If every criminal trial followed the same standards that you wanted for the George Zimmerman trial, how would that affect the number of incarcerated Americans?July 17, 2013 – 2:47 pm by John
If the truthful answer is "the number would greatly increase", as it is for probably tens of millions of Americans, including a lot of my friends, then you are part of the problem with the legal system in the United States.
These people have abandoned the principle (if they ever had it) that a vital protection of the individual against the State is a court system that requires the State to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a defendant is convicted and deprived of all or part of their life, liberty, and property. They do not agree (if they ever did) that it is better to let ten guilty people go free than to imprison one innocent person. (I don't know what the optimal ratio is in a free society, but 10:1 is a hell of a lot better than what the vindictive, frenzied, almost bloodthirsty majority seems to want.)
A lot of people try to make the George Zimmerman murder trial and acquittal about race. And you know, I find it impossible to dismiss that possibility. George Zimmerman probably was more suspicious of a black guy walking through his neighborhood than he would have been of a white guy. (He was also surely much more suspicious of a male walking through his neighborhood at night than he would have been of a female, but I haven't heard anyone cry "sexism!") Even though George Zimmerman was not racist, that doesn't mean race played no role in the confrontation that led to his shooting of Trayvon Martin. It very well could have motivated his suspicious, his decisions, and his actions. I think racism is best defined as the belief in the genetic superiority of one race or ethnic group over another. That is a narrow definition, but I think the best. It's worse than mere racial profiling or racial stereotyping, but not by a lot. Racial profiling/stereotyping is treating people a certain way or forming certain opinions about people based on their race. If race motivated Zimmerman's actions that night, then it was racial stereotyping and prejudice, not racism.
Either way, it is important to note that "probably" and "very well could have" hold no water in a murder trial, and neither does race or racism. At least, they shouldn't. They will always affect our opinions and discussions of high-profile murder cases, though. I don't know if there's any way around that, and I'm not even sure it's a bad thing. We need to talk about them.
What is bad is painting people who weren't pining for a conviction and death sentence as racists. It is simple-minded and willfully ignorant—or if no ignorance is involved, then outright malicious—to portray people who praise the jury's decision as racists who must have wanted Trayvon Martin and millions of kids like him dead and wanted Zimmerman to go free for ridding society of a certain menace. It is simple-minded or malicious to classify those who praise the Not Guilty verdict as defenders of George Zimmerman. There are more than two types of opinions that one can have about this or any other trial and its verdict. Based on the moderate amount that I've read about the trial, I think the jury reached the right decision, yet I still think George Zimmerman committed wrongdoing that resulted in the unjust death of Trayvon Martin. I just don't think it was second-degree murder. The jurors didn't, either. Maybe he'll be sued in a civil case like O.J. Simpson, for actions that resulted in a wrongful death or something along those lines.
I can't help but feel that justice in the Zimmerman case was both served and not served; that this particular murder trial reached the most just outcome possible given the known facts, but that some injustice remains out there. Specifically, on Zimmerman, who was overly confrontational, aggressive, presumptuous, and reckless, who made one bad decision after another that night, and it resulted in his fatally shooting an unarmed teenager who, I would guess, was not ever going to end up taking Zimmerman's life, regardless of how heated and physical the defense depicted their confrontation as. I think it's clear that the only reason Trayvon Martin started running from Zimmerman was that Zimmerman started chasing him, and the only reason they got into a fistfight was that Zimmerman continued chasing him and confronted him. But maybe not.
There is a four-minute window of uncertainty between the end of Zimmerman's 9-1-1 call and the shooting. Only George Zimmerman will ever know what happened in those four minutes, but he claims he returned to his car, at which point Martin chased and assaulted him. I don't believe that, but I can't prove it. The State can't prove it. Even if Trayvon Martin hadn't been fatally wounded, his testimony wouldn't have been able to prove it. That is why there is reasonable doubt about Zimmerman's guilt, and that is why Not Guilty was the only acceptable verdict. It seems pretty clear to me—obvious, even—that Zimmerman made some mistakes that could have been avoided that resulted in his fatally shooting Martin, that his mistakes were far worse than Martin's in more ways than one, and that he might not be guilty of the murder charge but is far from innocent.
Yet we have comedians and actors like Kumail Nanjiani tweeting, "Finding it hard to dispell the idea that everyone supporting George Zimmerman is racist." Translation: the only way you could want anything other than a conviction and harsh sentence for George Zimmerman is because you are a racist whose opinions of this murder trial and the events of that fateful night are formed by your racism. But this is clearly wrong. Supporting the verdict is not supporting Zimmerman. Zimmerman is not a very good person—at least not anymore, not after that night—and he is certainly not innocent in any meaningful way, but he is also clearly not guilty of the crimes that the state of Florida was trying to prove him guilty of, as far as the court could determine.
There is a purely practical reason to praise the acquittal of possible murderers like George Zimmerman (and Casey Anthony, etc., etc.), as alluded to above: The State is far, far more dangerous than any overly zealous neighborhood watch volunteer, any gun nut, any racist white supremacist, or any small group of people. The United States federal government and our state and local governments not only can but have murdered or otherwise ruined the lives of far more innocent American citizens than all serial killers, mass murderers, terrorists, and racist gun wielders combined—and they have done so legally, through official governmental channels such as the court system, criminal investigations, and drug raids. The United States currently imprisons far more people than any country and a far higher percentage of its citizens than any country. If criminal trials in the United States (or any other country) were decided on the principles that a lot of Americans hoped would prevail in the George Zimmerman murder trial, then that number would skyrocket even further, beyond all semblance of justice or rights or safety or freedom.
Those who wanted a conviction and harsh sentence might respond, "How free or safe can young black men feel, then, with trials like this resulting in acquittal when the defendant was clearly guilty of some wrongdoing and was clearly motivated by race? How are their rights and justice being protected?" Clearly not well enough, but more zealous prosecution, more gullible jurors, a more bloodthirsty public, and more intrusive investigation would cause more injustice, not prevent it. A criminal justice system that is biased towards conviction, as the Zimmerman haters want, is exactly the problem. A culture and a system of laws that give investigators and prosecutors too much leeway and are too willing to dismiss reasonable doubt, as the Zimmerman haters want, are the problem.
