The leader of a motorist advocacy group in Maryland is suing two municipalities for failing to provide information about how they authorized a speed limit change on a local road, and then hired a private company to operate a speed camera and collect ticket revenue from drivers.
“An agency which places cameras on every street corner shouldn’t be allowed to break the law in order to keep secrets,” Ron Ely, the head of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, told automotive policy website TheNewspaper. “However, this really isn’t about speed cameras. If local governments can conceal potentially embarrassing information from the public on this issue, then what else will they be allowed to hide?”
Ely filed the lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md. Circuit Court last week, asking the court only to declare that the speed cam data falls within the realm of municipal documents that must be kept on file as a matter of public record, as established by the Maryland Public Information Act. The suit also seeks a $1,000 fine for Brentwood officials who have so far stonewalled Ely’s original request, which originally was filed in October of 2010.
From the report:
The town [of Brentwood] eventually responded in June 2012, demanding that Ely pay a schedule of fees for the involvement of various town employees, including $200 an hour for the town attorney. The total cost to access the documents was left open-ended. Ely considered this response a constructive denial of his request.
…In Morningside, Ely is not seeking obscure or difficult to obtain records. Instead, he wants the calibration certificates and daily setup logs that must be “kept on file” under the state’s speed camera authorization statute. Already, two localities have been caught violating state law in allowing a private company to operate cameras without documenting the calibrations, as required.
Ely filed the request on June 5, but it failed to respond within thirty days, as required under the public records statute. After calling the town, Ely finally received an email from the town attorney on July 25 neither granting nor denying the request.
“Please be advised that the town of Morningside is not the speed monitoring system operator as that term is defined in the Maryland Annotated Code, and therefore, the town of Morningside does not maintain the records and documents pursuant to your request,” Morningside town attorney Todd K. Pounds wrote on August 5.
What Pounds means by that last statement is that the town of Morningside has handed enforcement, along with revenue collections, over to a private company that operates the speed camera. Brekford, the company that installs and maintains the equipment, gets 40 percent of every speeding ticket fine.
In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I have never had readers jump all over me like they did last week. Some of them were even polite about it! Here are just a few of the nearly 500 comments I received:
“The first thing I did after I read the article … checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day,” said Average _Joe56. “Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t.”
GQ4U had the same reaction: “An anti-liberty article in Personal Liberty Digest? Am I on Candid Camera?”
TheOriginalDaveH, one of our most frequent posters, asked, “What? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Is Chip really arguing against the 4th Amendment?”
GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMe Death (don’t you love his pen name?) was more emphatic: “Chip, have you lost your ever-loving MIND????? Seriously, you claim to be a conservative and you think stop-and-frisk is okay????? What the heck, dude, that is just wrong.”
Karolyn, another frequent correspondent, summed up her disappointment in just 10 words: “So now Chip is an advocate for the police state!”
A lot of folks were less kind than these examples. The cause of their ire was my defense of the stop-and-frisk program by the cops in New York City and my criticism of a Federal judge who found much of it unConstitutional.
You know what? I was wrong. My readers, bless their libertarian sentiments and uncompromising principles, are right.
I got blinded by two things. The first was the distorted logic the judge in this case exhibited. The second was the undisputed fact that major crime in New York City has plummeted.
Here’s one example of the kind of tortured thinking U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin showed in her ruling. She said that the police were justified in stopping and questioning David Floyd, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. And it was even okay when they searched the pockets of his outer garments.
But they went too far, she ruled, when they also frisked his pants pockets. Searching his jacket was okay, but not his pants? Give me a break.
So let’s go back to the basics: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Yes, in answer to one reader’s rhetorical question, I have heard of them. In fact, I keep a well-thumbed copy of both in my top desk drawer.)
Here’s what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
That’s as clear as our Founding Fathers could make it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear enough to keep the courts from permitting some incredible abuses. So today, 80-year-old grandmothers can be groped at an airport in the name of security. The NSA can collect information on the emails and phone calls of virtually every American in the name of combating terrorism. And the police can stop, question and frisk anyone they want in the name of fighting crime. All they need to do is claim to have reasonable grounds for their suspicions. They don’t even have to believe that a crime has been permitted by the suspect – merely that some sort of criminal behavior may be going to take place.
All of this is perfectly okay with the Federal courts, which have repeatedly sided with the authorities in permitting stop-and-frisk programs. Even Judge Scheindlin, whose ruling led to last Friday’s column, found the basic premise of stop-and-frisk to be acceptable.
But the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled in favor of many things that we Constitutionalists know are flat-out wrong. For most of the past century, the Federal government has acted as though the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution simply don’t exist. Time after time, the Supreme Court has supported massive expansion of Federal programs and power, no matter how much they have to twist and distort the Constitution to allow it.
And let’s not even get into the 2nd Amendment, which promises all of us that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Of course it is infringed all of the time. And nowhere are there more restrictions on our Constitutional right to bear arms than in New York City.
The most recent example of the Supreme Court’s tortuous logic in justifying yet another expansion of Federal power is when Chief Justice John Roberts said that the abomination known as Obamacare is Constitutional because it is a tax. So what if President Barack Obama and it supporters in Congress repeatedly denied that this was the case?
What about the claim that stop-and-frisk helps reduce crime? That’s the argument favored by its supporters, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (As one critic pointed out, “The first clue is that if you agree with Bloomberg on ANYTHING, you must immediately check yourself. The next thing you know, you’ll be agreeing with [Jesse] Jackson and [Al] Sharpton.” Ain’t gonna happen, medbob.)
Best-selling author Ann Coulter is one of many conservative commentators who support stop-and-frisk programs. In her syndicated column, “Stop and Frisk Policies Are Saving Lives,” she said that murders in the Big Apple were averaging about 2,000 a year when Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994. There were 714 – a decline of almost two-thirds – by the time he left office seven years later. And the number of murders has continued to fall, dropping to 419 murders last year.
That’s a big improvement. So it should come as no surprise that many of the citizens of New York City approve of stop-and-frisk. They think it makes them safer. And it probably does – at least from hoodlums and street criminals.
But remember what Benjamin Franklin, that very wise Founding Father, said. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
How many Americans are willing to exchange some essential liberty for a little temporary safety? Or to ask it another way, how many will exchange much of their independence for security? I’m afraid the answer is a whole bunch of them.
But not among the readers of Personal Liberty Digest™. You are a proud, feisty and independent crowd, and I’m grateful for it… and for you.
