Another Senate Ethics Complaint Against Harry Reid

Claiming that Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) floor attacks on the conservative Koch brothers represent a historic abuse of office, Tea Party Patriots has filed a formal ethics complaint against the Senate Majority Leader Monday before the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin called Reid’s nearly obsessive, hyperbolic public remarks about the Koch brothers, whose political spending trends conservative, an example of “thuggish intimidation” campaigning tactics that improperly use Reid’s elected office as a catbird seat for partisan warfare.

“It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” Martin explained, adding that Reid’s efforts amount to “nothing more than a continuation of the thuggish intimidation campaign mounted by the Obama Administration to target and silence people and organizations Democrats disagree with.”

Martin also pointed out that Reid knows he’s acting out of line when he uses his Senate floor time to steer the day’s topic toward brutal criticism of the Kansas oil billionaires, whom he has repeatedly called “un-American.”

“Reid’s repeated and mean-spirited attacks violate federal laws and Senate rules against using taxpayer-funded resources for partisan politics and he knows it, yet he repeatedly takes to the floor of the Senate and the media to attack those with whom he disagrees — and then turns around and devotes the Senate floor to a ‘talk-a-thon’ on a major donor’s key issue of climate change,” Martin said.

The filing asks the Committee to investigate whether Reid “violated Senate rules by unlawfully and unethically targeting private citizens, Charles and David Koch, whose philosophical and political views are in opposition to Senator Reid’s philosophy and to misuse Senate resources to reward Tom Steyer, a mega-donor to Democrats in the Senate.”

Steyer, a progressive donor driven primarily by environmental concerns, has received increasing scrutiny from Reid’s conservative critics, who counter Reid’s Koch attacks by pointing out the hypocrisy in lambasting the exercise of political free speech through the acceptance of major donations.

Monday’s complaint comes a month after the Roger Villere, who chairs the Louisiana Republican Party, filed a similar complaint — complete with screen captures of anti-Koch campaigning from Reid’s official Senate Twitter account and website — with the Select Committee on Ethics.

Supreme Court Reins In Obama Administration’s Broad Interpretation Of Chemical Terrorism

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Obama Administration’s attempt to apply Federal terrorist charges to a case in which a jilted woman smeared some creepy substance on the door handle of her then-husband’s illicit lover.

The court ruled 9-0 today against the government in Bond v. United States, a case in which prosecutors successfully secured a conviction against the defendant, Carol Anne Bond, on the grounds that she violated the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act of 1998.

That Act makes it a Federal crime to own or use any chemical “weapon” and provides for Federal prosecution of such alleged cases.

Prosecutors had argued that Bond had violated Federal terror laws when, upon discovering that her best friend Myrlinda Haynes had gotten pregnant in an affair with Bond’s husband, she retaliated by intentionally applying toxins to things that Haynes might subsequently touch. The government literally wanted to make a Federal case out of her petty behavior.

Chief Justice John Roberts said a ruling in favor of the government’s interpretation of the Act would have “transform[ed] the statute from one whose core concerns are acts of war, assassination, and terrorism into a massive federal anti-poisoning regime that reaches the simplest of assaults.”

Which is exactly what the Obama Administration was hoping the Court would sanction.

Instead, Roberts highlighted the absurdity of expanding the Federal government’s authority to treat virtually any local matter as a Federal crime:

The question presented by this case is whether the Implementation Act also reaches a purely local crime: an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover, which ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water. Because our constitutional structure leaves local criminal activity primarily to the States, we have generally declined to read federal law as intruding on that responsibility, unless Congress has clearly indicated that the law should have such reach. The Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act contains no such clear indication, and we accordingly conclude that it does not cover the unremarkable local offense at issue here.

Roberts, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, opined that Federal law does not apply to a case that is clearly local in its scope of intent.

Although Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with their colleagues that Bond’s conviction should be overturned, they carried the fallacy of the government’s position even further by indicating the law itself is unconstitutional. A literal reading of the Chemical Weapons Implementation Act, they argued, does suggest the law played the central role in the way in which Federal prosecutors presented their original case against Bond – and therefore should have been outright overturned on Constitutional grounds.


