Conservative British MEP asks Americans to beware our creep toward hereditary political nobility

In a sobering bit of perspective from across the pond, a conservative British politician is hoping to remind Americans that we’re in danger of losing our grasp on one of the biggest principles that helped define our nation’s painful separation from the monarchy.

In an opinion piece this week for the Washington Examiner, Dan Hannan — a British Conservative Party member and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) — warned Americans against embracing hereditary political dynasties. Focusing specifically on the likely continuation of the Bush-Clinton family power struggle, Hannan argued there’s little difference between a class system imposed through state power and one accepted through the slow acquiescence of the people.

Here’s a sample:

… These days, the British Establishment is not made up of dukes or bishops, but of radical lawyers, politically correct broadcasters, avant-garde artists, heads of government agencies and, behind them, the mass of licensors, regulators, inspectors, officials and judges who run the country without the bother of getting themselves elected to anything. They’re the ones who truly radiate entitlement.

David Cameron’s opponents might be on firmer ground if they pointed to his relatively slight experience outside government. But they’ll never do it, because that criticism applies far more strongly to their own side. Neither Ed Miliband, the Labor leader, nor Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat, has ever had a job beyond politics.

That’s the kind of entitlement that should worry us. Not the supposed swagger of the posh, but the world-view of politicians who are so much a part of the governing class that they can no longer discharge the primary purpose of the elected representative — to ensure that the state machine works for the rest of the country rather than the other way around.

Can you think of anyone in American politics who might have that problem? Here’s a clue. On the day she announced her candidacy, I had a look at Hillary Clinton’s Twitter page. What, I wondered, might it tell me about her likely priorities in government? She followed nine other accounts: Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton Foundation, Clinton School, Clinton Library, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Women in Public Service, Too Small to Fail and Beyond Differences. (To be fair, five more accounts have since been added: @HillaryforSC, @HillaryforNV, @HillaryforNH, @HillaryforIA and @HillaryforNY.)

And why not? When you’ve been in and around government at the highest level for long enough, you’re bound to start taking it for granted. You forget that you are passing through institutions that are greater than you are. It becomes all about you.

… Are we really contemplating another Bush-Clinton contest in 2016?

If you couldn’t tell, Hannon is disappointed by this phenomenon in the United States. The American system, by design, “depended on constantly changing the people at the top,” he writes. “If certain families got it into their heads that the republic was their plaything, America would descend into oligarchy as surely as if it had a hereditary nobility.”

“If,” he states.

Aren’t we past that?

Read Hannan’s whole piece at Washington Examiner.

Fewer than 10 percent of journalists confess to being Republican

While most U.S. journalists describe themselves as independents, those who identify as Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber those who admit to being Republicans.

That’s one of the conclusions featured in a new study about the U.S. media, published by a pair of faculty members at the Indiana University School of Journalism.

The study, titled The American Journalist in the Digital Age, revisited a number of previous national surveys conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, comparing the earlier findings with those from 2013, the poll’s most recent iteration. In the 2013 version, only 7.1 percent of journalists identified themselves as Republicans, whereas nearly four times that number — 28.1 percent — identified as Democrats.

Compare that with the earliest version of the poll, conducted in 1971. That year, the two parties were far more evenly represented among members of the press. Self-identified Republicans accounted for 25.7 percent of the politically affiliated media, while Democrats made up another 35.5 percent.

Almost as dramatic as the massive disparity between Republicans and Democrats in 2013 is the dramatic jump in the number of journalists who claim no affiliation with either party. In 2013, 50.2 percent said they regard themselves as political independents, compared with 32.5 percent.

The study also notes a number of other traits that appear to unite journalists in their thinking: dissatisfaction with the direction of the profession as a whole, concern over shrinking newsrooms and a continuing drop in job satisfaction.

Read the full study here.

[We should note that this study’s two authors — Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver — don’t appear to have anything to do with another controversial media project, Truthy, run by Indiana University. We’ve written about that media-monitoring project here and here.]

MSM outlets pledge to pursue Clinton Foundation allegations

So many of the books that claim to reveal the Clinton family’s dirty personal and political secrets end up selling well, despite being packed with more anecdotal sensationalism than with found facts. Wouldn’t it be great if a well-researched book — one that scoops the mainstream media’s caste of lazy, chatterbox journalists with real reporting — would compel the rest of the reporting world to pay attention?

That appears to be what’s expected of a forthcoming book about the Clinton Foundation’s conflicts of interest. The New York Times’ Amy Chozick revealed Sunday that the new book, “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer, will stand apart from a crowd of other Clinton scandal books — because the mainstream media is on board to keep reporting on whatever Schweizer’s uncovered.

Chozick wasn’t shy about touting the book’s promises — or about the Times and other media outlets obligating themselves to follow up on them:

The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

… In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

So there’s money to be made in airing Clinton’s dirty laundry, or so it seems. The article makes it appear as though NYT, Fox, WaPo and other outlets’ motives are pure, so there’s plenty of reason for skepticism. But newspapers and TV news media, liberal-leaning or not, love notoriety more than adhering to a script. If the book leads to a slew of truly informative MSM stories that unearth more information on the Clinton Foundation’s role as a simony bureau for Hillary Clinton’s State Department, that’s a good thing.

For now, it’s all promises — even though they’re of the sort capable of getting Rand Paul all fired up.