So thank you, DavidForward, for saying, “It takes an honest man (or woman) to admit they may have made a mistake and reevaluate their position. Congratulations on proving you are such [an] individual! Personal integrity and common sense are sorely missed in our devolving police state; keep up the good work, honest thoughts, and evaluations.”
Thanks, too, to TheOriginalDave, who wrote, “Wow. I’m impressed. Not many people will own up to their errors. Thanks, Chip.”
And to frequent commentator Vicki, who wrote, “Thank you, Chip. We were wondering ‘cause you have always been a staunch supporter of individual liberty for all.”
I still am and always will be, Vicki. But I’ve got to admit, I blew it this time. Thanks to everyone who made sure I didn’t get away with it.
Next week we’ll be back taking aim at the enemies of liberty. I hope you’ll join us.
Until then, keep some powder dry.
“I have directed Secretary Connelly to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold.” — Richard M. Nixon, Aug. 15, 1971
In the spirit of commemoration, we cannot allow the 42nd anniversary of Nixon’s speech go without comment. Addressing the Nation to “outline a new economic policy,” he failed to disappoint: Wage and price controls were instituted, the automobile industry was browbeaten into reducing prices and a 10 percent tariff was assessed on all imports. All this occurred before Nixon announced his grandest exploit: the termination of U.S. commitments to exchange gold for dollars with foreign governments.
Previously, the Federal Reserve’s ability to issue new money was limited by the threat of depleting the government’s gold reserves. Printing too many dollars led foreign governments to start favoring gold over holding depreciating U.S. dollars. Nixon’s actions (which proved not to be temporary) ended the last vestige of a gold standard, erased all limits on the unchecked printing of money and effectively ended the world’s currency system (known as Bretton Woods) in place since World War II.
Whether Nixon was sincere in his belief that these actions would truly, to use his terms, “nurture and stimulate” the economy or if, perchance, he knew better and deceived the American people, we have no comment. We reserve our commentary not to purpose, but to effect.
And the effect was an unmitigated disaster. Nixon promised Americans that any talk of inflation with an unconstrained Federal Reserve was a “bugaboo” and that his actions would actually “stabilize the dollar.” (If you wish to listen to Nixon in his own words, the latter part of his speech can be viewed here.) According to him, the risk of Americans paying higher prices was extremely limited:
If you want to buy a foreign car or take a trip abroad, market conditions may cause your dollar to buy slightly less. But if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today.
Despite these assurances, inflation became a hallmark of the 1970s as the unimpeded Federal Reserve zealously increased the money supply. The year 1973 experienced inflation of 9 percent, 1974 brought 12 percent, and the decade was closed out with a peak inflation rate of 14 percent in 1979. Since the date of Nixon’s speech, the dollar has lost 83 percent of its value. One dollar then is worth 17 cents today. What will it be worth tomorrow?
We cannot say with certainty, for while the creation of money causes inflation, the effect does not correspond fully in magnitude. Nor is it immediate. In fact, the lag between the expansion of the money supply and the onset of inflation could be years. If so, what expectations are reasonable based upon the Federal Reserve’s actions since 2008? The scary answer can be found in this chart depicting U.S. monetary growth.
[Editor’s Note: If inflation’s effects were immediate, people would catch on pretty quickly and they wouldn’t stand for it. The average American is a little too dim on real economics to understand why creating new money from nothing is a horrible idea, and the political class is far too evil not to exploit this ignorance so they can rip off dollar holders. The dollar will continue on its accelerated slide to zero while gold will go up. So keep trading those Federal Reserve Notes for gold, but be sure to internationalize your gold holdings. Click here to learn more about how TDV can help.]
To tweak a famous quote by Winston Churchill, wiping away the last traces of the gold standard was not a new beginning for U.S. monetary policy. It was not even the end of the beginning. But it was, perhaps, the beginning of the end.
-Christopher P. Casey
Christopher P. Casey, CFA®, CPA is a Managing Director at WindRock Wealth Management (www.windrockwealth.com). Using Austrian economic theory, Mr. Casey advises wealthy individuals on their investment portfolios to maximize their returns and minimize risk in today’s world of significant government intervention. Mr. Casey can be reached at 312-650-9602 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Democrats are demanding that the government’s ability to spy on American citizens be immediately throttled in the wake of ongoing reports of the National Security Agency’s unConstitutional collection of thousands of electronic communications between innocent Americans.
Representatives Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), all members of the House Judiciary Committee, say there is compelling evidence that the executive branch is guilty of vast abuses of the surveillance power granted in the name of fighting terror.
“We are gravely concerned with recent revelations of the government’s misuse of its surveillance authorities. Earlier this week, we learned of an internal review that shows the NSA routinely oversteps its own privacy rules,” the trio said in a statement. “Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government has the capability to reach nearly three-quarters of all internet traffic in the United States. Just moments ago, the government declassified court documents that show the NSA collected Americans’ electronic communication with no connection to terrorism—and did not learn of the problem for nearly three years. These revelations, and others over the past weeks, demand that we act immediately.”
The lawmakers are calling on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to re-evaluate the government’s ability to spy on Americans.
“Although we have repeatedly been assured that the government’s surveillance programs are subject to robust internal and external oversight, the burden remains on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to ensure that government acts in a manner that is consistent with our civil liberties,” the statement continued.
Specifically, the Democrats want Congress to take up legislation (H.R. 2399 a.k.a. “LIBERT-E Act”) to rein in the Administration’s spying powers granted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. They also want the White House to provide Congress with more information about the decisions passed down by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA surveillance.
“Meaningful Congressional oversight of these matters also depends on reporting by the executive branch. We must take appropriate legislative action to ensure that the government may not take advantage of existing authorities,” the lawmakers said.
Nadler, Conyers and Scott also said that that would like to see more NSA oversight from outside the intelligence community.
“Given recent disclosures, we also believe it is imperative that we enact legislation to declassify certain reports, introduce a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and change the manner in which FISC judges are selected,” said the statement.
This week, Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced that he will be introducing more legislation to take away some of the NSA’s surveillance powers because he believed that many lawmakers regret not supporting his narrowly defeated effort to do so last month. The lawmaker introduced several anti-NSA amendments in July, such as one to Defense Appropriations Bill that would have ended bulk phone record collection, but his proposals were defeated each time.
The onslaught of new damning headlines about the NSA, however, appears to have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle clamoring to limit the government’s surveillance power.
President Barack Obama announced a plan Thursday to deploy a program that rewards or punishes American colleges and universities based on how they’re rated under a new Federal assessment system his Administration is devising.
