DoJ ignoring ethics complaints about surveillance deception

It seems that government lawyers lied to and misled judges on the FISA court about some of the surveillance measures the court was being asked to approve. When the judges found out, they filed complaints, which the Department of Justice ignored. Not "investigated and found not to be worth acting on". More like "never bothered to investigate." Almost as if the whole thing was an intentional deception.

Two judges on the court that oversees the spying programs separately rebuked federal officials in top-secret court orders for misrepresenting how the NSA was harvesting and analyzing communication records. In a sharply worded 2009 order, one of the judges, Reggie Walton, went so far as to suggest that he could hold national security officials in contempt or refer their conduct to outside investigators.

Say. Do you suppose he could still refer their conduct to outside investigators? Please?

Reason has more details.

Fri Sep 27 09:54:40 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Empire of Isher

The Empire of Isher (by AE Van Vogt) combines both The Weapon Shops of Isher and The Weapon Makers into a single edition. The combined work is still under 300 pages, but the sparse writing style means that a lot of action can be packed into those pages. While this edition was published in 2000, the stories themselves are noticeably dated. They are also unique and very hard to describe.

The Weapon Shops of Isher introduces us to the basic concept: shops that appear mysteriously in various locations and sell weapons to anyone who wants one and isn't a government official of some kind. These weapons are made of atomic unobtainium and operate by the advanced science of handwavology in a manner sufficiently indistinguishable to be called magic, and so I will. These magic guns are impossible to use offensively (because magic) and can protect the user from being shot by most modern energy weapons (because magic) but not bullets (because no one uses bullets anymore?).

The motto of the Weapon Shops is "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free."

(Read More...)

Fri Sep 27 09:42:58 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Kerry signs UN Arms Control treaty

From Fox:
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday signed a controversial U.N. treaty on arms regulation, riling U.S. lawmakers who vow the Senate will not ratify the agreement.

As he signed the document, Kerry called the treaty a "significant step" in addressing illegal gun sales, while claiming it would also protect gun rights.

It will take a two-thirds supermajority to ratify the treaty, which seems out of reach for the present. But the treat has to be signed before the Senate can even consider it, and once signed, arms can be twisted to try to get to 67 votes. This would be a good time to contact your Senators and remind them you oppose the treaty. If you tell them now, it shows them you are paying attention.

There is some risk that Obama might try to implement elements of the treaty via executive order. This would be Constitutionally illegitimate, since the treaty conveys no legal authority in and of itself. But our side seems to be on top of that.

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Thu Sep 26 02:29:52 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Ohio State University gets armored mine-resistant military vehicle

Does the university have a problem with improvised explosive devices or coordinated military ambushes on campus that it hasn't told us about?

Of course not. What is has is money -- lots of money from tuition payments funded by loans funded by the federal government, plus lots more money from grants funded by the federal government to support "law enforcement". If Ohio University doesn't apply for the grant to get its Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, some other university might get it instead!

(The joke is on the university there -- everyone who applies gets one!)

This is nothing more than a tank-size comparison between police departments. It's unnecessary, it contributes to an unhealthy atmosphere of militarization in our police forces, and I'd really rather my tax dollars not go towards this sort of thing.

Wed Sep 25 19:27:38 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Politics imitates political comedy

I've long been a fan of the BBC's political comedy series Yes, Minister and it's followup Yes, Prime Minister. Both attempt to follow a politician and his family through their struggles to accomplish... something, anything!... against the resistance of an entrenched civil service. The series doesn't hold back -- everyone on the show is shown to be by turns corrupt, venal, naive, wrong, overly idealistic, overly cynical, and just about everything else.

I was reminded of that when I saw this:

The AP states that the review panel is lodged in offices provided by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Even more, the DNI is running its media strategy, vetting requests through its own press office. Any whiff of independence that the group might have hoped to engender is now certainly gone...

So, in short, Clapper, the head of the DNI, exempted the group that he is currently housing, that is supposed to be vetting his work, from rules requiring their work to be public. Transparency! And, whatever they come up with will of course have to be approved for publishing.

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Wed Sep 25 19:27:13 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Dead Horse Law

It seems the IRS is relying on a law passed in 1884 governing horses killed in the civil war to regulate people helping others file income tax returns in 2013. Note: the income tax was authorized by the 16th Amendment, passed in 1913. There is no way that an 1884 law could authorize regulation of income tax preparation.

