U.S. Taxpayer Money: Making Dictators Rich And Perpetuating Instability For More Than 70 Years

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been making waves in the GOP in recent months as he tries to push a more libertarian philosophy in the party. But old guard neocons like hawkish Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are hell-bent on ensuring that Paul and his legislative allies do not affect Congress’ beloved military-industrial complex — even if it means allowing American infrastructure to deteriorate as the Nation pumps billions of dollars overseas.

Last week, during the Senate budget “vote-a-rama,” Paul and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments that would have reduced the amount of U.S. foreign aid and freed up funding for other projects. Paul’s effort would have allocated $16 billion for repair and replacement of structurally deficient bridges and other domestic infrastructure projects through cuts to Energy Department loan guarantees and foreign aid spending.

Every Democrat present voted against the Paul amendment, as did 19 Republican Senators including McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayote (R-N.H.). A similar scenario played out with regard to an amendment proposed by Cruz that would have reduced foreign assistance to Egypt in order to provide a missile defense system on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

For their efforts, which the Senators must have known were damned from the get-go in a Congress that believes spending more is saving, “wacko birds” like Paul and Cruz were blasted with a familiar neocon criticism: Spending less on foreign aid is isolationist foreign policy that will embolden international terrorists.

McCain suggested that Republican disagreement over the appropriate amount of foreign aid is a decades-old argument exacerbated by tough economic times.

“That fight has been going on since prior to World War II,” McCain said. “It’s always been there, and it always will be. It’s exasperated and exaggerated by bad economic times.”

He added, “We’ve always had this struggle within the Republican Party going back to post-World War I when the Republicans — isolationists kept us from joining the League of Nations. The isolationists prior to World War II, which meant we were not ready — the anti-military after Vietnam … where we had a hollow army.”

McCain is right to suggest that for more than 70 years the United States has been engaged in providing big-money aid to foreign countries to the dismay of America’s fiscal conservatives. What the Senator failed to note, however, is that those on his spend-happy side of the debate have almost always won and that U.S. foreign aid has almost always been historically judged by its intentions rather than results.

Prior to WWII, American benevolence was mostly provided to foreign countries via private donors in the United States. That changed with the introduction of the Marshall Plan (officially known at the European Recovery Program), which poured more than $13 billion into Europe to help the war-torn continent rebuild. Most analysts agree that Europe would have recovered without U.S. aid, but the aid helped strengthen top-down government structures that were more willing to bend to the will of U.S. wishes.

The apparent success of the European welfare plan led then-President Harry Truman’s 1949 proposal of the Point Four Program to provide a smaller version of the Marshall Plan for poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

Thus, the floodgate was opened.

In the years since, the United States has provided aid to countries all over the world in the form of food assistance, economic development and even general budget support. Over the same period of time, Congress has noted and attempted to reform terrible failures in the foreign aid system that have rendered funds provided to countries ineffectual or, worse, harmful.

Despite being ineffective and a waste of American taxpayer dollars in most cases, there are some reasons why foreign aid remains sacrosanct to Democrats and some Republicans. Democrats, who pride themselves of being a sort of party of compassion, relish the idea of helping hungry children the world over and providing for the needs of the world’s poorest people. And Republicans like McCain, for their part, often see a strategic national security benefit to buying friends in certain parts of the world.

Unfortunately, Congress and financial accountability are almost completely mutually exclusive. And when it comes to foreign aid dollars that are pushed through a system of bureaucratic chutes and ladders in the U.S. and abroad, accountability is impossible.

Setting utopian goals for how foreign aid money is to be spent makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but the reality remains that the appropriated dollars are often reduced to pennies when they finally come to be used for the purpose for which they were intended.

If you think foreign aid is a boon to the world’s poor, consider the path a dollar must take before it reaches its final resting place in the country to which it was given as outlined by economist Peter Bauer.

First, it must be allocated by the donor country’s government. That government has its national political, military, and economic objectives, such as supporting friendly states, selling its food and weapons, promoting its own consultants, intervening in international conflicts, and so on. Traditionally, much of bilateral foreign aid has been tied to purchases from donor countries, although apparently this phenomenon has seen some decline (Easterly 2009).

Money provided by the United States for the purpose of foreign aid passes through many hands before it reaches its final resting place, and this often takes place in notoriously corrupt countries. In fact, a recent report produced by Transparency International illustrated that some countries receiving handsome sums of U.S. foreign aid also have the highest instances of perceived corruption. They include (listed from most to least corrupt): Afghanistan, $8 billion in foreign aid; Iraq, $1.7 billion in foreign aid; Yemen, $64 million in foreign aid; Pakistan, $2.1 billion in foreign aid; Lebanon, $232 million in foreign aid; Egypt, $1.6 billion in foreign aid; and others. For foreign aid to work as intended in these places, one must assume that government officials of foreign nations are dedicated to the welfare of their people — a tough sell for Americans who aren’t even sure their politicians are.

In addition to the propensity of corrupt governments to skim off the top of foreign aid money, another problem with U.S. foreign aid policy exists: Lawmakers are either too lazy or too heavily lobbied to re-evaluate the purpose of foreign aid when its effectiveness of use comes into question.

One good example of this is the foreign aid money still being pumped into Israel and Egypt as a result of an agreement reached during the Camp David peace accords in 1978. In return for not blowing one another off the face of the Earth, the United States offered billions of annual dollars to both countries for development.

Today, Egypt remains impoverished, corrupt and largely in the control of Muslim extremists. And Israel has used the aid money to finance the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, to implement wage and price controls, to provide subsidies for inefficient government companies and to put into place a make-work full-employment program custom-made to reduce productivity throughout the 1980s, nearly killing its economy. In essence, Israel has used the money in many of the same ways bureaucrats in the U.S. waste taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, many Americans continue to believe that the United States has some celestially ordained obligation to continue providing upward of $3 billion in annual aid to Israel. That, combined with the unrelenting Jewish lobbying efforts aimed at members of Congress, protects the Israeli honeypot, even as the U.S. faces economic demise of its own.

If the real goal of American foreign aid policy is, in fact, to protect allies such as Israel in harsh regions of the world, providing less monetary foreign aid makes perfect sense. This holds true because the billions of dollars provided by the United States to protect Israel are being negated as foreign aid money pumped into other, far less friendly nations in the Mideast are being used to fund an arms race.

