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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for April, 2018

THE MUELLER PROBE FROM A VERY DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

This is a most interesting article, especially so, coming from a Democrat. Had I written this as a novel, say 5 or 6 years ago, I’m certain it would have been dismissed, as too improbable, even as fiction.

The HILL
Comey, Mueller and the Poisen Tree
By Mark Penn, opinion contributor — 04/26/2018 

It is a strange and curious America that fêtes a former FBI director who was fired from his job after exceeding his authority in ways that two presidential campaigns condemned, and who then leaked confidential memos about a president he clearly despises.

But that is the circus our media, politics and legal system has become. Indeed, on one channel, James Comey is one step from jail and, on another channel, he is the spear that will bring down the presidency. On one network the Russia collusion theory is done and, on another network, it’s just a matter of time before Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, flips on the president.

In the latest Harvard Caps-Harris Poll, nearly 70% say that special counsel Robert Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein should not be fired. But 72% also say that a second special prosecutor needs to be appointed, and the actions of Comey and fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe should be criminally investigated.

The more we learn about how these massive investigations were started, the more they look so corrupted that this entire investigation now could now qualify as the fruits of a poisonous tree, a doctrine first adopted by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter as the only way to prevent government agents from abusing the rights of citizens and benefitting from those actions. The government cannot violate people’s rights with impunity and then just say “oops.”

The investigation was polluted from the beginning. Former British spy Christopher Steele was a government contractor when he illegally leaked the dossier and lied about it. Mueller team members and FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok operated with such open hatred for Trump that they were removed from the investigation after managing key parts of it. The heads of the FBI and CIA participated in spreading and vouching for a Trump dossier they never verified and yet used to spy on Americans.

The yarn leaked to the press about the start of the investigation does not add up. They say it started because Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos said in a bar to an Australian diplomat that he heard from a Maltese professor that the Russians had some emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. But the source turns out to be a diplomat who happened to have shepherded a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. The report did not come through the official channels but likely through a Democratic operative who worked for the Clinton Foundation.

Perhaps most puzzlingly, Rod Rosenstein wrote a critical memo supporting the Comey firing and then appointed a special counsel after the firing. By doing this, combined with the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein set up a government within the government, with a super broad charter and practical immunity from being removed. The Mueller investigation then operated without any independent supervision from outside the agency, review by any elected officials or contemporaneous judicial review.

With this kind of freedom, it is no surprise the treatment of their early targets involved guns-drawn searches, threats to prosecute family members and plea bargains for dubious process crimes even for those who did no actual underlying wrongdoing. Only one of the early targets, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is even in a position to challenge the special counsel, and he has been all but denied bail, had his assets frozen and even placed under a highly unusual gag order

Mueller knew he may have had an obligation to set aside all of the work of Page and Strzok when he removed them from the case. Instead he simply ignored congressional demands for information on why they were fired until months later, when the Justice Department’s inspector general Michael Horowitz forced release of their text messages.

The FBI’s stonewalling of the document starting the Russia investigation engenders similar suspicions, especially since House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has seen it, has reported it has no intelligence from official channels. The farther the investigators get from all this initial wrongdoing, the more they believe that their work product and witness interviews are free from being thrown out as fruits of a tree of illegal actions, which explains the endless foot-dragging.

In typical cases, much of what the prosecutors gathered might be exempt from the rule. But if runaway investigations are going to be corralled, then it will take judges who hold special counsels to the strictest possible standards in all their actions and limit any exemptions because such prosecutors have vast, largely unsupervised and unchecked power along with unlimited budgets.

The best way to end all this is not to fire Mueller and Rosenstein or wait for them to wrap it up, but to challenge this entire process in court as irretrievably tainted. If Mueller does not agree to end the investigation in exchange for presidential interrogatories, then it may be time to try to block the whole thing in court, with full discovery into whether its foundation was so corrupted — and the stonewalling actions so blatant — that the doctrine of the fruits of a poisonous tree can be invoked to stop this national distraction.

