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Thursday, July 31, 2014

CA - Barstow resident seeks used shoes for the needy

BARSTOW • Local business owner Nick Benson Sr. is asking High Desert residents to donate all their old and worn out shoes for the benefit of needy people across the globe.
Benson said he met Rusty Coones at a recent charity event. Coones portrays the character Quinn on the television series "Sons of Anarchy" and is the owner of Illusion Cycles located in Westminster.
Coones' wife, Katherine "K.O." Coones, is helping a friend collect 25,000 pairs of old shoes that will be donated to a nonprofit Florida-based organization. According to K.O., the organization repairs and distributes the shoes to impoverished villages and communities in third-world countries.
After talking to the couple, Benson said he wanted to help the couple and the cause by collecting 1,000 pairs of old shoes from the High Desert.
Benson is on the board of directors for the American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education of California. Benson describes ABATE as a non-partisan motorcyclist rights organization that has been fighting for bikers' rights for more than 30 years.
"I am asking that anyone out there that has even one pair of worn out shoes, no matter how bad of shape they are in, to drop them into one of our collections boxes that were donated by our local Home Depot," Benson said. "I will keep picking up the shoes and bundling them and on Oct. 24, I will drive them in my truck, and hopefully my trailer, with all of the shoes to Westminster."
If Illusion Cycles Westminster receives 25,000 shoes, a check for $10,000 will be presented to the American Soldier Network to aid the ninth annual Holiday Christmas Drive at the San Diego Naval Medical Center, Coones said. The campaign aids the Wounded Warrior Battalion of Camp Pendleton during the holidays, Coones added.
"Our wounded soldiers have given so much to us, I felt honored to be able to help them back in this very small way," Benson said.
Benson has set up five designated shoe drop-off points in Barstow and one in Victorville.
• Nick's Computer Work, 25434 West Main St.
• Barstow Motorcycle Center, 2380 West Main St.
• Barstow Senior Center, 555 Melissa Ave.
• Barstow Senior Thrift Store, 907 East Williams St.
• All Recycling, 931 West Main St.
• Harley Davidson of Victorville, 14522 Valley Center Drive.
Benson's deadline is Oct. 24, while Illusion Cycles is accepting shoes until Oct. 27.
"We want to get a formal count of how many shoes we have on that day (at Illusion Cycles)," Coones said. "We are inviting everybody to come to the shop when we count and bag the shoes. As of (Friday afternoon), I have roughly 1,200 pairs of shoes in my possession and about 500 that I haven't even gotten to."
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Enhanced Disability Severance Pay (EDSP)

Enhanced Disability Severance Pay (EDSP)
EDSP will be tax-free for combat wounded service members. EDSP is computed using the following mathematical formula:
2 x Monthly Basic Pay x Years of Active Service (not to exceed 19 years)
One of the advantages of EDSP is that 6 years will be the minimum number of years of active service used in the formula for those who qualify for the combat related provision and 3 years for all others despite their actual number of years in service. Additionally, those entitled to the combat related provision will NOT have the dollar amount of their EDSP deducted from their VA disability compensation. Please be reminded that these are estimates of payment and not guaranteed amounts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Getting ready for the Monster Car & Bike Festival. Big banners

Photo: Getting ready for the Monster Car  & Bike Festival. Big banners

ATF Bye Bye Bye


According to an article in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, will introduce a bill that will eliminate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sensenbrenner is quoted in the article and it is reproduced on his official website.
The ATF is the federal police force tasked with ensuring that taxes are collected on alcohol and tobacco products and that firearm sales are regulated according to law. The ATF is also the fireworks police. In the last two decades, the ATF has engaged in numerous infiltrations of motorcycle clubs, militias and other nonconformists groups and has carried out numerous drug entrapments.
Last may, in discussing the federal case born of one of those entrapments, federal judge Manuel L. Real wrote:   “It is unclear why the ATF, which has no authority over illicit drugs, is trying to ensnare citizens in its fictitious stash house robberies. Further, the government has provided no evidence that there have been any stash house robberies in Southern California nor any evidence of the necessity of trolling poor neighborhoods to ensnare its poor citizens.”
In 2012, the ATF became the subject of adverse media and Congressional scrutiny when it was alleged that the Bureau was allowing firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.

GAO Study

A Government Accounting Office study released yesterday found that: “Beginning in 2010, ATF made criminal organization investigations one of its highest priorities, similar to firearms investigations, and deemphasized alcohol and tobacco investigations that do not involve violent crime. ATF data show that alcohol and tobacco investigations decreased by 85 percent (from 168 to 25 investigations opened) from fiscal years 2003 through 2013.” The GAO declared that the ATF was unable to “assess how effective its investigations are in addressing violent crime.”
The study also portrayed ATF agents as aging and overpaid. “ATF reported facing funding and hiring challenges. ATF’s number of special agents generally increased from fiscal years 2004 through 2010, but decreased by about 6 percent (from 2,562 to 2,399) through fiscal year 2013, which represents the lowest number of special agents in 8 years. According to ATF management officials, ATF was unable to hire agents because its funding did not keep pace with the cost of employee salaries and benefits. According to ATF data, the average salary and benefits costs for ATF employees increased by 55 percent from $100,000 in fiscal year 2003 to $155,000 in fiscal year 2013. Further, about a quarter of ATF’s on-board special agents were eligible to retire as of the end of fiscal year 2013, with an additional 20 percent becoming eligible to retire through fiscal year 2018.”


Sensenbrenner told the Journal Sentinel, “By absorbing the ATF into existing law enforcement entities, we can preserve the areas where the ATF adds value for substantially less taxpayer money. While searching for its mission, the ATF has been plagued by decades of high-profile blunders….We cannot afford to ignore clear changes that will greatly enhance the government’s efficiency.”
Sensenbrenner is a political conservative but the Journal Sentinel found that support for eliminating the ATF is strong among liberals as well. The paper quoted Arkadi Gerney, a senior fellow at a “left-leaning” think tank called the Center for American Progress who believes the ATF should be absorbed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The FBI already has a significant role in violent crimes,” Gerney said. “Firearms are not a foreign concept to them.”

