June 15, 2017

Security Firms Warn of New Cyber Threat to Electric Grid

June 12, 2017

(Reuters) - Two cyber security companies said they have uncovered a sophisticated piece of malicious software capable of causing power outages by ordering industrial computers to shut down electricity transmission.

Analysis of the malware, known as Crash Override or Industroyer, indicates it was likely used in a December 2016 cyber attack that cut power in Ukraine, according to the firms, Slovakian security software maker ESET and U.S. critical-infrastructure security firm Dragos Inc.

The discovery may stoke fears about cyber vulnerabilities in power grids that have intensified in the wake of the December Ukraine attack, and one a year earlier that also cut power in that nation.

Ukraine authorities have previously blamed Russia for the attacks on its grid. Moscow has denied responsibility.

Dragos founder Robert M. Lee said the malware is capable of causing outages of up to a few days in portions of a nation's grid, but is not potent enough to bring down a country's entire grid.

The firm has alerted government authorities and power companies about the threat, advising them of steps to defend against the threat, Lee said in an interview.

Crash Override can be detected if a utility specifically monitors its network for abnormal traffic, including signs that the malware is searching for the location of substations or sending messages to switch breakers, according to Lee, a former U.S. Air Force warfare operations officer.

The sample of Crash Override that was analyzed by Dragos is capable of attacking power operators across Europe, according to Lee.

"With small modifications, it could be leveraged against the United States," he said.

June 5, 2017

When Wall Street, Big Business and Rockefeller-owned Exxon Back Climate Change Pact You Know It's a Big Slush Fund for the Psychopaths That Rule the World

Exxon vote shows Wall Street diverging from Trump on climate change

May 31, 2017

(Reuters) - Major investors put U.S. industry on notice on Wednesday that climate change matters, even as reports emerged that President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States from an international pact to fight global warming.

A number of large institutional fund firms including BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, supported a shareholder resolution calling on Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) to share more information about how new technologies and climate change regulations could impact the business of the world's largest publicly traded oil company. The proposal won the support of 62.3 percent of votes cast.

The victory, on such a wide margin, was hailed by climate activists as a turning point in their decades-long campaign to get oil and gas companies to communicate how they would adapt to a low-carbon economy.

With major investors now seeing climate change as a major risk, activists said U.S. corporations will have to be more transparent about the impact of a warming planet even if the United States withdraws from the 2015 Paris climate accord, as Trump promised during his presidential campaign.

"Economic forces are outrunning any other considerations," said Anne Simpson, investment director for sustainability at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, one of the sponsors of the resolution.

She credited big investors in Exxon for the change, since at least some of them switched their votes after last year when a similar measure won just 38 percent support.

"We have seen a sea change in their viewpoint," she said. Many top investors now consider their votes on shareholder proposals "on merit, rather than considering it a test of loyalty to management," she said.

Among Exxon’s top investors, Vanguard Group Inc and BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) opposed last year's call for climate change reporting. A spokeswoman for Vanguard, which has about 7 percent of Exxon's shares, declined to comment on its voting this year.

A person familiar with the matter said funds run by BlackRock, which holds about 6 percent of Exxon shares, voted in favor of the climate resolution.

Filings showing their exact votes are not due for months. But both fund firms and others have taken steps since last year to make it easier to support climate resolutions.

A spokesman for Exxon's ninth-largest investor Northern Trust Corp (NTRS.O), Doug Holt, said it voted in favor of the proposal, citing its own guidelines updated in 2016.


The investment firms' approach reflects a new interest in climate matters among their own investors, who have stuffed money into so-called "green" mutual funds and other vehicles that use environmental factors in their stockpicking.

Wall Street's priorities have shifted the terms of debate at a number of other energy and utility companies. A majority of shareholders voting at Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N) and PPL Corp (PPL.N) called for similar reports on the risks of climate change. Votes on two more of the measures are scheduled for June 7 at Devon Energy Corp (DVN.N) and at Hess Corp (HES.N).

Michael Crosby, involved in corporate outreach for the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans, a religious order, said Wednesday's vote was a rejection of Exxon's arguments it already provides enough detail on its outlook.
"The Street is saying, you have to give better evidence," Crosby said.

After the measure passed, Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said its board would reconsider its climate communications.

The activists now face the task of maintaining alliances with leaders like Woods who opposed their resolutions but who in some cases support the 195-nation Paris agreement. Exxon said in a March 22 letter to the White House that the Paris deal is "an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change."

Trump had at least one ally at Exxon's meeting in Dallas, Steven Milloy of Potomac, Maryland, who urged other investors to support his resolution that would make it harder to file proposals like the one on climate change.

Milloy said management should show less concerns for climate issues, which he called misplaced, and cited Trump as a model. "For the first time we have a president who actively opposes climate hysteria," Milloy said.

According to Exxon, Milloy's proposal received support from 1.6 percent of votes cast.

Exxon climate vote puts sector on notice

June 2, 2017

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil shareholders have finally won a long-sought climate-change victory. Over 60 percent of them backed a move that forces the $340 billion oil giant to ramp up global-warming disclosure, up from under 40 percent in a similar attempt last year. Exxon already embraces the debate more than most. But shareholders want the company to be more forthcoming. Holdout industry peers will have to follow or risk investor ire.

Chief Executive Darren Woods, who took the helm at the beginning of the year, wrote in his first blog post about the importance of managing the risks of climate change. On several occasions Woods has talked about how Exxon does business in an environment in which, under the 2015 Paris accord, nearly 200 countries including China and India have agreed to reduce their carbon emissions.

Trump Fulfills Campaign Plege and Abandons Global Climate Pact; 'Green Climate Fund' to Redistribute Wealth from Rich Countries to the Tiny Elite That Runs the World

June 1, 2017

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, a move that fulfilled a major campaign pledge but drew condemnation from U.S. allies and business leaders.

Trump, tapping into the "America First" message he used when he was elected president last year, said the Paris accord would undermine the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.

"We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won't be," Trump said.

"The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance," Trump added.

Supporters of the accord, including some leading U.S. business figures, called Trump's move a blow to international efforts to curb the warming of the planet that threatens far-reaching consequences for this century and beyond. Former Democratic President Barack Obama expressed regret over the pullout from a deal he was instrumental in brokering.

"But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got," Obama added.

"Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world," Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein wrote on Twitter.

Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, said his administration would begin negotiations either to re-enter the Paris accord or to have a new agreement "on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers." He complained in particular about China's terms under the agreement.

International leaders including the pope had pressed Trump not follow through on an election campaign promise to abandon the accord, and they lamented his decision.

Trump Will Not Move US Embassy to Jerusalem for Now

June 1, 2017

(AFP) - President Donald Trump postponed moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Thursday, avoiding what would be a provocative decision as he tries to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly pledged that he would shift the embassy from Tel Aviv to the city claimed as capital by both Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and he appointed a US ambassador who shares this goal.

But since coming to office in January, Trump has met both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington and in a visit to the region last week and has committed himself to seeking a long-elusive final peace deal between them.

