The War on Free Speech – U.S. Department of Justice Subpoenas Reason.com Over Comment Section

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The United States Department of Justice is using federal grand jury subpoenas to identify anonymous commenters engaged in typical internet bluster and hyperbole in connection with the Silk Road prosecution. DOJ is targeting Reason.com, a leading libertarian website…

The D.C. court was right — the government won’t start issuing grand jury subpoenas every time someone writes “my husband left underwear on the bathroom floor again; I could just kill him.” But they won’t because they don’t have the time, inclination, or the resources.

Instead, they will use their discretion to decide when to bring their vast power into play to pierce the anonymity of internet assholes (or for that matter, people who may have valid points on political matters but express them in the wrong fashion). That discretion is much more likely to be exercised where, as here, the person being trash-talked is a powerful federal judge in the district of that U.S. Attorney’s Office, a judge that the office must appear before every damned day. The power is more likely to be exercised on behalf of establishment political figures, not outsiders. The power is more likely to be exercised when it is consistent with the politics of the administration.

The D.C. court implies that we can trust federal prosecutors to use the grand jury power to pierce the anonymity of political firebrands even when their rhetoric is clearly protected by the First Amendment. That the government will investigate anonymous political rhetoric in even-handed fashion, whether that rhetoric comes from a magazine known to be friendly to the government and its establishment, or one that is, like Reason, prone to question both.

– From the excellent Popehat article: Department Of Justice Uses Grand Jury Subpoena To Identify Anonymous Commenters on a Silk Road Post at Reason.com

Readers of Liberty Blitzkrieg will be well aware of the gradual erosion by the state of the civil liberties of the American public. Such attacks are typically sufficiently under the radar, so that the average citizen has no idea what is happening until it’s too late. I have written about such calculated assaults on many occasions, but the holy grail target of the status quo is the First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines a right to the freedom of religion, speech, the press, and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Many aspects of the First Amendment have been neutered in practice. For example, the right to assemble peacefully and effectively is often prevented in practice by the need to secure permits and other hindrances (see “free speech cages” and “protest zones”) . Meanwhile, on college campuses, where activism is historically most vibrant, many schools have embraced the Orwellian concept of “free speech zones” in order to prevent free speech. See:

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It’s Not Just the Clintons – George W. Bush is Making Tens of Millions on the Speech Circuit

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Toward the end of his presidency, George W. Bush told Robert Draper, reporting for a book called Dead Certain, that he intended after vacating the Oval Office to “replenish the ol’ coffers.” He said he could make “ridiculous” money on the lecture circuit.

Since 2009, POLITICO has found, Bush has given at least 200 paid speeches and probably many more, typically pocketing $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance. The part-time work, which rarely requires more than an hour on stage, has earned him tens of millions of dollars.

“The post-presidential industrial complex at work,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

– From the Politico article: On Talk circuit, George W. Bush Makes Millions but Few Waves

By now, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. Presidency represents little more than a 4-8 year period in which the chosen puppet proves his or her worthiness to America’s billionaire class. After this time, the lucky individual will be handsomely rewarded for sufficiently supporting and protecting the entrenched, corrupt status quo.

This is precisely why Obama has continued (and builded upon) all of the heinous polices of his predecessor’s legacy with ruthless enthusiasm. The Presidency is not the pinnacle of American power, as many people uncritically believe. In reality, the office is primarily for show. A marketing trick to make the unsuspecting, divided and conquered public think they have a choice in how the country is governed. For the office holder, it represents a stepping stone to the real goal — unimaginable riches.

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Land of the Debt Serf – How “Auto Title Loan” Companies are Ruthlessly Preying on America’s Growing Underclass

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Short-term lenders, seeking a detour around newly toughened restrictions on payday and other small loans, are pushing Americans to borrow more money than they often need by using their debt-free autos as collateral.

Their hefty principal and high interest rates are creating another avenue that traps unwary consumers in a cycle of debt. For about 1 out of 9 borrowers, the loan ends with their vehicles being repossessed…

But Jordan said it wouldn’t make a loan that small. Instead, it would lend her $2,600 at what she later would learn was the equivalent of 153% annual interest — as long as she put up her 2005 Buick Rendezvous sport utility vehicle as collateral.

State law limits payday loans to $300, minus a maximum fee of $45. California also caps interest rates on consumer loans of less than $2,500 on a sliding scale that averages about 30%. Consumer loans above $2,500 have no interest rate limit.

For that reason, essentially all auto title loans in the state are above that level, according to the state’s business oversight department.