In fact, as has been noted by Paul, the U.S. gives more aid to Israel’s neighbors than to Israel in the form of monetary aid and reduced-price armaments. So if the U.S. provides Egypt with 20 F-16 fighter planes, Israel turns around and — likely using foreign aid funds — purchases 25.

In fairness, despite the fact that foreign aid is being stolen by corrupt government officials the world over and creating arms races in destabilized regions, the money has done some historical good by way of eliminating disease in some parts of the world. Supporters point to those small victories and advocate for continued foreign aid spending at current levels (more than $56 billion annually), arguing that the money only accounts for about 1 percent of the U.S. budget. But should it not be duly noted that the $85 billion sequester that the Nation’s lawmakers — both socially liberal Democrats and military-industrial-loving Republicans — just finished wetting themselves over represents a similarly miniscule portion of the budget?

If isolationism means re-evaluating foreign aid expenditures for effectiveness, any Senator calling himself a fiscal conservative should relish in being branded as such by the likes of the McCain and his neocon and Democratic acolytes.

Though President Ronald Reagan was no reformer of foreign aid, he did give the idea lip service in 1981, saying, “Unless a nation puts its own financial and economic house in order, no amount of aid will produce progress.”

With $16 trillion in debt and budget crisis on top of crises, it’s past time to heed those words.

Guantanamo Bay: Which Side Is Obama On?

Once more, Barack Obama has shown himself to be a pathetic President. The latest disgrace of the vaulted liberal leader is his failure to stand by his conviction to shut down Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).

It has been four years since Obama promised to close down the military prison. Now, he wants to provide $196 million in renovations and new construction as requested by his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Obama has decided keeping enemies of the United States comfortable is more important than meting out justice.

General John F. Kelly, the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, testified before Congress last week that repairs and upgrades are needed at Gitmo, including two new barracks and a new mess hall.

It is ironic that up to 100 “detainees” are on a hunger strike.

Rolling Stone reported: “Eight of the hunger strikers are being force-fed through a tube, a process the United Nations has previously classified as torture. Two hunger strikers have been hospitalized for dehydration.”

I am a libertarian through and through. I say if they want to starve themselves to death, let them — especially if these individuals want to inflict terror against Americans.

What does our President want? He wants to spend money America cannot afford to keep “detainees,” doublespeak for prisoners of war, more comfortable.

Regarding Gitmo, the Obama Administration is dead wrong. It is a classic case of Obama’s wanting his cake and eating it, too.

Obama should either:

  • Choose a speedy trial, a basic right to defendants which would also give closure to the victims of those atrocities.
  • Or deal decisively with Gitmo prisoners if they remain a clear and present danger to the United States.

Last month, The Daily Beast summed up America’s blundering President regarding Gitmo:

The Obama administration insists it’s doing everything possible to fulfill the president’s pledge. “We are absolutely still committed to closing Gitmo,” National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said in an interview. He put the blame elsewhere, saying, “The unfortunate reality is that Congress has gone out of its way to prevent us from doing so, but we still believe closing the facility is in our national security interest.”

Yet experts say the chances of Gitmo closing, at least before Obama’s out of office in 2016, are exceptionally slim.

“Guantanamo is not going to close any time soon,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a right-leaning think tank. “There are too many problems to solve. There are still Yemenis who can’t be repatriated to their home country, there are detainees too dangerous to transfer anywhere and quite a few prisoners who the administration says they cannot try in an open court.”

There is another irony about the President. Last Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will begin closing 149 air traffic control towers starting on April 7. The Transportation Security Administration also claimed sequester-caused airport security delays are on the horizon. That means more time at the airport and compromises safe travel.

Meanwhile, Obama is cutting defense spending as part of his $85 billion in automatic spending reductions.

Obama wants to slash spending on the very mechanisms that would prevent another attack against American civilians. Whose side is the President on?

Kill ’Em Or Clear ’Em

I love World War II history. I am proud of my Canadian roots and my American citizenship. I take extraordinary pride that during World War II, the Black Watch of Canada and the U.S. Airborne dealt decisively with the fanatical SS troops that they fought against — fanatics like the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend who refused to take Allied prisoners. They executed hundreds of Allied soldiers outright. In some cases, they even crucified them against trees and buildings. That terror was met in kind by our fathers and grandfathers who mostly accepted the surrender of Wehrmacht soldiers but had no dealings with the SS.

In an article in the Daily Mail, Antony Beevor, a noted historian and writer of World War II, summed up the allied actions of Normandy against the Germans:

With revenge on their minds and nerves still taut after the jump, the American paratroopers-blood was up. A trooper in the 82nd remembered his instructions only too clearly: ‘Take no prisoners because they will slow you down.’

Stories about German soldiers mutilating paratroopers inflamed the Americans still further. A soldier in the 101st recounted how after they had come across two dead paratroopers ‘with their privates cut off and stuck into their mouths’, the captain with them gave the order: ‘Don’t you guys dare take any prisoners! Shoot the bastards!’

Fast-forward six decades and we have Obama who not only wants to hold terrorists but also wants to save them from self-starvation and provide them better living conditions.

Are we at war or are we not? If we are, Obama needs to find some resolve and deal with our enemies. If not, he needs to send these Gitmo prisoners to trial.

Of course, Obama won’t do either. He lacks the gumption to take a stand on Gitmo, just as he lacks it with regard to almost everything else.

Love their politics or hate them, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top World War II commander in Europe and future President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, dealt with America’s enemies expeditiously. Obama refuses to stand against them. He stands for higher taxes and greater entitlements. That makes him not only an ineffective leader but also a dangerous one.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers
Myers’ Energy & Gold Report

Senate True Conservatives Vow Spirited Fight Against Gun Control

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have hinted that another old-school filibuster may be in store if lawmakers attempt to push any new gun-control legislation.

The Senators delivered a brief letter to Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) stating  opposition to “any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms.” They will likely attempt to hold up the procedural vote to begin debate on a gun package put together by Reid when the Senate returns from its current two-week spring break.