Public opinion swings toward gun ownership; away from gun control

In a short amount of time, public opinion polling in the gun rights/gun control debate has swung convincingly in favor of gun ownership, a sign that the Obama administration’s multifaceted legal and cultural push to restrict Americans’ access to firearms has backfired.

A Pew Research Center poll released April 17 shows that public opinion favoring gun rights over restrictions has been moving toward a tipping point — a point it finally reached in December of last year.

“For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights,” Pew reported. “But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%.”

General anxiety about the Obama administration’s gun control agenda gets a lot of the credit for the shift. But so does Americans’ views on protecting themselves from crime — and the increasing number of Americans who associate crime prevention with the free exercise of the right to bear arms.

“Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates,” Pew observed. “And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership — not gun control — makes people safer.”

Another factor may also contribute to Americans’ growing embrace of 2nd Amendment rights: a diversifying, hard-to-pigeonhole demographic of people who appear to be more open than ever to owning and using firearms.

“[W]hat the demographics show is that while women, blacks, gays, and liberals are not traditionally gun owners, at least some are open to joining our community,” wrote Greg Camp in a column at Guns.com. “If we play into the perception that owning guns is something only what one group does — white, male Republicans — we’ll lose new supporters of gun rights.

“… Broaden the tent, and welcome in anyone who will join us.”

Guns.com also offered this video to illustrate the increasingly diverse population of Americans who own — and are enthusiastic about owning — firearms.

For Al Sharpton, the tax man’s shadow just keeps growing

Among other (mostly shameful) reasons, Al Sharpton is famous for somehow continuing to live well while staying indebted to the state. The race-hustling MSNBC host and his businesses reportedly owe more than $4 million in unpaid taxes and penalties to the federal government and the State of New York.

How, then, does he continue to elude the same punishment and aggressive collection efforts that government tends to visit on other alleged tax delinquents?

That’s a question the New York Post posed recently, noting that “[d]ozens of pages of tax warrants and liens show that, at best, Sharpton has been deeply negligent, and at worst, he’s gaming the system.”

Unfortunately, anyone who has an answer hasn’t come forward with an explanation, the Post concludes.

“New York’s Limited Liability Company Law says when an out-of-state business like Sharpton Media Group is dissolved or terminated at home, it has to file paperwork to shut down in New York, too — presumably to safeguard New York from businesses that have failed to meet obligations elsewhere,” the Post observed.

“But Sharpton Media Group remains active here [in New York], with no termination papers filed, according to the state’s Division of Corporations.

“… Why has New York let Sharpton Media Group remain registered as active with impunity?”

The only answers the Post was able to obtain were of the deflective sort. “A Divisions of Corporations official says her agency is ‘not a regulatory or enforcement office,'” it reported. The state attorney general’s office didn’t respond when the newspaper asked the same question.

As Sharpton (presumably) works through the various delinquent payment plans he’s had to negotiate through years of late and missed payments, perhaps he can take comfort in the knowledge that — at least for this tax year — he’s got some sympathetic company.

Melissa Harris-Perry, Sharpton’s ideological and TV colleague at MSNBC, is reportedly behind on federal taxes to the tune of $70,000.

“The Internal Revenue Service has placed a tax lien on Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband, James Perry, for about $70,000 in delinquent taxes,” the Winston-Salem Journal reported on April 17.

Harris-Perry has a residence in North Carolina, where she’s a professor at Wake Forest University.

Iowa legislators grapple with changes to civil forfeiture law

Iowa — the same state where petty application of civil forfeiture law has all but ruined restaurant owner Carole Hinders — may finally be taking up reform legislation that could scale back or end the practice.

The Iowa legislature’s House Government Oversight Committee held an April 15 hearing to gather input from forfeiture critics and supporter alike, zeroing in on a number of ways in which various feature of the current law could be modified or abolished.

According to The Des Moines Register, the committee “brought in concerned members of the public, law enforcement and policy experts to testify and answer questions,” an information-gathering move intended to serve as a “building block for a bill,” as Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann put it.

Pressure to change civil forfeiture law in Iowa has increased since The Des Moines Register began publicizing the practice through a series of investigative stories. The Register kept the topic going with a public forum event, which the paper hosted only a day after legislators fielded comments at the committee hearing.

The Register noted that reforming the law has bipartisan support. Democratic State Rep. Steve Sodders told forum attendees that Iowa should at least pay attorney fees for citizens caught up in a forfeiture case.

At the same forum, Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley gave a videotaped introduction in which he acknowledged “the [civil forfeiture] practice up to this point had perverse incentives. That’s why I’m working on bipartisan legislation in the United States Senate that will protect innocent people from being caught in the dragnet.”

At a Senate judiciary hearing, which took place in Washington, D.C., on the same day that Iowa’s lawmakers held their hearing, Grassley repudiated a police organization that claimed doing away with the law would threaten “hundreds of millions” of dollars in needed police funding.

That argument, he said, “dismisses the need for real reform and demonstrates the absurdity of a system of justice in which some in law enforcement appear to value funding their own operations over protecting civil rights,” The Washington Post reported.

You can read more about Grassley’s involvement in crafting a federal asset forfeiture reform law here.

And here’s a bit more on the civil forfeiture horror story of Hinder, that Iowa restaurateur who had $30,000 in assets seized following a particularly zealous application of the current law.

More than one-fourth of former college borrowers are in default

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reveals a substantial increase in the default rate for former college borrowers who are now having to pay back their federal student loans.