The Police State in Review, 2013

The year's biggest stories and the trend toward an American police state.

While some “journalists” would have you believe the biggest stories of 2013 were about twerking celebrities and over-hyped real-life courtroom sagas, much bigger events were happening with far more lasting national significance.  The foundation of an American police state is already laid and making its existence known, while most of the country remains blissfully focused on sports, reality shows, establishment pseudo-news, and other distractions.
It would require an encyclopedia to cover all of the injustices, scandals, and brutality that took place in 2013.  This list is designed to illustrate certain trends and significant stories from the past year.  If Americans don’t fix their apathy and disengagement toward causes that matter, we can expect these trends to continue toward their logical conclusions: an increasingly repressive police state dominating the lives people inside these borders and beyond.

Checkpoints, Warrantless Searches Become a Way of Life

The state of the 4th amendment is in truly bad shape, given the prevalence of warrantless checkpoints and warrantless bag searches being used all around the country for various reasons. No longer restricted to airport terminals, the unconstitutional tactics are now being used in subways, bus stations, on bridges, at parades, and anywhere else the government can get away with them. This is facilitated by the palpable fear of terrorism and with financial incentives from the federal government.
In what was dubbed “Operation Independence,” the federal government along with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department staged a high-visibility terror drill in the LA subway this July. Deputies dressed in paramilitary garb teamed up with agents from the TSA and DHS to require travelers to open up their bags and prove their innocence before being allowed to commute. These tactics have sadly become commonplace in many major cities.
Security measures at major events have gotten increasingly invasive. At the annual ‘Mackinac Bridge Walk’ in St. Ignace, Michigan, up to 40,000 walkers were subjected to warrantless bag searches in the interest of event security. In Chicago, warrantless bag searches were performed on public sidewalks during a celebratory parade for the Blackhawks’ hockey championship, and were again performed along the 26-mile track of the Chicago Marathon. A famous parade in Pasadena, California, is used as an excuse to search the interiors of hundreds of vehicles who wish to park on public streets.
The “stop and frisk” phenomenon was alive and well in 2013. The appalling practice involves police stopping pedestrians, usually pushing them up against a wall and then patting them down, searching their pockets, and opening up their purses and bags. The practice has been notorious in New York City, which not only has aggressive enforcement on the streets but also allows cops to roam around inside private apartment buildings and search tenants. Stop and frisk is also work in Philadelphia, Detroit, northwest Indiana, and other areas.
Sobriety checkpoints have been around a long time, but are increasing in offensiveness. Checks for sobriety have turned into opportunities to search people’s vehicles. People are sometimes being forced off the roads into parking lots and sniffed with dogs in order to be permitted to continue driving down public streets. Some sobriety checkpoints are being dubbed “no refusal” because anyone who refuses to prove their innocence through a breath test will be strapped down to a table and have their blood forcibly taken from them. New saliva swab analyzers now allows police to detect and arrest people based on on them having things like marijuana and prescription drugs in their systems while driving.
Not to be outdone by local cops, the federal government is setting up checkpoints in reportedly 60 communities to take blood and saliva samples from drivers in a multi-million dollar “survey.”
The reasons for warrantless searches is only limited by the imaginations of the police. There are now regular license and vehicle inspection checkpoints, fruit possession checkpoints, firework possession checkpoints, tampon possession searches, searches for canned beverages, roadside smog checkpoints, and more.

DoD Program 1033 Militarizing Local Police Departments

MRAP vehicles
MRAP vehicles
Those who are paying attention are seeing the constant notices of military equipment from overseas war-zones being dispersed to domestic police departments.   These giveaways are usually in the form of armored vehicles (as far as the public knows).  This is all made possible by the Defense Department’s Program 1033.  In place since 1997, the program allows the DOD to give away the equipment — often free of charge — to local police departments who apply for the equipment grants.
This year has been the year of the MRAP, or Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicle.  For the first time these fighting vehicles, costing an upwards of $600,000 each, are being sent out to American cops, and in rapid fashion.  The hulking trucks, which come with armor plating, gun ports, bullet-proof glass, and a gun turret on top, end up being used on SWAT raids in residential America.
The program dispersed more than half a billion dollars worth of equipment in 2012, and 2013 is expected to keep that pace, if not exceed it.  There is no oversight over Program 1033 and the Department of Defense has never been audited, meaning there is overwhelming room for fraud and abuse.  The U.S. taxpayers have been burdened with purchasing this equipment and now it is being given away without compensation; without auction.  And no one really knows the full scope of the project.
One does not have to look far for examples of local departments becoming militarized.   MRAP acquisitions have taken place in every state, the latest including Alabama, IndianaTexas, Idaho, California, New York, North Carolina, South CarolinaMinnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Nevada.
To understand the implications of what a militarized police force is capable of, consider the extravagant anti-terror drill performed by LAPD this year at the National Homeland Security Association’s conference in June.  Gunfire echoed through downtown Los Angeles, bombs exploded, and helicopters swooped low among tall office buildings in a demonstrated response to two terrorists in a pickup truck.  Paramilitary police pulled up in a bomb-dropping armored vehicle, and engaged in a mock firefight.  Guests from around the nation and world attended the conference to marvel at militarized law enforcement in action.  The performance was funded by the federal government and was designed to inspire more departments to become militarized.   Footage from the drill is available below:

