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.”

Obama Rolls Out Pen And Phone Today To Take On ‘Income Inequality’

President Barack Obama’s announced pen-and-phone gambit in January may have simply been his way of telling people how he’s planning to use his position to help set up Congressional Democrats for re-election in 2014.

This week, Obama will bring his power of executive order to bear in two anticipated actions that both focus on a favorite election-season talking point for Democrats: income inequality.

Obama is expected to sign an executive order today requiring the Department of Labor to establish new regulations that force Federal contractors to give the government detailed information about the demographic makeup of the employees they pay — including information about employees’ race and gender as a function of how much they’re paid.

In February, Obama issued an executive order requiring Federal contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $10.10 per hour as the first of several promised White House initiatives this year intended to whittle away at income inequality, which Obama has identified as a societal problem that progressivists in the Democratic Party are especially qualified to solve.

Obama is also expected to sign an executive order today that forbids Federal contractors from reprimanding employees who publicly discuss their pay.

The signings, announced to media ahead of April 8 in anticipation of “Equal Pay Day.” Every year since 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity estimates how much longer women must work into the new year in order to earn the same amount of compensation that men earned by the close of the previous year.

“The White House did not respond Monday to questions about whether it will issue a report dissecting how men and women, or a variety of racial groups, fare in its salary pool,” reported David Martosko of the Daily Mail. “That may be because 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has never paid the same levels of earnings to men and women — not even in the current administration.”

According to an analysis by The Daily Caller of last year’s Report to Congress on White House Staff, the Obama Administration paid females 11.8 percent less than males in 2013 — an improvement over the previous year, when female staffers were paid 18 percent less.

 

Ft. Hood Mom Questions Logic Of Gun-Free Bases

“Well for one thing, they’re trained. They know rules of engagement; we send them off to war, they have their guns, they come home, and then they’re taken away from them on their homes bases. They can’t defend their family, their coworkers; they can’t defend themselves.”

Those are the word of Lynda Voyles-Konecny, the mother of an enlisted son who was reportedly only 100 feet from Ivan Lopez, the man who killed three people at Ft. Hood, Texas last week before killing himself.

Voyles-Konecny sat down with WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Ala. over the weekend to discuss the logic of denying servicemen access to weapons while on base. Here’s a link to the story, which includes a video interview.

“They started describing the buildings where these things were going on,” said Voyles-Konecny, who said she and her family all have legal concealed-carry permits. “I knew exactly where my son was and where the shooter was because I’ve been at Fort Hood…I’m in a better position to defend my family than he is, and that’s a shame.”

Mike Lee: End Washington Cronysim – But First, End GOP Cronyism

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) had a guest column online today at National Review, calling for his party peers to take a stand against the corporate welfare and “crony capitalism” that permeated Washington politics before the Obama era, and has accelerated, at the acquiescence of both parties, since.

“From the stimulus to cash-for-clunkers, from the bailouts to cap-and-trade, from Dodd-Frank to Obamacare, every name-brand initiative of the Obama era has distorted public policy to privilege well-connected insiders and elites at the expense of taxpayers and consumers,” wrote Lee.

“The Right’s [recent] resistance to corporatism is a welcome development. Special-interest favoritism represents a uniquely malignant threat to the economic, political, and social ecosystem that makes America exceptional.”

That’s all well and good, he argues – but it’s difficult to ask for the public’s trust when it’s clear that cronyism existed within the Republican Party before Obama came to Washington, and that internal resistance to change the culture is as strong within the ranks of the GOP as it is with Washington in general.

Obamanomics has delivered record corporate profits but sagging middle-class wages and an anemic, jobless recovery. It has promoted and exacerbated inequality. It has isolated the poor and squeezed the middle class.

It has also exposed the president’s party to extreme political vulnerability.

But to seize this opportunity — to fix what’s broken in Washington and our economy — a still-distrusted GOP first must end cronyism in our own ranks. The GOP has to close its branch of the Beltway Favor Bank and truly embrace a free-enterprise economy of, by, and for the people.

Impossible? That’s what they said about earmarks.

