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The Real Status of Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq

Bam… Ron Paul nails it in one paragraph

“The Taliban government of 2001 in Afghanistan did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did. But the 2003 US attack on Iraq under false pretenses removed a leader who had fought ruthlessly against al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist fighters. The result was that the al-Qaeda we were supposed to be fighting in Afghanistan flourished in post-invasion Iraq, along with other even more brutal groups. Will our government ever learn that invasion and occupation are not the solution, but rather the problem? No new status of forces agreement can change that basic fact.”

Read the article here: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2014/october/05/the-real-status-of-forces-in-afghanistan-and-iraq.aspx

License Plate Readers

The Daily Times has recently run a couple of puff pieces on automated license plate readers, including the lead/main story featured today.  There is a more nefarious side to consider about constant surveillance.  The matter has been discussed several times before here on BC Public Record and throughout the internet.

Setting the record straight on DHS and license plate tracking

90 Day License Plate Storage Bill Signed by TN Governor

California Court Denies Sampling Of License Plate Information
California Superior Court judge refuses access to license plate camera data.
http://thenewspaper.com/news/45/4505.asp

Virginia: Cops Spied On Motorists At Political Rallies
Virginia State Police plate reader cameras record the identity of participants at Republican and Democratic political events.
http://thenewspaper.com/news/42/4232.asp

ACLU Report Exposes Extent Of License Plate Surveillance
Report documents police use of automated license plate recognition technology.
http://thenewspaper.com/news/41/4155.asp

Federal Agencies Trade Motorist Data to Insurance Companies
Department of Homeland Security agrees to track motorists using a database built by the insurance industry.
http://thenewspaper.com/news/38/3877.asp

FBI forces police departments across the US to keep quiet about cellphone spying gear

http://www.blacklistednews.com/FBI_forces_police_departments_across_the_US_to_keep_quiet_about_cellphone_spying_gear/38170/0/38/38/Y/M.html#disqus_thread

Law enforcement isn’t suppose to discuss the use of Stingray cellphone spy equipment.

Although the majority of the December 2012 document is redacted, a paragraph from FBI special agent Laura Laughlin to Police of Chief Donald Ramsdell reveals that Tacoma officers were told they couldn’t discuss their use of IMSI-catchers with anyone.

“We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department’s request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation,” the FBI letter reads in part. “Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.”

The Feds are trying hard to stop information from being released to the public.

As RT reported recently, the US Marshals Service recently intervened in a dispute between the police department in Sarasota, FL and the ACLU by seizing cell phone records collected by an cop-owned StingRay before the civil libertarians could review them.

This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for Stingray information,” ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed told Wired back in June. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”

 

Stop and seize- Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes

Policing-for-Profit

Photo credit: Forbes.com

by Eric Holcombe

A must read/watch from The Washington Post found:

  • “There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.
  • Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.
  • Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.
  • Agencies with police known to be participating in the Black Asphalt intelligence network have seen a 32 percent jump in seizures beginning in 2005, three times the rate of other police departments. Desert Snow-trained officers reported more than $427 million in cash seizures during highway stops in just one five-year period, according to company officials. More than 25,000 police have belonged to Black Asphalt, company officials said.”

“Federal support helped drive the surge. In Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin alone, police spent a total of at least $1 million during the last decade in Justice and Homeland Security grants for Desert Snow training. The DEA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and others spent an additional $2.5 million in contracts on Desert Snow training for police, records show. The DEA also paid more than $2 million for training from the 4:20 Group. Individual local and state police forces across the country paid millions more for the training using seized cash, one of the uses permitted by Equitable Sharing rules.” [emphasis mine]

Take notice of the lack of cooperation and unwillingness to answer for their actions by the “law enforcement” involved in these accounts. What do they have to hide? You are a suspect if you have air fresheners hanging on the mirror, fast food trash in the floorboard or sweat too much. These cowards are on their own video tape. Maybe they will go hide in their MRAP.

WTVF did an extensive investigation into the “drug interdiction taskforce” revenue agents robbing travelers along I-40 in Tennessee (but only the west-bound side mind you, the east-bound side has the drugs and they aren’t interested in seizing that – in the “war” on drugs). If you haven’t seen their Policing For Profit series, you need to. They have a summary site here with links to their ongoing coverage.

