Why Do Police In New Mexico Need 42 MRAPs?

The New York Times has a lengthy Sunday piece on the continuing militarization of America’s municipal police, which you can read here.

The article questions the need for, and the possible motives behind, the wholesale adoption of military tactics and gear in cities and communities whose violent crime problems, where they exist at all, typically don’t gibe with comparisons to war zones.

“The [decommissioned military] equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units,” The Times laments. “Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘barbering without a license.’”

People who read websites like Personal Liberty Digest™ likely already know all that. But the story included an infographic from the Department of Defense that offers a breakdown of the number of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles (MRAPs) currently in service in every State — and, even if you accept the premise that armored tank-cars are an acceptable addition to our new era of militarized policing, the proportions in several cases seem to be a little out of whack.

Take New Mexico, the 36th most-populous State in the U.S. with slightly more than 2 million people. If we’re counting the little square boxes on the DoD graphic correctly (the graphic bears a strong resemblance to some Common Core math puzzles), the Land of Enchantment has 42 MRAPs, making it No. 1 among all the States for MRAP-owning bragging rights.

Oklahoma, the 28th most-populous State, is a very close second, with 40 MRAPs in service. South Carolina, 24th on the population charts, has seven more MRAPs (28) than California, which is the most populous State in the Nation.

How many MRAPs do the populous States have? California has 21; Texas has 37; New York has 16 and Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio have 10, eight and eight, respectively.

For some strange reason, local authorities in Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire (which isn’t too far down the population list from New Mexico) and Rhode Island haven’t hopped on the MRAP/military surplus gravy train — or, at last count, they hadn’t done so successfully.

Law enforcement agencies offer a predictable variety of reasons to justify their rush toward militarization, with the appeal of free stuff that local taxpayers don’t have to pay for typically topping the list.

But we like the alternate-universe myopia earnestly reflected in the comments of Pulaski County, Ind., Sheriff Michael Gayer, who (presumably while wearing a straight face) told the Indianapolis Star over the weekend that we live in a Nation that’s all war, all the time — even tiny Pulaski County (pop. 13,124):

“The United States of America has become a war zone,” Gayer told the Star. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Jeez, now we’re afraid to get in our cars at the end of the day and brave the public streets.


Can private citizens get in on the free MRAP racket, too?

Veterans Agree: Obama Administration Should Not Have Swapped Terrorists For Bergdahl

The Obama Administration doesn’t fare well among the general public on the question of whether the U.S. made the right call in exchanging five Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. But among veterans, Obama fares even worse.

A USA Today/Pew poll released today reveals the vast majority of American military veterans aren’t pleased with the Obama Administration for trading five known terrorists for a possible deserter. By a 68-16 percent margin, veterans polled said Obama “made the wrong decision,” according to USA Today.

Asked whether they found Bergdahl a sympathetic figure, veterans were similarly displeased: “Only 6% of veterans who responded say they sympathized with him, while 33% say they were angry,” the summary indicates.

Among the general population, “43% of Americans say it was wrong for Obama to make the deal, compared with 34% who say it was the right thing to do.”

The head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars public affairs office, Joe Davis, told USA Today he believes veterans are angered by what they perceive as the Obama Administration’s subversion of longstanding diplomatic values that reflect American ideals even as they serve soldiers’ welfare.

“If he [Bergdahl] was a captured prisoner of war, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. He put his teammates in jeopardy, and you absolutely don’t do that in a combat zone,” said Davis. The U.S. government has “a long history in this country of not negotiating with terrorists. And we just did.”

The general public also believes, by a 2-1 margin, that the White House should be legally obligated to notify Congress before moving on any prisoner transfer with diplomatic or military implications. Just last year, Obama signed the law obligating him, as President, to do that very thing with regard to Guantanamo Bay prisoners – although he protested the law’s potential to limit his flexibility to “act swiftly” in negotiating such deals.


There’s No Winning: Conscientious Pennsylvania Kid Gets Suspended From School For Voluntarily Turning In Toy Gun

You can’t win for losing with the effete, fearful, gun-obsessed, progressively-correct adults overpopulating the ranks of the Nation’s public school teachers and administrators. One kid who realized he’d accidentally brought a toy gun to school inside his backpack recently tried, and was promptly slapped with a suspension for violating the school’s gun-replica policy.

