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Category Archives: freedom

About That Travel Ban

No, not that one.

This one. The one you probably have never heard of because it involves Andrew Cuomo’s (D-ipshit, NY) ban on state-sponsored travel to North Carolina because that state passed a law last year requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they were born.

A University at Buffalo pharmacy student is appealing the governor’s travel ban to North Carolina because she says it affects her ability to do rotations there.
This student hasn’t gotten any response from the governor’s office despite three months of calls, letters, and faxes to appeal her case, so Christine Piccione finally reached out 2 On Your Side as a plea for help.
Piccione is a third year pharmacy student at UB, and one of the final things these students need to do are rotations for hands-on practice.

So, this virtue signaling retard has joined celebutards and other assorted, frothing trash by trying to punish North Carolina for a bathroom law (that I have always disagreed with due to government overreach issues) he felt was discriminatory against transgender people.

Did he ban official government travel to Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by law? No. How about Iran? Can New Yorkers still travel there? Yes.

You mean, he only banned travel to a single state in the union – a state that saw it fit to dictate who uses what bathroom in a public building?

Hypocrite.

All that said, who really loses in this scenario?

Piccione was funding her trip herself – with her own money. She has been prevented by the state from studying where she believed was best for her own education, since UNC Chapel Hill is widely regarded as having one of the best – of not the best – pharmacy program in country, and certain laws in NC would allow her to do more than here in New York, according to the report.

“I definitely think it does put me at a disadvantage. I’m going to be competing against the top students in the country for jobs, and I just don’t think it’s fair that I don’t get that opportunity when we can travel anywhere else in the country, anywhere else in the world even, and I can’t travel to one state in my own country,” said Piccione.

And yes, this travel ban infringes on this student’s rights. It inserts government into her personal education decisions. It puts an unnecessary hardship on her, forcing her to waste time and resources trying to resolve the issue, which really just comes down to wanting to study her chosen profession in what is ostensibly the best pharmacy program in the country.

And the state – the ever mighty, overreaching state – has decided in all its wisdom that Piccione cannot spend her own money to study in North Carolina, because Cuomo disagrees with a law there. A student is prevented from studying at the university of her choice, because Cuomo doesn’t like that state’s law.

And let’s be clear – right now that’s all it is: Cuomo’s opinion.

The trial over this law has been postponed until the Supreme Court decides whether the Obama administration’s interpretation of federal civil rights law, that transgender students are protected under Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs, is correct. That case will be heard next month, according to press. So until that issue is decided in the nation’s courts, Cuomo is preventing a student from traveling to North Carolina to study at a highly regarded educational program, because Cuomo has an opinion.

christine-piccioneWhy is no one protesting that a U.S. citizen’s right to fund her own education and travel where she sees appropriate for her career choice has been violated?

I mean, we’re seeing snortastically ignorant nationwide boycotts in support of people who violated the law by coming here illegally – or staying here illegally. But no one is protesting the ever-intrusive state preventing a student from traveling within her own country – on her own dime. Why is that?

I guess a “privileged” blonde, white girl doesn’t elicit the same kind of sanctimonious outrage as oppressed “people of color.”

And by the way – I remember a place where you had to have government permission to travel for work or study. It was called the USSR.

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Russia: Everything Old is New Again… Again

I’ve blogged previously about Russia’s flirtation with fascism, the rise in authoritarianism and nationalism, and the increased aggression in its near abroad. I don’t need to rehash the propaganda campaigns, the lies, and the efforts to destabilize eastern European nations. Seems Russia is in the news a lot ever since the 2016 election.

Lately, something else seems to be on the rise, but isn’t getting as much attention as the cyber intrusions: corruption and murder which looks very much to be linked to the Kremlin.

nemtsovYou remember the murder of Boris Nemtsov, don’t you? No?

Boris Nemtsov was a leading Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister who was murdered in Moscow in February 2015. BBC reported at the time that an unidentified attacker shot Nemtsov four times in the back as he crossed a bridge in view of the Kremlin.

In a recent interview, Mr Nemtsov had said he feared Mr Putin would have him killed because of his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Mr Nemtsov, 55, served as first deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

He had earned a reputation as an economic reformer while governor of one of Russia’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod.

Falling out of favour with Yeltsin’s successor, Mr Putin, he became an outspoken opposition politician.

Five ethnic Chechens were tried for the murder, and Chechen leader thug Ramzan Kadyrov quickly proclaimed the defendants not guilty and blamed the United States.

