Decorated Combat Commander’s Career destroyed due to ‘political correctness’, case goes to Supreme Court

ANN ARBOR, MI—On Monday, September 11, 2017, the Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari asking the United States Supreme Court to correct the injustice done to Lieutenant Colonel (“LTC”) Christopher Downey after the United States Army violated its own regulations, effectively ending his stellar career.

In a footnote, the U. S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the Army applied the incorrect burden of proof to LTC Downey’s case, contrary to its own regulations.  However, it shrugged off this fundamental error. LTC Downey’s petition to the Supreme Court points out that the error was so manifest and so serious that nearly every other appellate court in the land would have required the Army’s final review board to rehear his case.

TMLC attorney, Jay Combs, the principle author of the Petition to the Supreme Court, commented: “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals threw away the exceptional career of Lieutenant Colonel Downey in a footnote.  The issue that the Fourth Circuit so cavalierly disposed of in a footnote was so serious that nearly every other circuit in the United States, on this issue alone, would have reversed the entire Army Board process without the need to even address any of the other issues in the case.  Most circuits recognize that the rule of law is dealt a crippling blow if an agency does not have to follow its own regulations.”

Combs was assisted by attorney Erin Kuenzig, who had handled the District Court and Fourth Circuit arguments.

LTC Downey’s troubles began in 2012 when he made the “politically incorrect” effort to prevent two lesbian female officers under his command from violating Army regulations regarding public displays of affection. The two officers, a Captain and a Lieutenant, were in uniform at a formal military ball and were on the dance floor engaged in prolonged French kissing, publicly taking off each other’s uniform jackets, and other intimate and salacious conduct.  Once he became aware of the situation, LTC Downey took immediate action to stop the inappropriate behavior.  He also attempted to prevent other soldiers from photographing and videotaping the officers’ inappropriate conduct, which he believed would embarrass the unit as well as the offending officers. In the process of lowering the camera of an enlisted soldier, the camera accidentally made contact with the soldier’s nose. As a result, despite the recommendations of LTC Downey’s immediate superior, General Mark Milley ordered an investigation and a subsequent Article 15 hearing where he acted as the presiding officer on charges of assault consummated by battery and violation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The Article 15 proceeding, which lasted approximately 5 hours, was more concerned about offending homosexual advocacy groups than the guilt or innocence of LTC Downey. General Milley found LTC Downey guilty of the charge of assault consummated by battery. LTC Downey was issued reprimands for both violations, relieved of command, issued a negative Officer Evaluation Report, and removed from the attendance list of the National War College.

A formal board hearing was convened to review the same matters to decide whether LTC Downey should be retained in the Army. The formal board, unlike General Milley in the Article 15 proceedings, conducted an exhaustive adversarial hearing in which the Army was represented by an attorney and LTC Downey was also represented by counsel.  The hearing board listened to the testimony of multiple witnesses, reviewed evidence, and listened to the arguments of government and defense attorneys. Afterwards, the formal board unanimously determined the allegations against LTC Downey were not supported by even a preponderance of the evidence.

Despite the unanimous decision of the formal board of officers, the prior contrary findings of the Article 15 hearing remained a part of LTC Downey’s official record, destroying the further progression of his stellar career and tarnishing his good name.

Downey was well on his way to becoming a high-ranking officer in the Army, as evidenced by the glowing remarks from his commanding officers. In early April of 2012, Downey received a prestigious award recognizing him and the unit that he commanded as the best aviation battalion in the United States Army. He has been awarded 3 Bronze Stars and 7 Air Medals, one with a “V” device for valor in combat. The Air Medal with “V” device was awarded for valor he displayed on May 25, 2011, in “complete disregard for his own safety while initiating multiple engagements against an enemy with superior fields of fire over friendly forces.  His actions were decisive in saving the lives of soldiers on the ground.”

His performance reviews uniformly painted a picture of one of the Army’s most skilled and accomplished combat aviators.

Former Secretary of the Army, Louis Caldera, wrote of Downey:

“As former SecArmy I had the honor of working with strong officers daily, Chris Downey stands out among them. A clearly superior performance by a leader with phenomenal potential.”

White House Military Office Operations Director, Marcy Steinke-Fike:

“He is clearly in the top 1% of the handpicked officers of the White House Military Office Operations Directorate and in all of the Lieutenant Colonel’s I have known in my 20 years of military service. Chris planned the most sensitive and complex missions in support of the President, Vice President, First Lady and other White House delegations. Absolutely unlimited potential – a future General Officer!”

Commanding General John F. Campbell:

“Lieutenant Colonel Chris Downey’s performance in combat has been spectacular, he is my best aviation task force commander among the top three out of 70+ commanders that I senior rate. Strong General Officer potential.”  

The Administrative Board Applied the Wrong Burden Of Proof

In order to remedy the injustice caused by the erroneous Article 15, LTC Downey appealed to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records (“ABCMR”). Unfortunately for LTC Downey, the ABCMR applied the wrong burden of proof to his case. The Board is governed by 32 C.F.R. § 581.3(e)(2) which provides: “Burden of proof. The ABCMR begins its consideration of each case with the presumption of administrative regularity. The applicant has the burden of proving an error or injustice by a preponderance of the evidence.” (emphasis added). Rather than holding LTC Downey to the correct burden of proof, the Board held him to the much more difficult burden of proving an error or injustice by clear and convincing evidence.  Finding that LTC Downey had not met this illegitimately high standard, the Board denied him relief.

Richard Thompson, President and chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commenting on what happened to LTC Downey, stated: “There is no question in my mind that Lieutenant Colonel Downey was a victim of the military’s efforts to appease homosexual advocacy groups. As a result of political correctness gone amuck, America lost an outstanding combat commander who had given his country over 24 years of loyal service.”

Click here to read the Petition

How a Fraudulent Guardianship/Conservatorship Commences and Continues

This column examines conditions in Florida but the same problems exist in many states.

Step One: Eminent danger —The initial court petition

The professional guardian [or conservator], with the assistance of her attorneys, commences the embezzlement process by filing an emergency petition in the probate courts to become the “emergency” “temporary” guardian.

Florida guardianship statutes (Chapter 744), like many states, require that there be an “eminent danger” in order for the petitioner to become the “emergency temporary guardian.”

The guardian oftentimes fabricates the “eminent danger” by stating that there is a neighbor or relative or stranger who is taking advantage of the elderly person. In some cases, this may be a somewhat true statement, albeit an exaggerated claim. In most cases, upon further investigation, there has been no “eminent danger”whatsoever.

Step One takes away all of the victim’s civil rights and therefore gives the guardian and her attorneys full control over the victim and his or her assets.

Step Two: The examining committee

Once the professional guardian has taken control of the victim on a temporary basis (the emergency temporary guardianship order expires in 60 days [in Florida]) an examining committee of three medical “professionals” steps in to verify the allegation of mental incapacity. Oftentimes, the victim is administered a cocktail of psychotropic drugs to enhance the claims that he or she is incompetent.

“Ward” Elizabeth Faye Arnold, for instance, stated, “They put me on drugs that made me feel very drunk. I couldn’t even remember my name. Now that they have all my money, they don’t medicate me that way anymore.” One of the three medical professionals must be a psychiatrist and the victim is generally always found to be mentally incapacitated. The guardian usually has her own set of medical professionals that she utilizes on a regular basis. For instance, one professional guardian is married to a medical doctor and therefore has an entire fleet of medical professional associates available to her.

Back in the courtroom, soon after the three medical professionals file their reports, there is a capacity hearing. The victim seldom is permitted to attend this hearing. The judge quickly scans the medical examinations that “verify” that the victim is “mentally and/or physically incapacitated.” The judge then signs an order that gives the professional guardian full and permanent legal authority over the victim’s person and property.

Step Three: The “feast” begins

Property is sold for below market value and the deeds switch and switch several times. (kick backs are suspected). Bank accounts, annuities, stocks, and Certificates of Deposit are liquidated into one big guardianship account.

Out of this large bank account, the guardian is expected to pay all the victim’s, but bills oftentimes go unpaid.

How the victim’s money is spent

1. Attorney’s fees and guardianship fees for “services rendered to ‘Benefit’ the ‘Ward.”

A large part of the victim’s money is spent on attorney’s fees and guardian’s fees. As long as there is ample money in the victim’s guardianship account, the guardian and her attorney cohorts will file motion upon motion after motion to the courts, such as:

  • A motion to sell the ward’s furniture.
  • A motion to liquidate stocks and Certificates of Deposit.
  • A motion to transfer the ward to a different nursing home.
  • A motion to sell the ward’s homesteaded house.
  • A motion to open up a safety deposit box.

Each motion can cost the “ward” in excess of $2,000 because the motion must be written, researched, filed, and then a hearing is scheduled. Oftentimes, the motions cost more than what is being petitioned for.