The TSA Continues to Expand Its Reach

The Transportation Security Administration had another year characterized by abuse, theft, and violations of civil rights.  There was a steady stream of children being tormented, property being stolen, and genitals being grabbed this year, as usual.  Americans are being searched without probable cause or warrants while being threatened with arrest over loudspeakers if they talk back to the checkpoint agents.  There are too many of these stories to count and this behavior has been standard operating procedure since the TSA was created.  Some of the agency’s recent advancements deserve to be mentioned, however.
Checkpoints are now involving a much deeper look into traveler’s private personal information.  Nothing short of a criminal background check will allow a person to fly in America anymore.  The new security program involves gaining access to travelers’ private employment information, vehicle registrations, travel history, property ownership records, physical characteristics, tax identification numbers, past travel itineraries, law enforcement information, “intelligence” information, passport numbers, frequent flier information, and other “identifiers” linked to DHS databases.  The TSA is allowing people to purchase the title of “trusted traveler” if they willingly submit their biometric fingerprint scans into a FBI database, submit to a criminal background check, and pay the TSA a fee of $85.00 for a five-year PreCheck membership.
The TSA has evidently expanded its reach to parking lots this year, after encouraging and overseeing airport security plans that involve opening up parked cars and performing warrantless searches on their interiors.  Although the TSA may not be directly involved with performing these searches, they are approved by the TSA and some airports claim they are mandated by the TSA.
The response of may Americans is to avoid the TSA by ceasing air travel.  This is a shortsighted solution, as the TSA has never been bound to airports.  As one TSA official pointed out, “We are not the Airport Security Administration.”  Indeed, avoiding the TSA became more challenging in 2013, and is bound to become more difficult in the future.
TSA agents are not making regular appearances on other modes of transportation.  Special armed TSA units — known as VIPR teams — are showing up at public venues, sporting events, train terminals, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations in order to “surprise” the terrorists with “suspicionless” searches.  “The security at airports has increased so the bad guys are now traveling on the trains and buses,” said TSA agent George Robinson at a surprise TSA “Spot Checks” at an Austin railway.  The TSA was active in and around the Superbowl this year, one of many places many never expected to see the TSA operating.
To soften their villainous image, the TSA has been spending taxpayer money to produce cartoons designed to propagandize children into accepting warrantless checkpoints.  Getting searched by strangers in uniformed is presented as fun and exciting — and vital to safety.

The Surveillance State, Revealed

(Warner Brothers)
(Warner Brothers)
This year we experienced a lot of mainstream discussion about the breadth of the Federal Government’s domestic surveillance grid, in large part due to the revelations from NSA contractor-gone-rogue, Edward Snowden.  Snowden discovered over the course of his employment with the NSA that the American public was completely unaware of the extent of spying being performed by the government on its own people, and felt compelled to go public.  In June, Snowden went to journalist Glenn Greenwald with up to 200,000 NSA documents to prove what the government was up to.  Greenwald has since released a series of damning articles exposing the NSA spy grid, which have received international attention.
Now officially charged by the U.S. government with espionage, Snowden has been in hiding overseas for over 6 months.  But his leaks have provided valuable insight into the operation of the government.  Its a bit ironic that the man exposing the spy program is labeled the spy, but I digress.
Greenwald’s articles have revealed that the NSA’s modus operandi is to “collect it all,” meaning every collectible form of communication or data. To this end, the NSA has been utilizing what it calls the Prism program, under which the agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants.  With this access to internet traffic, the NSA uses a program called XKeyscore, which is surveillance tool that collects “nearly everything a user does on the internet.”  One presentation of XKeyscore claims the program collects the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.
“I, sitting at my desk,” Snowden said, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
Another recent leak revealed that the NSA is “getting vast volumes” of records of individual’s physical locations from their cell phones — faster than it can process and store — as the agency surveils the nation’s mobile phone networks.  It goes deeper than that though.  Greenwald reported that the NSA is collecting information about phone calls from millions of Americans daily.  Such information includes the numbers of both parties on the call, their locations, the time, and the duration of all calls made on the network.

Border Security as Oppressive as Ever

Vehicles are searched indiscriminately at a border checkpoint.  (Source: Eric Gay/AP Photo)
Vehicles are searched indiscriminately at a border checkpoint. (Source: Eric Gay/AP Photo)
A constant barrage of stories of abuse from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have arisen in 2013.  These did not only occur at the physical borders, but at the numerous domestic checkpoints that appear all over U.S. roadways across the southwest.  Up to 100 miles into the country, permanent roadblocks exist where travelers are asked by federal agents to prove their citizenship and often subjected to searches and other harassment.
At one such internal checkpoint in California, a man named Robert Trudell decided he was going to remain silent in his car until the agents let him continue traveling down the roadway.  As he calmly sat in his car and photographed the scene, agents bashed in his window with a club and extracted him from his car.  Police State USA has viewed numerous other videos of harassment at border patrol checkpoints, and find their prominent existence on U.S. highways to be very disconcerting.
Earlier this year, the official watchdog over civil rights for the Department of Homeland Security gave the green light for “suspicionless” seizure of any electronics they encounter from travelers crossing the border.  Thousands of laptops, cell phones, and other personal property has been confiscated by customs agents, forcing the owner to spend lots of time and money to attempt to reclaim the items — not to mention the loss of privacy suffered by the owners.
Border Patrol and DHS has taken an interest in harassing small aircraft pilots as well, as we have seen multiple such stories this year.  Reports follow a pattern: CBP agents approach pilots, request aviation paperwork, and conduct an extensive searches of their aircraft, often including removal of all contents. Agents have been tight-lipped about the reason or justification for these warrantless searches.  Taking the harassment up a notch, DHS ordered one hobbyist glider pilot named Robin Fleming to the ground for a search.  He says he was threatened with being shot down from the sky.

