Price Disparities in Car Insurance Premiums between Minorities and Whites: Showcasing the Best in Journalism (Part 1)

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One of the purposes of this blog is to expose the reader to quality analysis and credible news outlets. I will debut some lesser known news outlets over the coming weeks. You will be exposed to news outlets that provide penetrating analysis, sound methodology, and relevant and interesting topics.

Our first featured publication is ProPublica. This news outlet is a non-profit entity that features independent reporting. They try to cover stories that are in the public’s interest. Their publication provides in-depth analysis and they will, sometimes, reveal the methodology they used to arrive at their conclusions.

My goal here is to get beyond the “fake news” mudslinging and showcase news worth reading.

Here is how one of their stories starts:

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk

by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Lauren Kirchner and Surya Mattu, ProPublica

Otis Nash works six days a week at two jobs, as a security guard and a pest control technician, but still struggles to make the $190.69 monthly Geico car insurance payment for his 2012 Honda Civic LX.

“I’m on the edge of homelessness,” said Nash, a 26-year-old Chicagoan who supports his wife and 7-year-old daughter. But “without a car, I can’t get to work, and then I can’t pay my rent.”

Across town, Ryan Hedges has a similar insurance policy with Geico. Both drivers receive a good driver discount from the company.

Yet Hedges, who is a 34-year-old advertising executive, pays only $54.67 a month to insure his 2015 Audi Q5 Quattro sports utility vehicle. Nash pays almost four times as much as Hedges even though his run-down neighborhood, East Garfield Park, with its vacant lots and high crime rate, is actually safer from an auto insurance perspective than Hedges’ fancier Lake View neighborhood near Wrigley Field.

On average, from 2012 through 2014, Illinois insurers paid out 20 percent less for bodily injury and property damage claims in Nash’s predominantly minority zip code than in Hedges’ largely white one, according to data collected by the state’s insurance commission. But Nash pays 51 percent more for that portion of his coverage than Hedges does.

For decades, auto insurers have been observed to charge higher average premiums to drivers living in predominantly minority urban neighborhoods than to drivers with similar safety records living in majority white neighborhoods. Insurers have long defended their pricing by saying that the risk of accidents is greater in those neighborhoods, even for motorists who have never had one.

But a first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which examined auto insurance premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri, has found that many of the disparities in auto insurance prices between minority and white neighborhoods are wider than differences in risk can explain. In some cases, insurers such as Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual were charging premiums that were on average 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs.

Our findings document what consumer advocates have long suspected: Despite laws in almost every state banning discriminatory rate-setting, some minority neighborhoods pay higher auto insurance premiums than do white areas with similar payouts on claims. This disparity may amount to a subtler form of redlining, a term that traditionally refers to denial of services or products to minority areas. And, since minorities tend to lag behind whites in income, they may be hard-pressed to afford the higher payments.

This article can be found here. As I said earlier, ProPublica was not satisfied to simply provide the story. A follow-up article was written that details the methodology and statistical data they used to arrive at their conclusion.

This is the kind of reporting Americans should read and support.


25 Issues that Need More Attention: A Journalistic Wish List


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There are a number of pressing issues confronting Americans that require media attention. We are in an endless cycle of chasing tweets and breaking news on the Russia investigation. While the Russia investigation should continue, there are other issues that require our attention. My journalistic wish list consists of:

1. North Korea and the swirling weapons crisis
2. Wall Street Regulation
3. Gun Violence and the Rise in Crime
4. Cancer Research – This disease kills more people than terrorists
5. Policing
6. The State of the Iran Nuclear Deal
7. Jobs and the Rise of Automation
8. Education, the Looming Loan Crisis, and Economic Opportunity
9. The Drug Epidemic
10. Poverty, Homelessness, and World Hunger and Food and Water Security
11. Green Energy and Jobs
12. The Future of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare
13. Trade
14. Chinese Currency Manipulation
15. Wealth and Income Distribution
16. Race Relations and the Rise of Hate Groups
17. Israel and Palestine
18. Campaign Finance Reform
19. Government Accountability
20. Voter Suppression
21. The Death Penalty
22. Torture
23. Civilian Deaths in Syria
24. Funding of Scientific Research
25. Rebuilding Infrastructure

Twenty Five is a neat number, but more could be added like the surveillance state and the Patriot Act.