Last year the state legislature passed what was called a “major reform” in the illegal fleecing of innocent citizens by the revenue agents with guns, dogs, tasers, MRAPs, spy vans, body armor, tanks, etc:

For the first time, those drivers will be allowed to make their case to a judge at the same time the officer asks for the seizure to be approved.

The House sponsor, Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, said lawmakers were appalled that those protections were not already in the law.

“When we were watching the ‘Policing for Profit’ videos, the one thing that stuck out in everyone’s mind is that they go to a hearing, but only one side is heard,” Rich said.

“This re-establishes the trust between us and the people of the state of Tennessee,” said Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport.”
Wow, so you get to actually talk to a judge when they are stealing your money? Is this the same judge they call for their “no refusal” vampire checkpoint blood draw warrants?

Let’s see, our state Constitution states in Article 6 Section 14 that: “No fine shall be laid on any citizen of this state that shall exceed fifty dollars, unless it shall be assessed by a jury of his peers, who shall assess the fine at the time they find the fact, if they think the fine should bemore than fifty dollars.

Of course the illegally “selected” judges in this state will claim that stealing thousands of dollars from you is not a “fine” so the requirement of a jury trial to extract this money from you (with no criminal charges filed by the way) is “legal”. Plus, you got to talk to them.

ANOTHER REASON TO VOTE “NO” ON 2.

 

 

September 2014 Commission Report

Thank you

Troy and I want to thank everyone who supported us and voted for us during the campaign season.  I look forward to serving the people the next four years.  Feel free to email or call me with your concerns about your County government.

No Discussion on Leadership

Elections that send new people to public offices are suppose to bring fresh ideas and new leadership.  That’s not what Blount County got when the Commission chose it Officers.  The old guard stayed firmly in place.  The same Commissioners that have held leadership positions were nominated in a systematic fashion with no discussion as to why the same people should have power.  Even several of the new Commissioners, who rarely, if ever, attended Commission meetings prior to running, seemed to be in complete agreement by their silence.  After the Agenda meeting a constituent remarked to me that the Chairman already had his stuff lined up and was ready to take the seat after the swift election.  Former Commissioner Jim Folts wrote about the same problem 4 years ago (see Sept. 2010).  The people of Blount County deserve open discussion about the leaders on their County Commission, but were once again denied that.

Agenda Committee is optional

Traditionally, the Budget Committee meets the day before the Agenda Committee.  Business approved by the Budget Committee is sent to the Agenda Committee (which consists of all members of the County Commission) for review.  This usually means that budget items are placed in the Agenda packet the day of the meeting, giving Commissioners little, if any, time to read these important fiscal matters.  Usually the rest of the information is in the packet 5 working days prior to the Agenda Committee meeting.

That wasn’t the case this month.  Recommendations from the Mayor were dated Sept. 4th, less than 5 working days prior to the Sept. 9th Agenda Committee meeting.  Commission rule 6A requires information to be in the Commission packet 5 working days prior to the meeting, unless there is a good reason.  The rules don’t say that the 5 day requirement applies to the Agenda meeting, it just says “meeting” singular.

Five (5) working days is a good rule in the best interest of the public because it allows time for the public to review what the Commission is pursing.  When I pointed out that the Mayors recommendations were not in our package 5 working days prior to the meeting, Agenda Chairman Steve Samples said they didn’t have to be, ruling that the 5 day rule didn’t apply to the Agenda meeting.  I challenged the rule of the Chair and only Commissioners Daly and Miller supported my challenge.

Two of the Mayor’s recommendation letters didn’t list the correct names of the Commissions.  I asked that the Mayor resubmit those in October and he agreed.  Alarmingly, Commissioner Tom Stinnett wanted to let the Mayor go down to his office and type new letters and submit them to the Commission during the Agenda meeting.

The Commission meeting on the 18th settled the fact that there are no Commission rules governing how the Board (Commission) meeting must receive it’s business matters or that the Agenda Committee is even a required process to send business to the Board (full Commission).  Notary Public and Deputy Sheriff oaths and bonds were on the Commission agenda, even though neither had gone through the Agenda Committee.  When I raised a point of order asking why these items had not gone through the Agenda Committee, there were periods of time where you could hear a pin drop.