2. Puffing the monthly budget

The guardian frequently doubles the monthly expenses then keeps the remainder.

3. Selling the “Ward’s” personal belongings for below market value then pocketing the difference

The guardian underestimates the amount of the sale of personal items, such as jewelry, paintings, and antiques, for the purpose of the court record inventories, then is free to keep the difference. There is little and often no court oversight.

4. Bills are simply not paid

Often times, the bills of the “ward” are not even paid. When the “ward” dies, the guardian simply places an ad in an obscure newspaper, if there is money left for an estate to be probated.Assuming creditors do not see the ad and file a claim against the estate within 30 days, their claims are forever barred and so the guardian was able to fool creditors and abscond with the money and not have to pay any of the bills. If she is caught, she simply pays the bills of the creditors who caught her. This frequently includes Medicaid.

5. Accounting is not accurate

The guardian can claim a much lower amount of liquid assets than what the victim is actually worth and then pocket the rest.

  • Julie Sweeten–$400,000.00 estate with an alleged $80,000.00 remaining when Sweeten died. More than $300,000.00 was spent in three years.
  • Louise A. Falvo started off with approximately $800,000.00. Two months into the guardianship, her guardian filed an accounting with the court stating that Falvo was worth only $672,000.00. Shortly thereafter, a bank statement from Bank of America stated that Falvo now had $449,000 after all accounts had been liquidated. So, approximately $200,000 turned up missing.

6. Fake wills

In this scenario, the guardian claimed that Julie Sweeten desired to leave her estate to her bank. A forged will was entered into the record. Wachovia Bank trustee was then given $80,000 from the uncontested, probated estate.

Step Four: The mysterious deaths

Once the funds have been spent, the “ward” oftentimes suddenly dies.

The “ward” dies when there is still plenty of money — if a huge probate battle can commence, thereby further enriching the attorneys and guardian.

Examples:

  • Carlisle Bosworth died soon after his $250,000 had been spent.
  • James Deaton — $5 million, three years in probate — $3 million in attorney’s fees with a pittance finally paid out to his family members.
  • Louise A. Falvo — suspected morphine sulfate overdose as cause of death; huge probate battle to enrich attorneys ensued even though her bank accounts were all Pay On Death/In Trust For (POD/ITF) to her daughter, so probate should have been completely unnecessary.

NASGA, National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse, has adopted a three part theme to succinctly describe the legally sanctioned exploitative guardianship process:

Isolate, Medicate, Take the Estate.”

Predatory guardians: How courts are allowing professional guardians/conservators to rob your assets

Examples:

  • Marie Long was worth $1.3 million when she suffered a stroke and came under the “protection” of a professional guardian. Three short years later, she is penniless and subsisting off of a meager social security pension and Medicaid.
  • Louise A. Falvo, 91, had accumulated nearly one million dollars when she was placed under a guardianship that was commenced with a forgery of her daughter’s signature by a probate attorney. Within three months, Louise A. Falvo was dead. Two and a half years later, the guardianship remains open. The guardian and her attorneys have, to date, been awarded by the judge more than $350,000.00 of Falvo’s estate — “to benefit the ‘ward'” — who is deceased.
  • Corretta Brown was placed under guardianship when the Department of Children and Families discovered that her home was uninhabitable. Today, Brown is deceased, her assets have disappeared (more than $100,000), and all of her debts — totaling more than $75,000 in nursing home costs, remain unpaid. The professional guardian, it was discovered, was not licensed and has since fled the state of Florida with Brown’s assets.
  • Marie Sandusky signed a power of attorney to guarantee that her beloved daughter, and not her rejected son, would manage her financial affairs and health care directives. Today, Sandusky has a court-appointed guardian who has spent more than $300,000 of Sandusky’s money in attorney’s fees. The reason? Sandusky’s rebuked son hired an attorney and together they made false allegations against Sandusky’s beloved daughter. As the “wheels of justice” move forward, Sandusky’s money is legally used to fund the frivolous feud.
  • Debra Duffield, 58, has been under the control of a professional guardian for the last four years. She was only 54-years old when an involuntary guardianship was petitioned against her by a professional guardian who gleefully discovered (tipped off by a social worker) Duffield’s substantive worth when Duffield was hospitalized for anorexia and a broken hip. During the last four years, the vast majority of her assets have been converted to attorney and guardian fees. Duffield, who was diagnosed as merely bipolar, had allegedly been financially exploited by a friend — hence, the rationale for the guardianship. She is confined to a nursing home without rehabilitation. She sits in a bed, smelling of urine and fecal matter, watching television. The guardian and her attorney regularly and steadfastly bill her account for merely “reading her file” or checking on the latest whereabouts of her former girlfriend. Soon, Duffield, who once owned a fabulous house complete with expensive antiques, valuable imported rugs and fine paintings, will be penniless.

When you hear the word “professional guardian,” what do you think? Do you think of someone who protects the elderly? Assists them with their daily needs? Guarantees they are protected from financial exploitation and physical neglect?

Think again.

The pristine image of professional court-appointed guardians who allegedly protect the elderly is being challenged. Grass root organizations, such as the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (N.A.S.G.A.) and Advocates for National Guardianship Ethics and Reform (A.N.G.E.R.) are claiming that professional guardians, their attorneys — and even judges — need to be watched.

May 25, 2010. Latifa Ring of Elder Abuse Victims Advocates addressed the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security stating, “… exploitation in guardianships is rampant. It is largely kept out of the public eye under the guise of ‘protection.'”

“Family members are portrayed as “Osama Bin Laden” or the devil incarnate,” David Newman said, a guardian reform advocate.

These “unproven and often false allegations” commence a flurry of legal activity that can only be likened to Charles Dickinson’s Bleakhouse. While family members are forced to spend thousands of dollars defending themselves against the false accusations, these same accusers — oftentimes, the professional guardians– handsomely profit from the legal havoc they create.

The guardians need to be watched

Take, for example, the recently widely publicized case of Clay Greene and Harold Scull, a gay couple who had cogently cohabitated together for more than 20 years, rendering mutual durable powers of attorney, wills, and other legal declarations upon one another. When Scull, 89, unexpectedly fell onto a stone patio, paramedics were called and the local sheriff department hastily alleged that Greene had intentionally shoved Scull to the ground. Yet, despite the fact that all charges were subsequently dropped, the public guardianship office for Sonoma County used the already disproved physical abuse allegation to commence an involuntary guardianship against Scull. Scull was removed to a nursing home, isolated him from Greene, and the couple’s jointly owned property which included valuable paintings, expensive Persian rugs, antiques, silverware, jewelry, and real estate — was sold for far less than appraised value — at least according to the court records. It was later discovered that the items had been sold for far more by the public guardianship office.

These types of guardianship irregularities have sparked a guardianship task force Special Committee on Aging, which reported, “…guardianship…has the potential of harming older adults rather than protecting them…The…continuing reports of the failure of courts…to prevent [financial] exploitation of incapacitated adults by their guardians have long been of concern to this Committee.”

Greene sued the public guardianship office who settled with him for approximately $600,000.00 just days before trial. Amy Todd-Gher, Greene’s attorney, stated:

“This victory sends an unmistakable message that all elders must be treated with respect and dignity…and that those who mistreat elders must be held accountable. [But] Even as we celebrate this victory…we are deeply troubled that the Sonoma [County] continues to refuse to take responsibility for their egregious misconduct…We urge every citizen…to demand more oversight of the Public Guardian’s office. They need to be watched.”

An alarmingly common practice

Is elder financial exploitation by professional guardians and their attorneys a commonplace occurrence? According to John Caravella, a former detective and office manager for Seniors vs. Crime, a special project of the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Gainesville, Florida, the answer is “Yes.”

Caravella became simultaneously intrigued and disturbed by the court-sanctioned practices of professional guardians on their “wards” (the legal term dubbed to those who have lost all of their civil rights under court-mandated guardianship) when one of his neighbors mysteriously disappeared shortly after receiving an inheritance of more than a quarter of a million dollars. The neighbor, referred to as “Adelle” in Caravella’s book, Marked for Destruction, had been falsely induced by a stock broker, whom she had consulted about her fledgling inheritance money, to sign papers that authorized a professional guardian and her attorney to manage Adele’s finances — if she should become mentally incapacitated. Within a few weeks, the guardian and her attorney petitioned the court alleging that Adele was not competent to manage her own affairs. The court authorized that she be stripped of all of her civil rights and placed in a nursing home. Soon thereafter, Adele’s recently acquired $250,000+ was quickly consumed by the attorney and guardian for “professional services” fees. And Adele soon passed away.