The Destructive Drug War Wages On

DEA agents (Source: Mark Wilson/AP Photo)
DEA agents. (Source: Mark Wilson/AP Photo)
The War on Drugs has been the source of incomprehensible levels of injustice, government corruption, brutality, and abuse for decades in the United States.   Although year 2013 represents no marked difference from the status quo, these Drug War abuses constitute far too great a threat to go unmentioned in this list.
We saw countless people imprisoned for non-violent, victimless crimes.  I say countless because the numbers are truly unknown when considering all of the federal, state, county, and city-level jails housing inmates for drugs.   What we do know is that there 1,571,013 prisoners in state and federal prisons in 2012, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Of the federal inmates, around half of the prisoners are being locked up because of the War on Drugs.  The number of lives ruined in the name of prohibition cannot possibly be tallied.  Many are going to prison for decades — even life imprisonment — without ever having committed a violent offense.   One such example was the case of Jerry Duval, a farmer who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for growing marijuana for medicinal use in the manner he was licensed to in the state of Michigan.
The Drug War gives the government the perfect vehicle for expanding its ability to legally steal from citizens, and this year has been no exception.  Thanks to a legal maneuver known as Civil Asset Forfeiture, government agents can confiscate property and cash from anyone that they merely “suspect” of being involved in the drug trade.  Thanks to recent advancements in domestic spying capabilities, the DEA has managed to double its amount of seizures since 2001.  The owners of the seized property don’t even have to be charged with a crime, but often have to spend a small fortune in court to prove their innocence and get their possessions back.  This practice varies across the country, but the prospect of keeping seized property provides a direct incentive for confiscation in any agency where it is used.  For Darren Kent, a disabled widower in New Jersey, Drug War forfeiture could allow police to confiscate his house, his bank account, his 2 vehicles, and other property — all because of illegal plants he allegedly grew in his basement.
SWAT_EntryThe enforcement of these silly drug laws has become increasingly aggressive and brutal.  When someone is suspected of committing a non-violent drug offense, there is often a team of masked, paramilitary SWAT agents sent in the middle of the night to break down the doors and windows of their home, hold the occupants at gunpoint, and shoot any family pets that dare to challenge their presence.   As one could imagine, this insane policy of “no-knock raids” over drugs leads to an unending torrent of violence and bloodshed inside people’s homes.  In 2013, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies gunned down 80-year-old Eugene Mallory in his bed during a legal home-invasion to investigate if he was making meth.  Earlier this month, police negligently shot Krystal Barrows, mother of  three, in the head during a drug raid in Chillicothe, Ohio.
In case its not obvious, prohibition laws leave open the legal doorways for many innocent people to feel the brunt of the police state.   In 2013, a family of maple syrup farmers in Illinois was raided on suspicion of making meth.  The Harte family of Kansas says that after buying hydroponics equipment for their indoor garden, police stormed their house in a manner that reminded them of Navy SEALs storming the bin Laden residence.  Urban garden advocate John Kohler, of, had his home searched because police thought he might be growing illegal plants in his house.  One does not have to look far for more examples of drug raids gone bad.
Not even the elderly can escape from the harassment of strident drug enforcers have.   Tennessee police pulled over and harassed an elderly couple because their car had a Ohio State University bumper sticker that the police officer thought might represent a marijuana leaf.  A Utah man’s final moments with his recently-deceased wife were rudely interrupted when police barged into his home to confiscate her prescription painkillers.
It should be obvious that drug prohibition gives perverts and sexual predators a convenient place to legally abuse citizens while getting paid to do so.  In June, a story broke about a female driver being asked to lift her shirt and shake her bra multiple times for a police officer who wanted her to prove she didn’t have drugs packed in it.  In Texas, two bikini-clad women were  given cavity searches on the side of the highway.  “You’re going to go up my private parts?” Brandy Hamilton asked the officer.  “Yes, ma’am,” the officer responded, before jamming a finger into each of their crotches with the same glove.
These forced cavity searches were a regular occurrence in 2013, in what can only be described as cases of legal rape.   After rolling a stop sign, David Eckert of Deming, Utah, was detained and taken to a hospital, and for hours he was subjected to manual finger probes of his anus, forced to take an enema and defecate in front of police officers, forcibly X-rayed, and ultimately given a full-blown colonoscopy to attempt to find drugs in his colon.  And this case is not unique.  An American woman returning to the United States from Mexico was detained at the border near El Paso, chained to a hospital bed and given a forcible gynecological exam, involving finger penetration, forced defecation, and X-rays and a CT-scan.  A 26-year-old Oregon man named Jason Barnes was forcibly catheterized by police after he was stopped by police for riding a bicycle without lights.
Stories from 2013 also should have made it glaringly obvious how easy it is to wrongly convict people and ruin innocent lives.  In February, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “a court can presume” an alert by a drug-sniffing dog provides probable cause for a search, even if the dot is not fully trained and lacks any documentation of its accuracy record.  If animals deciding your fate is not disconcerting enough, consider what happens when the government agents decide to say you possessed contraband when you actually didn’t.   Tens of thousands of drug cases may have been corrupted by a Massachusetts crime-lab chemist named Annie Dookhan who collaborated with prosecutors to achieve more convictions.  A Georgia judge ordered police officers to frame a woman with drugs after she refused to have sex with him.  The potential for abusing “possession” laws are endless.

Schools Groom Children for Life in Police State USA

(Source: Yuma Sun / AP)
Police execute a lockdown at a government school.  (Source: Yuma Sun / AP)
Government schools have always been the source of indoctrination and inadequate education, but the rise of security hysteria and zero-tolerance policies has made them into veritable conditioning centers for life in the American police state.
As a matter of policy in most compulsory government schools, students are subjected to warrantless searches of their bags and lockers, dog sniffs, and are even being forced to give urine samples without probable cause.    Drug enforcement and education takes on a variety of different forms.  In Indiana, police officers subjected a class of 5th graders to a “simulated drug raid” in a “drug awareness” event that resulted in one student getting attacked by the police dog that was demonstrating how it might search children for drugs if the police were crashing a party at someone’s home.
With modern technology, they are being watched and listened under sophisticated surveillance systems, sometimes which are fed directly to police departments.  Some schools are making students carry RFID badges or use biometric scanners to track attendance and movement.  Their bodies are forced to endure mass-medication at earlier and earlier ages.
Many schools use what have been known as “isolation booths” for children who misbehave, which in practice are tantamount to solitary confinement in a dark closet.
Parking lots are subject to warrantless searches; some so draconian that high school students are getting felonies for leaving pocket knives locked in their cars.   In fact, it is common to have police officers regularly in school so administrators can outsource discipline to courts and jails.  An undercover cop disguised as a high-schooler in Temecula, California, befriended an autistic boy and convinced him to purchase marijuana in order to arrest him.
The curriculum is unsurprisingly pro-statism, with recent (and glaring) examples involving students being asked to justify repealing amendments out of the Bill of Rights and being taught that government is like “family” and should be obeyed.
In addition, schools are being locked down at every possible opportunity.   A school in Idaho went into “full prison mode” when a student brought a folding shovel.  A Long Island school went into lockdown when a child had a lime green Nerf toy.
The lockdowns are becoming so routine that police departments and schools are running terror drills to make sure they run smoothly.  The El Paso SWAT team staged a “surprise” terror drill in a school in which police charged into the school, used simulated gunfire, and detonated concussion grenades while they took over the school — to the surprise of everyone except for the principal.  A similar terror drill was conducted in a Chicago school “in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire.”  An Oregon school hired a man to wear a mask and carry a realistic gun into a faculty meeting and surprise teachers with realistic sounding gunfire in order to test their “readiness.”  In Ohio, a mock hijacking was staged on a school bus containing children so that the SWAT team could practice its explosive rescue techniques.

