Monthly Archives: February 2014

“I Will Not Surrender to an Invading Army”

Vivas

Twitter @CNNEE

Ángel Omar Vivas Perdomo is a retired general of the Venezuelan Army. He is educated as a civil engineer and has an MBA and a doctorate in finance from Texan American Univeristy. In 1997, he served as the commander of an OAS multinational mission to conduct mine clearing in Central America.  He’s received decorations from Venezuela, the United States, and other countries.

In 2006, under the Chavez government, he was appointed the National Director of Engineering of the Defense Ministry, but decided to resign from the army due to its “grave violations of the Venezuelan Constitution.” He has been an outspoken critic of the politicization of the army and Cuba’s growing influence within the Venezuelan military.

In 2007, he petitioned the Supreme Court requesting that the army cease use of the motto “Patria, socialismo o muerte. Venceremos!” (“Fatherland, socialism or death. We shall overcome!”).  The author of this motto was none other than Fidel Castro. The hearing before the Supreme Court took place in 2008, and the petition was denied. While leaving the court, Vivas was arrested and later charged with insubordination. In 2012, he was sentenced to a term of 4 months and 15 days.

Yesterday (Sunday, 23 February 2014), he became one of the focal points of the resistance movement when president Nicolas Maduro ordered his arrest for encouraging the massive protests that are taking place throughout the country.

Sunday morning, General Vivas posted this picture of telephone workers disconnecting his internet connection.

VivasCANTV

Twitter @Gral_Vivas_P

At some point, counter-intelligence troops arrived.

Twitter @valsosadasilva

While wearing Venezuelan uniforms, a number of Twitter users pointed out that the soldiers’ boots were of the type issued by the Cuban army, and the speculation is that these are actually Cuban soldiers.

Vivas presented himself armed and bearing the Venezuelan flag.  He announced that he would not surrender to an invading army. He and his lawyers announced that the order for his detention was illegal, was not signed by a judge, and that he would not be abiding by it.

VivasFlag

Twitter @barbaradeccs

Soon thereafter, scores of National Guard troops arrived on the scene:

VivasGNB

Twitter @DespiertaVene

So did, however, hundreds of neighbors and supporters who rallied to the scene after word of the standoff spread on social networks.

VivasGatheringCrowd

Twitter @carlosramirezl3

Outnumbered, the National Guard shut off the power to the house, retreated, and left only the (possibly Cuban) counter-intelligence officers at the door.

More information is available (in Spanish) at El Universal or follow General Vivas on Twitter.

Interview with Colombian TV NTN24February 24.




 

#SOSVenezuela: Sources of Information

A small group of fascists, according to official sources.

The Venezuelan government controls the electronic media, so there’s no sense looking for information from broadcast sources.  When I checked the front page of TV network Venevision, it appears that the most pressing news story facing Venezuelans is the fact that Christina Aguilera is expecting a child.

The print media still has some freedom, although the government has managed to deal with that problem largely by restricting the import of newsprint.  Many newspapers have suspended their print edition, and even the largest ones have severely reduced the size of their editions.  But still, there is some information coming out through traditional journalism.  El Universal has a regularly updated section in English.

The internet has been shut down in some areas, but the best source of information  appears to be blogs.  The following English-language blogs will let you know what’s going on in Venezuela:

http://caracasgringo.wordpress.com

http://antipatrioticvenezuelan.blogspot.com/

http://caracaschronicles.com/

http://daniel-venezuela.blogspot.com/

http://maruangarita.blogspot.com/

http://venezuelablog.tumblr.com/

http://devilsexcrement.com/

http://martineretting.wordpress.com/

http://thirdworldchronicles.blogspot.com/



SOSVenezuela

As a lawyer, one of my obligations is to do what I can to fight injustice, and I don’t believe that obligation ends at the borders of my country. People everywhere are entitled to live in a free country and in peace. Venezuela used to be such a country, with a free press, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law. It used to be a relatively prosperous country with a strong middle class. It hasn’t been that way for quite some time, and the people are finally taking to the streets to reclaim their country. The pictures below are from Twitter, and were all taken by ordinary Venezuelans in the last few days (I write this on February 20).