Big Media are you listening?

The Trump Administration, Russian Collusion, and Illicit Financial Transactions

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There is a lot of speculation in the air regarding the Trump administration and possible collusion with Russia. Members of the Trump administration are also under investigation for possibly engaging in illicit financial transactions with Russia and other foreign countries and entities. It is too early to tell one way or the other. The public needs to be exposed to the content of a number of documents in order to determine if collusion took place.

Here is a partial list of documents that are relevant to this investigation:

1. FBI form 302 – This document is used to summarize crucial aspects of an interview conducted by an FBI agent. Here is an example of a form 302.
2. Flash Reports from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) – Jennifer Shasky Calvary was the director of FinCEN and she gave a clear explanation of flash reports and how they help in crime investigations. Calvary gave these remarks at the Predictive Analytics World for Government conference. She said flash reports “allow the FBI to identify, track, and disrupt the activities of potential foreign terrorist fighters and support U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) efforts to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from leaving or entering the United States.”
3. FinCEN 314(a) Requests: FinCEN’s own description of Section 314(a) of the Patriot Act of 2001 says it requires “the Secretary of the Treasury to adopt regulations to encourage regulatory authorities and law enforcement authorities to share with financial institutions information regarding individuals, entities, and organizations engaged in or reasonably suspected, based on credible evidence, of engaging in terrorist acts or money laundering activities.”

We will not have a full account of the actions of the Trump administration until the content of these documents are revealed.

Connections between the Trump Administration and Russia

It is difficult to keep track of the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia. These ties serve as potential points of investigation in the Trump/Russia collusion investigation. Fortunately, the writers at POLITICO Magazine created 7 helpful charts that show the Russian connections.

1. Trump and Putin, via Administration Officials

Trump Administration Ties to Russia

2. Trump and Putin, via Michael Flynn

Trump ties to Putin Michael Flynn

3. Trump and Putin, via Campaign Advisers

Mag Trump campaign ties to Putin

4. Trump and Putin, via Paul Manafort

Mag Putin Trump ties Manafort

5. Trump and Putin, via Business Ties

Mag Trump russia Putin business ties

6. Trump and Putin, via Felix Sater

Mag Trump Putin Felix Sater

7. Trump and Putin, via Trump Family Members


Dizzying Spin on Trumpcare

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) performed a cost estimate of Trumpcare not long before it’s current scoring data and they concluded the bill will result in an $880 billion cut to Medicaid (see page 6). The report also said 7 million more people will lose coverage under Medicaid as a result of this legislation (see page 2). Surely, this is an unwelcome outcome of the bill proponents must defend.

Tom Price is the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He was on CNN with Jake Tapper to defend the bill, but his defense fell horribly short. Price told Tapper the $880 billion cut will “absolutely not” result in millions losing Medicaid coverage. Quite frankly, this seems like a baffling position. It turns out that it is, indeed, baffling and inaccurate.

Here is how he argued:

Well, remember what the $880 billion is off of. It’s off what is called a baseline, which is what the federal government, what the Congressional Budget Office says we would spend if we just continued current law. The fact of the matter is that Medicaid spending under the proposal and under the budget goes up every single year. And it goes up by a factor that is great — that is equal to the cost of medical care.

Baseline projections calculate what it would take to maintain current services. These projections account for things like inflation and population growth. Price seems to depute the baseline set by the CBO.

