Supreme Court Passes On New Jersey Gun Control Case

The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its ongoing hands-off stance on taking up cases involving 2nd Amendment rights today, declining without comment to hear a New Jersey case that challenges the Constitutionality of a State law forbidding lawful gun owners from carrying their firearms in public.

In passing on the highly scrutinized case, Drake v. Jerejian, the court allows to stand a ruling that affirms the state’s power to limit a gun owner’s right to carry a concealed weapon outside the home “for self-defense.”

The implicit merit attached to the case is that self-defense is, in fact, the central issue underlying the intent of the 2nd Amendment. SCOTUS blog, which first reported the Supreme Court’s non-action today, summarizes the merits this way:

Issue: (1) Whether the Second Amendment secures a right to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense; and (2) whether state officials violate the Second Amendment by requiring that individuals wishing to exercise their right to carry a handgun for self-defense first prove a “justifiable need” for doing so.

On both points, the Supreme Court would certainly have had a clear path to rule the State law unConstitutional.

By way of speculation, there could be a hidden silver lining in the Court’s inaction: If the only way to accept this case on the merits was to weigh the plaintiffs’ argument attaching the concept of “self-defense” to the intent of the 2nd Amendment, then the Court could have set a bad precedent — even if it had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs — if its ruling whittled down the 2nd Amendment’s meaning to apply only to “self-defense” when, in fact, the Founders wrote an Amendment that is manifestly broad in scope.

“Self-defense,” except perhaps from the government itself (as inferred from the 2nd Amendment’s understood acceptance of the need for a well-regulated militia), isn’t mentioned in the original document, and no action by the Supreme Court is at least preferable to an action that limits the 2nd Amendment only to that application.

Nonetheless, the plaintiffs end up the big losers in this instance. Drake v. Jerejian arose from a challenge to a New Jersey law requiring lawful gun owners to demonstrate to their government an “urgent need,” based on their need for self-defense, to take their guns with them anywhere outside the home. According to Newark’s Star-Ledger, gun owners must obtain the approval of both a “police official and a judge” for a permit that allows them to carry a concealed handgun at large.

The case was first filed by a store owner who, after experiencing an ordeal at the hands of kidnappers, applied for and was denied a concealed carry permit. Over its life span, the case has taken on other plaintiffs, and it currently involves a different plaintiff whose job involves transporting cash. Like the original plaintiff, the current plaintiff cites self-defense as his basis for requesting a concealed carry permit for a handgun.

Attorney Alan Gura, who’s won two previous landmark cases involving municipal gun laws before the Supreme Court, had been representing the plaintiffs in the Drake case. He told Reason today that the court’s passivity on the issue is amounts to a form of neglect for precedents it’s already established against overzealous local limitations on the scope of the 2nd Amendment.

“We’ve seen courts rubberstamp just about any kind of law that violates the Second Amendment,” said Gura. “Unless the Supreme Court decides to enforce its pronouncements, the Second Amendment will apply only to the extent that some lower courts are willing to honor Supreme Court precedent.”

Read more on the ruling at the Star-Ledger, and follow its history on the SCOTUS blog.

Rick Perry: Forget The Minimum Wage; Worry About The ‘Maximum Wage’

Texas Governor and potential Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry made smoke come out of confused progressive viewers’ ears Sunday when he told host David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his administration isn’t concerned with raising the minimum wage in Texas — rather, it’s focused on raising the “maximum wage.”

“We focus on the maximum wage rather than the minimum wage,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of all the jobs that were created in my home State were above the minimum wage — so the idea [isn’t] that you should be focused on the minimum wage, when, in fact, you should be focused on policies that create this environment where jobs can be created.”

Perry was referring to President Barack Obama’s effort to persuade Congressional Democrats to pass an across-the-board increase to the $7.25 hourly Federal minimum wage. A Democrat-backed bill aiming to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour — widely viewed as an ill-fated and symbolic piece of “statement” legislation intended to draw clear election-year distinctions between Republicans and Democrats — failed in the Senate last Wednesday.

Obama and Senate Democrats quickly cashed in on the political capital earned by that defeat. “If your member of Congress doesn’t support raising the minimum wage, you gotta let them know they’re out of step and if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you’ll put them out of office,” said the President, only hours after Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill.

Perry’s “maximum wage” comments continue a common policy theme in the Texas Governor’s office: getting out of the way of the private-sector economy and watching the open-ended, free-market compulsion to make money work its magic. He has repeatedly blasted the Federal minimum wage as one among many interventionist policies that yield precisely the economic harms their political advocates pledge such policies will avert.

“It’s not a trade secret,” Perry wrote in USA Today last October. “[I]t’s common sense. We maintain low taxes, smart regulations and fair courts…[E]very state in America can do what Texas has done. They just have to be willing to compete.”

Tech Giants Defy Government Demands For Secret Electronic Data Mining

Colluding with the government to secretly hand over law-abiding citizens’ private data might be bad for business in the long run, so many U.S-based tech giants are beginning to defy Federal law enforcement whenever they’re requested to do just that.

At least, that’s what The Washington Post reported late last week.

