Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Police Homicides, What We Know and Don't Know

I've started the following petition:

"Barack Obama and Harry Reid and John Boehner: Pass a law mandating that law enforcement must file a report with the FBI every time a police shooting results in the death of a citizen."   I am asking for your help to get this petition off the ground.

Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here's the link:


Here's why it's important:

Do you know how many people are shot and killed by law enforcement every year? No? Well neither does anybody else. Records aren't collected for what is called police homicides, which includes justifiable shootings.

There are 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, including local municipal police, but no national database to track police killings of civilians. The FBI maintains a partial data based of reports submit on a voluntary basis. Only 750 law enforcement agencies, just 44% of all agencies, volunteer to submit police shooting data. What the FBI  collects and reports are only those cases in which police homicides were considered justified by the departments reporting them.  There is no auditing or review process either. And some law enforcement agencies, such as the US Border Patrol, don't even have to report people they shoot and kill to their command.

When government law enforcement officers kill civilians it is our right to know about it. We are all ultimately responsible for the actions of our government. The first logical step is to require that a record be kept and available for public inspection.

So, what does the current, ver very limited information on police homicides show right now?

There are about 400 justified police homicides per year. Every week in this country there are two incidents like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, involving a white police officer shooting a black citizen. About half of all police homicides involve black citizens, and among the population of folks 21 years old or younger, the police homicide rate for blacks is 18%, twice the rate for white citizens (8.7%).

Again, these numbers are based on voluntary self-report from less than half of all law enforcement agencies nation wide.  It seems evident from what we know and don't know that collecting better, more complete information about police homicides is important.

You can sign my petition by clicking here.

Thanks!
Brain T. Lynch, MSW

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Buying Back the U.S. Senate

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Dark money from anonymous donors is pouring into the 2014 Senate races. According to Jon Terbush at The Week magazine, midterm election spending this year will "blow away" prior campaign spending records.

"Spending by outside groups in particular is on pace to reach an unprecedented level this cycle," he wrote. "To this point in 2010, outside groups had spent $10.4 million... to date, such groups have spent more than three times as much on the 2014 races."

He offered this graph which show the 2014 spending to date:


There is no doubt that big donations are flooding into politics since the Citizen's United decision by the Supreme Court. Another factor is the proliferation of highly political 501 C non-profit organizations. More than ever these organization take advantage of IRS policy to fund issue advertizing for their partisan candidates. All this money is narrowly concentrated. It comes from a few billionaires or from a relatively small number of special interest groups. Senators become obligated to their wealthy donors while the majority of citizens are not being well served. Much disaffection between citizens and their government has resulted from special interest politics, and this often suits corporate interests

The biggest price tags for US Senate seats this year are in Georgia and North Carolina. Spending between these races is expected to be nearly half a billion dollars, most of which will come from large donations. How on earth can average citizens compete with such big donors for the attention and fidelity of their Senate representatives? There is growing certainty that our Republic no longer represents the interests of most ordinary citizens.

Here's part of the problem. Big numbers are very hard to comprehend. Our brains aren't wired to grasp numbers in the millions or billions. So if we want to understand how expensive our elections really are, we have to break down the cost into manageable units.

Using Senate campaign cost estimates from the McClatchy news organization, and some census data, the following table breaks down Senate election costs by population segments. For example, the Michigan race is expected to cost $13.9 million this year, a lot of money, yet it breaks down to $1.85 for every adult living in the state. This is very close to the national average of $1.87 per adult for this Senate elections cycle. The really expensive Senate elections this year, on a per adult basis, are actually in Alaska and Arkansas where spending will be nearly $12 for every vote that is likely to be cast. Consider also that Senate elections take place every six years. That works out to just $2 per year per likely voter in the most expensive Senate seat, or about $1.10 for each Alaskan adult.

*Estimates are from the McClatchy News Service as published in the New Jersey Star Ledger.

Here then are some numbers that most people can comprehend. The average cost to an individual for this very expensive Senate election works out to just 31¢ per year per Senator. This is all it would cost you to buy back your vote.

Elections cost money. To get the money interests out of politics people have to put money into it. We can't let billionaires and special interest group buy the Congress at such bargain prices. It is time to step to the plate and publicly finance our Republic.

