The FBI’s Hunt for Two Missing Piglets Reveals the Federal Cover-Up of Barbaric Factory Farms

Animals are being tortured until they die, and our legislators have caved to the big food lobby, creating laws that (in some states) make it a felony to expose animal cruelty on industrial farms. Meanwhile the FBI is spending its limited resources tracking down journalists and animal rights activists who break these laws.

This single Smithfield Foods farm breeds and then slaughters more than 1 million pigs each year. One of the odd aspects of animal mistreatment in the U.S. is that species regarded as more intelligent and emotionally complex — dogs, dolphins, cats, primates — generally receive more public concern and more legal protection. Yet pigs – among the planet’s most intelligent, social, and emotionally complicated species, capable of great joy, play, love, connection, suffering and pain, at least on a par with dogs — receive almost no protections, and are subject to savage systematic abuse by U.S. factory farms.
...One of the most heinous industry-wide practices is one that DxE activists encountered in abundance at Circle Four: gestational crating.
Where that technique is used, pigs are placed in a crate made of iron bars that is the exact length and width of their bodies, so they can do nothing for their entire lives but stand on a concrete floor, never turn around, never see any outdoors, never even see their tails, never move more than an inch...
Female pigs give birth in this condition. They are put in so-called farrowing crates when they give birth, and their piglets run underneath them to suckle and are often trampled to death. The sows are bred repeatedly this way until their fertility declines, at which point they are slaughtered and turned into meat.
The pigs are so desperate to get out of their crates that they often spend weeks trying to bite through the iron bars until their gums gush blood, bash their heads against the walls, and suffer a disease in which their organs end up mangled in the wrong places, from the sheer physical trauma of trying to escape from a tiny space or from acute anxiety (called “organ torsion”).

The Worst Gun Control Arguments

The concepts of "nudging" people toward certain behavior, and/or injecting "friction" to dissuade them from doing things, is key to understanding why we have laws and how they work. This is a good read on the narrow issue of firearm homicides:

I’m pro-gun, but mostly for selfish reasons. Some people (such as celebrities) are probably safer with defensive weapons nearby. But I acknowledge the reality that guns make people less safe in other situations. No two situations are alike. That’s partly why the issue can never be fully resolved. Both sides pretend they are arguing on principle, but neither side is. Both sides are arguing from their personal risk profiles, and those are simply different. Our risk profiles will never be the same across the entire population, so we will never agree on gun control.
...
Many pro-gun people in the debate seem to be confused about the purpose of laws in general. Laws are not designed to eliminate crime. Laws are designed to reduce crime. The most motivated criminals will always find a way, and law-abiding citizens will avoid causing trouble in the first place. Laws are only for the people in the middle who might – under certain situations – commit a crime. Any friction you introduce to that crowd has a statistical chance of making a difference. 
Humans are lazy and stupid, on average. If you make something 20% harder to do, a lot of humans will pass. It doesn’t matter what topic you are discussing; if you introduce friction, fewer people do it. With that in mind, let’s look at the least-rational gun control arguments I am seeing lately...

Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America

One of many signs of rising inequality. These big "dollar store" corporations are willing to bet that tens of thousands of more stores will be necessary to provide the most basic goods to people.

Dollar General’s chief rival, Dollar Tree Inc., which also owns Family Dollar, has a plan that’s almost as ambitious. In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Dollar Tree indicated that it believes the U.S. market can support 10,000 Dollar Trees and 15,000 Family Dollars. That’s almost 11,000 more stores than its current 14,500, though it isn’t putting a timeline on the expansion. In August, Randy Guiler, vice president for investor relations at Dollar Tree, told me it would “determine each year what our pace of growth will be.”
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

Horrifying accounts of how some states' "guardianship" laws allow private, unrelated citizens to effectively kidnap people they claim can't take care of themselves, and sell their stuff off for a profit. Due process and oversight are so weak that even when their family finds out (and they don't have to be notified), there may be no legal recourse. The Court Has Spoken.

