‘Tase The Bitch’ Police Beating Death Leads To Lawsuit

The conduct of municipal police in Sherman, Texas in a brutality incident that killed a woman last year has now elicited a lawsuit from the victim’s sister.

Last August, police in Sherman – located about an hour north of Dallas – stopped 51 year-old Lesa Surratt after she allegedly committed a lane change violation. She was taken out of the car and, along with passenger Monica Garza, was placed in the back of a patrol vehicle.

The police report alleges that Garza, seated alongside Surratt in the police cruiser, witnessed Surratt attempt to swallow a small bag of cocaine, and that an officer developed a suspicion that the stop would yield a drug arrest.

So, according to the lawsuit, the officer “climbed in the back seat, across the body of Garza, and began striking Surratt with open fist and then his flashlight to get her to spit up the cocaine.”

That didn’t work, so the officer allegedly started choking Surratt with his flashlight until she passed out.

Courthouse News picks up the complaint:

[Police officers John] Doe 2 and Doe 3 removed Surratt from the vehicle. On the ground, Officer [Brian] McClarin gave the order to “Tase the bitch.” McClarin and Does 2-3 then began hitting Surratt with open hands and flashlights. One of the officers Tased Surratt upon the orders of McClarin. Surratt had lost consciousness as a result of this continuous excessive and deadly force, including being choked with the flashlight in the vehicle.

Officer Does 4-5 arrived and began intimidated [sic] and removing witnesses from the scene of the civil rights violation. They told a witness videotaping the encounter to put away his video phone and go home.

Surratt lay on the ground for 20 minutes or more convulsing in seizures before any of defendants called for an EMT. She was in obvious need of medical treatment from the time she was removed from the patrol car. She was allowed by the officers to continue to deteriorate to the point of being brain dead.

Surratt stayed on life support until Sept. 2, when she died. An autopsy revealed asphyxiation as the cause of her death.

Surratt’s sister, Linda Surratt, filed a Federal lawsuit on Sunday against the City of Sherman, McClarin and four other police officers.

After receiving notice of the suit, Sherman City Attorney Brandon Shelby released a statement to local media pointing out that a Grand Jury declined to move forward with any criminal charges:

On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, while in police custody, Lesa Surratt was able to free herself from handcuffs and retrieve a baggie of a controlled substance (identified as cocaine in the lawsuit) from her person.  She attempted to swallow the baggie, became asphyxiated and lost consciousness.  She received prompt medical attention, but later died from her injuries.

The actions of the Sherman Police Officers were investigated by the Texas Rangers and the findings were presented to a Grand Jury.  No charges were filed and the officers were cleared.


Americans’ Social Views Continue Leftward Trend

The gap that has separated the predominately conservative social outlook of a majority of people from the more liberal social views of a growing minority has closed almost to the point of parity, according to the latest Gallup survey of Americans’ attitudes toward economic and social issues.

The poll finds that 34 percent of Americans still consider themselves conservative when it comes to social issues, compared with 30 percent who say their views are more permissive. That’s the closest margin separating the two groups since Gallup began polling on the topic.

“Americans’ increasingly liberal views on social issues are apparent in trends showing that the public is exhibiting greater support for gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, and having a baby outside of marriage, and diminished support for the death penalty,” Gallup summarized in its Wednesday report.

Gallup detects a partisan trend behind society’s slow move to the social left:

Conservatism is still the dominant ideology in the U.S. when Americans are asked to describe their political views overall and when asked about their views on economic and social issues separately. However, the conservative advantages are shrinking, in large part because of Democrats’ increasing likelihood of describing their views as liberal rather than conservative or moderate.

With the conservative advantage on social issues down to four points, it is possible in the next few years there will be more Americans describing themselves as socially liberal than as socially conservative. This movement is consistent with trends Gallup has seen on specific issues, perhaps most notably Americans’ views toward gay rights and legalizing marijuana.

Still, Gallup finds that conservative thinking underpins the majority of Americans’ attitudes toward economic issues, and that the political left has lost ground as more Americans embrace conservative fiscal values.

“Conservatives maintain a healthy advantage on economic issues, so if more Americans ever do come to view themselves as economic liberals than as economic conservatives, it would not be anytime soon,” the report concludes.

