'We have no experience in stopping a nuclear war.' - Sidney Drell (no replies)        
'..My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.'

'The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

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..the Cuban Missile Crisis, when a series of misperceptions, miscalculations, and command-and-control problems almost started an accidental nuclear war—despite the determination of both John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev to avoid one. In perhaps the most dangerous incident, the captain of a Soviet submarine mistakenly believed that his vessel was under attack by U.S. warships and ordered the firing of a torpedo armed with a nuclear warhead. His order was blocked by a fellow officer. Had the torpedo been fired, the United States would have retaliated with nuclear weapons. At the height of the crisis, while leaving the White House on a beautiful fall evening, McNamara had a strong feeling of dread—and for good reason: “I feared I might never live to see another Saturday night.”

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The personnel who command, operate, and maintain the Minuteman III have also become grounds for concern. In 2013, the two-star general in charge of the entire Minuteman force was removed from duty after going on a drunken bender during a visit to Russia, behaving inappropriately with young Russian women, asking repeatedly if he could sing with a Beatles cover band at a Mexican restaurant in Moscow, and insulting his military hosts. The following year, almost a hundred Minuteman launch officers were disciplined for cheating on their proficiency exams. In 2015, three launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, were dismissed for using illegal drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines. That same year, a launch officer at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for heading a violent street gang, distributing drugs, sexually assaulting a girl under the age of sixteen, and using psilocybin, a powerful hallucinogen. As the job title implies, launch officers are entrusted with the keys for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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..A recent memoir, “Uncommon Cause,” written by General George Lee Butler, reveals that the Pentagon was not telling the truth. Butler was the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for all of America’s nuclear weapons, during the Administration of President George H. W. Bush.

According to Butler and Franklin Miller, a former director of strategic-forces policy at the Pentagon, launch-on-warning was an essential part of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (siop), the nation’s nuclear-war plan. Land-based missiles like the Minuteman III were aimed at some of the most important targets in the Soviet Union, including its anti-aircraft sites. If the Minuteman missiles were destroyed before liftoff, the siop would go awry, and American bombers might be shot down before reaching their targets. In order to prevail in a nuclear war, the siop had become dependent on getting Minuteman missiles off the ground immediately. Butler’s immersion in the details of the nuclear command-and-control system left him dismayed. “With the possible exception of the Soviet nuclear war plan, [the siop] was the single most absurd and irresponsible document I had ever reviewed in my life,” Butler concluded. “We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” The siop called for the destruction of twelve thousand targets within the Soviet Union. Moscow would be struck by four hundred nuclear weapons; Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, by about forty.

After the end of the Cold War, a Russian surprise attack became extremely unlikely. Nevertheless, hundreds of Minuteman III missiles remained on alert. The Cold War strategy endured because, in theory, it deterred a Russian attack on the missiles. McNamara called the policy “insane,” arguing that “there’s no military requirement for it.” George W. Bush, while running for President in 2000, criticized launch-on-warning, citing the “unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch.” Barack Obama, while running for President in 2008, promised to take Minuteman missiles off alert, warning that policies like launch-on-warning “increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.” Twenty scientists who have won the Nobel Prize, as well as the Union of Concerned Scientists, have expressed strong opposition to retaining a launch-on-warning capability. It has also been opposed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and former Senator Sam Nunn. And yet the Minuteman III missiles still sit in their silos today, armed with warheads, ready to go.

William J. Perry, who served as Secretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration, not only opposes keeping Minuteman III missiles on alert but advocates getting rid of them entirely. “These missiles are some of the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Perry wrote in the Times, this September. For many reasons, he thinks the risk of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than it was during the Cold War. While serving as an Under-Secretary of Defense in 1980, Perry also received a late-night call about an impending Soviet attack, a false alarm that still haunts him. “A catastrophic nuclear war could have started by accident.”

Bruce Blair, a former Minuteman launch officer, heads the anti-nuclear group Global Zero, teaches at Princeton University, and campaigns against a launch-on-warning policy. Blair has described the stresses that the warning of a Russian attack would put on America’s command-and-control system. American early-warning satellites would detect Russian missiles within three minutes of their launch. Officers at norad would confer for an additional three minutes, checking sensors to decide if an attack was actually occurring. The Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack System collects data from at least two independent information sources, relying on different physical principles, such as ground-based radar and satellite-based infrared sensors. If the norad officials thought that the warning was legitimate, the President of the United States would be contacted. He or she would remove the Black Book from a briefcase carried by a military aide. The Black Book describes nuclear retaliatory options, presented in cartoon-like illustrations that can be quickly understood.

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Although the Air Force publicly dismissed the threat of a cyberattack on the nuclear command-and-control system, the incident raised alarm within the Pentagon about the system’s vulnerability. A malfunction that occurred by accident might also be caused deliberately. Those concerns were reinforced by a Defense Science Board report in January, 2013. It found that the Pentagon’s computer networks had been “built on inherently insecure architectures that are composed of, and increasingly using, foreign parts.” Red teams employed by the board were able to disrupt Pentagon systems with “relative ease,” using tools available on the Internet. “The complexity of modern software and hardware makes it difficult, if not impossible, to develop components without flaws or to detect malicious insertions,” the report concluded.

In a recent paper for the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Andrew Futter, an associate professor at the University of Leicester, suggested that a nuclear command-and-control system might be hacked to gather intelligence about the system, to shut down the system, to spoof it, mislead it, or cause it to take some sort of action—like launching a missile. And, he wrote, there are a variety of ways it might be done.

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Strict precautions have been taken to thwart a cyberattack on the U.S. nuclear command-and-control system. Every line of nuclear code has been scrutinized for errors and bugs. The system is “air-gapped,” meaning that its networks are closed: someone can’t just go onto the Internet and tap into a computer at a Minuteman III control center. At least, that’s the theory. Russia, China, and North Korea have sophisticated cyber-warfare programs and techniques. General James Cartwright—the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command who recently pleaded guilty to leaking information about Stuxnet—thinks that it’s reasonable to believe the system has already been penetrated. “You’ve either been hacked, and you’re not admitting it, or you’re being hacked and don’t know it,” Cartwright said last year.

If communications between Minuteman control centers and their missiles are interrupted, the missiles can still be launched by ultra-high-frequency radio signals transmitted by special military aircraft. The ability to launch missiles by radio serves as a backup to the control centers—and also creates an entry point into the network that could be exploited in a cyberattack. The messages sent within the nuclear command-and-control system are highly encrypted. Launch codes are split in two, and no single person is allowed to know both parts. But the complete code is stored in computers—where it could be obtained or corrupted by an insider.

Some of America’s most secret secrets were recently hacked and stolen by a couple of private contractors working inside the N.S.A., Edward Snowden and Harold T. Martin III, both employees of Booz Allen Hamilton. The N.S.A. is responsible for generating and encrypting the nuclear launch codes. And the security of the nuclear command-and-control system is being assured not only by government officials but also by the employees of private firms, including software engineers who work for Boeing, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Lord Des Browne, a former U.K. Minister of Defense, is concerned that even ballistic-missile submarines may be compromised by malware. Browne is now the vice-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit seeking to reduce the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction, where he heads a task force examining the risk of cyberattacks on nuclear command-and-control systems. Browne thinks that the cyber threat is being cavalierly dismissed by many in power. The Royal Navy’s decision to save money by using Windows for Submarines, a version of Windows XP, as the operating system for its ballistic-missile subs seems especially shortsighted. Windows XP was discontinued six years ago, and Microsoft warned that any computer running it after April, 2014, “should not be considered protected as there will be no security updates.” Each of the U.K. subs has eight missiles carrying a total of forty nuclear weapons. “It is shocking to think that my home computer is probably running a newer version of Windows than the U.K.’s military submarines,” Brown said.In 2013, General C. Robert Kehler, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the risk of cyberattacks on the nuclear command-and-control system. He expressed confidence that the U.S. system was secure. When Senator Bill Nelson asked if somebody could hack into the Russian or Chinese systems and launch a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead, Kehler replied, “Senator, I don’t know . . . I do not know.”

After the debacle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union became much more reluctant to provoke a nuclear confrontation with the United States. Its politburo was a committee of conservative old men. Russia’s leadership is quite different today. The current mix of nationalism, xenophobia, and vehement anti-Americanism in Moscow is a far cry from the more staid and secular ideology guiding the Soviet Union in the nineteen-eighties. During the past few years, threats about the use of nuclear weapons have become commonplace in Moscow. Dmitry Kiselyov, a popular newscaster and the Kremlin’s leading propagandist, reminded viewers in 2014 that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the U.S.A. into radioactive dust.” The Kremlin has acknowledged the development of a nuclear torpedo that can travel more than six thousand miles underwater before devastating a coastal city. It has also boasted about a fearsome new missile design. Nicknamed “Satan 2” and deployed with up to sixteen nuclear warheads, the missile will be “capable of wiping out parts of the earth the size of Texas or France,” an official news agency claimed.

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Russia’s greatest strategic vulnerability is the lack of a sophisticated and effective early-warning system. The Soviet Union had almost a dozen satellites in orbit that could detect a large-scale American attack. The system began to deteriorate in 1996, when an early-warning satellite had to be retired. Others soon fell out of orbit, and Russia’s last functional early-warning satellite went out of service two years ago. Until a new network of satellites can be placed in orbit, the country must depend on ground-based radar units. Unlike the United States, Russia no longer has two separate means of validating an attack warning. At best, the radar units can spot warheads only minutes before they land. Pavel Podvig, a senior fellow at the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, believes that Russia does not have a launch-on-warning policy—because its early-warning system is so limited.

For the past nine years, I’ve been immersed in the minutiae of nuclear command and control, trying to understand the actual level of risk. Of all the people whom I’ve met in the nuclear realm, Sidney Drell was one of the most brilliant and impressive. Drell died this week, at the age of ninety. A theoretical physicist with expertise in quantum field theory and quantum chromodynamics, he was for many years the deputy director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator and received the National Medal of Science from Obama, in 2013. Drell was one of the founding members of jason—a group of civilian scientists that advises the government on important technological matters—and for fifty-six years possessed a Q clearance, granting him access to the highest level of classified information. Drell participated in top-secret discussions about nuclear strategy for decades, headed a panel that investigated nuclear-weapon safety for the U.S. Congress in 1990, and worked on technical issues for jason until the end of his life. A few months ago, when I asked for his opinion about launch-on-warning, Drell said, “It’s insane, the worst thing I can think of. You can’t have a worse idea.”

Drell was an undergraduate at Princeton University when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed. Given all the close calls and mistakes in the seventy-one years since then, he considered it a miracle that no other cities have been destroyed by a nuclear weapon—“it is so far beyond my normal optimism.” The prospect of a new cold war—and the return of military strategies that advocate using nuclear weapons on the battlefield—deeply unnerved him. Once the first nuclear weapon detonates, nothing might prevent the conflict from spiralling out of control. “We have no experience in stopping a nuclear war,” he said.

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin confront a stark choice: begin another nuclear-arms race or reduce the threat of nuclear war. Trump now has a unique opportunity to pursue the latter, despite the bluster and posturing on both sides. His admiration for Putin, regardless of its merits, could provide the basis for meaningful discussions about how to minimize nuclear risks. Last year, General James Mattis, the former Marine chosen by Trump to serve as Secretary of Defense, called for a fundamental reappraisal of American nuclear strategy and questioned the need for land-based missiles. During Senate testimony, Mattis suggested that getting rid of such missiles would “reduce the false-alarm danger.” Contrary to expectations, Republican Presidents have proved much more successful than their Democratic counterparts at nuclear disarmament. President George H. W. Bush cut the size of the American arsenal in half, as did his son, President George W. Bush. And President Ronald Reagan came close to negotiating a treaty with the Soviet Union that would have completely abolished nuclear weapons.

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes—and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.'

- Eric Schlosser, World War Three, By Mistake, December 23, 2016


Context

The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

          Daniel Boone        

Daniel Boone

BOONE, Daniel, pioneer, born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, 22 October, 1734 (For more on Daniel Boone's birthplace please visit his Homestead); died in Missouri, 26 Sept., 1820. Among the immigrants that landed, 10 Oct., 1717, at Philadelphia was George Boone, of Exeter, England, who came with his wife and eleven children, bought land near Bristol, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and joined the society of Friends. His son, Squire Boone, married Sarah Morgan, and Daniel was their son. Squire Boone, who was a farmer, moved, about 1748, to Holman's Ford, on the Yadkin, in North Carolina.

Daniel's education was very limited; he could read and write, but beyond that all he knew related to the fields, the woods, the net, the rifle, and hunting. He was a hunter born, and loved the solitude of the forest. Strong, brave, lithe, inured to hardship and privation, he traced his steps through the pathless forest, sought out the hiding places of panther, bear, and wolf, and was the match of any Indian in the sagacity with which he detected the footsteps of the red man. About 1755 he married Rebecca Bryan and set up his own log cabin, but, displeased with the encroachments of civilization on his solitude, and incited by the glowing accounts brought by John Finley, who had penetrated into the unknown regions of Kentucky, formed a company of six kindred spirits, and, bidding adieu to his family and the comforts of home, on 1 May, 1769, set out on his perilous journey of exploration.

America's Four Republics: The More or Less United States
By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
Edited: Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D.

  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.

After numerous adventures with the Indians, having become intimately acquainted with the character of the country, established an enviable reputation for sagacity and integrity on important frontier service assigned to him by Lord Dunmore in the campaign against the Indians, usually called "Lord Dunmore's War," and constructed a strong fort on the left bank of Kentucky river, which he named "Boonesborough," he determined to bring his wife and family to the new home. Some of his neighbors joined him, and he conducted the party, numbering upward of thirty, safely to "Boonesborough" without having encountered any other difficulties than such as are common to this passage. 



 Daniel Boone founded Boonesborough while he worked for Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company.


On one occasion Boone, with an armed party of thirty men, had gone for a supply of salt to a place called "Salt Licks," nearly 100 miles north of Boonesborough, and was captured, with twenty-seven of his men, by a band of more than 100 Indian warriors led by two Frenchmen. 



They carried them first to Old Chillicothe, on the Miami, and then to Detroit, where they surrendered for a ransom all their prisoners except Boone; him they took back to Old Chillicothe, where the great Blackfish, a renowned Shawanese chief, adopted him into his family under an imposing but painful ceremonial; all his hair, except a tuft three or four inches in diameter on the crown of the head, was plucked out; that tuft was allowed to grow to the length of the "warlock," dressed with feathers and ribbons; an ablution in the river was supposed to cleanse him from the taint of white blood; a coat of paint on his face, and a solemn charge from Blackfish, completed the rite. 

After a prolonged and anxious residence among them, during which he was kindly treated, he discovered their intention of marching upon Boonesborough, and resolved, at the peril of certain death in the event of recapture, to attempt his escape and save his family and friends. Chased by 450 Indians, he performed that daring feat in the forty-third year of his age, and thus simply records it: "On the 16th [of June], before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner, and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th, after a journey of 160 miles, during which I had but one meal." 




At the fort he learned that his wife and children, despairing of ever seeing him again, had returned, and safely reached her father's home in North Carolina. The Indians assailed the fort, but were repelled with loss, and retreated. Boone then, in the autumn of 1778, rejoined his family on the Yadkin, and returned with them to Kentucky in 1780. 

The country, though well settled, was still unsafe, and, soon after his return, Boone and his brother, Squire, were surprised by Indians; Squire was killed and scalped, and Daniel had a narrow escape. A sanguinary engagement, called the "Battle of the Blue Licks," took place in 1782, in which Boone's two sons fought at his side. One of them was killed, and the other severely wounded. Boone was full of expedients, and on one occasion extricated himself from four armed Indians by blinding them with tobacco dust. Kentucky was admitted into the union, 4 Feb., 1791, and in the survey of the state the title to Boone's land was disputed. The case was decided against him, and, stung to the quick by the wrong, he had again to seek a new home, which he established at Point Pleasant, between the Ohio and the Great Kanawha; but in 1795 he removed to Missouri, then a Spanish possession, and received not only the appointment of commandant of the Femme Osage district, but a grant of 8,000 acres. The Spanish possessions passed into the hands of Napoleon, who sold them to the United States, and, in the survey that followed, the Spanish grant of Boone's lands was pronounced invalid. An appeal to the legislature of Kentucky, and another to congress, resulted in a grant by the latter of 850 acres. Boone was then seventy-five years of age, hale and strong. The charm of the hunter's life clung to him to the last, and in his eighty-second year he went on a hunting excursion to the mouth of Kansas river. He had made his own coffin and kept it under his bed, and after his death they laid him in it to rest by the side of his wife, who had passed away seven years before. 

On 13 Sept., 1845, their remains were removed to the cemetery near Frankfort, Kentucky, a few miles from the fort of Boonesborough, by the concurrent action of the citizens of Frankfort and the legislature of Kentucky. 


Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky where Daniel and Rebecca Bryan Boone were re-interred


His son, Enoch, born in Boonesborough, Kentucky, in 1777 ; d. 8 March, 1862, was the first white male child born in Kentucky. Daniel Boone's wife, with her daughters, went to live with her husband in his palisaded fort in June, 1776, and while there gave birth to this son; but after Boone's capture, on 7 Feb., 1778, his family returned to North Carolina. -- Edited Appleton's American Biography Copyright© 2001 by Stan Klos TM




An American biographical and historical dictionary Containing an account of the lives, characters, and writings of the most eminent persons in North America from its first settlement, and a summary of the history of the several colonies and of the United States. By: W. Hyde, 1832.


BOONE, Daniel, colonel, one of the first settlers of Kentucky, was born about 1730. While he was young, his parents, who came from Bridgeworth,England removed from Pennsylvania or Virginia to the Yadkin river in North Carolina. 






He was early addicted to hunting in the woods; in the militia he attained to the rank of colonel. In 1769, in consequence of the representation of John Finley, who had penetrated into the wilderness of Kentucky, he was induced to accompany him in a journey to that country. He had four other companions, John Stuart, Joseph Holden, James Money, and William Cool, with whom he set out May 1. On the 7th of June they arrived at the Red river, a branch of the Kentucky; and here from the top of a hill they had a view of the fertile plain's, of which they were in pursuit. They encamped and remained in this place till Dec. 22, when Boone and Stuart were captured by the Indians near Kentucky river. In about a week they made their escape; but on returning to their camp, they found it plundered and deserted by their companions, who had gone back to Carolina.




Stuart was soon killed by the Indians; but Boone being joined by his brother, they remained and prosecuted the business of hunting during the winter, without further molestation. His brother going home for supplies in May 1770, he remained alone in the deep solitude of the western wilderness until his return with ammunition & horses July 27th. During this period this wild man of the woods, though greeted every night with the howlings of wolves, was delighted in his excursions with the survey of the beauties of the country and found greater pleasure in the solitude of wild nature, than he could have found amid the hum of the most elegant city. With his brother he traversed the country to Cumberland river. It was not until March 1771, that he returned to his family, resolved to conduct them to the paradise, which he had explored.


Students and Teachers of US History this is a video of Stanley and Christopher Klos presenting America's Four United Republics Curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. The December 2015 video was an impromptu capture by a member of the audience of Penn students, professors and guests that numbered about 200. - Click Here for more information



Having sold his farm, he set out with his own and 5 other families, Sept. 25,1773, and was joined in Powell's valley by 40 men. After passing over two mountains, called Powell's and Walden's, through which, as they ranged from the north east to the south west, passes were found, and approaching the Cumberland, the rear of the company was attacked by the Indians on the 10th of October, when six men were killed, among whom was the eldest son of colonel Boone. One man was also wounded, and the cattle were scattered. This disaster induced them to retreat about 40 miles to the settlement on Clinch River, where he remained with his family, until June 6,1774, when, at the request of gov. Dunmore, he conducted a number of surveyors to the falls of Ohio. On this tour of 800 miles he was absent two months. After this he was entrusted by the governor, during the campaign against the Shawanese, with the command of three forts. 



Early in 1775, at the request of a company in North Carolina, he attended a treaty with the Cherokee Indians at Wataga in order to make of them the purchase of lands on the south side of the Tennessee river. After performing this service, he was employed to mark out a road from the settlements on the Holston to the Kentucky river. While thus employed, at the distance of about 15 miles from what is now Boonesborough, the party was attacked March 20, and 23, 1775 by the Indians, who killed four and wounded five. Another man was killed in April. On the first day of this month at a salt lick, on the southern bank of the Kentucky,in what is now Boonesborough a few miles from Lexington, he began to erect a fort, consisting of a block house & several cabins, enclosed with palisades. On the 14th of June he returned to his family in order to remove them to the tort.. His wife and daughters were the first white women, who stood on the banks of the Kentucky river. Dec. 24th one man was killed and another wounded. July 14, 1776, when all the settlements were attacked, two of Colonel Calway's daughters and one of his own were taken prisoners; Boone pursued with 18 men and in two days overtook the Indians, killed two of them, and recovered the captives.






The Indians made repeated attacks upon Boonesborough; Nov. 15,1777 with 100 men, and July 4 with 200 men. On both sides several were killed and wounded; but the enemy were repulsed; as they were also July 19 from Logan's fort of 15 men, which was besieged by 200. The arrival of 25 men from Carolina and in August of 100 from Virginia gave a new aspect to affairs, and taught the savages the superiority of "the long knives," as they called the Virginians. Jan. 1, 1778 he went with 30 men to the blue licks on the Licking river to make salt for the garrison. Feb. 7, being alone, he was captured by a party of 102 Indians and 2 Frenchmen; he capitulated for his men, and they were all carried to Chillicothe on the Little Miami, whence he and 10 men were conducted to Detroit, where he arrived March 30. The governor, Hamilton, treated him with much humanity, and offered 1001, for his redemption. But the savages refused the offer from affection to their captive. Being carried back to Chillicothe in April, he was adopted as a son in an Indian family. He assumed the appearance of cheerfulness ; but his thoughts were on his wife and children. Aware of the envy of the Indians, he was careful not to exhibit his skill in shooting. In June he went to the salt springs on the Sciota. On his return to Chillicothe he ascertained, that 450 warriors were preparing to proceed against Boonesborough. He escaped June 16, and arrived at the fort June 20th, having travelled 160 miles in 4 days, with but one meal. His wife had returned to her father's. Great efforts were made to repair the fort in order to meet the expected attack. On August 1st, he went out with 19 men to surprise Point Creek town on the Sciota; meeting 30 Indians, he put them to flight and captured their baggage. At last, Aug. 8, the Indian army of 444 men, led by captain Dugnesne and 11 other Frenchmen, and their own chiefs, with British colors flying, summoned the fort to surrender. 



The next day Boone, having a garrison of only 50 men, announced his resolution to defend the fort, while a man was alive. They then proposed that 9 men should be sent out 60 yards from the fort to enter into a treaty; and when the articles were agreed upon and signed, they said it was customary on such occasions, as a token of sincere friendship, for two Indians to shake every white man by the hand. Accordingly two Indians approached each of the nine white men, and grappled with the intent of making him a prisoner; but the object being perceived, the men broke away and re-entered the fort.



An attempt was now made to undermine it; but a counter trench defeated that purpose. Atlast on the 20th the enemy raised the siege, having lost 37 men. Of Boone's men two were killed and four wounded. "We picked, up," said he, "125 pounds of bullets, besides what stuck in the logs of our fort, which certainly is a great proof of their industry." In 1779, when Boone was absent, revisiting his family in Carolina, Colonel Bowman with 160 men fought the Shawanese Indians at old Chillicothe. 



In his retreat the Indians pursued him for 30 miles, when in another engagement col. Harrod suggested the successful project of mounting a number of horses and breaking the Indian line. Of the Kentuckians 9 were killed. June 22nd,1780, about 600 Indians and Canadians under col. Bird attacked Riddle's and Martin's stations and the forks of Licking river with 6 pieces of artillery, and carried away all as captives. Gen. Clarke, commanding at the falls of Ohio, marched with his regiment and troops against Reccaway, the principal Shawanese town on a branch of the Miami, and burned the town, with the loss of 17 on each side. 


About this time Boone returned to Kentucky with his family. In Oct. 1780, soon after he was settled again at Boonesborough, he went with his brother to the Blue Licks, and as they were returning the latter was slain by a party of Indians, and he was pursued by them by the aid of a dog. By shooting him Boone escaped. The severity of the ensuing winter was attended with great distress, the enemy having destroyed most of the corn. The people subsisted chiefly on buffalo's flesh. In May 1732 the Indians having killed a man at Ashton's station, captain A. pursued with 25 men, but in an attack upon' the enemy he was killed with 12 of his men. Aug. 10 two boys were carried off from major Hay's station. Capt. Holden pursued with 17 men; but he also was defeated, with the loss of four men. In a field near Lexington an Indian shot a man and running to scalp him, was him- self shot from the fort and fell dead upon his victim. On the 15th Aug. 500 Indians attacked Briant's station, five miles from Lexington,and destroyed all the cattle; but they were repulsed on the third day, having about 30 killed, while of the garrison 4 were killed and 3 wounded. Boone, with cols. Todd and Trigg and major Harland, collected 176 men and pursued on the 18th.



They overtook the enemy the next day a mile beyond the Blue Licks, about 40 miles from Lexington, at a remarkable bend of a branch of Licking river. A battle ensued, the enemy having a line formed across from one bend to the other, but the Kentuckians were defeated with the great loss of 60 killed, among whom were cols. Todd and Trigg, and Major Harland, and Boone's second son. Many were the widows made in Lexington on that fatal day. The Indians having 4 more killed, 4 of the prisoners were given up to the young warriors to be put to death in the most barbarous manner. 

General Clarke, accompanied by Boone, immediately marched into the Indian country and desolated it, burning old Chillicothe, Peccaway, New Chillicothe, Willis town, and Chillicothe. With the loss of four men he took seven prisoners and five scalps, or killed five Indians. In October the Indians attacked Crab orchard. One of the Indians having entered a house, in which were a woman and a negro, and being thrown to the ground by the negro, the woman cut off his head. From this period to the peace with Great Britain the Indians did no harm. "Two darling sons and a brother," said Boone, "have I lost by savage hands, which have also taken from me 40 valuable horses and abundance of cattle. Many dark and sleepless nights have I spent, separated from the cheerful society of men, scorched by the summer's sun and pinched by the winter's cold, an instrument ordained to settle the wilderness."

From this period he resided in Kentucky and Virginia till 1798, when in consequence of an imperfect legal title to the lands, which he had settled, he found himself dispossessed of his property. In his indignation he fled from the delightful region, which he had explored, when a wilderness, and which now had a population of half a million. With his rifle he crossed the Ohio and plunged into the immense country of the Missouri In 1799 he settled on the Femme Osage river with numerous followers. In 1800 he discovered the Boone's Lick country, now a fine settlement: in the same year he visited the head waters of the Grand Osage river and spent the winter upon the head waters of the Arkansas. At the age of 80, in company with a white man and a black man, laid under strict injunctions to carry him back to his family, dead or alive, he made a hunting trip to the head waters of the Great Osage, and was successful in trapping beaver and other game.




In January 1812 he addressed a memorial to the legislature of Ky. stating that he owned not an acre of land in the region, which he first settled; that in 1794 he passed over into the Spanish province of Louisiana, under an assurance from the governor, who resided at St. Louis, that land should be given him; that accordingly 10 thousand acres were given him on the Missouri and he became Syndic or chief of the district of St. Charles; but that on the acquisition of Louisiana by the United States his claims were rejected by the commissioners of land, because he did not actually reside; and that thus at the age of 80 he was a wanderer, having no spot of his own, whereon to lay his bones.

The legislature instructed their delegates to congress to solicit a confirmation of this grant. He retained, it is believed, 2,000 In his old age he pursued his active course of life, trapping bears and hunting with his rifle. Though a magistrate and sometimes a member of the legislature of Virginia, and much engaged in agriculture; yet he preferred the solitude of the wilderness to the honors of civil office and the society of men.


He died at the house of his son, Major A. Boone, at Charette, Montgomery Company, September 26th, 1820, aged nearly 90 years. His wife died in the same place. He left sons and daughters in Missouri. In consequence of his death the legislature of Missouri voted to wear a badge of mourning for 20 days. A brother died in Mississippi Oct. 1808, aged 81. 

Col. Boone was of common stature, of amiable disposition, and honorable integrity. In his last years he might have been seen by the traveler at the door of his house, with his rifle on his knee and his faithful dog at his side, lamenting the departed vigor of his limbs, and meditating on the scenes of his past life.

Whether he also meditated on the approaching scenes of eternity and his dim eyes ever kindled up with the glorious hopes of the christian is not mentioned in the accounts of him, which have been examined. But of all objects an irreligious old man, dead as to worldly joy and dead as to celestial hope, is the most pitiable. An account of his adventures, drawn up by himself, was published in Filson's supplement to Imlay's Description of the Western Territory, 1793.— Niles Register, March 13, 1813.

Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

Philadelphia
Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
Philadelphia
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Baltimore
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
Philadelphia
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
Lancaster
September 27, 1777
York
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
Philadelphia
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
Princeton
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Annapolis
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Trenton
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
Nov. 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790


NEW BOOK:

The Almost Classified Guide to CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors
By WAYNE MADSEN
ISBN: 978-1-365-11196-9


Cool Justice Editor's Note: Following are excerpts from author Madsen's introduction and the body of the work. Additional suggested reading: News story about Madsen's book via the Washington, D.C. based Justice Integrity Project [link at the bottom of this post].

EXCERPTS:

From the Introduction


One of the most pervasive uses of companies as intelligence partners was under the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD. During the Cold War, the CIA, often with the approval of corporate executives, infiltrated their agents to work as journalists in newspapers, radio and television networks, wire services, and magazines. The following pages in this book are rife with examples of this penetration of the Fourth Estate – all too many in the opinion of this journalist. The CIA admitted to at least 400 journalists on the agency’s payroll at the height of MOCKINGBIRD. The CIA traditionally understates its capabilities, especially when its covert activities become publicly known. Moreover, the end of the Cold War did not stop the practice of the CIA in infiltrating the media and slant news reports to its wishes.

*

An insightful look behind the veils of secrecy into the CIA’s use of fronts, proprietaries, and partners calls into question the purpose of the CIA. Created by President Harry S Truman to serve as a central collector and repository of intelligence, the CIA became much more than that. A few weeks after the United States witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy in the middle of downtown Dallas, Truman penned an op-ed piece that appeared in several newspapers around the country. In it, Truman shared his regret for having created the CIA in 1947:

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA . . . For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

"I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue.”

*

The 21st century’s CIA’s partners are more likely to be found among high-tech companies marketing the latest and greatest mobile applications and data mining programs than among banks, law offices, and advertising agencies. However, in the post-World War II era, the CIA’s top and middle echelons were normally found operating through cover as typewriter-pecking journalists, traveling Madison Avenue admen, corporate lawyers, and chain-smoking oilmen. In the 1970s and 80s, CIA contractors and partners began showing up in the high-tech field, with database, local area networking, and on-line information retrieval systems attracting the most interest by Langley.

*

As this book went to press, the smart phone game application Pokémon Go fad was sweeping the planet. Unbeknownst to many of the on-line game’s avid fan’s was the connection of the game’s developers to the CIA’s venture capital firm IN-Q-TEL. All users saw their geo-location and other smart phone data being swept up by a CIA partner firm.

SELECTED ENTRIES

Amazon, Inc. [CIA contractor]. Company provides cloud computing services for the CIA. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

American Historical Society. [CIA partner]. Many society officials were OSS/CIA officers.

American Press Institute. [CIA front]. Operating out of Columbia University, the institute’s director in the 1950s was a CIA officer.

AmeriCares. [CIA partner]. A non-profit organization that is often the “first in” at refugee situations. Founded by tycoon J. Peter Grace, a board chairman of the CIA front, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and a trustee of another CIA front, the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, AmeriCares was involved in funding the Nicaraguan contras. The group has also provided the CIA with recruiting opportunities at mass refugee sites, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

Bechtel Corporation. [CIA contractor]. Bechtel is a large construction company that has included former CIA director Richard Helms, CIA pseudonym “Fletcher M. Knight,” among its executive ranks. Bechtel was active in providing corporate cover for the OSS in the Middle East during World War II. Bechtel has been a consummate service company for various CIA operations, including support for the CIA-inspired coup against the Syrian government in 1949, the Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq in 1953, and President Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Bechtel provided cover for CIA agents in Libya under both the regime of King Idris and his successor, Muammar Qaddafi. Sometimes called a “secret arm” of the CIA, Bechtel’s executives included those who would join President Reagan’s Cabinet, including Secretary of State George Schultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Before World War II, Steve Bechtel formed a military-industrial complex partnership with John McCone. McCone later became the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and later, director of the CIA. The CIA has used Bechtel to provide cover for non-official cover CIA operatives abroad.

Blackstone Investment Group. [CIA front]. With offices in Washington, DC and Moscow, arranged for the purchase of KGB documents following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among the documents sought by the front company were any related to illegal CIA activities during the Cold War, including the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant. [CIA front]. Opened in 1967 in King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia. Served as a rendezvous point for CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and organized crime figures. Its proprietor was Bernie Houghton, a CIA operative with links to Nugan Hand Bank, CIA weapons smuggler Edwin Wilson, and CIA clandestine services officers Theodore Shackley, Rafael Quintero, and Thomas Clines.

Center for Democracy. [CIA front]. Administered under the aegis of Boston University, the center maintained offices in Boston, Washington, DC, Guatemala City, and Strasbourg, France. Involved in CIA operations in eastern Europe, Central America, and Africa.

Colt Patent Firearms Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Hartford, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

Daddario & Burns. [CIA partner]. Headed by former OSS officer Emilio Daddario, a Democratic Representative from Connecticut, the Hartford-based law firm provided services to the CIA.

DC Comics. [CIA partner]. Worked with the International Military Information Group (IMIG), a joint CIA/Pentagon unit at the State Department, to disseminate propaganda comic books, featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, in Serbo-Croatian and Albanian, to youth in the Balkans during the military conflicts in that region.

Disney Corporation. [CIA partner]. CIA agents who were adept at creating front companies and shell corporations in Florida, worked closely with Disney in preparation for the construction of Disney World near Orlando, Florida. OSS veteran “Wild Bill” Donovan and CIA shell company expert Paul Helliwell helped create two fake Florida cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, as well as a number of shell corporations, to keep secret the plans for Disney World. This kept land prices low because real estate speculators were unaware of the prospective value of the land in a desolate area of central Florida.

Emory School of Medicine. [CIA partner]. Located in Atlanta, Georgia. Involved in the CIA’s MK-ULTRA behavioral modification project.

Enron Corporation [CIA partner]. Houston-based firm that was used by the CIA to provide commercial cover for its agents around the world. There were at least 20 CIA employees on Enron’s payroll. Andre Le Gallo, a former official of the CIA’s Operations Directorate, went to work as a corporate intelligence officer for Enron.

Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). [CIA front]. Officially established by American Trotskyists, the group was penetrated by CIA operatives. The FPCC New Orleans office was a CIA front that provided cover for the anti-Fidel Castro activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie, among others. The New Orleans FPCC office was located at 544 Camp Street and shared the same building entrance with Guy Banister Associates, Inc., a private detective agency, the address for which was 531 Lafayette Street and around the corner from 544 Camp Street.

In December 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the FPCC ceased all U.S. operations.

General Electric Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

General Foods Corporation. [CIA partner]. Advertising account at CIA’s Robert Mullen Company handled by an active CIA employee.

Google, Inc. [CIA partner]. Developed as a result of a research grant by the CIA and Pentagon to Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science. The CIA referred to the research as the “google project.”

Greenberg Traurig. [CIA partner]. Washington, DC “connected” law firm.

Guy Banister Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New Orleans private detective agency headed by former FBI agent Guy Banister. The detective agency coordinated the activities of various anti-Castro Cuban groups in New Orleans, including Banister’s own Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean, as well as the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, Friends of Democratic Cuba, and the Crusade to Free Cuba Committee.

Banister and Associates shared office space with the CIA’s New Orleans front, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, headed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Hale and Dorr. [CIA partner]. Boston-based law firm that provided cover for CIA’s Independence and Brown Foundations.

Halliburton. [CIA contractor]. Based in Houston, it is the world’s largest oil service company. Recipient of a number of CIA sole-source contracts for services worldwide.

Harper and Row, Inc. [CIA partner]. Manuscripts submitted to the New York publisher that dealt with intelligence matters, particularly CIA operations, were turned over to the CIA for censoring edits before publication.

Hewlett Packard Corporation. [CIA partner]. Sold computers to Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s missile program with the knowledge and approval of the CIA.

Hill & Knowlton. [CIA partner]. Public relations firm that teamed with the CIA on a number of operations. Hill & Knowlton’s numerous offices abroad provided cover for CIA agents. One known Hill & Knowlton office that was a CIA front operation was in Kuala Lumpur.

Kerr-McGee. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating overseas.

Kissinger Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New York-based international consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft is a co-owner. The firm provided support to the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation and the Bilderberg Group. Much of the 1982 seed money for Kissinger Associates was provided by Goldman Sachs.

Knight Foundation. [CIA partner]. Also known as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Based in Miami, the foundation provides funding for various CIA-connected media operations in the United States and around the world.

Kroll Inc. [CIA partner]. Founded in 1972 by Jules Kroll, who had links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. Based in Manhattan. French domestic law enforcement believed Kroll’s Paris office was a CIA front. Kroll handled the security for the World Trade Center after the 1993 terrorist bombing and continued to be responsible for security up to, during, and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Kroll employed former FBI assistant director for counter-terrorism John O’Neill, who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Lincoln Savings and Loan. [CIA partner]. Based in Irvine, California and headed by notorious swindler Charles Keating, Jr., involved in laundering funds for the Iran-contra scandal.

Lone Star Cement Corporation. [CIA partner]. Based in Stamford, Connecticut and linked to the Bush family, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad. Involved in the Iran-contra scandal.

Mary Carter Paint Company. [CIA front]. A money-laundering operation for the CIA. Involved in casinos in the Bahamas.

Monsanto. [CIA partner]. The firm contracted with former CIA official Cofer Black’s Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), a subsidiary of the CIA-connected Blackwater USA, later Xe Services, to monitor animal rights groups, anti-genetically modified (GM) food activists, and other groups opposed to Monsanto’s agri-business operations worldwide.

National Enquirer. [CIA partner]. The tabloid’s founder, Generoso (Gene) Pope, Jr., worked for the CIA’s psychological warfare unit and the agency’s Italy branch in 1950. In 1952, Pope acquired The New York Enquirer broadsheet and transformed it into a tabloid, renaming it The National Enquirer. This transformation bore the imprimatur of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program.

Newsweek. [CIA partner]. Magazine reporters and stringers fed information to the CIA. Newsweek’s stringers in southeastern Europe and the Far East were CIA agents. When Newsweek was bought by The Washington Post Company in 1961, cooperation between the magazine and the CIA increased. It was a participant in the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program. Much of the staff of Newsweek was absorbed into a new online publication, The Daily Beast, which continues to disseminate CIA-influenced articles. See Washington Post.

Nieman Foundation. [CIA partner]. Located at Harvard University, the foundation awarded Nieman Fellowships, some on behalf of the CIA, for foreign journalists to study at Harvard. The journalists were subjected to CIA recruitment efforts prior to their returning to their home countries.

Pamela Martin & Associates. [CIA partner], Escort firm run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called “DC Madam.” During her 2008 trial for mail fraud, Palfrey attempted to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act in order to discuss her relationship with the CIA. The U.S. Court refused Palfrey’s request and she was convicted and later said to have committed suicide before her sentencing hearing in Washington, DC. One of her clients was Randall Tobias, the head of the CIA-connected USAID. Another was Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter.

Paris Review. [CIA front]. Literary magazine edited by George Plimpton. Published works by Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett. The magazine’s co-founder, Peter Matthiessen, relied on his affiliation with the magazine as his CIA cover.

Quaker Oats Company. [CIA partner]. Worked with the CIA and Atomic Energy Commission to place trace amounts of radiation in breakfast cereal served to boys at the Fernald School for the mentally retarded in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Radio Corporation of America. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Iran, Philippines, Japan, and West Germany. Provided technical assistance to CIA-financed clandestine and propaganda radio stations worldwide, including Radio Free Europe. RCA founder David Sarnoff was a major supporter of CIA operations, including propaganda dissemination around the world. RCA chairman and chief executive officer Thornton F. Bradshaw was active in the operations of the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation.

Reily Coffee Company. [CIA partner]. Also known as William B. Reily Coffee Company and based in New Orleans, this company employed Lee Harvey Oswald and a number of other U.S. government employees, many of whom were suspected CIA officers.

Robert M. Mullen Company. [CIA proprietary]. A Washington, DC public relations firm, it was used as a front for CIA activities. E. Howard Hunt, the CIA agent, worked for Robert Mullen when he was arrested in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in 1972. The Senate Watergate Committee reported that “the Mullen and Company has maintained a relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency since its incorporation in 1959. It provided covers for agents in Europe (Stockholm), Latin America (Mexico City), and the Far East (Singapore) at the time of the Watergate break-in.”

Rockefeller Foundation. [CIA partner]. Used by the CIA to direct scholarships and grants to the Third World and Eastern Europe. Rockefeller Foundation money was funneled to the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), created in 1948. The chairman of ACUE was OSS chief William J. Donovan and the vice chairman was Allen Dulles. One of ACUE’s board members was Walter Bedell Smith, the first CIA director.

Summa Corporation. [CIA partner]. Owned by Howard Hughes, Summa is believed to have skimmed gambling profits from the Sands, Desert Inn, Frontier, Silver Slipper, Castaways, and Landmark casinos in Las Vegas and Harold’s Club in Reno for the CIA and the Mafia. Provided financial cover for the CIA’s Glomar Explorer project.

Teneo Intelligence. [CIA partner]. Branch of Teneo Holdings, which is headquartered in New York. Teneo Holdings’s intelligence branch includes former CIA officials. Teneo is closely linked to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Teneo Intelligence has offices in New York, London, Rome, Brussels, Dubai, Bogota, New Delhi, and Tokyo.

Texas Commerce Bank (TCB). [CIA partner]. Houston-based bank founded by the family of James Baker III. Texas Commerce Bank was used to provide commercial cover for CIA agents. After serving as vice president for Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas from 1977 to 1979, Jeb Bush joined his father’s presidential campaign in 1980. Serving with Bush on the campaign was Robert Gambino, the CIA deputy director of security who gave Bush his orientation brief at Langley in 1977.

Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron, which had its own links to the CIA, served on the board of Texas Commerce Bank. Texas Commerce Bank was acquired by Chemical Bank in 1987.

The bank provided major loans to Howard Hughes’s Summa Corporation. See Summa Corporation.

United Fruit Company [CIA partner]. Involved in 1954 CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala. Published the Latin America Report, a publication that was a CIA front used for clandestine activities. The CIA transferred weapons to United Fruit employees in Guatemala who were involved in undermining the Arbenz government. The joint CIA-United Fruit plan was code named OPERATION FORTUNE. Company provided an airfield in Guatemala for the CIA’s training of Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

U.S. Rubber Company. [CIA partner]. Headquartered in Naugatuck, Connecticut and later called Uniroyal, provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad. Included those operating under the cover of the Dominion Rubber Company of Canada, a subsidiary of U.S. Rubber Company.

U.S. Youth Council (USYC). [CIA front]. Founded in 1945 and based in New York. Some 90 percent of its funds came from the CIA. USYC received funding from the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs (FYSA), a CIA front. The USYC was composed of American Youth Hostels, Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, American Unitarian Youth, National Catholic Welfare Conference, National Students Assembly, YMCA and YWCA.

Wackenhut. [CIA contractor]. Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based security firm, stood accused of providing the CIA with specialized services around the world, including Chile, Greece, and El Salvador. Its Venezuelan branch, Wackenhut Venezolana, C.A., was accused in 2002 of involvement in the CIA’s coup against President Hugo Chavez. William Casey served as Wackenhut’s outside counsel before becoming CIA director in 1981.

Wackenhut eventually merged into the global security firm G4S.

Washington Post. [CIA partner]. The Washington Post was part of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD, the agency’s media influence project. Post publisher Phil Graham was a close friend and associate of MOCKINGBIRD chief Frank Wisner, Sr. and CIA director Allen Dulles. Wisner assisted Graham in acquiring The Washington Times-Herald and WTOP radio, creating a sizable CIA-influenced media operation in the nation’s capital.

W. R. Grace. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Latin America. Provided donations to CIA front foundations.

  • News story about Madsen's book via The Justice Integrity Project



  •           Interesting forum on self-publishing at 2017 Outwrite LGBT Book Festival in Washington DC        

    Today I visited the 2017 Outwrite LGBT Book Festival in the DC Center office space and surrounding atrium at 14th and U Streets in Washington DC.