How it all begins

Kevin Gallagher had a trusted, longstanding pact with his beloved parents: When the time was “right,” he would make arrangements for their safe return to Maine where they would reside in assisted living. That “right time” came unexpectedly one day after Sunday services when Robert and Elsa Gallagher became slightly disoriented in traffic when they happen chanced upon orange cones in a road detour. Kevin and Lisa, delighted to hear that their parents were ready to journey home, began making all of the necessary arrangements. Kevin even phoned his estranged Orlando-based sister, Lori, and asked if she would simply “telephone” Mom and Dad during the interim. The sister, however, consulted the Yellow Pages and telephoned a company, Geriatric Care Management, that specializes in elder care.

The sheriffs arrive

Within 48 hours a professional guardian, and owner of the elder care company, arrived at the Gallagher’s doorstep with a court order and two deputy sheriffs. She had hastily petitioned to become the couple’s “emergency temporary guardian” after learning of their substantive assets. Upon her arrival, the couple were forcefully removed from their home and placed in separate nursing home facilities. Mrs. Gallagher, hysterical, secretly phoned her daughter-in-law, her speech slurred, crying for help. She had been forcibly administered psychotropic drugs. Three medical professionals quickly examined her while under the influence of the narcotics, and declared both she and her husband simultaneously 100% mentally incapacitated. The temporary guardian was then quickly appointed the permanent, plenary guardian.

The guardians first move was to encumber all of the couple’s assets.

The legal contest commences

Instead of making arrangements for their safe return home, Kevin Gallagher suddenly found himself furiously searching for Florida attorneys. Meanwhile, the guardian’s legal counsel quickly filed papers to block Kevin’s attempts at removing his parents from Florida to Maine. A hotly contested guardianship soon commenced with attorneys from both sides legally authorized to generously pay themselves from the Gallaghers’ assets.

“The story is always the same,” states Newman, a guardianship reform advocate. “A family member fights the guardianship; then the family member later ‘wins’ the contest — when all the assets have been spent in attorneys’ fees.”

Three years passed. Kevin found himself switching attorneys four times in an attempt to get the legal nightmare to stop

Then, suddenly, it did stop. Kevin was declared the winner of the contest.

All of the assets had been spent.

“They then placed my parents on a airplane with a single suitcase with a broken zipper,” Kevin stated. “Inside the suitcase were tattered clothes that had the names of other people in Magic Marker inside the clothes. Everything they had owned — even their clothes — had been sold or trashed by the guardian.”

Both Elsa and Robert died shortly after returning to Maine.

Family feud — or — an open invitation for fraud?

Corrine Branson, 82, had been happily living in Miami Beach with the daily assistance of a CNA when her grandson secretly petitioned the court to become his grandmother’s guardian. When Branson learned that she was to be moved into a nursing home, she quickly phoned her beloved daughter, aunt to the grandson, who had been granted a springing power of attorney many years before. Bonnie Reiter, with little knowledge of guardianships or guardianship law, quickly hired an attorney who suggested that a “professional guardian” be appointed during the interim legal contest.

It turned out that the guardian he suggested works with him on a regular basis. Reiter fired her attorney, hired another, and then moved for a court hearing which her mother planned to attend.

“Two weeks prior to the hearing, my mother ended up mysteriously dead,” Reiter stated.

The guardianship remained open after Branson’s death with Reiter, alone, having spent $130,000.00 in attorneys’ fees.

“They took more than $800,000 of my mother’s money in attorneys’ fees. The guardianship, in which my mother had never even been declared mentally incapacitated, lasted less than three months. This is a racketeering scheme that needs to be investigated. The F.B.I. should step in.”

Different names, same story

  • An Orange County court auditor discovered $50,000.00 missing three days before the ward died. The judge ordered an “Order to Show Cause.” Prior to the hearing, the guardian and her attorney simply brought back the missing money and placed it back with the court. The judge dropped the scheduled hearing.
  • Court records show that the guardian received $12,000 a month to pay the nursing home bills for Carlisle Bosworth. However, the skilled nursing home facility where he was placed charges only $6,000 a month. No investigation has ever been conducted regarding what happened to the extra $6,000 per month. Bosworth died shortly after all of his money had been spent.
  • Marion Copley was placed on Medicaid — even though her guardian sold her home for more than $250,000.
  • In another case a professional guardian petitioned the court to become an elderly woman’s guardian when she discovered the woman had no living relatives. She told the judge that the woman, who was still living independently in her home, had “bats flying all over the inside of the house.” The allegation resulted in a guardianship and the victim was removed from her home. Neighbors later stated that they had never seen “bats flying all over the house.”
  • In yet another case a professional guardian obtained a guardianship over Christian Van Beekum stating that neighbors had exploited him. A quick search of the property records showed that the neighbors who had allegedly exploited Van Beekum had actually sold their home and moved to another state six years prior.
  • James Deaton had owned an extensive coin collection, an expensive baseball card collection, and his deceased mother’s diamond rings and pearl necklaces, according to relatives. None of these items were ever listed on the guardian’s inventory report.
  • The Denver Post has several times( 2010, 2011 ) published investigative reports exposing the problems with the probate court there.
  • In July 2012 World News posted a video by Lisa Flurie and story about what has been done to her brother Mark in Florida probate courts. Links to many other stories of guardianship/conservatorship fraud are available there as well.

Law enforcement agents, social workers, and judges have been trained to maintain a watchful eye over exploitative family members. Yet no one seems to be guarding the guardians. Family members have complained to local law enforcement, the state attorneys’ office, and even the F.B.I.without any significant action being taken.

The problems grow worse with time as the courts become ever more dysfunctional.

Trump Continues to Remake the Federal Judiciary

President Donald Trump submitted another slate of judicial nominees to the Senate Thursday, naming candidates to the powerful federal appeals courts based in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, California.

The White House announced that Trump has named Gregory Katsas to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the nation’s second most powerful judicial panel, and Ryan Bounds to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the West Coast appeals court and primary antagonist of the early days of the Trump presidency.

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Katsas’ nomination was widely expected. He currently serves as deputy White House counsel and has played a major role in the administration’s early judicial nominations.

Before entering government service, he practiced in the Washington offices of Jones Day, a white-shoe practice intimately connected to Trump from the earliest days of the campaign. Katsas is a seasoned appellate practitioner and clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Clarence Thomas after graduating Harvard Law School.

Leonard Leo, the White House’s judicial selection guru, lavished praise on the nominee.

“I have known Greg Katsas for nearly 30 years and he is among the most honest, fair, humble, and intelligent people I have ever met,” he said in a statement. “He understands the awesome responsibility associated with wearing a judicial robe and I have no doubt that he will always place the search for truth, fairness, and justice first.”

Bounds is a federal prosecutor with a glittering resume, which made him an earlier front-runner for the 9th Circuit seat vacated by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, the conservative stalwart for whom he clerked after graduating Yale Law School.

Bounds is a veteran of the Bush administration where he served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, the unit charged with coordinated judicial nominations and advising the attorney general on policy initiatives. Above the Law’s David Lat characterized Bounds as a strong contender for a 9th Circuit appointment given his West Coast roots and D.C. ties.

The nomination is Trump’s first to the 9th Circuit, the country’s largest appellate court, which has continually stymied administration priorities. There are currently four vacancies on the court.

Other nominees the president named include Judge Lisa Branch of the Georgia Court of Appeals for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and 13 nominees for district courts in Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Georgia, and the District of Columbia.

Kevin Daley

Kevin Daley is a legal affairs reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation. Twitter: @kevindaleydc.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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EDITORS NOTE: Among judicial nominees submitted to the Senate Thursday is President Donald Trump’s first nominee for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the country’s largest appellate court, which has continually stymied administration priorities (Photo: Douliery Olivier/Sipa USA /Newscom). Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

Supreme Court votes for national security, upholds Trump travel ban

A win for common sense and national security. Watch, therefore, for the howls of rage from the Left and hysteria from the establishment media.

“Supreme Court: Trump admin can keep travel ban on most refugees,” by Ariane de Vogue, CNN, September 12, 2017:

Washington (CNN) The Supreme Court granted Tuesday a Trump administration request to continue to bar most refugees under its travel ban.

Without comment, the court blocked a federal appeals court ruling from last week that would have exempted refugees who have a contractual commitment from resettlement organizations from the travel ban while the justices consider its legality. The ruling could impact roughly 24,000 people.

The travel ban bars certain people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US….

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Failure of the ‘Biofuels’ mandate

Can government ever admit a mistake and reform?

Government “biofuel” mandates are a mistake we should eliminate.

CFACT senior policy advisor Paul Driessen reminds us at CFACT.org of Ronald Reagan’s quip that, “the closest thing to earthly eternal life is a government program.”

“The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS),” Driessen writes, “created under the 2005 Energy Policy Act and expanded by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, is a perfect example. It has more lives than Freddy Krueger.”