In an April 10 essay titled “Student Loan Delinquency: A Big Problem Getting Worse?” two Fed analysts noted the “the percent of student loan borrowers who are not making their debt payments on time has increased significantly.”

While they may be late to the college-loan-bubble speculation game, authors Juan M. Sánchez and Lijun Zhu posed a watered-down version of the bazillion-dollar question: “This trend has generated a large debate because the government subsidizes a very significant share of that debt. This essay analyzes the evolution of some key statistics relevant to this debate.”

Not to worry, though — the authors reassure the public that, while “[s]tudent loan delinquency is a big problem … it is not getting worse.”

That’s a funny assessment, considering their numeric findings:

For 2010:Q4, we find that about 45 percent of student loans were not in repayment; this implies that only about 55 percent of student loans were in repayment. As a consequence, if we adjust the delinquency rate to consider that only a fraction of the borrowers have payments due, this level of delinquency is very concerning: A delinquency rate of 15 percent for all student loan borrowers implies a delinquency rate of 27.3 percent for borrowers with loans in repayment. This level of delinquency is much higher than for any other type of debt (credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, and so on).

The authors cite a commensurate 2 percent decrease in the percentage of borrowers whose loans aren’t currently in repayment as evidence that “the trend in delinquency is not as problematic as it seems.”

But how much higher can the ratio naturally climb, given that it’s been steadily climbing — by the Fed study’s own observation — over the past decade?

“The delinquency rate increased significantly over the past 10 years — from 11 percent to slightly above 17 percent,” the report states. “Delinquency was monotonically increasing before reaching 15.8 percent in 2010. Thus, about 77 percent of the increase over the past 10 years occurred between 2004 and 2010. The delinquency rate decreased during 2011 and then increased sharply during 2012; since then it has remained quite stable at about 17 percent.”

Now, go back and compare that “stable” 17 percent with the authors’ findings for the fourth quarter of last year. Notice much of a difference?

Casual voters take note: Clinton can’t even competently run her own campaign

It’s early days yet, leaving plenty of time to set things right, but there’s reason to suspect that postmortem election pundits may someday blame a Hillary Clinton defeat on voters’ conviction that she must be incapable of managing the country if she can’t even manage her own campaign.

Less than a week into Clinton’s campaign start, she’s already giving her GOP opponents — many of them perfectly capable of their own gaffes and out-of-touch messaging — a terrific blueprint for how not to conduct their own campaigns, if they care to take notes.

There’s a laundry list of Week 1 missteps, tone-deaf decisions, misstatements of fact and plain old bad PR. But Clinton’s camp may have committed its greatest offense with its approach to so-called “small donors” — regular people who can’t cough up Tom Steyer or Koch Brothers money, but who want to chip in.

Clinton’s official campaign website reached out to such donors with a request for small incremental donations, and that’s great. If there’s true grass-roots support for Clinton, here’s the one-stop place for the small money to go into the till.

But the come-on for English-speaking donors presumes they’re capable of donating more than their Spanish-speaking counterparts. As of Tuesday, the hillaryclinton.com donations page was asking English speakers to donate amounts of $5, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,700. But the Spanish-language version of the same online donation form solicited donations of $3, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and $250.

“Based on the campaign’s website … expectations for those ‘small-dollar donors’ who speak Spanish are considerably lower than those for their English-speaking counterparts,” The Weekly Standard observed in a report Tuesday.

That article must have pinged on the Clinton campaign’s radar, because the amounts on the Spanish donation page were promptly changed. “Since this article ran, the Clinton campaign changed the Spanish language donations page to match the English language page,” the Standard reported in an update to its original story. You can still see a screenshot of the alleged original, which reflects the differing amounts, at the Standard website.

Bad as that appears, it’s only one of many pieces of present-day baggage that Clinton continues to accumulate:

  • The Clinton Foundation won’t stop taking money from foreign governments.
  • When asked this week how she plans to weed out shadow donations made to her campaign super PAC, Hillary reportedly shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
  • She misremembers (or is flat-out lying about) whether her grandparents were born in the U.S. or immigrated here.
  • She reportedly has told people that her Welsh ancestors were even evangelized by John Wesley himself.
  • Her free and easy, populist road trip to Iowa was an ersatz, choreographed sham. Her Iowa meeting with supporters was preceded by a confiscation of everyone’s cellphones.
  • Hell, the Hillville camp can’t even agree on who should take credit for producing her campaign’s launch video — a bit of housekeeping that should be mundane enough, except, as it turns out, it’s the sort of thing that actually matters to the FEC.
  • And then … well, and then there’s this.

Valerie Jarrett hugs and kisses MSNBC hosts before fielding the tough questions

Maybe the Obama administration really is the most transparent in history.

On Wednesday, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett made no effort to conceal her affection for her interlocutors on a televised MSNBC interview, making a beeline for hosts Katty Kay, Cokie Roberts and — we suspect — Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Judging from her on-camera behavior, Jarrett appears to harbor a genuine and personal affection for these people.

Jarret started on the near end of the news desk and moved down the line, hugging and courtesy-kissing her seated hosts before a commercial-break graphic obstructed the full exchange.

She crept up behind Kay (who anchors the BBC’s “World News America” show in her full-time gig), embracing her warmly and giving her a cheek peck before moving on, with open arms, to Roberts. She was headed straight for Brzezinski when the shot cut away.

