What would I ever do without these guys? This series of posts is rolling in material. Keep the weekend open.
A conversation has been going back and forth on Facebook. It relates to a post on this site concerning this country’s remarkable rate of gun-related tragedies. Here’s the gist:
Daniel G. Kuttner I’ll say something like what you’re fishing for, John:
In a free society, bad things will happen.
It is a pipe dream to believe one can regulate and legislate utopia. Quite the opposite is the result.
Using government to take away “their” rights results in powers which later on will be used to take awy your own.
John Blanton My position is that you are giving an honest answer. Instead of saying we are safer having a proliferation of guns in society, you are saying that all these deaths represent acceptable collateral damage.
John Blanton My position is, given the proliferation of guns in society, the consequences are unavoidable. Since it is unavoidable, it must be acceptable to those who insist upon a proliferation of guns in society.
Daniel G. Kuttner John: (I think you know) I meant your position on “keeping and bearing” arms. That is, the right (or not) of self-protection.
Just please don’t mislabel my position as “insisting on a proliferation of guns.”
You use a lot of labels which seem to me loaded. Maybe you could reconsider that manner of speaking/writing, at least, if you want to appear scientific in drawing your conclusions.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The first thing a person reading this notices is the amendment does not mention guns. It does not mention “firearms.” Hopefully that does not come as a shock to members of the National Rifle Association.
So what does the wording mean by “arms?” I contend some interpretation is required. Note at this point many fans of the Second Amendment argue daily there must be no interpretation. The right to keep and bear arms must not in any manner be infringed. So what are “arms?” What did the writers of the amendment mean? My take goes back to the initial wording, “A well regulated Militia being necessary…” The Second Amendment is meant to preserve the right to keep and bear weapons of war. Guns? Yes. Machine guns? Yes. Claymore mines? Yes.
Obviously some interpretation is required. Once fans of the Second Amendment agree on that point, then it is sort of downhill from there. The Second Amendment must be interpreted to mean that citizens on the street (not active in a well regulated militia) do not have the right to use Claymore mines for home defense.
Take this further. Not everybody should have the right to keep and bear guns. There are some people who should not be allowed near a firearm. We have such laws. Convicted felons can be and are prohibited under penalty of prosecution from having a firearm on or around themselves. Others are likewise prohibited.
A problem arises when such prohibitions are diluted to the point that is it almost impossible to keep certain people from getting hold of firearms.
- Guns are sold individual to individual with no regulation.
- Guns are sold at swap meets.
- People are not penalized for having their weapons stolen.
- People who obviously should not be allowed to touch a firearm cannot be prevented from getting hold of one. Think about people who have otherwise threatened others. Should such a person be denied for life from having a gun?
The courts have, of late, ruled in favor of very much unrestricted access to guns and also against laws that prevent carrying guns on the streets and in public places. That is the law as it stands. Dan wants to know whether I support the law.
I do support the law. Considering that in some places it is your right to carry a loaded pistol into a classroom. I think the law should be changed. If on reading the paragraphs above you agree the Second Amendment is subject to interpretation, then you should begin to think about how it should be interpreted to bring down the rate of death and injury due to guns.
Dan asks how I feel about self-defense. Dan, I’m for it. Let’s see who else has been for it.
- Man in Florida shot the man who threw popcorn on him.
- Man in Florida shot the teenager he thought might have a gun.
- Retired Army major I met shot his neighbor, who was wandering in his back yard.
- Man shot foreign student who did not understand his command to “freeze.”
- Numerous cases of road rage escalating into deadly shootings.
Let’s get real about self-defense.
Dan says he does not advocate a proliferation of guns in society. What language would he prefer instead? In American society there is a gun for every person. Does Dan want the proliferation to be reduced? By how much?
I will wind down. Stuff coming up tomorrow. We should rejoin this conversation from time to time.
And now a few words from the President of the United States.
The Greatest Presidential Harassment in history. After spending $40,000,000 over two dark years, with unlimited access, people, resources and cooperation, highly conflicted Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!
$40 million? Mr. President, may I have the difference between $40 million and what was actually spent on the probe?
And no, by law Robert Mueller was not allowed to bring charges, no matter what he came across during the investigation. For example:
First, McGahn’s clear recollection was that the President directed him to tell Rosenstein not only that conflicts existed but also that “Mueller has to go.” McGahn is a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.1884 McGahn spoke with the President twice and understood the directive the same way both times, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the President’s request. In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre. He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff, told Priebus that the President had asked him to “do crazy shit,” and informed Priebus and Bannon that he was leaving. Those acts would be a highly unusual reaction to a request to convey information to the Department of Justice.
The Washington Post. The Mueller Report . Scribner. Kindle Edition.
How many different ways are there to spell “obstruction?”
And now, for your viewing pleasure:
And now a few words from the President of the United States:
“It turns out to be true now, that the Department of Justice and the FBI, under President Obama, rigged the investigation for Hillary and really turned the screws on Trump, and now it looks like in a corrupt & illegal way. The facts are out now. Whole Hoax exposed.
This is comforting news. It’s good to get this whole business behind us.
Yes, tell us more about the rigged investigation of Hillary Clinton.
And now a few words from the President of the United States:
Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!
More on the rigged fraud.
And now a few words from the President of the United States:
“Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.” You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get…..
….his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free. He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.
And now a few words from the President of the United States:
Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about! Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!
I previously posted on an item I received in the mail from a group calling themselves Judicial Watch.. That mailing wanted me to get interested in, and to support, their efforts to further investigate past deeds of former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Their appeal had a strange appearance, since all the matters presented in their letter have since been investigated thoroughly by some of this country’s best legal minds. I hesitate to characterize their appeal as an emotional tug at my bank account, with the aim at fattening their coffers for other projects or possibly to underwrite the salaries of people on their payroll. So, I let it drop.
The subject of the most recent appeal relates to somebody’s infatuation with immigration enforcement. There are any number of federal crimes that do damage to our society, among them being espionage, money laundering, tax evasion, mail fraud, kidnapping, and bank robbery. Violation of immigration law is also a federal crime, but while the previously mentioned are felonies, entering the country illegally is a misdemeanor for the first offense. You see what I’m getting at. It’s time we made a big deal of immigration crime.
And that appears to be the thrust of this most recent Judicial Watch letter:
To: John Blanton
You are being contacted because state of Texas has been identified as a possible “sanctuary state” containing townships, cities, counties and/or regions unlawfully aiding, abetting and/or shielding illegal immigrants from federal immigration law.
The letter advocates for the involvement of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and here is a part that escapes my comprehension.
Your signature is needed because “open borders” advocates and politicians in these “sanctuary states” are using or preparing to use taxpayer-paid legal defense funds, legal action and the courts to hinder federal efforts to curtail the unlawful protection of illegal aliens in the U.S.
I need to show my support by signing and delivering an enclosed petition. Else Attorney General Paxton will not be inspired to enforce the law? And what law? Does Texas, or any state, have laws regarding illegal immigration? Somewhere in the Constitution there must be wording to the effect the federal government solely is charged with international affairs. The letter gets to the meat of the matter.
To counter these unlawful efforts to flaunt and/or evade immigration laws, the conservative public interest 501 (cX3) organization Judicial Watch is conducting a state-by-state program to investigate, expose and, where warranted, challenge in court unlawful sanctuary policies.