But in a world in which Edward Snowden continually reminds Americans that anyone involved in government surveillance can still find out everything you do online, “from a Federal judge to the President of the United States” as long as they’ve got your email address, it’s hard to gauge just how significant Big Data’s self-imposed nullification of government demands really is.

At the very least, it’s something. Tech companies are still complying with subpoenas that demand submitting bulk data to various law enforcement agencies, but many have begun insisting that individuals targeted in the subpoenas be informed that they’re being spied on. There’s still an enormous legal catch, though: any data requests that emanate either from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or from a National Security Letter still carry a mandatory gag order.

Yet, the Post reports the scale of the tech companies’ defiance is sufficient to make the government’s unilateral enforcement of its piecemeal demands for secret data mining nearly impossible:

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures.

…Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

As this position becomes uniform across the industry, U.S. tech companies will ignore the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests, industry lawyers say. Companies that already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.

…The changing legal standards of technology companies most directly affect federal, state and local criminal investigators, who have found that companies increasingly balk at data requests once considered routine.

To counter the changes, the U.S. Department of Justice is trying to bring the old ways back – although the only tool it’s yet wielded for doing so, remarkably, is public relations. The DOJ issued a statement criticizing the tech industry’s policy shift for “endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses,” alleging that secrecy in surveillance is the very basis for a successful investigation.

The tech companies don’t have a problem with that logic, so long as it’s applied to individual suspects instead of to indiscriminate user groups that might – or might not – contain an individual involved in some unknown criminal endeavor.

“The intent is to make sure it’s not a rubber stamp. That way we’re not releasing customer information without due process,” said one industry representative.

Due process flowing from the private sector, to protect Americans from a government that flouts Constitutional limits on searches and seizures…it’s a novel concept, and strangely indicative of just how dramatically times have changed.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copies.

Mass Flight From U.S. Labor Force Drives Down April Unemployment

The U.S. labor force benefited from the creation of 288,000 jobs last month, the highest number since the start of 2012, and the National rate of unemployment concurrently fell from 6.7 percent in March to 6.3 percent.

You can see how Bloomberg and the Associated Press reported the good news here and here.

Read far enough into those stories – and it will take you a while – and you’ll eventually encounter the lede: The number of people participating in the U.S. labor force in April shrank by a staggering 800,000. As you know, people who aren’t looking for work aren’t counted in the BLS’ calculation of the unemployment rate. Yet the number of people who have bowed out of the American labor force now stands at 92 million.

That’s nearly one-third of the population of the entire country – and roughly 38 percent of the 241 million residents over the age of 18.

With 38 percent of American adults not even trying to find work, what difference does a 6.3 percent unemployment rate make? The Obama Administration found the silver lining in the April numbers, noting that the actual rate of job creation is, in fact accelerating – which, so far as it goes, is certainly true – and that several economic sectors saw an uptick in hiring during April (also true).

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers also reveal that hourly earnings did not increase – an indicator that much of that growth is still coming in the form of low-wage, low-skill jobs (so much for closing that pernicious wealth gap, Obama).

And, stepping back, the labor economy in the U.S. reflects an ongoing anemic “recovery” trend – one that hasn’t seen growth commensurate with periods of economic growth through the last two decades of the 20th Century – often cited as a benchmark by which present economic growth is measured.

“Unfortunately, the effects of currency manipulation on the U.S. economy – along with self-imposed restraints on oil and gas development and the manifest inefficiencies imposed by dysfunctional management and profiteering in health care, higher education, and finance – have lowered U.S. annual growth to 1.7 percent since the turn of the century from the 3.4 percent pace accomplished during the Reagan-Clinton era,” wrote Peter Morici for Breitbart today.

“Consequently, jobs creation lags population growth. The unemployment rate, which fell to 6.3 percent in April from 6.7 percent the prior month, wholly masks the extent of the problem. The percentage of adults seeking employment dropped precipitously. One out of six men between the ages of 25 and 54 are without jobs, and many have given up looking for work and are not counted in the jobless rate.”

Missouri Legislature Nears Approval Of Nullification Bill To Limit Federal Gun Control

The Missouri State Legislature is on the verge of forwarding a bill to Democratic Governor Jay Nixon that, if signed into law, will nullify virtually all Federal gun laws while asserting the State’s rejection of “unlimited submission” to Federal powers not enumerated in the Constitution.

On Wednesday, the Missouri State Senate approved a bill that originated in the State House of Representatives – HB 1439 – and returned the measure, with minor markups, to the House for final approval. The House had originally passed the bill on an overwhelming 110-36 vote. The Senate followed suit, approving the measure by a vote of 23-8.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center blog, both chambers tagged the measure as an “emergency” bill, which fast-tracks its enactment sooner than the standard 90 days required for news laws to take effect after a legislative session has adjourned for the year.

As the Tenth Amendment Center notes, embedding in the measure’s language is a strong message to the Federal government about the Missouri Legislature’s position on State sovereignty vis-à-vis the Federal government:

With language inspired by Thomas Jefferson, HB1439 declares that the state rejects the idea of “unlimited submission” to federal power. It also declares that “whenever the federal government assumes powers that the people did not grant it in the Constitution, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

… The state capitol city’s namesake [that’s Jefferson City] would have been proud, said Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey. “This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson himself said that states had a duty to do,” he said. “States aren’t supposed to stand by and do nothing while the federal government violates the Constitution. And they’re not supposed to be willing partners in the act either.”