Wed Sep 25 19:26:25 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama Administration to sign UN arms control treaty in the next few days

Not a surprise, but worth reminding your Senator that you are paying attention when it happens.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to sign an arms trade treaty opposed by the Senate and the gun lobby as early as Wednesday, and Republicans aren't happy about it. An Inhofe amendment to the Senate Budget resolution in March blocking the U.S. from joining the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty garnered 53 “yes” votes.

Ratifying a treaty does require a two-thirds supermajority of Senators present, but only 53 no votes is still disappointing.

Wed Sep 25 09:03:02 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Politicized death panels in Obamacare

Sarah Palin was ridiculed for saying that Obamacare would bring us panels of "experts" deciding who should get what medical care. She was right, of course: Obamacare does, inevitably, include a mechanism for determining what medical care will be provided to individuals who need it. If Granny needs a hip replacement, she will get one only if the Obamacare rules say that she should. If she doesn't like their decisions, she doesn't really have any other options -- other insurance companies have to follow the same rules.

It turns out, though, that some people think that's not enough. They want to politicize health care... if you've been critical of the Obama administration in general and Obamacare in specific, they think doctors should let you die.

And doctors are already considering this: many of them are choosing to retire rather than practice under Obamacare.

Wed Sep 25 00:03:27 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Renters in New York have no 4th Amendment rights

Or so says the government, anyway.

They and other renters argue that the city is violating their Fourth Amendment right to be secure from unreasonable searches. They challenge city-issued warrants that authorize officials to inspect their home not because they are under suspicion for committing a crime, but because officials want to make routine code inspections. And they claim that the renter and owner distinction is based on a discriminatory economic classification which violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Rochester has targeted rental homes for inspection since 1997, when it required anyone who wished to rent out a home to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). CO’s are granted only after a code inspection, and must be renewed every six years, which entails another inspection. Those who refuse to be inspected face prosecution.

I don't see why the government should be allowed to conduct inspections without probable cause of a crime and a specific warrant indicating what they are looking for. If they have the permission of the property owner, that might be different, although there is still a balance to be struck.

Wed Sep 25 00:02:18 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner to retire

A congressional source has confirmed to National Review Online that embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, is retiring. The Associated Press is reporting that Lerner’s retirement is effective Monday. According to the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin (D, Mich.), Lerner’s resignation comes as the Accountability Review Board investigating the scandal was set to recommend her termination on the basis of mismanagement and “neglect of duties.”

Allowing Lerner to retire -- presumably with full benefits, and certainly with full pay during her lengthy vacation suspension -- is not "holding her responsible." It's just part of the coverup. It allows people like Levin to pretend she's been fired and that the scandal has been dealt with, exactly as Sander Levin (Democrat) does below:

“Lois Lerner is being held responsible for her gross mismanagement of the IRS tax-exempt division, which led to improper handling of applications for tax-exempt status, whether conservative and progressive,” Levin said in a statement on Monday.

Retiring from your job when you were near retirement anyway following months of paid vacation is not a penalty, nor does it address anyone else at the IRS who was involved. Lerner is being used to shield the people who actually were in charge. So long as she doesn't say who she got her instructions from, and any written evidence can be kept under wraps, anyone actually giving orders is safe.

Nonetheless, the Michigan congressman emphasized that investigators had found no evidence of “willful misconduct” or political bias.

The fact that Lerner is refusing to testify and the IRS has turned over only roughly 10% of the requested evidence so far has a lot to do with the investigators haven't found, but the truth is, they have found significant evidence.

Wed Sep 25 00:00:52 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Third Circuit rules New Jersey can continue to confiscate firearms from travelers

The ruling purports to limit the protections of the Firearm Owners Protection Act to people traveling by vehicle, meaning those who are traveling by air and must pass through the New Jersey airport to make a connecting flight are not protected. This is obviously contrary to both the plain text of the law and its intent.

I expect there will be appeals on this, but in the meantime, make sure you aren't anywhere near the 3rd Circuit when flying with a firearm. Even if you aren't scheduled to land there, you don't know where circumstances might force the plane to land.

UPDATE: The link above is new, but refers to an older case. New Jersey has been ignoring this law for years, but courts rejecting new challenges will occasionally be news due to Heller and McDonald opening up new 2nd Amendment precedent. The correct case, which was decided September 13th, 2013, is here.

The gist of the ruling is that FOPA supposedly protects transporting your firearm in a vehicle, while the firearm is locked up in a container not accessible from the passenger compartment. That works for cars, of course. You could easily extend it to air travel. The problem comes when the plane lands -- such as for a layover, or to change planes -- and the passenger retrieves the firearm and carries it with them, on their person, to another vehicle. That walk through the airport is supposedly not protected.