In 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court secretly ruled that some of NSA’s spying programs were unconstitutionalJune 23, 2013 – 10:20 pm by John
Michael Isikoff reports that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will not object to the de-classification of a 2011 ruling in which it declared some of the National Security Agency's spying programs unconstitutional. It sure would be great if I ever heard about or commented on revelations like these shortly after they became news, but 11 days late will have to do. (I couldn't do nearly as well as the people I link to and dozens of others around the internet, anyway.)
In a rare public ruling by the nation’s most secretive judicial body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled Wednesday that it did not object to the release of a classified 86-page opinion concluding that some of the U.S. government’s surveillance activities were unconstitutional.
The ruling, signed by the court’s chief judge, Reggie Walton, rejected the Justice Department’s arguments that the secret national security court’s rules prevented disclosure of the opinion.
The release of the opinion, they [privacy advocates] say, may prove central in the current controversy over the scope of National Security Agency surveillance programs.
“It’s a brand new day,” said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group that brought the case. He noted that it is extremely rare for any FISC ruling to be made public at all, much less for the court to rule on behalf of disclosure advocates over the objection of Justice Department lawyers.
The EFF’s lawsuit was inspired by a July 20, 2012 letter from an aide to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that stated that “on at least one occasion,” the FISC held that “some collection” carried out by the U.S. government under classified surveillance programs “was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
The letter, from Kathleen Turner, Clapper’s chief of legislative affairs, provided no further information about what the FISC found to be unconstitutional, but did state that the government “has remedied these concerns” and the FISC has continued to approve its collection activities.
It's important to keep in mind that legality and court approvals are far from good enough when judging anything any government does, and they certainly carry little weight when the issue is such invasive spying programs as have been revealed this month. In other words, it doesn't really matter whether FISC or any other court rules that NSA is following the law; what matters is that its activities and in fact its mere existence are wrong and dangerous, and it's no surprise that the type of power offered by an agency like NSA will attract amoral, power-grabbing people. The importance, if any, of this decision by FISC is (1) it can show that government agencies, bureaucrats, and politicians were violating even their own rules and laws, and (2) it might lead to the discovery that some of NSA's unconstitutional programs do, in fact, still exist and that Ms. Turner's assurance that the government "has remedied these concerns" is a lie. If she is telling the truth, it would be a rarity these days coming out of the U.S. intelligence community.
In fact, you know what, I'll go ahead and predict it right now: I predict that it will be revealed that one or more NSA programs that were ruled unconstitutional still exist and are still active, or were for a considerable time after the ruling, in identical form or in an inconsequentially altered form, with the knowledge and approval of senior NSA or other Obama administration officials.
This is a fascinating but chilling account of journalist Barrett Brown's cooperation with hacktivists, his investigations into the questionable activities of intelligence/security companies, his discovery of the collusion between them and the Department of Justice, and his harassment and arrest by the FBI. Writing in The Nation, Peter Ludlow chronicles the strange case of Barrett Brown:
[I]t wasn’t Brown’s acid tongue so much as his love of minutiae (and ability to organize and explain minutiae) that would ultimately land him in trouble. Abandoning his book on pundits in favor of a book on Anonymous, he could not have known that delving into the territory of hackers and leaks would ultimately lead to his facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison. In light of the bombshell revelations published by Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman about government and corporate spying, Brown’s case is a good—and underreported—reminder of the considerable risk faced by reporters who report on leaks.
In February 2011, a year after Brown penned his defense of Anonymous, and against the background of its actions during the Arab Spring, Aaron Barr, CEO of the private intelligence company HBGary, claimed to have identified the leadership of the hacktivist collective. (In fact, he only had screen names of a few members). Barr’s boasting provoked a brutal hack of HBGary by a related group called Internet Feds (it would soon change its name to “LulzSec”). Splashy enough to attract the attention of The Colbert Report, the hack defaced and destroyed servers and websites belonging to HBGary. Some 70,000 company e-mails were downloaded and posted online. As a final insult to injury, even the contents of Aaron Barr’s iPad were remotely wiped.
The HBGary hack may have been designed to humiliate the company, but it had the collateral effect of dropping a gold mine of information into Brown’s lap. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to neutralize Glenn Greenwald’s defense of Wikileaks by undermining them both. (“Without the support of people like Glenn, wikileaks would fold,” read one slide.) The plan called for “disinformation,” exploiting strife within the organization and fomenting external rivalries—“creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization,” as well as a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error.” Greenwald, it was argued, “if pushed,” would “choose professional preservation over cause.”
The data dump from the HBGary hack was so vast that no one person could sort through it alone. So Brown decided to crowdsource the effort. He created a wiki page, called it ProjectPM, and invited other investigative journalists to join in. Under Brown’s leadership, the initiative began to slowly untangle a web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and information security consultants.
One connection was between Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce. WikiLeaks had claimed to possess a large cache of documents belonging to Bank of America. Concerned about this, Bank of America approached the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ directed it to the law and lobbying firm Hunton and Williams, which does legal work for Wells Fargo and General Dynamics and also lobbies for Koch Industries, Americans for Affordable Climate Policy, Gas Processors Association, Entergy among many other firms. The DoJ recommended that Bank of America hire Hunton and Williams, explicitly suggesting Richard Wyatt as the person to work with. Wyatt, famously, was the lead attorney in the Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the Yes Men.
In November 2010, Hunton and Williams organized a number of private intelligence, technology development and security contractors—HBGary, plus Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and, according to Brown, a secretive corporation with the ominous name Endgame Systems—to form “Team Themis”—‘themis’ being a Greek word meaning “divine law.” Its main objective was to discredit critics of the Chamber of Commerce, like Chamber Watch, using such tactics as creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to “prove that US Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth.” In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to infiltrate Chamber Watch. They would “create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second.” The leaked e-mails showed that similar disinformation campaigns were being planned against WikiLeaks and Glenn Greenwald.