Crime-Prevention Yard Sign: ‘Nothing Inside Is Worth Dying For’

You can have the local home security company come out and plant those little yard signs emblazoned with their logos in your front yard, or you can have this sign, which caught our eye today as we were romping across the Internet:


Definitely an attention-getter.

The sign is sold by Ready To Defend, a pro-gun company that offers signs, door mats and home-defense how-tos at their website. Most of what you’ll see is standard cautionary fare (“Beware Of Owner” or “Go Away”), but there’s just something about a sign that has a well-placed grouping on a target to let would-be bad guys know your house isn’t the one they want to mess with.

Of course, we imagine that most people who would stick a sign like this in front of their home would be prepared to back its message up with action, should the need arise.

Oh, and their “Castle Law Enforced Here” sign is pretty cool, too:



Obama Recovery Shows Recession-Like Contraction In First Quarter

By conventional standards, two consecutive periods of shrinkage in the Nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) indicates a recession. The Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis released its revised assessment of first-quarter GDP growth on Thursday, and the numbers suggest we’re halfway there.

According to the Bureau’s revised analysis, the U.S. economy contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Thursday’s revision represents a small but significant reversal of the Bureau’s earlier estimate, which anticipated the economy would have grown by a stagnant .1 percent during the first quarter.

“The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the ‘advance’ estimate issued last month,” the Commerce Department stated. “In the advance estimate, real GDP was estimated to have increased 0.1 percent. With this second estimate for the first quarter, the decline in private inventory investment was larger than previously estimated.”

The announcement comes on the heels of speculation among financial pundits that the news would be bad, but not that bad. Consensus among experts following last month’s Commerce report was marginally more hopeful, but Thursday’s report was “worse than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists,” according to Bloomberg.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has blamed the contraction on a harsh winter, and many economists indeed received Thursday’s news with circumspection. “Inventories were the biggest negative, and this highlights a subtle change in how the economy works,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett told The Washington Post. “Because of just-in-time inventory management, the economy is much more sensitive to bad weather than it used to be. Inventories are not sitting on shelves, they are in trucks. If the trucks get stuck, so does the economy.”

But The Post’s Jennifer Rubin followed that with this:

President Obama will no doubt claim it’s because they haven’t spent enough money, but that old saw isn’t fooling many people. Between a high corporate tax rate that discourages investment in the United States, Obamacare (effectively taxing labor and directly taxing medical device companies), an out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency, restrictions on domestic energy development and long-term debt hanging over us, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Of course, the weather holds no influence over any of those things.

The economic contraction marks the first net decline in GDP in three years. And the GDP wasn’t the only indicator that performed poorly in the first quarter: Gross domestic income shrank by 2.3 percent.

Note from the Editor: Hyperinflation is becoming more visible every day—just notice the next time you shop for groceries. All signs say America’s economic recovery is expected to take a nose dive and before it gets any worse you should read The Uncensored Survivalist. This book contains sensible advice on how to avoid total financial devastation and how to survive on your own if necessary. Click here for your free copy.

Local Government Attempts To Punish Illinois Woman For Something She Said On Facebook

The Forest Preserve District of Will County, Ill., withdrew a citation issued by one of its forest preserve protection officers after the officer interpreted a local woman’s Facebook posting to suggest she had violated a minor permitting ordinance.

Although officials maintain that the Forest Preserve does not scan social media in order to identify alleged lawbreakers, and that it is not the district’s policy to issue citations based on citizens’ comments on social media platforms, that’s exactly what one officer tried to do before his target used her Facebook page to strike back.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the unnamed Bolingbrook woman had posted this on her Facebook page following a trip to the Whalon Lake Dog Park, where there had apparently been a recent rash of dog illnesses:

I was feeling bad that I haven’t bought a pass and been bringing Ginger there but I’m pretty glad I haven’t. So not going to worry about it until later. I hope all the doggies get better soon.

A persnickety Forest Preserve employee, whose name the Forest Preserve wouldn’t release, informed an enforcement officer of the posting. The preserve issued the woman a citation, which carries a $50 fine, under the assumption that she had “knowingly entered a dog park without a valid 2014 permit.”