The ambitious plan, which is founded on metrics that will rate colleges based not on academic merit but on the degree to which they extend financial incentives to needy applicants, is supposed to go online in time for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. The President called on Congress to support him in crafting legislation to implement his plan, which will require tying Federal student aid to colleges’ compliance under the new rating scheme.
The new plan will monitor graduation rates, postgraduate employment, and admissions practices that ensure the poor can get into school and receive a degree – or, as the President said, “how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants.”
Critics are already warning that the scheme appears to reward colleges that intentionally weight their admissions processes toward low-income students, regardless of their academic potential, while punishing those that selectively admit students based chiefly on their capacity to succeed at rigorous academic work.
My plan comes down to three main goals.
First, we are going to start rating colleges, not just by which college is the most selective, not just by which college is the most expensive, not by which college has the nicest facilities. You can get all that on the existing rating systems. What we want to do is rate them on who is offering the best value so that students and taxpayers get a better bang for their buck.
Number two, we’re going to jump start new competition between colleges, not just on the field or on the court, but in terms of innovation that encourages affordability and encourages student success and doesn’t sacrifice educational quality.
And the third is we are going to make sure if you have to take on debt to earn your college degree that you have ways to manage and afford it.
…I am directing Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, to lead an effort to develop a new rating system for America’s colleges before the 2015 college year. Right now, private rankings, like the U.S. News and World Report, puts out each year their rankings — and it encourages a lot of colleges to focus on ways to… “How do we game the numbers?” and you know it actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs. I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity. Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed? And on outcomes – on their value to students and parents.
So that means metrics like: how much debt does the average student leave with? How easy is it to pay off? How many students graduate on time? How well do those graduates do in the work force? Because the answers will help parents and students figure out how much value a college truly offers.
And our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants. And, it will be my firm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease, the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic or other disadvantages.
The President also said that State legislatures “are going to have to step up” to support their public universities.
“They can’t just keep cutting support for public colleges and universities. That’s just the truth. Colleges are not going to be able to just keep on increasing tuition year after year, and then passing it on to students and families and taxpayers. Our economy can’t afford the trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, much of which may not get repaid because students don’t have the capacity to pay it.”
If the State schools cooperate, while simultaneously accepting the new yoke of a Federal “opportunity” ratings metric, Obama promised to reward them.
“We are going to deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up,” he said. “And we’re also going to encourage states to follow the same principle.”
(US~Observer) Linn County, Oregon — In 2007, when the stock market was going south on investors, registered investment adviser (RIA) Randy Gray and his partner, Scott Whitney, ran a successful business named ZurCrowner. Gray mainly handled investors, while Whitney conducted certified public accounting (CPA) for the partnership.
Whitney was also the CPA for Albany, Ore., general contractor Derek Dunmyer of Absolute General Contracting, Inc. (Absolute). Unbeknownst to Gray, Whitney was conducting business (loans, etc.) outside of ZurCrowner with Dunmyer and needed financial reprieve. Because of the miserable stock market performance, Gray knew several ZurCrowner clients wanted to diversify their portfolios.
In 2008, Whitney presented Gray with the idea of having ZurCrowner clients lend money to Dunmyer that would be collateralized with land Dunmyer owned. Absolute was in the middle of a huge development project; and as banking funds had dried up, Dunmyer promoted the idea he needed cash flow to continue building out the Somerset Meadows subdivision. Whitney and Dunmyer spent much time convincing Gray that the project would be profitable. They had to gain Gray’s trust and stamp of approval because ZurCrowner clients trusted Gray, since he was the partner handling the investment and customer side of the business.
Gray was told that Dunmyer had prior debt that needed to be cleared up as part of the business transaction. After many hours of calculating cash flow models and listening to Whitney, Dunmyer and others, Gray felt convinced the project could be successful – even in light of Dunmyer’s disclosed debt.
Whitney was to handle all the legalities of the loans. Whitney started by going to Albany attorney Cordell Post to form a company called MTC, Inc. and have a legal agreement drawn up between MTC, Inc. and Absolute to make sure that every business aspect was handled according to law. Post was also hired to examine the promissory notes and deed of trust to see that they were of the proper and legal form to protect the lenders.
During June and July 2008, Gray spoke to ZurCrowner clients about them lending money to Dunmyer so that Dunmyer and Absolute could complete the Somerset Meadows subdivision. The original plan was to use one half of the lent money toward Dunmyer’s land debt and creditors; the other half of the lent money was to develop the subdivision infrastructure and build homes to sell and repay the lenders. Nineteen people agreed to privately lend money through self-directed IRAs to Dunmyer and Absolute.
In August 2008, 19 lenders signed paperwork agreeing to lend money from their self-directed IRAs at 12 percent interest over five years. Some lenders chose to defer the interest until their loans came due, and other lenders needed monthly interest payments. One lender was Gray’s father. First Regional Bank (FRB) in California administered the self-directed IRAs. Each and every lender directed FRB to lend his money to Dunmyer and Absolute.
Dunmyer collateralized the loans totaling $3,345,500 with a trust deed and promissory note finalized by First American Title Company (FATCo) on “Phase 5 and 6” of the Somerset Meadows subdivision, and Dunmyer included his own personal residence as additional collateral valued at $4.4 million. Somerset Meadows subdivision sat next to a brand-new Greater Albany Public Schools site specifically placed by the district because of the 600 homes in the area and the potential increase of 600 new homes in the area. The city had platted more than 125 buildable lots in that portion of the Somerset Meadows subdivision once it was developed. In the summer of 2008, developed city lots were selling for $50,000, and new homes were selling rapidly for as much as $200,000 through Hayden Homes and Absolute.
Instead of using the lent money as he said he would, Dunmyer used some of the lent money to pay off undisclosed debt, leaving very little money from the loans to develop the Somerset Meadows subdivision and build homes. He redirected and kept money that he had promised to spend developing Somerset Meadows subdivision.
Gray — a highly ethical businessman, husband and father of six — was totally unaware that he was being scammed from day one. Gray didn’t know Dunmyer, but he thought he knew his trusted partner, Whitney. Gray had no idea that Dunmyer was a con artist who reportedly had a gambling problem, who wasted money on Rolex watches, who wasted money on numerous expensive vehicles and who had allegedly cheated car dealers, his employees, vendors, subcontractors and people who had lent him money.
