Friday, December 14, 2018

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Why the Incarceration Boom Happened

A surplus number of prosecutors needed some make-work, of course.

China Reportedly Moves 300,000 Troops to Border With North Korea

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media. 

 

East Asia — China has apparently signaled it doesn’t have much confidence in the current thaw in relations between the United States and North Korea, as it was recently reported that the Chinese government has significantly reinforced its border with the Hermit Kingdom.

Citing a report from Radio Free Asia (RFA), South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo wrote Monday that China is “preparing for a potential war on the Korean Peninsula” by deploying additional troops and mobile strike groups closer to its dividing line with North Korea.

Chosun Ilbo wrote that RFA, which claims to have spoken with “a North Korean source in China,” reported Friday that “the Chinese military late last year deployed another missile defense battery at an armored division in Helong,” a city near its border with the North.

Additionally, “military units in Yanbian were relocated from Heilongjiang Province, thus adding 300,000 troops along the border,” Chosun Ilbo reported.

RFA’s source also said China has moved several missile defense batteries to reservoirs near rivers that serve as part of the border between the two countries. This is because, as Chosun Ilbo wrote, China’s troops “could be swept away if the North tore down the banks of the reservoirs or they were destroyed by missiles or air strikes.”

The South Korean outlet also noted that on January 24, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that the Chinese military unit that would be the first to cross the border in the event of war has been armed with China’s most sophisticated surface-to-air missiles.

The news comes days away from the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The lead-up to the games has seen a de-escalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, though many believe the softening of tensions will be temporary.

Meanwhile, newly published photos have revealed the extent of China’s militarization of its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Those waters are a major point of contention between China and the United States, with the U.S. accusing China of trying to aggressively exert its dominance in the region.

Janet Reno: Justice Delayed was Justice Denied

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Janet Reno ordered the FBI’s 1993 attack in Waco, in which 76 men, women and children were murdered using chemical weapons and fire. [Image public domain, provided by Wikimedia Commons]
In the early hours of November 7, Janet Reno died at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Her niece “confirmed to CBS News that Reno died peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends.” It’s unfortunate that, unlike many of her victims, she was permitted to shuffle off this mortal coil a free woman, unpursued by the hounds of justice. Janet Reno had a lot to answer for.

As state attorney for Dade County, Florida in the 1980s, Reno helped kindle a wildfire of moral panic in America over alleged widespread ritual child sex abuse, leading witch hunts in which children and witnesses were bullied and even tortured into making up the lurid stories Reno and her “expert” child psychologists wanted to hear. People went to prison for crimes that they had not committed — in fact, crimes that hadn’t actually occurred at all. Some may still be there.

Instead of finding herself fired, disbarred and prosecuted for the damage she’d done , Reno was appointed to the position of Attorney General of the United States by president Bill Clinton in 1993. She became the first woman to serve in the position.

She promptly established her approach to the new job, ordering the  FBI’s 1993 massacre, with fire and chemical weapons, of 76 men, women and children at the Branch Davidian  community outside  Waco, Texas, a killing spree for which she publicly took “full responsibility.”

When someone admits to complicity in, let alone “full responsibility” for, 76 murders, it’s reasonable to expect a lengthy prison sentence or perhaps even death by lethal injection to follow the confession. Instead, Reno went on to become the longest-serving US Attorney General of the 20th century.

Another highlight of her tenure was the abduction of young Elian Gonzalez from family in Miami and his return to Cuba. Gonzalez’s mother had risked and lost her life bringing Elian to freedom in Florida. Reno handed him back over to the Castro regime.

Since the mid-1990s, I had devoutly hoped to someday see Janet Reno either brought before the bar of justice — in an individual criminal prosecution or perhaps a mass trial a la Nuremberg — or, at the very least, in perpetual flight and hiding like unto her spiritual exemplar, Adolf Eichmann. Her peaceful death “at home surrounded by family and friends” dashes those hopes.

Janet Reno successfully evaded real responsibility and liability for her actions to the very end. Good riddance.

Government Fuel-Economy Standards: A Big Mistake

My latest article for the American Institute for Economic Research is “Government Fuel-Economy Standards: A Big Mistake.”

China Silencing Opposition Ahead of Critical Communist Conference

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media. 

