Press Coddles Obama In Africa; Army Censors NSA Scandal; N.C. Drops Federal Unemployment; Pelosi’s Obamacare 4th Of July; National Park Police: Dude, Where’s My Gun?! — Friday Morning News Roundup 6-28-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • While flying Air Force One to South Africa, the press had a chance to ask President Barack Obama about major issues concerning Americans: the scandals, the controversial Supreme Court decisions, immigration, and many others. Instead, the press asked about Obama’s Africa legacy (or lack thereof), China’s relationship with Africa, the commitment of U.S. companies to Africa, and whether he’ll visit the ailing Nelson Mandela. Source: The Weekly Standard
  • The Army is blocking all access to The Guardian newspaper’s reports about the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of data about Americans’ email and phone communications, an Army spokesman said Thursday. Source: U.S. News
  • With changes to its unemployment law taking effect this weekend, North Carolina not only is cutting benefits for those who file new claims, it will become the first state disqualified from a federal compensation program for the long-term jobless. Source: CBS Charlotte… 
  • According to Nancy Pelosi, Democrats won’t only celebrate American independence on July 4, but will also be celebrating “health independence” thanks to Obamacare. The House minority leader tied the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the healthcare law to the July 4 holiday. Source: National Review… 
  • The U.S. Park Police, the law enforcement agency responsible for safeguarding the National Mall and critical American landmarks, has lost track of a large supply of handguns, rifles and shotguns, according to a harshly critical report issued Thursday. Source: NBC Washington…

Tea Party A ‘Terror Threat’ Equal To Muslim Extremists, For Obama Backers

A new Rasmussen Reports survey reveals that American voters who identify with President Barack Obama now consider the Tea Party just about as sinister a terrorist threat as radical Muslim extremists.

But take away the filter of political allegiances, and the survey demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Americans still regard Islamic terrorists with anti-American agendas as a greater threat than small-government conservatives, with 51 percent of all those surveyed saying islamofascism represents the Nation’s greatest threat, compared with 13 percent who view the Tea Party in the same fashion.

Another 13 percent view political and religious extremism — evidently of the non-Islamic sort — as most significant, with militia groups attracting the concern of another 6 percent. Two percent said the Occupy Wall Street movement threatens America the most.

The survey, which polled 1,000 “likely voters” by phone this week, showed that Americans who approve of the job Obama is doing have a severely different outlook on what constitutes a threat to American interest. Among Obama supporters, 29 percent identified Muslim extremists as the top threat, compared with a close 26 percent who evidently fear a conservative cross-section of natural-born American citizens: Tea Party conservatives. Those who responded that they “strongly approve” of the Obama Administration actually fear the Tea Party more than they fear Islamist violence.

On the other hand, 75 percent of those who disapprove of Obama named Muslim radicals as the biggest threat, compared with 1 percent who cited the Tea Party.

Interestingly, a connection appears between working for the government and fretting over the Tea Party. Among government workers, 20 percent said the Tea Party should be the Nation’s chief terrorist concern, compared with 12 percent of private sector employees who hold the same view.

Terrorism represented only one focus of the survey, though. Overall, 57 percent of respondents in a February Rasmussen poll said economic challenges present the most significant threat to America — compared with only 27 percent who identified the biggest threat to be terrorism.

License Plate Scanners Saturating U.S. Police Departments, With No Limits On Data Hoarding, Privacy

In early May, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) were hit with a lawsuit over their refusal to release information the agencies had collected through the use of license plate scanners.

Plate scanners are small devices mounted atop police patrol vehicles. They digitally “read” license plates continuously, with no need for direct input from the officer inside the car. They scan all the time; and, if so configured, they can accompany each scan with a color photograph of the vehicle, its occupant(s) and, of course, the license plate itself.

There are no Federal or State laws — or even standards and guidelines — that require police departments to handle the data they collect in any specific fashion, and there are no restrictions that limit the sharing of data between agencies across all levels of law enforcement: local, Federal and State. If law enforcement wants to compile data over a period of years, never disposing of any of it, they can.

Using only the data collected from license plate scanners, police can piece together a very accurate narrative — complete with pictures — of who you are, what you drive, who accompanies you, where you go, how you dress — even whether you have any obnoxious political or ephemeral bumper stickers.