Big Business Balks At Obama’s Forthcoming EPA Regulations

As the U.S. energy sector awaits the release of new regulatory proposals from the Administration of President Barack Obama, the Nation’s biggest business lobby warned Wednesday that the new Environmental Protection Agency rules, if adopted, will soon have the energy industry shelling out $50 billion in unnecessary costs every year.

A study released Wednesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asserts that the Administration’s attempt to curb domestic power plants’ carbon emissions levels will cause an annual loss of an estimated 224,000 jobs, annual financial losses of $50 billion and the closure of more than one-third of coal-powered plants — all by 2030.

The EPA is expected to release its draft proposal early next week.

About one-third of the Nation’s electrical power is supplied by power plants that burn coal. The new proposals would be particularly devastating to energy-sector jobs in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other States with a coal-based power infrastructure, the report predicts.

Chamber president Karen Harbert told media outlets on Wednesday that the new rules will deliver “a big, economy-wide hit” when implemented.

“You start looking at close to home there in West Virginia, you’re looking at — on an annual basis in the South Atlantic, it includes Appalachia — a $10 billion hit every year and 60,000 jobs lost every year,” Harbert said. “… If we show what this does to our economy, is any other country going to want to follow us when they look at the type of job losses and economic losses? That would scare them into doing, probably, the exact opposite. The idea that the United States can come in and just solve this problem on its own is just absolutely incorrect.”

At issue in the new proposals is an aggressive cap-in-trade rule that opponents believe will punish energy companies and consumers barely achieving measurable results on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Power companies could bend the rules to meet their EPA emissions requirements by trading emissions credits or participating in government incentives to adopt (and pay for) renewable-energy technology.

The study concludes that consumers would pay nearly $300 billion in higher energy costs over the next 15 years, even though overall emissions will decline by less than 2 percent — and global emissions from burgeoning, energy-hungry countries will continue to rise.

‘Global Warming’ A More Effective Propaganda Buzzword Than ‘Climate Change’

Get ready for a subtle shift in the way progressive politicians and policymakers stoke their arguments in the eternal debate over mankind’s role in changing the weather.

A Yale University study has unearthed a useful piece of information for aggressors in the ongoing war of words: people get more agitated when confronted with the phrase “global warming” than they do when they hear “climate change.” That means alarmist rhetoric intended to foster broad support for government-mandated interventionist programs aimed at staving off rising tides and global temperatures will be peppered with references to “global warming,” while references to “climate change” are likely to fall away.

According to the Yale study, Americans who were presented with the issue of “global warming” as a societal problem were 13 percent more likely to view the phenomenon with trepidation than when presented with the more benign “climate change” tag.

“The use of the term ‘climate change’ appears to actually reduce issue engagement by Democrats, Independents, liberals, and moderates, as well as a variety of subgroups within American society, including men, women, minorities, different generations, and across political and partisan lines,” researchers concluded. “…While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”

As The Guardian observed Wednesday, the American political establishment’s obsession with the climate-change propaganda lexicon isn’t new. The George W. Bush Administration employed “global warming” during his first term before adopting a second-term campaign strategy of quarreling with progressive political foes by switching to “climate change” – because, as a strategy memo advised him, “’climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming.’”

Under Barack Obama, both terms have given way to more action-oriented language intended to promote the Obama Administration’s environmental policies, like “clean energy” and “green jobs.” The President, however, is on the cusp of a second-term policy push to advance an aggressive climate change agenda through new EPA policy proposals targeting coal-fired power plants to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

Those new rules – along with an attendant salvo of climate change propaganda from the Obama Administration – are expected to be announced early next week.

Cellphone Eavesdropping Devices Make Their Way To Local Law Enforcement

A report last week out of New York confirms the acceleration of a growing trend among municipal law enforcement agencies to embrace sophisticated surveillance methods typically used (and abused) by law enforcement at the Federal level.

This one involves eavesdropping technology that allows a remote person to access all the metadata on a subject’s cellphone via a device called a “stingray.” According to Buffalo, N.Y.-based WGRZ, the Erie County, N.Y. sheriff’s office has stopped publicly discussing his department’s use of the devices on the grounds that doing so would compromise ongoing investigations.

But how does a stingray work?

“A stingray is a device that mimics a cell tower and thereby tricks all wireless devices on the same network into communicating with it,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in March. “From a privacy perspective, this is worrying because it collects information about the devices and whereabouts of innocent third parties, not just the target of an investigation. In addition, it can pinpoint targets with extraordinary precision, meaning that individuals can be tracked even when they are inside their homes. Although some of the devices sold in this country are configured not to capture the content of communications, many offered for sale by surveillance vendors can be used for eavesdropping.”