Without realizing it, the Norths had become temporary wards of the court. Parks had filed an emergency ex-parte petition, which provides an exception to the rule that both parties must be notified of any argument before a judge. She had alleged that the Norths posed a “substantial risk for mismanagement of medications, financial loss and physical harm.” She submitted a brief letter from a physician’s assistant, whom Rennie had seen once, stating that “the patient’s husband can no longer effectively take care of the patient at home as his dementia is progressing.” She also submitted a letter from one of Rudy’s doctors, who described him as “confused and agitated.”
Rudy and Rennie had not undergone any cognitive assessments. They had never received a diagnosis of dementia. In addition to Freud, Rudy was working his way through Nietzsche and Plato. Rennie read romance novels.
...
In the United States, a million and a half adults are under the care of guardians, either family members or professionals, who control some two hundred and seventy-three billion dollars in assets, according to an auditor for the guardianship fraud program in Palm Beach County. Little is known about the outcome of these arrangements, because states do not keep complete figures on guardianship cases—statutes vary widely—and, in most jurisdictions, the court records are sealed. A Government Accountability report from 2010 said, “We could not locate a single Web site, federal agency, state or local entity, or any other organization that compiles comprehensive information on this issue.” A study published this year by the American Bar Association found that “an unknown number of adults languish under guardianship” when they no longer need it, or never did. The authors wrote that “guardianship is generally “permanent, leaving no way out—‘until death do us part.’ ”
When the Norths were removed from their home, they joined nearly nine thousand adult wards in the Las Vegas Valley. In the past twenty years, the city has promoted itself as a retirement paradise. Attracted by the state’s low taxes and a dry, sunny climate, elderly people leave their families behind to resettle in newly constructed senior communities. “The whole town sparkled, pulling older people in with the prospect of the American Dream at a reasonable price,” a former real-estate agent named Terry Williams told me. Roughly thirty per cent of the people who move to Las Vegas are senior citizens, and the number of Nevadans older than eighty-five has risen by nearly eighty per cent in the past decade.
In Nevada, as in many states, anyone can become a guardian by taking a course, as long as he or she has not been convicted of a felony or recently declared bankruptcy. Elizabeth Brickfield, a Las Vegas lawyer who has worked in guardianship law for twenty years, said that about fifteen years ago, as the state’s elderly population swelled, “all these private guardians started arriving, and the docket exploded. The court became a factory.”

Special Investigation: How America’s Biggest Bank Paid Its Fine for the 2008 Mortgage Crisis—With Phony Mortgages!

We're still finding ways these "banks" committed fraud. Even with clear and convincing evidence, our government refused to prosecute. They're creating new, complex, and riskier investment vehicles. What's to hold them accountable when things crash again?

After JPMorgan’s deceitful activities in the housing market helped trigger the 2008 financial crash that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and life savings, punishment was in order. Among a vast array of misconduct, JPMorgan engaged in the routine use of “robo-signing,” which allowed bank employees to automatically sign hundreds, even thousands, of foreclosure documents per day without verifying their contents. But in the United States, white-collar criminals rarely go to prison; instead, they negotiate settlements. Thus, on February 9, 2012, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced the National Mortgage Settlement, which fined JPMorgan Chase and four other mega-banks a total of $25 billion.
JPMorgan’s share of the settlement was $5.3 billion, but only $1.1 billion had to be paid in cash; the other $4.2 billion was to come in the form of financial relief for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. The settlement called for JPMorgan to reduce the amounts owed, modify the loan terms, and take other steps to help distressed Americans keep their homes. A separate 2013 settlement against the bank for deceiving mortgage investors included another $4 billion in consumer relief.
A Nation investigation can now reveal how JPMorgan met part of its $8.2 billion settlement burden: by using other people’s money.
Here’s how the alleged scam worked. JPMorgan moved to forgive the mortgages of tens of thousands of homeowners; the feds, in turn, credited these canceled loans against the penalties due under the 2012 and 2013 settlements. But here’s the rub: In many instances, JPMorgan was forgiving loans on properties it no longer owned.
The alleged fraud is described in internal JPMorgan documents, public records, testimony from homeowners and investors burned in the scam, and other evidence presented in a blockbuster lawsuit against JPMorgan, now being heard in US District Court in New York City...