Inflation is a significant part of this calculation. Price tries to assure the public by saying “Medicaid spending under the proposal and under the budget goes up every single year.” This statement gives the impression that more money will be being spent on Medicaid thereby strengthening it. Price left out a crucial piece of information. Today’s dollar doesn’t have the purchasing power of yesterday’s dollar. The amount of money you spend must outpace inflation in order to have a greater effect in the future.

We all know things aren’t as cheap as they used to be. Shoes, pizza, cars, and especially houses cost more due to inflation. The same goes for medical expenses. Everyone knows medical costs are rising at an alarming rate. It is not enough to spend more money. We have to fund Medicaid at a level that outpaces inflation.

It seems the CBO is right. More people, in this case 7 million, will lose Medicaid. Here is how puts it:

Price claimed that federal spending on Medicaid would increase “every single year” under the GOP bill and the annual increases would be “equal to the cost of medical care.” But federal funding would not increase every year, and Medicaid costs will exceed the inflation rate for medical costs, forcing states to make Medicaid cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

… In fact, the bill does not increase Medicaid spending “every single year,” and the program’s costs will exceed the inflation rate for medical costs, forcing states to make cuts in Medicaid benefits, according to the CBO. (CBO estimated the original legislation would reduce Medicaid outlays by $880 billion, the figure both Tapper and Price use. But after amendments were added to the bill, CBO in late March put the reduction at $839 billion over 10 years.)

The bill is a disaster and no amount of spin can free us from its grips.

The Trump Administration and Moderate and Low Income Americans

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I wrote in the past about how the Trump administration negatively affects the poor. We have more details about the administration’s actions. There will be significant cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget. Lorraine Woellert with Politico writes:

In all, the request cuts funding by some $6 billion for fiscal year 2018, to about $40 billion. The draft, dated May 4, might not reflect the administration’s final spending request, which is expected next week. A HUD spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The document puts increased responsibility on state and local governments and calls for the private sector to do more to meet community needs, a key goal of HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

The budget “recognizes a greater role for state and local governments and the private sector in addressing community development and affordable housing needs,” the document states.

Skeptics say some of those programs exist precisely because private money hasn’t stepped up.

“Private companies won’t build water and sewer; they expect the cities and counties and states to provide this infrastructure,” said Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties.

“They’ve taken the Heritage Foundation budget, and we’re trying to educate them on the real-world impact,” Chase said. “This is no longer a think tank exercise.”

The biggest cut would eliminate the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, a state and local entitlement that benefits low- and moderate-income communities. The grants support a range of economic development projects, including roads, sewers and housing.

The administration actually thinks the private sector will attend to the needs of these communities. Cuts of this magnitude will shift the financial burden to state and local municipalities. A more likely outcome will be that these areas will be neglected in the exact spots impacted by the monetary loss. That’s not all:

Rental assistance to tenants would fall by $974 million, to $19.3 billion, with the elimination of a housing program for veterans and reduced spending on Section 8 and other voucher programs. Capital funding for public housing would fall by two-thirds.

I wonder how much monetary loss the rich has experienced during this administration.

Where are we Regarding the Trump Administration Collusion Investigation?

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There are three investigations into possible Trump-Russia collusion. Vox summarizes:

• First, the intertwined Justice Department investigation, now led by a special counsel, into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and, reportedly, the possible cover-up.
• Second, the investigations led by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are broadly looking at Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
• Third, the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have been looking into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s conduct specifically — and have recently expanded their inquiry to the circumstances surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s firing.

The most potent case against Trump is obstruction of justice. Legal scholars are divided over this issue, but a plausible case can be made for obstruction. ABC News queried a number of legal experts and the interviews yielded mixed results:

What is obstruction of justice?

Obstruction of justice is a federal crime in which someone “corruptly” attempts to “influence, obstruct or impede” the “due and proper administration of the law” in a pending proceeding, as stated in 18 U.S.Code § 1505.