    This year I did not have my own table;  I’ll get into this elsewhere.

    The most interesting part of the visit was a presentation in DC Center’s largest room (on 14th Street ground level) from LGBT book publishers and literary agents.

    There was a discussion of what an author goes through if he/she wants to control the process.  It’s usually necessary to hire a copyeditor and a typesetter (who is often the same).  It’s necessary to find a book manufacturer, and prices can vary a lot (many companies exist in the Shenandoah Valley and down in the North Carolina Piedmont).  It seems that Milo Yianopoulos has controlled the production of his book “Dangerous” after Simon and Schuster dropped him after a controversy.

    There was discussion of “guerrilla marketing”, and of the tendency recently for trade publishers not to offer advances, which typically have to be recovered from book sales. 

    There was mention of the use of pseudonyms and pen names, and that in a real world some authors really need to keep their identities secret, usually for reasons other than just being  LGBT, like workplace conflicts or possible security concerns for themselves or others around them.  This is rather alarming.


    There was discussion of “sea turtle authors”, often introverts, who do not like to be pressed to sell aggressively, and are perfectly content to let their “eggs” lie dormant.
      

    I asked about print-on-demand publishers, like Author Solutions.  The group did not think well of this business model, and referred to it as a “shadow industry”  They felt money should go to authors directly,, but that only works if the author owns the publishing entity.  I did refer to the fact that POD companies have been pressing authors harder to buy copies of books and build their own stores and credit card operations, rather than depend on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

    I did mention the SESPA bill from the Senate and the implicit threat to web speech, including eventually author websites. 

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              British Ambassador Gave a Public Lecture at UNJA        
    Mendalo—The arrival of British ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor Leste, Moazzam Malik, at third floor of rectorat building in senate room was welcomed by the students of Jambi University on Monday (13/3). The coming of Moazzam Malik to UNJA was scheduled to give a public lecture to students of Jambi university with theme: “Forest Fire Prevention Efforts by the Government of Jambi Province in Correlation to Global Climate Change”. The event was also attended by Jambi Governor, H. Zumi Zola Zulkifli, S.TP., M.A. In his description, Moazzam said that the forest in Indonesia was one of the biggest forests in the world and it has been the lung of the world. He reiterated that we should safeguard our forest and he also stated that his government would cooperate with the Indonesian government to prevent the side effects of climate changes. He said Indonesia has the best potency to become future country in Asian region even in the world because Indonesia is the fourth biggest population country in the world or its population reaches 250 millions. In his view, there are three contributing factors that make Indonesia a big country, that is, economic regulation system, infrastructure and human resources which made the most important part of advancement of a country.  “We invited students at Jambi University to come to study overseas especially in England. We provided many scholarship schemes, and I saw students in this university were smart and eager to see future,” he commented. On the other hand, the Rector of Jambi University, Prof. H. Johni Najwan, S.H., M.H., Ph.D stated that the coming of British Ambassador to UNJA was expected to give hope to UNJA in this matter was scholarship cooperation. He greatly hoped that there would be a student exchange program with universities in England. Besides that,...

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              Centrelink Mandatory Drug Testing: Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation calls on the Australian Government to stop playing games with people's lives        

    In its drive to universally implement the Cashless Debit Card for all welfare recipients, the Abbott Government first targeted remote indigenous communities to ‘trial’ this income management restrict and control scheme. The Turnbull Government then selected certain low-socio economic urban areas for further trials.

    Now the Liberal-Nationals federal government intends to extend the reach of this card even further and from 1 July 2018 intends to impose compulsory drug testing on 5,000 new recipients of unemployment benefits – with all who test positive for alcohol or drugs being immediately placed on restricted and controlled payments regardless of their personal circumstances.

    All those government MPs and senators cushioned by generous salaries and benefits from life’s vagaries have chosen this group because of the illegality of many of the drugs it will test for, as they think that all Australians will blame those with substance abuse problems and feel comfortable with the idea that they should be punished in some way.

    These MPs and senators do not appear to give a toss that in an effort to eventually control the income support payments of all welfare recipients, it will socially profile and discriminate against a specific group of people with little if any positive outcomes flowing from this discrimination.

    Because it is admitted that cutting off access to cash may exacerbate mental health issues, increase homelessness and lead the desperate into crime.

    The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 which contains this measure is currently before the federal parliament and, the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee is due to report on this bill on 4 August 2017.

    So a call has gone out……….

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    For 30 years, I served as the head of St Vincent's Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service in Sydney.

    I have treated many thousands of patients trying to rebuild their lives in the face of alcohol and drug problems. Many have been victims of sexual abuse, violence from family members, or other devastating trauma – and most are already living on the margins of society.

    That's why I'm stunned by the government's plan to strip people with alcohol and drug problems of income support payments.1

    Thirty years of experience, backed by research from all over the world, tells me that you can't punish people into recovery. In fact, pushing people into poverty only serves to undermine their chance of recovery – and puts lives at risk.

    Over the coming weeks, Parliament will vote on whether to implement mandatory drug testing. Doctors, nurses and allied health workers – determined to protect patients – are speaking out against the changes.


    Prime Minister Turnbull assures us that the proposal to strip people of income support payments is "based on love".2 That's a hard thing to swallow given his government's failure to consult with addiction medicine experts and lack of evidence to support the trials.

    Mandatory drug testing has already been trialled and abandoned in multiple countries around the world. It's a failed policy that violates our professional commitment to do no harm. This government is forcing doctors to make an impossible choice – to break the law or to hurt our patients.

    I've seen with my own eyes how medical treatment of people struggling with severe alcohol and drug problems must be guided by compassionate care and respect for their human rights.

    Call on the government to stop playing political games with people's lives: https://www.getup.org.au/help-not-harm-petition

    Sincerely,

    Dr Alex Wodak

    President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation

    References:

    [1] Drug testing welfare recipients is not about love, Malcolm Turnbull, it's about punishment, The Guardian, 11 May 2017

    [2] Federal budget 2017: Turnbull says welfare drug test policy 'based on love', ABC News, 12 May 2017

    GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.

    Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.

    Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



              Why are we still refusing to fully honour the spiritual and cultural relationship that traditional owners have to the land in Australia?        

    It doesn’t matter to the Turnbull Government that science declares that Aboriginal Australia has existed since time immemorial or that indigenous culture has existed on this continent longer than any other culture which is now part of multicultural Australia -  it stubbornly refuses to genuinely honour the spiritual and cultural relationship that traditional owners have with the land.

    June 15, 2017

    MEDIA RELEASE
    14 June 2017
    Traditional Owners slam passage of Native Title amendments
    Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s proposed coal mine have expressed profound disappointment at the passage of Attorney General Brandis’ amendments to the Native Title Act, stressing that while Mabo’s legacy has been diminished they will continue to fight for their rights.
    Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, says, “Adani’s problems with the Wangan and Jagalingou people are not solved this week. The trial to decide the fate of Adani’s supposed deal with the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners is scheduled for the Federal Court in March 2018.
    “Our people are the last line of legal defence against this mine and its corrosive impact on our rights, and the destruction of country that would occur.
    “Senator Brandis has been disingenuous in prosecuting his argument for these changes to native title laws, while the hands of native title bureaucrats and the mining lobby are all over the outcome.
    “This swift overturning of a Federal Court decision, without adequate consultation with Indigenous people, was a significant move, not a mere technical consideration as the Turnbull Government has tried to make out.
    “It is appalling and false for George Brandis to pretend that by holding a ‘workshop’ with the CEOs of the native title service bodies, he has the unanimous agreement of Traditional Owners across Australia. No amount of claimed ‘beseeching’ by the head of the Native Title Council, Glen Kelly, can disguise this.
    “The public were not properly informed about the bill, and nor were Indigenous people around the country, who were not consulted and did not consent to these changes.
    “We draw the line today. We declare our right to our land. There is no surrender. There is no land use agreement. We are the people from that land. We’re the rightful Traditional Owners of Wangan and Jagalingou country, and we are in court to prove that others are usurping our rights”, he said.
    Spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, says, “Whatever else this change does, we know that the Turnbull Government went into overdrive for Adani’s interests.
    “Brandis’ intervention in our court case challenging the sham ILUA was about Adani. Most of what Senator Matt Canavan had to say in argueing his ill-informed case for native title changes was about Adani. The Chairman of Senate Committee inquiring into the bill, Senator Ian McFarlane, referring to the native title amendments as “the Adani bill” was about Adani. And the PM telling Chairman Gautam Adani that he’d fix native title was about Adani”.
    “We are continuing to fight Adani in court and our grounds are strong. If anyone tells you this is settled because the bill was passed, they are lying”, she said.
    Adrian Burragubba says, “The Labor Opposition seems to understand this, even though they supported passage of the bill. Senator Pat Dodson went so far as to say this bill does not provide some kind of green light for the Adani mine, as some suggest.
    “Pat Dodson acknowledged that W&J have several legal actions afoot against Adani and we are glad that in the midst of this dismal response to the rights of Indigenous people some MPs, including the Greens who voted against the bill, recognise the serious claim we have to justice.
    Mr Dodson said in the Senate that: “most of this litigation will be entirely unaffected by the passage of this bill. In particular, there are very serious allegations of fraud that have been made against Adani regarding the processes under which agreements with the Wangan and Jagalingou people were purportedly reached. And those proceedings, which may impact on the validity of any ILUA, will only commence hearings in March next year. Other legal action is also underway, including a case challenging the validity of the licences issued by the Queensland government.”
    This week researchers from the University of Queensland released a report titled ‘Unfinished Business: Adani, the state, and the Indigenous rights struggle of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council‘.
    For more information and to arrange interviews:  Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.


              Dombeck receives Ansel Adams Award for leadership in protecting National Forests        

    WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck will receive the Ansel Adams Award from The Wilderness Society Thursday night for his major role in protecting the national forests.

    "Mike was a game-changer,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “He restored balance to the management of our 155 national forests, making clean water, recreation, and fish and wildlife priorities, as the law requires. He was the main architect of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prevented logging and road building across 58.5 million acres of our national forests. It was the capstone of a quarter century of sterling public service with federal land management agencies.”

    A native of Wisconsin with a Ph.D. in fisheries biology, Dombeck served three years as acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management before President Clinton appointed him Forest Service chief in 1997. No other person has lead both of this nation’s largest land management agencies.

    Since leaving the government in 2001, Dombeck has been a University of Wisconsin System Fellow and a professor of global conservation at the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He also directs the Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Conservation Biology.

    “Mike was, in my view, the most independent chief that the Forest Service has had since Gifford Pinchot himself,” said Dr. Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington professor often described as “the father of modern forestry.” Pinchot was the first chief, serving from 1898 to 1910. “Mike broke out of the mold and did really innovative things. He did that by design and force of will,” said Franklin, a long-time member of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council.

    “As our country grows, we continue to chip away at our wild places, losing acre by acre, day after day,” said Dombeck. “Protecting the remaining roadless areas of our national forests is perhaps this nation’s last opportunity to keep our few remaining wild places intact.

    “They are important habitats and anchor points for native plants and animals in the face of a changing climate. These remote areas provide some of the last best hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities with at least a measure of solitude. In today’s fast-paced society, these are the places where future generations might experience the land as their forefathers did. It has been a privilege for me to have a career working with people who care deeply about the health of the land. They are the ones who have earned this award.”

    The award that Dombeck will receive is named for the celebrated photographer who, until his death, was an outspoken advocate for safeguarding the nation’s natural heritage. “It is noteworthy that Mike is the third winner from Wisconsin,” Meadows pointed out. The award was presented to Congressman David Obey (D) in 2000 and to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson in 1990. Nelson served the state as a governor and U.S. Senator and spent the final 24 years of his life as counselor of The Wilderness Society.

    Other winners of the Ansel Adams Award include former Congressman Mo Udall (D-NM), former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, President Jimmy Carter, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.

    The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

    For a hi-res photo of Dombeck, contact tmiller@uwsp.edu.

    May 18, 2010

              Senate Reauthorizes JJDPA, Setting Up a Conference Committee with the House        

    Before adjourning for the August recess, the Senate quietly passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act, S. 860, by a voice vote. The bill reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, the authorization for which expired in 2007, and provides long overdue reform to the juvenile justice system.

    For as quiet as passage was, the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is notable. Last year, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who ridiculously once said that the United States has "under-incarceration problem," blocked a similar bill. In fact, he was literally the only member of the upper chamber who stood in the way of its passage.

    Sen. Cotton's objection to the bill was over the proposed phase out of the valid court order (VCOs) exception. A violation of a VCO would allow state and local judges to detain juveniles for status offenses -- actions such as curfew violations, truancy, and tobacco use that are offenses only because of the person's status as a minor. In some states, juveniles who commit a status offense and are subject to a VCO are detained with serious offenders, increasing a juvenile's risk of recidivism.

    The use of VCOs has been in decline nationwide. Last year, however, Sen. Cotton's spokesperson defended his intransigence, noting that Arkansas has one of the highest VCO use rates in the country. The use of VCOs in Arkansas had been in decline, dropping by roughly half between FY 2013 and FY 2014, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The most recent report from the Arkansas Division of Youth Services showed that 46 percent of youths who entered the states juvenile justice system had committed misdemeanors or violated probation for adjudicated for a misdemeanor. The cost of detaining a youth Arkansas is nearly $64,000 annually.

    Because Sen. Cotton wouldn't agree to allow JJDPA reauthorization to move in the Senate, the bill that would have reauthorized JJDPA died.

    The issue was given new life earlier this year in the new Congress. The House passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, H.R. 1809, in May by voice vote. The House version of JJDPA reauthorization includes a phase of VCOs. The Senate, however, still struggled to get passed Sen. Cotton's strange desire to ensure that judges could essentially lock children up for status offenses.

    The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), offers key reforms. The bill reauthorizes JJDPA, prohibits the placement of juveniles in adult facilities, places a greater emphasis on evidence-based recidivism reduction programs, and increases transparency.

    Unfortunately, the bill doesn't include a phase out of the VCO exception, though it does prohibit the detention of juveniles who commit status offenses, with one exception -- if a juvenile violates a VCO. In short, Sen. Cotton got his way, and judges will be able to place children who violate VCOs because of a status offense.

    There is still an opportunity to address the concerns about the use of VCOs. Appointed members of the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely enter into a conference committee and produce a final version of the bill that rectifies the differences between the two bills. If language phasing out the VCO exception in put in the conference report, it can't be amended from the floor of either chamber. The conference report is given a straight up or down vote.

    Hopefully, the House conferees will insist that the VCO exception for status offenses should be phased out in the conference report.


              The Best Part-Time Job in America        

    The fix is in. Did you know, Congress only works 33 percent of the year?

    The base salary for all rank-and-file members of Congress is $174,000, more than triple the median household income of the United States. In exchange for that generous salary, members of Congress work one out of three days.

    The House of Representatives was in session for only 18 hours a week in 2013. Members worked only 130 days in 2015. In case you needed more evidence that Congress doesn’t earn its salary, consider this: House and Senate members only worked eight days in April.

    Eight work days in a month, with an annual salary of $174,000. Can you imagine? Must be nice!

    Meanwhile, in the real world, the average American worker puts in more hours than a medieval peasant. Full-time U.S. employees use only 54 percent of their paid vacation days, sacrificing the rest for fear of falling behind or being replaced. The idea of a congressman skipping that much vacation is laughable, at best.

    I was raised to believe that how people spend their time is a direct reflection of their priorities. The United States holds more than $19 trillion in debt, not including unfunded liabilities. Our health care, immigration, and justice systems are in desperate need of reform. Public schools are underperforming, while families and small businesses are being taxed out of financial security.

    Where is our elected leadership? Clearly, they have other priorities.

    Members of Congress spend most of their time in their districts, schmoozing with donors, speaking at private events, and securing their next elections. The average House member spent $53,170 of taxpayer money on travel in 2013.

    These aren’t legislators, these are professional campaigners.

    The American people aren’t being heard by government because the game is rigged. Washington isn’t broken. It’s “fixed.”


              FreedomWorks Comments on Right to Try Passing Senate         

    FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon released the following statement after the Senate passed the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act by unanimous consent:

    "We applaud the Senate's move to support right to try. Right to try will give hope to those facing the worst diagnoses by opening up treatments with good results that haven't passed the entirety of FDA's bureaucratic approval process.

    "Chairman Greg Walden, whose home state of Oregon has passed right to try Oregon, should move Rep. Andy Biggs' Right to Try Act out of his committee first thing in September. The bill has bipartisan support, and dozens of states have recently adopted right to try legislation.

    "Vice President Mike Pence signed right to try as Indiana's governor in 2015, and President Donald Trump has spoken up for right to try. This is an easy legislative win if we can get out of our own way."


              Right to Try: Life and Death        

    FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon urged the Senate to support Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) unanimous consent request for the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act:

    “Right to try is the right to hope. We saw the heartbreaking situation with Charlie Gard in England; his country would not let him try a treatment that might have saved his life. We see Diego Morris, who is a great advocate of right to try; his life was arguably saved because he got treatment for his cancer that was illegal here by traveling to England where it was legal.

    “Right to try has passed in thirty-seven states with great momentum. Five states passed it in 2014, eighteen in 2015, six more in 2016, and seven more in 2017. Vice President Mike Pence signed the bill into law in 2015 for the state of Indiana, and President Donald Trump has expressed support for right to try. They should have a chance to try a treatment that might cure them.

    “We strongly support the right to try in the Senate, and urge senators to support Sen. Johnson should he ask for unanimous consent to bring the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act to the floor.”


              In Defense of Economic Noninterventionism         

    A recent Wall Street Journal article has surprisingly good news: US companies are seeing the highest profit growth in two years with “two consecutive quarters of double-digit profit growth for the first time since 2011.” This surprisingly comes not from policies pursued in Washington, but the hard work of the private sector.

    The fact that businesses and job creators can make such a phenomenal showing after years of regulatory uncertainty and continued political intervention reminds us of the power of the free market and that the best successes come from the work of the individuals, not collectivists in the public sector.

    Perhaps the best reminding of what the last eight years brought us was President Obama’s infamous 2012 campaign speech “If you've got a business, you didn't build that.” Throughout the course of his administration saw a creation of routine legislative and executive actions that were designed to both micromanage business and supposedly “create” jobs. Unfortunately, none of this had the intended success.

    Most prominently among the actions from the executive administration while Obama was presidents include significantly increased regulations. Among these have included the Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS), Dodd-Frank, the stimulus package, and, most spectacularly of all, Obamacare. All of these added a large interventions and onerous barriers in the economy that failed to achieve their stated goal.

    WOTUS was probably one of the greatest power grabs by the EPA in recent history. The rule essentially sought to define “navigable waters” in the clean water Act which “brought nearly half of Alaska and a total area in the lower 48 states equivalent to the size of California under the CWA’s jurisdiction.” The proposal, had it not been blocked and rescinded, would have cost thousands of dollars for permits on land that was not previously under the EPA’s jurisdiction, delayed production since a permit can take up to months, and this would have resulted in reduced development and production as well as higher prices.

    Though the WOTUS rule was not fully implemented, regulations that did have a massive negative impact on the economy include the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

    As implemented, Dodd-Frank imposed various new regulations on the financial sector, including creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), designated firms as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), and instituted price controls on debit and credit card transactions. The result was a climate of over regulation with banks being incentivized to become as large as possible in the hopes of being bailed out while the CFPB became a revolving door for lobbyists and influence peddlers to regulate the market with little to no oversight.

    Unsurprisingly, one fifth of the banks in the U.S. banks, totalling 1,708, went under between the law’s creation and 2016, which is about one per day, and by 2015 five large banks controlled 50 percent of the banking industry.

    Outside of simple regulation, there was also so called “jobs creations” programs that were supposed to create jobs the President did not think businesses could such as the stimulus package. The program was sold as a job creation plan that would keep unemployment below 8 percent for the low price of $830 billion.

    The next four years were marked by above 8 percent unemployment while the money ended up being wasted on worthless projects, including trees in wealthy neighborhoods, a study of erectile dysfunction, and the failed company solyndra which was run by a bundler for the Obama campaign. To make matters worse, though unemployment eventually went down long after the stimulus’s implementation, the labor participation rate reached its lowest in 38 years which shows that people still weren’t working.

    However, the crowned jewel of overregulation and job destruction during the Obama administration was ObamaCare. Implemented to expand health insurance coverage, it has repeatedly failed to reach its goals as premiums went up, enrollment failed to reach its projections, and the legislation gave corporate welfare (including promised bailouts) to the insurance lobby. In the end, most of the coops failed and major companies pulled out of the exchanges, resulting in 1,000 counties, including five whole states, only having one insurer, a major failure in the goal of expanded coverage.

    Inevitably, the phenomenal intervention in the economy by President Obama failed to achieve the job creation while it instead made made doing business that much harder. With record breaking numbers of regulations, Obama was the first President since the Great Depression to never see 3 percent GDP growth.

    The Trump administration in the meantime has pursued a different approach than its predecessor. The Trump administration has seen sixteen regulations cut for every one it has created, had signed four resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn regulation within two months as President, and rolled back the clean power plan which could have cost $40 billion per year. All of this marks a significant change in policy that will greatly open up business opportunities and expand economic growth.

    However, policy alone does not explain why there has been high profit growth for the last two quarters. As the Wall Street Journal article admits, health care legislation and tax reform have been stalled in the senate. This has caused a climate of uncertainty which businesses have not been happy with.

    Nevertheless, they have instead moved on from Washington and instead remained focused on doing business. Political events seem to have taken a backseat to actual business as the number of S&P 500 companies have mentioned the President or his administration during conferences is down by a third as the research firm Sentieo found out. To be blunt, the involvement of Washington and government policy is not driving the current profit growth and the lack of involvement may actually be increasing it.

    For a better example of how reduced involvement can improve the economy, look no further than the Depression of 1920. At the time, war time debt had exploded, unemployment peaked at 11.7 percent in 1921, and inflation rates jumped above twenty percent. It had the potential to be even more catastrophic than the Great Depression that started in 1929.

    However, the policies pursued were entirely different. The federal budget was severely reduced from $18.5 billion in FY 1919 to $3.3 billion for FY 1922. Taxes at the same time were cut by about 40 percent.

    As a result, unemployment dropped to 2.3 percent by 1923 and a crisis had been averted. This was accomplished not by bailouts and and overregulation but by getting the government entirely out of the way. This is a radically different approach than was pursued during the financial panic of 2008 or even the Great Depression.

    Overall, there has been a repeated belief that government involvement has made economic advancement harder. As was stated by former President Reagan, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” President Kennedy noted the same when he said “Our tax system still siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power and reduces the incentive for risk, investment and effort — thereby aborting our recoveries and stifling our national growth rate.”

    It should come as no surprise then that business are fully prepared to run their own affairs and is best capable to address its own need, for as JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon noted, “We’ve been growing at 1.5% to 2%...because the American business sector is powerful and strong and is going to grow regardless.”

    It remains the desire of others that the government should intervene in the economy to make improvements. However, this has always resulted in guaranteed failure. Be it raising the minimum wage in Seattle or increased taxation and regulations in Connecticut, the result is usually lackluster growth and decreased jobs. At the national level, Venezuela’s nationalization and China’s increased infrastructure projects have created the same results, which is to say none.

    As history and current events have shown time and time again, the best results come not from government involvement and micromanagement, but from the hard work of free individuals in free markets. More and more, the adaptability of businesses to their consumer’s demands and their ability to whether adversity in the marketplace has always been more efficient than the micromanagement the state perceives. As a result, sometimes the best thing to do is to have the government do nothing so that those who can make the economy better will.


              Don't Bring Back Glass-Steagall        

    An issue that has a tendency to come into the public consciousness from time to time is bringing back Glass-Steagall. Initially repealed in 1999 by the Financial Services Modernization Act, primarily known as the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, the law that separated commercial and investment banking has received renewed support with both party platforms during last year’s presidential election calling for it to be reinstated.

    There may be good intentions behind this desire, but the belief that the law would reduce recessions or prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail” is at best misguided and unnecessary while at worst it will cause unforeseen problems for the financial system.

    As stated above, Glass-Steagall is a law that requires a separation between commercial and investment banking in the financial sector. It was instituted in the 1930s during the great depression by Sen. Carter Glass (D-Va.) and Rep. Henry Steagall (D-Ala.) in the hopes that it would prevent banks from making risky decisions in the market. At the time, “more than 600 banks failed each year between 1921 and 1929,” so there was a serious desire to curb that.

    However, from the 1960s onward, the legislation faced erosion with congressional legislation and the Supreme Court rulings changing key sections of the bill, including reducing limitations on security purchases, the abolition of interest caps, and increased deference to regulatory agencies for the legislation. The most prominent and controversial change to the legislation came from the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed sections 20 and 32 of the legislation.

    To be clear, it did not eliminate many security limitations put on banks, but it did eliminate several restrictions by “allow[ing] for affiliations between commercial banks and firms engaged principally in securities underwriting, as well as interlocking management and employee relationships between banks and securities firms.”

    Such a move has received heavy criticism since Democratic President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has held the repeal and alleged deregulation of the financial sector as responsible for the 2008 recession. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has also stated, “Since core provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999, a culture of excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world, placing the financial security of millions of hardworking American taxpayers at risk.”

    Unfortunately, there are certain problems with the narrative that deregulation and the repeal of Glass-Steagall specifically caused the recession. First off, there is no history of deregulation in the past two decades in the financial sector. As was noted by the Mercatus Center, the number of banking regulations actually consistently grew between 1999 and 2008 despite the Glass-Steagall repeal which puts a major hole in the deregulation narrative.

    With that in mind, the Glass-Steagall legislation itself had very little to do with the 2008 financial recession. However, many of the institutions that had failed were not actually affected by the legislation period. Also, most of the institutions that did fail either received government incentives to provide risky loans (especially in providing housing loans to people who could not afford them), were still heavily regulated, and received guidelines or incentives from the central government for those risky loans.

    In addition, there is also evidence that Glass-Steagall did not reduce the banking failures during the depression which it was allegedly supposed to address. For an example, Canada did not pass a Glass-Steagall law during the recession despite facing similar issues to the US. Overall, Canada saw its GDP fall by 40 percent between 1929 and 1939, but not a single bank failed during the depression years and its banking system remained mostly intact.

    Another important point to keep in mind is that Glass-Steagall barely impacted the failing banks. Most of the banks that were failing were smaller in nature and had trouble diversifying due to government regulation. The banks that Glass-Steagall would have impacted were not the ones going under. In the end, Glass-Steagall would barely have the impact its proponents claim it would.

    Beyond that, the most replacing Glass-Steagall could do is stifle the banking industry. Some economists have speculated that the repeal softened the blow because it allowed more diversification of the market. Since less diversified firms made up for a larger number of failures during the 2008 financial crisis and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco credited diversification with being the reason Canada did not face bank failures during the depression, this does provide evidence that may have been a possibility.

    At the same time, the increased diversification has allowed more opportunities. Economists Jeffrey Rogers Hummel and Warren Gibson noted that banks like Wells Fargo and discount broker Charles Schwab opened up more services and opportunities for their customers at lower prices while former Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Illi.) noted that it would limit liquidity and make it harder to buy and sale assets. Overall, the unproven benefits of the legislation seem to not be worth the potential cost.

    This may seem surprising, but the US was the only country in the industrialized world to separate investment and commercial banking. The desire remains to prevent the creation of banks that are “too big to fail” but it seems to have largely failed to address that and has prevented useful diversification. Bringing it back will not prevent another crisis nor prevent banks from going under.


              FreedomWorks Presents FreedomFraud Awards        

    FreedomWorks today announced the FreedomFraud Award winners for this year: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Utah), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). This is the counterpart to the FreedomFighter Awards.

    The FreedomFraud Awards recognize the height of political fraud by senators who voted to defend ObamaCare by voting against a bill virtually the same as one they supported less than two years ago. While protected by Barack Obama’s veto, they supported ObamaCare and railed against it. Now that President Trump supports the bill, they have exposed themselves as political liars.

    FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye delivered the awards to senators’ offices Friday afternoon. You can see an archived live stream here. Eligibility for the award is based purely on whether senators campaigned on repeal and voted for this bill less than two years ago and opposed it when it could have passed.

    “These people committed the greatest political fraud in American history,” said Jason Pye. “Republican politics has focused on repealing ObamaCare for the better part of a decade. There were frequent votes to repeal ObamaCare. These senators showed great contempt for their constituents by going against everything they’ve stood for on ObamaCare repeal.”

    After the 2015 bill passed, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said, “I'm for repealing this broken law and replacing it with something better that gives patients more choice, decreases costs and increases access to quality, affordable care.”

    After the 2015 bill passed, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) said, “This law is not affordable for anyone in Alaska. That is why I will support the bill that repeals the ACA and wipes out its harmful impacts. I can’t watch premiums for Alaskans shoot up by 30 percent or more each year, see businesses artificially constrained, or see the quality of public education decline.”

    After the 2015 bill passed, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said, “I am glad that a repeal bill will finally reach the president’s desk.”

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “It is clear that any serious attempt to improve our health care system must begin with a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and I will continue fighting on behalf of the people of Arizona to achieve it.”

    Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said, “This DC bureaucrat-driven healthcare system will only result in limited health care choices and higher costs for Nevadans.”

    Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said , “The wisest course is to repeal Obamacare and replace it step by step with solutions that lower health care costs.”


              Six Senators Perpetrate One of the Biggest Political Frauds in American History        

    FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon released the following statement after the Republican-majority Senate voted to save ObamaCare:

    “Our activists have fought for the better part of a decade, led on by campaign promises and actual votes to repeal ObamaCare, to get Republican majorities in the House and Senate, as well as a Republican in the White House. Sens. Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, and Lamar Alexander each voted for the very same bill in 2015.

    “We now know that these six senators are ObamaCare repeal frauds. Even though we’re still wondering if Sen. Susan Collins is in the right party, at least she was consistent with her vote.”

    Here are quotes from a few of these Senate Republicans who have heavily criticized ObamaCare and today voted to keep ObamaCare as the law of the land.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): “The wisest course is to repeal Obamacare and replace it step by step with solutions that lower health care costs.”

    Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.): “I have consistently voted to repeal and replace this disastrous health care law, and I am glad that a repeal bill will finally reach the president’s desk.”

    Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.): “This DC bureaucrat-driven healthcare system will only result in limited health care choices and higher costs for Nevadans.”

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): “This law is not affordable for anyone in Alaska. That is why I will support the bill that repeals the ACA and wipes out its harmful impacts. I can’t watch premiums for Alaskans shoot up by 30 percent or more each year, see businesses artificially constrained, or see the quality of public education decline.”

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “It is clear that any serious attempt to improve our health care system must begin with a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and I will continue fighting on behalf of the people of Arizona to achieve it.”

    Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “I'm for repealing this broken law and replacing it with something better that gives patients more choice, decreases costs and increases access to quality, affordable care.”


              Key Votes on Amendments to the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, H.R. 3219        

    On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to vote on amendments offered to the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, H.R. 3219, in the manner prescribed on each amendment below. As is always the case, FreedomWorks reserves the right to key vote any amendment brought to the floor for a vote.

    NO – Amendment #2: Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), this amendment would prohibit funds provided by H.R. 3219 from being used to “propose, plan for, or execute” another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). A 2013 report by the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) estimated that the first four rounds of BRAC save approximately $8 billion annually. The 2005 BRAC is saving nearly $4 billion annually. This amendment against a new round of BRAC would prevent further cost-savings from becoming a reality.

    YES – Amendment #19: Sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), this amendment would eliminate the CBO’s Budget Analysis Division. The amendment transfers the authority of the division to the Director of the CBO.

    YES – Amendment #20: Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), this amendment would make a 1 percent across the board rescission to the spending levels provided by H.R. 3219, with exemptions for Capitol Police and other security-related accounts.

    YES – Amendment #26: Sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), this amendment would reduce the appropriation to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by more than $25.4 million.

    YES – Amendment #39: Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), this amendment would make a 1 percent across the board rescission to Division D of H.R. 3219 – the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

    YES – Amendment #40: Sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), this amendment would save taxpayers money by prohibiting inflated prevailing wage requirements established by the Davis-Bacon Act.

    FreedomWorks will count the vote on these amendments to the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, H.R. 3219, on our 2017 Congressional Scorecard and reserves the right to score votes for amendments not listed above. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

    Sincerely,

    Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks


              Key Vote YES on the ObamaCare Repeal Reconciliation Act, Amendment 271 to H.R. 1628        

    On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote YES on the ObamaCare Repeal Reconciliation Act. This language will be offered as an amendment to H.R. 1628.

    This amendment is virtually identical to the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill – the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, H.R. 3762. This bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52 to 47, with only two unsurprising Republican defections.

    For more than seven years, Republicans successfully campaigned on ObamaCare repeal. They made floor speeches in support of repeal, and they voted to pass a repeal bill less than two years ago. Grassroots conservative activists are not going to accept excuses if Republicans fail to pass a bill that they have passed once before.

    The ObamaCare Repeal Reconciliation Act would repeal much of ObamaCare – including the tax and cost sharing subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and the taxes that came with the law – with a two-year delay to pass a replacement. This delay provides more than ample time to reach an agreement on a replacement bill or package.

    President Donald Trump has indicated that he will sign a 2015-style ObamaCare bill into law. Senate Republicans should do as they did in December 2015 and pass a bill that delivers on their frequent promises to repeal ObamaCare.

    FreedomWorks will triple-weight the votes for the ObamaCare Repeal Reconciliation Act. Additionally, FreedomWorks reserves the right to retroactively key vote any amendments during the so-called “vote-a-rama.” The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

    Sincerely,

    Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks


              Motion to Proceed: This Is a Step Forward in the Process        

    FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon issued the following statement on the Senate's passing the motion to proceed on legislation related to ObamaCare:

    “This is a step forward in the process. Republicans must remember that they campaigned on ObamaCare repeal for more than seven years. The 2015 repeal bill is what conservative activists were promised, and it's what they expect.

    “We will do our best to hold wayward senators who want to defraud their constituents to their campaign promises and their voting record.”


              Key Vote YES on H.J.Res. 111 to Cancel CFPB’s Giveaway to Trial Lawyers        

    On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to vote YES on H.J.Res. 111. FreedomWorks Foundation drove more than 15,000 responses to the CFPB against the rule during the comment period.

    This resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) would cancel the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) arbitration rule. The final rule was published on Regulations.gov on July 19. While the CRA isn’t a panacea, it does provide a means for Congress to act as a check on out-of-control federal agencies.

    The CFPB’s arbitration rule is, in reality, a giveaway to trial lawyers. The rule ostensibly bans contractual arbitration clauses related to consumer financial products offered by banks and other financial sector firms. This severely limits consumers’ ability to enter into arbitration during disputes.

    Arbitration is an easier and quicker process for consumers to resolve issues, but lawyers don’t make much money from this process. The rule, however, will encourage trial lawyers to pursue more class-action lawsuits, which take longer and result in smaller payouts to consumers. But class-action lawsuits do bring in big dollars for trial lawyers.

    Class-action lawsuits can take two to five years to resolve, and the average payment is $32.35 per individual. These class-action suits, for which trial lawyers are paid an average of roughly $1 million, also drive up costs to consumers. By comparison, arbitration typically takes two to five months, with an average payment of thousands of dollars. It’s clear which process truly protects consumers.

    FreedomWorks will count the vote on H.J.Res. 111 on our 2017 Congressional Scorecard. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

    Sincerely,

    Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks


              Capitol Hill Update: July 24, 2017        

    Schedule:

    The House and Senate are in session this week.

    There are five (5) legislative days remaining for the House before the August recess and 53 legislative days remaining in the year. The Senate will supposedly work through the first two weeks of the August recess.

    House:

    The FY 2018 budget resolution, dubbed "Building a Better America," was marked up and approved by the Budget Committee on Thursday in a party-line vote. The budget would reduce the budget deficit by $6.5 trillion over the ten-year budget window and eventually come into balance in FY 2027, creating a $9 billion surplus.

    Perhaps one of the most important components of the budget is that it begins the reconciliation process for fundamental tax reform. There are also reconciliation instructions for 11 House committees to find roughly $200 billion savings or reforms in mandatory spending.

    The FY 2018 budget resolution isn't on the calendar for the week. It's unclear if House Republican leaders will bring it to the floor.

    Additionally, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, H.R. 2997, introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) could come to the floor for a vote this week. The bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and reforms the United States' out of date air traffic control (ATC) system. FreedomWorks has released a key vote in support of the 21st AIRR Act.

    On Monday, the House will consider 17 bills on the suspension calendar. Most of the bills on the suspension calendar related to veterans or active military issues. There are three bills on the suspension calendar that relate to small businesses and investment. The House will also consider the Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 3180, sponsored by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on suspension.

    There are three bills on the suspension calendar for Tuesday, including the Medicare Part B Improvement Act, H.R. 3178, sponsored by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and a yet-to-be-numbered resolution that will impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

    The House will also consider H.J.Res. 111, a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, to cancel the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) giveaway to trial lawyers. The rule put restrictions on the use of arbitration to settle disputes over consumer products. This would lead to more class-action lawsuits, benefiting trial lawyers and hurting consumers. FreedomWorks has signed a coalition letter in support of H.J.Res. 111 and will likely include the vote on our 2017 Congressional Scorecard.

    For the balance of the week, the House will consider at least four more bills on the suspension calendar. The Make America Secure Appropriations Act, H.R. 3219, will also come to the floor. This is the consolidated appropriations bill, or "minibus," for the Department of Defense, the Legislative Branch, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Energy and Water. Like virtually every other bill to come to the floor this year under "regular order," the Make America Secure Appropriations Act is subject to a rule to limit or prevent amendments from the floor.

    On Thursday at 10:00 am, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled "The Need for the Balanced Budget Amendment." The witness list for the hearing has not yet been announced. Twelve constitutional amendments have been introduced in the House that would require a balanced budget. Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is the sponsor of two of them, H.J.Res. 1 and H.J.Res. 2. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the primary sponsor of H.J.Res. 15, is among the House conservatives who have introduced a balanced budget amendment.

    The committee and subcommittee schedule for the week can be found here.

    Senate:

    Presumably, the Senate will vote this week on the motion to proceed to the House-passed version of H.R. 1628. It's still unclear on what happens next. A vote to proceed to the House-passed version has always been the first step. The next step will be for an amendment to the bill that will substitute the language of either the Better Care Reconciliation Act or language similar to the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill, now called the ObamaCare Repeal Reconciliation Act. FreedomWorks' key vote on the motion to proceed applies only if the base text that will be substituted is similar to the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill.

    At least a few Senate Republicans have backed away from their votes for the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill, which was passed in December 2015 with the support of all but two Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins. Moderate Republicans who refuse to vote for the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill have demanded $200 billion in Medicaid funding offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to get them to support the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

    Some parts of the Better Care Reconciliation Act are in limbo, however, as the Senate parliamentarian has apparently ruled that provisions limiting funding for Planned Parenthood and tax credits for plans that cover abortion will require 60 votes. Other provisions that may require 60 votes include the State Innovation Waivers. Many of these provisions can be altered to make them withstand a Byrd rule challenge, as was done in 2015.

    The Senate still has several nominees to consider and, on the legislative front, the FDA Reauthorization Act, S. 934; the National Defense Reauthorization Act; and the debt ceiling are among the items awaiting action.

    Separately, Senate Democrats are rolling out their "better deal" economic agenda today, which is a rehashing and repackaging of virtually every leftist policy proposal in recent years. The agenda is Democrats' attempt to find a message after a string of special election losses around the country.

    The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.


              Key Vote on Signatures to House Discharge Petition on 2015 Repeal Bill        

    FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon released the following statement on the discharge petition by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) to bring the 2015 bill to repeal ObamaCare to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. FreedomWorks will triple weight the signatures. The bill passed with almost unanimous support from the Republican members less than two years ago.

    “We are standing behind the members in the House and Senate who stand by their past votes on the 2015 repeal bill. They were not voting that way just to win elections. They honestly believe that ObamaCare is a scourge on our country, raising premiums and making affordable health insurance illegal.

    “We are making signatures on this discharge petition part of our 2017 FreedomWorks Scorecard, triple weighting the signatures. We never got a clean repeal vote in the House, so we are considering this one.”


              FreedomWorks Announces FreedomFighter Award Winners        

    FreedomWorks today announced the FreedomFighter Award winners for 2016. The FreedomFighter Awards recognize members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty. FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon and FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye presented the awards Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol Visitors Center. Photos of the individual presentations are available here.

    Eligibility for the award is based on votes on FreedomWorks’ Congressional Scorecard. In 2016, FreedomWorks scored key votes in favor of several issues, including repeal of ObamaCare through the 2015 reconciliation bill and the override of Obama’s veto, preventing IRS abuse and protecting free speech, protecting citizens from warrantless searches, spending cuts, and reducing regulation.

    “FreedomWorks activists across the country can be proud of these members’ votes last year. They showed a commitment to economic liberty and individual freedom,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said. “With a Republican in the White House and so many big legislative items on the to-do list in this Congress, including fundamental tax reform and reducing regulation, conservative grassroots activists are watching our scorecard to see who delivers on their campaign promises and who changes their tune.”

    “These defenders of liberty get this award to thank them for their critical votes on legislation important to our activist community,” FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jason Pye said. “This event allows us to thank them on behalf of our activists to thank these members and encourage them to keep fighting for limited government, lower taxes, and fewer unnecessary job-killing regulations.”

    FreedomFighter Award Winners for 2016 Voting Record

    Senate (5)

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) , Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.)

    House (56)

    Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.V.), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)


              Why the Legislature Was Right to Limit Public Sector Collective Bargaining        
    The 2017 Iowa legislative session has been one of the more rancorous in recent memory, driven in large part by proposed amendments to the public sector collective bargaining law.  Following all-night debates and massive protests by union supporters, the house and senate both voted on February 16 to make the most sweeping changes in the...… Continue Reading
              Comment on GOP Viewpoint: Republican budget is a new direction by Michael Trahan        
    The Connecticut Senate Republican "No Tax Increase" budget proposal may move Connecticut in a new direction, but it certainly relies heavily on a utility customer bailout and revenue gimmicks to get there. nnLittle mention is made of Senate Republican's reach into the pockets of CT electric and gas utility customers to take $162 million in existing utility customer energy efficiency and renewable energy account money over the next two years. nnSenate Republicans plan to take another $52 million from a second account called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that also funded by electric bill payers. That money is used to lower energy bills for oil customers. nnnnTogether, that's more than $200 million in new taxes in Senate Republican plan. nnThis is the kind of budget trickery that got us into the state budget mess in the first place. Senate Republicans were critical of taking utility customer money when Democrats tried this gimmick last year. Now this utility customer bailout is part of the Republican's new direction for CT.nn The Senate GOP plan impacts all Eversource or United Illuminating electric customers, and also customers from Connecticut Natural Gas, Connecticut Yankee or Southern Connecticut Gas.nnGoing outside the normal budget process and sweeping in off-budget account money paid for, and built by, utility customers to serve utility customers is short-sighted. To suggest to utility customers that using THEIR money to bail out state government is a good method for repairing CT's failing fiscal climate and that this raid on utility customers money is not really a tax in disguise is wrong.
              â€˜Baby Ulrich Has Arrived!’        
    That was the title of a press release from Councilman Eric Ulrich, currently campaigning for the State Senate in a
              Your Voices Bring Improvements for College-Bound Homeschoolers        
    With only three days left in the legislative session, HSLDA called on homeschoolers to take action to help pass good legislation that had stalled in a Senate committee. Lawmakers listened.
              By: Gene        
    executive orders cant contradict laws passed by congress. Former republican gay man here. I know the other side well. If the dems have not given us all we want, the other side is the enemy. Period. Hate crimes, passed by liberal dems, and signed into law by him is NOT squat. He pushed for the end of DADT, and we fell short in the senate. Poor politics on several peoples parts, but not his alone. The youth I volunteer with, gay kids in the south, see this president speaking of us with dignity and respect, and it matters to them when he declares GLBTQ history month. The entire might of the religious right is arrayed against him and his party, and lots of bigoted people will easily fall for Republican attempts to use US and our causes as a reason to vote against them, but, we expect the real world of politics to just put itself on hold for us? It wont. Never will. He is the best we have ever had, and, sad to say with the "oh I wanted more...I just dont feel like working for any campaigns, and I am so disappointed he did not find a new presidential power to overturn things and make things just" attitude, the NEXT president will certainly be worse.
              New World Order        
    Last night was hot; the city sweltered in the early spring heat wave. Most of the inhabitants were still trying to hold off on using there air conditioners, since the weather soothsayers on the evening news said a drastic cooling trend was only a day a way.

