How Theft Became Legal in the United States

The story of Robin Hood is about a man who steals from individuals and gives to others yet his character is looked at as one with virtue. How can a man who steals be considered virtuous? The reason is because we are told that the men he stole from were the real bad guys and that Robin is the purveyor of justice. This same narrative is prevalent today in the form of civil asset forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture allows police to confiscate possessions from individuals just based on suspicion alone of the possessions being involved with illegal activity. This means that officers can legally take your money, your vehicle, your jewelry, or any other possessions they deem to be connected to illegal activity without a crime being committed. They don’t need a warrant. They don’t need a judge. After they take your possessions the burden of proof now lies with the victim to show the items weren’t connected to illegal activity. This means paying for a lawyer and court costs with the potential to STILL lose the case and their possessions. 

Officers and agents tell the American public that they are Robin Hood stealing from the real bad guys to support themselves, the good guys. This is how they convince the public to allow them to commit legal theft. We read of stories about corrupt officers abusing their power and we applaud when they are brought to justice but when a law abiding citizen has his entire life savings literally stolen from him by the government many don’t even bat an eye. What happened to due process? What happened to being a nation of laws? 

Some states, like New Mexico, have recognized the potential and actual abuse of asset forfeiture by law enforcement and passed very restrictive state laws. The problem is that while state level governments may try to curve the issue there is a glaring loophole that local and federal law enforcement use to keep their illicit profits booming. The loophole is called equitable sharing which allows federal agencies, not held to individual state restrictions, to bypass those laws, continue to cease property under civil asset forfeiture, and then funnel the property back to the local authorities. So instead of our government being okay with legal theft they’ve decided to step it up a notch and enforce legal racketeering. In our current political atmosphere it can be hard to hear numbers like $5 billion in seized assets and still feel your stomach turn but here is another way to understand just how out of control this issue is becoming. In 2014 the total amount of burglary losses in the entire country came to $3.9 billion dollars according to FBI reports. Even when you account for seized assets being returned to victims, such as Ponzi scheme cases, and remove those dollars the federal government still raked in over $4.5 billion and this still doesn’t even account for local and state forfeiture amounts. 

Some states like, my home state of Indiana, are trying to do the right thing by introducing legislation to not only close the federal loophole but also to require convictions of individuals in order to carry out asset forfeiture. Others, like Arizona, are ramping up their efforts of this disgusting practice by introducing legislation that allows police to use asset forfeiture against violent protestors. The language in the bill was so vague that a protestor needn’t even become violent but only be suspected of possibly becoming violent to become a victim of the state. It also included language to go after those who organize a protest that turns violent or damages property to suffer from this law. This means your political enemy could plan a legitimate protest. You could then plant a couple of miscreants among the protestors to cause commotion, violence, or destruction of property at the protest and the organizer, whether they were present or not, could have their assets at risk and even be charged under the RICO statute. Thankfully the Arizona house shot down the bill that passed in the Senate but just it’s introduction is setting a terrible precedence of what’s possible for lawmakers to introduce. 

This ideological abuse from government makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Milton Friedman. He said, “The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” What he means by this is that we, the people, must use our voice in the form of voting to pressure politicians to making the best decisions. We must become so opposed to this issue that politicians will believe their reelection to be impossible if they don’t change the current circumstances. We must tell every neighbor, every friend, every relative of the consequences of this law. We must tell the world about Tony Jalali, the 130 victims from ‘Funk Night’Lyndon McLellanVu Do, and the countless other stories of citizens being abused by our current police state. We must make every politician know that these laws will not be tolerated and those who support the abuses without demanding real reform will not remain in office. 

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A Look Inside CPAC 2017: The Conservative Political Action Conference

In the midst of a hugely divided Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta leading many liberals to threaten to break from the party in a #DemExit, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was a celebration of where conservatism stands in the current political spectrum. The conference was headlined by a speech from President Trump tripling down on his agenda from the campaign highlighting that his administration has already taking steps within the first 30 days to fulfill the majority of its campaign promises. President Trump received a standing ovation on every point as he addressed the wins of his populist movement as well as deliver another round of lighting jabs to the media he identifies as the opposition party. President Trump, once again called out members of the media saying, “A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.” Let ’em say it to my face.” referring to his repeated criticism of media leaking negative information of his administration given by what they call “anonymous sources.” Trump’s attendance at the conference also marked a milestone as he was the first first-year President to attend the Conference since Ronald Reagan.

 

 

 

The day prior to President Trump’s speech was highlighted by a joint sit down discussion with the President’s two top advisers, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. The discussion was of high interest to many for two main reasons. First being that, many people had never actually seen Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart, speak in public. We have all heard the recent rumors of his vocal altercations with members of the mainstream media off camera, as well of the rumors of President Trump’s arch nemesis Rosie O’Donell’s attempt to petition to character Bannon on Saturday Night Live. O’Donell’s suggestion left many scratching their heads, wondering how she would be able to pull off a comedic parody of someone most people have never even seen talking in public before. Secondly, this joint sit down came in between tons of leaked info in the media from the so-called “anonymous sources” stating that there were conflicts in the White House between its head advisers Bannon and Priebus. The two assured the conservatives in the audience the White House was working as a well oiled machine as the President recently stated and that the two actually shared an office in the White House and had been spending more than 16 hours a day working together side by side.

 

 

 

Other highlights from the conference include speeches from famed conservatives such as Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Ambassador John Bolton, Lou Dobbs, Dana Loesch, David Webb, Mark Levin, Carly Fiorina, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Betsy DeVos, Kellyanne Conway, Matt Schlapp, and #Brexit’s own Nigel Farage just to name a few. Milwaukee Sheriff, David Clarke Jr., gave an incredible speech addressing the importance of Americans finally coming together to be proud of their country, the strong leadership of President Trump, and a look into the future of the rule of law and order in America from the perspective of an active law enforcement agent.

 

 

 

According to surveys taken at CPAC, 86% of the conservatives in attendance say they approve of President Trump’s job performance thus far. This is a vast difference from the 44% approval rating currently given by the Gallup poll, proving again just how divided the country is at the current time. Which is why I strongly suggest liberal progressives take sometime to view these videos here as well as any others you can find from this year’s CPAC to clearly understand the conservative view on key issues plaguing politics in America right now. Before we can compromise and agree we must be willing to listen to the other side of the aisle.

 

 

 

Written by Ronald Massenburg

Democracy Stolen: We Must End Gerrymandering

Find me at @edub910 on Twitter

Imagine a world where, rather than politicians being selected by voters that the voters get selected by the politicians. Well, you wouldn’t need much of an imagination because this is exactly what’s happening in America today. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to gerrymandering. The United States is one of two democracies in the world that gives its politicians an active role in drawing up voting districts with a ‘winner-takes-all’ voting system – and the result is disastrous. It’s exactly what it sounds like, districts are manipulated to maximize the benefit of a specific political party thus creating brash representatives with no fear of losing an election. The last time that Congress had an approval rating higher than its disapproval rating was way back in January 2004 – over thirteen years ago. Not only that but its approval rating has even slipped down in to single digits while yielding no real improvements through the election process, and this is no coincidence. Meanwhile, since the country’s inception this method has continued to be used at the expense of the American people and now it’s up to us to make a change.

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

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The very first case of gerrymandering in America occurred in 1788 (even before all the states had ratified the Constitution) by none other than the man responsible for the above quote, Patrick Henry. He intentionally created a skewed voting district of whom he anticipated would include a majority of anti-federalist voters in order to snub our future president, James Madison. Though his effort failed, the idea that ensued has played a vital role in the political tides throughout American history. So where did the term “gerrymandering” originate? Elbridge Gerry, former Massachusetts governor and vice president to James Madison. See the photo above? That is a caricature of the egregiously drawn voting district that made gerrrymandering famous. The term is actually supposed to be his last name mashed together with ‘salamander’, which as you can see from the photo, was used to describe the shape of the district that coined the term.

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There are two main methods used to gerrymander voting districts, the first of which is “packing“. This is when you purposely pack together as many voters from the opposing party as possible in an effort to minimize the amount of seats they can win in an election. A perfect example of this is the state senate district where I reside here in Fayetteville, North Carolina – senate district 21:

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As you can see the district purposely reaches out in to Cumberland County and grabs up some of its biggest African-American voting precincts. This story goes a bit deeper than the map above suggests though. I’m sure most of you have heard of Zach Galifianakis, the actor made famous from the movie “The Hangover” (yes – Alan with the beard). As a North Carolina native he helped film a documentary about the detrimental impact gerrymandering has on the state and featured this very district along with former state senator Margaret Dickson (watch the clip in this link). As you see they intentionally took her out of senate 19 and redistricted her home address in to senate 21 removing her ability to represent what was once her district. Aside from her, they also took four Democrats from the United States House of Representatives and fused them down into two districts creating the same effect. How is this legal?

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The second technique is “cracking“. This is when people from the same area (who tend to vote similar) are purposely divided up into different districts to dilute their voting power. This is usually done when a district can no longer be packed so they take the remaining constituency and split them apart.