Too radical a change? These are principles we already espouse.

Imagine a reformed Republican party seizing the moral high ground against political corruption and economic dysfunction. Imagine its leaders, advocating populist, free-market reforms to restore jobs, growth, and fairness to the economy. Faster than you can say “TARP,” we could pin the Left between their egalitarian facade and their elitist agenda, and force them to choose between K Street and Main Street.

That Republican party could not only unify and excite conservatives, but appeal to hardworking families in the purple and blue communities that President Obama’s special-interest favoritism is leaving behind.

Lee then offers a litmus test to determine the GOP’s sincerity when it comes to changing the party’s furtive policy tie-ins with corporate benefactors: whether Congress will renew its authorization of the Federal Export Import Bank (or “Ex-Im” Bank), which uses American tax dollars to subsidize loans to American exporters.

“Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world,” wrote Lee. “In short, Congress allows the Ex-Im Bank to unnecessarily risk taxpayer money to subsidize well-connected private companies… Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant.”

If Congressional Republicans keep mum when the Ex-Im reauthorization comes up this summer, Lee says it’ll be a sure sign that all the GOP talk about ending cronyism on Capitol Hill is just so much sound and fury for the TV cameras.

For some context on Lee’s capacity for sincerity, though, it’s perhaps helpful to remember that Lee had no problem letting his mortgage bank eat the losses on a short sale of his Utah home to a friend and campaign donor back in 2011, not long after he was elected to the Senate.

Amateurs Who Read News On The Internet Predict World Events Better Than CIA

It may not surprise you, but a consortium of assiduous, conscientious amateurs can better predict the future of human affairs on Earth — for a fraction of the cost — than the CIA can.

The Good Judgment Project (GJP), an endeavor that uses the Internet to link 3,000 unpaid news followers from various walks of life, has managed to accurately anticipate global trends and events more accurately than state-sanctioned, state-funded intelligence agencies like the CIA.

From a recent Reason report:

Elaine Rich is a pharmacist in her 60s. She and a team of 3,000 other amateur forecasters in the Good Judgment Project (GJP) use Google to keep current on the news. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employs over 20,000 professionals, operates with an annual budget north of $14 billion, and has access to oodles of classified information.

Which of these groups is better at predicting world affairs?

When it comes to “everything from Venezuelan gas subsidies to North Korean politics,” reports National Public Radio (NPR), amateurs outperform the pros. Rich, in particular, has “been put on a special team with other superforecasters whose predictions are reportedly 30 percent better than intelligence officers.”

GJP originated as one of several competitors in a government-sponsored “forecasting tournament” that challenges teams to devise their own methods to most effectively predict world events. That competition has been going since 2011, and is currently setting up for its final year.

If you’re interested — and this is by no means an endorsement either of GJP or the competition itself — you can even participate. GJP says having a college degree might be helpful, but it isn’t as important as “a curiosity about how well you make predictions about world events.”

Hillary Can’t Remember A Single Accomplishment From Her State Department Tenure

In an effort to answer a simple question Thursday about her accomplishments as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stammered her way into one of the great non-answers for which she’s famous.

Speaking with an interviewer at the Women of the World Summit in New York, Clinton was 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?”

Her answer was lengthy, but it did not contain one word that acknowledged the question set before her:

Well, I really see — that was good — that’s why he wins prizes. Look, I really see my role as Secretary, in fact leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race. When you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished, so when President Obama asked me to be Secretary of State I agreed.

…We had the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we had two wars. We had continuing threats from all kinds of corners around the world that we had to deal with. So it was a perilous time frankly. What he said to me was, ‘Look, I have to be dealing with the economic crisis, I want you to go out and represent us around the world.’ And it was a good division of labor because we needed to make it clear to the rest of the world, that we were going to get our house in order. We were going to stimulate, and grow, and get back to positive growth and work with our friends and partners.

 

EPA Conducted Toxin Tests On Human Subjects Without Disclosing The Health Risks

Reports emerged Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, in recent years, carried out tests of dangerous pollutants on human subjects without fully disclosing the risks — even as it sought “informed” consent from the participants.

