Category Archives: “Intelligence”

How the Redefinition of Marriage Serves Leviathan

NationalReview

While the Supreme Court’s likely attempt to create yet another legal fiction in the steady expansion of its powers is particularly dramatic, we have seen a century-long attack on marriage, perhaps dateable to the early-20th-century embrace of artificial contraception, but certainly in its wake, between various modes of sterilizing efficiency, all the way to abortion, we have witnessed a total detachment of marriage from conjugal procreation.

The redefinition of marriage has been underway for some time, as many have noted. But we often miss the political significance of redefining marriage. What has happened is that the conjugal union is no longer posited as being prior to the political union, as it was for Aristotle, and even more strongly in the later development of the Western tradition. We have been witnessing the steady erasure of pre-political limits.

Marriage has been severed from nature as such, and it has certainly been severed from any notion that marriage is for the propagation of the next generation of a society. We may think of the cultural transformation happening organically, but everything from contraception to no-fault divorce to abortion has been enforced by the government — most often at the highest level of the judiciary.
But we should ask ourselves: Who stands to benefit from these erosions of marriage? One reason why a state might enforce a legal redefinition of marriage is that the conjugal definition reminds us that there’s something natural on which the state depends.

To put it bluntly, the reason why we have seen so much power behind redefining marriage is not because it serves 1.8 percent of the population. It is because it serves Leviathan — the Hobbesian vision of an absolutely sovereign state with ever-expansive control over every aspect of our lives. There are natural checks that can curb this tendency toward absolute power, but we aren’t talking about marriage as an important pre-political makeweight to secure a free republic.
We urgently need to advance a debate about marriage and the limits of government. Our current judicial regime seeks not to recognize marriage but to redefine it on a political basis. In doing so, our government is claiming for itself a power that our Founders explicitly sought to limit. That’s the debate we are not having. And not having that debate will eventually mean a loss of freedom for everyone.

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You Could Be Next: Federal Government Attempts to Intimidate Reason.com Over Internet Comments

RedState

By way of background, Reason has long been covering the trial, conviction, and sentencing of Silk Road website creator Ross Ulbricht. For those who are unfamiliar with this particular saga, Silk Road was a website which made it easier, inter alia, to purchase illegal drugs from other people on the Internet. Ulbricht was ultimately caught by the authorities, and convicted in a controversial trial overseen by Federal judge Katherine Forrest. The Reason post that started this insane episode covered the fact that, in spite of his admission of guilt and pleas for leniency in sentencing, Ulbricht was ultimately sentenced by Forrest to an astonishing life sentence in prison for the crime of creating a website.

As you might have guessed, the commenters at Reason were not amused.

Now, look, I’m not here to defend the contents of the comments themselves but it’s clear that they were mere bluster and hyperbole. Reason has a more freewheeling comment section than RedState has, which is fine, and is definitely not the most obnoxious place on the Internet, where comments like “this judge needs to be taken out back and shot” would be considered pretty mild. Under no circumstances could it be interpreted by a reasonable person as an actual threat on the life of Forrest.

Cue the governmental abuse of power machine, as the U.S. Attorney’s office for the SDNY hit Reason with a grand jury subpoena, attempting to force them to reveal the identity of several commenters (including some whose comments were without question not threatening even under the most “generous” interpretation). Worse, they also hit Reason with a gag order preventing them from discussing the fact that they had been hit with a grand jury subpoena under such patently ridiculous circumstances.

I encourage you all to read Ken White’s very thorough catalogue of the ways the criminal justice system abused its power in this case – which is so well done that to do it justice, I would have to quote the whole thing. Instead, I beg of you to read it yourself and give Ken the traffic he so richly deserves.

Here is the bottom line: probably, a lot of stuff that is said in the Reason comments section would get you banned here at RedState. It isn’t really the sort of stuff we want to be associated with. However, it’s preposterous that government decided to respond to some hyperbole in the comments section of an Internet blog by bringing the massive and intimidating weight of federal prosecution down upon the editors of Reason.

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Foxes in the COBOL hen house…

Encryption “would not have helped” at OPM, says DHS official

During testimony today in a grueling two-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta claimed that she had recognized huge problems with the agency’s computer security when she assumed her post 18 months ago. But when pressed on why systems had not been protected with encryption prior to the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, she said, “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old.” She added that the agency is now working to encrypt data within its networks.

But even if the systems had been encrypted, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Andy Ozment testified that encryption would “not have helped in this case” because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. And because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, “You failed utterly and totally.” He referred to OPM’s own inspector general reports and hammered Seymour in particular for the 11 major systems out of 47 that had not been properly certified as secure—which were not contractor systems but systems operated by OPM’s own IT department. “They were in your office, which is a horrible example to be setting,” Chaffetz told Seymour. In total, 65 percent of OPM’s data was stored on those uncertified systems.

Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that for the past eight years, according to OPM’s own Inspector General reports, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”

He asked [Donna] Seymour pointedly about the legacy systems that had not been adequately protected or upgraded. Seymour replied that some of them were over 20 years old and written in COBOL, and they could not easily be upgraded or replaced. These systems would be difficult to update to include encryption or multi-factor authentication because of their aging code base, and they would require a full rewrite.

Given the scope and duration of the data breaches, it may be impossible for the US government to get a handle on the exact extent of the damage done just by the latest attack on OPM’s systems. If anything is clear, it is that the aging infrastructure of many civilian agencies in Washington magnify the problems the government faces in securing its networks, and OPM’s data breach may just be the biggest one that the government knows about to date.

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Campus Censorship is The Feds’ Fault

How obscure federal bureaucrats are squashing free expression on college campuses

Watch what you say didn’t become the unofficial motto of American campuses by accident, and hyper-offended students don’t strike fear into the hearts of the professoriate because they are physically imposing. Rather, it’s the explicit threat of formal, government-backed sanction that gives a minority of easily-agitated agitators veto power over all aspects of campus life, from the classroom to the dorm room to the rec room. (Not even movie night is safe.)

Vox’s fearful professor has a lot of company these days—many of his colleagues also feel the pressure to self-censor. “we’ve seen bad things happen to too many good teachers—adjuncts getting axed because their evaluations dipped below a 3.0, grad students being removed from classes after a single student complaint, and so on,” he wrote.

Since students have tremendous authority to make life hell for professors, academics are increasingly unwilling to risk irritating them. This can mean ejecting Mark Twain (racially problematic), Greek literature (sexually problematic), and even Shakespeare (racially and sexually problematic) from the lesson plan, just to be on the safe side.

We have the federal government to thank for that.

Specifically, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights—a massive, bureaucratic agency staffed with 650 lawyers. They have one job: punish universities that don’t sufficiently police campuses for harassment and discrimination.

Ostensibly, they do this under the charge of Title IX, a 1972 amendment to the Higher Education Act that prohibits gender discrimination at universities that received federal funding. Initially intended to make sure that female student-athletes received as much institutional support as male athletes, Title IX has been reinterpreted by OCR to apply to virtually all human activity that takes place on campus.

Harassment, according to OCR’s confusing and ever-mutating guidance, is ill-defined and largely subjective. And since universities risk losing millions of dollars in funds if OCR deems them out of sync with Title IX, administrators have understandably decided they are better off airing on the side of censorship.

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Um, ya think??

IRS sends Congress unsigned form letter to brush off demands for Clinton Foundation investigation

The IRS responded to a Republican request for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s tax-exempt status with a one-page form letter that starts with “Dear Sir or Madam.”

In May, more than 50 House Republicans asked the IRS to review the Clinton Foundation’s tax-exempt status, after it became clear that the foundation had failed to report millions of dollars in grants from foreign governments.

That letter, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, said a review was “appropriate” given that this money was accepted and not reported while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state.

In response, the IRS sent Blackburn a form letter, which Blackburn received late Wednesday. The letter thanked her for submitting the request, and said the IRS has an “ongoing examination program” to ensure tax-exempt groups comply with tax law.

“The information you submitted will be considered in this program,” it said. The letter was from Margaret Von Lienen, director of exempt organizations examinations, but she didn’t sign it.

Blackburn said the perfunctory response is far below the level of customer service members of Congress should be getting.

“The IRS response is not acceptable and lacking in the requisite tact that should accompany a congressional inquiry,” she said. “It is unbelievably disrespectful that Margaret Von Lienen couldn’t even take the few extra seconds needed to sign the letter.”

“It begs the question – do they even take our request seriously? This is exactly why people don’t trust the IRS,” she added, noting that 51 of her colleagues took the time to ask a series of questions that deserve an answer.

Exactly correct, Rep. Blackburn and no, they didn’t take your request seriously.

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Why Are Graveyards of American Soldiers Filling up with Suicides?

NationalReview

Clint Eastwood’s hit movie American Sniper has brought home to Americans the trauma that many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars bring back with them. An astonishing 22 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. A disturbing and growing number are younger vets, many haunted by their experiences and poorly reintegrated into civilian life. In a 2014 survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, half said they knew another veteran who had attempted suicide.

Investigator James O’Keefe, whose previous undercover videos have exposed scandals involving ACORN, PBS, and voter fraud, has interviewed people who raise disturbing questions about the VA’s inability to treat the underlying causes of veterans’ emotional problems, as it falls back on a regime of drug therapies that often mask the problems or have serious side effects that make matters worse. A video from his group Project Veritas asks why an increasing number of military graveyards are being filled with people who died at their own hands rather than in combat.