After some discussion, Chairman Jerome Moon declared that both items were in order, despite not being sent to the Board (Commission) by the Agenda Committee.  According to Commission Rule 12, Chairman Moon said, “An Agenda Committee meeting is really optional.”  I am not sure that all the Commissioners grasped the importance of the Chairman’s statement.  Nothing the Board addresses is required to go through the Agenda Committee.  As Chairman Moon said, the meeting is optional.

RULE 12
AGENDA COMMITTEE MEETINGS
An agenda committee meeting may be held on the week prior to meetings subject to the discretion of the chairman, the county mayor, and the county clerk. The committee shall be composed of all the members of the Board of County Commissioners. The duties of the agenda committee shall be to discuss items and vote to send or not send items to the agenda of the Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. The committee may also refer the item to other committees.

Campground Regulations

The most debated matter of the meeting was the resolution on campground regulations.  I am not opposed to campgrounds and originally intended to vote for the matter.  However, I discovered one word that is the Achilles heel of the resolution.

5J (page 126)
Lighting and Noise. All campgrounds shall be designed to meet the current outdoor lighting standards found in section 7.15 D. All campgrounds should conduct business in accordance to any existing noise laws within the county.

The resolution states that campgrounds should follow noise regulations, rather than shall follow noise regulations.  Lighting regulations are shall, as are many other statements throughout the resolution.  Is this a simple oversight?  I don’t know, but as written it appears to me make compliance with noise regulations optional.

The Commission was given an opportunity to fix this and address other concerns when Commissioner French moved to send it back to the Planning Commission with suggestions.  The motion was defeated 10 to 10.

Akard – yes   Allen – no   Archer – yes   Bowers – yes   Carter – yes   Carver – no Caskey – yes   Caylor – no   Cole – absent   Crowe – no   Daly – yes   Farmer – no   French – yes   Headrick – no   Lewis – no   Melton – yes   Miller – no   Monroe – yes   Moon – yes   Samples – no   Stinnett – no

The resolution passed 13-7 with 1 absent.

Akard – no   Allen – yes   Archer – no   Bowers – yes   Carter – no   Carver – yes   Caskey – yes   Caylor – yes   Cole – absent   Crowe – yes   Daly – no   Farmer – yes   French – yes   Headrick – yes   Lewis – yes   Melton – yes   Miller – no   Monroe – no   Moon – yes   Samples – no   Stinnett – yes

Hopefully bullhorns and rock concerts won’t become common place at new campgrounds.

Grant Money to Operate a Spy Van

Commissioners Akard, Daly and I had concerns about a grant application to operate a spy van and train 3 people at a national conference.  No one from the Drug Task Force or the Sheriff’s Department was present to address our concerns.  The Commission did not have the grant for review, because it has not been written.  Because the matching funds (local dollars) comes from an Agency fund rather than the General Fund of the County, the Commission will not see this matter again.  With no grant to read and nothing to come back to the Commission, I don’t know how any Commissioner could vote to fund the spy operation.

While the measure passed 14-6, I take heart in the fact that 6 Commissioners voted against the application.  This is the largest number of Commissioners that I’ve ever seen oppose what some view as “free” money.  In a time when the NSA is the only government agency actually listening to the people, ;-) we need to be ever vigilant about government spying.  Commissioner Mike Akard said it best, “Are we to believe that when our government has seized drug money that it doesn’t affect the taxpayers when we spend it frivolously on a spy van?”

Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted yes.

Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Grady Caskey, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no.

Commissioner Tom Cole was absent.

Citizen Comments about Open Discussion on Issues

At the end of the Commission meeting, Blount County citizen and regular attendee of Commission meetings, Barney Lowe commented that he was glad to see open discussion on the issues.

Upcoming Issues
In October the Commission with be tasked with refinancing approximately $20 million in variable rate debt.  This is a serious matter that I will consider diligently.  There will be a public hearing on October 7th regarding cell tower regulations.

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING, In accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 13-7-105, the Board of County Commissioners of Blount County, Tennessee, will convene in a called meeting and hold public hearing on October 7, 2014 at 6:15 P.M., at the Blount County Courthouse Commission Meeting Room for the following proposed amendments to the Zoning Resolution of Blount County, Tennessee, being Resolution 00-06-010.

