlife Fund is a Conservation NGO based in Switzerland that has established protected areas and pushed forward anti-poaching laws in several African countries such as Cameroon, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo. This seems admirable from a cursory glance, but it comes at a steep cost to human life. Hunter-gather tribes that depend on the 'protected areas', mostly forests, for food and shelter are assaulted, tortured, kidnapped and sometimes killed by jackboot thugs partially funded by the WWF. The Pygmy tribes that hunt in these 'protected areas' are not hunting for sport; they are simply trying to preserve their own lives in a manner they are adapted to do so. Given the fact that they have sustained these 'protected areas' for thousands of years, it would seem more reasonable to put them in charge of the conservation movement instead of a European organization that has no connection to their habitat. In all likelihood WWF has an ulterior motive aside from saving the earth.

UN Convention 1021 defines genocide as (a) Killing members of the group;
 (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
 (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
 (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
 and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The WWF has been complicit in (a), (b), and particularly (c) by denying Pygmy tribes the freedom to hunt on their ancestral hunting grounds and thereby diminishing their capacity to preserve their own lives. When a people are forced into living conditions they are not adapted to, the result is poverty, disease, and high mortality rates, all of which constitutes inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. The only reconciliation for these atrocities is a full restoration of the Pygmy tribes' right to live off the land.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 20)

Indiana Mayor Steals Property From Homeowners To Give To A Private Developer  

Source: Institute for Justice 

The mayor of Charleston, Indiana cooked up a scheme to circumvent an Indiana Law that prohibits the use of eminent domain for 'economic development' by shaking down the homeowners of Pleasant Ridge, a low income neighborhood that has fallen victim to this racket, with thousands of dollars in fines for such trivial bullshit as chipped paint and torn screens. The end game is to force Pleasant Ridge residents out of their own homes so the neighborhood can be bulldozed and turned over to Neace Ventures. The mayor has left Pleasant Ridge homeowners with only two options to avoid burdensome fines for trivial code violations: either sell their homes at a loss to Neace Ventures or raze their homes to the ground. As IJ points out, the municipal government has violated several laws in the process of trying to force Pleasant Ridge residents off their own property. They have violated the cities own property maintenance code by not giving residents any time to correct code violations before they are fined. They have violated Indiana's Unsafe Building Law, which prohibits immediate accumulating fines. They have violated the 5th amendment by taking property without just compensation and for the exclusive use of a private corporation. They have used fines to take property without a criminal or civil proceeding or even giving homeowners a chance to appeal the fines. The most egregious crime here is not the municipal, state and constitutional laws the mayor has violated, but theft. Taking property from a person without their consent is theft, and it does not matter if it is done by a single criminal or a criminal syndicate that calls itself a government; theft is theft in either case. When governments begin to imitate the very criminals they were instituted to protect  their citizens from, they should be deposed. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trump Plans to Create New Crimes And Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Trump's most recent executive orders are an ominous warning to Americans of things to come. All three new executive orders deal with law enforcement. The first one directs Jeff Sessions to create a crime reduction task force that will among other things
(iii) identify deficiencies in existing laws that have made them less effective in reducing crime and propose new legislation that could be enacted to improve public safety and reduce crime;
In other words, continue ditching constitutional principles in favor of more expedient measures. Given Trump's recent comments on Civil Asset Forfeiture, his past comments on constitutional rights, and Jeff Sessions stances on mass surveillance, the drug war, and encryption, this is probably the intention of creating this task force. And did I mention that national crime rates are, despite a recent spike, much lower than they were 47 years ago? Trump is entitled to alternative opinions, but not alternative facts.

