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.

If You Owe Back Taxes, Do You Get A Bonus? IRS Employees Do

When an average American is delinquent in his Federal income tax payments, the Internal Revenue Service can make his life pretty unpleasant.

But when an IRS employee owes back taxes — and there are thousands who do — not only does he get consideration from his government employers that average Americans don’t get; he also goes home with bonus pay.

According to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS paid out $2.8 million in bonuses to more than 2,800 employees “with recent substantiated conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action,” including $1 million to “more than 1,100 IRS employees with substantiated Federal tax compliance problems.”

Those payouts, which also included paid time off and step increases in the government’s merit job system, took place between October 2010 and the start of 2013. The final IG report was published internally on March 21, but was released to the public this week.

Although the IG report attempts to explain that enforcing tax law and dealing with IRS employees through the merit system are two endeavors segregated by government policies, it nonetheless remarks that rewarding IRS employees who are delinquent in their tax payments represents an apparent conflict of interest:

With few exceptions, the IRS does not consider tax compliance or other misconduct when issuing performance awards or most other types of awards. Governmentwide (sic) policies do not provide guidance on providing awards to employees with conduct issues. The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 does not specifically mention awards, but does make mandatory the removal of IRS employees who are found to have intentionally committed certain acts of misconduct, including willful failure to pay Federal taxes. Thus, while not specifically prohibited, providing awards to employees with conduct issues, especially those who fail to pay Federal taxes, appears to create a conflict with the IRS’s charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration.

The report further recommends that the IRS consider “the feasibility of implementing a policy requiring management to consider conduct issues resulting in disciplinary actions, especially the nonpayment of taxes, prior to awarding all types of performance and discretionary awards.”

According to the summary, the IRS has agreed with that advice and is conducting a study with a June 30 deadline that might — might — lead to the development of such a policy.

Georgia Governor Signs Broad ‘Pro-Gun’ Bill Into Law

The State of Georgia just passed into law a piece of bipartisan gun legislation that removes restrictions on where licensed gun owners can take their firearms, even though some 2nd Amendment supporters had been hoping for much more.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who’s up for re-election this year, signed HB 60 into law Wednesday, over the vehement objections of gun control groups like Americans for Responsible Solutions, the creation of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The law will take effect on July 1 of this year. It passed through the State Legislature with bipartisan support, garnering a “yes” vote even from Democratic State Senator Jason Carter — the grandson of the former President and the Democrats’ nominee in the Georgia Governor’s race.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Deal emphasized the law’s broad support, but noted that more-lenient gun legislation still doesn’t exempt the State’s gun owners from the dragnet of registration and permitting required to obtain a license:

There are always opportunities for people to use any piece of legislation as a political tool if they don’t like it. But there was bipartisan support for the bill. The main story that should come out of it is the final product is significantly different from earlier versions. And some of the more [pause] interesting parts were removed.

…The important premise we all should remember is these are people who have their fingerprints taken, their backgrounds checked and they have been licensed to carry a weapon. It’s not just someone walking out of the clear blue with none of those background checks. They’ve been subjected to scrutiny of the state.

Although the National Rifle Association has hailed the new law as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history,” strict Constitutionalists say it’s only a partial victory. Missing from the final bill was a provision that would have allowed firearms on college campuses — a major point of controversy in several States that have seen recent, absurd debates on gun-free ways to thwart sexual assaults and mass shootings.

The bill does allow religious institutions to determine for themselves whether to allow firearms on their premises, allows hunting silencers, permits school employees to carry in school zones and affords every legal gun owner the right to carry his weapon inside government buildings that don’t have a security checkpoint at the public entrance.

Texas Man Has To Put His Dog Down With Bare Hands After Deputy Shoots, Injures – But Refuses To Kill

Cole Middleton, who lives in rural Rains County in East Texas, dialed 911 after arriving at home last Friday morning to discover his home had been burglarized. It looked to Middleton like someone had broken in and stolen an iPad, jewelry and firearms.