The government has responded to these protests by sending in National Guard troops , augmented by irregulars–red-shirted armed thugs–supported by the government. They have killed civilians, set fire to apartments, and detained many of the protesters.

For whatever reason, the U.S. media are largely silent. Perhaps it’s partly because their cameras were seized, as happened to this CNN crew.

The El Universal Newspaper, is still reporting, and you can read their English edition online. The Caracas Chronicles blog is also providing good information. And despite the service being shut down in many parts of the country, Twitter is the best source for up-to-date information. You’ll get an idea by searching for #SOSVenezuela or by following @ReportaVE. Most of those tweets will be in Spanish, but the many photos speak for themselves.

Please educate yourself as to what is going on in Venezuela. Since the U.S. media has not deemed this to be a priority, it is up to the rest of us to come to the aid of the people of Venezuela.



Accessories for the Baofeng UV-5R

UV-5RI have had some comments wondering what accessories they should get with a handheld such as the Baofeng UV-5R. In general, you don’t need to buy anything else. You can use the radio out of the box, although some of the following items will make the radio more convenient or useful.

Programming Cable

None of the items on this page are essential, although many of them are nice to have. The one item that is almost essential is the programming cable. It is possible to do most of the programming directly from the radio, but it can be quite cumbersome. It’s much more convenient to use your computer to program the radio, and to do so, you’ll need the programming cable. In addition, you’ll need to install two pieces of software. The first software you’ll need will be the driver for the cable, so that your computer will “see” the cable plugged in to the USB port. That software is included in a little disk that comes with the cable. Once that’s done, you’ll need separate software to allow your computer to “talk” to the radio. The best I’ve found is CHIRP, which is available as a free download.

The current Amazon price for the cable is shown below:

Speaker Mike

My UV-5R came with a small combination earphone/microphone. You wear the earphone in your ear, and there is a small microphone/push-to-talk button the clips on to your shirt. I rarely use any kind of external microphone, but if I wanted one, one like the following would be much more convenient. It doubles as a speaker, which could be useful in a noisy environment.

Extra Battery

An extra battery can be useful. The following batteries can be charging separately while the radio is in use. You simply drop them into the charger that came with the radio. That way, you’ll always have a spare available. Note, different sub-models have different batteries, so look at the description carefully to make sure you get the right one. On a positive note, if you get the wrong one, they are all the same voltage, and you can usually make the “wrong” battery fit by carefully cutting away some of the plastic. But it’s best just to get the right one in the first place.

Alkaline Battery Holders

It will cost you more to use alkaline batteries, but this can be a good option to have available. If your power is out, you might still have AA or AAA batteries available. You can buy them anywhere, such as grocery stores and even toy stores. In an emergency, this can give you much needed flexibility. The following holders use either AAA or AA batteries.

Of course, you can buy batteries anywhere, but if you’re making an Amazon purchase and/or you’re an Amazon Prime member, just buying them from Amazon can be very convenient and economical:

Battery Eliminator

It is possible to plug the radio into the charger and charge it while you’re operating. In the case of the UV-5R, however, this is somewhat inconvenient, since the radio uses a drop-in charger. It’s also not the best way of doing things, since the batteries are still in the circuit, even though they are not in use. A better method is to run the radio directly off a power supply, without using any batteries at all. To do that, you’ll need the following accessory. As you can see, this plugs into a car lighter socket.

If you want to use the radio at home from AC current, you’ll need a power supply to plug this adapter into. You’ll need a power supply that puts out at least three amps, such as the following one:

Car Charger

To charge the radio in your car, you’ll need the following cord. This plugs in to the drop-in charger that comes with the radio, and you use it in place of the AC adapter.

