Posts Tagged ‘FBI’


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2015 at 12:16 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States is going to become more complicated.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security.  And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope?  The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.  As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certifcate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.  A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, whch gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports.  They certainly looked impressive.  But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching this going on assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for.  So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience.  Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards earned a median average salary of $24,070 in 2013. The best-paid earned about $43,150, while the lowest-paid made approximately $17,510.

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at the San Francisco Federal Building, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

Now, suppose you want to report a crime to the San Francisco field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

You take an elevator to the 13th floor and walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor. You approach a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You offer your reason for wanting to speak with an agent. Assuming the secretary thinks you have a legitimate reason, she says you must first show her your driver’s license or State ID card.

You slide these through the bottom part of the glass window.  Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, you have to fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security Number;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

Of course, you can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you meet with an FBI agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand  for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States is going to become more complicated.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security.  And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope?  The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.  As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certifcate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.  A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, whch gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Got all that?

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

And while TSA is beefing up security at the back door, the Obama administration is about to cast aside the front door.

On September 10, the administration announced that it will take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.

That is on top of the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States has already accepted.

According to U.S. Census data, America welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants legally each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online

And while all this is happening, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faces in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers.

“But it is incredibly difficult.  I cannot see my stopping these indefinitely.”

Consider the math: The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts–against seven million potential suspects.

And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.

How did all of this come to be?

To start at the beginning: On March 15, 2011, protests broke out in Syria, with demonstrators demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

These protests, met with government repression, continued to grow into a wholesale civil war.  Since then, more than 310,000 Syrians people have been killed.

Put another way: More than 310,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.

But European nations and the United States have chosen to see this truth as a negative, not a positive.

The United Nations refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that 366,402 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year.

And all it took to make this happen was a photo that’s been seen the world over: A photo of a three-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach.

A parody of this picture highlights a Politically Incorrect truth:

While European nations are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of these uninvited “guests,” the Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing almost nothing for Syria’s refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the “six Gulf countries–Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain–have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These nations are far closer to Syria than are Europe and the United States.  And they contain some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets and its highest standards of living.

Note the contradiction: Democratic, non-Islamic countries are exposing themselves to increasing numbers of potential–if not actual–Islamic terrorists.  Meanwhile, the Arab world is closing its own doors to Syrian refugees

The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees – The Washington Post

* * * * *

During the 1980s, the United States waged a cold war against Islamic nations.  These acts of anti-American terrorism were seen as simply crimes, and not acts of war.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center changed that.  For the last 14 years, the United States military has actively fought Islamics in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And now Syria.

To be admitting huge numbers of a population with which the United States is now waging all-out war is worse than stupid.  It is a guarantee of national suicide.


In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Military on September 14, 2015 at 12:06 am

Colonel Brandt: “I wonder what we’ll do after we lose the war.”
Captain Kiesel: “Prepare for the next one.”

–-“The Cross of Iron,” film by Sam Peckinpah

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”–-not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

Liars Club: Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on Al-Qaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.

Even more important: Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service-–because he saw Al-Qaeda and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • the precise locations where these weapons were stored;
  • the identities of those involved in their production; and
  • the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa;
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium;
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions;
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin;
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

Consider the following:

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

March 30, 2003: On ABC’s “This Week” program, 10 days into the war, Rumsfeld said: “We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 29, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush-–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004-–one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Ultimately, the war that Bush had deliberately provoked

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans;
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion;
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn;
  • Allowed Iran–Iraq’s arch enemy–to eagerly fill it; and
  • Kill at least 655,000 Iraqis.


In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Military on September 11, 2015 at 12:01 am

September 11, 2015, marks the 14th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it should also be a time to remember those who made this atrocity inevitable–by refusing to acknowledge and address the impending threat from Al-Qaeda.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security advisor on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

Richard Clarke

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States–either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject.  Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz–whose real target was Saddam Hussein–said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.”

Wolfowitz insisted that bin Laden couldn’t carry out his terrorist acts without the aid of a state sponsor–namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues.  He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

Related image

Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically–and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors–and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke–who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda–gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did.  But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad. He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.


In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Military on September 10, 2015 at 12:04 am

September 11, 2015, will mark the 14th anniversary of the greatest act of terrorism on American soil.

