Holder Pursues $15 Million To Fund Active Shooter Cop Training

Advancing the Obama Administration’s philosophy that regards law enforcement professionals as the only legitimate response to put down an immediate armed threat, Attorney General Eric Holder tied this week’s shootings in Kansas City to an appeal to Congress to fund more police training to address “active shooter” situations.

Focusing his weekly video message to Congress on the request, Holder justified the request based on his belief in the effectiveness of similar training that’s already received Federal funding.

“This vital work must continue — but to provide training, we need adequate funding. This critical funding would help the Justice Department ensure that America’s police officers have the tools and guidance they need to effectively respond to active shooter incidents whenever and wherever they arise,” he said.

The text summary accompanying the video on the DOJ website explains the need for more active-shooter-trained police (no mention of concealed carry on military bases, faithful interpretation of the 2nd Amendment or renewing the focus on the maze of local laws that currently go unenforced) as a function of the “alarming” increase in “active shooter incidents since 2009…”

Amid an alarming rise in the number of active shooter incidents since 2009 – and following the recent tragedies at Ft. Hood and at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas – Attorney General Eric Holder urged Congress to approve $15 million in funding for active shooter training and other officer safety initiatives. These initiatives are critical to providing front-line officers-who are usually first on the scene of an active shooting incident-with the tools, training, and equipment they need to respond to threats, to protect themselves, and to save innocent lives.

It’s worth noting that, after a cavalcade of post-Sandy Hook reports from left-leaning and mainstream media outlets decrying a recent and dramatic increase in mass shootings, those who bothered to follow up had to eat crow after a Boston criminologist and academic debunked that myth.

Holder evidently didn’t read that report – or the report from the FBI’s own NICS database that shows violent crime has decreased as more and more law-abiding citizens seek to obtain firearms.

Real-Time Map View Surveillance Allows L.A. Deputies To See Crime — And Everything Else — As It Unfolds

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been testing an innovative surveillance system that enables officers sitting in front of large electronic displays to watch people move around the city of Compton from a bird’s-eye view.

The system can coordinate with static on-the-ground surveillance, such as street-level security cameras, to allow police to track a person of interest from above, and identify him from the ground.

The so-called Persistent Surveillance System (PSS) — that’s a brand name — captures in real time (and then stores) film footage of a prescribed area from an aircraft, allowing police either to take down a suspect as a crime unfolds, or to piece together evidence identifying a suspect once that suspect’s movements have been verified and cross-checked with identifying features (such as hair, tattoos, clothing) captured from land-based surveillance.

As tested, the system is reportedly designed to capture a live feed continually for six hours at a time, and to encompass an area of 25 square miles using high-resolution cameras that can capture the movements of both pedestrians and automobiles.

Gizmodo reports the PSS system has also been tested in Baltimore and in Dayton, Ohio — although the Compton experiment had remained a guarded secret until an April 11 story by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed the extent of its use. Before then, according to one L.A. sheriff’s official, the project was intentionally kept “pretty hush-hush” out of concern over backlash from citizens leery of “the eye in the sky, the Big Brother…”

That sounds like a reasonable fear on the citizens’ part. “Plenty of critics,” says Gizmodo, “argue the technology is an ominous invasion of privacy: Video surveillance free of any traditional technological barriers, tracking everyone and everything that moves in a city.”

Ross McNutt, owner of the Ohio-based PSS, says the technology is similar to “a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities.” He also says there’s no reason to believe the technology can’t be improved, with only a few years’ time, to cover an area as large as 50 square miles, which is larger than the land area of a city like San Francisco.

Sharyl Attkisson: Obama Administration Intends ‘Chilling Effect’ On Journalism With Aggressive Pressure Campaign

Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News investigative reporter who left her job after both the White House and her own employers allegedly stonewalled her investigation into the truth behind the Benghazi terror attack, believes the Administration of Barack Obama poses a historically significant threat to media transparency.

Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Attkisson said the executive branch has never before been so bold in its efforts to influence or even thwart the editorial decisions of independent media.

“I think any journalist who has been covering Washington for a few years would agree… that there is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job, in ways that have never come to bear before,” said Attkisson.

Under Obama, the White House has all but institutionalized a strategy to shape what the media reports — or whether a story gets reported at all, according to Attkisson. That kind of pressure, she believes, has the effect of making media executives and editorial higher-ups uncomfortable with reporting that digs too deep — even when reporters like her have the ability and inclination to pursue a story wherever it leads.

“There have always been tensions; there have always been calls from the White House — under any administration, I assume — when they don’t like a particular story,” she said. “But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama Administration, and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized and designed to have sort of a chilling effect.

“And, to some degree, [that strategy] has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it,” she added. “Why put on the controversial stories that we are going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?”

Attkisson, who worked for CBS News for 20 years before exiting the network with time remaining on her contract, ruffled the Obama Administration’s feathers repeatedly. She earned the network an investigative reporting award in 2012 for her tireless coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal. She then turned her attention to the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — an event the Obama Administration and State Department seemed to publicly wish away with a dismissive and inconsistent narrative tailor-made for evasiveness.

That attack took place only two months before the 2012 Presidential election; Attkisson was among the only mainstream reporters who wouldn’t let the story die once the headlines had focused on other sensations.

