Now it’s sexist to call Hillary only by her first name

Forget Madonna, Marilyn, Liz and Oprah. While it may be a testament to those icons’ power and fame that they can be recognized simply by their first names, it’s apparently a sexist degradation to Hillary (does she still use “Rodham”?) Clinton to presume the same standard should apply to the former first lady.

Don’t let the fact fool you that there’s literally a “Ready for Hillary” PAC, either. The pros get to call this their way; the antis, not so much. If you don’t have anything nice to say about Hillary … Clinton … don’t say you weren’t warned if her supporters start calling out your overt sexism the next time you forget to use her full name.

“[S]ome Americans, mostly women, don’t think the former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady should be called by just her first name,” McClatchy reported Tuesday in a story that made liberal use of the “some people say” journalistic device.

“As Clinton gets ready to kick off her campaign for the White House, some wonder whether calling a female candidate by her first name reinforces gender stereotypes,” McClatchy wrote.

Nothing else in the report credits a specific pro-Hillary group with making that assertion; rather, the story cites this review of Clinton’s 2008 campaign messaging, relying on a collection of anecdotes to flesh out the varying opinions of folks on the street.

But there’s at least one group <a “nofollow” href=”http://personalliberty.com/things-female-reporter-cant-write-hillary-clinton-without-accused-sexism/” target=”_blank”>out there that’s attempting a similar co-opting of words’ meaning, threatening to out as sexist any reporter who uses descriptors like “calculating” and “polarizing” to describe Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, that is.

S.C. cop killing shows police wield immense power over life and freedom

Pretty much anyone with access to an American media source is aware, by now, of the video showing the moment when a 50-year-old man took his last steps on Earth — shortly after encountering a local cop during a routine traffic stop in South Carolina.

Walter Scott was the intended target of at least eight shots allegedly fired by Michael Slager, a 33-year-old North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer. Scott, who allegedly attempted to flee the officer on foot after being stopped for a taillight violation, had already been zapped by a stun gun and showed no signs of surrendering. The video appears to show that Scott was far more interested in escaping custody than in doing harm to the cop attempting to apprehend him.

Either way, Scott was hit by the gunfire and he died. Whatever gunshots landed on Scott’s body, they were fired from behind him as he ran away from the officer. It’s more than fair to say he was defenseless against the use of deadly force.

The cop is white; Scott is black. And mainstream news outlets are predictably excited over a new, tragic piece of fodder to feed their appetite for race-baiting stories of titillating and violent inequalities. In this case, blaming race may be a right call; then again, maybe it’s not. No one knows what’s in the head of Slager, the alleged shooter. He’s been charged with murder; and if he’s indicted, much more of what motivated him to allegedly kill Scott will come to light.

But unless and until that information comes forth, there’s a far more immediate concern that everyone, no matter their color, can share: The cultural and systemic status quo in 2015 almost shrugs at the fact that routine law enforcement actions can rapidly become coroner calls. In the U.S., law enforcement — even regulation enforcement — is implicitly endowed with a state sanction to use deadly force.

“[R]unning from an officer doesn’t result in the death penalty,” Scott family attorney Chris Stewart told CNN, perhaps speaking of the world that should be — instead of the world that is.

Picking up on a story in The New York Times that brings racial identity into its lead sentence, PJ Media’s Michael Walsh observed:

Leave it to the New York Times to instantly racialize the incident; after all, the Narrative must be advanced at every opportunity. But this story is larger than that. Because, in this era of militarized, trigger-happy police, what officer Slager [allegedly] did to poor Walter Scott could happen to any of us

… How? Simple. Give the police near-total immunity for their behavior as “public servants,” instruct them to bring in money by just about any means necessary, rely on the conservatives to support almost any excess, enjoy the blessing of the state and federal courts, and provide them with enough weapons — not just guns, but tasers, nightsticks, huge flashlights, etc. — to take down and out anyone who resists. We can sort out guilt or innocence later, possibly posthumously. Joseph K. had a better chance at justice in Frank [sic] Kafka’s The Trial.

Too often in the U.S., victims of police violence never get anywhere near a trial — either the officer’s or their own.

Homeland Security promises ‘close tabs’ on ISIS fighters back on U.S. soil

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson assured a television audience Sunday that the government is closely watching the movements of an estimated 40 Americans who traveled to ISIS-controlled territory to help expand the Islamic State and have since returned home.

Johnson told CBS News’ Leslie Stahl that DHS is aware of more than 100 Americans who have left to join ISIS — including the 40 who have safely returned to the United States and have resumed their private activities.

“As I understand it, of the 180 Americans who have gone overseas to fight in Iraq and Syria, 40 have come back. I assume you’re keeping close tabs on those 40?” Stahl clarified with Johnson during a segment that aired Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

“We have, in fact, kept close tabs on those who we believe have left and those who’ve come back. A number have been arrested or investigated, and we have systems in place to track these individuals. But you can’t know everything,” Johnson replied.

The flow of Americans to Iraq and Syria — and then back to their U.S. homes — has been going on for months, as a September 2014 report in the New York Post makes clear. Since the trend began, federal law enforcement officials have told the press it is following a strategy of observing them, without always apprehending them, once they’re back on U.S. soil.

“The FBI is keeping a watchful eye on those who have returned home after serving with the barbaric terrorists, who have taken over large portions of northern Iraq and Syria, the administration says,” the Post reported last fall.

A law enforcement source told the Post that the Americans appeared not to be motivated by ideology. Rather, the source described them as “thrill seekers” who have no desire to “come back and blow up America.”

However, the evidence that Islamist ideologues are using the U.S. as a recruitment and staging area for domestic terror plots and overseas fighting isn’t merely circumstantial. Federal officials have charged four men — most recently an Uzbek citizen dwelling in New York City — with an array of crimes centering on an alleged scheme that aimed to funnel “material support,” including people, to the Islamic State.