“Corruptly” is defined in an accompanying section, 18 U.S.Code § 1515 (b), as “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information.”
Liza Goitein, a former trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who currently co-directs the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, put the statute in simpler terms.

“To boil this down, if the president corruptly attempted to influence the due administration of justice, that is obstruction of justice under the statute,” Goitein told ABC News. “This is an incredibly serious offense.”

If the description of Comey’s memo is accurate, does it detail actions that meet the definition of obstruction of justice?

Some legal experts say “yes.”

“This looks very much like obstruction of justice,” Goitein told ABC News. “It’s hard to reach a different conclusion. It is certainly possible that he incorrectly remembered the conversation or misrepresented it. But there’s no reason to think that’s the case.”

David Shapiro, a former FBI special agent and now an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told ABC News, “It’s hard to view this as anything other than obstruction of justice.”

Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, told ABC News that if Comey’s memo is accurately reported, then he believes it describes “an impeachable attempt to obstruct justice.”

John Lauro, a defense attorney with the Lauro Law Firm based in Tampa and New York City, told ABC News it remains unclear whether Trump obstructed justice.

“It depends on the evidence, which right now amounts to triple and quadruple hearsay,” Lauro said. “If Comey felt there was obstruction he would have been obligated to advise the Attorney General and formally open an investigation, none of which appears to have happened.”

David McIntosh, a lawyer and former congressman who is now the co-founder of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., defended Trump, saying the president “acted appropriately” if he was providing guidance to Comey on the investigation.

“It is important for us to step back and remember that, under the Constitution, the president has the authority and power to enforce the laws,” McIntosh said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “The FBI director reports to the president and it is the president’s decision to delegate authority on investigations. In delegating that authority, presidents have wisely chosen to insulate the FBI from political interference. But the president still has the power and authority to direct the FBI how to do their job.”

The reader should note that this article was written on May 17th, before a major revelation by the New York Times. According to a White House document made available to the New York Times:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

This is strong evidence that Trump fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. Trump believed he took pressure off himself by firing James Comey.

Here is what 18 U.S.Code § 1505 says:

Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Here is my charge based on this law:

Charge: Donald Trump is guilty of corruptly forcing (by firing), obstructing, influencing, obstructing, and impeding the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency (FBI) of the United States.

Donald Trump has broken the law.

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 4)

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Waterboarding and the Military

A point that often gets overlooked in torture debates is how members of the military are instructed on these matters. Military members are forbidden from engaging in torture and waterboarding because it is explicitly regarded as form of torture in military literature.

Lieutenant Colonel Shane R. Reeves is a member of the Army and an Associate Professor and the Deputy Head of the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Lt. Col. Reeves is quite instructive on this matter and I will quote him extensively:

…[T]he UCMJ articles make clear that obedience is only required for lawful orders. Patently or manifestly illegal orders impose no duty of obedience on the service member and instead mandate disobedience. In fact, a service member who obeys an illegal order is individually culpable for the crime and cannot later assert “following orders” as a defense. This would seem to put service members in the difficult position of being both expected to follow orders and also accountable if an order happens to be criminal. However, in practice, manifestly illegal orders are not difficult to discern. A manifestly illegal order is, as the Israeli Supreme Court stated in the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, unlawful not “only to the eyes of legal experts, but a flagrant and manifest breach of the law,” that appears “on the face of the order itself.” As a practical matter, service members are expected to clarify any questionable orders and, if a superior continues to demand obviously illegal action, report the circumstances to higher authorities.

Service members are, therefore, both released from their duty to obey a manifestly illegal order and also expected to refuse to participate in patently criminal conduct. Examples of manifestly illegal orders would include an order to murder civilians, to willfully cause great suffering or serious bodily injury to a prisoner of war, or to conduct medical experimentation on a protected person, to name a few. And without question this list includes any order to commit torture. The Law of Armed Conflict unequivocally forbids torture without exception and makes its use a grave breach under both conventional and customary international law. Further, under international human rights law the commission of torture is patently unlawful in any circumstance. Department of Defense Directive 2311.01E invalidates any arguments that there are U.S. military operations not regulated by international law, which therefore could theoretically allow for torture. That directive, which created the Department of Defense Law of War Program, expressly states “members of the DoD Components comply with the law of war during all armed conflicts, however such conflicts are characterized, and in all other military operations” making the prohibition on torture absolute.