Darin Simak, a first grader at Martin Elementary in Kensington, Pa., reportedly came to school with an old backpack his mom had dragged out of storage as a temporary replacement for the daily-use backpack he’d accidentally left in a friend’s car. Once at school, he realized there was a toy pistol inside the old backpack, from whenever it was last used.

Evidently aware, on some level, of the school’s no-toy-guns policy, Darin reportedly brought the toy to his teacher and said “I’m not supposed to have this.”

Sounds adorable to us.

Not so much to his teacher or school administrators, though. His teacher allegedly sent him to the principal’s office on the spot, where he was suspended from school. The New Kensington-Arnold School district has a one-year expulsion policy for bringing a replica of a gun to school, although the policy also allows administrators discretion in meting that punishment, based on the circumstances.

The suspension strongly angered Darin’s mother, Jennifer Mathabel, and she resolved after a day had passed to send him on to school anyway. But the principal called her after Darin arrived that morning and allegedly told her to come get her son.

“I said, ‘I’m sending him to school because he is entitled to be in school and be educated,’” Mathabel told WTAE News in Pittsburgh. No dice – the school elected, at that point, to place Darin into in-school suspension while officials contacted his father, who reportedly came and picked him up.

Those in positions of power often argue that they can be trusted with it. But instances like this one illustrate that kids can also learn, through experience, that it’s often better not to engage – on any level – the powerful people they’ve been told they can trust. As long as our fascistic strain of nanny culture continues to permeate American thought and, yes, government, it’s a lesson kids might as well carry into adulthood.

“He did the right thing, and we’re trying to teach him the right way,” said Chris Simak, Darin’s father. “And now they’re teaching him the wrong way.”

Superintendent John Pallone would not comment on the matter to the local newspaper. An expulsion hearing for Simak was scheduled for today.

UPDATE – Following today’s hearing, Darin Simak has been allowed to return to school Monday, with his suspension retroactive to include June 5 and June 6 – the two days of school he “officially” missed.

“I’m glad he can go back to school on Monday and get his last couple of toys the teacher took throughout the year and of course his report card,” Chris Simak told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He was upset that he was going to miss the last day of school.”


Sunday News Show Roundup

Sunday’s TV news talk didn’t add much depth to the ongoing controversy surrounding the United States’ exchange of five Taliban detainees for the mysterious Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but it certainly added to the volume.

The Bergdahl story took center stage Sunday as the Administration of President Barack Obama continued to defend its decision to swap Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl — a soldier who, according to anecdotal reports from those who served with him, allegedly deserted the Army by walking off base in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down on President Obama’s rhetoric last week, which defended the swapping of mid-to-high-level Taliban for Bergdahl as justified, because Bergdahl is “somebody’s child.”

“What I know today is what the President of the United States knows — that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what — to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things, and we would consciously choose to do that,” said Kerry.

“That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anyone would [forsake a soldier]; that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

But the Obama Administration didn’t get much sympathy for its decisionmaking Sunday, nor for the reasoning the President has employed to explain why the prisoner swap represents a good deal. In fact, GOP critics insinuated that the philosophical focus of Obama’s Bergdahl narrative; the Administration’s emphasis on not leaving a lone soldier (or child) behind, distracts from the more serious problems the swap has created for U.S. diplomacy.

“I think that completely misses the problem here,” Michigan GOP Congressman Mike Rogers told ABC’s This Week. “This is a huge regional problem for the United States now,” he added, saying the terrorist trade sends “the wrong message at the wrong time.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a reliable foreign policy hawk, said on “State of the Union” there’s little reason to share the Obama Administration’s faith that the newly-freed terrorists won’t eagerly find their way back to the Taliban terror network.

“Qatar is not renowned for its ability to keep things in security,” McCain said. “We know that 30 percent of those who were released from Guantanamo before have re-entered the fight. These people are in the leadership. They are the ones who are dedicated, the hardest of hardcore, and — by the way — they became a lot harder after their years in Guantanamo.”

Under terms of the swap agreement, the freed Taliban are obligated to live in Qatar, without freedom to leave the country, for one year. There is no restriction on their movements within that country, and the men are reportedly residing in a well-appointed residential compound where they’ve been reunited with family from across the Middle East.