It’s only a coincidence that the accused thugs were Chechen, and it’s only a coincidence that Nemtsov was fearless in his public accusations against Putin and his ally Kadyrov of misappropriating government funds, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture. And it’s only a coincidence that Kadyrov is a close ally and cousin of Duma Deputy and Adam Delimkhanov.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

A British inquiry into the death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko found that Putin had likely approved the polonium tea that killed the spy who fled to Britain after becoming an outspoken Putin critic.

But nothing to see there either.

nemtsov-karamurza-yavlinsky-kasyanov-5mar2012Another Putin critic recently wound up in the hospital. Intrepid journalist Michael Totten posted this article on his Facebook page yesterday about Russian reform advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza who wound up in the hospital for the second time in less than two years.

Vladimir is perhaps the most authentic, articulate, informed, reasoned, effective, and persistent advocate for reform and decency in Russia. He has carried his message to audiences in Washington, and across Europe and his own country. He played a key role in the passage of the Magnitsky Act which restricts travel to the US and freezes the assets of designated Russians whose violations of human rights standards have been especially pronounced. Vladimir is also courageous beyond words. After his friend and colleague Boris Nemtsov was murdered outside the Kremlin almost exactly two years ago, Vladimir chose to return to Moscow to advocate for reform in Russia. He did so at considerable personal risk and sacrifice.

Kara-Murza worked for Open Russia, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was tossed into the Russian clink for daring to stand up to Putin.

Khodorkovsky was arrested on what appeared to be pretty spurious charges of tax evasion and fraud. He spent the next 10 years in prison, with new charges added on to his sentence, including the accusation that he stole 350 million tons of oil… from himself. His trials were, by all accounts, kangaroo tribunals. It took months just to read the initial charges against Khodorkovsky in a notoriously corrupt judicial system, in which his defense attorney now faces the Russian equivalent of disbarment for failure to defend her client effectively.

He was released in late 2013 and later started Open Russia to promote civil reforms in Russia, and Kara-Murza worked for the NGO and was a good friend of the late Boris Nemtsov. Open Russia – restarted by Khodorkovsky after being harassed by the Russian authorities, and its accounts frozen in 2006 – continued to experience… um… incidental problems, as Kara-Murza wrote in 2014.

Open Russia was revived eight years after being forcibly shut down by the Russian authorities. Its relaunch and the opening videoconference that linked civil society activists in ten cities across Russia—from Kaliningrad to Tomsk—were greeted with the typical official response. Almost all regional locations experienced difficulties with the Internet, which was mysteriously cut off minutes before the conference. In Moscow, conference participants were confronted by “journalists” from the notorious NTV channel, which specializes in slandering civil society and opposition activists (incidentally, the location of the event was never publicly announced). In Yaroslavl, someone sabotaged the door lock the night before the conference, leaving activists unable to enter, and the technical equipment blocked inside. In Nizhny Novgorod, members of a pro-Kremlin group headed by United Russia deputy Yevgeny Fedorov stormed the hall where conference participants were assembled.

Memorial to Anna Politkovskaya

Memorial to Anna Politkovskaya

But move along. Nothing to see here. Russia is innocent. It’s just a coincidence that those critical of the Kremlin and Putin’s policies are either dying or being imprisoned. Magnitsky, Navalny, Litvinenko, Nemtsov, Khodorkovsky, and Kara-Murza. And that’s just the top of the iceberg. If I wanted to go on, I’d mention the list of journalists and freelancers who were murdered, and who were reporting on corruption and human rights abuses, including Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova, and Igor Domnikov.

Is it any wonder that the United States late last year passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act? The legislation augmented the Magnitsky Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2012, and ensures human rights abusers from anywhere in the world were denied entry into the United States and barred from using our financial institutions. It was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The indomitable Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) last year uncovered an army of Russian trolls attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy by using the White House’s online petition tool to demand that the Magnitsky Act be repealed.

Don’t count on it, motherfuckers.

The freedoms we so take for granted and even condemn others for exercising can have real and tragic consequences in places other than the United States. And the truth reported by journalists elsewhere, which media outlets so take for granted here in the United States, can result in violence, suppression, arrest, and murder.

Interesting aside, however. Kara-Murza in January sent a letter to Bob Corker and Ben Cardin – both on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – asking them to carefully consider the situation in Russia before voting on Rex Tillerson’s nomination.

It is also important to remember that, according to the statues [sic.] of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – of which both the United States and Russia are full members – “issues relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law… are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned.”