– From the excellent LA Times article: More Auto Title Lenders are Snagging Unwary Borrowers in Cycle of Debt

Last week, I published an article highlighting how the use of “alternative financial services” has continued to increase despite the so-called economic “recovery.” These services include payday loans, refund-anticipation loans, pawnshops, rent-to-own services, and the little known, but recently surging, category called auto title loans. Here’s an excerpt from that post, titled Use of Alternative Financial Services, Such as Payday Loans, Continues to Increase Despite the “Recovery”:

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A Professor Speaks Out – How Coddled, Hyper Sensitive Undergrads are Ruining College Learning

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Things have changed since I started teaching. The vibe is different. I wish there were a less blunt way to put this, but my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones.

I once saw an adjunct not get his contract renewed after students complained that he exposed them to “offensive” texts written by Edward Said and Mark Twain. His response, that the texts were meant to be a little upsetting, only fueled the students’ ire and sealed his fate.  That was enough to get me to comb through my syllabi and cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad, texts ranging from Upton Sinclair to Maureen Tkacik — and I wasn’t the only one who made adjustments, either.

The current student-teacher dynamic has been shaped by a large confluence of factors, and perhaps the most important of these is the manner in which cultural studies and social justice writers have comported themselves in popular media. I have a great deal of respect for both of these fields, but their manifestations online, their desire to democratize complex fields of study by making them as digestible as a TGIF sitcom, has led to adoption of a totalizing, simplistic, unworkable, and ultimately stifling conception of social justice. The simplicity and absolutism of this conception has combined with the precarity of academic jobs to create higher ed’s current climate of fear, a heavily policed discourse of semantic sensitivity in which safety and comfort have become the ends and the means of the college experience.

– From the Vox article: I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me

The article at the center of today’s piece is truly excellent and demands much thought and introspection. One of the main themes here at Liberty Blitzkrieg since inception, has been the contention that the American population has turned into a nation of coddled, fearful serfs.

It’s not quite clear to me when this transformation actually happened, but the first undeniable evidence within my lifetime was the public’s reaction to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. I’ve written about this before, most specifically in the post, How I Remember September 11, 2001. Here’s an excerpt:

In the days following the collapse, all I wanted was for the towers to be rebuilt just like before. I wanted the skyline back to what I had know since the day I came into this earth at a New York City hospital to be restored exactly as I had always known it. Career-wise, I felt I should leave Wall Street. I thought about going back to graduate school for political science, or maybe even join the newly created Department of Homeland Security (yes, the irony is not lost on me). I read a lengthy tome on Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. I was an emotional and psychological mess, and it was when I was in this state of heightened distress that my own government and the military-industrial complex took advantage of me.

It wasn’t just me of course. It was an entire nation that was callously manipulated in the aftermath of that tragedy. The courage and generosity exhibited by so many New Yorkers and others throughout the country and indeed the world was rapidly transformed into terrifying fear. Fear that was intentionally injected repeatedly into our daily lives. Fear that translated into pointless wars and countless deaths. Fear that was used to justify the destruction of our precious civil rights. Fear that was used to initiate a gigantic power grab and the source of tremendous profits for the corporate-statists and crony-capitalsits. Unfortunately, that is the greatest legacy of 9/11.

It was the American public’s fearful and panicked emotional response to the attacks that allowed authoritarians and corrupt politicians to seamlessly and expeditiously steamroll over the civil rights of the citizenry. Unsurprisingly, this act of cowed submissiveness sent a signal to the less ethically inclined amongst us, and in the decade and a half since the attacks, the U.S. has rapidly deteriorated into something barely distinct from a Banana Republic.

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Forget the TPP – Wikileaks Releases Documents from the Equally Shady “Trade in Services Agreement,” or TISA

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If it sounds complicated, it is. The important point is that this trade agreement contains a crucial discussion of governments’ abilities to meaningfully protect civil liberties. And it is not being treated as a human rights discussion. It is being framed solely as an economic issue, ignoring the implications for human rights, and it is being held in a classified document that the public is now seeing months after it was negotiated, and only because it was released through WikiLeaks. 

The process is also highly secretive—in fact, trade agreement texts are classified. While the executive branch does consult with members of Congress, even congressional staffers with security clearance have until recently been prevented from seeing the texts. Furthermore, certain trade industry advisers are allowed access to U.S. negotiating objectives and negotiators that the public and public interest groups do not have.