Your signed authorization via the enclosed AFFIRMATION OF PUBLIC SUPPORT will help Judicial Watch establish a necessary record of “in-state” public support for investigations into and judicial actions against violations of federal immigration policy and laws because they are of benefit to, and in the public interest of, the lawful citizens of said state.
Passing over the slight English language failure in the above, it is apparent that Judicial Watch wants me to throw my weight behind their endeavor. A complete reading hints they also want me to throw my money into the fray, as well.
Then begins an elaboration of the problem to be addressed:
The facts regarding the widespread efforts to aid, abet and shield illegal immigrants from the law are not in dispute. This is a purely ideological disagreement between those of us who believe we should have borders and border controls, and those who believe there should be no borders and no controls. As many as 400 regions, townships, counties and cities in every region of our country, including the vast majority of major American cities, have taken unlawful steps to offer illegal aliens some form of sanctuary; help them obstruct federal immigration law and policy; and even use tax dollars to encourage and offer legal aid to illegal immigrants, e.g.:
Followed by a summation of examples. A subsequent section of the letter reinforces the need to take action.
The consequences of illegal immigration are equally beyond dispute. Despite claims that comprehensive statistics on illegal immigrant crime are “not available” from the federal government, the disproportionate number of illegal aliens involved in drug trafficking, violent crime and gang activity is well documented in state and local jurisdictions in every region of the country:
This is followed by
a) Illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population;
b) Illegal immigrants accounted for nearly 75% of federal drug sentences in 2014 according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission;
c) In Florida, 40% of all murder convictions were criminal aliens;
d) In Los Angeles, 95% of outstanding warrants for homicide were for illegal aliens;
e) ICE reported that illegal criminal aliens released by Homeland Security during the Obama Administration accounted for 64,000 crimes, including assault, kidnapping and homicide; and
f) At various times, 25,000 illegal immigrants were serving murder sentences nationwide.
Reconciling these statements with some known facts presents difficulties. Here is something from another source:
There is no empirical evidence that immigration, including illegal immigration, increases the crime rate in the United States. According to PolitiFact, “every expert we polled said there is a consensus among scholars that undocumented immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.” Most studies have shown that illegal immigrants tend to commit less crime than natives. For immigration in general, a majority of studies in the U.S. have found lower crime rates among immigrants than among non-immigrants, and that higher concentrations of immigrants are associated with lower crime rates. Some research even suggests that increases in immigration may partly explain the reduction in the U.S. crime rate.
A 2018 study found that undocumented immigration to the United States did not increase violent crime. A 2017 study found that “Increased undocumented immigration was significantly associated with reductions in drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests, net of other factors.” A 2016 study finds no link between illegal immigrant populations and violent crime, although there is a small but significant association between illegal immigrants and drug-related crime. A 2017 study found that “Increased undocumented immigration was significantly associated with reductions in drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests, net of other factors.” A 2017 study found that California’s extension of driving licenses to unauthorized immigrants “did not increase the total number of accidents or the occurrence of fatal accidents, but it did reduce the likelihood of hit and run accidents, thereby improving traffic safety and reducing costs for California drivers… providing unauthorized immigrants with access to driver’s licenses can create positive externalities for the communities in which they live.” A 2018 study in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy found that by restricting the employment opportunities for unauthorized immigrants, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) likely caused an increase in crime.
According to a 1997 report by the National Research Council, The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, “it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions on the association between immigration and crime”.
However, the item from Wikipedia has this additional part:
The Arizona Department of Corrections reported in 2010 that illegal immigrants are over-represented in the state’s prison population. In June 2010, illegal immigrants represented 14.8 percent of Arizona state prisoners, but accounted for 7 percent of the state’s overall population according to the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, the data showed that illegal immigrants accounted for 40% of all the prisoners serving time in Arizona state prisons for kidnapping; 24% of those serving time for drug charges; and 13 percent of those serving time for murder. Criminologist professor James Alan Fox assets that this is to be expected as illegal immigrants who tend to be poor “will have a higher rate of individuals in prison” as there is a correlation between social class and criminality, a correlation between social class and the probability to being sent to prison for the same crime as compared to people in a higher social class, and inadequate legal representation for the poor.
The cause for the apparent dichotomy between the Judicial Watch statements and the above is hinted at by examining how JW crafts its words. Take their item a) above: “Illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population.” I have highlighted the word “convicted.” JW is not saying illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes. They are saying they are more likely to be convicted of their crimes.
Putting aside all that, I am going to interpret the letter from Judicial Watch as an appeal to my supposed alignment with the anti-immigration sentiment that pervades our politically conservative culture. And the irony is palpable.
Conservative causes and candidates receive massive support from American business owners, who tend to be conservative due to their opposition to overbearing government regulation. The irony is that illegal immigration feeds the profit line of many of these concerns. From the same Wikipedia entry:
Swift & Co.: In December 2006, in the largest such crackdown in American history, U.S. federal immigration authorities raided Swift & Co. meat-processing plants in six U.S. states, arresting about 1,300 illegal immigrant employees.
Tyson Foods: This company was accused of actively importing illegal labor for its chicken packing plants; at trial, however, the jury acquitted the company after evidence was presented that Tyson went beyond mandated government requirements in demanding documentation for its employees.
Gebbers Farms: In December 2009, U.S. immigration authorities forced this Brewster, Washington, farm known for its fruit orchards to fire more than 500 illegal workers, mostly immigrants from Mexico. Some were working with false social security cards and other false identification.
The hard fact is that illegal workers do not enjoy the protection of labor laws to the extent citizens and legal workers do. The threat of exposure, arrest, and deportation prevents their complaining when employers short their wages or require them to work in unsafe environments. Employers use these circumstances to drive down wages and thereby increase profits. And the business owners vote Republican. Whether they underwrite Judicial Watch in this campaign is unknown to me.
Full disclosure: I support the government’s immigration laws. The federal government has the right to control immigration, limit the number of people allowed to enter the country on a permanent basis each year, and to set requirements for aliens who want to work here. That said, I agree that immigration is beneficial to the American economy and to the strength of our nation. We really should accept more immigrants from our nearest neighbors, including Mexico. Conservatives have exhibited a distaste for immigration from Arabic and Muslim countries, the excuse being that some of these people might be terrorists. I chuckle.
Stories I see posted on conservative sites and in mail I receive from conservative advocates zero in on illegal, sometimes heinous, acts committed by immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants. Particular note is made of incidents that involve Muslims. These conservative sources are the same ones that advocate a proliferation of deadly weapons in society, which on a daily basis accounts for more horror than a year’s worth of contribution from Muslims and from immigrants.
All this prompts an appraisal of Judicial Watch, its legitimacy, and its competence. While JW has had notable successes, its history is also marked by a number of excesses. Examples:
On August 31, 2018, Judicial Watch reported on its blog that the Justice Department “admitted” in a court filing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held no hearings regarding the surveillance application for former Trump adviser Carter Page. In their blog post, Judicial Watch linked to the court filing, which was in response to a FOIA lawsuit, but nowhere in the post was it mentioned that the court filing stated, “Specifically, FOIA staff consulted with knowledgeable subject matter experts in the Office of Intelligence. Those experts confirmed that, as is typical in proceedings before the FISC, no hearings were held with respect to the acknowledged Carter Page FISA applications, and thus no responsive transcripts exist.” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton appeared on Fox News that night and stated that the Justice Department said there were no hearings for the Page application, but did not mention that the DOJ said this was “typical in proceedings before the FISC.” The Judicial Watch story was reported as scandalous by conservative websites, such as Gateway Pundit. The following day, Trump tweeted about the story.
