Some context on Crimea and the seizing of Ukrainian ships by the Russian Federation.

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union died in 1953. It was Nikita Khrushchev who took the reins of leadership over the massive Communist state. Shortly after his elevation to head of the Soviet State, Khrushchev began what is commonly referred to as a “de-Stalinization” period, a major part of which ended in “gifting” the province of Crimea to the Republic of Ukraine in 1954.

As told by the Soviet newspaper Pravda on Feb. 27, 1954:

“Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic, taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic ties between Crimea Province and the Ukraine Republic, and approving the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukraine Republic Supreme Soviet on the transfer of Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic.”

This was an interesting move from the Soviet state considering, in one way or another, Crimea had been part of the greater Russian Empire for over a century. Never the less, it happened. Fast forward to 2014, the Soviet Union has fallen and a new modern superpower known as the Russian Federation stands in its place. On February 27th, unmarked and masked Russian soldiers moved into Crimea and took control of strategic targets including the Parliament building. By March 16th a pro-Russian government had been installed and had declared independence and on the 18th of March 2014, Russia had formally incorporated Crimea into the Russian Federation. To date, the international community has condemned the annexation of Crimea and has refused to recognize it as a part of the Russian Federation.

Over this past weekend yet another Russian provocation has developed, this time on the waters of the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea. Russian forces had fired on and seized 3 Ukrainian naval ships. On Monday, the F.S.B. (Russian Federal Security Service) said that border patrol boats had seized the Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea using weapons to force them to stop. The Ukrainian ships included two smaller armored artillery ships and a tug boat. The ships were supposedly heading to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol via the Sea of Azov after leaving from the city of Odessa. The Azov is landlocked but for the exception of a narrow passage between Russia and the recently annexed Crimea. The waters are supposed to be a shared territory between the two nations according to a treaty signed in 2003. However, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia soon set to work, building a bridge that runs the water gap between Russia and Crimea. To help stop the Ukrainian ships from passing through, the Russians placed a large cargo ship broadside between the bridges underpass effectively blocking the only sea route to there destination. Soon the Russians had captured the ships and there crew. The 24 members of the Ukrainian ships crews are now being held in a 2 month pre-trial confinement.

Many United Nations officials including our very own U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned Russia for the act. Haley called it “another reckless Russian escalation”.

For now this is a developing story and will, I’m sure, continue to evolve throughout the coming days, weeks and months.

Don’t forget to tune in to the upcoming episode of the Salt of the Streets Podcast to hear more on what Don and myself think about the whole situation.

The Camp Fire Tragedy

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

It’s midway through November and as Thanksgiving approaches, the weather here in the great Pacific Northwest has been pretty fantastic given the time of year. In New York City the first winter storm system brought a blanket of snow, while California on the other hand has suffered a horrific tragedy at the hands of wildfire.

Approximately 10 miles east of Chico California sat the town of Paradise. In local folklore it’s a town named after an old saloon called “pair-o’-dice”, but for its 26,000 plus residence, I’m sure they just knew it as home. Last Thursday a wildfire broke out and thanks to the fabled and now dreaded “Santa Ana Winds” within no time at all the town of Paradise found itself ablaze in a hellish nightmare.

It’s being called the “Camp Fire”, and as of writing this it’s also being called California’s deadliest wildfire. It’s been one week since the blaze first started back on Thursday November 8th and the official CAL-FIRE site shows it as only 40% contained. To date we’re seeing the death toll at 63 civilian fatalities and 3 injuries but the list of people still unaccounted for is somewhere between 130-300 but these numbers continue to fluctuate wildly from day to day. Unfortunately all of these numbers will probably continue to rise as the days and weeks go on.

It’s being reported that some 90% of the town’s residences has been turned to ash. A total of 8,756 residences and 260 commercial buildings have been destroyed and another 15,500 buildings are still considered threatened according to CAL-FIRE. Living in a town with a population half of what Paradise’s is, I can’t even fathom the true physical manifestation of this disasters fallout, it seems totally unreal for someone like me who has never been witness to a disaster such as this.

Investigating the cause of most wildfires can be a difficult and time consuming process and as of now we have no idea what caused the fire to break out. There is however one thing we know for a fact about this fire, and that is simple. The people of Paradise need assistance. By simply punching in “camp fire relief” into google, a huge number of charities including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army can be found. Money, clothing, hygiene essentials, they pretty much need everything and anything to help these people.

The large craft brewery Sierra Nevada, which is actually based right next to Paradise in Chico California has started a relief fund. The best resource I’ve found to help is through a link below, if want to get involved and help out the relief effort your about 2-3 clicks away. It’s run through Golden Valley bank and the link will bring you right to a list of relief funds you can support directly. As pictures and videos of the ashy ruins of Paradise continue to flood across the internet and television the need for any kind of relief becomes more and more visually apparent.

Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation:

https://www.goldenvalley.bank/Community-Foundation.aspx

To follow up to date information check out the CAL-FIRE website:

http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/2277

The Squirrel Hill Shooting

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

During last weeks grab bag session on the podcast we brought up the horrible shooting that took place at the Squirrel Hill synagogue but didn’t dive into it, it had taken place the morning of the cast and it was just too early to accurately report much of anything except for the fact that it did happen. The traditional week long period of mourning known to the English-speaking Jewish community as “sitting shiva” hasn’t yet completed but many details have come forth as investigations are running there course.

The attack came on the morning of Saturday the 27th of October 2018. During a morning Jewish service a 46-year-old man who worked as a long-haul trucker burst into the Squirrel Hill synagogue, which is outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and began shooting at the synagogue’s members. The incident lasted approximately 20 minutes leaving 11 people dead and left six people injured, including four police officers. After investigating it was reported that the crime seems to be a blatant anti-Semitic hate crime. The suspect eventually surrendered to authorities and is now in custody. On Thursday he, in a brief arraignment in federal court, plead not guilty to the 44-count indictment handed down by federal prosecutors. This past week has seen many funerals take place, services of remembrance and even a condolence visit by the President of the United States.

Before we part ways this week I wanted to make a point. Though the previous two paragraphs were lacking in color and emotion I would like to point out that never did I once reveal the suspects name or post a picture of his face. If you’ve listened to Don and I talk about mass shooters before, you know that we will not reveal names or post pictures of these pieces of human debris. We feel strongly that any notoriety these people seek must not be achieved. There names and faces should be lost to history forever, never to be remembered. We should remember what happened, when it happened, where it happened and why it happened. We should feel pain and loss for those whose lives were stolen away from them, there community, there family and friends. Choosing to broadcast the perpetrators name and face gives them a chance to gain some sort of sick notoriety and could allow them and there crimes to gain infamy. Though it’s just a simple example, I, with no journalistic background, can present the situation without revealing a name or a face, I feel like it’s just the moral thing to do.

Maybe I’m wrong here, but if I can do it I see absolutely no reason the “real” media outlets, including some of the most respected in the world, can’t do the same thing. We’ve seen a great number of “alternative” media outlets including, a kind of late to the party, Ben Shapiro take this stance, refusing to show faces or reveal names. With any luck this trend will catch onto bigger and bigger news outlets. There are about a million and one reason I could point to as to why the more main-stream media outlets don’t do this, but that is a completely different blog post all together. For now, we’ll leave it at that, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Leakers and Reporters, where do we draw the line? Or do we?

Written By: Colin Offenbacker

On Wednesday this week, news began to break about yet another “leaker” coming from the top tiers of our governmental bureaucracy being arrested for distributing sensitive information. This time it was Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury Departments Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. She was was arrested and charged with unauthorized disclosure of Suspicious Activity Reports and conspiracy to make such unauthorized disclosures by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. On Wednesday she was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to appear in court next month. Each of the two charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

The documents released are what is called “Suspicious Activity Reports” also known as SARs. In short they are used by financial institutions to flag possible illegal transactions, which Edwards stored on a flash drive. According to the Department of Justice, the leaked SARs were linked to the Robert Muller investigation. Among the numerous disclosed SARs some were related to the accused Russian spy Maria Butina, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his long time business partner Rick Gates. In the indictment handed down from federal prosecutors it said “…the flash drive files appear to contain thousands of SAR’s, along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran and the terrorists group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), among other things. Multiple files also bear labels referencing Paul Manafort and Reporter-1’s name.”

Though, the reporter isn’t named in the indictment, reporter-1 seems to be someone from BuzzFeed News. A string of articles released via BuzzFeed News seem to corroborate this, I’ve attached links below to see for yourself if interested.
This whole situation isn’t really new in our contemporary news cycle, in fact DOJ investigations of leakers is up nearly 800%. I’ve said as much on the podcast before but I would like there to be no leaks in our government, I would also like it if there was never a “need” for such leaks, but given the current political and social climate I can at least understand where the drive to leak comes from. What I really want to focus on here though is the relationship between reporters and these would be leakers.

After reading through some of these articles in question, I’m torn by many questions, whether or not “we” as the public really need all of the information, whether or not the articles are written to promote a political agenda or perhaps it’s just the free-press doing there jobs. I’m sure that during the investigation into Ms. Edwards, any nefarious activity on the part of “report-1” would have been uncovered if any existed, which would rule out any coercive activity on the side of the press in this situation.
This however leaves me with another question, a question of ethics. To front load this a little, there is a very stark difference between a leaker and a so called whistle blower, and for the purposes of this blog post I’m going to assume that we know the difference between the two. With that in mind, does the press have the ethical responsibility to publish known illegally obtained documents, like those in this particular court case? Or perhaps the opposite?

