Rep. Barr: Intelligence in the Age of Trump

Merion West December 21, 2017 This is a president who openly and personally attacks the leaders and employees of the agencies in the Intelligence Community. In turn, some of them respond by attacking him, and on it goes. Despite Henry Stimson’s naïve and dangerous attitude against intelligence gathering, reflected in his pre-World War II statement that, “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail,” intelligence gathering always has been an accepted and vital component of our nation’s conduct of military and foreign affairs. This was recognized clearly by George Washington, who during his service as Commander in Chief of the Colonial forces during our War for Independence, relied often upon secret writings secured by a handful of brave colonial spies in his decision-making. Washington also punished severely those who betrayed that trust. Four factors more than any other reside at the heart of a country’s successful foreign intelligence apparatus: cunning, training, patience and trust.  These are the factors on which a credible intelligence product is built. America’s top policy makers, including ultimately the president himself, rely on these in making choices affecting the lives of the country’s men and women and perhaps the nation’s very survival. The contemporary world in which massive amounts of data are gathered continually from technology, including from insect-sized drones to phenomenally-sophisticated satellites circling the planet, can go only so far in equipping those decision-makers with credible information on which to assess intentions of their foreign counterparts.  Technology provides facts; the other half of the equation—intentions—ultimately comes from human intelligence in both collection and analysis. Yet, whatever the source of the information offered to our commander-in-chief, the value of that product...

Massive Fraud in Net Neutrality Process is a Crime Deserving of Justice Department Attention

Townhall.com Bob Barr 12/20/2017 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr If one was expecting to have a reasoned, adult debate over “Net Neutrality” in the lead-up to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote last week to roll-back the Obama-era regulations, they were surely disappointed. Rather than a logical look at the current state of how the internet works today (much of the anti-FCC rhetoric was not based in such a reality), or even a practical discussion about how the internet has evolved freely and robustly absent of such regulations, most of the “discussion” was a digital shouting match of partisan and anti-capitalism rhetoric. That, and a massive amount of fraud. As I wrote earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of comments were submitted to the FCC in spikes during the public comment period about its proposal to eliminate the 2015 “Open Internet Order”; and, upon further investigation, were found to have been written not by humans, but by artificial intelligence programs using “natural language generators.” Wired.com reports that “over a third of the nearly 22 million comments that poured into the [FCC] . . . included one of seven identical messages,” and “more than half were associated with duplicate or temporary emails.” Additionally, the New York Attorney General is also investigating reports that as many as two-million fraudulent submissions used the names and addresses of real people, both living and dead, from multiple states in a scheme to sway the FCC’s vote. In a political environment in which violence and intimidation are now routinely used to push agendas and silence critics, it is easy to write off public commentary “spam” as an annoying, but nonetheless trivial, offense. However, as...

Shaver Shooting a Wake-Up Call for Reforms

Townhall.com Bob Barr 12/13/2017 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr Daniel Shaver did not deserve to die. He made an otherwise innocuous mistake, as people often do, especially in high pressure situations and after having consumed alcohol. But he did not deserve to die for it. Shaver could have been any one of our twenty-something children or siblings. The events of the night in which 25-year old Shaver died nearly two years ago, are not in dispute. Shaver was drinking with two companions in a Mesa, Arizona La Quinta Inn. At one point that evening, likely showing off, Shaver pointed a pellet rifle he used for his job in pest control out of the fifth-floor window, prompting a report to the police from someone who observed this foolhardy act. When police arrived, things escalated .  .  . quickly. The ensuing encounter between Shaver and at least two police officers armed with assault rifles was captured on police body cameras, but it essentially shows a sobbing and scared Shaver doing his best to cooperate with police barking confusing orders at him, all while threatening that he may be killed for not obeying perfectly. “If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you’re both going to get shot,” police shouted at Shaver, who apologized through his tears for the slips, and begging the police not to shoot him. Then it happened; as Shaver was attempting to obey one officer’s orders to crawl toward a fellow officer (who already had cuffed Shaver’s female companion), he reached back in what looks like an instinctive attempt to keep his...

‘Digital Shouting Matches’ Undermining Rule-Making Process

Townhall.com    The “internet poll” has become a familiar device with which to solicit reader feedback and drive engagement on topics from sports and entertainment to law and politics. But, with obvious flaws in polling methodology (e.g., random sampling, representative samples), not to mention vulnerability to fraud, the results of such polls carry little if any scientific value. They are a marketing tool only; except, it seems, when it comes to formulating federal regulations. Providing a public comment period before federal regulations can be finalized is a legal and long-standing component of federal rulemaking. Typically the window for public comments is 30 to 60 days; during which time anyone – from Joe Six-Pack to high-paid industry consultants – can submit commentary used in considering the adoption of a proposed rule. Federal regulatory agencies increasingly prefer that public comments be submitted digitally, “so that [people’s] input on a proposed rule or other document is more easily available to the public” and easier to organize for agency review. Therein lies the problem. Electronic commentary makes it extremely easy to “stuff the ballot box” with canned commentary from armies of online activists with the click of a mouse; or even millions of computer “bots” forging the identities of real people – dead or alive. In either case, it is becoming difficult (if not impossible) to seriously consider such feedback, particularly as the Federal Communications Commission seeks to repeal Obama-era regulations involving access to the internet. The underlying problem is that the use of modern technology in this way has reduced public input on regulatory rule-making to little more than “digital shouting matches” between organizations on one...

The Real Reason Democrats Hate Losing the State and Local Tax Deduction

Townhall.com   If you have ever wondered why leaders of liberal cities and states become giddy at any new spending opportunity – investments into light rail infrastructure, social programs for illegal aliens, public schools that look like palaces, billion-dollar sports stadiums – it is not because they are more public-minded than Republicans, or possess an innate sense of altruism. It is because such projects get them re-elected, especially when people other than their constituents are picking up the tab. And, thanks largely to the State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction for federal income tax purposes, that is exactly what is happening. In the current federal tax code, SALT deductions allow individuals to deduct state and local taxes, including property taxes, from their federal returns. On the surface, this seems like a great idea, as it generally reduces tax burdens, especially for those living in high-tax localities. At its core, however, the deduction is more a clever burden-shifting scheme to make it easier for state and local governments to over-spend, than it is a way to ease the burden on federal taxpayers. Since state and local taxes can be deducted, the tax burden is shifted from those governments to the federal government, which in turn makes up for this lost revenue by keeping taxes higher on the rest of the country. In effect, taxpayers in low-tax states and cities, like those in the South, are forced to subsidize the lavish public spending of liberals in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, who have little incentive to reduce the local taxes that fund their pet projects. It is much like...