The Voting Rights Act

Martin Luther King Jr.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the most monumental achievements of the civil rights movement. It guaranteed fair government representation for minorities, and that racial discrimination couldn’t be used when it came time to hit the polls. The bill assured that the rights from the fourteenth (due process) and fifteenth (the right to vote) amendments extend to racial minorities while also enacting many provisions to protect them from other circumstantial situations.

To no surprise, gerrymandering was used as a means of vote suppression, and for the most part it was the “cracking” method at first. Picture this – you have a black neighborhood surrounded by four white neighborhoods. Rather than group the black neighborhood together as a district (giving them representation), the legislature decides to split the black neighborhood in four parts and put a different piece in each of the surrounding four white neighborhoods. What’s that mean? The black voters don’t have enough votes to carry any district, thus their vote is suppressed from being diluted through redistricting.

This brings us to what changed the game as far as redistricting goes – Thornburg v. Gingles. This created what is known as “majority-minority districts” which is defined as:

A majority-minority district is an electoral district, such as a United States congressional district, in which the majority of the constituents in the district are racial or ethnic minorities (as opposed to white non-Hispanics).

What this did was take away the ability to “crack” minority communities and provide them with government representatives that truly act as a reflection of them. However this led to consequences rather early. While Congress steadily (and still continues to) became more racially and ethnically diverse the Democrats started losing congressional seats. Though there are plenty of state legislature examples one could look at, we will go with Newt Gingrich and his “Republican Revolution” in 1994. The Republicans won both chambers of Congress for the first time in over 40 years, but as you see from this New York Times article dated just a few days after the ’94 election, grouping large portions of minorities together pulled Democrat votes from swing districts and handed them over to the Republican party. This is the idea that ‘mainstreamed’ the “packing” concept. The more like-minded voters you group in a single district, the less effect they will have in places that would otherwise have been competitive. To put it simply – yes, they discovered a way to use this historic legislation against the people it was meant to protect. This is why North Carolina’s districts were ruled unconstitutional in a federal court.

So How Has It Affected Us?

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Though gerrymandering is a technique which has been around for centuries, the 2010 election cycle took things to an entirely new level with the Republican-led “REDMAP” initiative. This was a two part plan with the ultimate goal set as obtaining the ability to draw up the new congressional districts after the 2010 census and give themselves a clear advantage heading forward. In order to do that though, they needed to take back some of the state legislatures that were, at that time, in the hands of Democrats. Karl Rove actually warned the Democrats prior to the election but they failed to take it serious. The first step of REDMAP was dumping $30 million into what would normally be docile districts that were generally uncontested or unsuspecting, flooding them with attack ads among other things. So did it work? Absolutely. They flipped 10 of the 15 states they targeted.

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The above photo is the dramatic change to U.S. House of Representatives that was ushered in after the implementation of REDMAP. How bad is it? Lets view the numbers. Just through state legislatures the Republicans have gained almost 700 seats (more than Democrats did after the Watergate Scandal!). This plan gave the right wing vast control of state legislatures across the country. On the national level the results mimic those of the states. In its first election in 2012, REDMAP paid off tremendously for the GOP. Even though Democrats received 1.4 million more total votes for the House than Republicans, the GOP still grabbed a 33 seat advantage. North Carolina has thirteen districts and Democrats scooped up a 51%-49% advantage overall which would mean seven Democrat seats and six Republican, right? Wrong. Despite the numbers the Dems only took four of the thirteen seats.

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David Daley’s book explaining the effects of REDMAP and gerrymandering

It has happened all over the country – in Pennsylvania the Democrats won 51% of the total vote yet only won five of eighteen congressional seats. In Wisconsin Democrats received a majority of votes yet only won 39 out of 99 state legislative seats. In Michigan Democrats held a majority yet only hold 47 of 110 state seats. In Virginia the Democrats had a 4% advantage yet were held to just three of eleven congressional seats. This problem is bipartisan, even though so far I have primarily talked about the affect gerrymandering has had on Democrats. According to Harvard Political Review, redistricting heavily favored the left from the 60’s to the 90’s – it’s just this current level of gerrymandering has never been seen before. The Democratic state of Illinois is notorious for using similar gerrymandering techniques, and so is Maryland. Since the Constitution only says how to pick representatives, the fine print on the procedural end is generally left to interpretation.

REDMAP was such a success, in fact, that Democrats have planned out their own initiative for the next census titled “Advantage 2020”. The problem? Well for starters the right will see it coming from a mile away. Also, it will be much more difficult to take back districts already set against them in a way that was done with such precision. However some feel as though this gerrymandered atmosphere created by Republicans is responsible for the current grassroots campaigns on the left and may end up helping Democrats in the long run. Another issue that’s created – you have two parties who don’t fear the loss of elections which creates an enormous tank of fuel to add to the partisanship in Washington. The reason is simply because politicians will be more focused on playing to their bases to win primaries rather than losing in the general election where there isn’t any real competition. Just look at our most recent election as an example. Congress holds an average approval of around 10%-15% yet out of 435 congressional districts *drumroll* only eight districts actually saw an incumbent lose.

 So How Do We Fix This?

imrs

There are many solutions that have been proposed to end gerrymandering, above is one of them – computer generated compact districts that are based solely off population. This way ensures that your party, race, wealth, along with practically every other ‘class’ label become irrelevant. We all know how bad NC is gerrymandered, look at the difference:

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Now on the flip side let’s give Maryland a look:

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We also have what is known as the “fair vote” which I find very interesting. Not only that, it isn’t as complicated as it can initially seem to be. It basically takes the existing congressional seats and merges them into larger districts – meaning a district has multiple seats. Why would a district need to have more than a single seat? Because governing power would be split within the district between the winner and the loser(s). Meaning if a district has 8 seats, and a candidate wins 55% of the vote they get to hold 5 seats of those 8 seats, with the ‘losing’ representative acquiring the remaining ones. The goal here is to give every voter representation, even if their party loses. CLICK HERE for a video that explains this in more detail.

Another idea I saw suggested is called the “double proxy” system. Now this one is kind of complicated. But using the example that the source above gave:

In this system, every Congressional district gets two members instead of just one.  Each political party fields one candidate per district, and the top two vote-receiving candidates are elected to Congress.  Typically, that would be one Democrat and one Republican. However, and this is key, the members are not equal.  Each elected member carries to Congress the proxies of those who voted for him/her, and it is those proxies that he/she casts when voting.  If member A is elected with 300,000 votes, and member B is elected with 200,000, then whenever a bill comes up for a vote, member A will be casting his/her 300,000 proxies, and member B will be casting his/her 200,000 proxies.  To pass a bill, you would need a majority of the proxies.

One of my favorites however is “ranked choice voting”. Being that I’m from North Carolina I’m a major college basketball fan so maybe this is why I find it so appealing. This would be like voting for your politician the same way that the AP votes on college rankings every week. You rank your favorite to your least favorite, and the “number one” candidate just depends on how the numbers tally up. Not only that, but the cities that have attempted this have yielded positive results.

And while all these are all new and innovative ideas, we could make this extremely simple just by looking at Iowa. Their state legislature stopped handling redistricting in 1981, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. They created an independent and non-partisan organization that ensures the redistricting process is a fair one. While their main focus is population equality, when necessary they do take into account certain boundaries like county and city lines. They even have a provision stating that districts have to be geometrically sound and can’t be irregularly shaped.

With all these possible alternatives it is crazy to not create a better system to take the power of voting from the politicians and return it to the people. Grassroots campaigns have sprouted up across the nation addressing numerous issues (including this one) and we have to continue to mobilize so we can produce results off this momentum. Get active. Get involved. It is up to us to make a difference for the future.

Wednesday March 1st in Raleigh, North Carolina we are having the “Citizen’s Lobby Day to End Gerrymandering” at the NC General Assembly Legislative building. #FairMapsDay will hopefully begin the movement to put an end to this once and for all. If you’re interested in attending you can click HERE for a video explanation. RSVP HERE or HERE on Facebook, and for any further questions contact Common Cause NC. For my fellow North Carolinians here are some stats Common Cause has provided regarding our current electoral process:

Redistricting in North Carolina 

The Problem

30% – Percent of 2016 state legislative seats where candidate had no primary or general 

election opposition

40% – Percent of 2016 state legislative seats with no opposition in the general election

0 – # of competitive congressional races in North Carolina in 2016

91% – Percent of 2016 state legislative races decided by more than 10 percentage points

30+ – # of court interventions in North Carolina redistricting cases since 1980

The Solution

63 – Number of NC House members (out of 120) cosponsoring bipartisan reform bill to take 

partisan politics out of the process and remove map-drawing power from politicians in 2015

Once – NC House passed reform bill in 2011 with bipartisan vote 88-27; including support of NC 

House Speaker Tim Moore and U.S. Senator (and then-House Speaker) Thom Tillis. NC Senate 

never considered.

5 – # of times Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger sponsored reform bills while in the minority 

party

4 – # of times House Speaker Tim Moore sponsored reform bills while in the minority party

0 – Number of redistricting lawsuits in Iowa since that state adopted redistricting reform

“I think the gerrymandered districts where we have no competition in the general election, 

makes all of our jobs difficult.”

 Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R)

“I will work to expand voter opportunities and create a non-partisan Redistricting Commission 

to make voting districts fair and competitive.”

Gov. Roy Cooper (D)

Together we can and will make a change! I hope to see you there!

-John Streaker

What President Trump Should Do About The Violence In Chicago

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In my hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which is said to be one of the cities in the country with the highest crime rates (mainly due to the small population and extremely high number of tourist) there is typically only a handful of murders a year, a number small enough to count on one hand that typically all occur during the annual biker week.  However, in 2016 the city of Chicago, Illinois clocked a staggering 762 murders. On average one kid under the age of 16 is murdered in “Chi-Town” every week. These numbers border on the statistics you would see in a 3rd world town suffering from genocide. So, why is this allowed to be an ongoing thing in one of the most well known cities in the greatest country on Earth? Why is there no outrage? Why are people not marching and protesting about this in mass numbers? You wouldn’t believe, but my best guess….. Racism. This is allowed to go on in Southside Chicago, year after year, and it is only getting worse. I believe if this had been going on in a predominantly white area the injustice would be addressed and stopped immediately. But let’s dive into a deeper analysis of why it is going on in the first place, why no one has stopped it yet, and the role our new President could play in finally bringing this carnage to an end.

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With 4,367 shooting victims in 2016 alone, the question often arises in gun control debates, what about Chicago? Many, including President Trump, have argued that Chicago has the strictest gun control laws in the U.S., yet one of the high rates of gun violence. Well, this is because the people doing the shooting are outlaws; they conduct themselves outside of the law. This is really the whole in the entire gun control argument in general. If people want to kill, they will find ways to kill. And as such, if people want weapons they will find ways to get their hands on them. In fact they would prefer to obtain these guns illegally. The truth is responsible-legal gun owners buy guys to hunt wild game and defend themselves. They don’t buy guns with the intentions on robbing random victims at gun point and seeking out homicidal revenge on people from rival neighborhoods. To them the process is a hassle, but at the end of the day they don’t mind applying for and registering their firearms. Outlaws on the other hand would prefer what they call a “throw away,” a firearm that can be used to “put in work” and is not traceable back to them. In these streets these firearms are just as valuable as money and drugs and are often bartered in the same fashion as the two.

Chicago has a long history of gangs going back to the late 1800s. These gangs have always been built up on ethnic grounds. In the late 1970s-early 1980s the rise of black street gangs and the drug trade cut through and divided black gangs into geographically based crime syndicates. Peaking with the introduction of crack cocaine into the inner cities the black streets gangs became just as big as the Italian mafia. What was once an organized racket of entrepreneurs and soldiers designed to generate millions in the black market of illegal drugs is now more out of hand than anyone could have ever imagined. There are no more hustlers fighting to control drug real estate worth millions in illegal funds, just the sons and grand sons of those old hustlers shooting and killing each other over underground rap song ‘disses’ and Facebook beefs. And they are killing each other like life doesn’t mean a thing, and in many ways in their young minds, it truly doesn’t.

It’s hard being a young black male conservative. This morning I woke up to see news reports of my state’s Republican Senator Tim Scott, on the floor addressing his peers with mean Tweets sent to him from other people with the same black skin color as him, for supporting the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as the new administration’s Attorney General. You know; Coon, Uncle Tom, self-hater, house Negro, etc. The typical type of name calling any black male can expect for going against the typical Black-American narrative of radical liberalism and permanent/un-escapable victimhood. The same typical insults I hear oh so often. Another line I hear very often in discussion with others after they find out I voted for President Trump is, “What is Trump going to do for us?” My initial response is always the same, “Us who? Us Americans?” Their follow up reply is always the same, “No. Us black people.” Then I always remind them, since they often forget (or fail to accept), they are free American citizens, and the sample public/political policy that would apply to any other American (regardless of skin tone) would also apply to them. From early in his campaign President Trump has made it crystal clear that he wants to restore safety to Southside Chicago and other crippling majority black communities. Supporters of the radical ‘alt-left’ will lead you to believe this is a bad thing and racist, when in fact it is the exact opposite.

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Those on the right, as well as black people in general, have question why ‘the first black President’ Barack Obama has never did anything to stop the death and carnage of black citizens in his hometown of Chicago. Unlike other politicians (from both sides), President Trump appears to be dead serious about honoring all his campaign promises, even though his haters seem determined to resist and oppose him every step of the way. On January 24th President Trump in classic-Trump communication fashion Tweeted, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” in what seemed to be a public warning to the areas failing Governor and Mayor, who Trump had also recently be in a war of words with over Chicago’s sanctuary city stance. But many people wonder what did he mean by, “Send in the Feds!”

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I don’t think anybody really completely knows what was meant by President Trump, but the local government and law enforcement is not getting the job done of protecting the people. Many people have said it is the fault of groups such as Black Lives Matter and the mainstream media for making it hard for police officers to be tough and do their job well from fear of getting involved in an incident that goes viral. Others have pointed blame at the guns laws, education system, job market, judicial system etc. However not too many have cast any blame towards the actual gang bangers doing the killing. In discussion about the Trump tweet I was once asked, “oh so that is Trump’s solution, to send the feds in to lock up more black boys instead of helping by getting them new jobs?” But what company would want to open a factory or plant in a war zone and have to deal with the liabilityof homicides being committed on the front step of their business daily? Have the kids committing these killings even been looking for jobs? If I offered them a job right now would they even want it? They have access to education now, but do they even show up to school and take it serious? The ideology of the people doing the killing has to be addressed at some point. And before that can take place the streets have to be cleaned up. How can you expect people to be willing to go to school and work everyday when they are too afraid to even leave the house from fear of getting shot in a random shooting? Right now Chicago needs law and order, and I’m not talking about SVU. Chicago needs the type of law and order you hear strong conservatives talking about like President Trump, A.G. Jeff Session, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, and even former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Chicago needs tough prosecution and sentencing for its gun crimes. And finally, the young black men in Chicago need to decide, and decide now before it gets to late, do they want to be gang bangers and fall victim to the inevitable fate of prison or early death that comes with that choice or do they want to be productive contributing member of society. It’s not as hard as everyone makes it. We all have dealt with it at some point in the midst of the tangled fast-life. At the fork in the road some of us go left and some of us go right, but we all make our own choice. Let’s start to be honest with each other.  And most importantly let’s start to be honest with ourselves.

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Years ago, when I was an ignorant child; young, dumb, and full of you know what, I would have said something stupid like “F the pigs” or “no snitching.” These codes have grown to become more than just street corner ethics held by those select few who devote their life to the game of hustling. These idiotic mottos have become general guides to life we teach our kids in the black community. We have to take control. We have to make a change. We have to stop complaining about oppression of the past and move forward. We have to stop hurting each other and then praising one another for it afterwards like it’s something cool to do. We have to stop begging and waiting on someone to come help us, and we need to help ourselves. Today I say that I pray Donald Trump sends the feds to Chicago. And I pray he locks up every gang banger out there that refuses to stop killing and poisoning their brothers and sisters. I can handle that. I pray they get locked up for a long time, one by one. And that prayer goes out to the little boy killed by stray gun fire while outside riding his bicycle like a little boy is supposed to. That prayer goes out to that 17 year old teenage girl there with the dream of getting a scholarship to medical school, but won’t even get the chance because gang bangers at her school are fighting and killing so much her teachers don’t even have the chance to teach. And it goes to out to that elderly couple that moved into the neighborhood 50 years ago to live the American dream of homeownership, worked their entire adult lives to pay their home off, and are now afraid to come outside and take a walk down their street because every time they do they get mugged. President Trump, it’s time!

Written by @rmassenb

Trump’s Inauguration: A Day I Will Never Forget

The season finale of America was everything I expected and more – by 7pm on inauguration day I had been caught in a full scale riot, I was famished after being on the go for 13 hours straight, I was totally exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally – and yet I thought I couldn’t have gotten any luckier than I did. Over the course of that day I had agreed with and disagreed with everyone in attendance at least five times. I saw the best in those I politically rival and the worst of those who share my own ideology. I saw how the media can twist things and just how quick people are to gobble it up. But looking back at it, the reason I was so lucky is because I truly got to have the full American experience. So this is January 20th, 2017 through my eyes and why I’ll never forget it.

Let me give you some of my background to give you a better understanding on my perspective before we go down this rabbit hole together. I was born during the Reagan years but the first president I remember was Bill Clinton. My parents were able to become home owners under his tenure, and I just remember a general sense of prosperity during this time regardless of what you may think of his personal activities. My step-father of whom I had lived with practically my entire life was a die hard conservative and my mother a die hard liberal. This meant I always heard both sides of everything, but I ended up becoming a Democrat.

My first vote for president was for John Kerry. I volunteered for Obama’s campaign in 2008 after reading his books. I attended the DNC in Charlotte in 2012 – forcing my little brother and sister to go because I told them they may never see another Democrat convention in NC in their lifetime. I was a major Bernie Sanders supporter, and though the discrepancies of the DNC had me very discouraged I ended up falling in line to support Hillary Clinton. I do not like Donald Trump, and haven’t since his birther quest. However I wanted to go to this event with as much of an open mind as possible to see things objectively while trying not to allow my personal bias to influence my actions.