I feel like I could easily make arguments on both sides of this situation and perhaps Don and I will talk more about it on the podcast soon. For now I feel like I’m just left with more and more questions. What is in it for leakers like Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards? Like James Wolf, a former intelligence committee staffer who just earlier this week plead guilty to leaking a subpoena? It’s fairly simple to see what’s in it for the press, a scoop no one else will get, a chance to tell a story no one else would know, there’s a million reasons there, and some might even say an ethical duty to relay it to the public.

With that, I think this is some great conversation material so I’ll leave the ball in your court. Leave us a reply in the comments and let us know what your take is on leaks, leakers and the press running stories on them. Do you like leaks? Are all leaks good? Are no leaks good? Let us know what you think! And of course don’t forget to catch the podcast when it drops on Monday or catch the video podcast when it hits YouTube on Tuesday to see if your comments make it on the show!

https://www.redstate.com/streiff/2018/10/17/senior-treasury-official-indicted-leaking-secret-information-buzzfeed-wont-last/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/17/politics/treasury-official-charged-with-leaking-docs-related-to-russia-manafort/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/senior-treasury-employee-charged-with-leaking-documents-related-to-russia-probe/2018/10/17/74f67faa-d226-11e8-83d6-291fcead2ab1_story.html?utm_term=.c928f40f7058

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/treasury-official-arrested-charged-leaking-data-russia-probe/story?id=58580073

Yet Another Milestone!

Hello everyone, Colin here again.

I’m going to keep this blog post short this time, I promise. My last blog was a little on the lengthy side which I did not intend so I’m going to give “short” another go.

As the week progresses ever forward, Don and I are busy digging into more of the news in and around the Kavanaugh situation, we’re looking into a gun control initiative that has made it’s way from the State’s Court systems and is being put to voters, and of course keeping our ears and eyes hard at work staying as informed as we possibly can.

No spoilers for this upcoming show of course but needless to say we’re both very excited, as always, to strike up the conversation again.

Episode 33, which we recorded last weekend was the last show for the month of September. Though we’ve seem steady growth every month since the conception of Salt of the Streets, last month was a particularly special month. As I eluded to in the title, we’ve achieved another milestone.

We hit 500 hundred listens in the month of September alone!

That is just simply amazing to even think about, and it’s all thanks to people like you! To all of our listeners, and with the launch of our Salt of the Streets Youtube channel, our viewers, we want to thank you from the deepest depths of our hearts.

If it wasn’t for all of your support, whether it is through ratings and reviews, views, listens, comments, everything, Salt of the Streets wouldn’t be what it is today. Your involvement and support gives us hope that we’re actually accomplishing our goal of bridging the gap between people and information.

To our family, friends, loyal listeners and viewers, the hard work you all put in spreading “the good word” of the Salt of the Streets has been spectacular and we are forever grateful. To any newcomers, first off, welcome, secondly we encourage you to not just listen or watch. Come join our conversations in the comments sections and on social media, or even drop us a topic request if you want to hear us cover something your interested in.

500 listens a month is a great milestone but we’re not stopping there! Don and I will continue our blissfully endless effort to bridge the gap between people and information and we invite you to help us fill that gap, today, tomorrow and always.

Once again, we are eternally grateful to each and everyone of you for all your support.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook so you can get access to our LIVE STREAM Preshow this Saturday, until then, stay salty and we’ll catch you on the live stream this weekend!

Kavanaugh and the Fifth

Written by: Colin Offenbacker

Amendment V of the United States Constitution says:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Christine Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, has leveled accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The accusations relate to a supposed incident dating back over 30 years ago, while the two were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since this is a simple blog post I will not go into all the details of this situation here, we will however be speaking about it at great length on this upcoming show, so keep an eye out for episode 32 when it drops early next week. Today I’ll be focusing on an amendment to the US Constitution, an amendment which I feel has been getting overshadowed by the righteously emotional context of the #metoo movement. We’re talking about the 5th amendment, particularly the aspect which addresses what is commonly referred to as “due process”.

As this last week has unfolded I’ve seen articles from Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Salon, The Guardian, the list goes on and on, attacking Judge Kavanaugh’s character. This is a side-effect or perhaps a byproduct of the raging culture war our country finds itself engulfed in. Given an opening by a single unsubstantiated accusation, opponents of Kavanaugh’s nomination and possible confirmation to the Supreme Court have attacked him with unrelenting force and yet again were witnessing a trial in the unruly court of public opinion. Guilty until proven innocent.