A deputy arrived a while later. Middleton had joined his dad in a field to do some farm work while he waited for the sheriff’s office to respond, and, from a distance, he saw the car pull up.

According to what Middleton told KLTV News, his dog Candy – an animal that, judging from posted photos, looks like an Australian cattle dog – was in the yard when the deputy arrived. Middleton had trained her to herd cattle, and described her as a “natural” when it came to farm work. Candy was barking, as dogs tend to do in unfamiliar or exciting situations, but wasn’t acting aggressively toward the officer.

“She’s barking when he pulls into the driveway letting me know someone’s at our house, an intruder is here, or a person who she would think was an intruder that she’s unfamiliar with,” said Middleton. “She’s barking. The officer gets out of his car, and all the while we’re headed up [there]. He gets out of his car and shoots my dog in my front yard.”

Just like that, according to Middleton – without hesitation, and without cause to believe the dog posed any imminent physical danger.

Candy was wounded in the head and was in obvious distress, but the shot did not immediately kill her.

Blindsided by a completely new, abhorrent set of circumstances, Middleton’s immediate concern now was ending Candy’s suffering.

“I was so upset,” he told KLTV. “I went over there to her and she was still alive and I begged and pleaded with him to please shoot her again because I don’t have any firearms. They got stolen. He went and got in his vehicle and backed out of my driveway.”

So much for investigating the burglary – at least for that officer, whose name had not been released late Wednesday.

Left without guns, Middleton told the reporter he steeled himself to do something to end his dog’s suffering that he could never have imagined.

“I had to do the unthinkable, the otherwise unthinkable. I had to kill my dog with my bare hands and put her out of her suffering, praying for this to be over with,” he said.

At some point not long after he’d done that, other officers showed up. They saw blood on Middleton’s shirt and immediately had questions about it. Middleton said it raised their suspicions enough for them to unholster their weapons.

“That is the blood of my dog that I was holding because this deputy pulled up and shot her in my yard,” he explained. “Then the tasers were put away and the pistols withdrawn.”

Sheriff David Traylor said the Texas Rangers are investigating the incident.

Visit KLTV for more, including updates and a video of the April 21 televised report.

Study: ‘Income Inequality’ Agenda Ignores The Truth About Economic Mobility In America

Even though President Barack Obama is in the midst of a campaign to convince Americans that income inequality is a real problem, there’s very little evidence that the wealth gap rigidly locks individual Americans into an undesirable economic category and keeps them there.

According to a long-range scientific study that examined the economic movements of individuals over a span of more than four decades, most Americans will find themselves, at varying points in their lives, passing back and forth across the wage-earning spectrum.

In fact, according to Cornell researcher Thomas A. Hirschl and Washington University professor Mark R. Rank, nearly three-quarters of Americans will find themselves among the Nation’s highest-earning 20 percent for at least one year of their lives.

“Rather than talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed, it would make much more sense to talk about the fact that Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives, and to shape our policies accordingly,” Rank wrote in a Sunday column for The New York Times. “As such, we have much more in common with one another than we dare to realize.”

Progressive politicians seeking an election-year red herring to distract voters from Obamacare aren’t likely to slap that quote on mass mailings promoting their income inequality talking points.

The two researchers arrived at their conclusions by considering 44 years’ worth of data covering Americans between 25 and 60 years of age, attempting to discern whether those who start out poor, in the middle class or wealthy remained firmly entrenched in their economic demographic.

“The results were striking,” wrote Rank:

It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.

…Although 12 percent of the population will experience a year in which they find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, a mere 0.6 percent will do so in 10 consecutive years.

It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect…

Ultimately, this information casts serious doubt on the notion of a rigid class structure in the United States based upon income. It suggests that the United States is indeed a land of opportunity, that the American dream is still possible — but that it is also a land of widespread poverty. And rather than being a place of static, income-based social tiers, America is a place where a large majority of people will experience either wealth or poverty — or both — during their lifetimes.

