Tag Archives: Federal government

Let’s re-examine the police function post 9/11

Militarized Police in Ferguson, MO confront an unarmed citizen

Militarized Police in Ferguson, MO confront an unarmed citizen

Ever since 9-11, the federal government has dehumanized its citizens by compromising individual and collective liberties.

The federal government has fostered indiscriminate surveillance, encouraged citizens to inform on their neighbors, relied on questionable snitches, profiled racial and religious types, increased security screenings at public buildings and events, conducted harassing investigations, but the worst of it may be — how the federal government has re-shaped our local law enforcement offices.

Our Congress and federal government have channeled supplies of battle-tested military weapons from Afghanistan and Iraq and Southeast Asia to local police forces across the nation, provided flash-bang grenades, machine guns, ammunition magazines, camouflage, night vision equipment, silencers, armored cars, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), even aircraft, bullet proof vests, and this has changed the rules of engagement for our local police from the traditional domestic police function that used to serve civilian neighborhoods to a military force you’d expect to find on a battlefield.

This militarization of our local police forces is most shamefully on display in Ferguson, Missouri.  Continue reading

Saving For A “Rainy Day” – Not Really!

Saving for a “rainy day” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

Saving for a “rainy day” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

A recent poll said that 40% of our friends and neighbors have made their New Year’s resolution – to save more – in savings accounts, automatic transfers, savings bonds, and certificates of deposit.

We once did save at a decent rate.  Our national saving rate was 12.2% in November 1981.  But the rate fell like a stone starting in 1982 and went as low as less than 1% a number of times between 2000 and 2010.  Easy credit meant you didn’t have to save – so some wrongly thought.

The rate climbed back up when the 2008 recession hit, going from 1.3% in January 2008 to 4.2% in December of 2009.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, says our current rate of savings is an anemic 4.2%.

The dilemma for families that want to save is that they likely owe in debt at a higher interest rate than what they can get saving their money.  From 1990 to 2008, the nation’s citizens were convinced, Benjamin Franklin’s advice to the contrary notwithstanding, that being a borrower was not so bad.  Unfortunately, if a nation’s citizens don’t save, then the nation has to borrow from other nation-states who do save. Continue reading

Truth Decay

John Flannery and Former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean

On 9-11, I was rounding the Lincoln Memorial and had a clear view across the Potomac to the Virginia side where I saw a mushroom cloud that rose to the sky composed of dirt and debris.

I worked in the Cannon House Office Building at the time and called my staff to discover that the twin towers in New York had been attacked by terrorists, as had the Pentagon in Virginia – and the plane that crashed into the Pentagon was that great dirt cloud I watched rise up high into the air.

By October, a bi-partisan U.S. Congress approved the so-called USA Patriot Act.  It was a bitter event because we missed an opportunity to do better.  The House Judiciary Committee had cobbled together a unanimous bi-partisan compromise under Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner but at the 11th hour, just before the floor vote, then Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert replaced Sensenbrenner’s Judiciary Committee compromise bill on the House floor with a wide-ranging wrong-headed substitute.

You really should read the bill as most members of Congress never did; there were only two copies of the bill available at the time of the vote. Continue reading


Today is the last day to comment on new rules the State Department may impose on people seeking new passports.

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information. According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

Submit your comments to the State Department

(Via Shakesville. No word on WHO those “some people” would be.)

House votes to de-fund NPR

So far, they’ve tackled: removing funding from Metro; medicaid payments for abortions; taking away funding for basic women’s health care (pap smears and breast exams); and taking away enforcement power from the EPA.

Now they’ve taken funding away from NPR.

But they haven’t even begun on a single jobs bill.

Weren’t jobs their biggest priority back in November?

#DearJohn, #WhereAreTheJobs?

Irony alert – can I get a witness?

Back in 2005, a new program designed to remove impediments to cooperation between local Arab, Muslim and Sikh communities and law enforcement agencies was presented to the FBI. The Partnership for Prevention and Community Safety (PfP), “developed with considerable input from law enforcement and local communities, quickly gained the support it needed within the agency and was green-lighted for funding.”

