PATRIOT Act Provisions Extended

Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate voted Thursday to pass a four-year extension of several provisions of the controversial PATRIOT Act.

POLITICO reported that President Barack Obama, unable to sign the extension into law in person while traveling in Europe, signed the bill into law using an autopen — a machine that replicates the President’s signature.

The bill passed the Senate 72-23, with four Republicans and 19 Democrats voting “no.” It passed in the House 250-153, with 31 Republicans voting “no” along with a majority of Democrats. Fifty-four Democrats supported the bill in the House.

“Freshman Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a PATRIOT Act opponent who had used procedural tactics to delay a final vote on the bill for much of the week, eventually worked out a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get votes on two of his amendments — but not before Reid accused the libertarian, Tea-Party darling of ‘political grandstanding’ and trying to protect terrorists,” POLITICO reported. Both of Paul’s amendments were defeated.

“You don’t have to give up your liberty to catch criminals. You can catch criminals and terrorists and protect your liberty at the same time,” Paul said in a statement made on the Senate floor Thursday. “There is a balancing act that what we did in our hysteria after 9/11 was we didn’t do any kind of balancing act.”

Study: Whites Now Believe ‘Reverse Racism’ A Bigger Problem Than Anti-Black Racism

A new study shows many whites now believe they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in America.

Both whites and blacks agree that anti-black discrimination has decreased over the past 60 years, according to researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. But the researchers found that whites believe so-called “reverse racism” is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

The study was conducted using a nationwide sample of 208 blacks and 209 whites. Researchers asked participants “to indicate the extent to which they felt blacks and whites were the targets of discrimination in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s.”

The researchers found that white participants “believed that racism against whites has increased significantly as racism against blacks has decreased,” suggesting whites believe racial equality between blacks and whites to be a “zero-sum game,” in which one group’s gains correspond to another’s losses.

“It’s a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment,” said Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, who co-authored the study with Michael I. Norton of Harvard.

“These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality — at their expense,” the researchers said.

Study Shows Liberal Bias Affects Historical Ranking Of Presidents

A recently released University of Miami study shows that when historians rank Presidents, the top spots always go to Commanders in Chief who ruled from the left. According to the study, these choices reflect a fundamentally liberal bias in academia, as opposed to the merits of the Presidents themselves.

“Political science professor Joseph E. Uscinski, one of the study’s authors, said the new analysis shows that the overwhelmingly liberal academic community consistently ranks Republican Presidents about 10 spots lower than the public would,” a Washington Times article read. 

“When progressive or liberal presidencies dominate these lists, those attributes begin to be associated with the criteria of what makes a great president,” Uscinski said to The Times.

Researchers involved with the study said time, as well as political inclination, can color historians’ views of past Presidents. Joan Hoff, a feminist historian interviewed for the article, said a President’s historical persona can color our memory.

“Look at how highly JFK ranks. His accomplishments in office were practically nil,” Hoff said.

Author Gil Troy echoed this view in his interview with the paper. “I call it the ‘Presidential Stock Market,’ where the values of a presidency, over time, ebb and flow,” Troy said. “But it’s a very healthy discussion to have. The presidency is a larger-than-life office, and the men who serve there make up, in large part, the American pantheon.”

New Documentary May Herald Palin Presidential Bid

Alaska’s former Governor remains tight-lipped about whether she will seek the Republican nomination in the 2012 Presidential race. However, a new documentary about Sarah Palin’s time as Governor may foreshadow a bid.

“Shortly after Republicans swept last November to a historic victory in which Sarah Palin was credited with playing a central role, the former Alaska governor pulled aside her close aide, Rebecca Mansour, to discuss a hush-hush assignment: Reach out to conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon with a request,” read an article on RealClearPolitics.com. “Ask him if he would make a series of videos extolling Palin’s Governorship and laying to rest lingering questions about her controversial decision to resign from office with a year-and-a-half left in her first term.”

Palin, who did not have any editorial role in the film, has seen a rough cut of the documentary and is reportedly pleased. Bannon is well-known for his conservative documentaries, having made “Generation Zero,” a film about the origins of the Tea Party movement. Bannon has titled the Palin documentary “The Undefeated.”

Although Palin was not actually interviewed for the film, “Bannon acquired the audio rights to Palin’s 2009 bestseller, Going Rogue, and the former Vice-Presidential nominee’s voice guides the film through the various stages of her career in Alaska,” the article read.

“If she does decide to run, ‘The Undefeated’ will be the key element to her initial coming-out party. The film’s impending release — and the frenzied media attention that it is sure to generate — will serve as a vivid wake-up call that despite the many obstacles in front of her, Palin’s entry into the race would turn the campaign on its head in an instant, just as it did in 2008.”

***

UPDATE: Sarah Palin photo provided by user Palin12.