It was clear to Brown that these were actions of questionable legality, but beyond that, government contractors were attempting to undermine Americans’ free speech—with the apparent blessing of the DOJ. A group of Democratic congressmen asked for an investigation into this arrangement, to no avail.
By June 2011, the plot had thickened further. The FBI had the goods on the leader of LulzSec, one Hector Xavier Monsegur, who went under the nom de guerre Sabu. The FBI arrested him on June 7, 2011, and (according to court documents) turned him into an informant the following day. Just three days before his arrest, Sabu had been central to the formation of a new group called AntiSec, which comprised his former LulzSec crew members, as well as members as Anonymous. In early December AntiSec hacked the website of a private security company called Stratfor Global Intelligence. On Christmas Eve, it released a trove of some 5 million internal company e-mails. AntiSec member and Chicago activist Jeremy Hammond has pled guilty to the attack and is currently facing ten years in prison for it.
The contents of the Stratfor leak were even more outrageous than those of the HBGary hack. They included discussion of opportunities for renditions and assassinations. For example, in one video, Statfor’s vice president of intelligence, Fred Burton, suggested taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to render Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who had been released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal illness. Burton said that the case “was personal.” When someone pointed out in an e-mail that such a move would almost certainly be illegal—“This man has already been tried, found guilty, sentenced…and served time”—another Stratfor employee responded that this was just an argument for a more efficient solution: “One more reason to just bugzap him with a hellfire. :-)”
When the contents of the Stratfor leak became available, Brown decided to put ProjectPM on it. A link to the Stratfor dump appeared in an Anonymous chat channel; Brown copied it and pasted it into the private chat channel for ProjectPM, bringing the dump to the attention of the editors.
Brown began looking into Endgame Systems, an information security firm that seemed particularly concerned about staying in the shadows. “Please let HBGary know we don’t ever want to see our name in a press release,” one leaked e-mail read. One of its products, available for a $2.5 million annual subscription, gave customers access to “zero-day exploits”—security vulnerabilities unknown to software companies—for computer systems all over the world. Business Week published a story on Endgame in 2011, reporting that “Endgame executives will bring up maps of airports, parliament buildings, and corporate offices. The executives then create a list of the computers running inside the facilities, including what software the computers run, and a menu of attacks that could work against those particular systems.” For Brown, this raised the question of whether Endgame was selling these exploits to foreign actors and whether they would be used against computer systems in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the hammer came down.
The FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop, gaining the authority to seize any information related to HBGary, Endgame Systems, Anonymous and, most ominously, “email, email contacts, ‘chat’, instant messaging logs, photographs, and correspondence.” In other words, the FBI wanted his sources.
When the FBI went to serve Brown, he was at his mother’s house. Agents returned with a warrant to search his mother’s house, retrieving his laptop. To turn up the heat on Brown, the FBI initiated charges against his mother for obstruction of justice for concealing his laptop computer in her house. (Facing criminal charges, on March 22, 2013, his mother, Karen McCutchin, pled guilty to one count of obstructing the execution of a search warrant. She faces up to twelve months in jail. Brown maintains that she did not know the laptop was in her home.)
By his own admission, the FBI’s targeting of his mother made Brown snap. In September 2012, he uploaded an incoherent YouTube video, in which he explained that he had been in treatment for an addiction to heroin, taking the medication Suboxone, but had gone off his meds and now was in withdrawal. He threatened the FBI agent that was harassing his mother, by name, warning:
“I know what’s legal, I know what’s been done to me.… And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith—who is a criminal.”
“That’s why [FBI special agent] Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids…. How do you like them apples?”
The media narrative was immediately derailed. No longer would this be a story about the secretive information-military-industrial complex; now it was the sordid tale of a crazy drug addict threatening an FBI agent and his (grown) children. Actual death threats against agents are often punishable by a few years in jail. But Brown’s actions made it easier for the FBI to sell some other pretext to put him away for life.
The Stratfor data included a number of unencrypted credit card numbers and validation codes. On this basis, the DOJ accused Brown of credit card fraud for having shared that link with the editorial board of ProjectPM. Specifically, the FBI charged him with traffic in stolen authentication features, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, as well as an obstruction of justice charge (for being at his mother’s when the initial warrant was served) and charges stemming from his threats against the FBI agent. All told, Brown is looking at century of jail time: 105 years in federal prison if served sequentially. He has been denied bail.
Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of ten years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself but with Brown’s journalism. As Glenn Greenwald remarked inThe Guardian: “It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.”
Today, Brown is in prison and ProjectPM is under increased scrutiny by the DOJ, even as its work has ground to a halt. In March, the DOJ served the domain hosting service CloudFlare with a subpoena for all records on the ProjectPM website, and in particular asked for the IP addresses of everyone who had accessed and contributed to ProjectPM, describing it as a “forum” through which Brown and others would “engage in, encourage, or facilitate the commission of criminal conduct online.” The message was clear: Anyone else who looks into this matter does so at their grave peril.
... The broader implications of this go beyond Brown; one might think that what we are looking at is Cointelpro 2.0—an outsourced surveillance state—but in fact it’s worse. One can’t help but infer that the US Department of Justice has become just another security contractor, working alongside the HBGarys and Stratfors on behalf of corporate bidders, with no sense at all for the justness of their actions; they are working to protect corporations and private security contractors and give them license to engage in disinformation campaigns against ordinary citizens and their advocacy groups. The mere fact that the FBI’s senior cybersecurity advisor has recently moved to Hunton and Williams shows just how incestuous this relationship has become. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is also using its power and force to trample on the rights of citizens like Barrett Brown who are trying to shed light on these nefarious relationships. ...