Congress passed a law in 1995 making it US policy to move the embassy to Jerusalem, symbolically endorsing Israel's claim on the city as its capital.

But the law contained a clause that has allowed each president since to issue and renew a six-month waiver on carrying out the move.

On Thursday, the waiver came up for renewal for the first time on Trump's watch, and he followed the example of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him in instructing his secretary of state to hold off on the move.

"No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president's strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance," the White House said, in a written statement.

"President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interests," it explained.

"But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when."

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity stressed to AFP that "it's a question of when, not if," and added that "he doesn't think the timing is right, right now."

"In timing such a move he will seek to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians."

Arab Powers and U.S. Allies Sever Ties with Qatar, Home of a Large U.S. Military Base; Iran and Political Islam, of Which Trump is Strongly Opposed, is the Behind-the-Scenes Target of the Move

June 5, 2017

(Reuters) - The Arab world's strongest powers cut ties with Qatar on Monday over alleged support for Islamists and Iran, re-opening a festering wound two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut relations with Qatar in a coordinated move. Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined in later.

Qatar denounced the move as based on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for Islamists, as has Saudi Arabia.

Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed Trump's visit last month to Riyadh.

"What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance," Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in reference to Trump's joining in a traditional dance with the Saudi king at the meeting.

The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, home to a large U.S. military base and set to host the 2022 World Cup.

The hawkish tone Trump brought in his visit to over 50 Muslim leaders in Riyadh on Tehran and on terrorism is seen to have laid the groundwork for the diplomatic crisis. It was unclear how it would play with the military base.

"You have a shift in the balance of power in the Gulf now because of the new presidency: Trump is strongly opposed to political Islam and Iran," said Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

"He is totally aligned with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, who also want no compromise with either Iran or the political Islam promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood."

Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes, but Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar's support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political foe.

Closing all transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave.

In the harshest measures, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain's civil aviation bodies banned Qatari planes from landing in the kingdom's airports and banned them from crossing their airspace.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar's influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

"(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda," Saudi state news agency SPA said.

It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi'ite Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting a war in Yemen.

Qatar denied it was interfering in the affairs of others.

"The campaign of incitement is based on lies that had reached the level of complete fabrications," the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

(For a graphic on trade balance between Qatar and its diplomatic critics, click reut.rs/2rsbaTi)


Iran called for dialogue. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: "Neighbors are permanent; geography can't be changed. Coercion is never the solution. Dialogue is imperative, especially during blessed Ramadan."

May 30, 2017

The Gatekeepers of the Mainsteam Media are Oppressing the People

Brilliant Overton Window Explanation
Duke Conan

The media is the enemy of the people. They are elitist. This form of social tyranny must come to an end.

Postmodernist Depravity and the Normalization of Pedophilia

The demise of Western Civilization: "Gender fluidity" as a harbinger for Postmodernist Hell

(Zoya Klebanova, Sott.net) - Traditional values refers to those beliefs, moral codes, and social mores that are passed down from generation to generation within a culture, subculture or community. Their subject matter usually includes that of family, community, religion, and art. And, although each culture has its own definition of traditional values, there appear to be universal principles that are based on experience, and that were created in order to maintain the integrity of societies comprised of a wide range of people with different personalities and interests and to prevent a descent into social chaos.

Taking it further, this visceral knowledge is, at least in part, shaped by evolution. It is also shaped by various psychological and psychopathological phenomena via the interaction between our subjective consciousness - individually and as a species - and the 'real world' throughout time.

Essentially, since the dawn of man people understood that human behavior could attract or repel "the wrath of the gods".
"It appears that in earlier history, man understood that he had some control over his own destiny and the fate of society through his righteous behavior. Theoxeny was a moral standard. Every person was seen as having the potential to either help or hinder prosperity and health for all. Even if some could give more than others, everyone had the privilege and the duty to contribute their best. Every person's actions counted and their actions were responded to with justice through other people and the universe.

But a pathology took hold, and though it could not completely change the nature of man or take away his ability to choose, it influenced society and altered humanity's course because of our acceptance of it. As awareness declined, good intentions were subverted and our integrity as a species diminished. Humans have become a species tuned in to entropy, and what we choose and express will become our fate. We have given up our personal responsibility to each other as hosts and guests and therefore will end up being our own destruction."
On May 17, 2016, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced to the Parliament of Canada "an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Bill C-16)":
"The bill is intended to protect individuals from discrimination within the sphere of federal jurisdiction and from being the targets of hate propaganda,[3] as a consequence of their gender identity or their gender expression. The bill adds "gender identity or expression" to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the list of characteristics of identifiable groups protected from hate propaganda in the Criminal Code. It also adds that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on a person's gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance for a court to consider when imposing a criminal sentence.[4]

"A bill meant to enshrine the rights of transgender people by adding gender identity and expression to human rights and hate crime laws".
Simply put, Canadians who disavow gender theory could be charged with hate crimes, fined, jailed, and compelled to undergo anti-bias training when Bill C-16 passes.

Watch Jordan Peterson's speech at the Senate on many serious problems with Bill C-16.


Peterson isn't the only one who thinks that this Bill is outrageous. For example, a member of Vancouver's Rape Relief and Women's Shelter says:
"Transgender rights bill threatens 'female-born' women's spaces... If you were born a female, you are doomed."
Interestingly enough, even Theryn Meyer, a South African-Canadian political commentator, blogger, YouTuber, cultural critic, and a transgender woman, was compelled to address the Senate and express her concerns over the Bill. According to her, it isn't intended to protect minorities, but instead abuses the Law and the communities it allegedly protects, and all for political gain.

Adding insult to injury, a bill recently passed by the Canadian House of Commons, infamously known as the "Pronoun Bill", and employs vague wording, deems it a federal offense to refuse to address an individual using their "preferred pronouns."

It is shocking to see how Canada, with its long tradition of relative political sanity, has fallen victim to the radical and pathological thinking of Postmodernists. And Canada isn't the only nation to suffer from this malady.

What we are seeing now seems to be the final stages of the gradual implementation of something called the "Overton Window".
"The Overton window is a political theory that describes the range of ideas the public will accept as a narrow "window". According to the theory, an idea's political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within that window rather than on politicians' individual preferences. It is named for its originator, Joseph P. Overton (1960 - 2003), a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. At any given moment, the "window" includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office."
"Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous outer fringe ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. The idea is that priming the public with fringe ideas intended to be and remain unacceptable, will make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison."
Certain policies are gradually being passed in Western democracies in order to manipulate public opinion and make policies that would normally be seen as despicable and unacceptable, acceptable, especially if they are presented as representing "tolerance" and "progressive values".

It appears to be a perfect tool in the hands of pathological types to gradually normalize torture, various forms of moral degeneracy, and even pedophilia. The popularity of people like Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, or movies like Fifty shades of Grey seek to normalize increasingly 'out there' and extreme sexual behaviour, and this process of moral decline in the West seems to be a largely unconscious one.