Extending economic opportunity continues to be elected conservatives’ answer to the Obama political regime’s fixation on shared income.

“For more than two hundred years, the United States — through trial and error, through good times and bad — has waged the most successful war on poverty in the history of the world,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) told a Heritage Foundation forum late last year. “The United States has become so wealthy that it is easy to forget that, as Michael Novak once noted, most affluent Americans can actually remember when their own families were poor.

“… And of course, the best thing we can do to help the unemployed find jobs, and low-income workers find higher-income work is to finally get our economy growing again. Reforms to our tax, regulatory, energy, and transportation systems that spur private investment and job creation can do more for upward mobility than anything else in government’s power.”

Independent Voters Favor Anti-Obamacare Candidates In Midterms

Recent polling finds that voters who describe themselves as independent are far more likely to prefer Congressional candidates this election season who are opposed to Obamacare.

According to a Fox News poll released this week, 54 percent of independent voters plan to vote for candidates who are running in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, compared with only 29 percent who plan to back pro-Obamacare candidates. That’s a 25 percent margin in favor of an alternative to the poorly implemented, poorly received healthcare law.

The same poll also finds that 53 percent of all voters, regardless of party affiliation, prefer candidates who oppose Obamacare, compared with 39 percent who favor pro-Obamacare candidates.

Taken together, those two sets of data indicate that Obamacare continues to find its sole base of support among committed Democrats, and that the issue promises to define swing voters’ decisions in the November Congressional elections.

“Nineteen percent of voters say a congressional candidate’s stance on ObamaCare will be the ‘single most important factor’ in their vote decision, which is more than double the number who felt that way in 2012 (eight percent),” reports Fox News on the poll’s findings. “Likewise, the number of Republicans who say it will be the ‘single most important factor’ has almost doubled (21 percent today, up from 11 percent).

“Overall, 79 percent of those opposing the law say it will be an important factor to their vote, compared to 67 percent of those favoring the law.”

Perhaps most revealing of this year’s zeitgeist on issues that drive voter behavior, 51 percent said that Obamacare will be regarded as “’one of the worst’ things Barack Obama accomplished as president,” while only 37 percent maintain it will be remembered as “one of the best.”

State Department Can’t Name Hillary’s Accomplishments, Either

Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton stammered out a non-response to a question about what she’d accomplished as Secretary of State that reads like lawyer’s poetry.

In less than 200 words, she managed not to say a single thing that acknowledged the question she’d been asked: “When you look at your time as Secretary of State, what are you most proud of? And what do you feel was unfinished, and maybe have another crack at one day?”

Today, an AP reporter tried a similar question on State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. Asking about the State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) – a quadrennial study that’s supposed to assess the State Department’s long-range diplomacy plans – reporter Matthew Lee tried twice to get Psaki to identify one useful thing to come out of the QDDR conducted under Clinton’s oversight.

“Off the top of your head, can you identify one tangible achievement that the last QDDR resulted in?” he asked. Judging from his subsequent antagonizing of Psaki as she dissembled into a non-answer Clinton would be proud of, he already knew where things were headed.

“Well Matt, obviously it’s an extensive, expansive process,” Psaki began. “We’re looking at how it was done last time. [Interruption] I know, I’m making an important point here. The Secretary wants it to be focused, it’s going to focus on a more narrow range of issues. Ah, it’s always to look at how we can improve things, and we’ll see where we come out in the end.”

Lee tried again.

“I am certain that those who were here at the time who worked hard on that effort…could, could point out one.”

Lee then modified the question to encompass the timeframe since Psaki was hired by the Obama Administration.

“Well as you know, I’ve only been here since it was concluded,” Psaki responded.

‘BundyFest’ Shows Progressives Flipping Their Own Anti-Oppression Script To Insult Cliven Bundy

Some people’s commitment to nominal political first loves can become so deeply entrenched that, over time, they fail to see they’ve become the very thing they purport to hate.