According to The Daily Caller News Foundation, the EPA conducted a series of experiments in 2010 and 2011 intended to assess how exposure to particulate matter from diesel exhaust affected human health. But the agency did not consistently disclose the risks associated with exposure to diesel particulate matter (PM), even though some test subjects came into the test with respiratory illnesses like asthma and heart disease.

The Daily Caller’s report drew information from a copy of the EPA Inspector General’s report on human testing practices, which The Daily Caller obtained last week:

These experiments exposed people, including those with asthma and heart problems, to dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants, including diesel fumes… The EPA also exposed people with health issues to levels of pollutants up to 50 times greater than the agency says is safe for humans.

The EPA conducted five experiments in 2010 and 2011 to look at the health effects of particulate matter, or PM, and diesel exhaust on humans. The IG’s report found that the EPA did get consent forms from 81 people in five studies. But the IG also found that “exposure risks were not always consistently represented.”

“Further, the EPA did not include information on long-term cancer risks in its diesel exhaust studies’ consent forms,” the IG’s report noted. “An EPA manager considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures” but “human subjects were not informed of this risk in the consent form.”

According to the IG’s report, “only one of five studies’ consent forms provided the subject with information on the upper range of the pollutant” they would be exposed to, but even more alarming is that only “two of five alerted study subjects to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease.”

Crucially, the Inspector General’s report also observed the inherent hypocrisy in the EPA’s unethical use of human subjects without informing them of the health-related risks they’d be facing. “This lack of warning about PM is also different from the EPA’s public image about PM,” the document states.

And how’s this for understatement:

The EPA’s diesel exhaust studies did not include language about the long-term cancer risks of diesel exhaust… [E]vidence suggests that at least some human study subjects would like to know if a study involves risk of death, even if the risk is very small.

What does the “P” in “EPA” stand for again?

Charles Koch Doesn’t Sound Like A Guy Who’s Playing Defense

After weeks of flogging from the progressive left, and with months more to come, libertarian oil mogul Charles Koch poked his head out of the ground yesterday to pen an opinion column for The Wall Street Journal. He struck a tone that didn’t sound defensive, nor did it sound particularly aggressive. It simply sounded like the opinion of a man who’s confident in his beliefs.

Despite daily beratings from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who in recent weeks has developed a near-fetishistic public enthrallment with the evil Koch brothers, Koch’s piece focuses less on self-defense and more on explaining why hand-holding government (Koch repeatedly refers to our present government as “collectivists”) has positioned itself as the average American’s chief obstruction to prosperity and self-determination.

Koch never mentions Reid, or any of his other progressive critics, by name. He doesn’t mention President Barack Obama, either — and the tone of his piece implies that his concern over the present state of American politics transcends whoever’s in the Oval Office at the moment.

Instead, Koch contrasts the nanny-state government we have with a government that serves to foster individual liberty. And he explains that he’s only recently seen a need to expand on Koch Industries’ long history of funding educational outreach by throwing his money into the political sphere.

Here are some highlights:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

… The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen… Collectivists…promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

…[Character assassination] is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society — and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

… Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we’re “un-American” and trying to “rig the system,” that we’re against “environmental protection” or eager to “end workplace safety standards.” These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Koch goes on to list many of the benefits to society a well-run capitalist enterprise, operating on free-market principles, can produce. Most of those highlights focus not on his or his brother’s (or their father’s) personal achievements. Rather, Koch talks about the diversity of his 60,000-member workforce (one-third of the company’s U.S. employees are union members!) and how he tries to apply his own principles in the operation of his company — even when declining a government handout affects the bottom line.

“Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished,” he wrote.

“If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off — not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.”

Texas Man Freed After Video Evidence Shows Arresting Cop Lied To Secure Jail Time

Ronald Jones, a Dallas man caught between a malicious police officer and his destination one December night in 2009, went to jail for more than a year after Dallas cop Matthew Antkowiak fabricated a story that seemed to support an aggravated assault charge.