In areas where patrol cars are equipped with scanners, individual vehicles are recurrently scanned with amazing frequency.

An incredible story by the Center for Investigative Reporting describes the experience of Michael Katz-Lacabe, a San Leandro, Calif., resident who works in the computer security consulting field. Leery of the city’s adoption of the license plate scanners in 2008, he asked the city for a record of all the times his car had been scanned and photographed:

The results shocked him.

The paperback-size device, installed on the outside of police cars, can log thousands of license plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. Katz-Lacabe said it had photographed his two cars on 112 occasions, including one image from 2009 that shows him and his daughters stepping out of his Toyota Prius in their driveway.

That photograph, Katz-Lacabe said, made him “frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection.” The single patrol car in San Leandro equipped with a plate reader had logged his car once a week on average, photographing his license plate and documenting the time and location.

License plate scans are held for as long as the agency responsible for handling the information wants to hold them. And the independent third-party tech companies they hire to deploy and catalog the data are few enough, and capable enough, to be employed by layers of government, from the State of California to the CIA to the Department of Defense. You can see the potential (likely already very fully realized) for cross-pollination these separate-but-related government agreements hold. Mega-banks hold contracts with the same companies that develop the license plate technology, using numbers and location-based data-gathering as an analytical tool.

Precipitating the Los Angeles police lawsuit were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which last year had requested one week’s worth of license plate scanning records from the LAPD and LASD. Both agencies refused, claiming it formed a component in the body of evidence used in ongoing police investigations.

But this is not probable-cause evidence. This is full-scale surveillance of people who’ve done nothing wrong; people who aren’t suspects. The ACLU predicts there will be license plate scanners in use by 85 percent of the Nation’s law enforcement agencies, and that law enforcement is already pursuing the development of a proprietary, Google-style search engine to unify and link all motorist data, enabling police everywhere to know your motoring habits simply by tapping on a keyboard and hitting “return.”

Obama’s Batting .370 Before SCOTUS – Half The Success Rate Of His Predecessors

This year’s Supreme Court session hasn’t been kind to the Administration of President Barack Obama.

In an analysis of cases pleaded before the High Court between 1985 and 1997, Economics Professor Linda R. Cohen and Law Professor Matthew L. Spitzer found:

Studies of public litigation at the Supreme Court find that the government tends to prevail and that it is more successful than the petitioner or respondent…The pattern is striking: the government wins in over 70 percent of the cases where it is the petitioner, and it wins in just under 60 percent of the cases where it is the respondent.

The Obama Administration, however, can only dream of those kinds of numbers. The Daily Beast has pegged his batting average at .370 before SCOTUS over this year’s court session, which started last October and ended this week. Not so hot, especially when you consider how well other Presidents have fared.

Worse, though, is the disproportionate number of times the Supreme Court’s decisions against the President haven’t featured even a single dissenting opinion, as noted Wednesday in the Washington Times:

Ilya Somin, a constitutional law professor at George Mason University, said it is striking to take into account the number of times the Obama administration has been on the losing end of unanimous decisions.

“When the administration loses significant cases in unanimous decisions and cannot even hold the votes of its own appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — it is an indication that they adopted such an extreme position on the scope of federal power that even generally sympathetic judges could not even support it,” said Mr. Somin, adding that presidents from both parties have a tendency to make sweeping claims of federal power. “This is actually something that George W. Bush and Obama have in common.”

That observation corroborates one of the central features of bipartisan American politics: fundamentally, party politicians differ only over how most effectively to manipulate public opinion – and, it appears, judicial opinion – to their benefit. Obama has successfully gamed the public in consecutive Presidential elections. But he stinks at gaming his intellectual peers (or, perhaps, his superiors) on the bench who, like the President, hold J.D.s with specialization in Constitutional law.