The bottom line is, the Overton window can be used to legalize anything, including pedophilia. In fact, steps towards that have already been taken:

Margo Kaplan - Pedophile Apologist

But what does this have to do with Postmodernism?

Ernest Gellner, in his prescient Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, discusses three ideological positions of our contemporary world which, at the present moment, have been sharpened into weapons of psychological and physical violence: Islamic Fundamentalism, Postmodernist Relativism, and what he terms 'Enlightenment Secular Fundamentalism'. His discussion of Postmodernism, its origins, development, adherents, and practices (if they can be called such) is invaluable and allows the reader to quickly recognize the psychological dilemmas of what are today called the neo-liberal left. Gellner writes:
"Postmodernism is a contemporary movement. It is strong and fashionable. Over and above this, it is not altogether clear what the devil it is. In fact, clarity is not conspicuous amongst its marked attributes. It not only generally fails to practice it, but also on occasion actually repudiates it...

The influence of the movement can be discerned in anthropology, literary studies, philosophy... The notion that everything is a 'text', that the basic material of texts, societies and almost anything is meaning, that meanings are there to be decoded or 'deconstructed', that the notion of objective reality is suspect - all this seems to be part of the atmosphere, or mist, in which postmodernism flourishes, or which postmodernism helps to spread...

Postmodernism would seem to be rather clearly in favour of relativism, in as far as it is capable of clarity, and hostile to the idea of unique, exclusive, objective, external or transcendent truth...

[Postmodernism] is a movement which denies the very possibility of extraneous validity and authority. Admittedly, it is specially insistent in this denial, when the contrary affirmation of such external validation comes from fellow-members, non-relativists within their own society... ex-colonial guilt on the other hand inhibit stressing the point to members of other cultures. The absolutism of others receives favoured treatment, and a warm sympathy which is very close to endorsement."

One of the most interesting things Gellner has said is this:
"The relativists-hermeneuticists are really very eager to display their universal, ecumenical tolerance and comprehension of alien cultures. The more alien, the more shocking and disturbing to the philistines, to those whom they deem to be the provincialists of their own society, the better. Very, very much the better, for the more shocking the other, the more does this comprehension highlight the superiority of the enlightened hermeneutist within his own society. The harder the comprehension, the more repellent the object destined for hermeneutic blessing, the greater the achievement, the illumination and the insight of the interpretive postmodernist"
which shows how Postmodernist doctrine can eventually lead to the normalization of just about anything, including something as repellent as pedophilia. The more extreme and degrading to the average person and greater society the acceptance is, the more "enlightened" and "progressive" the Postmodernist thinks himself.

Listen to Jordan Peterson and his warning regarding following Postmodernist principles:


There is little doubt that Postmodernism and the processes it uses to induce and reinforce "habits of subconscious selection and substitution of thought-data" is simply Nihilism {the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.}. Hervey Cleckley's book Caricature of Love also highlights the fact that, at its root, the "gender fluidity" movement is pure psychopathy in action.

Another seer of our society who saw and attempted to warn us all was Andrew Lobaczewski. From his book Political Ponerology (A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes):
"During stable times which are ostensibly happy, albeit marked by injury to individuals and nations, doctrinaire people believe they have found a simple solution to fix such a world. {Gender fluidity} Such a historical period is always characterized by an impoverished psychological world view, a schizoidally impoverished psychological world view thus does not stand out during such times and is accepted as legal tender. These doctrinaire individuals characteristically manifest a certain contempt with regard to moralists then preaching the need to rediscover lost human values and to develop a richer, more appropriate psychological world view.

Schizoid characters aim to impose their own conceptual world upon other people or social groups, using relatively controlled pathological egotism and the exceptional tenacity derived from their persistent nature. They are thus eventually able to overpower another individual's personality, which causes the latter's behavior to turn desperately illogical. They may also exert a similar influence upon the group of people they have joined. They are psychological loners who feel better in some human organization, wherein they become zealots for some ideology, religious bigots, materialists, or adherents of an ideology with satanic features. If their activities consist of direct contact on a small social scale, their acquaintances easily perceive them to be eccentric, which limits their ponerogenic role. However, if they manage to hide their own personality behind the written word, their influence may poison the minds of society in a wide scale and for a long time."
Speaking of schizoidally impoverished world views...


In contrast to Western societies, Russia under Vladimir Putin has taken definite steps towards protecting its people from this kind of Postmodernistic filth. Despite Western media propaganda, Russian policies are not aimed at increasing the influence of the Orthodox Christianity or persecuting of gays, but rather making sure that Russian society and the values on which it has been based over countless generations is safeguarded for future generations. Jordan Peterson explains:
"If there are no sacred values, man is a blank slate. Anything whatsoever can be written on a blank slate. If there is a universal human nature, however, some ideas are wrong, and their implementation will result in catastrophe. The evidence is before us, in the form of the millions who were sacrificed to the values of 20th century totalitarians. Everything cannot be simply questioned and re-organized, in a purely rational matter. Thought itself must have its master...

What, therefore, must be sacred, at minimum? The Mother, the Father, and the Individual. It is the duty of each society, and each individual, to respect these figures, in mind, thought, and action. When this is done properly, the great forces of being are kept in equilibrium, and the individual, society, and nature all thrive. Otherwise, hell breaks loose, and swallows the little heavens that could otherwise be found on earth."
To learn about additional examples of Postmodernist depravity, read the following articles by Pierre Lescaudron:

May 28, 2017

Public-Sector Unions Keep the Gravy Train Flowing to Fire Departments

May 15, 2017

(Mises.org) - Firefighting isn't what it used to be. Thanks to fire suppression technology, structural fires are now very rare, and statistics show that firefighters rarely fight fires anymore. Mostly, firefighters respond to run-of-the-mill medical emergencies in fancy million-dollar trucksGoverning magazine lays out the change over time
In 1980, according to the National Fire Protection Association, the nation's 30,000 fire departments responded to 10.8 million emergency calls. About 3 million were classified as fires. By 2013, total calls had nearly tripled to 31.6 million, while fire calls had plummeted to 1.24 million, of which just 500,000 of were actual structure fires. For America's 1.14 million career and volunteer firefighters, that works out to an average of just one structure fire every other year.
In other words, a enormous number of firefighters could be replaced by paramedics — using much less-expensive vehicles — and no one would notice.

But don't let these facts get in the way of the romantic view of firefighting perpetuated by popular culture. 

And no organization loves the fantasy version of firefighting better than the public unions that lobby constantly for more lucrative salaries and benefits for firefighters. 

Some unions are more successful than others, of course, but as firefighting becomes safer and safer, the Los Angeles Police Department has only been raking in more and more dough, and provides an example of just how far firefighters can go in exploiting the public's benevolent view of everyone's favorite government agency. 

According to just-released 2016 salary data from TransparentCalifornia.com, just three Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) employees, for example, earned a combined $1.36 million last year — $974,779 of which came from overtime pay alone.