Mark Penn served as pollster and adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during his impeachment. He is chairman of the Harris Poll and author of the recently released book, “Microtrends Squared.”

The Rapid Decay and Slow Death Of Major Cities In “Blue” States.

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

A scathing report on life in major cities run by Democrat administrations. If the Democrats win nationally, state wise, and locally in 2018 and 2020, look out! All our major cities will look the same.

 The Hill

The Great Exodus Out of America’s Blue Cities

Kristin Tate

4/24/18

 

Am I the only one in my spinning class at Equinox in Manhattan who’s fed up paying $200 every month for a gym with clean showers, $3,000 in rent every month for an apartment without cockroaches and $8 every morning for a cup of coffee? Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.

 

New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.

 

With between up to 50 percent of their paycheck going to a combination of federal, local and city taxes, not including other consumer taxes baked into every aspect of their consumer practices, residents don’t even have the comfort of knowing that their tax expenditures are going to the improvement of their lives in the city. New York infamously misuses the hard-earned tax revenues of its citizens in ways that scarcely benefit them.

 

Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of the New York City metro area since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.

 

The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.

 

And make no mistake: What’s happening in the Big Apple is a microcosm of what’s happening in the nation’s blue states, cities and towns. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — the places where power and capital have traditionally congregated — have become so over-regulated, so overpriced and mismanaged, and so morally bankrupt and soft on crime that people are leaving in droves. Of course, these high-tax cities are the same places hit hardest by the removal of the SALT deduction.

 

The cost of popular moving truck services, like U-Haul, is largely created through the ironclad rules of supply and demand. Turns out, there is much higher demand for trucks leaving high-tax blue states heading to low-tax red states than vice versa.

 

A route from California to Texas, for example, is more than twice as expensive as a route from Texas to California. Want to go from Los Angeles to Dallas? $2,558. Returning back? $1,232. Texas is the No. 1 state people move trucks to, with states like Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Colorado rounding out the top 10. The states people are fleeing? New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois — and at the top, California.

 

These facts are not coincidences. In fact, in 2016 the Golden State lost almost 143,000 net residents to other states — that figure is an 11 percent increase from 2015. Between 2005 and 2015, Los Angeles and San Francisco alone lost 250,000 residents. The largest socioeconomic segment moving from California is the upper-middle class. The state is home to some of the most burdensome taxes and regulations in the nation. Meanwhile, its social engineering — from green energy to wealth redistribution — have made many working families poorer. As California begins its long decline, the influx outward is picking up in earnest.

 

The only way to slow the great exodus out of America’s blue meccas is to make these areas more affordable for middle-class families; the most significant way to do that is to lower state and city income taxes. And if residents don’t want to be “double taxed” following the removal of SALT deductions, the solution is simple: remove state and city income taxes altogether.

 

Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and is able to operate, while funding massive infrastructure projects to support its population, without income tax revenue. When residents keep more of their hard-earned money, they are more incentivized to spend that money in ways that make their community a better place.

 

This is a lesson high-tax states and cities need to learn if they want to avoid transforming into ghost towns.

 

Kristin Tate is author of the new book How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

`The Hate Factory at Fresno State

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Fresno State has been in the limelight recently for ugly statements about the death of Barbara Bush. But, there’s much more.

Freedom Outpost

Fresno State’s Hate Problem
By David Greenfield
4/24/18

2017 was a bad year at Fresno State. 2018 looks to be even worse.

In the winter of last year, Lars Maischak had tweeted, “To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better. #TheResistance.”

The next day he inquired, “Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?”

Toward the end of the week, he proposed the mass murder of Republicans, “Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.”

Maischak was a history adjunct at Fresno State whose topics had included, “Marx and Hegel for Historians.”

President Castro eventually clarified that calls to murder the President of the United States and millions of Republicans, “do not reflect the position of the University.”

Castro failed to clearly condemn Maischak’s murderous tweets. Instead, Maischak took a voluntary leave “conducting research off campus”. His university faculty page appears to be active.

Had an adjunct called for the murder of Obama, the reaction would have been very different.