IRS Auditor Affirms Tea Party Targeting; Obama Sells Gays Rights In Africa; Mooch’s Kampf; Rahm Sees Gay Dollar Signs For Dems; Sad, Straight Chik-fil-A Cows — Thursday Morning News Roundup 6-27-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • The Treasury Department’s inspector general told Congress this week his office stands by its determination that conservative groups were uniquely singled out for special scrutiny by the tax agency, rebutting Democrats’ contention that liberal groups also were targeted. Source: Washington Times… 
  • President Barack Obama clashed with Senegalese President Macky Sall over whether the gay rights movement must accelerate internationally. Source: Associated Press… 
  • In Dakar, Senegal, speaking at the Martin Luther King Middle School, First Lady Michelle Obama likened her upbringing to the upbringing of the Senegalese children at the school. Obama told the children of her “experience” and how it was similar to theirs. Source: Weekly Standard… 
  • While raising money for Bill Clinton (who signed the Defense of Marriage Act) in 1992, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed, “Gays are the next Jews of fundraising.” Source: Washington Examiner… 
  • Chick fil-A President Dan Cathy is coming under fire again from homosexual groups after speaking out against yesterday’s historic gay marriage ruling. “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies,” he tweeted — then later deleted. Will another kiss-in follow? Source: Wall Street Journal… 

 

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Get Ready For Hillary: Weird Campaign Merchandise Coming Your Way

What looks like the first large-scale effort at marketing the still-unofficial campaign to put Mrs. Bill Clinton in the White House has gone live on the Internet.

The Ready For Hillary store appeared online sometime earlier this week, selling promotional T-shirts for a cute price of $20.16. An array of buttons, stickers and iPhone adornments can be had for less, along with a pricey baseball hat or “Ready-to-Go Bag” ($35 for each). If you’re a true pauper, you can at least give the website your information and come away with a free bumper sticker.

The site is the work of a so-called “super” Political Action Committee (PAC) that’s already attracted the support of some recognizable names — like retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who endorsed Clinton after mulling his own bid for the 2008 Presidential nomination. Clinton herself is still coy about her plans for 2016.

However much support the super PAC raises, Ready For Hillary is evidently taking a “do-no-harm” approach in its recruitment efforts, hoping to raise money without damaging Clinton’s reputation. The group is capping donations at $25,000 and has pledged to disclose the source of every donation that exceeds $250.

The kid-gloves approach likely owes to the protracted gossip that surrounding the buildup to Clinton’s candidacy announcement ahead of the 2008 election, which some party analysts believe stagnated her campaign in the face of President Barack Obama’s aggressive, but much briefer, flirtation with voters.

Well and good, but the weird imagery the PAC is using to promote Clinton has some people wondering how to overcome the marketing challenges presented by, as the Daily Caller observes, “an aging female candidate who has been in the public eye for more than two decades and has lots of baggage” and who, for the Democrats, will represent a generational step backward compared with the still-youthful Obama.

BNnhFMvCYAAzoZ_.jpg large

Describing the T-shirt graphic is an aesthetic challenge, but let’s say it looks something like a Gerber-baby label rendering of the terrifying moment Shelley Winters stepped out of the 1960s and re-emerged from a dense, uglifying fog of old age. It’s not exactly inspirational, unless you’re part of some fetishistic subculture… which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt assessment of most Clinton enthusiasts.

By all means, feel free to put your own spin on Clinton’s ad graphics in the comments section; I’ve given it my best shot.

Obamacare Sermons From The TMZ Set

Get ready to see rappers and a desperate housewife hawking President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Already in talks with the NBA and NFL, the White House is now recruiting the TMZ set to serve as ambassadors for Obamacare.

A Clinton-era White House adviser who now works as a “celebrity political adviser” told The Hill Tuesday he has a number of famous clients who are ready to help the President advertise the virtues of his health care mandate to uninformed Americans.

“I think the White House is very wise to identify partners to help market the Affordable Care Act. Just like any good product, when people are aware of the many benefits it provides, there will be increased demand,” said Trevor Neilson.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said the goal of slathering Obamacare in celebrity cool is to reach people in front of their TV sets.

“We’re going to be going wherever people are,” she explained. “We’re having discussions – active discussions – right now with a variety of sports affiliates, both in terms of what will end up being paid advertising but hopefully some partnership efforts. The NFL, for instance, in the conversations I’ve had, has been very actively and enthusiastically engaged because they see health promotion as one of the things that is good for them and good for the country.”

On the celebrity side, expect to see Eva Longoria, Oprah, Jay-Z, Sarah Jessica Parker and more making a play for the hearts and minds – and wallets – of Americans in the market for a government-mandated, government-subsidized health care plan.