Failing that, the conspiracy allegedly sought to carry out terror attacks on U.S. soil.

If one of the men would not be able to obtain transport to Syria to join ISIS, for example, he would instead “just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police,” according to a CNN review of a criminal complaint against one of the group’s members.

Utah town wants to collapse dad’s front-yard cardboard box fort

A father in Ogden, Utah, thought it would be fun to take a bunch of 5-by-4-foot cardboard boxes and build his two kids a fort in the front yard. So he did, and now the city is breathing down his neck to have the fort torn down for violating local building codes.

Not content to let Ogden resident Jeremy Trentelman take the fort down at his leisure — or wait for the weather to inevitably render the temporary structure useless — the city wants the fort to come down fast. Trentelman received a notice that he has until April 13 to disassemble the fort or pay a fine.

Trentelman, who built the fort earlier this month, told Yahoo! News the flap over the fort “is just ridiculous.”

“I thought I was just building a fort out of cardboard, tape and a little love, but apparently it’s making a statement,” he said. Trentelman works as a floral designer, and sourced the boxes “from the home and garden center where he works,” according to the report.

The idea was to entice his kids — 3-year-old Max and 2-year-old Story — to learn to love the outdoors instead of getting hooked on passive indoor entertainment. “I had warm, positive memories from my childhood about forts, and thought it was a great way to spark imagination, away from the TV,” he explained.

But the city views the boxes as a violation of building codes, since, according to its interpretation of the ordinance, they’re nothing more than “waste materials or junk” cluttering up Trentelman’s front yard.

Trentelman appears circumspect about the whole affair, though — perhaps because, with a temporary structure, the stakes are lower than they’d be if he’d erected something costlier and more permanent. He’s planning to extend the life of the fort — which, according to Buzzfeed, has already begun to suffer from the erosive effects of outdoor existence — until April 13, just to prove a point.

“It probably would have come down tomorrow,” Trentelman told Buzzfeed for a weekend story. “Now to make sure that it survives, I have been stockpiling some cardboard.”

Missouri may ban junk food, steak and lobster for food stamp users

A Missouri state legislator is seeking support for a bill that would end food stamp recipients’ ability to purchase processed snack foods and sodas, as well as some “luxury” foods, in the Show-Me State.

Republican Missouri State House Rep. Rick Brattin’s bill would amend current state law to prevent participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from using their benefits to buy “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.”

The goal, Brattin told Kansas City’s KMBC, is to “reduce the luster of the [food stamps] program and it will have the effect of a drawback because the ability to buy anything and everything under the sun will no longer be there.”

Some opposition to the bill’s ban on seafood and steak compelled Brattin to promise a revision in the language “so that low-cost nutritious items are not banned,” KMBC reported.

Currently, all foods that bear nutrition labels are fair game for food stamp purchases in Missouri. According to Washington Examiner, the USDA has been reluctant to release information that reveals SNAP participants’ buying habits nationwide — evidently in an effort to protect large food retailers from negative publicity.

“Information on how many food stamp dollars are redeemed at which stores has long been deemed a ‘trade secret’ by a U.S. Department of Agriculture that critics believe views large retailers, not taxpayers, as its clientele,” the Examiner reported last August.

The USDA has been embroiled since last year in a legal debate over how transparent it can be — or refuse to be — with SNAP sales data, arguing that divulging such information could compromise retailers’ proprietary marketing strategies.

But small retailers have shown little resistance to the idea of sharing their SNAP figures, arguing that Americans should know how public funds are being used by the beneficiaries who receive redistributed wealth.

After the USDA asked for input from retailers last year on whether SNAP data really does rise to the level of a “trade secret,” the response “turned into a soapbox for clerks at small markets who said they are tired of selling unhealthy food to people,” according to the Examiner.

“I think the public should be aware of the SNAP benefit spending. We get people in here that buy just candy and soda,” wrote Annette Griffin, owner of a Missouri convenience store.

“If it is a government program, and not affecting the safety or security of the American people, then the data should be provided for public review,” wrote another service station owner from Yucca, Arizona.

The food stamp flap prompted the Examiner to send observers out into the Washington, D.C., area to collect anecdotal information on what kind of foods SNAP users appeared to be buying with their benefits.

“Days of monitoring food stamp transactions in D.C. by the Washington Examiner found that virtually all purchases were for soda and snacks like Ho-Hos and Little Debbies,” it reported Monday.

“Out of hundreds of transactions, only one person bought bread, and no one bought vegetables.

“No one was observed buying lobster or filet mignon, either — though a nearby seafood mart that specialized in lobster did advertise that it accepted the stamps.”

The EPA’s Clean Water Rule is now in the White House’s hands

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent along to the Obama White House the final draft of its contentious overhaul of the way U.S. bodies of water are defined. A review of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget comes next, and then we finally get to see what’s included — and what’s left out — of the final version.

Based on a message EPA director Gina McCarthy blogged Monday, chances are the changes won’t placate the many who argued, during the rule’s comment period, that the EPA was about to gain micromanagement-level controls over seasonal streams, creeks and ponds on private property. McCarthy was short on offering specifics, but she used language that suggests the EPA’s emphasis hasn’t shifted.