What does HB 1439 do? It pretty much nullifies anything the Federal government attempts to do to guns that the 2nd Amendment hasn’t already covered: “All federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Here’s the relevant portion of the measure the Senate approved this week:

(8) The people of Missouri have vested the general assembly with the authority to regulate the manufacture, possession, exchange, and use of firearms within the borders of this state, subject only to the limits imposed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Missouri Constitution; and

(9) The general assembly of the state of Missouri strongly promotes responsible gun ownership, including parental supervision of minors in the proper use, storage, and ownership of all firearms, the prompt reporting of stolen firearms, and the proper enforcement of all state gun laws. The general assembly of the state of Missouri hereby condemns any unlawful transfer of firearms and the use of any firearm in any criminal or unlawful activity.

1.410. The following federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, and regulations shall be considered infringements on the people’s right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and article I, section 23 of the Constitution of Missouri, within the borders of this state, including, but not limited to:

(1) Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services which might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;

(2) Any registering or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;

(3) Any registering or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;

(4) Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and

(5) Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.

1.420. All federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.

Pennsylvania High Court Allows Police To Search Vehicles Without Warrant

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an opinion this week that opens the way for local police to avail themselves of the same warrantless search powers that Federal law enforcement officers operating in the State already enjoy when stopping and questioning motorists.

In a 4-2 ruling, the Court on Tuesday concluded that municipal police may search a vehicle without a warrant, even over the objections of its owner and/or its occupants, if they have developed sufficient probable cause to believe the vehicle may be an accessory to criminal activity.

The decision stems from an appeal of a 2010 case in Philadelphia in which police searched a man’s car without a warrant after pulling over the driver – Shiem Gary – because they believed his window tinting was too dark. Once Gary was stopped, the officers said they smelled marijuana and brought out a drug dog, who promptly “hit” on a suspicious area of the car. The vehicle indeed had two pounds’ worth of marijuana underneath its hood, and Gary went to jail.

The Court’s majority opinion notes that other States already have streamlined their laws to overlap with the powers afforded Federal law enforcement agents. Pennsylvania’s reversal, according to Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, simply allows local police to adhere to a “uniform standard for a warrantless search of a motor vehicle, applicable in federal and state court, to avoid unnecessary confusion, conflict and inconsistency in this often-litigated area.”

But critics argue the decision needlessly expands the power of the state at a time in our Nation’s history when individual rights have never been more threatened by an overreaching government.

“It’s an expanding encroachment of government power,” defense attorney Jeffrey Conrad told Lancaster, Pa. court reporter Brett Hambright “It’s a protection we had two days ago, that we don’t have today. It’s disappointing from a citizens’ rights perspective.”

Writing for the minority, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd agreed, objecting that the Court’s new direction “heedlessly contravenes over 225 years of unyielding protection against unreasonable search and seizure which our people have enjoyed as their birthright.”

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Rahm Emanuel’s Ex-Comptroller Gets Arrested In Pakistan With Fake Passport Ahead Of Prison Sentence In Federal Fraud Case

The man whom Chicago mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tapped as Chicago’s comptroller has been arrested in Pakistan after allegedly fleeing there with a fake passport to avoid Federal apprehension on settled fraud charges.

Amer Ahmad, who served as the deputy State Treasurer of Ohio before Emanuel recruited him to his Chicago mayoral cabinet, was stopped and subsequently arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency after he successfully made it past the U.S. air screening apparatus with the allegedly false credentials, before Pakistani police suspected the documents and did a quick Google search that revealed he was a wanted man in the United States.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Ahmad was using a forged Mexican passport and a forged Pakistani visa to enter Pakistan. He was due for sentencing in a Federal fraud case that stemmed from his time as an employee of the State of Ohio, before Emanuel hired him into his Chicago mayoral staff.

In a request for a protection order against her husband last week, Ahmad’s wife, Samar, had told court officials that he had asked her to help him obtain a false birth certificate so that he could get a fake passport, and had threatened to harm her if she did not comply.

Ahmad has been wanted by U.S. Marshals since last week on suspicion that he was not abiding by the terms of bail in his Ohio case – a case in which he pleaded guilty late last year for conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. He was facing a maximum prison sentence that ranges from five to ten years under Federal sentencing guidelines. A Pakistani investigator told the Tribune Ahmad may also be facing up to seven years in Pakistani prison on the passport and visa fraud charges there.

Asked by the Tribune Wednesday about his feelings on his former comptroller’s arrest, Emanuel focused on other things.

“I’ve got to be honest, sorry about this, but let me give you this sense of reaction: I was thinking about plastic bags before Amer. I was thinking about petcoke regulations before Amer. I was thinking about how proud we all are of the Whitney Young basketball team, of their accomplishments on the court and in the classroom. That all came before that, so, gives you some sense of perspective on it.”