Yes we need to undo Citizen's United and make clear that corporations are not people. We need to do a lot of things, but nothing will restore our voice in government better than fronting the cost of election campaigns. When politicians need both our money and our vote we will have their full attention. Even a few dollars a month would go a long way to fund our democracy.  It would do more to help the poor and support the middle class than almost anything else we could buy. We could even discount campaign finance contributions for everyone who registers to vote.

As essential as voting is to fulfilling our civic duty, funding our Republic and being knowledgeable and engaged in public issues are just as critical.

When Ben Franklin was asked what kind of government we have as he left the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he famously remarked, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Now we know what he meant. It's time to take back our Republic from special interest groups and quirky billionaires. This time let's invest our time, talents and money to keep it in the hands of ordinary people where it belongs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Evolution of Modern Christianity

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

After 2000 years of Christianity, the idea that the Bible is incapable of being wrong first developed among Protestants about 100 years ago. http://j.mp/1oCQrA0.  But it is a mistake to view each and every detail of the Bible as inerrant. Anyone who holds this belief can't possibly be correct since the Bible is so self-contradictory.

Do you want some examples? Try taking this New Testament biblical quiz: [ http://exchristian.net/3/ ]. It is a very humbling experience.

The Bible may be the inspired word of God, but it certainly was not written in a day. It was drafted over more than a thousand years. The New Testament was likewise drafted over the course of nearly 200 years, starting about 50 years after Jesus' death. It was written by mostly anonymous authors in various locations, none of whom were eye witnesses to the events in Jesus' life.

If you wanted to read the New Testament in the order it was written, you would have to start with the letters of Paul, probably beginning with Thessalonians. The remarkable aspects of these earliest writings of Paul is that he never quotes Jesus nor provides any biographical information about him. This couldn't have been because the words of Jesus were well documented, since these were literally the first documents written.

The first Gospel of the New Testament was the book of Mark, written some 20 years after Paul's letters. This was the first draft of the life, times and sayings of Jesus. Some scholars believe that Mark served as a template for the later works. Written 70 plus years after Jesus' death, the author of this Gospel is unknown. It has the fewest biographical details about Jesus and the least amount of red ink (direct Jesus quotes). This account begins with John the Baptist at the start of Jesus' ministry. It tells us that his family thought he was out of his mind while others thought he was possessed by the devil. It ends with his crucifixion, resurrection and being "taken up into heaven". In addition to having fewer details than subsequent accounts, it also has certain details that are missing in later Gospels. For example, Mark very specifically states that the cross of Jesus was carried by another person.

"A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross."

In the other Gospels, Jesus carried his own cross, falling down several times under the burden, etc. The point here being that details are fluid and sometimes contradictory, as would be expected given the generations over which the New Testaments were written.

The Gospel of Matthew is believed to have been written sometime between 80 and 90 years after Jesus' death. It was later named after Matthew, who was certainly not alive to write this text. And then, surprise, the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John followed, probably in that order, but who knows exactly? The last of the four Gospel's was the book of Luke. It may have been written as late as 120 years after Jesus died.

The last book written in the New Testament is 2 Peter, believed to have been written between 150 and 200 CE.

Of course there were very many other scriptures and texts written during the first and second century about Jesus and the early Christian church. The task of sorting all this out to come up with a single version of the New Testament began in earnest in the 4th Century, concluding around the middle of the 7th Century. However, even today there remains differences in what constitutes the Holy Bible. For example, the Old Testament Book of Wisdom is included in the Catholic bibles but not the Protestant bibles. Most Christian fundamentalists today rely on the Protestant version for their sources. They do not accept the Book of Wisdom, for example. Add to this the fact that every different translations leads to different interpretations.

I believe it is fair to say the New Testament was written by many people over a number of generations and refined into the several versions we have today over the course of many centuries. It was not created in a day. It evolved,  Just as the Christian understanding of its means and the whole Christian experience have evolved over time. The Catholic Church today certainly doesn't act on many of the beliefs it held in the 13th or 14th Centuries. Over the millennium many different sects and permutations of Christianity formed and dissolved. Each group has pulled from different details, translations or interpretations to create unique constructs. Each group has, in turn, been challenged or even attacked by other Christian groups doing the same. In this way, what it means to be Christian has evolved, and it will continue to do so well into the future.

There is plenty of room for doubt when interpreting bible passages. In fact, there is plenty of room to doubt the legitimacy of the whole Christian faith if you are inclined to do so. The existence of God, after all, cannot be proven or disproven. This is what distinguishes faith and knowledge.