The woman took to Facebook again to dispute both the citation and the allegation behind it. The para-governmental Forest Preserve backed down, telling the Tribune it is in the process of trying to contact the woman to offer an apology, and that the citation is “under review.”

“We treat any information like that as a tip and that has to be verified before any action is taken on our part,” district director Marcy DeMauro told the paper. “We would go to the dog park to see if that individual is actually there and using the dog park without a permit.”

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.

‘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.”

Democrats Will Participate In House Select Committee On Benghazi

After almost two weeks of waffling over whether to participate in the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Benghazi, it appears as though Democrats have decided to join in, giving the investigative panel a bipartisan makeup.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named five Democratic Representatives to the Select Committee Wednesday afternoon, rounding out the 12-member panel (seven Republicans; five Democrats). The Democratic appointees are:

  • Elijah Cummings (D-Md.): Ranking member, Committee on Oversight And Government Reform
  • Adam Smith (D-Wash.): Ranking member, Armed Services Committee
  • Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.): Committee on Appropriations (Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.): Committee on Ways and Means (Subcommittee on Oversight)
  • Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): Armed Services Committee, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Cummings — perhaps more familiar to casual news watchers for his questionable role in the Internal Revenue Service discrimination scandal as a member of the Oversight Committee — will sit as the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee.

Although Pelosi had originally indicated that House Democrats would essentially boycott the committee on the grounds that Republicans are just waging a political witch hunt against the Administration of President Barack Obama, pundits have speculated that she had sought to buy some time in order to reach a consensus with Democratic Party leaders over how best to control whatever damage might arise from the committee’s investigation.

“Pelosi had begun to lean in the direction of participating in the select committee on Benghazi, if for no other reason than to keep from getting left behind in the narrative,” conservative news blog Hot Air observed Wednesday.

The delay in the decision came from Pelosi’s desire to twist arms on committee rules for Democratic participation. That presumed that Republicans are desperate to have Democrats take part in the select committee for reasons of credibility and respectability. Supposedly, that would force [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] and chair Trey Gowdy [R-S.C.] to allow the minority to have more control over the direction of the committee’s work, and to get equal power and authority — both of which Pelosi refused in her own 2007 select committee on global warming.

The House voted 232-186 on May 8 to establish the select committee to investigate the events surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the Obama Administration’s response to the tragedy. Boehner named seven Republicans to the panel, with Gowdy as chair:

  • Susan Brooks (R-Ind.)
  • Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
  • Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)
  • Martha Roby (R-Ala.)
  • Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)
  • Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)
  • Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

The timetable for the committee’s investigation is open-ended, and it could extend its activity well beyond the November midterm Congressional elections.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the Benghazi attack. The Obama Administration initially blamed the attack on a satirical YouTube video made by an American that Muslims in the destabilized region found offensive, and ordered State Department staffers to sell the media — and the public — on the veracity of that long-debunked narrative.

Obama Administration Secures Bailout For Obamacare Insurers

Insurance companies who’ve been repeatedly told – at least in public – that there’s no reason they should need government assistance to ensure the Obamacare era is a profitable one now have a taxpayer-funded bailout waiting for them if the Affordable Care Act’s provisions cause them to lose money.

The Los Angeles Times reported today on a set of new regulations quietly issued last week that effectively guarantee insurance companies a safety net if they can’t make a profit selling Obamacare.

“Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a ‘bailout’ for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law,” wrote Noam Levy for the Times. “They continue to argue that most insurers shouldn’t need to substantially increase premiums because safeguards in the healthcare law will protect them over the next several years.

“But the change in regulations essentially provides insurers with another backup: If they keep rate increases modest over the next couple of years but lose money, the administration will tap federal funds as needed to cover shortfalls.”

We previewed these proposed regulations not long after Obamacare launched, so today’s news isn’t “new” – it just represents the point of no return for the Obamacare provision known as “temporary risk corridors” to become a part of the overall law.

Risk corridors represent a mechanism intended to correct miscalculations in the insurance industry’s ability to anticipate pricing risk when it sets policy rates for a given year. In other words, they’re a margin-of-error safety net to help the industry have some wiggle room if it doesn’t correctly predict what its coverage risks will be at the time it commits itself to a schedule of fixed prices.