Check the Chicago Tribune’s full story for much more background on the Federal charges, as well as the circumstances leading up to Ahmad’s arrest Wednesday.

Federal Campaign Watchdog Resigns After Admitting To Campaigning For Obama

An attorney working for the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Federal body tasked with ensuring the integrity of the campaign process, has resigned following the uncovering of evidence that he (or she) actively campaigned for President Barack Obama while on the job.

According to The Washington Times, the unnamed employee admitted to stumping for Obama during the 2012 election cycle, allegedly tweeting pro-Obama messages and even participating in a broadcast conducted on FEC property in which the employee spoke critically of Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced on Tuesday it had reached a settlement with the employee after it had investigated allegations the staffer had violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition of Federal workers from doing political campaign work while on the job. OSC would not provide details of the settlement to the media.

From The Washington Times:

The employee, a lawyer whose name wasn’t divulged, solicited campaign donations for Mr. Obama and other political campaigns, and even took part in a web broadcast from an FEC facility where the employee criticized the GOP and Republican 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Those moves violate the Hatch Act, the 1939 federal law sharply restricting federal government employees’ campaign activity. The Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, announced the steps — though a spokesman said they couldn’t give out any more details.

The employee had been on administrative leave ever since the start of the investigation. A condition of the settlement OSC did disclose is that the employee agreed not to seek employment with the Federal government – for two years.

New Police Footage Renews Scrutiny On Nevada’s Asset Forfeiture Law

If an armed person stops a motorist in one of the Nation’s most deserted areas and demands that person hand over the large sum of cash he’s carrying, doesn’t that make the armed person a brigand?

Nevada’s asset forfeiture laws deputize brigands – or, rather, they make brigands of deputies. The wrinkle is that it’s the State, and not the guy with the gun, that keeps the money…If, that is, the brigand is honest about how much money he’s confiscated.

New police video footage released to KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nev. on Tuesday has renewed scrutiny of State asset forfeiture laws, while especially sharpening the public perception of one Humboldt County deputy who seems to have State-sanctioned highway robbery down to a science.

First, it’s helpful to remember a couple of points about the setting. Humboldt County, which forms part of the State’s northern border with Oregon, has a population density of roughly two people per square mile. It’s desolate mountain desert country, but a sliver of one of America’s great coast-to-coast highways – Interstate 80 – runs through Humboldt County’s southeastern corner. I-80 takes people to and from Reno, a town where people can legally win and lose money at gambling, and it delivers many people who’ve packed their valuables and their budding ambitions from the Nation’s eastern half to the populated West Coast – the mythic land of the American dream.

It stands to reason that people, for one legal reason or another, often carry cash when they drive I-80 through Nevada. And, as highway robbers throughout history have well understood, it also stands to reason that it’s easiest to shake down travelers in the remotest location possible. Humboldt County has both those boxes checked.

So it’s against that fertile backdrop for roadside shakedowns that officers like deputy Lee Dove, under the aegis of zealous drug enforcement, stop motorists and ask them a series of leading questions that, if answered incorrectly, will lead to drivers saying goodbye forever to their cash.

Here’s how KLAS investigative reporter Glen Meek describes one unnamed motorist’s encounter with deputy Dove:

One deputy in particular is being singled out for his practice of pressuring travelers to abandon their money or face losing their cars as well. The I-Team has obtained exclusive dash-cam video from one of these drug interdiction stops. While no drugs were found, that didn’t stop the deputy from grabbing the cash.

“How much money you got?” Humboldt County Deputy Lee Dove can be heard asking on the video.

Dove can be seen dropping cash on the hood of the car.

Deputy Dove: “That’s not yours, is it?”

Motorist: “That’s mine.”

Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m seizing it.”

… The out-of-state motorist was stopped for doing 78 mph in an 75 mph zone. Deputy Dove finds $50,000 cash and $10,000 in cashiers checks during a search of the car.

The first issue is whether Dove obtained permission to search the car or whether he simply told the driver, Tan Nguyen, he was going to do it.

Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m gonna search that vehicle first, ok?”

Nguyen: “Hey, what’s the reason you’re searching my car?”

Deputy Dove: “Because I’m talking to you … well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you. I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that (pointing to money). If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”

Nguyen: (inaudible) got it in Vegas.”

Deputy Dove: “Good luck proving it. Good luck proving it. You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”

But Dove never seizes the money under state forfeiture law, instead he offers Nguyen a deal. Abandon the cash and you can leave with the cashiers checks. Otherwise, Dove will confiscate the cash anyway and tow the car because Nguyen’s name isn’t on the rental agreement.

Deputy Dove: “It’s your call. If you want to walk away, you can take the cashiers checks, the car and everything and you can bolt and you’re on your way. But you’re gonna be walking away from this money and abandoning it.

Fifty-thousand dollars gone. Nevada’s asset forfeiture laws basically sanction law enforcement to follow the ABCs any sustenance robber should live by (Always Be Confiscating), since revenue generated from seizures and the sale of forfeited assets must be spent within one year.

For now, all this is perfectly legal in Nevada, as well as other States. What’s interesting is that this isn’t the first time Dove has come under public scrutiny for his excellence in confiscation. Here’s a fascinating account, posted by The Heritage Foundation in early April, of another of deputy Dove’s successful exploits.