    The night was dark; the waning crescent wouldn?t rise until early morning. It was a perfect night for me to patrol the streets, and root out crime. The only thing is the thugs didn?t cooperate, the streets were empty. The lack of johns had hookers abandoning there corners, clubs were quiet, and no sound from the parks.

    The night was too peaceful for this dark and degenerate city. I didn?t like it, but there was nothing for me to do. I pulled out papers I had printed from the internet concerning the New Deal put forth by President Roosevelt, and started reading through them.

    A quote by James Paul Warburg struck me as appropriate for the current day, and an ominous prediction of the future. Speaking on Feb. 17, 1950, to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations he said, ?We shall have World Government, whether or not we like it. The only question is whether world government will be achieved by conquest or consent."

    I?m starting to believe that my fight against the zombies may be in vain and that the New World Order may be the real enemy. Obazy does everything he can to coddle and the zombies, but are they the real threat to this country. Seeking to tie the dots to an organization bent on controlling the world with a global government, may be beyond the abilities of this costumed crime fighter. But I may be brought into the fight against my will, as I watch our constitution eliminated piece by piece, and our economy handed over to the government in the form of bailouts and stimulus packages. I can only wonder when the citizens, so burdened by debt, will stand up and scream out their rage. Herein lies the apex to the crisis, will the collective conscious of the masses demand help from an all powerful government or will they demand freedom from the tyranny.

    I don?t know what the answer will be, for I am the mirrorman, I can tell what one man will do when I look in his eyes, but I cannot read the whole.

    I will abide my time, and watch. I will make notes. Eventually I will connect the dots.

    Perhaps I have already been brought into the fight. Perhaps.

              White House dragging its feet on wiretapping rules        
    Citing the need to protect intellectual property and consumer information like the emails that were leaked in this week’s massive Epsilon hack, the Senate Judiciary Committee called a hearing Wednesday to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehous...
              Jon Kyl: Christians are as victimized by hate crimes as Muslims in America        
    WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) implied Tuesday that Christians are as victimized by hate crimes as Muslims in the United States. Speaking at a hearing called by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) about the civil rights of Muslim Americans, Kyl said, “I’m a bit perp...
              US Senate to hold hearing on Muslim rights        
    WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US Senate committee said Tuesday it will hold a hearing next week on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims, two weeks after another panel hotly debated the threat posed by homegrown Islamists. The US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and H...
              Lights out: GOP stays in the house        
    There is a story buzzing around the internet, but hardly any news media outlets are covering it. Pelosi turns the lights out on the GOP after the GOP stayed in the house and refused to go on the 5 week vacation without proposing an energy vote. I can't find a video of this anywhere, however I turned on CSPAN last night and there was some footage before the democrats left the house. John Boehner was quite adamant about a vote on energy regulation, but democrats kept putting it off saying it would stop votes on other important bills, not energy regulation.

    You can see the article here about what happened:
    http://www.politico.com/blogs/thecrypt/0808/House_Dems_turn_out_out_the_light_but_GOP_keep_talking.html?showall

    I was impressed with the veracity in which the GOP finally went after the dems in the final hours of the day on Friday. It's historic. First, when a vote came to adjourn, the 50+ members of the GOP stayed. Then, Pelosi turned off the microphone; then the lights, then one of the GOP members somehow got the microphone back on, Pelosi turned it back off again.

    The GOP stayed for 5 hours talking about energy crisis and they are fed up. It's about time as the American public has been outraged about this issue for six months.

    The dems better listen, otherwise they are going to get wiped out. This issue crosses all party line barriers, and even many environmentalists are saying lets get energy independent with our own oil, wind and start using some natural gas too. You should see pickensplan.com if you are interested in that particular plan. It's quite good and will take time to implement, but a step in the right direction.

    Well, enough about this for now. Hopefully we get some real energy changes over the next few years, my gas bill is killing me now. . . any extra income I had goes in the fuel tank. Forget about saving any money or putting money into the property right now.

    I hope you all contact your congressman or senator and tell them how you feel. They are actually listening right now and know a revolt is in the works. The government can only ignore it's people for so long. I am surprized some nut-job hasn't gone out and whacked some of the liberal leadership in congress/senate who want to keep us dependent, want to raise our taxes, want us to just become Europe. Hey, at least it'd be a start. LOL BTW, congressional approval rating is less than 10%. Even Bush's approval rating is near 30%.

    Brock
              Happy 4th of July        
    This 4th of July is another time to celebrate our Independence. It was somewhat of a sombering year here in Chico, as the abundant wildfires had most fireworks cancelled. It was the first year in my life where Fireworks were not going to be displayed. At about 11pm my son ran downstairs as he saw some fireworks from his bedroom window. We all got in the car and drove towards the fireworks. It was the local Chico baseball team having fireworks at Nettleton stadium. We saw the last 2-3 minutes, the kids were happy and we went back home. This 4th of July was a trying day for myself and my family on a personal level as we had to take my 3 year old son to the emergency room when he drank something he shoulden't have. He is okay.

    We spent the day at home after this incident and laid low.

    Our national Independence is becoming an interdependence upon other nations in terms of borrowing money, and oil. It is becoming so apparent that oil is the lifeblood of this economy. The senate and congress better get their act in gear. Americans are actually becoming more united than I have ever seen when I talk to people. It isn't about the war any longer, it is about the slumping economy at home and the oil economy. I hope that you all speak to your friends and family about the oil crisis, and how we need to drill here, drill now. See newt.org for that information. We should make this our Oil independence day and declare to meet our own needs at home by whatever means necessary, ANWR, oil shale, etc. Thomas Jefferson never wanted us to be 'hocked' to a local banker who is in turn 'hocked' to a foreign banker. That's essentially what we have with Oil. Jefferson knew this situation would be disastrous for the republic.

    The doom and gloom surrounding the media's daily negative agenda provides a constant reason to be bitter and worried. That we should let our government fix this problem is their answer.

    I submit to you who read this blog and who are independent minded to not despair, but rejoice in the fact that you are making preparations and live your life in a manner that you can take care of yourself, and are not reliant upon the government. The agrarian lifestyle is going to re-emerge in the years to come. The US of A once was an agrarian country through the mid 20th century, where we all met our own needs. Look at the situation we now deal with when we move away from this mindset.

    I hope all of you had a great 4th of July. We should pray for this country and thank God for what blessings we have. Regardless of what CNN and the local newspapers will tell you, the USA is still the greatest country the world has ever seen, and we are blessed by it's people through their generosity, hard-working nature and conservative roots- not political leaders in the government who seek to have us become part of Europe.

    Brock
              Blog Post: Senate Panel Advances Trump Pick For DOJ Enviro Chief        
    The Department of Justice is one step closer to having Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Jeffrey Bossert Clark as its top environmental enforcer Thursday after a party line vote in a Senate panel advanced his nomination.
              Important information for Jews        
    "The offering, sale and/or distribution of many of the products or services described on this website are not intended to any Jews. If you intend to obtain any product or service from OurBank that is described on this web site, you must first inform OurBank whether you are a Jew.

    This website and its respective contents do not constitute an offer or invitation to purchase or subscribe for any securities or a solicitation of any offer to sell any securities to Jews. Any brokerage and investment advisory services described herein are not intended for Jews. Furthermore, any solicitation on this web site of banking services (including accepting and/or soliciting deposits), insurance services, mortgage and/or consumer lending services or credit card services is not intended for Jews..."

    That's what I just got from my bank. No, the word is not "Jews", but it describes a population group to which I belong. The only reason I withheld the name of the bank is that many banks are displaying the same text, and they have not written it themselves. The word is "US persons", and the guilty parties in this case are the Senate and the House, with the special honorary mentions for  Max Baucus (D–Montana) and Charles Rangel (D–NY), the authors of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009.

    (US persons is defined as all US citizens and permanent residents resident in the US, some US citizens resident abroad - they are not saying who, and whether this actually applies to me, and any entity organized or incorporated under the laws of the United States).

    This particular law has raised the US citizenship renunciations by a factor of six, which should say something to our Congress, or would have if it weren't, as an old joke says, the opposite of progress.

    I am certainly not planning to renounce mine. Seriously, I'd rather vote for Mr. Rangel with a very big cactus, applied anally. But the first thing that comes to mind is banning the population register from identifying me as a US person to anyone, and lying to all the Finnish (and other non-American) financial institutions that I ever deal with that I am not in fact a US person. Funny thing - so far I have always been in compliance with all the US tax laws. Will there be a day when I choose not to report an account just because doing so would "out" me as an American to the bank that holds the account, and cause them to close that account? If that day comes, I will totally do that without feeling guilty in the least.


              And Now for Your Weekly Half-Assed Political Analysis...        
    Apparently over the weekend, President Obama nominated someone for supreme Court Justice who looks an awful lot like Nathan Lane. (Because we don’t know a whole lot about Elena Kagan’s beliefs or agenda yet, we’re resorting to playing the “_____ looks like _____!” game). Kagan’s Nathan Lane similarity excites Rickey if for no other reason than the increased possibility of next week’s Senate hearings inexplicably erupting into Broadway show tunes.

    “And Senators, if I may address the issue of gay rights by saying...”

    I feel pretty,
    Oh, so pretty,
    I feel pretty and witty and bright!
    And I pity...
    Any girl who isn't me tonight!

    Fa la la laaaa la la la laaa!


    Good times. But there’s still someone else whom Elana Kagan bears an even uncannier resemblance to. It took us a while to figure out, but then with the help of a delightfully irreverent law blog, Rickey finally placed it…. The nameless albino from “The Princess Bride!”

    NO ONE WITHSTANDS THE MACHINE!


              An N.C. Congressman Tries to Defund the Congressional Budget Office        
    Possibly related: the CBO has said the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare would cost tens of millions of people access to health care On Monday—the same day the president attacked political rivals in a speech to Boy Scouts and the U.S. Senate prepared to vote on a health care bill that no one had actually seen—Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and representative of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, proposed his own means of undermining democratic norms. His big idea: gut the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that has consistently projected that GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave more than twenty million Americans without coverage.…
              With Medicaid Under Threat, an N.C. Pastor Laced Up His Shoes and Began Walking to Washington        
    His daughter has special needs, and his family couldn’t get by without the program On an otherwise uneventful Sunday in early July, fifty-one-year-old pastor James Brigman was preaching about Abraham and Isaac when he says God delivered to him a simple message: practice what you preach. Brigman has a daughter with special medical needs, and he'd been thinking about the Senate's health care proposal, which could make drastic cuts to the Medicaid-funded program his family relies on.…
              Five Things You Need to Know About the Senate’s Health Care Hail Mary        
    No. 1: The Obamacare repeal isn’t really a repeal On Monday night, senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah announced that they would not support the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate's attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act. Without their votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is shy of the fifty he needs.…
              Tip-sharing law set to take effect in New Hampshire        
    by Jim Reidy A New Hampshire law set to take effect September 3 makes clear that employees who receive tips may pool their tips and share them with coworkers who don’t receive tips. For example, restaurant servers will be free to share tips with hosts and hostesses. Even though Senate Bill 37, which was signed […]
              Senate agrees to consider healthcare bill        
    On July 25, after much back-and-forth in the Senate and the dramatic return of Senator John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, the Senate agreed to open debate on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski joining all Senate Democrats in voting […]
              The 10 Steps to Impeach a PresidentIt won’t be easy to impeach...        


    The 10 Steps to Impeach a President

    It won’t be easy to impeach Donald Trump. No president in American history has ever been convicted on articles of impeachment. 

    Only two presidents so far have been impeached by the House and had that impeachment go to the Senate for trial. The first was Andrew Johnson, in 1868, when the Senate came one vote short of convicting him. The next was 131 years later, in 1999, when Bill Clinton’s impeachment went to the Senate. 50 Senators voted to convict Clinton, 17 votes short of what was needed.

    What about Richard Nixon? He resigned early in this process, before the House had even voted on articles of impeachment. And then his successor, who had been his vice president, Gerald Ford, gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president.

    This isn’t to say Trump couldn’t or won’t be impeached. Only that it’s a long and drawn-out process. 

    It all revolves around Article I Sections 2 and 3 of the Constitution, and rules in the House and the Senate implementing those provisions.

    Step 1. It starts in the House Judiciary Committee, when a majority of the member vote in favor of what’s called an “inquiry of impeachment” resolution.

    Step 2. That resolution goes to the full House of Representatives where a majority has to vote in favor. And then votes to authorize and fund a full investigation by the Judiciary Committee into whether sufficient grounds exist for impeachment.

    Step 3. The House Judiciary Committee investigates. That investigation doesn’t have to be from scratch. It can rely on data and conclusions of other investigations undertaken by, say, the FBI.

    Step 4: A majority of the Judiciary Committee members decides there are sufficient grounds for impeachment, and the Committee issues a “Resolution of Impeachment,” setting forth specific allegations of misconduct in one or more articles of impeachment.

    Step 5: The full House then considers that Resolution and votes in favor of it – as a whole or on each article separately. The full House isn’t bound by the Committee’s work. The House may vote to impeach even if the Committee doesn’t recommend impeachment.

    Step 6: The matter then goes to the Senate for a trial. The House’s Resolution of Impeachment becomes in effect the charges in this trial.

    Step 7: The Senate issues a summons to the president, who is now effectively the defendant, informing him of the charges and the date by which he has to answer them. If the president chooses not to answer or appear, it’s as if he entered a “not guilty” plea.

    Step 8 is the trial in the Senate. In that trial, those who are representing the House – that is, the prosecution – and counsel for the president, both make opening arguments. They then introduce evidence and put on witnesses as in any trial. Witnesses are subject to examination and cross-examination. The trial is presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court – who has the authority to rule on evidentiary questions or may put such questions to a vote of the Senate. The House managers and counsel for the president then make closing arguments.

    Step 9: The Senate meets in closed session to deliberate.

    Step 10: The Senate returns in open session to vote on whether to convict the president on the articles of impeachment. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate. Conviction on one or more articles of impeachment results in removal from office. Such a conviction also disqualifies the now former president from holding any other public office. And it doesn’t bar additional legal proceedings against that former president, and punishment.

    So there you have it–the 10 steps that must all take place to impeach the president. 

    It may come in handy.


              NOW’S THE TIME FOR MEDICARE FOR ALLAs Republicans in Congress...        


    NOW’S THE TIME FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

    As Republicans in Congress move to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are moving in the opposite direction, toward Medicare for All – a single-payer plan that builds on Medicare and would cover everyone at far lower cost.

    Most House Democrats are already supporting a Medicare for All bill. Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce it in the Senate. Both California and New York state are moving towards single-payer plans.

    With health care emerging as the pubic’s top concern, according to recent polls, the choice between repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare for All is likely to be the major domestic issue in the presidential campaign of 2020 (other than getting Trump out of office, if he lasts that long).

    And the better choice is clear. Private for-profit insurers spend a fortune trying to attract healthy people while avoiding the sick and needy, filling out paperwork from hospitals and providers, paying top executives, and rewarding shareholders. 

    And for-profit insurers are merging like mad, in order to make even more money. 

    These are among the major reasons why health insurance is becoming so expensive, and why almost every other advanced nation – including our neighbor to the north – has adopted a single-payer system at less cost per person and with better health outcomes. 

    Most Americans support Medicare for All. According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, a majority would like to see a single-payer system implemented. 

    An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed 60 percent of Americans in favor of “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.” That includes nearly half of people who identify themselves as Republican. 

    If Republicans gut the Affordable Care Act, the American public will be presented with the real choice ahead: Either expensive health care for the few, or affordable health care for the many.


              It’s Time for Medicare for All        
    Mitch McConnell is delaying a vote on the Senate Republican version of Trumpcare because he doesn’t...
              The Secret Healthcare Bill        
    The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It’s a tax cut for...
              The Secret Republican Plan to Unravel Medicaid        
    Bad enough that the Republican Senate bill would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act. Even worse,...
              Live Video of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing        
    The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday morning about foreign agents and attempts to influence the U.S. election. The panel is among the bodies investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senators had requested Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, to appear as witnesses. Instead, they are in closed-door discussions for now.
              New York's Attorney General Vows Court Action Against ACA Repeal        
    New York’s top elected Democrats rallied against the Republican Congress’s proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, saying they will take legal action, if necessary, to stop it. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, speaking before a crowd of unionized health care workers at Mount Sinai hospital, says if the plans to repeal and replace Obamacare in the GOP led Senate and House do become law, he will sue on behalf of New Yorkers. “I’ve developed a bit of a reputation since January as the guy who sues Donald Trump and the federal government,” Schneiderman said, to cheers. “Always on the merits, and boy, have we got a lot of merits on our side.” This is not the first time that Schneiderman has made the threat. The Attorney General said after the house passed its version of the Obamacare repeal and replacement that court action was likely. The AG says provisions in both the Senate and House plans to defund Planned Parenthood services, “would
              Live Video Stream: Senate Confirmation Hearing of New FBI Director        
    Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee for FBI Director, faces the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for his confirmation hearing. Wray would replace James Comey , whom Trump fired in May. Wray served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and currently works on white-collar crime at an international law firm. Given Comey's dismissal and ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election and potential ties to the Trump campaign, senators are expected to press Wray on his independence and integrity.
              Onon County Gets Sales Tax OK, Other State Business Draws Protests in Special Session        
    The legislature finally ended its 2017 legislative session, after the Assembly voted overnight on a privately negotiated omnibus bill, and the Senate finally finished on Thursday afternoon. The messy process drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle. Both Democrats and Republicans condemned an end of session that included the governor calling an extraordinary session of the legislature to deal with expiring laws, private meetings between Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders, and rank and file lawmakers kept in the dark about the details. After two days with little or no information on an omnibus cleanup bill , the leader of the Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart- Cousins, stood with her conference members, and said -enough. “Stop wasting time, stop wasting taxpayer dollars,” Stewart-Cousins said. “And do the things that people sent us here to do.” On the Senate floor, Deputy Senate Minority Leader Mike Gianaris, continued the criticism, saying the extraordinary session was called
              Mayoral Control, Reform, Uncertain as State Legislative Session Draws to a Close         
    The New York State legislative session is drawing to a close, and Democrats and Republicans are digging in on the remaining issues of 2017 including a measure to extend the New York City Mayor’s control of the public schools, which has now been linked to a number of diverse issues effecting people in the rest of the state. Games of chicken are common at the Capitol whenever a deadline like the budget or the end of session draws near. This time, it was the State Senate’s turn to go first. Republicans, who control the chamber, offered three bills extending New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of the public schools, for one, two or five years. The measures are linked to passage of an education tax credit that would benefit charter schools. Charter schools have long been championed by Republicans but are viewed with suspicion by some Democrats. The three take it or leave it measures were angrily rejected by the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who was asked about them by reporters.
              Obama Not as "Green" as He Would Like You to Think        
    Future Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama might not be as "green" as he appears. And I don't mean "inexperienced." Last year Obama came under fire from conservatives for giving a series of speeches on the need to reduce carbon emissions by breaking America's addiction to SUVs, while arriving and departing in a GMC Envoy. When the story broke, Obama's press secretary, Tommy Vietor, issued a statement saying that Obama liked to roll in a Flex-Fuel SUV, which suggested that he was indeed practicing what he preached. Unfortunately for Obama, many clever conservatives did their research and found out that the GMC Envoy does not come equipped with Flex-Fuel technology.

    But now, Obama's committment to being Green is being challenged by environmentalists on both sides of the aisles (Washington Post article here). In a Grist article entitled, "Even Stevens?" reporter Amanda Griscom Little descibes the problems environmentalists have with the "Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007" co-sponsored by Obama and Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning. According to the article, "Coal-to-liquid (CTL) technology uses a highly energy-intensive process to convert coal into diesel fuel for cars or jet fuel for airplanes -- an appealing prospect to the coal industry in Obama's home state of Illinois, but not to [environmentalists] and others concerned about global warming." Little goes on to explain the problems with CTL technology:
    David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, has supported coal gasification as a viable alternative to coal-burning power plants, but explains that CTL is not as promising an alternative to conventional gasoline or biofuels. "Coal-to-liquid is, in the best-case scenario, no worse for the climate than oil-derived gasoline -- and no better," he says. The best-case scenario assumes that CTL producers find a way to capture their carbon emissions. Problem is, none of the current CTL projects actually involve carbon capture. Without that step, the climate impacts of CTL fuel are far worse than those of gasoline. According to an NRDC analysis, a 35-mpg car powered by the CTL fuel that's currently available would generate as much carbon dioxide pollution as a far less efficient 19-mpg car that runs on conventional gasoline.
    The Bunning-Obama bill "which would expand tax incentives for CTL and help jumpstart the industry with public-private partnerships, was first introduced by the senators in spring of last year." It appears that for Obama, regional politics trump environmentalism. It will be interesting to see how many of his Democratic collegues will support the bill and undermine the Dems climate control promises. One thing is for sure: Obama's "100 percent approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his environmental voting record in the Senate last year" is certain to decrease this time around.
              John Kerry Reporting For Duty Once Again        
    Unfortunately, Kerry's duty these days includes offending the very Americans he claimed to want to serve two years ago and misrepresenting the facts about his own country. After Kerry's claim of a "botched joke" pretty much did in his potential 2008 Presidential run, he now seems to be in a full spiral downhill. This week the "John Kerry Self-Destruction Tour" stopped off in Davos, Switzerland, where the world's leaders are gathering for the World Economic Forum.

    Kerry, while sharing the stage with the former President of Iran Mohammad Khatami during a discussion entitled, "The Future of the Middle East," took the opportunity on foreign soil nonetheless, to blast away at American foreign policy. Kerry said, "So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East - in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today." He added, "When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy."

    What's most hypocritical and duplicitous about this statement is that Kerry actually favored not ratifying the Kyoto treaty, along with the rest of the Senate in 1995. In a unanimous 95-0 vote, the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which stated the following:
    Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that--
    (1) the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter, which would--
    (A) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period, or
    (B) would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States; and
    (2) any such protocol or other agreement which would require the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification should be accompanied by a detailed explanation of any legislation or regulatory actions that may be required to implement the protocol or other agreement and should also be accompanied by an analysis of the detailed financial costs and other impacts on the economy of the United States which would be incurred by the implementation of the protocol or other agreement.

    Additionally, Bill Clinton never submitted Kyoto to the Senate to be ratified and even Al Gore admitted that he would not ratify an ammendment until it had been written to include developing nations as well.

    So basically, Kerry voted against it before he voted for it. Duplicity and Hypocricy - John Kerry style. So to recap - Kerry lied and whined - all on foreign soil. What a great American!
              Trump questions if McConnell should remain majority leader        
    President Donald Trump raised the possibility Thursday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should step down if he can't muscle health care and other legislation through the Senate, taking an extraordinary swipe at the man with the most power to steer the White House agenda through the chamber.
              Provisional Result of the April/May 2017 Parts I & II Fellowship Examination        
    The results below are provisional and subject to approval of the College Senate. Part I Fellowship Examination Results Faculty of Anaesthesia Faculty of Dental Surgery Faculty of Family Dentistry Faculty of Ophthalmology Faculty of Public Health Faculty of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology Faculty of Radiology Faculty of Internal Medicine Faculty of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Faculty of Family Medicine […]
              State of the Industry: Looking ahead to 2014        
    Expanding access to FBI database, school security loom large for 2014
    12/18/2013
    Leif Kothe

    IRVING, Texas—The past year on Capitol Hill will be remembered for legislative inaction and partisan rifts so deep they culminated in a 16-day government shutdown. Time will tell if the inertia and division will persist in 2014, but the fact that it’s an election year promises to make things a little hectic for the security industry, John Chwat, director of government relations for ESA, told Security Systems News. 

    So what’s on the agenda in the face of the midterm turbulence? Chwat says the ESA will focus on four main priorities in 2014. 

    FBI Database Access

    It’s no secret that, from a legal standpoint, alarm companies enjoy the fact that a properly written contract produced by a qualified attorney generally ensures they end up on the right side of a court decision. Those in the industry are increasingly becoming aware that it’s in their best interest to avail themselves of an alarm attorney who knows the ins and outs of limiting liability and writing enforceable exculpatory clauses.

    It’s precisely the industry’s wariness of being exposed to litigation that underpins the ESA’s top priority in 2014, which is to get the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee to pass a bill that would permit security companies in every state to access the FBI federal database. This, Chwat said, helps companies get a criminal background check on prospective employees, thereby limiting the legal risk they might absorb when, unbeknownst to them, they hire a convicted felon. 

    Passage of the bill, Chwat says, will “allow us to begin negotiation with the Justice Department to develop regulations to permit us access.”

    Right now, companies in about half the states do not have access to these federal records. The bill’s provisions were previously intertwined with the far more polarizing issue of gun control legislation, which gained traction after the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in Dec. 2012. The industry’s concerns are “distinct” from the gun control measures, Chwat says, and it is his hope that the bill will be passed once the industry’s specific requests for open access are unencumbered by the political baggage of gun control.

    At the ground level, the bill could have a substantial impact for companies in states that currently don’t have access to the database, Chwat says. “Then we can say members have vetted and done due diligence on all employees,” he said. 

    School Security

    Protecting schools is a topic that’s intensified at both the state and federal levels since the Newtown shootings in Dec. 2012. ESA is engaged with SIA in a joint effort to “secure federal support for school districts, through either a grant program or through funding directly,” Chwat said, to help them acquire certain types of security systems for elementary and secondary schools, including “monitoring, panic bars, door hardware, electronic security systems and CCTV.”

    Chwat conceded that limited funds might impede the progress of the initiative, but added that school security is going to remain a charged topic in 2014, and the joint effort with SIA could bear fruit. “We think we’ll be able to achieve something there,” he said. 

    Surveillance and Elder Abuse

    In 2014, Congress is set to vote on a 1,000-page bill, called the Older Americans Act Reauthorization bill. One major provision of that bill, Chwat said, pertains to elder abuse—an issue on which ESA has been on the forefront, and which Chwat himself has sought to amend. The amended provision would give relatives of nursing home patients the option to have CCTV systems installed in rooms. 

    “Surveillance is used in preventing child abuse and crime, so preventing elder abuse and nursing home abuse has become a hot topic,” Chwat said. 

    There’s a fair amount of momentum developing with the issue. In 2013, Oklahoma and Virginia passed laws similar to what ESA is proposing on a national level, Chwat said. Texas, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York all have pending legislation on the matter as well, he added.  

    Fire Legislation

    A pair of more “esoteric” bills concerning sprinkler installation is slated to be introduced in the coming year, Chwat said. Both pieces of tax-based legislation that could impact installers, the bills have garnered the attention of the ESA. 

    The first bill would provide tax expensing for the installation of sprinklers, while the second would offer a tax credit of up to $50,000 for the installation of sprinkler systems in historic landmarks. Chwat said the ESA has been in close interaction with the House tax writing committee, endorsing the organization’s longstanding belief that some semblance of balance between detection and suppression installation should be maintained. “We’ve made our positions known to the tax writing committee that we’re not in favor of these bills unless they have a balanced approach,” Chwat said.

     

              BBL is not yet dead – Drilon        
    By Jelly F. Musico MANILA, Dec. 17 (PNA) – The Senate may not be able to pass the substitute bill of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) this year but it...
              Oahu Rail may tax Outer Islands        
    SUBHEAD: Hawaii may seek higher state taxes to cover Honolulu Authority Rapid Transit cost overrun. 

    By Ed Wagner on 9 August 2017 in Island Breath -
    (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/08/oahu-rail-may-tax-outer-islands.html)


    Image above: HART rail guideway car photo-op over Farrington Highway at Leokane Street near Waipahu Sugar Mill. From Civil Beat article below. Photo by Cory Lum.

    I hope the neighbor island folks reading this message are ready to fight the Legislature to help stop the biggest fraud ever perpetrated upon our people since statehood, the Honolulu rail boondoggle.

    Why should any of you help pay for this fraud? The state uses the argument that it helps other counties with [reasonable and legal] public projects so why not require other counties to help with this illegal and fraudulent one to continue the fleecing of our people and continue to cause irreparable financial harm to the people of Hawaii for another three or more generations, all to protect the profits of the wealthy, power elite?

    When will the people wake the hell up and rebel against our crooked and corrupt city and state government, the most corrupt in the USA, and stop this abuse of power?

    Public testimony will be accepted however, please avoid repetitive and duplicative testimony.

    Testimony must be submitted via email to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy at: (TRETestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov)

    http://www.ililani.media/2017/08/hawaii-legislature-seeks-public.html

    Rail Tax Presentation - 52 pages
    http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3914769-Rail-Tax-Presentation-DRAFT.html#document/p8



    Oahu rail seeks more funds

    SUBHEAD: Lawmakers consider making Outer Islands help pay for Oahu's troubled rail project.

    By Nathan Eagle on 7 August 2017 for Civil -Beat 
    (http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/08/lawmakers-consider-having-neighbor-islands-help-pay-for-oahus-troubled-rail-project/)

    With a special session set for the end of August, the Hawaii Legislature will lay out several funding options for the public at a briefing next week.

    Hawaii lawmakers are weighing five options to provide funding to complete Honolulu’s over-budget rail line from Kapolei to Ala Moana, including a statewide increase in the general excise and hotel taxes, according to a state Senate presentation obtained by Civil Beat.

    The Legislature plans to hold a special session later this month to try again to reach a deal on how to pay for the 20-mile, 21-station project, which is now estimated to cost $10 billion.

    Key House and Senate committees have scheduled a joint public information briefing Monday morning at the Capitol. The new options to fund the project, along with the choices under consideration before the Legislature adjourned in May, are expected to play a central role in the negotiations.

    The draft 52-page presentation, provided by a state senator Monday, lays the groundwork for a case to have Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties help fund Honolulu’s beleaguered project. It notes that Oahu subsidizes harbors, airports and highways on the neighbor islands.

    The presentation includes options to extend the 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for Oahu; increase the GET surcharge for Oahu; extend the GET surcharge for Oahu and increase the hotel tax for Oahu; or establish a statewide GET surcharge and hotel tax increase.

    The Federal Transit Administration is kicking in $1.55 billion for the project. It could withhold some of those funds, particularly if the rail line has to stop short of its plan to go from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. The project was expected to cost $5.2 billion just a few years ago.

    House Speaker Scott Saiki has said the city’s latest figures project a nearly $1.4 billion shortfall from now to 2024.

    The two chambers ended the session far apart. The Senate left with a bill to extend Oahu’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for 10 years, until 2037, to help complete the rail project.

    That’s the option Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the tourism industry supported.

    The House pushed a bill that would have allowed the GET surcharge to be levied for just one additional year, to 2028, while increasing the state’s 9.25 percent transient accommodations tax for 10 years.

    “In spite of our impasse during the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature understands the importance in crafting a legislative solution that will provide the City and County of Honolulu a dedicated revenue stream,” said Senate President Ron Kouchi in a press release announcing the public briefing.

    The briefing starts at 10 a.m., Monday, in the Capitol auditorium. The special session is set to run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1.

    See the draft presentation, which a state senator said was created by the Senate Ways and Means Committee at link below.

    (http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3914769-Rail-Tax-Presentation-DRAFT.html#document/p4)



    Testimony on Failing Rail Project

    SUBHEAD: UH Law Professor says the cost of building the Honolulu Rail is getting out of hand.


    Video above: Retired UH Law Professor Randy Roth sums up rail project in 3 minute video. From (https://youtu.be/ZL9pIrxaA3Q).

    He also described the project as deliberate misrepresentation, deliberate fraud on this 30 minute ThinkTech Hawaii with Kelii Akina, President of Grassroot Institute. From (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw_NDLg6EbbmYlNOSy13a0NKNmM/view?usp=sharing).
    Whether one is Pro-Rail or Anti-Rail, there’s something virtually everyone in the state agrees about – the cost of building the Honolulu Rail is getting out of hand.

    Not only that, serious questions have been raised about how well the funds already invested in this project have been spent.

    Law professor Randy Roth, who has a long history advocating for the public good, appears on E Hana Kakou with Dr. Akina to discuss why it is time to hold our government leaders responsible for the progress of the Rail.

    ThinkTech Hawaii streams live on the Internet from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm every weekday afternoon, Hawaii Time, then streaming earlier shows through the night. Check us out any time for great content and great community.

    Our vision is to be a leader in shaping a more vital and thriving Hawaii as the foundation for future generations.

    Our mission is to be the leading digital media platform raising pubic awareness and promoting civic engagement in Hawaii.


    Rail Cost Spirals Out of Control

    SUBHEAD: Watch short video and sign the petition here to require a forensic audit of the rail.

     By Staff on 22 July 2017 for Grassroots Institute of Hawaii
    (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw_NDLg6EbbmRE8yWU9qZFRBUWc/view)


    Video above: Group seeks to audit the Honolulu rail project with "Where is our Money Going?" From (https://youtu.be/X8Fa2qr2djg).
     Longtime journalist Mark Coleman talked recently with ThinkTech Hawaii host Tim Apicella about his recent Grassroot Institute of Hawaii article titled “Honolulu rail clearly a fiasco,”and suggested that now would be a ideal time to subject the over-budget, behind-schedule project to an independent forensic audit.

    In particular, Coleman suggested that the state legislators use their upcoming special session to order such an audit, which would allow them to avoid extending or raising any state taxes until they have better information about why the city’s rail project has veered so far off track — while yet so much of it remains tobe built.

    The timing is apt, he told Apicella, because the City Council just approved selling bonds to fund construction of the rail through to next year, thus taking pressure off the Legislature to consider anything before it starts its regular session in January 2018.

    Coleman said transportation experts warned city officials years before the rail project was even started that it would be a “gigantic white elephant,” and by now it’s clear that just about everything that could have gone wrong with the project has — though nobody has a definite explanation as to why.



    Has HART committed federal crimes?

    SUBHEAD: Is falsification of federal documents, lying to officials to get $1.55B HART a crime?

    By Ed Wagner on 9 August 2017 on Google Drive -
    (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0Bw_NDLg6EbbmNnI2bnJlV0o3TGM?usp=sharing)

    The people of Hawaii seek Congressional, DOJ, & FBI investigations into the following allegations against Mayor Caldwell, City Council, HART, Developer DR Horton, construction unions, Pacific Resources Partnership (PRP), DLNR, regarding the Honolulu rail project:

    Systemic fraud, waste, and abuse of power, violations of public procurement codes, violations of the Hawaii State Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine, violations of basic ethical and moral principles, perjury, deliberate falsification of Federal documents / lying to Federal officials, deliberate misrepresentation of facts, deliberate fraud, bribery, racketeering, malfeasance, graft, conspiracy to defraud, and criminal offenses directly related to obtaining $1.55B in federal funds for the Honolulu rail project.

    Those advocating for a forensic audit & investigations include former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, retired UH Law Professor Randy Roth, UH Civil Engineering Professor, Panos Prevedouros, President of Grassroot Institute and OHA Trustee, Dr. Keli’i Akina, former Army War College faculty instructor, retired Col Al Frenzel, retired businessmen, 2 attorneys, an accountant, and concerned citizens.

    Dr. Keli’i Akina submitted testimony to the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Railroads regarding these issues.

    All major newspapers and TV networks around the country have been notified about the dire situation in Hawaii.

    It is argued that the City is jeopardizing its credit rating and solvency over this project and someone has to stop the bleeding, stop the irreparable hard this rail project is causing our people today, and for the next 3 generations, and folks in Washington seem to be turning a blind eye to this matter.

    In lieu of reviewing rail-related documents online, I request a formal meeting with a Honolulu FBI agent to discuss this urgent matter, a meeting to include those advocating for these investigations.

    Others have written to FTA, OIG, GAO, and Congress, and spoke to some officials. One high ranking official stated to one individual that perjury to obtain federal funds for rail appears to be involved.

    The Honolulu rail is likely a massive government cover up similar to Watergate, but called HARTgate.

    Please help us. This dire situation is reaching critical mass.

    Messages sent to Washington and FBI. The city deliberately falsified federal documents, lied to federal officials, and lied to the public. I encourage everyone to submit a request to the FBI to conduct an investigation.

    https://tips.fbi.gov/

    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0Bw_NDLg6EbbmeTdFazZNQW4zYkk?usp=sharing

    Please give these messages widest possible distribution.


    .

              Sen. John McCain Holds Virtual Town Hall        
    In the video McCain explained his rationale for voting against the Senate "skinny repeal" bill, insisting that a new, bipartisan bill should be brought to the Senate floor.
              House Stimulus vs. Senate Stimulus At A Glance        
    Propublica has a fantastic side-by-side comparison of the original House stimulus bill and the abortion produced by the Senate "compromise."

    Short version: to give big corporate welfare "tax cut" handouts to Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Wall Street and all the other rich people who have been fucking over the middle class for the last thirty years, the Cowardly Democrats in the Senate agreed to make huge cuts in anything and everything that creates jobs by helping working families, including:

    aid to states, health care, education grants, repairing and building schools, repairing and building roads, public transportation, renewable energy research, unemployment insurance, repairing the electric grid, improving water and sewer lines, affordable housing, mortgage relief, expanding broadband access, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.

    If you're not so rich that a global economic meltdown won't affect you, then you need to email or call your Congressional representatives right now and tell them to support restoring the House stimulus bill.

    Click here for a quick way to send an email to your representatives, even if all you know is your zip code.

    All that's at stake is your job, your house, your kids' future, and, you know, the world.
              Is A Capitalist Meltdown Upon Us?        
    I'll only be 53 on my next birthday in late July, yet it already seems like I've lived a tiring amount of history. Only 20 years ago, the world saw the meltdown of Soviet-style communism -- and many observers, largely neo-conservatives, interpreted that as an ideological culmination, "the end of history." There was even an influential book written with that title. (Does anyone remember that author now? And, does he want to remember that book? Yeah, I know -- Francis Fukuyama.)

    It appears that reversals of fortune can happen quickly. Now it looks like the allegedly venerable ideology of "free-market" capitalism is on the ropes, and in serious danger of going down. Who would have thought it?

    Die-hard Marxists did. I've never been one of them, even as a long-ago radical all of 23 years old. I still know three people who have continued to call themselves Marxists in total defiance of dismissal or ridicule, and they are probably gloating a lot now. The economic train wreck they kept dogmatically predicting finally seems to be in front of us.

    But even as America sleepwalked through our Second Gilded Age (circa 1981-2005), I grew skeptical of the Marxist vision. "Historical inevitability" always sounded like a religious tenet, without the pure superstition; and Marxism itself, a sort of quasi-religion for embittered atheists.

    We should be as cautious about awarding hard-line socialists a victory here, as much as "we" (in the editorial sense) should have checked for our wallets the minute Reagan started talking about trickle-down and Phil Gramm started talking about deregulation. The past century should have taught us that the answer lies in between.

    Starting with the excesses of laissez-faire: America has, for the past 30-ish years, seen the roller-coaster ride that happens with that sort of economic policy. An elite grows very rich, a minority near the bottom slips much further down, and most people tend to stagnate in the middle.

    There are cycles of boom and bust. The booms are good for most people, but especially good for a few. The latter group inevitably forms a "Why Should I Have To Pay Taxes?" lobby and gets bonanzas from lawmakers eager to please. And since these are the people of ostentation and material success, their influence is great among fashionable "thinkers" of the day.

    Now the big bust is upon us. It's a bit like 1933 all over again -- not as grim or total in devastation, but it's likely to get worse. President Barack Obama has warned us that this is so.

    But history, with its entire lesson, should be heeded, and it seems like Obama is one who will do so.

    There were very good reasons for the meltdown of the Soviet empire 20 years ago. Contrary to right-wing mythology, Reagan and his military buildup had little to do with it. Post-Soviet Russian economists recall the problems as internal, and any intellectually honest person knew what they were. There's no need for me to recite the litany here -- Americans heard it all for decades.

    But, let's face it, die-hard socialists out there -- state-run enterprises have a poor track record. The employees seem to lack incentives to produce. Cooperatives tend to degenerate into personal conflict, power struggles and chaos. And as for the concentration of power in the hands of "vanguard revolutionaries" -- the horrors and enormities of that have been abundant just in the past century.

    I don't think it's hard to argue for a sense of balance and measure. In America, it seems like the compromising wheeler-dealers -- the FDRs, the Trumans, the LBJs, the Ted Kennedys -- got more done for working Americans than any of our homegrown radicals ever did.

    But there is little doubt that there's been a sea change, and it's been back toward socialist thinking. The Nobel Prize committees have not been known for their sympathy toward socialist-leaning economists, yet Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has more or less come out in favor of the nationalization of U.S. banks. That would be a major step toward socialism of some fashion. Why not? We've just given the bastards $700 billion in taxpayer money to keep them in business. Here's a link to the interview with Stiglitz.

    And, it appears that such state power would be the only thing to force the shameless swine who run these enterprises to behave themselves. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., made a speech on the Senate floor about the Wall Street oinkers who had themselves awarded $18.4 billion in bonuses while their enterprises got in on the aforementioned $700 billion, because of reckless and disastrous mismanagement. Here's another link to reports on this issue, and to a video of McCaskill's speech. Be patient, the video seems very rough.

    So, what should be the ultimate American destination, in an era of "capitalist" meltdown? The Swedes, with a hybrid socialist-capitalist system, don't seem to do badly, with avowed Socialists predominantly in power since 1929. Their booms are smaller, but so are their busts. Their people don't live in fear of homelessness or inability to afford basic health care. Right-wing humorist P.J. O'Rourke, when asked about the Swedes' seeming happiness with their stable system, said that they are all insane -- but that their insanity is distributed equally among the people.

    It's a funny line. But there's nothing funny about facing a mortgage foreclosure, or about the welfare rolls shrinking even as joblessness is rapidly expanding. With a growing U.S. underclass, it may be time to take a second look at the socialist mind-set -- despite the old Marxist baggage. Nobody requires us to go to extremes.

    Crossposted at Manifesto Joe.
              "Are These Folks Serious?"        
    From the Huffington Post, "President Barack Obama says the time for talk on an economic recovery package is over and "the time for action is now." "



    Speaking at the Energy Department, Obama made a fresh plea for the stimulus plan that the Senate is debating. He cited the latest bad economic news of jobless claims as another reason for quick action.

    He said: "The time for talk is over, the time for action is now."

    He also launched a shot at critics while talking about energy, questioning, "are these folks serious?"

    Now, I read the other day that critics of this plan ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles to take advantage of state of the art fuel efficiency. This is what they call pork. You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match. And so when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself -- are these folks serious? Is it any wonder that we haven't had a real energy policy in this country?

    For the last few years, I've talked about these issues with Americans from one end of this country to another. And Washington may not be ready to get serious about energy independence, but I am. And so are you. And so are the American people.

    During his speech Obama also issued a strong critique of the GOP's economic policies, even though he didn't utter the party's name. He told the audience that:

    In the last few days, we've seen proposals arise from some in Congress that you may not have read but you'd be very familiar with because you've been hearing them for the last 10 years, maybe longer. They're rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems; that government doesn't have a role to play; that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough; that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges -- the crushing cost of health care, the inadequate state of so many of our schools, our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

    So let me be clear: Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed. They've taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars, and they've brought our economy to a halt. And that's precisely what the election we just had was all about. The American people have rendered their judgment. And now is the time to move forward, not back. Now is the time for action.

              Why the Senate Must Pass the Stimulus Bill        
    First, check out USAToday's interactive map of how President Obama's stimulus bill will help your state.

    Then, watch TPM's interview with an expert who explodes the repug lies about the bill containing too much spending.

    There is so much fog and uncertainty -- much of it intentionally injected into the debate -- about the different moving parts of the Stimulus Bill. But some of the broad outlines are arresting and straightforward.

    We're hearing all this talk about the staggering size of the bill. And it is a staggering amount of money. But according to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the amount of demand that the financial crisis is pulling out the economy is likely to be between $1.1 and $1.2 trillion this year (and that is not a controversial estimate). The Stimulus Bill (which, remember, is $800+ billion over two years) would try to compensate for that drop off with about $400 billion of spending and tax cuts. How efficiently the money is spent, how quickly and so forth -- all very good questions. But judged in these terms you start to see how the real question is whether any bill of that size is enough.
    David Kurtz and Baker discuss the issue in today's episode of TPMtv.


    And finally, read Bob Herbert on the danger of not putting enough money into infrastructure projects immediately.

    We have infrastructure spending in the Democrats' proposed stimulus package that, while admirable, is far too meager to have much of an impact on the nation's overall infrastructure requirements or the demand for the creation of jobs.