The morning of the inauguration I arrived at Greenbelt station to take the Metro to DC at 6am. As I boarded I was accompanied by a large number of Trump supporters who were gleeful when speaking of the days coming events. I just sat back and grinned while listening to some of the ongoing conversations until we reached the next stop, that’s when it all changed. Protesters began to flood the train and an instant level of tension swept the atmosphere. From this point forward I was subjected to watching these two groups snarl at one another while pointing and mumbling remarks that were what I will call ‘less than respectful’ under their breath. This set the tone for the day. It was as if something crazy could have gone down at any second so when we arrived at the Gallery station I was relieved to get off the train and begin what I knew would be a long afternoon.

I followed the crowd and walked to my first security checkpoint of the event which was being ran by TSA. It seemed surprisingly quiet at first, nothing more than private conversations but then protesters started pulling out signs and yelling various chants. I heard “Hey ho! Hey ho! Donald Trump has got to go,” along with “No Trump! No KKK no facist USA!” more than anything else. Whenever these chants occurred the gate didn’t have as many Trump supporters so most of them just rolled their eyes and looked irritated while a few of them spoke up. I realized I was at a ‘protest gate’ rather quickly.

At first I was pleasantly surprised, the overwhelming amount of people ready to protest Trump made me feel like I was apart of something bigger than myself. I enjoyed seeing the signs, hearing the conversations, and just being a part of this event I knew would have a significant place in history. Almost three hours have gone by just waiting to enter the 1st checkpoint and the line became stagnant. Protesters ended up making a human wall to deny everyone entry because they couldn’t take their signs inside – which was immediately met with the Secret Service completely shutting the gate down. I thought, “Are you kidding me?!”

I am totally in support of protesting (as I have done so before) but this had me infuriated. When a protest starts affecting innocent people directly who are just trying to go about their own business that’s when you take it too far. I was seriously in doubt of being able to get in and cover the inauguration properly which was my entire purpose for being present. I agreed with their message but disagreed with their method. These protesters may have cost me the opportunity to fulfill my obligations to Center of the Aisle and the people who follow us and knew we would be in attendance. Now I had to go find another gate and had to wait all the way in the back of a new line.  I just hoped I could still arrive on time.

I arrive at my second inauguration checkpoint around 9:30am irritated and upset with how things had gone up to this point. The line was moving rather quickly so I thought it wouldn’t be that bad. It took a whole 60 seconds to realize I was at a ‘pro-Trump’ gate this time which made me feel better about getting through. I immediately thought “let me look at the shoes they’re wearing” because my intent was to make a meme saying “all these Trump voters, not one pair of work boots.” However to my surprise I noticed a substantial amount of them purposely wore work boots, even with formal attire, to make a statement which I found impressive.

As I chatted with these people I never once revealed my own political affiliations. I just picked their brains to see how they felt about everything and to get a sound understanding of what this day meant to them. I heard a lot of “we finally got our country back” along with various other concerns that I actually shared with them though I may not have seen eye to eye with them on their solutions. We had a lot of similarities to my surprise, and I actually enjoyed my time there chatting with them. I met one man dressed as Ben Franklin (whig and all) who told me he dressed this way because “the great state of Pennsylvania delivered the election to Trump.”

Then I met a man who said he was from Shallote, North Carolina – a fellow North Carolinian. How many of you seen this being spread around social media:

He thought this was an actual thing and rode his motorcycle from NC all the way to DC to be a part of it, unfortunately he was a victim of ‘fake news’ on social media which is an epidemic these days. He told me he slept on the concrete floor in Union station and woke up to come to the inauguration. Whether I agreed with him on political philosophy or not, that was extremely admirable. To ride that far by motorcycle just to sleep on the concrete and then come to see your guy sworn in – that is patriotic. I realized how much this moment really meant to the people in this line.

I began to hear chants and drums in the distance and thought “oh God, here comes the protesters to mess this gate up next.” They left a bad taste in my mouth from the previous gate. As soon as the two factions were able to see one another head to head they started trading chants and things once again became intense. The police ended up having to form a wall between the two groups to keep them separated so things wouldn’t further escalate. The man in the Ben Franklin outfit began to roast the protesters which I found myself unable to not laugh at as much of what he said was rather funny. Another moment at the ‘pro-Trump’ gate I found particularly cool was that someone started singing the Star Spangled Banner and it wasn’t long after that the entire audience sang along while protesters marched on the sidewalks.

I finally made it in – the best part was that I still had time to make it to the inauguration as it was only around 10:30am. As I paced up and down Pennsylvania Avenue I quickly realized that I couldn’t cross over to the National Mall. Now I’m upset again. I asked an officer if there was anywhere to cross and he instructed me to go to 10th street and wait for them to open it up there. The line was ridiculously long, it went to the outer gate and wrapped back around inside towards Pennsylvania Avenue. I decided to try a live video to make sure it worked, and managed to get a shot of this enormous line (this is why the 11:04am and 11:12am pics of the National Mall are bogus, no one was there yet).

At about 11:25am they opened it up, way too late. I’ll say this, though pictures may not reflect it, the people were there for the inauguration but the security and logistics were a total nightmare and they ruined their own event. When we got closer to the National Mall there was another ridiculously long line. Why? Because there was another TSA checkpoint. I thought to myself “do they intend on everyone missing this?” I had to go through the metal detectors but immediately afterwards  (when they realized they were stopping everyone from attending) they told people to go through with their jackets open and that’s it. When I tell you people were sprinting and running as fast as possible to get there that’s no exaggeration.

I finally arrived right in front of Capitol Hill at 11:46am. I had barely made it (keep in mind I got on the Metro at 6am). My initial reaction was the crowd was rather light, but I knew how ridiculously long the line to get in was. I seen Pence and Trump get sworn in then Trump began to give his speech. My first impression was that he wasn’t saying a whole lot – until he said one thing in particular. He said “we will eradicate radical Islamic terrorism off the face of the planet!” The crowd went nuts where I was at. I had noticed walking in there were some Muslim people on the outskirts holding signs peacefully and not doing much.

After Trump said this the whole demeanor of the audience changed. It shocked me to hear anyone say, in their first speech, that they would eradicate any demographic off the face of the planet. It seemed very extreme to me. They started yelling “get the hell out of our country” and pushing and shoving these people which was instantly repulsive. I felt disgusted that these people would openly treat them like that so I would not allow myself to stay and watch. This led to my immediate departure. At the time I was leaving the audience was substantially bigger than it initially was with people still running in, the time was 12:21pm and I know this because I texted my friend about what was said right then. If the media produces a pic between 12:20 and 12:30, that is the most accurate reflection possible.

To my surprise I had to go through a TSA checkpoint just to leave, and a fourth one to get to the parade area. This was getting ridiculous. I was starved so I was wanting to find a place to eat, no luck. I had been invited to a protest outside the secured zone so I figured I could check that out while also grabbing a bite to eat before coming back to the parade which didn’t start for three hours. I had no clue what I was about to walk in to. So I’m on the phone with another COTA writer Matt Miller explaining to him what all happened. I didn’t go too deep into details because so much had happened and I didn’t want to talk him to death.

As I approached this protest I seen everything was going as one would expect. Then I heard a loud BANG behind me like a bomb went off. There were about 20 or so rioters with black clothes covering their faces throwing what appeared to be broken cinder block pieces at the police. I seen an officer get pelted in the side of the head with one while not paying attention and felt bad instantly. Before you know it there’s tear gas, flash grenades, pepper spray, pretty much anything the police can use to subdue the situation being used abundantly. These rioters were prepared though. Pepper spray? They put on ski goggles. Tear gas? They had duffle bags with gas masks. They relentlessly fought police which caused them to attack any protester in the vicinity. I must admit, it was even difficult for me to tell who was who. I tried to leave the perimeter (I was dressed in formal attire) only to be met by an officer who pushed me back. He asked me “where do you think you’re going?” I just stopped and looked at him upset and confused because I hadn’t done anything to provoke him to put his hands on me. It didn’t take long for another cop to scream at the top of his lungs “get the f*%k back!” which prompted me to do just that.

I felt so bad that these protesters who were properly exercising their 1st amendment right ended up being beaten and arrested due to the negligence of such a small group of people. I finally was able to leave the area, and the line to get back into the inauguration was still about an hour to two hour wait. Luckily I managed to slide in a gate no one was at and catch some live footage of the very end of the inaugural parade. I’ll say this though, when it was all over I had never been so ready to go from anywhere. It was like a nonstop mental roller coaster so when I went to get back on that Metro line at Gallery I had an instant sense of relief.

What I learned though was that we really have a lot more in common than we like to give ourselves credit for. Life is too short for partisanship. I said the next day to someone I know, how do we take the concerns we have and the concerns they have and somehow find that middle ground to appease everyone? Overall I’m glad I went, and I learned so much not only about myself, but about people in general. Instead of fighting we need to discover what it will take to come together and really make things better for our future generations. But before I go, I’d like to leave you with the photo I took at the end of the day to signify how I felt up to that point:

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– John Streaker

Trump’s Inauguration: The Perfect Example of Why America Has Lost Faith in the Media

 

Please share this article to spread the information below in order to help curtail the amount of spin being portrayed in the media!