“Since it’s not final yet, we can’t speak to every detail,” she wrote, before offering to “broadly share some of the key points and changes.” Here’s her rundown:

  • Better defining how protected waters are significant. A key part of the Clean Water Rule is protecting water bodies, like streams and wetlands, which have strong impacts downstream — the technical term is “significant nexus.” We will respond to requests for a better description of what connections are important under the Clean Water Act and how agencies make that determination.
  • Defining tributaries more clearly. We’ve heard feedback that our proposed definition of tributaries was confusing and ambiguous, and could be interpreted to pick up erosion in a farmer’s field, when that’s not our aim. So we looked at ways to refine that definition, be precise about the streams we’re talking about, and make sure there are bright lines around exactly what we mean.
  • Providing certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule will protect wetlands that are situated next to protected waterways like rivers and lakes, because science shows us they impact downstream waters. We will provide a clear definition about what waters are considered adjacent waters.
  • Being specific in the protection of the nation’s regional water treasures. We heard concerns that the category we called “other waters” in the rule was too broad and undefined. We’ve thought through ways to be more specific about the waters that are important to protect, instead of what we do now, which too often is for the Army Corps to go through a long, complicated, case by case process to decide whether waters are protected.
  • Focusing on tributaries, not ditches. We’re limiting protection to ditches that function like tributaries and can carry pollution downstream — like those constructed out of streams. Our proposal talked about upland ditches, and we got feedback that the word “upland” was confusing, so we’ll approach ditches from another angle.
  • Preserving Clean Water Act exclusions and exemptions for agriculture. We will protect clean water without getting in the way of farming and ranching. Normal agriculture practices like plowing, planting, and harvesting a field have always been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation; this rule won’t change that at all.
  • Maintaining the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. Some state and local governments raised questions about waters within these permitted systems. We listened carefully as we did not intend to change how those waters are treated and have considered ways to address this concern. We will also continue to encourage the use of creative solutions like green infrastructure and low-impact development, as many of these communities have advocated.

It’s too early to tell how significant the changes in defining “protected” waterways and catchments will be. And, at any rate, most of this rule’s heft will be felt only insofar as the prevailing administration is willing to torture its meaning. A zealous EPA under a zealous regulatory regime can wield the same statutory power far differently than can a more laissez-faire administration that focuses only on large-scale or egregious abuses and violations.

The Hill reported Monday that a public airing of what the final rule contains could still be months away.

Chris Christie pardons Pennsylvania mom busted for concealed carry in New Jersey

Shaneen Allen, a Pennsylvania mother of two who didn’t know she was entering a “gotcha” zone when she drove across the New Jersey state line with a handgun in her purse, is clear of all charges following an 18-month legal ordeal in which a prosecutor had originally hoped to pursue harsh punishment as a caution to others.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pardoned Allen last week “for all criminal charges and indictments arising from the arrest occurring October 1, 2013,” wiping the slate clean. Allen had been charged with unlawful possession of a handgun and unlawful possession of hollow nose bullets. If convicted, she would have had a felony on her (spotless) criminal record and would have served a mandatory minimum of three years in prison under New Jersey’s sentencing law.

Allen, a black woman with two small children, obtained her weapon after enduring a pair of robberies. National Review wrote an excellent summary of her ordeal back in July of 2014:

A single mother of two young children, Allen works more than one job and as a result leaves her home at odd times of the day. After two robberies made her aware of her vulnerability, she became convinced that she should be prepared to defend herself and her family, and resolved to do something about it. Which is to say that Allen bought her firearm, and obtained her concealed-carry permit, not to commit crimes but to prevent them. This has failed to move the prosecutor, Jim McClain, an overzealous man who has routinely declined to use the considerable latitude with which he has been entrusted by the state.

Under New Jersey’s rules, McClain could have declined to press any charges against Allen, recognizing that she was guilty of little more than an innocent mistake. He could have treated it as merely a misdemeanor and sent her to municipal court. He could have permitted her to enroll in one of the diversionary programs that New Jersey has established for peaceful first-time offenders, thereby sparing her both the prison time that will take her away from her children and the felony conviction that will almost certainly destroy her career in medical work. Instead, he has sought punishment to the fullest extent of the law: in this instance, a three-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, and an extra year or more for possession of illegal ammunition. This is a travesty of justice.

You may have seen McClain’s name in other news — he’s the New Jersey prosecutor who took the lenient path with NFL running back Ray Rice, who was captured on video in February of last year violently striking and knocking out his current wife in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.

Allen entered New Jersey in order to attend a surprise birthday party for her 3-year-old son. Her gun never left her purse during her ill-fated trip. She had jumped through every requisite hoop in order to legally possess the weapon in Philadelphia. She’d passed an NRA handgun safety course. But she didn’t know that New Jersey doesn’t recognize other states’ concealed carry permits. She spent 40 days in jail before posting bail.

Christie did not remark on features of the case, other than to observe that the state parole board had “made an investigation of the facts and circumstances” surrounding Allen’s request for the pardon.

The usual apologists are not even trying to spin the miserable March jobs report

As weak as the monthly jobs reports have been for a long while, last month’s report is bad enough that the usual suspects aren’t even attempting the typical spin.

According to monthly data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. labor force added a slight 126,000 jobs in March, even as the rate of participation in the total labor force fell, once again, to 62.7 percent. That’s the lowest rate of participation since 1978, and it’s one that the U.S. economy has repeatedly flirted with throughout President Obama’s second term.

“Five times in the last twelve months, the participation rate has been as low as 62.8 percent; but March’s 62.7 percent, which matches the participation rate seen in September and December of 2014, is the lowest since February of 1978,” CNS News reported Friday.

March’s figures also mark the first time in the nation’s history that the number of qualified people who have opted out of the labor force has exceeded 93 million. BLS considers people not to be participating in the labor force if they have not actively sought, held or obtained employment during the most recent four-week period.

While Obama’s Secretary of Commerce blamed the poor report on bad weather, Obama himself blamed globalism and a strengthening dollar.

“Because the economies in Europe are weak, the economies in Asia are weak, the dollar is becoming stronger because a lot of people want to park their money here, they think it’s safer, but that makes our exports more expensive,” Obama told a Kentucky audience. “So we’ve got to stay hungry.”