While the media and much of the world have been understandably outraged by the revelation of the NSA’s spying programs, Barrett Brown’s work was pointing to a much deeper problem. It isn’t the sort of problem that can be fixed by trying to tweak a few laws or by removing a few prosecutors. The problem is not with bad laws or bad prosecutors. What the case of Barrett Brown has exposed is that we confronting a different problem altogether. It is a systemic problem. It is the failure of the rule of law.
On June 7, Michael Hastings tore into the Democrats in Washington for being as terrible on civil liberties as they have revealed themselves to be and for apparently being nothing more than opportunistic Bush bashers when they used his awful civil liberties record to win big in 2006 and 2008. His assessment of them is even more appropriate after the last week of revelations. Typos and invective aside, I think he's right on every point.
Glenn Greenwald’s exposure of the NSA’s massive domestic spy program has revealed the entire caste of current Democratic leaders as a gang of civil liberty opportunists, whose true passion, it seems, was in trolling George W. Bush for eight years on matters of national security.
“Everyone should just calm down,” Senator Harry Reid said yesterday, inhaling slowly.
That’s right: don’t panic.
The very topic of Democratic two-facedness on civil liberties is one of the most important issues that Greenwald has covered. Many of those Dems — including the sitting President Barack Obama, Senator Carl Levin, and Sec. State John Kerry — have now become the stewards and enhancers of programs that appear to dwarf any of the spying scandals that broke during the Bush years, the very same scandals they used as wedge issues to win elections in the Congressional elections 2006 and the presidential primary of 2007-2008.
The state of affairs, in other words, is so grave that two sitting Senators [Ron Wyden and Mark Udall] went as close as they could to violating their unconstitutional security oaths in order to warn the country of information that otherwise would not have been declassified until April of 2038, according to the Verizon court order obtained by Greenwald.
Unsurprisingly, the White House has dug in, calling their North Korea-esque tools “essential” to stop terrorism, and loathe to give up the political edge they’ve seized for Democrats on national security issues under Obama’s leadership. The AP spying scandal — which the administration attempted to downplay at the time, even appointing Eric Holder to lead his own investigation into himself —was one of the unexpected consequences of one of two leak investigations that Obama ordered during the 2012 campaign.
It’s unclear where a possible third leak investigation would lead. However, judging by the DOJ’s and FBI’s recent history, it would seem that any new leak case would involve obtaining the phone records of reporters at the Guardian, the Washington Post, employees at various agencies who would have had access to the leaked material, as well as politicians and staffers in Congress—records, we now can safely posit, they already have unchecked and full access to.
In short: any so-called credible DOJ/FBI leak investigation, by its very nature, would have to involve the Obama administration invasively using the very surveillance and data techniques it is attempting to hide in order to snoop on a few Democratic Senators and more media outlets, including one based overseas.
... Transparency supporters, whistleblowers, and investigative reporters, especially those writers who have aggressively pursued the connections between the corporate defense industry and federal and local authorities involved in domestic surveillance, have been viciously attacked by the Obama administration and its allies in the FBI and DOJ.
Jacob Appplebaum, a transparency activist and computer savant, has been repeatedly harassed at American borders, having his laptop seized. Barrett Brown, another investigative journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, among others publications, exposed the connections between the private contracting firm HB Gary (a government contracting firm that, incidentally, proposed a plan to spy on and ruin the reputation of the Guardian’s Greenwald) and who is currently sitting in a Texas prison on trumped up FBI charges regarding his legitimate reportorial inquiry into the political collective known sometimes as Anonymous.
That’s not to mention former NSA official Thomas Drake (the Feds tried to destroys his life because he blew the whistle ); Fox News reporter James Rosen (named a “co-conspirator” by Holder’s DOJ); John Kirakou, formerly in the CIA, who raised concerns about the agency’s torture program, is also in prison for leaking “harmful” (read: embarrassing) classified info; and of course Wikileaks (under U.S. financial embargo); WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (locked up in Ecuador’s London embassy) and, of course, Bradley Manning, the young, idealistic, soldier who provided the public with perhaps the most critical trove of government documents ever released.
In his excellent column Edward Snowden and the selective targeting of leaks, Jack Shafer details several leaks of formerly classified information by the Bush and Obama administrations and points out that these administrations—indeed, all administrations—are hypocritical because they want to prosecute lower-level, less influential, less powerful people when they leak classified information but ignore or even promote more powerful people who leak classified information to the press. This is a good summary quote:
The willingness of the government to punish leakers is inversely proportional to the leakers’ rank and status, which is bad news for someone so lacking in those attributes as Edward Snowden. But as the Snowden prosecution commences, we should question his selective prosecution.
The NSA, CIA, and Department of Justice [sic] undoubtedly want to track down, kidnap, and imprison Edward Snowden for leaking the information about NSA, but he was right to do it and we have a right to know about it. He has exposed things that shouldn't have been happening at all, much less in secret, and more will probably still be revealed. Obama's purported "most transparent administration in history" is actually more secretive than possibly any other, and the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined.
Obama and his appointees will no doubt continue to pay lip service to wanting open debate about all their policies and practices, but if they wanted to be open and transparent, they wouldn't be so secretive to begin with. As so many others have said lately, if President Obama has done nothing wrong to the American public, then he has nothing to hide.
You might have heard some people making fun of Kansas state Senator Jeff Melcher (R) for opposing a decrease in the state sales tax on food because, "It seems to me we are encouraging the behavior of purchasing food and discouraging the behavior of purchasing anything else." Two major, obvious points about his comments present themselves immediately. First, any halfway decent "conservative", "limited-government" Republican should want to cut taxes on everything and take advantage of any opportunity for a tax cut that they have. So not only is it bad tactics to oppose a measure that would save Kansans money at the grocery store, it probably betrays his true colors as a politician who's not so interested in reducing the size and cost of government.