Dietary Supplement Shown To Help Prevent Preeclampsia

Dietary supplement shown to help prevent preeclampsiaAbout 5 percent of women going through pregnancy for the first time develop a condition known as preeclampsia, a complication that leads to elevated blood pressure and may result in liver and kidney damage for the mother.

A recent study that was published in the British Medical Journal reveals that a dietary supplement bar that contains amino acids and antioxidants may significantly reduce a woman’s chance of developing the condition when the supplement is taken during pregnancy.

“This relatively simple and low-cost intervention may have value in reducing the risk of preeclampsia and associated preterm birth,” said study authors.

Since the amino acid L-arginine has been associated with a lower risk of preeclampsia, the researchers tested the effects of a natural dietary supplement bar containing the compound and some antioxidants, compared to a vitamin-only bar and a placebo. All of the women in the study were considered to be at high risk for the complication.

They found that more than 30 percent of the women in the control group developed the condition, while 22 percent of the participants taking vitamins only had preeclampsia and just 12.7 percent taking the L-arginine supplement developed it.

Gangster Government Puts Its Boot On Texas’ Neck

A letter from U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy threatening to halt all flights to and from the State of Texas has spurred a Texas legislator to pull his bill that would have prevented the Transportation Security Administration from carrying out its gropefest/pornshow activities in that State.

It’s just the latest in a series of strong-arm tactics employed by the current gangster government as it seeks to impose its will on its subjects.

Texas’ politicians sought to stand up for the rights of its citizens and criminalize any searches and seizures conducted without probable cause. The bill came on the heels of a litany of abuses by TSA agents at airports, where travelers — including children and infants — were subjected to humiliating and intrusive pat downs.

The U.S. Justice Department (now there’s an oxymoron) has taken to using threats to impose government will as a matter of course. In April 2009, an assistant attorney general threatened to withhold Federal funds if Oklahoma amended its State Constitution to make English the official language of the State. Also in 2009, similar letters were sent to both Montana and Tennessee threatening over their Firearms Freedom acts. Last month, Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island received a letter from the Justice Department threatening the State over its medical marijuana legislation.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has brought Chicago-style politics to the White House. And right now, because States have become so dependent on Federal largess, there’s not much that can be done about it — especially when dealing with an Administration that cares not a whit about the rule of law.

Washingtonexaminer.com columnist Michael Barone described another aspect of the ruling thugocracy and its habit of rewarding friends and penalizing enemies here.

But several States are considering legislation similar to Texas’, and there’s strength in numbers. Should the Justice Department impose no-fly zones on a half-dozen or more States at a time, getting enough votes to win an election in 2012 is going to be a difficult prospect for Obama.

Hat Tip: Tenth Amendment Center

P.S. To stay on top of our daily news updates, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

How to Make the World’s Best Burger

After all the heat and hyperbole of the past few weeks, let’s take a break today. Instead of politics, let’s argue about something that’s really important: how to make the world’s best hamburger. A former classmate of mine spent a fortune trying to determine the answer. With the official start of summer this weekend, let’s see if what he learned can help you be a backyard hero.

Years ago, I thought I had the best job on Earth. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I got paid to talk. And unlike a salesman, I didn’t even have to get an order when I did. All my bosses wanted was to hear the phones ring.

This was in the early days of talk radio. My task was to sit behind the microphone and, when the light came on, try to say something interesting enough (or controversial enough) that a listener would pick up the phone and call “The Chip Wood Show.” All of us “ringmasters,” as the talk hosts on WRNG Radio were called, were pretty good. One, however, was the master. And he’s still at it today, 34 years later. Anyone heard of Neal Boortz?

My job at Ring Radio was so much fun, I almost would have done it for free. But then, at a high-school reunion a few years ago, I learned one of my former classmates had an even better gig. As the food critic for The Wall Street Journal, he got paid to fly around the world and eat. Yep, his publisher picked up the tab for him to dine on and then describe some of the hottest of the world’s haute cuisine.

Of course, you don’t just walk into the boss’s office and say you want such a job. You have to earn your stripes… and your expense account. My classmate Raymond Sokolov had certainly done that. For many years, he was the restaurant critic for The New York Times. He has written a number of award-winning cookbooks. Later, he became the Arts & Leisure editor at The Wall Street Journal. In short, he knows food. And he can string words together pretty well, too.

A few years ago, Sokolov told me he would be coming to my hometown of Atlanta to do some culinary research. He asked if I had any suggestions for him. No, he didn’t want suggestions on our greatest chefs, fanciest meals or finest wine lists, darn it all. His subject this visit was hamburgers.

As The Wall Street Journal said in the introduction to the lengthy article that resulted: “Our food critic takes a cross-country, artery-clogging journey to find burger perfection.”

Today, I will tell you about Sokolov’s quest… the characteristics all his favorites shared… and the surprising switch he made before his journey was over. I will also throw in some suggestions from other cooks and critics to determine what makes the world’s best burger.

Where’s the beef?

