Another Idyllic Community Alarmed By MRAP-Loving Law Enforcement

Walton County, Fla. (pop. 55,000) just got its first MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle), and a lot of residents of the slow-paced, Deep-South coastal community aren’t happy about it.

MRAPs are mine-resistant armored vehicles designed to deflect the force of IED detonations in combat zones. They were engineered for warfare, and the ones streaming into municipal police departments today had their first life in American military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even in that role, their use has been criticized because the vehicles’ hyper-military appearance can intimidate locals and erode rapport between American forces and the people they’re deployed to liberate and protect.

Grassroots journalism website The Anti-Media illustrates just how far Walton County is, in culture, from a combat zone:

Walton County is a part of Florida that is so crime free you can leave your doors unlocked. When Hollywood location scouts were looking for a community so perfect that it appeared to be fake, they came to Walton County. The Truman Show, staring Jim Carey, was filmed on location in a small Walton County community.

As with other local law enforcement agencies nationwide who’ve tapped into the Federal government’s surplus military equipment program, the Walton County Sheriff’s Department obtained the warfighting beast for the cost of transporting it back to Defuniak Springs – Walton’s county seat and largest city at 5,000 people.

According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, it’s got some people freaked out. Quoting one Facebook user upset by the message the acquisition sends to the community, the News observed:

One Destin resident commented on the Walton County Sheriff’s Facebook page that the county didn’t need an MRAP.

“This doesn’t make the officers safer. All studies show that the more militarized a department becomes, the more often officers get hurt,” the commenter said. “This is Walton County, Florida, not Iraq, not Afghanistan.”

Others agreed, calling the vehicle overkill, and in one case, “an offensive intimidation method used to controll [sic] and strike fear.”

But sheriff Mike Adkinson argues there’s no logic in turning down free equipment that, he insists, does have the potential to ensure officers’ safety – however remote the possibility that an adequately dire situation will arise to justify its use.

“I know that if somebody was in harm’s way, I wouldn’t let public opinion decide the safety of my deputy,” he told the paper. “Safety is my number one priority.”

Notice he didn’t say “public safety.”

Pennsylvania Sheriff Sticks Up For Gun Owners’ Privacy, Fights Auditors Over Release Of Names

Carl Nace, the sheriff of Perry County, Pa., is being sued. He won’t turn over his constituents’ gun licensing information to county auditors, and the auditors are suing him for the information, with a promise that they’ll return all the files once they’ve reviewed them.

Nace has steadfastly refused to release that information, telling The Patriot-News in April, “They want the names of the people who have gun permits, and that’s confidential.”

On Monday, the Perry County Commission agreed with him, unanimously voting (under the watchful eye of dozens of concerned locals) to hire a new auditor — under the condition that the auditor cannot be granted access to the permit holders’ names.

So far, that vote hasn’t settled the lawsuit, filed June 11 by auditors Kimberly McMullen, Barbara Hench and Donna Jones. They maintain that they are exempted from the State law sheriff Nace cites. But, judging from the passionate support for Nace the issue has generated, they’re clearly in the minority.

Whether he wins or loses the legal battle, Nace has already prevailed in the court of public opinion. Voters in Perry County turned up to the county commission meeting to declare their appreciation and support of the sheriff’s decision.

“One by one people went before Perry County Commissioners Monday to show their support for Sheriff Carl Nace,” WPMT reported Monday.

“The issue brought about no shortage of passion, and filled a courtroom on a Monday morning,” reported The Patriot-News. “Numerous residents shared their feelings with the commissioners, saying the auditors’ request is illegal, and it violates their rights. Most statements were met with applause.”

One resident explained his support for the sheriff’s position isn’t rooted only in the 2nd Amendment, but in his concern for government infringement on civil liberties generally.

“I’m a little disappointed nothing was resolved today,” resident Jim Lucas — evidently referencing the ongoing lawsuit against Nace — told The Patriot-News following Monday’s commission vote. “But I am extremely happy and enthusiastic that so many of my fellow Perry Countians are concerned about their civil rights.”

Massachusetts Lawmakers Crafting Unprecedented State Powers Into New Gun Control Bill

A bill that could ban private gun sales, set a high threshold of qualification for owning a gun and grant law enforcement broad discretion in issuing permits even for long guns is making its way through the committee process of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The bill, HB 4121, would place a host of new hurdles in the path of potential gun owners in a State that’s not known for its lawmakers’ restraint in leaving the 2nd Amendment as it is. Gun owners both inside the State, as well as those throughout the Nation concerned about the general erosion of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, are calling the measure extreme and dangerous.