In 2010, Judicial Watch made inaccurate claims about air travel spending by Nancy Pelosi’s congressional delegation; Judicial Watch’s claims were picked up by the conservative conspiracy site WorldNetDaily. Judicial Watch also made false claims about Pelosi’s air travel in 2008 as well.
In total, Judicial Watch gives the appearance, intentional or not, of being a nutty right-wing advocacy group, living off the prejudices and fears of a like-minded segment of our society. And I enjoy receiving their mail.
I get letters. Rather, I get email. I sign up for some of the most bizarre the Internet has to offer. It’s my penance for a life of idleness and sloth. I’m feeling better now.
Last week I received an actual letter in my postal mailbox. It’s from Judicial Watch. They want me to give money. I think I will not. They presented their argument. It is not convincing. Here are some samples:
To: John Blanton
The conservative public interest organization Judicial Watch, organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue–Service code, “has launched’ a series of in\–7–Estig–ations–arid lawsuits into former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her staff regarding various counts of corruption, deception and concealment.
This investigation and several lawsuits remain active. As a resident of Texas in the 5th Circuit, you are being asked if you will show your support of these actions by signing and returning the enclosed AFFIRMATION OF PUBLIC SUPPORT of our investigations into Hillary Clinton.
The purpose of this public AFFIRMATION is to establish a foundation of public support in each of the twelve federal circuit court districts across the United States to substantiate sufficient public interest in the efficacy of pursuant judicial actions while demonstrating that such legal actions are of public benefit.
Your signature on this AFFIRMATION allows Judicial Watch to establish a necessary record of public support for its investigative and litigation proceedings into the public record of Hillary Clinton and her staff.
That’s the opening. There are eight pages. They tell us what it’s going to be about:
It is the contention of Judicial Watch that, in service to a self-serving agenda, former First Lady, former U.S. Senator, former U.S. Secretary of State and former candidate for President Hillary Rodham Clinton exploited the use of her office (and any other lever of public power she has maintained) to circumvent the rules of public service to finance and shape her image as a candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
What’s especially troubling is that Hillary Clinton has played this same corrupt tune (lying, obstruction, “pay for play” and graft) for nearly a quarter-century. Since 1994 Judicial Watch has had to expend enormous resources investigating Hillary Clinton.
Yes, that’s it. Concerning matters of settled jurisprudence, the organization calling itself Judicial Watch wants my support (and ultimately my money) in kicking an intire remuda, already dead. They propose—presumably after first locating the remains of Judge Crater—to resolve one or more of these pressing issues regarding Hillary Clinton:
- Obstructing the release of records about the Whitewater land deal when her husband was running for president in 1992 (her Rose Law Firm billing records were mysteriously lost for two years and then turned up in the White House residence).
- Refusing to tell the truth about the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack that took place on her watch as Secretary of State in 2012 and her role in the cover-up by lying about the attack to the American people.
- Abusing her public office to trade cash for favors — with corporate money, Russian and other foreign money, foreign government money…gobs of money, much of which is now sloshing around her “charity” that could be renamed “The Clinton Corruption Family Foundation.”
- Permitting her 2016 presidential campaign to bankroll and market the phony “Trump Dossier” full of unsubstantiated and salacious allegations against her opponent, Donald Trump, which was corruptly used by Clinton allies in the FBI to launch the multi-million dollar, out-of-control investigation headed by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller that continues to the present day.
These are some of Clinton’s heinous crimes that must be resolved before we can get around to the serious business of figuring out how NASA faked the moon landings. More seriously, it is what comes before any one of the following:
Maybe we should all contribute to Judicial Watch, so they can clean up the Clinton mess and get around to reading President Trump’s income tax filings. I’m holding my breath.
I just now made a trek out into the rain and retrieved another letter from Judicial Watch. I await with anticipation the moment when I will open it and discover another trove of legal gems such as these. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.
And now a few words from the President of the United States:
The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!
He comes out of the meeting and announces said leader of a foreign government was not complicit in aiding his campaign, and he denounces members of this nation’s intelligence services, disparaging past members by name, calling their investigation into crimes committed by the same foreign power that assisted in his election a “witch hunt.”
And he calls football players, who kneel while the national anthem is played, unpatriotic. I now think I have a clear picture of what is going on.
Two years ago I ditched my cable TV contract and subscribed to streaming services. That introduced me to a new world of TV offerings. One was The Americans, produced by FX and streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a spy story, partially inspired by an actual spy case, the Illegals Program, which involved a Russian man and a Russian woman who took over the identities of two dead Canadian children and lived for years in the United States as Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley. Their route took them from Canada, where they assumed the identities of the dead children, to France, where Heathfield attended graduate school before the pair moved to the United States, where he enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. At that point the pair began work on their ultimate task, which was to spy on the United States government by way of identifying sensitive people in high position who could be compromised. During their time in Canada the pair produced two sons, who were never aware their parents were Russians. The couple never spoke Russian at home.
At the time Heathfield and Foley entered the United States in 2000 the FBI became aware they were spies, and the agency began intense surveillance, which culminated in indictments and expulsion in 2010. During this time there is significant divergence from the plot of The Americans. Heathfield and Foley were nothing more than spies. They performed their tasks and reported back to Russia. In the TV series the pair are Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, and they are not nice people. Despite being married, they use sexual persuasion to ensnare unwitting subjects. From the opening scenes of the pilot episode, Elizabeth, in blond disguise, has trolled a government official in a bar and is about to go down on him in a hotel room.
They also kill people. The series is punctuated by multiple instances of victims being shot at point blank range.
A counterpoint in the plot is FBI agent Stan Beeman, who coincidentally moves in next door to the Jennings and befriends them. Ironically, and critical to the plot, Beeman is working on the investigation of Soviet (during the Cold War) agents. Beeman is cast as a weak link in the agency’s investigation, compromising a cuddlesome clerk at the Soviet embassy and surreptitiously sleeping (a euphemism) with her. His loose ways unravel the agency’s attempt to thwart the Soviet plot.
The real world of Russian spies has a similar agent. He is Peter Strzok, and he worked the case from its inception through the prosecution of Heathfield and Foley and the expulsion of a mass of Russian spies in July 2010. He rose to head up the FBI’s counter intelligence operation and most recently supervised the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email probe and the probe into Russian influence on the Donald Trump presidential campaign. As with the fictional Beeman, Agent Strzok was undone by an extra-marital dalliance. About the time Donald Trump was running for office, Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page were having an affair. They were humping on the sly.
Bedding down with another government employee is not illegal, nor is it against office policy. Where the two went out of bounds was to use their government email service to communicate so as to keep their sub rosa business sub rosa. When Robert Mueller took over the investigation of the Russian meddling last year one of the first things he did was to learn of these surreptitious interchanges and to remove Strzok from the case. Not only was the private use of government email against office policy, the contents of some of the interchanges were unhinging. The two were vocal (electronically) critical of Donald Trump. Good policy: you can’t investigate a presidential candidate and at the same time be calling him an idiot and a threat to American democracy.
Republicans in Congress, especially in the House of Representatives, have sought from the beginning to derail the Mueller investigation, owing to its devastating revelations concerning Trump campaign officials’ involvement with Russian agents. And that brings us to the topic for today: the Rachel Maddow Show from yesterday, 11 July.
Maddow, as usual, takes some time to warm up before getting to the meat. She displays the background of Heathfield and Foley at length. Here they are in better times in Canada with their children. They used their time in Canada to acclimate to western culture.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgTheir unfortunate children were left without a country after their parents were deported.
By the time Heathfield was graduating from Harvard, the FBI was on the scene to snap a graduation photo.
If I were Heathfield I would demand my money back.
The FBI investigation was called “Operation Ghost Stories.”
Here are some details from the indictment:
The use of steganography to conceal messages is illustrated in an actual image used by the spies and posted on-line for all to view.
A real spy thriller was in the making.
The feds obtained a warrant and bugged the couple’s Boston townhouse.
They listened to Heathfield’s and Tracey’s most intimate conversations.
The two discussed how to make use of steganography.
The feds obtained a warrant and pried into a safe deposit box in Cambridge.
They found film depicting Foley in her early 20s.
An attempt had been made to disguise the origin of the film by trimming the film margins, where manufacture information would be printed. They overlooked one negative.
It had the name of a Russian film manufacturer, Tasma.
The feds also retrieved and photographed notebooks.
One page revealed the 27-character password to employ the steganographic software used to hide messages in images.
Investigations revealed the identities of American government officials targeted by the spies.
One person of interest had information about nuclear “bunker-buster” warheads.”
The FBI has a page on Operation Ghost Stories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgNow, the FBI official who ran the investigation of The Americans is under fire by Republican lawmakers, who challenge the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation, and, lacking hardly anything else, Peter Strzok’s text exchanges with Lisa Page are going to have to serve as their leverage.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgCharges that Strzok engineered the investigation into Trump/Russia are ludicrous in the light of known history. The Brits spotted suspicious activity and passed it on to the Americans, where it settled into Strzok’s lap.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgWith Mueller taking over the prosecution, the Strzok-Page exchanges came out, much to Republican delight.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSomething not widely pushed by Republicans, is the disdain toward the Russians shown in Strzok’s texts.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgYou would not know it from Republicans in Congress, but Strzok was vocal about a range of politicians and candidates.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgSurprisingly, his ultimate choice was a Republican.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgPeter Strzok testified before Congress publicly today, having previously testified in a closed session. The Washington Post is shown stating,
…his political conviction that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for American national security is not based on his bias, it was based on information that was available to him.
In this conclusion, Strzok has been shown to be a sentient carbon life form rather than a political ideologue.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgRachel Maddow illustrates some comments from Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman. These comments address Republicans’ objections that Strzok gave undue attention to Trump/Russia over the Clinton emails:
Not every FBI investigation is of equal importance to U.S. national security. There is simply no equivalence between an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information, a relatively commonplace occurrence in the FBI’s…
…and credible evidence suggesting that the presidential campaign of a major party candidate was actively colluding with a hostile foreign power in a way that could undermine the integrity of an American Presidential [sic] election.
To require senior national security officials to profess fealty to this false equivalence is both short-sighted and dangerous.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpIfLRqz0bgA quick look at news coming out of Strzok’s testimony before Congress today reveals a circus beyond even my expectations: Vox has a bit from Texas’ own Louis Gohmert (District 1):
But Gohmert took things to another level when he brought up Strzok’s personal life.
“I’ve talked to FBI agents around the country. You’ve embarrassed them, you’ve embarrassed yourself. And I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about and —” Gohmert said, before being drowned out by objections from Democrats.
“Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous!” someone yelled, appealing to House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte to intervene. “Shame on you!” another person shouted. Someone else called the comment “harassment of the witness.” Another Democrat yelled at Gohmert, “You need your medication!”
Wacko really has come home.
There’s going to be more from me on today’s hearing. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.
It’s good advice to anybody who’s in the position of President Trump’s personal lawyer. Last week on CNN Anderson Cooper was speaking to another lawyer acquainted with Michael Cohen. Michael Avenatti, who represents porn star Stormy Daniels in a case against Cohen, continues to find interesting details related to Cohen’s business dealings.
Cohen formed Essential Consultants LLC a few days prior to writing a check to the actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. The check was for $130,000, and it was payment to Ms. Clifford in return for her agreement to not talk publicly about having humped the future president ten years previous. The Delaware company was from all appearances formed for the sole purpose of insulating Cohen from the payment. It was Essential Consultants whose name was on the check. That would have been interesting enough, but this Delaware company-in-name-only has since developed a life of its own, and that life seems to consist entirely of passing money from one hand to the next. More recent customers include:
- Columbus Nova
- Novartis Investments S.a.r.l.
- Korea Aerospace Industries.
For people who do not know, Columbus Nova is an investment company with ties to Victor Vekselberg. Mr. Vekselberg is a Russian oligarch with close ties to recurring Russian President Vladimir Putin. Novartis is a multi-national pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland. That company’s modus operandi has in the past included making multi-million dollar bribes to foreign governments. AT&T is, of course, a century-old American company that began life as Southwestern Bell Telephone company, an offshoot of a company formed by telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Full disclosure: my mother spent her working career working for this company and retired on a company pension. Upon her death I received a death benefit of several hundred dollars from the company. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is the sole major aircraft company in South Korea. Their recent claim to fame includes the company’s near collapse following revelations that company executives were fixing the books and directing cash into their pockets. A deal with American Lockheed-Martin to build military aircraft is now in jeopardy.
Enough of that. Attorney Cohen, whose only client seems to be the President of the United States, recently had every inch of his personal space raided by the FBI seeking information relating to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian government meddling with the 2016 election. Is Mr. Cohen in trouble? He has not been charged with any crime, although his payment to Ms. Clifford has the possibility of being in violation of campaign finance law.
The CNN interview with attorney Avenatti yielded a number of picturesque screen shots, including this one:
So, Columbus Nova is assuring us that gospodin Vekselberg was not personally involved in making payments to Michael Cohen. That is most comforting to Mr. Cohen. Provided it sticks.
In the meantime, I have some advice for Mr. Cohen. Wherever life and circumstances take you in the next few months, keep your wits about you, and be aware at all times of your surroundings. And don’t drop the soap.
People ask me, “How come you don’t do one of these every day?” Actually, nobody asks. But if they did ask I would have to concede I am at the point where I’m running low on energy. But for an ambitious landscaping project, I might have posted this Friday while it was still hot. Which reminds me, I need to be sure to get Barbara Jean a birthday present.
Anyhow, the following image, a screen shot from MSNBC streaming on YouTube, shows some people desperately in need of assistance.