Indisputably, a service member is required to disobey an order to commit torture, because such an order is manifestly illegal. But what about those who claim, based on a continued reliance on flawed justifications, that waterboarding and techniques are not torture? Fortunately, even these absurd and disingenuous end-arounds on the prohibition on torture are addressed and invalidated. The manual regulating interrogation for the armed forces, Field Manual (FM) 2-22.3, expressly prohibits waterboarding, conducting mock executions, inducing hypothermia or heat injury, as well as many other actions. The McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act enshrines in congressional legislation the requirement for military members to only use the interrogation techniques found in the manual making waterboarding and other similar techniques obviously illegal. (emphasis mine)

Here is what Army Field Manual (FM) 2-22.3 says on page 5-20-5-21:

5-74. All captured or detained personnel, regardless of status, shall be treated humanely, and in accordance with the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and DOD Directive 2310.1E, “Department of Defense Detainee Program,” and no person in the custody or under the control of DOD, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, in accordance with and as defined in US law. All intelligence interrogations, debriefings, or tactical questioning to gain intelligence from captured or detained personnel shall be conducted in accordance with applicable law and policy. Applicable law and policy include US law; the law of war; relevant international law; relevant directives including DOD Directive 3115.09, “DOD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning”; DOD Directive 2310.1E, “The Department of Defense Detainee Program”; DOD instructions; and military execute orders including FRAGOs. Use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the HUMINT collector wants to hear. Use of torture can also have many possible negative consequences at national and international levels.

Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment Prohibited
All prisoners and detainees, regardless of status, will be treated humanely. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 defines “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” as the cruel unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This definition refers to an extensive body of law developed by the courts of the United States to determine when, under various circumstances, treatment of individuals would be inconsistent with American constitutional standards related to concepts of dignity, civilization, humanity, decency and fundamental fairness. All DOD procedures for treatment of prisoners and detainees have been reviewed and are consistent with these standards, as well as our obligations under international law as interpreted by the United States.1 Questions about applications not resolved in the field by reference to DOD publications, must be forwarded to higher headquarters for legal review and specific approval by the appropriate authority before application. The following actions will not be approved and cannot be condoned in any circumstances: forcing an individual to perform or simulate sexual acts or to pose in a sexual manner; exposing an individual to outrageously lewd and sexually provocative behavior; intentionally damaging or destroying an individual’s religious articles.
1 Nothing in this enclosure should be understood to affect the U.S. obligations under the law of war.

5-75. If used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations, prohibited actions include, but are not limited to—
• Forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner.
• Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape over the eyes.
• Applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain.
• “Waterboarding.”
• Using military working dogs.
• Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
• Conducting mock executions.
• Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care

Lt. Col. Reeves argues in no uncertain terms that waterboarding is a form of torture and that they are both illegal. In fact, military members are expected to disobey an order to torture or waterboard anyone.

Waterboarding: A Tortured Illegality (Part 3)

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Let’s return to our series on waterboarding. You should read parts 1 and 2 before reading this post.  

Is Waterboarding Torture? Is Waterboarding Legal?

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity Donald Trump said, “I mean, torture is real torture, OK? Waterboarding is — I’m sure it’s not pleasant, but waterboarding was just short of torture.”

Is Donald Trump right?

A legal argument was made in favor of waterboarding in a memo signed, and written by Jay Bybee, former Assistant Attorney General, to then- White House Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzales in 2002. Most believe the memo was written by John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The memo was an attempt to clarify the standards of conduct under the UN Convention Against Torture.