The second executive order supposedly prevents violence against law enforcement and proposes, among other things, to define new crimes and creating new mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes. In all likelihood incarceration rates will reverse their current downward trend and the private prison industry will boom again under the Trump administration.
(d) following that review, and in coordination with other Federal agencies, as appropriate, make recommendations to the President for legislation to address the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, including, if warranted, legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes;
None of the provisions in the third executive order caught my attention as particularly noteworthy; it's the same old war on drugs schtick that's been failing for the past 40 years, which is also around the time when there was a dramatic spike in crime rates that peaked at 10.2/100,000 murder rate nation wide in 1980.

An institution that is itself a criminal enterprise does not stop criminal activity; its only concern is gaining a monopoly over criminal activity and becoming the sole purveyor of injustice.

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.' 
- Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority  

Amnesty Internation Publishes Shoddy Propaganda Piece on Syrian Prisons

Source: Moon of Alabama

A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction style writing from its title "Human Slaughterhouse" down to the last paragraph.

But the Amnesty report is still not propagandish enough for the anti-Syrian media. Inevitably only the highest number in the range Amnesty claims is quoted. For some even that is not yet enough. The Associate Press agency, copied by many outlets, headlines: Report: At least 13,000 hanged in Syrian prison since 2011:
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian authorities have killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at a prison north of Damascus known to detainees as "the slaughterhouse," Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday.

How does "at least 13,000" conforms to an already questionable report which claims "13,000" as the top number of a very wide range?

Here is a link to the report.

Before we look into some details this from the "Executive Summary":
From December 2015 to December 2016, Amnesty International researched the patterns, sequence and scale of violations carried out at Saydnaya Military Prison (Saydnaya). In the course of this investigation, the organization interviewed 31 men who were detained at Saydnaya, four prison officials or guards who previously worked at Saydnaya, three former Syrian judges, three doctors who worked at Tishreen Military Hospital, four Syrian lawyers, 17 international and national experts on detention in Syria and 22 family members of people who were or still are detained at Saydnaya.
On the basis of evidence from people who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya and witness testimony from detainees, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

There are several difficulties with this report.

1. Most of the witnesses are identified as opposition figures and "former" officials who do not live in Syria. Some are said to have been remotely interviewed in Syria but it is not clear if those were living in government or insurgent held areas. Page 9:
The majority of these interviews took place in person in southern Turkey. The remaining interviews were conducted by telephone or through other remote means with interviewees still in Syria, or with individuals based in Lebanon, Jordan, European countries and the USA.

It is well known that the Syrian insurgency is financed with several billion dollars per years from foreign state governments. It runs sophisticated propaganda operations. These witnesses all seem to have interests in condemning the Syrian government. Not once is an attempt made to provide a possibly divergent view. Amnesty found the persons it questioned by contacting international NGOs like itself and known foreign financed opposition (propaganda) groups:
These groups include Urnammu for Justice and Human Rights, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Syrian Institute for Justice and Accountability.

2. The numbers Amnesty provides are in a very wide range. None are documented in lists or similar exhibits. They are solely based on hearsay and guesstimates of two witnesses:
People who worked within the prison authorities at Saydnaya told Amnesty International that extrajudicial executions related to the crisis in Syria first began in September 2011. Since that time, the frequency with which they have been carried out has varied and increased. For the first four months, it was usual for between seven and 20 people to be executed every 10-15 days. For the following 11 months, between 20 and 50 people were executed once a week, usually on Monday nights. For the subsequent six months, groups of between 20 and 50 people were executed once or twice a week, usually on Monday and/or Wednesday nights. Witness testimony from detainees suggests that the executions were conducted at a similar – or even higher – rate at least until December 2015. Assuming that the death rate remained the same as the preceding period, Amnesty International estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were extrajudicially executed at Saydnaya between September 2011 and December 2015.