While it is unclear whether another epic old-school filibuster– like Paul’s demand for answers on drones before CIA director John Brennan’s confirmation earlier this month– is in the cards, a Cruz spokesman said the lawmakers are “prepared to use any procedural means necessary to prevent stricter gun control laws.”

Below is the letter Reid received:


Big Sis Eyeing The White House?

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was coy this week when asked about her Presidential ambitions in 2016.

The former Arizona Governor — beloved by Democrats for checking off all the right Pavlovian, heuristic boxes (she’s a woman; she appears “tough,” she had political success in a traditionally Republican western State) that often fuel low-information voting — has already received early buzz as a possible 2016 stand-in, should Hillary Clinton decide not to run.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard explains Big Sis may appeal to moderate Democrats who’ve historically wanted a “centrist” candidate:

Some Democrats are excited about her potential candidacy because of her ability to win often in Republican Arizona and because she has been progressive in pushing for immigration reform. She also presents a non-nonsense, law and order demeanor attractive to independents.

As governor, Time Magazine in 2005 called her one of the best in the nation. “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.”

Napolitano deflected questions about a Presidential bid Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., breakfast gathering:

“I think my plate is so full right now that I think that contemplation would be the kind of thing that would keep me up at night,” she said. “And I lose enough sleep as it is.”

So is she saying there’s a chance?

From outside the mainstream media, the idea of Big Sis as President may look risible. But one thing Napolitano might have going in her favor is her potential appeal — depending on how her Department enacts the current President’s efforts at border and immigration reform — to the growing demographic of Hispanic voters.

Those voters overwhelmingly swung left in the 2012 general election, and they will likely to continue favoring Democratic candidates until Republicans figure out a way either to capture a chunk of the Latino vote or relegate their bloc voting power by cultivating other voting blocs to offset the numbers.

One question: If and when she leaves her DHS post, will Big Sis take all her bullets with her, or will she leave them for her successor?

Poll Finds Fading Support For Federal Gun-Grabbing Legislation

Mass murders like the December 2012 shooting in Connecticut may provide perverse political fodder for gun-control advocates like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to push for more restrictive Federal gun-ownership laws; but in the eyes of the American public, it appears their gun-grabbing agenda is losing momentum.

Results of a CBS News poll released this week show 47 percent of those questioned now believe Congress should approve stricter laws on gun ownership — a number that’s gone down from 57 percent in a December survey conducted shortly after the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

By political party, 52 percent of those who identified themselves as Republicans said current gun laws should continue without changes, while 66 percent of Democrats believed gun control laws should be made stricter. Overall, 39 percent of those surveyed said current gun-ownership laws are sufficient and shouldn’t be changed.

Women surveyed were more likely to favor making guns harder to obtain, with 55 percent of women saying current laws aren’t strict enough — as opposed to 39 percent of men.

By region, Northerners still are buying into the gun-control talk in higher proportion to Americans throughout the rest of the country. Of those respondents who live in northern States, 58 percent support more regulation, while 44 percent of people in the South and Midwest agreed. In the western part of the United States, 47 percent of respondents favor tougher gun legislation.

Among those who’ve sought the national spotlight in the hope of eroding citizens’ 2nd Amendment powers, Bloomberg especially has demonstrated a readiness to seize upon the public outrage over mass shootings as an opportunity to sell American lawmakers on the idea that they need to strip all citizens of their Constitutionally protected freedoms pertaining to the owning of firearms.

With no supporting outside funding, Bloomberg created the Independence USA super PAC (political action committee) last October, vowing to use money he’s put into the fund to help support gun-grabbing legislative candidates nationwide, as well as to buy advertising that pushes his agenda in so-called “battleground” States. Bloomberg has contributed about $12 million to the PAC so far.

He has also funded anti-gun advertisements through his Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization. The televised ads are currently airing in 13 States viewed as “swing States” in next month’s Senate battle over a Democrat-sponsored bill aiming to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Alabama School Censors ‘Easter’ (The Word) And ‘Egg’ (The Shape) From Easter Egg Hunt Party

An elementary school in Madison, Ala., has managed to go forward with a planned Easter-themed school event while simultaneously banning any mention of the word “Easter.” In the interest of skirting any accusations that they still weren’t going far enough to preserve the appearance of religious diversity, school officials played it safe and went ahead and banned Easter egg-shaped objects from the festivities, too.

WHNT reported last week that Heritage Elementary in Madison — an affluent, mostly white suburb of Huntsville — had abandoned plans this year to hold an “academic egg hunt” for kindergartners and second-graders.

Principal Lydia Davenport said the school had, in previous years, received some communications from a parent who raised the issue of religious diversity, prompting the administration this year to forego any reference not only to Easter, Christianity or resurrections, but also to eggs, things shaped like eggs and bunnies identified by use of proper adjectives… as in “Easter bunnies.”

“Kids love the bunny, and we just make sure we don’t say ‘the Easter bunny’ so that we don’t infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion: a bunny is a bunny and a rabbit is a rabbit,” the principal explained.

School Apologizes For ‘Jesus’ Stomping

DAVIE, Fla., (UPI) — Florida Atlantic University issued an apology for a class exercise that involved Intercultural Communications students stomping on “Jesus.”

The school issued an apology for the March 4 assignment in Deandre Poole’s Davie classroom, which involved students being asked to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper then stomp on the paper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Tuesday.

“This exercise will not be used again,” FAU officials said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”

Communications department director Noemi Marin had earlier defended the assignment, saying, “while at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.”

The exercise came from an instructor’s manual written by St. Norbert College communications professor Jim Neuliep. The assignment was part of a chapter about dealing with the power of certain words.

“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings,” the exercise states. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

Poole, who has been on the instructing staff since 2010, could not be reached for comment, the Sun Sentinel said.

Shopping Mom Left Baby In Car With Note

PORIRUA, New Zealand,(UPI) — Shoppers at a New Zealand store said they were shocked to see a baby left alone in a car with a note and phone number from the mother.

A man who asked not to be named told The New Zealand Herald he arrived with his family at the Pak’n’Save in Porirua around 9 a.m. Saturday and he spotted a baby alone in a neighboring car.

The man said there was a note with the baby.