So it appears with this guy – Sean Shealy – a self-described liberal activist who says he’s been involved in organizing past iterations of Burning Man, the neo-hippie catch-all freakout of cultural detritus that takes place each year in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man has to pay a permit fee to use the land, and rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay the Federal government a usage fee to graze his cattle on Federally-administered lands in Nevada just doesn’t sit well with Shealy. I have to pay, so you should too, etc.

So he’s taking the man (Bundy) who’s trying to stick it to the Man (the government) to task for standing up to the Feds. How? By planning a 30-day nuisance party near Bundy’s grazing zone and naming it after – who else? – Bundy.

Bundyfest, as it’s called, is to be a month-long middle finger turned Bundy’s way in a show of disapproval for the rancher’s recalcitrant insistence on flouting “the rule of law,” as Shealy himself describes it. How?

By creating effing anarchy, man.

Here’s Shealy in The Raw Story today :

“For years, we paid permitting fees to hold Burning Man on the beautiful Playa in Northern Nevada,” said the event’s organizers on a Facebook page. “But now, Cliven Bundy has shown us a NEW WAY! ABSOLUTE FREEDOM! Bundy has declared the entire area surrounding Bundy Ranch as a TOTALLY RULES-FREE ZONE! ANYTHING GOES! WOO-HOO!!!”

“…Some people have asked me, where will we camp, where will we park?” Shealy said. “Anywhere, really. It’s f*cking anarchy.”

So which is it? The rule of law or anarchy? Shealy’s more serious comments, such as they are, seem to indicate disobeying the government has become passé among the self-appointed heirs to 1960s-style rebellion.

“Nothing that happened in Nevada — from anybody on either side — merits pulling someone’s leg off … Get a grip, folks,” Shealy said. “It’s about some cranky old dude and some cows in the middle of a barren desert. And the rule of law.”

Confused? Try walking across the Bundyfest zone the day after everyone’s gone home. Our guess is this event will give the BLM’s recent land-rape of the grazing zone a run for its money in terms of chaos and disorder.

Late Tuesday, the Burning Man Facebook page offered this disclaimer:

“For the record, the Burning Man organization has absolutely no involvement whatsoever with the so-called #BundyFest or its supposed organizer Sean Shealy.”

True The Vote Takes On Oversight Member Elijah Cummings For Allegedly Colluding With Lerner’s IRS

Not long ago, on the same day the House of Representatives voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) accused fellow Oversight member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) of taking an inappropriate, meddlesome interest in True the Vote, a conservative nonprofit group Lerner’s Internal Revenue Service division eventually targeted for discrimination.

Now True the Vote has taken up the fight, suggesting it may have sufficient grounds to convince the Oversight Committee to widen its IRS investigation to include one of the committee’s own members: Cummings himself.

The organization’s attorney, Cleta Mitchell, told The Daily Caller over the weekend that True the Vote has had a pending complaint against Cummings before the Office of Congressional Ethics since February. Her extensive interview on the topic, along with comments to the media last week, may indicate that True the Vote is ready to play its hand against Cummings and the role he allegedly played in directing the IRS’s attention to the Texas-based nonprofit during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Mitchell told The Daily Caller:

On behalf of True the Vote, we filed a complaint against Rep. Cummings on February 6 with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Cummings or any member of his staff had played any role in getting any of the agencies that went after Catherine Engelbrecht and her family after she became involved with True the Vote. Two IRS audits about the business, her personal tax returns, two visits from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a surprise visit from OSHA, seven visits from the FBI. I mean, these are not coincidences. And so we wanted to know what role Rep. Cummings or any of his staff had played in any of that and why Rep. Cummings undertook to misrepresent that he was conducting an investigation of True the Vote, which we think was in violation of House rules.

Since the Oversight Committee first began looking into the IRS scandal in February 2012, Cummings has said early, often and repeatedly that the ensuing House Oversight investigation has amounted to nothing more than a partisan witch hunt that will never find a smoking gun.