The terrorists’ newfound freedom of movement has grown into a bipartisan concern, with a frustrated Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offering a similarly pessimistic assessment on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I heard John Kerry this morning say, ‘don’t worry about them in Doha [Qatar]’ — you can’t help but ‘worry about them in Doha,’ and we have no information on how the United States is actually going to see that they remain in Doha; that they make no comments; that they do no agitation…and another rumor is that one Taliban has apparently said that he would return to the battle field.

“So it’s a mixed bag, at best.”

Majority Believes Obama Administration ‘Less Competent’ Than Bush, Clinton

A majority of Americans believe the Obama Administration is a less competent occupant of the White House than either of President Barack Obama’s two Presidential forebears: one a Democrat; the other a Republican.

In a wide-ranging phone poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted over the first three days of June, FOX News found that, on the heels of the Veterans Affairs hospital scandal and the controversial exchange of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees, the Obama Administration’s standing among Americans generally has taken a substantial hit.

Asked whether the Obama Administration has made America stronger or weaker, 55 percent of all respondents replied “weaker,” compared with 35 percent who felt the Nation has become stronger under Obama.

That sentiment carried over into questions about the Obama Administration’s comparative strength alongside the Administration of his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, as well as that of President Bill Clinton — Obama’s last Democratic successor in the White House.

Overall, 48 percent believed the Obama White House is “less competent” than the Bush White House, while 42 percent disagreed. And, in an evident indication that Americans continue to hold the Bush Administration in low esteem, even more people believe Obama’s White House leadership to be incompetent when compared with Clinton.

A full 68 percent believe the Obama Administration is less competent than the Clinton Administration, with only 18 percent weighing in in favor of Obama.

And, even though much of the controversy surrounding the Bergdahl release had yet to metastasize at the time the poll was conducted, more people — 47 percent — indicated their disapproval for the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap than the 45 percent who approved.

Additionally, the Bergdahl story — at least in the early going — had failed to focus public attention away from the broad Veterans Affairs scandal. Seventy-eight percent of those polled said they were following the VA mismanagement story either “very” closely (45 percent) or “somewhat” closely (33 percent), while half believed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay receive better healthcare than that received by U.S. veterans. And 59 percent said they disapprove of how the Obama Administration had handled the VA scandal; only 29 percent approved.

Obama’s 54 percent overall disapproval rating nearly matches his all-time high of 55 percent disapproval, which he reached in November of last year. His current approval rating, however, matches the 40 percent he received in that iteration of the poll.

Old CBO: Obamacare Will Save $120 Billion. New CBO: We Have No Idea

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revised – if you can call it that – its forecast on the long-term impact Obamacare will have on the Federal deficit, all but abandoning any attempt at assigning a concrete dollar figure after reporting in 2010 that the law would trim the deficit by $120 billion over ten years.

Now, the CBO is indicating there’s just no telling what kind of financial impact Obamacare will have on the deficit – but, after already doubling its initial estimate of the law’s implementation costs once before, it’s not attempting to set a new estimate this time around.

“Four years after enactment of what is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s key legislative achievement, however, it’s unclear whether the health care law is still on track to reduce the deficit or whether it may actually end up adding to the federal debt,” Roll Call reported Wednesday. “In fact, the answer to that question has become something of a mystery.”

In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law. That conclusion came as a surprise to some fiscal experts in Washington and is drawing concern. And without a clear picture of the law’s overall financing, it could make it politically easier to continue delaying pieces of it, including revenue raisers, because any resulting cost increases might be hidden.

Anyone who’s been watching Obamacare gestate since the President’s first term in office won’t be surprised. Here’s a nice recap from Town Hall:

[O]n the eve of Democrats’ party-line Obamacare vote in 2010, they used a cynically manufactured Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “score” to provide jittery members a fig leaf with which to justify an ‘aye’ tally. The report they hailed purported to show that Obamacare would cost less than a trillion dollars and that it would help reduce deficits. Republicans argued that it was preposterous to suggest that the creation of a brand new, massive entitlement program could possibly save the government money, but triumphant Democrats waved around the CBO document as the gospel truth.

In February, CBO went ahead and let everybody in on the poorly-kept secret: Obamacare would cost at least $2 trillion (emphasis on at least) and – in stark opposition to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) cheerleading assertion that it would actually create 400,000 jobs “almost immediately” – would cost jobs.