From "between x and y", "once or twice a week", "suggests" and "assuming" the headline numbers are simply extrapolated in footnote 40 in a back-of-the-envelope calculation; "If A were true then B would be X":
These estimates were based on the following calculations. If between seven and 20 were killed every 10-15 days from September to December 2011, the total figure would be between 56 people and 240 people for that period. If between 20 and 50 were killed every week between January and November 2012, the total figure would be between 880 and 2,200 for that period. If between 20 and 50 people were killed in 222 execution sessions (assuming the executions were carried out twice a week twice a month and once a week once a month) between December 2012 and December 2015, the total figure would be between 4,400 and 11,100 for that period. These calculations produce a minimum figure of 5,336, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 5,000, and 13,540, rounded down to the nearest thousand as 13,000.

2. I will not go into the details of witness statements on which the report is build. They seem at least exaggerated and are not verifiable at all. In the end it is pure hearsay on which Amnesty sets it conclusions. One example from page 25:
“Hamid”, a former military officer when he was arrested in 2012, recalled the sounds he heard at night during an execution:
"There was a sound of something being pulled out – like a piece of wood, I’m not sure – and then you would hear the sound of them being strangled… If you put your ears on the floor, you could hear the sound of a kind of gurgling. This would last around 10 minutes… We were sleeping on top of the sound of people choking to death. This was normal for me then."

A court might accept 'sound of "I'm not sure" "kind of gurgling" noise through concrete' as proof that a shower was running somewhere. But as proof of executions?

Of all the witnesses Amnesty says it interviewed only two, a former prison official and a former judge, who describe actual executions (page 25). From the wording of their statements it is unclear if they have witnessed any hangings themselves or just describe something they have been told of.

3. The numbers of people Amnesty claims were executed are - at best - a wild ass guess. How come that Amnesty can name only very few of those? On page 30 of its report it says:
Former detainees from the red building at Saydnaya provided Amnesty International with the names of 59 individuals who they witnessed being taken from their cells in the afternoon, being told that they were being transferred to civilian prisons in Syria. The evidence contained in this report strongly suggests that in fact, these individuals were extrajudicially executed.

Former prison guards and a former prison official from Saydnaya also provided Amnesty International with the names of 36 detainees who had been extrajudicially executed in Saydnaya since 2011.

Those 95, some of whom may have been "executed" - or not, are the only ones Amnesty claims to be able to name. That is less than 1-2% of the reports central claim of 5,000 to 13,000 executed. All those witnesses could provide no more details of persons allegedly killed?

Amnesty acknowledges that its numbers are bogus. Under the headline "Documented Deaths" on page 40 it then adds additional names and numbers to those above but these are not from executions:
the exact number of deaths in Saydnaya is impossible to specify. However, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has verified and shared with Amnesty International the names of 375 individuals who have died in Saydnaya as a result of torture and other ill-treatment between March 2011 and October 2016. Of these, 317 were civilians at the time of their arrest, 39 were members of the Syrian military and 19 were members of non-state armed groups. In the course of the research for this report, Amnesty International obtained the names of 36 additional individuals who died as a result of torture and other ill-treatment in Saydnaya. These names were provided to Amnesty International by former detainees who witnessed the deaths in their cells

The "Syrian Network for Human Rights" (SNHR) is a group in the UK probably connected to British foreign intelligence and with dubious monetary sources. It only says:
SNHR funds its work and activities through unconditional grants and donations from individuals and institutions.

Now that is true transparency.

SNHR is known for rather ridiculous claims about casualties caused by various sides of the conflict. It is not know what SNHR qualifies as civilians - do these include armed civil militia? But note that none of the mostly civilians SNHR claims to have died in the prison are said to have been executed. How is it possible that a organization frequently quoted in the media as detailed source of casualties in Syria has no record of the 5,000 to 13,000 Amnesty claims were executed?

4. The report is padded up with before/after satellite pictures of enlarged graveyards in Syria. It claims that these expansions are a sign of mass graves of government opponents. But there is zero evidence for that. Many people have died in Syria throughout the war on all sides of the conflict. The enlargement, for example, of the Martyrs Cemetery south of Damascus (p.29/30) is hardly a sign of mass killing of anti-government insurgents. Would those be honored as martyrs by the government side?