“The laws require that refiners blend steadily increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline, and expect the private sector to produce growing amounts of ‘cellulosic’ biofuel, ‘biomass-based diesel,’ and ‘advanced’ biofuels. Except for corn ethanol, the production expectations have mostly turned out to be fantasies. The justifications for renewable fuels were scary exaggerations then, and are now illusions.”

“Bio-fuel” mandates reduce mileage, distort markets, raise prices, clog engines, reduce natural habitats and increase CO2 emissions (if that’s your thing).

They have no energy or environmental benefits and certainly are of no help to the climate.  They are an agricultural welfare program.

We love our farmers.  While some may defend these mandates to keep the cash flowing, virtually all admit that they are a big government mistake.

“Biofuel” mandates are ripe for cutting.

Congress should dust off and sharpen its ax and cut these foolish mandates off.

Some Recent Energy & Environmental News

The newest edition of the Energy and Environmental Newsletter is now online.

Once again, there were so many worthwhile articles that it was quite challenging to pick out a few to be highlighted.

Some of the more interesting energy articles in this issue are:

Property and Wind Turbines: a Missing Point in the Discussion

Military Officials Explain Concerns with Wind Turbines (with good pictures)

NC & NYS Dealing with Military-Wind Energy conflicts

The Failure of RGGI

Scientific Critique of Wind Project Bird & Bat Study

Scientists who publicly question solar are silenced

Green Delusions and the Wind Bully

The Climate Alarmists’ Gross Perversion of the Word “Clean”

Peer Reviewed Study: Altered brain connectivity due to wind turbines

Some of the more informative Global Warming articles in this issue are:

Climate Models Over-Estimated Warming

Moving the Goalposts in the Climate Change Debate

Climate Science Comes Up Short

The totalitarianism of the environmentalists

“Science” journals stung again

Al Gore’s Climate Sequel Misses a Few Inconvenient Facts

Simplified Explanations of the Falsified Claims of Human Caused Global Warming

NYT guilty of large screw-up on climate-change story

Expose on Bill McKibben (a key energy and environmental player)

Lindzen: On the ‘Death of Skepticism’ Concerning Climate Hysteria

Not Sea Levels, Again!

PS: Our intention is to put some balance into what most people see from the mainstream media about energy and environmental issues… As always, please pass this on to open-minded citizens, and on your social media sites.

PPS: I am not an attorney, so no material appearing in any of the Newsletters (or our WiseEnergy.org website) should be construed as giving legal advice. My recommendation has always been: consult a competent attorney when you are involved with legal issues.

Why I and Other Lawmakers Should Live Under Obamacare by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)

For seven years, Republican candidates running for every office from president to dogcatcher campaigned on the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The spectacular collapse of the repeal effort in the Senate revealed that these promises were, at least for some senators, hollow.

As disappointing as the effort in the Senate was to witness, Congress cannot simply walk away from the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. One surefire way to restart the repeal effort is simple: Make Congress live under Obamacare.

The actual text of Obamacare cancels the congressional health plans utilized by members of Congress and refers members to the Obamacare exchanges for their insurance needs.

The idea was that members should eat their own cooking. No special subsidies were provided. Indeed, traditional employer contributions are prohibited for anyone enrolled in an exchange.

However, in 2013, after consultation with congressional leaders, the Obama administration issued a legally dubious administrative rule that put Congress onto the D.C. small business exchange (which is meant for businesses with less than 50 employees) and conferred upon members a generous taxpayer subsidy.

This is contrary to the text of Obamacare and reeks of insider favoritism. The arrangement has protected Congress from the high cost of Obamacare while millions of Americans continue to struggle under the financial burdens of the law.

Currently, there are two sets of health care laws in the United States: one for the taxpayers, and one for the insider class.

Under current practice, the American people alone are expected to shoulder the costs of health care. Members of Congress are shielded from the costs of their own law by placing—contrary to law—the burden of subsidizing congressional insurance plans on the backs of taxpayers.

Requiring Congress to experience the burden of Obamacare as the rest of America has would provide the greatest incentive to quickly return to the effort to repeal this failed law.

Obamacare continues to crumble. Just last month, it was reported that over 800,000 Americans will lose their current coverage in 2018 due to health care companies pulling out of the exchanges.

Some counties only have one insurance provider in their exchange, wholly eliminating the potential for competition in the market to reduce prices. And, in some areas, there is no insurance provider participating in the exchanges at all.

Health care premiums are rising, and soaring deductibles have put affordable health insurance out of reach for many middle-class Americans.

Our constituents deserve meaningful reform that lowers premiums and expands care options. Yet, Congress has failed to deliver on these promises, all while continuing to reap unlawful taxpayer subsidies.

Everyday Americans do not have the same luxury of simply not complying with the law.

President Donald Trump can singlehandedly put an end to these illegal subsidies. Earlier this year, I sent a letter to the president explaining that blowing the whistle on this special deal will make members of Congress better understand the burdens of Obamacare and incentivize them to get to work on a good repeal and replace plan.

While I am encouraged that the president has indicated that revoking the 2013 rule is a negotiating option that remains on the table, I believe that these illegal subsidies should be eliminated immediately.

This is why I have submitted an amendment to the House’s upcoming spending bills that would defund the Obama administration’s special rule for Congress.

The American people should demand that members of Congress honor their promises to repeal Obamacare and insist that they live under the same laws as the rest of the people.

Portrait of Rep. Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis, a Republican, represents Florida’s 6th District. Twitter: 

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Health care has dominated the news cycle for the last several years. With the introduction of socialized health care, the American health care industry faced grave danger. Unfortunately, fake news and dishonest reporting plagues the health care industry.

That is why it is our mission to ensure you receive accurate, timely, and reliable facts surrounding this politically charged battle on and off the Hill. The future of health care is important. Lives are at stake and patients deserve to know the facts and their rights.

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EDITORS NOTE: Under a legally dubious administrative rule from 2013, members of Congress and their staff are currently shielded from Obamacare by a taxpayer subsidy. The featured image is courtesy of iStock Photos. Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

‘Liberal Socialism’ is Another False Utopia by Richard M. Ebeling

Very often bad and failed ideas do not die, they simply reappear during periods of supposed social and political crisis in slightly different intellectual garb, and offer “solutions” that would merely help to bring about some of the very types of crises for which they once again claim to have the answers. Socialism in its various “progressive” mutations represents one of the leading so-called solutions of our time.

The Marxian-style socialism of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries is now long passé.

The latest manifestation of this appeared on August 24, 2017 in the New Republic in an online article by John B. Judis on, “The Socialism America Needs Now.” He is heartened by the wide appeal, especially among younger voters, that Bernie Sanders received during the 2016 presidential contest. He thinks that this may herald a rebirth and a renewed possibility for a socialist alternative to the current American political and economic system.Having traveled over the decades from the 1970s to the present from a radical, revolutionary socialist to a more “moderate” one today, Mr. Judis admits that the Marxian-style socialism of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries is now long passé. The embarrassing experience of “socialism-in-practice” in the form Lenin and Stalin created in the Soviet Union or by Chairman Mao in China will not fly anymore.

From Soviet Central Planning to “Liberal Socialism”

Central planning seemed not to work too well, and the “communist” variation on the socialist theme also had a tendency to be authoritarian with some drawbacks for human life and liberty. (He tactfully avoids mentioning that Marxist-inspired regimes in the twentieth century murdered well over a 100 million people – with some estimates suggesting the number might have been closer to 150 million or more in the name of building the “bright, beautiful socialist future.” (See my article, “The Human Cost of Socialism in Power”.)

He turns his mind and ideal to the “democratic socialist” parties and regimes in Western Europe in the post-World War II era, or as Mr. Judis prefers to call it – following John Maynard Keynes -“liberal socialism.” What makes this form of socialism “liberal”? It is the belief that there can be “socialism with a human face.” In other words, a form of “economic” socialism that leaves in place democratic politics with a respect for a broad range of personal and civil liberties.Virtually all socialists condemned and called for the abolition of private ownership of means of production.

We have heard this all so many times before. While Mr. Judis wishes to suggest that there is no real or definitive definition of “socialism” (any more than there are of “liberalism” or “democracy”), the fact is that throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, virtually all socialists condemned and called for the abolition of private ownership of means of production, and imagined in its place some form of socialist central planning directed by government in the name of “the people.”

Mr. Judis actually more or less admits this, and that the only great debate among socialists and communists in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries was over how the socialist utopia would be brought about, whether through violent revolution or through the democratic ballot box. The Russian Marxists led by Vladimir Lenin insisted that only revolution and a “dictatorship of the proletariat” could bring “the workers” to power and assure their permanent triumph over the exploitive capitalist class. The German democratic socialists opted for democratic means to power and rejected the dictatorship of Lenin and later Stalin.