More Dangerous Decisions from the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court
SCOTUS made a few rulings in 2013 regarding the police state.  While certainly not the worst court decisions we’ve endured, they can be added to a long list of bad ones.  This year again made it clear that justice appointees from neither party are dedicated to constitutional principles and proper legal interpretations.
In Salinas v. Texas, the court ruled 5-4 that when a suspect doesn’t answer a question during an interrogation, his silence can be used as evidence in court to demonstrate guilt.  Genovevo Salinas was convicted of a 1992 murder.  Salinas cooperated with detectives in answering some questions, but refrained from answering others.  He remained silent when questioned about the murder weapon.  Prosecutors used his silence as evidence of guilt during trial, which has now been upheld by both Texas courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Critics say that this decision has compromised a person’s right to remain silent.
The second case being called to attention is Bowman v. Monsanto.  An Indiana farmer named Vernon Bowman was sued by agri-giant and seed-modifier Monsanto for purchasing seeds from a grain elevator and planting them in his fields.  Monsanto claimed that planting those seeds violated the corporation’s patent rights over them, since they were genetically-modified and considered Monsanto’s intellectual property.  Since Bowman “replicated” the company’s intellectual property, he was sued for nearly $85,000.00 in damages.  Bowman contended that existing patent law did not cover life forms, and that he had broken no laws.  “If they don’t want me to go to the elevator and buy that grain, then Congress should pass a law saying you can’t do it,” said Bowman.
The Supreme Court took up the Bowman case, and disappointingly sided 9-0 with Monsanto.  Rather than accurately declaring that the 120-year-old patent law did not offer any legal coverage of self-replicating seeds as they reproduce in perpetuity, the court made a landmark decision and changed the mechanics of patent law forever without an act of Congress.  This was the very definition of legislating from the bench, and gives corporations the leverage they need to punish consumers for “breaking” laws that don’t really accurately cover modern technologies like genetically-modified lifeforms and computer software.
Lastly was the Maryland v. King case, in which the Supreme Court affirmed 5-4 that a police department may seize DNA as a part of a standard booking procedure — like fingerprinting — for people arrested and accused of a crime.  The DNA may then be put into a database, stored indefinitely, and compared to existing cases, despite the fact that the accused person had not yet been convicted of any crimes.

Health Care Law Threatens Individual Rights & Privacy

The Obamacare logo
The Obamacare logo
There are a lot of reasons to object to the compulsion of all individuals to purchase corporate services — also known as the “Affordable Care Act.”  For brevity and relevance, we will focus here on the aspects that increase the power of the police state.
2013 was the last year that Americans could live and breathe in the United States legally without being compelled to insurance packages from private corporations.  Should a person fail or refuse to purchase insurance, he will be subjected to some hefty fines from the federal government, enforced by the IRS.
The fines have been subject to quite a bit of disinformation, and are more significant than most people realize.  A common talking point is that the fines are “only” $95, being spread by disinfo agents on the internet and even official radio ads released by the government.  The part that is being omitted by these people is that the $95 fine is only valid for a small group of low-income taxpayers, for the first year (2014) only.  The fines increase dramatically if the person has an average income or has a family, as well as increasing in stages in 2015 and 2016.
Police State USA discussed the details of the fines in a previous article.  We consider the mandates to be a very serious breach of liberty that come with widespread implications.
We also learned this year that the upcoming health care law will include a considerable amount of privacy concerns.  With the creation of the “Federal Data Services Hub,” a trove of personal information will be collected on all customers and shared among several agencies.  The information “includes, but may not be limited to”: Social Security numbers, income, family size, citizenship and immigration status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, incarceration records, enrollment status in other health plans, tax information, employment information, patient medical records, pregnancy status, list of disabilities, welfare information, and demographic data (e.g. address, birthdate, physical description…).
All this personal information will be accessible by bureaucrats ranging from the Social Security Administration, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense and the Peace Corps. And that is in addition to the Medicaid databases linked to the Hub.  To be forced into a system such as this by is indeed a great detriment to personal freedom.