But on the other hand, he actually has a point, to some extent. His point that selective tax reductions skew purchasing and investment decisions is relevant to the housing boom of the early 2000's. One proposed contributor to the excessive demand, purchase, and therefore prices of houses in the United States was federal tax policy that made housing a better deal for both buyers and investors than it otherwise would have been, diverting an unhealthy and unsustainable amount of money into that sector. The "Housing tax policy" section of the Wikipedia article on causes of the housing bubble cites four regulations and laws that made taxes on homes less costly than other things. In particular, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 allowed the capital gains from home sales to be excluded from taxation (up to a certain dollar amount), making housing the only investment that escaped capital gains.
So while it's desirable to lower everyone's taxes on everything, the fact that it is unrealistic to try to lower all taxes at once makes it necessary to carefully consider the advantages and drawbacks, including the potential side effects, of each individual tax break, at least in certain situations. Clearly, a better approach, that would appeal to more people than Melcher's, would have been to champion even more tax cuts to avoid the distortionary effects that this sales tax decrease might have.
In 2009 I predicted that the Obama administration and Congress would create two bubbles to replace the recently burst housing bubble: a green bubble and an automotive bubble. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that "green" jobs were produced four times as fast as all other types of jobs together in the U.S. during 2010–2011. There were about 3.4 million "green" jobs in the U.S. at that time, one-fourth of which were government-sector jobs.
I think the growth of such jobs, especially in the government sector and especially in compliance-related roles—which take valuable labor away from productive roles in the economy—is evidence of a growing, albeit small, green bubble. I join Keith Hall and Investor's Business Daily in lamenting the subsidization and growth of green jobs and the waste and opportunity costs they entail.
If the people wanted the goods and services that green-technology jobs produced, then private companies and individuals would fill those jobs and would make a profit doing so. There is no evidence that legislators, lobbyists, and bureaucrats know how to allocate resources more effectively (as measured by any criteria besides rent-seeking and cronyism) than the free market does.
Comedian Patton Oswalt echoes my feelings about humanity, and expresses them better than I probably would have, in response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon:
Boston. Fucking horrible.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."
But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
Patton Oswalt posted that to his Facebook page, which I saw only because one of my friends shared it. (Turns out my Facebook feed is good for something!) He's right, of course, but sometimes it's hard to accept he's right; it's easy to give in to the feelings of despair and helplessness about how fragile our lives are and how easily they can be taken away by a miswired psychopath. By random, pointless violence. It's easy to become almost paralyzed by thinking about the victims of bombings and shootings, by wondering "what if that were me?" and despairing that our fellow humans are capable of such brutality. And by wondering if Oswalt is wrong and such optimism is misguided—what if we really are a dead-end species with too many psychological disorders and too many violent tendencies?
What is wrong with our country? What is wrong with our society? In the West, America is unique in the frequency and death toll of mass shootings. And now this bombing? What is the point to any of them? What leads anyone to plan for days and weeks a mass shooting or bombing of innocent victims who have nothing to do with any imagined grievance against the perpetrator? It can't always be psychotropic medications (how many murders are prevented by anti-depressants, anyway?). I think there's little doubt anymore that mass murders need to be treated as an epidemiological problem, though the source of that problem and its solution are a complete mystery, and will remain so for many years, I suspect.
Simply getting rid of guns (ha, "simply"), as dimwits like Fareed Zakaria suggest, would only substitute State violence for individual violence. He compares our gun ownership and murder rates with those of England, France, and Australia but doesn't even bring up earlier regimes with strict gun-control laws, like Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China, Stalin's Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and dozens of African nations with many more guns in military than private hands. (Maybe he wanted to avoid addressing the role of gun control in allowing numerous genocides, or maybe he's ignorant.) If Fareed Zakaria and all the other gun control advocates have their way—and I'm betting they will—it will be pretty easy for murderous psychopaths to turn to bombs when they can't get guns.
Bombings in a crowded public place smell more like Middle Eastern–style terrorism than American psychopaths. Since the early 2000's, I have predicted that the U.S. government's aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East will bring semi-regular public bombings to our cities within my lifetime, public bombings like Israel has suffered for so long, that make an entire citizenry worry whether it can even go to a restaurant or ride the subway without being blown to bits. But my guess is that the Boston Marathon bombings were the work of domestic psychopaths rather than foreign (or even domestic) terrorists with a political motivation.
My political and social views lead me to practice some armchair psychology about the causes of mass killings in my country. It seems reasonable to propose that, entirely aside from the near certainty that psychotropic medications sway some depressed men from suicidal thoughts to homicidal rampages, there is something more systemic and social than clinical and neurological. I know there are statistics showing that homicide rates and gun-related violence have steadily decreased in the U.S. since the early 1990's, but the incidence of mass killings has increased in recent decades. We are right to be unnerved by them, and right to want to do something to stop them.
Radley Balko and some people he cites hypothesize that our ever-increasing standard of living is a major cause of our decreasing violent crime rate. That says nothing about why less affluent countries have much lower murder rates (and, especially, psychopathic mass-murder rates) than the U.S., but it does lead into the final point I wanted to make. I can't help wondering if some people's increasing sense of helplessness, of a lack of dominion over their own economic and social lives, of being not an individual in charge of their own destiny but just a statistic in a meaningless contest they have no control over, a cog in a cold, inhuman machine, leads them to rage against that machine in the only way their twisted minds can conjure: public shootings or bombings. Americans' lives do seem to be increasingly controlled and regulated and fenced in and limited by corporations and governments. (I don't think this is one of those feelings that every generation has when it compares itself to other generations but is actually unfounded—you know, the way parents and grandparents since time immemorial have thought kids today are more spoiled and entitled than ever, and things were better back in their day, etc.) These feelings wouldn't go very far to explain the American exceptionalism in psychopathic mass murders, because we are freer in some ways than a lot of more peaceful countries, but there is an explanation somewhere, buried deep in the psychology, sociology, and neurochemistry of our species.