“It was written from the baby’s perspective, and it said, ‘My mum’s in doing the shopping, call her if I need anything’, and it had the cellphone number,” the man said. “We waited there for a little bit, wondering if the mum was just going to be two seconds and come back. And my wife said, ‘I’m not going in without someone being here with the baby.'”

The couple said they went inside when another pair of customers agreed to stand vigil until the mother emerged. The newly arrived couple called the cellphone number on the note and asked the mother to come out.

“We had gone in [to the Pak’nSave] before the mother had come out because we had a baby ourselves that was in a hurry,” he said.

The man said the child appeared to be well cared for.

“As parents ourselves we know it is hard to get a baby to sleep, and once you start moving them they can wake up… we thought it was just a silly decision by a tired mother,” he said.

Facebook Pages Anonymously Share ‘Secrets’

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Facebook pages are being created at universities across New York to allow students and instructors to anonymously share their “secrets.”

A page called Hunter Secrets is filled with anonymous messages from instructors and students at City University of New York, including confessions of student/instructor trysts, the New York Post reported Monday.

“I’m an instructor at Hunter College and this weekend, I engaged in sexual intercourse with one of my students,” one of the posts reads. “I did have a bit of guilt at first but that guilt has gone away. I’ll just end this by saying that it was the hottest sex I have ever had.”

Similar pages have been set up for New York University, Queens College and other schools.

“I’m a Teaching Assistant at NYU and I have a crush on one of my students,” a post on the New York University page reads. “I don’t know if I should tell her now or wait for the term to end since it might cost me my job.”

A communications staffer at a New York college told the Post administrators are concerned about the pages.

“Administrations monitor them, the kids are looking at these pages before they go to the school’s website,” the staffer said. “Anything that affects a school’s brand or its perception — especially with so much competition for applicants — is going to be a serious cause for concern.”

Supreme Court Hears Prop 8 Case

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Supporters of California’s Proposition 8, which limits marriage to a man and a woman, expressed confidence after Tuesday’s argument in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many observers reported the justices appeared divided and somewhat skeptical about the law, but ProtectMarriage, which defended the proposition since state officials have elected not to do so, said it is confident “that the nine justices will resist the political pressure.”

“There is simply no denying that 41 states define marriage as between a man and woman,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage, said in a statement after the argument. “There is no denying that every other appellate court to hear arguments such as ours have sided in favor of traditional marriage. And there is no denying that nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents in this area support the existence of a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage.’

“We have every confidence that the nine justices will resist the political pressure to prematurely end the national debate about the definition of marriage,” he said. “We believe they will respect the freedom of people to affirm the institution of marriage that has stood the test of time in every culture throughout the world.”

Any constitutional decision in the case likely would be applied nationwide, but at least one justice on the bench suggested the case should be dismissed.

The Supreme Court is closely divided between four liberals and conservatives, making Justice Anthony Kennedy a key swing vote, though even some conservatives expressed skepticism of Prop 8 from the bench Tuesday.

In the Prop 8 argument, Kennedy expressed sympathy for the children of same-sex couples while questioning attorney Charles Cooper, who represented the private proponents of Prop 8, The Huffington Post reported.

“They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status. The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don’t you think?” Kennedy asked.

Theodore Olson, a former Bush administration solicitor general, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration’s top courtroom lawyer, argued on behalf of the challengers.

California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in a 2008 vote with slightly more than 52 percent for and nearly 48 percent against. Prop 8 says in part, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

Neither California’s governor nor its attorney general is defending the law in court. ProtectMarriage — its sponsor is a state non-profit, California Renewal — is the official proponent of the proposition and has been allowed to defend it in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the Obama administration told the Supreme Court California’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Pentagon: Missile Shield Talks To Resume

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. and Russian defense leaders agreed that their departments would resume talks on the controversial European missile shield, the Pentagon said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Secretary Sergey Shoygu discussed the missile shield during a telephone conversation Monday, the U.S. Defense Department said in a readout of the conversation.

“Minister Shoygu expressed his desire to reconvene missile defense discussions with the U.S. at the deputy minister level. Secretary Hagel agreed and reiterated that this is an important part of U.S.-Russian relations,” the readout provided by Pentagon press secretary George Little said. “He assured Minister Shoygu that these discussions would continue and be carried forward by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Jim Miller.”

Russia and NATO initially agreed to cooperate on the missile defense system during the 2010 Lisbon, Portugal, summit; however, talks have stalled over NATO’s refusal to provide Russia with legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. NATO and the United States have said the shield would defend Europe against missiles from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

The two defense leaders also discussed the security transition in Afghanistan, with Hagel assuring Shoygu that the handover of security responsibilities was progressing as the Afghan security forces improved, the readout said.

“Further, Secretary Hagel encouraged close bilateral cooperation on a variety of other issues of mutual concern, including on Syria, North Korea, and Iran,” the readout said.

N. Korea: Artillery Targets U.S., S. Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea, (UPI) — Missile and artillery units are combat-ready and aimed at South Korea and U.S. targets, including the U.S. mainland, North Korean officials said Tuesday.

“From this moment, the Supreme Command puts all of its field artillery including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units into the No. 1 combat ready posture,” the Korean People’s Army’s Supreme Command said in a statement carried by the country’s Korean Central News Agency.

The statement said artillery units were targeted on South Korea, as well as the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam and U.S. military installations in the Pacific, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

In response, U.S. military officials said the U.S.-South Korea alliance won’t be bullied by North Korea’s announcement.

“North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others,” the U.S. Forces-Korea said in a statement.

“While the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea continue to maintain the armistice, North Korea continues its provocative behavior and rhetoric,” the statement said. “The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance is strong and we remain committed to the defense of [South Korea].”

North Korea said that, in its “crystal clear judgment,” it cannot ignore the United States’ nuclear threats and military actions anymore, Yonhap reported.

North Korea will demonstrate “our army and people’s stern reaction to safeguard our sovereignty and the highest dignity [of leader Kim Jong Un] through military actions,” the statement said.

In its latest threat, North Korea said South Korea should be “mindful that everything will be reduced to ashes and flames the moment the first attack is unleashed.”

In Seoul, the Defense Ministry said it was closely monitoring the communist country, looking for any signs of provocations.