From the look of things, all four hosts were in line for some sugar, though the televised portion only shows Jarret doting over the first two. If only the editors hadn’t thrown up that pesky screen-covering graphic, we might have been treated to an embrace between Jarrett and token MSNBC Republican Joe Scarborough, the “Morning Joe” show’s namesake. Cats and dogs living peaceably, and all that.

After the break, and with the XOXOs out of the way, Jarret remained seated for the rest of the segment, fielding some down-the-middle questions from the Lean Forward network’s assembled posse of aloof, detached political journalists.

Former Clinton aide Kathleen Willey predicts ‘a scandal a day’ as Hillary campaign gathers steam

You may remember Kathleen Willey, one of several women who alleged President Bill Clinton made sexual advances toward her during his first stint in the White House.

Willey, a volunteer White House aide during Clinton’s first term, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in a 1998 interview that she had approached Clinton in the Oval Office in 1993, hoping to fish for a full-time government job. Here’s an excerpt from CBS News’ archived story synopsis:

In the interview, Willey told Bradley that the president took her into a study where she told him she had to give up her work as a volunteer and she needed a paying job at the White House.

She said that at that point Mr. Clinton put his arms around her, consoled her, hugged her and then kissed her on the lips. Willey said the president then fondled her breasts, told her he had “wanted to do this ever since he first laid eyes on her” and then placed her hand on his crotch.

Mrs. Willey explained that she pushed away from the President and said “I think I better go.” Outside the Oval Office, she said she ran into Linda Tripp and told her what had happened.

Memories refreshed, let’s come back to the present, where Willey has been on the warpath against a possible Hillary Clinton presidency. Willey’s been telling anyone who’ll listen that electing the former president’s wife will all but guarantee feckless leadership punctuation by corruption.

“[I]f [being female is] her one credential for running for president, then why don’t I run? I’m a woman. It makes absolutely no sense,” she told a radio interviewer. “There are a lot more women out there way more qualified for that office than she.”

Qualifications aside, Willey said the upcoming campaign season will yield one disgraceful revelation after another for the Clintons, as detractors and opponents have their pick from a buffet of scandals — both old and new — that continue to surround Bill and Hillary in both their public and private lives.

“[The Clintons’] mere presence on the stage is going to guarantee the fact that we’re going to hear one of those scandals every single day of her running for the nomination,” she said. “… Nothing embarrasses these people.”

As if on cue, The New York Times published a new revelation Tuesday in the ongoing email scandal involving Hillary Clinton’s innovative quarantine of official communications while secretary of state.

The Times reported that Clinton has known for at least two years that congressional investigators were interested in whatever explanation she might muster to justify why she secreted all of her State email communications on a non-governmental computer server housed in her New York home.

“Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times,” the report states.

“But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response.”

Sharpton and Co. pledge hunger strike until Loretta Lynch is confirmed as AG

The easy gag is to say that he’s lost enough weight, or that he should have used this tactic more often back when he was fat. At any rate, Al Sharpton’s perpetually tax-troubled National Action Network (NAN) announced Wednesday that its supporters would participate in a hunger strike until the Senate approves Loretta Lynch as the nation’s next attorney general.

“As long as the Senate refuses to take fifteen minutes to confirm someone for Attorney General that they have already confirmed twice for U.S. Attorney, NAN and our allies will do everything in our power to draw attention to this completely unfair and unnecessary delay to vote to confirm Loretta Lynch,” Sharpton said in a statement on the group’s website.

The campaign even has a name: “Confirm Lynch Fast” (but not furiously?) The finer points of staying away from food are up to the participants, but it looks as though Lynch’s supporters will get to break their fast every other day.

“During Confirm Lynch Fast effort, participating fasters will refrain from eating for one day at a time until Loretta Lynch is confirmed as Attorney General. Each day, a new group of people will replace the fasters from the day before,” the release explains. “… NAN and its members and allies will be calling on and heading to Capitol Hill and state offices to ask Senators to support Loretta Lynch’s nomination and encourage Senate leadership to call a vote. The effort will be bolstered by letter-writing and op-ed campaigns and people across the country can show their support on social media with the #ConfirmLynchFast hashtag.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated a confirmation vote on Lynch’s nomination will have to wait until the Senate resolves an ongoing partisan fight over abortion-related language attached to a human trafficking bill.

Until then, loyal NAN followers will just have to live with the munchies … and hope Lynch pulls in the votes when the fateful day arrives.

Pervy TSA agents in Denver allegedly used screening system to enable groping of ‘attractive male passengers’

A TSA agent pats down a passenger in this screenshot from a YouTube video.

A local news investigation at Denver International Airport appears to have uncovered a perverse misuse of standard TSA screening practices that allegedly afforded a male TSA agent the opportunity to touch “attractive male passengers” in their most private of places.

Denver-based CBS4 News’ investigation appears to have uncovered enough evidence to make the news outlet confident in some pretty bold assertions:

A CBS4 investigation has learned that two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport have been fired after they were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers.

It happened roughly a dozen times, according to information gathered by CBS4.

… Although the TSA learned of the accusation on Nov. 18, 2014 via an anonymous tip from one of the agency’s own employees, reports show that it would be nearly three months before anything was done.

Lurid stuff. CBS4 looked over law enforcement reports and discovered that, in 2014, a male screener told one of his co-workers that he “gropes” men who go through his screening line, if he finds their looks appealing. From that incident report:

He [the screener] related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.