The White House not only attempted to head off coverage before it had begun, said Attkisson, but the Obama Administration also weighed in on published stories with which the President didn’t agree.

“… [T]he last year or so, when I would write an article online — which would be sort of the fallback position: when something couldn’t get on television, but was still a great story that could be circulated, I’d publish it online — they [Obama staffers] would even call about those. Or they would call about the headline of the online article.”

Californians Realize They Pay The Government Too Much In Taxes

It’s always easier to survey the landscape from afar than while stuck down in one of its ravines, so credit Californians with coming to the slow realization — in greater numbers than ever before — that they pay too much money to the State’s maze of governments in taxes.

According to a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 60 percent of the State’s taxpaying residents believe the government is confiscating too much of their earned wealth.

The far-ranging March survey finds that “a record-high 60 percent of adults say they pay much more in taxes (30%) or somewhat more (30%) than they feel they should in state and local taxes…” The same survey also finds that about half believe the State’s tax system is fairly structured, although the prevalence of that sentiment declines as respondents’ reported incomes increased.

Progressive government’s successful obfuscation of the relationship between the individual and the state has evidently infected many Californians, however. A majority of the surveyed group — the very same group in which that majority believes it pays too much in taxes — favors increasing taxes — at least on the highest earners — in order to raise State revenues:

In light of their overall impressions of the state and local tax system, how do Californians feel about raising some state taxes? Among four types of state taxes, we find solid majority support for raising  income taxes on the wealthy, while half favor raising state taxes paid by California corporations. A  majority is opposed to extending the sales tax to services not currently taxed, but when asked about  extending the sales tax to services while lowering the overall tax rate, they are closely divided.

At least Democratic Governor Jerry Brown can get comfortable. Across every demographic category, the survey found it likely that he’ll trounce his Republican competitors in the State’s June primary (California uses a “top-two” primary system in which candidates from all political affiliations must participate.) Even among Republicans, only one GOP candidate — Tim Donnelly — enjoys a lead over Brown, and it’s a modest one: 20 percent for Donnelly, compared with 15 percent for Brown.

What To Do When Your Boehner Lasts More Than 23 Years

One of Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s many GOP primary challengers has launched an attack ad that must be making everyone else jealous for not having thought of it first.

Riffing on the pronunciation of the Speaker’s last name (as well as Boehner’s own efforts to make light of its occasional mispronunciation), Ohio GOP candidate J.D. Winteregg has a new anti-Boehner ad that parodies all the tired pharmaceutical come-ons for man pills on TV by prescribing voters a solution for “electile dysfunction.”

“If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention,” the ad advises, portraying Winteregg as a conservative alternative to middle-of-the-road cronyism in the GOP.

The modest production values of the ad may serve to reinforce the high-school tone of its message, but we have to admit: it’s a funny bit. And, notwithstanding whether Winteregg is the right choice to replace Boehner, its criticism of the Speaker is well placed.

Rural Population Continues To Decline In The U.S.

One of the fundamental dichotomies separating America’s ideological halves was further reinforced last week, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released statistics revealing a continuing decline in the Nation’s rural population.

The USDA’s most recent assessment shows that America’s non-metropolitan population has fallen by some 100,000 since 2010, even though the overall population of the U.S. has continued to grow.

Recent year-by-year statistics may suggest a slowdown — USDA figures show a loss of 28,000 in 2012-2013, compared with 47,500 the previous year — but numbers in the tens of thousands are too small to form a basis for broader, long-term generalizations.

The USDA acknowledges how difficult it is to predict future population trends with confidence, observing greatly erratic patterns of growth and decline in America’s rural counties. As their map indicates, population growth and population loss in non-metropolitan areas is often a leapfrog phenomenon between neighboring counties.

USDA_1

The urban-rural split in the U.S. isn’t simply geographic. It has cultural and ideological implications that have provided an ongoing source of debate, among those who would define what it means to be American, since before the time of Jefferson. Here’s a fascinating map, taken from the Freedom’s Lighthouse blog, that illustrates how all counties in the lower 48 States and Hawaii voted in the 2012 Presidential election. The familiar red=Republican and blue=Democrat convention applies, with more intense color representing more lopsided party voting:

2012electoralcountybycountymap111612web

“The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside,” Josh Kron wrote for The Atlantic in late 2012:

Not just some cities and some rural areas, either — virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.

The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.

That’s a weighty statement. Whether you agree, it’s hard to dismiss the idea that the health of America’s body politic is permanently contingent on how — or whether — the Nation continues to reconcile country and city values, country and city life.

Note: It’s always a good idea to take government data with a grain of salt. It’s often the only data out there, but the government’s methods and motives are always inscrutable. Here’s a tidbit from the Senate Republican Policy Committee concerning redundancy at the USDA:

The federal government uses 15 definitions of “rural,” including 11 at USDA alone. “These varying definitions have become a baroque example of redundancy and duplication in Washington,” according to a June 8, 2013 article in the Washington Post. “They mean extra costs for taxpayers — and extra hassle for small-town officials — as separate offices ask them the same question in up to 15 different ways.” While there is bipartisan support to reform the quagmire of competing definitions, one Obama administration agency — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — plans to create yet another one.