Unsurprisingly, the LAFD trio earned the three largest overtime payouts of the more than 550,000 workers surveyed statewide:
  1. Fire captain Charles Ferrari received $334,655 in OT, with total earnings of $469,198.
  2. Fire captain James Vlach received $332,583 in OT, with total earnings of $469,158.
  3. Firefighter Donn Thompson received $307,542 in OT, with total earnings of $424,913.
More alarming than the large dollar amounts was the discovery of what this money was being spent on. The Times reported that most overtime pay:
…is not being used for fires or other emergencies. Instead, most of it goes for replacing those who are out because of vacations, holidays, injuries, training, illnesses or personal leaves. Millions more go to firefighters on special assignments, such as in-house training and evaluation programs.

Six-Figure OT Payouts up 760% over Past 5 Years

In the original 1996 Times report, a retired LAFD firefighter described overtime pay as “a little extra bonus for the guys,” that allows them to get “a new boat on the river and a new truck every year.”
Back then, the department’s largest OT payout was just under $103,000.

And as the dollar amount of these payouts exploded, so too has their number, particularly over the past five years.

Since 2012, the number of LAFD workers who received overtime payouts of at least $100,000 increased by 760 percent, hitting an all-time high of 439 last year.

In 1995, the LAFD spent a “budget-wrenching” $58.6 million on overtime pay.

In 2008, that number hit $139 million, which prompted a recently retired fire captain to call for an overhaul of the department’s staffing system, according to the DailyNews.

Now at $197 million — which represents a more than twofold increase since 1995, after adjusting for inflation — overtime pay constitutes 31 percent of LAFD’s expenses, according to the City’s adopted budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

Admittedly, the LAFD's payouts are particularly egregious. By comparison, only one fire employee in the entire state of Nevada received a six-figure OT payout last year: Carson City fire captain Matthew Donnelly, who earned $110,217 in overtime pay, according to TransparentNevada.com. But firefighter salaries nationwide have long been a millstone around the neck of municipal governments which have struggled to keep up with what one Michigan official called above market salaries enjoyed by fire department employees. 

Part of the problem stems from the fact that any time a city government considers cutting firefighter salaries — or, more likely, not increasing salaries — the public unions that lobby for pay hikes claim the city is sacrificing public safety and disrespecting the “heroes” who deserve six-figure salaries and fat pensions, no matter what.

In Los Angeles, however, any reform in this arena will require years of unwinding intricate contracts that are heavily slanted in favor of government employees and against taxpayers. For example, a contract provision with the LAFD requires vacation leave to count as hours worked toward overtime pay illustrates the root cause of the department’s soaring overtime costs, according to Robert Fellner of Transparent California:
The issue is not a lack of solutions. Those have been forthcoming from a coalition of experts, including those from LAFD’s own ranks, for decades. The issue is lack of a political will for the precise reason an official outlined nearly two decades ago: fear of political retaliation.
Unfortunately, public unions have weaponized the trust bestowed upon the firefighting profession as a means to enrich themselves, at the expense of public safety and taxpayers alike.
Comments from Mises:

Israelis Rally for Palestinian State, End of Occupation

May 27, 2017

(AFP) - Thousands of Israelis rallied Saturday in Tel Aviv in support of a Palestinian state ahead of the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Banners bearing the slogan "Two states, One Hope" featured in the demonstration organised by supporters of a Palestinian state, including the Israeli NGO Peace Now.

NGO head Avi Buskila said the rally was a protest against "the lack of hope being offered by a government perpetuating occupation, violence and racism".

"The time has come to prove to the Israelis, the Palestinians and the entire world that an important segment of the Israeli population is opposed to occupation and wants a two-state solution," he added.

A message of support from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was read out at the rally.

"It is time to live together in harmony, security and stability," Abbas was quoted as saying.

"Our duty towards future generations is to conclude a peace of the brave."

Israeli opposition Labour party leader Isaac Herzog attended the rally and threw his support behind a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

May 27, 2017

Jared Kushner is the Latest Target of the Russiagate Probe

May 26, 2017 

(The Duran) - Drawing a blank with Manafort, Page, Stone and Flynn, the Russiagate investigators now come after Kushner.

Last week reports appeared in the US media that the FBI had discovered "a person of interest" in the Russiagate probe, who was still unlike all the other people being investigated a member of Donald Trump's team. This week that person has been identified and it turns out to be Donald Trump's son in law Jared Kushner.

The expression "person of interest" has no legal meaning whatsoever. It should never be used to describe anyone whilst an investigation is underway. It insinuates that the person in question is a suspect, when he or she is not. It is particularly inappropriate when used of someone in the Russiagate investigation given that there is still no evidence that any crime was committed or anyone is suspected of committing one.

In Kushner's case the reason for the FBI's interest in him appears to be that last year he - like many other people - met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That meeting apparently took place in December, in other words after the election, making it difficult to see what bearing it could have on the election.

Kushner apparently also met last year with a Russian banker called Sergey Gorkov.

One of the most sinister aspects of former CIA Director John Brennan's recent testimony to Congress was the way Brennan appeared to say that any meeting with any Russian was axiomatically suspect because all Russians must be suspected of working for Russian intelligence. Brennan even said that a US citizen who came into contact with a Russian might be recruited by Russian intelligence without even being aware of it.

Presumably it is this sort of paranoid reasoning - which belongs more in a mental institution than a well run investigation - which sees something suspicious in a meeting between Kushner - a US businessman - and Gorkov - a Russian businessman.

Notwithstanding Kushner's meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, we are told that he is not actually being investigated for anything:
Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him...The officials said Kushner is in a different category from former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who are formally considered subjects of the investigation. According to the Justice Department's U.S. Attorneys' Manual, "A 'subject' of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury's investigation."
This has very much the look about it of a fishing expedition.

At this point it pays repeating that so far despite their being "formally considered subjects of the investigation" no evidence has come to light that Manafort, Page, Stone or Flynn or any of the other people spoken about in relation to the Russiagate investigation are actually suspected of having committed any crime in relation to it. Nor has any evidence come to light that they ever engaged in any collusion on behalf of the Trump campaign with Russia. Nor it seems is there any evidence that any of them actually committed any wrongdoing.

It seems that contrary to earlier reports General Flynn did report his fees from RT to the Defense Intelligence Agency, if not to the Department of Defense itself, and that he did register his lobbying work for Turkey, though under the Lobbying Disclosure Act not the Foreign Agents' Registration Act.

That suggests that whatever offenses General Flynn may have committed they were purely technical ones, which presumably explains why he still hasn't been charged with them. As I have repeatedly said, the claim that General Flynn violated the Logan Act by taking a call in December from ambassador Kislyak is nonsense, which presumably explains why after all the fire and thunder and lurid talk of blackmail he has not so far been charged with that either.

It seems that having drawn a blank with Manafort, Page, Stone and Flynn the FBI investigators are now looking to Kushner instead. This despite the fact that Kushner is not known to have had any close links to Manafort, Page, Stone or Flynn (it's doubtful whether he ever met Page) or to any of the other people spoken about in relation to the Russiagate investigation.