Gray also had no clue that $200,000 described to him as a pay-off of Absolute’s debt was actually a pay-off of a loan owed by Whitney. Whitney did know this, but he conveniently failed to inform his business partner, Gray. According to witnesses, Gray was shocked to learn he had been defrauded by Dunmyer and his own partner, Whitney. Gray is actually a victim in this case and not a perpetrator.
Even after Dunmyer cheated Gray, Gray still believed he could help the lenders complete the Somerset Meadows subdivision and receive payments in full on their loans. Dunmyer disappeared, planning to simply file bankruptcy, Whitney decided he couldn’t do anything, and the honorable and ethical Gray worked his tail off day and night for two and a half years making interest payments to the lenders. He also became a contractor and started building homes in an effort to see that the lenders were made whole, until a grand jury indictment and his arrest occurred. A condition of release order from the State of Oregon prohibited Gray from making any contact with the lenders.
During the investigation, Oregon State investigator Ruth Johnson and her cohorts relentlessly questioned the 19 lenders. The investigators coached the lenders during questioning; they inflamed the lenders; they planted false ideas in the lenders’ minds. And the State of Oregon factually ruined any chance that the lenders would ever get the bulk of their money returned. In the end, after foreclosing on their loans and selling their collateral, the lenders received only pennies on their dollars.
On Aug. 18, 2011, just before the case went to the grand jury in Linn County and when the statute of limitations was just about to expire, special prosecutor Jason Weber presented Gray, Whitney and Dunmyer with a pre-indictment plea offer. The offer specifically sent to Gray threatened more than 28 years in prison if convicted at trial. The rubber-stamping grand jury subsequently indicted Gray and Whitney on one count of racketeering, 16 counts of aggregated theft and 16 counts of unregistered sale of securities. Dunmyer was indicted on only a single count of racketeering because of his acceptance of the State’s plea agreement.
Dunmyer signed a plea offer with the State on Aug. 22, 2011, testifying that at the time of the 2008 loans, Gray and Whitney had assumed control over Absolute General Contracting, implying Dunmyer didn’t have control over where the money went. Dunmyer absolutely lied to prosecutor Weber about this. Dunmyer is expecting to receive probation for his scam(s), and he is currently enjoying the good life by, believe it or not, selling real estate in Salem, Ore. Shockingly, his Oregon real estate broker’s license, scheduled to expire on Aug. 31, may be renewed by the Oregon Real Estate Agency. Whitney took a separate plea agreement, received three years of prison and is sitting in a prison cell.
Gray is fighting for his innocence, while supporting his wife and six children. The US~Observer fully intends to fight right alongside of this honest and ethical man.
Editor’s note: Gray is currently represented by Lake Oswego attorney James Leuenberger and he is being prosecuted by Oregon Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Wendel and Andrew Campbell. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is the responsible elected public official who is authorizing the prosecution of Gray. The US~Observer prompts the attorney general to have one of her staff take another look at this unjust prosecution. If Rosenblum is concerned with justice, she will find, as we have, that Gray had absolutely no intent whatsoever to commit a crime of any nature. We also prompt Rosenblum to tell the Oregon Real Estate Agency that Dunmyer has admitted he committed the crime of racketeering. We hope the Oregon Real Estate Agency will realize that it should not renew Dunmyer’s broker license.
Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.
In a recent interview with Democracy Now, influential polemicist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky said Sarah Palin was right about Barack Obama: There was no substance to his Presidential campaign. Read More…
On Thursday, ABC News revealed some of the names of the people chosen for a NSA review panel by White House officials. Unsurprisingly, those charged with reviewing the NSA’s practices aren’t exactly outsiders. Read More…
Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America – the same group that ran a series of irresponsible 2nd Amendment attack ads featuring photos combining children, classrooms and firearms earlier this year – is organizing a Nationwide boycott of everyone’s favorite coffee stop this Saturday. Read More…
Former Vice President and Earth Defender Al Gore already invented the Internet. Now he’s inventing a whole new category of megastorm. Gore told The Washington Post Wednesday that “they” – whoever they are – are about to institute a sixth category to accommodate the rogue, steroidal class of apocalyptic hurricanes coming in the future. Read More…
The five-week trial of George Zimmerman that ended in his acquittal in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin cost the public $902,000, officials said. Read More…
Former Vice President and Earth Defender Al Gore already invented the Internet.
Now he’s inventing a whole new category of megastorm. Gore told The Washington Post Wednesday that “they” – whoever they are – are about to institute a sixth category to accommodate the rogue, steroidal class of apocalyptic hurricanes coming in the future to a shoreline near you.
Blame man-made global warming:
The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.
Eschatology is the enthralling religious preoccupation of the blame-mankind-for-the-apocalypse set, so Gore is simply hewing close to form. But, as the Post’s Jason Samenow notes, Gore’s climate change sermons have always borne an air of hyperbole.
“Generally, Gore’s characterization of the links between global warming and hurricane intensity is a bit fast and loose,” he wrote Thursday. “…[W]ith his penchant for overstatement, Gore will continue to be a divisive and less than credible voice in climate change discourse.”
Still, Samenow checked with the National Weather Service to be sure Gore’s “Category 6” prophecy had some basis in fact. But, like man-made climate change itself, the answer was disappointing.
“No, we’re not pursuing any such change,” responded NWS public affairs director Chris Vaccaro. “I’m also not sure who VP Gore means by ‘they.’ I’d also point out that the top rating, Category 5, has no ceiling: it includes hurricanes with top sustained winds of 157mph and higher.”
Talk about Inconvenient Truths.
“This was all part of that hope and change and transparency. Now, a year later, I gotta ask the supporters of all that, ‘How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?’ ” –Sarah Palin 2010
In a recent interview with Democracy Now, influential polemicist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky said Sarah Palin was right about Barack Obama: There was no substance to his Presidential campaign.
“I don’t usually admire Sarah Palin, but when she was making fun of this ‘hopey changey stuff,’ she was right; there was nothing there,” Chomsky said. “And it was understood by the people who run the political system, and so it’s no great secret that the US electoral system is mainly a public relations extravaganza… it’s sort of a marketing affair.”
President Barack Obama said two weeks ago that he would assemble a panel of intelligence outsiders to evaluate the National Security Agency and “consider how we can maintain the trust of the people [and] how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.”
On Thursday, ABC News revealed some of the names of the people chosen for the panel by White House officials. Unsurprisingly, those charged with reviewing the NSA’s practices aren’t exactly outsiders.
The identities of the panelists have been a topic of speculation online, raising questions over whether the group would truly be independent in its review. The White House has insisted the group has full independence.