Now, the CBO is essentially saying there’s no reason to even try to measure the reality of life after Obamacare. In light of the bad news it brought the last time it tried, that’s a pretty unsettling “no comment.”

Obama-Friendly Study: New EPA Regulations Are Cheaper Than The Cost Of Bad Weather

Because bad weather will happen only if the President doesn’t get his way, automakers will be financially better off just biting the bullet and accepting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposals to curb carbon emissions.

That’s the logical conclusion of a new study commissioned by a trade group with close ties to the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Business Forward, founded in 2009 by a gaggle of Democratic consultants, played its part in the Obama Administration’s climate change drama this week by releasing the new study, which assures American manufacturers that the shared cost of making bad weather go away is nothing compared to the cost of doing nothing.

The study presumes, of course, that industry’s embrace of EPA policy will act as a soothing balm for otherwise-inevitable devastation. Using the automotive sector as a case in point, Business Forward predicts financial mayhem if we don’t curb coal-fired emissions:

The results of the report are striking in two ways.

First, the potential cost of higher electricity rates (adding $7 to the cost of producing a $30,000 car) is quite small, while the cost of weather-related shutdowns is enormous ($1,250,000 per hour). Like most manufacturers, automakers spend less than 1% of their budgets on electricity, which means that if it costs them $100 to manufacture a part today, the EPA’s standards could eventually add 6 cents.

Second, American manufacturers rely on supply chains that are increasingly large, specialized, global and fast. The very characteristics that make them efficient also make them interdependent, and this interdependence is what makes them susceptible to severe weather. Climate change is disrupting our ports, highways, bridges, and rails — and, because producers come from all over the world, severe weather in Asia affects us, too.

An alternate view would suggest that severe weather affects infrastructure in general, and the world has never had as much infrastructure — much of it along waterways and coasts where the vicissitudes of nature toyed with sparse populations long before they burgeoned into sophisticated population and production centers — as it has now. When people put stuff like factories, sewer systems and bridges where there used to be grass and trees, weather tends to amplify mankind’s perception of the power of weather to devastate.

The Obama Administration and apologists like Business Forward take that a step further by adding a massive dose of hubris: If the weather is doing bad things to people, then it’s ultimately up to people to change it. And those who don’t wish to mount such a Quixotic, gargantuan effort, or who question the need or efficacy of doing so, are themselves bad people.

Nowhere does the Business Forward report (full download here) make any attempt to relate the desired outcomes of the newly proposed Obama EPA rules with actual weather. Instead, with progressive hubris at full sail, it simply assumes that EPA policies will fix all the global weather-related problems it attempts to urgently present:

About $60 of the $100 parts suppliers and automakers spend on electricity (per car) is consumed at the final assembly plant. If those costs rise 6.2 percent in 2020, as result of the EPA’s new standards, the assembly line’s cost (per car) rises $3.72. The cost of electricity for an entire shift (8 hours) rises about $1,860. By comparison, if a plant has the typical downtime cost ($1,250,000 per hour), the cost of losing an entire shift is $10,000,000.

If a plant assembles 300,000 vehicles each year, the increase in the plant’s annual electricity-related costs ($1,116,000) is less than the cost of losing less than an hour of production time.

This past winter, several assembly plants lost days of production to severe weather.

This, of course, will only come to an end if the EPA is allowed to curb domestic carbon emissions from American coal-fired power plants.

Now that’s hubris.

The Bergdahl Exchange Video: A Negotiation With Terrorists

Even as State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf continued to insist today that the handover of five Taliban detainees in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl wasn’t a bad deal for U.S. interests, multiple reports continued to emerge that paint the exchange as a multi-tiered disaster for the Obama Administration.

From anecdotes describing Bergdahl’s extended absence as a desertion that needlessly cost U.S. soldiers their lives, to the VA-beleaguered Obama Administration’s evident surprise at how terribly the swap backfired, to stern scolding from Democratic allies over the operation’s secrecy and dubious legality, to the hometown cancelation of Bergdahl’s planned welcome-home celebration – there’s been no political upside for the Obama Administration. On the heels on multiple scandals, the Bergdahl fiasco – entirely a creation of the Obama Administration – is, simply put, a scandal.

Now comes the video – released to western media by the Taliban – showing the moment of Bergdahl’s release into U.S. custody. It’s a bizarre exchange, and, watching it, it’s hard not to see the interaction between Taliban and Americans as nothing more nor less than a negotiation between a powerful sovereign Nation and…terrorists.


Obama’s Popularity Drops In U.S. As It Increases In The Arab World

A new CNN poll out Tuesday demonstrates a continuing decline in President Barack Obama’s policy approval rating across nearly all American demographic categories.

Obama’s general disapproval rating debuted at 23 percent in February of 2009, but shot to 50 percent for the first time in December of that year, outpacing his approval rating (48 percent) for the first time. After reaching a historic high of 56 percent (compared with an approval rating of 41 percent) for consecutive months late last year, Obama’s disapproval rating now sits stagnantly at 55 percent (compared with his current 43 percent approval rating).

As Breitbart observed Wednesday, it’s not just that Obama’s approval rating stinks – it’s that key demographics coveted by progressives have turned on him:

On no single issue does a majority of Americans approve of Obama’s position. On many important issues, e.g. health care, immigration and foreign policy, his approval ratings have reached new lows. Perhaps surprisingly, however, his approval ratings are worst among America’s working class…

It should be noted that Obama’s approval ratings have collapsed across the issues, not just with this sub-group. On voters’ top issue, the economy, 61% of voters disapprove of Obama’s performance. Just 38% approve. Obama’s numbers are 7 points worse than they were on the eve of the GOP landslide in 2010. His approval ratings on health care, illegal immigration, gun policy and the federal deficit have all reached new lows, with Obama’s approval mired in the 30s. On the deficit, 67% of voters disapprove of Obama.

As bad as these numbers are, they are worse among America’s working class voters. On every issue, Obama receives lower marks from those earning less than $50k and those who never attended college than the general population. A staggering 67% of those who didn’t attend college disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, for example. 69% disapprove of his handling of health care.

You can view the full findings in the CNN poll here.

At the same time, Obama’s standing among residents of Arab countries as well as the disputed Palestinian territory, has improved by an order of magnitude in recent years, according to a new report from Zogby Research Services, a K Street consulting firm.

Polling residents of seven Middle Eastern territories – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Palestinian territories (which the survey treats as its own sovereign entity) – Zogby saw dramatic gains in opinion for Obama. “Despite the persistence of negative attitudes toward several U.S. policies in the Arab World, there has been an uptick in U.S. favorable ratings in some Arab countries and an increase in Arab support for President Obama in all countries,” the study’s summary asserts.

That includes a massive jump in Egypt (three percent approval for Obama in 2011, compared with 34 percent today), as well as double-digit gains in nearly every other Arab state.

Unsurprisingly, occupants of the area at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict found the Obama Administration to be far more even-handed in its diplomatic temperament than residents in other parts of the Middle East:

When assessing the United States’ efforts to negotiate a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, overwhelming majorities in every country reject the notion that the United States has been even-handed in these negotiations. It is worth noting that while more than eight in ten respondents in Jordan (88%), Morocco (88%), Lebanon (84%), and Egypt (82%) express this view, Palestinians (and Arabs in the Emirates) are less inclined to be negative. Among Palestinians 30% say the United States has been even-handed (along with 31% of those in the UAE), and 57% say they are not confident in U.S. fairness in the negotiations.

Still, Obama has a ways to go before he’s regarded as favorably among Arabs as Bill Clinton, whom the survey describes as “far and away…the most positive U.S. president in recent history.”

Feds Warn Georgia Not To Enforce Law That Makes Passing A Drug Test A Condition For Receiving Food Stamps

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed into law earlier this year a bill the State Legislature passed that makes passing a drug test an eligibility contingency for some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – aka food stamps.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the ever-expanding SNAP program, is cautioning State officials not to enforce the new law, because it places State-controlled parameters on a program that’s administered under Federal guidelines.

House Bill 772, now a Georgia law, requires drug testing for SNAP applicants who, according to language in the bill, raise a “reasonable suspicion” that they’re abusing illegal drugs. Approximately two million of Georgia’s estimated 10 million residents are on food stamps. Nationwide, government spending on SNAP benefits more than doubled during the five-year span between 2007 and 2012.