10 Common Motorcycle Accidents and How To Avoid Them


Riding a motorcycle is dangerous. Luckily, bikes also give you the best possible tools to avoid crashing — incredibly powerful brakes, obstruction-free vision, excellent handling and very gripy tires. Here’s how to use those tools, and your very own brain, to avoid one of these common motorcycle accidents.
Motorcycle Safety:
Want to reduce your odds of dying in a crash? Get educated. New riders should complete a basic rider course from the MSF or similar while advanced tuition is available at race tracks. It can be cheaper than you fear.
Safety gear doesn’t just help prevent injury in a crash, but can make riding more comfortable, put you in better control of your bike and help you be seen by other drivers. Bright colors on your helmet and jacket/suit will help car drivers see you, potentially avoiding some of the common accidents detailed below.
A Car Turns Left In Front Of You
The most common motorcycle accident. A car fails to see you or judges your speed incorrectly, turning in front of you at an intersection. Blame inattention, distraction, blind spots and even psychology; a driver looking for cars perceives merely an absence of cars, not the presence of a motorcycle.
How To Avoid It: Simple, you just need to see it coming. Part of your job as a motorcyclist is to develop a precognitive sixth sense. Look for signs that could indicate someone may turn in front of you: a car is at an intersection waiting to turn, there’s a gap in traffic near an intersection, driveway or parking lot. In either situation, slow down, cover your brakes and get ready to take evasive action. Yes, you do need to take something as innocuous as a car waiting in a turn lane as a major and immediate threat to your life. You also need to account for objects outside of your vision. Gaps in traffic indicate the possibility of someone coming through that gap, even if you can’t see them. Again, MAJOR THREAT, PREPARE FOR EVASIVE ACTION.
And once you’ve identified said threat, you can work it through levels of severity. Is the driver clearly able to see you, without obstruction from their window pillars, trees or signs? Is that person actually looking? Are they looking at you? How are they situated in the road? What is their speed? Where are their wheels pointing?
Look at their wheels, not the car, they’ll give you the first clue of movement. During all this, also be aware of what’s behind and to your side. Should you need to take evasive action, you’ll need to know your routes of escape. It’s no good braking in time to avoid a turning car, only to be swatted from behind by a tailgating SUV. What’s the road surface like? Is it going to be able to handle the full force of your brakes or are you going to lock them? You do know how to use the full ability of your brakes, right?
Under no circumstances should you “lay the bike down.” Your best chance of survival comes from shedding as much speed as possible pre-collision, and you’re going to be able to do that best with the bike completely upright, using both brakes. Even if you only have time to lose 10 or 20mph, that could be the difference between going home with bruises and going home at all.
You Hit Gravel In A Blind Corner
You’re out riding the twisties when, seemingly without warning, you round a corner to find a patch of sand/gravel/leaves/horse dung/whatever in your path. You put your front tire in it and wipe out.
How To Avoid It: Don’t hit it in the first place. Ride at a pace where your reaction time and ability to take action fit within your range of vision. On the road, “Slow In, Fast Out” is an effective rule of thumb. Enter a corner wide, to increase your vision and at an easy pace. You can pick up the speed on the way out, once you can see all the way through.
Trail braking is a slightly more advanced skill that you’ll need to learn and practice on a track before applying on the road. Using it, you brake all the way to the apex using the front brake before swapping brake for throttle. Since you’re already on the brakes and the bike’s weight is distributed forward, compressing the front suspension and increasing the size of the front tire’s contact patch, you can easily tighten your line by applying a little more brake or widen it by letting off. Doing so should help you avoid obstacles such as gravel.
Another advanced skill, which is oddly controversial in rule-loving America, but which is taught by advanced police riders abroad, is to maximize vision by using the full width of the road, regardless of lanes. Vision equals safety equals speed. Again, learn this from a trained professional before trying it yourself.
You Entered A Corner Too Fast
And now it’s unexpectedly tightening and you’re just not going to make it around. Oh no.
How To Avoid It: Don’t be a dummy. Only ride as fast as you can see and use visual clues like telephone polls and signs to judge a road’s direction, even if that road is disappearing over a blind crest.
If you do find yourself going too fast in a corner, the best approach is to trust the bike and try to ride it out. The bike is likely more capable than you are, so it’s really you that’s not capable of making around. Take as much lean out of the bike as possible by hanging off, look where you want to go and be as smooth as possible on the controls. Do not whack on the brakes, chop the throttle or do anything else that may upset the bike and cause a loss of traction. Don’t panic if a peg or knee or something else touches down, just try to hold that lean angle, look for the corner exit and ride it out.
This is another situation in which trail braking can be a real help, allowing you to safely shed speed while already in the corner.
A Car Changes Lane Into You
You’re riding in traffic when a car in another lane suddenly veers into the space you’re occupying. Remember, our tiny motorcycles can easily fit into blind spots and drivers looking for cars aren’t psychologically programmed to see motorcycles.
How To Avoid It: Be aware of where blind spots lie and spend as little time in them as possible. If you can see a drivers eyes in their mirrors, then they have the ability to see you too.
Beware of situations where lane changes become more possible. Is highway traffic slowing, with one lane moving faster than others? People are going to want to be in that lane. Don’t be where they want to be.
Look for signs of a car changing lanes: turn signals, wheels turning, the car wandering around its own lane while the driver checks his mirrors and, of course, the driver’s head moving. Be aware of all that, in all the cars around you, at all times, and you’ll be good.
A Car Hits You From Behind
You come to a halt a stop sign/cross walk/intersection/to avoid a family of baby ducks when, the driver behind you doesn’t see you or isn’t trying to and plows into you at high speed. The most common car accident is a “fender bender.” A fender bender can kill a motorcyclist.
How To Avoid It: Use cars as your very own crumple zone. A single car stopped at a multi-lane stoplight, with more cars coming from behind? Pull in front of it (wave nicely) and you’re cushioned from any subsequent impacts. Between a line of cars works just as well.
No free crumple zones available? Stop to the side rather than the center of a lane, rapidly flash your brake light by tapping a brake lever, keep the bike in gear and your right hand on the throttle. Pay attention to what’s coming up behind you and be prepared to scoot away should it appear someone’s about to come plowing into you.

Be particularly aware in situations where there’s bad visibility, at times when drunk driving is prevalent (do all the bars around you let out at 1am?) and when stops are unexpected, such as at pedestrian crosswalks on very busy streets and stuff like those cute baby ducks crossing the road.


