Big government

Supreme Court likely to say states can’t levy excessive fines

The Supreme Court left little doubt Wednesday that it would rule that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states, an outcome that could help an Indiana man recover the $40,000 Land Rover police seized when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin. A decision in favor of 37-year-old Tyson Timbs, of Marion, Indiana, also could buttress efforts to limit the confiscation by local law enforcement of property belonging to someone suspected of a crime. Police and prosecutors often keep the proceeds. Timbs was on hand at the high court for arguments that were largely a one-sided affair in which the main question appeared to be how broadly the state would lose. The court has formally held that most of the Bill of Rights applies to states as well as the federal government, but it has not done so on the Eighth Amendment’s excessive-fines ban. Justice Neil Gorsuch was incredulous that Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher was urging the justices to rule that states should not be held to the same standard. “Here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really? Come on, general,” Gorsuch said to Fisher, using the term for holding that constitutional provisions apply to the states. Justice Stephen Breyer said under Fisher’s reading police could take the car of a driver caught going 5 mph (8 kph) above the speed limit. “Anyone who speeds has to forfeit the Bugatti, Mercedes or special Ferrari, or even jalopy,” Breyer said. Fisher agreed. It was unclear whether the justices also would rule to give Timbs his Land Rover back or allow Indiana courts to decide that issue. Some justices seemed willing to take that additional step. “If we look at these forfeitures that are occurring today … many of them are grossly disproportionate to the crimes being charged,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. But Chief Justice John Roberts said the question of whether what happened to Timbs was excessive might be a closer call. Timbs drove his car to the place where he twice sold small amounts of heroin to undercover officers, and he carried the drugs in the car, Roberts said. Police have long been allowed to seize property in such situations. “You will lose assets you used in the crime,” Roberts said. “You can see how that makes a lot of sense.” Lawyer Wesley Hottot, representing Timbs, told the justices that in rural areas people drive places. He said the use of the Land Rover was incidental to the sale of the drugs. The case has drawn interest from liberal groups concerned about police abuses and conservative organizations opposed to excessive regulation. A decision in Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. Indiana, 17-1091, is expected by June.

 

Feds Collect Record Taxes in October; Still Run $100B Deficit

The federal government collected record total tax revenues of $252,692,000,000 in October, the first month of fiscal 2019, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released Tuesday. Despite the record tax collections, the government still ran a deficit of $100,491,000,000 for the month—because it spent $353,183,000,000. This October’s record $252,692,000,000 in total tax collections was $11,414,590,000 more than the $241,277,410,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars) that the federal government collected in October 2017, which was the previous record for federal tax collections in October. Although the total federal taxes collected this October set a record, the individual income taxes that the federal government collected in October did not set a record. This October, the Treasury collected $128,866,000,000 in individual income taxes. In October 2017, the Treasury collected $131,056,520,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars). Corporation income tax receipts, however, were significantly higher this October than they were in October 2017. This year, the Treasury collected $8,000,000,000 in corporation income taxes in October. Last year, it collected $3,823,060,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars). The $8 billion in corporation income tax revenues the Treasury collected this October is the largest amount since October 2015, when the Treasury collected $10,893,630,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars) in corporation income taxes. Excise taxes and customs duties also increased. In October 2017, the Treasury collected $7,651,250,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars) in excise taxes. This October it collected $14,715,000,000. In October 2017, the Treasury collected $3,320,700,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars) in customs duties. This October, it collected $5,551,000,000. Social Security and other payroll taxes also increased slightly rising from $86,137,330,000 (in constant October 2018 dollars) last October to $86,553,000,000 this October.