Now, Randa Jarrar, a tenured Muslim professor in Fresno State’s Department of English, responded to Barbara Bush’s death by calling the deceased 92-year-old woman a “racist”.

“I’m happy the witch is dead,” she gloated. “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise.”

“I will never be fired,” Jarrar then boasted in a tweet that tagged President Castro.

Once again, President Castro stepped forward to announce that Jarrar’s jeering of a deceased woman and her mourning family was not made as a “representative of Fresno State.”

But you have to wonder about that.

“One set of tweets, as horrible as they were, do not define us,” Castro claimed.

But Randa Jarrar has an ugly history long predating her latest controversy. Jarrar is a notorious BDS activist whose campaigns against Israel could cross the line into a defense of Islamic terrorists.

Jarrar had signed on to a letter condemning Israel for fighting back against Hamas. Among other disturbing claims, its signatories declared that they reject the idea “that Hamas is an irredeemable terrorist organization” and “recognize Hamas as a democratically elected ruling party.”

Hamas is a genocidal Islamic terrorist group that has called for the mass murder of Jews.

The first signatory to the letter was Steven Salaita: the infamous racist who lost a job offer at the University of Illinois after celebrating the kidnapping of three Jewish teens murdered by Hamas.

“Zionists: transforming “antisemitism” from something horrible into something honorable since 1948,” he later tweeted.

Another signatory was Amiri Baraka who lost his New Jersey poet laureate gig after claiming that the Jews had been warned to stay home on 9/11. Another famously anti-Semitic poem of his read, “I got the extermination blues, jew-boys. I got the Hitler syndrome figured… So come for the rent, jewboys.”

Matters turned ugly at Fresno State last year when Jews were blamed for an academic turf battle over the Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studies. Edward Said, a terrorist supporter and academic fraud, has often been a lightning rod. But this time the lightning had a distinctly anti-Semitic flavor. The “Jewish community” and “Jewish faculty” were variously blamed for Fresno State’s failure to fill the chair.

The truth though was that departmental disputes had held up the process not a Jewish conspiracy. But Randa Jarrar had instead circulated conspiracy theories and threatened that, “any other outcome will… will alienate faculty like myself and will severely damage our campus’s reputation across the world.”

But Jarrar has already done more to severely damage Fresno State’s reputation than anyone else could.

And Jarrar, like Maischak, isn’t an aberration.

2017 wasn’t just a bad year because of Maischak. It was also the year that Greg Thatcher, an assistant professor of public health, decided to encourage his class to vandalize pro-life chalk messages while declaring, “College campuses are not free speech areas.” The resulting lawsuit noted that, “Thatcher returned with a group of approximately seven to ten Fresno State students. Acting at his direction, these students erased, obscured, and defaced Plaintiffs’ messages. One of them even stole Plaintiffs’ chalk and used it to write pro-abortion messages on the sidewalks.” The lawsuit was settled for $17,000.

Maischak, Jarrar and Thatcher are symptoms of the sickness at Fresno State.

Fresno is part of the California State University system. And yet, despite that, it’s a place where hatred thrives. Why did Randa Jarrar feel so confident that she could not only spew hate at a dying woman but misdirect critics to a suicide hotline number undermining its work saving lives by answering phone calls?

“I will never be fired,” Jarrar had gloatingly tweeted.

Fresno State’s spokeswoman could only convolutedly respond, “To answer the technical question: Can she not be fired? The answer is no.”

Lars Maischak wasn’t fired after calling for the murder of the President of the United States. Greg Thatcher wasn’t fired after encouraging his students to erase the free speech of other students.

Randa Jarrar had every reason in the world to believe that she wouldn’t be fired. And she still does.

“This was beyond free speech. This was disrespectful,” President Castro said of Jarrar’s tweet.

As ugly as Jarrar’s tweets were, why were they worse than Maischak’s murderous rants? Maischak’s calls for Trump’s death actually resulted in an investigation by the Secret Service. But Castro responded by expressing appreciation for his unapologetic apology. How did Jarrar go further beyond free speech?