These are the hosts (Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade) of Fox and Friends on (where else) the Fox network, and if they appear distressed to you, then you are imagining things. That’s because I watched this episode, and I can tell you that at this point in a thirty-minute sequence these people were desperate to not appear distressed, but they were squirming, and they were trying mightily to get a caller off the phone. They were also trying mightily to conceal that fact. The reason for their discomfort is the caller was their supreme, exalted patron, the President of the United States, who had just spent the major part of half an hour demonstrating why I call him the Schlemiel-in-Chief.
If you just returned from a trek through the desert on a horse with no name, then I need to inform you what the rest of the nation already knows. The Fox network show Fox and Friends comes on at 6 a.m. Eastern Time, and sometimes the President of the United States phones in, and the hosts are always glad to have him, they being his chief cheer leading squad. Last Thursday that joy appeared to last all of ten minutes. Some explanation as to why:
TRUMP: People have to understand how dishonest the news is. And in all fairness to Fox, you guys don’t always treat me great. But you treat me fairly. It’s not like Fox is perfect for me. They’re not! They’re tough. But at least it’s fair. When you look at some of the others, you look at like a CNN, they’ll have a council of seven people [audibly becoming enraged] and of the seven people, every one of them is against me! I’m saying, where do they even find these people?
BRIAN KILMEADE: I’m not your doctor, Mr. President, but I would recommend you watch less of them.
TRUMP: I don’t watch them at all! I watched last night, I tell you what. I watched leaking lying Comey last night [Steve Doocy guffaws sycophantically] and I did, I hated to do it, you know, one of the reasons, people say, “You’re still looking good, Mr. President—how do you do it?” [Ed.: No one says this, I hope]
DOOCY: All right—
There is more from Fortune:
Trump criticized the Obama administration and former Secretary of State John Kerry for not handling tensions with North Korea sooner.
“This should have been settled long before I came into office,” he said, calling Kerry “the worst negotiator” he’s ever seen.
The president said he did watch the interview with former FBI director James Comey on CNN Wednesday night.
“His performance, by the way, was horrible,” Trump said. He blasted Comey as a criminal, calling him a “leaker and a liar.”
“He is guilty of crimes,” the president said. “I did a great thing for the American people by firing him.”
“This doesn’t have to do with me, Michael is a businessman,” the president said. “I have nothing to do with his business.”
He emphasized the small role Cohen played in his own legal affairs.
“Just so you understand, I have many attorneys. So many attorneys you wouldn’t even believe it,” Trump said. “He represented me on this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, and from what I can see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
The president hit his favorite highlights in the interview with Fox and Friends, criticizing CNN and NBC, among others, as “fake news,” and bragging about his electoral college win.
“The electoral college is set up perfectly for the Democrats,” he said, “They should never lose the electoral college and they did.”
Trump repeated the claim that the Russia investigation is an effort by Democrats to save face after an embarrassing loss, citing the number of electoral votes he won.
On how he would grade his time in office so far
“I would give myself an A+,” Trump said. “Nobody has done what I’ve been able to do and I’ve done it despite the fact that I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn’t exist.”
He spoke about accomplishments like deregulation and the Republican tax bill, but mostly emphasized the challenges he’s faced during his first year.
“I’m fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seated people — drain the swamp — that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me and they’re not bringing up real charges against the other side,” the president said. “So we have a phony deal going on and it’s a cloud over my head. And I’ve been able to really escape that cloud, because the message now everyone knows now it’s a fix, it’s a witch hunt.”
From Vanity Fair:
Doocy, Kilmeade, and Earhardt endured the deluge heroically, fidgeting slightly at times, and offering small laughs as they encouraged the president and tried to keep him on track. The interview went off the rails, however, when the Fox hosts asked Trump about the Russia investigation dogging his presidency, and whether he would agree to interview with Mueller:
“Well, if I can. The problem is that it’s such a—if you take a look, they’re so conflicted, the people that are doing the investigation. You have 13 people that are Democrats, you have Hillary Clinton people, you have people that worked on Hillary Clinton’s foundation. They’re all—I don’t mean Democrats. I mean, like, the real deal. And then you look at the phony Lisa Page and [Peter] Strzok and the memos back and forth and the F.B.I.—and by the way, you take a poll at the F.B.I. I love the F.B.I.; the F.B.I. loves me. But the top people at the F.B.I., headed by Comey, were crooked.”
“You look at the corruption at the top of the F.B.I.—it’s a disgrace,” Trump continued, practically yelling, as the Fox hosts stared ahead nervously. “And our Justice Department—which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t—our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me, and everyone knows it.”
As the Fox & Friends control room may have guessed, Trump’s burning anger could come at the expense of his current legal-defense strategy. With Mueller reportedly investigating the president and his associates for obstruction of justice in the Russian collusion probe, Trump’s lawyers have urged him to stay quiet about the special counsel’s work and allow his investigation to go forward. By impugning the F.B.I. and threatening to intervene at the Justice Department, Trump may have just given his adversaries more legal ammunition. He may also have undermined his case in more roundabout ways: at another point, he referred to his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen as having done a “tiny, tiny little fraction of my legal work”—an apparent attempt to distance himself from Cohen, who he admitted represented him in “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.” Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer, immediately called the admission a “gift from the heavens” and “hugely damaging”: not only did Trump’s statement suggest he was aware that Cohen had paid hush money to Daniels, it also undercut Cohen’s argument that his communications with Trump, recently seized by the F.B.I., are protected by attorney-client privilege.
I find it breathtaking that three Fox TV hosts grasped something the President of the United States failed to. That is when Fox host Steve Doocy spoke words that may eventually be carved in granite.
Meyers unpacked what he called the “truly crazy rant” that was Trump’s phone interview with Fox & Friends on Thursday morning. It was a conversation in which the Commander-in-Chief “rambled on for so long about so many random topics that at one point the Fox & Friends hosts said they were the ones who were running out of time,” Meyers said — before cutting to footage of the Fox & Friends hosts’ deflating expressions and Steve Doocy interrupting Trump to say, “We’re running out of time.” [Emphasis added]
On the first level Doocy was wanting to get the President of the United States off the air, back into his box, and safe from American ears. On another level Doocy may have offered up a prophecy. We [Fox and Trump] are running out of time. There is only so much longer this comedy can go on before it is dragged down by the sheer weight of its lunacy.
In the meantime, President Trump has trapped himself with his own words. Two hours after this bit flapped publicly, Justice Department lawyers handed into a judge an argument that the President’s words have unraveled his claims for attorney-client privilege in the investigation of his lawyer, Michael Cohen.
In particular, the letter to Kimba M. Wood United States District Judge Southern District of New York, government lawyers used the President’s language from the Fox and Friends interview against his case.
2 If Cohen’s request for a privilege log were to be granted, there is no reason the Government’s Investigative Team could not review the privilege log.3 As the Court is aware, after originally stating that the Government seized “thousands, if not millions,” of pages of privileged documents, Cohen subsequently identified three current clients.Of those three clients, one, Sean Hannity, has since said that “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees.” Another, President Trump, reportedly said on cable television this morning that Cohen performs “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work. These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here.
If ever there was a definition for Schlemiel-in-Chief, then this should be enshrined.
Voters (and taxpayers) are rejoicing all over this land. That which was promised had been delivered. We finally have the government we paid for. And are we ever so well rewarded. Recently-elected President of the United States Donald J. Trump promised, and he has delivered.