Tucker Carlson: Independent counsels are a handy way to settle political scores

CBS News reported Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller may soon issue new indictments. It’s not clear who will be charged, but there are indications of it. Some suggest that political consultant Roger Stone may be on the list. Another possible target is a man called Jerome Corsi, a 72-year-old author and Harvard-trained political scientist, who is an associate of Stone’s. Of course, he has said he expects charges soon. What for? Well, apparently for perjury. Corsi says he was manipulated into making false statements to Mueller’s lawyers. And if that’s true, well, obviously, it’s not good. But let’s put this into some perspective. False statements are everywhere in Washington. That’s what the city specializes in. And not small statements about small things. Barack Obama told you your premiums would go down and you could keep your doctor. James Clapper told Congress that the NSA was not spying on you. Clapper said that under oath. It was an outright lie. He was never charged. So the obvious lesson is, as long as you’re powerful and your lie is big enough, you are never, ever charged in Washington. No one is. You can wreck an entire health system, you can take an entire country to war under false pretenses. You can kill American citizens with drone strikes. And you can lie about all of it. Nobody will ever think, for a moment, about prosecuting you. But give the finger to the establishment? Mock the people in power? That is dangerous and they’ll get you for that. — Jerome Corsi is learning that lesson the hard way, just as Mike Flynn learned it, just as George Papadopoulos learned it. All three – and others – have been bankrupted and destroyed by Robert Mueller for doing something that virtually everyone does in Washington every day with impunity – lying. So what was the point of all this? Why are we destroying all these people? What’s the justification for it? It was supposed to be about Russia! Remember? There were foreign spies afoot, there were dark forces sent by Vladimir Putin to destroy our democracy here in America. That’s what they told us again and again on cable news. That’s how we were sold on the Mueller investigation in the first place. Well, two years later we learn it was all fake. There’s no evidence that any of that was real. No plot has ever been uncovered. All we’ve really learned is that independent counsels are a handy way to settle political scores and that a lot of people on the left don’t really believe in the tenets of Western justice. One of the resident geniuses on MSNBC on Tuesday explained the new legal standard for guilt in this country. “When Mueller indicted those Russian military intelligence officers, there was a very big hint in the indictment that there was an American deeply involved,” said former U.S. Atttorney Chuck Rosenberg. “It talked about an American playing a role in that Russian interference scheme.” MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace laughed and responded with this comment: “I remember the keystroke intelligence and remember thinking anyone emailing with Russians – you’re going to be in trouble!” Emailing with Russians. That’s all it takes now to destroy a life. It’s been enough to destroy Carter Page’s life. Remember Carter Page? Page graduated at the top of his class from the Naval Academy and served this country for five years as an intelligence officer. Then he made a fateful mistake. He backed the wrong presidential campaign. Page soon found himself accused of being a Russian spy. There was never any evidence that he actually was a Russian spy. Page was never charged with spying. He was never charged with anything. It didn’t matter. The ghouls on cable news kept up the drumbeat: Carter Page, Russia! Carter Page, Russia! Before long, Carter Page’s life was over, his reputation gone. Who would hire him now? Nobody. Ever. But the ghouls don’t care. They’re on to the next victim. So is Mueller. Maybe it’ll be Jerome Corsi this time, facing a criminal perjury count. Maybe someday it will be you. They’ll make up some official-sounding charge, but don’t fool yourself. What they’re really punishing is disobedience.

Well said, Tucker.  Nothing really you can add to that.  Tucker Carlson currently serves as the host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) Tucker Carlson Tonight (weekdays 8PM/ET).      🙂

Food Stamp Participation Reaches Lowest Level in Nearly a Decade

Participation in the nation’s food stamp program has sunk to an all-time low, reaching its lowest level in nearly a decade, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The most recent USDA data reveals that 38,845,997 Americans took part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal government program responsible for administering food stamps, in August 2018. The last time American participation in the food stamp program dipped this low was nine years ago, when 38,184,306 Americans received food stamps, according to the data. The most up-to-date numbers also show enrollment in food stamps has declined for ten straight months. Using the latest data from the USDA, click here to see the month-by-month breakdown of how many people canceled their SNAP benefits in fiscal year (FY) 2018:

Great news!!     🙂

How migrants manipulate generous U.S. asylum system

A federal court of appeals ruling this month provides a peek at the U.S.’s generous asylum system that will have the effect of welcoming the impending instant mass migration from Central America. Some migrants among the caravan, due to arrive at the southern border within weeks, have told reporters they plan to capitalize on the years-long process to try to gain legal status. The court case involved Venezuelan Helegner Ramon Tijera Moreno. He deserted the army, came to America and sought asylum by declaring himself persecuted by Caracas‘ authoritarian socialist government. Two years later, he was before the 10th Circuit in Denver––a member of the second highest network of federal appeals courts below the Supreme Court. A three-judge panel on Oct. 22 denied Mr. Moreno’s petition. He cannot stay legally. The ruling provides a look at the long due process the U.S. provides each asylum seeker who merely has to step onto American soil and make the declaration to put off deportation. The court opinion also includes Mr. Moreno’s narrative on life inside a once-prosperous country now beset by economic turmoil, food shortages, crime, and a crackdown on dissent. It is easier to claim asylum than to ultimately prove a person deserves it. To ask for asylum via the online form No I-589, the person files inside the United States no matter how entry was gained––legally or illegally. As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states, “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.” Federal law sets a high adjudication bar. The law says an alien must demonstrate he is a refugee “who is unable or unwilling to return to ….. that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of … race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political option.” To start the process, Mr. Moreno in 2016 first received a “credible-fear” interview by customs officials who determined he lacked valid entry documents and planned to deport him. He stopped the process by then applying for asylum and protection under the Convention Against Torture, ensuring he could not be removed. His next stop was before an immigration judge who denied his petition and ordered him deported. His third step was the Board of Immigration Appeals. “The BIA agreed with the [judge’s] conclusion that Mr. Moreno failed to show he suffered past persecution,” the 10th circuit opinion said. America’s immigration courts are busy places. The Center for Immigration Studies reported in May that there were 697,777 pending cases before immigration judges or about 2,090 per judge. In 2017, about 170,000 cases were completed. Of those, 9,840 were asylum proceedings, such as Mr. Moreno‘s, of which one-third were denied. Thus, the odds are an appliance will win legal status.