But the leap from faith to a fundamentalist dogma that the Bible is the inerrant word of God is another matter. Religious faith need not require the rejection of reason nor intellect. Belief in what is, or can be known, and faith in what we cannot know, are not mutually exclusive until we cross the line into religious fanaticism. Religious fanatics reject empirical facts that contradict any of their religious claims. The rejection of empirical reality is, in fact, what defines fanatic beliefs. In this regard all religious fanatics are alike. They require a fidelity to tenants of faith that directly contradict the natural world of the Creator God they worship.

In the long arch of history, those who reject the evolution of Christian faith, those who try to deconstruct our present knowledge or force conformity to an unsustainable Christian understanding will ultimate fail. The only question is what damage will they do along the way. Who will suffer and for how long before the latest versions of religious fanaticism become extinct.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Profit Driven Rise of Domestic Armies

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Our founders never wanted a standing army, much less combat troops patrolling our towns and villages. The role and methods of solders is much different than the role and methods of local police, and that is the way we wanted it from the beginning. But now, without public debate or voter input, the culture and the very nature of law enforcement is being changed. The changes began with little notice well before 9/11 but accelerated after that terrible day, bring together both military equipment and military police training in the name of "homeland security." I've written about the military equipment part of this change in May, 2012, but didn't know much about how local police were being trained. That part of the story begins with the rise of PMCS.

PMSCs is the acronym for private military and security companies. These are mercenaries incorporated. They provide private solders to protect government or business interests in unstable parts of the globe. They have multi-billion dollar contracts with the US and other world governments and they represent a huge growth industry since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As these conflicts wind down, these PMSC corporations have searched for new markets and places to do business. One of those new markets has been local and state domestic police training here in the United States.(Credit: Reuters/Steve Nesius)

BLACKWATER, a large private solders-for-hire corporation, is one of the leading companies currently training many of our domestic police officers. They teach them with military style training and train them on how to use military style weapons provided to local police departments at no cost through the gov't 1033 program. While the rationale for the 1033 program was stated to fight the war on drugs when it first began in 1997, the amount of brand new military equipment given away to local police departments has grown every year since. The mere possession of this equipment is enough to alter the culture of local police departments, but coupled with military training on its use clearly militarizes law enforcement. The development of this police training is well documented in an article in Salon (below).

Here is a brief excerpt from the Salon article explaining the difference between "Serve and Protect" training and military training:

The difference between a police officer trained to “keep the peace” and a soldier was quite easy to identify. A policeman was legally required to protect and to serve the citizens of the state, to assume innocence unless there was a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, and to use weapons against a citizen only as a last resort. A soldier was trained to identify enemies and if necessary to kill them while protecting any non-enemies in the vicinity. “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat” was their creed. And although most policemen trained by a private military company would remain dedicated to their oaths to serve and protect the public, there was the possibility of the exception.
This is an article that everyone should read and discuss. Is this development to be our future or our past? the answer is up to us all.

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/30/militarized_police_are_everywhere_when_police_officers_are_armed_and_trained_like_soldiers_its_not_surprising_that_they_act_like_soldiers/

Friday, August 15, 2014

Police Killings Not Uncommon - Exact Numbers Not Known

By Brian T. Lynch, MSW

How many people are shot and killed by law enforcement every year? The answer is that no one knows.

There are 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, including local municipal police. There is no national database to track police shootings. The FBI has maintains a partial data based of police killings, but submitting data to the FBI is on a voluntary basis. Only 750 law enforcement agencies, just 44% of all agencies, volunteer to submit police shooting data. What the FBI  collects and reports are only those cases in which police homicides were considered justified by the departments reporting them.  Some of the largest law enforcement agencies, such as the US Border Patrol, do not report shooting incidents to anyone. It isn’t even clear if the US Border Patrol has an internal tracking system for shooting incidents.

So, given this very limited collection of information on police killings, what does the FBI data base show?

There are about 400 “justified” police homicides per year. Every week in this country there are two incidents like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, involving a white police officer shooting a black citizen. About half of all police homicides involve black citizens, and among the population of folks 21 years old or younger, the police homicide rate for blacks is 18%, twice the rate for white citizens (8.7%). And these numbers are based on voluntary self-report from less than half of all law enforcement agencies nation wide.

This and other information on police killings come from a recent CNN article (see below) Couple these startling facts with the militarization of local police departments and the changing nature of police culture and we have some frightening new insights on our hands. These are issues that clearly need to be confronted and addressed.