The BLS numbers also revealed a decline in income for Americans across all economic segments — except those in the top 20 percent — in 2014. The top 20 percent of earners’ annual incomes managed an average of .09 percent growth from July of 2013 to June of 2014. The national average income — including those in the top 20 percent — declined by .09 percent over the same period.

Federal encroachment gambit may be pillar of a Ted Cruz presidential platform

Promising to curb the federal government’s overreaching approach to land management issues may be key to extending Sen. Ted Cruz’s appeal to voters in western states, continuing a theme the Texas Republican began hammering during last year’s standoff between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

The strategy could be crucial to helping distinguish Cruz from a crowded field of GOP presidential aspirants, particularly in western states where opposition to heavy-handed federal land-use policy doesn’t always emanate from only one side of the political divide.

“This is something that has been a perennial issue in the West since it became part of the United States,” geography professor James McCarthy told The Hill in a recent story highlighting Cruz’s presidential hopes. “It’s a staple of western politics to complain about that.”

The political upside to poking a stick in the eye of the federal government is, for candidates, appealing — primarily because it makes for good “soft” rhetoric until a candidate chooses to disclose his specific blueprint for reforming the system.

In other words, Cruz and other potential candidates aren’t likely to announce how they’d change the federal government’s land management policies anytime soon, because they’re able to get plenty of mileage from speaking generally.

In Cruz’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he lacks ideas.

“Should the senator seek to build a firewall for his campaign in Nevada, he could tout his work on land issues in the Senate, such as his sponsorship of amendments that would prohibit the Interior Department and Forest Service from owning more than half the land in any state,” The Hill noted.

Still, it’s unlikely that Cruz or any other successful candidate will ever attempt to make good on ambitious campaign promises that suggest millions of acres of protected lands could one day be taken away from the Feds and placed under the control of the states.

That kind of promise “will help him in the primaries … but he’ll never have to deliver on it,” McCarthy said.

D.C. drops appeal of court’s concealed carry ruling

Washington, D.C., will stop trying to appeal a court decision that had struck down the city’s unconstitutional ban on the concealed carry of handguns. That’s according to Karl Racine, the attorney general for municipality.

Racine said the city will instead attempt to bolster the controversial law its leaders passed as a replacement for the one struck down by the court last year. Critics of the new law believe it, too, is unconstitutional because of the numerous constraints it places on residents who seek to obtain a concealed carry permit.

The city formerly had banned handguns outright, but a federal court found that ban unconstitutional and ordered the city to craft a new law that would afford Washington residents a means of legally possessing handguns in public.

City leaders responded with a “may issue” permitting ordinance that burdens the applicant with the task of proving to police that he has a demonstrable need to defend himself. Additionally, under the ordinance, the city makes no other provision for justifying to the government the “need” to possess a handgun other than to satisfy a right to self-defense.

Very few people have obtained a concealed carry permit under the new law, and its most vocal critics continue to draw attention to ways in which the city appears to be stonewalling the permitting process.

Nevertheless, the city is pinning its hopes for litigation-free gun policy on its new ordinance. “We need to focus our energies not on litigating old laws, but defending new ones that our leaders enacted in good faith to comply with court rulings while still protecting public safety,” Racine said in a statement.

The new law is already being challenged in a pair of lawsuits, one of which accuses the city of failing to comply with the order U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin handed down in July of last year.

Treasury Department claims redesigned website is more transparent — as search features disappear

A recent overhaul to a federal website designed to inform the public about how its money is spent has stripped the site of its most robust search features. But that hasn’t stopped the Treasury Department from touting the redesign as a move toward greater transparency — one of the Obama White House’s signature initiatives.

The Treasury Department blogged Wednesday that USASpending.gov has sustained “improvements … in order to make it easier to review existing federal spending data.” Even though Treasury titled that blog posting “Transparency Refresh,” a recent report at the Washington Free Beacon points out that the department has, in fact, dealt the comparative transparency of the old site a significant blow.

“[T]he new site has dramatically limited the ability to easily access how taxpayer dollars are spent in real time and eliminated searching for keywords and sorting government grants and contracts by date,” wrote the Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington. “Detailed information is only available in bulk.”

By law, USASpending.gov must report on all federal contracts that exceed $3,000. Unlike the old site, the new version does not allow users to view a contract in detail unless he knows the federal grant ID number that corresponds to the contract.

Treasury’s Fiscal Assistant Secretary, David Lebryk, explained Wednesday in a blog post that the reworked site “provides simple searches with user-friendly titles for data elements,” but did not explain that simplifying queries to be “user friendly” evidently was done at the expense of specificity.

“The new site does not allow users to search multiple years simultaneously, by multiple agencies, or for keywords,” the Beacon observed. Without that capability, it’s not possible for a visitor to the site to identify a specific expenditure; rather, a user can get only a general picture of how funds have been used over a range of time or across an entire accounting unit.

In other words, wrote Harrington, identifying a specific government contract using the new site is “virtually impossible, akin to finding a needle in a haystack.”

On average, Americans must work past April 24 to clear tax burden for 2015

The Tax Foundation offers this handy conceptual statistic every year. And it seems that every year the day that working Americans finally begin to keep what they earn is pushed farther away from Jan. 1 and closer to Christmas.

This year’s “Tax Freedom Day” — the day in the calendar year when the average American earner is clear of his total tax burden — is April 24. That’s one day later than the “Tax Freedom Day” for 2014, continuing a trend of tax encumbrance that shows no sign of permanently reversing.

The Tax Foundation uses available data to pinpoint the average tax obligation for all Americans who pay federal, state and local taxes. For 2015, earners will have to advance 114 calendar days into the year — assuming they continue earning for the entire year — before their wages stop going to various governmental collectors and start going into their wallets.

Here’s how the Tax Foundation explains it:

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year.