There’s more involved in the TSA agents’ nuts-and-bolts manipulation of the screening process, which you can read in detail in the original report.

As with so many of these stories of workaday government employee corruption and abuse, we don’t get names. And it looks as though firing is as severe a punishment as any of the employees is likely to receive. There’ll be no pursuit of criminal charges — at least, unless a victim comes forward.

“Earlier this month a prosecutor from the Denver District Attorney’s Office was asked to review the case,” CBS4 reports, “but she declined to press charges because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction and no victim had been identified.”

Judicial Watch claims evidence of ISIS camp eight miles from U.S. border

Columbus, New Mexico, a town across the border from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, is reportedly the target of an ISIS cell “for easy access to the United States.”

Nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch (JW) released a seemingly well-informed report Tuesday alleging Mexican authorities have discovered at least two terrorist staging “camps” in the west Texas/southern New Mexico border region.

JW claims its sources confirm that both locations bear evidence of having been used by terrorists affiliated with ISIS. Those sources “include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector,” the report states. It’s not clear from the report whether either of the alleged camps is active or has been abandoned.

Although the ISIS connection is the report’s most tenuously supported claim — at least given the limited information JW presents to establish such a link — the terrorist intent of the campsites’ occupants is evident.

Here’s an extended passage from the JW report:

The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss — the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

… According to these same sources, “coyotes” engaged in human smuggling — and working for Juárez Cartel — help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. These specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces, and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.

There’s not a lot of corroboration out there from other sources — yet — but you can read JW’s full report here.

Lerner reportedly asked investigators to drop ‘targeting’ angle in IRS probe

If everything was on the up-and-up when the IRS was outed for using politics as a basis for discriminating against conservative groups, then why would Lois Lerner (allegedly) ask investigators to drop the “targeting” angle of their inquiry?

Last week, Washington Examiner featured an email from January 2013 in which Lerner treated with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) not to seek a motive behind the tax enforcement agency’s heavy-handed dealings with conservative nonprofit groups during President Obama’s re-election campaign.

“We feel your folks are being too narrow in their view and have decided that because of the language on the earlier BOLO [be on lookout] list regarding Tea Party, everything that followed was tainted,’ Lerner wrote to TIGTA’s Troy Patterson. “They seem to believe that if a case was initially sent to the advocacy group, but ultimately determined to be an approval, that our action in putting it into the advocacy group in the first place is incorrect, and illustrates ‘targeting.'”

The sensible question, then, is “What else would it illustrate?” Lerner’s ready answer seems to be “ineptitude.”

In the same email, Lerner went on to suggest that the whole scandal stemmed from her own administrative languor, a comparatively benign, motive-less bureaucratic sin lacking in discriminatory malice.

Lerner wrote that she was “willing to take the blame for not having provided sufficient direction initially, which may have resulted in front line staff doing things that appeared to be politically motivated,” but that she was “not on board that anything that occurred here shows that the IRS was politically motivated in the actions taken.”

If that sounds even remotely plausible, remember how this scandal broke to the public: Lerner broke it in a bit of frustrated stagecraft — a planted-question ruse intended to offer Lerner and other implicated IRS officials an opportunity to control the unfolding narrative on their terms before an impending IG report could seal their fate.

“The Internal Revenue Service, apparently determined to get out ahead of an inspector general report critical of its handling of tax exemptions for Tea Party groups, came up with a plan,” USA Today reported at the time. “Lois Lerner, the official responsible for the tax-exempt division, would publicly apologize in response to a question at the American Bar Association conference in Washington.”

Not that it would have worked, of course, but the scheme was outed within days of Lerner’s “apology” by then-IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who confessed to a House committee that the whole thing was staged.

Again, if there’s no discrimination, no targeting — in short, no motive — then why stage a moment of contrite revelation in the first place? And why go to the trouble of beseeching TIGTA investigators to stop looking for evidence of a motive, if there’s none to be found?

“It is unusual for the subject of an investigation to plead their case so directly with the inspector general,” PJ Media’s Rick Moran recently observed. “But the [Lerner-TIGTA] email also shows that Lerner was well aware of the problems in her office with targeting and was looking for a break from the IG in reaching his conclusions.

“… The more we read of [the] Lerner emails, the less the bumbling bureaucrat she looks and the more the devious, duplicitous manager she becomes.”

Maryland more or less abducts ‘free-range’ siblings, leave parents guessing

The Maryland couple targeted by police for their “free-range” parenting style got a major scare over the weekend: Their kids were picked up by strangers while walking home, alone, from a playdate.

Who were these “strangers?” The cops.

In a weird circularity of events, the police gave the Meitivs cause to suspect the very foul play that had justified earlier warnings by law enforcement for the couple to curb their hands-off parenting practices. The police picked up their two children, ages 10 and 6, and placed them in the custody of Maryland Child Protective Services — without informing the parents what they’d done.

For two hours, the Meitivs had no idea what had happened to their kids. Here’s how Reason’s Lenore Skenazy summarized it:

Danielle Meitiv, the Maryland Mom who lets her children play outside by themselves — despite the government’s ridiculous demands — just called me. She and her husband were on their way to the Child Protective Services Emergency Crisis Center. Why?

The police picked up the kids while they were outside again sometime Saturday afternoon, and this time the cops took them without telling their parents.