 

It’s no secret that China has placed an incredible amount of importance on 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and the Asian superpower has and is taking steps to ensure the affair, set for October, goes off without a hitch. From Reuters on Thursday:

“China is tightening security for next month’s twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress, cancelling police leave in Beijing, limiting tourism to Tibet, and clamping down on the spread of political rumors.

“High-level meetings in China are typically accompanied by a security crackdown — as well as uncharacteristically smog-free blue skies — with the stability-obsessed party not wanting to run the risk that anyone or anything offers a distraction.”

Continuing, Reuters notes that Chinese authorities and their enforcers in the streets will tolerate no political protests leading up to and during the event:

“Some 2,000 delegates will converge on Beijing for the Congress, staying at hotels across the city, and security will only get tighter as its opening nears, meaning any protests will be quickly shut down.”

This is because China puts a high value on perception, national unity, and loyalty to the party. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the actions of the country’s leader in his urging of Chinese artists to direct their work toward the betterment of China. From state-run China Daily on Thursday:

“President Xi Jinping called on the country’s cultural workers and artists to focus on the people during their cultural creation work, thereby providing strong spiritual power for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

“Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remark in a recent instruction on the country’s building of spiritual civilization.

“Noting that culture is the bugle for the progress of the times, Xi said that the country’s cultural workers and artists should work for the people and socialism. He encouraged cultural workers and artists to boost innovation, be dedicated and make continuous efforts to produce excellent creations.”

Highlighting Xi’s tightening grip on power — at the Congress, the leader is expected to appoint his own trusted people to key positions in the government — a member of the influential Standing Committee, Liu Yunshan, backed his president’s play while speaking at the same seminar as Xi on Wednesday:

“The cultural workers and artists should learn and implement the president’s culture and art thoughts, devote themselves to cultural creation, and make more excellent cultural products, he said.”

And while China’s political leaders encourage unity, the country’s Thought Police are intensifying efforts. It’s long been recognized that China is more aggressive than Western nations in policing its cyberspace, but ahead of the Party Congress the government is taking sharper aim at dissidents. Also from China Daily on Thursday:

“Chinese cyber police and leading tech firm Baidu have launched an online service to control the spread of rumors.

“The service is imbedded into the country’s top search engine, and all news portals and online forums that Baidu operates.”

All this focus on harmony and a “One China” is precisely why the independence movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan are such a thorn in the superpower’s side. How can China promote strength and unity to the world when two of what it considers its territories want to break away?

The problem is perfectly encapsulated in China’s current relations with Singapore, as Reuters highlighted on Thursday:

“China wants to improve its military relationship with Singapore, but is resolutely opposed to any country having defense ties with self-ruled Taiwan, China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday, obliquely criticizing Singapore’s Taiwan links.

“China is suspicious of the city state’s good military relations both with the United States and Taiwan, claimed by China as its own.”

The current Taiwanese government is a remnant of the one that was forced to flee the mainland to escape the communists in 1949. While the country is recognized internationally as an independent state, China has never accepted that reality.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, is not a country but a “special administrative region” of China that retains a high degree of autonomy. That’s been the situation since 1997, following Britain’s decision to relinquish control of the area in the 1980s.

But concerns over China exerting its influence over the region were there from the start and eventually culminated into mass, coordinated protest rallies that began in September of 2014.

The desire for independence has only gained strength since then. According to the South China Morning Post, on Thursday — the third anniversary of when the protests kicked off — the co-founders of the movement “implored the people of Hong Kong to continue to fight for universal suffrage and defy what they say is Beijing’s resistance to democracy in the city.”

China wants to present a unified front at the upcoming National Congress. It wants to prove there really is only “One China,” as it’s always said. The problem with that, as is becoming increasingly clear, is that not everyone under the country’s supposed control feels the same way.

Christmas is Coming Up!

What libertarian antiwar radio host do you love, huh?

Trump: 'Just Kidding. We're Staying In Syria.'

Ron Paul and Dan McAdams on the bad news.

“Thieves for their Robbery Have Authority When Judges Steal Themselves”: The “Asset Forfeiture” Racket

Like many thousands of other Americans, James and Lisa Leonard were victimized in an act of highway robbery perpetrated by police.

An April 1, 2013 pretext traffic stop in Texas led to the discovery of a safe in the Leonards’ vehicle containing more than $200,000 and a bill of sale for a house in Pennsylvania. No evidence of a criminal offense was found – but through the practice called civil asset forfeiture, none was necessary: The police simply stole the money and filed a civil action to “forfeit” it in a forum in which the victim bears the burden of proving that the money was not proceeds of criminal activity.