5. The report talks of "extrajudicially executed" prisoners but then describes (military) court procedures and a necessary higher up approval of the judgement. One may not like the laws that govern the Syrian state but the courts and the procedures Amnesty describes seem to follow Syrian laws and legal processes. They are thereby - by definition - not extrajudicial.

6. In its Executive Summary the Amnesty report says that "Death sentences are approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria and ...". But there is no evidence provided of "approval" by the Grand Mufti in the details of the report. On page 19 it claims, based on two former prison and court officials:
The judgement is sent by military post to the Grand Mufti of Syria and to either the Minister of Defence or the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are deputized to sign for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and who specify the date of the execution.

It is very doubtful that the Syrian government would "deputize" or even inform the Grand Mufti in cases of military or criminal legal proceedings. Amnesty International may dislike the fact but Syria is a secular state. The Grand Mufti in Syria is a civil legal authority for some followers of the Sunni Muslim religion in Syria but he has no official judiciary role. From the 2010 Swiss dissertation Models of Religious Freedom: Switzerland, the United States, and Syria quoted here:
In Syria a mufti is a legal and religious expert (faqih and ‘alim) who has the power to give legally non-binding recommendations (sing. fatwa, pl. fatawa) in matters of Islamic law. ...
Queries which are either sought by a shari‘a judge or private individuals regard the personal status laws of the Muslim community only. In the Arab Republic fatawa are given neither to public authorities nor to individual civil servants, ..

Neither the Syrian constitution nor any Syrian law I can find refers to a role of the Grand Mufti in any military or civil criminal court proceding. The Amnesty claim "approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria"is not recorded anywhere else. It is very likely false. The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, is a moderate, recognized and accomplished scholar. He should sue Amnesty for this slander.

Syrian law includes a death penalty for certain severe and violent crimes. Before 2011 actual executions in Syria were very rare, most death sentences were commuted. Allegedly the laws were amended in late 2011, after the war in Syria had started, to include the death penalty as possible punishment for directly arming terrorists.

It is quite likely that the Syrian military and/or civil judiciary hand out some death penalties against captured foreign and domestic "rebels" it finds them guilty of very severe crimes. It is fighting the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other extreme groups well known for mass murder and other extreme atrocities. It is likely that some of those sentences are applied. But the Syrian government has also provided amnesty to ten-thousands of "rebels" who fought the government but have laid down their arms.

The claims in the Amnesty report are based on spurious and biased opposition accounts from outside of the country. The headline numbers of 5,000 to 13,000 are calculated on the base of unfounded hypotheticals. The report itself states that only 36 names of allegedly executed persons are known to Amnesty, less than the number of "witnesses" Amnesty claims to have interviewed. The high number of claimed execution together with the very low number of names is not plausible.

The report does not even meet the lowest mark of scientific or legal veracity. It is pure biased propaganda.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Conflicts Over Gas Leases Within Reservation Borders Highlights Problem of Checkerboard Zoning

Source: Indian Country Media Network

I mentioned this subject last month here. The problem of checkerboard zoning concerns the fact that some parcels of land within reservation borders fall outside the jurisdiction of tribal governments and thus they have no regulatory control over how some parcels of land within reservations are used. This problem was recently brought to the forefront when the BLM auctioned off 843 acres of land for fracking within the Navajo reservation. As mentioned earlier, checker board zoning prevents tribal nations from instituting a comprehensive economic development plan within their borders. Instead land is segmented between public land, trust land, allotted land, simple fee land owned by non-members, and simple fee land owned by tribal members.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Federal District Court Rules That Laws Can Be Hidden Behind Paywalls