Sokolov says, and I agree, that the world’s best burger is made with ground chuck. Forget the fancier grades of meat. Ground sirloin is unnecessary; ground Kobe just a foolish extravagance. Sokolov says chuck has “the Goldilocks amount of fat.” It’s not too fat and not too lean. In short, it’s just right. The patty should be thick enough that you can char the outside and the meat will remain moist on the inside. And we both like ours medium rare — hot enough to melt the fat, rare enough so you get the full flavor of the beef.

Another food critic says the only way to get the perfect burger is to grind your own hamburger, from meat you have carefully selected from the butcher’s counter. He even gave instructions on how to pulse it properly in a food processor, but that sounds like a prescription for disaster to me. If you’re going to be this authentic (which certainly isn’t necessary), why not go all the way and buy an old-fashioned grinder with a hand-turned crank, like your grandma used? Does anyone anywhere do this at home?

How do you cook it?

Grill or griddle? Ah, there’s a division that could keep strong men arguing for weeks. It seems to be a truism in America that if it’s cooked on a stove, the women do it. And if it’s cooked outdoors, that’s a guy’s job. I don’t mean to be sexist here; I’m just passing on an observation I’ve heard many others make.

So I was surprised to learn that all of Sokolov’s favorites were cooked on a griddle — and most of the time (but not at his No. 1 choice) by a man. Maybe there is something special about the taste from a griddle that hasn’t been cleaned in years. (Scraped, sure. But washed — with soap, water, and a wire brush? — never!)

Cook and critic David Rosengarten says he comes close to duplicating the magical flavor of a well-seasoned grill at home. What’s his secret? He keeps some beef fat in his refrigerator for just such occasions. And don’t worry if it’s been in there a while. He says it won’t go bad. In fact, he insists a little age is good for it.

“Just get that pan a little shiny with melted fat,” he says. When you’re done, “put your fat treasure back in the fridge. You will have made a major advance toward the ravishing taste of griddledom.”

Personally, I think a red-hot grill seals in the flavors in a way no griddle can. In the past, I didn’t care if the flame came from propane or charcoal. That’s a view that would be considered heresy by all of my barbecue buddies in the South. I recently got a Big Green Egg® and I suspect by this time next year, I will be as intolerant of propane grills as they are.

There’s just something special about a burger that’s seared on a grill. Slap a piece of cheddar on top, close the lid and let the cheese melt while the burger steams. The result will transport you to hamburger heaven.

What about the bun?

I have heard there are places where hamburgers are served on toasted white bread, but I have never seen such apostasy with my own eyes. There are many ways to serve hamburgers that are wrong. Kaiser rolls, for one. But as far as I’m concerned, only one way is right. Go to your local supermarket and get yourself some plain hamburger buns. Not bagels or buns covered with sesame seeds. Not pretzel twists or other weird concoctions. Just plain buns. Nothing does a better job holding everything together while it keeps your fingers clean.

Slice them in half and, when your burgers are almost done, lay them cut-side down on the back of the grill. Keep them there for no more than two minutes. If your timing is right, your lightly toasted buns will be ready when your hamburgers are.

What else do you put on it?

If you think there’s disagreement about where the world’s best burger is cooked, wait until you ask a few folks what should go on it when it’s done. Or, in the case of cheese, just before it’s done.

I’m perfectly fine with turning a hamburger into a cheeseburger. I’m not even all that fussy about what kind of cheese is used. Those single slices of processed something are OK by me, but many critics will turn up their distinguished noses at anything but hand-sliced pieces of the finest cheddar.

Pickle slices? Not for me. But I’ll have them handy if someone else wants them. Lettuce and tomato? Sure. (But if I use them, I like a spoonful of mayo, too.) Crushed corn flakes? I’d never heard of such a thing until I read Sokolov’s column. That still strikes me as a bit weird. But hey, I’m the guy who believed for years that the only thing that would make a fresh-grilled burger taste even better was a big dollop of peanut butter. (Creamy, not chunky.) So who am I to argue?

Under the right circumstances, I can go for a nice slice or two of bacon on top of my cheese. But please don’t overcook it. I want it to be a little bit chewy, not dry and crunchy. And please note: If you’re going to put bacon on your burger, you must lay down a slice of cheese first. As Frank Sinatra used to sing, you can’t have one without the other.

What about onions? Most of the time I skip them. But sometimes, I really crave a medium-thick slice of a Vidalia onion. Others feel the same way about Bermudas. Raw is fine. Sautéed until they’re slightly caramelized is even better. But don’t expect that when I’m cooking; that’s too much extra work for me.

And if you want someone to sauté onions and mushrooms together for your burger, I’ve got news for you, buddy. You don’t want a hamburger; you want a Salisbury steak.

Now, are you ready for the shocker? Somewhere on his cross-country odyssey, Sokolov was persuaded that mustard is better on a burger than ketchup. How did this happen? Who got to him? I can’t prove it, but I suspect that money from the Mustard Council may have changed hands.