Rubio On The Defensive After Conservative Outcry On Immigration 180˚

Tea Party conservatives have been hammering Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) this week as the Senate hammers out its own version of the immigration bill he helped craft.

Amnesty and a path to citizenship have been points of outrage among conservatives who believe only immigrants who’ve legally entered the U.S. should have a shot at attaining to the rights and privileges of American citizenship. Rubio, after demonstrating he agreed with that view in 2010, has shifted his stance so dramatically that many conservatives lament he’s not the same candidate they voted for.

So, on Wednesday, Rubio stood before the Senate and directly addressed his critics, appealing to them to see his amity with the Senate’s Gang of Eight as the lesser of two evils. The Daily Caller summarized the pith of his remarks:

“I have received numerous emails and calls from conservatives and Tea Party activists. Their opinions and concerns really matter to me because they stood with me during my election. To hear the worry, anxiety and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial for me,” he said.

But he said he told them that he would go to Washington to “fight to stop what is bad for America,” and that what we have now is, in fact, hurting America. ”I simply wasn’t going to leave it to Democrats alone to try to figure out how to fix it.”

“I got involved because I knew that if conservatives didn’t get involved in shaping this legislation, it would not have any border security reforms our nation desperately needs,” Rubio said.

Rubio asked tea party conservatives who are upset to understand that he honestly believes “it is the right thing for our country.”

And he assured them he would continue to fight alongside them for “real tax reform, lowering the debt, balancing our budget, reducing regulations, rolling back job-killing environmental policies and repealing the disaster of Obamacare,” and to defend “the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.”

If you’re interested in knowing how that played with nonplussed conservatives, head on over to the Daily Caller’s original story and browse the reader comments.

Obama Launches ‘War On Coal’ In Ill-Fated Energy Initiative

President Barack Obama delivered a much-anticipated speech at Georgetown University Tuesday, pledging to use executive orders to implement Federal regulations on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide after being stonewalled by a Democrat-controlled Congress during his first term.

Calling climate change the “threat of our time,” the President settled the controversy over the existence of human-generated global warming and ended any debate about its relative significance by admonishing:

The question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, of chemistry and physics — millions of measurements have put all that to rest. Ninety-seven per cent of scientists — including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data — have put that to rest. They have acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity has contributed to it.

As an American; as a president; as a father, I am here to say, “We need to act.” Our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.

Ahead of Obama’s climate change speech, Harvard Environmental Center Director and White House “climate adviser” Daniel P. Schrag told The New York Times that, for the Obama Administration, “a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

“Everybody is waiting for action,” Schrag said. “The one thing the President really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

Why is Obama doing this? In his stillborn, scandal-plagued second term, there is hardly much current political capital the President can tap for even a benign policy initiative. And taking decisive action against the coal industry — in the form of penalties for power plants that generate electricity through the burning of coal — is about as benign an initiative as instituting a state religion.

“When Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, Obama could not get climate control legislation passed. That explains why he is now seeking to go around Congress to enact anti-coal regulations by fiat,” writes Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, who goes on to argue that nothing Obama could have planned will galvanize his political opponents — as well as make opponents of regular Americans affected by the higher energy prices his policies will yield — than living out an Al Gore-type executive fantasy of implementing regressive, punitive energy goals:

The reason even Democrats balked on climate change regulations in the first term (it stalled in the Senate) is because it is economically debilitating, especially in energy producing states; politically unpopular in red states and among the vast majority of all conservatives nationwide; and useless (so long as China, India, etc. don’t follow suit it does virtually nothing for the planet as a whole — even if one buys the global warming hysteria)…

…Conservatives are once again bonded together in common cause against a president bizarrely antagonistic toward domestic energy production and low energy prices. The gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli, in a dog fight with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, let loose on the Democrats’ plans, citing the energy resources in Virginia that directly or indirectly contribute to nearly 20,000 jobs and $2.5 billion toward the state economy. Now, there’s an issue that may turn out his base and get independents riled up.

Whether Obama’s executive actions on coal regulations can be mitigated by a saner President in the future, he’s already arming Republicans with everything they need to make mincemeat of their Democratic opponents in local and State elections.