The president made clear that — in addition to looking at potential abuses by the program — the group will also assess whether the U.S. government “appropriately” accounts for “insider threats” and unauthorized disclosures.
“[Recent] technological advances have brought with them both great opportunities and significant risks for our intelligence community,” President Obama said.
In 60 days, the review panel will provide an interim report to the director of national intelligence, who will then brief the president on the panel’s findings.
A final report and subsequent recommendations will then be provided by the end of the year “so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy and our foreign policy,” President Obama said two weeks ago.
Among those chosen for the panel are:
- Michael Morell— former acting head of the Central Intelligence Agency
- Richard Clarke— served the last three Presidents as a senior White House adviser, including as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism
- Cass Sunstein— Obama’s former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
- Peter Swire— early in the Obama Administration, served as a special assistant to the President for economic policy and, during the Clinton administration, served as the chief counselor for privacy
A gun control group has found an unlikely target in its ongoing campaign to strip Americans of their Constitutional powers.
Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America – the same group that ran a series of irresponsible 2nd Amendment attack ads featuring photos combining children, classrooms and firearms earlier this year – is organizing a Nationwide boycott of everyone’s favorite coffee stop this Saturday.
The boycott is intended to goad the Seattle-based coffee chain into revering its standing policy of following the law of the land. In other words, the group wants Starbucks to ban customers from carrying guns in its stores, even in States that permit open carry.
Dubbed “Skip Starbucks Saturday,” the boycott also urges would-be gun grabbers to sign a petition asking Starbucks to change its policy, and to donate the money they’d otherwise spend on coffee this Saturday to advance the organization’s mission.
From the boycott web page:
Did you know that when you walk into a Starbucks in most states, you could be standing next to someone carrying a loaded weapon? Starbucks allows people to bring guns inside their stores where state open carry laws allow it.
According to Starbucks, this policy is in place because, “We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve.” But the company has put the health and safety of its customers first before. Most recently, Starbucks banned smoking within 25 feet of its storefronts—even where local laws would permit smoking. The company also bans firearms from its corporate offices and prohibits its employees from carrying guns into Starbucks stores.
Help us tell Starbucks it’s time for gun sense.
Starbucks can do as it wants, and likely isn’t interested in becoming an object of veneration or revulsion on either side of the gun debate. But that hasn’t stopped Constitutionalists from staging their own Starbucks appreciation events in recent weeks, with 2nd Amendment advocates organizing their own open-carry group visits to store locations across the country as a show of thanks for the company’s follow-the-law policy on firearms.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla., (UPI) — A Florida judge dismissed a ticket issued to a man jogging backward and said he can continue the practice so long as he stays in bike lanes.
The judge dismissed the $77.50 ticket issued in April to Alex Mesa, who Miami Beach police said was obstructing traffic by jogging backward, WFOR-TV, Miami, reported Wednesday.
The judge told Mesa he can continue his practice of jogging backward as long as he remains in the bike lanes.
Mesa said jogging backward puts less strain on his body. He said he was afraid to exercise since receiving the ticket.
“Every time I went jogging, it felt like I was going to buy drugs, like I was sneaking out and doing something wrong and that was an uncomfortable feeling, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me because I know very well I came very far to get to where I’m at,” Mesa said.
YUCAIPA, Calif., (UPI) — Officials with a California school district said an elementary school is ending its policy of requiring students to kneel down prior to dismissals.
Yucaipa Calimesa Unified School District Superintendent Cali Binks said the policy at Calimesa Elementary School in Yucaipa will no longer be enforced after an anonymous flyer circulated among parents led to complaints, KCAL-TV, Los Angeles, reported Thursday.
The flyer alleged Principal Dana Carter instituted a policy recently requiring students to drop to one knee at various points throughout the day and wait to be dismissed by the principal or another administrator.
A mother who asked not to be named said she was horrified to learn the policy had been implemented at the school, which her 7-year-old daughter attends.
“She says that she has to drop down on one knee with her hands at her side, wait for the principal to come out, lift his arms and tell them to go to class,” the mother said. “I feel that the principal wants to be like a king, and we don’t have kings in America.”
SANFORD, Fla., (UPI) — The five-week trial of George Zimmerman that ended in his acquittal in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin cost the public $902,000, officials said.
Zimmerman, who was charged with murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, began June 10 and a six-member jury returned the not guilty verdict on July 13.
The biggest cost associated with the trial was paid to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, which spent $425,000 providing security, planning and logistics during the trial, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Wednesday. The second biggest was the $183,000 the city of Sanford spent on police overtime.
Sanford police decided to up security to curb potential violent protests as well as protect Zimmerman, who had received death threats
Juror costs also were high. The Clerk of Courts Maryanne Morse spent $34,600 during the jury’s 22-day sequestration, during which the six members of the jury lived in a hotel and were isolated from their families and media reports.
The trial costs are based, in part, on estimates and do not include criminal investigation or pretrial costs, such as the $80,000 the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office paid to have Special Prosecutor Angela Corey work on the case.
Nor did the trial costs include what Zimmerman and his lawyers spent.
KETTERING, Ohio, (UPI) — A 37-year-old Ohio man showed no signs of life for 45 minutes and was declared dead before his heart picked back up and he came back to life, doctors said.
Melissa Yahle said she woke up Aug. 5 and realized something was wrong with her husband, Anthony, because his breathing didn’t sound right.
She and son Lawrence, 17, performed CPR until an ambulance arrived and first responders could use a defibrillator, ABC News reported Thursday.
At Kettering Medical Center, cardiologist Raja Nazir said he discovered Anthony Yahle’s arteries were clear and things looked good until the man coded. They worked on him for 45 minutes, giving him every medicine they could, but he didn’t respond and was declared dead.
When Lawrence found out his father was dead, he said he ran down the hall to see his father’s body and yelled, “Dad, you’re not going to die today.”
Nazir said at some point after that, he noticed Anthony Yahle had a heartbeat again, about once or twice a minute.
“When I looked at the electrical activity, I was surprised,” Nazir said. “I thought we’d better make another effort to revive him.”
Nazir said Anthony Yahle was back at home, resting comfortably by Aug. 10, with no need for a heart transplant. The cause of his medical emergency was not reported.
“I’m calling it a miracle because I’ve never seen anything like it,” Nazir said.
Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.
