By Ron Paul
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently passed its Intelligence Authorization Act for 2018 that contains a chilling attack on the First Amendment. Section 623 of the act expresses the “sense of Congress” that WikiLeaks resembles a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such.” This language is designed to delegitimize WikiLeaks, encourage the federal government to spy on individuals working with WikiLeaks, and block access to WikiLeaks’ website. This provision could even justify sending US forces abroad to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or other WikiLeaks personnel.
WikiLeaks critics claim that the organization’s leaks harm US national security. However, these critics are unable to provide a single specific example of WikiLeaks’ actions harming the American people. WikiLeaks does harm the reputations of government agencies and politicians, however. For example, earlier this year WikiLeaks released information on the CIA’s hacking program. The leaks did not reveal any details on operations against foreign targets, but they did let the American people know how easy it is for the government to hack into their electronic devices.
For the last year, most of the news surrounding WikiLeaks has centered on its leak of emails showing how prominent Democrats worked to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In order to deflect attention from these revelations, Democrats, aided by their allies in the media and even some Republicans, promulgated a conspiracy theory blaming the leaks on Russian hackers working to defeat Hillary Clinton. Even though there is no evidence the Russians were behind the leaks, many in both parties are still peddling the “Putin did it” narrative. This aids an effort by the deep state and its allies in Congress and the media to delegitimize last year’s election, advance a new Cold War with Russia, and criminalize WikiLeaks.
If the government is successful in shutting down WikiLeaks by labeling it a “hostile intelligence service,” it will use this tactic to silence other organizations and websites as well. The goal will be to create a climate of fear to ensure no one dares publish the revelations of a future Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning.
Some have suggested that criticizing police brutality, the surveillance state, the Federal Reserve, or even federal spending aids “hostile foreign powers” by weakening the people’s “trust in government.” This line of reasoning could be used to silence, in the name of “national security,” websites critical of the welfare-warfare state.
By labeling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” and thus legitimizing government action against the organization, the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act threatens the ability of whistleblowers to inform the public about government misdeeds. It also sets a precedent that could be used to limit other types of free speech.
President Trump should make it clear he will veto any bill giving government new powers to silence organizations like WikiLeaks. If President Trump supports the war on WikiLeaks, after candidate Trump proclaimed his love for WikiLeaks, it will be further proof that he has outsourced his presidency to the deep state.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, along with notable whistleblowers, foreign policy experts, and leading champions of peace and liberty, will be addressing this important issue at my Institute for Peace and Prosperity’s conference on Saturday, September 9 at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel in Dulles, Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. You can get more information about the conference and purchase tickets at the Ron Paul Institute.
The press has many important functions that can be invaluable. As such, it’s important to know the people who are doing the reporting as it can give insight into the mindsets and biases that occur in journalism.
Buzz Trexler is the pastor at Green Meadow United Methodist Church and an editor at The Daily Times. His blog/website can help readers glean information about his approach to journalism and preaching.
There you will find that he preached a sermon at the Friendsville United Methodist Church entitled, “Christian Belief Is Like Penguin Sex.”
And that folks is who is editing your daily source of written news in the Bible belt.
Written by Ron Paul
“I love Wikileaks,” candidate Donald Trump said on October 10th on the campaign trail. He praised the organization for reporting on the darker side of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was information likely leaked by a whistleblower from within the Clinton campaign to Wikileaks.
Back then he praised Wikileaks for promoting transparency, but candidate Trump looks less like President Trump every day. The candidate praised whistleblowers and Wikileaks often on the campaign trail. In fact, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks so much he mentioned the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign alone! Now, as President, it seems Trump wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sent to prison.
Last week CNN reported, citing anonymous “intelligence community” sources, that the Trump Administration’s Justice Department was seeking the arrest of Assange and had found a way to charge the Wikileaks founder for publishing classified information without charging other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post for publishing the same information.
It might have been tempting to write off the CNN report as “fake news,” as is much of their reporting, but for the fact President Trump said in an interview on Friday that issuing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange would be, “OK with me.”