But it is nonetheless the case that well into the post-World War II period this was a dispute over political means and not ideological ends, which remained for both branches of the socialist movement the abolition of capitalism and the imposition of socialist central planning. Communists wanted to bring about this transformation of society in one fell swoop through violent means and imposed dictatorship.  The German Social Democrats and the “Fabian” socialists in Great Britain proposed democratic means, with socialism coming more gradually and through incremental extensions of government control and planning over more and more parts of society. But for both, the end result would be the same: centralized government direction of economic affairs and social change.

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s and 1970s, more and more “democratic” socialists in Western Europe grudgingly accepted the fact that comprehensive socialist central planning was a failure as practiced in the Moscow-dominated Soviet bloc countries; and it brought little of the prosperity that government planning promised to provide as an escape from poverty in the “third world” countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The collectivist dream and delusion springs eternal.

Plus, the tyranny and brutality of Soviet-style socialism made it ethically difficult to defend. So the democratic socialists turned to the interventionist-welfare state to achieve their “social justice” ends without nationalizing all the means of production or centrally planning all economic activity in society. (See my article, “Barack Obama and the Meaning of Socialism”.)

Social Justice Tourism

But those communist regimes were not so repulsive that democratic socialists in the West would not continue to give moral indulgence and wishful hopes that somehow Marxian socialism would finally work and fulfill its promise in, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, or Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam, or in the Sandinista’s Nicaragua, or any other failed utopia we can find in recent history. The collectivist dream and delusion springs eternal. After all, even a rude, crude, and rough Marxist regime isn’t the United States – please, almost anything other than capitalist America!

Even today, the enlightened “progressive” can take a tour of Castro’s Cuba with the leftist magazine, The Nation. Don’t miss out! This November 2017 you can go with The Nation and, their advertisement promises, “learn about the Cuban Revolution from experts at some of its most pivotal locations, including the Moncada Barracks, the site of the first armed assault by Fidel Castro and his band of rebels on July 26, 1953.”

The progressive political pilgrim to the collectivist promised land will be spending his or her “days meeting with prominent Cuban professors, government officials,” including “urban planners” and “health care workers.” Don’t miss out on your chance to visit one of the remaining socialist “utopias” before global capitalism succeeds in taking it away.Che arbitrarily sent hundreds to their deaths, sometimes literally by his own hand.

No doubt, these “social justice” tourists will not be taken to La Cabana prison, where Che Guevara was assigned by Castro the role of state prosecutor against “enemies of the people,” following Fidel’s triumphant entrance into Havana and seizure of power in January 1959. In the role as unrestrained judge and jury, Che arbitrarily sent hundreds to their deaths, sometimes literally by his own hand.

Nor are they likely to have quoted to them Che’s words that, “My ideological training means that I am one of those people who believe that the solution to the world’s problems is to be found behind the Iron Curtain.” And that “I can’t be the friend of anyone who doesn’t share my ideas.” Or that Che was the one who in 1960 instituted communist Cuba’s system of forced labor camps. This would not fit in with the heroic face of Che on the t-shirts that, no doubt, some of these “progressive” travelers to utopia would be wearing. After all, Fidel and Che did it all for “the people,” and, well, they did have “good intentions.”

Of course, while such political pilgrims are pleased to visit these places and bask in the moral satisfaction that the few remaining communist regimes in the world are still trying to make that “better world,” even if with the heavy hand of dictatorship, censorship of art, music and political views, the imprisonment of political opponents, and torture and execution of “enemies of the people” (all of which they still mostly turn a blind eye to), they prefer to live in their own Western countries and dream the “liberal socialist” dream, as clearly Mr. Judis is doing.

Liberal Socialism as the Regulatory and Redistributive State

What, precisely, is this democratic or “liberal” socialism to which Mr. Judis hopes a younger generation of Americans will turn in the years ahead? It turns out to be the same “utopia” of the interventionist-welfare state that Western countries have been following since the end of the Second World War, though, admittedly, to different degrees in different places around the world.

Mr. Judis wants the government to intensively and pervasively regulate, command, restrict and direct various aspects of the private enterprises in society, while ensuring that American society can still take advantage of the self-interested incentives and innovations that can improve the material conditions of life. But the direction, form, and extent to which private enterprisers shall be allowed to do those productive and innovative things with their businesses will be confined to and constrained within those avenues that serve the “higher” and “non-market” values and purposes of “society.”

Matching the regulatory and interventionist state must be the redistributive welfare state.

Matching the regulatory and interventionist state must be the redistributive welfare state. The excessive and unnecessary income and wealth of the businessmen and private sector investors of America must be taxed – heavily – to assure greater material egalitarianism, and to fund all the social services and government-provided safety nets, which “would bring immeasurable benefit to ordinary Americans. A good watchword is economic security – something that is very lacking to all except the wealthiest Americans.”

At this point, it might be wondered what, then, marks off Mr. Judis’ “liberal socialism” from the already existing modern American “liberal” interventionist-welfare state? It turns out that it is all a matter of intentions and the intended recipients. In Mr. Judis’ view, mainstream modern American liberals have lost their way; they too frequently sleep with the enemy (think Bill and Hillary Clinton) in the form of excessively collaborating with businessmen and bankers to the latter’s benefit; American liberals and progressives have stopped sufficiently emphasizing “economic justice” for middle America with their increasingly primary focus on “identity politics.”

Liberal Socialism and Democratic Politics Without Romance

Also, unlike the communists and many radical socialists and some progressives, Mr. Judis calls for moving towards his notion of a better socialist future through a more active participation in the Democratic Party. The task is to nudge and shove mainstream modern American liberals in the Democratic Party further to the socialist left, which in many of their hearts these people already know is right. And to use the Democratic Party as the vehicle to propagandize and persuade more in society that socialism is good and just and the best for them.

In other words, Mr. Judis calls for using the methods of the earlier German Democratic Socialists and the British Fabians, only do so in a way that does not seem to be as threatening or undermining of all the institutions of existing society as those earlier groups often did with their call for the total abolition of capitalism.

What is sometimes called “crony capitalism” is just Pareto’s “bourgeois socialism.”

Mr. Judis’ “liberal socialism” is really just the existing interventionist-welfare state placed – “democratically” – in the “right” elected hands, so those manning and managing the machinery of government will do what he wants political authority to do, rather than what it is currently being done by Republicans and the current Democratic Party establishments.

A way for Mr. Judis to more easily defend his desire and ideal is to suggest that the existing political-economic system in America today is a free market, “neo-liberal” capitalism, rather than what the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) once more accurately labeled it: “bourgeois socialism.” That is, a system of government regulation, redistribution, favors and privileges that benefits many in the private enterprise sectors of society rather than a more “proletarian socialism” that simply would take from “the rich” to give to “the workers” and “the poor.”

What is sometimes called “crony capitalism” is just Pareto’s “bourgeois socialism.” Pareto also understood with amazing clarity in the 1890s one of the insights of modern Public Choice theory, that “participatory democracy” of the community as a whole is a theoretical and practical illusion in a complex society. Politics in an unrestrained democracy always becomes a contest among special interest groups capable of gaining concentrated benefits from State intervention and redistribution at the diffused expense of the rest of the society.

In democratic societies it takes the form of coalitions of special interest groups who succeed in offering campaign contributions and votes to politicians desiring elected political office, who then fulfill their campaign promises to those groups once in the actual halls of political power.

The communist “classless society” had one of the most intricate social webs of favoritism and plunder ever.

In totalitarian societies, such as in the former Soviet Union, it took the form of hierarchical positions within the Communist Party and within the central planning bureaucracy, including the state enterprise managers, who had the decision-making power over access to and use of the socialized means of production. Thus, the communist “classless society” had one of the most intricate social webs of power, privilege, favoritism and plunder ever seen in human society.

This “politics without romance,” to use Nobel Laureate, James M. Buchanan’s (1919-2013) phrase, shows why the notion of “the people” owning, controlling, regulating and overseeing the collective direction of an economy is pure illusion and deception concerning the reality of how and why political power works the way it does.

What Mr. Judis and far too many who share his views about capitalism and some form of socialism – “liberal” or otherwise – fail to understand is that any and all forms of planning, regulation, and political redistribution in fact takes power and decision-making out of the hands of the people about whom they express their concerns.

Real Participatory Liberation under Free Market Liberalism

It is the open, competitive market economy that, precisely, gives each and every individual wide latitude and liberty over his own personal affairs. It is the market that enables each of us to make his own choices concerning the profession, occupation, or productive calling to pursue. It is the market that enables each and everyone of us to have the freedom to make our own choices to earn an income and spend that income as we consider best in terms of the values, beliefs, purposes and desires that we think may bring meaning and happiness to our individual lives.

It is the free society that provides truly participatory opportunities to form groupings of almost any type.

It is the free society of individual liberty and voluntary association that provides truly participatory opportunities to form groupings of almost any type to further the ends outside of the narrower arena of market transactions to better our lives materially, socially, culturally and spiritually. See my article, “Individual Liberty and Civil Society” for more about this.