This is what happens when an investigation is launched in the absence of any evidence that any crime has been committed. The investigators spend their time searching for a crime they can then attach to a suspect they have already identified.

That this completely reverses the normal order of an investigation, in which a suspect is looked for after a crime has been detected, ought to be obvious. However nothing is obvious about this strange affair.

May 22, 2017

Fewer State Jobs and Public Services and More Tax Increases Coming to California Due to Unrealistic Investment Returns for Public Pensions

May 22, 2017 

(Mercury News) - There’s more bad news to come from CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension plan.

In December, the board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System approved phase-in of a rate increase for the state and local government agencies that provide most of its funding.

But it won’t be enough to shore up the ailing system. That’s why next month the board will begin a review process that’s likely to lead to approval as early as December of another increase.

That’s right. Even as the state and local governments across California struggle to figure out how they’re going to cut services and reduce staffing to pay for the first round of increases, they’re likely to face another one.

As painful as it will be, there are no responsible options. If CalPERS doesn’t act, the problem will only get worse. It’s pay now, or pay more later.

We’re in this pickle because, in the early years of this century, the state and local governments locked in major pension increases for workers, while CalPERS relied on unrealistic investment forecasts to help fund them.

The investment forecasts didn’t pan out and, as a result, CalPERS today has only about 64 percent of the assets it should to pay for benefits employees have already earned. That’s approaching dangerous territory where a sharp economic downturn would leave the pension plan unable to recover.

That’s also the system’s lowest funding ratio at any time except 2009, in the depth of the Great Recession. The only thing that saved the system then was that it was fully funded just before the downturn. In two years, the funding ratio slipped to 61 percent.

In other words, we know we’re due, actually overdue, for another recession and, this time, CalPERS is horribly positioned to absorb the shock.

Meanwhile, CalPERS continues to overestimate the potential returns of its investments. In December, the system board agreed to slowly lower its investment forecast from an annual 7.5 percent to 7 percent. To make up for that reduction, CalPERS approved the contribution rate increase.

But the board hasn’t gone nearly far enough. CalPERS’ consultant says board members should anticipate only an average 6.2 percent annual investment return over the next 10 years. Hence, they need to raise contribution rates even further.

That means even more belt-tightening at the state and local governments: Fewer jobs, more labor concessions and/or more tax increases. Labor leaders and many local officials will protest. They’ll ask CalPERS to wait, or soften the blow.

For far too long, CalPERS board members have capitulated to those pleas. They ignored their professional staff’s advice and kept banking on unrealistic investment forecasts. That’s one reason we’re in this mess.

As we’ve said before, the solution is to fix the system, not continue denying reality.

May 21, 2017

Southern California D.A. Admits Jailhouse Snitches Are 'Probably' Liars

May 19, 2017
(Huffington Post) ― Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose office faces three investigations over the use of jail informants, told a “60 Minutes” reporter that those informants probably shouldn’t be believed. Yet Rackauckas’ office has been using jailhouse snitches to help secure convictions for decades, presenting them as credible witnesses with credible evidence.

The interview comes from a preview of a “60 Minutes” segment that will air Sunday on CBS about the county’s unfolding jail informant scandal, which HuffPost has been reporting on since it began to explode in 2014. In the segment, “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi interviews longtime Orange County informant Mark Cleveland about the ways he has helped Rackauckas and his office.

Cleveland tells the news show that for years he has been placed in jail cells with or near defendants whom prosecutors had targeted in attempts to obtain damaging information that could secure convictions.

Cleveland claims in the interview that he worked directly with Rackauckas and would even call him personally about information he’d obtained. Cleveland says Rackauckas expressed his appreciation and helped him obtain reduced sentences for multiple crimes.

Rackauckas reportedly told Alfonsi that there is no jail informant program in the county, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. A recent California appeals court decision found that there is indeed an informant program. The court also wrote, “The magnitude of the systemic problems cannot be overlooked.”

The district attorney told Alfonsi that he remembers Cleveland being “an informant many years ago in a case or two” but that it’s a “fantasy” that he ever called Rackauckas on the phone.

“I think you should assume you’re talking to an informant, and if he’s talking, he’s probably lying,” Rackauckus said.

Cleveland Is Indeed A Longtime Informant

According to informant records maintained by the district attorney’s office and first obtained by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, Cleveland is a veteran informant in county jails, helping prosecutors obtain convictions against multiple defendants since at least the 1980s. Cleveland claims he’s worked as a jailhouse snitch since the 1970s.

Sanders is the defense attorney who, in a series of blockbuster motions, has unearthed damning evidence of a jail informant program’s existence. The evidence began to surface in the case against his client Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to murdering eight people at a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011. The sentencing of Dekraai remains in limbo now amid the allegations of misconduct by prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies stemming from the discovery of the use of an informant.

In a recent motion, Sanders detailed five cases from 2008 to 2010 in which Cleveland provided information. He testified as recently as 2013 in two cases. One was overseen by Assistant District Attorney Howard Gundy, who was part of the team that prosecuted Dekraai.

Prosecutors apparently relied on information from Cleveland despite the district attorney’s office’s own records that labeled him a “problem informant,” in bold, underlined letters.

D.A. Has Used Jail Informants Himself In Several Cases

Jail informants with questionable moral fiber have been used time and again by prosecutors in Orange County cases, even by Rackauckas himself, who acknowledged as far back as 1985 in a Los Angeles Times report to have used informants in “several cases.” One such prolific jail informant used by Rackauckas was James Cochrum, whom the Times dubbed “the most used informant” and who was recently described by Sanders in court documents as “a consummate scam artist.”

In 1985, Cochrum had already used as many as 13 names while committing numerous crimes in at least three states and while a member of the military, which ultimately led to his discharge, Sanders detailed in court documents. Cochrum claimed to have overheard murder confessions in four cases and testified in three of them. So valuable was Cochrum to Rackauckas that he personally accompanied Cochrum to Utah to speak to the parole board on his behalf. Following that visit, an administrative parole hold against Cochrum for escaping from a Utah lockup was dropped.

In the 1985 murder-kidnapping trial of William Gullett, Rackauckas helped win a conviction with Cochrum’s testimony. The Los Angeles Times reported that Rackauckas claimed he had as many as eight informants who would testify.

Cochrum died in 2011 while serving time in Utah for communications fraud.

That same year, three years before the informant scandal would break open, Rackauckas’ office successfully opposed a motion for DNA testing in the Gullett case. In 2016, Sanders sought release of the district attorney’s informant file on Cochrum, but the request was denied by an Orange County Superior Court judge who, as an Orange County prosecutor, had also used Cochrum as a witness in a homicide case.

The Jailhouse Informant Scandal Continues

While Rackauckas reportedly denied the existence of a jail informant program to “60 Minutes,” as the county’s sheriff’s department has also done, the courts have basically declared the debate over.

The debate is settled for Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, who ejected the entire district attorney’s office from the remaining proceedings in the Dekraai case in 2015 due to findings of significant misconduct. The state’s 4th District Court of Appeal affirmed Goethals’ findings last year. And, despite years of denials, Rackauckas’ own office acknowledged in documents released in court last year that an informant program does exist.