But then a powerful member of Congress stepped in and, with one blow, killed the initiative. According to those with knowledge of the program, the congressman acted at the behest of an influential and strident anti-Muslim propagandist. This week, in an ironic twist, that same congressman is slated to speak at a congressional hearing looking into the allegation that American Muslims are insufficiently cooperative with law enforcement.

The “powerful member of Congress” was Frank Wolf. Continue reading

A better idea for a Homeland Security hearing

Sadly, it appears we have attracted a commenter who would like to have a tiny (in so many respects) Loudoun version of Rep. Peter King’s execrable hearings, hearings that further target a minority community already in the crosshairs of a profoundly ignorant hate movement. The small-minded individual in question has been placed on moderation for using exactly the kind of slurs that are the premise of those hearings, scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Eugene Robinson calls this exactly what it is:

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is about to convene hearings whose premise offends our nation’s founding ideals and whose targets are law-abiding members of a religious minority. King has decided to investigate Islam.

Continue reading

Frank Wolf, wrong side of history

Correction below: The New Republic is most definitely not The National Review. I was thinking of an entirely different article. My mistake.

Crossposted at Equality Loudoun.

Frank Wolf thinks that the Justice Department should still be defending Section 3 of DOMA in court:

“Congress has a reason to be concerned” over the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said Tuesday.

Wolf told Attorney General Eric Holder at an appropriations subcommittee hearing that the Obama administration had abandoned its duty.

“It almost looks like a political decision,” Wolf said. “I think it’s inappropriate and it’s a bad decision.”

I can understand why he’s concerned. It means that if anyone is going to argue in defense of DOMA, it will have to be Congress. That will be an uncomfortable position to be in.

First, let’s clear up any lingering misconceptions resulting from uninformed statements by people who should know better. First, the Obama administration has not stopped enforcing DOMA, nor has DOMA been ruled unconstitutional; second, the decision to no longer defend it only concerns Section 3 of DOMA (the provision that denies federal benefits to same sex couples legally married under state law), not the entire act; third, an executive branch decision to no longer defend a law is not unprecedented; and fourth, the decision does not represent a change in the president’s views (he has always opposed DOMA), only a change in circumstance with regard to the cases under court review.

That change in circumstance is this: in previous cases in which the Justice Department has defended DOMA, the level of scrutiny had already been established by precedent in those courts. In these new cases, it has not. Therefore, anyone in the position of defending the law in these cases must first establish that the lowest level of scrutiny – rational basis review, which basically means that the government doesn’t have to come up with a reason for the discrimination in question – is the appropriate one. What the Justice Department is saying is that they don’t think that can be done anymore, given the changes in the legal landscape since the passage of DOMA in 1996 – but that Congress is welcome to try to do so if that is what they want to do.
Continue reading

$19,467,399 For Loudoun



That’s how much money Loudoun County has gotten, directly, from the Federal Government since 2002. Most of it has come in the form of earmarks for gang prevention and energy planning or water management. Because we are a leader in so many ways, Loudoun benefits from receiving a very high proportion of Federal dollars compared with our population. As a comparison, Henrico County, another suburban County with a comparable population (~296,000 to Loudoun’s ~301,000), received a little more than $7.1 million in spite of the fact that it is represented by one of the most powerful members of Congress – Eric Cantor.

I got this information from the wonderful, “USAspending.gov” site, which the Obama Administration put in place as part of its government transparency initiative. There’s another good thing the Obama Administration has done with little fanfare and even less credit.This is something to think about as our Republican Congress, and many of their ideological compatriots here in Virginia, prepare to storm the gates of the Federal budget, looking with a jaundiced eye on helping the states. Without that Federal money, Loudoun would have to do without a number of critical services and infrastructure investments, or find an alternative way to pay for them.

For example, it is because of that Federal money that Loudoun County does not actually carry the full costs of its police force. For a decade, Loudoun has been the beneficiary of Department of Justice grants which subsidize the Sheriff’s office. Similarly, our water system has some of its planning and management costs offset by Federal funding.

Lost in the calls for cuts in the “growth of Government” is the fact that that growth often comes in the form of money doled out directly to localities to help cover their costs, and thus subsidizing a lower local tax rate than would otherwise be necessary to maintain the same level of local spending.

Something to keep in mind this year.

(Credit where credit is due, many of these Federal earmarks have come from Frank Wolf.)