As that tragedy recedes ever further into the past, its impact on Americans continues to wane.

Today, tens of thousands of unscreened Islamics, fleeing the carnage of their fellow Islamics in the Syrian civil war, are pouring into Europe.

America has already taken in 1,500. And 14 Democratic Senators are demanding that President Barack Obama admit at least 70,000 more.

Forgotten–or ignored–in all this hand-wringing is a brutal truth:

It took only 19 Saudi highjackers to snuff out the lives of 3,000 Americans–at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard the four airliners that had been turned into fuel-bombs.

World Trade Center on 9/11/01

“Our FBI doesn’t even have the resources to get a handle on all of the ISIS/jihadist threat in the Muslim community,” warned author and investigative reporter Paul Sperry.

“Now we’re going to lay on top of that all of these new immigrants who are even potentially more radical on top of that threat matrix.”

It is appropriate to remember the innocents who died on that day–and the heroism of the police and firefighters who died trying to save them.

But it’s equally important to remember those who made 9/11 not simply possible but inevitable.

And that does not mean only the 19 highjackers who turned those planes into fuel-bombs.  It means the officials at the highest levels of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Officials who, to this day, have never been held accountable in any way for the resulting death and destruction.

Obviously, such an indictment is not going to be handed down by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nor will it be presented by TV commentators–on such liberal networks as CNN and MSNBC or the Right-wing Fox network.

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace.  Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, includingJFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens–and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy–who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued–right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.   He continued in the same role under  President Bush–but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials–such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time.


In Business, Law, Social commentary on September 4, 2015 at 12:00 am

Receiving unsolicited, get-rich-quick emails has become a regular headache for millions of Internet users.

And the reason for this is that, all too often, they succeed in defrauding their recipients. In 2013, losses from Nigerian scams totaled $12.7 billion.

Click here: Millions of victims lost $12.7B last year falling for Nigerian scams | GeekTime

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud:

  • Unsolicited:  You’re told you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.”  Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims.
  • Appeals to religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language.   Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.”  This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about.  Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations.  It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.

  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you–someone they’ve never met–to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman–usually outside the United States–seeking love.  A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours.  All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams  promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.”  Then you wait for job orders–that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt–for a large up-front fee.  You pay the fee–and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offcers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.”  The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know–who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country.  S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom.  If you get such an email, call the person to make certain.  Don’t rush to send money–chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • If an email from a stranger asks you to send money, don’t do it.  If the sender claims to be a friend, call your friend first to make sure it came from him.
  • Don’t click on unknown links–especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee–“on faith”–to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • Under its new director, James Comey, the FBI is mounting a major effort against cybercrime. Click on its page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber for solid advice on how to protect yourself online.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 31, 2015 at 12:10 am

By now, a second–and female–officer has arrived on the scene of the arrest of motorist Sandra Bland.

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

(Bland continues screaming, but much of it is inaudible)

Encinia: For a warning you’re going to jail.

Bland: Whatever, whatever.

Encinia: You’re going to jail for resisting arrest. Stand up.

Bland: If I could, I can’t.

Encinia: OK, roll over.

Bland: I can’t even fucking feel my arms.

Encinia: Tuck your knee in, tuck your knee in.

Bland: (Crying): Goddamn. I can’t [muffled].

Encinia: Listen, listen. You’re going to sit up on your butt.

Bland: You just slammed my head into the ground and you do not even care …

[Bland has already told both officers that (1) she is an epileptic, and (2) Encinia slammed her head into the ground.  Now she is again putting them on notice that she could have sustained a traumatic brain injury.  But neither officer shows any concern.]

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Sandra Bland’s jail booking photo

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Female officer: Listen to how he is telling you to get up.

Bland: I can’t even hear.

Female officer: Yes you can.

[After having her head slammed into the ground, Bland says she cannot hear.  Both officers should consider that the injury to her head may be serious–and take her to an emergency room for evaluation.]

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: He slammed my fucking head into the ground.

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: What the hell.

Encinia: Now stand up.

Bland: All of this for a traffic signal. I swear to God. All of this for a traffic signal. (To bystander.) Thank you for recording! Thank you! For a traffic signal — slam me into the ground and everything! Everything! I hope y’all feel good.

Encinia: This officer saw everything.