The kids, ages 10 and 6, were supposed to come home at 6:00 p.m. from playing. At 6:30 p.m., Danielle says, she and her husband Sasha were pretty worried. By 8:00 p.m., they were frantic. Only then did someone from the CPS Crisis Center call the parents and tell them that the police had picked the children up.

The Meitivs appear to be under no illusions about the risks associated with allowing their children to roam without constant supervision. As previous stories have made clear, their “free-range” approach is not indicative of a neglectful or lazy abdication of parenting responsibility. Rather, it’s a conscientious decision — a calculated risk they believe is worth taking in order to raise independent and capable offspring in an increasingly buffered and cautious society.

“I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency,” Danielle Meitiv told The Washington Post last month.

Reason reports that Alexander [Sasha] Meitiv, the father, was raised in the former Soviet Union “under complete state control” and recognizes “how cruel bureaucracy can be,” according to his wife.

The family was eventually reunited after their weekend ordeal, but only after Alexander and Danielle Meitiv signed an agreement promising the state they would not leave their children unattended. In an earlier encounter — one apparently instigated after a stranger called the authorities to report seeing two unattended children walking on a sidewalk — the parents had been compelled to make a similar promise, and they were placed on a CPS watch list for five years.

Obama ranks climate change among ‘primary’ threats to national security

It’s a good thing we’re living through the sort of peaceful times that aren’t fraught with terror caliphates salivating over opportunities to strike at the West, or with Cold War-revivalist regimes rearing their bellicose heads.

Such tranquility as we presently enjoy allows our president to worry about the real threats to our national security — threats like climate change.

President Obama tackled that particular menace head on last week, telling an audience at Howard University that he and the Department of Defense are on the same page when it comes to waging war against the vicissitudes of climate.

CNS News quoted part of Obama’s speech:

The Pentagon has already said that climate change is a primary national security threat that we’re going to face, and we are working with the Department of Defense to start preparing for that and mitigating for that … And a lot of our international policy and national security policy is centered around the very real concerns that that’s going to raise.

… [W]hat we know is that the temperature of the planet is rising … And we know that in addition to the adverse impacts that may have when it comes to more frequent hurricanes, or more powerful storms, or increased flooding, we also know that it has an impact on public health.

You may hew to the settled-science belief that the climate is changing or you may not, but Obama’s speech asks Americans to indulge his administration in a new assumption in its war-on-climate-change policy: invoking “public health” as a rhetorical analogue for “national security.”

While the federal side of government remains preoccupied with inserting climate change into any policy nook where nothing else is taking up space, at least one state is leaving climate politics out of its workaday policy functions.

The Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands reportedly voted last week to prohibit employees from even mentioning climate change in their official communications, because, as one Republican member told Bloomberg, it’s “not a part of our sole mission.”

Rand-slamming press conference goes quiet in South Carolina as cameras fail to show

What was supposed to be a Democratic National Committee-led counterstrike against Rand Paul’s presidential announcement instead turned into an echo chamber. Only one reporter showed up for a South Carolina press conference intended to criticize Paul’s candidacy.

Acting on a strategic initiative laid down by the DNC, the South Carolina Democratic Party announced a press conference at a waterfront resort in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, in order to answer Paul’s anticipated Palmetto State announcement that same day.

They waited for media RSVPs to roll in. And then waited. Oddly, only one reporter would come — one representing the conservative/libertarian-slanted website Breitbart.

“After RSVP’ing and checking in with plans to show up, this reporter made his way to the event to see what the local Democrats had to say and maybe ask a question or two,” Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle wrote:

Arriving around 10:15 a.m., this reporter was the first — and eventually would be the only — person to show up from the entire media, and the only person to show up who wasn’t there as part of the official Democratic Party delegation despite the fact that several reporters were in South Carolina from national media outlets. The rest of the five or six people at the event were Democratic Party activists, including Chairman Harrison. Two college students, who were aligned with the College Democrats and were supposed to speak if there was a press conference, walked in and sat down in the chairs.

With all that preparation threatening to go to waste, the focus shifted. And the busted press conference turned into something quite different — an antagonistic roundtable group gripe in which Boyle questioned the ragtag Democrats at length about why they don’t like Paul as a presidential candidate. You can read more about how that turned out here.

Maybe the MSM folks have more important things to do at the moment than to attend a presser whose only aim is to dis Paul. After all, there’ll be plenty of time for that kind of stuff once Hillary Clinton is officially in the race.

That’s probably why, on Thursday, a representative sampling of MSM types was hanging out at John Podesta’s house, chillin’ with some beers. Clinton’s campaign team had asked them to come over so they could put their heads together to ground-game her announcement plan.

We’re guessing Breitbart didn’t have to worry about RSVP’ing that one.

Did a big donation help Secretary Clinton switch sides on Colombian trade deal?

A new report suggests that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have used her position to reward a foreign megadonor to her family’s charity by reversing her opposition to a trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia.

Specifically, the report tracks Clinton’s stance on a free trade pact “liberalizing the exchange of goods between the countries” over the same timeline as the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from Frank Giustra, head of Colombian oil company Pacific Rubiales. Giustra is also a Clinton Foundation board member who has reportedly donated more than $130 million to the foundation and its projects throughout his life.

International Business Times broke the Clinton-Colombia story Wednesday, noting an interesting synchronicity between the chain of events within Clinton’s State Department and the timeline of Giustra’s donation to the Clinton Foundation.