Local police involved in 400 killings per year

Kevin Johnson, Meghan Hoyer and Brad Heath , USA TODAY
August 15, 2014

WASHINGTON — Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.

On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police. The numbers appear to show that the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last Saturday was not an isolated event in American policing.

The reports show that 18% of the blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7% of whites. The victim in Ferguson was 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police have yet to identify the officer who shot him; witnesses have said the officer was white.

While the racial analysis is striking, the database it's based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete. The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths. Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on "justifiable" homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Oklahoma Woman Sues Fracking Company

To follow-up on an article I posted here on June 27th, I just learned that an Oklahoma woman has filed a law suit against the natural gas fracking company she believes is responsible for the many earthquake swarms in her community. The prior article posted here was about the political dynamics at play. It will be very interesting to see how this judicial action plays out in the courts Check this blog for future updates. - Brian T. Lynch, MSW

EARTHQUAKES:
Okla. drillers sued for quake swarm
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 7, 2014
Almost three years after earthquakes rocked Sandra Ladra's living room in central Oklahoma, she's taking two energy companies to court.
Ladra this week filed a complaint in Oklahoma state court against New Dominion LLC and Spess Oil Co., both based in Oklahoma, for using wastewater injection wells that may have caused a cluster of earthquakes in late 2011. Ladra was injured when rocks fell from her fireplace during the quakes and is now suing the drillers for personal injury and punitive damages.


http://www.eenews.net/energywire/2014/08/07/stories/1060004160


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Are Domestic Terrorists A Bigger Threat Than Foreign Terrorists?

What follows are a series of clips and snippets of articles concerning domestic terrorism and specifically focusing on the Militia movement to which some veterans returning home from war are being recruited. The question put to me by a friend was are these really domestic terrorist groups? I believe it is fair to say that not all militia group are radically anti-government hate groups, but some are. That is my considered opinion. But it is important for all of us to look at the evidence, some of which is presented below, and draw our own conclusions. I would encourage readers to do their own research and post their findings and URL links to the material in the comment section below. - Brian T. Lynch, MSW

______________________________________________

Sovereign citizen movement perceived as top terrorist threat

New study assesses top threats, preparedness among law enforcement

July 30, 2014 Jessica Rivinius
Sovereign citizen, Islamist extremist and militia/patriot groups are perceived by law enforcement agencies to pose the greatest threats to their communities, according to a new START study.  While sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, assessments about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat actually declined for most groups (e.g., the KKK; Christian Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Environmental Extremists; Animal Rights Extremists) when compared to a previous study.

START researchers David CarterSteven ChermakJeremy Carter and Jack Drew recently conducted in-depth surveys with more than 364 officers representing 175 state, local and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies to examine perceptions of: the threat of terrorism; the nature of information-sharing; and whether agencies are prepared to deal with terrorist attacks. Their results are published in “Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes,” available on START’s website.

The Daily Banter - Militias And Sovereign Citizen Groups Are A Greater Combined Terror Threat Than Islamic Jihad
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)reported that law enforcement officials no longer consider Islamic terrorists as the number one source of terrorism inside the U.S. According to the study, the top three most critical terrorist threats in 2013-14 are: 3) Militia / Patriot groups, 2) Islamic Extremists/Jihadists, and 1) Sovereign Citizen groups. (Rounding out the top five are skinheads at #4 and neo-Nazis at #5. Incidentally, these two groups predominantly represented the “right-wing extremists” in Homeland Security’s outrage-inducing report about domestic terrorism. Odd that so many run-of-the-mill conservatives were upset about Nazis and skinheads being labeled terrorists.)
That’s right, the Militia/Patriot movement and the Sovereign Citizen groups are viewed by law enforcement officials as a greater combined domestic threat than Islamic terrorists. And by the way, it’s important to reiterate that this isn’t a poll of random people, not unlike Gallup or any of the other outfits. The nonpartisan START researchers surveyed 364 law enforcement officers from 175 agencies.

http://thedailybanter.com/2014/08/militias-sovereign-citizen-groups-greater-combined-terror-threat-islamic-jihad/

Anti-Defimation League - Are militia groups dangerous?

From its beginnings, a large amount of criminal activity has been associated with the militia movement. A number of members have been arrested on weapons, explosives, or conspiracy charges, among others. These arrests continue to the current day. So physically the movement remains dangerous, although obviously no one can be painted as a would-be terrorist simply because they belong to a militia group.