Barbara Bush was an apolitical and likable personality who had just passed away. The outrage over Jarrar’s comments came from a broader spectrum than the anger over Maischak’s tweets.

What Maischak did was more unacceptable legally, but more acceptable socially.

Calling for President Trump’s murder is more socially acceptable on the left than mocking Barbara Bush’s death. President Castro wasn’t concerned about the legality or decency of the tweets. He was reacting to the public perception of them among the demographic with the biggest sway on campus.

But Jarrar’s hatred came out of the same academic safe space where Maischak’s ravings had been nurtured. The lack of decisive action in the Maischak and Thatcher cases sent Jarrar the message that she had nothing to worry about. And the aftermath of both cases testify that she really doesn’t.

After an investigation, some sort of half-hearted apology (that will eventually be disavowed), a bone thrown to the outraged critics, everything will be back to the way it was. And Jarrar will go on indoctrinating vulnerable young minds with her twisted hateful thoughts about America and Israel.

That’s the best case scenario.

The likeliest outcome is that Jarrar’s colleagues, in and out of Fresno State, will rally to her defense. They will claim that the entire controversy was stirred up by Islamophobic sites against a Muslim professor. Jarrar will claim that she was the victim of numerous death threats. The media will switch to covering the supposed death threats. Just as in the Salaita and Maischak cases, they will obscure what she said.

Petitions will denounce President Castro for surrendering to “Islamophobes” by criticizing Jarrar.

As an older, tenured professor wired into an anti-Israel activist circle and the PEN gang, Randa Jarrar has far more support options. And she will continue collecting the $100,000 salary that she bragged about.

And Fresno State will go on serving as a safe space for faculty who don’t just hate, but lust for death.

“Execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant” Lars Maischak had tweeted.

“Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise,” Randa Jarrar tweeted.

This isn’t just hate. These are calls for death. For the murder and demise of living people.

Fresno State has gone beyond nurturing radicals and is providing a safe space for a murderous cult of Islamic and leftist hate. It’s not enough for President Castro to disavow their words and walk away.

There must be an investigation that explores why Fresno State has become a safe space for hate. And why its faculty feels comfortable and confident calling for the deaths of their political opponents.

Because it’s hate, not the campus winery or planetarium, that Fresno State is becoming known for.

Handel’s Largo

Monday, April 16th, 2018

A few years back, when RCA records issued a boxed set of 100 favorite Boston Pops recordings made by Arthur Fiedler, they included Handel’s celebrated “Largo.” Over a hundred years earlier, the Theodore Thomas Orchestra had established this melody as a favorite with 19th century American audiences. Back then, Handel was best-known for his sacred oratorios, and his “Largo” acquired a kind of honorary “halo” by association. Also, the Italian text for the melody began “Ombra mai fui,” and since “ombra” meant shade, many music lovers probably assumed it had something to do with the dear departed shade or spirit of a loved one—hence its melancholic solemnity. In fact, this melody originated in a decidedly secular, downright whimsical context: as the opening aria of an opera by Handel that premiered in London on today’s date, April 15, in 1738. The opera was entitled “Xerxes,” and dealt with the real-life Persian King who invaded ancient Greece. In the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus, Xerxes is depicted as an all-powerful despot, whose every whim became law. As evidence of the irrational effect of absolute power, Herodotus tells of Xerxes’ fondness for a certain plain tree that he ordered decorated with gold ornaments and put under perpetual military guard as a sign of royal favor. In Handel’s opera, the famous “Largo” is actually Xerxes’s dreamy song to this famous tree—and the “shade” referred to is the sort to be found

Facebook Faces Congress

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

As usual, The Heritage Foundation is “right on”
when it comes to digging deep into the maze of corruption and lies rampant in our culture and society, on all levels, today.

The Heritage Foundation
The Daily Signal
April 9, 2018
Commentary By Hans von Spakovsky and Klon Kitchen

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform—as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative. Read his research.