Now Jones is free, and $1.1 million richer, after settling a lawsuit against the city in which video evidence taken from the police cruiser – evidence which wasn’t presented at the time of Jones’ incarceration – shows that every word of Antkowiak’s allegation against the 62 year-old man was false.

Jones, who is black, was set to face trial for allegedly attacking Antkowiak and possessing a crack pipe after the officer, en route to an unrelated call involving two white suspects, spotted him on foot and stopped him. But it was Antkowiak who not only attacked Jones, but also apparently arranged to have the cruiser’s camera turned off long enough to obscure discovery of the alleged crack pipe.

Jones was obviously a confused pedestrian who never saw any of it coming.

According to WFAA in Dallas, Jones’ attorney requested the dash cam footage and revealed its contents only a day before Jones was set to face trial:

“Mr. Jones is walking down the street. Doesn’t fit the description at all,” said his attorney, Don Tittle.

The officer claimed Jones was throwing beer cans, so he pulled him over to arrest him.

“From there, he pulls one of Mr. Jones’ arms up very aggressively and Mr. Jones turns around to see what is going on and why was he being placed under arrest, and from there it goes,” Tittle said.

The officer took Jones to the ground and hit him a few times. The two struggled as more officers arrived.

Two dash camera videos obtained by News 8 show multiple officers on top of Jones; one officer is seen kicking him several times.

Jones’ attorney [said] the 62-year-old client was crying for help.

In his report, Officer Antkowiak stated that Jones “…took his right hand and grabbed the officer by his throat, choking him and lifting him off the ground.”

But take a closer look at the dash camera video; it’s Antkowiak who is on top of Jones, choking him.

In his official report, Officer Antkowiak also claimed that Jones “kicked him in the testicles and groin area, while still choking him.”

But that never happens on video.

Jones’ attorney says on the second dash camera video, the officer is asked to turn off the camera. Then the officers said they found a crack pipe and claimed Jones was intoxicated.

The city awarded Jones the $1.1 million settlement in late March.  On the strength of the video evidence, which came to light in 2011, the DA dropped all charges against Jones. Antkowiak resigned in disgrace, but no other officers were disciplined. According to WFAA, police chief David Brown said the city agreed to settle with Jones only because “focus groups told them they would lose the case” in the resulting lawsuit.

House Oversight Committee To Hold Contempt Vote For Lerner

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Thursday the Committee will hold a vote next week to determine whether to hold Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to share what she knows about the IRS political discrimination scandal that came to light last year.

The contempt vote is scheduled for Thursday of next week.

Issa, who has pursued the IRS scandal without heed for critics who claim his motives proceed from party politics, flatly described Lerner Thursday as a willing participant in the IRS’ discriminatory stonewalling of competing conservative nonprofit groups during President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

“Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding,” he said.

Lerner, a former IRS employee who oversaw the agency’s exempt organizations division until she resigned in disgrace, has steadfastly maintained she is protected under the 5th Amendment, even though she gave an opening statement in which she declared innocence of wrongdoing in her first appearance before the committee.

Last month, it appeared that Lerner was close to an agreement in which she might receive immunity in exchange for her testimony. But her attorney squelched the idea only a day before she was set to face the Committee again.

If the Oversight Committee does vote to find Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify, the Committee’s finding will proceed to the full House. If Lerner is found to be in contempt of Congress, she faces a misdemeanor charge that carries possible fines of up to $100,000 and possible jail time ranging from a month up to a year.

How Do You Deny Saying Something When It’s On Video? Ask Harry Reid

To every observer but the Senate Majority Leader himself, last week was a bad one for Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Already attempting to quiet allegations of malfeasance in a Las Vegas land deal involving his son’s law firm, Reid face a fresh round of controversy after news broke last week that his campaign had given $17,000 to his granddaughter for “holiday gifts.”

That story was later updated to reveal Reid had actually given his granddaughter nearly double that amount over the past two years, and that he’d conveniently decided to reimburse the missing campaign funds only one hour after independent Nevada journalist Jon Ralston first posted the story to his website.

Reid also warmed the hearts of Obamacare holdouts everywhere last week when he insinuated that enrollment numbers were lagging because people — particularly elderly ones — aren’t competent Internet users.