I hope and believe Patton Oswalt is right about our species, but I'm not so sure about our country. There is something gravely wrong about a country that can produce this many mass murders. Even if the bombers weren't Americans, that means it was probably some type of anti-U.S. government/military/foreign policy statement, in which case the fault lies with this country again. I'm not looking forward to the government's "solutions", but I don't for a second blame people for seeking a solution, even from the government. They are right to despair at the rate of mass murders and refuse to accept them as just a part of life in the modern, free world. Regardless of whether statistics show that homicide or gun-related crime has decreased in the last few decades in the U.S., this country does have an epidemiological problem with mass killings and does need to do something about it. I think the solution is less government, less State-created divisiveness and helplessness, more community, more individual empowerment, abolition of government schools, serious questioning of the benefits of psychotropic medications, and a free economy that can improve everyone's standard of living while leaving plenty of resources to research and treat mental illness.
Blastr and ThinkGeek report that 20th Century Fox Television has sent cease & desist letters to Etsy users to ban them from producing homemade versions of the hat that Jayne Cobb received from his mother on the short-lived Fox show Firefly.
This might be the most absurd example of intellectual property muscle-flexing I've heard about in a long time. And it's a good opportunity for instruction on the invasive, unjust, predatory nature of intellectual property laws. The people who make Jayne hats own the fabric, the knitting needles, the pattern-sheets, and whatever other materials are involved in making a Jayne hat. They have rightfully acquired them through no force or fraud. The materials belong to them. Therefore, they can make whatever they want with them. They own their own voices, computers, paper, ink, and printers, so they can label the hat whatever they want. Their knitting of a Jayne hat and calling it a Jayne hat does not infringe upon the right of anyone else to make or not make, buy or not buy, own or not own, or wear or not wear their own Jayne hat or any other article of clothing, or to perform or not perform any other non-coercive action.
"But," you might say, "selling a Jayne hat does infringe upon Fox's trademark on the characters and other creative materials invented in Firefly, which it does legally own. It's not just the hat or the pattern, it's using Jayne's name and Firefly's name to make money off of something others invented and hold trademark on." The point is that the law and its trademarks are irrelevant. Laws are not always just, and are in fact often unjust. Intellectual property laws banning "unlicensed" merchandise are a good example of unjust laws that have no basis in justice, rights, or morality but rather in rent-seeking cronyism and favoritism.
To claim that the "unlicensed" knitting and selling of a Jayne hat violates some corporation's rights because that corporation owns the pattern and style of the hat or the names of a character and TV show is identical to claiming that that corporation has a rightful claim to the ownership or control of other people's fabric and knitting materials. Or that it has a right to control the ideas in other people's minds, i.e., their thought processes.
Intellectual "property" and all other ideas are not property at all because they are infinitely reproducible at zero cost and their existence in one person's mind in no way affects anyone else's mind, body, or property. This precludes ideas from being economically and legally actionable goods at all. Intellectual property is neither rivalrous nor excludable. Rivalrous means that one person's use or ownership of a good precludes the use or ownership of that good by anyone else. Excludable means that the owner or controller of the good or service can determine who uses it by charging money (or institute some other criterion) for access.
If the idea of a Jayne hat is non-rivalrous, non-excludable, and infinitely reproducible at zero cost, then no one can own it or control it or claim that they are harmed by someone else's having that idea. They can only (try to) claim that they are harmed by someone else's use or implementation of that idea. What does this entail? It entails claiming ownership or control over people's just property or over the way in which people manipulate their just property with their thoughts and bodies. It also entails the right to prevent people from using certain words and names because a corporation owns the exclusive right to those sound and symbol patterns. It is easy to see how fallacious it is to claim that either (a) Fox has a right to control the ideas and thought processes in other people's minds and the words they use to express them, or (b) Fox has a rightful claim to the ownership or control of other people's knitting materials and the body parts they use to work with those materials. It is not clear how Fox can have no legitimate claim to any part of people's ideas, bodies, or property but somehow does own the product of a certain combination of the three. Why that combination and not any other? Where exactly does such a claim come from? What prior or more basic right is it based in?
The only plausible answer I can think of is, "Someone else used the name first and paired the item with the name, so no one else can make money off of it." Note that no one (sane) is claiming that people should be prevented from merely calling it a Jayne hat. No, they are only claiming that no one else has the right to make money off of calling it a Jayne hat. But rights, morals, and justice precede and exist independently of money and profit, so any argument that invokes money or profit is missing the point entirely. Whether someone makes money off of anything has no bearing on the rightness of their action.
People can and do profit or benefit, i.e., gain utility, from many things besides money. These types of utility also precede and exist independently of money. Monetary profit is just one type of profit, and there is no reason the law should ban one type of profit and not another. If a trademark infringement claim cites monetary profit as the source of the infringement, then to be consistent, it would also have to claim infringement if anyone benefited in any non-monetary way from using that trademark name. In other words, some people have been making money from making and selling "Jayne hats", and others have been making "Jayne hats" for themselves, giving them as gifts, wearing them to conventions, keeping their heads warm in the winter, etc. Fox is not harmed by other people making money by selling Jayne hats any more than it is harmed by other people keeping warm by wearing Jayne hats. For Fox to claim it is being wronged by other people's monetary profit, it would also have to claim it is being wronged by other people gaining other sorts of utility from hats that they call "Jayne hats". To seriously make that claim is to expose oneself as an amoral enemy of just about every human right there is, so please, go ahead.
Either way, what Fox and other supporters of intellectual property laws are left claiming is, basically, that they have a right to ban others from profiting monetarily from something because Fox did it first (or acquired such a right from the person(s) who did it first). No one has a right to ban trade or profit any more than they have a right to control other people's ideas, bodies, or just property. This should all be self-evident, especially in so absurd a case as this, yet we find commenters making outlandish Statolatrist claims like the following on Whedonesque, io9, and Blastr:
They kind of own the copyright.
I get it but still major bummer.
I don't blame Fox. If it's a moneymaker then they should be making the money. As long as they don't keep people from making their own then there's no problem.
I agree that the suits have a right to protect what they own (there would be no point in complaining about the facts of life). But they aren't winning any fan love by focusing on every little thing (and the hat is a little thing IMO). *sigh*
They are entitled to stop people from making money off their own products. That's not stupid.