At this point no doubt, Mr. Judis would reasonably ask, but what about those who are unable to provide for themselves, due to personal tragedy, unfortunate circumstances, or simply bad luck? Is this not the reason why enlightened and decent societies had to move “leftward” to establish and financially provide for those unable to personally meet the essentials of everyday life and to have opportunities to fulfill their potentials as a human being? Is not the welfare state of “liberal socialism” the inescapable necessity of having a humane society?

The classical liberal responds that these very concerns can be far better and more successfully solved and served through the voluntary institutions and associations of civil society than to turn such tasks over to the government. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before the modern welfare state, all such “social problems” were handled with wide and positive effects by charities, philanthropies and for-profit organizations in places such as Great Britain and the United States. That their workings and successes are virtually unknown to most people in modern society shows the extent to which their history and social nobility has gone down a memory hole of collectivist misinterpretation and misunderstanding of what a society of liberty did and could provide (for more about this, see my article, “A World Without the Welfare State”).

Furthermore, the transfer of such welfare responsibility to the government reduces each and every recipient to a ward of the State. It is politicians and bureaucrats who decide the education your children will receive in government schools; they are the ones who determine the retirement possibilities you will have, the healthcare to which you will have access and its type, the wages and work conditions under which you may be allowed to be employed or unemployed, and the forms and types of associations you may enter into as well as the activities and membership you are permitted.

“Liberal socialism” is not the path to liberation, but of continuing servitude to the those with political power.

The “liberal socialism” about which Mr. Judis dreams is not the path to liberation, but of continuing servitude to those with political power and who have the presumption to imagine that they know better how people are to care for their own lives than those individuals (See my article, “Democratic Socialism Means Loss of Liberty”).

One would have thought that after more than seven decades of the interventionist-welfare state as the political left’s “liberal socialist” alternative to Marxian socialist central planning, it would be realized that it is just another constraining and corrupt manifestation of the unworkability of any collectivist system of control and command.

Mr. Judis’ program for a socialist America also shows the intellectual bankruptcy of those on “the left.” The revolutionary transformation of society, for which they yearn, ends up being nothing more than the existing interventionist-welfare state, except with the desire that people who agree with Mr. Judis should be at the helm of political power rather than those with whom he disagrees.

Richard M. Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling is BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He was president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008.

Jesus Was Not a Socialist

Recently, Speaker Paul Ryan was confronted with the following question from a Dominican nun: How do you reconcile your political philosophy (meaning conservatism and its defense of the free market) with Christ’s teaching that we should always stand on the side of the poor and the destitute?

Of course, the question presupposes that Speaker Ryan and all who share his political views reject their moral obligation to stand with the poor.  That glaring flaw notwithstanding, the question is still valid, particularly in light of the fact that those of us who truly attempt to live out a Christian life ought to be continuously asking this question, not only as it relates to our political beliefs, but also as it relates to every action we undertake.

How do we reconcile what we’re doing with the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

There are actually two separate answers to the Sister’s question, both leading squarely to the adoption of a conservative view of government.

Listen to Dr. Gonzalez’s Podcast!

Socialist policies are abject failures

The first is a practical one, and one that stands as irrefutable: Because socialism does not work!

The left argues that to properly apply Jesus’s teachings to governmental design, government must actively and zealously take wealth away from the hands of the haves and place it in the hands of the have nots. But this approach undercuts what it means to be a person — and certainly a Christian.

Christians believe that each individual has a direct and immutable relationship with God. We believe that we are placed on this earth for a reason, and that reason is a divine one, and that such a purpose is intertwined with promoting goodness and charity to our fellow men.

But these callings are placed on us as individuals, not as a group.

If God’s mandate had been placed on government, then there would be no direct relationship with God. Rather, our purpose would be merely to support the state. We would live, work, and die only at the pleasure of government, which was entrusted to carry out God’s plan.  An absurd result indeed!

No. Socialism does not work, and pursuing socialistic solutions to the challenges of poverty and suffering will only result in furthering the man’s suffering and to suppressing the very Christianity leftists are using to validate their quest.

Jesus’ interest is man, not government policy

But there is a second and more compelling reason why Christ’s teachings will not result in a socialist government, and it centers on Jesus’s audience.

Jesus did not come to live amongst us to speak of “Poli Sci.” In fact, the only time Jesus Christ was presented with a question dealing with politics, he rejected addressing it completely.

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees plotted to set a legal trap for the Messiah. Shrewdly, one of them asked Jesus about the appropriateness of paying a tax to Caesar. Detecting the snare, Jesus first responded by calling his inquirer a hypocrite. Then, after asking whose image appears on the denarius, he astutely responded, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

As was true of so many of Jesus’s answers, not only did he refuse to take the bait placed before him, but his answer opened even more insights regarding man’s relationship with God and what was expected of us here on earth.

So what belongs to Caesar? Worldly things.

Laws belong to Caesar. Taxes belong to Caesar. Political philosophy belongs to Caesar.

And what belongs to God? Only your soul.

Jesus came to save men’s souls. And as such his calling is meant to serve as a mandate to each and every one of us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to sacrifice for his or her wellbeing . . . as individuals!

Jesus, governmental formula was immaterial to his mission and his analysis. So, in Jesus’s world, there is no call for a government that redistributes wealth by fiat. There is only a call for each of us to stand with the afflicted, not under the banner of government, but through our covenant with God.

The reality is that government needs to be designed in a manner conducive to a self-sufficient society and respectful of the rights of man. Socialism has consistently failed in the former and ignores the latter. Observance of restraints in government inevitably leads to a government whose power springs from the people and interferes as little as possible with the liberties of its citizens.

And the only guarantee that such a society will work for the oppressed and the poor is if there exists a close association between each individual in that society and God.

Sadly, our more recent national experience has been one that has disrupted such a close association; and with devastating consequences.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.

Florida Democrat Election Official Admits Noncitizens, Felons Voting by Fred Lucas

A veteran Democrat chief election official in Florida has conceded in court that noncitizens and felons possibly voted, in a case that could have national implications for how localities clean up voter rolls.

Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes is defending her office against a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative legal group that contends there are more voters registered on Broward’s rolls than there are eligible voters in the county.

Those rolls are said to be inflated with not only noncitizens and felons, but also other ineligible people who have voted illegally.

On July 31, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported that, in court, “Snipes acknowledged the processes her office [has] been using aren’t perfect and that some noncitizens and felons have voted despite not being eligible—especially right before major elections, when groups are actively registering new voters.”

Burnadette Norris-Weeks, a lawyer for Snipes and Broward County, said the statement was “blown out of proportion” and was in response to a question, rather than a statement of definite voter fraud in the county.

“This wasn’t a suggestion there was rampant voter fraud in Broward County,” Norris-Weeks told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. She added that suggested improvements were “no admission of anything.”

“The supervisor will try anything to improve the system,” she said.

As of Aug. 30, just over half of the county’s 1.18 million registered voters, 595,688, are Democrats, according to county figures. About 21.6 percent of them, 254,966, are Republicans, while 326,405 are not affiliated with a political party, and 3,891 are described as “other.”

Snipes has been the county’s top election official since being appointed in mid-2003, and has won subsequent elections starting in November 2004.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom of the Southern District of Florida in Miami, an appointee of President Barack Obama, has not yet rendered a decision. A ruling will likely come in October, Norris-Weeks said.

“One of the things that is the beauty of this country is that anybody can sue for anything on any day,” Norris-Weeks said. “This is just a right-wing conservative organization trying to make sure it’s more difficult for people to vote.”

The case’s four-day trial this summer came at a time when voter fraud has become a national issue. President Donald Trump in May named a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to examine the issue nationally.

Broward County’s problems reportedly included voter registration lists with 130-year-old voters (or would-be voters, if they were living), felons, duplicate registrations, and commercial addresses listed as residential addresses.

“Snipes said she does not use Social Security death records to check up on extremely old voters—like age 130. She waits for a death certificate to fall in her lap. She won’t even look at local obituaries as a starting point,” Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case, told The Daily Signal in an email.

Foundation President J. Christian Adams, a member of Trump’s elections commission, is arguing in court on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union.

The Snipes testimony provided many disclosures about noncitizens voting, Churchwell noted.

“Of those outing themselves as noncitizens, she has seen records of ballots cast prior,” he said.

Still, the case is not a voter fraud case, but about whether Broward County manages voter records in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the “motor voter” law. That law allows people to register to vote when they apply for their driver’s license, but also requires local elections offices to keep their voter lists accurate.

Snipes reportedly said in court that her office was applying to be connected to Florida’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database.

“She made references to episodes involving voter registration drives before an election that turned in bad information. She gave the example of fictitious names on the stand,” Churchwell said. “She agreed that her office had registered ‘hundreds’ of voters claiming illegal commercial addresses as residential ones. They were usually rented mailboxes.”