In recent years the American media has all but completely dissolved the line between impartiality and personal opinion. We have reached a point where ‘news’ outlets would rather cater to an audience than simply tell the complete and total truth. The truth hurts I know, but sometimes it needs to – that can be its intention. The consequences of this? Mass cognitive dissonance. The term applies to a few scenarios in psychology, but for those not familiar with it here’s what it means in the context I am using:

Cognitive Dissonance – When a person has a core belief or value that is very strong, it’s the feeling of extreme discomfort that occurs when they are presented with information or evidence that contradicts that belief or value. It becomes so important to protect this belief that new evidence cannot be accepted even causing a person to rationalize, ignore, or deny anything that doesn’t fit with this belief or value.

Cognitive dissonance is responsible for the current political atmosphere. The risen awareness of media bias caused the public to search for alternative media outlets which allowed ‘yellow journalism’ (actual fake news) to ascend to its current stature. The inevitable result has been the spreading of misinformation at rates we have never seen due to the viral nature of the internet. ‘Fake news‘ has become so popular because it plays off a person’s cognitive dissonance – which was already instilled by these major media outlets and the extreme partisan politics in this country.

Under these circumstances anything that aligns with a person’s beliefs are viewed in a positive manner making them more susceptible to fallacies and misinformation. To add to this effect – whenever they see something which doesn’t line up with their own beliefs they automatically write it off as ‘bias’ and close their mind to any alternative. This has lead to the ‘echo chambers’ on the right and left we constantly hear pundits refer to. Yet this is also caused when television and radio personalities become so caught up in reaffirming their own arguments they develop a tendency to present partial truths or even misinformation.

Enough is enough. The media needs to stop trying to prove that it’s right and start trying to prove that it’s honest. The moment you allow your actions to be defined by right and left, rather than right and wrong, you’ve officially become a part of the problem. Personal opinion is never to be placed on the same pedestal as facts, it’s to be formed after assessing the information that facts provide. Journalism should always be a reflection of the most accurate evaluation one can make after taking as many facts in to account as possible. However since the inauguration the media has pushed a substantial amount of spin. Let me say this – I am not a Republican, I am a life long Democrat and I did not vote for Donald Trump so I have no bias which would push me to write this. Now please allow me to rationalize the truth behind some of the biggest headlines from this past weekend.

wp-1485207976471.jpgAbove photo taken by Deadspin Editor Timothy Burke at 11:12am from ABC News live stream

wp-1485177141167.jpg Above photo taken by Erza Klein from The Vox at 11:04am

Both of these photos above are disingenuous

Now I’m not saying they were initially meant to be so, but regardless of the intent neither of these pictures is a fair representation of the inauguration crowd. They are not ‘fake’ as some have thrown around on the internet either, so let me explain. wp-1485208018536.jpg

Above is the map provided by the Secret Service on how to reach the National Mall for the inauguration, take a real close look at it. The bottom portion underneath of the National Mall has a much smaller proportion of Metro travelers than the top does. Why is that important? Let’s take another look at this photo:

The side where the majority of the people are standing is on the right which would be the bottom side of the map, you know – the one with the least amount of travelers. Reason? because that side was the only side open at the time both photos were taken. You see the parade route on the map above? They shut down Pennsylvania Avenue to prepare for the parade later that day which kept all the people on the top of the map (the majority) from crossing over at that time. They made us form a line at 10th street and wait until it was clear to open the path to allow everyone over. This didn’t happen until about 20 minutes after the pictures above. Matter of fact:

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I just so happen to post about this on my Facebook account while waiting, please look at the time of the post. Ironically this is around the same time this was posted:

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Yes Gillian, that’s because we weren’t allowed to cross over at that time. Shortly after to make sure my live video was functioning I proceeded to start a live feed while I was still waiting on Pennsylvania Avenue at 11:06am which lasted for minute:

Here’s the actual video where I show part of the line I am describing:

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It wasn’t until about 15-20 minutes after this they opened the barricade to let us through and as you see I was at the front of this ridiculously long line. To even reach this point I had to wait at two separate security checkpoints ran by the Secret Service and TSA which were comparable to entering the secured zone of an airport. It took me 4 and a half hours to reach this point only to have to go through another TSA checkpoint before entering the National Mall to witness the inauguration. I finally make it over:

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It was 11:46am, and remember I was at the front of the line. Now look at this tweet:

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This is extremely significant, looks empty right? Let me show you 1oth Street:

See where the red line is at? About center of the Smithsonian Castle where it’s curved out right?

This is where 10th street is! Meaning if the crowd is back to that point she was standing on the last platform. It also means both of the photos are totally bogus. Not only that, but I was in the front of the line. People were running to try to make it in time, I know many more came in behind me as well and there’s about 30-40 minutes from then until Trump’s speech concluded. The most genuine picture I could find was from Earth Cam but it was after the people were already leaving:

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Look to the left and you will see the massive amount of people in the grass leaving already. I find it amazing that everyone has all these pictures, yet they’re mainly prior to or after Trump’s time on stage. So no one has any of him at the peak of his speech, or even speaking at all for that matter? Odd. Yet even when viewing the above photo as people are leaving, this crowd looks bigger than the crowds in the other photos. One publication went to use this same Earth Cam and coincidentally cropped out the side that would show where people would be leaving:

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Not only did those two original photos I have discussed go viral on the internet, they were placed in publications as well. However I seen the NY Times (one of my top 3 favorite sources for media) actually have the audacity to post the photo and claim it was during “peak density” which is just flat out false!

The only photo available I have found during his actual speech is this one, and it may be a different angle but you can still see the areas being depicted:

There were three checkpoints that were mandatory (and took forever) to be able to access the outer restricted area and then the inauguration and parade. The crowd peaked right as Trump’s speech concluded because people were still coming in fast the entire time. According to my own phone records I contacted a friend at 12:21pm right as it was concluding so this would be the opportune time for an accurate photo. I left the restricted area completely at about 1:30pm (an hour after Trump’s speech at the inauguration) and there was still a 1-2 hour wait just to reach the outer zone again (plus another gate for the parade beyond that one). These lines maintained this way until about 5pm so security also kept a whole lot of people from making it in.

However the fact that the media has doubled down on these photos is crazy to me. They ranted on TV about how no one was going to show up for at least a week or two prior to the event and then go through all this trouble over some dumb photos? You guys don’t want the POTUS calling you fake news? Don’t post fake news! If you want to fight against someone why would you play right in to that person’s hand? When you do things like this you discredit real journalism and make everyone look bad. The fact – whether your cognitive dissonance allows you to believe it or not – those pics are not the actual crowd size.

Now I’m not agreeing with Trump’s numbers or his claim that “it was the most viewed inauguration in history” either. It wasn’t, Barack Obama in 2008 was at 1.8 million people. I’m sure we can all agree seeing the 1st African-American president get sworn in was a very historic moment a lot of people wanted to go see. But if the media was being honest, why couldn’t they just post this instead:

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Why try so hard to use misleading and disingenuous methods of persuasion when the numbers are right there? The city of Washington DC said they made preparations for around 700-900k. There is no such thing as alternative facts, there’s just facts and nothing else. The fact here is that while pics have circulated to make things seem much worse, the crowd was not bigger than either of Obama’s inaugurations or the Women’s March on Washington (which I also attended). Total Metro for the 20 hour period was 570.5k (about 285k people) and then you have to include people who stayed in DC, people who took a bus in, and every other method. I think the most disturbing part of it all is that neither side is being honest which means people are out here arguing over which lie is true – and that is something everyone should be concerned about.

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As soon as I left the restricted area I stumbled right into the protest that turned in to a riot and once again the media has it wrong. But just to verify, this is where CNN said that it had occurred:

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My location I gave as I was stuck in the midst of it:

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Now I’m here to tell you this – there was not 230 rioters as much of the media has suggested. There was around 10% of that figure actually rioting while the vast majority of everyone else was protesting in the way one would expect. This small group knew what they were doing too. They had numerous bags stuffed with various items like broken up cinder blocks to pelt the police with, ski goggles for pepper spray, gas masks for tear gas, and assorted other items to be used as weapons. They knew what they were planning to do, they seemed a bit too well prepared. The media needs to stop saying that all these people where rioting because once again it just is not true, I seen the whole thing with my own eyes.

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No actually most of them don’t (deserve it) and it is truly a shame that all these people who actually broke no laws will have to go through this and more than likely take a conviction for it. I’m not saying it was ‘paid protesters’ or insinuating any sort of conspiracy theories either. I will let everyone else draw their own conclusions. Even for me it was extremely difficult to tell who was who being almost everyone was in black attire. This situation is a perfect personification of the cliche phrases “one bad apple spoils the bunch” and “wrong place, wrong time.”