South Korea had raised its military readiness and surveillance status earlier in March during joint drills with U.S. forces – which drew an angry response from Pyongyang — and has maintained the heightened alert status since.

“The No. 1 combat readiness status is a term first used by North’s state media, which means the highest level of combat readiness status,” a senior Defense Ministry official told Yonhap. “It seems to be aimed at creating a war-like situation to unite the North Korean people, though it could result in real provocations.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased after North Korea launched a three-stage rocket in December and conducted its third nuclear test last month. In response, the U.N. Security Council passed another resolution imposing more sanctions on North Korea. Earlier this month, the United States and South Korea began their annual joint military drills aimed at warning North Korea against attacking its southern neighbor.

North Korea, angered over the sanctions and joint drills, has been issuing highly provocative threats, including cutting off the Red Cross telephone line between Pyongyang and Seoul, and unilaterally scrapping the 1953 Korean Armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Mark Kelly’s Gun Transaction Canceled

TUCSON, (UPI) — A gun store owner in Tucson said he canceled the purchase of an assault weapon by Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Ariz..

Kelly said he bought the AR-15 to show how easy it is to buy a weapon with high-capacity magazines even with a background check. He planned to surrender the gun to Tucson police, Politico reported.

Doug MacKinlay, owner of Diamondback Police Supply, said he canceled the purchase of the rifle when he discovered Kelly didn’t intend to use it.

“While I support and respect Mark Kelly’s 2nd Amendment rights to purchase, possess, and use firearms in a safe and responsible manner, his recent statements to the media made it clear that his intent in purchasing the Sig Sauer M400 5.56mm rifle from us was for reasons other then for his personal use,” MacKinlay wrote on Facebook Monday. “In light of this fact, I determined that it was in my company’s best interest to terminate this transaction prior to his returning to my store to complete the Federal Form 4473 and NICS background check required of Mr. Kelly before he could take possession this firearm.”

Giffords suffered a traumatic head injury Jan. 8, 2011, when Jared Loughner, a community college student, opened fire at a meet-and-greet outside a Tucson supermarket. She and her husband, a Navy officer and NASA shuttle commander, have founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group that pushes for expanded background checks for gun buyers.

Man Gets Prison For Shining Laser At Plane

PASADENA, Calif., (UPI) — A federal judge sentenced a 19-year-old California man to 2 1/2 years in prison for shining a laser at a small airplane and police helicopter.

Adam Gardenhire of North Hollywood pleaded guilty in October to one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

On March 29, a pilot in a NetJet Cessna Citation reported a green-colored laser shined in his eye as he prepared to land at Burbank Airport, momentarily blinding him. A Pasedena police helicopter pilot then reported the laser was pointed at his aircraft when he responded to the first pilot’s report of the laser.

The Los Angeles Police Department, the Burbank Police Department, the Pasadena Police Department and the Burbank Airport Police Department identified Gardenhire as the culprit, the Star-News reported.

Gardenhire’s lawyer, Sean Kennedy, asked the court for a lighter sentence of two years probation, a fine and community service because he said his client didn’t realize the strength of the laser.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said Gardenhire had been warned by a friend who loaned him the laser not to shine it in anyone’s eyes. Just because he didn’t think about the consequences doesn’t mean he’s not responsible, she said.

“One can imagine a drunk driver making the same excuse — that he just ‘didn’t think about the dangers’ of getting behind the wheel in an impaired state. But disregarding a clear risk does not absolve one of responsibility for assuming it,” Mills said.

Identity Theft, Student Loan Debt, Gun Control Support Wanes, And Paul May Filibuster Again: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 3-26-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Identity theft is at an all-time high in the United States; the victims are most often young Americans.


  • Meanwhile, banks wrote off $3 billion of student loan debt in the first two months of 2013, up more than 36 percent from the same period a year ago, as many graduates remain jobless, underemployed or cash-strapped.


  • A new CBS News poll shows support for stricter gun-control laws overall has dropped since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


  • Jeff Berwick, founder of StockHouse.com and CEO of TDV Media, announced Monday his plans to open the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in Cyprus amid the tiny nation’s bailout insanity.


  • Lawmakers in Tennessee freaked out when they thought a newly installed mop sink was a special foot bath installed for Muslims to wash their feet before prayer.


  • Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office on Tuesday.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.



EPA Empowers Environmental Extremists To Attack American Farmers

A number of farmers are worried that Environmental Protection Agency records containing personal information about agricultural producers in more than 30 States will be used maliciously by environmental extremists.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a coalition of environmental groups including Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the EPA handed over records containing personal information about American livestock farmers collected under the authority of the Clean Water Act.

“When we reviewed the information submitted by the states and released by EPA, we were alarmed at the detail of the information provided on hard working family farmers and ranchers, family operations including my own,” said former National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president J.D. Alexander, a cattle farmer in Nebraska.

“It is beyond comprehension to me that with threats to my family from harassment atop bio-security concerns, that EPA would gather this information only to release it to these groups. This information details my family’s home address and geographic coordinates. The only thing it doesn’t do is chauffeur these extremists to my house. For some operations, even telephone numbers and deceased relatives are listed.”

A provision in the Act required large livestock and poultry operations to get Clean Water Act permits under the assumption that they might discharge contaminants into waterways. In order to determine which farms had to comply,  EPA officials gathered data on livestock operations in more than 30 States, including many family farmers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.

The provision that allowed the EPA to collect the data was later nullified by a Federal appeals court, which ruled that the agency had overstepped its authority in gathering the information on farms that did not directly discharge into waterways. But the EPA continued its data collection efforts by soliciting information from State water agencies.

Representative Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) has spent the past several weeks working to hold the EPA accountable for the collection and release of the information.

“I have serious concerns over the EPA’s release of this information, particularly regarding individual privacy rights and possible bio-security threats to the nation’s food supply,” he said in a recent statement. “Releasing this type of information makes producers potential targets of harassment, or even bio-terrorism. Unfortunately, this release of information is yet another example of the EPA’s overreach into the lives of hardworking individuals in rural America.”

Bloomberg Says ‘There Are Certain Times We Should Infringe On Your Freedom’ Ahead Of Anti-NRA Spending Spree

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend far more than the $12 million he’s already spent on ad campaigns castigating Congressmen who’ve paused at the idea that infringing on personal freedoms is unConstitutional.

