Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ACLU Says FBI Gathered Info on Legal Activities of Muslims

By Allan Lengel

The ACLU says FBI documents show that the San Francisco FBI gathered intelligence on American Muslim religious organizations on their “constitutionally protected beliefs and activities, without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

The ACLU said in a story posted on its website that the FBI gathered the info from 2004 through at least 2008 through its “mosque outreach” program.
The FBI documents “also show that the FBI categorized information about American Muslims’ First Amendment-protected and other entirely innocuous activities, as well as mosque locations, as ‘positive intelligence’ and disseminated it to agencies outside the FBI.”

The ACLU said the result was that the FBI cast a cloud of suspicion over innocent groups and individuals.

FBI Says Pitts. Man Tried to Steal Identity of Microsoft Co-Founder

Paul Allen/60 minutes By Allan Lengel
By Allan Lengel

If you’re going to steal someone’s identity, you might as well grab it from a billionaire.

That’s what Brandon Lee Price figured. He just didn’t figure he’d get caught.

Bloomberg news reports that the AWOL soldier called Citibank in January and asked the bank to change the address of Microsolf co-founder Paul Allen from Seattle to Pittsburgh.

A few days later, he told the bank that he had lost his ATM card and asked that a new one be sent to his Pittsburgh home, Bloomberg reported.

The news outlet reported that he attempted to use the card to get a $15,000 Western Union transaction and to make a $658.81 payment on an Armed Forces Bank loan, Bloomberg reported. Only the loan payment made it through without detection.

Embarrassment: Fed Judge Dismisses All Conspiracy Charges Against Michigan Militia

Hutaree members/southern poverty law center photo

By Allan Lengel

DETROIT — From the get-go, defense attorneys had insisted the high-profile  federal case in downtown Detroit against Michigan militia members was extremely weak. And they predicted it would result in an embarrassment for the government.

They were right.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts dismissed conspiracy charges against all seven defendants of the Hutaree militia, concluding, as the defense had suggested all along, that there was not enough evidence that the group plotted to revolt against the government and kill a cop and commit other violence, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Gun charges against two members remained in a case developed by the FBI through an undercover agent and informant.

“We’re just grateful to Judge Roberts for having the courage to do the right thing …very few judges have that kind of courage,” said one defense attorney Michael Rataj,according to the Free Press. “There was no case. There was no conspiracy.”

In his opinion, according to the Free Press, Roberts wrote: “The evidence is not sufficient for a rational factfinder to find that defendants came to a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the authority of the government of the United States as charged in the indictment.”
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The ‘new’ normal, part 2

By Bill Wilson

In the first part of “The ‘new’ normal,” we analyzed the dilemma faced by fiscal reformers seeking to make budgetary cuts or even balance budgets in advanced economies that have active central banks.

Namely, if central banks around the world can just engage in unadulterated monetary expansion to enable profligate governments to perpetually refinance new and existing debt obligations — hardly a new practice — what need is there to ever cut spending?

Beyond that, we previously noted that even though too much debt can inhibit economic growth, and that a debt-induced funding crisis can even bring a society to its knees as in Greece, the world central bank cartel possesses a trump card.

So dependent are governments (and other financial institutions) on this unlimited financing scheme that, if the printing presses were shut off, it would likely crash the world financial system as governments and banks defaulted on their borrowings. That is because the large bulk of debts, particularly by governments, are never paid. They are simply rolled over via refinancing.

In addition, financial elites argue that cutting government spending and borrowing would have a deflationary effect, increasing unemployment, causing a recession or worse.

This creates something of an impasse to adopting responsible fiscal reforms in Washington, D.C. and other capitals the world over.

But since that is more or less the state of affairs — the world central bank cartel, after all, is in a position to dictate such terms — the onus is therefore on fiscal reformers to show why spending should be cut anyway, and that sound money should be restored. The fiscal reformer’s case is very much a prescriptive one to make, whereas those in favor of unlimited, perpetual deficit-spending and never repaying the national debt need only argue for the status quo.

Why act?