There are dangers other than direct physical dangers, of course. The militia movement is a very anti-government movement which advocates taking the law (and a very particular vision of the law, at that) into its own hands. It is not only heavily armed, but it preaches an extreme anti-government rhetoric filled with wild conspiracy theories. In addition, although the main emphasis of the militia movement is anti-government in nature, a number of people in the movement are also white supremacists and/or anti-Semites (esp. Christian Identity), and this is obviously an area of concern.

http://archive.adl.org/mcveigh/faq.html#.U-F9WPldUhs


FBI - Domestic Terrorism
Focus on Militia Extremism


Last March, nine members of an extremist militia group were charged in Michigan with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to attack law enforcement and spark an uprising against the government.

According to the federal indictment, the nine individuals planned to kill a law enforcement officer and then use bombs to attack the caravan of cars taking part in the subsequent funeral procession, hoping that this violence would incite a larger armed conflict with authorities. Fortunately, the FBI and the Michigan State Police intervened and took the subjects into custody before they could carry out their alleged plot.

It’s just one example of the dangers posed by so-called militia extremists—the latest topic in our series to educate the nation on domestic terror threats that the FBI investigates today. Previous stories have focused on anarchist extremistseco-terrorists/animal rights extremistslone offenders, and sovereign citizen extremists.

Who they are. Like many domestic terrorism groups, militia extremists are anti-government. What sets them apart is that they’re often organized into paramilitary groups that follow a military-style rank hierarchy. They tend to stockpile illegal weapons and ammunition, trying illegally to get their hands on fully automatic firearms or attempting to convert weapons to fully automatic. They also try to buy or manufacture improvised explosive devices and typically engage in wilderness, survival, or other paramilitary training
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/september/militia_092211

Southern Poverty Law Center - Violence and Criminal Activity of Militia Groups

from 1995 - 2011
The following are clear examples of incidents involving militia movement members or former members.

November 9, 1995
Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife Cecilia and another man, John Dare Baird, are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics. The three, along with another suspect arrested later, are sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. Cecilia Lampley is released in 2000, while Baird and Willie Lampley — who wrote letters from prison urging others to violence — are freed in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

 November 9, 1995
Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife Cecilia and another man, John Dare Baird, are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics. The three, along with another suspect arrested later, are sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. Cecilia Lampley is released in 2000, while Baird and Willie Lampley — who wrote letters from prison urging others to violence — are freed in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

July 1, 1996
Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosive charges after allegedly surveilling and videotaping government buildings as potential targets. All 12 plead guilty or are convicted of various charges, drawing sentences of up to nine years in prison. The plot participants are all released in subsequent years. Gary Curds Baer, who drew the heaviest sentence after being found with 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a bomb component, is freed in May 2004.

July 29, 1996
Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs to resist a feared invasion by the United Nations. Pitner and four others are convicted on weapons charges, while conspiracy charges against all eight end in a mistrial. Pitner is later retried on that charge, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He is released in 2001

October 11, 1996
Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center, where 1,000 people work, in West Virginia. In 1998, leader Floyd "Ray" Looker is sentenced to 18 years in prison. He is released in June 2012. Two other defendants are sentenced on explosives charges and a third draws a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who then sold them to a government informant who was posing as a terrorist.

March 26, 1997

Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Prosecutors say Blasz plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories. But they recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz, a member of the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines, renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. He is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and released in late 1999.

April 27, 1997
After a cache of explosives stored in a tree blows up near Yuba City, Calif., police arrest Montana Freemen supporter William Robert Goehler. Investigators looking into the blast arrest two Goehler associates, one of them a militia leader, after finding 500 pounds of explosives — enough to level three city blocks — in a motor home parked outside their residence. Six others are arrested on related charges. Goehler, with previous convictions for rape, burglary and assault, is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He is later accused of stabbing his attorney with a shank and charged with attacking prison psychologists.

July 4, 1997
Militiaman Bradley Playford Glover and another heavily armed antigovernment activist are arrested before dawn near Fort Hood, in central Texas, just hours before they planned to invade the Army base and slaughter foreign troops they mistakenly believed were housed there. In the next few days, five other people are arrested in several states for their alleged roles in the plot to invade a series of military bases where the group believes United Nations forces are massing for an assault on Americans. All seven are part of a splinter group from the Third Continental Congress, a kind of militia government-in-waiting. In the end, Glover is sentenced to two years on Kansas weapons charges, to be followed by a five-year federal term in connection with the Fort Hood plot. The others draw lesser terms. Glover is released in 2003, the last of the seven to get out.