Iranian Reaction Pretty Much Validates Why The Senate Voted To Keep An Iranian Terrorist Off U.S. Soil

As though Congress’ bipartisan approval this week of an anti-terrorist bill — a bill that bars a 1979 Iranian hostage-taker from serving at the U.N. — needed further validation, Iran’s foreign minister made sure to drive the point home Thursday, calling the U.S. Congress a bunch of “radicals.”

The comments, proffered by Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, came in the wake of the Senate’s overwhelming passage Monday of a bill sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to keep Hamid Abutalebi — a militant terrorist who assisted in capturing American hostages as a participant in the 1979 hostage crisis — from setting foot on U.S. soil.

So strong was the bipartisan sentiment for that measure that even prominent Senate Democrats like Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke unequivocally in its favor. “It may be a case of strange bedfellows,” said Schumer at the time, “but I’m glad Senator Cruz and I were able to work out a bill that would prevent this terrorist from stepping foot on American soil.”

On Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister displayed nothing but contempt for the vote — and the Senate — in an interview with Iranian media while in Austria.

“They [the U.N.] should not allow a group of radicals to determine the agenda of Iran’s presence at the United Nations organization and this behavior is unacceptable to us,” said Mohammed Javad Zarif to Iranian reporters in Austria. “The U.S. decision to deny a visa to Iran’s appointed diplomat is unacceptable for us. There are channels to follow this issue in the United Nations, and we will decide on the best way to follow this. The U.S. administration is well aware of the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the visa denial unacceptable.”

On that last point, the foreign minister is certainly correct. What’s interesting, though, is to contrast the tone of the Senators’ comments with those offered by the Obama Administration.

Cruz, the bill’s sponsor, laid out the case against rolling out the welcome mat for Abutalebi in plain language last week.

“This nomination is part of Iran’s clear and consistent pattern of virulent anti-Americanism that has defined their foreign policy since 1979,” he said Monday. “We need to send Tehran an equally clear message: The United States Senate is not going to just ignore this most recent insult, but is going to give our President the authority to affirmatively reject it.”

As you’ve already read, Senator Schumer didn’t mince words, either.

Now here’s Jay Carney on Tuesday, telling reporters the Obama Administration’s position:

“The U.S. government has informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable.”

Only on Downton Abbey could that kind of phrasing be considered an ultimate dis.

Beat ‘em up, Jay.

Sebelius Resigns From HHS As Intensely Anti-Obamacare Election Season Heats Up

Saying goodbye to so much election-year political dross, the Obama Administration accepted the resignation late Thursday of Kathleen Sebelius, the maligned director of Health and Human Services who ushered in the era of Obamacare.

Sebelius, the onetime Governor of Kansas, resigned from her turbulent position after serving the Obama Administration for five years. The announcement came Thursday evening, following remarks earlier in the day from Sebelius that gave no hint that the HHS director had already tendered her resignation with the White House earlier in the week.

Taking Sebelius’ place will be 48 year-old Sylvia Matthews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, pending Senate confirmation.

The resignation of Sebelius, 65, coincides with the end of the first-year enrollment period for individuals seeking government-mandated health insurance through a Federal or State-sponsored health insurance exchange. The Obamacare deadline, so far as we can tell, was March 31 for individuals seeking to enroll in a health care plan — though the Obama Administration has unilaterally modified so many deadlines and requirements associated with the botched Obamacare rollout that pundits continue to debate which requirements, at this late stage, remain hard and fast rules for individual customers.

At any rate, Sebelius’ Jonah treatment dovetails nicely for Obama’s Democrats entering the dog days of the Congressional midterm election season. It’s no secret that Obamacare is the biggest political albatross around the necks of incumbent Congressional Democrats this year, and the resignation of one of the rollout’s most visible — and most reviled — figures ensures there’ll be one less politically-loathsome name for GOP opponents to invoke as November approaches.

Sebelius tried to give herself a sendoff speech Thursday, and poetically ran into a glitch when she realized a page was missing from her notes.

Here’s a handy list of Sebelius’ distinguished HHS accomplishments, courtesy of Breitbart.

Alabama Mixed-Race Families Call Legislator’s Bluff After He Issues Racist $100,000 Public ‘Bet’

Last month, Alabama State Representative Alvin Holmes used the floor of the State House to issue a vile, racist “bet” with residents of the Yellowhammer State. His goal was to fabricate an urgent, polarizing social emergency and then to position himself as the savior to one “side” on the crass presumption that constituents would, like lemmings, indeed choose a “side.”

This week, Alabama parents stood outside the State House and asked the Montgomery Democrat, at least symbolically, to show them the money.

In March, Holmes — by no means a novice at making a world-class fool of himself — spoke from the floor of the Alabama House, alleging that conservatives in the State would reverse their opposition to abortion if their daughters’ pregnancies were aided by black male partners.

He went on, then, to issue a challenge to white Alabama parents: He’d pay $100,000 cash to anybody who’d demonstrate to him that “a whole bunch of whites” in Alabama had adopted black children.

“I will go down there and mortgage my house and get cash in 20 dollar bills and bring it to you in a little briefcase,” he said.

On Wednesday, a whole bunch of whites in Alabama who’d adopted black children showed up at the State House in Montgomery to demonstrate that it’s Holmes, and not the people, who has the racist blinders on.

“I would like for him to ‘man up,’” said Beverly Owings, the adoptive mother of a biracial daughter. “He’s made the statement. He needs to put his money where his mouth is.”