Out of respect for my former classmate, I did try a bite of burger with my favorite mustard — stone ground brown, with some real “bite” to it. Sorry, Sokolov, but I think both the burger and the mustard suffered. I’m still squarely on Jimmy Buffett’s side: “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57® and French-fried potatoes.” And as far as I’m concerned, you can hold the BLT and the French fries.

Where’s the best burger stand?

Now you know all there is to know about making the world’s best burger at home. (Or at least start a mighty good argument about how to do it.) But where did my burger-buying former classmate find the juiciest, tastiest commercial version? I’m very proud to announce that it was at one of our down-home recommendations: Ann’s Snack Bar on Memorial Drive in Decatur, Ga.

Sokolov declared Ann’s “ghetto-burger” — a two-patty concoction with cheese, bacon and a light dusting of cayenne pepper — as “the next level in burgerhood.” So when you can, come on down and bite into one. Once you do, you will never need to ask: “Where’s the beef?”

Meanwhile, I hope you and your friends enjoy some fabulous cookouts this summer. I promise I’ll be following my own recommendations: ground chuck cooked medium rare, with cheese and some other accoutrements on top. If I’ve done it right, the bun will be lightly toasted. And the applause will be gratifying.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. And until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

An Expensive Election

*The most expensive election in history. That’s what pundits expect the 2012 presidential race to be, with estimates that the Obama campaign will raise — and spend, of course — more than $1 billion. Three of the top five Democratic donors last year were the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Can anyone spot what they all have in common?

*Why don’t they practice what they preach? How many times have you heard a wealthy liberal say he thinks he should pay more in taxes? It’s a regular pronouncement from Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Mark Zuckerberg and even Barack Obama. But how many actually do pay more, by making extra contributions to Uncle Sam? As far as I can determine, the answer is a big fat goose egg. What’s stopping you from putting your money where your mouth is, guys?

*Turning a movie into a Disney ride. Is there a movie theater near you equipped with D-Box seats? I haven’t experienced one yet, and it will probably be a while before my hometown has one. But apparently these seats — which cost $10,000 each — pitch, roll and vibrate to accompany the action on the screen. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m told the seats can generate up to 2Gs of force. Will they be worth the extra $8 theaters will charge for the experience? You tell me.

*Hey, Congress, start trimming here. While you contemplate how much your stocks have gone up in the past 10 years (for most people the answer is “zero”) and your salary (the average annual increase is less than 4 percent), consider this: Military spending since 2001 is up more than 70 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. It’s not going to our fighting forces, of course; military pay still stinks. It’s the bureaucrats and their toys that rack up the big bills.

—Chip Wood

Half Of Americans Do Not Support Obama Reelection

Half of Americans do not support Obama reelectionThe honeymoon following the killing of Osama bin Laden appears to be over for President Barack Obama.

According to a new Harris Poll, nearly half of Americans — 49 percent of respondents — said that they were unlikely to vote for Obama if the election were held today. This was an increase of 2 percentage points from earlier this month, when bin Laden’s death was still dominating national headlines.

Furthermore, about 62 percent of participants said that they think the United States is going in the wrong direction, which is up 1 point from earlier this month. Nearly one-third of Americans said that the most pressing issue in America is the economy, while healthcare, the national deficit and gas prices were also cited as major concerns.

Perhaps the most troubling result for the Obama administration is the apparent drop in the liberal vote, as about one in five Democrats surveyed said that they are unlikely to vote for the President. Approximately 7 percent were unsure about whether they would support a second term for Obama.

The poll was conducted online between May 9 and 15. A total of 2,184 Americans aged 18 and older participated in the survey.

Gallup Poll: Most Conservative Voters Have Yet To Pick A Candidate

With the loss of several potential Republican Party nominees, the field of contenders for the GOP nomination is taking shape. But a recent poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents shows conservative Americans are unsure about which candidate they will support.

The Gallup poll shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the lead, with 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and businessman Herman Cain “essentially tie for third,” with 10 percent, 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. However, 22 percent of those polled had not formed an opinion.

The report also noted Palin has not decided whether she will run.

“Re-allocating Palin supporters’ votes to the candidate who is their second choice gives a sense of where current preferences would stand without Palin in the mix. Under this scenario, Romney leads with 19 percent, followed by Gingrich and Paul with 12 percent each,” the report read.

VP Biden Wants Higher Taxes Included In Budget Agreement

On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters new tax revenues must be a part of any agreement on legislation to raise the debt limit.

“I’ve made it clear today… revenues have to be in the deal,” Biden said, according to an Associated Press article on MSNBC’s website.

Biden, who is leading the budget negotiations in the so-called “Gang of Six,” a bi-partisan commission set up to trim the budget by $4 trillion, said the talks are moving toward a solution.

“We’re making progress,” Biden said. “Our Republican friends and the Democrats think we’re making progress. We’re confident that if we keep on this pace we can get to relatively large numbers.” However, Biden’s statement is in conflict with statements from Republican leaders, who previously said tax hikes were “off the table.”

