Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Leaked Internal Memo Reveals the ACLU Is Wavering on Free Speech, by Robby Soave

From now on, it looks like the ACLU will sort of kind of defend free speech, as long as that speech doesn’t piss off the wrong people. From Robby Soave at reason.com:

The American Civil Liberties Union will weigh its interest in protecting the First Amendment against its other commitments to social justice, racial equality, and women’s rights, given the possibility that offensive speech might undermine ACLU goals.

“Our defense of speech may have a greater or lesser harmful impact on the equality and justice work to which we are also committed,” wrote ACLU staffers in a confidential memoobtained by former board member Wendy Kaminer.

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a cowardly retreat from a full-throated defense of the First Amendment. Moving forward, when deciding whether to take a free speech case, the organization will consider “factors such as the (present and historical) context of the proposed speech; the potential effect on marginalized communities; the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values; and the structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur.”

The memo’s authors assert that this does not amount to a formal change in policy, and is merely intended as guidelines that will assist ACLU affiliates in deciding which cases to take.

Kaminer, though, sees the memo as yet more evidence that the ACLU “has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates.” As she writes in The Wall Street Journal:

The speech-case guidelines reflect a demotion of free speech in the ACLU’s hierarchy of values. Their vague references to the “serious harm” to “marginalized” people occasioned by speech can easily include the presumed psychological effects of racist or otherwise hateful speech, which is constitutionally protected but contrary to ACLU values. Faced with perceived conflicts between freedom of speech and “progress toward equality,” the ACLU is likely to choose equality. If the Supreme Court adopted the ACLU’s balancing test, it would greatly expand government power to restrict speech.

To continue reading: Leaked Internal Memo Reveals the ACLU Is Wavering on Free Speech

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The Murder of Julian Assange, by Kurt Nimmo

The US government wants to prosecute Julian Assange and lock him away for life. From Kurt Nimmo at kurtnimmo.blog:

It was a fool’s errand.

On the day Donald Trump was elected his supporters asked him to pardon the founder and frontman of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. They flooded social media demanding Assange be allowed to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London without arrest and extradition to the United States. 

Stone silence from Trump and his administration. 

A few months before the election, WikiLeaks released a searchable archive of over 30,000 emails and attachments taken from Hillary Clinton’s not-so private email server. 

Trump held no aversion to exploiting the emails. He called them the Crooked Hillary emails and said they endangered the national security of the United States. 

Democrats called foul, said Assange had colluded with Putin and the Russians. 

In April, they filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks. They argue there was a widespread conspiracy to swing the 2016 election.

They have zero evidence of this. Evidence is no longer required. Accusations alone now serve to take down leaders and destroy careers. 

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are no longer of use to Donald Trump. 

He dished out pardons to ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and neocon leaker Scooter Libby. Trump mulled other pardons, including a posthumous one for Muhammad Ali to wipe out his draft dodging conviction. It was reported in June Trump insiders are pushing to pardon the junk bond king Michael Milken and reverse his conviction on securities fraud. The Milken pardon is being pushed by Goldman Sachs alumnus and current Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. 

Meanwhile, Julian Assange is left to twist in the wind. 

Both Trump’s attorney general and his former CIA director, now secretary of state Mike Pompeo want Assange extradited to the United States where he will face trial and possible execution for espionage. 

AG Jeff Sessions said the arrest and prosecution of Assange is a priority for the United States government, while Pompeo denounced him as a “hostile intelligence service,” never mind he had no problem using the Clinton emails to accuse the DNC of sabotaging the Bernie Sanders campaign. 

To continue reading: The Murder of Julian Assange

Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It, by Davis Taylor

When the FDA makes a mistake and approves a drug that turns out to be dangerous, we hear about it. When the FDA makes a drug and doesn’t approve a drug that could save lives, we don’t hear about it. From Davis Taylor at tenthamendmentcenter.com:

Most people believe government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration keep them safe. But a book by Dr. Mary J. Ruwart explodes this myth.

People often argue that without the protection of government agencies, we would face constant peril. Allegedly, without the FDA, our pharmacy shelves would be lined with unregulated products containing deadly substances, marketed by the unscrupulous.

Of course, this argument rests upon the unspoken assumption that the laws and regulations enforced by the FDA are benign, causing little or no harm, and few, if any, deaths. It also rests upon the assumption that, without government regulation, there are no market-based mechanisms for certifying the safety of drugs and products.