I trust that you will take these issues into account as you consider the nomination for Secretary of State and the next steps in U.S.-Russia relations.

Here’s wishing Vladimir Kara-Murza a quick recovery and a safe escape from Moscow. Being deathly ill in a Russian hospital is no joke under the best of circumstances (see my description of my tonsil surgery when I was a kid). But when you challenge the Kremlin, survival becomes a whole different challenge.

You want to grow the surveillance state?

survaillanceIf you haven’t heard already, in light of Mexican president Pina Nieto’s big middle finger to Trump’s grandiose plan to make his country pay for a “big, beautiful wall” on the border with the United States, 45 has made another proposal: let’s levy a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico!

Some of the Republicans I know, who normally oppose more taxation, were doing a happy dance. “YEAH! Mexico will pay for the wall one way or another!”

Ummmmm… no. YOU morons will. You will buy more expensive Mexican products, and by the way, since Mexico is one of our top five sources of oil, you’ll likely be paying more to fill up your big, ole truck too! It’s a tax on U.S. consumers, not on Mexico, and I won’t even mention what that’s doing to U.S.-Mexico relations, even as Mexico becomes one of our most important partners in fighting cartels, stopping illicit funds from crossing the border, and working to freeze and block the assets of illicit financiers.

Some, who realize that a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods =\= Mexico paying for a wall, have developed other “bright” ideas.

“Oh, I know! Let’s tax all remittances going to Mexico! That’ll be GREAT! Most of them are illegals sending money home anyway! YEAH!”

I’ve detailed previously why this is a bad idea when Trump tried to threaten Mexico with seizing remittances.

Immigrants both legal and illegal send money back home to Mexico. How the hell does one separate the “good” money from the “bad?”

Seizure of private property without due process in order to threaten Mexico with reducing the country’s GDP by an estimated less than two percent? Good plan, there, Sparky!

Stop all financial transactions from banks here to Mexico? You’ve just pissed off the financial sector and empowered bulk cash smugglers, who make billions of dollars per year carting monetary instruments across the Mexican border.

But beyond that, even if you don’t stop the remittances, you would have to examine each one to see if it would be subject to this tariff. This idiot plan would drive up compliance costs for money service businesses (MSB), such as Western Union and MoneyGram, and grow the surveillance state.

Right now, under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions, including MSBs, must file a currency transaction report (CTR) with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for each transaction in currency of more than $10,000. If you think the average remittance to Mexico exceeds this amount, you’re an idiot. The average remittance amount to Mexico in 2003 was $321, according to World Bank data. Even if it’s doubled or trebled in the last 15 years, it will still be far below the threshold.

So, we’d have to decrease the CTR amount. No big deal, right?

Except that MSBs and other financial institutions would have to hire extra compliance staffs to fill out the CTRs and subsequent suspicious activity reports (SAR) when a customer inevitably decides that it’s not worth having his $400 examined and probed by numerous people and declines to complete the transaction. Extra compliance personnel cost money – not just in salaries, but benefits as well. There skyrocket your costs of sending a couple of hundred bucks to your mom in Mexico! And there plunges your volume. Because, really… who the hell would want to pay an extra $10-$20 just to have mom pick up the cash in Coahila?

And then there are the compliance costs on the government side. Guess who gets to pay for those! How many new feds do you think would have to be hired to comb through the volumes of CTRs and SARs generated by the new thresholds? Considering just how many Mexicans we have sending money back home, lowering the transaction threshold would mean that thousands more feds will be combing through thousands more reports that are generated. The feds already have a lot of access to transactional data. You really want to give them more?

Additionally, as Larry Correia mentioned yesterday, “you start regulating something, the shadow economy will grow.”

I mentioned bulk cash smugglers above. Cartels already have hawala-like networks of trusted associates to conduct mirror transactions. That’s a market, I’m sure they couldn’t wait to tap, especially if there’s a mass exodus from regular MSBs! You start increasing regulations on hawalas, and aside from causing dilatory second and third order effects in countries without developed financial sectors that rely on hawala networks to move money, you’re also going to once again increase the compliance personnel required for said increased regulatory environment.

Wanna pay for more feds to snoop into everyone’s finances? Most Republicans, before 45 took office, would have screamed a vigorous “NO!” Now… not so much.