But Mitchell and True the Vote now maintain that Cummings was, the whole time, attempting to defuse the investigation before Oversight members realized Cumming’s alleged involvement in the broader scandal. And Mitchell should know — she was the one who got a straight (or at least unequivocal) answer out of Cummings when she asked him about it during a Feb. 6 Oversight hearing:

Ms. Mitchell: We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out whether any — if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies. We don’t know that, but we — we’re going to do everything we can do to try to get to the bottom of how did this all happen.

Mr. Cummings: Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. [Mark] Meadows [R-N.C., Oversight Vice Chair]: Yes.

Mr. Cummings: I want to thank the gentleman for his courtesy. What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.

Mitchell filed the ethics complaint against Cummings, on behalf of True the Vote, that same day.

Obama Administration Asks Parents, Schools To Watch For ‘Warning Signs’ Of Kids Training For Terror

President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser suggested to a Harvard audience last week that parents and teachers across the country can get involved in rooting out homegrown terror by turning a more suspicious eye toward the children they raise and educate.

“[W]e recognize that there are limits to what the federal government can do,” Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, said in a prepared speech before the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. “So we must rely on the partnership of those who are most familiar with the local risks, those who are in the best position to take action–local communities.”

How do you do that? By scanning kids for indicative behavioral changes while viewing the little strangers’ growing-up phases through a lens that filters for the “warning signs” of terror:

In the more than 80 percent of cases involving homegrown violent extremists, people in the community — whether peers or family members or authority figures or even strangers — had observed warning signs a person was becoming radicalized to violence. But more than half of those community members downplayed or dismissed their observations without intervening. So it’s not that the clues weren’t there, it’s that they weren’t understood well enough to be seen as the indicators of a serious problem.

What kinds of behaviors are we talking about? For the most part, they’re not related directly to plotting attacks. They’re more subtle. For instance, parents might see sudden personality changes in their children at home — becoming confrontational. Religious leaders might notice unexpected clashes over ideological differences. Teachers might hear a student expressing an interest in traveling to a conflict zone overseas. Or friends might notice a new interest in watching or sharing violent material.

In a world in which the government holds the keys to solving all ills, this advice veers toward the dystopian. Parents whose lives enmesh fully with their offspring through direct, intimate and constant involvement in the raising of their children are not as valuable to the police state as parents who at least know what to watch out for in their kids, aloof as so many parent-child relationships may be.

The same can be said of teachers, whose skills in monitoring children as potential wards of the state — either through removal from the home or incarceration — prove at least as useful to a watchful government as is their ability to transmit knowledge and cultivate close ties with parents (aloof, of course, as many parent-teacher relationships may be).

Monaco’s introduction made note of several recent terror attacks and isolated, tragic freak-outs — but she managed to place them all on the same top shelf of anti-terror priorities, while simultaneously observing the alleged motives only of the crazy far right.

Here’s what she said about last year’s Boston Marathon bombing:

Of course, we’re here today because of a tragedy. This morning I joined Vice President Biden at the memorial service marking the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings — marking one year since we were shocked by those awful images at the finish line; one year since we lost Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, eight-year-old Martin Richard and Officer Sean Collier — all innocent lives and all lost far too soon.  It’s been one year since we saw how Boston responds in the face of terrorism–with resilience and resolve and unbending strength.

When the bombs went off, I had been President Obama’s chief advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism for just a few weeks. It was a deeply personal introduction to the demands of this job. I was raised a few miles from here — in Newton. I went to high school in the shadow of Fenway Park and then made the long trek down Storrow Drive to come here for college. Growing up, I spent every Patriot’s Day lining that marathon route — usually at the crest of Heartbreak Hill — cheering on the runners and taking part in a great Boston tradition. And last year, my twin brother was there in the crowd, alongside thousands of other Bostonians. It was not only an attack on the homeland; it was an attack on my hometown.