Bloomberg, who contributes millions out of his personal fortune to organizations and political action committees (he actually started his own anti-gun PAC last year), is helping drum up funds for a multi-State ad blitz this week targeting Senators he feels might be persuaded into acting on gun control legislation during the current Congressional session.

He’s making a play for the hearts and minds of low-information voters, with an eye toward offsetting the spending power of the National Rifle Association in the run-up to Congressional elections in 2014:

If I can do that by spending some money, and taking the NRA from being the only voice to being one of the voices, so the public can really understand the issues, then I think my money will be well spent and I think I have an obligation to do that.

Laudably quixotic as ever, Bloomberg’s idea of helping the public “really understand the issues” involves telling people they want something they don’t want — whether it be small sodas, hidden baby formula or gun bans — and then asking that they trust him to protect their safety instead of trusting the Constitution to protect their liberty.

That’s not a rant; Bloomberg said it himself Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet The Press” (full video here): “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

So many ominous things in that statement:

Telling Americans it’s appropriate that the state “infringe” on the freedoms of all citizens — not those few who’ve forfeited their freedoms through the due process of law.

Perversely appropriating that word, “infringe,” straight from his most despised passage in the Bill of Rights (that’s the 2nd Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms) — in order to subvert the very freedoms it was created to secure.

“We” versus “you.”

Bloomberg’s comments came as he defended his failed attempt to ban large sodas in New York. At one point, he called the whole soda-ban fiasco just a big “public awareness” campaign — one he still says the city’s health department “has the legal ability to do.”

But his remarks, and his dogged commitment to his social engineering daydream, reveal Bloomberg’s Orwellian attitude toward individual freedoms on every front. In the coming months and years, he will spend many millions of dollars to sell a hypocritical message of gun control not only to New Yorkers, but to all Americans.

How hypocritical? Bloomberg himself brings along a retinue of on-the-clock New York Police Department guards for armed protection every time he flies to Bermuda. For personal protection.

Arguments For, Against Gay Marriage Laws Before SCOTUS Today

A pair of cases in which challenges to existing laws have made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court will inch closer to resolutions this week, with possible implications for sweeping changes to the way same-sex marriage is treated, both by the Federal government and by each State.

Beginning today, the high court will hear arguments on whether California’s Proposition 8 — a voter referendum that approved modifying the California State constitution so that only marriages between men and women would be recognized by the State — stands in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Since its passage in 2008, Proposition 8 has effectively banned same-sex marriage in California.

On Wednesday, the court will also hear arguments in a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a Federal law signed by President Bill Clinton. The DOMA defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman in the eyes of the Federal government.

Both cases present the potential to effect enormous changes in the way the state treats marriage.

While homosexuals in California have largely gotten around the implications of Proposition 8 through that State’s recognizing of same-sex “domestic partnerships” instead of marriage, the outcome of the Proposition 8 case still asks the high court to determine a Constitutional issue that would apply to all 50 States. The Proposition 8 case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court because the plaintiffs asked for a ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits the States from legislating that marriage can mean only the joining of a man and a woman.

The DOMA also challenges the Constitutionality of how the government recognizes marriage — at the Federal level. The case that brought a challenge to the DOMA involves a New York widow who was “married” to the same female partner for four decades, yet was not allowed, under DOMA, to claim a Federal estate tax exemption when her deceased partner’s property passed to her.

The DOMA case doesn’t address whether gays have a Constitutional right to marry; it simply asks the Supreme Court to decide whether Congress and the President have the power to withhold Federal benefits to same-sex partners that heterosexual partners receive.

Dozens of Congressmen, the Administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Attorney General’s office have all weighed in, asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. So has Clinton, who said he’s had a change of heart since signing the original legislation into law.

An opinion in both cases is expected in June.

Liberty 101: Exam Time

All right, everyone; take your pencils out and put away your books. Professor Ben is here to take stock of just how much you’ve managed to retain from the reams of knowledge proffered by the rest of the faculty here at the Personal Liberty Digest Institute for Higher Learning and General Awesomeness. I’ve tried to cover as wide a range of topics as possible, all the better to gauge your progress. You’ll find the questions tough, but fair. Of course, some of you will fail to earn a passing grade and will be furious with me for refusing to “level the playing field.” That’s a tough break, kiddies. This is our field; we don’t move the goal posts to make it easier for the junior varsity.

Try to remember: There are no stupid questions, but there are some really stupid answers and some really, really stupid people:

Q: The $6 trillion rise in the national debt is a direct result of:

  1. President Barack Obama’s wildly ill-advised attempts to nationalize huge swaths of America’s economy.
  2. The fuel bills for greedy conservative’s private jets.
  3. Dick Cheney’s evil plans.
  4. Michelle Obama’s shopping habits.

Q: The “sequester” was created by:

  1. President Barack Obama.
  2. Speaker of the House John Boehner.
  3. Dick Cheney.
  4. Evil rich people. (But not the really cool ones like Al Gore and Sean Penn.)

Q: Because of the “sequester”:

  1. White House tours have been canceled.
  2. Michelle and Barack Obama are taking the girls on a “staycation” to the East Wing this year.
  3. Vice President Joe Biden is staying only in motels that charge by the hour.
  4. Obama has cut back to using Pinnacle™ golf balls instead of the Titleist ProV1x’s™ he prefers when he plays The Floridian™ with Tiger Woods.

Q: People’s health insurance premiums are rising because:

  1. Obamacare’s costs are untenable at current rates.
  2. Insurance companies are, like, totally evil and stuff.
  3. Doctors are mean.
  4. There’s a secret plot to help Donna Brazile maintain relevancy.

Q: As a direct result of Obamacare:

  1. Birth control pills are pretty much taxpayer-covered.
  2. Planned Parenthood is retraining abortionists to dispense IUDs.
  3. Senator Bob Menendez is thinking about moving to Las Vegas.
  4. Sandra Fluke is constantly out of breath.

Q: Hillary Clinton reversed her position on same-sex marriage because:

  1. She’s a calculating political animal who shares her husband’s penchant for governing by opinion poll.
  2. She figures gay couples should suffer just as much as she has.
  3. Her husband did, and she has yet to secure his 2016 endorsement.
  4. May Day at Janet Reno’s house last year was really awkward.