March 18, 1998
Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. Prosecutors say the men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station and an interstate highway interchange, kill federal agents, assassinate politicians and attack aircraft at a National Guard base — attacks that were all to be funded by marijuana sales. The group's leader, Ken Carter, is a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. Carter pleads guilty, testifies against his former comrades, and is sentenced to five years in prison. The others, Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf, go to trial and are ultimately handed sentences of 40 and 55 years, respectively. Carter is released from prison in 2002.

December 5, 1999
Two California men, both members of the San Joaquin Militia, are charged with conspiracy in connection with a plot to blow up two 12-million-gallon propane tanks, a television tower and an electrical substation in hopes of provoking an insurrection. In 2001, the former militia leader, Donald Rudolph, pleads guilty to plotting to kill a federal judge and blow up the propane tanks, and testifies against his former comrades. Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles are ultimately convicted of several charges in connection with the conspiracy. In 2002, Patterson is sentenced to 24 years and five months in prison; Kiles to 22 years.

December 8, 1999
Donald Beauregard, head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance, is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act and gun violations in a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia. After pleading guilty to several charges, Beauregard, who once claimed to have discovered a secret map detailing a planned UN takeover mistakenly printed on a box of Trix cereal, is sentenced to five years in federal prison. He is released in 2004, a year after accomplice James Troy Diver is freed following a similar conviction.

March 9, 2000
Federal agents arrest Mark Wayne McCool, the one-time leader of the Texas Militia and Combined Action Program, as he allegedly makes plans to attack the Houston federal building. McCool, who is arrested after buying powerful C-4 plastic explosives and an automatic weapon from an undercover FBI agent, earlier plotted to attack the federal building with a member of his own group and a member of the antigovernment Republic of Texas, but those two men eventually abandoned the plot. McCool, however, remained convinced the UN had stored a cache of military materiel in the building. In the end, he pleads guilty to federal charges that bring him just six months in jail.

February 8, 2002
The leader of a militia-like group known as Project 7 and his girlfriend are arrested after an informant tells police the group is plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers in order to kick off a revolution. David Burgert, who has a record for burglary and is already wanted for assaulting police officers, is found in the house of girlfriend Tracy Brockway along with an arsenal that includes pipe bombs and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Also found are “intel sheets” with personal information about law enforcement officers, their spouses and children. Although officials are convinced the Project 7 plot was real, Burgert ultimately is convicted only of weapons charges, draws a seven-year sentence and is released in March 2010. Six others are also convicted of, or plead guilty to, weapons charges. Brockway gets a suspended sentence for harboring a fugitive, and is sent to prison for violating its terms. She is released in early 2008. On June 21, 2011, sheriff’s deputies outside Missoula, Mont., stop Burgert on a suspicious vehicle report. Burgert leads them on a pursuit and fires multiple rounds at the deputies before fleeing on foot. He is wanted on two counts of attempted murder for the shootout, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

October 10, 2003
Police arrest Norman Somerville after finding a huge weapons cache on his property in northern Michigan that includes six machine guns, a powerful anti-aircraft gun, thousands of rounds of ammunition, hundreds of pounds of gunpowder, and an underground bunker. They also find two vehicles Somerville calls his “war wagons,” and on which prosecutors later say he planned to mount machine guns as part of a plan to stage an auto accident and then massacre arriving police. Officials describe Somerville as an antigovernment extremist enraged over the death of Scott Woodring, a Michigan Militia member killed by police a week after Woodring shot and killed a state trooper during a standoff. Somerville eventually pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to six years in prison. He is released in August 2009.