While the concept of projecting a “paid in full” date for government taxes might seem like a gimmick, it offers a useful way to compare the ratio, on average, of America’s total tax burden with earners’ ability to generate revenue. The farther into a calendar year the “Tax Freedom Day” falls, the greater the proportion of earnings (on average) American workers must pay to the government before (legally) holding on to what’s left.

In fewer words, the later “Tax Freedom Day” falls on the calendar, the worse the news is for those who like to keep what they earn. Who wants to work for nearly one-third of the calendar year just to reach the turning point — when everything they earn thereafter finally begins to accrue to their benefit?

The Tax Foundation retroactively applies its “Tax Freedom Day” designation to each calendar year dating all the way back to 1900. While there are some fluctuations, the general trend over the past 115 years has steadfastly progressed (regressed?) toward increasingly later dates in the calendar year before earners can, on average, begin claiming the money they earn as their own.

“The latest ever Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000, meaning Americans paid 33 percent of their total income in taxes that year,” the Tax Foundation observes.

But compare that with this:

A century earlier, in 1900, Americans paid only 5.9 percent of their income in taxes, meaning Tax Freedom Day came on January 22. The last time Tax Freedom Day was this late [circa 2015] in the year was 2007 (April 25).

Punish the whistleblowers while they’re young

G.B. Shaw is credited for popularizing a wry truth: Youth is wasted on the young. As we age, most of us tend to reach a point when that observation makes complete sense, but perhaps it should come with a corollary: Maturity is wasted on the old.

What does that mean? It means that adults who are supposed to have achieved some perspective on how to usher along new generations of people ought to know — and ought to do — better than they often do. Even worse is when adults screw things up so royally — precisely while they’re in the act of trying really hard to do what they myopically perceive as the right thing.

Take the case of 11-year-old Brianna Cooper of Ft. Pierce, Florida, a fifth-grader who saw a teacher allegedly abusing her fellow students and recorded, on her cellphone, what transpired.

Brianna’s video got the teacher fired. But it also led to a knee-jerk reaction that got Brianna suspended for five days. Only after a public outcry over the unfairness of punishing a child for blowing the whistle did the school reverse that decision.

West Palm Beach’s WPTV reported:

Instead of receiving praise, Cooper says she was suspended for five days when the school said her video was illegal.

“I thought I did the right thing, but I guess I just got suspended,” Cooper said.

Cooper says one of her science teachers was being mean to a student, so she took out her cellphone and started recording her teacher.

In the recording, Cooper says you hear the teacher say, “Don’t let size fool you. I will drop you… You don’t know me, that’s all I’m saying. So, don’t give me no look.”

Cooper said the teacher had been mean to students before. She says she took the video to prove it.

It got a bit uglier, and then two things happened:

  1. The school opened an investigation and dismissed the teacher (whom administrators declined to name in their press release).
  2. Brianna was suspended, initially for violating the teacher’s expectation of privacy, according to the school. That’s an odd expectation, since students routinely record their teachers for the mundane and benign purpose of recalling their lectures.

Brianna’s mother, Cassie Faulkner, fought to have her daughter’s suspension overturned. She prevailed, but she said the entire incident conveys a bad message to young people whose sense of moral pragmatism is founded, in part, on observing how grown-ups react to adversity.

“It’s pretty much saying to students if you think something is wrong, don’t try and do anything about it,” Faulkner said.

Hillary Clinton emails are a complete mess; contradict nearly everything she’s claimed about Servergate

Hillary Clinton comes off as confused, myopic and downright clueless in a number of email exchanges that have made headlines thanks to recent inquiries from a number of news outlets.

In one exchange, brought to light after the AP released emails it obtained through a FOIA request, Clinton doesn’t know that she’s supposed to be talking with her adviser, Huma Abedin, about a Pakistani-Taliban over the remains of a crashed U.S. drone. Rather, Clinton believes she’s discussing interior furnishings.

Here’s the relevant portion of that exchange. It’s of note that Clinton refutes her own post-scandal assertions that she only used one mobile device while serving at the State Department:

hillary clinton email exchange with Huma Abedin

The AP isn’t the only news outfit to have recently uncovered some interesting tendencies Clinton exhibited, through her emails, while she served as Secretary of State. ProPublica and Gawker have published a pair of stories that delve into Clinton’s relationship with longtime ally Sidney Blumenthal, calling into question her assertion that the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a surprise reaction to an anti-Muslim video.

Only two weeks before the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, Clinton was receiving detailed intelligence on the situation on the ground in Libya. All of this was being communicated via her private email account. That account, according to congressional investigators, has not yielded any Benghazi-related emails from among the trove of “official” documents Clinton turned over to the State Department. Does that mean Clinton intentionally omitted exchanges like these before handing over her State Department emails to the Feds?

“One memo was sent on August 23, 2012, less than three weeks before Islamic militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi,” Gawker reported. “It cites ‘an extremely sensitive source’ who highlighted a string of bombings and kidnappings of foreign diplomats and aid workers in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, suggesting they were the work of people loyal to late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi.

“While the memo doesn’t rise to the level of a warning about the safety of U.S. diplomats, it portrays a deteriorating security climate. Clinton noted a few days after the Benghazi attack, which left four dead and 10 people injured, that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t have advance knowledge of the threat.”

The significance of that observation is hard to emphasize too greatly. Scroll to the bottom of Gawker’s story and read the embedded memo from Aug. 23, 2012, which were taken “verbatim” from Libya intelligence memos obtained by ProPublica. There’s a lot of detail in the descriptions of the declining security in Libya — and no mention of a video.

McCarthy admits none of EPA’s pet issues is of do-or-die importance to the environment

It’s not clear how she served the Obama White House’s environmental agenda by saying so, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a reporter this week that there isn’t an issue among the agency’s pet policy initiatives that, if left untweaked, would lead to climate catastrophe.