Extraordinary! Twelve Federal Circuit Court judges confirmed, and President Trump is still in his first year in office. This accomplishment exceeds that of any other president—more than Kennedy’s and Nixon’s 11 in their first year and far ahead of President Obama’s three. What makes President Trump’s accomplishment all the more remarkable is that he had to deal with a Republican Senate and a Republican House. Of course, the House of Representatives is not involved in confirmation of judges, but I’m just throwing that out to impress you.
Additionally remarkable is the caliber of individuals being advanced to this judicial level. An example would be Matthew Spencer Petersen, which person President Trump nominated to the Court. To be sure, before a nominee can advance to actually sitting in judgment on federal cases, that person must be confirmed by the Senate, and to assure some legitimacy of such confirmation there is a proforma hearing—merely a bureaucratic exercise the nominee is required to endure before he is hustled off to his chair behind the bench. Mr Petersen’s experience with this exercise was notable.
Here is a transcript of part of the process involving Mr. Petersen. The “Kennedy” referenced in the transcript is Judiciary Committee member John Neely Kennedy (R-La.). From The Washington Post:
KENNEDY: Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?
(PETERSEN RAISES HIS HAND)
KENNEDY: Mr. Petersen, have you ever tried a jury trial?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: State or federal court?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: Have you ever taken a deposition?
PETERSEN: I was involved in taking depositions when I was an associate at Wiley Rein when I first came out of law school. But that was —
KENNEDY: How many depositions?
PETERSEN: I’d be struggling to remember.
KENNEDY: Less than 10?
KENNEDY: Less than 5?
PETERSEN: (Pauses) Probably somewhere in that range.
KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a — taken a deposition by yourself?
PETERSEN: I believe not — no.
KENNEDY: Okay. Have you ever argued a motion in state court?
PETERSEN: I have not.
KENNEDY: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?
KENNEDY: (Nods repeatedly) When’s the last time you read the Rules of Civil Procedure?
PETERSEN: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure? I — in my current position, I obviously don’t need to stay as invested in those on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep up to speed. We do have at the Federal Election Commission roughly 70 attorneys who work under our guidance, including a large litigation division. And as a commissioner, we oversee that litigation, we advise them on overall legal strategy, provide recommendations and edits to briefs and so forth, and meet with them about how we’re going to handle —
KENNEDY: If I could ask you — I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we’re only given five minutes for five of you. So, when’s the last time you read the Federal Rules of Evidence?
PETERSEN: The Federal Rules of Evidence, all that way through would — well, comprehensively would have been in law school. Obviously I have been involved in — when I was an associate — that was something that we had to stay closely abreast of. And there have been some issues having to do with evidentiary issues that will cause me to examine those periodically in our oversight role for litigation at the Federal Election Commission.
KENNEDY: Well, as a trial judge, you’re obviously going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the Daubert standard is?
PETERSEN: Sen. Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal but I would be happy to take a closer look at that. That is not something I’ve had to contend with.
KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?
PETERSEN: Yes. I haven’t — I’m, again — my background is not in litigation — as when I was replying to Chairman [Charles] Grassley. I haven’t had to, again, do a deep dive. And I understand, and I appreciate this line of questioning. I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge. I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I have taken. But as I mentioned in my earlier answer, I believe that the path that I have taken to be one who’s been in a decision-making role in somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 enforcement matters, overseen I don’t know how many cases in federal court the administration has been a party to during my time —
KENNEDY: Yes, I’ve read your résumé. Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?
PETERSEN: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table.
KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?
PETERSEN: I’ve heard of it, but I, again —
KENNEDY: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?
PETERSEN: I — I —
KENNEDY: Y’all see that a lot in federal court. Okay, any one of you blog?
KENNEDY: Any of you ever blogged in support of the Ku Klux Klan?
PETERSEN: No, Senator. (Other witnesses indicate no.)
And that is so heart-warming. Isn’t this a great country? We live in a place where the President of the United States can just step outside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania and pull somebody off the sidewalk, announcing, “How would you like to the Queen for a Day?” All right, it only a judgeship, but who’s quibbling. At long last we are getting the government we paid for.
Here’s a video:
Full disclosure. I served six years in the Navy Reserve, several months of which were active duty and aboard Navy warships. Respect for the flag in the military is a critical issue, and daily there are raising and lowering ceremonies. If you are above decks (outdoors) when the bugle sounds, then you stand at attention and salute. Additionally if you don’t already know, the Navy has a code that you always wear your hat when above decks, and you never wear your hat when below decks. And you never salute unless you are wearing your hat. This is enforced.
Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore did not serve in the Navy, but he did serve in the United States Army, and I am sure he picked up some good flag etiquette there. That said, he seems to conflate military flag etiquette with civil law. How do I know this? I know this because he said as much in so many words:
Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Wednesday that NFL players and other athletes who take a knee during the national anthem in protest are violating a federal law.
In an interview with Time magazine, Moore said that NFL players are violating a section of federal law that establishes “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, and details proper respectful conduct during its performance.
“It’s against the law, you know that?” Moore said. “It was an act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law.”
“It’s against the law, you know that?” Let that sink in. A candidate for the United States Senate seems to be unclear on the issue. Here is what is real and official:
Prior to Flag Day, June 14, 1923, neither the federal government nor the states had official guidelines governing the display of the United States’ flag. On that date, the National Flag Code was constructed by representatives of over 68 organizations, under the auspices of the National Americanism Commission of the American Legion. The code drafted by that conference was printed by the national organization of the American Legion and given nationwide distribution.
On June 22, 1942, the Code became Public Law 77-623; chapter 435. Little had changed in the code since the Flag Day 1923 Conference. The most notable change was the removal of the Bellamy salute due to its similarities to the Hitler salute.
A subsequent federal court ruling held that enforcement of flag etiquette on civilians is an abridgment of the First Amendment and cannot be enforced. Judge Moore’s mental idle ramblings notwithstanding, nobody is in trouble for kneeling during a flag ceremony, or for the playing of the national anthem.
Judge [former] Moore is unclear on a great number of things, and one day I will make an attempt at a comprehensive listing.
Wait for it. It’s coming. It’s coming. Wait! It’s here!
Washington (CNN) — President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on Friday, sparing the controversial former Arizona sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.
There. It’s done. Did you ever doubt it was going to happen? To find anything more predictable I had to go all the way back to… To last week, when an eclipse of the sun raced across this country from the west coast to the east. That was more predictable. But it was close.
So, what does it take to draw a get-out-of-jail-free card from President Trump? You might not be surprised:
Arpaio has been accused of various types of police misconduct, including abuse of power; misuse of funds; failure to investigate sex crimes; improper clearance of cases; unlawful enforcement of immigration laws; and election law violations. A Federal court monitor was appointed to oversee his office’s operations because of complaints of racial profiling. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, and subsequently filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. Arpaio’s office paid more than $146 million in fees, settlements, and court awards.
Over the course of his career Arpaio was the subject of several federal civil rights lawsuits. In one case he was a defendant in a decade-long suit in which a federal court issued an injunction barring him from conducting further “immigration round-ups”. A federal court subsequently found that after the order was issued, Arpaio’s office continued to detain “persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed.” In July 2017, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court, a crime for which he was pardoned by President Donald Trump on August 25, 2017. In a separate racial-profiling case which concluded in 2013, Arpaio and his subordinates were found to have unfairly targeted Hispanics in conducting traffic stops.