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

A federal district court has ruled that private standards organizations that write regulations, which are incorporated into federal law, can use copyright to deny access to knowledge of those regulations.The ruling came against Public.Resource.org, a site that publishes government documents on federal and state laws including regulations that become law through incorporation by reference: regulations that are initially created by private standards organizations and incorporated into federal law, but are not published in the federal code. Six private standards organizations filed suit against Public.Resource.org for what they claim is copyright infringement. As the EFF pointed out, this sets a precedent for a more secretive government since lobbyists and special interest groups often write draft bills that are passed verbatim. Citizens already break laws they don’t know about, but this will simply exacerbate the problem.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

[URGENT] Liberty of the Press is Under Attack: The Federal Government is Attempting to Silence a Journalist

Source: The Conscious Resistance

By: Shane Radlif & Kyle Rearden

January 7th, 2017

“You know, there are some words I’ve known since I was a school boy. ‘With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.’ Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie; his wisdom, and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, from Star Trek

It has come to our attention that a fellow colleague and alternative media journalist is being persecuted by the federal government for simply providing judicial transparency, regarding a document that has been available on the Liberty Under Attack website for over half a year.

In September of 2015, we first interviewed Gary Hunt on the subject of political prisoners—specifically the cases of Kevin “KC” Massey, William Wolf, and Robert Beecher.

Back in November, an article was published on LUA titled, The FBI Recognizes the Existence of Liberty Under Attack, wherein the FBI documented an interview that we conducted with Hunt on the subjects of Committees of Safety and security teams. It was also posited that LUA was not the focus, but rather Hunt, who is the proprietor of the Outpost of Freedom blog. It appears that those initial inclinations were correct and that they’ve been watching Hunt for quite some time.

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On January 4th, 2017, Hunt was served a Cease and Desist Order signed by Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Pamala Holsinger (Oregon State Board #892638), who is the chief of the criminal division for the United States Attorney’s office in the District of Oregon. In this letter, they acknowledge his possession of the protective order in question and demand that Hunt comply and remove all “contraband” in question within 24 hours.

That said, if he were to comply, how in the hell would they ever be able to know if all copies were removed? Once something goes up on the Internet (and is shared extensively), it is there forever. And, as per the Streisand effect, the more the State tries to silence something, the more popularity it gains; a lesson they should have learned long ago.

The said 24 hour deadline expired around noon PST yesterday, and the Feds are moving surprisingly quickly—three new documents added to the docket in just one day, all in regard to their persecution of Hunt.

Before getting into the specifics, it’s first worth mentioning that the documents referenced below, whose dissemination is limited by court order, are also unclassified and heavily redacted; the question being, how can unclassified and largely redacted material be the basis for infringing upon the liberty of the press? As will be seen, it’s not like the federal government is arguing that they have a state secrets privilege, but they are still persecuting Hunt as if they had such a privilege in this case, as if it were a national security matter.

That said, these documents are hyperlinked in Hunt’s own statement, as well as below (the dates follow a yy/mm/dd format):
170104 – Cease and Desist Letter to Gary Hunt
170106 – Motion to Enforce Protective Order (Expedited Consideration Requested)
170106 – Affidavit of FBI Special Agent Ronnie Walker in Support of Motion to Enforce Protective Order
170106 – Order Enforcing Protective Order

The (2) “Motion to Enforce Protective Order” clearly explains the motive for the persecution of Hunt:

“As explained in greater detail in Agent Walker’s affidavit, public dissemination of the material produced under this Court’s Protective Order could threaten ongoing investigations and the safety of government confidential human sources, informants or others.” [Emphasis added]

Right there, the government admits that there are still ongoing investigations against who the hell knows, in addition to the fact that they are also concerned that their exposed informants may experience an acute case of lead poisoning.