By whom? For what reasons? She didn’t attempt to speculate.

Here’s what she said about the crazy guy who killed three people earlier this month at a Jewish community center in Kansas:

We’ve faced violent expressions of extremism throughout our history, including 19 years ago this week in Oklahoma City. And, sadly, we continue to face it, as we saw just two days ago in Overland Park, Kansas, when a gunman — allegedly a white supremacist with a long history of racist and anti-Semitic behavior — opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home, killing three. And, while the American people continue to stand united against hatred and violence, the unfortunate truth is that extremist groups will continue targeting vulnerable populations in an effort to promote their murderous ideology.

That’s why stemming domestic radicalization to violence has been a key element of our counterterrorism strategy from day one. President Obama has been laser-focused on making sure we use all the elements of our national power to protect Americans, including developing the  first government-wide strategy to prevent violent extremism in the United States.

Live Outside The District And Want To Run As A Democrat? The SEIU Will Lease You Their Address

It’s a common trope to suggest that progressive Democrats and organized labor share the same ideological tent. But one California Congressman is taking that metaphor to its logical conclusion by actually using the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)’s San Jose headquarters as the nominal base of operations for his campaign.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) – whose home address is not located in the 17th Congressional District he’s represented for seven terms – has rented office space inside the SEIU Local 521 headquarters in San Jose.

It’s the only published address affiliated with the Honda campaign that lies within the 17th District. His operational headquarters, a field office elsewhere in town, is outside the District, as is the address advertised on the official “Mike Honda for Congress” campaign website.

The Chronicle determined, via a simple Google map search, that the Honda camp provided the newspaper an address that was in his district after the newspaper ran an April 15 story on his out-of-district headquarters and residence.

“It’s perfectly legal,” reported the Chronicle, “but as fellow Democrat and former Obama trade representative Ro Khanna tries to wrest the seat away, there’s the potential for it to become political ammunition.”

Three days later came the updated story pointing out Honda’s dubious “official” campaign digs. “Asked to explain,” wrote the Chronicle, “Vivek Kembaiyan, the campaign spokesman, said, ‘our campaign rents office space from SEIU 521.’”

Here’s more:

Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law and governance at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that the arrangement raises concerns.

Regarding the appropriateness, “my main question is: is (SEIU) basically giving him a donation by letting him use the office for less than what a member of the public would pay?” she said.

But the decision also makes a political statement, she added. “It’s so clear he is aligning himself with the unions..its very visual,” she said. “I mean, they’re roommates.”

It’s not clear whether the SEIU is providing Honda with an in-kind monetary equivalency donation with the lease this election cycle. His campaign is reportedly leasing their office space for $3,140 for the first quarter of the Federal Election Commission’s mandatory reporting period. But, in 2013, the Honda campaign appears to have leased the same office space for $3,900 – for the entire year.

Why Does The IRS Need To Track License Plates?

Among the many Federal agencies that have cumulatively awarded nearly half a million dollars’ worth of contracts to a California-based license plate tracking and cataloging vendor over the past few years, the Internal Revenue Service’s reported $1,188 investment might seem comparatively insignificant.

It’s not. Instead of paying a ton of money to buy a dedicated chunk of service from Vigilant Solutions — a company that provides license plate recognition and databasing equipment and services, as well as facial recognition technology — the IRS essentially paid an access fee to search and retrieve license plate data from a list.

Bloomberg reported last week that the most recent IRS deal with the company, which ensured the IRS “access to nationwide data,” ran from June 2012 through May 2013. It’s not known whether the agency currently has an arrangement with other Federal agencies to access the same data.

While many of the Federal contracts with Vigilant have been allowed to expire — in part because of pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully thwarted a pending Department of Homeland Security contract that would have dwarfed any other agreement with the company — the reason for the IRS’s involvement in the surveillance and tracking sphere has never been explained.