Your Riding Buddies Are Idiots
You’ve seen it happen. A group is out for a ride when one of them stops suddenly or something similar. His buddy is too busy day dreaming to realize and hits him from behind. This has happened to us, it can happy to anyone.
How To Avoid It: Make sure everyone is aware of proper group riding etiquette and knows to ride in a staggered formation. You’d be amazed how many people are unaware of this simple technique. Doing so increases vision and moves bikes out of line with each other, meaning a temporary lapse in attention wont’ result in a collision. Pick smarter riding buddies or do what I do: ride alone.
You Locked The Front Brake
Oh no, a deer/cute girl/cop/stopped traffic. You grab a fistful of front brake and, next thing you know, you’re laying on the ground, watching your bike cartwheel down the street.
How To Avoid It: Learn to use your front brake. It might seem counterintuitive, but that front brake is the most powerful and difficult-to-master component on your motorcycle; it can alter your speed much more quickly than your engine.
If you’re just learning to ride, have simply never mastered this skill or bought a new bike and need to learn it, find a big, empty parking lot and start practicing. From a set speed (say 30mph), start braking at a certain mark, then repeat ad infinitum until you’ve reduced your braking distance as much as possible. You should be able to feel the tire on the very edge of locking up and the rear wheel lifting off the ground. Then go and practice at higher and higher speeds until you can employ the maximum braking ability of your motorcycle reliably and safely.
Or just buy a bike with ABS, remember you have it, and squeeze the lever as hard as you can when you need to make an emergency stop.
A Car Opened Its Door
The biggest gap in traffic was between a line of parked cars and a stationary line of active traffic. So you go scooting through it when, all of a sudden, Nathan-no-look swings his door wide open right in front of you.
How To Avoid It: Never, ever, ever, ever ride between an active traffic lane and parked cars. Not just because of the opening doors thing, but because pedestrians step out, cars pull out so they can see, and for a million other reasons. Just don’t do it. If you do, somehow, find yourself in a door opening situation though, follow all the advice above and brake as hard as possible. Even if a collision is inevitable, shedding even a small fraction of your speed can really help.
Cyclist’s call the area next to parked cars, within a doors’ width “The Death Zone” for a reason.
It’s Slippery!
Stuff is coming out of the sky! That stuff is cold, wet and, surprise surprise, slippery. Listen to Douglas Adams and don’t panic.
How To Avoid It: Does your bike have decent tires on it or were you silly and decided that running track rubber on the road was a good idea. Hint: it’s not. So long as you’re running reasonable tires and those tires aren’t worn out, you’ll be surprised at how well a motorcycle does in wet or even snowy conditions. Just slow down and be as smooth as possible on the controls.
In the wet, stuff like manhole covers become super, extra slippery and you’ll need to watch out for oil and Diesel on the road as well. Look for patches of rainbow and avoid those. If it hasn’t rained for a while, the first hour or so of rainfall is the most treacherous, it lifts all the oils and whatnot out of the pavement, floating it on top. Treat yourself to a hot cup of coffee and wait for a solid downpour to wash all that junk away.
Also beware of the limited visibility rain creates for other drivers and their general ineptitude; car drivers don’t seem to understand that slippery conditions necessitate longer following distances and earlier braking.
Ron Haslam advocates keeping revs up in the wet. The thinking is that, should your rear spin up, you’ll be using a smaller amount of throttle opening, allowing you to regain traction much easier than if you’re riding at 30mph in 6th, at wide open throttle.The Most Common Bike Accident
According to the 1981 Hurt Report — the largest study ever conducted on motorcycle accident causation — alcohol is a factor in 50 percent of all bike wrecks.
How To Avoid It: Don’t drink and ride.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

C A USA - Is cellphone driving ban working?

By Lyndsay Winkley
A recent study questions whether the new law has made streets safer in California..

There is no shortage of grim statistics depicting the deadly consequences of texting or talking on a cellphone behind the wheel.As research has mounted, dozens of states have implemented bans on cellphone use in an effort to make the roadways safer.But a recent research study out of a Colorado university questions whether bans are having their desired effect — at least in California.After taking a look at the number of collisions six months before California’s cellphone ban was implemented in July 2008 and the six months after it went into effect, researchers determined there was no evidence crashes were reduced.“If it’s really that dangerous, and if even just a fraction of people stopped using their phones, we would expect to find some decrease in accidents,” said Daniel Kaffine, an associate professor of economics at University of Colorado, Boulder, and an author of the study. “But we didn’t find any statistical evidence of a reduction.”State officials rejected the study, citing research they commissioned that showed a significant decrease in fatal crashes after the ban went into effect. Local law enforcement officers also backed the laws, saying they’ve resulted in safer driving.It turns out Kaffine and his fellow researchers aren’t the first ones to question how effective cellphone bans might be — or if cellphone use even correlates with more crashes.In a 2013 study published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, a group of researchers analyzed nationwide, single-vehicle, single-occupant crash numbers during the time a number of states enacted text messaging bans.They found that, initially, there was a notable drop in collisions, but it was short lived. After only three months, crashes had crept back up to levels seen before the texting ban was in place.Another study, published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, took advantage of a natural experiment to determine if cellphone use correlated with more collisions. In 2005, a number of cellphone plans offered free calls after 9 p.m., resulting in more calls placed by drivers around that time.They found that while more drivers were chatting behind the wheel, the crash rate in the same area the calls were made didn’t go up.Kaffine said while his study wasn’t designed to identify why cellphone bans didn’t result in more crashes in California during that period, the study did suggest some possible reasons:
• Drivers may have switched to hands-free devices, even though experiments suggest that method is equally distracting.
• People might simply be ignoring the ban.
• Motorists who choose to use their cellphones and drive might be the type of drivers who engage in other distracting behaviors. These drivers might be replacing one distracting behavior, cellphone use, with any number of other distracting tasks.
• Using a phone while driving might not be as dangerous as previously thought.
“Determining which, if any, of these reasons may have led to the ineffectiveness of California’s ban could lead to better cellphone policies in the future,” Kaffine said.In California, talking on your cellphone without a hands-free device is a no-no, as is writing, sending or reading text-based communications, including emails.Other phone-related activities are OK, though, such as using mapping functions.Using your cellphone without a hands-free device or texting while driving will land you a $160 fine for the first offense and a $280 fine for offenses after that.
While there is a little ambiguity in some of the state’s cellphone laws, California’s Office of Traffic Safety feels current bans make drivers safer, and a study the office commissioned confirmed those sentiments.The state analyzed fatal crashes that were likely attributed to cellphone use for two years before the ban and two years after the ban. The study determined, overall, deadly crashes fell by 22 percent and hand-held cellphone related deaths by 47 percent.
“That points pretty conclusively toward the effectiveness, at least in the first two years, of the laws,” said Chris Cochran, assistant director of the state’s traffic safety department.Law enforcement officers also feel the bans have made the roadways safer.“I absolutely credit (the ban) with assisting us in the decreased number of collisions and hit and runs and increasing traffic safety,” San Diego police Officer Mark McCullough said.McCullough said over the years, he’s seen the number of drivers on their phones drop and, of the people he does catch, more are educated about the rules.“I see a lot less near-misses than I did two or three years ago,” he said. “When I pull behind someone, their cellphone might go flying, but they know they were in the wrong.”
Cellphone violation citations doled out by San Diego police have decreased over the years. In 2011, 19,466 tickets were issued. Citations fell to 15,080 in 2012 and to 10,971 tickets in 2013. If 2014 holds steady, however, officers will likely issue more tickets than last year.McCullough said the increase probably results from a grant that funds more enforcement, rather than more offenders taking to the streets.California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt said it’s hard to definitively say whether cellphone bans make drivers safer, but it’s a step in the right direction.“Hopefully it’s helped in that (the bans) remind people they should be focused while driving,” he said. “If we can get people to stop using their phones, we will have fewer accidents.”Cochran has said the best weapon against cellphone use while driving will likely be time. It took decades for seat belt compliance to climb from a 15 percent compliance rate to a 97 percent compliance rate in the state.Bettencourt said people’s perception of chatting and cruising needs to change before real reform will happen.“Can you imagine the look you would give someone if you pulled up next to next to them and they were swigging a beer?” he said. “Until cellphone use becomes that taboo, people will continue to use them.”