The new law was scheduled to take effect July 1, but the USDA warned health officials this week that placing State qualifiers on eligibility for Federal assistance is a violation of Federal law. The agency sent a letter Tuesday to Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton, cautioning that Federal law “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of applicants and recipients.”

Defenders of the Georgia law say the Federal government is making a big deal out of a modest and well-intentioned qualifier, although few are arguing that the law does, in fact, add an additional layer of requirements to SNAP guidelines established at the Federal level – in direct violation of Federal law.

But the State-Federal conflict does expand an ongoing debate over whether Congress should modify SNAP and other forms of public assistance to encourage recipients to help themselves at the same time. Congressional Republicans attempted to tag on a drug testing amendment to the Farm Bill last year in the House, but that effort was weighed down by bad – if facile – public relations, and was abandoned.

Eric Holder Pivots To ‘Homegrown’ Terror

Describing last year’s Boston Marathon bombing as a “homegrown threat,” Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday the revival of a domestic anti-terror task force originally formed during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The goal of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, he said, is to augment Federal law enforcement’s focus on foreign-bred terrorism, rooted in culture and ideology, with redoubled scrutiny directed toward “self-radicalized” nutcases in the United States as well.

The Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC), said Holder, “Will be comprised of leaders from components within the Department of Justice, and co-chaired by a member of the U.S. Attorney community, the National Security Division, and the FBI.” DTEC will engage in information sharing with multiple tiers of law enforcement nationwide to identify and monitor domestic terror threats.

In his weekly video address Monday, Holder explained the revival of the task force as a counter to “the danger we face” from the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, mass shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, both of which he characterized as “homegrown threats.”

Horrific terror incidents like the tragic shootings at Fort Hood and last year’s Boston Marathon bombing demonstrate the danger we face from these homegrown threats.

Now — as the nature of the threat we face evolves to include the possibility of individual radicalization via the Internet — it is critical that we return our focus to potential extremists here at home.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno first launched the task force following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — an attack that later resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh and a life sentence for Terry Nichols, both of whom Federal prosecutors characterized as far-right anti-government radicals.

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Secret Service Solicits Software To Detect ‘Sarcasm’ By Social Media Users

The Secret Service believes it can develop software to help it determine when you’re being a smart aleck on social media. Why that’s important to the Secret Service, though, is a question no computer can answer.

According to Nextgov, the Secret Service is soliciting bids for proprietary software development that will enable the agency to eye not only the content of social media posts, but – the Feds hope – the intent of the people writing that content as well.

The product is being developed for use by the Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs.

In a work order posted on Monday, the agency details information the tool will collect – ranging from emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages.

Its capabilities will include “sentiment analysis,” “influencer identification,” “access to historical Twitter data,” “ability to detect sarcasm,” and “heat maps” or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.

In addition, the software would be capable of sending out messages of its own, though the work order isn’t specific enough to ascertain whether that’s an automated function (as many of the software’s features evidently are designed to be) or a feature that can be tailored for use by an individual investigator.

Bill Would Ban Congressmen From Lobbying For Life – But Does It Have A Future?

Two Democratic Senators have introduced a bill that aims to ban, for life, any former member of Congress from serving as a lobbyist once his public service career has ended.

Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a bill that, in addition to ending the pathway to lobbying for Congressmen, also would forbid former Congressional staffers who’ve become lobbyists from lobbying Congress for six years (as opposed to the current limitation of one year) after their employment with a Congressional office has ended.

Currently, former House members only have to wait one year after leaving office to enter the lucrative world of Washington, D.C. lobbying. Former Senators must wait two years. But the new bill would place a lifetime ban on Congressional lobbying for any former Congressman. It would also require K Street firms to make known any consulting work done by former Congressional staffers.

Both Senators had attempted in February to attach an amendment with similar intent to the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, but that effort died with virtually no further action following its draft release.

While the new bill has obvious public appeal, Bennet has been criticized in his home State for reviving these accountability measures in order to score cheap and essentially meaningless political points with voters.

“Bennet’s populist K Street bashing makes good, short-term political sense,” wrote The Colorado Observer in late February. “But his rhetoric doesn’t exactly match up with his fundraising habits.”