And by the way, if you think there aren’t ways to avoid the formal financial system, I encourage you to purchase a gift card. For a fee of $5.00 and a couple of stamps, you too can send a $400 Visa gift card to your mom in Mexico, which she can use to buy groceries or anything else she needs! You want to regulate that? You’ll need extra post office personnel to go through all the mail, identify the letters going to Mexico, and track the remittances that way.

Or, just start charging an extra fee for every gift card purchased, which will go directly to the feds to build that wall. In which case, once again, YOU are the ones paying for it!

That’s how you build a police state, Republicans. Enjoy!

Update on that painting

pictureJust a quick update, because I’ve been busy, and haven’t had the chance to catch up.

That painting – you know, the one Duncan Hunter removed because his tender labia got chafed at the controversial subject matter – was removed, because it apparently violated the rules of the contest it was judged to have won.

All the drama and the tug-of-war to garner the attention of the media was just so much bullshit.

“The Congressional Art Competition is an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of students in every corner of our country — and visitors from around the world see their talents on display when they walk through the halls of our Capitol,” Reichert said in a statement. “However, with any competition there are rules, and these rules exist for a reason. This painting hung in clear defiance to those rules and was a slap in the face to the countless men and women who put their lives on the line everyday on behalf of our safety and freedom.”

Ryan told the congressman that the Architect of the Capitol made the determination, Reichert’s office said.

The rules of the art competition state: “Exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed,” according to the statement from Reichert.

There was some controversy on this very blog about whether Hunter behaved vaguely Reich-like when he removed the painting, because it was offensive. I agree the painting was repugnant, but as our guest writer Dave Hardin wrote, “The wall on which that picture hangs does not belong to Hunter, and neither did the picture. That wall belongs to us – all of us – and that picture belongs to a 17 year old high school student. That wall and what hangs on it is protected by Marines who served this nation long before Duncan Hunter could read or write.”

Hunter had no right to remove the winner of an art competition from the public walls, no matter how offensive he found it.

But it appears his drama was unnecessary anyway. All he had to do was ask the Architect of the Capitol to examine rules of the contest, and make a determination about whether the painting legitimately won.

It hadn’t.

But instead, Hunter decided to use his government authority to remove something he found offensive from a public venue.

Survey says: DOUCHE!

Screw Your Bill of Rights!

flagOur new President-elect apparently has no understanding of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. I have previously pointed this out when he advocated depriving people of their right to keep and bear arms without due process if they were placed on the onerous “no-fly” list.

He proves it once again today with yet another demonstration of his lack of understanding and respect for fundamental rights. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically protects free speech from government prosecution and persecution. The nation’s courts over the years have also ruled that state and local governments cannot infringe on these basic, fundamental liberties.

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That means that political speech is protected. That means the government cannot punish you for speaking out, for expressing an unpopular opinion, for criticizing your leadership, or even your country by burning her flag in effigy. That means no politician has the right to use government force to limit your criticism of America.

But hey, apparently Trump’s respect for the First Amendment lies somewhere below his respect for property rights.

It is a right. By its very nature a right does not infringe on others’ rights when exercised. The great Walter Williams wrote that rights exist simultaneously among people.

As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. Again, that right imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.

Burning our nation’s flag – as repulsive as it is to me as an Army veteran – is a right. It places no obligation on another when exercised and violates no one else’s rights by force.

You may be offended by the gesture, and I can’t say I blame you.

It’s offensive to me as an immigrant. It’s repugnant to me as someone who has served this nation and is willing to die for the principles it enshrines. But as I’ve so often told Special Snowflakes, you have no right not to be offended, and this fact holds true for everyone, including those of us who find flag burning a disgusting and disrespectful act, which it is.

Burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea, said the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The pertinent part is at around the 8:00 mark. The man Trump will seek to replace on the Supreme Court understood the Constitution and recognized that burning the flag, as distasteful as we find it, is political speech. Protected political speech.

The great thing about this country is that our right to be the most pernicious of warts is protected by the Constitution. Our right to scream from the rooftops that we hate our government, that we abhor our troops, and that we despise our flag is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, because it is the most odious of expressions that need the most protection.

If we don’t strive to protect speech and expression with which we disagree, we will wind up being censored in the end.

Freedom is hard. Freedom means understanding that even the most repulsive expression is protected from government prosecution.

I honor the flag. I have served to protect the symbol of liberty – not the cloth – but what it represents, which includes the right to criticize our government in the most offensive way possible!

If we begin prosecuting individuals for speech we find abhorrent, just think of what the SJWs will do with that power!

“The idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion is what I absolutely do not subscribe to.”
John Cleese

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