    SNIP

    The big danger is that some variation of the currently proposed stimulus package will pass, another enormous bailout for the bankers will be authorized, and then the trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits will make their appearance, looming like unholy monsters over everything else, and Washington will suddenly lose its nerve.

    The mantra (I can hear it now) will be that we can't afford to spend any more money on the infrastructure, or on a big health care initiative, or any of the nation's other crying needs. Suddenly fiscal discipline will be the order of the day and the people who are suffering now will suffer more, and the nation's long-term prospects will be further damaged as its long-term needs continue to be neglected.

    We no longer seem to learn much from history. Time and again an economic boom has followed a period of sustained infrastructure investment. Think of the building of the Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Think of the rural electrification program, the interstate highway system, the creation of the Internet.

    We're suffering now from both a failure of will and of imagination. I remember the financier Felix Rohatyn telling me, "A modern economy needs a modern platform, and that's the infrastructure."

    History tells us the same thing.

    And if you're still not persuaded, consider this: Mitch McConnell would give his left nut to kill the stimulus. What more reason do you need to support it?

    Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.

              Progressive Progress in the Economic Stimulus        
    As the Senate girds for battle over the repug-sabotaged economic stimulus, Talking Points Memo brings us a reminder of the progressive priorities that made it into the House bill and deserve saving in the Senate.

    The Congressional Progressive Caucus just released a memo that offers a worthy counterpoint to our discussions today about the Republicans' baldly misleading message on the stimulus.

    The Progressives have rounded up elements of their proposed $1 trillion stimulus that ended up making it into the Democratic leaders' final bill, in part or in whole. It's a list that's worth remembering while tax cuts seemingly dominate the airwaves.

    The highlights of the memo are after the jump:

    • Unemployment benefits (UI) extension. Cost = at least $12.7 billion

    • Anti-hunger provisions

    * SNAP - 20% temporary increase in maximum food stamp level above the FY2009 level for two years. Cost = approximately $24 billion and increase in funds for state food stamp administrative costs Cost= $250 million;

    * WIC - increase funding to make up for shortfall not covered in the current Continuing Resolution. Cost = $450 million and increases for management information system and related infrastructure improvements. Cost = $50 million;

    * School meals - provide a 15% increase in funding for breakfast and school lunch programs. Cost = $1 billion;

    • Medicaid payments to states (FMAP). Cost = at least $15 billion

    • LIHEAP assistance to provide low-income Americans relief from higher energy costs. Cost = at least $5 billion

    • Job creation via down payment on rebuilding America's infrastructure and schools, starting with massive investment in commercialization of green technologies and related job training that promote environmental protection and energy independence. Cost = at least $100 billion

    ** In general:

    • No funds for Iraq or Afghanistan wars and no funds for defense procurement.

    • Prevailing wage to be paid for jobs created and upholding of Davis-Bacon Act

    These are, of course, just a downpayment on the long list of repairs to the New Deal and Great Society needed after three decades of repug destruction.

    But if these provisions remain in the final bill and President Obama signs it by Darwin Day, then I'd say we're well on our way to recovery.

              President Obama Is Too Nice to Kentucky        
    President Barack Obama is a much better person than I could ever be. If the Democratic governor of a Democratic-registered state that had nevertheless voted overwhelmingly for my republican opponent in the last election begged me for help to get his backward state out of an emergency they had basically created themselves, I would not have been this nice:

    President Barack Obama last night approved Gov. Steve Beshear's request for an emergency Presidential Disaster Declaration that will expedite assistance to people in need across the commonwealth.

    "President Obama called me last night to express his concern about the plight facing our state and many of our people. I appreciate the president's quick response to our request for a disaster declaration," Gov. Beshear said as he traveled throughout Western Kentucky to meet with local officials and survey damage to the region. "We will move quickly to bring power generators, communications equipment and debris removal equipment into the region to help restore power and protect our people in their time of need."

    No, indeedy, I would not have been nice at all. I would have said something like this:

    "Well, Steve, I see the mess you're in and it certainly is a nasty one. But I notice Kentucky had almost exactly the same mess six years ago, and its Democratic leaders made all kinds of promises about burying power lines to make sure this never happened again. Kentucky didn't keep a single fucking one of those promises, did it, Steve? Nope, it sure didn't. And here you are, in a shit hole any idiot could have predicted would happen again with the next ice storm.

    "I really would like to help you, Steve, but I've got these Congressional republicans, including four house members and two Senators with KY next to their names, raking me over the coals for wanting to give money to people who don't deserve it. You know, people who promise to do better but don't, people who waste the opportunities they're given to improve themselves. I would just have a hard time explaining to Mitch and Jimbo and Eddie and Hal and Geoff and Brent why I'm helping that notorious welfare queen Kentucky when we all know she's never going to change her behavior.

    "And even if I didn't care what the republicans thought, I've got the actual Democratic majority in Congress that would throw a hissy fit if I gave federal emergency status to a state the majority of whose registered Democrats voted just three months ago to re-elect the obstructionist, evil republican minority leader in the Senate.

    "So you have my sympathy, Steve, but my hands are tied. See if you can't get your state to sit up straight and fly right for a while, and maybe elect a few actual Democratic candidates next year, then we'll see about letting you have a little money. Until then, you're on your own."

    As a Kentuckian with no electricity since Tuesday and no hope of getting any in the foreseeable future, I am grateful that President Obama did not turn his back on the sure-to-be-ungrateful Commonwealth. But I wish he had found some way of using the Declaration to cudgel some sense into our state's so-called leaders.

    Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....
              Comment on Democrat Alan Kennedy-Shaffer announces he’s running for Colorado Senate District 34 seat by Mike        
    Making it harder to run? You have got to be kidding me. That's completely antithetical to the foundation of democracy. Let the voters decide. Also, Crow is in the process of buying a home in CD6. Since you're so concerned about residency issues there, have you checked into where the Coffmans live? There's more than one residence there. Thoughts like this are exactly why Dems will continue to falter.
              Feds Should Follow Alberta's Lead on Accountability Measures         
    In the wake of the Senate expense scandal, a secretive committee of MPs from all parties has decided that it’s time to get with the 21st Centaury and open up their expenses. Except, they haven’t.
              What Edmonton City Council and the Senate Have in Common        
    Edmonton’s mayor and city councilors have made strange bedfellows with Canada’s Senate.
              Thomas O’Donnell Appointed Inaugural Director of the LBJ School Washington Center        
    Washington, DC, December 2, 2014 – The LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin announced Thomas P. O’Donnell as the inaugural Director of its new Washington Center. O’Donnell joins the LBJ School after previous service in the White House, the U.S. Senate, the Human Rights Campaign, several Presidential campaigns, and as a law firm public policy … Continue reading
              Death-Row Exoneree, Law Professor, Attorney Voice Opposition to Alabama's "Fair Justice Act"        

    Soon after passing legislation to make death penalty trials fairer by preventing judges from overriding jury recommendations of life sentences, the Alabama legislature is taking steps to enact a bill that critics say would make capital appeals far less fair. The bill, denominated the "Fair Justice Act," would constrict the amount of time death-row prisoners have to file appeals, impose deadlines for judges to rule on appeals, and require prisoners to pursue their direct appeal and post-conviction appeal simultaneously. Critics of SB 187/HB 260, which has passed the Senate and been approved by the House Judiciary Committee, include Harvard Law School Professor Ronald Sullivan Jr., Alabama death-row exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton, and Birmingham attorney Lisa Borden, who say the proposal is neither fair nor just. They argue that the bill would reduce the quality of appellate representation, insulate trial errors from appellate review, and increase the risk of executing innocent people. Sullivan called the bill "deceitfully named" and wrote it would "undermine much of the progress" made when Alabama recently became the last state in the U.S. to end judicial override. Hinton, who spent 30 years on Alabama's death row before being exonerated, said, "If proposed changes to Alabama's postconviction procedures under consideration by the state legislature had been enacted, I would have been executed despite my innocence." Hinton explains that he spent 14 years looking for volunteer lawyers who could help him prove his innocence, saying, "Because the so called "Fair Justice Act" now pending before the state legislature puts time restrictions on how long death row prisoners have to prove their innocence or a wrongful conviction, this legislation increases the risk of executing innocent people and makes our system even less fair." Borden raises concerns that the poor quality of trial-level representation will spill over into the proposed shortened appeals process. "The average trial of a capital case with appointed counsel takes just a few days, given appointed counsel's frequent lack of preparation and failure to challenge the State's case. ...The attorneys and experts who will try to uncover and correct the injustices done to poor defendants must not be forced to rush through the process too." She suggests, "If Alabama wants to save taxpayers millions of dollars, and provide certainty and finality for the peace of mind of the victim's families, it could do so by abolishing the death penalty, or by limiting its use to only the most egregious cases and providing real, effective representation for those charged with capital crimes."

    (R. Sullivan Jr., "Opinion: A quick death in Alabama," Montgomery Advertiser, May 3, 2017; A. Hinton, "I was released from death row. Under the Fair Justice Act, I'd be dead.," AL.com, April 27, 2017; L. Borden, "The 'Fair Justice Act' is neither fair nor just," AL.com, April 20, 2017.) Read the text of SB 187 and HB 260. See Arbitrariness, Innocence, and Recent Legislative Activity.


              Alabama Legislature Votes to End Judicial Override        

    The Alabama legislature has approved and sent to the Governor a bill that would bring to an end the practice of permitting trial judges to impose death sentences over a capital sentencing jury's recommendation that the defendant be sentenced to life. Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that currently permits judicial override. The legislature acted in response to mounting court challenges to Alabama's death penalty statute. On April 4, the state House of Representatives voted 78-19 to pass a bill prohibiting trial judges from overriding the sentencing recommendations of juries in death penalty cases. Governor Robert Bentley has indicated that he intends to sign the legislation. Two versions of the proposal had advanced in the state legislature. A bill sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) that would eliminate judicial override but retain Alabama's practice of allowing death sentences if ten or more jurors voted for death, passed the Senate 30-1 on February 23. A House bill by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) that would have abolished judicial override and required a unanimous jury vote for death had passed the House Judiciary Committee on February 16. Rep. England agreed to substitute the Senate version of the bill, which then overwhelmingly passed the House. The bill "places the death penalty back in the proper perspective," England said. "It puts it ... where in my opinion the Constitution intends it to be: in the hands of juries." Although Alabama is no longer an outlier on judicial override, it remains the only state in the country to permit a death sentence to be imposed based upon a non-unanimous jury vote. According to research by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), judicial override has historically been employed to impose death sentences when a jury recommended life, rather than as a safeguard against unjust jury votes for death. In 101 of the 112 cases in which Alabama judges have overriden capital jury sentencing recommendations, they have imposed the death penalty over a jury recommendation of life. The EJI study also found that the use of judicial override has been influenced by political concerns, with sentencing overrides disproportionately rising in election years. Bryan Stevenson, founder of EJI, said, "Override undermines the role of jurors, who sometimes deliberate for hours to make the right decisions in these cases on behalf of the community. Alabama has had one of the highest death-sentencing rates in the country largely because we add to death row so many people juries do not believe should be executed."

    (M. Cason, "Alabama House passes ban on judicial override in death penalty cases," Birmingham News, April 4, 2017; K. Chandler and A. Izaguirre, "Alabama House Votes to End Judicial Override," Associated Press, April 4, 2017.) See Recent Legislative Activity and Sentencing.


              Florida, Alabama Consider Legislation on Exoneree Compensation        

    As the Florida legislature considers a bill that would change Florida's "Clean Hands" policy, which denies compensation for wrongful convictions if the defendant had a prior felony record, Alabama lawmakers are deciding whether to grant compensation to Anthony Ray Hinton (pictured), who was exonerated in 2015 after spending nearly 30 years on death row. In Florida, death row exoneree Herman Lindsey told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee about his having been denied compensation because of prior unrelated felony convictions. He spoke about the difficulty he has faced finding housing or a job because the arrest for murder is still on his record. He said the "Clean Hands" Provision is, "basically saying, ‘we can take anybody that has a criminal record and say let’s falsely incarcerate him and when he found it wasn’t really him, we can actually put him out on the streets and we don’t actually even have to worry about it.’ I didn’t receive any apology. I didn’t receive any compensation.” The proposed bill would allow compensation for some exonerees who have prior nonviolent felony convictions. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), a supporter of the bill, said, “If the state and the people of the state get it wrong, it shouldn’t matter what individuals have done in their past.” Lindsey said only four of Florida's 26 death-row exonerees have received compensation under the Clean Hands Act. “Now, perhaps, this might open the door for 10." Meanwhile, the Alabama Committee on Compensation for Wrongful Incarceration is considering an application to grant $1.5 million in compensation to Anthony Ray Hinton. The amount is based on the 30 years Hinton was wrongfully incarcerated. Two Assistant Attorneys General have written conflicting letters to the committee, with one stating, "I have found no information that indicates that Mr. Hinton's application is disqualified by any of the eligibility exceptions," while the other claims, "The fact that thirty years later different ballistic experts are unable to say conclusively that this gun fired the fatal shots, without the benefit of the original test fired projectiles used by the original examiners, is not evidence of innocence." Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) has introduced a bill to compensate Hinton $1.5 million, to be paid over a three-year period. He criticized the notion that a wrongly convicted person should be denied compensation when the state lacks evidence to convict, saying, "We can't convict someone in the court of public opinion. ... It has to be in a court of law."

    (S. Cordner, "Fla. Lawmakers Looking At Making It Easier For Exonerees To Receive Compensation," WUSF News, February 24, 2017; K. Faulk, "Does former death row inmate Anthony Ray Hinton deserve compensation?," AL.com, February 28, 2017.) See Innocence.


              Capital Sentencing Reform Bills Advance in Florida, Alabama        

    Legislative committees in Florida and Alabama have voted to advance bills that would reform capital sentencing procedures in those states that have been the subject of extensive constitutional challenges. In Florida, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee by a vote of 6-0 approved a bill that would require a jury to unanimously recommend a death sentence before the trial judge could sentence a defendant to death. The bill would bring Florida's sentencing procedure in line with a Florida Supreme Court ruling that had declared unconstitutional death sentences that were imposed after one or more jurors had recommended a life sentence. In Alabama, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to end Alabama's practice of judicial override. Alabama is currently the only state that allows judges to override a jury's recommendation of a life sentence and impose a death sentence. Senator Dick Brewbaker (R - Montgomery), who sponsored the bill, raised concerns about political pressure on elected judges. A majority of overrides in the last 10 years happened in election years. “I’m not saying anyone has any evil intent,” Brewbaker said. “I’m not arguing about constitutionality, but there’s no way to take politics out of politics. It’s like taking the wet out of the water. It can’t be done.” According to research by the Equal Justice Initiative, judges have used their override power to impose death sentences over jury recommendations for life 101 times, but overrode jury recommendations for death and imposed life sentences just 11 times. The U.S. Supreme Court has remanded four death penalty cases to Alabama's courts for a determination of the constitutionality of the state's sentencing practices—including judicial override. The Alabama courts have upheld the practice, and in December 2016, Alabama executed Ronald Smith despite a 7-5 jury recommendation that he be sentenced to life.

    (W. Sayre, "Here's Where Death Penalty Legislation In Florida Stands," WLRN, February 9, 2017; B. Lyman, "Senate committee approves bill ending judicial override," Montgomery Advertiser, February 8, 2017.) See Recent Legislative Activity.


              Senate Version Adds Costs To VA Overhaul Measure        
    The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The measure is close enough to a version already passed by the House that it could reach the president's desk soon.
              In A Rare Act Of Bipartisan Speed, Senate Passes VA Reforms        
    Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

    Transcript

    AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

    Tens of thousands of veterans have been waiting months to get medical appointments, all while VA hospital staff claimed patients were being seen in 14 days or less. The FBI is now involved in a VA inspector general's investigation into the problem.

              Strange Talk of Immigration Reform from a Former Gang-of-Eighter        

    According to the Arizona Republic, Sen. John McCain is talking immigration reform, apparently as in "comprehensive" immigration reform, a la the failed Gang of Eight Senate bill.

    Patrick McHugh August 7, 2017 - 10:33am Dan Cadman
              After Low-Key Lobbying Effort, Trump Says He Was 'Let Down' By Senators        
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypALjI7MEWI Blindsided by the latest collapse of a Republican health care bill, President Trump took to Twitter to voice his frustration. Trump complained of being "let down" by a handful of Republican lawmakers. And he insisted that the fight over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is not over. Trump had just finished discussing health care with seven Republican lawmakers over dinner Monday when Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas — who were not at the meeting — announced they would be voting against the measure to repeal and replace Obamacare. With two other Republican senators already on record in opposition, the Monday-night development effectively killed the Senate bill. Trump acknowledged he was caught off guard by the latest GOP defections. "For seven years, I've been hearing repeal and replace from Congress," Trump said. "And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it. So
              GOP Sen. Susan Collins Firmly Opposes Senate Health Care Bill        
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Congressional forecasters say a Senate bill that aims to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. That's only slightly fewer than a House version that passed last month. This forecast comes as Senate Republican leaders press for a vote on the bill later this week, and it has already led one Republican senator to firmly oppose the bill. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. And, Scott, these numbers come from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan bean counters on Capitol Hill. So where do they think these coverage reductions are coming from? SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Ari, the biggest drop would be in Medicaid. Remember, Obamacare expanded Medicaid. This bill would shrink it. And the forecasters anticipate by 2026 you would have 15 million fewer Americans getting their coverage through that safety net program. They're also anticipating a drop of about 7 million people getting coverage
              GOP Senate Bill Would Cut Health Care Coverage By 22 Million        
    Updated at 8:10 pm ET Congressional forecasters say a Senate bill that aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. That's only slightly fewer uninsured than a version passed by the House in May . Monday's report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could give moderate senators concerned about health care coverage pause. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was quick to register her opposition to the bill. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wants a vote on the bill this week, before senators head home for the July Fourth recess. With Senate Democrats united in opposition, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes on their side and still pass the bill. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is up for re-election next year, had already expressed reservations about the number of people who could lose coverage under the GOP bill. Four other Republican senators have complained that the bill doesn't go far enough in rolling
              Senate Republicans Alter Health Care Bill To Avoid 'Death Spiral'        
    Updated at 5 p.m. ET Senate Republicans have updated their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, attempting to patch a hole that threatened to destabilize the individual insurance market . The original Senate bill, unveiled last week, required insurance companies to offer coverage to everyone, including people with pre-existing medical conditions. But there was no requirement that individuals purchase insurance. Critics said that created a perverse incentive for healthy people to go without insurance, only buying coverage after they got sick. Without enough healthy customers making regular premium payments, insurance companies would be forced to raise prices, driving more customers away — a situation sometimes described as a "death spiral." The revised bill attempts to solve that problem by imposing a penalty on those who don't maintain continuous insurance coverage: People who let their coverage lapse for at least 63 days in one year would be locked out of the insurance
              How The Senate Health Care Bill Could Disrupt The Insurance Market         
    Senate Republicans have little margin for error as they prepare for a vote this coming week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act . Some lawmakers are already raising concerns that the bill could aggravate the problem of healthy people going without insurance, driving up costs for everyone else. "If you can get insurance after you get sick, you will," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told NBC's Today Show . "And without the individual mandate, that sort of adverse selection, the death spiral, the elevated premiums, all of that that's going on gets worse under this bill." The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, tried to address that problem by requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. But that so-called "individual mandate" is one of the least popular provisions of the law. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his colleagues are determined to get rid of it. "We agreed on the need to free Americans from Obamacare's mandate so
              Senate GOP Reveals Health Care Bill         
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Senate Republicans at last have posted their version of replacing the Affordable Care Act. This is a bill that would affect health insurance, health care which is one-sixth of the American economy. They want a vote within one week or so. And NPR's Scott Horsley has had a solid half-hour to analyze this plan. He joins us now. Hi, Scott. SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve. INSKEEP: OK. Let's just remember, President Trump first celebrated a House version of this bill but then said he was hoping it would have more heart in the Senate version, that it would be more generous in some way. Is it more generous? HORSLEY: Well, it depends, Steve. Some people who are trying to buy insurance on the individual market might do better with this plan than they would under the House-passed version. So for them, it might seem like this is a bill with more heart or a bigger government subsidy. For others, though, that's not the
              Trump's Lawyer Fires Back After Comey Testimony        
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjDNe9A0QfI Updated at 3:35 p.m ET President Trump's outside lawyer flatly denied that the president ever asked former FBI Director James Comey for a pledge of loyalty, and he accused Comey of disclosing privileged communications with the president to the news media, without authorization. Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, went on the offensive only a couple of hours after Comey concluded his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee — a highly anticipated performance that was broadcast live on national television. Kasowitz highlighted Comey's most favorable point for the president: that Trump was not personally the target of an FBI investigation. But he challenged Comey's account of a private dinner he had with the president on Jan. 27, during Trump's first full week in the White House. The president "never told Comey, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,' in form or substance," Kasowitz said in a statement, rebutting Comey's testimony that Trump
              Imprimanta 3D - noua tehnologie, din Star Trek, la tine in sufragerie!        

    Pentru cei dintre dvs care mai cred ca am ajuns prea departe cu tehnologia, ca avem prea multe gadgeturi si device-uri futuriste, imprimanta 3D e tot ce va lipsea ca sa va mai faceti inca o data cruce. Desi tehnologia a fost descoperita cu mai bine de 20 de ani in urma, aceste imprimante au ajuns, in sfarsit, sa fie disponibile si pentru populatia cu dare de mana. Daca la tara obiectele cu pricina ar fi duse la biserica penru a li se aplica o exorcizare ca la carte, sau ar fi arse pe rug cu explicatia ca e "lucru' dracului", strainii se dau in vant dupa ele si companii producatoare de aceste masinarii complicate apar ca ciupercile dupa ploaie.

    Inventatorii sustin ca acestea functioneaza asemanator imprimantelor obisnuite, doar ca in loc de cerneala, folosesc alte materiale (ce variaza de la argint, plastic sau titaniu) pe care le imprima in straturi succesie pana la finalizarea obiectului... Nu va puteti imagina mai exact cum functioneaza? Nicio problema, in afara de geniile care au inventat-o mai mult de 1% din populatia lumii nu pricepe cum functioneaza nici imprimantele normale, daramite aceste ciudatenii... Deci nu suferiti de nicio problema.

    Avantajul acestor imprimante, spun cercetatorii, este acela ca permit producerea unui prototip intr-un timp foarte scurt, astfel ca acesta poate fi imbunatatit rapid, iar procesul efectiv de fabricatie dureaza mult mai putin, scutind astfel multe resurse si energie. Nu-i rau daca ne gandim ca mereu ratacim fie cheile, fie pixurile, fie cine stie ce alte obiecte trebuincioase omului. Dar ce te faci dupa ce ti-ai printat vreo 30 de chei, prietenii care au venit in vizita au mai lasat si ei cateva si tu vii acasa cu inca vreo 5 de la birou? Cum sa le mai tii evidenta? Poate o sa te ajute vreun alt localnic sa scapi si de excesul de chei si de obiecte de valoare din casa...

    In alta ordine de idei avem un nou dispoziv care poate produce o gramada de lucruri si poate genera cel putin tot atatea batai de cap. Cum ii explicii unui manelist ghiortaitor, spre exemplu, ca nu e indicat sa printezi mai multe pistoale pe care sa le testezi pe cei care te injura pe strada cand mergi cu volumul la maxim, cu geamul deschis, si cu pitipoancele sunculinde in spate? 

    Nu contest avantajele imprimantei 3D insa cred ca e putin cam devreme sa le lansam la vanzare atata vreme cat noi inca nu avem o legislatie bine pusa la punct nici pentru onorabilii hakeri, care intre noi fie vorba, deja au incaruntit. S-au imprietenit si cu FBI-ul dupa atea vizite si poate intre timp s-au mai si inrudit. Chiar producatorii controversatelor imprimante declara ca "ceva" probleme pot aparea aunci cand vorbim de replicarea unor obiecte de arta sau tipuri de documente, intrucat copiile sunt atat de fidele, incat cu foarte mare greutate se deosebesc originalele de copii, iar lucratorii din cadrul muzeelor nu sunt tocmai incantati de situatie... 



    The second person I would like to discuss is my Aunt, who is 70+ years old. She has lived in upstate New York on a farm or in a small town her whole life. She always keeps up on state politics and other current events. She had sent me a quick note when the State Assembly passed the marriage equality bill through and that she was sure the Senate would do the same. I was glad at least she was confident. I knew we still had a fight on our hands at the time.

    Apparently my Aunt knew what she was talking about because eight days later she was emailing me again. This time it was almost 11pm NY time and marriage equality had just passed the Senate. The subject: We made it in NYS. We'll come back to that.

     Here is the rest of the email
    Hi ladies  - as you may have already heard  -   NYS is passing the "equality in marriage'  act this evening  -  job well done!
       Just wish the news folks would refrain from the term "same sex marriage act" -   that doesn't cover nearly any of the principles of this bill and really gives it a negative connotation rather than educating the public on the real need and assets of the bill.
                                                                                        Love A.
    Simple right. But let's remember this is from a small town 70+ year old woman...not exactly the best demographic on this issue. What struck me first was that she just gets it. The end. The fact that she really gets it prompted me to post it on my Facebook and Tweet about it. If this 75 year old woman can get it then I know we can make this happen. If we come out, live open, educate people on how this discrimination effects us, we can change hearts and minds. We can do this.

    While I got responses I had expected, a bunch of likes, a few re-tweets, etc - I also got a response I didn't expect. It was actually the first response from twitter. Here is the conversation


    Let's just say that this conversation made me write a much stronger reply to my Aunt. Something that was probably going to be WOO HOO! turned into this

    A.,

    Thank you so much for your note. I hope you don't mind but I put it on Facebook. The understanding that you have and the support that you give is something many others in the gay community miss because their family has disowned them. I do not take it for granted and it has meant so much to me as has the support of my parents and many others in the family. The fact that this family never wavered in its support is a true statement to what family means and I believe a true statement about how you all were raised by Gram and Grandpa...to always be there for each other.

    So again thanks.
    Kathy
    So, for me, there were two heroes on that night. One, a Senator that showed true courage by realizing that he might not know everything and seeking to understand all aspects of the issue. The other, a woman who reminded me day to day conversations matter and that I am so lucky to have a family that goes beyond the concept of just being related to each other. I am part of a family that you can count on to be there for you and give you support when needed.

    By the way A., I owe you a hug.
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              My Letter from Senator McCain        






    I love politics. I enjoy contacting my elected officials by email, phone, letters, etc. I want to participate in the governing process. I believe it is one of our most import responsibilities as citizens to do. We must do more than just vote. We must make sure that our elected officials know how we, as their constituents feel on the issues that matter most to us.

    The tough part is I live in Arizona. I am happy to say that I live in a district where I actually feel the representation I have in the State Legislature is good. I am also very pleased with my Congressman, Ed Pastor.

    Then you come to Senator Jon Kyl and Senator John McCain. I would say their representation lately couldn't be farther from my views. Although I know when I call their offices or write to them it is a long shot that they will be on my side, I do it anyway. You see, for me, these are the people it is most important I reach out to. I must continue to let them know I am here and they represent me.

    I recently emailed Sen. McCain and asked him to support the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I know of two other constituents that support this - Cindy McCain and Meghan McCain. Since these two constituents are family and can't seem to sway him on this I know it's a long shot. Plus this is not the first time I have engaged the Senator on this issue. I have met with his D.C. staff in the past to discuss this issue on several occasions. I have also called his office and sent other emails on numerous occasions over the years.


    Today I got a response from Sen. McCain.

    From: senator@mccain.senate.gov
    Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 1:07 PM
    To: Kathy Young
    Subject: Correspondence from Senator McCain


    June 15, 2011

            Dear Ms. Young:


            Thank you for contacting me to express your views on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I appreciate hearing from you.

            Recently, I was saddened to learn that the Obama administration instructed the Department of Justice not to defend any legal challenges to DOMA. I believe, like most Americans, that the institution of marriage should be protected and defined as a union between a man and a woman. It is this definition and only this definition that acknowledges and supports the vital and unique roles played by mothers and fathers in the important job of raising children.

            For this reason, I do not support the dismantling of an institution that is the very foundation of our society, and replacing it with newer and more flexible understandings that are of questionable public value. I will continue to promote unions that have traditionally provided the basis for stable families and committed relationships.

            Again, thank you sharing your thoughts on this issue. You can be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should any legislation pertaining to DOMA be considered by the full Senate. Please feel free to contact me in the future regarding this or any other issue of concern.

                                              Sincerely,


                                              John McCain
                                              United States Senator


     
    There was no surprises in this response. Still hard to read. Still hurtful. In no way surprising.
     
    In the future Senator McCain will get another email from me asking him to support the repeal of DOMA. It won't surprise him. It may annoy him that I didn't seem to hear his answer. 
     
    Because the thing is it's his job to listen to me. It's my job to keep speaking to him. I will use different words and I will try different stories to convince him that recognizing my relationship has great public value instead of  something that to him is "of questionable public value." The point is, when my kids are old enough to understand the fight for equality and they ask me what I did to help protect my family, giving up will not be part of the story.





              House GOP divided on immigration but united against Senate, Obama        
    By Frank Thorp, Luke Russert and Carrie Dann, NBC News Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:54 PM EDT NBCNews.com House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Wednesday in a long-awaited “special conference” to discuss tactics, air grievances and plot the way forward – or out of – the national debate over comprehensive immigration reform. While the “lively” […]
              Four key points on why business and labor reached a deal on immigration        
    by Sandra Lilley, @sandralilley 2:56 pm on 04/01/2013 The recent agreement between labor and business groups on a guest worker program for low-skilled labor has really carved a space for the Senate to proceed with an immigration reform bill, mainly because it did what no other talks succeeded in doing in years past. “The agreement […]
              Will E.U. Court's Privacy Ruling Break the Internet?        

    In 2012, a bevy of internet companies and web sites waged a successful campaign against bills in Congress -- the PROTECT IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) --  meant to combat copyright privacy. In the face of this opposition, the proposals were dropped (although their legacy survives). One of the major claims by the opponents was that the bills would "break the Internet" by requiring the disabling of URLs and removal of online links to sites that include unauthorized uses of copyrighted materials (although not all agreed with this assessment).

    Now, the European Court of Justice has issued a decision (summary) that could require search engines to remove links to online information about individuals that is "no longer necessary in the light of the purposes for which they were collected or processed." The court's decision does not discuss how the removal of these links should be accomplished.

    The court's decision stemmed from a case brought by Spanish citizen Mario Costeja González, seeking removal from a newspaper's web site images of pages from January and March 1998 that included announcements for a real estate auction stemming from attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Costeja González. He complained to Spain's Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (Spanish Data Protection Agency; AEPD) (Spanish site; English resources), seeking removal of the information from the paper's website and from Google's search results.

    AEPD held that the newspaper need not remove the material, since it published it under a legal directive. But it upheld the complaint against Google, saying that Costeja González had the right to shield the information from public view via the search engine. Google appealed to Spain's Audiencia Nacional (National High Court). That court sought an advisory opinion from the European Court of Justice -- the highest court in the European Union -- regarding the applicability of EU privacy laws to the case.

    European law embodies a concept of privacy that is in many ways alien to American law, and would be unconstitutional under our First Amendment. This includes a right to bar or recover for publication of true but "private" information that is readily available publicly, and a right to shield dated information, often referred to as a "right to be forgotten."

    The question before the court was whether the EU directive embodying these notions (Directive 95/46) applied to Google. This, in turn, depended on whether Google could be considered a content provider. The court held that it was, even though the information that Google collects and displays in its search results is already published online by someone else. Since Google is a content provider, the court held, it is obliged to follow the privacy directive.

    Inasmuch as the activity of a search engine is therefore liable to affect significantly, and additionally compared with that of the publishers of websites, the fundamental rights to privacy and to the protection of personal data, the operator of the search engine as the person determining the purposes and means of that activity must ensure, within the framework of its responsibilities, powers and capabilities, that the activity meets the requirements of Directive 95/46 in order that the guarantees laid down by the directive may have full effect and that effective and complete protection of data subjects, in particular of their right to privacy, may actually be achieved.

    Google Spain SL v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Case C‑131/12 (E.C.R. May 13, 2014), para. 38.

    The court also ruled that Google was subject to Spain's jurisdiction, including its law applying Directive 95/46, because of Google's web site directed at the country (www.google.es). The court rejected Google's argument that it was Google, Inc., in the United States that performed the indexing and search functions at issue, rather than the Spanish subsidiary: "Since that display of results is accompanied, on the same page, by the display of advertising linked to the search terms, it is clear that the processing of personal data in question is carried out in the context of the commercial and advertising activity of the controller’s establishment on the territory of a Member State, in this instance Spanish territory." Id., para. 57.

    After finding that the directive applies to Google, the court held that the search engine could be ordered to remove links to the objectionable material from search results for Costeja González's name.

    [I]n order to comply with the rights laid down in those provisions and in so far as the conditions laid down by those provisions are in fact satisfied, the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.

    Id., para. 88.

    The irony -- expressed in the last sentence above -- is that the court also observed that the newspaper that posted the notices of the auctions in the first place could not be required to remove those postings because they were published "solely for journalistic purposes," which is included within "the right to receive and impart information" guaranteed in Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and referenced in the directive.

    The court justified the different treatment of the newspaper and Google by staing that "first, the legitimate interests justifying the processing may be different [for the newspaper and the search engine] and, second, the consequences of the processing for the data subject, and in particular for his private life, are not necessarily the same." Id., para. 86.

    Indeed, since the inclusion in the list of results, displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, of a web page and of the information contained on it relating to that person makes access to that information appreciably easier for any internet user making a search in respect of the person concerned and may play a decisive role in the dissemination of that information, it is liable to constitute a more significant interference with the data subject’s fundamental right to privacy than the publication on the web page.

    Id., para. 87 (emphasis added).

    The court acknowledges that these "rights override ..., not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in finding that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name. "  Id., para. 97. The court adds that this may not be true in the case of a promient person in public life, which may mean that the public interest in disclosure would outweigh that person's right to privacy.

    But since Costeja González is not a public person, he may request removal of the articles from Google's search results even though he cannot request removal of the same articles from the newspaper's website. Again, this would not be the case under United States law, regardless of the plaintiff's status as a private or public figure. In the U.S., privacy law generally does not provide a remedy for the dissemination of true information that is already publicly available; moreover, the compelled removal of such information would raise serious issues under the First Amendment as prior restraints on speech.

    The case now returns to the Spanish Audiencia Nacional for a specific decision in Costeja González's case, which can be appealed to Spain's Supreme Court. But the EU court's decision is binding on member states of the European Union, and could lead to more efforts by Europeans to have embarrassing or other material removed from web search results, even when the original site containing the material has no obligation to remove it.

    Google has stated that it is "analys[ing] the implications" of the ECJ ruling, but requiring the modification of search results in response to what will likely be a flood of complaints from residents of EU countries puts Google in the difficult (if not impossible) position of either managing these complaints at significant cost or taking a blunderbuss approach to removal of content. And would such results persist outside the EU? Content filtering by country is not a new concept, but this ruling has the potential to create a dramatically different Internet in Europe.

    There could also be a significant impact on the news organizations that, as the ECJ acknowledges, have the right to publish this information. The ECJ, in its ad hoc balancing of interests, seems blind to the fact that news organizations depend on search engines and other online intermediaries in order to reach their audiences. Allowing the subjects of news coverage to use these intermediaries as a choke point because the intermediaries are not themselves journalists threatens the primary benefit of the Internet -- namely, the networked dissemination of information.

    Operating on the Internet has always posed challenges in complying with the laws of multiple countries. Search engines in particular have had problems in the past dealing with Great Britain's privacy laws, France's laws against Nazi memorabilia, and China's web restrictions. But this ruling by the European Court of Justice might just be the straw that breaks the camel's -- or the Internet's -- back.

    Eric P. Robinson is co-director of the Program in Press, Law and Democracy at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. He has taught media law and ethics at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Baruch College, and the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was also Deputy Director of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Courts and Media. He has also been a  staff attorney at the Media Law Resource Center and a legal fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In addition to his posts here, he maintains his own blog at bloglawonline.com.

    (Image courtesy of Flickr user The.Rohit pursuant to a Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 license.)

    Subject Area: 

    Jurisdiction: 


              Montesquieu, Come Back! (The French Police Already Know Where You Are)        

    On December 19, 2013, the French Loi de Programmation Militaire (the Military Program law, or "LPM"), was enacted. Article 20 of the LPM, which will come into force on January 1, 2015, authorizes the government to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and web hosts to provide "information and documents processed or stored," including geolocation data and metadata in real time, without having to first ask for an authorization from a judge. The new law raises serious questions regarding separation of powers and the extent of administrative authority in France.

    A Surveillance Law Both Broad and Vague

    Article 20 of the LPM allows the Prime Minister to authorize specially designated agents from the ministers of police, defense, economics and budget to issue demands to ISPs for:

    "information or documents processed or preserved by their networks or electronic communications services, including technical data relating to the identification subscription or connection to electronic communications service numbers, identification of all the numbers subscription or connection to a designated person, the location of the terminal equipment used as well as a subscriber's communications on the list of dialed numbers and callers, duration and timing of communications"

    The Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France's data protection authority, issued a statement following the enactment of the LPM noting that "information and documents" was so vague a term that "it appears to allow intelligence services to have access to content data, not only connection data." Ironically, the law was purportedly enacted to make surveillance laws more precise, following a 2010 European Court of Human Rights decision, Uzun v. Germany, where the court had warned Member States that "[i]n view of the risk of abuse intrinsic to any system of secret surveillance, such measures must be based on a law that is particularly precise, especially as the technology available for use is continually becoming more sophisticated" (at 61).  

    A Not-So-Precise Geolocation Surveillance Law

    So how did a law purportedly intended to clarify the use of surveillance technology wind up with such foggy language? When the LPM was first presented to the French Senate in August 2013, the explanatory memorandum about the section that would become article 20 presented it exclusively as an anti-terrorism measure. The memorandum indicated that the section would authorize police in charge of preventing terrorism to access geolocation information and communications metadata in real time. The new provisions were originally intended to become part of a 2006 anti-terrorism law that is currently set to lapse the last day of 2015, and would be limited by the scope of the 2006 law.

    But then came the sleight of hand. Senator Jean-Pierre Sueur argued that article 20 of the LPM should not become part of the 2006 law, but instead should become part of an updated general administrative communications interception law. "If geolocation is inserted in Article L.34-1-1, it is confined to anti-terrorist purposes, even though the intelligence services might need it for much broader purposes," explained Senator Sueur. In fact, the senator quoted the ECHR's decision in Uzun to justify this expansion of administrative authority, noting that the Court had found that using a geolocation device "could be acceptable under the right to privacy guaranteed by Article 8 § 1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, provided that the law is very specific in its description of the device" (p.47).

    Sueur's argument succeeded, and article 20 of the LPM became articles L. 241-1 et seq. of France's Homeland Security Code -- an entirely new chapter VI broadly named “Administrative access to data connection.”

    So Much for the Judiciary

    The main problem with Senator Sueur’s invocation of Uzun was that he conveniently forgot to mention that Uzun involved authorization by a German judge, not the administration, for police to place the GPS device at issue in that case.

    In Uzun, a German prosecutor had placed Bernhard Uzun and "S.," one of his presumed accomplices, under surveillance, as they were suspected to have participated in bombing attacks carried out by a terrorist organization. The police had placed a GPS device in S.'s car and monitored Uzun and S.'s whereabouts for three months until their arrest. Uzun was subsequently found guilty of having carried out a bomb attack and, on appeal to the ECHR, argued that using a GPS device as a surveillance tool had been an unjustified breach of his privacy, as protected by article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. But the ECHR held unanimously that there had been no violation, as installing the GPS device had been done in accordance with the law, to pursue the legitimate goal of protecting public safety, and had been a proportionate measure to accomplish this goal. 

    The fact that Uzun involved judicially authorized surveillance is critical. French law explicitly separates administrative police power, which is exercised preventatively to limit crime and maintain public order, from judicial police power, which is exercised to enforce law and investigate crime. The administrative police power is under the control of the administrative/executive authority, while the judicial police power is under the control of the judicial authority. Only the judicial authority is deemed to be the “guardian of individual freedom” by article 66 of the French Constitution.

    So while the ECHR in Uzun had unanimously found no violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting privacy, it was considering an exercise of judicial police power under the oversight of a judge in the active investigation of a terrorism suspect. It was not a case about administrative police power.

    The French Conseil Constitutionnel (Constitutional Council), which is in charge of reviewing the constitutionality of laws, had found in 2006 that it is also permissible for administrative police officers to have access to stored electronic communication data without a warrant, but only when acting to prevent acts of terrorism. The LPM, however, contains no such limitation in its text and, once placed in the Homeland Security Code instead of the 2006 terrorism law, lost any limitation that could have been drawn from context.

    The New Process: Collecting Geolocation and Metadata in Real Time Without a Warrant

    So now the LPM authorizes the collection of geolocation and metadata in real time without a judicial warrant and not only for terrorist crimes. This is how it works: under the new article L. 246-3 of the Homeland Security Code, the ministers of homeland security, of defense, of economy, and of budget may ask for authorization to have access in real time to the "information and documents" subject to the LPM (the definition of which now appears in article L. 246-1 of the Code). The authorization is not granted by a judge, but by the Prime Minister (who heads the government under article 21 of the French Constitution). The authorization may be granted initially for a maximum time of thirty days, but can be renewed for the same amount of time.

    The Prime Minister‘s decision is communicated within forty-eight hours to the President of the Commission Nationale de Contrôle des Interceptions de Sécurité (the National Commission to Control Security Interceptions, or "CNCIS"). The CNCIS was created by a July 10, 1991 law, following the European Court of Justice's condemnation of France in 1990 in two cases, Kruslin v. France and Huvig v. France. These cases noted France's lack of a precise communication surveillance law, holding that since "[t]apping and other forms of interception of telephone conversations represent a serious interference with private life and correspondence [they]... must accordingly be based on a 'law‘ that is particularly precise. It is essential to have clear, detailed rules on the subject, especially as the technology available for use is continually becoming more sophisticated" (Kruslin at 33).

    If the President of CNCIS does not believe the legality of the Prime Minister's authorization is "certain," he is to meet with the whole CNCIS, which must make a decision about the legality of such authorization within seven days.

    But even forty-eight hours, and possibly seven days more, is quite a long time for potentially illegal surveillance to take place. Also, the control is only a posteriori and is only made by the CNCIS, which is an independent administrative authority, not a judicial authority. Geolocation and metadata surveillance in real time are thus left entirely in the hands of administrative authorities with no judicial oversight.

    Is it Constitutional?

    This new scheme seems unlikely to fare well with France's Supreme Civil Court, the Cour de Cassation. The day the Senate bill was sent to the Assemblée Nationale, France's lower chamber, the Cour de Cassation ruled in two geolocation cases. The court quoted, in full, article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and concluded that "geolocation technology constitutes an interference with privacy of such gravity that this requires it to be executed under the supervision of a judge."

    Therefore, there is a real chance that the LPM will eventually be declared unconstitutional. In fact, opponents to the LPM tried to have the law found unconstitutional by the Conseil Constitutionnel before its enactment, but could not gather the signatures of sixty Representatives or sixty Senators necessary to petition the Conseil Constitutionnel. The LPM may now only be declared unconstitutional if a party to a lawsuit argues that the LPM infringes on her rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. If the conditions of admissibility would be met, the Cour de Cassation would refer the question of constitutionality of the LPM to the Conseil Constitutionnel, which could then repeal the law. 

    Conclusion

    Even though the LPM had been presented as the law which would put France in compliance with Uzun, Christine Taubira, the Minister of Justice, announced on December 23 that the government had presented another geolocation surveillance law to the Senate intended "to bring French law into conformity with the requirements laid down by the European Court of Human Rights in its Uzun v. Germany judgment ... and the October 22, 2013 decisions of the Court of Cassation."

    The French Senate adopted this bill on January 20, and it will be debated at the lower Assembly next month. It adds a new article to the French criminal procedure code which would authorize the police to put in place geolocation surveillance without requesting a warrant, if investigating a crime punishable by at least five years imprisonment, or at least three years imprisonment for crimes against property.  

    Hopefully, the new bill will give France another chance to publicly debate whether it is advisable for a democracy to authorize real time surveillance without judicial oversight. For now, it is hard to believe that France was the home of Montesquieu, who famously wrote in The Spirit of the Laws about the tripartite separation of powers: legislative, judicial and executive.

    Marie-Andrée Weiss is a solo attorney admitted in New York, and her admission is pending in France. Her practice focuses on intellectual property, privacy, and social media law. She frequently writes on these topics and on European Union law. 