Taking potshots at nameless, faceless “lobbyists” and proposing tough sounding “lifetime bans” and draconian penalties (even if you have no real intention of ever putting them to a vote) may seem like a good strategy for papering over tens of thousands in contributions from lobbying interests. And that kind of duplicity may fly in Washington (which Mr. Bennet is fond of railing against), but it is likely to be far less convincing with those of us who live two thousand miles from the DC cocktail circuit.

Indeed, the new legislation may – perhaps intentionally – get lost in the shuffle once its backers have taken their political benefit from a couple of favorable headlines.

“Congress has typically not enacted ethics or lobbying reform legislation unless a major scandal adds momentum,” The Hill observed Tuesday. “At present, Bennet and Tester’s bill is not expected to receive legislative action.”

Georgia SWAT Unit Responsible For Critically Injuring Baby Has A History Of Violence Toward Civilians

By now, you’ve probably heard about the 19-month-old Georgia baby clinging to life after a local SWAT team executed an unsuccessful no-knock raid on his parents’ home and, in the process, severely injured the child when an officer threw a flashbang grenade into his playpen. But you may not have heard that the task force involved in that raid already was responsible for an innocent civilian death in the recent past.

Bounkham “Bou” Phonesavanh was critically burned when police with the Habersham County Special Response Team (SRT) attempted to enter his parents’ Cornelia, Ga. house last Wednesday to apprehend 30-year-old Wanis Thonetheva — a suspect who allegedly had sold drugs out of the same house the previous day to undercover agents with an affiliated regional drug task force.

The sheriff’s office sought and obtained a no-knock warrant, and showed up at the house the next day. Thonetheva — a suspect who officials believed had used an AK-47 in a previous drug-related altercation with another suspect — wasn’t at the home when the SRT team came calling. But baby Bou and his parents were.

SRT tried to knock in the front door with a battering ram, but officers said it felt as though someone or something was bolstering the door. So they attempted to distract the occupants by tossing a flashbang grenade, which landed right next to Bou in his playpen. The playpen turned out to be the object “blocking” the door.

Three other children were also inside the house but were out of range of the blast. Thonetheva himself was later picked up at another home in Cornelia and charged for allegedly distributing methamphetamine.

MCT/Bou’s parents and sisters attend a prayer vigil for him.

Bou suffered severe facial burns, was placed in a medically induced coma, and was scheduled for surgery Monday to allow him to breathe again on his own.

“He didn’t deserve any of this,” Alicia Phonesavanh, the child’s mother, told a local television reporter. “He’s in the burn unit. We go up to see him and his whole face is ripped open. He has a big cut on his chest.”

After the raid, police said they had no idea a child (or, say, four children) was living in the home, and even told the judge who issued the warrant they had seen no evidence that a child was present. A review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) rapidly found no wrongdoing on the officers’ part, and Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell defended the agency’s policy for conducting SWAT-style no-knock raids.

“Here’s the problem,” The Washington Post’s Radley Balko blogged last Friday: “If your drug cops conduct a raid that ends up putting a child in the hospital with critical burns, and they did nothing that violates your department’s policy, then there’s something wrong with your policy.”

Balko may be on to something there, because, as he noted in a separate post, the Bou incident isn’t the first time the Habersham County SRT has harmed an innocent civilian in the name of drug vigilance.

Bou is fighting to live, but SRT killed its last bystander victim.

In 2009, the same unit killed pastor Jonathan Ayers, who happened to be doing ministry outreach work with a woman whom the SRT had targeted that day for a drug raid. The cops saw Ayers and the woman together in a car, and “switched their focus to him,” as Balko wrote in February.

SRT followed the pair to an ATM, where Ayers withdrew some money to give to the woman so that she could pay her outstanding motel bill and avoid eviction. Plainclothes officers (see Balko’s blog for an image of what one officer was wearing) then rushed the car, and a startled Ayers tried to flee. They shot and killed him. He was completely innocent of any crime. Nevertheless, the GBI cleared all officers of wrongdoing and the agency embarked on a deceitful and (inevitably) unsuccessful campaign to assassinate Ayers’ character.

A Federal jury awarded $2.3 million to Ayers’ wife Abigail, who was pregnant with the couple’s son when Ayers was killed. Harris County has appealed the ruling.

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.