- A Department of Homeland Security employee who works on, among other things, the procurement of guns and ammunition for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spends his nights and weekends preparing for a coming race war and advocating for anti-gay causes, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Source: The Atlantic Wire…
- Craigslist has been flooded with people selling their tickets to see President Obama deliver a speech today at the University of Buffalo. Police have been posing as buyers on Craigslist, meeting with sellers, confiscating the presidential ticket, and issuing a criminal ticket. Source: WKBW…
- “The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned,” Al Gore offers in a Washington Post interview. “It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing.” Source: The Washington Post…
- Citing ObamaCare as a reason, the the University of Virginia has announced that spouses of University employees who have access to health insurance through their own jobs will no longer be eligible for health insurance coverage. Source: Breitbart…
- One of the two students removed from Oberlin College earlier this year for allegedly circulating virulently racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages around campus is an ardent leftist and committed supporter of President Obama, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. Source: The Daily Caller…
Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day.
Welfare benefits outpace the amount of money a person can earn at a full-time minimum-wage job in 35 States, according to a study by the Cato Institute.
The study, published Monday, also reveals that welfare recipients in at least 13 States are receiving from the government the cash equivalent of a $15 per-hour full-time job. See a full PDF version of the report, titled “The Work Versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013,” here.
An earlier iteration of the Cato study, done in 1995, already had shown that welfare benefits “greatly exceed” the poverty level and, because the payouts are tax-free, actually provide more incentive for recipients to remain unemployed than seek jobs that would earn them taxable income.
Michael Tanner, one of the study’s two authors, wrote Monday that welfare must be reformed if its recipients are to view it as a bridge to employment.
From Tanner’s study summary:
The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour. If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.
Tanner adds that the balance in the number of people who correctly use welfare to tide them over until they find a real job has most likely declined since the 1995 report.
Earning any amount of money – even minimum wage money or part-time job money – is an incentive to earn more, Tanner notes. “There is little doubt that one of the most important long-term steps toward avoiding or getting out of poverty is taking a job,” he writes. “[W]hile many anti-poverty activists decry low-wage jobs, a minimum-wage job can be a springboard out of poverty.”
However, welfare keeps many able recipients from looking for work – not because of laziness, but because of economics. “[T]he evidence suggests that many are reluctant to accept available employment opportunities,” said Tanner.
A SWAT training exercise that took place in Rossford, Ohio, last week appears to be just the latest example of the state working to familiarize American citizens with terror and heavy-handed police-state response.
Students on a bus en route to a local school were terrified when a man stood up and proceeded to hijack the vehicle. The hijacker, carrying what appeared to be a functional firearm, tied up some of the students and told them to keep their heads down.
The bus was rerouted to a local emergency management facility where it was stormed by first responders and SWAT teams.
“Every driver, administrator will take something away from this saying that this could actually happen on my bus. That’s what our focus was. This could happen on any bus,” Jeff Culler, Rossford Schools transportation director, told a local ABC affiliate.
While preparedness is always a good policy, there was one disturbing element to the drill: The students onboard the bus had no idea that they weren’t in real danger — even though the drill had been planned since May.
Via 13 ABC:
This isn’t the first unannounced drill to take place in a school.
Personal Liberty’s Ben Bullard reported in May:
Teachers at an Oregon school thought they and their colleagues had been shot by masked gunmen who stormed a faculty meeting and began randomly firing at people. Amid the shock and noise and adrenalin, teachers had to look down at their own bodies in order to realize they weren’t bleeding.
They weren’t bleeding because the shooters were firing blanks, and — ho, ho — the whole thing had just been a preparedness exercise. The two guys with the guns, wearing hoodies and masks, were school staff members acting on the instruction of principal Cammie DeCastro. …
… The shock-and-awe invasion of a room full of 15 teachers produced both hypothetical casualties and real outrage. DeCastro said most of the teachers wouldn’t have survived the ordeal, had live rounds been used — a fact intended to emphasize the importance of active shooter training the school’s faculty had previously received from the county sheriff’s office.
Is this the new norm for American students?
Politicians, bureaucrats, et al. are wordsmiths. They twist words that sound good to us but lead to opposite conclusions. This semantic trickery is used in everything and every proposed piece of legislation.
Many of them are lawyers and doublethink legalese is their forte. Their political life is all about deception. This is their cover so that they hide the fact that they work for the government.
The politicians’ fiat mentality can be described as a parasite that attracts other parasites of like mind. The fiat (paper money) mentality is rot and decay that attracts likes because they can’t survive independently as creators of wealth.
They love the politics of envy; they are the epitome of greed, selfishness, laziness and physic dependence on authoritarianism. They are vipers who eat their young. A police state is their ultimate dream.
They protect the power elite and they want power over the people at the people’s expense. They want the world in a concentration camp. They harbor a perfect hate for humanity and they would love the Gestapo.
Totalitarianism evolves from the breakdown of law and order through a synthetic and secretly directed make-believe democratic process. The breakdown of law and order is a political cancer that must be concealed in order to extend the system until the rape is over. Concealing the breakdown of law and order in the United States is of the very highest priority. It is the hidden national agenda.
Man, his work ethic, his spirit, his emotions, his duty and his morality are all distorted by a fiat system in the latter days. There is no more terra firma; all is quicksand. The debasement of morality is no surprise to the discerning. I and others have been foretelling it.
On the one hand, we have the boundless ambition without morality. On the other, we have the supine venality of the dependent class. The Founders foresaw it.
In an early draft of his first inaugural address, George Washington wrote in 1789:
The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes. Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the Supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting an inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchm[en]t can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.
It’s taken 224 years, but America has arrived there.
Hello, I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. I’ve spent a lot of time right here at PersonalLiberty.com as a prosecutor laying out the indictment of Barack Obama. But now it’s time to see the glass as half full. It’s time to light the way to prosperity. Now I’m going to paint a picture of how a country should be run. That example is the great State of Texas. If you want to see how a country should be run; if you’re interested in seeing your citizens succeed; and if you’re interested in creating opportunity, mobility and the pursuit of happiness, all you need to do is look at Texas.
Facts don’t lie. It seems like everyone is moving to Texas, the land of “Wild West Cowboy Capitalism” –especially residents of high tax-and-spend States like California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois and Michigan. From 2000 to 2010, a staggering 3.4 million people moved out of New York, resulting in a net loss of 1.3 million residents. California was a close second with a net population loss of 1.2 million during the same decade.
During that same time, Texas led the Nation in net population growth. A remarkable 551,914 new Texans came from one State: California. They brought with them $14.3 billion in income. In just one year (from 2009 to 2010), 48,877 Californians moved to Texas, bringing with them $1.2 billion. But even that paled against the almost $1 trillion in assets and income that relocated New Yorkers brought to the Lone Star State. Wow!