The Vice President admits that in the initial legislation cuts will be below $4 trillion, but he is optimistic about meeting President Barack Obama’s goal of cutting the deficit by the full amount over the next 12 years.

“I think we’re in a position where we’ll be able to get well above a trillion dollars… in terms of what would be a down payment,” Biden said. “We’re going to be discussing trigger mechanisms and how… to get to $4 trillion.”

Paul, Reid Battle Over Amendment To PATRIOT Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) had harsh words for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday, as the Senate debated proposed amendments to the PATRIOT Act. Reid accused Paul of “fighting for an amendment to protect the right — not of average citizens, but of terrorists — to cover up their gun purchases.”

At issue was Paul’s desire to offer an amendment to the Act to prevent warrantless access to some gun records, reported CNN.com.

Paul was outraged by Reid’s comments. “I’ve been accused of wanting to allow terrorists to have weapons to attack America,” he said. “To be attacked of such a belief when I’m here to discuss and debate the Constitutionality of the Patriot Act is offensive, and I find it personally insulting.”

“Republicans defended Paul and blamed Reid, who had promised a full week’s debate and an open amendment process but pulled back on both after time ran short,” the article read. In an odd turn, Democrats sided with Reid, accusing Paul of holding up the legislative process.

“They are petrified to vote on issues of guns because they know that a lot of people in America favor the 2nd Amendment (right) to own guns and want to protect it,” Paul said, explaining he was not defending terrorists, but American citizens.

“We don’t want our records to be sifted through by a government without judicial review.”

Climate-change Scientist: Freedom Of Information Laws Harmful To Research

Nobel laureate scientist Sir Paul Nurse believes Freedom of information laws are being used to harass scientists.

“I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions,” Nurse told guardian.co.uk. “If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it’s intimidating.”

Nurse’s comments come as a reaction to a Royal Society Study on how to make scientists’ work more readily available to the public. The study, which will likely be published next year, will cover how “digital media offer a powerful means for the public to interrogate, question and re-analyse scientific priorities, evidence and conclusions.”

Nurse claims that disclosing their research through Freedom of information laws can be a hindrance to scientists, asserting that “at times this appears to be being used as a tool to stop scientists doing their work. That’s going to turn us into glue. We are just not going to be able to operate efficiently.”

“Scientists are going to have to get used to the idea that transparency means being transparent to your critics as well as your allies. You cannot pick and choose to whom you are transparent,” Tom Ward, pro vice-chancellor at the University of East Anglia, told guardian.co.uk.

“Increasingly it is going to be an issue for anyone working in contentious areas. Part of retaining the public’s confidence and trust is transparency and openness, and scientists should accept that that is part of the price of having the people’s trust.”

High Court Orders California To Reduce Prison Population By 30,000

High court orders California to reduce prison population by 30,000The Supreme Court has decided that California’s overcrowded prisons are in violation of the Constitution’s 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment against American citizens.

On May 23, the high court ordered the State to reduce its inmate population by more than 30,000 prisoners over the next two years, The New York Times reported. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote for the majority in the 5-4 decision, said that California officials have failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners who suffer from serious medical and mental health issues.

Kennedy described some of the prison cells as “telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets.” He added that suicide rates in California prisons have been approximately 80 percent higher than the national average in recent years.

Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Antonin Scalia submitted strongly-worded dissents, arguing that the inmate release will compromise the safety of California citizens. According to the news source, Scalia wrote that the decision is “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.”

The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), a labor union, said that the Supreme Court’s ruling — combined with the City Council’s recent decision to cut police resources — creates a “perfect storm for a wave of crime.”

The LAPPL said that it agrees with the opinion of Alito, who said that the mass prisoner release will lead to a “grim roster of victims.”

Testing Your Mettle (Redux)

All right, kiddies, it’s that time again. Every now and then, Bob Livingston allows me to prod your cerebra with the proverbial sharp object. Actually, every now and then, I turn in one of my clever little civics quizzes so close to deadline that Livingston doesn’t have time to fill my space with old Herbert “Herblock” Block cartoons.

Granted, the average reader of Personal Liberty Digest™ is a veritable Rhodes Scholar compared to the low-forehead types who populate some of our dear liberal web counterparts, but I believe in encouraging you to exercise the old gray matter from time to time. “Use it or lose it,” sayeth the old sage. Plus, if you let your brains atrophy, you will start behaving foolishly. From there, it’s only a matter of time before you decay into liberalism and begin living green, speaking with your eyes closed and subscribing to Mother Jones. Being a cavalier sort, I’m here to help. So put away your laptops and iPhones and shut off the television; here comes the latest edition of the Personal Liberty Digest Citizen’s Quiz.

In constructing this examination, I tried to be fair, but firm. Don’t fret if you fare poorly. Remember: There are no stupid answers, only stupid people — and they are at Dailykos.com, waiting for Dennis Kucinich to tell them where the aliens are going to land.