Trump’s condemnation of Wikileaks came just a day after his CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, attacked Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo accused Assange of being “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”
Pompeo’s word choice was no accident. By accusing Wikileaks of being a “hostile intelligence service” rather than a publisher of information on illegal and abusive government practices leaked by whistleblowers, he signaled that the organization has no First Amendment rights. Like many in Washington, he does not understand that the First Amendment is a limitation on government rather than a granting of rights to citizens. Pompeo was declaring war on Wikileaks.
But not that long ago Pompeo also cited Wikileaks as an important source of information. In July he drew attention to the Wikileaks release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, writing, “Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down?”
There is a word for this sudden about-face on Wikileaks and the transparency it provides us into the operations of the prominent and powerful: hypocrisy.
The Trump Administration’s declaration of war on whistleblowers and Wikileaks is one of the greatest disappointments in these first 100 days. Donald Trump rode into the White House with promises that he would “drain the swamp,” meaning that he would overturn the apple carts of Washington’s vested interests. By unleashing those same vested interests on those who hold them in check – the whistleblowers and those who publish their revelations – he has turned his back on those who elected him.
Julian Assange, along with the whistleblowers who reveal to us the evil that is being done in our name, are heroes. They deserve our respect and admiration, not a prison cell. If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame.
With the renewed sense of nationalism and the call to put America first, here’s a great Christmas idea. If you’re tried of giving made in China widgets or the same stuff you always give, check out Liberty Classroom. Plus you don’t have to fight the rush with long lines and heavy traffic.
Tom Woods is a brilliant author and historian. He is one of several libertarian historians that has challenged me to not accept what I was taught to be true but to think deeper and learn what is actually true.
There’s a lot more to history than President George Washington couldn’t tell a lie and Abraham Lincoln saved the union. You’ll be amazed at how much you will learn and how much of what you thought was true is actually vastly different.
Disclosure: This is a plug to earn a few Federal Reserve Notes, commonly known as dollars.
Check out some free stuff here:
Indispensable Liberty Book List:
by Horatio Bunce
Yesterday I posted a comment that I received that the typical response from government related to a reduction in inmates in the jail is to allege how harmful this will be to Blount County’s budget and how the media will be right there with these government officials publishing a series of articles. Predictably there is another article today and we are seeing the situation described in the comment come to fruition.
A TV station also did a story. The story didn’t include any of the actual figures and solutions that I provided to the TV station.
Mark Twain is credited with saying “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” This same is true for other news sources.
I gave several figures and solutions to resolve the issues related to state inmates being removed from the local jail but the TV station didn’t publish that and instead published the two sentences that sounded the most sensational. Americans have grow distrustful of media. I can see why.
This is another comment and view of the media coverage of the jail situation that was sent to me last week. “All that sheriff does is talk about you in the articles. He doesn’t address the topic at hand, he just passively says he’s doing his job and then goes on a tirade about you. That writer Joel in all these articles needs to go back to journalism school and learn how to focus his writing on the topics at hand. He’s just spewing gossip at this point, with very little substance in his pieces. He’s not writing for the national enquirer about celebrities here, but that seems to be his writing style. Journalists are now held in similar regards/disdain as lawyers in this country.”
I recommend the book Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkinson. Attkinson, a reporter, talks about obstruction, intimidation and harassment tactics from the federal government and the media’s willingness to go along to get along and repeated failures to accurately cover the news. The situation is similar in Blount County.
When I (Tona Monroe) envisioned writing monthly reports on county government, I thought that the reports would be published within a few days of the monthly commission meetings, which are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month. However, I quickly realized that it was better to wait until the end of the month to more fully report on your local government. This is because there are important meetings after the monthly commission meeting and the meetings can create more questions than answers. Thus, I usually follow up after these meetings by seeking answers.
Sometimes I get answers and sometimes it is difficult to get answers. As such, these monthly reports are intended to provide a review of the monthly activities of your local government. If you desire to learn about important matters before the commission votes on them, please be sure to visit this site at least a couple of times a month because I write about issues throughout the month. Additionally, I also have an email list that you can subscribe to which will keep you informed. If you’d like to join the email list, please send me an email. email@example.com
Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting
On June 1, I drove to Nashville to attend the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Board of Control meeting. Commissioners Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also attended the meeting.