Q: A nuclear-armed North Korea:

  1. Seriously threatens the balance of global power, given the nature and associations of the Pyongyang regime.
  2. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides torturing dissidents.
  3. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides counting the IOUs we’ve written them.
  4. Gives the Chicoms something to do besides enabling the Pyongyang regime’s nuclear ambitions.

Q: Iran’s increasing belligerence is caused by:

  1. The fact that the only thing worse than an islamofascist is nuclear-armed islamofascist.
  2. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attempts to make up for being a tiny little man.
  3. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attempts to make up for being a tiny little man, in more ways than one.
  4. Something President George W. Bush did in the country next door.

Q: The so-called “Arab Spring” has produced:

  1. An increasingly dicey Mideast with war nearing virtual certainty.
  2. Wild hijinks like Benghazi.
  3. Iran’s totally not-weapons-related nuclear program.
  4. More for former President Jimmy Carter to blame on Israel.

Q: Benghazi is:

  1. A town in Libya where four Americans were murdered by islamofascists while Obama and his aides did less than nothing and then created a cover-up that continues to this day.
  2. A town in Libya where a YouTube video made everyone go temporarily insane with rage six months after the video was released.
  3. Something you can get from drinking the water in Libya.
  4. Totally no big deal, because… shut up.

Q: Obama’s approval rating has sunk below 50 percent because:

  1. Instead of showing constructive leadership on the economy, diplomacy or society, he has whined and griped about how those poopy Republicans are mean to him.
  2. Somewhere between 50 percent and 55 percent of the American people are racist.
  3. Somewhere between 50 percent and 55 percent of the American people are really racist.
  4. He drank the water in Libya and got a scorching case of the Benghazis.

Q: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to dictate the size of beverage containers because:

  1. He actually thinks people’s dietary habits fall under his authority.
  2. The only carbonated beverage he considers worth drinking is Veuve Clicquot™.
  3. Soda makes his armed bodyguards gassy.
  4. The uniforms he picked out for his minions are not particularly slimming.

Q: The Democrats want to ban so-called “assault weapons” because:

  1. If law-abiding citizens can defend themselves, tyranny can be a mite tricky to impose.
  2. Guns are secretly imbued with an innate evil that drives people to kill people; but only liberals can see it, so it’s up to them to save the rest of us.
  3. They’re worried Joe Biden might get ahold of a “tacticool” Ruger 10-22 and massacre the White House squirrel population.
  4. All of the above.

Q: Despite the Democrats’ demonization of semi-automatic rifles, the only actual military that deploys soldiers with semi-automatic rifles as standard practice is:

  1. Trick question; no national military equips regular front-line soldiers with semi-automatic rifles.
  2. A couple of those “–stan” countries that got sprayed all over the map after the Soviet Union exploded.
  3. One of those Eastern European countries with too many consonants in its name.
  4. The security force at Michael Moore’s country estate.

Q: The Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition because:

  1. They’re stockpiling five rounds for every man, woman and child in the country for some reason they’re refusing to divulge.
  2. They’re too lazy to reload their own brass.
  3. Secretary Janet Napolitano is thinking about turning “pro” and needs the target practice.
  4. Who wants to know?

Q: Dr. Ben Carson is:

  1. A world-renowned neurosurgeon who is standing up publicly to Obama’s bullying and fearmongering.
  2. “…the right wing’s go-to black token.”
  3. “…a pawn to get more black votes and change that image of the racist party.”
  4. “…the Negro du jour.”

Q: The recent spate of wintry weather has been caused by:

  1. Winter.
  2. High-capacity rifle magazines.
  3. Spider goats.
  4. A mythical creature which is half-man, half-bear and half-pig.

Well, how did you fare? For those of you who haven’t wandered off to compare your NCAA tournament brackets to the one the President filled out instead of doing his job, the correct answer to every question was (a). For those of you who actually needed me to tell you which answers were correct, you’re going to need some remedial coursework. I recommend the Personal Liberty Digest™.

–Ben Crystal

Rand Paul’s Libertarian Vision On Display: Lighten Up On Pot, Get Tough On Federal Budget

In the eyes of many people, the left-right political paradigm has served little purpose beyond saturating political debate with conversations about moral issues, over which legislation has little affirmative power. If Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gets his way, these conversations may become a thing of the past.

The message that Paul is very publicly pushing is not a new one. Libertarians have been saying the same things for years: Laws that seek to infringe on liberties that come with mostly personal consequences in the short term are unpopular and, often, unenforceable. Thus, the result of moral legislation often is more societal harm than good.

And Paul’s position on Federal marijuana prohibition — while, perhaps, at odds with traditional GOP positions — makes a great deal of sense for a fiscal conservative. According to NORML, the United States’ law enforcement agencies spend $10 billion and arrest 750,000 individuals each year as a result of Federal marijuana laws. This is despite the fact that more than 30 percent of the U.S. population currently lives under some form or another of marijuana decriminalization, including people living in States like Washington and Colorado where full legalization of the drug has been allowed.

In an interview on FOX News over the weekend, Paul — who has previously been an outspoken advocate for legalizing hemp (a non-psychedelic plant in the cannabis family with industrial viability) production — said that current marijuana laws are burdening American society with a Federal one-size-fits-all legal view of drug offenses.

“I don’t want to promote that but I also don’t want to put people in jail who make a mistake,” Paul explained. “There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on in their twenties they grow up and get married and they quit doing things like this. I don’t want to put them in jail and ruin their lives.”

Paul went on to note the publicly acknowledged youthful drug use of President Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

“Look, the last two Presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives,” Paul added. “They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things and I think it’s a big mistake.”

With regard to youthful drug offenders whose futures can be forever tarnished by a small possession charge, marijuana advocacy groups have expressed a view similar to Paul’s. According to NORML’s statistics, in recent years more than 30 percent of all Americans arrested for marijuana-related offenses were 19 years old or younger.

Paul’s marijuana position is not surprising given his continued call for the GOP to embrace candidates who are fiscally conservative, but capable of appealing to a broader base on social issues. The Senator isn’t just talking the talk, either.

