Graph Comparing Number Of Congressional Investigations

investigations-02

The publication ThinkProgress did a graph comparing the number of Benghazi investigations to the number of investigations on other high-profile acts of terror.

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/10/22/3715046/trey-gowdy-benghazi-slams-gop/

Do People Still Have Private Health Insurance In America?

It seems that some – including Donald Trump – still don’t get that the U.S. has private health insurance companies under Obamacare – which is why people still have Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, etc.

(Updated)

(Video: Secular Talk)

Classic Video: Ben Stein Argues For Higher Taxes For The Wealthy On Fox News


Majority Report

A few years ago, Ben Stein played the voice of reason on the show Fox and Friends, explaining that to lower the deficit, taxes must be raised on the rich. For the most part, his ideas were met by blank stares on the faces of the Fox News hosts.

(Sam Seder video)

(Updated tags, categories)

Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy To Retire?

On September 29th, Representative Trey Gowdy, the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, declined his colleagues’ calls for him to run for House majority leader.

The next day, one of them claimed he would retire, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“Trey wants to go back to South Carolina, and God bless him for that,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said on C-SPAN Wednesday morning.

Fleming was interpreting something the South Carolina Republican reportedly said during a GOP caucus meeting.  He said Gowdy would leave Congress at the end of his term.

“He plans to go back home, and he wants to finish his work on the Benghazi special committee, but he loves South Carolina and he loves his family, and he wants to go back and spend the rest of his life there,” Fleming explained.

“He’ll be sorely missed,” he added.

Gowdy’s office, however, immediately denied Fleming’s interpretation.

“No, he is not announcing his retirement,” Gowdy’s spokeswoman Amanda Duvall said to the Washington Examiner.” He has not made any announcement on 2016, anything else is incorrect,” Duvall said according to U.S. News.

Gowdy was first elected in the tea party wave of 2010 and represents South Carolina’s conservative 4th District. And while he has indicated in the past his intentions to return to South Carolina at some point, he apparently is not going yet.

(Updated report)

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/30/trey-gowdy-benghazi-committee-chairman-denies-retirement-report

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/lawmaker-trey-gowdy-to-leave-the-house-after-2016/article/2573082

Russia Wants To Fight ISIS: 3-Way War Consequences


Secular Talk

Russia is looking into furthering its military support of the leader of Syria, who is fighting ISIS.

These are the two main sides of the war – fundamentalist Jihadi rebels (such as ISIS) on one side, and Bashar al-Assad (the ruler of Syria) on the other.

The U.S. wants to support “moderate” rebels, who are supposedly against both Assad and ISIS, creating a 3-way war.

A 3-way war is an interesting concept.  How is this working out in real life?

Civil Asset Forfeiture

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Civil Asset Forfeiture in the United States, sometimes called civil judicial forfeiture, is a legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.

While civil procedure generally involves a dispute between two private citizens, civil forfeiture involves a dispute between law enforcement and property, such as money or valuable items such as a car.  The item should be suspected of being involved in a crime.

Wikipedia states that to get back the seized property, “owners must prove it was not involved in criminal activity.”

This is an odd twist:  usually, the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in this case, the owner of the item must prove his or her innocence.

Last Thursday, SB 443, California’s attempt to end civil-asset forfeiture and “equitable sharing” abuse, failed passage in the State Assembly, 24 to 44, according to the National Review.

What is equitable sharing?

The National Review writes that “Forfeiture practices are further complicated with the existence of equitable-sharing agreements. Therein, state and local agencies partner with federal law enforcement, seize property, and proceed with the forfeiture motion through the jurisdiction with the least restrictive process, oftentimes the federal courts. The agencies then share the proceeds. This allows law enforcement to wholly sidestep any legal protections guaranteed by the state.”

More on Civil Asset Forfeiture by Wikipedia:

“Proponents see civil forfeiture as a powerful tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits, since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. Proponents argue that it is an efficient method since it allows law enforcement agencies to use these seized proceeds to further battle illegal activity, that is, directly converting bad things to good purposes by harming criminals economically while helping law enforcement financially. Critics argue that innocent owners become entangled in the process such that their right to property is violated, with few legal protections and due process rules to protect them in situations where they are presumed guilty instead of being presumed innocent.”

The ACLU writes:

“Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.”

Why would we allow civil asset forfeiture?

The Heritage Foundation writes that Civil Asset Forfeiture is intended to give law enforcement a tool they can use to go after organized crime – mafia, etc. – including drug dealers and their organizations.

The Heritage Foundation continues:  “Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture is also used by law enforcement as a way to generate revenue, and many of its targets are innocent members of the public.”