“The IRS uses a variety of investigative tools similar to other law-enforcement agencies to assist with criminal cases,” an agency spokesman told Bloomberg — but he wouldn’t elaborate on how the IRS uses the license plate data.

And regardless of whether most Federal agencies have — for the moment — allowed their agreements with Vigilant to lapse, there’s still no reason to believe the government has reversed its implicit assumption that any agency should have carte blanche access to mass surveillance data.

“The American public deserves to know the degree to which the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies are already tapping into these databases,” a Massachusetts ACLU representative told Bloomberg. “The cancellation of the solicitation itself has no measurable impact on the existing reality, which is that we are all being tracked right now.”

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.

Obama Signs Bill Barring Iranian Terrorist From Entering U.S., Then Says He Won’t Enforce It

By now you probably know about Hamid Abutalebi. He’s the would-be diplomat whom Iran wanted to send to the United Nations – but whom Congress blocked, on a strongly bipartisan vote, because he was among the terrorists who helped take Americans into captivity in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.

Today, President Barack Obama signed Congress’ bill into law – and then immediately appended a signing statement informing the world he would not enforce the law he’d just signed.

“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation,” Obama wrote.

“Nevertheless, as President [George H.W.] Bush also observed, ‘curtailing by statute my constitutional discretion to receive or reject ambassadors is neither a permissible nor a practical solution.’ I shall therefore continue to treat section 407, as originally enacted and as amended by S. 2195, as advisory in circumstances in which it would interfere with the exercise of this discretion.”

In other words, Obama is saying he intends to treat the bill, which bars Abutalebi from entering the U.S., as a piece of advice and nothing more, using as a pretense a Bush I precedent that emanated from a squabble with Congress over dictating to the President a job the Constitution already empowers him with carrying out.

The bill barring Abutalebi from setting foot on U.S. soil was authored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and received strong support from both side of the aisle. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) didn’t hesitate to use language so strongly condemning Abutalebi’s nomination that Cruz himself might as well have spoken the same words.

Iran’s foreign minister responded to the vote by calling Congress a pack of “radicals,” reaffirming in the process that Congress had made the right call from the start.

With Obama’s ambivalent action today, Abutalebi appears to be headed, illegally, to the U.S. as the Iranian ambassador to the UN. But it’s doubtful at this point that he’ll be deported.

Most GOP Presidential Hopefuls Steer Clear Of Bundy Ranch Discussion

Among Republican Party name brands with possible aspirations to seek the 2016 Presidential nomination, so far only Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have made known their opinions on Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management.

All the others are keeping their lips zipped. Coming down in favor of Bundy, who is shrugging off the rule of law to take a principled stand against Federal transgressions, is a sketchy gray area of ideology for would-be candidates who want to appeal to a broad base. And coming down in favor of the government would simply destroy any rapport the GOP candidates have with their base.

So it’s been prudent, so far — even if not very courageous — for most candidates to simply say nothing.

According to The Hill, which attempted to question a trio of potential GOP candidates on why they’ve chosen to stay away from the Bundy-BLM battle, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have offered no statements indicating a position, and they didn’t respond to calls from Hill staff seeking comment.

The nature of the Bundy dispute requires politicians to be well schooled in the case history, as well as in the history of U.S. property rights, Federal land policy and the Constitutionally established balance between Federal, State and individual powers. It’s easy for an incessant talker like Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to make an unequivocal comment favoring the Feds, because Reid’s commitment to understanding the merits of a case into his argument has always been exceedingly low. Plus, as you’ve likely read, Reid may very well have an obtuse interest in what happens on the piece of land in question.

The same study-before-you-speak ethos that Reid eschews may well be the reason no one’s yet heard from Cruz. It’s possible he will, at some point, weigh in. Like or loathe him, one thing that has defined Cruz so far is his will to speak in public with authority, or not at all. But don’t be surprised if Cruz’s deep commitment to the rule of law (think immigration policy) limits what he’d say to bolster the Bundys.