Dems Play Race Card From SCOTUS Ruling; NSA Scandal Throws Pelosi Off Game; Rubio Comes Full Circle On Amnesty; Nobody Corrupts Like The IRS — Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-25-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

Fallout Predictable Over SCOTUS’ Voter Rights Act Ruling

Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby V. Holder case struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. The Internet went nuts, with ignorant Twitter users firing off lamentations about the end of voting equality in America. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder gave them great fodder. Read More… 

No More Sunshine And Butterflies: NSA Fallout Broadsides Lib Lawmakers

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has had a pretty fail-safe formula for her “preaching to the choir” speaking engagements over the past few years: Praise Obama, demonize conservatives and talk about rainbows, butterflies, abortion and homosexuality. Read More… 

Gang Of Eight Conversion Has Rubio’s Star Falling Among Conservatives

A new poll from the Rasmussen Report shows Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has lost much of the good will he’d cultivated among conservatives since his election during the Tea Party’s 2010 midterm surge. Blame the Gang of Eight. Read More… 

IRS Handed Out Tax Dollars To Friends

House investigators reveal in a recent report that one businessman’s friendship with an IRS official allowed him to accrue $500 million in taxpayer-funded Federal contracts. Read More… 

Fallout Predictable Over SCOTUS’ Voter Rights Act Ruling

Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby V. Holder case struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

The Internet went nuts, with ignorant Twitter users firing off lamentations about the end of voting equality in America. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder gave them great fodder. Here’s Obama:

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today… Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

Like Chicago?

Here’s Holder:

Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action – using every legal tool that remains available to us – against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise…

…As the President has made clear, Congress needs to act to make sure every American has equal access to the polls.

Here’s Nancy Pelosi:

This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

Not quite. The court simply ruled that Section 4 of the VRA has outlived whatever usefulness it had four decades ago in subjecting States with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to Federal oversight in the drawing of Congressional voting districts.

In effect, the court said, “The law worked. States more or less discriminate at about the same rate now when they draw their maps. Let the VRA States draw their maps the same way the rest of the Nation does — without having to beseech the Federal government for approval.”

Chief Justice John Roberts noted the culturally inculcated belief that the Deep South is a hotbed of institutional racism isn’t recognizable in an examination of the facts of the post-civil rights era.

“If Congress had started from scratch in 2006, it plainly could not have enacted the present coverage formula. It would have been irrational for Congress to distinguish between states in such a fundamental way based on 40-year-old data, when today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.”

The Court didn’t strike down the entire VRA, and racial discrimination against would-be voters remains as illegal as before. Racist liberal politicians know this, but are all too happy to trot out the race card once again in their ongoing, condescending effort to hypnotize minorities into voting blue.

Gang Of Eight Conversion Has Rubio’s Star Falling Among Conservatives

A new poll from the Rasmussen Report shows Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has lost much of the good will he’d cultivated among conservatives since his election during the Tea Party’s 2010 midterm surge.

The poll finds Rubio slipping among his base, with his approval rating among conservatives standing at 58 percent — a drop of 10 percentage points since May, and 15 points since February.

Blame the Gang of Eight. Rubio’s involvement in the push for a bipartisan agreement to effect immigration reform, and especially the inclusion of President Barack Obama’s sine qua non condition to allow amnesty and a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens, has incensed the majority of Rubio’s conservative base.

He also hasn’t helped himself by flip-flopping on his election-year stance, when he famously slammed the immigration plan put forward by his present-day colleague in the Gang of Eight, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). “‘Earned path to citizenship’ is basically code for amnesty,” Rubio had said back then. “It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so.”