Owings and other members of an impromptu social media collation called “Faces of Families in Alabama” said they don’t anticipate an actual payout from Holmes — that’s not what brought them to the capital city. Instead, they want polarizing elected leaders to stop with the hateful red herrings and acknowledge their preoccupation with racial division only serves to demonstrate how out of touch they are with voters.

“We do not adopt our children based on race,” Owings said. “Our families are built on love and commitment, not race and discrimination.”

Holmes responded Wednesday afternoon by doubling down.

“My position is that the majority of white people in the state of Alabama are against adopting black children,” he said. “… If anybody says Alvin Holmes is against interracial adoption, they are just as wrong as Adolf Hitler.”

In February, Holmes said he had a problem with Justice Clarence Thomas because “he’s married to a white woman.” In his defense, though, he was talking about marriage. That’s obviously a different thing altogether from adoption.

Credit Holmes, at least, for having the blind gall to throw his own name in the same sentence with Hitler’s.

Nevada Ranch Dispute Highlights Conflicting Sovereignties: Federal, State And Individual

UPDATE: Late Thursday, a small group of ranchers, led by Ammon Bundy (Cliven Bundy’s son), actually made it through the BLM blockade and managed to “rustle” 30 head of their own cattle, thereby saving them from BLM confiscation. “We did have a small confrontation with them [Federal officers], but they didn’t have the forces to do a whole lot. They couldn’t mobilize fast enough and we were able to gather those cattle and get them to the ranch,” he told Infowars. BLM reportedly called officers away from the site Thursday, following broad criticism from conservative media, citizen groups and Nevada elected officials. That means the standoff is, for the moment, over — although the long-term future of Cliven Bundy’s ranching operation remains uncertain.

A long-standing land-use conflict between a Nevada ranching family and the Federal government began deteriorating quickly Wednesday and Thursday, as Federal law enforcement converged on a large tract of disputed farmland and clashed with civilians, aimed sniper rifles at family members and supervised an ongoing mass confiscation of privately owned livestock.

The Orwellian drama has continued to unfold against an emotionally charged backdrop of protest, both from grass-roots supporters of the ranching family and from elected officials — all of whom have condemned the government’s heavy-handed and Constitutionally questionable encroachment on individual liberties — liberties that, at an early time in the Nation’s history, the Federal government enthusiastically encouraged.

With the assistance of some 200 armed officers, the Bureau of Land Management had encircled the disputed land in Clark County, Nev. — the same land where rancher Cliven Bundy is fighting to continue grazing his herd of nearly 1,000 cattle, as his generational forebears have previously done for more than 100 uninterrupted years.

The government confiscation began last week, but news of the BLM’s controversial action has spread through social media and Internet-based conservative news outlets, fomenting an enormous public backlash against the government — one that encompasses all walks of life, from fed-up “little guys” to the Republican Governor of Nevada.

Governor Brian Sandoval was unequivocal in his criticism of the Feds, telling reporters in a prepared statement Tuesday that “[n]o cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists, nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”

Federal law enforcement has attempted to contain the swell of protest by establishing a “First Amendment Area,” ostensibly with the intention of enabling free speech inside the designated space. Of course, what that gesture really accomplishes is the effective revocation of 1st Amendment free speech guarantees everywhere outside the “protected” zone.

Technically, the 67-year-old Bundy is transgressing Federal law — and has been doing so for several years — by refusing to remove his cattle from the BLM-managed land, after the government decreed the tract a graze-by-permit area because of the presence of the desert tortoise.

The tortoise, protected under the Endangered Species Act, has nevertheless seen a recent resurgence in Nevada, prompting new State-level policies aimed at curbing the creatures’ accelerated proliferation. Critics emphasize that the “threatened” tortoise is essentially a McGuffin, a meaningless totem useful only to the government as a convenient pretext for pushing its statist narrative forward.

Under a 1993 Federal Habitat Conservation Plan for the area, which came relatively late in the Bundy family’s 140-year-long dependence on the site for its livelihood, ranchers are supposed to pay fees to the government if they choose to graze their cattle on Gold Butte, the tract in question.

Bundy never has paid the fees — which now exceed $1 million — claiming his family has a right to use the land for ranching. He and other government critics point out that families like his were well habituated to the shared practice of cattle farming across rural Western lands long before the BLM came into existence in 1946.

The BLM’s original predecessor — the General Land Office — was created by the Federal government to drive civilian expansion and settlement into Western territories, and actively encouraged ranching on the open land, which remains desolate and rural to this day.

Obama Administration Plants ‘Anonymous’ Bad Info To Undermine Israel’s Role In Peace Negotiations

File this one under “Obama Administration mindbenders destined to go underreported in mainstream media” – the White House has been furtively pursuing a behind-the-scenes media campaign in both the U.S. and in Israel to fabricate a plausible narrative that fingers the Israelis as the culprits in recently-collapsed peace talks with the Palestinians.

According to a report today at The Washington Free Beacon, multiple sources revealed that Obama Administration officials had essentially made up a crisis concerning housing permits in Jerusalem in order to “lay the groundwork for Israel to take the blame for talks collapsing by peddling a narrative to the Israeli press claiming that the Palestinians were outraged over Israeli settlements…”

Here’s more:

These administration officials have planted several stories in Israeli and U.S. newspapers blaming Israel for the collapse of peace talks and have additionally provided reporters with anonymous quotes slamming the Israeli government.