Yes! Those are exactly the qualities that are going to earn you a nod from Donald Trump. Did we ever not see this coming?
We complained, and we complained, but now we need to quit complaining. At last we have the government we paid for.
A Facebook friend posted an item referencing “God’s ACLU.” It’s about an organization to defend religious liberty:
Advocates for religious liberty in America are part of what might be seen as the second wave of rights activism in the courts, the first being the wave that began in the 1950s and ’60s with litigation over the rights of minorities, women and criminal suspects, among others. In the past 25 years, conservative and libertarian groups have applied lessons that the liberal vanguard learned about how to select test cases for litigation as a way to steer the law. The focus today is still on the individual, but on his right to own guns, send his children to the school of his choice, or—Ms. Alvarado’s field of concern—worship freely and live a full religious life uncramped by the state.
“Our first case at Becket was in 1996,” Ms. Alvarado says. “A boy name Zachary Hood wanted to bring a ‘Beginner’s Bible’ to his first-grade class on share-your-favorite-story day. His teacher said, ‘No, you don’t get to do that.’ ” The family sued the school board but lost the case, and the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. But the board eventually settled in a related matter—having to do with a Thanksgiving poster the 6-year-old had drawn saying he was “thankful for Jesus”—and the federal Education Department issued official guidance shortly thereafter, affirming a student’s right to express religious beliefs in all schoolwork.
Some who know me may be surprised, but I an in favor of religious rights, otherwise known as the right to act foolishly in public. That said, someone seriously in need of such protection is whacked out pastor Rick Joyner:
Right-wing pastor Rick Joyner posted a video on his Facebook page today claiming that the chaos that is engulfing the Trump White House is actually a sign that President Trump is an “extraordinary leader” … just like Jesus.
“I’m expecting some chaos in the White House team for the duration of Trump’s administration,” Joyner said, “and I am saying this is because he is such an extraordinary leader. It’s not a lack of leadership; it’s a different kind of leadership.”
Few would not agree that this is funny to an extraordinary degree.
Four years ago I posted on the Edward Snowden business:
Snowden has seen something that is wrong with this country, and he has acted to correct it. From his point of view. The issue is currently being batted about in the halls of government, and some are saying PRISM and FISA are bad, and some are saying they are good. The discussion will likely go on for some time, and in the end some disagreement is sure to persist.
In the mean time Snowden has nullified all those other votes with his one vote. He has become a Majority of One. It would appear that sometimes it is necessary to destroy one part of democracy in order to save another part.
There’s a long tradition of defying the law to do what’s right. Mohandas Gandhi was one such person. Martin Luther King was another. We have to wonder whether Snowden saw himself in the same light as these two. Both saw a wrong that needed to be corrected, and both went beyond the law. Of course, there’s a difference. Gandhi and King owned up, didn’t flee, didn’t back away. They offered themselves up to suffer the legal consequences of their actions. Both were murdered. Snowden, to the contrary, sought refuge from justice within the purview of one of the most corrupt and anti-democratic regimes on the planet, refusing to submit to the legal consequences of what he did. It takes some of the shine off.
That said, I never condoned Snowden’s methods. The government actions he exposed were not part of a great scheme to subjugate people and to suppress equal opportunity under the law. Furthermore, there is serious question whether anybody’s civil rights were in jeopardy. Snowden figured he had a vote in the matter, and he cast it—a majority of one.
While the Edward Snowden affair was still fresh in people’s minds, others figured they had a better lock on what was right and just than the American court system. There was the episode I titled High-Pocket Pickpocket.
Bundy’s family has been grazing cattle on the disputed piece of public land since the 1800s. The government allows private entities to use public lands for commercial purposes on a fee basis. The trouble with Bundy began in 1993 when the government changed the rules for grazing in this area, and Bundy quit paying the fees in protest. From all appearances, Bundy is getting a lot of support from locals and from out-of-towners who share a disdain for government regulations:
What I found most impressive was the support Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy got from those whose pockets he was picking. The cold facts are this. Bundy’s ranch was grazing its cattle on government land for which a fee was required. He refused to pay the fee. In essence, he was getting for free the use of the land and the grazing. Contrast this to somebody in competition with the Bundy ranch. The competition, those raising cattle and selling to the same market, either owned their land or else leased it, often from the government. It’s a nice arrangement for Bundy, he can 1) undercut the competition and still break even, or 2) he can go head to head with the competition and pocket more of the proceeds. Either way, it’s a win for Bundy. As I mentioned three years ago, this arrangement put Bundy ahead of his competition to the tune of $1.3 million over the previous 20 years. And civil liberties be damned.
What really caught the news was the armed confrontation with government agents. Bundy’s friends and neighbors were not of the same ilk as Gandhi and King. They brought their guns. And they pointed them at the G-men. There were further developments and ultimately consequences. See the image above from the FBI video in Oregon last year. Bundy’s sons and some like-minded people took command of a government building in the wilderness and held out for several days. They had guns. As the confrontation with the FBI came to a conclusion, one of the Bundy fans, Robert LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed by an agent. So much for a majority of one.
Subsequently there was a trial, and the anti-government gunmen were acquitted of the charges against them. Additionally, an FBI agent who participated in the confrontation with Finicum has been indicted for making false statements concerning the event:
An FBI agent, W. Joseph Astarita, is alleged to have fired two shots at Finicum’s pickup, one of which penetrated the roof of the pickup and exited through a window. FBI agents were believed to have recovered the ejected empty cartridges. A five-count indictment for lying about the circumstances at the scene of Finicum’s death, and obstruction of justice, has been obtained in Portland against Astarita by the Department of Justice. He is being represented by a public defender.
There have been other developments. The consequences of Bundy and supporters pointing guns at federal agents are winding their way through the justice system. The first to go down has been one Gregory Burleson:
The weight of a heavy sentence landed in the quiet federal courtroom Wednesday morning, leaving Gregory Burleson occasionally stroking his graying beard and his attorney pleading unsuccessfully for leniency.
The 53-year-old Burleson was the first to be sentenced for his role in the 2014 standoff between federal agents and supporters of Cliven Bundy near his Nevada ranch.
He got 68 years in prison.
Again, so much for a majority of one. An additional Bundy friend has been convicted and is due to be sentenced in September, unlikely to get the breaks obtained by Burleson. Four others obtained acquittals on offenses related to the ranch standoff, but they are now schedule for trial on federal charges. Once that trial is concluded, according to the Los Angeles Times, Cliven Bundy and his son Ammon will go to trial for their part.
As you may have guessed, that’s not the end of the list of people who think American law is for other people. Most recently we have the case of former Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In years past he made a name for himself as the toughest sheriff in the United States of A. This by being rough on prisoners and also on those not yet prisoners. On multiple occasions the courts have had to smack Sheriff Joe down for wandering outside the laws governing civil rights in this country. Bypassing all that and getting to the most recent, a federal judge enjoined the sheriff from enforcing his policy of profiling suspected illegal aliens, an injunction which he disregarded. He was charged with contempt of court, and about the same time the voters of Maricopa County ended his decades-long tenure. And the majority of one has also come to an end:
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio committed a crime by defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants, a judge ruled on Monday, in the latest rebuke for a once-popular politician who was voted out of office last year.