Tue Sep 24 01:39:36 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

SWAT team told to stand down during Navy Yard shooting

I don't know what the explanation for this will be...
The Capitol Police tactical response team was told by a supervisor to leave the scene instead of aiding municipal officers, sources told the BBC. Meanwhile, the department has installed a new leader of the elite unit. No reason has been given for the decision.

... but I doubt it will be pretty. If the timeline on the link is correct, the order to stand down delayed an armed response by 15 minutes. Double what it would have been if the first response team had been allowed to do their jobs.

I can speculate about possible reasons -- such as, what if it's a decoy attack meant to draw attention from a specific target, or a risk of confusion between two SWAT teams responding at the same time? -- but the speculation doesn't matter. What does is the actual reason the order to stand down was given. Once we know the facts, we can discuss whether it was appropriate or not.

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Tue Sep 24 00:12:01 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Reasons to be wary of restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill

It's not that preventing the criminally insane from owning guns is a bad thing; it's that the definition of "insane" will be watered down, deliberately and with malice forethought, into something that covers as many normal people as possible. The result, if not handled very carefully, will be gun owners reluctant to get treatment for common, treatable mental problems for fear of losing their gun rights -- and that's the way for those common, treatable mental problems to become dangerous.

Personally, I think that the problem isn't with the legal standard, but with the fact that states don't report or prosecute when needed. Alexis had multiple interactions with the police concerning his violent gun crimes over almost a decade before he finally shot actual people, including at least one case where he was complaining about hearing voices and people mysteriously following him. That's classic paranoid ideation and should have been a red flag, especially combined with his previous violent incidents.

If we are reluctant to institutionalize our mentally ill -- something that it is understandable to be reluctant about, for the cases that aren't dangerous -- then we need to get better at identifying the ones who are dangerous when they first start to put off danger signals. Alphecca has similar thoughts, including the important question of how do you get off the list once you get better?

Mon Sep 23 06:06:10 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Admiral Mullen admits to hold in place order during Benghazi

Testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Admiral Mike Mullen said that the direction given to Special Operations Command Africa commander Lt. Col Gibson was to "hold in place" on the night of the attacks.

Where did this order originate? Who gave it? Why was it given?

Mon Sep 23 06:05:54 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

School field trip re-enacts slavery with 12-year-old children

This is monstrous:
From the bountiful annals of public-school stupidity comes this mind-blowing allegation: a Hartford, Conn. magnet school sent a 12-year-old black girl and her classmates on a field trip where the instructors held a slavery reenactment, chased the kids through the woods and repetitively called them the n-word.

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Mon Sep 23 01:01:00 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

This is how they shut down dissent

First, they require everyone to go to school.

Second, they require everyone to pay for those schools via taxes.

Third, they change the educational standards to control what your children learn.

Fourth, when you show up to their meeting to ask questions and complain about how your children aren't being taught anything worthwhile, they demand that everyone submit questions in writing, in advance, so they can pick and choose which questions to answer.

Fifth, when you stand up to ask your question anyway, they have you forcefully ejected from the meeting and arrested.

Just a reminder to make sure you have someone else with a video camera running if you attend a school board meeting, just in case they charge you with assaulting a police officer while you are being ejected from the meeting.

Sun Sep 22 22:12:28 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Reid, Pelosi still want gun control legislation

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her call for more gun control legislation on Thursday, even though there is little chance the Republican-led House of Representatives would get behind new anti-gun laws.

Pelosi still wants gun control legislation. She's not exactly a quick learner, is she?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday that he lacked the votes to bring gun-control legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. “We’re going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we’ve got to have the votes first,” the Nevada Democrat told The Hill. “We don’t have the votes. I hope we get them, but we don’t have them now.”

Reid is a little better, but not much.

Fri Sep 20 14:03:20 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Cruz vs Obamacare in the Senate

Now that the House has passed a resolution to defund Obamacare, everyone is pointing at Ted Cruz in the Senate and asking him how he can possibly expect the Senate to pass it without adding Obamacare funding back in. Some are even going to far as to call it stupid.

Without going into too much detail, it's pretty obvious how this process works. I will attempt to explain below.

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Fri Sep 20 12:57:13 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Congress can't hide behind the FISC opinion

I've read a bit of the decision being analyzed. It's not pretty and shows no respect for the 4th Amendment, relying on the idea that business records are not protected and claiming that retrieving call metadata on every single customer is somehow relevant to a terrorism investigation. The opinion specifically authorizes use of metadata analysis to data mine previously unknown connection patterns, and orders certain figleaf data protection methods (such as deleting the data collected after 5 years) that have no possible enforcement mechanism.