April 26, 2007
Five members of the Alabama Free Militia are arrested in north Alabama in a raid by federal and state law enforcement officers that uncovers a cache of 130 homemade hand grenades, an improvised grenade launcher, a Sten Mark submachine gun, a silencer, 2,500 rounds of ammunition and almost 100 marijuana plants. Raymond Kirk Dillard, the founder and “commander” of the group, pleads guilty to criminal conspiracy, illegally making and possessing destructive devices and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Other members of the group — Bonnell “Buster” Hughes, James Ray McElroy, Adam Lynn Cunningham and Randall Garrett Cole— also plead guilty to related charges. Although Dillard, who complained about the collapse of the American economy, terrorist attacks and Mexicans taking over the country, reportedly told his troops to open fire on federal agents if ever confronted, no shots are fired during the April raid, and the “commander” even points out booby-trap tripwires on his property to investigators. Dillard draws the harshest sentence, and is released in May 2012. Cole is released in December 2009; Cunningham in June 2009; Hughes in January 2009; and McElroy in August 2010.
June 8, 2008
Six people, most of them tied to the militia movement, are arrested in rural north-central Pennsylvania after officials find stockpiles of assault rifles, improvised explosives and homemade weapons, at least some of them apparently intended for use in terrorist attacks on U.S. officials. Agents find 16 homemade bombs during a search of the residence of Pennsylvania Citizens Militia recruiter Bradley T. Kahle, who allegedly tells authorities that he intended to shoot black people from a rooftop in Pittsburgh and also predicts civil war if either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is elected president. A raid on the property of Morgan Jones results in the seizure of 73 weapons, including a homemade flame thrower, a machine that supposedly shot bolts of electricity, and an improvised cannon. Also arrested and charged with weapons violations are Marvin E. Hall, his girlfriend Melissa Huet and Perry Landis, who allegedly tells undercover agents he wanted to kill Gov. Ed Rendell. Landis is sentenced in 2009 to time served plus two years of supervised release. Hall is sentenced in January 2010 to time served with three years of probation. Huet spends years trying to get the charges against her – helping a convicted felon possess a firearm – dismissed. In July 2013, federal prosecutors drop gun charges against her.

June 12, 2009
Shawna Forde — the executive director of Minutemen American Defense (MAD), an anti-immigrant vigilante group that conducts “citizen patrols” on the Arizona-Mexico border — is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for her role in the slayings of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Arivaca, Ariz. Forde orchestrated the May 30 home invasion because she believed the man was a narcotics trafficker and wanted to steal drugs and cash to fund her group. Authorities say the murders, including the killing of the child, were part of the plan. Also arrested and charged with murder are the alleged triggerman, MAD Operations Director Jason Eugene “Gunny” Bush, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, a local member of MAD. Authorities say that Bush had ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations in Idaho, and that Forde has spoken of recruiting its members. Forde is sentenced to death in February 2011, and Bush is sentenced to death in April 2011. Gaxiola is sentenced to life in prison.

March 27-28, 2010
Nine members of the Hutaree Militia are arrested in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and are charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. The group, whose website said it was preparing for the imminent arrival of the anti-Christ, allegedly planned to murder a Michigan police officer, then use bombs and homemade missiles to kill other officers attending the funeral, all in a bid to set off a war with the government. Joshua Clough pleads guilty to a weapons charge in December 2011. A federal judge dismisses charges against seven members of the group during a trial in March 2012, saying their hatred of law enforcement did not amount to a conspiracy. Militia leader David Stone and his son Joshua Stone plead guilty to gun charges two days after the trial. In August 2012, a federal judge chooses not to send the Stones back to prison. They are each fined $100 and placed on two years’ supervision. Another member, Jacob Ward, is acquitted in 2012.

November 1, 2011
Four members of an unnamed North Georgia militia are arrested in an alleged plot to bomb federal buildings, attack Atlanta and other cities with deadly ricin, and murder law enforcement officials. The men – Frederick Thomas, 73, Samuel J. Crump, 68, Dan Roberts, 67, and Ray H. Adams, 65 – allegedly discussed "taking out" a list of officials to "make the country right again" and scouted buildings in Atlanta to bomb. Authorities say the plot was inspired by an online novel, Absolved, written by longtime Alabama militiaman Mike Vanderboegh. Thomas, the accused ringleader, and Roberts plead guilty in April 2012 to charges of conspiring to possess explosives and firearms. Each is sentenced in August 2012 to five years in federal prison for conspiring to obtain an unregistered explosive device. Crump and Adams are convicted in January 2014 of conspiring to produce a toxic agent to poison government officials. 