*Edit to correct an error in the original story: Humboldt County, Nev. forms part of the State’s northern border with Oregon, not Montana (that’s two whole States away.) Thanks to our commenters, who noticed and pointed out the error.

Senator’s Proposal Would Put Government In Charge Of Defining, Finding And Prosecuting ‘Hate Speech’

Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is behind a piece of legislation designed to hand government the power to codify, seek out and prosecute “hate speech” on TV, radio and online, proposing a bill he said last week would make “crystal clear that any recommendations must be consistent with the First Amendment’s free speech protections.”

Sounds paradoxical – and a host of critics agree.

Harvard law professor and heavily-quoted legal pundit Alan Dershowitz told the Boston Herald the bill’s intentions are impossible to reconcile with a Bill of Rights that placed the absolute freedom of speech at the top of the list of essential civil liberties.

“He’s not going to be able to come up with legislation that sufficiently protects the First Amendment,” said Dershowitz. “We always have to be able to respond to the racists and bigots, but not at the expense of the First Amendment.”

The Markey bill is based on a proposed government study Markey supported back in the early 1990s that, at the time, concluded that actual crimes that could be linked to so-called “hate speech” promulgated through media outlets amounted to a smattering of “largely anecdotal” incidents.

Nevertheless, Markey’s bill – which is co-sponsored in the House by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) – aims to put the Department of Justice and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in charge of defining hate speech and of recommending to Congress which Federal agency, or agencies, should be tasked with trolling the Internet and scanning radio talk shows for prosecutable offenses.

Civil liberties attorney Harvey A. Silvergate told the Boston Herald that’s simply a ludicrous idea – but he and other Bill of Rights advocates warn that the public should not dismiss the threat of such proposals becoming law just because they sound silly.

“This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly. It is dangerous,” he said. “It is not up to Senator Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is, and is not, acceptable.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Slams Media Culture Of Racial Sanctimony

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is, like many famous people, plenty mad at Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for saying some pretty inflammatory things about black people and the sport he loves. But he’s equally angry at the mainstream media for dive-bombing Sterling’s racist remarks like vultures, eager to gorge themselves on more of their own false sanctimony.

Abdul-Jabbar had a column in Time Monday that should be required reading for anyone thinking about taking a job as a race-baiting TV talking head. He quickly acknowledged that Sterling said stupid and racist things (duh), then got to the point: the media is full of hypocrites who long ago traded in any ambition to report real news for scintillating talking points that rely upon the ceaseless massaging of American racism’s desiccated corpse for one more wisp of righteous indignation.

“The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging,” he wrote. “Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking. All over the latest in a long line of rich white celebrities to come out of the racist closet.”

Sure, Sterling comes across as bad as he possibly can, Jabbar said. But what about everyone around him – all the people who are undoubtedly happy to profit from the fallout from his having said such vile things?

Man, what a winding road she [Sterling’s much younger girlfriend] led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

They caught big game on a slow news day, so they put his head on a pike, dubbed him Lord of the Flies, and danced around him whooping.

… Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.

“So,” he concludes, “if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban – himself a maverick among a constellation of high-profile sports conformists, said Monday it would be unwise to succumb to the mainstream media’s fascination with making people pay for what they say, instead of what they do.

“I think there’s a constitution for a reason, right? Because this is a very slippery slope,” said Cuban. “What Donald [Sterling] said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with, and I don’t want to be associated with people who have that position.

“But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”

Email Shows Blaming Benghazi Attack On ‘The Video’ Was Obama Administration’s Idea

A top Obama Administration official strongly urged Susan Rice, National Security Advisor at the time of the Benghazi, Lybia terror attack on Sept. 11, 2012, to go before the press and blame the strike on grass-roots Islamist backlash against “The Innocence of Muslims,” a satirical YouTube video.

According to a White House email obtained by Judicial Watch, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes specifically fingered the video on Sept. 14, 2012 as a talking point Rice should focus on when making the obligatory TV news junket following the attack. Oh, and the email unswervingly calls what happened “protests,” not a terror attack, or even, simply, an “attack.”

Under the ‘Goals’ outline in the State Department email – an email specifically created to dictate talking points for media to consume – the video stands alone as a named culprit. The purpose of Rhodes’ memo was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy…”

That email was sent out on a Friday. By Sunday, Rice was in songbird mode.

One of the talking points (Rhodes calls them “Top-lines”) that Rice was instructed to play up was to focus on the video as the villain simply by denouncing it.

Only twice does Rhodes advise using speech that would denounce the attack at all, and then only in flyover language that puts the blame back on that dastardly video. “[W]e’ve encouraged leaders around the globe to speak out against the violence, and you’ve seen very important statements in the Muslim world by people like Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, President Morsi of Egypt, and others who have condemned the violence and called for a peaceful response,” Rhodes wrote.

The State Department’s real outrage is focused on the bad guys who would foment unrest in Islamists who can’t help themselves by making such hurtful and offensive video clips:

 [W]e’ve made our views on this video crystal clear. The United States government had nothing to do with it. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. But there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence.