Question 1:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is:

  1. The maître d’ at Oprah Winfrey’s favorite restaurant.
  2. A minor character from the film “The Boys from Brazil.”
  3. The disgraced ex-head of the International Monetary Fund.
  4. Trying to figure out if that crossbeam in his cell can hold his weight.

Question 2:

The IMF:

  1. Secretly controls the universe from its headquarters.
  2. Is the real-life basis for the DC Comics’™ Legion of Doom.
  3. An enormously influential — albeit shadowy — intergovernmental economic group.
  4. A national chain of greasy-spoon pancake joints.

Question 3:

President Barack Obama recently sold out Israel in order to:

  1. Demonstrate his commitment to continuing the peace process.
  2. Drive down real estate prices close to the beaches in Haifa.
  3. A result of his comprehensive ignorance of Middle Eastern politics.
  4. Get a discount at the DuPont Circle falafel cart.

Question 4:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence in dealing with Obama is:

  1. Uncalled for. Obama is the WORLD’S President! Why can’t Netanyahu see that?
  2. Likely to knock him off George Soros’ Yom Kippur card list.
  3. A bold, statesmanlike stand by the strong leader of an embattled country.
  4. Going to give Jimmy Carter a coronary if he keeps it up.

Question 5:

Pakistan appears to be edging closer to China’s sphere of influence because:

  1. Pakistan leaders figure Islamofascism and communism are no less compatible than Islamofascism and freedom.
  2. The ChiComs ask fewer questions about trafficking in human slavery.
  3. Pakistan is as loyal to its allies as teenage girls are to fashion trends.
  4. Pakistan is taking lessons in “how to roll over dissidents with tanks and still host the Olympics.”

Question 6:

Harold Camping’s prediction of the End of Days didn’t turn out because:

  1. He skipped a couple of important pages in Apocalyptic Cults for Dummies.
  2. God was out enjoying the beautiful spring weather.
  3. Please tell me you didn’t need help with this one.
  4. The world actually DID end Saturday afternoon; it’s just that purgatory isn’t as bad as we had been led to believe.

Question 7:

Herman Cain’s decision to run for President:

  1. Is really a cynical effort to boost his radio talk-show ratings.
  2. Is really a cynical effort to widen the market for lousy pizza.
  3. Will make a somewhat-moribund race for the GOP nomination much more interesting.
  4. Will give liberals another target for their racism besides Clarence Thomas.

Question 8:

Tim Pawlenty’s decision to run for President:

  1. Was greeted with all the fanfare of double-coupon day at the Stop & Shop.
  2. Gives Mitt Romney a challenger in the “Most Stereotypical White-boy Republican” competition.
  3. Gives moderate agricultural-state denizens someone to consider besides Obama.
  4. Will redeem Minnesota’s Presidential politics image after that whole Mondale ’84 disaster.

Question 9:

Jon Huntsman is:

  1. The tennis pro at the Salt Lake City Country Club.
  2. The real-life model for the “Politician Ken” doll; coming soon from Mattel™!
  3. Still a better choice in 2012 than Obama, for whatever that’s worth.
  4. Keeping that “Just for Men™” endorsement deal in his back pocket as an insurance policy.

Question 10:

Obama’s reelection message is “We need more time” because:

  1. He spent too much of his first term kicking it with the New Black Panther Party.
  2. It looks better on a bumper sticker than: “Mr. Soros says he has enough cash left over from the Media Matters for America ‘Hatefest 2011.’”
  3. Four years isn’t enough to utterly foul up both foreign AND domestic policy.
  4. Michelle Obama wants taxpayers to foot the bill for a few more 5-star vacations.

Question 11:

Donald Trump abandoned his Presidential aspirations because he:

  1. Couldn’t face four years of competing with his hair for attention.
  2. Couldn’t face four years of competing with other world leaders for attention.
  3. Couldn’t face four years of guys like me making lame comb-over jokes.
  4. Couldn’t convince NeNe Leakes to join his cabinet as Secretary of Temper Tantrums.

Question 12:

Cynthia McKinney recently appeared on Libyan state TV in order to:

  1. Boost her chances to win the Miss Islamofascism pageant.
  2. Debut her new single: “Let your hate flow.”
  3. Remind people that she’s so much more than just the “crazy broad that even Hank Johnson’s congressional district thought was too embarrassing.”
  4. Give Green Party members something to do besides reread their dog-eared copies of Unsafe at Any Speed.

Question 13:

The floods wreaking havoc in the Midwest are caused by:

  1. Global warming (aka global cooling, aka global climate change, aka An Inconvenient Slide Show).
  2. Al Gore and the staff at Current TV.
  3. The same meteorological and geological cycles which have existed for billions of years.
  4. An evil conspiracy of Piltdown Man enthusiasts, space aliens and the International Society of Phrenologists.