ABOUT FRED LUCAS

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH

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RELATED ARTICLE: Eligible to Vote: Obama Administration Allowed Thousands of DACA Recipients to Receive Green Cards, Leading to Citizenship

EDITORS NOTE: The feature image of Broward County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is pictured here at the county’s Emergency Operations Center at the time of the 2004 elections. (Photo: Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/Sipa Press/Newscom)

False Choice: Ending DACA or Building the Border Wall

President Trump doesn’t have to choose. And he shouldn’t.

Though there is no shortage of “fake news” appearing in the mainstream media, there are a number of reports claiming that members of the Trump administration are attempting to convince President Trump to renege on his campaign promise to rollback the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for funding for the construction of the border wall.

Before we consider this news, let’s be clear about the absolute need to secure the dangerous U.S./Mexican border.  I have frequently compared securing that border with a wing on an airplane.  Without a wing an airplane will not fly.  However, a wing by itself goes nowhere. Though it has been estimated that nearly half of all illegal aliens did not run the southern border, and instead were admitted through America’s 325 ports of entry, securing that border is nonetheless a vital element of our immigration law enforcement system and national security.

The U.S./Mexican border is particularly dangerous because of endemic corruption of the Mexican government on all levels and the extreme level of violence in Mexico, both attributable to the Mexican drug cartels.  Mexican government officials are given the choice of “silver or lead.”  Either take a bribe (silver) or expect to be shot (lead).

That violence and potential for corruption flows across our border: The majority of violent crimes in the United States have a connection to the drug trade and drug addiction.

For years I have written about how the most reliable metric to determine the level of border security for the United States is not the arrest statistics by the Border Patrol, but the price and availability of heroin and cocaine in the United States since those substances are not produced in the country.  Every gram of those narcotics is smuggled into the United States.

Today the United States is experiencing unprecedented levels of heroin addiction that wreaks havoc on lives and our communities.  Drug smugglers also engage in human trafficking and smuggle transnational gang members into the United States.

While not all drug smuggling involves the U.S./Mexican border, a huge amount of narcotics does enter the United States along that dangerous corridor that stretches roughly 2,000 miles.

Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission made the compelling case for making border security a cornerstone of national security policy.  This conclusion, in point of fact, was laid out in the preface of the official report, “9/11 and  Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.”

Now let’s consider the wrong-headed program created by the Obama administration, DACA.

The mainstream media and immigration anarchists have, since the inception of the illegal implementation of the DACA program on June 15, 2012 by the Obama administration, provided blatantly false and misleading statements about this program, duping Americans into believing that DACA is for alien children.

While President Obama sold this program to the American people as providing lawful status for young aliens, in reality aliens as old as 31 years of age could qualify if they claimed to have entered the United States prior to their 16th birthdays.

The program additionally required that these aliens continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time.  Again, without face to face interviews and no field investigations, there would be absolutely no way to determine if these aliens met these requirements.

Unfortunately, there were no interviews and no field investigations to verify any of the claims made in the applications.  This created an open invitation to fraud. Because of a dearth of resources, and the hundreds of thousands of applications that were filed, fraudsters are not likely to be caught.

To underscore this concern, a review of the Statistics for DACA from 2012 though June 30, 2016, as posted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), shows that hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens benefited from this program and that a very small percentage of the applications were denied.

Immigration fraud is not a “victimless crime.”  In fact, immigration fraud was identified by the 9/11 Commission as the key entry and embedding tactic of terrorists.  DACA’s integrity is undermined by an abject lack of personnel and resources.

Furthermore, while not generally reported in the media, adjudications officers can approve an application for DACA in mere minutes while a denial of an application may require hours or days to perform, in anticipation of an appeal being filed by the attorneys representing the aliens in question.  This placed enormous pressure on the adjudications officers to approve the great majority of the applications so that these beleaguered officials can meet quotas that were established to achieve productivity goals.

It must also be noted how the DACA program undermines the crucially important inspections process conducted at ports of entry of aliens seeking to come into the United States.

Open-borders immigration anarchists claim that illegal aliens enter the United States “undocumented.”  That term is an artifice of language that could have been created by the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”

In reality, aliens who run our borders, evading the U.S. Border Patrol and the inspections process, enter the United States without inspection.

Obviously no record of entry is created when illegal aliens enter the United States without inspection.  Therefore, without an actual field investigation, there is no reliable way to know when, where or how such illegal aliens actually entered the United States. There may also be no reliable way to determine the true identities or criminal histories of these illegal aliens. This was much the case when, in the name of “compassion,” the Obama administration encouraged the flood of unknown “Unaccompanied Minors” across the U.S./Mexican border.  This led to the influx of members of the violent and vicious gang members including MS-13.

The MS-13 problem in the has become so acute that it has been the subject of multiple congressional hearings, including the June 20, 2017 the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence field hearing on the topic “Combating Gang Violence On Long Island: Shutting Down The MS-13 Pipeline,” and the June 21, 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The MS-13 Problem: Investigating Gang Membership, its Nexus to Illegal Immigration, and Federal Efforts to End the Threat.

Advocates for immigration anarchy have become adept at providing false choices and justification for absurd policies.  One of their favorites is to claim that if we cannot deport 11 million illegal aliens we should “solve the problem” by legalizing them to get them “out of the shadows.”

Of course, in reality, there are likely 30 or 40 million illegal aliens in the United States and because of the same lack of resources and lack of integrity in the administration of the DACA program, there would be no way to interview those millions of illegal aliens or conduct field investigations or even search for illegal aliens who refuse to emerge from the shadows.

These ridiculous arguments are never used where drunk driving or other such crimes are concerned. However, where immigration law enforcement is concerned, the arguments have gotten successively more absurd.  Many Americans have been duped by anarchists who repeat these false arguments as frequently as possible.

The truth is that our borders must be made truly secure and, consequently, DACA must be allowed to fade out.

President Trump needs to order that when the period for aliens granted temporary lawful status under DACA expires, no action be taken to extend their authorizations, leaving them vulnerable to removal (deportation).

America has the most generous immigration policies of any country on this planet.  Massive amnesty programs not only undermine national security and public safety, but insult the million lawful immigrants who are admitted into the United States each year and abide by the rule of law and the spirit of our laws. It can only be hoped President Trump recognizes his obligation with respect to DACA.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.

Obama Policy That Encourages Banking Discrimination Is Finally Ending by Daniel J. Mitchell

Trump has been President for more than 200 days and those of us who want more economic liberty don’t have many reasons to be happy.

Obamacare hasn’t been repealed, the tax code hasn’t been reformed, and wasteful spending hasn’t been cut.

The only glimmer of hope is that Trump has eased up on the regulatory burden. More should be happening, of course, but we are seeing some small steps in the right direction.

Let’s share one positive development.

Operation Choke Point

Professor Tony Lima of California State University opined back in January in the Wall Street Journal that Trump could unilaterally boost growth by ending a reprehensible policy known as “Operation Choke Point.”

…the Trump administration could shut down Operation Choke Point. This program, enforced by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., targets “risky” banking customers and pressures banks to deny them credit. It’s unnecessary: If these industries are really risky, banks would not want their business. The real purpose of Operation Choke Point is to target industries that are out of favor…, among them: Coin dealers, money-transfer networks and payday lenders. Sales of ammunition and firearms (Second Amendment, anyone?) and fireworks (legal in some states). …Other legal goods and services such as surveillance equipment, telemarketing, tobacco and dating services. …Denying credit hampers an industry’s growth. Eliminating Operation Choke Point would encourage growth. It costs nothing. And someday it may reduce enforcement spending.

And Professor Charles Calomiris from Columbia University echoed those views a few weeks later.

Imagine you have a thriving business and one morning you get a call from your banker explaining that he can no longer service your accounts. …That’s what happened to many business owners as the result of an Obama administration policy called Operation Choke Point. In 2011 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. warned banks of heightened regulatory risks from doing business with certain merchants. A total of 30 undesirable merchant categories were affected…the FDIC explained that banks with such clients were putting themselves at risk of “unsatisfactory Community Reinvestment Act ratings, compliance rating downgrades, restitution to consumers, and the pursuit of civil money penalties.” Other FDIC regulatory guidelines pointed to difficulties banks with high “reputation risk” could have receiving approval for acquisitions.

Keep in mind, by the way, that Congress didn’t pass a law mandating discrimination against and harassment of these merchants.

The Washington bureaucracy, along with ideologues in the Obama Administration, simply decided to impose an onerous new policy.

In effect, the paper pushers were telling financial institutions “nice business, shame if anything happened to it.”

But at least when mobsters engage in that kind of a shakedown, there’s no illusion about what’s happening.

Telling Bankers Their Business

Professor Calomiris explained that this regulatory initiative of the Obama Administration made no sense economically.