There’s an artful way around such ideological problems: Keep your comments artfully general and populist. Huckabee handled a question on the Bundy dispute by admitting he didn’t know all there is to know about the historical and legal nuances of the case; and then he pointed out the key flaw in the Federal government’s disposition and behavior, so clearly on display last week:

From The Hill:

“I’m not here to jump in on the middle of whether Cliven Bundy ought to pay the state or pay anybody for the chance for his cows to eat some grass,” Huckabee said. “Here’s what I would suggest: that there is something incredibly wrong when a government believes that some blades of grass that a cow is eating is so an egregious affront to the government of the United States that we would literally put a gun in a citizen’s face and threaten to shoot him over it.”

Paul expanded on that idea in his remarks, using the dispute to reflect on the evolution of dozens of Federal agencies into law enforcement entities that carry weapons and hold powers of arrest. You can read more on Paul’s comments in Rand Paul Questions Number Of Armed Federal Agents, Criticizes Government Treatment Of Rancher.

Kathleen Sebelius For U.S. Senate? Democrats Hope So

Almost as quickly as she announced her departure from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the rollout wizard for Obamacare, Kathleen Sebelius found herself courting overtures from Democrats to consider a run at a U.S. Senate seat.

While reports Wednesday suggested Sebelius had demonstrated initial reluctance at the idea of entering the Senate race, the chorus of Democratic Party voices welcoming the idea may ultimately persuade her to enter the primary field, according to The Hill.

“It seems crazy to Republicans, who see Sebelius as the face of the botched Obamacare rollout and believe her candidacy would make it even easier for them to win the Senate majority,” wrote Alexander Bolton. “But Democrats say her candidacy would make Kansas more winnable, would blunt the problems Obamacare poses to their party and would force Republicans to pour money into a red state.”

Sebelius came up through the Democratic Party in Kansas State politics, standing out in the late 1980s onward as one among very few Democrats who could get elected in the conservative State. She had served as executive director of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association for 10 years prior to winning a seat in the State House of Representatives in 1986, where she served from 1987 until 1994. After a stint as Kansas Insurance Commissioner (an elected position for which she refused any campaign money from the insurance industry), Sebelius ran for Governor in 2002. Her stance against Big Insurance had made her name popular not only in Kansas, but throughout the Nation, and she won. Twice.

Then Obama brought national politics to her door, and Sebelius moved away from populism and toward policy. Almost everyone in the U.S. has had a ringside seat to watch Sebelius find out, the hard way, that project management is not her strength.

In the aftermath of her HHS burnout, it’s easy to forget that Sebelius once held about as much bipartisan appeal, nationwide, as a Democrat possibly can in the early years of the 21st century.

But Democrats looking to stanch the electoral bleeding this fall — brought about, in large measure, by the hard realities the implementation of Obamacare has revealed — haven’t forgotten. They’re hoping Sebelius has a sufficiently unbroken spirit, along with a measure of residual good will, to overtake incumbent Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and flip at least one Senate seat currently held by a Republican.

“A survey of 693 Kansas voters in February by Public Policy Polling, a liberal pollster, found Sebelius trailing the Republican incumbent, Sen. Pat Roberts, by 14 points in a hypothetical matchup,” reports The Hill. “The same poll showed Obama had only a 34 percent job approval rating in the state.”

Of course, that was before Sebelius’ inauspicious departure from her HHS job.

But even if a Sebelius Senate candidacy were to amount to nothing more than a sacrifice fly for national Democrats, there may yet be a strategic method behind an ambition that looks, to Republican observers at this moment, a whole lot like outright madness.

“I do think,” Democratic strategist Ted Devine told The Hill, “it will have an impact in terms of the Republicans being forced to defend a Senate seat that they completely take for granted right now.” Translation: In order to help Roberts hang onto his incumbency, the GOP would have throw money at his campaign. And even if Roberts does win, that’s money that could have been better spent — had Sebelius remained out of the race — somewhere else.