Ultimately - make away, fan friends. But if you're selling it, whoever owns the rights does have a, uh, right to say 'We paid money to sell this'
I have no problem with Fox's actions. People need to accept that licensed property is not free for the taking, especially if they're trying to make an easy buck off it. Doesn't matter if it's within the fan community or not. Stealing is stealing.
Fox owns the rights. To its characters and if you use one for profit without licensing they have every right to ask you to cease.
While I understand the frustration the sellers feel - unlicensed is unlicensed.
A lot of comments at those sites, both good and bad, brought up Fox's inability to claim any trademark infringement as long as Jayne hat sellers don't refer to Jayne or Firefly in any way. Just call it a "cunning hat" or something else, and Fox has no legs to stand on. While that is (probably?) true under current U.S. law, it doesn't affect the morality or property-rights discussion in any way. No person or entity has any right to claim ownership, control, or estoppel privileges over the use of certain words, in print or any other medium, for the same reason that they have no rights over ideas or thoughts. Combinations of letters, symbols, pictures, and sounds are non-rivalrous, non-excludable, and infinitely reproducible (at least, as they exist in people's minds), so it is irrelevant that Fox owns the legal privilege to profit from the show named Firefly and its character named Jayne Cobb. Making any item and giving it any name does not infringe upon anyone else's right to make the same item or any other item and give it the same name or any other name, nor does it infringe upon anyone's right to use, wear, sell, trade, or enjoy their own property. So this "intellectual property" right in a Jayne hat is just so much meaningless noise and ink. It has no existence or meaning in the real world, beyond laws and guns. It exists as much as a purple unicorn or a frumious Bandersnatch exists.
"I want to state, as forcefully as possible, that the War on Drugs is deeply, irredeemably immoral; that it corrodes the minds and souls of those who prosecute it, and creates incentives for bad behavior that those living under its contours have always and will always find too powerful to resist."
—Connor Friedersdorf, "The War on Drugs Is Far More Immoral Than Most Drug Use"
Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat, recently gave an interview on the Daily Show about the scientific precision with which junk food manufacturers design the flavors and textures of foods and drinks, and how it all smacks of a nefarious ploy to make money off of Americans by destroying our health.
Despite being pretty interesting, the whole interview was underwhelming. Moss and Jon Stewart both seem to miss the point by blaming the companies, the competition, and the pursuit of profit for the proliferation of high-salt, high-sugar, high-fat processed foods and the obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease they cause. The main problem as I see it lies in the people who eat those foods and the physiology that makes them enjoy junk food so much. The consumers buy and eat the foods willingly—eagerly, in fact—and not only that, but they know the foods are bad for them and eat them anyway.
Therefore, as valuable as Moss's discoveries are, and as much as this topic and the broader topic of nutrition and diet should be discussed and studied, the conclusion that the companies are to blame is misguided. They spend billions of dollars, employing hundreds of scientists doing decades of research, to make products that people like more and that cost less, and they're the root of the problem? Or the market that allows them to compete and profit off of people's tastes is the problem? I wouldn't even take issue if Moss and Stewart mentioned the companies and their products as part of the problem, but they must be the least culpable party in all this. In researching people's tastes and designing and marketing their products, they haven't deceived anybody or committed any fraud, or even done anything dishonorable.
Moss and Stewart do both try to mitigate their demonization of the junk food industry: Moss says, "I don't view the processed food industry as this evil empire that is out to intentionally get us obese or otherwise ill," and Stewart admits it's not a book of demonization. But they still imply that the system of research into human tastes, marketing of junk food, and profiting off of it is to blame for our unhealthy diets.
For instance, Moss says, "The problem lies in their collective zeal to do what companies do, which is make more money by selling more product."
He continues, "Even when these companies try to do the right thing by consumer health—and they have—...they get pushed back by Wall Street: 'Where are the profits?' ... One of their healthy lines, as they call it, they cut back on salt just a little bit, and all it took was a cough, a hiccup, from Wall Street, and what do they do? They've put the salt back in. Again, because they're looking at competition in the soup aisle, and their competitors aren't doing it."
Stewart asks, "How, in any way, can real and sustainable food and lifestyles compete in any way with these guys?"
Moss responds, "The playing field is so unlevel...the subsidies go toward the highly processed food, almost none go to the fresh fruits and vegetables." Well, if that's a reason junk food is so profitable, then obviously the government providing the subsidies is part of the problem! Subsidization is a two-way street, so we should never absolve the rent seekers and blame only the subsidy givers, but Moss and Stewart don't even go into the rent-seeking aspect of the processed food industry. Maybe mentioning the unbalanced subsidization was all the government-blaming they wanted to get into. Rent-seeking is the only objectionable thing that this interview even implies the junk food companies do. Anyway, the federal government also subsidizes farmers for producing many crops and other foods, so I'm not convinced junk food subsidies are a major reason junk food is so profitable. But it might be part of the problem.
That was the part of the interview that aired on Comedy Central. I found the second half of the interview more interesting:
This part of the interview is partially about an intervention in a poor area of Philadelphia staged by a school principal and local parents, whose children were eating mainly processed snack foods from local convenience stores before school, to their extreme mental and physical detriment. When talking about how hard it is for these rushed, over-worked, poor parents and their rushed, over-worked, over-tired children to eat healthily, Jon Stewart gets to what I think is the heart of this issue:
"It just shows...the way that the pressures of difficult, modern lives, combined with the convenience, combined with the price point, combined with the calories, and all those things, how it all adds up to a much larger problem than Nestle's got a couple of guys in the back figuring out how to make cookies feel just right in your mouth." That's a much more honest but less sound-bitey, snarky, comedic summary of the problem of processed foods and their attendant health problems than the first part of the interview was. Of course, the first part is what aired because it was more sensational, more entertaining, and more blameful of an easy target, the junk food industry, which happens to be a more palatable target for Jon Stewart and his viewers than the government and the distorted economy, school system, and social structures it has produced.