The primary source of these multiple reports has been identified as Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and his staff, according to these insiders, who said that the secret media campaign against Israel paved the way for Secretary of State John Kerry to go before Congress on Tuesday and publicly blame Israel for tanking the talks.

“The Palestinians didn’t even know they were supposed to be abandoning negotiations because of these housing permits, which are actually old, reissued permits for areas everyone assumes will end up on the Israelis’ side of the border anyway,” said one senior official at a U.S. based pro-Israel organization…

“Then Martin Indyk started telling anyone who would listen that in fact the Palestinians were angry over the housing issue,” the source said. “Eventually, the Palestinians figured out it was in their interest to echo what the Americans were saying.”

A U.S. source also anonymously claimed that the State Department, under Kerry, has established a reputation for undermining Israel behind the scenes.

“It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in Jerusalem,” the source told the Free Beacon.

Tennessee Votes To Ban U.N. From Monitoring State Elections Without U.S. Senate Approval

The GOP-led Tennessee Legislature has voted to block United Nations elections monitors from observing any future elections in the State, a reaction against a 2012 episode in which civil rights advocates successfully lobbied for U.N. oversight of the voting process in a number of U.S. States.

The Tennessee Senate passed the measure Tuesday on a 23-2 vote, approving a piece of legislation which forbids “[a]ny representative of the United Nations appearing without a treaty ratified by the United States senate stating that the United Nations can monitor elections in this state” from gaining access to polling places anywhere in the Volunteer State.

The Tennessee House of Representatives had already approved its version of the bill on a 75-20 vote. The measure now awaits Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s signature.

During the 2012 election cycle, a number of States came under fire from progressive groups critical of new voter ID laws, which opponents claimed would disenfranchise or suppress voting among minorities and the poor. That led to a campaign to involve U.N.-backed elections monitors in the oversight process – a move which conservative lawmakers in Tennessee and other affected States vehemently opposed.

In all, 44 U.N. elections monitors found their way into State polling places nationwide during the 2012 cycle.

House Panel Votes To Hold Lois Lerner In Contempt Of Congress

For the second time in as many days, a House committee voted Thursday to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner criminally accountable for refusing to testify on the political targeting scandal that engulfed the IRS last year.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 21-12 along party lines to send a contempt resolution to the full House, where lawmakers will decide whether to ask the Justice Department to take criminal action against her.

The Oversight Committee, chaired by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has led the public charge in investigating whether Lerner and other officials at the IRS specifically sought to challenge conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. But the Ways and Means Committee also voted Wednesday to refer a criminal investigation to the Justice Department and has been conducting a separate investigation.

“Our investigation has found that former IRS Exempt Organizations division Director Lois Lerner played a central role in the targeting scandal and then failed to meet her legal obligations to answer questions after she waived her right not to testify,” Issa said in a statement. “In demanding answers and holding a powerful government official accountable for her failure to meet her legal obligations, this Committee did its job.”

Issa’s “job” remarks allude to the job Attorney General Eric Holder must now choose to perform in investigating – or declining to investigate – Lerner.

In a concurrent narrative involving an Oversight investigation that has unfolded along predictable party allegiances, Issa accused ranking Committee Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) Wednesday of abetting the IRS in discriminating against at least one conservative nonprofit in 2012.

Issa claims that email records uncovered last week indicate Cummings sought to direct the IRS’ scrutiny toward True the Vote, a Texas-based conservative nonprofit, in 2012. Cummings allegedly attempted to obtain copies of training materials True the Vote used to train affiliates and volunteers. The Congressman eventually collaborated directly with Lerner’s office in order to follow through with that attempt, said Issa.

“The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff,” said the Issa-led panel in a statement.

According to a Wednesday report in the Washington Examiner, “Issa said Cummings and his office asked for more information in January 2013 about True the Vote, this time getting Lerner involved.”

At one point, an email revealed, Lerner asked her deputy, “Did we find anything?”

When the deputy said she had not received any new information, Lerner responded, “thanks – check tomorrow please.”

Issa said Cummings had previously denied asking the IRS about True the Vote.

At a February subcommittee hearing, when Issa was asked whether his office may have put True the Vote “on the radar screen” of the IRS, Cummings said the accusation was “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”

Whether the allegations reveal evil intent or not, Cummings, who is often pictured seated near Issa in photographed coverage of Oversight hearings, has been a front-row spectator to every aspect of the Committee’s investigation since the scandal was first made public. The relationship between Issa and Cummings has also deteriorated as the Committee’s disposition toward Lerner has grown more aggressive and prosecutorial. Cummings, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, insinuated Issa had racist motives for cutting off the Democrat’s microphone at the conclusion of a particularly unproductive Lerner hearing in early March.

Lerner has twice attempted to invoke her 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination, although she has maintained, through her attorney, that she has not broken any laws.

A separate investigation at Justice “remains a top priority,” a spokesman for the agency said Wednesday.

* The UPI contributed to this report.

Amid Targeting Scandal, IRS Employees Politicked For Obama While On The Job

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent Federal agency that investigates prohibited personnel practices, has found that Internal Revenue Service employees carried their active enthusiasm for President Barack Obama into the workplace even as the IRS’s behind-the-scenes discrimination against conservative groups was unfolding.