A RESOLUTION TO AMEND THE ZONING RESOLUTION OF BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE, SECTION 7.4-D-7(a) TOWER SEPARATION REQUIREMENTS.
7.4-D-7(a) Tower separation shall be measured from the base of the tower to the lot line of the off-site uses. Separation distance shall be 85 feet plus one foot for every one foot greater than 75 feet in tower height, whichever is greater, in relation to an existing residential use or a platted subdivision lot intended predominantly for residential us

Morristown has another illegal speed camera

1984-was-not-supposed-to-be-an-instruction-manual-by Eric Holcombe

When this story about Bluff City’s illegal speed cameras came out in 2011, I noted that Morristown’s speed cameras on 25E at the time were also illegal because they were placed within 1 mile of a speed limit change of 10mph or more (this was before the past 3 years of a 35mph construction zone was added). Now I have noticed a second illegal speed camera in Morristown.

It is located on Morris Blvd. at Cumberland Ave.

When traveling east on W. Morris Blvd., the speed limit now changes from 40mph to 30 mph and is posted at approx. 201 W. Morris Blvd (in front of Regions Bank/Burger King beside the farmer’s market). A few feet away in the grass in front of Regions Bank is the requisite revenue camera warning sign for the cameras which are at the next intersection with Cumberland Avenue. This speed limit drop is barely one tenth of a mile from the cameras, 90% less than that required by state law.

See for yourself.

I am certain that this 30mph zone is a recent development, but I don’t know when it was added. It has been since the revenue cameras were installed and I believe in the last couple of years. I can remember driving through after the cameras were added on Morris Blvd (there are many of them) and thinking that you could drive 40mph all the way through them. Google street view’s next earliest view is from February 2008 and the 30mph sign is not there, but neither are the revenue cameras.

I guess the revenue cameras made Morris Blvd. more dangerous and required lowering the speed limit within 0.1 mile of where they are located.

All revenue obtained from “speeding tickets” issued by this camera’s operators after the 30mph speed trap was added is theft by the City and their vigilante traffic contractor and should be returned. Of course the “selected” judicial class has been unwilling to find guilt on part of the revenue agents – even when they send you false court dates and kangaroo court findings of “guilt” on Sundays when the court is “closed”.

Another reason to vote No on 2.

Triple the compensation for State legislature

Gee, this comes as a big surprise.  State legislators get triple what their actual pay is.  The State legislature must have been watching Commissioners Gary Farmer, Kenneth Melton and Bob Ramsey who voted to triple their pay without having Commissioner pay raises on the Commission agenda.  Bob Ramsey got promoted to the State legislature in all his glorious stupidity.

It’s time to throw out career politicians Gary Farmer and Kenneth Melton.  If you live in Commission District 4, please vote for Neal Hutchens and if you live in District 10 (Louisville) write-in Larry Henry for Seat B.

http://blogs.knoxnews.com/humphrey/2013/03/legislators-salary-benefits-pa.html

Commissioners who voted to disband the Ethics Committee

Current County Commissioners who voted to disband the Ethics Committee in June 2009.

Tonya Burchfield -defeated in primary by Archie Archer
Gary Farmer -defeated Linda King in primary – now facing Neal Hutchens in the general election
Brad Harrison -defeated in primary by Mike Akard
Scott Helton -running for School Board
Gerald Kirby -defeated in primary by Jamie Daly – running as a write-in
Holden Lail -defeated in primary by Tom Cole-
Peggy Lambert -didn’t seek election – is Republican National Committeewoman
Mike Lewis -defeated Douglas Benton in primary
Kenneth Melton -defeated Larry Henry in the primary by 6 votes – now facing Larry Henry as a write-in in the general
Steve Samples -defeated Sean Thompson in the primary

See page 3 the Commission minutes in the July 2009 Commission packet.

5 are off the Commission for good.  One is seeking a School Board seat.  We’re stuck with 2 for four more years (Lewis and Samples).  The voters can send 3 more home for good (Gary Farmer, Gerald Kirby and Kenneth Melton).