Law enforcement authorities use informants to help bolster a case — a tactic that’s legal, even when the snitch receives a reduced sentence or something else of value in exchange.

"Dozens" of Graduates and Family Members Walk Out on Pence at Notre Dame Commencement

May 21, 2107

(AP) — Dozens of graduates and family members silently stood and walked out Sunday as Vice President Mike Pence began his address at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony.

Pence, the former governor of Indiana, was invited to speak after Notre Dame students and faculty protested the prospect of President Donald Trump being invited to become the seventh U.S. president to give the commencement address.

Pence spoke briefly of Trump, praising his speech to the leaders of 50 Arab and Muslim nations earlier in the day in Saudi Arabia. Pence said the president "spoke out against religious persecution of all people of all faiths and on the world stage he condemned, in his words, the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians."

Trump has faced harsh criticism for his anti-Islamic rhetoric during the campaign, as well as his administration's legal battle to impose a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries.

Some Comments from Yahoo:

              J F 1 hour ago
        OK coming from someone that was actually there, probably 10 people walked out and everyone else stayed. How can they and why do they blow this up into a story that really isn't? The media is so slanted and corrupt in the US it's scary. Feels almost like a dictatorship style news organization.
        Show replies (5)
        Reply 112 12
                Ed dalcours 10 questions answered By MLCulwell 1 hour ago
        We are for those coddled grads walking out it is their free speech.They are not for ours though. They are taught how to be good little Communist fascists. That is what the liberal mindset does is project what they are. When they call you a fascists it is to hide their fascism when they say:" TRUMP COLLUDED WITH RUSSIA IT IS TO HIDE THEIR OWN COLLUSION. " They always project what they are.
        Show replies (3)
        Reply 46 12

May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017

(Yahoo News) - FBI Director James Comey branded some WikiLeaks reports “intelligence porn” during his Wednesday testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Russia’s role in the presidential election. Comey made the comments after Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked him to explain why he doesn’t consider WikiLeaks to be a legitimate journalistic organization.

“It’s an important question, because all of us care deeply about the First Amendment and the ability of a free press to get information about our work and publish it,” Comey began, before delving into his rationale.

“To my mind, it crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public and instead just becomes about intelligence porn, frankly — just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interest, without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underlie press reporting and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services or some other adversary of the United States just to push out information to damage the United States.”

WikiLeaks, the organization dedicated to publishing secret documents, became a flashpoint during the campaign when thousands of papers and emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman appeared on the site.

The U.S. intelligence community accused the Russian government of spearheading the hacks that gave the emails to WikiLeaks.

Many of the emails were politically damaging or otherwise embarrassing, and the repeated document dumps created weeks of negative headlines for Clinton. Clinton herself on Tuesday blamed her loss in part on their disclosure.

April 30, 2017

Trump Set for First Meeting with Palestinian President

April 30, 2017

(AFP) - US President Donald Trump meets Mahmud Abbas Wednesday for their first face-to-face talks, with the Palestinian leader hoping the billionaire businessman's unpredictable approach can inject life into long-stalled peace efforts.

Abbas makes the trip to Washington while politically unpopular back home, but hoping Trump can pressure Israel into concessions he believes are necessary to salvage a two-state solution to one of the world's oldest conflicts.

Palestinian officials have seen their cause overshadowed by global concerns such as the Syrian war and Islamic State group jihadists, and want Trump's White House to bring it back to the forefront.

"Palestinians are hoping that Trump's unpredictability might play in their favour," one Jerusalem-based European official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They are going to be very disappointed. They can't be sure of anything."

Examples were seen early on, with Trump backing away from the US commitment to the two-state solution when he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February.

He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the occupied West Bank.

Trump also vowed to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

One of Trump's top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.

Abbas and Trump spoke by phone on March 11.

Trump Not Ruling Out Pre-Emptive North Korea Strike

President Donald Trump does not rule out military action against North Korea if leader Kim Jong Un conducts a sixth nuclear test.

April 30, 2017

(The Independent) - President Donald Trump has said that he believes China's president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programmes - but when asked about whether another nuclear test would mean a military response from the US, Trump said "I don't know...we'll see".

In an interview with CBS' “Face the Nation,” - to be aired on Sunday - Trump said he won't be happy if North Korea conducts a nuclear test and that he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping won't be happy, either.

On Saturday, a North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch, the third test-fire flop this month but a clear message of defiance. North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they're seen as part of the North's push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit potentially the US mainland.

The launch comes at a point of particularly high tension in the region. Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to Korean waters and North Korea last week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast. The U.S. and South Korea also started installing a missile defense system that is supposed to be partially operational within days and their two navies are staging joint military drills.

April 29, 2017

Russia Risks a Showdown With Israel over Hezbollah in Syria

April 29, 2017

(Newsweek) - Back in 1967, Moscow shrugged when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, cutting shipping routes to the Israeli port of Eilat—Israel’s only one in the Red Sea. Egyptian and Syrian troop movements on the Israeli border — coupled with Nasser’s fiery rhetoric  threatening mass slaughter — paved the way for war. All the while, Moscow fed the Egyptians and Syrians erroneous information about Israeli troop movements.

The Israelis put an end to all of it with a blitzkrieg that neutralized Russia’s Arab clients in six days, and in the process seized  the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and much of the Golan Heights.

Fifty years later and history looks set to repeat itself. Russia’s allies are again provoking the Israelis, who may ultimately see little choice but to strike first. The ensuing war, Israel warns, could, like the Six Day War in 1967, fundamentally change the region.

The theater this time is Syria, but the precipitating factor for the next conflict — believe it or not — isn’t Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. It is Iran’s most lethal proxy, Hezbollah.

Tehran dispatched Hezbollah to buttress Assad’s beleaguered Syrian troops. The first Arab child of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the Lebanese Shiite militant organization have deployed thousands of fighters to Syria, who are now gaining valuable experience from the war.

Iran is also arming Hezbollah in preparation for the next conflict with Israel. In fall 2015, Israel’s military assessed that Hezbollah had increased its rocket arsenal from an estimated 100,000 to roughly 150,000 since the Syrian war began.

Later that year, the Russians began to carry out airstrikes against rebel groups fighting to oust Assad from Syria. Moscow had long provided Assad with arms and other provisions via its Mediterranean naval facility in Tartus. But the Russians soon deployed ground and air forces, intelligence assets, and heavy hardware to protect the Assad regime, making it clear that Syria was part of its ever-expanding sphere of influence.

Russia soon established fusion centers so that it could coordinate its war effort with Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime. Hezbollah has benefited from Russian air cover, and even fought alongside Russian forces against Syrian rebels.

Meanwhile Iran and its Lebanese proxy have tried to exploit both the Russian presence and the fog of war to move what Israelis have called “game-changing weapons” from the war zone to Lebanon. Israeli officials say the weapons they are attempting to acquire include long-range and high payload rockets, lethal anti-ship missiles, and perhaps even sophisticated anti-aircraft systems.