Klon Kitchen is senior fellow for technology, national security and science policy at The Heritage Foundation.

When Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday he will have plenty of explaining to do to answer a torrent of criticism that has been leveled at his company in recent weeks.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most important questions we think lawmakers should ask Zuckerberg when he is scheduled to testify at a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on Tuesday and then before the House Commerce and Energy Committee on Wednesday. We list these below—but first, here’s some background.

Facebook’s handling of its users’ personal data has sparked privacy concerns as well as questions about how others—including political campaigns—have used that data.

Zuckerberg was invited to testify before Congress after multiple sources reported that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica gained access to as many as 87 million Facebook profiles. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used that information improperly after it was hired by the Donald Trump presidential campaign. This raises two questions.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

First, what information did Cambridge Analytica acquire and how did it come by that information? Zuckerberg has indicated publicly that he knows the answers to these questions, so Congress should have no trouble sorting that out.

Cambridge Analytica used the information to craft sophisticated, targeted political ads. And that raises the second—and far more interesting—question: Did Cambridge Analytica’s actions constitute a novel use of Facebook user information, or is this precisely how the social media company intends the data to be used by its paying customers?

What members of Congress and the general public need to keep in mind is that nothing is free. While individuals who use Facebook don’t have to pay for it, Facebook makes money—and lots of it—using their information.

Facebook’s net income was nearly $16 billion last year. The company sells advertising to commercial clients seeking to target Facebook users based on profiles derived from those users’ online activities.

That very same ability—to identify and reach users most likely to be receptive to a client’s product or service—was valuable not just to the Trump campaign, but also to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election effort. Indeed, it was the Obama campaign that pioneered the use of such data to win elections.

In light of this, here are 10 of the most important questions that we suggest lawmakers ask Zuckerberg when he appears before Congress:

1. Mr. Zuckerberg, you recently said: “At Facebook, we are squarely in the camp of the companies that work hard to charge you less and provide a free service that everyone can use.” If users of your platform are not the source of your income, who is?

2. Specifically, what services do you provide to your paying customers and how much access do you give them to the data of Facebook users?

3. How do political campaigns leverage your services, and what are your rules governing campaign-sponsored advertisements and access to individual Facebook user data? What will be the impact of new rules you announced Friday to require people to reveal their identities and verify their location before they are allowed to buy political or “issue” ads?

4. Carol Davidsen, the director of data integration and media analytics for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, said: “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized what we were doing.” She noted that “they [Facebook] were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.” Did Facebook, in fact, let the Obama campaign use Facebook data in ways that were outside of the company’s normal and acceptable use standards? If so, why? Who at Facebook made this decision?

5. Did the Mitt Romney presidential campaign receive access to the same information and company expertise provided to the Obama campaign? If not, why not? Who at Facebook made this decision?

6. You and other Facebook executives tell users that “we do not sell your data.” Are you asserting that all marketing and targeting data that is sold to commercial customers is anonymized and generalized so that no individual Facebook user can be specifically targeted or marketed to?

7. Doesn’t the Obama campaign’s use of your information to identify and target individual so-called “persuadables” on Facebook contradict the above claim?

8. Did the way that the Obama campaign used Facebook’s data influence your decision to change your data use policies in 2014? If so, how?

9. Does Facebook now, or has it ever, deliberately collected the content of users’ phone calls and/or messages via any of your company’s applications or services? If so, what have you done with that data?

10. Why have you suggested that the government may need to regulate you and other tech companies? Why don’t you simply adopt the practices you believe are necessary to protect the privacy of your users without requiring government coercion?

Modern technology is changing how we communicate. Those changes bring major advantages, but they also raise serious questions. One of those questions is: How much privacy do users of a social media platform like Facebook have a right to expect when they post personal information to share with their families, their friends, and the world at large?

Internet companies owe their customers straightforward answers to those questions. But government regulation should be a last resort. For now, calls for more such regulation are premature. We must first examine the extent and nature of the problem, and then assess the pros and cons of all possible solutions.

Originally published by Fox News.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved