Tech Oligarchs Censor the Right

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The technology companies that provide social media platforms have grown to gargantuan size and now possess an ominous power over the ability of citizens to express and communicate ideas.

This control over free expression, which is held by a few tech oligarchs, is unprecedented at any time in human history.

The most widely used social media platform, Facebook, claims 2 billion users globally and is the preferred source for news for 45 percent of American adults. Three hundred hours of video are uploaded to Google-owned YouTube every minute of the day. And Twitter indicates that it has 330 million monthly active users. It was inevitable that these three monolithic social media platforms would be replete with users who seek to influence public opinion.

At one time all three seemed to reflect the notion that the general Internet should be treated as a free and open forum for any and all points of view.

The three have now shown themselves to be untrustworthy with data. They have proven to be biased, and of late have made it clear that they are willing to utilize the same kind of censorship that authoritarian regimes impose.

The ability of conservatives to reach people through the use of social media is being slowly and steadily diminished by the implemented policies of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This is occurring under the guise of eliminating false information.

Videos, posts, and other expressions are routinely being taken down, accounts are surreptitiously being limited in scope, and in some cases users are even being exiled from the Internet.

Tech giants have consistently demonstrated hostility toward the convictions of Americans who dare to hold contrary views to the pre-ordained liberal script. This all seemed to have begun with the revelation in the spring of 2016 that news curators at Facebook were suppressing news stories from right-of-center outlets. The resultant negative publicity caused Facebook to actually remove its human editors.

Last summer Twitter blocked pro-life advertisements, labeling them “sensitive content.” Early this year Twitter claimed that it was purging the platform of suspected Russian bot accounts, but it ended up causing conservative Twitter users, including podcaster Dan Bongino, to suffer a loss of followers.

In what it claimed to be a hunt for “fake news,” YouTube shut down highly viewed non-liberal channels on its platform. It ultimately had to apologize for what it called “mistaken removals,” just one more admission that a video platform had engaged in ideological censorship. The organization’s use of an extreme left-wing group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to determine what is “offensive” speech is a major tell of YouTube’s true intentions.

Oddly, the highly entrepreneurial Silicon Valley community has allowed itself to become a slavish patron of anti-business liberalism. As is typical of much of Wall Street and many major corporations, the tech world is devoted to leftist immigration policies that allow tech companies to access inexpensive labor.

Perhaps because the technology world considers itself to be scientifically minded, a huge portion of the tech community has become enamored with faux scientists such as Al Gore and have simply bought the notions of radical environmentalists hook, line, and sinker.

Those outside of the liberal circle, who happen to constitute a sizable segment of society, have made great strides in the past using digital technology to persuade the public. Presently, though, they are justifiably concerned about losing access to social media platforms at such a critical juncture in U.S. politics.

Where do divergent thinkers go to find a way to fight back against the free expression redactors? Here are some options for consideration:

–Litigation.

Lawsuits launched by those who feel as if they have experienced interference with their free expression on social media may find themselves in an uphill battle. However, it may be worth the struggle.

At the trial level, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh recently indicated that Prager University, a non-profit project by author, educator, and national radio talk show host Dennis Prager, failed to show in a lawsuit that YouTube infringed upon its free speech rights by placing age restrictions on its content.

The suit was filed over YouTube’s “Restricted Mode” setting on such topics it deemed offensive. The judge held that YouTube was not a “state actor,” but rather a “private entity” and as such was not subject to First Amendment protections.

The judge also dismissed a claim on another legal theory that YouTube engaged in false advertising by implying that Prager University’s videos were “inappropriate.”

The judge did encourage Prager University to amend its lawsuit to explore whether California’s state constitution would provide protection “in the age of social media and the Internet.” The decision can, of course, be appealed.

–Regulation.

The cumulative actions of social media giants have resulted in otherwise free market thinking individuals to begin eyeing the prospects of some kind of limited government regulation of the social media space.

One approach would be to classify social media platforms as “common carriers” and require that all users be treated equally. This is a variant of the much touted “net neutrality” about which tech blogs often rant.

A specific proposal that seems to have some merit involves mandating that users who are dissatisfied with either Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter be allowed to freely transfer their data to another platform, much in the same way consumers transfer their cell phone numbers from one carrier to another.

–Competition.

It is long overdue that a freedom loving social media provider appear on the scene.

Similar to the way in which the bias of the mainstream media gave birth to the alternative media, i.e., Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the like, those who hold non-liberal beliefs must create an alternative social media and do so before its too late.

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Media Ignores Election Law Violations Related to Facebook’s Obama Campaign Connection

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Facebook is feeling the wrath of left-wing organizations and mainstream media outlets as a result of a recently publicized data breach, which involved the unauthorized gathering of Facebook users’ data by a British consulting firm that worked for then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

When it publicly became known that Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked for the Trump campaign, harvested data from 50 million Facebook users, the news triggered intense reactions from a broad range of Democrats and others of a liberal persuasion. Curiously, there was no such similar anger expressed when former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was supplied Facebook data to use for political purposes.

The media quickly glommed on to the Cambridge Analytica story, using it as one more opportunity to excuse Hillary Clinton for her embarrassing presidential campaign loss.

Virtually ignored by the mainstream media, however, was and still is the manner in which the Obama campaign extensively utilized social network data in previous election cycles.

Recently, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook broke out on the social media, and a sizable number of celebrities and high-profile companies suspended their Facebook advertising and some even ceased using Facebook altogether.

–In a Facebook post, actor and comedian Will Ferrell announced that he was going to delete his Facebook account. “I’m reaching out to let you know that in 72 hours I will be deleting my Facebook account,” Ferrell wrote, indicating that he was not deleting it immediately, in order to give his message enough time to reach his fans and followers. He specifically cited, in his words, Cambridge Analytica’s “misuse of millions of Facebook users’ information in order to undermine our democracy and infringe on our citizens’ privacy.”

–Singer-actress Cher used her Twitter account to inform her followers that she was deleting her Facebook account.

–British hip-hop duo Massive Attack made an exit from the social platform.

–Elon Musk deleted the Facebook pages of his companies, Tesla and SpaceX.

–Playboy followed suit.

–Mozilla, creator of the Firefox browser, stated it would stop advertising on Facebook. The company also launched a new Firefox browser extension, which blocks Facebook’s ability to track activities on other websites that have integrated with the social network.

–Auto parts giant Pep Boys, Germany’s second-largest bank Commerzbank, and Electronics manufacturer Sonos halted their advertising on the social media platform as well.

It appears as though the indignation expressed by liberals and the mainstream media has little to do with Facebook’s misuse of data but almost everything to do with their visceral hatred for President Trump.

Meanwhile, what appears to continually be being given a pass is a far more egregious breach of privacy.

In 2012 Facebook presented to the reelection campaign of then-President Obama the data, free of charge, of about 190 million people. This is four-times the amount of people whose privacy was breached in the Cambridge Analytica matter.

Carol Davidsen, former media director for Obama for America, publicly stated that Facebook freely allowed the 2012 Obama campaign “direct access to the personal data of Facebook users, in violation of its internal rules, making a special exception for the campaign.”

Davidsen posted on Twitter that Facebook “came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

Political campaigns customarily must pay for access to the above-referenced kind of data. Under federal law, corporations cannot make contributions to federal candidates. This prohibition includes not only cash, but “anything of value.” Corporations therefore cannot provide federal candidates with free services of any type. Such free services are categorized under election law by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as “in-kind contributions.”

When Facebook gave the Obama campaign free access to data, when it would have customarily charged fees for such access, the social media giant may conceivably have violated a federal prohibition on corporate in-kind contributions. Additionally, the Obama campaign may have broken the law by accepting the in-kind corporate contribution.

In contrast, the Trump campaign does not appear to have this kind of legal exposure because it actually did pay Cambridge Analytica for its services.

Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the FEC, contends that the data transfer by Facebook to the Obama campaign is unlawful, and could even be a matter for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate.

These potential violations of federal campaign finance laws by Facebook and the Obama campaign are serious enough to warrant a much deeper investigation. Campaign finance laws are enforced administratively by the FEC, and civil fines can be imposed; however, the DOJ has concurrent criminal jurisdiction over violations of campaign finance laws.

As von Spakovsky reasoned, “It [the Facebook transfer of data to the Obama campaign] should be investigated by the Federal Election Commission and potentially the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Russian Indictments Could Be a Decoy

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The timing of the recent announcement by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein regarding the indictments of thirteen Russians appears to be part of an effort to provide possible cover for the FBI, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the Democratic Party-aligned mainstream media.

The hasty public release occurred via a press statement by Rosenstein on an unusual choice of days, a Friday afternoon that was a lead-in to a three-day holiday weekend.

It is highly possible that the intention was to have the public focus on the headlines coming out of the press conference rather than zeroing in on the underlying facts of the matters at hand.

In other words, there may have been an attempt to employ a frequently used technique of diversion to direct public attention away from the admitted wrongdoing on the part of government, which was rapidly taking over the social media and conventional headlines.

In this case, it would be the effort to direct attention away from the FBI’s failure to investigate warnings that the man accused of the atrocious killing of 17 high school students had expressed a desire to kill innocent people and was in possession of a weapon to carry out his threat.

The second part of the tactical equation is to divert public attention toward a preferred calculated target that in this instance would be “Russia,” which in a puzzling way for many seemed in the present day world of scandals to arrive with a thud.

All of the above having been stated, there was a very palpable manipulation of public perception that occurred across the cultural, political, and demographic spectrum.

The FBI indicated in a statement that, in January 2018, an individual described as someone close to the accused shooter called an FBI tip line to report concerns about the alleged perpetrator mere weeks before the nightmare carnage took place at the Florida high school.

According to the FBI, the caller provided information about the shooter’s gun ownership, his desire to kill, his erratic behavior, and his peculiar social media posts. The caller also specifically brought up the young man’s potential to engage in a school shooting.

The recorded information should have been promptly given to the FBI’s Miami field office for further actions; however, the FBI admitted that “these protocols were not followed.”

Adding to the FBI’s public relations problems is the fact that, in September 2017, the agency had been notified of a YouTube comment in which an individual under the same name as the accused wrote, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In an absurd response, the FBI claimed that the agency was unable to trace the origin of the YouTube post and therefore closed the investigation.

The announcement of the indictment of the Russians may have been timed to provide the media with the desired talking points that would lead a susceptible public to conclude that the special counsel’s probe was in no way a hoax, a witch hunt, or any other “unfair” characterization. This would have been another important part of the tactical equation, since many Americans had been increasingly viewing it as if it were less than above board.

Interestingly, this is an indictment of thirteen people who will never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom or ever even contest the charges, be arrested, or be extradited. Additionally, it was made clear by Rosenstein that no allegations in the indictment indicate that the activities by the Russians had “any effect on the outcome of the election.”

What the indictments did do, though, was allow the liberal partisan media to crow about Russian “meddling,” which they predictably and dutifully did.

The Obama State Department allowed some of these very same Russians to come into the country via tourist visas and to ultimately use fake identities to troll the social media. Although the indictments set forth the defendants’ organized activities going back to 2014, former President Barak Obama did not stop them or even address the issue.

The indictments helped to eclipse another inconvenient developing story, which would be a major embarrassment for the special counsel’s probe, and that is, that former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn’s guilty plea is likely to be set aside.

The judge who originally accepted Gen. Flynn’s plea for lying to the FBI has recused himself from the case, since he was also a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the very court that accepted from the Obama Justice Department the Steele dossier as evidence to support the issuance of a FISA warrant to spy on members of the Trump campaign.

The new judge assigned to Gen. Flynn’s case has ordered Mueller to release to Gen. Flynn’s lawyers any exculpatory evidence in Mueller’s possession. The judge has also directed that any information which is favorable to Gen. Flynn be submitted to the court, even if the Mueller team believes that it is not material to the case.

This means that even if Mueller claims that his evidence is classified or not relevant, it still must be provided to the judge so that the judge can decide what can be released. This takes away the ability of the prosecutor to withhold or redact evidence on his own.

Mueller’s indictment of the Russians claims criminality because the defendants, as foreign citizens, attempted to use media to influence voters but failed to report their financing to the Federal Elections Commission or register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Using the template and reasoning of this indictment, others who tried to influence an election could be charged, including Christopher Steel and his accomplices, FusionGPS, the DNC, and the Clinton Campaign, while the Israelis and British could bring criminal prosecutions against former President Obama for meddling in their elections.

During the announcement of the Russian indictments, Rosenstein emphasized that there are no allegations in the indictment of any Americans (including any members of the Trump campaign) having knowledge of the Russian activities.

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” enduring talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh warned, “The danger for the president” is that it would be very seductive “to totally embrace” and take at face value the notion that it means he has been “vindicated.”

In Limbaugh’s assessment, the president most certainly needs to continue to “be very careful.”

Uma Thurman Tells Her Quentin Tarantino Story

Film director Quentin Tarantino has come under fire in the wake of Uma Thurman’s recent revelations to the New York Times that she was treated abysmally on the set of her star vehicle, “Kill Bill.”

Ever since the predatory behavior of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein went public, Thurman has been haunted by her own arduous encounters with Weinstein. In the Times article, though, Thurman emotionally recounts the painful injuries she suffered due to an on-set accident that she claims was covered up by Weinstein and others associated with the movie. The actress also reveals that she was spit on and choked by Tarantino during the filming.

According to Thurman, she was “dehumanized to the point of death” during the movie shoot. She now indicates that Tarantino pressured her into doing a car stunt while the final days of filming were in progress.

Thurman claims that she initially objected to participating in the scene after being told that the car, which had been converted from a stick shift to an automatic, might not be safe.

“I was scared,” she said. “The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.”

After the car crash, Thurman came back from a visit to the hospital wearing a neck brace. She had a concussion, a neck injury, and her knees were severely injured. She still deals with physical problems from the accident.

Keith Adams, the stunt coordinator who worked on the “Kill Bill“ films, is now speaking out concerning Uma’s allegations, and it may be causing Tarantino to feel more than a bit uncomfortable with what is being said. In an email sent to The Hollywood Reporter, Adams recalled the day that Thurman suffered the accident and remembered that he and all of his stunt staffers were kept away from the set.

“No stunts of any kind were scheduled for the day of Ms. Thurman’s accident. All of the stunt department was put on hold and no one from the stunt department was called to set,” Adams noted.

“At no point was I notified or consulted about Ms. Thurman driving a car on camera that day,” Adams added. “Had I been involved I would have insisted not only on putting a professional driver behind the wheel but also insuring that the car itself was road worthy and safe.”

Adams remarks have served to bolster Thurman’s allegations. In her Times interview, the actress had described the 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible used in the scene as a “deathbox” and additionally claimed that “the seat wasn’t screwed down properly.”

Tarantino, in an apologetic interview with Deadline, characterized Thurman’s car accident as “one of the biggest regrets” of his life. The director admitted that he had engaged in both the choking and the spitting but claimed that the actress had given her consent. The film director also maintained that no one involved in the production had “ever considered it a stunt” but rather viewed it as “just driving.”

Older vehicles that are used for stunt driving during movie productions are frequently inadequately maintained. In watching the video of the crash, which is posted on Thurman’s Instragram account, it can easily be seen that the vehicle is lacking head restraints, shoulder belts, and roll bars.

The actors and broadcast union, SAG-AFTRA, indicated in a statement that the scene in question “sounds like a stunt and would be a likely safety violation.”

Clearly, the footage one sees in the video, depicting an old convertible traveling down a curved sandy road at 40 mph, is the kind of scene that should have been handled by a professional stunt person under the supervision of a stunt coordinator following proper safety procedures, thereby avoiding the exposure of undue risk to a lead actress.

Tarantino has admitted that the road Thurman drove upon while shooting the scene ended up taking a “little S-curve” for which Thurman had not been prepared.

“The circumstances of this event were negligent to the point of criminality,” Thurman stated on her Instagram account. “I do not believe though with malicious intent.”

However, the actress called the cover-up after the fact “unforgivable.” The spitting and choking episodes add to the cumulative impression that Tarantino took advantage of his leverage as a director.

Unfortunately, the director has partnered with Weinstein throughout his career. It is common knowledge in the entertainment community that anyone who worked closely with Weinstein on multiple projects, as Tarantino did, would have been well aware of Weinstein’s predatory proclivities.

Tarantino acknowledged he feels ashamed that he did not take a stronger stand and cut his ties to Weinstein.

“I knew enough to do more than I did,” the director said.

Hollywood’s Wrong on Choice of Anita Hill to Lead Sexual Harassment Commission

It has been a couple of months since allegations of sexual improprieties began to rain down on Hollywood, and the entertainment community has been struggling to come to grips with the continuing fallout.

Bombshell accusations that began with Harvey Weinstein have continued to flow and alleged perpetrators of wrongdoing now include Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and Tavis Smiley.

Elites from the highest ranks in Hollywood have been under pressure to demonstrate major concern and provide reassurance to the public that something is going to be done to remedy the situation.

Amid all the trepidation and turmoil, the awards season quickly approaches. This is traditionally a high intensity time when the spotlight shines on the entertainment industry to the maximum degree, and the whole world tunes in to prestigious events that include the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, Grammys, Golden Globes, and, of course, the apex of awards shows, the Oscars.

The mood in the greater Los Angeles community, though, has darkened as a result of the scandals, and the awards shows themselves cannot help but be affected.

Next year’s SAG Awards ceremony, which will dole out thirteen acting awards, will feature female host Kristen Bell and will additionally have all women presenters. The Golden Globes will address the sexual impropriety issues by having all of the actresses involved, including nominees Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, and Meryl Streep, wear black outfits while on the red carpet as well as during the ceremony itself.

As for the form of seriousness and sorrow that the Oscars will display has yet to be made known. It is highly likely, however, that a similar approach will be taken during the Academy Awards telecast.

The general form-over-substance expressions are, in many instances, rather harmless. This is not the case with regard to a recent appointment to head a new presumably powerful Hollywood group.

If there were any doubts that the entertainment community remains decidedly out of touch with the majority of its customers, the choice of Anita Hill to chair Hollywood’s newly formed Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace is the latest manifestation of a kind of tone deafness on the part of Tinseltown, especially when it comes to the Hollywood brand.

Hollywood executives have decided to follow the lead of politicians in the nation’s capital, the ones who routinely convene a “blue ribbon commission” to give the perception that problems are being solved. A similar body has been created to deal with the growing list of Hollywood sexual abuse scandals.

Hollywood executives have chosen precisely the wrong individual to head the commission. The announcement that Hill would be taking the top spot came after a meeting was spearheaded by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Nike Foundation Founder and Co-Chair Maria Eitel, entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein.

Hollywood’s deep concern over the issue of sexual misconduct is reflected by the power players that attended the event, which included Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, CBS Corp. Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara, Universal Chairman and CEO Jeff Shell, Sony Chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, William Morris Endeavor Co-Chairman Ari Emanuel, CAA Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, and Founding Partner of ICM Chris Silbermann, along with the heads of the motion picture, recording, and television academies, and the actors, writers, directors, and producers guilds.

Hill achieved fame in the early 1990s when she brought forward allegations of sexual harassment during the Senate confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The problem for Hollywood is that Hill failed to tell the truth. Her behavior was inconsistent with someone who had been a victim of sexual harassment. Hill followed Justice Thomas from one job to another, made numerous personal telephone calls to the man she claimed had sexually harassed her, and the calls continued even after she was no longer working for him. She denied having ever made the calls but changed her story after phone records were produced.

Hill initially asked that her name not be mentioned when the accusations were presented to Justice Thomas. The accusations referred to events that were supposed to have occurred when only she and Justice Thomas were in the same room, so if the allegations were true, Justice Thomas would certainly have known who had made them. The anonymity request only made sense if the charges were false.

On several occasions, Hill denied that she had communicated with a Democratic staffer. She later reversed herself when under oath.

A witness that was supposed to be corroborating Hill’s accusations claimed that Hill told her details about the supposed sexual harassment in a telephone call. However, it turned out that the call took place before Hill worked for Justice Thomas.

Polls taken following the hearings, which had been televised daily, showed that twice as many Americans believed Justice Thomas over Hill.

The left continued to attempt to smear Justice Thomas in the intervening years and even went as far as producing an HBO film, which disingenuously attempted to make Hill into a heroine.

Misguided Environmentalism Is the Root Cause of Devastating California Wildfires

 

thomas-fireCalifornia is in the midst of battling some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history, which have resulted in the wholesale decimation of forests, extensive destruction of property, and massive disruption of people’s lives.

Governor Jerry Brown recently characterized the dire situation by stating that these types of fires “could happen every year or every few years” and that Californians are simply “facing a new reality.”

A new reality? Hardly comforting words from the Golden State’s chronic political presence.

Certainly the “new reality” warrants a deeper investigation into what factors have been contributing to the escalation and what steps could be taken to mitigate and/or prevent future catastrophic events.

The fact of the matter is there has been a decided increase in unusually devastating fires over the last few decades. The wildfires that are occurring today are twice as large as they were forty years ago, and the fires themselves are much bigger, significantly more powerful, and consequently more dangerous.

The left claims that the mega fires are happening as a result of global warming. However, according to a recent Reason Foundation study, changes in climate cannot adequately account for the “pattern of fires observed over the past century.”

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is the agency responsible for managing the nation’s wilderness areas, which constitute almost two-thirds of U.S. forests. The USFS once had a great deal of success in mitigating the risk of major fires in the early part of the last century. Over the past few decades, though, forest management policy has become overly centralized and increasingly bureaucratic, while also presenting a growing detriment to public safety.

During the 1970s, after legislation was passed that claimed to protect the ecosystem, the USFS altered its policies in a manner that would have extremely serious consequences for those parts of the country that are concerned about wildfire hazards, particularly the Western part of the nation.

Decades of politicians employing central planning while pandering to environmentalist groups have resulted in overgrowth in the nation’s forests. Methods that had worked to lower fire danger were abandoned, and the USFS spent appreciably more money for significantly fewer results as it used its resources for questionable environmental practices.

Excess fuel in the form of overly dense wilderness areas became a mega fire hazard that created a danger to the public and to regional economies. Additionally, severe limitations on the harvesting of timber on federal land created dangerous conditions in forests that led directly to the massive fires of late. If the logging industry had been permitted to clear more wilderness areas, the fire threat would have been dramatically reduced.

The public needs to be alerted to the fact that when forests are too dense they become susceptible to the kind of explosive infernos that actually end up harming the ecosystem, killing wildlife and destroying habitats. Logging, controlled burns, and natural low-intensity wildfires not only assist in making mega fires less likely but contribute to the creation of healthier ecosystems as well.

Removing the wood fuels in naturally dry forests helps to greatly reduce the probability of high intensity fires while assisting the environment. It is imperative that the excess growth caused by decades of bad policy be removed. Dry forests, which were historically cleared by frequent, low-intensity fires, may need the careful implementation of controlled burns to protect the life and property of adjacent communities.

Republican leaders in Congress, who have been working along with the Trump administration, are attempting to reform the legal landscape that is plaguing America’s national forests. The congressional members are seeking to increase logging in order to thin out the overly dense and dangerous forest conditions that now exist.

In November the House passed legislation called the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 in order to allow salvage logging and other forms of tree cutting on federal properties.

House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated that the bill was necessary to protect the nation’s federal forests “from the kind of devastation that California experienced.”

The bill would remove draconian environmental restrictions that have dramatically curtailed timber harvests on federal lands. The legislation is currently awaiting action in the Senate.

Justice Politicized

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On a beautiful July day, a young woman was showing her father the piers of San Francisco. Without warning, a bullet entered her back. Holding his daughter in his arms, the last words the father would hear his daughter say were, “Help me, Dad.”

The woman’s name was Kate Steinle, and the man who would cause her life to come to a tragic end is named Garcia Zarate. Kate’s story will go down in history as being one of the most flagrant travesties of justice the legal system has had to endure.

Zarate had been deported from the United States five times. He had also repeatedly re-entered the country and was a felon seven times over.

Prior to the shooting, Zarate had just completed a nearly four-year federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the country. After he was remanded to San Francisco law enforcement on an outstanding warrant, which involved a minor charge that was ultimately dismissed, local officials released Zarate, ignoring a request from federal authorities to keep him in custody.

Zarate was acquitted by a San Francisco jury of first and second degree murder as well as the charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic weapon. The only charge of which he was actually found guilty was the one of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The prosecution argued that the defendant had fired the murder weapon intentionally. The defense claimed that the shooting was accidental, that Zarate found a stolen gun on the waterfront, and that the firearm had somehow fired itself.

Considering the facts, it is disturbing that the jury was able to exonerate Zarate in this way. He held the murder weapon (the handgun) in his hand. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet ended up robbing Kate of her life.

Even if the jury bought into the defense contention that Zarate did not intend to kill Steinle, reasonable deliberators would come up with a charge of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.

The whole idea that this homicide was one in which no one is responsible runs counter to the law and to common sense. The jury’s verdict omits individual fault for Steinle’s untimely death.

Zarate possessed a firearm illegally. He fired it into an area where other people were likely to be seriously injured or even die. His actions were reckless and could have yielded a verdict of second degree murder. The jury went further, however, by choosing to bypass his obvious criminal negligence, which would have, at a minimum, resulted in involuntary manslaughter. Apparently, non-judicial factors played into the jury’s deliberation.

Judge Samuel Feng had repeatedly admonished prospective jurors, asking them not to consider the politics that had thrust the Steinle case into national headlines.

Still, immediately after the verdict was announced, defense attorney Francisco Ugarte evidently could not wait to engage in politics.

“From day one, this case was used as a means to foment hate…I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants,” Ugarte stated.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez and Public Defender Jeff Adachi also entered into the political fray by attacking the president, vice president, and attorney general.

The Steinle verdict was not due process but rather a politicized miscarriage of justice to further advance the highly illegal and dangerous “sanctuary” cities policies. The city of San Francisco had set up “sanctuary” rules, which stopped federal agents from removing a five-time deported criminal from the country.

Zarate had reentered the U.S. illegally and had additionally been in federal custody. However, he was handed over to the San Francisco sheriff in order to be prosecuted on a marijuana case. He was released weeks before Steinle was killed, and the sheriff did so without notifying federal authorities.

The “sanctuary” policies of cities such as San Francisco and states such as California prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents. The tragic truth is that, if the policy had not been in place, Zarate would have been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Spring of 2015 and Steinle would still be alive.

Politicians who are supposed to foster public safety, but instead create rules that stop cooperation with federal law enforcement officers, are exposing their constituents to grave danger.