My reasons for attending are manifold. Please search this website, if you are new to the site, to learn those reasons. My statement to the board is available here.
A county should strive to meet minimum standards and be certified by the TCI. However, after reading prior Board of Control minutes and watching the process in action, I’ve concluded that obtaining certification can be political rather than an objective recognition of compliance with standards.
I had intended to write about the meeting before now but haven’t been able to obtain all the documents that I wanted to review before writing about the meeting. This may be something that I will write about in the future.
Commissioners Tom Cole, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett were absent.
At the Agenda Committee meeting, I offered two taxpayer protection amendments. Both were rejected.
One amendment would have amended the annual budget resolution to prohibit the mayor and finance director from assigning fund balance money without commission approval. My intention was to ensure that there would be no more secret plans for your tax money as there has been in the past.
The other amendment was intended to ensure that no monies appropriated for pay raises would be expended for any other purpose without commission approval. The budget funds 1.8% pay raises for all county employees, excluding the Highway Department and schools that set their own raises, and office holders who receive raises based on state mandates. However, not all the amounts budgeted for pay raises will be expended for that purpose.
Raises are suppose to be awarded based on satisfactory job performance. This will leave money in funds that won’t be awarded as pay raises. This means that office holders can transfer money not awarded for pay raises for use elsewhere in their budgets. This is a misuse of the public trust. Office holders should not be requesting money that isn’t needed and no office holder should use the funds for any other purpose.
Pay raises are not uniform throughout local government. Office holders will receive state mandated pay raises. Some school employees will receive 5% pay raises. General county employees will receive 1.8% pay raises. I don’t know what the Highway Department employees will receive.
Only commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to protect the taxpayers with these two amendments.
Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.
Tax rate is set for $2.47
The property tax rate will remain at $2.47. The powers that be are patting themselves on the back for a job well done because they’ve put together a budget where they get nice pay raises and much of what they want, without increasing the property tax rate. However, that doesn’t mean that local government held the line on spending.
The budget is up $6,789,571 million over the previous year’s original adopted budget. The adopted budget for fiscal year (FY) 15-16 is $174,477,835 while the adopted budget for FY 16-17 is $181,267,406. Not all of this is local money. The schools will receive a sizeable increase from the state and $1,250,000 of this money came from fund balance that was approved as a budget increase in December for the IT fund that was rushed through. It is money that hasn’t yet been spent and has to be budgeted in the new year.
More of your money is projected to be collected due to tax revenue growth but pay has not keeping up with inflation. The local government hasn’t done you any favors by keeping the tax rate that is 15% higher than it was 2 years ago.
Only commissioners Miller and I voted no. That means that there are only 3 commissioners left who haven’t supported a tax rate that is higher than when they took office, or in the case of Peggy Lambert, left office. The commissioners who voted no on the tax increase last year, among other things, have now supported it and everything in the budget a year later.
What good is it to oppose something for one year and then rubber stamp it a year later? The property tax rate was $2.15 when I took my oath of office. When I ran for office, many people told me that they didn’t want another property tax increase. I made a campaign promise not to raise property taxes and I will stick by that. I will never vote for a budget that requires a tax rate that is higher than when I took office.
Someone said to me what good does it do to focus on a tax increase when the entire tax amount is being wasted. That’s a valid point. People often get upset about a tax increase, but that is often just a small amount of what you are paying. The entire amount is important, not just the increase. We should look at every penny the government wants and spends.
Capital fund amendment failed
I offered an amendment to the tax rate that would have moved one penny of the schools general fund to the schools capital fund. This amendment would have saved county taxpayers about $127,500 because capital fund money doesn’t have to be split with Alcoa and Maryville schools.
Blount County Schools teacher and County Commissioner Dodd Crowe spoke against the amendment although he didn’t actually give a precise reason why he opposed the amendment. Fiscal Administrator for the schools, Troy Logan, said the amendment wouldn’t align with the school board’s goals. Ask your school board member if he or she thinks that one of their goals should include giving $127,500 in tax money to Maryville and Alcoa, when the county doesn’t have to.