So why is everyone running for their lives from New York and California? And why are so many of them heading to Texas? The answers are taxes, regulations and quality of life — in other words, government interference in their lives or, in the case of Texas, minimal interference. It’s no coincidence that New York has ranked first or second in the Nation for tax burden every year since 1977.
In addition to State income, property and sales taxes, New York has a whopping 49 cents per gallon gas tax and the highest estate and gift taxes in the Nation. After grabbing more of your money than any State while you’re alive, New York also steals more of your money after you’re dead — with estate taxes. I should know; I left New York 25 years ago and never looked back.
But California couldn’t stand to be No. 2. Those Hollywood socialists are so competitive. Not to be outdone by New York, last November, California passed the highest State income taxes in America. You can almost hear the liberals shouting: “We’re No. 1!” Yes, the State is No. 1 in taxes, but it’s also No. 1 in people running for the exit — especially high-income earners and high-net-worth individuals. Be careful what you wish for.
California not only leads the Nation in taxes, it is also the worst State for excessive rules and regulations. It’s no wonder so many people are escaping California. I should know; I left California, too.
Lest you think this is some kind of fluke or that taxes are not the determining factor in this “escape from New York and California,” it isn’t just Texas that is gaining all these fleeing residents. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that all of the top 15 States for population growth during the past decade are no-tax or low-tax States. And since the 2010 census, Texas dominates the list for fastest-growing cities, with eight of the top 15. Remarkable.
It seems Americans are smarter than politicians give them credit for. They are voting with their feet for lower taxes, pro-business attitude and more economic freedom.
Because no State in the union has a better economy, let’s look “up close and personal” at the Texas miracle. What exactly is “Wild West Cowboy Capitalism” and why does it work?
Texas has zero State income tax, zero capital gains tax and zero death tax. It is a “right to work” State where employees may choose to join a union, but are never forced. It is a pro-business and anti-lawyer State, passing both landmark medical lawsuit reform and America’s first “loser pays” lawsuit reform. The results of the medical reforms? Lawsuits dropped by 70 percent. Twenty-five thousand doctors moved to Texas. Medical liability insurance rates dropped by as much as 50 percent. Texas is also one of the most difficult States in which to file class action lawsuits.
Quite simply, Texas treats businesspeople and taxpayers nicely. The State offers more business incentives ($19 billion) than any other State.
On the other hand, Texas is tightfisted with taxpayer money. They pay the least generous welfare and entitlement benefits. California is the exact opposite. They are the welfare capital of America. California has one-third of the Nation’s welfare recipients. Why? Because California pays the most generous welfare benefits in the Nation: $179 per citizen compared to $32 per citizen in Texas.
Texas is also tightfisted with its government employees. California government employees are paid 25.2 percent more on average than State employees in Texas. California has the highest-paid teachers in America, while Texas pays its teachers far less. Yet the high school graduation rate is higher in Texas than California. Texas runs its government far more efficiently.
Texas has a balanced budget amendment. By contrast, California owes an astounding $167 billion. The result is people with high incomes, assets and ambition are moving into Texas, while those who lack work ethic and feel entitled to handouts are moving out. Good luck to New York and California. We’ll see you in bankruptcy court.
One of the ways this has been made possible is that the Texas State constitution limits the time politicians can meet to 90 days every other year. That explains everything. Texas, like my adopted home state of Nevada, has low taxes and the fastest growing population because politicians aren’t allowed to sit in their seats all year long thinking of new ways to redistribute income, impede business and destroy jobs.
Just look at the remarkable results of favoring hard-working business owners and job-creators over entitlement addicts and lawyers. The annual Texas economy has passed $1 trillion, accounting for 8.3 percent of the entire U.S. economy. It is second largest in America and 14th largest in the world — equivalent to Russia.
How about jobs? Feast your eyes on these statistics: Since 2007, one-third of all jobs in America were created in Texas; and in the past decade, more jobs were created in Texas than in the other 49 States combined. Texas is where three out of every five jobs created in America since 2007 were created.
Even more amazing is the kind of jobs Texas has been creating. They have created the most private-sector jobs in the Nation and eliminated government jobs — the kind that cost taxpayers big money.
According to CNN/Money, Texas for the first time has more Fortune 500 headquarters than New York. Texas is also home to six of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies.
At the same time, Texas displaced New York as the second largest economy in this country. Texas’ economy had the most explosive growth in all of America for the past 50 years, while California’s economy has been among the worst.
Texas’ fiscal condition is sound. California, New York, Illinois and all these other high tax-and-spend States careen from crisis to crisis, always on the verge of bankruptcy. Business flourishes. Here’s an example why. California-based CKE Restaurants has more than 3,000 restaurants, including Carl’s Jr. and Hardees. Its president, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, called his home State of California business-unfriendly and noted that opening a restaurant in California takes two years and costs $200,000 more than opening one in Texas, where it takes only six weeks. Is it a surprise that CKE has stopped opening new restaurants in California, but plans to open 300 in Texas? Chevron must have gotten the same memo. It recently announced it is moving 800 high-paying employees (one quarter of its workforce) from California to Houston.
Still unconvinced? Ask the CEOs of America. In Chief Executive magazine’s annual poll (the one that ranked California dead last in America for business for eight consecutive years), Texas has been ranked No. 1 for those same eight straight years. And CNBC just ranked Texas as the top State in America for business for 2012 — the third time it’s been ranked No. 1 in six years.
Texas recently passed its 2013 budget. Texas cut taxes and spending, and it wound up with a record-setting $8 billion budget surplus. Congratulations to Governor Rick Perry.
Now you know why all my exes live in Texas. I’ll bet all your ex-business partners and ex-friends do, too. Now you know how to save America. Just follow Texas; it’s that simple. Now you understand that businesses, as well as people, choose States that treat them better, give them more economic freedom and allow them to keep more of their own money. Imagine that?
The results of smaller government, restrained politicians and lower taxes is dramatically increased wealth, job creation and citizens with a higher quality of life. God bless Texas. The solution to saving America is to do the opposite of everything Obama does. Texas proves it works.
By the way, my Texas friends want everyone to know: “Come on down, ya’ll are welcome. Just leave your socialist politics at home.” I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. See you next week. Same time, same place. God bless America.
The National Rifle Association has been a steadfast vocal opponent to any gun-control proposal that involves a national gun owner database. But a report published by BuzzFeed on Wednesday indicates that the gun lobbying organization has compiled its own gun owner registry.