OSC revealed Wednesday it had uncovered three separate instances of improper or illegal employee transgressions of the Hatch Act of 1939, which forbids the vast majority of executive branch employees from participating in partisan political activities while on the job. All three cases involved employees who favored Obama’s re-election in 2012.

From OSC’s press release, dated April 9:

  • Yesterday [April 8], OSC filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) seeking disciplinary action against an IRS customer service representative who engaged in activity prohibited by the Hatch Act. OSC’s investigation found evidence that the IRS employee used his authority and influence as a customer service representative for a political purpose and engaged in prohibited political activity while in the IRS workplace. Specifically, OSC’s complaint charges that, when fielding taxpayers’ questions from an IRS customer service help line, the employee urged taxpayers to reelect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the employee’s Hatch Act knowledge, OSC is seeking significant disciplinary action.
  • A tax advisory specialist in Kentucky will serve a 14-day suspension for promoting her partisan political views to a taxpayer she was assisting during the 2012 Presidential election season. OSC received a recorded conversation in which the employee told a taxpayer she was “for” the Democrats because “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and . . . they’re going to take women back 40 years.” She continued to explain that her mom always said, “‘If you vote for a Republican, the rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer.’ And I went, ‘You’re right.’ I found that out.” The employee’s supervisor had advised her about the Hatch Act’s restrictions just weeks before the conversation. The employee told the taxpayer, “I’m not supposed to voice my opinion, so you didn’t hear me saying that.” Following OSC’s investigation, the employee entered into a settlement agreement with OSC in April 2014. In the agreement, she admitted to violating the Hatch Act’s restrictions against engaging in political activity while on duty and in the workplace and using her official authority or influence to affect the result of an election.
  • OSC received allegations that employees working in the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in Dallas, Texas, violated the Hatch Act by wearing pro-Obama political stickers, buttons, and clothing to work and displaying pro-Obama screensavers on their IRS computers. It could not be determined whether these materials were displayed prior to the November 2012 election or only afterwards. However, since the information OSC received alleged that these items were commonplace throughout the office, OSC issued cautionary guidance to all IRS employees in the Dallas Taxpayer Assistance Center that they cannot wear or display any items advocating for or against a political party, partisan political group, or partisan candidate in the workplace.

This finding, reported the same day that the House Oversight Committee voted to hand former Exempt Divisions Director Lois Lerner over to the do-nothing Obama Department of Justice, corroborates a corrupt partisan culture within the agency during the Obama years.

As blogger John Hayward observed Wednesday at Human Events: “[I]t seems clear that these individuals were quite aware that what they did was wrong.  The ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ theory of the IRS scandal is bolstered – nobody had to write a smoking-gun memo ordering the Tea Party hit, when a few nudges from high-profile Democrat politicians was sufficient to get the ball rolling.  That asterisk after Obama’s re-election just keeps getting bigger.”

LAPD Officers Tamper With Recording Devices To Conceal On-Duty Activities

An internal inspection at the Los Angeles Police Department has revealed an unknown number of patrol officers tampered with the communications and geolocation equipment on dozens of patrol vehicles in order to conceal the officers’ whereabouts and activities while on patrol.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an internal LAPD investigation found that antennas had been removed from nearly half of all the patrol cars in one South Los Angeles division, making it impossible for those units to record officers’ actions and speech while on duty.

Most of the transgressions emanate from the area of LAPD coverage that encompasses Watts and other neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, where tensions between residents and the police department have remained high. Out of a total of 160 antennas installed in cruisers that patrol that division, 72 had been removed, along with an additional 20 from other divisions.

LAPD leadership knew about the ongoing corruption before the most recent investigation, according to the Times, but elected to address it through memos and blanket security checks rather than pursue individual officers responsible for compromising their vehicles:

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers were responsible. Rather, the officials issued warnings against continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas at the start and end of each patrol shift.

Members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, were not briefed about the problem until months later.

Cameras in the patrol cruisers are designed to switch on automatically whenever a cruiser’s emergency lights are activated, and can also be activated manually at other times. They record video of events that transpire in front of the vehicle; the officers also carry microphones and wireless transmitters that record audio from distances “hundreds of yards away from the car,” according to the Times.

“On an issue like this, we need to be brought in right away,” said Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission — the board of officials charged with oversight of the LAPD. “This equipment is for the protection of the public and of the officers. To have people who don’t like the rules to take it upon themselves to do something like this is very troubling.”

Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Times his department had not intentionally withheld information about the tampering from the police commission. The LAPD is only a year removed from an ongoing arrangement with the U.S. Department of Justice in which a Federal court had authorized the DOJ to monitor the department’s practices.

“The [Federal] judge agreed to lift the oversight, in part, after city and police leaders made assurances that the LAPD had adequate safeguards, such as the cameras, in place to monitor itself,” reported the Times.

Federal Judge Forces Missouri Town To Stop Ticketing Drivers Who Flash Their Lights To Warn Of Speed Traps

Last summer, we told you about a Missouri man who, with the help of the ACLU, was fighting against one municipality’s effort to prosecute motorists who flash their headlights to alert other drivers to the presence of speed traps. Last week, Michael Elli – and everyone else who drives through the town of Ellisville, Mo. – won.