On Friday, Paul presented a budget plan that was considered harshly conservative by many Americans and criticized as “out of the mainstream” by pundits. For a fiscally conservative Tea Party voter, however, the Paul plan — roundly rejected by the Senate — was the stuff of dreams.

Echoing the ideas of his father, Paul proposed eliminating the deficit in five years by doing away with the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, while also privatizing the Transportation Security Authority. The Senator’s proposal also called for raising the age for Social Security eligibility, a privatized Medicare system and the annihilation of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

On top of the spending cuts, Paul proposed that the capital gains tax should be eliminated and a 17 percent flat tax be put into place.

Though his plan was rejected, it did receive a “yea” vote from Paul and 18 other members of the legislative body:  Republican Senators John Barrasso (Wyo.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and David Vitter (La.).

There is widespread speculation that Paul is working to position himself for a 2016 Presidential bid. And while it is yet to be seen whether the junior Senator will be embraced by the GOP as it works to rebrand itself, most analysts say there is no doubt that Paul has the power to bring a broader base of support to the Party. The biggest question, it seems, is how much moral conservatism are traditional Republicans willing to forgo in return for real fiscal conservatism.

Meet The ‘Press’

There’s a grave somewhere in which Tim Russert is spinning like the smart meter on Al Gore’s mansion during Masseuse-apalooza. Russert spent decades building NBC News’ “Meet the Press” into the benchmark of Sunday morning appointment television. Not only did viewers flock to the Peacock network to watch Russert conduct a weekly symphony of journalism and celebrity, the roster of guests was a veritable who’s who of the movers and shakers of the world.

Perhaps it’s the pressure of trying to fill the oversized footprints of a legend like Russert. Perhaps it’s the relentless drumbeat of liberal malarkey that has replaced actual discourse. Perhaps President Barack Obama promised him a spot in his next foursome with Tiger Woods. Whatever the reason, David Gregory has fallen into the same pit of partisanship that has turned the rest of NBC’s news apparatus into a weird little carnival of mealymouthed mendacity.

On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” Gregory hosted yet another in the seemingly endless series of increasingly fruitless Democratic efforts to dismantle the Bill of Rights. While discussing so-called “gun control” with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Gregory coughed up an old and debunked “loophole” statistic: “[I]sn’t that preferable to a big loophole where you have all these — 40 percent of sales, private sales, one-on-one, where you’ve got no ability to trace it?”

Gregory was trying to make a point about what liberals believe is an epidemic of unregulated and unregistered sales of firearms between private citizens. For the gun-grabbing tyrants of the left, two law-abiding Americans conducting a simple business transaction free of the withering gaze of the government, President Barack Obama and/or NBC News is simply too much to bear. Thus did they concoct the aforementioned “40 percent.”

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if that number were accurate. After all, Americans don’t require government approval to exercise their 1st Amendment rights; so they neither want nor need the Democrats’ approval to exercise their rights under the 2nd Amendment. However, the real percentage of gun sales conducted between consenting citizens is around 10 percent, an admission even The Washington Post was forced to make following Obama’s use of the number in a ghoulish speech on so-called “gun violence” more than a month after the Newtown massacre. It’s worth noting that not only was Obama lying during his January fearmongering session, but he also omitted the fact that Connecticut already has the sort of anti-freedom laws the Democrats want to force upon the rest of us — for all the good they did the victims of Newtown.

While I don’t condone liberalism’s leading lights deliberately fabricating anti-Bill of Rights talking points for the sole purpose of, well, abrogating the Bill of Rights, I do understand that people so completely bent on control of The People will lie like Attorney General Eric Holder testifying about Operation Fast and Furious. But Gregory is supposed to rise above petty partisan dishonesty.

Democrats lie; it’s what they do. Obama deploys the “40 percent.” Congressman Charlie Rangel, disgraced but re-elected anyway, claims: “[W]e’re talking about millions of kids dying, being shot down by assault weapons.” Piers Morgan and Michael Moore jabber like cracked-out orangutans on basic cable television, blaming inanimate objects for everything except Morgan’s weak chin and Moore’s lack of self-control around fatty foods. But they’re politicians. Gregory is, ostensibly, a journalist.

In December, Gregory displayed a standard-capacity magazine during an attempted interrogation of LaPierre. His actions violated a local ordinance which bars possession of any magazine with a capacity exceeding 10 rounds. Though he escaped prosecution for his televised crime, Gregory did succeed in proving that anti-gun laws have no bearing or effect on people determined to break them, even pencil-necked media hacks who couldn’t actually use a firearm without wetting their pants.

Gregory’s murdering his own credibility is shameful, but not unexpected. Too bad “Meet the Press” got caught in the crossfire. Of course, the real estate between liberals and their goal of comprehensive gun control is as dangerous as your average Democrat-run city. Tim Russert would be mortified.

–Ben Crystal

Suit Filed Against EPA To Restrict Neonicotinoids

A group of California beekeepers and environmental groups filed suit last week to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict insecticides they say has a detrimental effect on honeybees.

The groups filed their lawsuit against the EPA in the Northern District Court of California, demanding that the regulatory agency suspend the use of pesticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The pesticides, which are part of a class of systemic insecticides known as neonicotinoids, are absorbed by plants and transported throughout a plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects, the groups said. Neonicotinoids are chemically related to nicotine, the harmful ingredient in tobacco products.

“Beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups have demonstrated time and time again over the last several years that EPA needs to protect bees. The agency has refused, so we’ve been compelled to sue,” Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs told NBC News.

The group claims to have obtained records of “legal violations” by EPA officials regarding its approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Syngenta and Bayer are the leading manufacturers of the neonicotinoid variety of insecticides and they claim there is no proof they are detrimental to bee health. But neonicotinoids are used on more than 100 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton annually; and California beekeepers say their populations have been so decimated that many of the State’s almond growers won’t have enough bees to effectively pollinate their trees this year.

The American Bird Conservancy recently published a review of 200 studies on neonicotinoids that included industry research obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The study calls for the banning of the insecticide based on its toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates and other wildlife.

Bees are essential pollinators of plants used for food and — along with butterflies, bats, beetles and some small mammals — are key components of the food system. Bee populations in China have been so decimated by the use of insecticides that farmers employ people to pollinate their almond trees.