In other words, technology isn’t what’s standing between a cellphone user and a cop listening, in secret, to that user’s conversation in real time. Rather, it’s simply the cops’ solemn promise they’ll only collect your metadata (bad enough) and that they’ll never listen in on what you’re saying.

That honor-system policy has worked great at the Federal level, has it not?

“There is a real question as to whether stingrays can ever be used in a constitutional fashion,” warns the ACLU. “They are the electronic equivalent of dragnet ‘general searches’ prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. But unfortunately, there are currently no statutes or regulations that specifically address how and under what circumstances stingrays can be used, and very little caselaw.”

Last week’s story out of New York is only the most recent in a growing list of known cases in which local police are reportedly using the devices. The ACLU notes that Oakland, Calif., has been using stingrays since at least 2007. Since that time, at least eight other law enforcement agencies in California alone have adopted their use.

FBI Unified Crime Report: Gun Murder Rate Continues Its Decline

The latest updated crime report from the FBI demonstrates a continued decline in the number of firearms-related domestic murders, even as consumer interest in guns has soared under the threat of new Federal gun control legislation.

From the FBI’s updated tally of homicides (along with the manner in which they were committed) to reflect crime data from 2012, we find that the gun-related murder rate has declined slightly: from 12,795 murders in 2011 to 12,765 murders in 2012.

That represents the smallest incremental decrease of the past five years. But it continues an established pattern of a steady decline in the number of gun-related homicides, even as the U.S. population has increased and demand for guns has surged.

Judging from the number of pre-purchase background checks processed through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) database, 2012 was a record year in terms of consumer interest in buying firearms. That interest went through the roof in the final weeks of 2012 following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, which elicited aggressive gun control rhetoric from the Administration of Barack Obama and actual gun control legislation in several States.

“Background checks are one of the best ways to gauge gun sales, since federal law mandates gun stores conduct one for each purchase,” The Atlantic Wire reported last year. “It’s more unclear than ever how many gun purchases get a check, but the number of background checks is far higher now than in previous years. 2011 and 2012 were both significantly above the 1998 — 2010 monthly average; 2013 was higher still.”

Despite that, the number of homicides by gun continues to trickle downward.

As ever, handguns are used to commit murder far more often than other types of guns. In fact, as Breitbart observed, “more people are killed each year with fists and hammers than are killed with rifles or shotguns.” That’s supported by the FBI’s data table for murder victims by weapon, which can be viewed here.

New Group Takes Aim At Obama Administration’s ‘Operation Choke Point’

We’ve written before about Operation Choke Point, an anti-fraud program that the Department of Justice is improperly and illegally using as an excuse to make life hard on certain types of legal businesses — including gun retailers.

Now a coalition of businesses and individuals opposed to DOJ’s abuse of the policy has formed a whistleblower-style “response page” to fight OCP, and they’re calling the program what it is: “a U.S. government program responsible for ending banking relationships with private-sector companies and their customers.”

The webpage for the United States Consumer Coalition (USCC), a new organization that aims to take down the abusive program, solicits real-life stories from people and business whose financial services have been restricted by banks under DOJ pressure not to do business with “high-risk” clients — even clients who, prior to OCP, had enjoyed the use of those same banking services, without a hiccup, for years.

“Whether you are a company who has lost your banking relationship, a customer who has lost your bank account, or a bank employee who has been told to close client accounts, please tell us your story here,” USCC encourages. “We may contact you for more information but your response will be considered confidential and anonymous.”

USCC is also asking for current and former government and banking employees to offer up what they’ve seen behind the scenes. “Are you a government employee who works for the Department of Justice, FDIC, or another federal agency and you want to stand up for America’s consumers?” the website solicits. “Tell us your story about Operation Choke Point by emailing us…”

The organization, which appears to have launched sometime in March, isn’t focused solely on Operation Choke Point. It also takes aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency regulations that stifle economic growth and limit consumer choice.