It is rather comical that regulators would use the excuse of regulatory risk management to punish banks. Banks are in the business of gauging risk and have every incentive to avoid customer relationships that could hurt their reputation. Regulators, on the other hand, have shown themselves unwilling or unable to acknowledge risk, the most obvious example being the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008.

And he also explained why Operation Choke Point was such a reprehensible violation of the rule of law.

The FDIC’s regulators never engaged in formal rule-making or announced penalties for banks serving undesirable clients. Such rule-making likely would have been defeated in congressional debate or under the Administrative Procedures Act. Instead, regulators chose to rely on informal decrees called “guidance.” …Financial regulators find regulatory guidance particularly expedient because it spares them the burden of soliciting comments, holding hearings, defining violations, setting forth procedures for ascertaining violations, and defining penalties for ignoring the guidance. Regulators prefer this veil of secrecy because it maximizes their discretionary power and places the unpredictable and discriminatory costs on banks and their customers.

Well, we have some good news.

The Trump Administration has just reversed this terrible Obama policy. Politico has some of the details.

The Justice Department has committed to ending a controversial Obama-era program that discourages banks from doing business with a range of companies, from payday lenders to gun retailers. The move hands a big victory to Republican lawmakers who charged that the initiative — dubbed “Operation Choke Point” — was hurting legitimate businesses. …House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte…and House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), along with Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) praised the department in a joint statement. “We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point,” they said. “The Obama Administration created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses.”

And Eric Boehm of Reason is pleased by this development.

A financial dragnet that ensnared porn stars, gun dealers, payday lenders, and other politically disfavored small businesses has been shut down. Operation Choke Point launched in 2012… It quickly morphed into a questionably constitutional attack on a wide range of entrepreneurs who found their assets frozen or their bank accounts closed because they were considered “high-risk” for fraud. …Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd called Operation Choke Point “a misguided initiative” and confirmed that DOJ was closing those investigations… “Law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor,” Boyd wrote. …The repudiation of Operation Choke Point is a welcome development, says Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

shared a video last year that explained Operation Choke Point in just one minute. But that just scratched the surface, so here’s a video from Reason that explains in greater detail why Operation Choke Point was so repulsive.

Kudos to the Trump Administration for reversing this awful policy.

But hopefully, this is just the first step. Regulators are still squeezing financial institutions in an attempt to discourage them from doing business with low-tax jurisdictions. This policy of “de-risking” exists even though so-called tax havens generally have tighter laws against dirty money than the United States.

Trump should put an end to that misguided policy.

Ultimately, what’s really needed is a complete rethink of money-laundering laws and regulations.

Amazingly, some politicians actually want to make these laws even worse. Ideally, Trump will move completely in the other direction.

P.S. While it’s good that Trump has reversed Operation Choke Point, his Administration has moved in the wrong direction on civil forfeiture policy. One step forward and one step backward is not a recipe for more growth and prosperity.

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

RELATED ARTICLE: Operation Choke Point Is Over. But Without Major Reforms, It Could Happen Again.

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

Just as many in the Democratic Party are seeking to moderate their message in order to once again compete as a national political party, some high-profile Democrats are urging the party to lurch further left with an even firmer embrace of gun control.

On June 13, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) addressed those gathered at the “progressive” Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Ga. In her usual frenzied style, Warren used the forum to attack those Democrats who would moderate the party’s message, including those who would temper the party’s stance on guns.

Going further than most anti-gun activists and politicians, her command for Democrats to champion gun control included a call to shut down discussion on the topic. In doing so, Warren seemed to liken the issue of gun control to that of global warming, which many activists have long-attempted to put beyond the scope of legitimate debate.

During her wide-ranging diatribe, Warren stated,

It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of science.

We’re done arguing about whether climate change is real – and we’re going to fight it with everything we have.

We’re done arguing about whether trickle-down economics works – and we’re going to fight to build this economy so it works for working families.

We’re done arguing about gun safety – and we’re going to fight for the common-sense reforms the overwhelming majority of Americans want.

First, there is nothing remotely close to a scientific consensus on the efficacy of gun control advocates’ most favored proposals. A 2013 memo from the Department of Justice’s National Institute for Justice surveyed the research on several gun control measures. In relation to a restriction on the private transfer of firearms, the NIJ determined that such a measure would be ineffective unless coupled with an onerous registration regime. Addressing restrictions on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, NIJ determined, “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.” So-called “smart guns” were found “Unlikely to affect gun crime.”

Moreover, earlier reviews of gun research and controls by the National Academies have made clear that the senator’s absolutist statement is unwarranted.

Second, while gun control proponents are quick to point to polls showing public support for restrictions on the private transfer of firearms as a justification for trampling gun rights, actual experience paints a different picture. In 2016, anti-gun activists’ most-touted gun control measure was on the ballot in two very different “blue” states, Maine and Nevada. When given the opportunity to vote on this legislation, Mainers rejected further gun control, while Nevadans narrowly passed a misleading and unenforceable background check initiative by less than a 1 percent margin. Not exactly evidence of an “overwhelming majority.”

If there is any positive aspect to Warren’s recent anti-gun statement, it is that the senator was so forthright in her attack on our Second Amendment rights. For many years, gun control advocates and anti-gun politicians have implored lawmakers and the nation to have a much-needed “conversation” on gun control. Of course, the country has been embroiled in a nearly ceaseless national debate on the topic since the 1960s.

This tactic is always an anti-gun ruse. Rather than an earnest debate on the merits of a given proposal, those using this language are exclusively concerned with achieving their preferred policy outcomes. While Warren is incorrect that the argument over gun control has been decisively determined in her favor, at least she has dropped the ridiculous pretext of wanting a serious debate.

Warren’s hardline anti-gun position might play well in Massachusetts, a state where the fanatical attorney general has been permitted to willfully misinterpret state law to attack law-abiding gun owners and local law enforcement have discretion over who may possess even a single-shot shotgun. Given Hillary Clinton’s fervent support for the most radical gun control measures and her subsequent ascent to the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s obvious that militant anti-gun messaging is also attractive to some of the more statist elements of the Democratic Party. However, there is strong evidence that if the Democrats are interested in competing nationally, a more moderate stance on Second Amendment rights is the way forward.

Democratic Party leaders, and Democratic candidates running in competitive elections, will have to decide whether to follow the lead of someone likely bolstering her left-wing credentials to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, or look to history and recognize the wisdom in former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rahm Emanuel’s determination that Democratic candidates should “reflect” their constituents.

EDITORS NOTE: Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic Party, wrote, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Justice Department Terminates and Repudiates Operation Chokepoint

This week the Department of Justice made clear that the Obama Administration’s underhanded attack on the gun industry using the banking system – better known as Operation Chokepoint – is over. In a strongly-worded letter to U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) dated August 16, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd assured the chairman that the operation has been terminated and that “it will not be undertaken again.”

Initiated in 2013 and involving the Justice Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Operation Chokepoint sought to deter banks from conducting business with companies that engaged in commerce that the Obama administration viewed as undesirable. To do this, the Obama administration categorized certain types of businesses as being “associated with high-risk activity” in a banking guidance document used by the FDIC. Some of the types of businesses targeted by the operation were engaged in illegal or fraudulent activity, like “On-line Gambling” or “Ponzi Schemes.” However, also targeted in this operation were legal businesses that engaged in lawful commerce such as “Tobacco Sales,” “Coin Dealers,” “Ammunition Sales,” and “Firearms Sales.”

Current Justice Department leadership and Boyd should be commended for their forceful statement on this matter. This unequivocal repudiation of Operation Chokepoint should make a return to such political persecution unpalatable for all but the most debased public official.

This targeting of lawful businesses produced a strong response from some in Congress. In 2014, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the operation and issued a 
scathing report
. In 2016, the U.S. House passed H.R. 766, the ‘‘Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015,” which sought to eliminate Operation Chokepoint. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced companion legislation in the Senate, declaring Operation Chokepoint an attack on Second Amendment rights.

In a decision worthy of praise, Boyd did not mince words when describing the Obama-era policy. The letter described Operation Chokepoint as a “misguided initiative conducted during the last administration.” Making clear that the new administration intends to reestablish the integrity of the Justice Department, Boyd wrote, “The Department is committed to bringing enforcement actions only where warranted by the facts and the applicable law without regard to political preferences.” Leaving no doubt about the current Justice Department’s position, Boyd concluded, “We reiterate that the Department will not discourage the provision of financial services to lawful industries, including businesses engaged in … firearms-related activities.”

Current Justice Department leadership and Boyd should be commended for their forceful statement on this matter. This unequivocal repudiation of Operation Chokepoint should make a return to such political persecution unpalatable for all but the most debased public official.

The NRA thanks President Trump for finally putting an end to Operation Chokepoint and thanks Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others in the Justice Department for seeing through the termination of this misguided program.