Fri Sep 20 06:02:33 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Why gun owners oppose registration

There are lots of good reasons to oppose registration, but the one that makes it a bright red line issue (with apologies to our bright red line president: when we say don't cross this red line we mean it) is that creating a gun registry is the first step in schemes to get rid of guns completely. Once you have a gun registry with a list of all guns and who owns them, you can:

  1. Close the registry to new registrations, or only to registrations you like

  2. Harass the people on the list with regulations and inspections

  3. Ban transfers of firearms, except to government agents

  4. Confiscate firearms from anyone who dies or makes a regulatory mistake

Gun owners know that allowing a registry is the first step to gun confiscation in small, easy steps. We know it because the enemy has admitted that that is exactly what they plan to do. We know it because that is exactly how they implemented gun bans on Chicago, New York City, and Washington DC.

Fri Sep 20 05:51:46 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

But there are no guns in England, they are banned!

Seems that Tony Blair's daughter was held at gunpoint recently.

Their gun control paradise doesn't seem to be going as planned, does it?

Hat tip to NUGUN.

Fri Sep 20 05:48:12 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS enemies list found

It looks like we have a smoking document:
Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about "anti-Obama rhetoric," inflammatory language and "emotional" statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.

The internal 2011 documents, obtained by USA TODAY, list 162 groups by name, with comments by Internal Revenue Service lawyers in Washington raising issues about their political, lobbying and advocacy activities. In 21 cases, those activities were characterized as "propaganda."

The IRS is not supposed to be making political judgments about these things. They are supposed to develop regulations that offer some clarity and enforce them impartially. Demanding donor lists seems like an attempt to do an end run around the Citizens' United decision, not to mention an invasion of privacy for the donors and possibly an attempt to intimidate.

Also recently released were emails from Lois Lerner, containing more details on how Tea Party cases were being handled and how that handling evolved. The details, unsurprisingly at this point, contradict the narrative that low-level employees in Cincinatti were driving the suppression effort.
The first email, a February 1, 2011, message to – among others – Obama donor and fellow IRS executive Holly Paz, proclaims: “Tea Party matter very dangerous. This could be the vehicle to go to court on the issue over whether Citizen’s United overturning the ban on corporate spending applies to tax exempt rules . . . Cincy should probably NOT have these cases – Holly please see what they have please [sic].”

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Fri Sep 20 05:44:26 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

California government requires disclosure of bloggers paid to blog about politics

I get the feeling that they really think there are a lot of conservative and libertarian bloggers who are doing it for the wheelbarrows full of cash from the gun lobby right-wing foundations and the Koch brothers. That's why they passed new rules requiring people who pay bloggers to blog to admit to paying bloggers to blog. Nevermind that the First Amendment protects anonymous speech.

Well, I can help clear that one up, even if I don't live in California. And I'll even do it voluntarily.

Nobody pays me to blog.

Except my readers, of course, if they click through one of my links to Amazon, which I set up mainly for one of my other sites.

Mind you, given the relative levels of astroturf on both sides of the political divide, and which side dominates the political game in California, I have to think this is going to backfire.

Fri Sep 20 05:39:18 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Anonymous cop calls for the end of anonymity on the internet

Somehow, I suspect this police officer has personal experience with anonymous criticism of his job performance:
An anonymous police officer writing for Salt Lake City's penned a bizarre editorial calling for the end of anonymity on the internet. "Officer Anonymous" says everyone who wants to post comments online should be forced to register their email with the government in person at the DMV and be cataloged in a national database. The officer says this will end the problem of "trolling" and people "hiding behind the Internet."

It will also end the problem of "free speech", especially free speech criticizing politicians and police officers.

Thu Sep 19 00:18:42 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Starbucks caves to anti-gun pressure

They are trying to phrase their careful statement as one of "please respect our neutrality and don't bring your guns", but by issuing this politely worded request they are in fact taking sides. I can sympathize with a business not wanting to be caught up in a political fight like this one, but sympathy is not agreement.

The best response we can offer here is to stop giving them business, and perhaps sending politely worded letters explaining why you won't be patronizing their stores again.

Sebastian points out that the anti-gunners will try to repeat this tactic if it is successful, and if they can repeat it it will give the appearance of momentum.

Wed Sep 18 09:43:43 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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