    (Image of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu on 1989 200-franc note cou

              Red, White & Green         

    PRESIDENT Bush's new education plan, "America 2000," is bringing the federal government around to the role it does best. By using a small amount of money in the key leverage points, it can encourage and stimulate a great deal of state and local district action. But not everyone is encouraged by the new plan. Some describe it as a bugle call from the White House, with the "feds" coming again to save American education. They point out that the states and local governments are already rescuing United States schools by paying over 90 percent of the bill and that since 1983, states, on their own, introduced more reforms than education has seen in 100 years. Others note that in the decade of the 1980s, states increased funding for education by more than 30 percent w h

    ile the federal government reduced its share of the contributions.

    But therein lies the nub of the problem. After all of this effort, student achievement and other indicators such as dropout rates have shown little sign of improvement. Thus, says Mr. Bush in "America 2000," an education improvement strategy is needed that focuses on national education goals that set standards, that provides flexibility in exchange for more accountability, and in general "pushes and prods" the nation's 110,000 public and private schools into improvement.

    Creating a more productive education system is both the nation's responsibility and the nation's gain. While states and local communities carry a major portion of this burden, most educators and state policymakers welcome a more active federal partner.

    But as in all cooperative endeavors in business and government, the newest and most junior partner needs to pull its chair up to the discussion table carefully. Respect for what has been tried and what's in process is paramount. In more than half the states, legislatures and governors have passed mega-reform laws. Some of these have been in operation for nearly a decade.

    While reform efforts to date have not produced the desired results, assuming that nothing is happening in the states, or assuming that a handful of federal bureaucrats can write a plan in 60 days with little input from the people it's designed to help, is setting us all up for a new round of "Hi, I'm from the federal government jokes.

    There is also a concern that some of the federal education-reform designers want to use a choice/voucher system to direct federal money to private and parochial schools. The goals are enrollment freedom for parents and competition for the monopoly held by the public schools.

    The American education system, however, has been built on the principle of separation of church and state. Breaking this tradition could turn the control of education into a court litigation nightmare and further detract from the reforms that are really needed.

    More thought and discussion are needed to bring the federal plans in tune with state reality. Governors are key to the process, but former state governors may also be an untapped resource. The Education Commission of the States, the National Governors' Association, and US Sen. Terry Sanford (D) of North Carolina, a former governor of that state, suggest bringing these individuals together in an ongoing series of small seminars designed to further a mutual understanding of federal and state education nee d

    s.

    These seminars will involve several sitting governors with several former governors now serving in the US Senate. Each seminar will probe an education issue in depth. At the table will be another former governor, Lamar Alexander, the secretary of education.

    At the first of these seminars, Gov. Roy Romer (D) of Colorado pointed out that the No. 1 problem facing this country is education. He then said that our priorities were off because this country was directing the narrowest of resources (the local property tax) to solve the problem.

    It is clear that the federal government will have to play a stronger role in reforming education. Maybe the emphasis that was put on math, science, and foreign language instruction following the launch of Sputnik is a federal model that needs to be revisited. The National Defense Education Act mixed federal money with state and local resources and in short order had a visible influence at the classroom level.

    The states have assumed a stronger education presence in the last decade. It may be time for a new federal-state-local partnership. Bush's "America 2000" plan could be a step in that direction, but it has to be a step in the same direction the states are going.

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              Washington Bill Would Increase Oversight Of Individual Health Insurance Policies        

    TheWashington state Senate on Wednesday voted 31-18 to approve a bill (SB 5261)that would allow the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to reject "unreasonable"rate increases for individual health insurance plans, the Seattle Times reports. Under the measure, stateofficials' authority to review and approve annual rate increases would beextended from small-group plans to individual plans. Insurance CommissionerMike Kreidler and others have said that a lack of oversight has enabledinsurers to raise individual plan premiums more than necessary, according tothe Times.

    Beth Berendt, the state deputy insurance commissioner for rates, said the billgives the state "the ability to challenge assumptions that areunreasonable." Critics of the measure say the bill would require insurersto use up to 77 cents of every premium dollar collected to pay medical claims,up from 72 cents. In addition, if an insurer does not pay out enough in medicalclaims, the extra premiums would be returned to the state rather than thepolicyholder, the Times reports. All of the state's major insurersoppose the measure, saying that it would interfere with the market and wouldnot address rising medical costs.

    The House is expected to approve the measure (Song, Seattle Times,2/1).

    Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.


              Berating Bigotry: Religious And Policy Groups Respond To Bachmann’s Anti-Muslim Hysteria        
    Rob Boston
    A wide swath of the American religious and non-religious community believes Michele Bachmann is all wet.

    U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s efforts to stir up an anti-Muslim witch hunt have sparked a bit of a pushback, to put it mildly.

    As you might recall, Bachmann (R-Minn.) and four other House members (Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas J. Rooney of Florida and Lynn A. Westmoreland of Georgia) sent letters to the inspector general offices of the State, Justice and Homeland Security departments, demanding an investigation into the infiltration of our government by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    This claim of an imminent takeover of the federal government by the Muslim Brotherhood is the latest conspiracy theory to be spat out of the far right-wing “hate-Muslims-hate-Obama” 24/7 nutcase cyclorama. It is getting traction only because we live in an era where, thanks to the Internet and Fox News, any crank with a modem is suddenly a media figure.

    Seeing an opportunity to slam Obama and Muslims, Bachmann, a Religious Right favorite and erstwhile presidential candidate, latched onto this like a pit bull on a postal carrier and hasn’t looked back.

    But the unfantastic five made a big mistake: They fingered Huma Abedin, a top deputy of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as key to the conspiracy. Abedin, who is Muslim, is supposedly neck-deep in this thing because three of her family members are allegedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Among them is her father, who has been dead for 20 years.

    All of this craziness was too much for U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who stood up on the Senate floor and blasted the anti-Abedin crusade in strong language. McCain noted that he has worked with Abedin, considers her a friend and assailed those who question her patriotism.

    Shortly after that, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that he doesn’t know Abedin personally but added, “[F]rom everything that I do know of her she has a sterling character. Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”

    Even Ed Rollins, a GOP strategist who managed Bachmann’s presidential campaign, let her have it. Rollins wrote a column stating, “I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level….Shame on you, Michele!”

    The Gang of Five responded by doubling down and insisting that they are right. Gohmert derided McCain and other critics as “numb-nuts.” (Keep it classy, Louie!) As for Abedin, she received at least one death threat.

    I’m pleased to say that opposition to Bachmann’s xenophobia is spreading beyond the political world. Yesterday, 42 religious and public policy organizations, including Americans United, signed a joint letter to Bachmann and the other four representatives letting them know that this type of religious bigotry has no place in the United States.

    “Far from supporting the safety of our country, these accusations distract us from examining legitimate threats using proven, evidence-based security strategies,” asserts the letter, which was organized by the Interfaith Alliance. “Moreover, we know all too well the danger of casting suspicion on loyal and innocent Americans simply because they hold particular beliefs.

    “We will not stand idly by and allow our country to revive federal investigations into innocent individuals based on their religious adherence. We will continue to speak out in support of people of all faiths and no faith, and the religious freedom of all Americans to practice – or choose not to practice – a religion without fear of criticism or suspicion.”

    The range of signatories is impressive and includes groups that often don’t see eye to eye on other issues. Religious groups signing on include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Hindu American Foundation, American Baptist Churches USA, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the United Church of Christ.

    Secular and public policy groups signing on include the American Humanist Association, American Atheists, the Center for Inquiry, the Secular Coalition for America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers and the NAACP.

    I’ve worked here a long time and don’t know that I’ve ever before seen a letter endorsed by both the Catholic bishops and American Atheists. I think it’s safe to say that a wide swath of the American religious and non-religious community believes the Bachmann gang is all wet.

    Of course, the Religious Right is still in Bachmann’s corner. The Family Research Council (FRC) has issued a prayer alert asking its supports to rally around the “vigilant” lawmaker who, they say, is merely asking questions.

    Let the FRC stand with Bachmann – and with the anti-American values she represents. As the new letter indicates, much of the rest of the religious and secular community in America has seen her bigotry and repudiated it.


              University Course Credits for MOOC Certificates: One Likely Pathway         
    How will MOOC-based learning aid learners in entering and performing in the workplace?

    We may imagine MOOC-based learning to serve as a qualification in two ways: let's call them the (1) certificate, (2) credit routes.

    On the first, MOOC aggregations of certificates themselves are offered as significant job qualifications on a par with, or as an accepted substitute for, college and university degrees. I discussed this option in my last post. On the second, the certificates will be accepted for college and university credit, and thus become (like conventional courses) components of degree pathways where degrees serve as qualifications.

    Certificates as Qualifications

    The first route  - the use of MOOC certificates as qualifications - has been explored with mixed results..

    In December 2012 Coursera announced the opening of its Career Services program, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Participating firms, which have included Yahoo and Twitter, contract with the MOOC provider for an undisclosed fee to get data on students' performance on Coursera's MOOCs. Both students and Coursera's participating University partners can opt out of the program. Udacity had already announced a similar program.

    In 2013 the MOOC provider edX experimented with its own job service, attempting to place its top MOOC students in jobs with similar companies - the leading high-tech firms. Of the more than 800 top performers that edX placed before these firms, only three received interviews and not a single one was offered a job. Following this failed experiment, edX withdrew from the career services arena.

    As I recently argued in this blog, this step may have been premature and ill-founded:

    The top-tier firms get thousands of applicants from the best university programs in computer science and information systems for every opening. Why would they be interested in experimenting with MOOC learners when they can take their pick of numerous Stanford, MIT and Purdue grads, who have shown the persistence to earn four year degrees, rubbed shoulders with top professors, and networked with other top students who will soon enter the workforce and connect up with hundreds of other hot prospects? 
    Meanwhile,  new business start-ups in Silicon Valley, on Massachusetts Route 128, in New York's Silicon Alley and throughout the country hunger for talent. Most organizations will not be able to compete for the top grads of the top-tier university programs. Is it not possible that edX, which is hardly an expert in the employment agency business, simply directed their efforts at the wrong job market.
     New online job placement services appear - almost daily - to link individuals with skills and firms hungry for demonstrated capabilities. How effective MOOC certificates will prove to be as demonstrations of skill remains to be seen.

    Certificates as Transfer Credits 

    In this post I want to consider whether MOOC certificates are likely to enter into degree pathways - that is, whether colleges and universities are likely, anytime soon, to accept MOOC certificates as transferable credits in their degree pathways.

    It will be remembered that by the end of 2012 the American Council on Education, the body responsible for determining the credit-worthiness of college courses, had, as noted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, begun to evaluate some MOOCs as credit-worthy. The Chronicle quite rightly proclaimed this as a major step - it signaled that colleges and universities failing to recognize MOOC-based learning could not base their rejection on grounds of academic quality.

    But to date, few academic institutions have been willing to grant transfer credit for MOOC certificates. And it is not hard to see why! These organizations have become increasingly dependent on tuition dollars for their daily operations. They are naturally reluctant to accept MOOC-based credits into their degree pathways if in doing so they have to forego tuition revenues. If their degrees require, let us say, 120 credits,  at an average cost per credit of perhaps $700, plus fees, then transferring in a MOOC in lieu of a four-credit course would cost almost $3,000. Accepting up to four such transfer courses would cost up to $12,000 per student. If a significant fraction of their students were able to avoid these tuition costs, the organization would be financially strained if not bankrupted.

    However, the combination of rising tuition and rising unemployment/underemployment for recent college grads, has radically decreased the private rate of return on the investment in college. The well-publicized trillion dollar student debt crisis has brought this economic fact to public awareness. Most families consider tuition costs as economic investments intended to increase future earnings. As the rate of return on this investment declines (or goes into minus territory) families are reconsidering the value of college education.

    According to a Moody's Investment report on the credit-worthiness of colleges and universities released in November 2013, 40% faced stagnant or declining tuition revenues.

    Anemic tuition revenue growth has spread to a larger share of the higher education industry, infecting public universities for the first time in decades. At this pace, tuition-dependent colleges and universities will be challenged to make necessary investments in personnel, programs, and facilities to remain competitive over the longer term," said Karen Kedem, a Moody's senior analyst and author of the report.
    Moody's key findings include net tuition revenue declines at a projected 28% of public and 19% of private universities, with net tuition revenue growth below inflation projected for 44% of public and 42% of private universities and total enrollment declines at nearly half of public and private universities.
    In addition, federal budget negotiations, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and performance-based funding may result in further stress on colleges if student aid and loan programs are curtailed to any degree, given that a rising share of students are dependent on these funding sources, says Moody's.     
    While many colleges and universities will continue to demand that their matriculated students earn - and pay for - their credits internally, others will now be hungry for any and all tuition dollars they can get. Some, faced with declining enrollments, will welcome students offering MOOC certificates - like other life experiences - for credit. Others will see the transfer of MOOC credits, paradoxically, as a profit opportunity.

    Consider the recent decision by Ashford University to accept MOOC certificates for credit!

    Ashford University is a for-profit academic organization owned by Bridgepoint Education, with a campus in Clinton Iowa and a large and profitable on-line degree operation. The university recently agreed, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, to accept certain ACE approved MOOCs from Coursera and Udacity, for transfer credit.

    Ashford University depends for its tuition revenues largely on students with federally guaranteed student loans.Relatively few of its students complete their degree programs. According to Wikipedia, "as for-profit colleges have come under increasing scrutiny, a U.S. Senate report in 2011 listed Ashford's parent company, Bridgepoint, as having one of the highest withdrawal rates of any publicly traded school in the industry." Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has said of Ashford  "I think this is a scam, an absolute scam."   

    Nonetheless, Ashford is on to something! According to its website, "The mission of Ashford University is to provide accessible, affordable, innovative, high-quality learning opportunities and degree programs." Let's first focus on "affordable". Ashford's website states prominently that students can transfer in up to 90 credits. That is a generous transfer policy. On the face of it, the policy implies that Ashford is willing to forego tuition revenues for these 90 credits. But consider that that leaves 30 or more credits in the degree pathway - credits for which Ashford can collect tuition revenues. That is very likely 30 credits worth of tuition that the university would not, without its generous transfer policy, otherwise hope to collect. 

    Turning to "accessible," more than 95% of Ashford's students are enrolled in its anywhere/anytime on-line degree programs consisting of high margin, readily scalable on-line courses. Students will be paying tuition for courses  with low marginal costs per student. That generous transfer policy, with its embrace of MOOC certificates for credit, looks like a pretty good deal for the university. 

    And it might also be an attractive deal for many students. Ashford is aggressively defending its policy of accepting ACE-approved MOOC certificates for credit as a boon to students, and its defense makes a lot of sense. "Requiring students to assume debt and repeat course content they have already mastered does not serve the individual student, the future employer, or the community," said Dr. Lori Williams, Ashford University provost. "Our job as an educational institution is to maximize learning and facilitate development for each student. In turn, students are more likely to complete their programs, have greater independence from debt, and ultimately get into the workforce more quickly."

    Ashford and its students will hardly be the only ones to find this deal appealing. Remember those "total enrollment declines at nearly half of public and private universities." Why will those universities not follow in Ashford's footsteps and offer generous transfer policies, including transfer of MOOCs?




              If MOOCs Are (or Are Not) the Solution, What Is The Problem?        
    Steve Kolowich writes in yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education that MOOCs may not be the disruptive technology they are being hyped to be. He notes that many recent attempts to translate MOOC certificates into college credits have crashed.

    California bill SB 520, introduced in May, which would have required public universities in the state to grant credits for designated MOOCs, was first de-fanged - a successful amendment restored to the universities to power to accept or reject the MOOC certificates as they chose - and then withdrawn. Its sponsor, state senate leader Darrell Steinberg, gave in when the universities agreed to expand their on-line offerings.

    Kolowich offers several similar examples, and concludes that political, regulatory, administrative and faculty barriers to credit for MOOCs have proven to be quite high. Nonetheless, Russell Poulin of The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Cooperation in Educational Technology states that "Credits are the coin of the academic realm, and if that's where the coins are, these companies (the MOOC platforms) are going to drive there." Kolowich concludes that "given the institutional monopoly on credit granting privileges" MOOCs will be "catering to colleges rather than attempting to undermine them."

    Sebastian Thrun of Udacity seems to agree with this assessment. He has actively been forging partnerships with universities to generate credits for Udacity's MOOCs, saying that a learning medium where only web-savvy, highly motivated people sign up and only 10% succeed "doesn't strike me quite yet a solution to the problems of higher education."

    This raises an interesting question: If MOOCs are (or are not) the solution, just what IS the problem?

    We might define the problem in terms of the need for affordable yet effective universal higher education. If that is the problem, the recent crash of the San Jose State University use of MOOCs to teach remedial math could be seen as a serious setback. (For those not familiar with this episode, SJSU partnered with Udacity, with Gates Foundation funding, to pilot a MOOC for developmental courses. In a follow up study it was revealed that 74% of the students in the face to face group passed, compared to only 51% in the MOOC. In the aftermath, SJSU put its MOOC efforts on hold.) Of course, it might also be argued that the results from this pilot effort cannot be generalized. The LA Times editorialized that the project was "practically a model of how to do online education badly . . .rushed into existence and sloppily overseen". But let us grant that if we are trying to educate the least prepared college students well at low cost, MOOCs are not the solution.  

    But maybe that's not the real problem. Think of it this way. When only 20% of American 18 year olds possessed a high school diploma, the diploma meant something. It differentiated its holders from 80% of the population, and could be used as a job filter to reduce transaction (search and selection) costs for firms with jobs to offer. Today 77% of the age cohort receives a diploma. At that rate, the diploma can hardly serve as a proxy for high levels of knowledge or skill - even the GED is more demanding. And more to the point, it doesn't differentiate diploma holders from anyone who would compete for a job. As the rate of graduation increased, the socio-economic advantages of the high school diploma decreased. Today a person with high school but no further education is little better off than the high school drop out, and the differential continues to shrink every year.

     As a result of the high school diploma's failure as a filter, employers turned to the college diploma as a job filter. But as more and more people gain college diplomas, they too differentiate less and less. As a result the college diploma also becomes less and less valuable as a job filter - it no longer can be used to decrease transaction costs. Adding to the proportion of diploma holders by providing access to the least prepared students will only make the problem worse - like the high school diploma, the college diploma will lose all differentiating value. Employers are already in need of new, more effective filters than college diplomas.

    And this is where MOOC certificates enter the picture. In the age of the Internet, individuals can make themselves visible on line through websites and blogs and videos and comprehensive digital portfolios, and employers can use search capabilities to locate them. And in today's rapidly changing economy, employers are more interested in specific and demonstrable capabilities than markers of a standardized level of knowledge such as college degrees.

    So maybe Thrun is simply wrong. Maybe a  learning medium where only web-savvy, highly motivated people sign up and only 10% succeed is the precise solution to the problem of higher education. It provides the next job filter for the highly competitive global economy, an economy no longer capable of providing jobs for all college grads that seek them.

    This transition from diploma-based to capabilities-based filters will take some time. But MOOC certificates, as elements of digital portfolios, will play an important role in the process - connecting those with highly specific knowledge and skill demonstrated through certificates to employers with matching needs. To track this transition, keep your eye on Coursera's expansion into the employment agency business.




              Republican Party In Palm Beach Lauds GOP Anti-Environmental Crusader ... by gimleteye        

    Alfie Fanjul (l) and Pepe Fanjul (r), top Palm Beach County Republican donor. The brothers head a billionaire dollar empire carved out of federal subsidies and corporate welfare programs protecting Big Sugar, the primary polluter of Everglades wetlands

    The Republican Party of Palm Beach County has invited James O'Keefe to be its keynote speaker at its mid-summer event.

    A press release describes O'Keefe as "an award winning journalist". In fact, he is better known as a right-wing activist who infiltrated ACORN and an office of Planned Parenthood and also invites legal action against himself.

    In 2010, O'Keefe was convicted of breaking into the offices of Sen. Marie Landrieu:

    Conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine after he pleaded guilty on Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from his involvement in a break-in at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) office. In January, O’Keefe and three others were arrested by federal authorities at Landrieu’s office on allegations of phone-tampering. Prosecutors initially said they caught four individuals in the process of committing a felony, but the charges were later reduced to misdemeanors."

    O'Keefe and the Florida GOP meant to time his visit to Palm Beach County -- where virulent anti-environmentalism is coordinated through the Fanjul & US Sugar Corporation cartel -- with revelations of his incursion into the League Of Conservation Voters; an attack rebuffed yesterday by LCV with the California Attorney General.

    The local GOP press release crows, "O’Keefe was ultimately credited with having a significant impact on the 2016 presidential elections for his October Surprise video series."

    In "Has James O’Keefe Accidentally Stung Himself Again?", New Yorker writer Jane Mayer -- who chronicled influence peddling of the nation's largest polluters in "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right" -- writes:
    In the latest chapter of his strange career, the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental-advocacy group, has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, “could be associated with” O’Keefe and have past ties to him. The group’s leaders recently began to suspect that they were being scammed, and decided to go to the authorities before O’Keefe or his alleged associates released any material on their own.
    The timing of the Florida GOP conspiracy with O'Keefe occurs within context of a massive erosion of environmental rules and regulations by the Trump White House.

    It is the identical strategy Florida polluters are planning to blend into the important 2018 political races where Big Sugar's main apologist, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, is poised to be the GOP candidate to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

    Scott, who counts on campaign financial support from Big Sugar, will likely aim for the senate seat held by incumbent Democratic Bill Nelson.

    Overshadowing Florida's nasty, anti-people and anti-environmental politics is a recent report by federal scientists to the Trump administration calling climate change a greater, current threat to economic and national security than earlier estimates. According to the New York Times:
    The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.
    The Trump White House has not released or commented on the report and was hoping, perhaps, that a titillating "explosive" revelation against LCV would help its cause in climate change denial.

    Governor Rick Scott has prohibited state agencies and staff from using the words, "climate change", although Florida's economy, real estate and tax base is most vulnerable to its impacts in the nation. Recently, the US Department of Agriculture ordered "climate change" to be similarly deleted from its communications.

    In the New Yorker report, Mayer contacted O'Keefe for comment. He responded:
    “I don’t comment on investigations real or imagined, or work with mainstream reporters who operate in bad faith,” he told me. In 2016, I wrote an article for this magazine about O’Keefe’s bungled attempt to sting George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, a liberal nonprofit group that O’Keefe had targeted.

    O'Keefe, in his role feeding the beast of disinformation through channels like Fox News, Breitbart, Infowars and Rush Limbauch, will dine on lobster tails at the Palm Beach GOP anti-environmental love-fest at the Polo Club of Boca Raton, 5400 Champion Boulevard, Boca Raton at 6:30PM on August 17.

              An Adult Conversation About Medicare For All ... by gimleteye        
    NOTE: What the hell is going on with Republicans in Congress? The GOP is spending itself on health care like waves on a beach; a great surge then slide back out to sea.

    GOP leadership believes that its base is motivated by only one idea: overthrow Obamacare. What was a popular net to corral voters turns out to be much less popular, and not at all effective, as a matter of protecting people, jobs, family and income.

    It would be far better for sober adults in the GOP majority in Congress to look at the outcomes of health care in the U.S. As Dr. Carol Paris and many others report: the United States lags health care metrics compared to nearly every other industrialized nation. "Compared to ten other wealthy countries, the U.S. ranks dead last for life expectancy, and access to care. We even have the lowest number of hospital beds per capita, a way that health experts measure the capacity of a nation’s health system. It’s as if our system was designed to deny care."

    The only metric where U.S. health care exceeds beyond imagination: empowering and enriching intermediaries in the health care supply chain.

    I understand that this point grossly simplifies a massively complex process, but if other Western nations can effectively institute a single-payer system, why can't we?

    Published on
    Friday, July 28, 2017
    by Common Dreams
    It's Time for the Adults in This Nation To Talk Seriously About Medicare for All
    Today, we breathe a quick sigh a relief. But we cannot celebrate a return to the failed status quo.
    by Dr. Carol Paris

    Ruby Partin, 63, and her adoptive son Timothy Huff, 5, wait for a free clinic to open in the early morning of July 22, 2017 in Wise, Virginia. Hundreds of Appalachia residents waited through the night for the annual Remote Area Medical (RAM), clinic for dental, vision and medical services held at the Wise County Fairgrounds in western Virginia. The county is one of the poorest in the state, with high number of unemployed and underinsured residents. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

    Hundreds of people slept overnight in cars, or camped for days in a field. They told stories of yanking out their own teeth with pliers, of reusing insulin syringes until they broke in their arm, of chronic pain so debilitating they could hardly care for their own children. At daybreak, they lined up for several more hours outside a white tent, waiting for their chance to visit a doctor. For many, this was the first health care provider they’ve seen in years.

    Is this a place torn by war, famine or natural disaster? No, this charity medical clinic was last weekend in southwest Virginia, in the wealthiest country in the world, where we spend nearly three times as much money on health care as other similar countries.

    "It’s as if our system was designed to deny care."

    And what do we get for our money? The very definition of health care rationing: 28 million Americans without insurance, and millions more insured, but avoiding treatment because of sky-high deductibles and co-pays. Compared to ten other wealthy countries, the U.S. ranks dead last for life expectancy, and access to care. We even have the lowest number of hospital beds per capita, a way that health experts measure the capacity of a nation’s health system. It’s as if our system was designed to deny care.

    America does hit the top of the list in some areas. Compared to other nations, American doctors and patients waste the most hours on billing and insurance claims. We have the highest rate of infant mortality, and the highest percentage of avoidable deaths—patients who die from complications or conditions that could have been avoided with timely care.

    Clearly, this system is broken. Like a cracked pipe, money gushes into our health care system but steadily leaks out. Money is siphoned into the advertising budgets of insurance companies and the army of corporate bureaucrats working to deny claims. Even more dollars are soaked up by the pockets of insurance CEOs who have collectively earned $9.8 billion since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Nearly a third of our health care dollars go to something other than health care.

    President Trump recognized voters’ frustration and campaigned on a promise of more coverage, better benefits, and lower costs. We couldn’t agree more with these goals. However, instead of trying to fix our broken system, GOP leaders are acting more like toddlers, mid-tantrum, smashing our health system into smaller and smaller pieces, threatening to push even more Americans—the most vulnerable among us—through the cracks. Last night, a few Senate Republicans stood up and acted like adults, putting an end to this dangerous game.

    Today, we breathe a quick sigh of relief. But we cannot celebrate a return to the status quo, a system that rations health care based on income and allows 18,000 Americans to die each year unnecessarily.

    Where do we go from here?

    Republicans had eight years to come up with a plan that achieves more coverage, better benefits and lower costs. Have our elected leaders simply run out of ideas?

    "The good news is that we already have a proven model for health financing that is popular among both patients and physicians."
    The good news is that we already have a proven model for health financing that is popular among both patients and physicians. It provides medically-necessary care to the oldest and sickest Americans with a fraction of the overhead of private insurance. It’s called Medicare, and I can tell you as a physician that it has worked pretty darn well for more than 50 years.

    Not only do we have a model, we have a bill that would expand Medicare to cover everyone and improve it to include prescriptions, dental, vision, and long-term care. It’s called H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, a single-payer plan that would provide comprehensive care to everyone living in the U.S. The bill would yield about $500 billion annually in administrative savings while covering the 28 million currently uninsured. Medicare for all is gaining steam with a record 115 co-sponsors, a majority of House Democrats.

    Now that Republican senators have finally worn themselves out, Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to file his own single-payer Medicare for all bill. Senators from both parties will be asked to choose a side: Do you support the current system of health care rationing, medical bankruptcies and unnecessary deaths; or a program proven to work both here and in every other developed country?

    A majority of Americans now believe that health care is a human right, and that it is our government's responsibility to achieve universal coverage. We’ve tried everything else except Medicare for all. What are we waiting for?

              As 2018 approaches, Florida voters should decide whether incredible climate change should steer their votes away from the deniers ... by gimleteye        
    In Miami, the hottest July on record with other signs that climate change is marching on Florida.

    Yet, state voters have twice elected a Governor, Rick Scott -- who aspires to succeed Bill Nelson in the US Senate. Then, there is Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam -- who aspires to succeed Scott. Both Scott and Putnam are Republicans who demonstrated, through their voting records, that they are willing to sacrifice science and fact on the altar of political expediency. Both are strong supporters of President Donald Trump, who has literally taken an axe to climate change mitigation efforts.

    We attach to this blog post the 1988 testimony of Jim Hansen, one of the most informed critics of government inaction on global warming, and decide for yourself -- 30 years later -- whether it is in fact time to elect public officials based on their commitment to care for creation like your tax dollars and job depends on it. Not to mention, our moral values and American exceptionalism.

    Think about this: the state of Florida is committing billions of taxpayer dollars to "fix" the result of phosphorous and nitrogen pollution that is destroying state water resources, yet denies climate change which is compounding the impacts of algae blooms. In "Climate Change Means More Fuel For Toxic Algae Blooms", Climate Central writes that "... policymakers will need to rethink some of the ways they combat nutrient pollution and society will also have to develop technological solutions to reduce nutrient pollution, from implementing more efficient agricultural practices to potentially recycling various forms of nitrogen in sewage into animal feed, according to a commentary piece also published in Science."

    Yet when it comes to nitrogen, the focus of a recent commentary in Science Magazine, the state of Florida is limping along with grossly inadequate measures to protect taxpayers and citizens.

    Your elected officials are "running out the clock", counting on passing the buck to the next generation. They should be so lucky.

    1988 Hansen Senate Testimony by Alan Farago on Scribd



              Rubio is so busy with Venezuela/Cuba policy, no time for U.S. Domestic Issues. By Geniusofdespair         
    Andrew Oppenheimer wrote in the Miami Herald that Trump is letting Rubio rule on Venezuela Policy:
    There is nothing wrong with Trump receiving advice from Rubio, a fluent Spanish-speaker who heads the Senate Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, except for the fact that the U.S. President seems to be totally side-stepping the State Department.

    That prevents Trump from getting other important points of view from U.S. diplomats who may see things from a different perspective.

    For instance, Rubio has suggested that the United States impose an oil embargo on Venezuela if Maduro goes ahead with his plans to re-write the constitution. But Rubio's view may be influenced by his desire to please his Florida constituents and make sure that the growing group of Venezuelan exiles vote for him in future elections.

    Leading Venezuelan opposition figures tell me that a U.S. oil embargo would be a terrible idea. Much like what happened in Cuba, it would help energize Maduro's base by allowing him to claim that he is a victim of "U.S. imperialism." And it would fracture the bloc of more than a dozen major Latin American countries that are demanding that Maduro restore democracy in Venezuela.

    Too bad the know nothing Senator doesn't care to meet with his citizens on other issues like healthcare. He's absent to the rest of us, avoiding any other issues at all cost.
              Mo. lawmakers react to MOSIRA law being struck down        

    Many Missouri lawmakers are expressing disappointment over Tuesday's ruling that struck down the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as "MOSIRA."

    The measure would have used revenues generated by a group of science and high-tech companies to create a pool to lure more such companies to Missouri and to keep the ones already here from leaving.  State Senator Luann Ridgeway (R, Smithville) is not happy with the ruling.

              Brazil's Senate Votes To Hold Impeachment Trial For Dilma Rousseff        
    Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff's fate seems to be all but sealed. Senators voted overwhelmingly to try the suspended leader, 59-21, in the last leg of the process to remove her from office. She will now face a trial in the Senate over alleged fiscal mismanagement. A final vote after all the evidence has been presented and weighed is set to take place at the end of the month. A two-thirds majority is then needed to convict Rousseff and permanently remove her from office, as Reuters reports . That's "five votes less that her opponents mustered on Wednesday," according to the wire service. The Guardian described the outcome of today's vote as "a foregone conclusion" because Rousseff's opponents "needed only a simple majority in the senate to put her on trial." Rousseff is accused of tampering with the state budget in order to make the economy look better than it really was during her re-election bid in 2014. She has repeatedly denied the accusations. As we reported , Rousseff
              Senate Bill 3: "Jobs Ready" Certificate with Diploma        
    none
              Senate Resolution 12: School Choice Week        
    none
              Senate Bill 142: Concealed Handguns        
    none
              Source : Handbook of Strategy and Management        

    Life Cycle Theory

    Van de Ven and Poole (1995) observe that many management scholars have adopted the metaphor of organic growth as a heuristic device to explain changes in an organizational entity from its initiation to its termination. Witness, for example, often-used references to the life cycle of organizations, products, and ventures, as well as stages in the development of individual careers, groups, and organizations: startup births, adolescent growth, maturity, and decline or death.

    Life cycle theory assumes that change is immanent; that is, the developing entity has within it an underlying form, logic, program, or code that regulates the process of change and moves the entity from a given point of departure toward a subsequent end that is already prefigured in the present state. What lies latent, rudimentary, or homogeneous in the embryo or primitive state becomes progressively more realized, mature, and differentiated. External environmental events and processes can influence how the immanent form expresses itself, but they are always mediated by the immanent logic, rules, or programs that govern development.

    The typical progression of events in a life cycle model is a unitary sequence (it follows a single sequence of stages or phases), which is cumulative (characteristics acquired in earlier stages are retained in later stages) and conjunctive (the stages are related such that they derive from a common underlying process). This is because the trajectory to the final end-state is prefigured and requires a specific historical sequence of events. Each of these events contributes a certain piece to the final product, and they must occur in a certain order, because each piece sets the stage for the next. Each stage of development can be seen as a necessary precursor of succeeding stages.

    Life cycle theories of organizations often explain development in terms of institutional rules or programs that require developmental activities to progress in a prescribed sequence. For example, a US legislative bill enacting state educational reform cannot be passed until it has been drafted and gone through the necessary House and Senate committees. Other life cycle theories rely on logical or natural properties of organizations. For example, Rogers' (1983) theory posits five stages of innovation - need recognition, research on the problem, development of an idea into useful form, commercialization, and diffusion and adoption. The order among these stages is necessitated both by logic and by the natural order of Western business practices.


              Larissa Waters, deputy Greens leader, quits in latest citizenship bungle        
    Deputy Greens leader Larissa Waters resigns from the Senate after realising she holds dual citizenship less than a week after Scott Ludlam quit following a similar eligibility scandal.
              Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam: What do their resignations mean for the Senate?        
    Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters have made shock announcements that they are leaving the Senate. So what exactly is going on, and why are they having to stand down?
              State Senate Approves Bill To Make Improper Gun Storage A Crime        
    The state Senate has approved a bill making it a misdemeanor to store a firearm where it is accessible to a child.
              Who is former Greens senator Larissa Waters?        
    Canadian-born deputy Greens leader Larissa Waters is resigning from the Senate after realising she had not renounced her dual citizenship when running for office. Here's a look at her political career up to now.
              Marketing to Extremists: Waging War in Cyberspace        


    04/08/2017 Andrew Byers Social Media

    This article was originally published by the Small Wars Journal on 9 July 2017.

    Online, the Islamic State is a technologically savvy, sophisticated, and nimble organization that learns from its mistakes and from the actions of the Western intelligence services and NGOs that have sought to counter it. It is no secret that past and current efforts to reach potential terrorists before they can become radicalized and committed to a path of jihad and terrorism have proved inadequate. To use the language of online marketers, countering ISIS’s online activities will require quality content disseminated on a massive scale, with careful product placement. Placing counter-messaging products into platforms and forums that extremists frequent will increase the chances of potential terrorist recruits coming into contact with narratives outside of ISIS’ control.

    ISIS’s cyber efforts have paid off; the FBI told Congress in July 2016 that “the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.”[i] The number of foreigners who have been inspired by the Islamic State’s online propaganda to travel to Syria and Iraq (or elsewhere) and participate in the fighting is unclear, but most estimates place the tally at more than 20,000. Others have been set on the path of radicalization by ISIS’s online propaganda and have become “lone wolf” attackers in the United States or in Europe.[ii] Demographically speaking, the people who ISIS is most interested in targeting for recruitment came of age in the twenty-first century as “digital natives”; they have lived their entire lives surrounded by ubiquitous online communications and have embraced it in technologically sophisticated ways.[iii] ISIS knows how to appeal to these potential jihadis. Reaching them with counter-messages will require a sophisticated and multi-faceted approach.

    America’s public and private sectors must commit the resources needed to carry out this counter-messaging, though we must understand that such an information war cannot be won in a short period of time, but rather, must be carried out resolutely and patiently, even in the absence of quantitative metrics of success. For example, how will we assess our effectiveness, when one measure of success is how many potential jihadis did not decide to carry out lone wolf attacks or travel to Syria? This is an entirely new and different kind of fight from any we have been engaged previously. Even without quantitative measures of effectiveness fully fleshed out, we can use scale, quality content, and product placement to improve current efforts to shape–and hopefully win–the online propaganda wars to come.

    Understanding Our Options

    In terms of quality counter-messaging content, the State Department–the lead U.S. agency in this fight—has already acknowledged its past failures in content production. Notably, it has acknowledged that it may not be the voice best-suited to convince Middle Eastern or Muslim recruits to turn away from the path of terrorism. The State Department’s Global Engagement Center has pivoted away from producing content, and instead now supports the efforts of localized “proxies,” thereby supporting other voices that understand the context, culture, and push/pull factors that resonate within Muslim communities.[iv] It is not only government entities involved in this struggle; various NGOs also participate in counter-jihad content creation, drawing upon former extremists, notable academics, and a multitude of languages.[v]

    The West’s efforts to date have mostly created a series of reactive, ineffective counter-narratives that potential jihadis dismiss. We advocate for precision messaging; for example, past efforts by State Department entities have mined public social media data to identify individuals who may be susceptible to extremism and then pay for YouTube ads that counter extremist messaging. But we don’t need to mine public data to put counter messaging into the world of potential recruits. The United States must become aggressive and proactive in its anti-Islamic State online activities: it must immediately move to hijack the group’s own narratives and create alternatives.

    When it comes to scale, the current efforts by the United States and its allies are merely a drop in the ocean of ISIS’s material. If ISIS posts nearly 100,000 messages each day, as the British House of Commons Defence Committee stated in 2015,[vi] then countering their content will take a significant amount of internet traffic or else we risk being drowned out. This component cannot be ignored or understated. Current counter-messaging efforts are not achieving enough volume to warrant a response by would-be extremists, let alone to spark an actual conversation or debate among extremists. If we have quality content and we know where to put it to reach potential recruits, we still cannot reach enough people without massively increasing the current volume of counter-messaging efforts.

    When it comes to proper product placement for the counter-messaging, the best way to decide where and how to reach recruits is by watching ISIS itself. ISIS has had to transition from various platforms throughout its years of recruitment, including Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram. ISIS’s supporters take an active role in finding new platforms, spreading propaganda, and shepherding others along to new sites and procedures. It is not uncommon for followers to post specific instructions on where to post or how to manipulate different platforms’ terms of service to remain undetected or prevent accounts from being shut down. As they communicate best practices to each other, they create a trail for analysts to follow and instructions for counter-messaging units in order to put counter content where recruits will see it, even if this sometimes results in informational “misfires.”

    The opportunities afforded by focusing our efforts on these approaches are manifold. If we are able to effectively erode the Islamic State’s ability to use propaganda to inspire self-directed attacks in the West, it would be forced to expend its resources and personnel on directed attacks in the West if it wishes to continue such operations. Sending Islamic State operatives into the West to carry out attacks there is a much more difficult and costly proposition, and one that is vulnerable to the West’s traditional strengths in intelligence and counterterrorism.

    A Starting Point

    We have compiled a list of some of ISIS’s known recruitment practices, along with specific recommendations for ways that counter-messaging organizations could take advantage of them. This list is not meant to be comprehensive or static, but rather to serve as a starting point that could be executed immediately and without excessive cost or effort.

    Keeping Followers as Twitter/Telegram Accounts are Shut Down: As Twitter has improved its process of shutting down Islamic State accounts, its supporters have devised strategies to maintain their network of followers from one account to their next. The most popular method is to simply add a number to their Twitter username and then to increase that number each time they are shut down and begin a new account. Thus, for example, followers of @Muslimah6 could find her on her new account @Muslimah7 after Twitter shut down her account. This method of maintaining followers has been adapted for Telegram as well. The Islamic State’s unofficial news channel “Khilafah News” is left public, meaning that new users can always find it. But this also allows Telegram to shut it down at any time. The administrators of Khilafah News add a number to the end of their channel’s invitation link and increase this number every time the previous channel is shut down by Telegram. It is important to remember that Islamic State recruiters want to be found in order to effectively recruit new members. This nomenclature pattern allows them to do just that. But more importantly, it creates an opportunity for those creating alternative narratives to put their content on a Telegram channel or a Twitter account that they know Islamic State supporters will follow. New iterations of the Khilafah News channel could be created, knowing that once Telegram shuts down the last Khilafah News channel Islamic State supporters would follow the new fake channel, believing it to be authentic Islamic State channels and increasing the likelihood that a recruit would be exposed to counter-messaging.

    The Islamic State’s Hashtags: Since it began disseminating propaganda on social media, the Islamic State has embraced the power of hashtags. In 2014 it famously hijacked World Cup hashtags in English and Arabic in order to spread its propaganda and shock social media users who may not have been previously exposed to such messages. The group has also advertised hashtags for supporters to use when tagging and finding new propaganda. Just as the Islamic State hijacks popular hashtags, counter-messaging teams can utilize the group’s own hashtags when posting content on social media. This will put alternative narratives in the same social media conversation as the Islamic State’s propaganda and will increase the chances that a recruit would receive facts about the group. The U.S. government has begun to take tentative steps in this direction, but such efforts could be vastly expanded.

    Promotion and Marketing: The Islamic State disseminates small propaganda pieces daily, but its larger propaganda pieces take more time. In order to build hype, the Islamic State typically advertises with multi-lingual “trailers” for large upcoming pieces. Dissemination of the pieces generally occur days later, but there is no set schedule. Upon dissemination, the group posts its videos on YouTube, social media, and various self-publishing sites. Teams that produce content to counter the Islamic State must have videos ready for dissemination at all times. Then as new Islamic State’s trailers begin to appear on social media, the counter-content can be disseminated first under the same name as the propaganda that the Islamic State is advertising and it must be placed on all of the sites that the group uses. Recruits will be checking frequently for the release and the Islamic State will actually be advertising and promoting pieces that could pull recruits away. This would effectively drown out the Islamic State’s content while increasing the likelihood that recruits see alternative narratives.

    Take Advantage of Platform Restrictions and Features:Not all of the Islamic State’s content is violent and grotesque; it produces some content that does not show any violent images or videos whatsoever. This allows the content to be played on news programs and for it be posted on YouTube. Knowing that the Islamic State works to keep its content available on major publishing sites, counter-narrative agencies must do the same. If a recruit searches for the name of a popular propaganda video on YouTube or an equivalent site, counter-content should appear with the same name. Video creators can even pay to promote their content so that it tops a search list. A greater understanding for how various platforms choose the order of their search results would help counter content receive just as many hits, if not more, than Islamic State propaganda.

    Maintaining YouTube Channels: The Islamic State has a carefully structured propaganda structure. It has central marketing agencies that run video content, radio broadcasts, and written publications. These “federal” programs are represented within each wilayat, or province, as well. Each wilayat produces its own multilingual videos and publications that are often featured in publications from the central agencies. Islamic State supporters have advanced this model even further. There are several known propaganda groups that support the Islamic State but are not run by official Islamic State employees. Supporters make their own content and publish it on YouTube, Twitter, Telegram, and various other social and self-publishing sites. Like the Islamic State’s agencies, they have their own calligraphic logos and follow predictable but evolving patterns. “Al-Haqq” is one such Islamic State-affiliated group that runs its own Telegram channels and YouTube accounts. It would be simple to create a YouTube account called “Al-Haqq,” utilizing the group’s logo and publishing content that appears to be Islamic State videos. In reality, these videos could contain counter-messaging content with the same names as known extremist productions.

    In adopting these methods, even potential jihadis who are adept at hiding their identities or degree of radicalization would come into contact with alternative narratives that may cause them to question the narratives ISIS feeds to its supporters.  It is important for analysts who study ISIS’s dissemination of propaganda to remain in constant contact with those working to counter ISIS’s messaging, helping the latter to evolve along with ISIS and other extremist groups. While we are currently scrambling to combat ISIS’s propaganda campaigns in the cyber domain, learning to develop the necessary approaches now will allow us to excel in future cyber wars with other extremist groups. Without a new strategy for winning the information war, the West will always be reactive and on the defensive as it struggles to compete with the Islamic State for the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world. Most importantly, if we can create an adaptive and empowered cyber effort now, we will be better equipped for the terrorist groups that will learn from and advance the work that the Islamic State is doing now. Future jihadi organizations that come after the Islamic State can be expected to be even savvier users of social media and similar communications venues. Unless the West learns to use social media with the same level of sophistication, it will continue to lose the information war and fall further behind.