In her important new book, Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It, Dr. Ruwart provides information which thoroughly refutes these assumptions.

Dr. Ruwart holds a B.S. in biochemistry, a Ph.D. in biophysics and spent 19 years as a pharmaceutical research scientist for the Upjohn Company. She has also chaired an IRB (Institutional Review Board), consulted with nutraceutical companies and been an expert witness against the FDA. Therefore, she is intimately familiar with the impact of the FDA and the laws and regulations it enforces. Her easily digestible book focuses specifically upon the detrimental impact of the 1962 Amendments to the 1938 Food and Drug Act (“the Amendments”).

Dr. Ruwart reviews the burdensome effects of the Amendments, including a lengthening of the average period for new drug development from approximately four years to 14 years. She explains the numerous additional requirements set forth in the Amendments, and the additional development time caused by them and provides heartbreaking examples of the effect of this wait time on those with life-threatening illnesses.

For example, she discusses how, in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, United States AIDS patients often had to travel to other countries with fewer regulatory requirements to obtain new therapies still unapproved by the FDA, sometimes having the drugs confiscated upon reentry to the United States. She further discusses black market AIDS Buyers’ Clubs which quickly formed in response to the need for therapies and hired chemists to make drugs undergoing development, in violation of pharmaceutical companies’ patents. She also points out that, although making, selling and distributing these drugs without FDC approval violated the law, the FDA often took no action against most violators, “especially those in California who were well organized and vocal,” and that instead “the FDA selectively prosecuted those who were least likely to fight back.” This illustrates that organizing and fighting back against unfair laws can be effective in preventing or reducing their enforcement.

To continue reading: Death by Regulation: How We Were Robbed of a Golden Age of Health and How We Can Reclaim It

NSA Launches Amazon-Backed Cloud-Computing Service For Sharing “Top Secret” Info, by Tyler Burden

What could go wrong with this? From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Four years after handing Amazon a $600 million contract to develop a cloud-storage service for the US intelligence community that can store information across the full range of data classifications – including Unclassified, Sensitive, Secret, and Top Secret – the NSA announced on Thursday that it has moved most of its mission data to a front-end cloud computing system developed by the agency that’s supported by – you guessed it – Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.

According to NextGov.com, the IC GovCloud, which was created by the NSA but is supported by Amazon’s web services, will offer similar hosting services to the other 16 members of the US intelligence community. The advantage of having all of these intelligence agencies using the same system, according to NSA Chief Information Officer Greg Smithberger, is that it will allow analysts from across agencies to share information and “connect the dots” more quickly. But even before the other agencies sign on, the NSA will use the platform to “collect, analyze and store” classified information in a “classified cloud computing environment.”

The goal of the platform is to gather all of the signals intelligence that the NSA gathers on foreign targets (and, of course, its myriad spying on the American public) into one centralized location that’s easily accessible by its analysts.

The impetus for the multi-year move is getting the NSA’s data, including signals intelligence and other foreign surveillance and intelligence information it ingests from multiple repositories around the globe into a single data lake analysts from the NSA and other IC agencies can run queries against.

“The NSA has been systematically moving almost all its mission into this big data fusion environment,” Smithberger told Nextgov in an interview. “Right now, almost all NSA’s mission is being done in [IC GovCloud], and the productivity gains and the speed at which our analysts are able to put together insights and work higher-level problems has been really amazing.”

To continue reading: NSA Launches Amazon-Backed Cloud-Computing Service For Sharing “Top Secret” Info

Supreme Court: Cops Can’t Track Cell Phone Location Without A Warrant, by Tyler Durden

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the Supreme Court came out the right way on a civil liberties issues. The bad news is that it was a 5-4 decision, not the 9-0 it should have been. Which shows how tenuous our civil liberties are. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that law enforcement cannot track people’s movements for periods of weeks or months without a warrant.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court held that the acquisition of cell-site records by government officials is covered under the Fourth Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the opinion sided with the court’s four liberal judges; Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer – while Justice Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

While stressing that their decision doesn’t question longstanding surveillance techniques and tools such as security cameras, Roberts said that historical cell-site records present even greater privacy concerns than monitoring via GPS.

“Here the progress of science has afforded law enforcement a powerful new tool to carry out its important responsibilities,” Roberts said, adding “While individuals regularly leave their vehicles, they compulsively carry cell phones with them all the time.