Number (3) is particularly important (and it may look familiar), as it lays out Hunt’s intentions and also provides his justification for publishing in the way that he did. In that same document, the FBI agent then refers to a commenter on one of Hunt’s articles asking if he was going to publish these government documents. Gary responded with, “Absolutely not…I have agreed not to disseminate them.” [Emphasis added]

This last excerpt shows the FBI met with Hunt, so it will be provided in its entirety:

“On January 5, 2017, Special Agent Matthew Catalano telephonically contacted Gary HUNT and requested a meeting. Before agreeing to meet Agent Catalano, HUNT confirmed there was no arrest warrant issued for him. Agent Catalano and HUNT met at a restaurant near HUNT’s residence. During the meeting HUNT acknowledged he knew of the court order limiting dissemination of the discovery material but stated he was not bound by the court order. HUNT was provided a copy of a letter from AUSA Pamala Holsinger which demanded HUNT to cease and desist public dissemination of protected material within 24 hours. HUNT was also provided a copy of the final Protective Order, court record 342. HUNT said he anticipated a cease and desist order from the government. HUNT indicated he did not intend to comply with the terms of the letter. HUNT said if it could be proven that his actions were statutorily criminal he would stop doing what he is doing. HUNT informed Special Agent Catalano that he had two more articles outing CHSs in their final review stage before he uploads them. HUNT stated it was necessary to out the CHSs so they could serve as defense witnesses in the next trial. This meeting concluded at approximately 12:20 PM.”

First, notice how Agent Catalano was acting more like a process server, rather than an FBI agent interrogating Hunt as to his activities. Second, the letter itself was not a legally binding document; it just simply threatened the seeking of a court order if Hunt did not rip down his investigative articles referencing the documents in dispute. Third, Hunt admitted during the meeting that he would be more than willing to concede to the request if the AUSA could prove that he was in violation of a criminal statute, which has not been done.

Document (4): This was a document drafted by the AUSA in the language of what they believe the judge would say, but as this article goes to press, Judge Anna Brown has not yet signed the order – this is very much like when special interest lobbyists draft legislation which are often passed into law by legislatures. Shouldn’t “public servants” draft their own documentation as official acts of government, whether it be legislation or, as the case is here, court orders?

If the AUSA can draft court orders for judges to sign, couldn’t any of us, as Americans, draft court orders and then hand them to judges to sign on our behalf, to do whatever we want, regardless of whether the drafted court orders by us are in accordance with the law?

Last time I checked, AUSAs were not above the law….or are they?

Many people feel hopeful due to the results of this particular electoral cycle, but as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned, there is much to be concerned about the liberty of the press. And there is no reason to believe this will get any better under a Trump presidency; in this instance, he has made his stance perfectly clear.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 19)

District Judge Upholds Teeth Whitening Monopoly in Georgia 

The U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia upheld a regulation requiring approval from the Dental Board (and formal training in Dental School) to sell teeth whitening products. Now she is probably correct in her opinion that it isn't unconstitutional to prohibit entrepreneurs from selling teeth whitening products; the constitution is after all not an exhaustive list of our natural rights. Therefore, it shouldn't be contested on constitutional grounds, which does very little to preserve economic freedom, but like all occupational licensure laws, it should be challenged on economic grounds in the Georgia General Assembly. IJ already found that occupational licensure cost consumers in Wisconsin $2B and 31,000 jobs annually, for low to moderate income earners, so if they are going to contest the Dental Board's licensing requirement for selling teeth whitening products, they should do so with research they've already done.

The regulation is so asinine that theoretically Walgreens could be shut down for selling teeth whitening products. In general, transactions between consenting adults should be left to the purview of consenting adults. The government's place is to step in when there is fraud or breach of contract, which in this woman's case she committed neither. She did not claim to be a licensed dentist. If consumers were willing to take the risk of buying her product that is their prerogative.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Faux Outrage Over Trump's 'Muslim Ban'