But they’re certainly not designed to function as a means of correcting the government’s politically-driven (and probably foreknown) miscalculation of risk. The Obama Administration – along with anyone else who’s been paying attention – has known since last year that the economics of Obamacare are upside down; that the young and healthy demographic must enroll in sufficient numbers if the entire system is to recover costs and return a profit to insurers.

Little has changed since last November.

“This system was supposed to pay for itself, as does a similar one used to shift money between drug plans in the Medicare Part D program,” the Times observed. “But insurance industry officials have grown increasingly anxious about the new system’s adequacy.”

The risk corridors trick is a complex one, and, because Obamacare is in its first year, no one’s been bailed out yet. But the means to do so, with government money, are now in place.

Not Newsworthy: CNN Boss Warns Network May Not Cover Benghazi Select Committee

CNN won’t be guilted into covering the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi terror attack if its content directors believe the investigation isn’t newsworthy, network president Jeff Zucker told a reporter Tuesday at an awards event in New York.

“We’re not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something,” Zucker reportedly told The New York Times’ Bill Carter. “If it’s of real news value, we’ll cover it.”

That’s a timely promise, because nothing says a network has a firm grasp on stories of real news value like chasing a missing airplane for two months amid global crises, national scandals, Congressional gridlock and a primary season for midterm elections – then firing your news editor for serial plagiarism.

On the other hand, CNN’s leaders appear poised to innovate new ways to get a disinterested cable viewing audience to sit through climate change lectures shaming people into a government-led effort to save the Earth.

“Climate change is one of those stories that deserves more attention, that we all talk about, but we haven’t figured out how to engage the audience in that story in a meaningful way,” Zucker said. “When we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience’s part.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) committed five House Democrats to serve on the now-bipartisan Benghazi Select Committee earlier today, setting the stage for an open-ended investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the Obama Administration’s handling of the tragedy.

Amash Takes On The NSA (Again)

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mi.), the libertarian-leaning first-term House member who came close to scoring a major legislative victory over the National Security Agency last summer, is back again with two similar amendments to this year’s defense spending bill. If the narrow defeat of his effort last year to defund the NSA’s metadata program had a silver lining, it’s that his second try might just succeed.

Last July, a defense bill amendment authored by Amash and co-sponsored by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, which would have stripped funding from the NSA’s bulk phone metadata collection program, lost in the House of Representatives by only seven votes. It was a much closer call than pundits (and even some informed lawmakers) had anticipated, and reflected a strong political will among Congressmen to respond to the Edward Snowden scandal with meaningful reform.

“Justin Amash almost beat the NSA. Next time, he might do it.” That was The Washington Post’s story headline the day after Amash’s NSA amendment died on a 205-217 House vote. POLITICO went with “Justin Amash prevails as amendment fails.”

Now we’ll see if that momentum will carry over into the debate on this year’s defense bill. There’s reason for optimism: Not only has Amash introduced two amendments this time around, but there’s a separate, more comprehensive standalone bill before the House — the USA Freedom Act — that, if successful, would obviate the Amash amendments, which are intended as a “backstop” in case the Freedom Act fails.

Amash attached the pair of amendments precisely to give the Freedom Act a helping hand, as National Journal reported Tuesday:

The amendment, offered to the Rules Committee, is meant as a fail-safe in the event the Freedom Act does not also come up for consideration this week in its current form or something closely resembling it, said Will Adams, Amash’s chief of staff. House leadership has scheduled the bill for “possible consideration” this week, but backdoor dealings that may change it continued through the weekend and spilled into this week.

“If negotiations keep dragging on and we don’t get consideration of the Freedom Act this week, we will use our opportunity to move with the NDAA legislation an amendment that would address NSA surveillance,” Adams said.

The first of Amash’s new amendments would fund NSA data seizures authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court only if each search order is accompanied by a statement that specifically delineates “selection terms” — presumably search query words — deemed worthy of suspicion by the court. It would also give a 180-day shelf life to each court order.