“A cell phone faithfully follows its owner beyond public thoroughfares and into private residences, doctor’s offices, political headquarters, and other potentially revealing locales.”

The conservative judges strongly objected – writing four times as much in their dissents than Roberts did for the court’s majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said the government’s search of cellphone location records was permissible because they were held by the service provider, not the individual. “The court’s new and uncharted course will inhibit law enforcement.”

Justice Samuel Alito called it a “revolutionary” ruling that “guarantees a blizzard of litigation while threatening many legitimate and valuable investigative practices upon which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely.” –USA Today

To continue reading: Supreme Court: Cops Can’t Track Cell Phone Location Without A Warrant

Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like, by Michael Krieger

Congress wants to allow the federal government still more power to tell you what you can and cannot put in your own body. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Allowing government to arbitrarily determine which substances human beings can put into their own bodies is one of the most idiotic things a society can do. As such, its no surprise Congress is salivating at the prospect of furthering this travesty by giving additional discretion on the matter to drug war-crazed loon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Reason published an excellent article on the topic in yesterday’s piece: Congress Wants To Give Jeff Sessions Unprecedented New Drug War Powers.

Here are some key excerpts:

If you think the Department of Justice has more than enough tools to wage the war on drugs, a bill passed by the House would create a fast-track scheduling system that could lead to the criminalization of kratom, nootropics, and pretty much anything that gives you a buzz and isn’t already illegal.

The House of Representatives voted on Friday to create a new schedule of banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, called “Schedule A,” and to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions broad new powers to criminalize the manufacturing, importation, and sale of substances that are currently unregulated, but not illegal. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where co-sponsors Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) will likely have little problem whipping votes.

The Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogs Act, or SITSA, is intended to crack down on drugs that closely resemble currently banned or regulated substances in either their chemical structure or intended effects. SITSA would also empower the attorney general (A.G.) to add drugs to this new schedule with few checks from other branches of government….

To continue reading: Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like

The Eagle, the Dragon, and the Bear, by Robert Gore

Does Trump recognize the limits of US power?

Trump’s new world order comes straight from The Godfather. There are three global powers: the US, Russia, and China. None of these powers can militarily defeat either of the other two, and even an alliance among two of them would have trouble defeating the third.

Like Don Corleone, Trump is dividing up the larger territory into smaller, great-power controlled sub-territories. He is tacitly recognizing Russia and China’s dominance in their own spheres of influence, and holding them to account in their territories. The implicit agreement among the three is apparently that each power will, in their, “sphere of influence…enforce peace.”

Trump’s New World Order,” SLL 3/20/18

In one week President Trump confirmed that his first concern is the United States, that he has what may be a workable vision for its place in the world, and he loathes globalism and the globalists. A good measure of his efficacy is the outrage he generates. By that measure, that week was his finest hour…so far.

Europe won’t have a seat at Trump’s great-power table. Its welfare states are addicted to their handouts, deeply in debt, rely on uneven trade arrangements with the US, and have below-replacement birth rates. They are cowed by Soros-sponsored propaganda—Immigration is the answer!—and haven’t shut off the immigrant invasion. Refusing to spend on their own militaries, they’ve used what they save on defense to subsidize welfare spending and state bureaucracies.

They’re ignoring a lesson from history: nations that rely on other nations for their defense generally come to regret it. Instead, they’re wedded to the globalist acronyms: NATO, EU and UN. They have frittered away their power and their glory—Europe’s heritage and civilization—opting for overrun masquerading as assimilation by dogmatic and implacable foes.

Trump is all about power and despises weakness. There isn’t always strength in numbers. A confederation of weaklings doesn’t equal strength, especially when the weaklings’ premises and principles are fundamentally wrong. Strongest of the weaklings is Germany, a trade powerhouse but a US military vassal. It’s hard to say if Trump’s dislike of Angela Merkel is business—she’s one of the world’s most visible and vociferous proponent of globalism, or personal—it’s always her way or the highway. Probably both, and it looks like Germany may finally be rejecting her way on immigration.

Trump clearly relished snubbing her and her G-6 buddies, particularly boy toys Trudeau and Macron, who may actually believe his bone-crushing handshakes intimidated Trump. When you’re paying for a continent’s defense and you’re giving them a better deal on trade than they’re giving you, that’s leverage, and Trump knows it. He’s not intimidated.