Question 14:

Obama’s trip to Ireland was:

  1. A journey of self-discovery for a man in search of his roots.
  2. A result of the fact that “First Black President” doesn’t mean you can cut in the beer line on St. Patrick’s Day.
  3. A nicely staged photo-op designed to convince American voters that a small Irish village should play a big role in selecting the leader of the free world.
  4. An expensive (for the taxpayers) way to make Obama look like he drinks beer instead of white wine spritzers.

Question 15:

America’s still-declining image in the Arab World is the fault of:

  1. George Bush.
  2. Dick Cheney.
  3. Obama’s ham-fisted, spineless foreign policy and the lack of respect it engenders.
  4. America’s stubborn insistence on allowing women to drive, vote and leave the yurt without being stoned to death in an honor killing.

Time’s up, students.  Pass your papers forward so that I may collect them, grade them and then use them for heating fuel this winter when utility rates are higher than Michelle Obama’s wardrobe budget. If you fared poorly, fret not. The good folk of Detroit are still trying to remember how to spell their names at the top of their tests.

I’ll ring the bell now, as I know you have important matters which require attention. There’s the thanks-to-Obama’s-economic-‘recovery,’-we’re-vacationing-in-the-back-yard trip to plan, the kidney you need to list on eBay so you can afford baked beans next month and the new Lady Gaga video coming up on MTV. I hear she’s going to wear a dress made up of strategically placed Filipino children.

Never let it be said that Professor Crystal isn’t hip enough to know what the kids are into these days. But don’t forget: Your final exam is set for November 2012. Study hard.

The Smell of Defeat

As the parade of potential Presidents of the United States marches toward 2012, I can’t help but notice there’s a scent on the breeze. Watching the Democrats and the corporate media circle the wagons around their idol, it finally occurred to me what the putrescent odor is: fear.

And this fear isn’t the usual vote-Republican-and-you-will-end-up-freezing-to-death-on-some-street-corner-and,-by-the-way,-they-are-evil-racists fear. It’s more of the President-Barack-Obama-is-only-slightly-more-deserving-of-a-second-term-than-Jay-Carney-is-of-a-main-event-fight-with-Floyd-Mayweather-Jr. fear. So cue the corporate media.

MNSBC comedian Chris “Tingle-boy” Matthews, noteworthy for nestling most joyously in President Barack Obama’s pocket, has announced he wants nothing to do with any of Obama’s challengers. There was a time when a self-proclaimed journalist would be exiled to the celebrity-rehab beat for that sort of statement. In the age of Obama, Matthews will probably get a contract extension.

But be fair to Matthews. Unlike the rest of the tinfoil-hat brigadiers who have made MSNBC a funhouse-mirror image of a reputable news outlet, he has never even pantomimed legitimacy. During one of his “interviews” with fellow corporate media bobbleheads on his socialist shriekfest Monday night, Matthews has already made up his mind (or had it made up for him) regarding the potential 2012 GOP slate: “I don’t want an interview with any of these guys.”

Er, Chrissy, not to burst your bubble there, but you have obviously made the classic blunder which befalls most liberal media stooges: You actually think you are that important. It’s not as if Romney, Huntsman or Pawlenty are clamoring for the chance to sit at your table and drink bad coffee while you read Democratic Party-scripted talking points and refuse to let them get a word in edgewise. I also suspect that all three — along with the other, more conservative candidates — are a little too big for cable news’ never-going-to-be-ready-for-primetime crew.

And with the profoundly stupid Matthews going so far as to call former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin “profoundly stupid,” conservatives will avoid his channel like Ed Schultz avoids the heart-smart section on the menu. And MSNBC’s campaign-season programming will feature Democrats talking to Democrats — meaning the rubber-room programming which has made MSNBC an industry joke will stay unchanged and unwatchable.

Over at New York Magazine (yes, it’s still alive), the most recent issue touted a long-on-words, short-on-actual-sources piece titled “The Elephant in the Green Room,” designed to continue the Democratic Party’s myth that Roger Ailes runs the GOP. While the piece was written for the liberal faithful (making you wonder why it was printed at all, considering the liberal faithful already believes Fox News and the GOP are inextricably linked), it was really just a compendium of dubious innuendo and outright nonsense: “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger.”

Definitive statements like that look good on paper and are easily believed by Democrats who have heard that nonsense from their dear leaders for the better part of a decade. Of course, New York Magazine is about as legitimate in the world of journalism as a junior high school yearbook, but the question is: Why now?

The answer, my friends, is fear. Obama’s unparalleled incompetence has left him highly vulnerable to a solid challenge. The sock puppets at the low-forehead media outlets are lambasting conservative candidates and anyone who won’t read Soros-authored talking points as news copy because they have realized their beloved Obama can lose. The economy has not recovered and isn’t showing strong signs of doing so to any great extent. Gas prices remain stratospheric, and Obama’s response has been to continue the Democrats’ policy of protecting foreign oil interests instead of American consumers. The execution of Osama bin Laden provided a negligible polling bump. (It should be noted that Obama may have coughed that one up himself. Hey, Mr. President: When Navy SEALS kill the world’s most wanted terrorist, try cutting references to yourself down to the mid-30s per page in your congratulatory remarks.)