Against that general backdrop, Reid, whose public non sequiturs have grown more agitated than usual of late, took to the Senate floor to shake his fist at empirical truth.

Some of Reid’s Republican adversaries had begun to question him over a particular tactic he’d used to defend Obamacare in late February: telling his Senate peers that Obamacare “horror” stories of denied care and spiked premiums were made-up, false, phony, baseless, politically motivated lies.

Of course, Reid used the two best examples he could find — cases featured in TV ads funded by the evil, very bad Koch brothers — while neglecting the many legitimate examples of Obamacare “horror” stories in heavy rotation on local television stations and in newspapers across the country.

The Republicans questioned why Reid would accuse them of lying about events that are well documented.

Reid said… well, he said he never said any of that.

“I have never come to the floor — to my recollection, I’ve never said a word about examples that Republicans have given regarding Obamacare and how it’s not very good,” he said Wednesday from the Senate floor (where he’d originally said exactly what he was attempting to deny).

“Mr. President, the junior Senator from Wyoming has come to the floor several times recently, talking about the fact that examples that he and others Republicans have given dealing with Obamacare — examples that are bad — I’ve called ‘lies.’ Mr. President, that is simply untrue.”

Well, here y’go:

Here are Reid’s transcribed remarks from Feb. 26 — one month before his adamant denial — taken straight from the Congressional Record:

… [T]here are plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they are being told all over America.

The leukemia patient whose insurance policy was canceled and would die without her medication — Mr. President, that is an ad being paid for by two billionaire brothers that is absolutely false; or the woman whose insurance policy went up $700 a month — ads paid for around America by the multibillionaire Koch brothers, and the ad is false.

We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it is ruining in the Republican stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers.

But those tales turned out to be just that — tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies, distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.

EBONY Apologizes For Editor’s Racist Tweets

Yesterday, EBONY magazine’s senior editor initiated a race skirmish against Republican National Committee deputy press secretary Rafi Williams, son of liberal political analyst Juan Williams, and threw fuel on the fire by mistaking him for a white man.

The whole thing was ignorant, intolerant and, loathe though we are to admit it, likely a huge (if perverse) publicity boost for Jamilah Lemieux, the EBONY editor who lit up twitter by comparing Williams and other conservatives to hungry cockroaches.

If you aren’t aware of all that, here’s our article, which includes all of Lemieux’s race-baiting tweets.

Thankfully, her employers at EBONY didn’t double down to defend her debate-stifling prejudices. Instead, they issued an apology that pulls no punches on where the magazine stands when it comes to free discourse.

Here’s their statement, which you can also read at EBONY’s website.

EBONY founder John H. Johnson once said that he created EBONY magazine with the intention to affirm a certain sense of “somebodiness” for African Americans. Nearly 70 years ago the magazine began on the principle that, as Black people, we are all somebody — we all count.

Yesterday, the spirit of this mission was disregarded by EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux in a personal Twitter exchange between herself and RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams. In part of the exchange, Lemieux responded to an attempt at discourse from Williams with words that curtly dismissed him and his suggestion that she be interested in the “diversity of thought.” She also misidentified him, unintentionally, as White. Williams is Black.

EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas. As the magazine of record for the African American community, Lemieux’s tweets in question do not represent our journalistic standard, tradition or practice of celebrating diverse Black thought.

In a letter to EBONY from RNC President Reince Priebus, he suggests, “that we can use this unfortunate episode as a catalyst for greater understanding between the Republican Party and the black community.”

EBONY acknowledges Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux’s lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account and apologizes to Raffi Williams and the Black Republican community.

Bill Authorizing Government To Define Legitimate Journalism A Political Albatross For RINOs, Democrats

Another attempt from Congressional Democrats to define the media faces a shaky future. If Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is right, the so-called media “shield law” bill, which essentially segments application of the 1st Amendment to lock out citizen journalists while favoring members of the media establishment, will never see a floor vote – even though it has been awaiting action since last September.