Replacement Antenna

The antenna that comes with the UV-5R is not very efficient. It’s not designed to be efficient–it’s designed to be a convenient length. And for most uses, an efficient antenna is not necessary. But you might want to have a better antenna available, that provides a little bit of gain, rather than the negative gain from the supplied antenna. When you buy an antenna, make sure that it has a “reverse SMA connector” such as the following:

External Antenna

If you’re going to use the radio at home or in your car, then it will work much more efficiently with an external antenna. Either buy one of the following, with the “reverse SMA connector” already installed, or get the adapter shown below.

Note:  The UV-5R’s receiver is very sensitive to overload, so if you use an antenna that’s “too good”, you can actually cause more problems than you solve.  But for many applications, an external antenna can be extremely useful.

Antenna Adapter

If you already have an antenna, or if you’r buying a new one, it probably has a “PL-259 connector”. If so, you’ll need an adapter to connect it to the radio. You’ll need this cable:

Even if you plan to make your own antenna, you should get this cable. The PL-259 connector is relatively easy to work with, but the SMA connector is virtually impossible to install yourself without special tools. This cable will allow you to use an antenna with the PL-259.

You might be able to find a similar adapter that does not include a section of cable. While such an adapter will certainly work, it’s generally not a good idea. The cable on the adpater shown above is extremely flexible, and much lighter than the cable on most antennas. Therefore, it will cause little mechanical stress to the connector on the radio. Attaching a rigid cable directly to the radio will probably cause the connector to eventually break.

When you get this adapter, you will notice that it’s somewhat difficult to screw onto the radio. Because it’s a “reverse” connector, you’ll find that you need to turn the radio rather than the cable. In other words, you need to “screw in the radio” instead of “screwing in the connector” as you might expect. The radio is small enough that this doesn’t pose a problem, but it does take a bit of getting used to.




Missing Baby Found In Herbert Hoover’s Hometown

Hoover Birthplace

The home where newborn baby Herbert Hoover grew up, less than a mile from the BP station where another baby was abandoned. National Park Service photo.

This bizarre story had its happy ending just down the road from the Herbert Hoover birthplace.  When a newborn baby was discovered missing from Beloit, Wisconsin, police began calling people who had been in the house. Kristen R. Smith, 22, of Denver, was the mother’s half sister.  Her facebook page had recently shown pictures of her being pregnant, and had announced the birth of a child, about the same time as her half sister gave birth to a real baby.  When Smith called back from Interstate 80, she denied involvement in the kidnapping. A Beloit police officer instructed her to stop at the next town and find a police officer to search her car and confirm her story.

Smith dutifully complied with this request, and pulled into Herbert Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa. But before flagging down a local cop, she pulled into the BP-Amoco station and left the baby, wrapped up in blankets, in a grey tote box behind a dumpster.

She then drove to the Kum & Go on the other side of the freeway, where she waved down a passing West Branch police officer and handed him her phone. After talking with the Beloit officer, the West Branch officer performed a search of the car. He didn’t find the baby, but he did find a “prosthetic pregnancy belly”.

Fortunately, the courts will not need to grapple with the issue of whether possession of a prosthetic pregnancy belly gives probable cause for a kidnapping arrest. Lo and behold, Smith was wanted in Texas, and the West Branch officer arrested her under the Texas warrant. Smith was taken to a warm jail, where she denied any knowledge of the baby she had left in the subzero temperatures only hours before.

An all-out search began for the missing baby. Friday morning, thrity hours after the infant had been left outside in the cold, the West Branch Police Chief was searching behind the BP station. He opened the tote box, heard crying, and found the baby inside.

The baby was taken to the hospital, but was miraculously unscathed.

For more details:



Iowa Supreme Court Has Some Choice Words About Crony Capitalism. It’s Too Bad Minnesota Politicians Don’t Listen.