In regards to the California Senate Bill 443, the bill “would not affect law enforcement’s power to seize property, based on probable cause. Police would still be able to hold seized property in evidence rooms and impound lots until forfeiture proceedings are resolved.”

A Sacramento Bee letter to the editor writes:

“Instead, SB 443 would only allow seized property to be forfeited (to the government) once its owner has been convicted of any crime. California already requires this for most seizures. Several states, including Montana, Nevada and New Mexico, recently enacted this vital protection of due process.

“Moreover, whenever California agencies collaborate with the federal government, SB 443 would first require the federal government to obtain a criminal conviction before proceeding with forfeiture. One investigation found the federal government, in cooperation with California agencies, took nearly $300 million in cash from people never charged with a crime.”

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article34602312.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423957/civil-asset-forfeiture-california

https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/asset-forfeiture-abuse

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/03/civil-asset-forfeiture-7-things-you-should-know

FollowTheMoney.org, OpenSecrets.org

FollowTheMoney.org is a website dedicated to informing people about the amount of campaign contributions each politician has received.

OpenSecrets.org is similar, but also gives other information about such things as news, events, and personal wealth and net worth of each candidate or politician.

It is unclear how often the information is updated.  The information does not always match what we see in the news articles.

Below are the websites for both.  They are interesting to browse.

Update: Maplight.org is another good resource on money in politics.

(Updated)

http://maplight.org/

http://www.opensecrets.org/

http://www.followthemoney.org/

Trump, Top Political Adviser Part Ways

Donald Trump parts ways with political adviser Roger StoneAccording to the publication The Week, Donald Trump’s campaign announced Saturday it fired top political adviser Roger Stone, CNN wrote.

“We have a tremendously successful campaign and Roger wanted to use the campaign for his own personal publicity,” a campaign spokesperson said. “He has had a number of articles about him recently and Mr. Trump wants to keep the focus of the campaign on how to Make America Great Again.”

For his part, Stone denied that he was fired and says he submitted his resignation, citing controversies and media fights.

One reason Stone is reportedly leaving is the backlash due to Trump’s misogynistic comments toward Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

Yahoo News writes that Stone tweeted:  “Sorry @realDonaldTrump didn’t fire me- I fired Trump. Diasagree with diversion to food fight with @megynkelly away core issue messages.”

http://theweek.com/speedreads/570883/trump-campaign-political-adviser-part-ways

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/donald-trump-parts-ways-with-political-adviser-126201438431.html

Trump’s Wind-Farm Battle


FMQUnofficial

Donald Trump lost a legal action last February against a major experimental wind-farm being built close to his golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

According to theguardian.com, the presidential candidate had alleged that Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond had secretly interfered in the decision to approve the 11-turbine European offshore wind deployment centre site (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay. It was a claim rejected on February 11th by a Scottish civil court judge, Lord Doherty.

The Guardian newspaper states that Trump was expecting to appeal. He alleged there had been “clear and illegal bias” by the Scottish government – and that his rights under the European convention of human rights had been breached.

Lord Doherty dismissed the claims that Salmond had interfered, and said he “was not persuaded that the fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias on the part of the decision-maker; or that the decision not to have a public inquiry had been unreasonable or unlawful”.

In a ruling with far wider significance for the future of Scottish wind power, the judge also disputed a previous court ruling that no wind farm could be approved until or unless it has an electricity generation license.

In 2012, Trump met with a Scottish parliament committee challenging future Scottish Government proposals for Wind farm development (video above).

On a side note, Trump may be interested to know that UK Government will exclude new onshore wind-farms from claiming a key subsidy from April next year, 12 months earlier than expected, according to The Telegraph.

On another side note, it was recently revealed that Trump owns shares in a major wind power firm.

According to the U.K. Daily Record –

“The US tycoon and presidential hopeful, who went to war with former first minister Alex Salmond over plans to build wind turbines near his controversial golf resort in Aberdeenshire, has invested up to £64,000 in NextEra Energy.

“The firm claim to be North America’s top producer of wind and solar energy.”

(Updated post)

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/hate-wind-farms-trump-you-6150796

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/11/donald-trump-loses-windfarm-scottish-golf-resort

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/windpower/11684480/Rural-Scotlands-delight-at-wind-farm-subsidy-axe.html

CNN: Android Phones At Risk Of Hacking


CNN

CNN reports that at least 950 million Android phones are at risk of being hacked by simply receiving a text message.

ABC News writes that hackers gain control of the device by sending a malware infected picture message.

Details of the hacking threat, which is called Stagefright, were published this week by cyber security research firm Zimperium.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/android-stagefright-hack-make-protected/story?id=32738151