The Free Flow of Information Act, which in its original version died in the 110th Congress, is designed to codify who is (and who isn’t) protected from subpoenas, as well as who can be compelled to reveal their sources in court. Supported by media companies and opposed by bloggers, the bill seeks, for the first time, to augment 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech by affording card-carrying journalists the right to refuse to testify against sources, while denying independent reporters from all walks of life that same protection.

The bill is co-authored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindesey Graham (R-S.C.), which probably tells you all you need to know. Schumer said last week the measure could come up for a Senate vote at any time, boasting that “we have the 60 votes” needed for passage.

Cornyn scoffed at that assertion this week, telling Breitbart Schumer doesn’t have that kind of support for the vote – and he knows it:

He’s bluffing, Cornyn retorts.

“If he had the votes to pass it, it already would have been passed,” Cornyn says, adding, “This isn’t about passing legislation, this is about distracting the public’s attention and changing the subject from the failed policies of this administration. I think you could put this in that same category.”

“…They want to pick and choose which journalists are covered,” the Texan Republican told Breitbart News. “In other words, if you’re a blogger they might not cover you, but if you work for the New York Times they might. Given the changes in the way we get information and the way we consume news, that really smacks to me in essence of government licensing who’s an official ‘journalist’ for the purposes of a shield law and who’s not. If there is one thing I can glean from the First Amendment, it is that government should not be in the business of licensing the news media.”

That’s a hard argument to rebut on the merits, and involving government in the business of defining its watchers doesn’t make good political sense, either.

Indeed, in a midterm election year in which embattled Democrats and their moderate GOP peers need a rallying point to ensure they hang on to their incumbencies, it’s a puzzling political strategy to push legislation that offends the sensibilities of a public already fed up with near-daily revelations of government infringements on their civil liberties.

Cornyn said he believes Senators who support the bill are clearly placing short-term, pet-issue politics ahead of both big-picture political strategizing and the good of the American people.

“Cornyn believes the bill’s timing – and the administration’s backing of it – appears to be aimed at alleviating criticism of the Justice Department’s secret attainment of Associated Press phone conversations and the administration’s similar actions against Fox News’ James Rosen, among other media targeting,” Breitbart reports.

“You remember when this [bill] was recently resurrected? It was essentially an attempt to deflect… from the Department of Justice and this administration… the criticism they were taking [from] James Rosen and other traditional journalists. So, I really question the timing of all of this,” Cornyn said.

White House Releases Propagandist Video Of Michelle Obama Doing Something Great In China

First Lady Michelle Obama locked the press out of her extravagant trip to China on the public dime. But she was fine with spending quite a few public dimes on pieces of propaganda like this, which summarize whatever portion of her trip the White House deems appropriate for people to know about.

Compare that with video propaganda from another nation whose head of state keeps a tight grip on how he’s perceived. Even though Kim Jong-un is posing for an inferior camera and the post production is sketchy, the point of each clip is pretty much the same.

The White House YouTube page entices viewers to “go behind the scenes with First Lady Michelle Obama” on her China trip. Whatever, man – this 1:44 video clip offers a hell of a lot more access than any independent photographer got.

All hail this world’s incredible Supreme Leaders.

H/T: Weasel Zippers, for pointing out the similarity.

CBO: Interest Alone On U.S. Debt To Close In On $1 Trillion Within The Next 10 Years

The latest analysis from the Congressional Budget Office reveals that the interest on existing and projected U.S. debt is on track to approach $1 trillion over the next decade.

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, posted this infographic to demonstrate how the interest on the Federal debt alone stacks up against every major Federal appropriations expenditure in 2014:

CBO---Interests-Costs-To-Dwarf-Virtually-Every-Federal-Expense

As the graphic shows, ten years’ worth of interest payments on projected U.S. debt is nearly 50 times greater than the money our government will spend on the space program in 2014. In fact, it’s almost four times greater than the Federal government will spend this year on every major appropriations-funded program. CBO estimates a cumulative interest load of $880 billion by 2024; for perspective, the current Federal debt stands at approximately $17.5 trillion, with an estimated 2014 interest payment of $230 billion.