The first reason for action is because it is necessary — before it is too late. The greatest threats to the current system are black swan, worst-case scenarios. For example, 1) the increasing possibility of widespread rejection of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency because our debt load is too great; 2) that oil and other commodities will no longer be settled and priced in dollars, causing rampant inflation domestically; or 3) China and other foreign creditors actively dump their U.S. treasuries holdings in an attempt to crash the market for U.S. debt and dollar-denominated assets.

Any one of those events occurring would likely cause the other two to take place, and therefore pose considerable downside risks. The death of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency would significantly increase the costs of servicing U.S. debt privately, and lead to much higher prices (i.e. hyperinflation) here in the U.S.
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Predictions of Obamacare’s Demise by Liberal Media Premature

By John Vinci

As originally published at
Yesterday, Jeffrey Toobin, a liberal legal analyst for CNN, was rebuked by Senator Harry Reid for predicting that, based on yesterday’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court would rule against Obamacare’s Individual Mandate. But despite early predictions of the Individual Mandate’s demise, a closer look at the oral arguments shows that such analysis is premature.

It is generally agreed that in order to win this case, the respondents (opponents of the law)[1] will have to win over the four conservatives on the bench, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, as well as, the court’s perennial swing vote, Justice Kennedy.

Each of them would have to agree with the law’s opponents on both of two issues:

1. The Individual Mandate is not constitutional because it violates Congress’s Commerce Clause powers.
2. The Individual Mandate is not a tax and thus is not constitutionally justified under Congress’s power to tax.

Yesterday’s oral arguments were almost entirely centered on the Commerce Clause.[2]

The Obama Administration argued that, similar to a 1942 case called Wickard v. Filburn,[3] the individual mandate is a necessary part of a larger economic system.

Wickard is the foundation of the modern understanding of the Commerce Clause that says that Congress is permitted to regulate those things that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. In Wickard the Supreme Court ruled that a Congress could go as far as to prohibit a farmer from growing wheat for his own personal use even though that wheat would never enter the intrastate market let alone the interstate market. The court reasoned that the aggregate effects of all who grow their own wheat could substantially affect interstate commerce. And thus, the Supreme Court expanded the powers of Congress under the Constitution.

To the surprise of the liberal news media, Kennedy and the conservatives on the Court expressed skepticism in their multiple pointed questions to Donald Verrilli, Jr., the Obama Administration’s Solicitor General. Chief among their questions was, since we have a government of enumerated powers, what limits Congress’s commerce power?

The respondents’ key argument is that Congress has never used its commerce power to regulate inactivity (not purchasing health insurance), and that if Congress can regulate both economic activity and inactivity, there’s no end what it can do.

Scalia and Kennedy, both thought to be potential swing votes in this case, wanted to know what limiting principle the Obama Administration would apply.[4] Said Scalia,

…[T]he Federal Government is not supposed to be a government that has all powers; … it's supposed to be a government of limited powers. [5]

The Obama Administration further argues that regardless of Congress’s authority under its commerce powers, it independently has the power to institute an individual mandate under its taxing powers. This is a troubling problem for opponents of the law should the Court hold that the Mandate is a tax.
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Freshman Mulvaney’s attempt to bring fiscal sanity to D.C.

By Rick Manning

As originally published at
On the same week that Washington’s political punditry runs wild with analysis on the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, and the rest of the country is busily checking their NCAA basketball tournament brackets, the House of Representatives will debate three visions for the fiscal course of our nation.

Incredibly, it is more than likely that this fundamental argument about our nation’s very future will not even make a wave in the public discourse.

It is anticipated that the House of Representatives will vote on the president’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal, which never balances the budget and which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports will leave the nation $6.4 trillion more in debt in the next 10 years. Even as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vows to continue his ostrich-like policy of not bringing up the president’s plan, or even attempting to pass any budget, the House will give the Obama budget the consideration it deserves.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WIs.) will also be offering his budget, which includes some modest up-front deficit reduction and even more modest Medicare reforms. Ryan’s proposed budget will bring the federal budget to balance in 2040. Yes, if everything goes exactly as scripted in Ryan’s budget, today’s 18-year-olds can look forward to a federal balanced budget when they turn 46.
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