The USCC isn’t alone in its opposition to OCP; the backlash against the program appears to be gaining momentum on multiple fronts, as more consumers and businesses — typically small, mom-and-pop operations or individual contractors — encounter denials of financial services thanks to the Obama Administration’s massaging of anti-fraud laws. So far, banks don’t want to deal with the hassle of selective Federal scrutiny, so they’ve simply been complying with the DOJ’s demands to yank accounts from clients the government has suddenly deemed “risky” — even though the clients’ activities are legal.

“This administration has very clearly told the banking industry which customers they feel represent ‘reputational risk’ to do business with,” Peter Weinstock, a Texas lawyer who specializes in banking and corporate regulation, told The Washington Times earlier this week. “So financial institutions are reacting to this extraordinary enforcement arsenal by being ultra-conservative in who they do business with: Any companies that engage in any margin of risk as defined by this administration are being dropped.”

Co-Sponsor Justin Amash Slams House Approval Of Watered-Down NSA Reform Bill

It says a lot when a bill’s co-sponsor ends up voting against his own legislation once it’s made its way through the committee carwash process and come out sterile on the other side. That’s what Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mi.) did today, casting a “no” vote against the USA Freedom Act he helped co-sponsor, even though the bill passed the House on a 303-121 vote.

Amash slammed the markup process that stripped the bill of many of its significant reforms, even as House members who passed the bill, along with an approving President Obama, can bask in scrutiny-free headlines that will make them look like privacy heroes.

Amash posted the following to his Facebook page ahead of today’s vote:

Today, I will vote no on ‪#‎HR3361, the ‪#‎USAFREEDOMAct.

I am an original cosponsor of the Freedom Act, and I was involved in its drafting. At its best, the Freedom Act would have reined in the government’s unconstitutional domestic spying programs, ended the indiscriminate collection of Americans’ private records, and made the secret FISA court function more like a real court—with real arguments and real adversaries.

I was and am proud of the work our group, led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, did to promote this legislation, as originally drafted.

However, the revised bill that makes its way to the House floor this morning doesn’t look much like the Freedom Act.

This morning’s bill maintains and codifies a large-scale, unconstitutional domestic spying program. It claims to end “bulk collection” of Americans’ data only in a very technical sense: The bill prohibits the government from, for example, ordering a telephone company to turn over all its call records every day.

But the bill was so weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations over the last week that the government still can order—without probable cause—a telephone company to turn over all call records for “area code 616″ or for “phone calls made east of the Mississippi.” The bill green-lights the government’s massive data collection activities that sweep up Americans’ records in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The bill does include a few modest improvements to current law. The secret FISA court that approves government surveillance must publish its most significant opinions so that Americans can have some idea of what surveillance the government is doing. The bill authorizes (but does not require) the FISA court to appoint lawyers to argue for Americans’ privacy rights, whereas the court now only hears from one side before ruling.

But while the original version of the Freedom Act allowed Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act to expire in June 2015, this morning’s bill extends the life of that controversial section for more than two years, through 2017.

I thank Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte for pursuing surveillance reform. I respect Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Rep. John Conyers for their work on this issue.

It’s shameful that the president of the United States, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the leaders of the country’s surveillance agencies refuse to accept consensus reforms that will keep our country safe while upholding the Constitution. And it mocks our system of government that they worked to gut key provisions of the Freedom Act behind closed doors.

Read all of Amash’s remarks at his Facebook page.

Issa: Classified State Department Email Shows Obama Administration In Benghazi Damage Control Mode Before Attack Was Even Finished

On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) revealed the existence of a classified State Department email that creates fresh questions about the Obama Administration’s handling of the Benghazi, Libya terror attack, even as it was taking place.

Without revealing the full contents of the document, Issa said that a State Department email under the subject line “Update on response actions – Libya” was transmitted at 9:11 p.m. ET on Sept. 11, 2012 (3:11 Libya time) to the Diplomatic Security Command Center. That places its timing well within the timeline of the unfolding terror attack in progress.

Issa said the email goes over a number of issues put forth during a video teleconference “attended by Senior Administration officials.” One of those issues demonstrates the Obama Administration was already turning its attention toward YouTube – the host site for the now-infamous “Innocence of Muslims” satirical video that the Administration immediately blamed for the attack (or “protest,” as White House talking points memos called it.)

From Issa’s floor speech in the Congressional Record:

Among the items noted in this e-mail, one states: ‘‘White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic]to advise ramifications of the posting of the Pastor Jon Video.’’ Among descriptions of actions from different agencies, the e-mail says nothing else about what the White House was doing that night.