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The next day at the Women’s March on Washington Madonna gave what was initially a great speech until she had a major blunder:

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I’ve seen people say that she got cheers for this comment – no she did not. The crowd became very hostile when she made that statement. I wanted to make sure I put it up because I just knew that this story was going to be all over the news. But guess what? After the march it wasn’t a major headline on any site. As a matter of fact, I was able to re-watch the speech on a video uploaded to a non-mainstream outlet. When I went to the major news outlets all I seen was clips praising her speech with this part edited out. I honestly wonder if the internet hadn’t made such a big deal out of this if they even would have pushed the issue at all?

As Louis so eloquently put it – there are no unbiased sources. The real question is what are we going to do as Americans? This site was created as a means to break the mold of bias by allowing every political affiliation to have an unfiltered outlet to voice the concerns and ideas of the demographics that they represent. The media ‘reports’ issues – then we get upset about them and make it political so finally the politicians have to address it from there. They have the ability to steer the conversation in this country so we need to start making them answer for their accountability in regards to what their bias has created. Trump’s inauguration is just one event so imagine all the spin we face on a daily basis. The bottom line is this: research everything as well as you can and as often as possible. Oh, and when you do, please leave your cognitive dissonance at the door.

-John Streaker

The Fastest Way To A Successful Third Party

Allow me to begin by saying that I’m a progressive that tends to vote Democrat. I have never researched and read so much for one single writing, and I did this with the help of another progressive, two libertarians, and two conservatives. I ask you all, please read this in it’s entirety before passing judgement. I assure you that even as some things may appear to not make sense or be ‘radical,’ eventually things come together. So let’s begin…

American Moderates: The Template For Success

Let me start by putting this as bluntly as possible – people are sick of the partisan circus that has taken over Washington DC. It has resulted in nothing getting accomplished while everyone points at their rivals across the aisle as a means to gain political expedience. The level of trust for our politicians is at an all time low (which has a direct effect on turn out), while the desire for change against the establishment is at an all time high. The American political system continues to polarize people in such a divisive manner that the center is slowly but surely disappearing before our eyes. We have to stop that now. The fact of the matter is nothing gets done at Capitol Hill without some degree of bipartisan cooperation.

First let me clear up what I mean by ‘moderate’ as this is such a broad term. Being a moderate does not mean you share the exact ideology as other moderates, unlike conservatives or liberals. However, most people are not 100% to the right or left with their political views either. The best definition I found was in an article by The Atlantic which stated:

Moderates… aren’t tuned-out or ill-informed, but they tend to see both sides of complex issues…

Being a moderate does not mean being an independent either. As FiveThirtyEight explained, independents tend to have a more extreme position than members of either major party with a similar philosophy (Bernie Sanders). According to polls, moderates tend to see the best of each political ideology and span across demographic lines in ways the major parties could only dream of doing. As a matter of fact in our most prior elections moderates made up 41% of the electorate in 2012 and 44% in 2008, and also tend to be the deciding factor in who’s elected.

Populist movements have become increasingly popular in the last two general elections. For those unfamiliar with the term:

Populism is a political style of action that mobilizes a large alienated element of population against a government seen as controlled by an out-of-touch closed elite that acts on behalf of its own interests. The underlying ideology of the Populists can be left, right, or middle.

In 2012 we saw Ron Paul have a sweeping populist movement, especially among the youth. This past election seen major populist movements on both the right and left in the forms of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The overall message here is people are tired of the political establishment and yearn for an environment that will finally start serving the interests of the people.

The problem with ‘moderates’ as politicians is due to the nature of the polarized atmosphere which has overcome DC, many of them are painted as ‘weak’ or ‘establishment’ representatives. I’m opposed to the idea of any politician using the moderate label to flip flop on issues – but those with a sound understanding of each issue as an individual one rather than a grouped philosophy should be viewed from a different perspective.

What I propose is a ‘moderate’ party that works for the people. If such a party was formed there is a possibility you could have the small number of remaining moderates join giving instant representation by having incumbents in DC. I believe that people witnessing the unification of those willing to get things done would be profound. A revolution in American politics “where the people finally let the establishment know, this is our country.” Sounds good right?

As I stated earlier, ‘moderate’ is a very loose term. I wanted to be able to illustrate just what this moderate party would look like which I realized rather quickly I couldn’t do on my own. So in the spirit of the National Union Party, I reached out to five other people – one more progressive, two libertarians, and two conservatives – with the goal to compromise on all our major political issues to show that it can be done. Though it proved more difficult than I thought it would be, we still managed to pull it off.

The Utilitarian Party

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Now we obviously can’t go around calling ourselves the ‘moderate party.’ It sounds rather mundane and anti-charismatic. Enter: utilitarianism. This unique ideology is seldom (if ever) discussed in American politics. Classic utilitarianism is simply this: the best idea, is the one that gives the most happiness to the greatest amount of people. Imagine that – a philosophy that is driven by the happiness of everyone. I’d also like to point out that since the Declaration of Independence stated that the “pursuit of happiness” was an “unalienable right” that it is rather fitting.

Most times in history utilitarianism has been used to decide existing issues by simple majority, rather than creating new ones based off it’s principles. In my experiences when dealing with groups of polarized people, the best way to advocate for change is presenting new ideas rather than trying to prove you’re right on the existing ones. What we put together would be best described as an unexplored version of rule utilitarianism. Our goal: take the best ideas from each side and create policy to maximize utility – rather than apply the philosophy to existing ideas. Instead of seeing what provided the most happiness using current positions – we set out to compromise and create our own that would make everyone happy, thus maximizing utility to the fullest extent. We could end political polarization; rather than asking who’s right and who’s wrong the question would begin as how do we positively affect the most people? Political utilitarianism. For added insight on the logo – Democrats have a donkey, Republicans have an elephant, I went with the owl as it is a symbol of wisdom. For those seeking further discussion on social media, join the group “The American Utilitarian” on Facebook!

So here’s what we came up with, the utilitarian platform:

Compromissum Pro Unitate

These are purely hypothetical ideas! After this, I will write a series of articles detailing the specifics of the most important issues below to break down everything and demonstrate how things would work.

Immigration

Kind of hard to be a ‘fiscal conservative’ and say you’re going to deport every illegal immigrant in the United States; the costs would be astronomical to track down – then detain – then temporarily house – then transport them back to their country. A major burden on the tax payers. What we propose is a much simpler system. First of all, the immigration process is loaded with formalities and stipulations, on top of the requirements they have after all of that. We think if you can pass a thorough background check done by our intelligence agencies – then pass a civics test on how things work in America – that we are in no position to deny anyone the coveted American dream. This would apply to all those trying to come into the country (refugees included). As for illegals, we understand that they broke the law to be here. After they go through the process, we will charge them a tax penalty for a specific period of time to generate federal revenue – rather than spend more. As for walls? In the spirit of Ronald Reagan and his stance on walls, we decided it may not be a good idea.

Gun Laws – The Second Amendment

I think we can all agree that gun laws in this country are extremely confusing. Does this state reciprocate that one, blah blah blah. For instance – in New York if you get your gun rights back as a felon the manner in which they do this makes it still illegal to own a gun through federal law. We opt to abolish all current federal gun laws. Don’t think we are radical just yet! What we propose is this: A law that would require each state to start a ‘DMV-like’ department for guns. If you have a driver’s license in a state it’s recognized nationally, though each state has it’s own driving requirements. The same would apply with guns. A state would have the discretion to set whatever laws they like (as long as they don’t violate the 2nd amendment) and whatever requirements they want to obtain a license. The ‘DGO’ (Department of Gun Ownership). Every state recognizes each others license, and you have to abide by each states laws while there. This allows economic opportunities for states with loose regulation – gives states an easier template to create stricter regulation – and cuts back on federal spending quite a bit. So much so, through this we believe we could get rid of the ATF (this isn’t prohibition ya know).

Congressional Term Limits

We agreed this is a no-brainer. People argue it takes some many years (Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders) to have a profound effect on congress so we shouldn’t do it. But I say, isn’t that because the others who were there for decades already make it more difficult? What we propose is a 12 year total maximum amount, slightly different then the current proposal. It would equate to: 2 senate terms, 6 house terms, or a mixture of 1 senate term and 3 house terms.

LGBT Rights

We will start with gay marriage. If people want to get married, straight or gay, the government has no place saying who can or cannot do so. At the same time, it shouldn’t be able to force this to be done either. It’s only claim to marriage is tax filings, so we propose changing the tax system and taking this away to keep government out of it, but we will address that in a few. Aside from that, of course we would make sure that LGBT people are a protected class of citizens from discrimination in all cases.

Abortion

This topic was the toughest to deliberate. I suggested a federal law protecting abortions mentioned in the Hyde Amendment – which would be consistent with Poland who has some of the strictest laws in the world – including mothers who may die, rape, and incest. What we came to though was making it a state’s rights issue. Allowing states to issue their own laws on the subject.

Environment

We do not deny climate change – let me start with that. What we do have is a system that unfairly allows politics to influence environmental policy. One survey showed that 40% of EPA scientists reported political interference in their work. They do this so they can set regulations that benefit some while hurting others in the private sector. What we propose is making the EPA a federally funded organization, which operates independently from the government to remove the political aspect (eg Post Office, Federal Reserve). If a representative wants a law to help their corporate buddies, let them write and sign it themselves as they do with everything else. This would also significantly reduce the costs.