In fact, Obama has even begun conducting opposition research on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — despite the fact that Christie isn’t running. But the real joke mid all this sound and fury is that a Presidential reelection campaign normally focuses on accomplishments. You have about 18 months, Mr. President. Accomplish something.

Immigration Measure Approved By South Carolina House

Immigration measure approved by South Carolina HouseSouth Carolina’s House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to check an individual’s immigration status during routine traffic stops.

According to The Post and Courier, the chamber passed the measure 69-43 on May 24. The State Senate approved the Arizona-style immigration legislation last March, and Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, is expected to sign it into law.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that approximately 30 States have considered stricter policies against illegal immigration, most of which center around law enforcement and employment verification. In 2008, South Carolina adopted a law that requires businesses to verify that their staff members are legal citizens.

State Representative Chris Murphy (R-Summerville) said that tougher immigration policies make “good financial sense” for the Palmetto State.

“I think when you look at the problems that we have with illegal immigration, the financial cost that the state has to bear, we need to encourage more legal immigration,” said Murphy, quoted by news source.

Meanwhile, a GOP lawmaker in Wisconsin introduced a bill that mirrors the South Carolina traffic-stop law on May 24, The Associated Press reported. If the legislation is passed, individuals who fail to provide proof of citizenship can be detained for up to 48 hours until they can prove their legal status.

More Machinery Of Government Than Is Necessary

The United States government has grown into a tyrannical, fascist leviathan that is consuming everything in its sphere.

There are departments for everything under the sun, and those departments are staffed by unelected bureaucrats who are answerable to no one or nothing. Many are feckless and rude, as John Dollarhite found in his interactions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The various departments — like Energy, Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation, Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, et al — are unConstitutional and make their own rules and regulations outside of Congress. And when they decide to use those rules to crack down on Americans, they do so with the bedside manner of a viper.

“I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious,” Thomas Jefferson wrote.

What was true then is undeniable now.

Sadly, no one in government or actively hawking for your vote come the next Presidential primary believes this is true, save one: Ron Paul.

While the media plays up Mitt Romney as the leading GOP Presidential contender and plugs for Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and John Huntsman, realize that none of them will rein in Government. And that’s why the corporate media play them up.

Electing a President who truly believes in the Constitution is crucial if America is to survive. The choice is clear, and Jefferson has said so: Ron Paul must be our next President.

Voter Petitions Prompt Recall Elections For Three Wisconsin State Senators

Voter petitions prompt recall elections for three Wisconsin State SenatorsAt least three State Senators in Wisconsin will be forced to participate in recall elections this July, an elections committee ruled on May 23.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the State’s Government Accountability Board has voted unanimously to schedule three recall elections for July 12. The lawmakers whose seats will be up for grabs include Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse), Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).

The legislators are three of nine State Senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — who are being challenged by voters because of their support for Governor Scott Walker’s law limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers. The news source reported that petitions must include at least 15,000 signatures to prompt a recall election.

If more than one candidate emerges to challenge a State Senator, the July 12 election will serve as a primary, according to the media outlet. The general election would be held on Aug. 9.

The results of the recall elections could have a significant impact on the Badger State’s redistricting process, The Post-Crescent reported. If Democrats can pick up three seats in the State Senate, they would hold a majority of the chamber.

Currently, the Republican Party holds a majority in both the House and Senate. Charles Franklin, a political expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the media outlet that the recall elections could “put the brakes on what otherwise would be a runaway train” when lawmakers draw up new district lines.

Bitter Cumin Shown To Be Effective Alternative Medicine

Bitter cumin shown to be effective alternative medicineIn a study that was published in the BioMed Central journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a team of scientists found that bitter cumin seeds contain a wide array of phenolic compounds, making the spice a powerful antioxidant.

Moreover, bitter cumin has been shown to be effective in treating diseases like vitiligo and hyperglycemia, and has antiparasitic and antimicrobial properties. Previous studies have revealed that the spice may also be effective in treating fever and pain.

Indian researchers examined bitter cumin using biochemical and biological methods. They found that it helped to eliminate free radicals and to protect DNA.

“The antioxidant activity of bitter cumin correlated with total phenol content so it may well be that an array of phenolic compounds within bitter cumin seeds are responsible for the antioxidant activity seen,” said co-author Kamatham A. Naidu.

Authors of the study noted that oxidative stress — which stems from an overabundance of free radicals in the body — can lead to atherosclerosis, neural degenerative diseases, inflammation, cancer and aging.

Bitter cumin, or Glinus oppositifolius, has been traditionally used in Malian culture to treat wounds, inflammation, ulcers, fever, malaria and other immunological conditions, according to the Oxford Journals.