Since I am subscribed to a number left-wing civil society organizations ( e.g. HRW, Amnesty International, ACLU, ProPublica) and media outlets (e.g The Intercept and Global Research.ca) I have been bombarded with the righteous indignation of bleeding heart liberals for the past week. The objections run the gamut of standard leftist talking points about 'discrimination', 'hate', and 'racism.' The ACLU has gone so far as to claim that the 'Muslim ban' is an unconstitutional violation of the establishment clause, which I can assure you it is not. But first we need to recognize this particular executive order for what it is: a moratorium on immigration from seven predominately muslim countries, which include Syria (for obvious reasons), Iraq (same reasons), Iran (given its relations with Washington), Libya (for even more obvious reasons), Somalia (needs no elaboration), Yemen (obvious reasons ad nauseum), and Sudan (less obvious but similar circumstances). If you're privy to current events (a task that is fairly easy in this information age) you'll notice that 6/7 countries are embroiled in war and one of them has less than friendly relations with Washington. Not ALL muslims are barred from entering the U.S.; in fact, the vast majority of muslims are still allowed to immigrate here. Do bleeding heart liberals understand the categorical difference between SOME and ALL? Now, you could say that Trump's immigration moratorium was poorly devised because it fails to ban citizens of countries that have actually committed acts of terrorism on American soil such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, but you cannot say that it is a dragnet 'muslim ban', which is factually incorrect.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The immigration moratorium on seven Near East countries is not only not a muslim ban, it's also not unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights was meant to protect WE THE PEOPlE  from despotic government, not foreigners. The logic is that since the U.S. was founded as a religiously diverse country, the government should not impose a particular religion on us or subsidize a particular religion. Providing federal grants to catholic schools is a clear violation of the establishment clause. The state of Texas funding faith initiatives is also a violation of the establishment clause. Temporarily banning citizens from a handful of muslim countries is not a violation of the establishment clause because they aren't U.S. citizens. It is not possible to have constitutional rights if you are not a U.S. citizen.

Here is a vlogger (Roaming Millennial) who I think does an excellent job explaining why the U.S. cannot accept immigrants and refugees from unstable, war torn countries.

Escaping The False Dilemma of Mainstream Politics

If you stick around this blog long enough, you will notice that there is a common theme in every entry. Yes I am anti-government for the most part and condemn every violation of Constitutional or moral law at the federal, state, county and municipal level, but government is not the only aggressor. The recent DAPL conflict and the earlier KeyStone XL Pipeline conflict demonstrated that corporations could seize private property under the false pretense of providing a public utility: an action made legal by the ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, a case in which the private developer never made good on their promises after they evicted the homeowners. The war in Afghanistan is mostly a private war, in which private contractors outnumber troops 3 to 1, or about 29,000 contractors to 9,000 troops. Chiquita hired death squads to murder labor activists in Colombia. If all governments hypothetically collapsed the next biggest entities, public corporations, would fill in the power vacuum, and we would be left with a despotism even less accountable to the people.

The common theme here is not anti-government, but opposition to the concentration of power, within any agent or corporate body, whether governmental or private. Due to the volatile nature of U.S. politics, I am constantly refining what this means. Up until 2014, the  Democratic party was the dominant contender in Washington, but the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump, and a Republican sweep of both the House and Senate, along with a pending Supreme Court nominee, has not only shifted U.S. politics to the right, it has also split the left and right further apart. But no matter who is in charge, the concentration of power in Washington is always abused to the fullest extent tolerable by the electorate. No matter whether we have a Republican administration or a Democratic one, our constitutional rights are gradually diminished, the scope of the executive office grows, as does the overall size of the federal government, and lobbyists set their policy priorities. Their values and rhetoric may be different, but their outcomes are the same. Both share a common strategy of divide and conquer and as long as we are distracted by recycled platitudes about 'personal responsibility' and 'christian values' or 'social responsibility' and 'lgbtq rights', we are inevitably stuck in a vicious cycle of choosing lesser evils.