The other amendment codifies the above stipulations in a general ban on bulk collection, requiring each NSA data search to target a specific subject on “reasonable grounds to believe that the call detail records sought to be produced based on the specific selection term are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with section 501(a)(2) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978…”

To read the present incarnation of Section 501(a)(2), click here and scroll down to page 42. It’s perhaps worth noting that sections 501 and 502 of the FISA are set to revert next June to their original language prior to the creation of the Patriot Act — unless, of course, the current language is reauthorized between now and then.

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.

Connecticut Assembly Bans Chocolate Milk To Protect Federal School Lunch Funding

Facing the threat of losing its Federal funding carrot for public school lunches under a Michelle Obama-backed child obesity law, the Connecticut General Assembly last week approved a measure banning chocolate milk from being made available in lunchrooms throughout the State.

On the final night of the State’s legislative session, the Assembly passed a series of amendments to education bill HB 5566 that included language defining which types and quantities of milk can be served in school cafeterias — and chocolate milk, because of its sodium content, will effectively get the axe.

Pat Baird, dietician and president of the State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said the decision is counterproductive to improving the quality of kids’ diets, because the benefit of ditching the small amount of sodium contained in each serving of chocolate milk will be negated — and then some — by the discouraging effect that banning a popular drink will have on kids’ participation in school lunch offerings.

From CT News Junkie:

“This will have a significant impact on school meal participation and ultimately nutrient intake for students,” Baird said. “School chocolate milk has between 60-90 mg added sodium, which is only 2-4 percent of sodium intake in a day. Removing chocolate milk hardly moves the needle on added sodium intake; but what it does remove is critical nutrients for growth and development.”

She said the majority of the milk sold in schools is chocolate and “research has shown that when chocolate milk is not served, milk consumption drops 35 percent and does not recover.”

Baird’s remarks were echoed by other health professionals following the vote.

Governor Dannel Malloy said last week he disagrees with the chocolate milk ban, which most media sources have interpreted as an indication of his intent to veto the bill. But this statement from the Governor’s office forms the basis for that assumption:

“This specific bill has not yet come to the Governor’s desk and will be reviewed in detail when it arrives. However, on the broader topic at hand, the Governor is not supportive of banning chocolate milk in public schools. While we must be extremely mindful of the nutritional value of what’s offered to students, ensuring an appropriate array of options helps to ensure that kids receive the calcium and other nutrients they need.”

It sounds as though the Governor would like to veto the bill — if in doing so he doesn’t strike out the bevy of other provisions that keep the Federal dollars rolling in.

One Republican on the Connecticut House Education Committee said the vote wasn’t intended as a nanny-state dictate to parents and children on what students should or shouldn’t eat — although the effect is the same. Rather, said Representative Timothy Ackert, the Assembly was staring down the possibility that the Feds would yank funding for school programs if the State didn’t approve the measure to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, for which first lady Michelle Obama served as lead cheerleader during her husband’s first Presidential term.

In addition to sometimes-amusing reports of students’ vehement rejection of the new school-lunch mandates, health professionals’ concerns that overall participation in school-lunch programs have suffered under the Act were indeed confirmed in a March Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The GAO found that student participation had declined by more than 1 million since 2010, while 48 States had struggled to enact the dietary standards without resorting to odd food combinations or adding new menu items kids simply don’t want.

Nevada Trashes Its Failed Obamacare Website

Nevada became the latest State to abandon its State-managed Obamacare online marketplace Tuesday, ending its relationship with the company that had been hired to set up and manage the Nevada Health Link exchange and referring future customers to the Federal Obamacare website,

Nevada’s insurance commission, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, unanimously voted to part ways with Xerox after losing confidence that the company could adequately correct a series of ongoing problems with the State exchange website in time for Obamacare enrollment this fall. The Silver State board emphasized that its reliance on could end at the State’s discretion, should Nevada make a future attempt at contracting to develop a new State-managed Obamacare website.

Nevada had awarded Xerox a $75 million contract, which was supposed to have produced a fully-functioning website and an underpinning enrollment database to track customers’ plans and payments. Silver State exchange board members and elected officials reportedly reached a consensus that it made no sense to push forward with a potentially costly fix, with Xerox at the helm, lacking a clear timetable or estimate of the final bill.