Chicago Isn’t Even Close to Being the Gun Violence Capital of the United States

People are getting shot in Chicago in alarmingly high numbers: 3,500 as of mid-October, 1,000 more than at the same time last year. Almost 600 of the victims died.
...
“The absolute numbers are helpful putting it in a context that people understand, but with the rates, you get the true scope of the problem in the way it impacts people’s lives,” John Pfaff, a professor of law at Fordham Law School, told The Trace. “People don’t care about the absolute numbers, they care about their risk, and the rates tell that risk.”
Chicago’s homicide rate over the last five years was 16.4 per 100,000 residents. In St. Louis and New Orleans, the homicide rate from 2010 to 2015 was three times as high, on average.

How To Heal The Left-Liberal Divide

Incredibly thoughtful, detailed analysis of what motivates "lefties" and "liberals," and an excellent start for understanding and respecting each other's analytical strengths and weaknesses if we're going to work together and build a much larger (and vastly more effective) coalition:

A productive peace process for the intra-party war would merge these insights, advancing a practice that would help defeat the Republican Party while keeping Democratic leaders on their toes. We could call this practice “vigorous critical loyalty.” Vigorous critical loyalty would work by separating the times for vigorous party loyalty and the times for vigorous internal criticism...
...
Most importantly, vigorous critical loyalty could help rebuild trust. Primary challengers that win — and even incumbents that are forced to hold back a primary challenger — become closer to the people they represent. To have an issue emerge from a trusted outside group and then have that issue enter the mainstream of the party is to build loyalists’ trust in that outside group while building populists’ trust in the party. With the periphery of the party showing loyalty in the general election and the center of the party opening up to new ideas and leaders, the distinction between the periphery and the center is blurred.
This is how two tribes could eventually merge into one without either side compromising on their ideals and loyalties. Reading Twitter today, it may seem like a longshot. But I take hope from a point Washington Post assistant editor Elizabeth Bruenig raised at a talk earlier this year: “You don’t argue with people who are nothing like you… you argue with people who are almost like you… [Arguing] is a pretty good sign of the possibility of coalition.”

The FBI’s New U.S. Terrorist Threat: ‘Black Identity Extremists’

A lot to unpack in this worrisome report: an overly broad definition of an extremist group which seems to cover routine activism (a regular occurrence for our security state, though); echoes of the past racist history of the FBI along the same lines; a major setback for overcoming that history. And the biggie: the current political context. The Trump administration has cut funding or whole programs dedicated to tracking white supremacist and right-wing extremist movements--which account for the majority of actual politically-motivated attacks these days.

The report, dated Aug. 3 — just nine days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly — appears to be the first known reference to “black identity extremists” as a movement. But former government officials and legal experts said no such movement exists, and some expressed concern that the term is part of a politically motivated effort to find an equivalent threat to white supremacists.
...
Some experts and former government officials said the FBI seemed to be trying to paint disparate groups and individuals as sharing a radical, defined ideology. And in the phrase “black identity extremist” they hear echoes of the FBI’s decades-long targeting of black activists as potential radicals, a legacy that only recently began to change.
“They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation,” said the former homeland security official. “Imagine lumping together white nationalists, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists.’”
...
Even former officials who view the government’s concerns about black separatists as legitimate balked at the term “black identity extremist,” and point out that the threat from individuals or groups who want to establish their own homeland is much less than from the far right.
...
Lately, that seemed to be changing. As FBI director, James Comey famously kept a copy of the Martin Luther King Jr. wiretap order on his desk as a reminder of the bureau’s past abuses and made new agents learn the history of the FBI’s pursuit of the civil rights leader.
The FBI also appeared to be focusing more attention on the threat of white supremacists. In May, the FBI warned that white supremacist violence was growing, according to a report obtained and published by FP. That same report noted that white supremacists were responsible for more attacks in the United States than any other extremist group, including Islamic extremists.
Critics, however, accuse President Donald Trump of shifting attention away from right-wing violence. This year, the Trump administration decided to focus the Department of Homeland Security’s “countering violent extremism” program on Islamic terrorism and deprioritized funding to counter white supremacist groups.