United States District Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio, 85, guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers said he would appeal.
So that’s what it all comes to. There is the rule of law, and there is personal preference. Keep your personal preference close to your heart and defy the law at your peril:
Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody’s going to jail
And Edward Snowden will need to learn to speak Russian.
There is no way I can make too much of this. Read the message and realize this is aimed at adult humans inhabiting one of the most advanced and modern countries on this planet. Once you let that soak in, look at the message:
Six Practical Strategies to Defeat Satan’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!
You did not read that wrong. The supposedly adult audience is presumed to believe in the reality of a fictional character. To put it into perspective, let me restate the above with a minor word change:
Six Practical Strategies to Defeat The Joker’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!
Yes, the fictional character known as The Joker, Batman’s nemesis, has a destructive plan for your life. Of course we always knew that. When did The Joker ever have anything socially beneficial. The Joker always worked against society and toward his own self interests. Fortunately there has always been Batman to protect us.
There is somebody else working toward his own self interest.
The First Baptist Church of Dallas wants your money:
First Baptist Dallas is a Southern Baptist megachurch located in Dallas, Texas. It was established in 1868 and, as of 2016, has a congregation of about 12,000. The church, considered influential among evangelical Christians in the United States, also owns and operates a school, several radio stations, and Dallas Life, a mission for the homeless on the southern edge of Downtown Dallas. The current pastor is Robert Jeffress. Jeffress is currently leading the congregation in a $130 million campaign to re-create its downtown campus. The project is the largest in modern church history.
The church operates a mission for the homeless. That’s good. That’s socially responsible. The homeless are not the only beneficiaries of the church’s good will:
For the 2016 US Presidential election, Jeffress endorsed and appeared at rallies for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, though he initially endorsed Dr. Ben Carson. Jeffress also declared that Christians who would not vote for or support Trump as the Republican nominee were “fools” and “motivated by pride rather than principle”, despite Trump’s lack of an evangelical or Christian background. Jeffress also stated that if a candidate ran on the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount, he “would run from that candidate as far as possible” and would still vote for Trump. On June 21, 2016, candidate Trump named Jeffress to participate in an advisory board of evangelical leaders.
This appears to be a mutual admiration society. Also a political collaboration:
On Thursday morning, as part of National Day of Prayer festivities at the White House, President Donald Trump signed an executive order he said delivered on a campaign promise to evangelical leaders. The order instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, a 50-year-old law banning pastors from making endorsements from the pulpit.
The order essentially calls for the end of a law that’s never been enforced.
First Baptist Church Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, who pushed Trump throughout the campaign to repeal the Johnson Amendment to remove the threat that it could be used as a cudgel against pastors.
Jeffress is controversial, having repeatedly linked homosexuality to pedophilia and called Catholicism and “Babylonian mystery religion” inspired by Satan. Wednesday night, Trump invited Jeffress and some of his fellow pastors to the White House before signing the executive order. “Mr. President, we’re going to be your most loyal friends,” Jeffress said at the dinner. “We’re going to be your enthusiastic supporters. And we thank God every day that you’re the president of the United States.”
After the president issued the order Thursday morning, Jeffress praised it as a promise kept, despite the fact that the Johnson Amendment is still on the books.
First an explanation of the Johnson Amendment from Wikipedia:
The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954.
Now, from Wikipedia, here is a description of a political action committee (PAC):
In the United States, a political action committee (PAC) is a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. The legal term PAC has been created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. This term is quite specific to all activities of campaign finance in the United States. Democracies of other countries use different terms for the units of campaign spending or spending on political competition (see political finance). At the U.S. federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, and registers with the Federal Election Commission, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain-Feingold Act). At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state’s election laws.
Now that everybody understands the ground rules, here is how it works out:
You want to contribute to your favorite candidate running for office, say $1000. Perfectly legal. It’s going to be $1000 down a black hole, but it’s for a good cause. You earned the $1000 as salary and paid $250 in federal income tax on it. So that was $1000 you donated plus the $250. Sounds like a raw deal, yes?
But wait. Salvation is at hand. Jesus is your friend. You “join” a church with the name “Jesus wants Donald Trump for President.” You donate you $1000 to the JWDTFP Church, and you don’t pay taxes on that income. That church meets in rented office space in a strip mall in on Legacy Drive in Plano, Texas. They hold services on Sunday, attended by the pastor, his wife, his accountant. They open the envelops and count the money.
They take the money to a professional adversing firm and pay that company to create television ads promoting Donald Trump for President. Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is now underwritten by the American taxpayers. Breathtaking inanity!
Can’t happen, you say. The IRS will never accept the JWDTFP as a legitimate church. Think not? Suppose the IRS does push back. Imagine the backlash. The United States government is now in the business of deciding what is a church and what is not a church. Didn’t we previously visit that problem in merry old England? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the government told citizens what was a church and what was not a church. Hence:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…
Are we about to rewind this issue? Has it come to pass we now have the government we paid for?
There is going to be more of this. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.
What is it about diplomats behaving badly? There was this business about an Indian diplomat abusing the employment of a member of her household staff in violation of American law and also contrary to the terms of the staffer’s work visa:
Anyhow, society in other places is much more stratified, and it’s expected there will be a privileged class and a servant class. That’s the way it was in this case.
Arrest, strip-search of Indian diplomat in New York triggers uproar
(CNN) — The prosecutor in the U.S. government’s case against an Indian diplomat charged in New York with visa fraud related to her treatment of her housekeeper expressed dismay Wednesday over the direction the case has taken.
So, that sort of thing is not going to happen again. Except when it does:
(CNN) — A high-ranking Bangladeshi diplomat based in New York accused of forcing his servant to work for up to 18 hours a day without pay was charged Monday with labor trafficking and assault.In a case described by the district attorney as “very disturbing,” Mohammed Shaheldul Islam, 45, a deputy consul general of Bangladesh, is alleged to have used a combination of physical violence and “vile” threats to control the victim, Mohammed Amin, for a period of several years.
Americans need to get used to the fact that in other cultures human exploitation is normal and a way of life, particularly for those privileged to be the exploiter rather than the exploitee. Accounts of what transpired in the Devyani Khobragade case would indicate the caste system remains intact, and the Indian government comes down on the side of the exploiter:
On January 10 the Indian government ordered the expulsion of US diplomat Wayne May because he had assisted Richard’s family in securing T-visas and traveling to the United States. Media sources stated that May had taken “unilateral actions” in expediting the travel of Richard’s family from India and violated various procedures with respect to actions taken related to the case. Media sources also quoted disparaging remarks about India and Indian culture made by May and his wife on their personal social media accounts since their posting to New Delhi. At the time of his expulsion, May was the head of the embassy’s diplomatic security contingent managing a staff of 424 security officers including 10 Marine Security Guards, and had been in India since 2010. The expulsion of a US diplomat by India is viewed as unprecedented. In the history of the US-India relationships, a similar event has happened only once when India blocked appointment of George G B Griffin, a Reagan appointee to the post of US political counselor, the third-ranking post in the United States Embassy.
The best we can hope is the United States continues to place its regard for human rights above any need to curry favor with a foreign power. More may develop. Keep reading.