During a recent visit to National Review, former senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) told me that the VA continues to suffer from poor patient care, unreasonably long wait times, and data failures. The medical records are often horribly kept and inadequate. Dr. Maureen McCarthy, deputy chief patient-care-services officer at the VA, told a congressional hearing last year that she had no faith in the numbers her own department provides, so she couldn’t provide an estimate of how long veterans wait for mental-health appointments. Retired Army sergeant Josh Renschler, who has suffered from traumatic brain injury, told the same hearing that he would become confused or lost in chaotic VA facilities and couldn’t find a friendly staff member to help direct him.

A great country can’t ask its young people to serve bravely on battlefields and then too often treat them like bothersome discards when they return home.

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New Snowden Documents Reveal Secret Memos Expanding Spying

ProPublica

Without public notice or debate, the Obama administration has expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international Internet traffic to search for evidence of malicious computer hacking, according to classified NSA documents.

In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.

The Justice Department allowed the agency to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures” — patterns associated with computer intrusions — that it could tie to foreign governments. But the documents also note that the NSA sought to target hackers even when it could not establish any links to foreign powers.

The disclosures, based on documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former NSA contractor, and shared with the New York Times and ProPublica, come at a time of unprecedented cyberattacks on American financial institutions, businesses and government agencies, but also of greater scrutiny of secret legal justifications for broader government surveillance.

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Because they’ve done such a bang-up job already…

EPA Chief: Just Trust Us On Climate Science

Americans are just going to have to trust the EPA’s 44 years of experience dealing with environmental issues when it comes to figuring out ways to cope with man-made global warming, says the agency’s chief.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Big Think in an interview that while there are limits to how much the federal government can do for issues like global warming, the public needs to trust how the EPA translates the “complicated” science into real-life actions.

“Well I think we all have to recognize the strengths and limitations of government action,” McCarthy said. “But here’s what I think we can do at the federal level more effectively. We can speak to the science because it’s complicated and we do a lot of research and we do a lot of translation of the science into what it means for people so that the decisions can be made on the basis of real science and on the basis of a real technical understanding.”

“That’s how it has worked in EPA’s career for 44 years at EPA is we’ve listened to the science and the law and we have let solutions take off in the marketplace which is where the cheapest, most effective always win,” McCarthy said. “That’s why EPA can move environmental standards forward so effectively and grow jobs at the same time.”

 Yep. Just look at California…

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Judge Orders Newspaper To Delete Article, Newspaper Reminds Judge That It’s In The US And The 1st Amendment Exists

TechDirt

This seems to happen all too often, but a local judge has forgotten about the whole 1st Amendment thing. Last week, Bergen County Superior Court Judge Jane Gallina-Mecca ordered the Bergen Dispatch to take down a news article. The article was about a specific family court case, involving custody of a child. It’s not surprising that there might be some concern over privacy rights in such cases, but even so, that does not allow a judge to flat out order a newspaper to take down an article — even more so when the order came out of a closed hearing where no one from the newspaper was even present. In response, the Bergen Dispatch posted a fairly snarky article that reiterates some of the details from the case, and concludes with this wonderful paragraph:

While the Bergen Dispatch reviews its options we have confirmed that Bergen County does currently remain part of the State of New Jersey and that currently New Jersey is still part of the Union of states that is governed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As such, Bergen County citizens continue to enjoy the right to freedom of speech and the right to a free press.

Informed of this little tidbit of information, the judge has since vacated the original order, but it’s still astounding that it had to go that far in the first place.

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Judge digs deeper into House GOP’s lawsuit against Obama

TheHill

A federal judge who is hearing a lawsuit from House Republicans against President Obama is requesting more information about a funding dispute at the center of the case.

The House argues the president overstepped his executive authority by using money for ObamaCare that was not appropriated by Congress.

The administration initially requested the funds to be appropriated for the healthcare law, but says it later realized the money was already available under permanent mandatory spending.

The funding question is at the heart of House v. Burwell, a case that is now in the hands of Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

Collyer appeared skeptical last week of the administration’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which House Republicans brought forward to challenge Obama’s use of executive power.

Now she is requesting more information to help sort out the competing claims.

Collyer asked for both sides to meet and submit a record of the requests and funding decisions in 2014 around the ObamaCare program, known as section 1402, which makes payments to insurers to help cover expenses associated with low-income households.

She asks for the record by June 15, including “any action by Defendant(s) to withdraw the funding request for Section 1402, with supporting documentation.”

The administration last week asked Collyer to dismiss the lawsuit. Justice Department attorney Joel McElvain argued the House lacked standing, meaning there is no particular harm to the House and the body is, therefore, ineligible to bring the suit.

But Collyer had pressed McElvain about the facts of the spending dispute, indicating that there could be harm to the House if the administration had ignored its funding decisions.

“I want to know where you find the appropriation,” Collyer pressed McElvain last week.

McElvain claimed the money did not need to be appropriated separately and that it comes from permanent mandatory funds, a “pre-existing permanent appropriation.”

Collyer challenged that idea. “There was a request and the House said, no money,” she said.

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