Liberal commentators all around the internet, both professional and amateur, were fuming earlier this week in response to Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster to block the confirmation of John Brennan for CIA director. But interestingly, many of them weren't going after Paul but rather were expressing disappointment and shame at liberal voters and Congressional Democrats for failing to challenge President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Brennan, and the CIA for their assertion—or at least non-denial—that military drones could legally be used to kill American citizens on American soil.
Glenn Greenwald, a staunch and consistent defender of Constitutional rights and civil liberties, who calls himself a "progressive", is a good example of the latter:
Progressives on Twitter mocking a Senator for objecting to due-process-free execution orders issued against US citizens in secret [link]
Pretty sad - and pretty revealing - that it was left to Rand Paul to raise in the Senate the killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki [link]
Fascinating day: Tea Party Senator filibusters torture-supporting CIA nominee over civil liberties, while Dem establishment mocks & fumes [link]
Zaid Jilani, the liberal writer and blagger formerly of ThinkProgress.com, United Republic, my alma mater the University of Georgia, and, surprisingly, my hometown of Kennesaw, GA, tweeted:
I'm ashamed of US progressive movement and Democratic Senators for letting the far-right be the leaders on #drones. #StandWithRand
I don't follow any liberal blaggers, writers, or pundits who voiced their disapproval of Rand Paul's filibuster or their support of John Brennan or Obama's American-assassination stance, but I'll take Greenwald's and Jilani's word that those liberals do exist in fair numbers and did publish such sentiments this week. What is widely known and easy to verify is that Senate and House Democrats disapproved of Paul's filibuster, do support Obama's nominee Brennan, and do support the Obama administration's claim that CIA drones can and therefore should potentially be allowed to assassinate American citizens on American soil because of a connection to terrorist groups.
For example, Senate Democrats immediately offered lame excuses for not supporting Paul's filibuster, calling it "a distraction" that "didn't feel like a constructive venue".
When Nancy Pelosi was asked whether the American public should be informed whenever the president targets a U.S. citizen in a drone strike or assassinates a U.S. citizen, she responded, "Maybe. It just depends," and justified her ambivalence with platitudes about how extrajudicial killings of people who haven't even been formally accused of anything, much less tried and convicted, are necessary, how it's a different world now, how a large portion of the public supports the drone assassination program, and how the public just wants to be protected.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein's response to the existence of assassination-capable drones was not to take something resembling a principled, moral stance against militarism, American exceptionalism, and unilateral assassination power but rather to call, as she must reflexively do in every conceivable situation, almost like a word-association game in which she always gives the same answer, for more rules and regulations.
Amy Goodman writes in The Guardian that America is ashamed that only Rand Paul [among Congresshumans] is talking about drone executions, both the hypothetical ones on U.S. soil and the thousands that have already happened around the world.
My point in bringing up the disappointed tweets from American liberals and the wholesale Statolatrist, militarist fascism (yes, if that word ever accurately applied to American politicians, it applies to those who advocate extrajudicial drone assassinations of American citizens) of Congressional Democrats is to point out that none of this is surprising to anyone outside of the American left. The only people disappointed, ashamed, surprised, or "fascinat[ed]" by the failure of Congressional Democrats to even pay lip service to the correct side of this issue are American liberals.
What I found most remarkable about the Brennan hearings/vote and the Paul filibuster was the surprised, disappointed response to it, mainly by liberals. I guess all of those liberal commentators weren't entirely surprised by the Democratic politicians' total failure on this issue, but they at least seemed surprised by the liberal response at large. In order to be disappointed and ashamed at someone's position or their response to a situation, I think you must be at least a little surprised by it. For instance, I am not the least bit surprised by the Democratic senators or their liberal supporters on this matter—in fact, what does surprise me is how many people, even cynical Democrat-bashers like Greenwald, seem to have been taken aback by them—and my reaction was not disappointment or shame but "business as usual for liberals and the politicians they voted into power". Anyone who has paid attention to American politics over the last several decades should have the same reaction to the American left's complete support for their beloved president and his expanding military power.
Notwithstanding admirable liberals like Greenwald and, I'm sure to some extent, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and a scattering of others across the decades, the left-liberal movement in America has since its inception been an enemy of individual liberty, Constitutional rights, military non-intervention, economic progress, the social and financial independence of the poor and minorities, and the empowerment of individuals over the State. Other than the universal suffrage movement and the opposition to racist Jim Crow laws and segregation, American left-liberals have made the average American less free, poorer, more dependent on the State, more scared of the State, more subject to the whims and psychoses of law enforcement officials, and more hated by foreigners than could otherwise have been the case. Not to mention the damage they have inflicted upon millions of people around the world.
Democrat politicians and the liberals who voted them into power have (along with Republicans and their conservative idolaters, obviously) confiscated and destroyed our wealth through taxation, regulation, inflation, crony-favoritism, bailouts, and criminal waste. They have sent tens of thousands of Americans to their deaths in non-defensive wars from World War I all the way through Iraq and Afghanistan. They have created the corporatist-Statist abomination of a healthcare/health insurance market that has killed thousands and impoverished hundreds of millions more. They helped create and expand the heinous War on Drugs that has imprisoned, killed, impoverished, or ruined the lives of millions of innocent, non-violent Americans and foreigners, predominantly black and Latino. They are primarily responsible for the creation and expansion of the welfare system that has made millions of poor and minorities far too dependent on the government for their livelihoods. They have fought to empower government schools, school systems, teachers' unions, and the Department of Education by stifling the ability of individuals, families, communities, and entrepreneurs to develop alternative modes of education. They have fought to destroy and outlaw the free market and all of its attendant freedoms that have made so much of humanity so wealthy, as well as less dependent on the State.
Given this history, I was not the least bit surprised to see a supposedly far-left Democratic president claim powers that not even his evil Republican predecessor claimed, nor am I surprised at all the liberal voters who defend every last act of tyranny he commits because at least he's not a Republican. No one should be surprised at this. This is all par for the course for left-liberals in Congress, the White House, and across the nation.