A U.S. district judge issued a permanent injunction against Ellisville last Wednesday barring law enforcement from “detaining, seizing, citing, or prosecuting any individual within the City of Ellisville for communicating by flashing his or her automobile headlamps.”

Judge Edward Autrey based his injunction, in part, on the 1st Amendment, having issued a preliminary order in February in which he noted that “the expressive conduct at issue sends a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.”

Autrey had issued that temporary order in spite of the fact that local officials pledged not to continue ticketing drivers for flashing their headlights, if only the judge would let the local law stand. He issued the injunction anyway.

Although the ruling represents a decisive victory for 1st Amendment advocates who regard signaled communication as speech, the fact remains that different States treat the practice differently. As Reason observed in its report Wednesday, flashing one’s headlights to “warn other motorists of speed traps remains subject to a hodgepodge of laws across the United States—protected in some places, forbidden in others, and punished by cops under creative interpretations of local rules in many jurisdictions.

Federal VA Administrators Kick State Inspectors Out Of Florida Hospital

State inspectors sent by the Governor to review records and conditions at a Florida Veterans Affairs hospital last week were kicked out of the facility after only an hour, with administrators telling them their next contact with the hospital would come through Washington, D.C.

Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott had instructed two representatives from the State’s Agency of Health Care Administration (AHCA) to review the facility after a series of patient deaths at VA centers across the region prompted concerns that diagnostic services were not being provided to veterans in a timely manner.

“Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Sec. Liz Dudek accused the federal Department of Veterans Affairs of a ‘lack of transparency’ today after she said two AHCA inspectors were denied access to records at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach,” reported The Palm Beach Post last week. “Responding to reports of veteran deaths and injuries caused by delays in diagnostic testing in the VA region that includes Florida, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday asked AHCA to inspect VA hospitals in the state.”

But the inspectors were met with resistance, allegedly owing to Federal guidelines involving an inherent conflict between patient privacy and unannounced inspections. An ACHA representative said that’s hogwash, because “[a]ll of our inspections are unannounced…”

Florida’s AHCA criticized the Feds’ deliberate attempt to close access to a facility that State inspectors, by their own admission, only intended to observe in a secondary, supporting role at the behest of Florida’s Governor.

“While federal VA medical centers are owned and regulated by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and its vendors, the agency has the local field support and expertise to assess the risk management programs and internal incident reporting practices with hospitals,” said AHCA press secretary Shelisha Coleman. “The agency regulates more than 200 hospitals in Florida so we have the knowledge to assist the VA in reviewing procedures.”

“Florida’s veterans who have so bravely fought to defend and protect our nation deserve quality health care, and I am disappointed in the federal government’s lack of transparency to this point,” said Dudek in a separate statement.

VA Hospitals in the Sunshine Healthcare Network, which includes Florida, have come under increasing scrutiny after a series of investigations suggested that delays in basic screening and diagnostic services, such as colonoscopies, are at least partially to blame for at least five patient deaths in the network — and as many as 19 nationwide.

The Department of Veterans Affairs shot down a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year by The Tampa Tribune, claiming it could not reveal the locations of all the hospitals where the deaths occurred because the documentation was still “preliminary.” The Tribune did report, however, that the Sunshine Healthcare Network recorded the second-highest number of patient deaths or injuries nationwide over a two-year span between 2009 and 2011.

More Democrats Who Took Koch Money (And Were Grateful For It)

It almost seems as though every Democrat who has fallen in line behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to denigrate the political activity of the Koch brothers has, at some point, benefited from Koch campaign money — including Reid himself.

Reid himself took $500 in 2003; Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took more than $50,000 — some of it as recently as the past election cycle; and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) took $25,000. And not only did Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) accept money from the Kochs’ political action committee ahead of his 2010 Senate campaign, but he sounded damn grateful to get it.

From John Hinderaker with the Powerline blog Monday:

Chuck Schumer has joined Harry Reid in obsessive attacks on Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Industries. Yesterday Schumer told Politico that the Democrats’ attacks on the Koch brothers are paying off politically, and they intend to continue them.

Here is the funny thing: when KochPAC, Koch Industries’ political action committee, donated money to Schumer’s 2010 Senatorial campaign, Schumer thought the Kochs were wonderful.

… If you think the Democrats’ attacks on the Koch brothers are hypocritical, and purely a matter of whose ox is being gored…you are right.”

Here’s the saccharine thank-you letter Schumer’s camp sent over to KOCHPAC:

letter

Schumer, though, was all teeth Monday when it came to the Democrats’ current strategy to vilify the Koch brothers, telling Joe Scarborough: “I think the Koch brother thing will work.”

“The Koch brothers aren’t just sitting there innocently on the side,” he said. “They’re spending $40, $50 million in ads that are not focused on their real agenda, which is just eliminating all regulation on corporations, cutting taxes to virtually nothing. And so, that demands a response. So, I don’t feel sorry for them.”

Hypocrisy over taking such dirty money aside, how does the Koch campaign to destroy America differ so greatly from that of George Soros, who funds progressive candidates? According to Schumer, the difference is night and day.