Female officer: I saw everything.

[Since the female officer was not present when Encinia initially encountered Bland–as the video proves–she could not have “seen everything.”  Her claiming to have done so could be seen as evidence that she intends to lie on Encinia’s behalf.]

Bland:  And (mufled) no you didn’t.  You didn’t see everything leading up to it.

Female Officer: I’m not talking to you.

Bland:  You don’t have to.

[This is the last exchange between Bland and the officers as recorded on the dashcam video of Brian Encinia’s police cruiser.]

* * * * *

Born in 1987, Sandra Bland grew up in Illinois, and lived with her family in suburban Chicago.

She graduated Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois, where she ran track and played volleyball.  She was also a varsity cheerleader and part of the marching band.

She then attended Prairie View A&M University outside Hempstead, Waller County, Texas. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in agriculture.

Bland returned to Illinois in 2009.

In January 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook about police brutality against blacks.

In early July she traveled to Waller County, Texas, to begin a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

In one of her last conversations with her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland said:

“Momma, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas. My purpose is to stop all social injustice in the South.”

On July 13–three days after her arrest on July 10–Bland was found dead in her cell in Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas.

Sandra Bland memorial

Police claimed that she had hanged herself, citing a video she posted in Facebook in March, where Bland stated she was depressed.

Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family, said that at the time of Bland’s death, her relatives were raising money for Bland’s $5,000 bail.  And Bland knew it.

“We don’t understand this,” said Lambert. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The Texas Rangers and the FBI are still investigating Bland’s death.

The Harris County medical examiner conducted an autopsy and ruled her death a suicide, claiming that it found no evidence of a violent struggle.

One possibility: Bland came to Texas to “stop all social injustice in the South.” She may have grown fatally depressed at her inability to “save herself” from jail over a simple traffic violation.

Another possibility: Texas authorities may have indulged in a long-cherished Texas tradition, best explained by a 19th-century Texas Ranger named Samuel Reid.

Reid served as a Ranger scout during the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Recalling his experiences south of the border, he wrote:

Our orders were most strict not to molest any unarmed Mexican.

“And if some of the most notorious of these villians were found shot, or hung up in the chaparral…the [United States] government was charitably bound to suppose that, during a fit of remorse and desperation, tortured by conscience for the many evil deeds they had committed, they had recklessly laid violent hands upon their own lives!  Quien sabe?”  

Meanwhile, Brian Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the state Department of Public Safety found “violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.”


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 30, 2015 at 1:02 am

The confrontation between black motorist Sandra Bland and Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia continued to worsen.

Encinia: If you would’ve just listened.

Bland: I was trying to sign the fucking ticket — whatever.

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Are you fucking serious?

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Oh I can’t wait ’til we go to court. Ooh I can’t wait. I cannot wait ’til we go to court. I can’t wait. Oh I can’t wait! You want me to sit down now?

Encinia: No.

Bland: Or are you going to throw me to the floor? That would make you feel better about yourself?

[Bland continues to attack Encinia’s masculinity–almost as if she’s daring him to rough her up.  If he wasn’t thinking of throwing her to the floor, she just gave him the idea.]

Sandra Bland voicemail from jail

Encinia: Knock it off!

Bland: Nah that would make you feel better about yourself. That would make you feel real good wouldn’t it? Pussy ass. Fucking pussy. For a failure to signal you’re doing all of this. In little ass Praire View, Texas. My God they must have …

[Niccolo Machiavelli, in his masterwork, The Discourses, offers this cautionary advice: “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words toward any one, for neither the one or the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy.

[“(Contempt) make(s) him more cautious, and (insults) increase his hatred of you, and make him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

[That’s clearly what happened here.]

Encinia: You were getting a warning, until now you’re going to jail.

Bland: I’m getting a — for what? For what?

Encinia: You can come read.

Bland: I’m getting a warning for what? For what!?

Encinia: Stay right here.

Bland: Well you just pointed me over there! Get your mind right.

Encinia: I said stay over here. Stay over here.

Bland: Ooh I swear on my life, y’all are some pussies. A pussy-ass cop, for a fucking signal you’re gonna take me to jail.

[Again, Bland is essentially daring Encinia–who has total control of her–to physically abuse her.  For her own sake, the smart thing to do would be to shut up.]