The School Board is planning on spending over $2 million to fix roofs this budget year. This will consume the entire capital fund and the rest will be paid for with fund balance in the schools general purpose fund. The shift in the penny would have given the schools additional funds, thereby reducing use of fund balance, without increasing the county property tax rate.
Commissioners and teachers Grady Caskey and Dodd Crowe voted against the amendment, as did Commissioner Tom Cole whose wife works for the schools. These three gave about $127,500 to the cities when they didn’t have to. Commissioner and school employee Gary Farmer abstained. Only commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I thought it makes good fiscal sense to use the money to fix the roofs instead of giving it to the two cities.
I don’t like using the term penny to describe the tax rate because it makes the amount you are paying sound so much smaller than it really is. A penny on the tax rate is estimated to be worth $327,500 in property tax money. Because of split dollars, the amount given to the schools for each penny is about $200,000 according to fiscal administrator Troy Logan. The schools capital fund receives the entire amount of $327,500 per penny, excluding the Trustee’s Fees that are deducted from property taxes.
Budget Committee’s recommended budget is rubber stamped
The commission rubber stamped the budget recommended by the Budget Committee without any changes. Only commissioners Karen Miller and I offered amendments to the budget.
Commissioner Miller offered an amendment to gut the budget given to the Industrial Development Board, which is used to dole out corporate welfare. The IDB receives over $1 million. Miller’s amendment would have cut the IDB budget to $1 and given the money to the Highway Department.
The finance director said that Miller’s amendment would have required the commission to amend the tax rate resolution. This is a good example of why it doesn’t make sense to set the tax rate in advance of setting the budget. How can the commission properly budget the rate when it hasn’t determined the amounts that will be spent from each fund?
Commissioner Miller requested permission of the body to read her prepared remarks on the amendment. The commission rejected allowing her to read her statement. This is appalling. Commissioners are given the power to be heard and the duty to look out for taxpayers. Apparently the majority of commissioners don’t want a commissioner to come prepared with the facts and their reasons for advocating positions. The commission rejected allowing me to read a statement last month.
Miller did speak briefly without reading her statement. She said she didn’t think tax money should be given for corporate welfare, that she was upset with the way Bryan Daniels and the Blount Partnership had blocked commissioner Jamie Daly and me and that the money should be used to fix the pot holes in the road. I seconded Miller’s amendment but it was rejected by the commission with only Commissioners Daly, Miller and myself supporting it.
4 officials are paid above the state mandated minimum
State law mandates minimum salaries for elected officials. The salaries range from being nearly double to near quadruple the average salary in Blount County.
State law allows the commission to pay elected officials more than the state mandated minimums. With the salaries already being so much more than what the majority of households live on, I moved to cut the salaries of the court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor to the state mandated minimums.
The cut would have saved the taxpayers $91,713 but it was rejected with only commissioners Daly, Miller and myself voting for it. Chairman Jerome Moon gave one of the typical reasons to rubber stamp the matter and move on. He said that state law requires us to give the sheriff a pay supplement above his base pay. However, when I asked what state law said we have to give the sheriff more than the state minimum, he couldn’t name the law. The sheriff couldn’t state the law either. Moon them passed the buck to Commissioner Steve Samples, because he is the longest serving commissioner. Samples didn’t know the law either.
I am researching the matter to see exactly what the county is required to pay the sheriff.
No one read a conflict of interest statement but several have conflicts of interest.
Meeting minutes missing wording of a motion
The meeting minutes for the May commission meeting did not include the wording of a motion that I made. I moved to amend the minutes to include the wording of the amendment that I had offered but the commission rejected the amendment. The minutes should reflect any change that a commissioner tries to make to public policy and government documents.
There was a reimbursement grant for highway funds expended during an emergency with begin and end dates that spans five years. The new Highway Superintendent (HS) Jeff Headrick couldn’t explain these dates. He said it was handled before he became HS but his name is on the budget amendment request. I often wonder if anyone in local government understands what they are signing up for, with state and federal grants.
A special Information Technology (IT) Committee was called by the mayor, to have the new IT consulting firm Mindboard give a presentation on its IT assessment of the county. A previous assessment was done. The Mindboard consultant referred to it as the 10,000 foot view. He referred to his assessment as the 3,000 foot view. The county is in need of some IT improvements but we need to tread carefully.