Expediency is the mother of despotism 

Neither party has a coherent theory of justice. No matter who is in charge, their arguments for expanding the scope of their office is usually the same; it's for 'national security', 'public safety' or 'job growth'. All are appeals to expediency. The soundness of their arguments is inconsequential; their shoddy justifications are not meant to appeal to our rationality. Fear of an external threat and anxiety over financial security is the best way to garner compliance with expedient policies. By keeping the electorate in a constant state of fear and anxiety, the political class can bypass the high road*, avoiding conscious processing, and appeal to their survival emotions (amygdala). The intended result is a collectivist mentality willing to surrender natural rights for 'security' and 'the general welfare' until the external threat or source of anxiety is removed, which is never the intention of people in power, because political power is addictive* and tends to reinforce itself. The craving for it can only be gratified by incremental power at the expense of the electorate, who will eventually find themselves under the heel of an absolutist state if they don't speak out against the early warning signs.  The electorate is being gradually conditioned to except incremental government oversight over their affairs, so that they seem commonplace.

* According to Ledoux Theory of Emotion there are two pathways for emotion: the direct pathway (low road) from thalamus to amygdala and the indirect pathway (high road) from thalamus through the cerebral cortex to the amygdala.

*Dr. Ian Robertson, in his study of baboon hierarchies, has found that feelings of power/dominance over others triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces power grabbing behavior.

Politics is Just Another Form of Tribalism

It is a curious thing how the anti-war left went silent once Obama took over and expanded Bush's wars and continued to build his surveillance state, but now that these powers have been handed over to Trump they've completely lost their mind. The left was silent when Obama sent special forces to fight in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen without congressional approval and killed hundreds of civilians through drone warfare. The same conservatives that loudly protested Obamacare were cheering when Bush signed the largest expansion of Medicare into law. The same conservatives were silent and even dismissive when Bush turned a $120B surplus into a $1.4T deficit and added $6T to the national debt, but pretended to be deficit hawks under the Obama administration. For both sides, any policy they admonish when they don't control the White House is ok as long as it's their guy doing it. They are unprincipled men whose only precept is in-group loyalty at any cost. This is not to suggest that both parties are the same; a cursory glance at their platforms would demonstrate otherwise. What is meant here is that how party lines are drawn depends on who is in power; in particular, it depends on who controls the executive office. 

Concerning Corporate Propaganda About the Invasion of Syria

Previous post on invasion of Syria

The video above is testimony from a Syrian women who lived in 'moderate rebel' occupied East Aleppo, which has now been liberated thanks to 'Russian aggression.' The atrocities this woman describes being inflicted by the 'moderate rebels', particularly the Washington funded Free Syrian Army, are unimaginable and pale in comparison to the corporate media's false narrative. I hope viewers are aware that since Obama repealed the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act in 2013 your government and corporate media has no legal obligation to tell you the truth; domestic propaganda is legal. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that there was an East Aleppo (held by the terrorists) and a West Aleppo (held by Assad) and not a unified Aleppo. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called 'moderate rebels' murdered civilians that attempted to flee to the government side. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called moderate rebels indiscriminately shelled civilians on the government side. If you listened to the corporate media, you were probably unaware that the so called moderate rebels were a coalition called Jaish al-Islam (the Islamic Army of Conquest) that mainly consisted of Al Nusra fighters and Ahrar al-Sham, another group documented committing acts of terrorism such as the ethnic cleansing of Alawites in Zara'a. If you listened to corporate media you probably didn't know that the so called moderate rebels denied civilians medical treatment, as the women above explained, and thus when Russian jets bombed hospitals they were killing the terrorists groups using them for their wounded, not civilians. If you listened to corporate media you were probably unaware that most of the 'moderate rebels' were foreign fighters, hence why I call it an invasion.

None of this is meant to imply that Assad and Putin are the good guys. Hollywood tropes don't exist in the real world and I am a realist. And as a realist I recognize that there are no good guys and bad guys in the real world; there are only greater and lesser evils. The majority of Syrians regard Assad as the lesser evil, the NATO backed Salafi terrorists the greater evil, and our criminal government as the root of evil (81% blame the U.S. for ISIS) .