“This egregious bill would empower police chiefs with discretion in licensing owners for shotguns and rifles, ban the private sale of firearms except through a licensed gun dealer, and create new firearm possession qualifications that could ban firearm ownership for thousands of hunters and gun enthusiasts across the Commonwealth,” warns the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA):

HB 4121 is dangerous legislation that seeks to further strip away your Second Amendment rights in Massachusetts. As anyone who has gone through the process to legally obtain a firearm in Massachusetts knows, there is no dearth of existing state laws that regulate the sale, purchase and transfer of firearms. State legislators on Beacon Hill should be repealing gun control laws, NOT enacting more to further restrict your Second Amendment rights.

The NRA-ILA is imploring Massachusetts residents to contact their State representatives and “urge them to vote against this dangerous anti-gun bill.” Even law enforcement within the State has come out against the bill; the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MASS C.O.P.) — the State’s largest law enforcement union — has issued an official statement opposing the gun grab:

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police submitted written testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in opposition of House Bill 4121 An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. Our reasoning is that we do not agree with the change in what can disqualify you for a license to carry a firearm in this bill. In the current legislation, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor that carries a punishment of two years or more, you are disqualified. In this bill it reduces that time to one year. This could negatively impact some of our members who had previously qualified and had no issues in the past. In some cases it could potentially terminate employment. This is the one issue within the bill that has an effect on our membership’s employment. There may be other issues that you do not agree with, or agree with in the bill. In any case, you should call your local State Representative and let them know that you are not in favor of this bill.

The Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) is keeping a running tab on the bill as it moves through the Legislature (it’s currently before the House Ways and Means committee); you can view its progress and find legislative contact information here.

First Quarter GDP Revised Downward Even Further; Apologists Say Don’t Worry

You know that first-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report that shows the economy exhibited recession-like contraction over the first three months of this year? The one the Commerce department keeps revising as more data comes in, each time making the news a little worse?

Today it got a lot worse. What started out weeks ago as an estimate that the GDP had contracted by 1 percent (then was revised two weeks ago to -1.7 percent) has now plunged to -2.9 percent.

Commerce revealed today that GDP fell by 2.9 percent from January through March, thanks to some combination of a decrease in personal consumption, weak foreign trade, and (mentioned in the first two reports) winter, or something. The drop is the biggest single-quarter drop in GDP in five years.

“Real GDP declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter, after increasing 2.6 percent in the fourth,” the revised Commerce report states. “This downturn in the percent change in real GDP primarily reflected a downturn in exports, a larger decrease in private inventory investment, a deceleration in PCE, and downturns in nonresidential fixed investment and in state and local government spending that were partly offset by an upturn in federal government spending.”

No worries, though – things are about to turn around in a major way. At least, that’s what Wall Street’s saying. “The case that the awful first quarter report was an outlier is bolstered by the relative strength of other recent economic data,” The Hill reported, using the 6.3 percent unemployment rate reported by the BLS as its first piece of evidence.

“We’ll see good growth in the rest of 2014. This is a blip,” PNC Financial’s Gus Faucher told The Hill. “I do think that going forward, things are looking much better.”

“It was ugly reading, but I think it was a combination of a lot of one-off negative impacts that all hit at the same time,” a Bank of the West economist echoed in the same article.

Colorado Governor Waffles On Merits Of Gun Control Laws He Signed Last Year

Democratic Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has managed to alienate just about everybody over the past week by reflecting on the State’s controversial gun control laws, which he signed in March of last year, with commentary that has ranged from remorseful to defiant. At the end of it all, he’s pleased almost no one and angered many — on both sides of the matter.

Knowing how unpopular the State’s new gun control laws were with most county sheriffs, Hickenlooper made a point of apologizing for the manner in which he and the Democratic-controlled State Legislature passed the laws last year. Several Colorado sheriffs have filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn the laws, which they believe limit the right to bear arms codified in the 2nd Amendment.

According to Denver-based KUSA News, Hickenlooper attempted an “awkward” apology on June 13, when he addressed a room full of county sheriffs gathered for their biennial meeting:

The governor apologized to the sheriffs for not meeting with them prior to the passage of gun control bills they opposed. Hickenlooper also said his administration didn’t do a good job anticipating pushback on gun control. Hickenlooper pledged better communication in the future.

According to the same report, HIckenlooper immediately demonstrated his idea of better communication by saying “What the f—? I apologized!” when Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith attempted to question him further.