– From the Slate article: Privacy Is Not a Barrier to Trade

If you haven’t heard about about the Trade in Services Agreement, aka TISA, don’t worry, you’re not alone. While I had heard of it before, I never read anything substantial about it until today. What sparked my reading interest on the subject were a series of very troubling articles published via several media outlets following a document dump by Wikileaks. Here’s how the whistleblower organization describes the TISA leak on it document release page:

WikiLeaks releases today 17 secret documents from the ongoing TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) negotiations which cover the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan & Israel — which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. “Services” now account for nearly 80 per cent of the US and EU economies and even in developing countries like Pakistan account for 53 per cent of the economy. While the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become well known in recent months in the United States, the TISA is the larger component of the strategic TPP-TISA-TTIP ‘T-treaty trinity’. All parts of the trinity notably exclude the ‘BRICS’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

I’ve covered the extreme dangers of what’s colloquially known as trade “fast track” authority previously. In the post, As the Senate Prepares to Vote on “Fast Track,” Here’s a Quick Primer on the Dangers of the TPP, I noted:

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Land of the Unfree – Police and Prosecutors Fight Aggressively to Retain Barbaric Right of “Civil Asset Forfeiture”

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Efforts to limit seizures of money, homes and other property from people who may never be convicted of a crime are stalling out amid a wave of pressure from prosecutors and police.

Their effort, at least at the state level, appears to be working. At least a dozen states considered bills restricting or even abolishing forfeiture that isn’t accompanied by a conviction or gives law enforcement less control over forfeited proceeds. But most measures failed to pass.

– From the Wall Street Journal article: Efforts to Curb Asset Seizures by Law Enforcement Hit Headwinds

The fact that civil asset forfeiture continues to exist across the American landscape despite outrage and considerable media attention, is as good an example as any as to how far fallen and uncivilized our so-called “society” has become. It also proves the point demonstrated in a Princeton University study that the U.S. is not a democracy, and the desires of the people have no impact on how the country is governed.

Civil asset forfeiture was first highlighted on these pages in the 2013 post, Why You Should Never, Ever Drive Through Tenaha, Texas, in which I explained:

In a nutshell, civil forfeiture is the practice of confiscating items from people, ranging from cash, cars, even homes based on no criminal conviction or charges, merely suspicion. This practice first became widespread for use against pirates, as a way to take possession of contraband goods despite the fact that the ships’ owners in many cases were located thousands of miles away and couldn’t easily be prosecuted. As is often the case, what starts out reasonable becomes a gigantic organized crime ring of criminality, particularly in a society where the rule of law no longer exists for the “elite,” yet anything goes when it comes to pillaging the average citizen.

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“Revolution is Coming” – The Top 20 Responses to Jon Hilsenrath’s Idiotic WSJ Article

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By now, most of you have read Jon Hilsenrath’s mindless, tone-deaf, idiotic attempt at humor published by the Wall Street Journal yesterday. If not, here it is: A Letter to Stingy American Consumers.

What you may not have seen, are the 174 comments published in response to the article. At least 95% of them consist of justifiable crushing criticism toward the cluelessness of this Federal Reserve apparatchik masquerading as a journalist. While I am strongly against vigilante style violence as a solution to our societal problems, the incredibly frequent calls for him and other “elites” to be strung from lampposts is certainly notable. People are very angry, and this anger will explode at some point in a very nasty way unless the status quo is discarded.

Here are the top 20 comments from the post. In highlighting them, I am not endorsing any calls for violence:

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Kitchen Manager at Colorado School Fired for Buying Lunch for a Poor Student

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Is this the America we have become? A nation in which oligarchs and white collar criminals are allowed to destroy the economy, use bailout funds to pay themselves record bonuses and face absolutely no consequences, while the growing underclass of peasants are locked up, harassed and looted for the most minor offenses? Yes, indeed it is. We have become little more than a cowed, spineless and spiritually castrated nation.

This website has provided countless examples of how dangerously corrupt our legal system and moral code have become. Here are just a few recent examples:

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Cartoons Mocking “Goldman Rats” and Hillary Clinton Appear All Over NYC

It appears mysterious cartoons mocking “Goldman Rats” and Hillary Clinton are appearing all over NYC. The best one I’ve seen, is the image which shows the two entities as the unified oligarch oppressors they are. See: below:

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Business Insider notes that:

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Hillary Clinton’s Poll Numbers Plunge to the Worst Since 2001

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Although I continue to believe that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of these United States unless the Republicans nominate Rand Paul (read why I think he is the only candidate who can beat her here), the public’s plunging distrust in her is a very positive development for the nation.

For example, if crowned, I mean elected, she will enter the office severely damaged with almost no credibility. A large percentage of the population will see her as the illegitimate oligarch puppet that she is, which is good, because as James Baldwin accurately noted:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

We learn from the National Journal that:

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