December 10, 2011
Four Army soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., later identified as members of the terror group Forever Enduring, Always Ready (FEAR), are arrested in the murder of 19-year-old former soldier and FEAR member Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York. The two were apparently killed because FEAR leader Isaac Aguigui, 22, feared Roark would talk about the group’s plans to take over the Army base, overthrow the government, assassinate a future president, and blow up a dam and poison the apple crop in the state of Washington. Pfc. Aguigui funded the group, buying $87,000 in weapons and a large amount of drugs with a $500,000 insurance payment he received after the death of his pregnant wife. Pfc. Michael Burnett pleads guilty and agrees to testify against his FEAR comrades. In 2012, seven more people are arrested in connection with FEAR’s activities. In April 2013, the Army charges Aguigui with killing his wife, whose death was initially ruled accidental, and their unborn child. In July 2013, Aguigui pleads guilty in the murders of York and Roark, and is sentenced to life in prison. Two other soldiers, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Sgt. Anthony Peden, are expected to be tried in the double murder in 2014. A court martial for Aguigui in his family’s death was also expected.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Moderate GOP Congressman's Slide to the Right


Leonard Lance is a Republican running for his third term as New Jersey Congressman from the 7th Congressional District. This is among the wealthiest Congressional Districts in the country. Lance was elected because he was considered a moderate, but over time the whole GOP has pulled hard to the right. Here is the voting record for this "moderate" Republican just over the past month on some key legislation. This isn't is complete voting record for the past month but it shows how he voted on the most contested pieces of legislation.



HR 4935 - Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014


Passage of this bill has both pros and cons.

Pros: This law would index the current $1,000/child tax credit to inflation. This would automatically increase the amount of this tax credit each year going forward. This is a good thing.

Cons: 1. This law would raise income eligible for a Child Tax Credit to families making between $110,000 to $140,000 per year. This income group is in the top 5% of wage earners and they clearly do not need this tax break more than, say, a child in need of a federally funding lunch at school. We don't need to give more tax breaks to the already well off.

2. At the same time that it raises income eligibility for wealthier Americans this law does not extend enhanced benefits to poor families that is scheduled to expire in 2018. Expiration of that extended benefit will cost poor families over $1,000 per year.  We have got to stop making life ever more difficult for the poor.

3. Under current federal law employers are required to obtain federal taxpayer ID numbers for undocumented aliens who work for them and to collect both payroll and income taxes for these employees (Many people are unaware that at least 2.3 million undocumented aliens pay their fair share of income and payroll taxes each year). The bill requires that recipients of the tax credit have Social Security numbers. This bill blocks unauthorized immigrants who work and pay their taxes from collecting Child Tax Credits on their Income Tax returns. As it stands, most of these immigrants will never receive any Social Security benefits either, despite paying into the system their whole life. They help float the whole system for the rest of us citizens. Now we are going to tax them at a higher rater than we tax citizens. This is another attack on unauthorized residents, particularly those who have been here for decades and contribute so much to this country.

Leonard Lance voted YES for this bill.



H Amendment 1040 - Prohibits Implementation of Certain Climate Assessments

Leonard Lance voted YES for this bill.

Passage of this bill blocks already appropriated funding needed to prepare several of the federal governments annual climate assessment reports including:

· The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report;

· The United States Global Climate Research Program National Climate Assessment; or

· The United Nation's Agenda 21 sustainable development plan.

Leonard Lance voted YES for this bill to block funding for these assessments.




H Amendment 1012 - Prohibits Federal Agencies from Contracting with Businesses Chartered in Bermuda or in the Cayman Islands

This bill Prohibits Federal Agencies from entering into contracts with businesses that are chartered in Bermuda or in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying US taxes.

Leonard Lance voted NO which means federal agencies cannot reject contract bids from companies that evade US taxes.




H Amendment 1098 - Prohibits District of Columbia from Implementing Certain Firearm Laws

Passage of this law would effectively prevent the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) from enforcing any of the districts gun control legislation, apparently allowing guns to be openly carried in the district.

Leonard Lance voted YES for this bill. (Isn't it time to give DC a right to vote in Congress?)



H Res 676 - Providing for Authority to Initiate Litigation for Actions by the President or Other Executive Branch Officials Inconsistent with Their Duties Under the Constitution of the United States

This bill Provided the Authority to Initiate Litigation for Actions by the President or Other Executive Branch Officials Inconsistent with Their Duties Under the Constitution of the United States. A vote to pass a resolution that authorizes the Speaker of the House of Representatives to initiate a civil action on behalf of the House of Representatives against the President of the United States for certain purposes.

Leonard Lance voted YES for this bill. He wants to sue President Obama for trying to govern the country while Congress is unable to pass any meaningful legislation on the most urgent issues of the day. 

Counter