That remark has put Hickenlooper on his heels, and he hasn’t responded in a way that clarifies his position — or that makes his apology resonate with sheriffs. He told another local TV station last week that he had no idea his remarks were being observed by news media, explaining to Fox 31 that “I tried to give them honest, unscripted, candid answers.”

Hickenlooper had reportedly told the sheriffs that he signed the laws only because one of his staffers had promised one bill’s sponsor that he would. But in his Fox 31 interview, he instead claimed that had nothing to do with it.

He also told the station that he never meant to imply (or plainly say) that the gun laws were bad or unenforceable, and that he’d enact them all over again if they crossed his desk.

“I didn’t say it’s unenforceable, I said it’s difficult to enforce,” he said. “A lot of laws are difficult to enforce; that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there. If we went through the process again, I’d sign it again.”

Smith addressed Hickenlooper’s “I didn’t know there were reporters” claim to his Facebook followers:

This meeting between the sheriffs and the governor was an open meeting attended by at least three press outlets (two from Aspen and one from Grand Junction.) This was known by the governor as I believe he spoke with a couple of those reporters. There were also news photographers in the room throughout his presentation- not something that you could miss.

However, the news of the governor’s “fumble” did not come from any reporter in the room. Their reports were quite bland and vague.

Social media, via Sheriff Spruell, turned out to be the reporter in the room this time. It was only after Sheriff Spruell’s viral posting and follow up posts by other sheriffs along with audio and video pieces later published to the web that this “fumble” came to the voters [sic] attention.

Now, the governor is in hot water, not only with his opponents on gun control, but also with his previous allies on the issue for blatant waffling and pandering.

Like it or hate it, we are seeing an information revolution that is changing the world as we know it. Information is power and the people have more power than ever.

Indeed, otherwise-supportive observers have openly questioned Hickenlooper’s perplexing lack of focus as he attempts damage control on both sides. The Daily Beast, which harbors no love for a plain reading of the 2nd Amendment, insinuated that Hickenlooper’s apparent bipolarity is a symptom of the unpopularity of gun control as an effective political platform:

How dire is the political situation for supporters of gun control?

Consider the case of Colorado, which saw two horrific mass shootings in the past 20 years, and in response, passed meaningful gun-control legislation last year.

But last week, Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who made those measures a centerpiece of his first term, backed swiftly away from them in a meeting with a group of county sheriffs.

…[P]erhaps another errant remark by Hickenlooper recorded at the meeting sums up the whole imbroglio best.

“If we had known that this was going to divide the state so intensely,” Hickenlooper said. “I think we would have thought about it twice.”

The passage of Colorado’s new gun laws sparked a grass-roots movement among angry conservative voters that ultimately led to the recall of two of the laws’ sponsors — State Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron — as well as the pre-emptive resignation of State Senator Evie Hudak.

Not Even Democrats Believe The IRS Accidentally Lost Lerner Emails

More than three-fourths of American voters in a poll released today agree that the loss of email communications crucial to the House investigation into the IRS’ discrimination against conservative groups was anything but an accident.

In the Fox News tracking poll, only 12 percent of voters responded that they believe the emails were lost by accident. Another 12 percent said they weren’t sure. And the remaining 76 percent said they were “lost” on purpose.

Not even voters who identified themselves as Democrats buy the idea that benign, end-user computer problems can explain how the IRS is unable to retrieve emails subpoenaed in the House investigation. Sixty-three percent of Democrats said they believe those communications were “destroyed deliberately,” while only 20 percent said it must have been an accident.

The poll also indicates overwhelming support for the House investigation, with 74 percent of voters responding “yes” when asked “Do you think Congress should continue to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of hundreds of conservative and tea party groups until someone is held accountable, or not?” That includes Democrats: 66 percent support the investigation.

So much for the effectiveness of the Obama Administration’s “witch hunt” talking point tactic to push the scandal to the margins.

IRS Admits Wrongdoing In Settlement With Traditional Marriage Group Over Leaked Donor List

The IRS has admitted wrongdoing in the illegal release of names on a confidential list of conservative donors to a rival political group and has agreed to pay $50,000 to the conservative group whose members’ names were wrongly leaked.

A U.S. District Court judge accepted a settlement today in the case, which pitted the IRS as a defendant against the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a conservative group whose membership was leaked by an internal IRS source, using information meant only for IRS documentation purposes, to a liaison for a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

A reading of this case’s history quickly disabuses the observer of any impression of an impersonal, run-of-the-mill bureaucratic screw-up and replaces it with something far more human and mendacious. This wasn’t a case of someone inadvertently hitting the wrong button on a computer or mistakenly lumping in one stack of information with another; it was instead an attempt to wilfully present legally-protected donor information to an adversarial political group to influence the relative power one wielded against the other.