Kronos, the $2.3M time keeping, payroll and HR IT software project, is several months behind schedule. This was rushed through without fully examining whether the county was ready for the project.
The estimated capital costs of about $2.5M, in the Mindboard presentation, are nearly double what the commission approved last year for the updates. Furthermore, the annual costs to maintain these updates will greatly increase the IT budget. The committee was given a figure that was over $600,000.
These aren’t exact numbers. The costs for computers was listed as zero. The former IT Director John Herron, who now works for the schools, pointed out that this wasn’t realistic.
I wondered why this was listed as zero and I may have learned why. In the commission packet, there are budget transfers to purchase computers in both the Finance and Accounting and Data Processing (IT) budgets. (See pages 330 and 334) Finance Director Vineyard told me that all IT needs would come out of the IT fund but apparently both had money left over at the end of the year to use to buy new computers.
It is amazing how much money is moved around (transferred) at the end of the year. I may write more about the subject in the future.
The IT Committee took no action on the presentation. However, the mayor and finance director usually proceed with their big spending plans without a recommendation from the IT Committee.
State to remove 99 felons from jail
The best news of the month is that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) is going to remove 99 felons to state facilities. This reduces the chance of a tax increase for jail expansion. However, we should be ever vigilant of the matter. We need to ensure that TDOC and the sheriff actively work to move felons, with a continuous sentence of more than a year, to state facilities in the future.
The sheriff stated that I have “offered no realistic or legal solutions.” That’s false. One realistic and legal solution that I offered was to have the state sentenced felons moved to state facilities. It’s good to see this solution will happen.
The commission will consider reforming the Human Resources and Insurance Committee.
Happy Independence Day!
Some of the people who have contributed to Blount County’s fiscal woes are in a tizzy because I dared to mention the secret actions taken to assign $1.5 million for possible jail expansion. The paper has been doing what it can to excuse the political machine (misnamed good ole’ boys, when there is little good that they do) with repeated stories downplaying the actions taken by Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard.
At the Agenda Committee meeting on June 7th, I put forward an amendment to the annual budget resolution that the would prohibit any monies collected by the county that exceeds projected revenues from being designated for any purpose without commission approval. The sheriff referred to the $1 million that was set aside as an earmark and told the TCI Board of Control, last year, about a plan for another million. At the June TCI Board of Control meeting that there would be about another half a million this year, which is half a million less that what he told the Board last year.
The accounting term for this $1.5 million is that it is assigned.
Assigned Fund Balance
13. Amounts that are constrained by the government‘s intent to be used for specific purposes, but are neither restricted nor committed, should be reported as assigned fund balance, except for stabilization arrangements, as discussed in paragraph 21. Intent should be expressed by (a) the governing body itself or (b) a body (a budget or finance committee, for example) or official to which the governing body has delegated the authority to assign amounts to be used for specific purposes.
Notice the intent for the use of this fund balance for a specific purpose. The Blount County Corrections Partnership was not told about this assignment even though it is the body charged with making recommendations on the jail and criminal justice system. The commission and public weren’t told about this assignment. The public learned about the matter shortly after I did, after I read about the secret plan in the minutes of a state body.
Gary Farmer said, “There is no such thing as secret money.” The money itself may not be a secret but there was a secret plan with intended use of this money.
No solution Mike Caylor asked if the money could be spent without commission approval. It can’t. Any commissioner who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be a commissioner. This was his attempt to cover for the Mayor, Finance Director and Sheriff who would rather plan their actions in secret rather than discuss the matter in public with the Blount County Corrections Partnership.
The jail has been and remains an important issue in Blount County. Local government officials should be working diligent to address the needs of our criminal justice system, for the betterment of society. Instead the Blount County Corrections Partnership only meets a few times a year, information is withheld, meeting minutes don’t fully reflect motions that are made, the Commission Chairman cuts citizens off for referencing the jail study, Mike Caylor calls a point of order when I try to discuss ways to avoid jail expansion and money is assigned in secret. The public trust has been broken by these actions.