According to this letter, a pain must rise to a level that would “ordinarily be associated with a sufficiently serious physical condition or injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” in order to qualify as torture.

Is it Torture or Not?

An open letter was sent to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urging him to condemn the use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding. This letter was signed by 100 professors of law. A relevant portion of the letter says:

Waterboarding is torture. It causes severe physical suffering in the form of reflexive choking, gagging, and the feeling of suffocation. It may cause severe pain in some cases. If uninterrupted, waterboarding will cause death by suffocation. It is also foreseeable that waterboarding, by producing an experience of drowning, will cause severe mental pain and suffering. The technique is a form of mock execution by suffocation with water. The process incapacitates the victim from drawing breath, and causes panic, distress, and terror of imminent death. Many victims of waterboarding suffer prolonged mental harm for years and even decades afterward.

Waterboarding involves a number of forbidden activities. Let’s parse out the legally applicable areas here:

1. Severe Physical Suffering (This element is in violation of: Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and 18 U.S. Code § 2340)
2. Severe Mental Pain (This element is in violation of: Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 18 U.S. Code § 2340)

These are not the only areas of illegality. The letter goes on to say:

Waterboarding, when used against people captured in the context of war, may also amount to a war crime as defined under the federal war crimes statute 18 U.S.C. § 2441, which criminalizes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (in international armed conflicts), and violations of Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions (in non-international armed conflicts). Waterboarding is also an assault, and thus violates the federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. § 113, when it occurs in the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” a jurisdictional area which includes government installations overseas. In cases involving the U.S. armed forces, waterboarding also amounts to assault, and cruelty and maltreatment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

If these legal scholars are right, waterboarding is caught in a web of illegalities.

The Comey Firing: The Crucial Link and Possible Impeachment



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Some of my readers expressed skepticism about my suggestion that Comey was fired because Donald Trump wants to halt the Russia investigation. I have talked to friends on the phone that objected to this thesis. We don’t need to speculate any longer thanks to our aggressive press core. Donald Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News and he said: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, [fire James Comey] I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” Note the highlighted area. Trump links the firing of James Comey with “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”

The Trump Dismissal Letter

We were tipped off to Trump’s true motive for firing Comey when he released his letter of dismissal. The second paragraph of the letter says, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

The initial narrative given by the White House suggested that the chain of events that lead to Comey’s termination was initiated by a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I was suspicious of this line, in part, because of the curious sentence of the dismissal letter quoted above. What does the Russia investigation have to do with how Clinton was treated during the campaign?

Obstruction of Justice

I also suggested that Trump may be guilty of obstruction of justice in my last post. I would like to defend that claim here.

William Yeomans is a Fellow in Law and Government at American University Law School. Yeomans succinctly describes the conditions that must be met for a legal declaration of obstruction in an article he wrote for The Hill:

Obstruction of justice is both a federal crime and a well-established ground for impeachment. Under federal statutes, it is a crime to act with the specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial or congressional proceeding, or a proceeding before a federal agency (such as an investigation). The proceeding must be pending at the time of the conduct and the defendant must know it.

Obstruction requires:

1. Action with specific intent
2. Interference with a judicial or congressional proceeding, or a proceeding before a federal agency (such as an investigation)
3. The investigation must be pending at the time of the act of interference
4. The actor must know they are interfering with a federal proceeding

These elements overlap, but the actions are clear. Trump seems to have fulfilled all of these requirements. He committed the act of firing in order to halt the FBI’s investigation into the “Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”

Let’s quote him again and insert the relevant elements:

“And, in fact, when I decided to [Element 1] just do it, [fire James Comey] [ Element 2] I said to myself, I said: ‘You know,[Element 1] this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

It is obvious that the investigation is ongoing because James Comey testified to it and that Trump knew about it, thus fulfilling elements 3 and 4.