At an event hosted by news company Politico, McCarthy fielded questions — among them one posed by the publication’s own Mike Allen, who asked the EPA chief whether approving completion of the Keystone XL pipeline would lay the foundation for an environmental disaster.

“No,” she answered. “I don’t think that any one issue is a disaster for the climate, nor do I think there is one solution for the climate change challenge that we have.”

Politico went with that for its headline — “EPA’s McCarthy: Keystone alone wouldn’t be climate disaster” — for a story on the event.

If anything, McCarthy’s remarks seem to be part of the agency’s multi-pronged approach to regulating climate change — or at least mankind’s responsibility for it — out of existence. But in defending the implicit idea that the EPA needs to be innovating ways to pervade American business life with regulations, she also offended the pipeline’s loudest complainers.

“Gina McCarthy would do well to look at comments published by her own EPA, warning that Keystone XL would accelerate development of the tar sands oil field in Canada, which in turn would mean game over for our climate,” said environmentalist Karthik Ganapathy in an email to Politico.

Questioning the motives behind Harry Reid’s ‘retirement’

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s decision not to seek a sixth term appears to have emboldened critics to speculate on the strange circumstances surrounding the timing of the Nevada Democrat’s so-called “retirement.”

Reid, who once led the Nevada Gaming Commission, hasn’t been seen in public this year without sporting some remarkable, visually distracting concealment for an injury he sustained sometime around New Year’s, when he claimed to have been injured in an exercise mishap. Three months into 2015, Reid has thrown in the towel, announcing that he will not run again for the Senate.

Now we’re starting to see stories like this one at PJ Media, where Michael Walsh gets blunt about Reid’s past appearing, from a certain perspective, to catch up with him:

It’s pretty obvious from the photographs that somebody beat the bejesus out of the soon-to-be-former senator from Nevada. And yet the national media has uncritically swallowed the cover story that “exercise equipment” was to blame for the loss of sight in the former majority leader’s right eye. Baloney. As far as I can tell, the piece of equipment allegedly behind the beatdown of Sen. Pat Geary has not been identified, but I can tell you from experience if the senator was using, say, a Soloflex machine this would be impossible: the weight straps simply come apart without any snapping or ricochet.

Back in January, the Powerline blog had intrepidly posited a similar conjecture. At the time, few others were willing to join in.

Fast forward to the present, where Reid appears greatly weakened — both physically and politically. Every conservative website seems to have a unique take in exacting, at this moment, its pound of flesh. You know it’s become a trend when progressive media redirects all the conspiracy theorists with an explainer.

On Monday, Judicial Watch entered the arena, offering a career overview of all the reason why Reid might be getting out while he still has eyes to see.

“You’d never know it from the mainstream media puff pieces of Harry Reid’s sudden retirement, but it was a long string of corruption scandals — including a recent one involving his attorney son — that drove the veteran Nevada senator to abruptly leave public office,” Judicial Watch opined:

For nearly a decade Judicial Watch has investigated and exposed Reid’s involvement in a multitude of transgressions and JW even warned the Senate Ethics Committee, but not surprisingly, no action was ever taken. On multiple occasions the Senate minority leader appeared on JW’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” list for his role in a number of political scandals that got more serious as his seniority and clout in Congress increased.

… As far back as 2006 Reid was in hot water for violating Senate rules by concealing a seven-figure payoff on a suspicious land deal orchestrated by a longtime friend known for political bribery and mob ties.

… In 2012 Reid made JW’s corrupt politician list because he was embroiled in an influence-peddling scandal involving a Chinese “green energy” client of a Nevada law firm run by his son Rory.

… In 2013 Reid was again named to JW’s most corrupt politician list for taking more than $130,000 in illegal campaign funds from a shady donor, Harvey Whittemore, who eventually went to jail.

… More recently Reid abused his authority to pressure the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expedite a $115 million foreign investor visa deal critical to his son’s casino client.

Here’s a little backstory on the Rory Reid scandal, which was first reported by Nevada blogger Jon Ralston.

While none of this leads back to a definite motive, JW is strongly suggesting that it all adds up to one. That’s an entertaining bit of speculation, but Reid’s position and connections (both friendly and less so) may ensure he never publicly answers such a question.

Still, it’s hard not to accept the notion that, if there were indeed a fire, Reid’s announced “retirement” — more than a year before his seat comes open again — would be the best way to snuff it out.

Leaked document reveals ‘missing’ military gear ended up for sale on Craigslist, eBay

It’s not exactly Fast and Furious 2.0, but it’s still a sterling example of how incompetence, apathy and greed breed corruption in government. The Pentagon keeps losing track of explosives-detecting gear, and that gear keeps popping up for private sale on eBay.

The Intercept reported last week that the Department of Defense is in the process of attempting to track down “sensitive equipment” designed to detect roadside bombs, but the department’s uncertain how much of it has gone missing. What DOD has been able to find has turned up for sale on “the global market” through the Internet, including mainstream sites such as eBay and Craigslist.

Here’s how The Intercept described the missing tech:

The missing equipment includes thermal optic imaging and night vision devices that were supplied to U.S. forces to help locate improvised explosive devices, the leading killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as related threats. “Since 2009, some of this advanced hardware has been reported as missing and is actively being sold or discussed on the global market on a variety of websites,” says an intelligence brief by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service and its Multiple Threat Alert Center.

The report cites a leaked document from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which highlights the equipment’s chain of custody through the Department of Defense until it turned up gone. Judging from the military’s report, there’s not a clear picture of how much of this stuff even remains in the DOD’s possession.

“In all, more than 32,000 pieces of equipment were issued,” the leaked report states. “Some kits are still in use, making it difficult to compile a precise inventory of what was issued and what might be missing. Items in the deployment kits are NOT for civilian use and are controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) 22 CFR 120-130 and are Commerce Department List-controlled.”