Whether or not Kavanaugh should or should not have his nomination confirmed by the Senate Judicial Committee has become yet another battlefield in the aforementioned culture war. I would also argue that the entirety of this hearing in particular was so mired in the bog of political partisanship, the true responsibilities of the committee couldn’t and wouldn’t have be met with or without these accusations. Regardless of this we still see the articles and hear the political pundits call for Senators to vote his nomination down or at the very least delay their vote until an FBI investigation can be conducted.

This call for an FBI investigation is what troubles me. Yes it is true that the President can call on the FBI to run an investigation into these allegations but it’s not generally the FBI’s job to do such things unless specifically directed by the President, and in this particular case there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence for them to even begin an investigation. There has been no evidence brought forward, no addresses, no real time-line and no way to prove Kavanaugh’s guilt, just the name of a supposed accomplice and a story from one of the parties involved. Just because Judge Kavanaugh is in the special circumstance that he is, he does not forfeit his right to due process under the law. It is hard to come to terms with especially when in the #metoo era, but every single citizen of the United States of America has the unalienable right to due process under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution regardless of how guilty or innocent “we know” they are. If the situation in the Washington Post article where Ford details her recollection of events is entirely true, I am in no way saying that it is not, Kavanaugh still has the right to due process under the law and should not have his rights infringed upon. Unfortunately, I believe it would take a Supreme Court ruling on whether or not Kavanaugh’s status as a nominee is protected under the 5th Amendment or perhaps some other legal statute.

For now, I’ll reserve my own judgment on his guilt until if and when any evidence surfaces that could proves such, otherwise he is innocent until proven guilty. The hearing made available to Ford by the committee chairmen Senator Grassley should be carried out and then a vote on Kavanaughs confirmation should be taken. It’s unfair and frankly unAmerican to presume such guilt, this ideal is literally written into the foundational document of our Democratic Republic and should not be treated lightly, fore it could be you who is next called upon to prove your innocence in the court of public opinion, it could be your career, your livelihood which is threatened by an unsubstantiated accusation.

I am by no means a big fan of Judge Kavanaugh, frankly if I was a Senator on the committee I would vote against his nomination strictly based off of some of his answers given during the hearings. I simply refuse to rush to judgement when faced with an unsubstantiated claim of sexual assault and believe thrashing a persons life based solely off such accusations is simply unjust.  I do hope that if he is indeed guilty of such a heinous act, justice will prevail.

Talking the Talk before Walking the Walk

Hey everyone, Offie here with your weekly blog post. Today I want to pose a question to anyone and everyone whom may read this.

Is a good idea poorly explained still a good idea? Particularly when speaking on topics of politics and governmental policy.

This question came to mind while I was watching one of Joe Rogan’s latest episodes on YouTube. Episode #1167 featured the Libertarian candidate for the Governorship of New York State, Larry Sharpe. When I first saw his name pop up on my phone as my podcast list refreshed I was filled with excitement because I saw Larry Sharpe on an episode of The Rubin Report and was pleased with what he had to say. We won’t go into everything that was discussed on either show right here, we’ll save that for an episode of the podcast, maybe even this upcoming episode, there’s just simply too much to try and cover. I do however recommend anyone interested in a “realistic” Libertarian take a listen or catch it on YouTube.

The topic at hand when this question came to mind was centered around the “plan” Mr. Sharpe has in store for the education system of New York State if actually elected. It seems to be a plan right in line with the major Libertarian narrative, remove the federal governments involvement, which would essentially cut $4 billion out of the states education budget, while simultaneously giving back full control of the education system to the state government. Joe being the excellent interviewer he is, couldn’t just let that pass without some form of a thoughtful and detailed response from Sharpe. The two became rather hung up on this topic for a long while which was rather frustrating to listen to.

Myself being the rather libertarian minded person I found myself answering Joe’s questions about what to do about this cut in funding out loud, screaming at my computer screen like Don watching a football game on TV, simply jaw dropped by the lack what I would call a rather simple answer. Sharpe did offer some bits and pieces of an answer, but never seemed to form them well enough to satisfy Joe, or myself to be perfectly frank. It led me to think that perhaps it was simply in the way Sharpe speaks, he’s a fast talking New Yorker who can bounce around while trying to get to a point, a point I felt was never reached to satisfaction.

I walked away from the interview thinking that while I may like his ideas, I don’t think he was able to articulate them well enough for everyone to understand them properly, especially those whom would be suspicious or skeptical of the idea from the onset. My own answer to my question will be revealed on the show this week but we would LOVE to hear from you in the comments down below.

If you tell us what your answer is and explain why you think that, I’ll read them out on the show this week! Anonymity is always an option so don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts. Remember, as Jordan Peterson said, “When you have something to say, silence is a lie. And tyranny feeds on lies.”

So here it is one more time. Is a good idea poorly explained still a good idea?