    End Notes

    [i] Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch, testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, United States Senate, July 6, 2016, https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/isis-online-countering-terrorist-radicalization-and-recruitment-on-the-internet_social-media.

    [ii] Daniel Byman, “How to Hunt a Lone Wolf: Countering Terrorists Who Act on Their Own,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 96, No. 2 (March/April 2017): 96-105.

    [iii] Marc Prensky,” Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” On the Horizon vol. 9, no. 5 (October 2001): 1-6.

    [iv] Joby Warrick, “How a U.S. team uses Facebook, guerrilla marketing to peel off potential ISIS recruits,” Washington Post, February 6, 2017,https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/bait-and-flip-us-team-uses-facebook-guerrilla-marketing-to-peel-off-potential-isis-recruits/2017/02/03/431e19ba-e4e4-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html.

    [v] Representative NGOs include the Counter Extremism Project, Families Against Terrorism and Extremism, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. For examples of their work, see “Counter Extremism Project Unveils Technology to Combat Online Extremism,” Counter Extremism Project, June 17, 2016,https://www.counterextremism.com/press/counter-extremism-project-unveils-technology-combat-online-extremism; “Watch & Share,” FATE, http://www.findfate.org/en/watch-share/; Jonathan Russell, “Helping Families to Safeguard from Extremism,” FATE, http://www.findfate.org/en/helping-families-to-safeguard-from-extremism/; “One to One Online Interventions: A Pilot CVE Methodology,” Institute for Strategic Dialogue, April 2016, http://www.strategicdialogue.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/One2One_Web_v9.pdf.

    [vi] UK Parliament, “The Situation in Iraq and Syria and the Response to al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq al-Sham (DAESH),” February 5, 2015,https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmdfence/690/69008.htm.

    About the Authors

    Andrew Byers is a visiting assistant professor of history at Duke University who has served as an intelligence and counterterrorism analyst and is a co-founder of the Counter Extremism Network.

    Tara Mooney is a counter-violent-extremism analyst and co-founder of Talon Intelligence. She is also a co-founder of the Counter Extremism Network


              Senate Dems propose incentives to reduce state prison populations         
    Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal Wednesday to push back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions's "tough on crime" policies. Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) introduced the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 to...
              GOP lawmaker invites colleagues to Capitol shooting range        
    Rep. Jeff Duncan has invited his colleagues to the Capitol Police shooting range in a Senate office building on Tuesday to try their hand at firing a gun with a silencer.Duncan’s office said the South Carolina Republican is trying to...
              GOP lawmaker proposes abolishing Department of Education        
    On the same day the Senate confirmed President Trump’s secretary of Education pick by a historically narrow margin, a House Republican introduced legislation to abolish the entire department Betsy DeVos will lead.Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s bill...
              Harwood: Doesn't make sense for President Trump to be att...        

    Harwood: Doesn't make sense for President Trump to be att...CNBC's John Harwood weighs in on President Trump's latest comments on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.



              Trump attacks Mitch McConnell again, tweets he should 'get back to work'        

    Trump attacks Mitch McConnell again, tweets he should 'get back to work'President Donald Trump continued his multi-day assault on Senate Majority Leader Mitch...



              Senate fails to remedy law, leaving it open to abuse        

    The U.S. Senate has failed to remedy serious loopholes within the PRV program for neglected diseases, leaving the law open to abuse from pharmaceutical companies throughout the nation and the world.

    Even though the Senate added the Zika virus to a list of illnesses that qualify for the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Priority Review Voucher (PRV), the law needs fixed to fully allow innovation against Zika virus infections.

    “When we faced the deadliest Ebola epidemic ever, Doctors Without Borders was trying to treat patients virtually empty-handed,” Judit Sanjuan, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) U.S. access campaign manager and legal policy advisor, said. “Nearly two years later, the global health community is facing another epidemic, Zika, without safe and effective vaccines or treatments to help patients. Ebola should have taught us not just about the urgent need for research for neglected diseases, but also that people in affected communities must have affordable access to any new treatments or vaccines that are developed. By adding Zika to the list for which companies can receive a PRV -- without first ensuring that the program rewards true innovation and that the people most in need benefit from any scientific breakthrough -- we are repeating our mistakes.”

    The vote allows companies to register vaccines or treatments for a disease. After registration, the companies are closer to being approved for a voucher to speed the FDA’s evaluation of products. This can be done without proving that the new product is an innovation to prevent or treat the disease.

    The goal of the PRV was to develop incentives that would help researchers create vaccines and treatments for neglected patients and diseases. In contrast, now the PRV gives incentives to companies that do not show innovation for new products that are desperately needed for neglected illnesses; the PRV goes to the highest bidder rather than the best innovator.

    "As this bill now moves to the U.S. House, our government representatives must take this opportunity to immediately fix the critical flaws with the program,” Sanjuan said. “They must ensure that companies rewarded with a voucher are actually creating new products that are available and affordable to patients and treatment providers. This program should help people suffering from fatal neglected diseases, instead of companies just looking to rake in huge profits.”


              Dr. Nigamanth Sridhar Appointed Dean of College of Graduate Studies        

    Dr. Nigamanth Sridhar Appointed Dean of College of Graduate StudiesDr. Nigamanth Sridhar has been appointed dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Cleveland State University. His new position will be effective August 1, 2017.

    Dr. Sridhar is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in CSU’s Washkewicz College of Engineering. He is also president of the CSU Faculty Senate and associate director of the CSU Transportation Center.

    Since joining CSU in 2004, he has served the University in various capacities and made significant contributions to research, teaching, faculty governance and community engagement. His outstanding accomplishments in research and teaching were recognized by the prestigious NSF Early Career Award in 2008. Currently, he is playing a crucial role in CSU’s joint efforts with Case Western Reserve University on the Northeast Ohio Internet of Things Collaborative and the national CS for All effort to enhance computer science education in K-12 schools.

    Dr. Sridhar received his Ph.D. in 2004 and M.S. degree in 2000, both in Computer Science and Engineering from the Ohio State University. 


              Let’s make Current Use Useful – Support the Small Farms Study        
    Senate Ways and Means Hearing 3:30 today 2/27/14  Go to Status and Things to Do and contact the members.   Farming in this State is Diverse Farms come in all sizes and shapes and methods of operation and practice.  Farms … Continue reading
              Faculty letter in support of divestment from Israel at University of Washington        
    April 14, 2014 To whom it may concern: We, the undersigned faculty from universities around the country, salute and commend the efforts of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at the University of Washington, Seattle, to get the UW Student Senate to pass a measured and thoughtful motion to divest from corporations that profit from … Continue reading
              NHPR Events: U.S. Senate Candidate Forum on Business & the Economy        
    New Hampshire Public Radio in partnership with the Business and Industry Association and New Hampshire Business Review present a forum between the Democratic and Republican nominees for the United State Senate.
              Senate Proclaims July 30th, 2016 A Day to Celebrate Whistleblowers        
    National Whistleblower Appreciation Day Resolution Passes by Unanimous Consent Washington, D.C. July 8, 2016. Yesterday, U.S. Senate unanimously passed S.Res.522, designating July 30, 2016 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The resolution encourages all federal agencies to inform “employees, contractors working on behalf of United States taxpayers, and members of the public about the legal rights of citizens of the United...… Continue Reading
              Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus Designates National Whistleblower Appreciation Day: July 30, 2016        
    Washington, D.C. June 30, 2016. The bipartisan Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus cosponsored a resolution on Thursday designating July 30, 2016 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. This resolution was introduced in order to recognize the crucial role whistleblowers play in exposing fraud and wrongdoing, and to encourage federal agencies to acknowledge the legal rights of whistleblowers. Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the...… Continue Reading
              What government services should be cut first because of the sequester?        
    A few items like Social Security and military pay are exempt, but otherwise the mandatory spending cuts from the sequester are supposed to be across-the-board, in virtually all agencies and programs. As the AP reported, “Squabbling away the hours, the Senate swatted aside last-ditch plans to block $85 billion in broad-based federal spending reductions Thursday
              Senate Committee moves human trafficking bill forward        
    Attorney General: New legal tools needed to thwart exploitation by traffickers
              Obama Speaks Up On New Trumpcare Healthcare Bill        

    The recent GOP health care bill has unmuted former President Barack Obama, who before now has not commented on the Donald Trump presidency, or any of Trump previous allegations. The reason Obama is coming out now is to speak against the current released GOP health care bill.

    Barack Obama and Donald Trump disagree over the cost and insurance rates of the new health care bill for Americans. This also includes argument over the world mean.

                          

    In a long Facebook post by Obama, the rushed-through Republican health care bill "would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it," he then added "Small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation."

    Trump during his interview with his favourite TV cable network, Fox and friends, confirmed that he also denounces the GOP health care bill, and said he had told that "I want to see a (health care) bill with heart."

    According to Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price while speaking to CNN, said that the goal of the new Trumpcare goal is to decrease premiums, even though few republicans believes this is not feasible under their new proposed plan.

    Read Obama write up here;

    Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

    I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

    We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

    Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

    And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

    We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

    At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

    That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

    But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

    The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

    Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

    I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

    To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

    That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

    After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

    Categories:


              Bombshell In President Trump Administration As James Comey Release Opening Statement Of His Testimony        

    In few hours to his testimony in the US senate, James Comey has opening statement has been posted online.

    Read the former FBI director, James Comey statement here;

    Statement for the Record

    Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

    James B. Comey

    June 8, 2017

    Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee.

    Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

                        

    January 6 Briefing

    I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

    The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

    The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI's counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI's leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

    It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau's goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves "turning" the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

    Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will "open an investigation" on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

    In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President Elect Trump's reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

    I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) -- once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months -- three in person and six on the phone.

    January 27 Dinner

    The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

    It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

    The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

    My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

    I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not "reliable" in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

    A few moments later, the President said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because "problems" come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

    Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, "I need loyalty." I replied, "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term -- honest loyalty -- had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

    During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn't happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren't, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

    As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

    February 14 Oval Office Meeting

    On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

    The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

    When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, "I want to talk about Mike Flynn." Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn't done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

    The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information -- a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

    The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, "He is a good guy and has been through a lot." He repeated that Flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." I replied only that "he is a good guy." (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would "let this go."

    The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

    I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn's departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency.

    The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President's request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General's role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members -- or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them -- aware of the President's request.

    Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President's concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened -- him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind -- was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI's potential investigation of General Flynn.

    March 30 Phone Call

    On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to "lift the cloud." I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

    Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week -- at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, "We need to get that fact out." (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

    The President went on to say that if there were some "satellite" associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren't investigating him.

    In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn't brought up "the McCabe thing" because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe's wife) campaign money. Although I didn't understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

    He finished by stressing "the cloud" that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

    Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

    April 11 Phone Call

    On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that "the cloud" was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

    He said he would do that and added, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know." I did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing." I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

    That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

    ###

    Categories:


              President Trump To Nominate Christopher Wray for FBI director        

    Just few hours for the former FBI director, James Comey to testify in congress, President Trump in his latest tweet announced that he is nominating former Justice Department official Christopher Wray for FBI director to replace James Comey.

                   

    Christopher Wray served under the George Bush administration, and was the former chief of the Justice Department's Criminal Division from 2003 to 2005. He oversaw the fraud prosecutions of former executives at Enron Corp, and was a member of the administration Corporate Fraud Task Force.

    He is now in private practice, and a partner at King & Spalding, representing companies and individuals in white-collar criminal and regulatory enforcement matters. He is a major supporter of President Trump, and he represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.

    Wray will get support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate as he did when he was in the Bush adminIstration, but the new director will face new investigation at the Bureau, and this investigation will be the investigation to whether the Trump associates coordinated with the Russians to disrupt the 2016 elections.

     

    Categories:


              Trump Responds to McConnell’s Complaint About His Expectations        

    President Donald Trump leveled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday after the majority leader suggested the president had unrealistic expectations about how Congress works. “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” Trump said on both his Twitter and…

    The post Trump Responds to McConnell’s Complaint About His Expectations appeared first on Conservative Tribune.


              Read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture        
    Here's the executive summary for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on torture and "enhanced interrogation" techniques by the CIA.
              Cornyn wins No. 2 spot in the Republican-led U.S. Senate        
    To the surprise of no one, Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was selected the Senate Republican Whip for the 114th Congress, making him the No. 2 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Cornyn who glided to his third term in the Nov. 4 elections, said he was “humbled” and vowed to be guided
              Alameel to wary Texas Democrats: ‘This is just the beginning’        
    Texas U.S. Senate hopeful David Alameel, who lost to incumbent Republican John Cornyn by a 27-point margin on Nov. 4, is giving no indication of fading away. In an email Tuesday providing excerpts of his Election Night speech, Alameel trashed the Texas Democratic Party and vowed to carry on in 2018 – presumably when GOP
              Cruz remains mum about support for McConnell as majority leader        
    Now that Republicans have gained control of the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, dodged the question about whether he would support Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as the new majority leader during an interview on CNN. Not much longer after the polls closed in Kentucky, it was confirmed that McConnell defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes
              Weekly Roundup        

    Texas’s “Bathroom Bill” Still Very Much Alive In an effort to legalize discrimination against transgender Texans, the Texas Senate has voted once again to advance SB 3, also known as the “Bathroom Bill.” Make no mistake about it: the Republican Party of Texas, despite its rhetoric, prioritizes cheap political parlor tricks over doing what’s in the […]

    The post Weekly Roundup appeared first on Children and the Law Blog.


              Iowa Senate backs UI funding        
    The Iowa Senate approved an education budget, split by a partisan vote, that “backfills” the University of Iowa’s loss of funds and would sufficiently fund a third-consecutive tuition freeze for Iowa’s regent institutions. “We believe in funding our entire higher education system in Iowa,” Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said. “It’s important for not only […]
              Senate committee approves increase in higher education spending        
    The Senate appropriations committee approved a nearly $40 million increase in higher education spending. In a 13-6 vote, the committee approved a $1.026 billion education budget for the 2016 fiscal year. This money would allow regent institutions, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa, to have another tuition […]
              Iowa school funding up in air        
    Gov. Terry Branstad, who won re-election last year after crafting a campaign built largely on education reform and fiscally responsible spending, said on Monday he doesn’t foresee state spending woes to be resolved this legislative session. Democrats, who hold a thin majority of seats in the Senate, released their version of spending guidelines last week. Republicans carry […]
              Cameroun: le fils d’un sénateur crée l’indignation sur internet avec une vidéo devenue virale         
    Une vidéo circule depuis le 7 Août sur les réseaux sociaux. Elle montre une belle montre, une grosse
    bague et des liasses de billets. Ce sont là les richesses exhibées par le fils d’un sénateur camerounais. Ce dernier étant un membre du parti présidentiel.

    Une vidéo devenue virale

    La vidéo virale compte plus de 50.000 vues sur Facebook. Un train de vie luxueux et insultant pour bon nombre de Camerounais car, c’est un pays où plus d’un tiers de la population vit en-dessous du seuil de pauvreté. Cet incident qui n’est pas le premier du genre est le fait de Hamadjoda Nana. C’est de l’un des fils du sénateur Baba Hamadou, ex-ministre du Tourisme et membre du Rassemblement démocratique du peuple camerounais (RDPC), le parti du président Paul Biya. Hamadjoda Nana aurait délibérément diffusé la vidéo auprès d’un cercle de contacts restreint, avant qu’elle ne soit divulguée sur Facebook.

    Indignation générale

    Selon des internautes, ce jeune homme serait encore étudiant. Chose surprenante car le concerné affirme être le « président-directeur général Â» de la « Nana Poku Group of Companies (NPGC) Â». Cependant, aucune trace de cette entreprise n’existe toutefois sur Internet.
    Beaucoup d’internautes ont décrié le fait d’exhiber tant de richesses, alors que bon nombre de Camerounais vivent dans la misère. Selon les données les plus récentes, 37,5 % de la population vivait en-dessous du seuil de pauvreté en 2014. D’autres internautes par contre ont estimé que son comportement était totalement « stupide Â».
    Certains internautes se sont également demandé quelle était la provenance de cet argent, évoquant des soupçons de corruption. Aucune preuve ne permet toutefois de confirmer ces allégations, bien que le Cameroun soit l’un des pays les plus corrompus au monde (145e sur 176 pays, selon l’ONG Transparency International).
    Enfin, d’autres Camerounais ont préféré réagir avec humour, à l’image de celui-ci.
    Joint, le père du jeune homme a affirmé être déçu de ce comportement. Cet incident n’est pas le premier au Cameroun. En effet, Brenda Biya, la fille du président camerounais avait irrité avec ses courses de taxi à 400 dollars.
    Voir la vidéo ci-dessous
    Afrikmag.com



              Ted Cruz says questions about Mourdock rape comment are ‘an unfortunate distraction from the issues that matter’        
    Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock said during a debate that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Asked how he'd answer the question Mourdock faced, Ted Cruz said, “I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals. I would note that it seems the media is never asking Democrats what their view is, of say partial-birth abortion ... Instead, you see reporters engaging sometimes in ‘gotcha' games where they try to get Republicans to make ill-considered comments, and I think that is not serving the people well.”
              Commentary: Texas Senate debate has it all — name-calling, snark and a troll        
    Name-calling, interruptions, question-dodging and candidates' faulty memories aside, it's a rare chance for voters to see how they handle unanticipated questions or react to being pushed off-script.
              GOP Gov Appoints Obama Conspiracy Theorist to Georgia Public Broadcasting        
    It seems Big Bird just can’t catch a break. Thanks to Governor Nathan Deal, Chip Rogers, the disgraced former Georgia Senate Majority Leader and former treasurer of ALEC, just became the second highest paid employee at Georgia Public Broadcas
              Auto Insurance Review Wisconsin Insurance Battle Heats Up        
    Governor Jim Doyle has asked the legislature to pass the Truth in Auto Insurance law. The proposal, contained within the Governor's budget, would reverse several pro-insurance-company provisions enacted in sweeping 1995 tort reform legislation and return Wisconsin law to its long-standing status.





    Two of the proposed changes in insurance law would have considerable impact on the ability of Wisconsin residents to obtain a full measure of justice if they are injured in automobile accident cases. The governor's proposal would forbid insurers from including in their policies two types of restrictive clauses the law now allows: anti-stacking clauses and reducing clauses.





    Stacking





    The essence of anti-stacking is that an insured with more than one policy is prohibited from accessing the proceeds of each paid for policy if the first policy does not cover his or her damages. In other words, if a Wisconsin consumer purchases two policies for two owned vehicles, or insures two vehicles on one policy that assigns separate premiums for each vehicle, and that consumer is injured by an uninsured motorist, the current law in Wisconsin limits the injured person's maximum recovery to the uninsured motorist limits of just one of the policies (or one of the cars if both are insured on the same policy).





    Before the insurance lobby convinced the legislature in 1995 to enact anti-consumer provisions such as the anti-stacking provision, policyholders could rely on the sum of all their policies to pay their claims, up to the amount of their documented damages. The 1995 legislative reforms outlawed these provisions by enacting anti-stacking rules.





    The governor's proposal would return to the pre-1995 law allowing stacking of policies, thus affording Wisconsin consumers the right to access all the coverage for which they have in fact paid.





    Reducing Clauses





    Since 1995, if a person in Wisconsin has purchased underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on their policy, the insurer generally has had the right to subtract from that policy limit the amount of any proceeds received from the negligent party's liability insurance. Reducing clauses prevent the purchasers of UIM coverage from ever collecting the coverage they have paid for, because their recovery would automatically be reduced by the at-fault driver's insurance payout. In other words, if a Wisconsin consumer purchases as part of his/her policy $100,000 of UIM coverage, and pays a premium for the full $100,000 of coverage, that $100,000 is reduced by the amount of money the injured person collects from the underinsured motorist, or from a worker's compensation or disability policy.





    This guarantees that the injured and insured consumer can never collect the full limit of the UIM coverage purchased. Governor Doyle proposes doing away with such reducing clauses and allowing an insured to collect up to the full amount of his or her UIM coverage without regard for insurance payments received from the negligent party's insurer.





    This change would also apply to prevent other reductions from insureds' policy limits, such as the amount of workers' compensation or disability insurance payments.





    The Governor's Philosophy





    The governor's proposals are seen by consumer-friendly groups as positive because insured persons would receive the full amount of the coverage purchased on their policies, where appropriate. In essence, they would get all that they paid for. When insurance does not cover the full amount of damage from vehicular accidents, individuals, families, health insurers and public insurance programs are left to cover the rest of the medical and other expenses. The proposed changes in the law would help alleviate the burden of the losses sustained in a serious automobile accident from being dumped on the injured person, health insurers, or public programs such as Title IXX.





    It is the governor's view that insurance coverage bought and paid for by the injured person ought to bear as much of this burden as the paid in premiums dictate.





    Critics Respond





    The insurance industry protests that prohibiting their ability to include anti-stacking provisions and reducing clauses in their policies will increase the cost of insurance in Wisconsin. Insurance companies argue that ultimately these changes would hurt policyholders because rates would increase to cover the higher insurance payouts, possibly resulting in more people having to drop coverage altogether.





    Proponents of the changes point out, however, that the 1995 pro-insurance-industry changes did not result in any reduction in premiums and that the insurance companies are playing on people's fears. If the anti-consumer legislation of 1995 did not reduce people's automobile insurance rates there is little basis to believe that reversing the legislation and returning to the pre-1995 state of the law would lead to any appreciable increase in premiums.





    Moreover, both anti-stacking provisions and reducing clauses ultimately serve to reduce the insurance funds available for those who are injured in auto accidents. When people lack sufficient insurance to pay for their medical bills, health insurers, Medicaid, SeniorCare, BadgerCare or other providers are forced to step in and cover the remaining health care costs. In this way, insufficient automobile insurance has contributed to the rapidly rising costs of health care in Wisconsin.





    Awaiting the Outcome





    The Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance has eight members from each legislative branch and is charged with reviewing state spending matters, including the huge task every two years of analyzing the governor's biennial budget proposal. Following a series of public hearings around the state and input from state agencies, the committee is currently grinding through the proposal line by line. After committee amendments, the budget bill will be considered first by the state assembly and then by the state senate. Differences between the houses will need to be negotiated before a final bill can be sent to the governor.





    The target date for the budget becoming law is July 1. However, that date has been missed before given the immense complexity of the state budget. This year is no exception with the budget bill having over 1,500 pages.





    The insurance industry and consumers await the outcome with immense interest, each group having high stakes in the outcome. It is the position of these authors that the greater good of Wisconsin residents is clearly served by reversing the tort reform measures passed in 1995 and returning to the state of the law which allows Wisconsin consumers to receive the full benefit of all the insurance coverage they have purchased.





    Reference: Domnitz & Skemp, S.C.


    24-7 Press Release


    Visit us at http://www.24-7pressrelease.com


    Visit us at http://www.domnitzlaw.com

    auto insurance review: alliance auto insurance

    auto insurance review: encompass auto insurance

    Article Source: www.articlesnatch.com


              Unsupervised Learning: No. 71        

    This week’s topics: Half of Android devices haven’t been patched in over a year, Tavisclosure, NEST camera flaws, senate vs. privacy, electronics ban, bad Let’s Encrypt certs, Moodle SQLi, infosec venture capital drying up, IBM employees heading into the office, Twitter going paid model, Google killing Talk, Quiet spaces, Age of the influencer, AI vs. jobs, tools, aphorisms,...

    __

    I do a weekly show called Unsupervised Learning, where I curate the most interesting stories in infosec, technology, and humans, and talk about why they matter. You can subscribe here.


              March 31, 2016 Legislative Report No. 14 – 2016 Kentucky General Assembly        
    This morning House and Senate budget conferees announced they have reached an impasse in negotiations on the state budget. The disagreement seems to be over cuts to higher education and the amount of money to contribute to the state pension systems. In addition to the disagreements over high education and pension funding, the conferees still […]

              Frustrated with Trump, McCain unveils Afghan war strategy        
    By RICHARD LARDNER WASHINGTON — In a rebuke of President Donald Trump, Arizona Sen. John McCain declared Thursday that “America is adrift in Afghanistan” as he unveiled a war strategy of his own that includes more U.S. combat forces and greater counterterrorism efforts. McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the […]
              Political news and nuggets: 10-9-09        

    from 'round the sphere...

    Democracy, shlemocracy...

    Newt Gingrich points
    out the undemocratic way the health care reform bill is being put
    together...as in by just a few senators and their staff members.

    Think about it: All of the power of the United States Senate to
    transform one-sixth of our economy will be in the hands of three men
    and their aides. It's government by staff, aided by lobbyists, for the
    benefit of bureaucrats.

    No wonder so many Democrats in Congress are so dead set against having
    members read - and more importantly, allowing the American people to
    read - bills before they vote on them. ...

    Just 5 more days for that Specter refund

    The Washington Examiner
    notes that October 15th is the last day you can get a refund from Arlen
    Specter if you happened to give him a campaign contribution before he
    jumped ship and became a Democrat.  The Club for Growth has made the
    generous effort of contacting all such Specter donors by mail (over 6,000 of them) and providing them with a form they can fill out and tell Specter they want their money back.

    We're sure Specter appreciates their kind assistance.

    Could Obamacare be repealed?

    That's the question Stephen Spruiell is asking over at National Review Online.  He
    points out that many of the "reforms" being considered under various
    versions of health care reform have been tried at the state level in
    places such as Kentucky and Vermont...and all with disastrous
    consequences.  As in driving the costs of individual insurance through
    the roof and causing the majority of insurers to leave those state
    markets.  He then points out that a few states that made such mistakes,
    (like Kentucky and Washington), have since repealed those "reforms". 
    The question becomes, if it passes at the national level, could it be
    repealed?

    Time for Obama to make a decision on Afghanistan

    Charles Krauthammer points out that Obama's dithering over whether to accept General McChrystal's report and go with a surge of 40,000 troops in Afghanistan just underlines the cynical nature of the Democrat's mantra of condemning the war in Iraq and lauding the war in Afghanistan as the "good war".

    ...championing victory in Afghanistan was a contrived and disingenuous
    policy in which Democrats never seriously believed, a convenient
    two-by-four with which to bash George Bush over Iraq -- while still
    appearing warlike enough to fend off the soft-on-defense stereotype.
        
    Brilliantly
    crafted and perfectly cynical, the "Iraq War bad, Afghan War good"
    posture worked. Democrats first won Congress, then the White House. But
    now, unfortunately, they must govern. No more games. No more pretense.
        
    So
    what does their commander in chief do now with the war he once declared
    had to be won but had been almost criminally under-resourced by Bush? ...

    Less than two months ago -- Aug. 17 in front of an audience of veterans
    -- the president declared Afghanistan to be "a war of necessity." Does
    anything he says remain operative beyond the fading of the audience
    applause?

    Right now the answer doesn't look promising.


              Local High School Student Sparks National Discussion        
    PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — By most accounts, Taylor Allderdice High School senior Suzy Lee Weiss is a pretty bright student — a 4.5 grade point average, a 2120 SAT score, once a U.S. Senate page. But […]
              The Health Care Reform Act turmoil        

    Opinions and concerns abound about this issue, sometimes to the point that the facts get obscured. Can I separate all the facts from the fiction? Nope, I can be duped and sucked in as easily as the next person. But I can tell you where to go to form your own opinions undiluted by anyone else with an agenda. Thomas from the Library of Congress is an excellent site for following legislation and the workings of Congress. As a matter of fact, Thomas has made it easy for people right now. You don't even have to search for the House's health care bill. They've put up a direct link on the very front of their website. From that link, you can then read a summary of the bill, see what Committees it's been referred to, see who is sponsoring it, and read the bill word for word yourself. Be warned, the bill's over 1,000 pages long and very dense to read! That doesn't mean I think it's not worth reading; I'm just saying don't expect to skim through it on your lunch hour unless you belong to Mensa. :)

    You can also get some very useful links from Congressman Brad Ellsworth's "Online Office." He has the PDF of the full bill, just as Thomas does, but he additionally has links to the committee work being done on the bill.

    And while we're talking Congressmen, if you want to share your opinion, do you know who to share yours with? Indiana's Senators are Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, while Evansville's Congressman is Brad Ellsworth.

    Lastly, here's on other place I like to go when I'm inundated with opinions, http://factcheck.org/. They appear non-partisan to me. They've debunked pro and con statements surrounding the health care debate. And, their website/services don't exist solely for the health care debate (it just looks that way right now :). Take a look at their Archives or Ask Factcheck to see some of the other political issues they address.


              Top Illinois Senate Republican to Resign        
    Senator Christine Radogno, the Senate Republican Leader in Illinois, has announced she is leaving office this weekend. She's been in the Illinois Senate since 1997. She is from LaGrange and represents the 41st District.
              Rex Tillerson Says Americans Shouldn't Worry About North Korea's Threats        
    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok during a one-day visit to Thailand on Tuesday.

    WASHINGTON — He promised unpredictability and he's delivering. On an issue with the highest stakes imaginable, the life-and-death matter of a nuclear showdown, Donald Trump's team delivered mixed messages Wednesday, with some seeking to de-escalate the boss's language.

    Team Trump danced around questions such as: Was Trump serious when he vowed to unleash fire, fury, and power with unprecedented force in world history, as retaliation for North Korean threats? Was this a firm red line? Was this statement prepared in advance?

    A spokeswoman for his State Department even scolded reporters who pressed for more clarity: "I know you all want to obsess over statements and all of that and try to want to make a lot of noise," Heather Nauert said.

    Some reports said Trump's words were improvised and surprised his own aides. The New York Times and CNN said the sheet of paper Trump was glancing at while uttering his threat was not a statement on North Korea — but a fact sheet on the opioid crisis.

    USA-TRUMP/

    A spokeswoman for Trump had a more nuanced explanation.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the message had been co-ordinated — to a certain extent. She said the president's chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly and the National Security Council, were aware of the tone he would take but: ''The words were his own.''

    The headline-grabbing statement caused some people, not just the news media, to snap to attention. It also prompted a spike in Google searches within the United States for, "How to survive a nuclear attack," which increased 100-fold from a day earlier.

    The words were his own.Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    What the president specifically threatened was retaliation in the event of "any more threats to the United States" — a stakes-escalating gambit, given that the trash-talking, nuke-chasing, Hermit Kingdom crosses this threshold on a near-daily basis.

    In fact, North Korea did it again immediately.

    Canadian delegation in North Korea

    North Korea quickly put the president's words to a test by threatening to attack the U.S. base on the island of Guam. A Canadian delegation happened to be at the epicentre of the drama Wednesday, securing the release of a pastor who had been jailed for more than two years in North Korea.

    Trump's secretary of state was on Guam during a refuelling layover and he delivered a soothing message to anyone back home alarmed by the sudden escalation in rhetoric.

    "I think Americans should sleep well at night," said Rex Tillerson, who spent an hour on the phone with the president after his attention-grabbing threat.

    ''Have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days. ... I think what the president was just reaffirming is the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack and defend our allies and we will do so. So the American people should sleep well tonight."

    The secretary of defence also dialed down the warning level slightly.

    While he used stern language and his remarks were reported as threatening by U.S. media, the specific wording employed by Defence Secretary James Mattis was more circumscribed.

    While Trump spoke about retaliating against, "threats," Mattis hewed to the stricter term, "actions.'' Twice in a statement, he warned the North Koreans to avoid, ''actions,'' that would provoke a catastrophic response: ''(It) would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.''

    But not everyone downplayed the threat.

    NATO-AFGHANISTAN/

    One White House staffer, security aide Sebastian Gorka, compared the standoff to the Cuban Missile Crisis — that tense two-week period in 1962 when global superpowers reached the brink of mutual, mushroom-cloud annihilation.

    "During the Cuban missile crisis, we stood behind JFK,'' Gorka told Fox News.

    ''This is analogous to the Cuban missile crisis. We need to come together."

    Trump, meanwhile, had a more low-key day Wednesday.

    The president retweeted a story and video of himself delivering the threat; he tweeted a boast that he had modernized the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a years-long project that predated his presidency; and he took a shot against the top Senate Republican, amid an esalating feud within his party.

    For a president who would declare, during his campaign, that, ''We have to be unpredictable,'' on military matters, it was mission accomplished. But a staffer from the previous administrations was incredulous.

    Barack Obama aide Ben Rhodes said the North Korean regime will not be talked out of abandoning its nuclear program — which it views as a bargaining chip to ensure its survival.

    But with the help of international allies, and diplomacy, he said the U.S. could use current sanctions as leverage, offering some relief in exchange for controls on the nuclear program — as occurred in the controversial Iran deal.

    He said rash talk made it harder to build a diplomatic alliance. He also said this should be a wakeup call for Americans, who have yet to witness the Trump administration confront a real crisis.

    "We're talking about nuclear war," Rhodes told a podcast, Pod Save The World.

    "Is this really the informed judgment of his entire national-security team? Or is this something he just decided to pop off and say? ... We have to hope there is a more sober group of people in the Trump administration."

    Also on HuffPost:


              Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?        

    Cover Art for Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?Are Barack and Michelle really that cool in person? What should you do if your IBS acts up during a business trip to the Vatican? How do you get a tampon dispenser installed in the West Wing? Alyssa Mastromonaco has answers to all of these questions in her new memoir Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House.

     

    In 2005, Mastromonaco became Director of Scheduling for Illinois State Senator Barack Obama’s run for United States Senate and continued working for his presidential administration until resigning as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in 2014. With plenty of self-deprecating humor, Mastromonaco gives us an inside look at the challenges of working on a political campaign and the highs and lows of having your own office at the White House. Her stories will make you laugh, cringe and be happy that you are just in charge of your own schedule and not the President’s. While there are more than a few endearing Obama anecdotes, this is far from a political tell-all. At its heart, this is the story of one ambitious woman navigating a high-stakes career with few female role models. Anyone interested in politics will appreciate Mastromonaco’s insider tips and advice, while fans of Bossypants by Tina Fey and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling will especially appreciate the humor.


              New Next Week on May 30, 2017         

    The following titles will be released next week. Select any title to learn more or to request a copy. Be sure to visit our Hot Titles webpage for more exciting upcoming titles.

    Cover art for Al Franken Giant of the Senate Cover art for Aunt Dimity and the Widow's Curse Cover art for Cattle Kingdom Cover art for Come Sundown Cover art for Destined for War Cover art for Dying Breath Cover art for Extra-Ordinary Adventures Cover art for A Hiss Before Dying Cover art for Chris Carter Cover art for Iron Ambition Cover art for Just A Little Christmas Cover art for Nighthawk Cover art for Once A Rebel Cover art for The Reminders Cover art for Shadow Reaper Cover art for Theft by Finding Cover art for Touch Cover art for Trophy Son Cover art for The White Road Cover art for The Wisdom of Finance Cover art for You Will Pay


              Poor People Don’t Need Blue Cross Insurance, They Only Need True Cross Insurance        

    As the Senate prepares to repeal ObamaCare and insure 22 million people don’t ‘run up the bill’ trying to take care of their ‘ailments’, America is in a unique position to remind poor people of the nation of one simple fact:  you don’t need Medicaid, Medicare or even Blue Cross, you only need True Cross. The science is simple:  prayer is a more powerful and affordable health insurance for poor people than any commercial insurance plans in the market place. […]

    The post Poor People Don’t Need Blue Cross Insurance, They Only Need True Cross Insurance appeared first on ChristWire.


              By: OECD rank 22 kiwi        
    Maybe Pelosi should shut her mouth the next time they have a vote. Can you imagine what a disaster zone the US will become if Obama becomes president? If the White House, Congress and Senate are all controlled by the Jackass party(Democrats) then the US will have taken a big step in the direction of destroying their own country. This is of course what Lefties want as they are envious, jealous and stridently Anti-American.
              Poland Advances Judicial Reforms        
    Poland's Senate backs an overhaul of the Supreme Court, despite street protests and international warnings. EU MEP Philippe Lamberts reacts. Also in the programme: martial law in the Philippines and Sean Spicer, the satirist's view. (Picture: Protest in Adam Mickiewicz Park in Poznan, Poland 21 July 2017 against changes in the Polish judiciary Credit: EPA)
              Saraki sacks 98 of his aides        

    The office of the senate president had conducted a staff audit earlier in the year to thin down the number of aides, which was about 300. According to the aide, Arthur Ndiwe, Saraki’s director of protocol, and Folashade Adigun, head of administration, were among those laid off. But Yusuph Olaniyonu, special adviser on media to […]

    The post Saraki sacks 98 of his aides appeared first on Liveofofo.


              ObamaCare Repeal: Now Is the Time for Senate Republicans to Deliver        

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he will bring an ObamaCare repeal bill to the floor early next week for a motion to proceed. For those not familiar with a motion to proceed, it's a procedural vote that allows the Senate to consider a piece of legislation on the floor.

    Eventually, though, the Senate will vote on language similar to the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, which repealed much of the 2010 health insurance law and passed both chambers of Congress before being vetoed by President Barack Obama.

    There are some uncertainties regarding what legislative language the motion to proceed will cover. Presumably, the motion to proceed will be based on the House-passed version of H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act, and vote on the 2015-style repeal language as an amendment. The amendment would become the base text of H.R. 1628.

    FreedomWorks has issued a key vote in support of the motion to proceed, which we will triple-weight on our 2017 Congressional Scorecard, to begin the amendment process, starting with the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill as the base text.

    Now, some may be wondering what the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill entails. First, it must be noted that this bill can't be considered "full repeal" because it doesn't touch Title I of ObamaCare, which includes the costly mandates that are driving up the cost of health insurance premiums on the nongroup market. The bill, however, did repeal most of the other significant parts of ObamaCare.

    Here are some of the major aspects of ObamaCare that the 2015 bill repealed or altered:

    • Premium tax credit (Section 202)
    • Cost-sharing subsidies (Section 202)
    • Small business tax credit (Section 203)
    • Individual mandate (Section 204)
    • Employer mandate (Section 205)
    • Medicaid expansion (Section 207)
    • Cadillac tax (Section 209)
    • Tax on health savings accounts (Section 211)
    • Prescription drug tax
    • Medical device tax (Section 214)
    • Health insurance tax (Section 215)
    • Tanning tax (Section 219)
    • Net investment tax (Section 220)

    The full section-by-section of the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill is available on the House Budget Committee website. There are a few things to note about the bill, though. The repeal of the reinsurance, risk corridor, and risk adjustment programs are no longer applicable, as these programs were transitional and expired at the beginning of 2017. Additionally, the individual and employer mandates weren't repealed, at least not in the true sense of the word. The penalties were zeroed out, though the mandates technically remained in statute.

    At this point, there is a small group of moderates -- Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) -- who have gone on record saying that they would vote against a motion to proceed on a bill that repeals ObamaCare without a replacement. On December 3, 2015, Sens. Capito, Murkowski, and Portman voted to pass the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, without a replacement. Sen. Collins, to no one's surprise, was one of two Republicans to vote against the bill. (There's a reason we have a press release template ready to go for when Sen. Collins votes against conservative priorities.)

    From FreedomWorks perspective, and undoubtedly the minds of conservative grassroots activists, a vote against the motion to proceed is a vote to keep ObamaCare. There are no more excuses. With a Republican president urging the Senate to pass the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill and pledging to sign it into law, we finally have the opportunity to accomplish a big victory. Don't let this moment pass.


              Capitol Hill Update: July 17, 2017        

    Schedule:

    The House and Senate are in session this week.

    There are nine (9) legislative days remaining for the House before the August recess and 57 legislative days remaining in the year. The Senate will work through the first two weeks of the August recess.

    House:

    After the passage of the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act on Friday, it'll be a relatively slower week in the House, at least on the floor of the chamber. Committees and subcommittees will be very active this week.

    Today, the House will take up three pieces of legislation on the suspension calendar, two of which relate to mass transit the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. One resolution, H.J. Res. 92, allows the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to amend Washington Area Transit Regulation Compact, which regulates transit D.C. and its suburbs. The other resolution, H.J.Res. 76, allows D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to create the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. After all, what Metro needs is another layer of bureaucracy. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

    Three more bills will be considered on the suspension calendar on Tuesday. The Ozone Standards Implementation Act, H.R. 806, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), will also be considered, though likely under a rule to limit or prevent amendments, much like virtually every other bill the House has brought the floor under "regular order" this year.

    On Wednesday, the House will take up the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, H.R. 2910, introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), and the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, H.R. 2883, introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). Both bills will likely be brought to the floor under a rule.

    Finally, on Thursday, the only bill currently scheduled to hit the floor is the King Cove Road Land Exchange Act, H.R. 218, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The bill will likely to come to the floor under a rule.

    Though it's not currently on the calendar, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, H.R. 2997, introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) could come to the floor for a vote this week. The bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and reforms the United States' out of date air traffic control (ATC) system. FreedomWorks has released a key vote in support of the 21st AIRR Act.

    Outside normal legislative business, there is increasing chatter about the FY 2018 budget. The House Majority Whip's office hosted a briefing on the budget on Friday. As of now, it's unclear what to expect from the budget.

    The House Appropriations Committee will complete its work on the 12 appropriations bills this week. The Whip team will be talking to House Republicans today about lumping all 12 appropriations bill into yet another omnibus. Of course, this is because the last one went over so well with conservatives. (Yes, that's more sarcasm.)

    The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

    Senate:

    The Senate was supposed to bring the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), H.R. 1628, to the floor this week for a procedural vote. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delayed legislative action because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is set to have eye surgery, giving Leader McConnell one less vote that he will almost certainly need to advance the bill. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office's score of the bill has been delayed by at least a day. The score was supposed to come out today.

    The latest iteration of the BCRA was rolled out on Thursday. FreedomWorks explained some of the major changes to the bill. Our friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation have a solid overview of the latest version compared to previous versions. Though there are questions that need to be answered, the bill appears to be a slight improvement over existing law.

    The biggest question that needs to be answered is whether the Consumer Freedom Option will work in single risk pools, as mandated by the BCRA. The Consumer Freedom Option, which was included thanks to the efforts of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would work best with bifurcated risk pools, where health insurance companies could price a traditional risk pool differently, with lower premiums, than the ObamaCare exchanges, which would effectively function as a high-risk pool, with access to more than $180 billion in subsidies.

    It's unclear whether there are enough Republican votes to get past the initial motion to proceed. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have gone on record as no votes. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is facing pressure back home, as Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval opposes the bill. Similarly, Republican Gov. John Kasich, who also opposes the bill, could influence Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to vote against it.

    FreedomWorks believes the bill may be a mild improvement over existing law, but there are serious concerns over how the Consumer Freedom Option will work, or if insurers will even bother to offer such plans because of the single risk pool mandate. The mindset right now is protecting what gains conservatives have made. Once the Senate gets past the motion to proceed, if it does, FreedomWorks expects to key vote against amendments that will undermine the Medicaid modernization, HSA reforms, and other positive reforms.

    If a 2015-style repeal amendment is offered by a conservative senator, FreedomWorks will key vote in support of it, triple-weighted.

    In addition to a backlog of nominations, the Senate still has several pieces of legislation awaiting floor action, including Coast Guard Authorization Act, S. 1129; the FDA Reauthorization Act, S. 934; the National Defense Reauthorization Act. The debt ceiling is rumored to be a top item either before the August recess or while the Senate works through the first two weeks of the recess.

    In committees this week, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the reappointment of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday. Chairman Pai unveiled the FCC's plans to roll back Title II regulation of the Internet at a FreedomWorks' event in April. The reappointment of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and nomination Brendan Carr, a Republican, to serve on the commission.

    The Judiciary Committee will also take up the nomination of Christopher Wray to serve as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

    The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.


              Consumer Freedom Option Included in Senate Health Insurance Bill, but ObamaCare Remains Law of the Land        

    After a long wait, the Senate Budget Committee finally unveiled the latest iteration of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, H.R. 1628. There are a few things to like, but, on the whole, the Senate is bill still fails to live of to more than seven years of promises to repeal ObamaCare. It remains an amendment to the 2010 health insurance reform law.

    The reason the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) fails to live up to Republicans’ promises to repeal ObamaCare is because many Republicans, in the House and the Senate, support the law. These Republicans believe they can “fix” ObamaCare. Some less than principled Republicans are even naïve enough to believe that they can work with Democrats, who are increasingly embracing single-payer, government-run insurance, to address the healthcare system.

    The question is whether the BCRA is an improvement. That is hard to determine. On the surface, it may be a slight improvement. The latest version does include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee’s Consumer Freedom Option in the base text. But there are some details worth diving into that make an already complicated issue even more complicated.