Like A Sieve, New Bill Would Funnel All Your Personal Information To Feds

Under a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, tech companies would voluntarily turn over all your personal data to the federal government with no oversight or privacy protections.
The “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act,” or CISA (not to be confused, but amazingly similar to CISPA, which was shelved), would permit the “voluntary” sharing of American’s private data with Homeland Security, who could then turn it over to any federal agency they wanted to.

The only problem is, nobody asked you if you wanted to volunteer your personal, private information.
In addition, CISA would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so nobody could see exactly what information is being handed over. In typical fashion, the FOIA amendment was added behind closed doors.
Civil liberties groups are begging Americans to work to stop the bill.
Tech companies like Google have said they will not share information with the feds without a subpoena, let alone volunteer the data, but when the tentacles of Obama’s spy network asks you to “voluntarily” turn something over, you know what happens if you don’t. More Americans have been charged under the Espionage Act in this administration than any other time in history.

Obama and Congress will continue the destruction of our privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment unless something drastic is done.

7 Places a Motorcyclist Should Avoid In Traffic

As motorcyclists, we’ve all had a few close calls in traffic. They serve as a reminder to our occasional lapse in vigilance and impart a lasting cognitive reminder from which we can avoid such circumstances in the future. Some of these contextual positions in traffic we know to avoid through education, trial and error, or discernment. Others are harder to spot in the daily fracas of our commute. Yet, more positions we perceive but fail to internalize, instead encountering the same issue over and over but not spotting the common connections. Here are seven places a motorcyclist should avoid in traffic.
Blind Spots
Let’s start with the obvious. We already have to contend with automotive drivers perceiving an absence of cars instead of the presence of motorcyclists. The effect seems to be compounded in a car’s blind spot. We are virtually invisible. If you find yourself in the blind spot of a car or large truck, move quickly and safely out of it. The B pillars, passenger seats, and the passengers themselves remove a lot of a driver’s peripheral vision, so assume you are not seen until you are entirely past the car. Also, avoid the common mistake of changing lanes into another car’s blind spot when you make your move.
The Center Of The Lane While Stopped
Disregard our lane-splitting brethren for the moment. What do we do when we are in one of the most vulnerable and statistically alarming situations a motorcyclist can face? We’re stopped with none of the traditional advantages we can employ and the possibility of being suddenly mashed between two much larger vehicles. We can mitigate this by staying to the outside lane and pointing our direction of travel in between cars instead of directly into cars. The theory is if one is rear ended, they will at least be suddenly forced in between the cars to pinball around rather than completely smashed between them.
Passing Without Due Caution On Country Roads
This is true on any road where you have poor sight lines on points of ingress/egress farther up the road. Be cognizant of the distance required to overtake and safely move back into your lane position. Avoid passing or speeding up as a slow vehicle in front of you brakes to make a right turn. Don’t assume that just because a vehicle in front of you is braking that it is a good time to pass. That is a common mistake many motorcyclists make and it can have heavy consequences.
Being The First Across The Intersection
This one may come across as overly cautious, but where I live, drivers do not possess a great deal of circumspection. No matter how much you might enjoy that surge of first gear as the light turns green, consider holding back a little at the front of the line. Take an extra second to confirm that everyone who should be stopping is stopping. If you miss that first indication, having cars on one or both sides could provide protection against someone blowing through an intersection.
Passing On Mountain Trips
I’ve been there. You’ve spent hours planning, weeks waiting, and you’re finally in the mountains on your favorite road. You’re just starting to get into a groove only to suddenly find yourself behind some nice people from out of state in a station wagon going exactly 4 mph under the speed limit.  Cue the double yellow lines for the next 14 miles. I’ve certainly been on roads where it seems needless, but far more have them as a legitimate requirement. You could pass them quickly, hoping that no one will be in the opposite lane around that blind corner. You could continue to follow, silently shaking with impotent rage as they pass more opportunities to pull over and wave you by. Or you could pull over, have a breather, enjoy the scenery, and think pleasant thoughts about how to improve technique when you get back on. I vote for the last option because the consequences of what may be around that blind corner are not worth it.
Bad Lane Positioning

There are a few different preferences on this so I will simply justify mine. When I commuted with a road bicycle, I found that my proximity to cars in the bike lane was inversely proportional to how close and how fast they passed me. The same seems to hold true for motorcycling, where people are more likely to give you a wider berth as they pass if you are closer to the side of the lane. An additional benefit (presumably) is keeping you away from the center of the lane where oils and fluids tend to drop from other vehicles, thus avoiding a decrease in tire traction. In other words, stay close to the line on multiple-lane, one direction roads or highways.
Where Cars Tend To Make Blind Turns
I already mentioned cars making blind turns on country roads, but it happens far too often elsewhere as well. Double safety check and quickly enter turning lanes, as drivers wanting to make a turn opposite you are often looking everywhere but where they need to be. The diagram (above/below) shows what happened to me a few times before I learned to avoid it. Often cars will back up in one lane for a turn leaving the other lane clear. Someone trying to make a left turn (the van) can’t see well past the line of cars. Since it’s hard enough to see a car, a motorcyclist will go unnoticed and the driver guns it to make it to the other side. I had some of my worst near misses from this exact scenario.
7 Places a Motorcyclist Should Avoid In Traffic

What places do you avoid? What indicators do you look for to keep you out of a bad situation?