The document further indicates that this has been occurring at least as far back as 2009. In addition to mainstream reseller sites like eBay, the gear has also appeared on sites that cater to more informed buyers: armslist.com, gunbroker.com, calguns.net, ar15.com and more. On those sites, the items “have been marketed as sporting goods, hunting equipment, bird-watching equipment and camping supplies.”

As TechDirt noted last week, some resellers appear to be under the impression that they obtained the gear through legitimate transactions they believe are covered under their federal firearms licenses (FFLs). If that’s the case, that suggests the gear could be changing hands more than once on its way to the open market — and that the buyers may be far better informed about what they’re buying (and why) than the sellers.

Or, as TechDirt put it:

So, the Department of Defense may do several things well, but ensuring sensitive/powerful military gear remains in its control — rather than in the hands of enemies or eBay users — isn’t one of them.”

Ouch.

N.C. bill could give citizen panels subpoena power over police

A reform measure introduced in the North Carolina Legislature could, if passed, establish civilian review boards to oversee complaint cases against municipal police officers, granting the boards subpoena power and the authority to discipline and even to fire.

House Bill 193, sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Rodney Moore, attempts to address issues of profiling and excessive use of force, as well as provide a citizen-guided recourse for alleged abuses. It currently has the support only of Democratic legislators, and it has a long way to go before having a shot at becoming law.

A number of Durham, North Carolina, residents are reportedly unhappy with police oversight in the wake of several police shootings over the past year. Establishment efforts to investigate those incidents left them frustrated, spurring a state-level solution in the form of HB 193.

Here’s more from IndyWeek:

Supporters of the system believe the process properly leaves investigations to trained detectives; critics have long argued that the review board is little more than a rubber stamp. Indeed, says board chairman DeWarren Langley, since he began serving in 2009, there’s never been an instance when the board sided with the complainants over the cops.

… The main thrust addresses racial profiling, but wedged in the bill’s body is a section that bolsters civilian review board authority. And for some Durham officials, that section represents the potential for a course correction.

“The bill would actually give some teeth to the review board,” says City Councilman Eddie Davis. “Particularly in light of things going on across the country — knock on wood, we haven’t had them here — the board certainly ought to be able to investigate things on their own, other than just looking over the shoulder of the police’s internal affairs.”

One reason for the bill’s lack of GOP support may be its overarching attempt to assuage the national mood surrounding police incidents that ended in the deaths of black people. “With a national backdrop of officer-involved killings and ensuing tumult in places like Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland, the bill is an attempt to restore trust between the police and minority communities,” Durham-based IndyWeek observes.

Sounds like a bill that may be trying to do too much at once, to placate the loudest voices. But insofar as it aims to designate real power to a citizen-guided oversight entity instead of ceding it to an internal review process that too often protects bad cops from within a corrupt buddy system, the law appears at first glance to offer something better than what’s available to North Carolinians at the moment.

Then again, state-level politics are best understood by the nearest observers. Any North Carolina residents want to weigh in in the comments section?

Hillary backers sweat the campaign baggage that is Bill Clinton

If it’s true that she’s about as tethered by baggage as a potential presidential candidate can possibly be, then Hillary Clinton’s biggest clunker — her hoary, barnacled steamer trunk, so to speak — is her political life partner and husband, Bill.

It’s unknown how she feels about having all that extra weight to carry around, but some of her supporters ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run reportedly view the nation’s 42nd president as a fixture in Hillary’s political constellation that, at least for now, should be neither seen nor heard — especially on the day of her anticipated announcement.

The degree of husband Bill’s visibility is a topic of strategic debate among Hillary’s backers, a “source of disagreement,” according to Politico.

“Everyone knows who her family is, she doesn’t have to introduce them to the public,” a Democratic Party operative told the news outlet. “It should just be her. It should be her moment and Bill could overshadow her announcement and remind people of unnecessary baggage.”

While that may be a fair point, it’s not as though Bill represents Hillary’s most recent piece of “baggage.” The former secretary of state’s popularity has taken a massive hit ever since The New York Times reported that she had secreted the entirety of her State Department email correspondence on a server the government couldn’t — and still can’t — touch.

That story broke only days after The Washington Post reported that the Clinton family’s megacharity, the Clinton Foundation, had continued to receive massive cash donations from foreign governments in direct violation of Hillary’s ethics agreement with the Obama administration, which outlined what extracurricular activities she could and could not do while serving as secretary of state.

More revelations have followed, and with them the tedium that accompanies the life span of a maturing Clinton scandal. In the end, that tedium may be her biggest ally, as the consumers of the mainstream media’s infotainment products tune out tediously presented (if they’re presented at all) reports of her many conflicts of interest and bookish legal violations.

That has to be a relief for Clinton, since she blew her best line of dismissal — “What difference, at this point… does it make?” — on a scandal she created while still serving at her last government job. Catchphrases like that only come around about as often as do super-sweet real estate deals.

Things a female reporter can’t write about Hillary Clinton without being accused of sexism

On Wednesday, a female journalist for The New York Times used her Twitter account to share an exchange she’d had with members of “HRC Super Volunteers,” a group of Hillary Clinton supporters seeking to take down members of the press who besmirch the former first lady for being, well, a lady.

NYT reporter Amy Chozick revealed to denizens of Twitter that, in order to placate the Hillary backers’ suspicions that she and other member of the media aren’t abject sexists, reporters were being warned not to use sexist language when describing Clinton in their reports.

The HRC Super Volunteers were helpfully specific in this respect, offering “sexist” descriptive words that would place reporters on their hit list.

What are they?