US Atlanticists have used that leverage to cement Europe into the US’s confederated empire. That Trump is willing to blow off Europe suggests that he may be blowing off empire. America’s imperialists equate backing away from empire with “decline,” but such a sea change would be the exact opposite. Empires require more energy and resources to maintain than can be extracted from them. They are inevitably a road to ruin.

Nothing is as geopolitically telling as Trump leaving Europe’s most “important” heads of state early to meet with the leader of one of Asia’s most impoverished backwaters. Europe’s time has passed, the future belongs to Asia. Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia may look like the same recognition, but it was not. That pivot was designed to encircle China diplomatically, economically, and militarily. That thinking persists among much of the US military, but Trump may have something different in mind.

China has its problems. Much of its economy, especially its financial sector, is state-directed, despite the capitalistic gloss. There will be a reckoning from its debt binge. The repressive social credit system typifies the government’s immoral objective: keeping China’s people compliant but productive drones. However, enforced docility and innovation—the foundation of progress—mix as readily as oil and water, and theft of others’ innovations can’t fill the void.

Notwithstanding its issues, China is a major power and is not going to be encircled or regime changed by the US. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) it cosponsors and finances with Russia is the centerpiece of a basket of initiatives designed to further those countries’ influence and leadership within Eurasia and among emerging market countries. BRI is an apt symbol of the movement towards multipolarity, with competition shifting from the military to the economic and commercial sphere.

Trump tacitly accepts Russian and Chinese dominance in Eurasia. However, Trump doesn’t give without receiving; he’s going to extract concessions. Number one on the list is North Korea and its nuclear weapons. We’ll probably never know what has gone on behind the scenes between Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and perhaps Vladimir Putin, but Kim may have received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Both China and Russia would be well-served by a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons and US troops. Whatever transpired, Kim came around. Trump ameliorated any potential humiliation, journeying to Kim’s neck of the woods, laying on an inspirational movie video, and flattering the North Korean leader and his country. Kim the farsighted leader may be able to reach a deal; Kim the browbeaten puppet couldn’t. If he tried, he’d probably be deposed, always a danger for dictators.

As global competition moves from military to economic, Trump is also going to make sure he tilts, as much as possible, the rules of that competition back towards the US. There are the existing trade arrangements with Europe, Canada, and Mexico that he’s willing to blow up, presumably to obtain better arrangements.

China is in a league of its own when it comes to gaming trade, and it’s getting the Trump treatment as well. Much of the Chinese “advantage” stems from Chinese overcapacity, fueled by below market interest rates in China and around the globe. Trump can’t do much about that “advantage.” The low-interest regime will eventually crash and burn, but it’s going to take a depression to clear overcapacity in China and elsewhere.

Innovation and intellectual property are America’s one indisputable comparative economic advantage. It will be a tough nut, but Trump is bent on curbing China’s acquisitions, by fair means and foul, of US know how. If he succeeds it will slow, but not stop, the Chinese economic juggernaut. It has millions of smart, well-educated, industrious people who will continue to fuel indigenous innovation (notwithstanding state-enforced docility).

Three realities confronted Trump when he assumed office. The US empire is unsustainable, so too is the trajectory of its spending and debt, and the government is fundamentally corrupt. It would be foolish to bet Trump doesn’t understand these issues and the linkages between them.

“Trump’s New World Order”

If Trump has recognized that first reality and is implementing Don Corleone’s spheres of influence concept, he may get some breathing room to address the intractable second and third realities: the trajectory of US spending and debt, and the fundamentally corrupt government. On the debt, all the breathing room in the world isn’t going to save him. The US keeps adding to principal, which is compounding at rising rates. Cutting imperial expenditures would help some, although transfer payments are the biggest enchilada. To make even the first step on the thousand mile journey to solvency, however, the US government will have to run a bona fide surplus for many years. That prospect is not on the horizon.

As for corruption, thousands of articles by bloggers and commentators, including SLL, may have less instructional value for the populace at large than one simple demonstration: most of America’s rulers and its captive media are speaking out against a peace initiative, not on the merits of the initiative itself, but because Donald Trump was one of its initiators. That tells those Americans who are paying attention all they need to know about their rulers and their captive media. Whether they do anything about it is another question.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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