Education

If there’s one thing worth investing in – it’s education. Though we aren’t a fan of federal education initiatives (No Child Left Behind, Common Core Math) and think that all curriculum should be left entirely up to the state’s discretion. 8% of public K-12 funding is through the federal government – but through three separate departments. Simplify the process to cut out overhead by giving what’s needed by states through one grant. As a country we have 1.1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. According to the fiscal reports from the Department of Education, we spend $139.7 billion a year on PELL grants and student loans. However according to the proposal from Bernie Sanders to make public universities tuition-free, it would only cost $70 billion. You read that correctly, half the cost. Do this now. Universities can still set their own admission standards and requirements for getting in. That allows more consumer money into the economy, while providing a significant service to the public and cutting on spending. Not to mention, states will be able to invest more money in K-12 education.

Crime Reform

The United States has 25% of the entire world’s total prison population. We can’t be that bad can we? First, decriminalize marijuana entirely. If alcohol is legal there’s no reason marijuana shouldn’t be. Second, end the ‘war on drugs’ because it has taught us over the last few decades arrests and imprisonment has not bettered our society. Rather than institutionalizing our people let’s actually try to rehabilitate them. All first time non-violent drug offenders should be released from prison – period. Addiction is a mental illness and should be treated as such. We should offer more treatment, not more time. Get rid of the death penalty, if you’re going to be pro-life actually mean it. With so many people being proven of innocence, even one murder of someone wrongfully convicted is just that – murder. Abolish all federal private prisons. The more people locked up, the higher profit yielded. This has to come to an end. Not to mention, we have a federal law requiring 34k immigrants to be locked up at all times on the tax payers dime – when 60% of them are good and end up getting released. Abolish all federal drug classifications and make federal prison only for major drug traffickers and those who commit an array of crimes in multiple states. Let bankers and those from Wall Street go to state prison, no special treatment. Doing this we could shrink federal prisons by 80%. Ending the war on drugs means we can abolish the DEA.

Foreign Policy

We want to maximize military strength AND efficiency simultaneously. A high portion of wasteful spending comes from right here – audit the DoD and let the people in charge of the military decide what needs money and what doesn’t rather than some congressman trying to get his corporate buddy a government contract. Keep strategic foreign bases but cut back on the exuberant amount we have globally with no actual strategic value. Pull out of war zones and start a preemptive policy, rather than continuing an imperialist one. Focus on defense inside our nation from foreign entities. Still maintain a limited leadership role in NATO and the UN. Totally repeal the Patriot Act and the NDAA which allow the government to substantially restrict the individual freedoms of American Citizens.

Economy

Let’s start with Wall Street. We are against taxing transactions because we are afraid it would somehow lead to the regular people being taxed. We are for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagal (a law that kept investment banks and commercial banks separate) but we want amendments to Dodd-Frank because it has killed the number of small banks and credit unions in this country through regulation. We are very ‘pro-SEC’ and will support them however we can. We are against any kind of import tariffs or actions to further restrict American trade.

We wish to make major changes regarding corporate influence in DC. We currently have volunteer lobbyist and paid lobbyist – I suggested making lobbying a strictly volunteer environment. We agreed we should ban all fundraising and contributions from lobbyist entirely to stop corporate influence on politicians. Also, make PAC’s have the same spending restrictions as candidates to cut their influence there. I suggested overturning the Citizen’s United ruling which allows corporations to dump unlimited funds into super PAC’s as well.

Change the tax code to household filings rather than individual ones. This would keep government away from marriage while also significantly reducing tax fraud. Institute a modified version negative income tax at $30k per household (if you make 10k, you get 20k from the government). Doing this we could abolish all federal programs that are considered ‘entitlements’ such as food stamps, public housing, social security, etc. This would ensure every household receives slightly over $575 a week ($2500 a month) to replace every thing mentioned above. You basically streamline all programs in to one pay out which significantly reduces overhead and federal spending. Offer incentives for those who make over $30k a year, and make the first 30k tax free for every one. This program would cost about 2/3 of what social security currently does while providing more for the people it serves. Apply a flat tax of 15% above all income over 30k per household and a 15% corporate flat tax to go with it. Cut federal subsidy programs that allow government to pick and choose which companies to give an unfair advantage to with ‘free’ money. End all corporate loopholes and wasteful deductions.

After you do all this – the best part of it all – with the cuts already suggested, the government would have a minimum surplus of $200 billion. (Yes you read that right!)

We’d also like to encourage market competition with the Federal Reserve and end their monopoly, as well as make the fed a public institution and promote the use of public banks similar to the Bank of North Dakota.

We are also anti-bail out.

Health Care

The final topic! Bernie Sanders has a ‘medicare for all’ proposal at $1.38 trillion. The problem? Total health expenditures last year were $3.2 trillion, with over 2.7 of that being specifically for personal care. The math just doesn’t add up. So our proposal: since we already abolished social security with the negative income tax, we intend to do a flat 5% tax (matched by employers) on all wages which would essentially raise the same amount. What for? A single payer universal critical care system. Instead of having to wait until you’re a senior citizen to use what comes out your check it will be immediately available to you in the event of an emergency. Hypothetically, if we were to cover all 23 of America’s top health expenditures along with all hospital surgeries – we still have as much as $200 billion left when the year ended. Not only would these critical things be covered by taxes, but by doing so you take the risk out of insurance. Anyone who works in the insurance industry will tell you – risk is what drives the costs of premiums. By eliminating that, the costs of insurance would plummet and be affordable for everyone so they can receive preventative care and whatever other non-emergency treatment they need. It’s a win-win; for the left as it provides a significant safety net for everyone – and for the right as it still allows significant business for the private sector. Under these circumstances we would also allow the medical portion of the VA to be privatized so it would be easier for our vets to see doctors in a timely fashion.

A special thanks to Haley Holzer, Christopher Smith, Ronald Massenburg, Louis Fernandez, and Matt Miller for their contributions on this project! Please keep an eye out for the following writings that will provide the specifics on these positions!

– John Streaker

Trump’s Redistribution

“I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year”, was Trump’s retort during a debate on Feb 25th of this year. At least he admits raising tariffs WOULD start a trade war. But what exactly does that mean for the average American?  What is a tariff? What other issues could come from this economic policy?

Luckily for us, we have answers. Not only do we have the answers but we have empirical evidence and countless studies to take these questions from long-standing debates between economists to real life examples of the effects of these decisions.

First off let’s find out what exactly a tariff is. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. So in layman’s terms, it is a tax specifically aimed at imports or exports. Tariffs in America go back to the founding of our country. In fact Tariffs were the first source of revenue for our newly formed federal government. Usually when tariffs are spoken of today in America they are aimed at certain imports while at the same time subsidizing that industry within America’s borders. So if Canada is shipping a certain type of lumber to America for less cost than the American lumber industry can sell it for then the government will tax those Canadian companies while at the same time giving money to the local American companies. Some people like the idea of “protecting” American jobs but all this does is lower incentive for the American companies to become better and more competitive while at the same time raising the cost of those goods to the American public at large.

With 2016 coming to a close, it is still a debate whether we are still recovering or have fully recovered from the 08 Recession. Either way, the effects of tariffs on our country’s economy should be front and center when discussing whether Protectionism is the right policy to pursue. Many proponents of tariffs claim that the policy saves American jobs but they never want to discuss at what costs those jobs are saved. In 2003 CITAC (The Consuming Industries Trade Coalition) did a study on the steel tariffs imposed by Bush in 2002 to find out if the act did,in fact, save jobs as originally promoted. The results of the study showed that approximately 200,000 non steel related jobs were lost as a direct result of the tariffs. Other American industries that relied on steel were forced to pay higher prices for steel which resulted in higher jobs losses than the total number of jobs in the entire steel industry. This means the American steel sector of our economy could have completely gone away and we would have sustained less job losses than what we lost “protecting” those jobs.

The issues of tariffs is not a partisan one either. Obama imposed tariffs on Chinese tire manufacturers in 2009. China had long been the dominating force for low-end tires bought in America. American tire companies countered this with going almost exclusively to high-end, premium tires, which they now dominate market wise. Yet when these Tariffs were introduced, national production of low-end tires did not increase while imports of low-end tires did increase. Instead of buying from China, companies started importing from S. Korea, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan. So while Obama claimed to save 1200 American jobs, it’s hard to look at these facts and understand how he came to that conclusion. Obama got this number from a Peterson Institute study and while the study showed that the tariffs did, in fact, save 1200 jobs Obama failed to mention that the study also showed that over 2500 jobs in other industries were lost to save those 1200. Industry leaders offer a clearer insight on the affect of the tariff. “The tariffs didn’t have any material impact on our North American business”, is what we are told by Keith Price, a spokesman for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. He continued, “The stuff coming in from China is primarily low-end. We got out of that market years ago.” John Frisbie, U.S. China Business Council President, said, “We disagree that the tariffs on imports of low-end Chinese tires have had any positive effect on American jobs or the American economy. All evidence suggests that the beneficiaries have been other low-end tire producers in Asia and Mexico.”