And on and on.

Well, there’s confirmation that the Obama Administration was behind the whole “blame the video” narrative.

But the question remains: why in the hell was the State Department even talking about a video?

Read the entire bevy of emails Judicial Watch obtained here – the Rhodes memo is on page 14. Elsewhere, expect a lot of white boxes where the words are supposed to go.

Reid Sets Up Promised Vote To Increase Minimum Wage To $10.10

Fresh off a two-week Easter break, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wasted no time Monday laying the groundwork for a promised Democrat-backed minimum wage increase proposal that could see a floor vote as early as this week.

Media observers are viewing the inevitable vote on Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) bill, which would increase the mandatory Federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour, as an election-year sacrificial lamb with little chance of actually succeeding before Congress.

The Wall Street Journal’s Siobahn Hughes wrote Sunday that the bill is likely to be defeated in the Democrat-majority Senate, and is almost certain never even to be brought up in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Instead, Democrats who go down swinging with the bill are expecting their staged failure to boost their prospects among potential voters once the primary season moves on toward this year’s general election.

“A March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 58% of people would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, while 29% would be less likely,” Hughes wrote. But “[s]ome people rethink their support for a minimum-wage increase when told it would result in job losses, a poll conducted for Bloomberg News in early March found.”

That could mean Democrats will see diminishing political returns from any collapse in a minimum wage bill before the party primaries take place, since the minimum wage issue isn’t meant to drive a wedge between incumbent Democrats and their party challengers, but between incumbent Democrats and the Republican challengers – most of whom smell blood in the water – they’ll have to face in November.

Nevertheless, Reid moved on Monday to file cloture on Harkin’s bill, clearing it a path for a floor vote as early as Thursday. It would take at least five Republican crossover votes in the Senate to ensure a victory.

 

Tennessee Deputy Fired For Choking Nonresistant Handcuffed Student Until He Passes Out

A Tennessee Sheriff’s office has fired a deputy whose excessive actions against a compliant detainee were photographed and circulated on the Internet over the weekend. The pictures appear to show the deputy methodically choking a handcuffed University of Tennessee student until the young man drops unconscious to his knees.

Knox County, Tenn. Sheriff J.J. Jones fired deputy Frank Phillips, a 24-year veteran of the department, after British publication the Daily Mail published pictures that freelance photographer John Messner had taken of the incident.

In the photos, 21 year-old student Jarod Dotson is shown standing in handcuffs next to the 47 year-old Phillips, who reaches up to apply force to Dotson’s throat. Dotson never appears to resist any of Phillips’ actions – indeed, he never even appears to take a step until his body begins to buckle as he loses consciousness. Dotson was allegedly among several unruly partygoers in the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville Saturday, where police responded at a massive party at a private residence and reportedly were greeted by an undisclosed number of intoxicated students throwing beer bottles.

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It’s not known whether Dotson was among those who allegedly taunted the deputies. But it’s clear from the photographs that he had been safely subdued by the deputies when Phillips began choking him. The images of Phillips’ handling of Dotson, as well as the photographer’s eyewitness account, are not consistent with the police report, which alleges Dotson “began to physically resist officers’ instructions.”

Sheriff Jones did not delay action, firing Phillips Sunday and placing two other deputies on administrative leave while the department conducts an investigation.

“In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated,” said Jones, who’s up for reelection this year, in a statement to media. “After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. Therefore, Officer Phillips’ employment with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is terminated immediately. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General’s Office to determine any further action.”

Dotson, who was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, and was freed after posting a $500 bond Sunday morning.

Congress Passes Tax Transparency Bill, Moves To Obama For Signature

A bill that aims to give American taxpayers a clearer understanding of what their government-confiscated wealth is paying for cleared its final hurdle in Congress today, when the House approved the so-called Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) on a voice vote.

The bill, which the Senate approved in an amended form earlier this month, now moves to the Executive Branch to await President Obama’s decision on whether to sign it into law.

Under DATA, the Federal government’s various agencies would be legally bound to publish their expenditures – including contracted services and agency borrowing – on usaspending.gov. It also would require the Office of Management and Budget to set up a program intended, once it moves beyond the pilot stage, to eliminate confusing redundancies in agency reporting standards.

The bill, which drew bipartisan support in a 388-1 vote Monday, should allow Americans who want to know how tax money is apportioned to more readily understand whether “their taxpayer dollars are being wasted or if they’re being spent wisely,” according to Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee.

According to a synopsis reported by Federal Times, the DATA act would also:

  • Set governmentwide financial data standards to make all spending data adhere to a uniform set of guidelines.
  • Require Inspectors General at each agency to provide reports on the quality and accuracy of the financial data.
  • Establish a cutting-edge data analytics center modeled after the Recovery Act that would help identify and prevent improper payments and expand analytic efforts across the government by serving agency leaders, inspectors general and watchdog groups.

Holder To Launch Grant-Funded Database To Eradicate Racial Bias In Law Enforcement

Attorney General Eric Holder announced another government initiative in the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to obligate media to continue talking about U.S. racial relations Monday, unveiling a grant program that will award cities money to participate in a race-tracking law enforcement database.