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New York coffee shop fined $300 by Sanitation Department for sign announcing how many cups they’ve kept out of landfill

A coffee shop in New York was allegedly fined $300 by the Department of Sanitation for a misplaced sandwich board on the sidewalk, which announced that the business had kept over 2,000 cups out of the landfill in 2018. Smith Canteen’s owner, Kerry Diamond, posted about the ironic incident on Facebook, claiming the sign has been in the same spot for the past seven years. “I’ve been spending a lot of money and time trying to figure out waste reduction, composting, and single-use plastic alternatives at the Canteen, so this really burns me,” she wrote. Diamond’s business, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, encourages customers to bring their own cup in order to reduce single-use options and earn a 10 percent discount for doing so. She also said they do their part to help keep the street in front of their shop clean. “We keep our corner storefront as tidy as possible, sweep regularly, clean up all the litter that blows down the street, and take care of our tree pit like good citizens,” Diamond wrote. “We try so hard to be good and then to get kind of smacked down that way, it’s just kind of a bummer,” she told the New York Daily News. Diamond is encouraging the city to do more to help keep the street free of trash. “It would be really wonderful if you had programs to help small businesses become greener and if you kept Smith Street clean instead of the mess of litter and overflowing garbage cans that it’s been all year,” she wrote. Others on Facebook agree with Diamond, arguing that city officials need to worry about more important things. “Smith Street is disgusting these days. Talk about wrong priorities,” one person wrote. “As if you are the problem and not the obvious solution!” someone else commented. “Major props for keeping your business so tidy and responsible. Smith Street is a horror show and you all are a bright spot!” another person wrote. The New York Sanitation Department has since withdrawn the fine, according to the Daily News, though Diamond had planned to fight it. “We’ve investigated the incident and have determined that we will withdraw the action on this notice of violation because it appears as if the sign is within the legal three-foot limit, the street is not a zero-tolerance block and there is ample pedestrian access to the sidewalk,” spokesman Vito Turso said. “We encourage the shopkeeper to continue helping to keep cups out of landfills by all legal means.”

Oh whatever, Vito!  Fact is, you got busted by social media, and buckled under the understandable pressure from the good people of NYC.  Talk about ironic..  The NYC Sanitation Dept fining a coffee shop owner for a sign like this.  Kudos to Kerry for her good example.  If you’re on Smith Street, stop in for a cup o’ joe, and support her business.    🙂

NSA Finalizes $6.7 Billion in Classified Tech Contracts

The National Security Agency is quietly beginning work on a new series of three communications contracts valued at $6.7 billion. Details are sparse because the classified contracts—collectively called Greenway—were secretly awarded to telecommunications giant AT&T and defense contractors General Dynamics and ManTech International over the past year. Redacted legal documents following a protest of one of the contracts in March indicate the NSA’s goal is to “technically evolve” its IT environment. NSA’s Greenway program is a continuation of its classified Groundbreaker program, which dates back to then-NSA Director Michael Hayden’s decision to outsource the agency’s IT operations to industry. At the time, Hayden said the contract would allow NSA to “refocus assets on the agency’s core missions of providing foreign signals intelligence and protecting U.S. national security-related information systems by turning over several information technology infrastructure services for industry’s purview.” NSA awarded the first $5 billion Groundbreaker contract in 2001 to a joint alliance of contractors called the Eagle Alliance, led by Computer Science Corp., which became CSRA. The same Eagle Alliance companies, which included Northrop Grumman, held the business for well over a decade before the NSA decided to break the Groundbreaker program up into smaller pieces, resulting in Greenway. As Nextgov reported in September 2017, CSRA won the first Greenway contract worth up to $2.4 billion over the next decade. The company announced the award through a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, where it acknowledged the value and duration of the contract without naming the customer agency or contract’s name. Months later, a redacted decision by the Government Accountability Office on a protest of the contract revealed CSRA’s portion of Greenway is called “Global Enterprise Services.” The documents state “Global Enterprise Services” will focus “on services on a global scale and more virtual in nature.” Following the contract, CSRA was purchased by General Dynamics, a northern Virginia-based defense contractor. In January 2018, AT&T won the second Greenway contract, called “Regional Infrastructure Services I.” AT&T’s award became public following two protests lobbied against it by competitors DXC Technology and Enterprise Services LLC. According to GAO, Regional Infrastructure Services I has a maximum value of $3.3 billion over 10 years. According to the redacted documents, AT&T will “operate, maintain and technically evolve” the NSA and Central Security Service’s IT environment. ManTech International captured the third and final Greenway phase, called “Regional Infrastructure Services II.” As reported by Washington Technology, ManTech announced the contract—worth up to $1 billion over 10 years—in a May 1 earnings call. Little else is known about the deal, although the redacted GAO documents state Greenway’s Regional Infrastructure Services will provide “services more localized and physical in nature and provisioned at specific zones throughout the world.”