From the report:

When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations. Similar intimidation tactics against the workers, say labor leaders, amounted to an everyday feature of life.

For the United States, these were precisely the sorts of discomfiting accounts that were supposed to be prevented in Colombia under a labor agreement that accompanied a recently signed free trade pact liberalizing the exchange of goods between the countries. From Washington to Bogota, leaders had promoted the pact as a win for all — a deal that would at once boost trade while strengthening the rights of embattled Colombian labor organizers. That formulation had previously drawn skepticism from many prominent Democrats, among them Hillary Clinton.

Yet as union leaders and human rights activists conveyed these harrowing reports of violence to then-Secretary of State Clinton in late 2011, urging her to pressure the Colombian government to protect labor organizers, she responded first with silence, these organizers say. The State Department publicly praised Colombia’s progress on human rights, thereby permitting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to flow to the same Colombian military that labor activists say helped intimidate workers.

… The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation — supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself — Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it “strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.” The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.

Giustra came forward with assistance in raising $1 million in additional donations for the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative only months after the trade deal was approved. The trade deal had originally been a non-starter for the Obama administration because the White House — along with Clinton — believed it would exacerbate the sort of human rights violations that concerned the governments of western trading partners.

“[A]n IBTimes review of public State Department documents shows that as the Giustra-Clinton foundation relationship deepened, Hillary Clinton and the State Department never criticized or took action against the Colombian government for alleged violations of labor rights at Pacific Rubiales,” the report notes. “Instead, Clinton’s State Department issued certifications in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 declaring that Colombia has been complying with human rights standards that are required under federal law for continued U.S. military aid to the country.”

But human rights groups have alleged that the on-the-ground labor scene in Colombia told a very different story during that same period. The U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan, a sine qua non addendum the U.S. added to the trade agreement in order to obtain assurances that conditions would improve, was largely overlooked, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a U.S.-based human rights watchdog.

“Since 2011, WOLA has continuously informed the U.S. Congress, State Department, Department of Labor and USTR [U.S. Trade Representative] of grave labor violations committed against the USO labor union in the camps of Pacific Rubiales,” a WOLA officer told IBTimes. “Despite the existence of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan, our concerns have not been addressed. Pacific Rubiales continues to violate the labor rights of its workers and it impedes independent union affiliation. Colombian and U.S. authorities are doing little to stop it.”

In swing states, Hillary sags as Rand ascends

Hillary Clinton’s approval has taken a hit among likely voters in swing states, as the names of early announcers from the political right begin to enter the mix.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, Clinton’s onetime lead over other likely and announced presidential candidates has shriveled since February, when Quinnipiac last sampled voters.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead is wilting against leading Republican presidential candidates in three critical swing states, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, and she finds herself in a close race with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in each state,” the poll summary states. “… In head-to-head matchups, every Republican candidate effectively ties her in Colorado and almost all Republicans effectively tie her in Iowa.”

In Iowa, Paul edged Clinton 43 percent to 42 percent; in Colorado, Paul outpaced Clinton 44 percent to 41 percent. Clinton still holds on to a polling lead over Paul in Virginia, where 47 percent of voters said they prefer her, compared with Paul’s 43 percent. However, Clinton polled higher in Virginia than any of the potential GOP candidates. She beat out Jeb Bush in Virginia by a 47 percent to 40 percent margin.

Elsewhere, other GOP presidential hopefuls generally polled well against Clinton, except for current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the Iowa poll. Iowa voters favored Clinton over Walker by a margin of 44 percent to 40 percent.

Quinnipiac lays the blame for Clinton’s sagging poll numbers to voters’ unwillingness to trust her.

“Ominous for Hillary Clinton is the broad scope of the movement today compared to her showing in Quinnipiac University’s mid-February survey,” the university observed. “It isn’t just one or two Republicans who are stepping up; it’s virtually the entire GOP field that is running better against her.

“That’s why it is difficult to see Secretary Clinton’s slippage as anything other than a further toll on her image from the furor over her e-mail.”

The Quinnipiac poll sampled likely voters from March 29 through April 7, questioning just below 1,000 people in each of the swing states.

‘American Sniper’ screening canceled for making University of Michigan students ‘feel unsafe’

Responding to pressure from a group of students and complainers that reportedly numbered fewer than 300, the University of Michigan decided Tuesday to cancel a screening of “American Sniper,” a film dramatizing the career of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

The university’s Center for Campus Involvement released a statement explaining its quick decision, stating the “impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcomed at our program,” according to The College Fix. The movie had been slated for a Friday screening.

The protest originated with a letter to the university from “Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim students on campus,” according to the Fix. The group accuses the university of sanctioning anti-Muslim “propaganda” by showing the film.

“Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians,” the collective letter stated. “Middle Eastern characters in the film are not lent an ounce of humanity and watching this movie is provocative and unsafe to MENA and Muslim students who are too often reminded of how little the media and world values their lives.

“The University of Michigan should not participate in further perpetuating these negative and misleading stereotypes.”

Since canceling the movie, the university has fielded waves of petitions calling for its reinstatement.