Here’s how The Daily Signal, which first reported today’s decision, summarizes it:

In February 2012, the Human Rights Campaign posted on its web site NOM’s 2008 tax return and the names and contact information of the marriage group’s major donors, including soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That information then was published by the Huffington Post and other liberal-leaning news sites.

HRC’s president at the time, Joe Solmonese, was tapped that same month as a national co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Eastman said an investigation in the civil lawsuit determined that someone gave NOM’s tax return and list of major donors to Boston-based gay rights activist Matthew Meisel. Email correspondence from Meisel revealed that he told a colleague of “a conduit” to obtain the marriage group’s confidential information.

Testifying under oath in a deposition as part of the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Meisel invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself and declined to disclose the identity of his “conduit.”

To get at that fact, Eastman said, the National Organization for Marriage has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to grant immunity from prosecution to Meisel.

So a “conduit” at the IRS fished out the names of all the donors who expressed their support for the state’s present legal definition of marriage through a political movement, and handed that confidential information over to an activist who wants that definition to change. Then that activist revealed that illegally-obtained information to a competing political group, which got its cause some instant press from media outlets invested in advancing the issue. The Obama campaign then swooped in and recruited the president of the group that had shared the illegally-gotten info away from his position and made him the President’s campaign manager. Oh, and the President’s opponent in that election cycle just happened to be one of the guys on the victim group’s donor list.

Regardless of which side of the marriage issue you stand on, that’s just messed up.

It’s also not just a civil matter – it’s a crime. “Unauthorized disclosure of confidential tax information is a felony offense that can result in five years in prison, but the Department of Justice did not bring criminal charges,” the Daily Signal observed. So far, and until the “conduit” (presumably an IRS employee) is revealed, the IRS itself is the only named culprit – and that’s merely for this now-settled civil action.

The $50,000 the IRS must pay will necessarily come from public coffers, whether by means of a standing liability protection plan or direct payment. “The $50,000 to be paid by the IRS represents actual damages NOM incurred responding to the illegal disclosure, not punitive damages,” notes the Signal, because “the marriage group was unable to prove disclosure of the confidential records was deliberate after Meisel took the Fifth.”

South Dakota GOP Asks House Rep To Start Obama Impeachment Proceedings

The South Dakota Republican Party voted by a narrow margin over the weekend to ask its single delegate to the House of Representatives, Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem, to initiate articles of impeachment against President Barack Obama.

By a 191-176 vote, the State party approved a resolution which “calls on our U.S. Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States,” according to the Sioux Falls-based Argus Leader, because the President has “violated his oath of office in numerous ways.”

The gesture marks the latest instance of impeachment saber-rattling, continuing a conservative trope that has endured throughout Obama’s first 5.5 years in office.

South Dakota’s GOP leaders evidently realize the measure’s impact is, likely, merely symbolic. But their remarks indicate the resolution represents an important demarcation of the party’s collective belief that Obama has flouted the Constitution, brought enduring shame to the institutions of public service at the Federal level, and subverted the intended balance of power between the three branches of government.

According to the Argus Leader, Allen Unruh, the measure’s sponsor, believes the South Dakota GOP will “send a symbolic message that liberty shall be the law of the land” by formally requesting impeachment proceedings.

“If anyone in this room cannot see the horrendous, traitorous scandals run by the Obama administration, I will pray for you,” Larry Klipp, another of the resolution’s supporters, told the party.

But Noem — who has been plenty critical of Obama — isn’t likely to forge ahead with the impeachment idea.

“The Congresswoman currently believes the best way for Congress to hold the President accountable is to continue aggressive committee oversight and investigations into the Administration’s actions like the ongoing VA scandal, the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, Benghazi, and the recent Taliban prisoner exchange,” a Noem staffer told the newspaper following the impeachment vote.

IRS Chief Koskinen Has History Of Donating To Democrats

Stuck in the swelter of House Republicans’ angry criticism for his agency’s misplacement of subpoenaed emails, as well as his own leisurely disposition toward Congressional investigators looking into discriminatory targeting of political conservatives, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen might understandably hold an adversarial view of the GOP these days.

But if campaign finance records offer any insight, that’s nothing new: the 74-year-old Koskinen has been an energetic donor to Democratic campaigns for more than 30 years.

Dating back to the late 1970s, Koskinen has shelled out close to $100,000 for Democratic candidates and causes — most recently just last year, when he contributed $2,500 to the campaign of Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.).