“Noting that African-American and Hispanic males are arrested at disproportionately high rates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the Justice Department will seek to collect data about stops, searches and arrests as part of a larger effort to analyze and reduce the possible effect of bias within the criminal justice system,” the Department of Justice announced in a statement on its website Monday.

According to the statement, the new initiative stems from President Barack Obama’s call last year for law enforcement agencies to reach out to minority communities in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin self-defense shooting case.

The new program establishes a National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, a new data-clearinghouse bureaucracy for participating law enforcement agencies to submit and compare statistics on how many minorities they stop, search and arrest.

“Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime,” Holder said in his weekly video address.

 

Department Of Justice Seeks Legal Power To Keep Detainees From Erasing Their Smartphones

U.S. law enforcement is petitioning the Supreme Court for the legal authority to snatch smartphones from detainees without a warrant and peruse the phones’ contents before their owners can activate a “kill switch” — an option on some smartphones that completely wipes or encrypts all their data.

It’s a request that’s loaded with irony. Law enforcement, ostensibly advocating for victims’ rights, originally had helped to persuade the smartphone industry to develop and deploy the kill switch technology, in order to give phone owners whose devices had been stolen a means of denying thieves access to any of their personal data.

But a kill switch can just as easily be used by the target of an officer’s suspicion to wipe data — and with it, potentially incriminating evidence — from a smartphone before its owner allows a cop to play with it. What the cops are asking the Supreme Court to do is to rule that a search warrant is not required in order for a cop to demand on-the-spot access to a private citizen’s smartphone, along with everything it contains.

According to Wired, the U.S. Department of Justice is leading the petition, arguing that suspects who wipe their phones are obstructing investigations and heightening law enforcement’s suspicion of their guilt.

Wired reported last week:

In a brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday [April 22] in the case of alleged Boston drug dealer Brima Wurie, the Justice Department argues that police should be free to warrantlessly search cellphones taken from suspects immediately at the time of arrest, rather than risk letting the suspect or his associates lock or remotely wipe the phone before it can be searched.

The statement responds to briefs made to the court by the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation arguing that warrantless searches of cellphones for evidence represents a serious violation of the suspect’s privacy beyond that of a usual warrantless search of a suspect’s pockets, backpack, or car interior.

On the other side of the petition is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with other civil libertarians, who argue that law enforcement cannot have it both ways.

“You have this weird scenario where law enforcement has demanded remote wiping be deployed, and now they’re using that to also justify warrantless searches,” ACLU principal technologist Chris Soghoian told Wired. “… What matters isn’t just the information, but where they get it from. They’re saying that there are certain things on your phone that have less protections than others under the law, which is crazy.”

Opponents also point out that there’s no evidence that phone wiping is, at present, a true obstacle to law enforcement investigations. Rather, they argue, it’s simply the latest target in a long progression of the state’s slow encroachment on individual freedoms.

More Than Half Believe Neither Party Is For The People

As the polling season heats up, most political polls focus on candidates vying for Congressional seats by jockeying for voters’ favor within the established two-party system. Yet when asked how they feel about the very system that yields America’s perennial crop of ruling-class leaders, a majority of voters lacks faith in either party.

A Rasmussen poll released Thursday finds that 53 percent of likely voters feel that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party reflects the values and goals of most Americans.

In response to the poll question — “Is it fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people?” — 53 percent agreed, 28 percent disagreed and 19 percent said they weren’t sure.

The number of people who disagreed has risen over the past six months, when a similar Rasmussen poll found that 47 percent of likely voters held the same belief. It also matches the ongoing poll’s all-time high, back in June 2012 (another election year).

There aren’t a lot of demographic takeaways from this poll, but Rasmussen does point out:

Generally speaking, the younger the voter, the more likely he or she is to believe that neither party represents the American people. Men are more skeptical than women. Blacks are less doubting than whites and other minority voters are.

Taken with similar recently culled data, Thursday’s poll reveals an ongoing trend of greater dissatisfaction and disconnect on the part of GOP voters, who feel their leadership is particularly out of touch.

An April 11 poll found that 59 percent of Republican voters do not feel that the party’s Congressional representation faithfully reflects the views of the party’s base — even as Democratic voters continued to demonstrate relative satisfaction with their Congressional leadership.

That survey also found that only 29 percent of Republican voters strongly approved of the way Congressional GOP leaders had represented their constituents.

FDA Pushes To Regulate E-Cig Industry Like It’s Big Tobacco

No one really knows whether tobacco-free electronic vaporizers offer a straight-up healthy alternative to smoking. But anecdotal evidence, as well as common sense, suggests that they’re better than inhaling smoke from combusted tobacco leaves. Most vaporizing devices have no tobacco products of any kind in them, and none of them creates smoke for users to inhale.

Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration is taking on the growing vaporizing industry as if it were Big Tobacco, announcing Thursday it plans to regulate the e-cig industry in much the same way it regulates the cancer sticks.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg’s prepared remarks in announcing the proposed new rules suggest she possesses a singular measure of insight into the biological and cultural perils of e-cigs, and has satisfied herself that they are, for all intents and purposes, Big Tobacco Part II. She even refers to vaporizers as “tobacco products.”