“If the University prevents a movie like this from being shown, it promotes intolerance and stifles dialogue and debate on the subject and goes directly against the atmosphere UMix [UM’s student union] purports to provide,” read a petition that reportedly made the rounds on campus Wednesday. “As adults at a public university, we should have the option to view this movie if we so choose and have the opportunity to engage on the topics it presents to come to our own conclusions on the subjects. Students should be trusted to interact responsibly on a movie no different than any other film depicting the lives of the troops at war, such as Saving Private Ryan.”

The university responded by agreeing to reschedule the screening for a different on-campus venue at a later date, accompanied by “an appropriate educational panel discussion.”

California to ask residents to snitch on neighbors suspected of wasting water

The California Water Resources Board is expected to unveil an online venue that allows residents anonymously to tell on people and businesses in their community whom they suspect of wasting water.

The measure represents one prong in a multifaceted state government response to a severe water shortage in population centers in coastal areas, the Inland Empire and Central Valley.

According to CBS Sacramento, the program is intended to bolster flagging efforts to persuade water customers to voluntarily reduce their consumption.

“California officials say residents aren’t doing enough to conserve water, and now state officials want residents to report their neighbors and business owners who waste water,” CBS reports.

“The controversial system to ‘snitch’ was created after a report found statewide February was the worst conservation month since they started keeping track last July, with residents only cutting use by 2.8 percent.”

Perhaps the state can volunteer itself as an example for how to go about the nosy business of tattling.

Amid the threat of government fines for wasting water during the earlier days of the water crisis last fall, one intrepid resident with a video camera took to the Internet to share an example of how one receiving station for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was, ahem, conserving its water.

Now it’s sexist to call Hillary only by her first name

Forget Madonna, Marilyn, Liz and Oprah. While it may be a testament to those icons’ power and fame that they can be recognized simply by their first names, it’s apparently a sexist degradation to Hillary (does she still use “Rodham”?) Clinton to presume the same standard should apply to the former first lady.

Don’t let the fact fool you that there’s literally a “Ready for Hillary” PAC, either. The pros get to call this their way; the antis, not so much. If you don’t have anything nice to say about Hillary … Clinton … don’t say you weren’t warned if her supporters start calling out your overt sexism the next time you forget to use her full name.

“[S]ome Americans, mostly women, don’t think the former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady should be called by just her first name,” McClatchy reported Tuesday in a story that made liberal use of the “some people say” journalistic device.

“As Clinton gets ready to kick off her campaign for the White House, some wonder whether calling a female candidate by her first name reinforces gender stereotypes,” McClatchy wrote.

Nothing else in the report credits a specific pro-Hillary group with making that assertion; rather, the story cites this review of Clinton’s 2008 campaign messaging, relying on a collection of anecdotes to flesh out the varying opinions of folks on the street.

But there’s at least one group out there that’s attempting a similar co-opting of words’ meaning, threatening to out as sexist any reporter who uses descriptors like “calculating” and “polarizing” to describe Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, that is.

S.C. cop killing shows police wield immense power over life and freedom

Pretty much anyone with access to an American media source is aware, by now, of the video showing the moment when a 50-year-old man took his last steps on Earth — shortly after encountering a local cop during a routine traffic stop in South Carolina.

Walter Scott was the intended target of at least eight shots allegedly fired by Michael Slager, a 33-year-old North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer. Scott, who allegedly attempted to flee the officer on foot after being stopped for a taillight violation, had already been zapped by a stun gun and showed no signs of surrendering. The video appears to show that Scott was far more interested in escaping custody than in doing harm to the cop attempting to apprehend him.

Either way, Scott was hit by the gunfire and he died. Whatever gunshots landed on Scott’s body, they were fired from behind him as he ran away from the officer. It’s more than fair to say he was defenseless against the use of deadly force.

The cop is white; Scott is black. And mainstream news outlets are predictably excited over a new, tragic piece of fodder to feed their appetite for race-baiting stories of titillating and violent inequalities. In this case, blaming race may be a right call; then again, maybe it’s not. No one knows what’s in the head of Slager, the alleged shooter. He’s been charged with murder; and if he’s indicted, much more of what motivated him to allegedly kill Scott will come to light.

But unless and until that information comes forth, there’s a far more immediate concern that everyone, no matter their color, can share: The cultural and systemic status quo in 2015 almost shrugs at the fact that routine law enforcement actions can rapidly become coroner calls. In the U.S., law enforcement — even regulation enforcement — is implicitly endowed with a state sanction to use deadly force.

“[R]unning from an officer doesn’t result in the death penalty,” Scott family attorney Chris Stewart told CNN, perhaps speaking of the world that should be — instead of the world that is.

Picking up on a story in The New York Times that brings racial identity into its lead sentence, PJ Media’s Michael Walsh observed:

Leave it to the New York Times to instantly racialize the incident; after all, the Narrative must be advanced at every opportunity. But this story is larger than that. Because, in this era of militarized, trigger-happy police, what officer Slager [allegedly] did to poor Walter Scott could happen to any of us

… How? Simple. Give the police near-total immunity for their behavior as “public servants,” instruct them to bring in money by just about any means necessary, rely on the conservatives to support almost any excess, enjoy the blessing of the state and federal courts, and provide them with enough weapons — not just guns, but tasers, nightsticks, huge flashlights, etc. — to take down and out anyone who resists. We can sort out guilt or innocence later, possibly posthumously. Joseph K. had a better chance at justice in Frank [sic] Kafka’s The Trial.

Too often in the U.S., victims of police violence never get anywhere near a trial — either the officer’s or their own.