    Ultimately, the Congressional Budget Office will provide some insight on the effects of these provision on health insurance premiums. Of course, the coverage estimates, assuming the CBO will still use the March 2016 baseline, will be largely useless. Again, though, the bill, regardless of the impact on premiums, is still a very big disappointment and risks upsetting conservatives who have been expecting Republicans to keep their word.

    Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring the bill for a procedural vote next week. Whether he has the votes, though, is unclear at this moment. Below is a brief overview of some of the more notable changes in the latest iteration of the BCRA.

    Inclusion of the Consumer Freedom Option: This is actually more of a mixed bag. The inclusion of the amendment is what organizations like FreedomWorks wanted. The Consumer Freedom Option allows health insurance companies to sell plans that aren’t compliant with most of ObamaCare’s onerous and costly mandates and requires that they sell at least one gold and silver metal-tier plan compliant with ObamaCare.

    The problem is that the Consumer Freedom Option works best when risk pools are split, or bifurcated. This means keeping those consumers who choose plans that reflect the Consumer Freedom Option into one risk pool and those who have a higher utilization of care and choose plans compliant with ObamaCare into another risk pool.

    Unfortunately, the BCRA mandates single risk pools, which means that the premiums for those who choose noncompliant plans will be more expensive that they otherwise would have been in a separate risk pool. “[I]t will be difficult to combine non-community-rated plans and community-rated coverage into one risk pool,” healthcare policy expert Chris Jacobs explained, “and unlikely to achieve significant premium reductions.”

    The Consumer Freedom Option may now be in the BCRA, but it’s much less impactful than conservatives hoped.

    Using HSAs to Pay Health Insurance Premiums: The BCRA now allows consumers to use their health savings account (HSA) to pay the premiums for high-deductible health insurance plans on the nongroup market. High-deductible plans offered by an employer aren’t eligible. Consumers who receive tax subsidies for nongroup plans can pay their premiums out of an HSA for only the amount remaining after tax subsidies. This is a positive reform for which FreedomWorks has advocated during the discussion over health insurance reform.

    More Subsidy Funding: The original version of the BCRA had a total of $112 billion in subsidies to stabilize the health insurance markets ($50 billion over four years) and help cover high-risk consumers ($60 billion over eight years). The revised version of BCRA more than doubles the amount of subsidies to help cover high-risk consumers, bringing the eight-year total to $132 billion. Part of these subsidies will be used to help cover those in states that utilize the Consumer Freedom Option. The two funds combined represent $182 billion.

    BCRA Keeps Some ObamaCare Taxes: In the original version of the BCRA, and consistent with the 2015 repeal bill, almost all of ObamaCare’s taxes were repealed, delayed, or zeroed out. Unfortunately, the new version of the BCRA keeps some ObamaCare taxes in place, including the Medicare tax increase and the net investment tax. This is to satisfy the demands of moderates who have gone back on their word to repeal ObamaCare. Unfortunately, after eight years of President Obama’s bad economic policies, some Republican senators, including Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), are fighting to keep anti-growth taxes in place. Making matters worse, Leader McConnell is allowing them to do so.


              Obama Dropped the Ball on Economic Freedom        

    President Obama presided over one of America’s darkest, anti-capitalist, pro-federal government administrations in decades. The federal expansion of power was at levels only previously seen perhaps since the Great Society of LBJ or the New Deal programs under FDR.

    Obama hindered the ability for American ingenuity to grow with his countless regulations, executive orders, higher taxes, and all around harsh and un-American treatment of the private sector. Now to some, this may seem like a step in the right direction; it’s not. America is no longer the free, capitalistic, liberty orientated land our founding fathers dreamed of and worked tirelessly to achieve.

    In fact, we have been losing freedom for a long time. Every year, several studies are published that grade the economic freedom of almost every country on Earth. These studies show the same thing, American economic freedom and prosperity is not what it used to be, and it was increasingly getting worse.

    The most recent Fraser Institute Index of the Economic Freedom of the World, a report put together by a consortium of think tanks, has the United States ranked 16th in the world with a score of 7.75 out of 10. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom ranked the United States as the 17th which Heritage categorized as mostly free.

    These rankings take into account factors that affect the free being of the country's citizens like property rights, government integrity, free trade, monetary freedoms, tax burdens, and the regulatory state.

    Relatively, these rankings don’t seem too disgraceful, but only 10 years ago, the same studies ranked the United States as the 5th most economically free nation. In the year 2000, the United States was ranked 2nd, just behind Hong Kong.

    But once Obama took office, in his first year, the United States fell to 9th. By the start of his second term, the United States was down to 13th, putting countries ahead of us like Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Chile, the UK, Jordan, UAE, Qatar and many others.

    In these reports, the drop in ranking is attributed to the Obama administration's increase in regulation, government spending, bureaucratic cronyism, and liberal policies that increasingly enriched the wealthy while economically costing middle class, average Americans trillions of dollars.

    America, the country that was once a bastion of freedom for those across the world stuck under economically oppressive and restrictive governments has now started to join those ranks, or was at least headed in that direction under Obama.

    American’s have caught on though, and the 2016 election was an eye opener to the DC swamp. Republicans took control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency, Governorships, and a majority of state seats in the 2017 election season.

    The great, hardworking citizens of the America realized that the ideals of freedom, capitalism, liberty, and economic prosperity were being taken away by President Obama and his bureaucrats.

    Congressional Republicans now hold a majority of seats due to campaigns that ran almost unanimously on platforms dedicated to repealing the vast federal overreach of Obama’s administration, they need to keep their word and get to work.

    President Trump is nearing his first half year as President after running on a campaign dedicated to stopping the federal intrusion into Americans daily lives. Trump promised jobs, economic freedom, law and order, tax reform, and ObamaCare repeal, but Congress needs to take part in the responsibility to enacting this robust agenda.

    As of now, Congress has still yet to pass an ObamaCare repeal or replacement. Fundamental tax reform has been discussed, but no real action has been taken on the floor. Bill’s like Sen. Rand Paul’s REINS Act have been proposed to limit federal regulation in the future, but haven’t been passed. It is these sort of bills Congress needs to prioritize and pass to get America moving in the direction of economic freedom.

    President Trump has kept his promises of repealing regulations, approved the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, while also beginning to pull back Obama era federal land grabs to spark the energy sector once again. He has signed air traffic privatization reforms, and the Paris Climate Agreement, and cut federal agency budgets and staff.

    The opportunity is there to fix Obama’s mess. Congress needs to do its part in returning America back to the great, free nation we so long held the title of, and they need to support President Trump’s robust agenda in order to move America in that direction of the world’s most economically free and prosperous nation.


              A Bird's Eye View of the AIRR Act        

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the federal agency designed to regulate air travel, is currently up for reauthorization as its funding and authority are set to expire in September later this year. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), chair of the House Transportation Committee, has introduced the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act to do just that and more.

    The AIRR Act would also greatly reform the FAA and comes with various proposals aimed at regulatory reform, spending, and defining goals that the FAA will be expected to pursue. It would be a good idea to break down those proposals to understand what the bill will do and what its goals are.

    The most prominent part of the legislation would be the reform of the air traffic control (ATC). The AIRR Act would take the ATC out of federal hands, instead turning it into a nonprofit corporation. This is being justified due to a large amount of spending, lack of innovation to technology, and disappointingly high number of delays.

    The bill also includes increased appropriations for the FAA’s budget. The money would be used to cover increases to small airport funding, eliminating sequester cuts, increased funding for testing equipment, and to planning and development at airports among other things. The house bill would increase spending on the Air Improvement Program (AIP) by roughly 8 percent.

    There are sections that are designed to deal with regulations and regulatory reform as well. The bill creates the “Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee” (SOCAC) which is supposed to streamline the regulatory and certification process. Overall, there is a desire stated to cut red tape, reduce the regulatory burden, and create a standardized system of regulations.

    Improving safety and consumer experience is also a significant goal of the bill. Case in point, it also prevents passengers from being involuntarily removed from a plane after boarding. This is most likely a direct response to the event where United Airlines removed several passengers to instead send their own employees.

    Not included in the legislation is changes of the caps placed on Passenger Facility Charges. There are fees placed on passengers to help cover the costs of infrastructure improvement and upkeep. Some have suggested eliminating the caps so that airports take fewer tax dollars while making it easier to get the money directly, but the house has not taken up that proposal.

    Overall, the bill does provide for some innovation while mostly just being what one would expect from an FAA reauthorization bill. It has some reform while at the same time maintaining the status quo. The bill will be debated in congress over the next coming weeks and months so only time will tell if its passes.


              Gorsuch Nomination Tests Senate Rules        
    MTP Compressed: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tells Chuck Todd that he hasn't seen any evidence of surveillance on the Trump campaign, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) looks for a deal with Republicans over Judge Gorsuch's nomination.
              Ted Kennedy's Legacy        

    A team of reporters and an editor from The Boston Globe have published a book entitled Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy which gives us a thorough, objective study of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's youngest child. (1)

    The reader will find in the Last Lion much that is familiar. Ted was born into a family of wealth and privilege in 1932 when his mother was forty-one because, as a devout Catholic, she refused to use birth control. (p. 13) Joe was often away making money, courting women, including actress Gloria Swanson, or serving as FDR's ambassador to Great Britain. (p. 17) Rose agreed to ignore Joe's adultery in exchange for what some euphemistically called "retail therapy," that is, shopping to her heart's content in the United States and Europe. (p. 29) Also, Joe set up a $1 million trust fund for each of his children in the hope that lifetime financial security would free them to devote themselves to public service. (p. 17)

    Further, we learn that as Ted grew up, unlike his siblings, he struggled in school. His parents transferred him so often that by age eleven he had attended ten schools. (p. 26) Despite his mediocre academic record, Ted followed his brothers Jack and Bobby to Harvard where he was suspended during his first year for cheating on a Spanish test. (p. 38) After a stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Harvard, completed his degree, and, following the family tradition, enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia where he and his partner eventually won the moot court competition. (p. 53) We also learn that after the death of Jack and Bobby, Ted became a surrogate father to their children with mixed results. After his first marriage failed, Ted married Vicki Reggie, a divorcee with two children, with whom he built a stable marriage which thrives today. (p. 290) We also learn much about Chappaquiddick but we still get no credible explanation of why the Senator waited nine hours to report the fatal accident to the local police. (pp. 145-168)

    The reader of the Last Lion will also find some new and surprising information about Senator Kennedy's legislative record. During his forty-seven years in the Senate, he has authored some 2,500 bills, three-hundred of which are law. (p. 396, p. 403) He has played a pivotal role in the passage of virtually every law in the past half century in civil rights, health care, immigration, and education. His achievements include the Americans with Disabilities Act; Head Start; the Women, Infants, and Children program; Health Maintenance Organizations; the No Child Left Behind Law; increases in financial aid for college students and for cancer research; the Immigration Act of 1965; the Ryan White Act for AIDS research; and hundreds of others. Understandably, Senator John McCain has described Ted as "the most effective member of the Senate." (p. 387) Other senators from both sides of the aisle have echoed this tribute, including Orrin Hatch of Utah. (pp. 322-337, p. 387) (2)

    Although many will remember Ted Kennedy for his family's tragedies and his personal excesses, his enduring legacy to the nation is a remarkable legislative record built on his personal charm and political savvy, his intense study of proposed legislation, his readiness to reach across the aisle, and his belief that a half a loaf is better than none.


     

    1. Simon & Schuster, 2009. Senator John McCain's characterization of Kennedy as "the last lion in the Senate" accounts for the title of the book. The reporters are Bella English, Neil Swidey, Jenna Russell, Sam Allis, Joseph P. Kahn, Susan Milligan, and Don Aucoin and the editor is Peter S. Canellos.
    2. Hatch tells a story about a letter he received from a senior citizen in southern Utah which said: "Senator Hatch, when we heard you might run for office, we supported you. When you actually ran for office, we voted for you. And when we heard that you were friends with Senator Kennedy, we prayed for you." (p. 332.)

    © 2009 Tom Shipka


              The Gospel of Prosperity under Fire        

    He wears elegant silk suits, he drives a $350,000 Bentley, he lives in a $10 million oceanfront mansion, and he flies around the world in a private jet. Is he a billionaire investor, a corporate CEO, or a Hollywood celebrity? None of the above, it turns out. He's a pastor of one of the six mega-churches which are a target of an investigation by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, who has requested a mountain of financial information from them. All six ministries preach the Gospel of Prosperity, the message that God bestows earthly riches on the faithful. (1) They are Benny Hinn's World Healing Center; the Rev. Creflo Dollar's World Changers Church; Paul and Randy White's Without Walls International Church; Joyce Meyer Ministries; Kenneth Copeland Ministries; and Bishop Eddie Long's Ministry.
    Senator Grassley got leads about possible abuses of the tax-exempt status of these Gospel-of-Prosperity churches from reporters and whistleblowers. He assures us that his investigation is not "an attack on ministries in particular or tax-exempt groups in general. The strong majority of non-profit groups, including churches," the Senator says, "operate above-board and perform good works that make their tax exemption a bargain for the American people." (2) "(But), he continues, when I hear about leaders of charities being provided a $300,000 Bentley to drive around in, my fear is that it's the taxpayers who subsidize this charity who are really being taken for a ride." (3)
    It will be difficult for the targeted ministries to impugn Senator Grassley's motives for three reasons: firstly, he is a darling of the religious right who got an 87% approval rating by the conservative Family Research Council in 2006; secondly, after 9/11 he spearheaded investigations into secular charities such as the Red Cross and the Smithsonian Institution; and thirdly, many members of the evangelical community are as suspicious about the targeted ministries as Senator Grassley is.
    For instance, Ole Anthony, head of the Texas-based Trinity Foundation, an evangelical group which has spoken out for years against the lack of financial transparency by television ministries, welcomes Senator Grassley's initiative and says that it wouldn't be necessary if the established churches had stood up to the televangelists over the years. (4) Interestingly, none of the six targeted ministries belong to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a voluntary oversight group of Christian ministries to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.
    It remains to be seen whether the information sought by Senator Grassley will be provided by the mega-churches. A December 2007 deadline came and went with only two of the ministries submitting any of the requested documents. Rev. Dollar openly defied the request for information. Rev. Long said that he considers the Senator's request "an attack on...religious freedom and privacy rights." (5) Senator Grassley is unlikely to relent, however. He says that his goal is to ensure that money that is donated under the tax exemption is used according to the law for legitimate non-profit purposes and not to enrich church officials. (6) My suspicion is that we've seen only the first skirmish in a protracted war. In reminding evangelists that they are not above the law, Senator Grassley has taken an important step which deserves our support and encouragement.


     

    1. Rob Boston, "Prophets, Profits, and Federal Tax Law," Church & State, January 2008, p. 7.
    2. Ibid., p. 5.
    3. Ibid., p. 4
    4. Ibid., p. 6.
    5. Ibid., p. 5.
    6. Ibid., p. 5.

    © 2008 Tom Shipka


              The Christian Reconstructionists        

    On July 12 of this year, Hindu Chaplain Rajan Zed of Nevada gave the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. The prayer was disrupted by Christian activists who called prayer in the Senate by a non-Christian an "abomination." The live protest had been preceded by virulent opposition to the invitation to a non-Christian by the Reverend Donald Wildmon, leader of the American Family Association, and David Barton, a "Christian nation" activist. (1)
    This type of intolerance is not new to the Religious Right in the United States. Indeed, a sizeable segment of the Religious Right, Christian Reconstructionists, also called Dominionists, hopes to supplant democracy based on the separation of Church and State with theocracy. The laws, policies, and customs in this theocracy will be grounded in the Bible, including parts of the Old Testament that moderate Christians long ago repudiated, which require "the death penalty for homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, witches, incorrigible juvenile delinquents and those who spread false religions." (2)
    In May of this year Christian Reconstructionists gathered for a four-day conference in Asheville, North Carolina, hosted by a large, wealthy group called American Vision which is based in Powder Springs, Georgia. It is a mistake to view American Vision as an isolated, fringe voice in the Religious Right because it has close ties with the Alliance Defense Fund, which promotes the agenda of the Religious Right in the courts, the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Liberty University School of Law, World magazine, the Traditional Values Coalition, the Southern Baptist Convention, and other influential groups. (3).
    Speakers at the May conference were bold and clear about their hopes and wishes:
    American Vision President Gary DeMar told the audience that it was time to restore "the sovereignty of God" at home and abroad.

    Gary Cass called for Americans to proclaim that America "was and is a Christian nation..." with a mandate from God to Christianize the world.

    The Reverend Voddie Baucham, Jr., and Doug Phillips called on all Christians to withdraw their children from public schools and to immerse them in a Bible-based worldview at home.

    Jeff Ventrella and Ken Fletcher of the American Defense Fund assured the assembly that efforts to restore America's Christian heritage are being redoubled in the courts and that authentic Christians have a directive from God to "win the world for Christ."

    Finally, Janet Folger, a lobbyist for fundamentalists, urged stronger efforts by Christian fundamentalists against gays and for a "values" candidate for President whose Supreme Court appointees will overturn Roe v. Wade. (3)
    Christian Reconstructionists see America and the world at a critical point where the forces of good - the followers of Jesus, are arrayed against the forces of evil - seculars, lukewarm Christians, and non-Christians, and they promise salvation to all Christians who join the fray in the name of Jesus. All this sounds painfully familiar, doesn't it? It is time that all of us who are committed to Constitutional democracy, mutual respect and toleration, and the value of public schools learn that religious zealots in distant corners of our planet are not our only threat.
    __________
    1. Press Release, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, July 12, 2007.
    2. Jeremy Leaming, "Fringe Festival," Church & State, July/August 2007, Vol. 60., No. 7, p. 10.
    3. Leaming, p. 10.
    4. Leaming., pp. 11-13.

    Copyright © 2007 Tom Shipka


              A 1981 Warning About Religion and Politics        

    Through the 1970's a famous American political figure observed with deepening concern the increasing political activity of religious groups. He worried that religious groups posed a threat to individual liberty and jeopardized the separation of church and state. Finally, on September 15, 1981, he rose in the Senate chamber to warn the American people about the marriage of religion and politics. (1)
    The Senator welcomed President Ronald Reagan's election as a sign that Americans had finally turned to true conservatism, one which prizes the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution over the promise of prosperity by a welfare state. But this rediscovery of the primacy of freedom in America, he predicted, will be short-lived if "single issue religious groups" continue to grow in influence and power. Before Americans inject religion into the affairs of state, he cautioned, they should reflect on the harm caused by religion in Northern Ireland, Iran, and Lebanon. He saw intolerance and factionalism on the horizon. He feared that compromise and the give-and-take essential to American political life were in serious danger. Here are his own words.
    &(O)n religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls his supreme being.
    But, like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly.
    The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using
    their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their positions 100 percent.
    In the past couple years, I have seen many news items that referred to the Moral Majority, pro-life, and other religious groups as "the new conservatism."
    Well, I have spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the "old conservatism." And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these
    groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics. The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.
    Im frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A,"
    "B," "C," and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
    And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate.
    I am warning them today. I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."
    The great decisions of Government cannot be dictated by the concerns of religious factions. This was true in the days of Madison and it is just as true today.
    We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of State separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we must not stop now.
    To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.
    Now, who said all this? Who issued this warning about religion and politics? It
    was, of course, the five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party's nominee for president in 1964, Barry M. Goldwater.
    I leave to your judgment whether Senator Goldwater's warning was justified, and, if it was, whether we Americans have heeded it.
    1. All quotations and paraphrases are from Senator Barry Goldwater, "To Be Conservative," Congressional Record - Senate, September 15, 1981, pages 20589-20590.

    Copyright


              California’s cap-and-trade program doesn't need an overhaul        
    Today Senator Bob Wieckowski, supported by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, proposed what amounts to a complete overhaul of California’s cap-and-trade program after 2020 in amendments to SB 775. Pro Tem de Leon in particular has been a tireless champion of effective climate policies that are benefiting California’s communities and making the state […]
              A Closer Look at the Impact of the Mississippi Religious Freedom Act        

    There has been a lot of press about the recent signing in Mississippi of the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. The bill was signed by Governor Phil Bryant on April 5, 2016. It was passed in the Mississippi State Senate in a 32-17 vote. This legislature does not…

    Continue reading on the Path2Parenthood Blog »


              The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters        

    The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters

    Will an anti-voter-fraud program designed by one of Trump's advisers deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-gops-stealth-war-against-voters-w435890

    By: Greg Palast
    Date: 2016-08-24

    When Donald Trump claimed, "the election's going to be rigged," he wasn't entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of "voting many, many times." What's far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.

    The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.

    Read more »
              The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters        

    The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters

    Will an anti-voter-fraud program designed by one of Trump's advisers deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-gops-stealth-war-against-voters-w435890

    By: Greg Palast
    Date: 2016-08-24

    When Donald Trump claimed, "the election's going to be rigged," he wasn't entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of "voting many, many times." What's far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.

    The data is processed through a system called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is being promoted by a powerful Republican operative, and its lists of potential duplicate voters are kept confidential. But Rolling Stone obtained a portion of the list and the names of 1 million targeted voters. According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.

    Read more »
              Upcoming Events        

    Important Dates for 2017 DC Summer Mentorship Program

    Wednesday, June 28, 2017 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

    Participants learn how to use their cover letters to tell a narrative in order to set them apart in the job market for their target industry. These one-on-one cover letter reviews provide individualized feedback on resume content, organization, and layout. Please register here for planning purposes.

    MIIS Alumni Lecture with Professor Robert Rogowsky

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

    MIIS alumni are invited to attend a lecture with Professor Robert Rogowsky, Jamian Spadavecchia MAIPS ’09, Visiting Professor Rufus Yerxa, and current MIIS students studying in DC this semester through the MA International Trade and Economic Diplomacy (MAITED) program. Join in the conversation of “How Washington Works” and discuss what trade policy will be like under a new Administration.
      
    The lecture and discussion will be followed by a networking reception hosted by the MIIS DC Alumni Chapter and the Middlebury in DC Office. 

    Register online or email alumni@miis.edu.


              Ed Broadbent testifies to the House of Commons Finance Committee on income inequality        


    *CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY*

    Last September, the Broadbent Institute issued a major discussion paper Towards a More Equal Canada, which addressed the issue of rising economic inequality. For every $1 increase in national earnings over the past twenty years, more than 30 cents have gone to the top 1% of earners, while 70 cents have had to be shared among the bottom 99%.  Middle class incomes have now been stagnant for thirty years.

    Today is the deadline for filing personal income tax returns. It is a day to remind ourselves that our tax system could move us to a more equal Canada if we made the system fairer, with a particular focus on expanding tax credits for low and middle income Canadians.  Canada’s poverty rate is, at 8.2% for children and 10.1% for working-age adults in 2010, far too high and could be reduced significantly through the targeted measures we propose.

    Our discussion paper drew upon the work of many distinguished experts, examined the causes and consequences of the growth of economic inequality over the past thirty years, and set out a broad policy framework to reverse the trend and lead us back to a more equal Canada.

    We have just released another paper “Union Communities, Healthy Communities” that highlights the importance of a strong labour movement in building a more equal Canada.  And we have also published more than twenty responses to our reports from a wide range of points of view, as well as the results of an independent poll of Canadians that revealed their opposition to the growth of inequality and their strong support for corrective measures.

    Extreme economic inequality undermines democracy and the common good. Very unequal societies do much worse in terms of both social and economic performance, including in such fundamental terms as health and life expectancy, social mobility (equality of opportunity for children), crime levels, the quality of democracy, and levels of social trust.

    The level of inequality in a nation is ultimately a matter of political choice. While it is true that rising inequality is due in significant part to fundamental economic changes such as globalization and technological change which are difficult to manage, it is equally true that some advanced industrial countries have been able to remain much more equal than others. Political choices matter. The empirical evidence – from Canada, the US, Europe and the OECD – is clear. 

    The rise of extreme income inequality has been much greater in those countries which have most strongly embraced a fundamentalist so-called free market agenda, and much less in those countries which have continued to believe in the need for shared progress.

    The Broadbent Institute believes that we must, as a society, strike a balance between the roles of the market and democratic government in determining the distribution of economic resources.

    The market, properly regulated, is a useful tool for creating wealth. But democratic governments must ensure that that the needs of all citizens, such as access to health care and education as well as the means to secure a decent livelihood, are met regardless of the level of wealth and income acquired through the market. 

    A very important goal of democratic governments should be to protect and promote not only political and civil rights but also to promote social and economic rights. This is essential to secure genuine equality of opportunity, and to ensure fair outcomes for citizens. It is why Canada signed on to the two UN covenants that include both categories of rights in the mid 1970s.

    Research by the OECD and the Conference Board among others shows that Canada used to do quite well at striking a balance between having a growing market economy and securing a fair distribution of the fruits of economic growth. But cuts to social programs and public services as well as changes to transfers (income support programs) and the personal income tax system since the mid 1990s have compounded the rising inequality which has been delivered by the market economy

    Growing inequality of market income has, as shown in our recent paper Union Communities, Healthy Communities, been driven in significant part by the decline in union density and bargaining power since the 1980s. Respect for labour rights by governments enables unions to ensure that the gains of a growing economy are equitably shared with workers, and collective bargaining has been shown to narrow pay differences, especially pay gaps between women and men. 

    Another major part of the problem has been the increase in precarious employment, meaning that more than one third of working Canadians do not have permanent, full-time paid jobs. Many fall below the poverty line due to low hourly wages and/or not enough weeks of work. These issues have been highlighted in recent reports from the Law Commission of Ontario and the United Way. Yet we have failed to support these struggling workers and their families through the tax system and through improvements to basic employment standards.

    As recognized in the Broadbent Institute discussion paper on inequality good jobs are the basic building block of successful societies, and a successful economy combined with strong labour rights is a major force for equality. It has been well documented that countries with strong trade union movements are much more equal in terms of the distribution of market income, and that such countries also tend to be prepared to invest more to promote greater equality through public services and social programs. Canada’s already acute inequality problem will become much worse if  Canada imports from the United States so called right to work laws, as well as legislation that limits the ability of the labour movement to act as political advocates for their members and all workers. Bill C-377, passed by the House of Commons and now before the Senate, singles out unions for highly onerous reporting requirements under tax law which do not apply to the activities of other associations, including business associations. 

    Providing key services to citizens outside of the market mechanism is crucial to promoting the goal of greater equality. Our public health care system provides important rights, and these should be extended by ensuring that all citizens have a right to prescription drug coverage and to home and elder care as needed by reason of disability or old age. There is perhaps no more powerful tool for securing real equality of opportunity than major public investments in education, from child care and early learning through post secondary education and adult learning.

    As requested by the Committee and spelled out in the motion, this brief will focus on the role of the tax/transfer system in promoting greater income equality. 

    Providing a basic income-tested guarantee to all citizens through a fairer personal income tax system would be a powerful force for greater equality.

    The tax/transfer system equalizes income in two important ways first, progressive income taxes mean that the affluent pay to governments a higher percentage of income earned in the market than do middle and low income earners. 

    Second, these taxes help finance income transfer programs (such as public pensions, Employment Insurance, child benefits and refundable tax credits) which benefit those who have middle and low incomes more than those with high incomes. The result is that incomes after taxes and transfers are more equal than incomes earned in the market.

    Statistics Canada data (CANSIM Table 202-0703) show that the top 20% of Canadian families receive 47.0% of all market income, but a lower 40.0% percent of all income after taxes and income transfers. The bottom 20% receive just 3.4% of all market income, but a higher 7.1% of all income after taxes and transfers. The middle class (the middle income quintile) has about the same share of market and after tax and transfer income (16.0% and 17.2% respectively).

    The Centre for the Study of Living Standards calculate that the income tax/income transfer system reduces inequality as measured by the Gini co-efficient by 24%, with the transfer system having about twice as great an equalizing impact as the personal income tax system.

    However, while our tax/transfer system remains modestly re-distributive, the fact remains that we still have a very unequal distribution of income after the impact of taxes and transfers has been taken into account. And, according to the OECD, the re-distributive impact of the system in Canada has been declining since the mid 1990s. 

    The Centre for the Study of Living Standards has also shown that the inequality reducing role of the tax/transfer system in Canada has been falling, and is now 20% below the OECD average. The major reason for the decline in redistribution has been the cuts to social assistance and Employment Insurance programs of the mid 1990s combined with our failure to respond to the growth of more precarious and low paid work.

    What major changes might we make to our tax/transfer system?

    The Broadbent Institute believes that we should embrace the goal of a basic income guarantee sufficient to eliminate poverty and to help close the growing gap between low and higher income Canadians.  

    This goal should be met by building incrementally on existing income support programs targeted to different age groups and by promoting greater tax fairness.

    Step 1:  The Broadbent Institute supports the long-standing position of Campaign 2000, other anti poverty groups and research institutions that the maximum level of income-tested child benefits should be raised to cover the full cost of raising children. 

    Canada has a basic income guarantee for children in the form of refundable federal child benefits (with additional contributions by some provinces.)  Child benefits are delivered through the income tax system and are “refundable”, meaning that they are paid even to tax filers who do not have a tax obligation. Benefits are paid on a regular basis and are changed as family income changes from year to year. 

    Research by the Caledon Institute among others shows that Canada’s system of income-tested child benefits has been effective in reducing (though far from eliminating) child poverty, and still pays significant amounts to middle-class families to help meet the costs of raising children. The problem is that the maximum benefits paid by Canada Child Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement fall well short of the costs of supporting children.

    The cost of raising these child tax credits should be offset in part by eliminating the poorly targeted Universal Child Care Benefit.

    Step 2:  We should significantly increase the federal Working Income Tax Benefit to support working poor individuals and families and to deal with the growing reality of low pay and precarious work.

    The greatest gap in the current architecture of Canadian income support programs is for the working age population, especially the growing part of this population who are employed in precarious and low-paid jobs. The working poor and near poor -– those who move in and out of low paid jobs but often fail to attain a decent standard of living – is disproportionately made up of recent immigrants, especially those belonging to racial minorities, persons with disabilities, women single parents, the single near elderly, Aboriginal Canadians, and young people trying to get into secure employment.

    Credit should be given to the present federal government for creating the Working Income Tax Benefit, a new form of benefit which has been shown in the US and elsewhere to reduce poverty while promoting employment as the best path out of poverty.

    However, the current benefit is extremely modest (less than $1,000 for a single person and less than $1,800 for a family) and is lost completely at low levels of employment income ($18,000 for a single person and $27,000 for a family).  

    The maximum benefit should be increased significantly and phased out more slowly as income rises so that recipients are always better off if they find more weeks and hours of work or find better-paid jobs. 

    Increases to the Working Income Tax Benefit should be matched by incremental increases in minimum wages to raise incomes and also to ensure that income supplements for the working poor do not become subsidies to low wage employers. Minimum wages should be set at a level sufficient to ensure that a single person working full time for a full year does not live in poverty.

    Improving conditions for low wage workers will also involve raising minimum employment standards covering issues such as hours of work, rights of part-time workers and pay and employment equity, pro actively enforcing such standards, facilitating access to unionization, and greatly expanding skills training programs for unemployed and under-employed workers. 

    Canada ranks among the bottom of OECD countries in terms of adequate income support for the unemployed. Our Employment Insurance system currently fails to provide benefits to 60% of unemployed workers even though all workers and their employers pay into the system. We must reform EI so that we provide income security to all persons who experience temporary involuntary unemployment.

    Step 3:  Eliminate poverty in old age. 

    Canada already has a basic income guarantee for seniors in the form of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to Old Age Security (OAS). The GIS is gradually phased out as income rises and is currently received by about one in four seniors. The fact that the OAS plus the maximum amount of GIS is very close to the poverty line means that very few seniors live in poverty. Indeed, the fact that Canada has the lowest poverty rate for seniors among the advanced industrial countries is evidence of a very successful public pensions policy dating back to the 1970s. However, the GIS does need to be raised to ensure that provides all Canadian seniors with an adequate standard of living, particularly single women seniors in large urban areas who are most likely to experience poverty.

    Step 4:  As a long term goal – and this would clearly involve complex negotiations with the provinces –- we should abolish welfare as it currently exists and replace it with an income support program for working-age adults delivered through the tax system in the form of a negative income tax. This program would deliver regular benefits based on family income, phased-out as income from employment and other sources rises.  

    Canada’s income security program of last resort, social assistance, paid for by the provinces, provides meagre and stigmatizing benefits which are, as shown in reports by the recently abolished National Council of Welfare, far below the poverty line for almost all family-types in all provinces.

    The aim has been, as in the Victorian era Poor Laws, to ensure that even extremely low wage jobs will deliver more income than does welfare. Yet the evidence shows that the vast majority of recipients who are able to engage in paid work do, in fact, seek to work.

    Social assistance is of no help to the working poor. A recipient must be unemployed, have no access to family income, and must have exhausted almost all assets in order to qualify. Benefits are cut off after only a very few days of work. At the same time, it is very difficult for many recipients, especially persons with disabilities and single parents of young children, to climb the “welfare wall” since leaving social assistance often also means giving up health and housing benefits and since the needed supports and services, such as affordable child care, are not in place.

    The aim would be to ensure that working age adults with no or very low incomes from paid work, unemployment insurance, disability benefits and other sources receive a supplement which would be sufficient to secure an acceptable basic income. The supplement would be phased out with rising income rather than being turned off as soon as a person starts to receive employment income. Such a supplement could be partly financed by folding in some current tax credits such as the GST credit.

    Such an alternative, a negative income tax, has been broadly championed across the political spectrum, including by Senator Hugh Segal in his published response to the Broadbent Institute paper on inequality, and by the late Tom Kent, the prime architect of Canada’s social reforms of the 1970s, who wrote the first paper published by the Institute. 

    Without addressing the complex issues, there is also a pressing need for reform and improvement of disability benefits.

    Step 5:  Improvements to income support programs could and should be financed by making our income tax system much fairer. 

    The incomes of the top 1% have risen from 7% to 11% of the total income of Canadians since the early 1980s, while the incomes of middle-class and working Canadians have increased little in real terms. The rising share of the top 1% is the main reason why market income inequality in Canada increased so significantly from the early 1980s to 2009.

    Recent Statistics Canada data show the effective income tax rate on the top 1% has fallen from 39.4 per cent to 33.3 per cent since 2000, and the effective income tax rate on the top 0.1 per cent of Canadians, whose incomes start from $685,000 and average $1,519,000, has fallen sharply from 41.6 percent to 35.4 per cent.  Thus, even as the income share of very high income earners has risen, their effective tax rate has fallen significantly. As we have said before, we should consider changes to top income tax rates.

    We should also scale back special tax breaks that deliver huge benefits to the very well off, such as the exclusion of 50% of capital gains incomes from taxes and low tax rates on gains from stock options. (It is reasonable only to tax capital gains above inflation over the period for which assets were held.) We should also be cracking down on tax avoidance by the very rich through offshore tax havens and other means such as sheltering income and wealth within private companies and family trusts. It is time to crack down on the tax cheats who undermine government finances and public belief in the fairness of the tax system, and the present federal government should be commended for their 2013 Budget proposals in this area. Additional revenues can also be gained by more broadly applying the principle of “polluter pay.”  Our current tax system allows corporate polluters to offload risk and current and future payments for cleaning up their mess to individual taxpayers.  This isn’t fair, and needs to be changed.

    There is much more to dealing with inequality than reforms to the tax/transfer system. However, changes in this area could narrow the widening gap between the very affluent and the middle class, and also lead us closer to the goal of eliminating poverty in Canada.

    In summary, concrete steps can be taken to make our tax system a much more effective vehicle for closing the growing gap in Canada between the very rich on the one hand, and the middle class and the poor on the other. The priority should be to eliminate poverty by expanding refundable tax credits, especially for the working poor who fall through the cracks of our current income support system. Our tax system would also be much fairer if we closed special tax loopholes for the very affluent, ensured that corporations pay to clean up their own mess and cracked down on tax cheaters.


              Happy Sunshine Week March 12-18, 2017        
    Out of the Basement Office (column)
    Me, definitely out of the office.
    By: 
    Ryan Lewis, Editor

    UPDATED: (Editor’s note: Normally, you have to pick up a paper copy of our paper to read my column. I’m going for a bit of a signal boost this week, however. So, here’s my Sunshine Week column. Read to the end, because there’s two great updates!)

    It’s Sunshine Week—journalism’s annual reminder of just how important it is that the public push back against government secrecy.

    I decided to let our local legislators do most of the talking this week, as there is a package of bills in the state House of Representatives that expands the state’s Freedom of Information Act into the legislative and executive branches of government. At least a little bit.

    I also didn’t pass up an opportunity to ask them if they supported keeping public notices in local newspapers as a time-honored way to hold local government accountable.

    First, the new guy: Rep. Steven Johnson. It was great to speak with him even though it turns out he thinks most people don’t read newspapers.

    First things first, though; he generally supports the FOIA expansion, at least in principle.

    “I haven’t had the chance to read the package of bills fully, but I definitely support opening up the legislature and executive office to FOIA,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

    (True to his word, he voted for it! See below—Ed.)

    When it comes to public notices, he and I disagree at least in part. His main focus is on giving local municipalities the control to decide how best to share the information in their notices.

    That sounds noble, but, ah, the whole point of public notices is to not put them in the driver’s seat. Having a third party to hold the government to account is whole idea. I look at the expense as being just another of costs governments pay to stay in operation.

    Anyway, I couldn’t convince Johnson of that. Even when he insisted most people got their info online and I reminded him papers voluntarily post every public notice online at no additional charge, he still didn’t budge. At least he was polite.

    Rep. Mary Whiteford has consistently voiced her support for public notices in newspapers.

    There’s some nuance in the response I got last week: “I support using as many options available for distributing public notices, whether it’s on an internet website, a public posting outside a clerk’s office, on social media, and the newspaper. Using all those platforms help inform and update Allegan County residents as best as possible. It’s a part of government transparency that we should all expect.”

    Hey, at least we’re in the mix. Frankly, I support all of those things, too.

    As for expanding FOIA: “It remains a top priority of mine to hold the legislature and the executive branch of state government accountable to taxpayers. The residents of Allegan County deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

    “The FOIA/LORA package is a step in the right direction to make government more accountable and transparent to taxpayers.” (True to her word, she voted in favor of the bills; see below)

    On to our state senator Tonya Schuitmaker and FOIA.

    Derek Sova, her chief of staff said, “Sen. Schuitmaker continues to support expanding the provisions of FOIA to the legislature and governor’s office.  Citizens deserve to know what their government is doing and FOIA provides an avenue to obtain important records of government activities.”

    And again, I’ve known Schuitmaker has supported keeping notices in papers for years.

    Sova said, “She supports keeping public notices in print. For many residents, print newspapers continue to be the primary trusted source of local news. Keeping notices in print ensures the public receives these essential communications.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy Sunshine Week!

     

    UPDATE: The best kind of update. Rep. Johnson emailed me today (Thursday, March 16) to say he’d voted in favor of passing the FOIA package.

    A press release from his office said:

    Today, State Rep. Steve Johnson joined a bipartisan majority in the House, approving landmark transparency bills that make state government more accountable to the people it serves.

    This legislation makes the governor and lieutenant governor subject to the Freedom of Information Act and creates a similar disclosure requirement for state representatives and senators called the Legislative Open Records Act.

    “I believe we should be fully accountable to the people we serve,” said Johnson, R-Wayland. “These bills give Michigan citizens access to information regarding how we use their tax dollars. This is common-sense legislation that puts the state under the same open records provisions that local governments are subject to.”

    Rep. Johnson noted that Michigan is one of a few states that do not subject their legislative and executive branches to FOIA. In another move to increase transparency, the House recently added a salary database of all House employees on its website to provide more accountability to taxpayers.

     

    Update #2: Rep. Whiteford later on Thursday announced she voted in favor of the bills in this March 16 press release:

    State Rep. Mary Whiteford joined the House of Representatives today in upholding the bipartisan commitment to make government more accountable and accessible to the residents of Allegan County and Michigan.

    Whiteford, of Casco Township, voted on an 11-bill government transparency package to make the governor and lieutenant governor subject to the Freedom of Information Act and creates a similar disclosure requirement for state representatives and senators called the Legislative Open Records Act.

    “I have a responsibly to the residents of Allegan County to ensure that our state government information is accessible and transparent,” Whiteford said. “This legislation is a significant step in the right direction, ensuring people have more of an insight and voice in state government.”
     

    I will try to update this as I find out more. The package of bills is not exactly wide open access, but it’s something. Also, it’s important to note a similar package of bills made it this far last year too before dying in the state Senate. It continues to not have much support from the Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof—who ultimately decides which bills make it to the Senate floor for a vote.

     

    To read Mr. Lewis' columns each week, subscribe to the print or e-edition versions of The Allegan County News. Plus, don't forget that now through March 31, 2017, you can subscribe and get an entry into our Subscribe and Win sweepstakes—you could win $1,000!


              U.S. Senate More Divided Than Ever Data Shows        
    Harvard graduate student David Chouinard used 25 years of data from the 101st Congress onwards to visualize voting relationships among senators over time. The findings are clear: The U.S. Senate is all but down to collaborate.
              Next step for Medicaid expansion is back to the state House        

    It’s now up to the state House to decide whether to send a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

    That’s after the state Senate narrowly approved the bill yesterday.  

    But the Senate may have also delayed when the expansion could actually take effect.


              In this morning's news: Term limits, road repairs, and a class action lawsuit        

    A push for change in Michigan term limits

    There are efforts underway to change Michigan’s term limits amendment. Representative Joe Havemen (R-Holland) says the current lifetime limit of six years to serve in the House and eight years in the Senate are too short and consequently, legislators are lacking experience. Term limits were approved by Michigan voters ten years ago, and changing that amendment would also require voter approval.

    Town hall to be held for road repairs

    Lawmakers are expected to discuss how to pay for improvements to the state’s roadways at a town hall meeting tonight in Grand Rapids. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports, "the public will get a chance to weigh in on Governor Snyder’s proposal to raise more than a billion dollars a year. Snyder wants to raise vehicle registration fees and the gas tax to cover the costs, but the Legislature passed a budget last week that only included a fraction of the money he wanted."

    Michigan faces class action lawsuit from students

    The state of Michigan may be facing a class action lawsuit over a student loan program. Starting in 2003 the Michigan Students First program provided a subsidy to people after they paid their first 36 loan payments on time, but that subsidy ended in 2010. Attorney Jeff Hank says that left thousands of Michiganders with much more to pay on their student loans. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that the lawsuit could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.


              æ–°å¹´æ–°æ³•è¦        
    各位住在加州的朋友,新的一年,幾條新的法規也上路啦!一個當然就是不能一邊開車一邊讀發簡訊(Senate Bill 28)。第一次被抓到會被罰$20,之後再被抓到,罰金可高達$190喔!咖豬意!其他還有一些拉哩拉糟的,譬如現在如果排煙檢測未過關可是vehicle registration又要過期的車主,可以花$60買三個月的temporary operating permit,還有好幾條關於酒醉駕車的新規定。我覺得最重要的是Senate Bill 1567,是有關於車用GPS衛星導航安裝的位置。以往加州法律是不允許擋風玻璃上黏上任何的東西(全美國只有加州和紐澤西州有這樣的規定),所以上面這張照片是個錯誤的示範 XD 不過在新法的規範下,這還是一個錯誤的示範。因為新法放寬了可以允許駕駛人在擋風玻璃上安裝GPS衛星導航器,可是位置限制在:"a 7-inch square area in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver (the passenger side) or in a 5-inch square area in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver (the lower left corner of the windshield)."也就是只能在乘客前方的玻璃右下方的七平方英寸處, 或是駕駛人前方玻璃左前方下面的五平方英寸處。各位不覺得這很丁丁嗎?第一,放在乘客座的右下方的位置,大概只能有乘客幫忙看的時候才有用,不然開車的人眼鏡又真的很好才能看的到吧?!放在駕駛的左下方處,那開車的人要看GPS的時候不是還要把視線移到左下角處才能看到?放在擋風玻璃中間不是很好嗎?而且大部分的汽車電源插頭都在中間的中控板上面,電源線要繞到擋風玻璃的兩邊不是很麻煩嗎?而且這兩個區域都是大家貼停車證或是付費公路快速付費器的地方,怎麼再黏GPS啦!像我的車就吸不上啦,除非把停車證撕掉。丁丁啦 ~~~~
              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #180        
    itunes pic
    Abe knows Senate only approved $700 billion bailout with now famous "39-cent excise tax for children's wooden practice arrows" exemption hoping "message arrows" might reverse "socialist" trend of breast cancer awareness stamps. Abe also feels that Sarah Palin is the victim of "Gotcha Journalism" but knows that before Sarah Palin we just called it "Journalism."