If the White House was reaching out to YouTube while the attack was taking place, there are two competing interpretations for what it means – neither of them good. Either the State Department and the Obama Administration truly believed that a video on YouTube precipitated the attack, or they knew that the video had nothing to do with it and started their damage control even as the attack was still unfolding.

Issa believes the truth can be found in the latter of those two interpretations.

“This information is troubling for two reasons,” he said:

First, it contradicts White Press Secretary Jay Carney’s claim this month that White House assertions about an Internet video were ‘‘drawn directly from talking points produced by the intelligence community.’’ The intelligence community talking points that were used, in part, to brief Ambassador [Susan] Rice were not even requested until September 14—three days after the attack and the White House’s decision to embrace its storyline.

Second, former Libya Deputy of Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks—who spoke to Ambassador Christopher Stevens on the phone during the attack—indicated that it was immediately clear to him that the assault on the Benghazi diplomatic compound was a terrorist attack and not a protest of a YouTube video gone awry. Retired Brigadier General Robert Lovell, who had served as Deputy Director for Intelligence and Knowledge Development at U.S. Africa Command the night of the attack also testified that the assault on the Benghazi compound was clearly identifiable as a terrorist attack and not a protest gone awry.

…“Third and finally, the e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative — one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground — before Americans were even out of harm’s way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence. According to the e-mail, the White House—at 3:11 am Libya time—had resolved to call YouTube owner Google about an Internet video being responsible for violence more than two hours before Americans Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by militants at 5:15 am.

What Issa is saying, then, is that the Administration was dedicating its time and manpower to damage control even as people on the ground were dying.

Harry Reid’s Senate Dictatorship The Real Reason For Congressional Gridlock

Even though President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have spent the better part of two years hammering obstructionist Republicans for refusing to compromise on legislative measures, it’s interesting to take a step back and look at Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) conduct as Majority Leader during that time.

Reid’s domineering control over Senate Democrats, as well as his ironfisted grip on Senate procedure, reveals a dictatorial leadership style that has stifled activity in the Senate to a degree that Republicans — as well as his predecessors in the Majority Leader’s role — surely must envy.

The Hill — an ostensibly impartial observer of political goings-on in Washington, D.C. — released a report on Reid’s leadership style Thursday that carried a remarkable headline for a publication that attempts to play things down the middle: “An imperial majority leader?”

The story stated flatly that no Senate Majority Leader has ever enjoyed the power that Reid now wields, thanks largely to his historically unprecedented use of “strong-arm tactics” and his eagerness to freely promote an acrimonious partisan atmosphere that, combined with his orchestrated rule changes in Senate deliberative procedure, make it virtually impossible for Republicans — and even collegial Democrats — to get a damn thing accomplished.

“Reid’s tight leadership reins have protected vulnerable Democrats from having to take tough votes and helped them amass a 55-seat majority,” the story states. “He routinely puts legislation on the floor as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, denying the minority and even members of his own caucus the chance to amend it.”

Here’s an interesting bit of insight into the way in which Senate leaders can, if they choose, fuse the chamber’s inscrutable rules of procedure with non-binding Senate custom to exercise monopolistic control over the manner in which proposed legislation travels through the markup process:

Experts say the Senate rules do not formally empower Reid to block colleagues from offering amendments to bills and steering the course of the political debate.

Instead, Reid has made extensive use of the precedent set by Vice President John Nance Garner, a Democrat, who as president of the Senate, granted the majority leader the right of first recognition on the floor. The five-term senator [Reid] has used that right of recognition to repeatedly fill the available slots for amendments to various bills, a process known as filling the tree, leaving colleagues no opportunities to offer their own ideas.

Senate historian Donald Ritchie agrees that Reid has controlled the floor debate more than any previous leader.

“Sen. Reid is certainly doing it more than his predecessors,” he said.

As the story notes, Republicans haven managed on only nine occasions to vote on amendments they’ve proposed since last July. They have Reid’s gavel style to thank for that.

Yet Reid joins the Obama narrative that shifts blame for repeated stalemates in the Senate to the GOP, beholden as its establishment is (so the narrative goes) to its wacko, intractable Tea Party base.

“If that makes me powerful, that’s too bad,” he told The Hill, “because the only reason that we’re doing this is because for five and a half years, everything this president has tried to do, they’ve stepped in the way. They’ve done it with… unrealistic demands.”