Encinia (to dispatch, or an officer arriving on scene): I got her in control she’s in some handcuffs.

Bland: For a fucking ticket. What a pussy. What a pussy. You’re about to break my fucking wrist!

Encinia: Stop moving.

Bland: I’m standing still! You keep moving me, goddammit.

Encinia: Stay right here. Stand right there.

Bland: Don’t touch me. Fucking pussy  — for a traffic ticket (inaudible).

(door slams)

[Again: More profanity–and yet another challenge to Encinia’s masculinity.]

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Sandra Bland was an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement

Encinia: Come read right over here. This right here says ‘a warning.’ You started creating the problems.

Bland: You asked me what was wrong!

Encinia: Do you have anything on your person that’s illegal?

Bland: Do I feel like I have anything on me? This a fucking maxi dress.

Encinia: I’m going to remove your glasses.

Bland: This a maxi dress. (Inaudible) Fucking assholes.

Encinia: Come over here.

Bland: You about to break my wrist. Can you stop? You’re about to fucking break my wrist! Stop!!!

Encinia: Stop now! Stop it! If you would stop resisting.

Female officer: Stop resisting ma’am.

[Even if Bland is not resisting, the testimony of a second officer who says she is could have been used against her in court.]

Bland: (cries) For a fucking traffic ticket, you are such a pussy. You are such a pussy.

[Is Bland referring to Encinia or the female officer?  In either case, such language will do her no good–on the street or in court.]

Female officer: No, you are. You should not be fighting.

Encinia: Get on the ground!

Bland: For a traffic signal!

Encinia: You are yanking around, when you pull away from me, you’re resisting arrest.

Bland: Don’t it make you feel real good don’t it? A female for a traffic ticket. Don’t it make you feel good Officer Encinia? You’re a real man now. You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground. I got epilepsy, you motherfucker.

[By stating she is epileptic, Bland has notified both officers that she could be in danger of a potentially lethal seizure at any moment.  The smart move for the police would have been to rush her to a hospital for an emergency checkup.  But they don’t even talk about doing this.]  

Encinia: Good. Good.

Bland: Good? Good?

Female officer: You should have thought about it before you started resisting.

[The female officer has just confimed–perhaps unintentionally–that her partner slammed Bland’s head into the ground.  She has also demonstrated her own indifference to Bland’s having received a potentially life-threatening injury.]

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

[Although the bystander is not interfering in any way with the arrest, Encinia clearly does not want a non-cop witness to his treatment of Bland.] 


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 29, 2015 at 12:17 am

There are some useful lessons to be learned from the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Lessons about how a police officer should behave toward the public.  And lessons about how the public can protect themselves from police abuse.

On July 10, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia stopped black motorist Sandra Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The confrontation quickly escalated to unwarranted aggression and threats by Encinia and foul-mouthed, combative behavior by Bland.

Brian Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here.

Sandra Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, alright.

Encinia (calling in backup):  2547.

Bland: Let’s do this.

Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to.  (Grabs for Bland.)

Bland: Don’t touch me!

[Although Encinia is clearly angry, Bland’s refusal to exit her car was technically “resisting arrest.”  This was a charge to be fought–in court–by her attorney, not–on the street–by Bland.]

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I’m not under arrest–you don’t have the right to take me out of the car.

Encinia: You are under arrest!

[Once the officer says, “You are under arrest,” legally, that’s it. The arrest can be challenged later–in court.  And it may be found unwarranted–in court. But it’s useless and even dangerous to dispute a cop’s right to make an arrest on the street.]

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Brian Encinia

Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?

Encinia (to dispatch): 2547 county fm 1098 (inaudible) send me another unit. (To Bland) Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for failure….

Encinia: I said get out of the car!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my–

Encinia: I‘m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.

Bland: So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car?

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?

Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now!   (Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.)

Bland: Wow. Wow.  (Bland exits car.)

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Brian Encinia aiming a Taser at Sandra Bland

Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car!

Bland: For a failure to signal? You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Get over there.

Bland:  Right, yeah, let’s take this to court, let’s do this.

Encinia:  Go ahead.

Bland: For a failure to signal? Yup, for a failure to signal!

Encinia: Get off the phone!

Bland: (crosstalk)

Encinia: Get off the phone! Put your phone down!

Bland: I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property. Sir?

Encinia: Put your phone down right now. Put your phone down!