Affects to other industries, such as the American chicken industry, have not been studied as far as I can find. You may be asking yourself what chicken exports from America could have to do with tire imports from China. It’s very simple. One of America’s biggest exporters to China is the American chicken industry. As a response to Obama, China enforced a tariff on the American chicken imports to their country. Once one country takes a jab at another, then the other country feels a need to respond. This could potentially turn into a Hatfield and McCoy situation only instead of two families duking it out we have two super powers going back and forth. When this happens it is called a trade war. For a comprehensive look at tarrifs in America’s history and it’s relation to real wars click here.

It’s hard to understand with this amount of evidence why anybody would ever pursue such policies but when you step back it’s actually quite easy to understand. Obama telling America that he saved 1200 jobs or Trump campaigning to bring jobs back to America are incredibly effective tools to rally up your base. At the same time the unions or industries benefiting from tariffs have money to spend on getting their point across and also lobbying policies while the free trade side doesn’t have any motive other than it being the best choice for our economy. Wanting what’s best for our economy is admirable but it doesn’t pay bills in and of itself and so there aren’t free trade lobbyists or commercials explaining to the public why this issue is such an important one. Instead free trade advocates simply write blogs and hope enough of America reads them to understand the real consequences of this terrible, over and again tried, failed policy.

The Semantics of Abortion

In case you haven’t noticed, high emotions are the normalcy when discussing the topic of abortion. Which side of the aisle you land on usually falls down to your perception of whose life is ultimately affected by the procedure. Before we can look at this question we must first understand the language used while discussing abortion. Many try to boil the argument down to when is the fetus considered life. Others have taken this sentiment further and prefer to debate when the fetus is considered a person.  The problem with these questions is that the former delves deep into language in which a scientific consensus of a definition does not exists. The latter delves into philosophy rather than science and good luck getting a consensus from a philosophical discussion.

Abortion has been around for millennia but I’d like to look at the progression from the start of our country to today. If we go back to the beginning of our country we see that this nation was founded on law and set up with an unprecedented structure.  Up until Roe v Wade, the common thought was that once the baby was in the time of quickening (the baby could move) then abortion was no longer legal. This was the law of Great Britain before the revolution and this was the law retained by our founders after we became a sovereign nation. This would indicate that as soon as it could be shown that life existed in the womb (quickening) then it was no longer legal to terminate the life.  Logically, I believe this is a sound approach. The fetus cannot be considered anything but human and once we determine this fetus is ‘life’ or ‘alive’ then we now have a human life. To abort at this point cannot be considered anything short of taking a human life. James Wilson (one of six who signed both the Constitution and Declaration) stated, “In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.

With today’s technological advances I think we can make the case that, not only would the founders principals have differed, but even more recent rulings such as Roe v Wade would be very different. Roe v Wade changed the debate from that of the start of life to the viability of the fetus. In 1973 it was believed that a fetus could not be viable before 24 weeks of a pregnancy. With technology ever improving doctors now believe fetuses can be viable up to 22 weeks into the pregnancy. Other advances are claiming to be working on pushing that viability date to within 10 weeks of the pregnancy. This legal assertion only confuses the debate in my opinion because the needle is constantly shifting yet the Roe v Wade decision remains the same. Also viability is completely irrelevant IF we come to an agreement on whether or not the fetus is a human life. An elderly person on a breathing machine is no less of a human being than one breathing on his/her own.

I ask myself where has the responsibility gone from the individual in America? We have become so ingrained with instant gratification and a ‘greed is good’ mentality that ‘deserving’ has become more of a birthright rather than a plateau to reach. Just turn on the television and watch all of the advertisements telling you how much you deserve the brand new fill in the blank. The struggle is now a punishment of circumstance instead of a goal to overcome. Pride is focused on the ends instead of the means. Google ‘Impulse Society’ to find out we now have rehab centers for technology addicts. I do not want to assume any woman’s motive for abortion but I am not wrong by saying abortion can be an easy fix. Two studies from 1987 and 2004 from the Guttmacher Institute show that 69% and 73%, respectively, of women having abortions surveyed cited “can’t afford a baby right now” as a major reason for their decision.

There are many other topic points we could get into but personally, I feel like if society could come to an agreement on one of the two questions mentioned in the first paragraph then the argument would be put to rest. Since my view is that the latter question is a philosophical one and therefore a much more difficult question to approach. I feel the former question is where our energy should be focused.

When I first started to write this article, my initial thoughts were to look at all of the major arguments for and against abortion and basically weigh in with my opinions. After thinking deeper into the subject I came to the above conclusion of finding the right question to ask. I will not hide from the fact that I am pro-life and I believe that the life of the fetus begins at conception. Therefore abortion can’t be considered anything other than the murder of an innocent human being. I very much realize that the issue is much more complex than this. The semantics of ‘life’ or ‘person hood’ or ‘baby’ keep many arguing against a wall instead of seeking to understand each other.

I’ve been taught that with any big problem the best solution is take it and break it down into several smaller problems. Solve the smaller problems to solve the bigger problem. I see the abortion question as the big problem that everybody is trying to tackle. I think we can simplify the debate by coming to an agreement on what question to ask: It is illegal to unjustly and intentionally take a human life? The fetus cannot be anything but human. Therefore find the consensus on when the fetus is considered life and I think logic will dictate the rest on its own.

The Left’s Latest Conspiracy Theory: Russia

These hacks…

Alright, let’s start this op-ed with a word game. You ready? Okay; racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, Islamic phobia, xenophobia, bullying, stupidity, ignorance, and sexual predatory behavior just to name a few. What do all these words have in common? If you guessed words listed as hobbies under the bio section of my POF dating profile you would be close, but still no cigar. But what all these words do have in common is they are all excuses lefties have repeated over and over for the landslide win Trump accomplished over Clinton in early November. And, yes, it was a landslide win. All of you guys out there who play NBA 2K know the rules. Once you are losing by over 21 points it is declared a blowout and you have to pass the controller. Trump won by 74!

Excuses, excuses…

Once those excuses got redundant post-election we started to get the new round of weekly excuses. First it was the Electoral College process being flawed. This is crazy and basically complaining about the rules of the game after a loss. If a football team wins the Superbowl by scoring 1 touchdown and 3 field goals to a team that scored 2 touchdowns, the losing team can’t come back and complain that they should have won because they scored more touchdowns. Both teams came into the game knowing the rules. Second, it was “fake news,” which is ironic because no one puts out more fake news than the mainstream liberal media. Third, according to President Obama, it was because every restaurant and bar in the country has their TV’s displaying Fox News. And, now Russian hackers!

What hackers?

But who are these Russian hackers you ‘might’ be asking yourself? Are they hardcore PC gamers, who hack the email accounts of Presidential campaign managers, like John Podesta, in between intense online matches of League of Legends? Are they former Russian credit card scammers that switched their tech savvy from criminal enterprises to political email account password stealing for profit? Do these hackers even really exist? How much do you want to bet Donna Brazile’s email password was ‘Password1’? Who knows? But according to the left-wing media rackets and John McCain this one has KGB written all over it. So let’s take a look at all the evidence. The Washington Post shocked the world late last week when they re-released cited CIA claims from October in an article titled “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House.”

Why the sudden outrage over old news?

Unlike the October article which placed motive for the claims on Russia’s want to ‘undermine confidence in the US electoral system,’ this time around the Post states that the CIA has changed the Russian motive now to ‘help Trump win the Presidency.’ The article then goes on to state intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to Russia provided WikiLeaks with all those emails we saw in the weeks leading up to the election. Remember #PodestaEmails16? Podesta was leaking more new material on the internet than an unsigned rapper without a mixtape budget. Well Trump’s, response to the follow up article wasn’t much different than his response to the original findings, pre-election. He said he doesn’t believe it, reminding us, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and “Make America Great Again.” After reading the article all I could ask myself is, why is the assessment secret? Why don’t they release the names of the people involved? If they state that the hidden named people have no direct link to Russia or the Kremlin why are they still blaming Russia for it? Who are the secret senators that got to see the evidence at the secret meeting? Why don’t they want people to see this evidence?  Even the motives they are trying to give are weak. They state it was to get Trump elected then later in the article state that intelligence officials  were unclear about that motive. Then they claim Russia’s whole point of doing this was to weaken the US citizen’s belief in the integrity of the election process? People barely trusted it already and from every email they released the people involved have said it was true. No one has said any of the emails are fake that were released. And the email’s are full or people conspiring together to rig the election, the primaries, the coverage of them, and the debates.

Move on…

With that being said the CIA should spend more time investing the people in the emails for rigging the election process instead of putting out reports saying they think it’s the Russians, with no solid evidence. It’s insane, the story was pointless, and people really think its credible information. Saying Russia hacked the DNC emails and investigating it right now is like launching an investigation into Puff Daddy to determine if him and Biggie killed 2Pac. All you’re going to get is a bunch of rumors and he say, she say.

Written by @rmassenb