Predictably, the court ruled in favor of the privileged thieves who had stolen it.

The Leonards appealed this ruling to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, thereby passively ratifying the robbery.  Although the Court is not required to explain or comment on a decision not to hear a case, Justice Clarence Thomas published an explanatory note describing the history of asset forfeiture, and criticizing the court system’s role in the process.

What Thomas wrote is hardly a revelation to those who have followed this subject, but this is the first time an official of his standing has conceded the obvious: Police across the nation routinely commit undisguised highway robbery.

Civil asset forfeiture, through which property can be seized without its owner facing criminal charges, has “become widespread and highly profitable” in recent decades, in no small measure “because the law enforcement entity responsible for seizing the property often keeps it, [and thus] have strong incentives to pursue forfeiture,” Thomas acknowledged. “This system – where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use – has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuse.

Forfeiture operations “frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings,” he continued, urging the federal court system to reevaluate its reasoning in approving a practice that amounts to a wholesale denial of due process protections.

Tragically, albeit predictably, Thomas’s indignation over what was done to the Leonards, and countless others in similar circumstances, did not motivate him to lobby three other justices to grant certiorari so that the victims could obtain redress.

FB Is Sending Out Creepy Notifications About Using Face Recognition on You

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.

 

San Francisco, CA — Stinging from a recent court decision, Facebook now appears to be making an effort toward self-preservation with regard to its users’ personal privacy.

On Tuesday, many Facebookers noticed an odd notification from the company in their news feeds. The post informed users that the social media juggernaut was expanding its use of facial recognition software, ostensibly in an effort to “make Facebook better.”

The short notification, however, also included the following bit:

“You control face recognition. The setting is on, but you can turn it off at any time, which applies to features we may add later.”

That Facebook uses such technology should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the platform. The concept and practice of “tagging” has been around for a very long time. Similarly, the notion of a tech company increasing its capabilities shouldn’t really raise any eyebrows.

But the timing of the announcement should. That’s because on Monday — just 24 hours before that strange notification was sent — a California judge denied Facebook’s attempt to get out of a class action lawsuit accusing the company of violating users’ privacy rights.

That case centers on consent. The argument claims Facebook is in the wrong for gathering and storing the biometric data of millions of users without each individual’s prior approval.

The legal justification for the action stems from a 2008 law passed by the state legislature of Illinois. The Biometric Information Privacy Act mandates that consent must be given before any biometric data can be extracted from an Illinois citizen.

The case is being brought before a court in California, where the company is headquartered in San Francisco, because of the plaintiffs’ agreement to Facebook’s terms of service. That agreement stipulates that any legal dispute will be handled on the company’s home turf.

Facebook’s motion to dismiss the case argued that none of the Illinoisans accusing the company had actually been harmed. U.S. District Judge James Donato, however, wasn’t having it.

“When an online service simply disregards the Illinois procedures, as Facebook is alleged to have done, the right of the individual to maintain her biometric privacy vanishes into thin air,” Donato wrote in Monday’s ruling. “The precise harm the Illinois legislature sought to prevent is then realized.”

It’s possible that the timing of the two events, Facebook’s loss in court and the company’s notification on facial recognition features, is purely coincidental. Stranger things have certainly happened.

But one could be forgiven for concluding that this just isn’t the case. More likely, one might surmise, is that Facebook is finally realizing that there may actually be legal consequences attached to their drive toward technological innovation.

Or, in other words, Facebook is trying to get ahead of the curve.

F-35 Headlines are the Best!

The F-35, one of the War Party’s favorite boondoggles, frequently earns great headlines. This one caught my eye today:

F-35’s $400K Helmet Still Blinds Pilots on Night Flights

This originates from DoD Buzz, and gives further details about the latest problems with the DoD’s most expensive weapons system ever.

Here’s a great quote from Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan:

“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”

We have an issue there, there’s no doubt. 

For $400K, that’s just the kind of assurance we like to hear!

Another great headline today:

F-35 Chief: Loose Bracket Sparked Fire on Marine Corps Plane

And this article is recommended reading on this broader subject, now a classic, from Winslow Wheeler:

The Jet That Ate the Pentagon

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