April 28, 2017

US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Refuses to Agree Police Can Do No Wrong: The Explanation of “He Reached for His Waistband” is a Depressingly Well-worn One, Trotted Out All Too Often to Justify Police Shootings

April 26, 2017

(Rewire) - In 2010, Chris Thompson, a Houston police officer, shot Ricardo Salazar-Limon in the back. Salazar-Limon remains partially paralyzed.

Salazar-Limon sued Thompson and the City of Houston, saying that the shooting was excessive force—in other words, that Thompson had no right to shoot him. The case wound its way through the courts for years.

This week, it ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court over one critical question: Can the word of a police officer defending an excessive force claim be considered an “undisputed fact” in a lawsuit, even if that account differs from their accuser?

Like a lot of cases involving police violence, there is considerable dispute between Salazar-Limon and Thompson about what happened that night in 2010.

Both parties agree as to how it all started: Thompson was operating a speed gun that evening, and he recorded Salazar-Limon’s speed as over the limit. He pulled Salazar-Limon over and asked for his license. He checked the license and found no open warrants or charges, but told Salazar-Limon to get out of his truck, as he was being detained on suspicion of driving drunk.

After that, things get muddy. Salazar-Limon and Thompson both say that they struggled, but differ on how much and how long. Thompson contended it went on for quite some time and that Salazar-Limon pushed him toward oncoming traffic. Salazar-Limon, on the other hand, characterized the encounter as brief.

Following the struggle, Salazar-Limon pulled away and started to walk back to his truck. Thompson ordered him to stop. Salazar-Limon said that Thompson then shot him within seconds. Thompson said that Salazar-Limon not only didn’t stop, but he also raised his hands to his waistband, as if he was reaching for a gun. (No gun was ever found.) Only then, according to Thompson, did he shoot Salazar-Limon.

When Salazar-Limon sued over questions of excessive force, the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Thompson and the City of Houston. The Fifth Circuit upheld that decision. Summary judgment is designed to allow courts to decide cases prior to trial, but it can only be granted when there are no disputes over key facts. A key fact is something integral to the dispute between the parties. In other words, when two parties disagree over the foundational facts of the case, the court can’t grant summary judgment.

Here, the parties disagree over the very essence of the case: Did Thompson shoot Salazar-Limon in the back for no reason, or did he do so because he believed Salazar-Limon was reaching for his waistband and therefore possibly a gun? When this level of disagreement occurs, the court generally has to let the case go to trial so a jury can sort out which party is more credible.

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear Salazar-Limon’s appeal in Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston. In concurring with the denial of certiorari, Justice Samuel Alito essentially said there was no dispute over the key facts because, although Salazar-Limon and Thompson utterly disagree on everything that happened after the very beginning of the traffic stop, Salazar-Limon didn’t utter the magic words “I didn’t reach for my waistband” in his depositions and affidavits—and therefore no disagreement exists.

It’s a controversial and pedantic way of thinking about the law, but one at least some conservative Supreme Court justices have endorsed. In doing so, they’re essentially saying that cops are inherently believable, while people that are shot by cops are not.

And Justice Sonia Sotomayor is having none of it. She believed the Supreme Court should have taken the case: In her dissent from the denial of certiorari, she raged, and rightly so, about this state of affairs.

She dryly noted that the explanation of “he reached for his waistband” is a depressingly well-worn one, trotted out all too often to justify police shootings of this sort. She saves her real ire, however, for discussing how this decision flies in the face of how the American legal system is supposed to work:
This is not a difficult case. When a police officer claims that the victim of the use of force took some act that would have justified that force, and the victim claims he did not, summary judgment is improper.
What Sotomayor is getting at is incredibly crucial: Officers are no more or less inherently believable than anyone else at this stage in a lawsuit. A determination of credibility must go to a jury for them to sort out who is telling the truth. To decide at this point that a police officer’s word is better than that of the shooting victim—even though the victim’s testimony is also made under oath—is to say that the police essentially never lie (and that, of course, victims of police shootings do).

April 24, 2017

Man Who Died of Thirst in Milwaukee County Jail Had Water Cut Off for a Week

April 24, 2017

The Huffington Post - A mentally ill man who last year died of severe dehydration in a Milwaukee County jail was kept in his cell for seven days straight after jail employees cut off his water supply, a prosecutor in Wisconsin said Monday.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that prosecutors told a six-person jury on Monday that cutting off water to Terrill Thomas’ cell was “highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail.” The comments came as part of an inquest into Thomas’ death, in which the jury decides whether there’s probable cause to charge anyone with a crime in Thomas’ death.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley told jurors that it “became apparent” that Thomas “was unable to tell people about his basic needs,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The jury is considering whether there is probable cause to charge any jail officials with abuse of a prisoner.

In a court filing last month, the district attorney argued that abusing, neglecting, or ill-treating a prisoner is a public welfare offense.

“Inmates are at the mercy of their jailors for basic life-sustaining necessities like water, food, and medical care,” the district attorney wrote in a court filing. “When a mentally ill inmate, like Mr. Thomas, is locked in solitary confinement without access to water, his life is totally in his jailors’ hands. The law much strictly require jailors to safeguard lives which are so completely entrusted to their care. Stupidity, thoughtlessness, indifference, and incompetence are not morally sufficient excuses nor valid legal defenses.”

Thomas’ death was included in The Huffington Post’s investigative project examining jail deaths across the United States in the year after the high-profile death of Sandra Bland in police custody in 2015.

The Justice Department had been considering launching a civil rights investigation into the conditions at the Milwaukee County Jail, but the status of that potential investigation is unclear.

Erik J. Heipt, an attorney for Thomas’ family, noted that Monday was the one-year anniversary of his “senseless” death.

“He was a pretrial detainee in a mental health crisis. Instead of providing him with desperately needed treatment, the Milwaukee County Jail disciplined Terrill by locking him in an isolation cell, giving him inedible ‘nutraloaf’ to eat, and shutting off his drinking water supply for seven days—causing him to suffer and die from profound dehydration. Nothing like this should ever happen in an American jail,” he said.

“I am pleased that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office taking this atrocity seriously and hope that the inquest is the first step toward justice for Terrill and his family,” he added.