“It’s different than George Soros. First, the Koch brothers are doing far more with ads than people recognize, and second, they’re just real issues, just not ideological issues, but specific issues in the state about them,” said Schumer. “And I think it’s going to make a difference. It’s going to undo the sting of a lot of these ads. We’re already finding that in the polling in a few of the states.”

How is that different, exactly?

Retiring Employee Describes SEC As Nothing More Than ‘A Tollbooth On The Bankster Turnpike’

It takes an imminent retirement from the corps of U.S. banking referees to elicit candor like that brought forth from 66 year-old James Kidney, who’s departing his counsel job from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On March 27, Kidney gave a farewell speech at his retirement party in which he warned that the SEC’s regulatory reach extends far beneath the rarefied air where international bankers and government policymakers collude to serve each other’s interests.

The SEC is now “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Bloomberg quoted Monday from a transcript of Kidney’s speech. “On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

The trillion-dollar quote came later, when Kidney further described the SEC as nothing more than “a tollbooth on the bankster turnpike.”

He bolstered his argument by pointing out the SEC’s less-than-robust pursuit of major players allegedly responsible for the 2008 mortgage lending crisis, which yielded exactly no successful criminal prosecution for top industry executives and very few civil charges.

Kidney retired from a long career as an SEC trial attorney last month, but told Bloomberg in a followup interview he hadn’t received any sternly-worded reprimands from his former employer since making the blunt remarks.

Kidney also derided the agency’s self-inflating use of “misleading” numbers to pump up the efficacy of its enforcement efforts, calling the padded stats “a cancer” that “should be changed.”

Obama Administration Waffles On U.N. Nominee Who Helped Take U.S. Hostages In 1979

In a rare bipartisan vote Monday, the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blocking Iran’s selection of Hamid Abutalebi from entering the United States as that country’s newest United Nations representative.

Abutalebi remembers the yellow-ribbon days of the Iranian hostage crisis well – he was one of its orchestrators. One of Cruz’ chief objections to Abutalebi’s nomination concerned his involvement in the Iranian militant group responsible for capturing 52 Americans in 1979 and holding them hostage for 444 days.

“Abutalebi was one of the Iranian militiamen which stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held the staff hostage for over 400 days,” reported  Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot late last month. “Iran has submitted a diplomatic visa request to the State Department for the 56-year-old statesman, who has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium and Italy.”

mergeSchumer (left) and Cruz (right) reached rare bipartisan accord on the decision to shun Iran’s choice of representative to the United Nations this week. CREDIT: UPI

Cruz called Abutalebi’s selection to the U.N. “deliberately insulting and contemptuous,” a sentiment supported across the aisle from workaday political nemeses like Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I thought it was totally inappropriate that Mr. Abutalebi was nominated in the first place,” Schumer said. “It may be a case of strange bedfellows, but I’m glad Senator Cruz and I were able to work out a bill that would prevent this terrorist from stepping foot on American soil. We ought to close the door on him, and others like him, before he even comes to the United States, and that’s exactly what this bill will do.”

With that kind of broad consensus as a backdrop, and with a companion bill before the House of Representatives, the only uncertainty late Tuesday was how the Obama Administration would receive a bill to spurn the Iranians, once it comes across the President’s desk for a signature.

Well, the White House’s response at first seemed to place the Obama Administration in full accord with the bipartisan Senate vote, but things got murkier the longer reporters probed Press Secretary Jay Carney to clarify Obama’s position. Here’s how Reuters reported it:

The White House made clear on Tuesday that it did not welcome Iran’s choice of Hamid Abutalebi as its new United Nations ambassador, saying officials had told Tehran that the selection was “not viable.”

But White House spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of saying Abutalebi would be barred from entering the United States because of his alleged role in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, during which radical Iranian students held U.S. Embassy staff for 444 days.

“We’ve informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable,” Carney told reporters.

Asked to explain what “not viable” meant, Carney said: “It’s diplomatic jargon to mean what you want it to mean.”

But isn’t that exactly the phrase Carney had just used?

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Supreme Court Pans New Mexico Photographers’ 1st Amendment Appeal For Refusing Service To Same-Sex Couple

The Supreme Court is declining to hear the case of a New Mexico photography business that claimed its refusal to photograph a homosexual wedding represented a protected exercise of its free speech as delineated by the 1st Amendment.

The case arose from an Albuquerque husband-and-wife photo studio’s refusal to shoot a lesbian wedding in 2006, when Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin told a female couple they would shoot only “traditional weddings.” Although the female couple secured the services of another photographer, they filed a complaint against the Huguenins with the State Human Rights Commission. The ensuing case resulted, ultimately, in the “traditional marriage” defense losing out before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Huguenins petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that they declined to shoot the same-sex wedding because of their belief that the 1st Amendment protects their right to control the message they send through their photographed work.

From USA Today:

“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” their petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God.”

That set the case apart from legislative efforts in some states to establish religious exemptions to anti-discrimination statutes. The Huguenins’ lawyers and supporters did not claim that businesses such as restaurants and hotels can refuse to serve gays and lesbians.

But the Supreme Court passed on the case Monday; therefore, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision will stand.

“The case would have posed an important constitutional question with potentially sweeping implications: whether merchants whose products are inherently expressive must serve customers even when it conflicts with their beliefs,” the paper observed. “That could include marketers, advertisers, publicists, website designers, writers, videographers and photographers — and perhaps others.”