According to a report Monday at The Washington Free Beacon, Koskinen’s track record as a campaign donor reveals a clear pattern of partisan sympathy that’s spanned half a lifetime:

Koskinen has been a reliable donor over the years, contributing a total of $19,000 to the Democratic National Committee from 1988 to 2008. He has made a contribution to the Democratic candidate for president in each election since 1980, including $2,300 to Obama in 2008, and $5000 to Obama in 2012.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has received $3,000 from Koskinen since 2008, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received $2,000 from 2004 to 2006.

…Koskinen’s most recent contribution was $2,500 to Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) in February of 2013.

Koskinen was appointed IRS commissioner later that year, and was tasked with revamping the tax agency in the wake of criticism that it was allowing partisanship dictate which groups applying for tax-exempt status would receive extra scrutiny.

Koskinen began his IRS appointment with a general pledge to un-dig the hole in which the agency has found its public image in the wake of the still-simmering conservative discrimination scandal. “It took a little while to dig the hole, and it’s going to take us a little while to get out of it,” he told reporters after being sworn in in early January.

“The public needs to be confident that they will be treated fairly no matter who they are, what organization they are or whom they voted for,” he reiterated at a Washington luncheon in May.

But as the agency’s good faith response to House investigators’ requests for evidence has faltered — particularly with respect to its alleged withholding of information about the disappearance of email communications between IRS employees named in the scandal — Koskinen has literally become less apologetic about the damage the IRS has done to his longtime ideological opponents.

“I don’t think an apology is owed,” Koskinen told Ways and Means Committee member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) at a hearing on the matter last week.

Mixed Reactions To Supreme Court’s Ruling On EPA Power Grab

Depending on which story you read today about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on how far the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can stretch its ambitious regulatory authority, you may have gotten the impression that the Court is the Obama Administration’s rubber stamp or the immovable object blocking the advance of the President’s global warming agenda.

The Court upheld the EPA’s legal power to enforce both current and future regulations on power plants and manufacturing facilities already under its regulatory purview. But the Court also ruled that the EPA does not have the legislative authority to arbitrarily revise regulatory standards already on its books, and cannot impose new restrictions on alleged polluters not currently included in the Obama Administration’s schedule of entities that are subject to the greenhouse gas emissions permitting process.

The ruling does not affect the Obama Administration’s fresh round of rules proposals, which purport to effectively trim carbon gas emissions emanating from existing facilities by up to 25 percent over the next two decades.

“We hold that EPA exceeded its statutory authority when it interpreted the Clean Air Act to require… permitting for stationary sources based on their greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority. “Specifically, the agency may not treat greenhouse gases as a pollutant for purposes of defining a ‘major emitting facility’ … in the context of a ‘major source.’ To the extent its regulations purport to do so, they are invalid.”

That means the EPA can’t justify new regulations on plant expansions or new construction of facilities on the simple basis of how much greenhouse gas they might emit – other “traditional” pollutants must factor into that mix of well-intentioned concern.

“Specifically, the court said the EPA may require a greenhouse gas permit on any entity that already requires a permit for traditional pollutants such as soot and nitrogen oxide,” reported The Hill, which viewed the ruling as a net win for the EPA and the Obama Administration.

Indeed, the EPA offered a chirpy spin on the decision, borrowing liberally from Obama’s straw man-toppling rhetorical playbook. “Today is a good day for all supporters of clean air and public health and those concerned with creating a better environment for future generations,” the agency responded in a statement.

Sadly, there was no public rebuttal today from all the supporters of filthy air, pandemic illness, and the destruction of the environment to spite future generations.

Unlike The Hill, conservative news website The Daily Caller hailed the decision as a much-needed judicial check on the Obama Administration’s expansion of regulatory power, proclaiming in a headline the Court had essentially struck down the “first phase of EPA’s global warming agenda.”

“The decision was welcomed by power companies, as well as the oil and gas industry, because the rules also extended to refineries and other large manufacturing facilities,” the site reported. “…The Supreme Court’s decision, however, does not affect upcoming regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions on new and existing power plants.”

So which is it – an EPA seal of approval, or a major blow to Obama’s reach? Mostly, it’s the former. It’s a signal the EPA can move forward with just about everything the Obama Administration has planned for it in the short term, and an indication that the agency can continue to rely on the Clean Air Act as the basis for its ongoing broad regulatory powers over the emission of carbon gases – so long as it doesn’t attempt a rewrite of existing environmental law at the policy level.

Scalia said as much as he announced the decision.

“EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” said Scalia. “It sought to regulate sources that it said were responsible for 86 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources nationwide. Under our holdings, EPA will be able to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of those emissions.”