(Bland slams phone down on her trunk.)

Bland: For a fucking failure to signal. My goodness. Y’all are interesting. Very interesting.

[Profanity is never helpful in a situation like this–and usually leads to further escalation.  And when the case comes to trial, it’s likely to convince a jury: “She got what she deserved.”]

Encinia: Come over here. Come over here now.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself?

Encinia: Stand right here. Stand right there.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself? For a failure to signal? You feel real good about yourself don’t you? You feel good about yourself don’t you?

[Bland would have been well-advised to remain silent–and refrain from personal attacks on a man who’s clearly shown himself over the edge.]

Encinia: Turn around. Turn around. Turn around now. Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Why can’t you–

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. I will tell you–

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around!

[Obviously, if Bland were complying with the order to “turn around,” Encinia would not be repeating it.]

Bland: Why won’t you tell me that part?

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. Turn around.

Bland: Why will you not tell me what’s going on?

Encinia: You are not complying.

Bland: I’m not complying ’cause you just pulled me out of my car.

[Bland admits that she’s “not complying.” Had she lived, this could have been used against her in court.]

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Are you fucking kidding me? This is some bull…

Encinia: Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: ‘Cause you know this straight bullshit. And you’re full of shit. Full of straight shit. That’s all y’all are is some straight scared cops. South Carolina got y’all bitch asses scared. That’s all it is. Fucking scared of a female.

[Bland is directly challenging the masculinity of a man who clearly feels he has something to prove.  Big mistake.]


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

Niccolo Machiavelli offered some advice that might have saved the life of Sandra Bland.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the lessons he offered to those seeking to gain power was this:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.

One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

When confronted by an armed and–in this case, egocentric–law enforcement officer, it’s always best to imitate the fox.

Black motorist Sandra Bland didn’t understand this truth.  Or, if she did, she flagrantly ignored it–to her own destruction.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

Bland, born in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, had just arrived in Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, outside Hempstead, Waller County.

In January, 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook, denouncing racism and police brutality.  In one she wrote: “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.”

On July 10, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia.


Their exchange was recorded on the dashcam video of Encinia’s police car, and has been transcribed by the Huffington Post’s Matt Ramos and Dhyana Taylor.

My own commentary on what happened is given in blue italics.

Brian Encinia: Hello ma’am. We’re the Texas Highway Patrol and the reason for your stop is because you failed to signal the lane change. Do you have your driver’s license and registration with you? What’s wrong? How long have you been in Texas?

Sandra Bland: Got here just today.

Encinia: OK. Do you have a driver’s license? (Pause) OK, where you headed to now? Give me a few minutes.

(Bland inaudible)

(Encinia returns to his car for several minutes, then approaches Bland again.)

Encinia: OK, ma’am.  You OK?

Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When’re you going to let me go?

[A better–that is, safer–answer would have been: “I’m fine.”  And then to say nothing until the officer responds.]

Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very really irritated.

Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so [inaudible] ticket.

[Bland may have been correct.  But accusing the officer of improperly stopping her was a mistake from the get-go. No cop is going to admit he made a mistake in stopping someone–especially a cop as clearly aggressive as Encinia quickly proved to be.]

Encinia: Are you done?

Bland: You asked me what was wrong, now I told you.

Encinia: OK.

Bland: So now I’m done, yeah.

Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

[The smart thing would have been to put out the cigarette. Even though the trooper said “please,” this was clearly an order.]

Encinia: Well you can step on out now.

[This was clearly the point where Encinia decided to take action–to give her a warning, a ticket, or make an arrest  For most of the encounter, he doesn’t say which.]

Bland: I don’t have to step out of my car.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: Why am I–?

Encinia: Step out of the car!

[It’s standard procedure for officers to order drivers to exit their cars before they write tickets or citations. The reason: The danger that the motorist might drive off–or even use the car as a weapon.]

Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don’t have the right.

[Telling a policeman he doesn’t have the right to make an arrest is like telling a judge he doesn’t have the right to make a ruling.  Both are certain to land you in trouble.]

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.

Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.

[Even if the officer’s forthcoming actions are later ruled improper by a judge, he has the legal right at that time to enforce compliance with his orders.]

Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.  Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.

Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.

[Bland would have done better to simply get out of the car, submit to arrest, and then call her lawyer when she reached the police station.]


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