April 19, 2017

IMF Tells Governments How to Subvert Public Resistance Against Elimination of Cash

April 5, 2017

(Norbert Haring) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington has published a Working Paper on “de-cashing.” It gives advice to governments who want to abolish cash against the will of their citizenry. Move slowly, start with harmless seeming measures, is part of that advice.
In “The Macroeconomics of De-Cashing”, IMF-Analyst Alexei Kireyev recommends in his conclusions:
Although some countries most likely will de-cash in a few years, going completely cashless should be phased in steps. The de-cashing process could build on the initial and largely uncontested steps, such as the phasing out of large denomination bills, the placement of ceilings on cash transactions, and the reporting of cash moves across the borders. Further steps could include creating economic incentives to reduce the use of cash in transactions, simplifying the opening and use of transferrable deposits, and further computerizing the financial system.
The private sector led de-cashing seems preferable to the public sector led decashing. The former seems almost entirely benign (e.g., more use of mobile phones to pay for coffee), but still needs policy adaptation. The latter seems more questionable, and people may have valid objections to it. De-cashing of either kind leaves both individuals and states more vulnerable to disruptions, ranging from power outages to hacks to cyberwarfare. In any case, the tempting attempts to impose de-cashing by a decree should be avoided, given the popular personal attachment to cash. A targeted outreach program is needed to alleviate suspicions related to de-cashing; in particular, that by de-cashing the authorities are trying to control all aspects of peoples’ lives, including their use of money, or push personal savings into banks. The de-cashing process would acquire more traction if it were based on individual consumer choice and cost-benefits considerations.
Note, that the author is not talking about unreasonable objections and imagined disadvantages: He does count it among the advantages of de-cashing in the very next paragraph that personal savings are pushed into banks and he also does count total control of all aspects of financial life under the pros, as in the last sentence of the last quote below.
“As de-cashing gives incentives to economies’ agents to convert their currency in bank deposits, the deposit base of the banking system will increase, which can help reduce the lending rates and expand credit.”
And finally the advice to do it together:
Coordinated efforts on de-cashing could help enhance its positive effects and reduce potential costs. At least at the level of major countries and their currencies, the authorities could coordinate their de-cashing efforts. Such coordinated efforts are, in particular, important in the decisions to phase out large denomination bills for all major currencies, to use ceilings and other restrictions on cash transactions, and to introduce the reporting requirements for cash transactions or their taxation. For currency areas, a single decashing policy would be clearly preferable to a national one. Finally, consensus between the public and the private sector and outreach on the advantages and modalities of gradual decashing should be viewed as key preconditions for its success.

April 18, 2017

Don't Count on That Local or State Government Pension

April 17, 2017

(Chicago Tribune) - Millions of Americans are expecting to receive a pension from the city or state that employs them. Many will be in for a terrible surprise, according to the nonprofit organization Truth in Accounting.

It surveyed 237 municipal pension plans across the country, using newly required reporting data about pension underfunding. Although it has taken decades for many of these pension funds to get into such bad shape, only now are the details being revealed, says Sheila Weinberg, president of Truth in Accounting and a CPA who has dedicated her life to requiring full and useful disclosure of federal, state and local debt obligations. (I am a board member of Truth in Accounting.)

This newly collected data should be frightening to those counting on a state or municipal pension. The latest numbers are available at http://www.statedatalab.org/pensiondatabase. There you can search by state to find both state and local pension statistics. The report for each city and state includes the amount of pension plan assets, the amount of plan promises, and the dollar amount and percentage of pension underfunding. Every plan also receives a letter grade, from A to F.

Of the 237 cities studied, 29 received an "F" grade, reflecting a funding ratio of less than 35 percent. Those plans cover many thousands of workers who cannot possibly be paid their full promised pensions, absent a huge tax increase (which would also come out of their pockets as workers).

Based on the size of its unfunded pension liabilities, Chicago is in the worst shape, with more than $62 billion worth of unfunded pension promises. Chicago has less than 33 cents set aside for every dollar promised.

The Chicago Municipal Employees plan is estimated to run out of assets in seven years, since it is only 20.3 percent funded. The police fund (funded at 25.4 percent) and the firefighter's fund (funded at 21.7 percent) will not be far behind. The Public School Teachers' Pension and Retirement Fund is in slightly better shape with 51.6 percent funding.

New York City is in second worst shape in terms of total dollars needed, with an unfunded pension liability of more than $61 billion, but at least it is 71 percent funded.

At another extreme, Portland, Ore., has set aside less than 1 percent of what it needs to pay its $2.9 billion of pension promises.

How have these cities gotten away with underfunding their pension promises? Until last year, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board required state and local governments to report only a small fraction of their pension liabilities. And there have been no sanctions, other than public outrage, to force employers to top up their pension funds.

April 17, 2017

N. Korean Official: Ready for War If Trump Wants It

On April 17, 2017, Russia warned Washington against launching a unilateral strike on North Korea, after US Vice President Mike Pence said the era of "strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over. "This is a very risky path," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow. "We do not accept the reckless nuclear missile actions of Pyongyang that breach UN resolutions, but that does not mean that you can break international law," he said. "I hope that there will not be any unilateral actions like the one we saw recently in Syria." Pence on Monday warned North Korea not to test President Donald Trump's resolve, declaring that "all options are on the table" for curbing its missile and nuclear weapons programmes. [AFP]

April 14, 2017

(AP) — President Donald Trump's tweets are adding fuel to a "vicious cycle" of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea's vice foreign minister told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Friday. The official added that if the U.S. shows any sign of "reckless" military aggression, Pyongyang is ready to launch a pre-emptive strike of its own.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol said Pyongyang has determined the Trump administration is "more vicious and more aggressive" than that of Barack Obama. He added that North Korea will keep building up its nuclear arsenal in "quality and quantity" and said Pyongyang is ready to go to war if that's what Trump wants.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington go back to President Harry Truman and the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. But the heat has been rising rapidly since Trump took office in January.

This year's joint war games between the U.S. and South Korean militaries are the biggest so far. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier has been diverted back to the waters off Korea after heading for Australia, and U.S. satellite imagery suggests the North could conduct another underground nuclear test at any time. Pyongyang recently tested a ballistic missile and claims it is close to perfecting an intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear warhead that could attack the U.S. mainland.

Many experts believe that at its current pace of testing, North Korea could reach that potentially game-changing milestone within a few years — under Trump's watch as president. Despite reports that Washington is considering military action if the North goes ahead with another nuclear test, Han did not rule out the possibility of a test in the near future.

"That is something that our headquarters decides," he said during the 40-minute interview in Pyongyang, which is now gearing up for a major holiday — and possibly a big military parade — on Saturday. "At a time and at a place where the headquarters deems necessary, it will take place."

The North conducted two such tests last year alone. The first was of what it claims to have been a hydrogen bomb and the second was its most powerful ever. Expectations are high the North may put its newest missiles on display during Saturday's parade.

The annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises have consistently infuriated the North, which views them as rehearsals for an invasion. Washington and Seoul deny that, but reports that exercises have included "decapitation strikes" aimed at the North's leadership have fanned Pyongyang's anger.

Han said Trump's tweets have also added fuel to the flames.

Trump posted a tweet Tuesday in which he said the North is "looking for trouble" and reiterated his call for more pressure from Beijing, North Korea's economic lifeline, to clamp down on trade and strengthen its enforcement of U.N. sanctions to persuade Pyongyang to denuclearize.

Trump has threatened that if Beijing isn't willing to do more to squeeze the North, the U.S. might take the matter into its own hands.

"Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words," Han said. "It's not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble." North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He added: "We will go to war if they choose."

A U.S. State Department official said later Friday the U.S. was aligning "all elements of national power" to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.