    Links


    The House limits constituent emails.

    McCain Urges Bush To Spend $1 Trillion On Bailout -- Without Congressional Approval

    Homer tries to vote for Obama.

    Bloomberg wants forbidden 3rd term.

    The League of Extraordinary Women Voters

    Watch the full Biden/Palin debates online.

    Army CCMRF to "help" with "civil unrest."

    Harry Shearer's magnificent podcast "Le Show."


              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #162        
    Abe waxes philosophic about the clips of the week, piracy and the nature of participatory culture...

    Links


    Now the RIAA can take your stuff.

    A young Bill O'Reily acts like a baby Bill O'Reily.

    More than 25% of US House and Senate have war profit investments.

    Subliminal McCain in Fox 5 News logo.

    Comedy: Hillary practices hand gestures.

    SNL Hillary Clinton Spoof 5-10-08: gone from YouTube but still Googleable.


              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #138        
    Abe talks about what's going on (Election and Halliburton concentration camps) , speculates on how to alleviate the problem and mentions something to be glad about. Open up for your spoonfull of sugar...

    Links


    1) Stop the Gov from spying on Americans...

    BACKSTORY: A Tale of Two Constituencies

    BACKSTORY: Amnesty Day for Bush and lawbreaking telecoms

    BACKSTORY: Democratic Lawmaker Pushing Immunity Is Newly Flush With Telco Cash

    ACTION: Support the House in the Last Stand Against Telecom Immunity!

    ACTION: Tell House Members to Stand Firm Behind the RESTORE Act!

    2) Learn about the empty Halliburton concentration camps in America San Francisco Chronicle: Concentration camps in the US

    Google Maps - find YOUR closest FEMA detention center.

    Bush to veto Senate ban on waterboarding.

    3) Miscellany and Hufflepuff Rove strikes out against McCain (who hurt his feelings)

    POW John McCain Votes In Favor Of Torture

    McCain Stumbles on H.I.V. Prevention.

    New Mexico Clinton Endorser "Borrowed" Ballot Boxes Full o' Votes.

    Cuba demands US gives back Guantanamo Bay.

    Obama's second Grammy.

    87-Year Old NH State Rep Will Not Eat, Willing to Die for Impeachment

    New Bill To Allow Police Misconduct Be Hidden From Public


              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #137        
    Abe blows out his cake a day early and makes a couple of birthday wishes.

    Links


    BIRTHDAY WISH #1: Contact your superdelegates on Obama's behalf. Via easy online petition...

    OR via slightly more difficult and massively more effective call or letter...

    BIRTHDAY WISH #2: Stop warrantless wiretapping of Americans Most effective: Call your reps - it must be done now, as early this week as possible.

    Easy ACLU web petition to the House.

    Easy ACLU web petition to the Senate.

    Obama's weekend sweep.

    Obama's second Grammy.

    Hillary's hilarious staged "Mission Accomplished" style event.


              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #133        
    Abe looks down his nose at the New York Times, averts his gaze from the CIA, looks dubiously at the Bush White House and askance at Ron Paul. What a looker!

    Links


    Children raped at Abu Ghraib - Pentagon has videos... STILL

    Bush Spying on us before 9/11'

    Abolish the CIA

    Take action today: telecom spying immunity.


              The Abraham Lincoln Logs #124        
    Abe apologizes in advance for some irritating audio clipping near the end of this episode - and wishes to spend time talking about the way, in which, 9/11 could be considered a totally trivial event. AND.... Next week Mary Todd is back to help ring in #125!

    Links


    BLEEPEDEEP 9/11?

    ON THAT SUBJECT....

    JFK Airport Plot Has All The Hallmarks Of Staged Terror

    Do you know this woman?

    ON NEOCONS AS NEONAZI'S....

    Abu Ghraib Torturer Learned Nazi Torture Techniques from Holocaust Memoir

    U.S. Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq

    ON THE CRIME OF ASKING QUESTIONS....

    NYPD will arrest you for asking questions.

    Giuliani arrests reporter, with press pass, at press conference - for asking questions.

    ON THE ILLUSION OF OPEN DISCOURSE....

    Bush Surgeon General Nominee: Gay Sex Is Hazardous To Health

    Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates

    Corporate Media Has Decided The 2008 Election For Us

    Don't listen to what the rich world's leaders say - look at what they do

    ON CRIMINALIZING OUR INTERNET...

    'Dangers of the Internet' Resolution Passed By Senate


              15515        
    Invitatie de botez tip carucior cu animalute desenate: leu, girafa, ursulet. Pe partea din exterior se tipareste textul pe foaie de calc. In interior se poate atasa o poza cu dimensiunile: 9 cm x 13 cm. Accesoriu panglica organza gri.*Fotografia est...
              15504        
    Invitatie de botez cu trenulet pe norisori. Invitatia este din carton simbol lucios , cu elemente desenate: trenulet ursulet, luna, pisicuta, steluta, iepuras. Invitatia are plic.Culoare plic albastru. Va propunem din aceeasi gama: Mapa de bani, Meni...
              15505        
    Invitatie de botez cu trenulet pe norisori. Invitatia este din carton simbol lucios , cu elemente desenate: trenulet, ursulet, luna, pisicuta, steluta, iepuras. Invitata are plic. Culoare plic roz.Va propunem din aceeasi gama: Mapa de bani, Meniu si ...
              Trump attacks Senate leader for second straight day on health policy failure        
    BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his own party's Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, for a second day on Thursday, complaining from the steps of his private New Jersey golf club about Republicans' failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

              Who's Ron Wyden? Only The Five-Term Senator Behind The KOMBUCHA Bill And 'Hemp History Week'        
    In an open hearing with Jeff Sessions, the active and experienced lawmaker took a stand this month, which he's made a habit of on the Senate floor.
              Trump renews attacks against McConnell over healthcare debacle        
    The Trump administration, thwarted in several attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, notably shifted tone Wednesday, opening the door for a bipartisan plan to "fix" the law."Both folks in the House and the Senate, on both sides of the aisle frankly, have said that Obamacare doesn't work, and...
              Trump jabs Senate majority leader, again, calls defeat of healthcare bill a 'disgrace'        

              FBI Director Crossed The Line        
    A strong argument could be made that FBI Director James Comey violated the Hatch act.  (a 1939 law intended to keep federal employees from directly supporting candidates) Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggests he may have. At a minimum Comey violated FBI protocol of not interfering with an election only 60 days out. Of course […]
              In Advance Of Weekend Summit, Conservative Group Buys Ads Against Democrat Leading US Senate Race        
    A conservative policy group is getting a jump on its weekend summit in Columbus and on the fall 2016 election for US Senate in Ohio by spending a lot of...
              Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 82        

    Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

    The Main Events


    schedule-joust logo.jpgAll Evidence Points to an Amazing CSICon 2017 

    Have you registered for CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas, taking place October 26–29? It’s shaping up to be the biggest and best skeptics’ event of the year. That’s a pretty bold prediction, but the evidence is overwhelming.

    First, there’s the incredible lineup of speakers. Rarely have so many leading lights of science and reason been part of the same event. A veritable constellation of skeptic luminaries will be presenting at CSICon 2017, representing the sciences, grassroots activism, journalism and media, the arts, and more. James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, Richard Wiseman, Cara Santa Maria, Lawrence Krauss, and Lindsay Beyerstein are just a small sampling of the dozens of skeptic leaders coming to CSICon.

    Then there’s the entertainment and social events, because it wouldn’t be CSICon Las Vegas without plenty of fun. Taking place in the fantastical Excalibur Hotel, get ready for the Tournament of Kings Joust Dinner, a magic show by Banachek, special lunch events with skeptic stars, a Halloween 70’s Disco Party, and more. Plus, all of CSICon’s ceremonies will be mastered by comic-musician George Hrab. The full schedule has now been posted online.

    aacarousel-konnikova.jpgThat’s not all. It was just announced that New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova will receive the 2016 Balles Prize in Critical Thinking for her book The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time, a book that exposes the tricks of the con artists’ trade and explains why all of us are vulnerable to being taken in, including skeptics. Konnikova will be at CSICon to accept her prize and to deliver yet another fascinating presentation.

    Need more? To give you an idea of what’s in store for CSICon 2017, take a look back at CSICon 2016 on CFI’s web series Reasonable Talk. The current season is featuring some of the best presentations from CSICon 2016, with Maria Konnikova’s talk and Jamy Ian Swiss’s conversation with Richard Dawkins available to watch right now, with more on the way.

    We think we’ve made our case. But to make it all come together, we need you! Register now, come together with the skeptic community, get inspired, and have a blast at CSICon 2017. See you in Vegas.

     


    20170524191212-Dawkins-Coyne.jpgThousands Inspired by Richard Dawkins and Friends 

    Richard Dawkins has just completed a successful tour of four U.S. cities, delighting, challenging, and inspiring the minds of the thousands who came out to see him in conversation with truly special guests—and all to support the work that you help make possible with the Center for Inquiry.

    In Los Angeles, Dawkins took the stage with satirist Adam Felber, best known for appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and as a writer for shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher. Nearly 900 people filled the Alex Theatre, aided by the great team at CFI Los Angeles.

    DAm59iFWAAAkCpW.jpgNext up was Boulder, Colorado, where the audience was charmed by the conversation between Dawkins and special guest Annabelle Gurwitch, a bestselling author, TV personality, and the latest celebrity to tell her story for the Openly Secular campaign. You can see from the picture on the right, there was one young lady who was particularly excited to see Richard Dawkins in person. Gurwitch took the picture and tweeted, “Hope for the future!”

    Then it was off to the nation’s capital, where CFI DC hosted Dawkins and fellow evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, bestselling author of Why Evolution Is True. CFI board member Brian Engler performed his valuable service, taking a set of excellent photos of this meeting of two great scientific minds.

    While in Washington, DC, Dawkins was invited to have a conversation on NPR’s Weekend Edition with host Scott Simon, in which the two discussed recent news, perceptions of atheism, and even CFI’s crucial Secular Rescue program, which works to bring secular writers and activists to safety when their lives are threatened in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.

    The last stop was Miami, where attendees were presented with a pairing that almost no one could have predicted: Richard Dawkins and the Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry. What a treat it must have been to be in the room for this exchange of insights and observations.

    Thanks so much to all who came out to see Richard Dawkins this fall. He’ll be back for CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas.

     

    News from HQ and the CFI Community


    1a495722305699-IMG_2016-Winter-close-up.jpgAmanda Knox, Nick Little, and Religious Privilege 

    You probably know Amanda Knox as the woman imprisoned for years in Italy for murder, for which she was exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court. Today, she is a journalist and activist for the wrongfully convicted, and she recently wrote a major report for VICE in which she exposes the use of religion in prisons as the only available path to rehabilitation, which manipulates inmates into indoctrination.

    For a legal perspective, Knox sought the insight of CFI’s General Counsel Nick Little. Nick describes how prisons are predisposed to allow access to prisoners by all manner of faith-based figures but frequently put up barriers when it comes to secular influences. “[Prison officials] know that they have to allow all prisoners access to a Bible and to the Quran. But they never consider that prisoners who aren’t religious may want access to a non-religious book in the same way,” Nick tells her. “It’s a problem that a Catholic who wants someone to talk to never faces. They always have access to somebody of their faith background. And that’s not available to humanist prisoners.”

    nicholaslittlelittleheadshot2.jpgMeanwhile, wholly by coincidence, Nick’s commentary was also featured by another writer at VICE, Gabby Bess, who reports on a case in which doctors in Michigan who performed female genital mutilation procedures on seven-year-olds are using religious liberty as a defense.

    Nick explains that there exists no constitutional right to be exempt from generally applicable laws because of one’s religious beliefs, but that the Hobby Lobby case and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act have blurred the lines. “However,” adds Nick, “this would be a major step further, to allow direct harm to a child.”

     


    Michigan Secular Celebrant Class--May 2017 (1).JPGSecular Celebrants Trained in Michigan

    A group of nine enthusiastic and community-minded freethinkers successfully completed their training as Secular Celebrants on May 13, when CFI Michigan hosted Reba Boyd Wooden, director of CFI Indiana and head of the CFI Secular Celebrant program.

    The trainees will now be expected to complete some additional requirements, and once they do, they will be officially certified to represent the Center for Inquiry as Secular Celebrants, authorized to perform marriages and officiate at many other milestone events in which it is desired that the secular humanist life stance be represented.

    After two recent groundbreaking court victories, CFI Secular Celebrants are now able to solemnize marriages in Indiana and Illinois, and earlier this month, the state of Oregon enacted a new law authorizing the same. You can listen to CFI Portland’s Dani Tofte discuss this issue on Jefferson Public Radio.

    CFI continues to seek out opportunities to change state laws that prevent those who wish to be married by an officiant who shares their secular worldview from having that opportunity. For example, CFI Northeast Ohio is supporting legislation in that state, introduced by State Sen. Michael Skindell.

    Eight of the class were Michigan natives, and one came all the way from Ohio. Congratulations to all. Click here if you’re interested in becoming a CFI Secular Celebrant yourself!

     

    CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media


    • whale whale.jpgIn a special report for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Benjamin Radford looks into the “moral panic” over what seems to be a wholly fictional phenomenon: The “Blue Whale Game,” which is alleged to instruct teenagers to commit suicide.
    • Major advancements in life-enhancing and life-extending biotechnology bring with them difficult ethical questions we are obligated to address. In a new essay at HuffPost, CFI’s Ronald Lindsay says religious morality is not equipped for this task.
    • In the Sun-Sentinel, Rabbi Barry Silver discusses his opposition to the National Day of Prayer and support of the National Day of Reason as an alternative, noting CFI’s role in its creation.
    • What the heck is a “globster”? Joe Nickell explains what’s behind “great decaying masses” that wash up on shores and seem to be horrible sea monsters.
    • Joe also discusses his investigations about sightings of moa, an extinct New Zealand creature that resembles a kind of monster-ostrich.
    • Bertha Vazquez updates us on the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) program, with new workshops coming in Nebraska and North Carolina, new teacher corps members, and more.
    • For Skeptical Briefs, Ben Radford provides a rumination on the desire to unearth something truly paranormal in a piece about his investigation of an old “haunted” hotel.
    • Ben is also the guest on The Folklore Podcast, discussing the mythical chupacabra.
    • Mick West looks at the usefulness and pitfalls of crowdsourced UFO investigation.

    And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

     

    Upcoming CFI Events


    happypride.jpgJune 10:

    June 11:

    June 13:

    June 17:

    June 18:

    524405aaaa8689_40035996f2.jpgJune 19:

    July 14–16:

     

    Thank you!


    Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


    CFI Logo MarkFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

           •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

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    Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

    The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



     


              Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 81        

    Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

    The Main Events


    stephenfry.jpgThe Global Madness of Blasphemy Laws 

    For most of those who are reading this, laws against blasphemy seem like anachronistic, vestigial restrictions on free expression that no longer apply in our modern world. Recent months have reminded us, however, that blasphemy laws are very much a part of the contemporary human experience, and the consequences of violating them can range from absurd to horrifying. Several secularists and dissidents have met grisly ends this year, including Pakistani student Mashal Khan, beaten to death last month by a mob of fellow students who were angry over allegations of blasphemy, and Indian student H. Farook, murdered by a gang of militants over postings to social media about atheism.

    The Center for Inquiry has made combatting blasphemy laws around the world a central part of our mission. We even have a special program dedicated to rescuing secular writers and activists in need of escape from imminent threats to their lives. In recent weeks, we have taken on the crisis on several fronts.

    1549751494524276483.pngBlasphemy is the focus of the latest issue of Free Inquiry, CFI’s magazine of secular humanist thought. Making its way to newsstands and subscribers now, this issue features a powerful and sobering cover piece by someone who knows a thing or two about the consequences of blasphemy restrictions: Flemming Rose of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which ran the “Danish cartoons” of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005, which were deemed such an offense to religious sentiments that they sparked violent protests across the Muslim world. Rose warns about the international threat of states’ blasphemy laws and how governments are stirring up rage among the people, inciting them to carry out acts of murder such as those that took the lives of Khan and Farook.

    The issue also includes an important report by Mirjam van Schaik on the machinations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the diplomatic body that seeks to push blasphemy laws beyond borders and into international law.

    Blasphemy also became a topic of concern in the west, when beloved actor and humorist Stephen Fry, a longtime advocate of secular causes, became the subject of an investigation by Irish authorities for allegedly committing blasphemy in 2015, when he said some unpleasant things on television about the biblical God’s psychotic behavior. Eventually, the investigation of Fry was dropped, with Irish police citing a lack of outraged victims of Fry’s blasphemy.

    DawkinsCFI Board Member Richard Dawkins cleverly stepped into the fracas by reiterating his own “blasphemy” to an Irish newspaper, and dared the authorities to arrest him over it when he next came into the country. He later explained, “I wanted to increase the pressure to repeal this law – partly because the existence of a blasphemy law in a civilised western country like Ireland is taken as an encouraging precedent by some of those countries in the Middle East and Africa, where they have a blasphemy law and it really is enforced.”

    Of course, CFI’s diplomatic and international advocacy efforts never stop. For example, CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner and our public policy director Michael De Dora are signatories on a new petition from the Index on Censorship calling on Denmark to scrap its blasphemy law. Whether these affronts to human rights emerge in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, or Denmark, and whether they are enforced by the state or by the rage of the mob, we will continue to fight for free expression, for the simple idea that ideas don’t need rights. People do.

     


    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 11.07.07 AM.pngTrump’s Religious Privilege Theater 

    During the past couple of weeks, the Trump administration took one clumsy step backward for secularism, but that didn’t stop an encouraging step forward at the state level.

    On May 4 (which weirdly was both the National Day of Prayer and Star Wars Day), President Trump signed his “religious liberty” executive order, through which he claimed to be loosening the restrictions on campaign endorsements by churches and other tax-exempt organizations and providing “relief” to companies that don’t want to take part in the contraceptive mandates of the Affordable Care Act because of religious exemptions.

    CFI denounced the move as a “cynical pander to the religious right” and noted that despite the president’s boasts, his order is mainly symbolic. “While this executive order won’t accomplish much in practical terms,” said Michael De Dora in our official statement, “it sends a signal that Trump is looking to reward his conservative evangelical base. But this political payback is divisive and dangerous, blurring the line between church leadership and political operatives.”

    ct-congress-endorsemaaaaents-illinois-raja-gutierrez-edit-02As a positive sign of our impact, however, the Center for Inquiry and Michael were both called out by name during a House hearing on the Johnson Amendment, with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asking that our statements be put into the official congressional record.

    Meanwhile in Oregon, both houses of the state legislature passed a measure that would allow Secular Celebrants, such as those trained and certified by CFI, to solemnize marriages in the state. CFI began this effort in Oregon in 2015 with a bill that passed the state House, worked on similar legislation in Ohio, and have won crucial court victories for Secular Celebrants in Indiana and Illinois. On May 11, the Secular Coalition for America and its Oregon state chapter were successful in securing its passage through the Oregon House and Senate, and the bill is expected to be signed by the state’s Democratic governor.

     

    News from HQ and the CFI Community


    internz.pngCFI Welcomes 2017 Summer Interns 

    The movement to advance science, reason, and secularism is alive with energy among campus groups and student activists. One of the most inspiring aspects of being a part of the Center for Inquiry is how the CFI internship program gives some of those young leaders the opportunity to take their passion and talents beyond the campus and into the broader world, helping them to learn new skills, develop crucial connections, and earn real-world experience in organizing and advocacy.

    Last week, we announced our Summer Outreach Interns for 2017.

    First is Vicki Smith of Central Michigan University’s Dogma-Free Society, who says, “I’ve spent my college years getting to know myself and the different issues secular and humanist organizations are up against; now I’m ready to take the next step and see what I can do to promote a secular society.”

    Next is Andy Ngo of Portland State University and the Freethinkers of PSU. You might remember Andy’s video report of CSICon 2016, in which he discusses his religious background and journey to skepticism.

    And working from our Executive Offices in Washington, DC will be legal intern Jaskirat Singh, who has just finished his second year at George Washington University Law School and Elliot School of International Affairs, studying for a JD and MA in Security Policy Studies. Jaskirat has a background in international human rights work, having previously interned for Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.

    We look forward to getting to know and working with our new colleagues.

     


    o-RICHARD-DAWKINS-facebook.jpgSee Richard Dawkins, On Tour in the U.S. Now

    Richard Dawkins is here! And there’s still time to get your tickets to see him in live conversation with notable guests, as he comes to the United States for four special engagements, starting this Thursday in L.A.!

    • On May 18 in Los Angeles, Dawkins will be joined in conversation by satirist Adam Felber, best known for appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and as a writer for shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher.
    • In Boulder, CO, on May 22, Prof. Dawkins will take the stage with best-selling author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch.
    • On May 24 in Washington, D.C., Dawkins joins another great mind of evolution, Jerry Coyne, best-selling author of Why Evolution Is True.
    • And in Miami on May 27, you can witness a meeting few would have predicted, as Dawkins sits down with Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry.

    Time and tickets are running out. Don’t miss your chance to witness these unscripted conversations with one of the greatest scientific minds of our time. Buy your tickets now.

     

    CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media


    • Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 11.22.50 AM.pngCFI’s investigative guru Joe Nickell is profiled in a really fun short video by Great Big Story, a new media initiative supported by CNN. “Everything is obvious after it’s been explained,” says Joe.

    • Richard Dawkins is interviewed by The Times, where he discusses religion, his legacy, and in particular his view of the moral status of animals. “There is a speciesist belief that somehow they are only animals, they don’t feel pain,” he says. “But pain doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of thing you need intellect to experience.”
    • At HuffPost, Ronald Lindsay, CFI’s research fellow and former boss, critiques The Benedict Option, the book by conservative thinker Rod Dreher that argues for Christians’ withdrawal from secular society. “What’s so special about recent events that has caused him to decide that now’s the time to sound retreat?” asks Ron. “Same-sex marriage. For Dreher, same-sex marriage is unendurable.”
    • CFI Legal Director Nick Little provides secular perspective in a piece at VICE on a Christian funeral home’s unwillingness to cremate the body of a gay man.
    • 1-CKpTZAudlh0dPz8VOHVxdA.jpegGeorge Ongere, director of CFI Kenya, is interviewed by Humanist Voices about what inspired his work on behalf of reason and against superstition in Africa. “There needs to be a change in mind and thinking,” he says. “Humanism promises this kind of change for Africans to abandon blind faith and focus on the realities of life.”
    • Several outlets covered CFI’s response to Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order, including HuffPost and the Columbus Dispatch (which also features comment from CFI Northeast Ohio’s Monette Richards). Plus, CFI was attacked by the forever-aggrieved Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for our “militant secularism.”
    • Bertha Vazquez updates us on the progress of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) with developments in Alabama, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    Now available online from Skeptical Inquirer and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry:

    And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.

    Upcoming CFI Events


    May 18:

    May 19:

    Annabelle GurwitchMay 21:

    May 22:

    May 24:

    • Marissa Postler, a new member of the Wyoming City Council (and an atheist), speaks to CFI Michigan about “leading with reason.”

    May 25:

    May 26:

    • Kathie Dello, associate director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, speaks to CFI Portland about climate change and the impact of the Trump administration’s policies.

    Dave_Barryklcb.jpgMay 27:

    June 11:

    June 18:

     

    Thank you!


    Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


    CFI Logo MarkFortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

           •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

           •  Like us on Facebook

           •  Encircle us on Google+

           •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

     


    Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

    The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 

     


              Trump renews attacks against McConnell over healthcare debacle        
    The Trump administration, thwarted in several attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, notably shifted tone Wednesday, opening the door for a bipartisan plan to "fix" the law."Both folks in the House and the Senate, on both sides of the aisle frankly, have said that Obamacare doesn't work, and...
              Trump jabs Senate majority leader, again, calls defeat of healthcare bill a 'disgrace'        
    none
              Speaker Foley's Job         

    THE departure from Congress of Jim Wright and likely selection of Tom Foley to take over as House Speaker is a wrenching event that leaves Capitol Hill worried and exhausted. But it's also an opportunity to rebuild an institution that had become tarred with the brush of unethical behavior and bogged down at a time when much legislative work needs to be done. The contrasts between the outgoing Speaker and his successor could not be greater.

    Mr. Wright relished the hardball, partisan, impetuous, Lone Ranger role that had him not only butting heads with Republican administrations and opponents across the aisle in Congress, but ruling his Democratic colleagues as much out of willpower as with mutual respect and admiration.

    The pugilistic Texan is right to warn against continued vengefulness in the charges and countercharges about misconduct. But it was not just ``mindless cannibalism'' that brought him down, not simply a vendetta by Republicans chafing under 35 years of minority status. Among those 69 House rules violations alleged by his Democratic colleagues are serious charges of misconduct that add up to an abuse of authority and trust.

    Mr. Foley will be a very different kind of House Speaker. He is a moderate Democrat who comes from a conservative (largely Republican) district and trained under the late Henry Jackson. Among the adjectives used by Republicans to describe him are ``eminently fair'' and ``a man of total integrity.'' Former Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill once said (out of exasperation as much as respect) that Foley ``is a man who can see three sides of every issue.''

    The 25-year House veteran has played an important role in forging consensus on such matters as the federal budget and United States policy on Central America. On other important issues - budget and trade deficits, arms control and the evolving relationship with the Soviet Union, energy and the environment, homelessness, education, sorting out and paying for the savings-and-loan mess - Congress will have to play a very major role. And it will take consensus-building leadership for that role to be a constructive one.

    Constructive does not necessarily mean compliant, however, and Foley will also have to take the lead in presenting - where called for - a clear Democratic alternative to Bush administration policy, much as majority leader George Mitchell is now doing in the Senate. Democrats need to grasp the hand of partnership offered by the President in his inaugural. But there is a proper role for partisanship in the vigorous testing of ideas and challenging of assertions that makes for sound legislation.

    Jim Wright's heading back to Fort Worth does not mean an end to the focus on ethics. The charges against Republican House whip Newt Gingrich and others need to be thoroughly investigated and acted upon. Fortunately, the House Ethics Committee (under prodding by Common Cause - which is to be lauded for raising the Wright issue in the first place) has become much more of a tiger on Capitol Hill.

    House rules on outside income need to be tightened, and beyond that there still is much need of campaign reform to break the near-total grip of incumbency that has led to an unhealthy level of partisanship. But for now, the elevation of Tom Foley - a clear example of bipartisanship and ethical behavior - is a good beginning.

    Become a part of the Monitor community


              Senators Request GAO Review of CFIUS Oversight of Foreign Investment in U.S. Real Estate        
    Three senators – Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, ranking member on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee – have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate how the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) examines U.S. real estate... Continue Reading
              Health Care Update        
    As of Tuesday morning, it looks as if the Republicans in the Senate--like those in the House--will have to delay their initial scheduled vote on their health care measure.  The situation is exactly parallel to the House, insofar as both conservatives and moderates have refused to go along with the bill as written.  Once again, the mainstream media is jubilantly suggesting that the plan is bound to fail.  I  am sure however that the recess will become the occasion for an all0oyut pressure campaign against all the Republican Senators in an effort to reduce opposition to 2 and allow the Vice President to break the tie. There will be more cosmetic changes in the bill, as in the House, but I still think something like it will pass.  If it doesn't, we will have years of chaos as the Administration tries to destroy Obamacare from within.
              Crunch Time        
    For the past 40 years, Republicans have been winning most of our political battles over economic issues, while social issues polarize the country.  Ronald Reagan swept into office in 1980 and eliminated the progressive tax system that was the legacy of the New Deal.  Deregulation began and has continued through Republican and Democratic administrations alike.  Bill Clinton did put through one tax increase, but he also signed a very unfortunate crime bill, cut back welfare, and put Glass-Steagall to rest.  George W. Bush immediately undid Clinton's tax cuts, and then some. Barack Obama's one major triumph, the ACA, looks set to expire over the next few weeks.

    The election of Donald Trump, as I have said several times, must be viewed from at least two different perspectives. On the one hand, the election of an often-bankrupt businessman and TV star with little or no real knowledge of public affairs shows up the bankruptcy of our political system and threatens us with unprecedented dangers.  On the other hand, because Trump is a Republican, it gives Congressional Republicans--who in turn are bound hand in foot to extreme conservative contributors led by the Koch brothers--the chance to undo what remains of the New Deal and the Great Society, if not the Progressive Era.  In the Fourth Turning that began sometime in the last decade (in my opinion, in November 2000), the Republicans have generally been able to keep the initiative precisely because they were committed to the death of the old order, while the Democrats felt the country could continue to go in a more liberal direction.  Both sides believe their stances are morally right and their opponents are evil, but the Democrats, it seems to me, have tended even more to believe that LGBT rights, affirmative action, and even safety for illegal immigrants must prevail simply because they are such just causes.  If young men and women still learned any real history in schools and colleges, they would know that justice has never guaranteed victory.

    Thus, the mainstream liberal media has been unable to face the scale of the impending Republican triumph.  It remains fixated on the very serious scandals implicating Trump and people around him and the controversies over the investigation of them.  I think those investigations will eventually turn up evidence of long-term financial and political connections between Trump and the Russian government and/or Russian oligarchs, but I do not know that thta could force him out of office.  The media has also pushed the line, from the beginning, that the repeal of the ACA could not go through.  They eagerly seized upon the GOP's problems in the House, only to see Paul Ryan overcome them. Then they assumed that the Senate could not possibly pass the House bill--but the conservative Republicans who drafted the Senate alternative in secret made it, in some respects, even worse.  Equally significant, the four Republican Senators who immediately announced that they would oppose the draft in its current form were conservatives, not moderates.  Their stance will probably keep the final draft from veering leftward, and I predict most of the moderates will be bullied into going along.  If Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins refuse to vote aye, Mike Pence will break the tie and Republicans will break into a huge July 4 celebration.

    Yes, the Republicans are making a mockery of the legislative process, holding no hearings, allowing almost no debate, and ignoring (presumably) the warnings of the Congressional Budget office. Yes, they are passing bills that the bulk of the American people oppose.  But they can do it--and they don't care.  They have won all the special House elections that have been held this year, and the Democrats do not appear to have much real traction in red states.  The Democrats are deeply divided among themselves, both between centrists and progressives and between the old and the young.

    About 25 years ago Bill Strauss and Neil Howe predicted that their (and my) Boom generation would reshape America during the coming crisis.  What they did not see was that major Boomer politicians are almost all Republicans.  Although the Boom has now given us three Presidents--Clinton, Bush II, and Trump, all born in 1946--the most influential Boomer in American politics, I would argue, is Newt Gingrich, who has fought for more than 30 years for a new vision of America, one that is now coming to pass.  And the Boom did not produce a single Congressional leader of any note within the Democratic Party.  Chuck Schumer, a tool of Wall Street, is the first Boomer to lead the Democrats in either House of Congress.  Nancy Pelosi, a Silent, faced her leadership challenge from Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is from the second half of Generation X.  Another Silent, Bernie Sanders, is now the only real link to the New Deal, and he will be too old to run an effective campaign in 2020.  Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama left the Democratic Party much weaker in Congress than they found it, and both built their careers around contacts with wealthy donors, not strength in the grass roots.

    The ACA is only one key Republican initiative.  As Steve Bannon just admitted, many of Trump's cabinet selections were put in place to destroy the agencies they lead--starting with the EPA.  The Trump budget aims to take government money away from key Democratic constituencies.   And I expect some major initiative on immigration designed to remove much larger numbers of illegal immigrants from the US.

    A number of my younger friends are convinced that Millennials will not only stop, but reverse, the Republican tide within the next ten years.  For reasons I cannot develop today, I am doubtful.  The Millennials have been infected during their education by the Boomer idea that right must inevitably prevail.  Few of them have been taught the kind of systematic thinking necessary not to only to figure out what the country needs, but how to achieve it.  They also face difficult economic conditions which will keep them focused on their private lives.  Eventually things will swing the other way, but it may take a very long time.
              A civil rights milestone        
    On May 23, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans--the scion of one of Louisiana's leading political families--gave a speech explaining the decision to remove statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T Beauregard from their prominent outdoor place in the heart of New Orleans, with plans to move them indoors to a museum.  The mayor was undoubtedly moved, as he made clear, by the strong feelings of his black constituents that men who fought a war to preserve secession and slavery should not be celebrated publicly.  His speech, however, took full responsibility for the decision and argued for its necessity on very sound historical and political grounds.   And for that reason, the speech represents, I think, a milestone in American political history.  I cannot be sure of my facts here, but I suspect that Mitch Landrieu was the first white southern politician since the time of the Civil War itself to state publicly that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity, as he put it, and that it rightfully lost the war.

    We must not forget that quite a few white southerners held that view when the war began in the 1860s, and committed everything to the Union cause.  One such was Andrew Johnson, a poor white Tennessean, who remained in his seat in the Senate when Tennessee seceded and became Lincoln's vice president in 1864, with tragic consequences. (It turned out that Johnson hated free blacks even more than he hated southern planters.)  Others included George "Pap" Thomas, a Virginian, and David Farragut, a Tennessean by birth who had lived most of his life in the South, who became, respectively, the commander of the Union Army of the Cumberland and a leading Admiral of the northern fleet during the war.  The Texan Sam Houston also opposed secession.  Ironically, even Robert E. Lee--whose statue was among those removed--made it clear in 1861 that he felt secession was a terrible mistake, but opted anyway to fight with his native state of Virginia, and spent four years trying to preserve the Confederacy.  After the war, however, things changed.

    Few historical forces and more powerful than bad consciences.  In the white South, it became essential in the decades after Appomattox to argue that the "war between the states" had been forced upon the southern states by the north, that it was not really about slavery, and that, fortunately, heroic southerners had preserved white supremacy after the war.  In the decades following the conflict southern politicians and northern Democrats managed to prevent Lincoln's birthday from ever becoming a national holiday, and agitated unsuccessfully to create a national holiday in honor of Lee.  They also, of course, established segregation and deprived their black citizens of equal rights.

    Not until the wake of the Second World War, I believe, did a new type of white southern politician begin to emerge.  The New Deal had combined poor southern whites and black voters in the North within the same coalition, and many white southern politicians had supported it, while remaining opposed to integration.  But the GI generation spawned a number of white southern politicians who supported at least some progress on civil rights.  They included Estes Kefauver, a New Deal liberal from Tennessee who came quite close to winning the Democratic nomination for President in 1952, and Lyndon Johnson and Ralph Yarborough from Texas.  While Johnson, as Robert Caro showed, came into the Senate in 1949 as a loyal white southerner dedicated to white supremacy, he moved to the center on civil rights by 1957, largely because of his presidential ambitions  Another remarkable southern politician was Governor Jim Folsom of Alabama, who spoke bluntly on behalf of civil rights for black citizens in the mid-1950s.  On the Supreme Court, Hugo Black, a New Deal liberal from Alabama, joined in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and in numerous other decisions affirming the rights of black Americans--but he, of course, was safely protected from the whims of the voters.  In 1948, Harry Truman, from Missouri, became the first President to endorse a modern civil rights program, and ordered the desegregation of the armed forces.  And when Johnson became President in 1963, he became of course the most effective civil rights advocate to occupy the White House since Lincoln, signing both the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 desegregating public accommodations and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Nearly every white southern politician, however, opposed those bills, although Mayor Ivan Allen of Atlanta testified for the 1964 act before Congress, and Al Gore, Sr., of Tennessee voted for voting rights.

    Unfortunately, while much of the white South had embraced the New Deal, they were not ready for civil rights.  It was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, indeed, that South Carolina and certain other states began flying the Confederate flag in their state houses.  Southern schools continued to teach their white students about the "War of Northern Aggression," and white southerners grew up believing that the war was not really about slavery.  Just a few years ago I met a legal scholar from Virginia, roughly my own age, who declared that the world would have been better off if the North had allowed secession and said that as a Virginian, he inevitably had a low opinion of Lincoln.  In the 1990s millions of Americans watched the historian Shelby Foote fight off tears as he lamented the fall of the Confederacy in Ken Burns's documentary on the Civil War.

    Following in LBJ's footsteps, the next two Democratic Presidents--Jimmy Carter of Georgia and Bill Clinton from Arkansas--forthrightly embraced civil rights for black Americans.  But neither of them, to my knowledge, every bluntly said what Mitch Landrieu said last month.  I quote from his speech.

    "The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

    . . .  "Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous ‘cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s 'cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.'

    "Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears... I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us. And make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago — we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union."


    Now I am not enough of an authority on 20th and 21st century southern politics to be sure of what I am about to say, and I would be delighted if any readers can cite evidence that will prove it wrong.   But to my knowledge, Landrieu is, literally, the first white southern office holder to bluntly state the simple truth that the Confederacy was wrong and to welcome its defeat.  That is what his fellow whtie southerners need to hear.  Meanwhile, white and black Americans throughout the nation--deluged to political correctness and false history on many fronts--also have to learn to give credit to the many white people who never accepted slavery, brought about and won the civil war, and laid the foundation for a better America.

    This, indeed, the mayor also did at the very conclusion of his speech. 

    "It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. 

    "Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said: 'With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds...to do all which may achieve and cherish — a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.'

    "Thank you."

    Thank you, Mayor Landrieu.  I hope we all hear a lot more about you in the future.








              100 Days        
    Friday will mark the 100th day of the presidency of Donald Trump, and commentators up to and including the President himself are busily marking that milestone.  The idea that a President should accomplish great things during his first 100 days in office goes back, of course, to Franklin Roosevelt, who was sworn in on March 4, 1933, and whose first hundred days therefore extended into the month of June.  To review exactly what FDR did during that extraordinary spring, I turned to one of my favorite childhood books, The American Past, by Roger Butterfield, a beautifully illustrated survey of the nation's history from the Declaration of Independence through Hiroshima--that is, from the first great crisis of our national life through the third one.  Rather than waste time paraphrasing, I shall simply quote.

    "On March 9 Congress met in special session and passed Roosevelt's Emergency Banking Act [declaring a bank holiday to stop a financial collapse] in four hours.  On March 10 he sent up an economy bill to cut federal salaries and veterans' benefits; Congress passed it March 11.  On March 13 Roosevelt asked for legal beer [preliminary to repealing the 18th Amendment], and Congress quickly complied.

    "On March 16 Roosevelt proposed the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), to end farm surpluses [and a catastrophic fall in farm prices] by paying farmers to produce less.  On March 21 he offered his relief program, including the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), to give $500 million to the states for direct relief; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), to put 250,000 jobless young men to work in the forests at $1 day; and the Public Works Administration (PWA), to lend and spend $3,300 million [sic-$3 billion] for building projects. . . .

    "On March 29 he recommended a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to protect investors against dishonest stock fluctuations.  On April 10 he proposed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  On April 13 he called for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) to slow down mortgage foreclosures.  On April 20 he took the United States off the gold standard [effectively devaluing the dollar, as the French franc and British pound had already been devalued.]  On May 17 he asked Congress for the biggest New Deal agency of all--the National Recovery Administration (NRA)--to put industry under self-imposed 'codes of fair competition' [and recognize the right of labor to organize for the first time.\ In June he accepted a Congressional plan for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to insure all bank deposits up to $5,000 [the Glass-Steagall Act.] On June 16, exactly 100 days after Congress convened, all of these measures (and many more) had been enacted."

    Wow.

    The GI generation ranged in age from 8 to 29 during this frenzy of activity, much of which was designed either to give them immediate help in the form of a job or public assistance (the PWA, the CCC, and the FERA), or to protect them against the financial catastrophes that had struck their parents (the FDIC, the AAA, and the SEC.)  This was only the beginning of the most extraordinary period in the history of American government, which extended all the way through the Second World War.  By the time that war was over the GIs ranged in age from 21 to 41, and it is no accident, obviously, that for the rest of their lives they respected what the federal government could do and looked to it for security and, when necessary, assistance.  Today, the GIs range in age from 92 on up, and their influence, sadly, is at an end.

    This unbelievable flurry of activity had short- and long-term roots. In the short run, the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression had left 25% of the population unemployed and was now collapsing the entire banking system.  As a result, Roosevelt had won the 1932 election by a landslide and disposed of majorities of  313 to 117 in the House and 60-36 in the Senate.  Moreover, more than a few of the Republican members belonged to that now-extinct species, Republicanus Liberalis, and voted for much of the New Deal legislation.  But one reason so much far-reaching legislation could pass so quickly was that the ideas behind it had been percolating among progressives for decades.  Roosevelt's own Missionary Generation (born 1863-1883) deeply believed in the idea that reason and science could moderate economic injustice, help to plan the economy, and secure a better world.  This was their chance and they took it.  Another reason, as I discovered writing No End Save Victory, was that the Missionary generation had been educated (and educated their juniors) in the economical use of the English language, and these laws were, by contemporary standards, extraordinarily short, simple, and clear.

    Turning to the present, I suspect that many other readers will not have been able to read that list of legislation without noticing how much of it has become a dead letter.  The most notable casualty of our time was the Glass-Steagall Act, which unleashed financial institutions and allowed them to create a new financial catastrophe in 2008.  It has not been restored.  No effective mortgage relief was passed for those who lost their homes in that crisis.  Labor's right to organize has been under attack for decades and the percentage of unionized workers has been cut more than in half.  The family farmers whom the AAA was passed to help have become a politically insignificant fragment of the population.  We no longer seem to want more of the public power that the TVA provided.  We have nothing like the PWA, and eight years ago, at the height of the new economic crisis, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey blocked  a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River--a decision that is now having catastrophic consequences for New York commuters.  Nor do we have any national service program comparable to the CCC--instead we force young people to mortgage their futures by taking out student loans.   (My GI parents, by the way, received superb educations at the University of Wisconsin  during the 1930s for about $1000 a year in today's dollars.)

    These changes are not accidental.  The Republican Party has been eagerly unwinding the New Deal since the Reagan era, and the Democratic Party has done very little to stand in the way.  The question before Donald Trump, in fact, is how quickly and exactly how he can finish the job and return us to the free-market economy and concentration of wealth that the nation experienced in the late 19th century.  (Just this morning, a professor at Claremont McKenna University praised the President for trying to take the Republican Party down this path on the op-ed page of the New York Times.)   What has held him back, it seems to me, are two things.  The first is a debate within the Republican Party about how far to go in that direction, which is in turn related to a debate on fiscal responsibility.  A significant number of House Republicans really do not want to increase the federal deficit, which has been a check on plans for new tax cuts.  But yesterday, the Administration marked its first hundred days by unveiling sweeping new tax cuts will balloon the deficit again (as under Nixon, Reagan, and Bush II), claiming that economic growth will provide the lost revenue (as it never does.)  Several prominent Re[publicans immediately fell into line, and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform--one of the architechts of our new gilded age--went into ecstasy.

    The second obstacle is a different debate about how much crueler it is possible to be to the lower half of the population, much of which voted for Trump.  Because the Administration was unwilling to deprive as many Americans of health care as the Freedom Caucus wanted, they could not repeal the ACA at all.  But the momentum for repeal is far from halted, and that caucus has now produced a version of repeal that they can accept.  This will in any case be less important to our future than the tax plan.

    We live in a destructive rather than a creative period in the history of American government.  Among my own Boom generation who grew up in the world the New Deal created, right wingers have eagerly dismantled it while left wingers, with very rare exceptions, haven't cared.  We have lost the belief in a national mission to plan and create a fair and robust economy.  We have not been able to reach a consensus on immigration, which had already been achieved by essentially blocking itt 1924.  Income inequality has reached the levels of the1920s and our political campaigns are now so expensive that it is easier for the wealthy to control our politicians. The question before us is not whether we can reverse course, but whether the situation can stabilize before even greater inequality and another economic crash make things much worse.  The damage has been done, our legacy has been squandered.  As I argued back in July 2010, Barack Obama lost the last chance to reverse course in the first year of his Administration.  (As if to ram the point home, the press is now reporting that ex-President Obama is about to accept a $400,000 fee for an address on Wall Street.)  A conservative majority now controls the Supreme Court, and is likely to get bigger during the next four years.

    Donald Trump still faces the nation with a crisis because of his manifest incapacity for the biggest job on earth.  The interview he did last week with the Associated Press has gotten remarkably little attention, perhaps because no one wants to face the implications of his incoherent ramblings and unprecedented grandiosity.  He and his team are also threatening us with major wars.  But there have been no 100 days comparable to those of the New Deal because he is not reversing course on economic issues, but rather continuing down the path the country has been on for most of the last 40 years.  Our politics aredominated by corporate power, while the lower economic half of the population has no confidence in the leadership class and has been divided on racial lines.  Yet history suggests that it may still last, in broad lines at least, for many years to come.
              Did General McMaster Pass his own Test?