Nevada residents filed a class action lawsuit against Nevada Health Link in early April, alleging that the service failed to insure them even after they enrolled and paid their premiums. On the heels of the class action came a report from consulting firm Deloitte, which had been hired to assess whether it makes financial sense to salvage the Xerox-run exchange. “[T]he current project team has not proven they can successfully deliver the required management, processes or solution to successfully deliver an operational exchange,” Deloitte advised.

Nevada joins Oregon as the two States to give up completely on an in-house Obamacare marketplace for the coming 2015 enrollment period by reverting to; Maryland and Massachusetts have also abandoned their expensive Obamacare websites to start over on State-managed websites officials hope to deploy in time for fall enrollment. Hawaii’s State-run exchange – the most expensive Obamacare site, per enrollee, in the Nation – also appears to be on the way out.

Bad Money After Worse: Democratic Congressman Pushes Bill For Federal Green Energy Bank

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has redoubled his efforts to drum up grass-roots support for a piece of legislation that seeks to create a Federal bank dedicated solely to issuing loans for green-energy projects, five years after the same bill died in the Senate.

Van Hollen introduced the bill on April 30, and has been issuing urgent press releases and YouTube videos selling the idea.

Van Hollen’s plan would establish a Federal Green Bank out of an initial offering of $10 billion in Treasury bonds, supplemented by “the ability to acquire another $40 billion from Green Bonds,” as the Congressman explained.

“These funds will spur development of clean energy markets through loans, loan guarantees, debt securitizations, insurance, and other forms of financing support or risk management for qualified clean energy and energy efficiency projects,” Van Hollen’s press release states. “The legislation includes tax provisions on deductibility of foreign-related interest expenses to offset the Green Bank cost.”

Sound familiar?

When the bill first came before Congress in 2009, it passed the House before being killed off in the Senate. That was before the Solyndra collapse of 2011, which left the Federal government on the hook for nearly $400 million out of $536 million it had loaned the company through favorable terms under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – as well as a host of lower-profile green-energy failures bankrolled by the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Millennial Generation Rejects Affirmative Action In MTV Survey

Last week, MTV released the results of a survey the pop-culture network commissioned as part of a larger, agenda-driven project to normalize cultural outliers, emphasize racial prejudices and, in the company’s own words, “address bias.”  Most of the respondents agreed it’s bad to treat people differently because of the color of their skin – a sentiment that carried over into respondents’ opinions about affirmative action.

Davis Binder Research, the data and consulting agency that carried out the three-month survey, found that the kids don’t think government should intervene with schools and employers to force the selection of applicants based on their racial background.

In fact, 88 percent of the 3,000 young people interviewed for the survey said they couldn’t get behind affirmative action, because it demonstrates preferential treatment based on racial differences. A full 90 percent said schools and employers should treat everyone equally, regardless of race. And 70 percent said it’s “never fair to give preferential treatment to one race over another, regardless of historical inequalities.”

If those results seem to subvert MTV’s historical effort to foment progressive sympathy in young viewers, then maybe it’s a function of phrasing the question wrong – because the survey question leaves plenty of room for free, unencumbered thinking:

Despite the reality of their experience, their unwavering belief in equality trumps all else and makes it difficult for them to support affirmative action (Note ‐ there was no statistical difference by race for first two bullets).

88% believe that favoring one race over another is unfair, because of their belief in equality.

90% believe that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race.

70% believe it’s never fair to give preferential treatment to one race over another, regardless of historical inequalities. (65% for POC [people of color], 74% for White).

The numbers-based portion of the survey that yielded the affirmative action data specifically targeted the young and pop-savvy demographic: 14-24 year-old people who indicated they were MTV viewers. Along with the objective questions, the respondents also got a healthy dose of questions that presumed a general consensus on social issues, without offering the young viewers much wiggle room.

“65% would be interested in a tool to help them work on their biases,” one survey item observed.
“They want to join a campaign to understand more, talk more and develop tools to help combat bias. Two in three (68%) say that they want to join a campaign that, ‘aims to start a conversation around bias, empowering America’s youth to better recognize bias in themselves and their surroundings, challenge it when they see it, and help create a future with more equal opportunity.’”