“Tobacco remains the leading cause of death and disease in this country. This is an important moment for consumer protection and a significant proposal that if finalized as written would bring FDA oversight to many new tobacco products,” said Hamburg.

For the vast majority of consumable vaporizer products, nicotine is the only ingredient common to both e-cigs and analog cigarettes.

Most of the pressure to exert FDA control over the vaporizer market has come from the political left, with Democratic lawmakers and a handful of interest groups castigating manufacturers and vendors for catering to children with fruity flavors, and insinuating that taking up e-cigs amounts to the first step toward all-out cigarette addiction.

The new rules, which are now subject to a 75-day public comment period, would force manufacturers to register with the FDA, and to provide the agency with a listing of the ingredients that goes into the consumable portion of their products. The rules would also block all new e-cigs from entering the market until the FDA had cleared the products via a mandatory review, and would block the sale of the devices to minors.

However, the proposal would not shut down the burgeoning online marketplace for vaporizers — an enormously vital part of the industry’s recent growth.

Obama’s DHS Inspector On Leave For Fudging Reports

The policy enforcers in the Obama Administration – and, it turns out, those tasked with making sure they stay ethical – keep dropping like flies.

Fox News reported today that Charles Edwards, the former acting Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has been placed on administrative leave following a Senate subcommittee report that found Edwards protected DHS employees – the very people whose on-the-job behavior he was supposed to be monitoring – by altering or delaying potentially damaging reports.

Edwards resigned from his IG position late last year amid ongoing allegations of ethical misconduct, taking a lower position within DHS.

But Thursday’s report from the Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs alleges that Edwards knowingly protected DHS employees by stalling the release timing of reports and directing a staffer to strike “derogatory information” that could be “potentially damaging to the [Obama] administration.”

Here’s more from Fox:

The report determined that he “jeopardized the independence” of his office by socializing with senior DHS officials and had reports “altered or delayed” to accommodate the department he was supposed to oversee.

…The report also included, though did not confirm, allegations that Edwards’ office sat on information about the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal that could “influence an election.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson placed Edwards on administrative leave following the report. Edwards’ attorney blasted the subcommittee’s findings, saying the report selectively cobbled fragments of Edwards’ conduct together in order to effect a partisan and vindictive outcome.

“The report often cites to testimony or other materials which have been quoted out of context and provide a misleading impression,” attorney David Lease said.

The report accuses Edwards of vindictive behavior while on the job. It alleges that “Edwards’ office retaliated against workers who spoke out and, in the words of one unnamed official, that Edwards himself cultivated a ‘toxic, totally dysfunctional and oppressive’ work environment. One official told Senate investigators that the work atmosphere was one of ‘complete terror.’”

University Of Hawaii Sued For Restricting Handout Of Constitution To ‘Free Speech Zone’

Here we go again.

Two students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo are suing the school in Federal court after officials there told them to stop handing out free copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus.

Students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, members of the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), filed the lawsuit today following a January incident in which they were ordered to stay behind their display table to hand out the Constitution, all while watching members of other student organizations freely meander about to distribute literature on other topics.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has now come to Burch’s defense with a settlement in a similar case already under its belt. According to a synopsis (courtesy of Reason) of the lawsuit Burch and fellow student Anthony Vizzone have filed, with the organization’s help, against the University of Hawaii, this is what the plaintiffs allege:

[O]n January 16, 2014, plaintiff Merritt Burch, who is president of the UH Hilo chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and a fellow student YAL member were participating in an outdoor event where student groups set up tables to distribute literature. Observing other students walking around and handing out items, Burch and her friend walked out from behind YAL’s table to likewise hand out Constitutions and YAL information cards. A UH Hilo administrator ordered Burch and her companion to stop approaching students and get back behind their table, dismissing Burch’s protest about her constitutional rights.

… A week later, in an orientation meeting for student organizations, another administrator reiterated the rule against passing out literature. Burch and Vizzone were told that if they wanted to protest, the proper place to do so would be in UH Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a sloping, one-third acre area on the edge of campus. The “free speech zone” represents approximately 0.26 percent of UH Hilo’s total area and is muddy and prone to flooding in Hilo’s frequent rain. The administrator further observed, “This isn’t really the ’60s anymore” and “people can’t really protest like that anymore.”

Burch and Vizzone are challenging the denial of their right to hand out literature and policies restricting the distribution of literature. The suit also challenges UH Hilo’s “free speech zone,” a separate policy requiring students to request permission seven working days prior to engaging in expressive activity in two central outdoor areas on campus, and the failure of UH Hilo officials to adequately train administrators on the rights of college students.

So free speech died when the hippies ran out of things to say?

The description of Burch’s case reads like a carbon copy of an earlier free-speech conflict at Modesto Junior College (MJC) in Modesto, California. In that Sept. 2013 confrontation, college officials told student Robert Van Tuinen to stop handing out free copies of the Constitution – on Constitution Day, of course.

With the help of FIRE, Van Tuinen sued MJC. The college eventually capitulated and settled the case, paying Van Tuinen $50,000 in damages.