  • Secretive
  • Polarizing
  • Calculating
  • Ambitious
  • Disingenuous
  • Insincere
  • Inevitable
  • Entitled
  • Overconfident
  • Will do anything to win
  • Represents the past
  • Out of touch

Those are all the words and phrases that Chozick listed, though the HRC Super Volunteers posse is adamant that those aren’t all of them.

The group asserts that words like “ambitious” and “polarizing” amount to nothing more than coded sexist language, subliminally suggesting that these qualities — when exhibited by a woman (or at least by Clinton) — carry negative connotations.

“You are on notice that we will be watching, reading, listening and protesting coded sexism,” the group reportedly told Chozick.

So far, it appears that the volunteers’ main weapon in fighting back against malignant Hillary-smearing is limited to a pre-searched Google results page that lists media articles in which such language has so far been used.

But if the Twitter responses to the group’s various pronouncements are any indication, they may be fighting a steep uphill battle.

Senators launch website for people to air their grievances over burdensome government regulations

A pair of senators is leading a bipartisan plan that aims to give a voice — albeit a small one — to property owners, small-business operators and anyone else who’s come up against federal regulations that appear to exist only to hamper economic growth and individual freedom.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) have introduced the #CutRedTape Initiative, anchored by a website that solicits feedback from Americans frustrated by regulations that inhibit their businesses and their liberties.

Heitkamp and Lankford, both members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, came up with the initiative after realizing that individuals don’t have an easy-to-identify recourse where they can express their concerns over regulations that needlessly complicate or obstruct their ambitions.

At a Committee hearing last week, Lankford said he learned from the White House Office of Management and Budget that people typically must take up their regulatory concerns with the agency that promulgates the rule in question. “Well, most individuals don’t know what agency even put that regulation out. People don’t get up every morning and read the Federal Register,” Lankford told The Hill.

“I think so much of what we have right now with America being concerned about their government is that their government doesn’t seem to listen to them, and what we really want to do is create a venue and an avenue for government to listen to Main Street,” Heitkamp explained at a press conference Thursday announcing the initiative.

While the idea is certainly fine, the site doesn’t promise any recourse beyond allowing people to complain. But the senators argue that it still gives lawmakers a resource from which to cull information about which regulations receive the most frequent or vehement criticism.

“The #CutRedTape portal is essential in understanding how regulations affect every day Americans and their businesses, and to fulfilling the Subcommittee’s oversight authority to ensure the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the federal government,” the senators state on the website. “The Subcommittee’s goal is to share the stories we get with the relevant federal agencies, as well as examine the stories for trends and ideas that could improve the regulatory process.”

Federal employees owe a ton in back taxes; no one’s getting fired

It seems that every year we run a story or two about how corrupt the IRS is, about how hard it is to get fired from your federal job if you’re delinquent on your tax payments or about how easy it is to be re-hired into the IRS if you’ve been dismissed for disciplinary reasons — even those involving legal infractions.

There’s no reason to stop anytime soon: The IRS released its yearly delinquency report this week, revealing that, by the government’s own calculation, more than 100,000 federal employees did not pay part or all of their federal income taxes last year.

The number of delinquent employees in the report marks a historic high. Nearly 4 percent (3.99 percent to be precise) of current civilian employees in the federal government are in arrears, withholding $1.14 billion in unpaid taxes from the government. Among categories of Americans who receive direct compensation from the federal government, only retired military veterans have a higher delinquency rate (4.04 percent).

Among the government’s civilian employees are congressional staffers. As the Washington Examiner noted Wednesday, 500 House staffers are delinquent on their taxes, owing a combined $6.7 million to the IRS.

Read the full IRS report here.

Global warming scare tactics aren’t working

Americans are far more concerned about drinking polluted water than they are about policy initiatives to combat global warming and/or climate change, deforestation and species extinction — and they’re steadily losing interest in environmental frights of every stripe.

That’s according to the most recent iteration of Gallup’s annual Environment survey, which finds concern over “global warming” or “climate change” trailing concern over every other major environmental policy issue.

The survey found that 32 percent of Americans surveyed indicated a “great deal” of concern over the threat of “global warming or climate change,” down from 34 percent last year. Across five other categories ranging from “pollution of drinking water” to “the loss of tropical rain forests,” the percentage of Americans who worry a “great deal” has declined across the board since the 2014 survey:

gallup_enviroUnsurprisingly, people appear to care more about environmental issues that have a demonstrable and immediate impact on their quality of life — what Gallup describes as “proximate threats” — far more than hypothetical scenarios of long-term environmental decline and abstract projections.

“Despite ups and downs from year to year in the percentage worried about the various issues, the rank order of the environmental problems has remained fairly consistent over the decades,” the survey summary states. “Americans express greater concern over more proximate threats — including pollution of drinking water, as well as pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and air pollution — than they do about longer-term threats such as global warming, the loss of rain forests, and plant and animal extinction.”

Gallup doesn’t attempt to stir the pot when it comes to policy initiatives, but it does make a general observation about the disconnect between the small number of fervid environmentalists advancing a far-reaching U.S. policy and the much greater number of workaday Americans who take a more pragmatic view of environmental risks.

The primary focus of the environmental movement has shifted toward long-term threats like global warming — issues about which Americans tend to worry less than about more immediate threats like pollution. Importantly, even as global warming has received greater attention as an environmental problem from politicians and the media in recent years, Americans’ worry about it is no higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1989.

A final factor is the politicization of environmental issues. This is exemplified by the sharp political polarization in views of global warming.

Republicans are predictably less concerned overall about perceived threats to the environment than are Democrats.

“[A]lthough concern about environmental issues is lower among both Republicans and Democrats since 2000, it is down more among Republicans,” Gallup reports. “Across the six issues measured in 2000 and 2015, the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who worry ‘a great deal’ is down an average of 20 percentage points, compared with an average 10-point decline for Democrats and Democratic leaners.”

Read more on Gallup’s 2015 Environment survey here.