Iowa’s constitution, like that of Minnesota, contains a strict prohibition that the credit of the state shall never be loaned to any private entity. The Iowa Supreme Court recently had occasion to examine this provision, and it’s very relevant today.

The Iowa constitutional provision was taken from New York’s constitution, and was to prevent the practice under which “aspiring new states had loaned their credit freely and extravagantly to corporate enterprises which had in them much seductive promise of public good. These enterprises included railways, canals, water powers, etc.”

The Iowa Supreme Court has jealously guarded the public fisc over the years. In a 1923 case, they held that “no public purpose can be meritorious enough, and no obligation of equity appealing enough, to override this provision.”

In its recent case, the Iowa High Court lamented the fact that other states have ignored similar provisions. “To engraft by judicial gloss a vague and open-ended public purpose exception would undermine this constitutional prohibition.”

They quoted a 1987 Kentucky opinion identifying the practice for what it is: “Crony Capitalism.

The framers of most state constitutions knew better than to freely and extravagantly lend the state’s credit to seductive private enterprises. Fortunately, a handful of states such as Iowa still apparently stubbornly cling to the archaic idea that the public treasury and the public credit should not be used to make the rich richer.

Publicly funded stadiums and other boondoggles should be recognized for what they are–crony capitalism. The seductive promise of public good is an insufficient reason to open up the public treasury to favored private interests.

I have a more complete summary of the case, Star Equipment, Ltd., v. State of Iowa, Department of Transportation at my website.



Appeals Court Says USDA Can’t Keep SNAP Dollars Hidden

Federal court sheds some sunlight on food stamp fraud.

When the Food Stamps (now known as SNAP) started in 1964, Congress appropriated $75 million. By the program’s third year, this amount had risen to $200 million. By fiscal year 2012, the program had a price tag of over $78 billion–a staggering thousand-fold increase over the program’s first year. By 2012, more that 46 million people–more than 15 percent of the U.S. population–were receiving benefits.

What food stamps are intended for.

What SNAP (food stamps) is intended for.

Most of that money goes to needy families. But an estimated $858 million per year is “trafficked”. Recipients illegally sell their benefits for cash to unscrupulous retailers. By one official estimate, about one in ten of the participating retailers engage in this illegal practice. Not only are these businesses stealing money from the taxpayers, but they are stealing food from hungry people.

If you’re doing this in South Dakota, you’re about to get busted, thanks to the tenacious efforts of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper. For almost three years, they’ve been fighting to get the USDA to hand over the secret data of how much money is going to each participating retailer. It’s safe to say that armed with this data, they’re going to be responsible for sending a few dishonest store owners to jail, all through the simple expedient of good journalism. If you’re taking in millions in food stamp dollars, it’s now only a matter of time before a reporter camps out outside your door. If you don’t have any customers walking out with bags of groceries, you’ll have some explaining to do. And you can do that explaining to a judge and jury.

For almost three years, the USDA, which runs the food stamp program, tenaciously fought to keep this information secret. They refused to hand it over when the newspaper made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. They refused again when the newspaper filed an administrative appeal. And they fought hard and won when the newspaper brought them to federal court in South Dakota.

But that all changed on January 28 when another federal court ordered the USDA to hand over the information. The U.S. Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis, struck down the South Dakota judge’s ruling, and held that the public and the newspaper are entitled to this information. The court brought a little sunlight to the USDA bureaucracy, and even quoted Justice Brandeis who said that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

A few months ago, I did the SNAP Challenge and wrote about it. I know that it’s tough (but not impossible) to feed yourself adequately with the amounts allowed.  And it’s a lot harder if people are stealing the money designated to feed the hungry.  If you’re stealing from the taxpayers and from hungry people in South Dakota, you’re about to get busted. And it’s about time.

You can read a more complete summary of the court’s opinion at my website, including a link to the court’s opinion.




Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Common-Law “Year And A Day” Rule

In an opinion released on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected the common-law “year and a day” rule in homicide cases.  Under that rule, it was a prerequisite for a murder conviction that the victim die within a year and a day.

Interestingly, even though this rule dates back to the 13th Century, the court pointed out that no Minnesota case “has adopted, applied, or even acknowledged the existence” of the rule in the state.

The Supreme Court held that even assuming that such a rule existed, it was repealed by the adoption of the state’s criminal code in 1963. The language of the modern statute is unambiguously at odds with the rule.

The ruling was made in upholding the conviction of Thomas Lee Fairbanks for the 2009 murder of Mahnomen County Deputy Sheriff Christopher Lee Dewey. A more complete summary of the case, and links to other materials regarding the common-law rule, are available on my website.

 



Mayhem Erupts at Minneapolis DFL Caucus, But It’s a Tradition



MinnConst

The drafters of this document also had problems deciding who got to run the meeting. But even the Democrats of 1857 agreed that no member of the state shall be disfranchised unless by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.

According to the Star Tribune, mayhem broke out tonight at a DFL precinct caucus in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. 300 people were present, most of them Somali Americans. An altercation took place about who would chair the meeting. Cops were called, and both the fight and the caucus were broken up less than an hour after they started. No business was transacted, police escorted attendees out of the building, but no arrests were made.

Republicans probably would have resorted to the simple expedient of having a vote, and letting a majority of those present decide who should chair the meeting. (Although Republicans also sometimes resort to calling the cops, seizing microphones, and other similar measures when a majority gets in the way of someone’s carefully made plans, as evidenced by the 2012 state Republican conventions in
LouisianaOklahoma, and other states.)

But having two people trying to chair the same meeting is nothing new to Minnesota politics. Indeed, Minnesota is unique in the Union in that it has two constitutions, based upon an incident not unlike that which occurred Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

When the Minnesota Constitutional Convention convened in 1857, there were two men on the platform purporting to chair the meeting. The Democratic chairman took a motion to adjourn until the next day. Meanwhile, the Republican chairman continued to preside, and the Republicans got down to work. The Democrats then left the chamber for the day.

Upon their return the next day, the Democrats found the chamber occupied. Undaunted, they simply moved down the hall to the other chamber, and held their own convention. Each convention published its own journal of the proceedings.

Somehow, a small conference committee was able to produce a single document to which both sides could agree. However, the two conventions never met together, and two copies of the document were ratified, one subscribed by the republican delegates, and the other subscribed by the democratic delegates. One of these copies was officially transmitted to Congress. However, the other copy found its way to Washington as well, and it was this second copy that was attached to the bill admitting Minnesota to the Union. Therefore, both versions, with their minor differences, stand on equal footing. When the placement of a comma is critical to the interpretation, lawyers still need to look at the two original handwritten documents and see whether the comma is really there in both copies.

So two people trying to run the same meeting is nothing new.  But the Republicans generally do a better job of sorting out such messes, and even the Democrats of 1857 performed admirably at solving this little problem.

If you happen to find yourself disfranchised by your party, especially if you find yourself disfranchised because you’re a new American, perhaps you should think of finding a party that doesn’t have such a history of disfranchising people.




Big Money in Folding Bathtubs!

foldingbathtub

The folding bathtub. I tell you it’s GREAT!

A hundred years ago, opportunities abounded for men and women who believed in the square deal, and one of those opportunities was the folding bathtub.
This advertisement from Popular Mechanics from February 1914 gives all of the details. It solves the bathing problem better than a $100 bath room. “I tell you it’s great! GREAT!”

You can make more in a week than you ever made in a month before. You go into partnership with the enthusiastic H.S. Robinson, President, as sales manager for your county. Two sales a day, and you’ll be building houses and bank accounts, just like his other men.

This tub is taking the country by storm, so don’t doubt, don’t hesitate, don’t hold back!