The NRA has, for years, been working to acquire gun permit registration lists from State and county offices, gather names of new owners by scouring the records for gun-safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of gun show attendees and subscribers to gun magazines and newsletters.
BuzzFeed contributor Steve Friess reports:
The result: a Big Data powerhouse that deploys the same high-tech tactics all year round that the vaunted Obama campaign used to win two presidential elections.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to discuss the group’s name-gathering methods or what it does with its vast pool of data about millions of non-member gun owners. Asked what becomes of the class rosters for safety classes when instructors turn them in, he replied: “That’s not any of your business.”
Others in the business of big political data, however, say the NRA is using similar tools to those employed by the campaigns of its nemesis, President Barack Obama.
“There are certainly some parallels,” said Laura Quinn, CEO of Catalist, a data analysis firm used by Obama for America. “The NRA is not only able to understand people who their members are but also people who are not their members. The more data they have, the more it allows them test different strategies and different messages on different people.”
“Part of the way they have gotten to a place where they are able to do what they do is through data,” Quinn said. “There is some irony.”
The vast size of the NRA’s database and its sophisticated methods of analyzing the public mood go a long way to explaining the organization’s enduring influence. Even in an age when opinion polls show gun control measures gaining in general popularity and when wealthy benefactors like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are spending millions to counter the NRA’s lobbying and advertising budgets, the NRA has built-in advantages.
The NRA won’t say how many names and what other personal information is in its database, but former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman estimates they keep tabs on “tens of millions of people.”
While American liberals have used the BuzzFeed piece to call the NRA hypocritical for compiling a database much like the government database it has so vehemently opposed, the critics miss an important point: The NRA, a private organization, is likely identifying gun owners in a bid to strengthen the pro-gun lobby; meanwhile, the Federal government wants its own gun owner database to use a potential tool for gun confiscation in certain situations.
National Review noted in response to the BuzzFeed piece:
It’s astronomically unlikely that the NRA would ever use this data as part of an effort of national gun confiscation. The purchasing of magazine subscriber lists — hey, that’s been around for a long time. …
… The BuzzFeed article seems to emphasize the theme of hypocrisy, or to suggest that gun owners should be or will be up in arms about the NRA using all this data to beat back gun-control efforts. Somehow I suspect that a lot of gun owners will respond, “Well, it’s about time!”
In an era where the Federal government has demonstrated its ability to force private entities turn over user and customer data per PATRIOT Act and other anti-terror laws, however, gun owners should be careful not to feel too comfortable with the NRA database. The lobbying group may end up shooting its supporters in the foot, having already done the dirty work if the National Security Agency should decide it would like a gun owner database of its own.
It is also worth mentioning that the NRA has found itself on both sides of the gun debate over the decades (as we noted here in January).
Attorney General Eric Holder has so thoroughly disgraced himself during his occupation of the big chair at the Department of Justice that those extremely rare moments during which he doesn’t sell weapons to Mexican narcoterrorists or perjure himself in front of Congress often go unnoticed. So let me say this: Holder got one right — sort of.
On Aug. 13, Holder announced a Department of Justice (DoJ) plan to curtail mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level, non-gang affiliated, nonviolent offenders. According to Holder, the aforementioned category “(W)ill be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.” Of course, being Holder, he couldn’t resist the urge to work some imaginary racist element into the scenario, calling the higher rates of African-Americans incarcerated “shameful,” without noting the higher rates of African-Americans committing crimes.
There is a down side to a Holder-commanded DoJ removing its considerable surveillance and enforcement apparatus from the hemp-sandal set. Doritos and Taco Bell will almost certainly face shortages. And people who mention Jesus in their blog posts will notice an increase in the unmarked vans parked randomly across from the houses. But look on the bright side; the perversion factories and gladiator schools we call prisons will get less crowded, meaning the yard fights will be much more exciting.
According to the DoJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the DEA arrested 5,911 people for marijuana-related offenses in 2005 (the most recent year for which I could find reliable statistics). Marijuana-linked offenders represent about 13 percent of America’s prison inmates, or just less than 50,000 inmates nationwide. Throw in those awaiting trial or currently on probation for nonviolent marijuana-linked offenses, and the number jumps to more than 1,000 percent. That means the real bad guys — the rapists, the murderers and the Democratic mayors of large cities — have to share unnecessary space behind bars.
The cost of imprisoning every Cheech and Chong wannabe with grow lights in their hall closets comes in at about $1 billion annually. If America were to declare general amnesty for nonviolent marijuana offenders, we would save enough to fund every “green” energy boondoggle Obama’s cronies cook up and still have enough left over to bail out one or two auto manufacturers who’ve been driven into the wall by the union thugs.
On the social side, taking weed out of the criminal equation would spare millions of people from a future of checking the “yes” box under: “Have you ever been convicted of something that guarantees you have already peaked as a member of society?” That’s especially thoughtful, considering the fact that some of those millions of people smoke pot to relieve painful medical conditions like cancer and glaucoma.
Now, don’t mistake my intent here. I am not suggesting that we legalize all drugs. As an example, heroin should remain as illegal as assaulting Hispanic neighborhood-watch captains. “Meth” routinely turns users into hollow-eyed zombies who are capable of shocking acts of crime and/or violence against anyone at any time. Add cocaine to the mix, and the zombies may well include Hollywood producers, pop music stars and mayors of Washington, D.C. The “hard stuff,” as it were, tears apart families, lives and communities. But marijuana doesn’t send potheads into drug-fueled crime sprees and tabloid headlines. According to the FBI, 86 percent of all marijuana-related arrests are for simple possession.
Granted, if you smoke enough weed over a long enough period of time, you may suffer some deleterious effects. Witness President Barack Hussein Obama’s understanding of American geography. But if you do enough of almost anything, you’ll have a price to pay. Too much water can upset your electrolyte balance. Too much food can make you look like Michael Moore. Too much voting for Democrats can create Detroit.
In 1919, America got its puritanical panties twisted into enough of a knot to amend the Constitution to ban alcohol. While the demon rum has certainly done plenty of quantifiable damage over the years, the banning thereof not only didn’t kill our taste for a good stiff belt once in a while, it added colorful characters like Al Capone and his mafia pals to the popular lexicon. It took 13 years of unprecedented crime before the 18th Amendment met its end in a hail of nanny-state-induced gunfire. Fast-forward nearly a century, and we still have yet to understand why.