Enjoy a walk down memory lane with this helpful graphic produced by the Federation for American Immigration Reform:

Marco Rubio_amnesty_timeline_2-15-2013

Benghazi Subpoenas; Obama’s Climate War; Kerry’s Replacement; The Elusive Snowden; Pork Bullets Send Martyrs To Hell — Monday Morning News Roundup 6-24-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who’s investigating last year’s terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, has subpoenaed four State Department officials, saying the department was stalling on efforts to interview them. Source: Washington Times…
  • President Barack Obama is launching fresh battles over climate change with plans to curb emissions using executive powers that sidestep Congress — including controversial rules to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. Source: The Hill…
  • Democratic U.S. Representative Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez face off today in a special election to determine a successor to John Kerry, who left the Senate to lead the Obama Administration’s cabinet as Secretary of State. The race appears to be Markey’s to lose. Source: Reuters…
  • Russia’s foreign minister has said the surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden never crossed the border into the country, deepening the mystery over his suspected flight from Hong Kong. Source: The Guardian…
  • An Idaho ammunition manufacturer has developed “Jihawg,” a new line of pork-laced bullets they hope will fight against Islamic terrorists — and keep them from going to heaven. “With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.” Source: CBS Seattle…

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

What Recovery? 7 Of 10 Americans Live Paycheck To Paycheck

Savings rates among American families have remained stagnant over the duration of America’s supposed recovery from the 2008 recession, and most people live paycheck to paycheck, with virtually no cash on hand to see them through an emergency.

That’s the not-so-surprising news arising from Monday’s analysis of a recent survey by Bankrate.

The survey found that 71 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in savings to weather a six-month emergency’s worth of living expenses, 50 percent have no more than three months’ worth of savings, and 27 percent have no savings at all.

Senior Financial Analyst Greg McBride said there’s a strange dichotomy separating Americans’ relative optimism concerning their net worth, job security and progress toward retirement from the reality of chronic paycheck-to-paycheck living:

Just one in five Americans feels their overall financial situation is worse now than one year ago… [But]Americans continue to express discomfort with their level of savings.

And it’s no wonder, looking at the lack of progress Americans have made in establishing an adequate savings cushion. Just 24 percent of Americans have enough savings to cover six months’ worth of expenses — comparatively unchanged since 2011 and 2012. At the other end of the spectrum are the 27 percent of Americans that have no emergency savings whatsoever, further highlighting how little progress Americans have made in moving the needle on emergency savings.

Aside from exaggerated proclamations from President Barack Obama that the U.S. is on a strong track toward a full economic “recovery,” part of the reason for sluggish savings can be attributed to some families’ focus, during the post-recession years, of getting out of the red before even thinking about getting into the black. Many are still whittling away at debts, according to financial planner Richard T. Fight, and others are simply still in paycheck-to-paycheck mode after blowing through their savings when the recession claimed their jobs or forced them into an unexpected retirement.

“Three months’ worth of expenses is hard to think about when you’ve been trying to find work for so long,” he told Bankrate. “People who [are] unemployed or underemployed are just trying to get by.”

It’s worth noting, also, that the survey doesn’t clarify whether it considers government-backed income replacement funds like SNAP cards, subsidized student loans and Pell grants, unemployment and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) as income in its survey methodology.

SCOTUS Punts On Affirmative Action; Clarence Thomas Calls Practice ‘A Nonstarter’

The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to hand down a landmark decision Monday, one that would determine the fate of affirmative action in America.

Instead, it took no action and remanded the case back to a lower court, opining that a university’s admissions practices weren’t properly vetted by the lower court and that, in reconsidering the case, the lower court should examine the process correctly — instead of “deferring to the University’s good faith,” as Chief Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The decision doesn’t have the effect of endorsing or repealing affirmative action, but it does suggest the Supreme Court is stocked with justices who, if a merits case appeared before them, would favor ending the 48-year-old practice.

In his opinion Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas went beyond that hypothetical, letting it be known that he clearly believes there’s no place in America for institutionalized racial favoritism. He revisited his minority opinion of the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the court upheld another university’s affirmative action admissions practices:

I write separately to explain that I would overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306 (2003), and hold that a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause…Attaining diversity for its own sake is a nonstarter. As even Grutter recognized, the pursuit of diversity as an end is nothing more than impermissible “racial balancing.” … Rather, diversity can only be the means by which the University obtains educational benefits; it cannot be an end pursued for its own sake. Therefore, the educational benefits allegedly produced by diversity must rise to the level of a compelling state interest in order for the program to survive strict scrutiny.

…It is also noteworthy that, in our desegregation cases, we rejected arguments that are virtually identical to those advanced by the University today. The University asserts, for instance, that the diversity obtained through its discriminatory admissions program prepares its students to become leaders in a diverse society… The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks.

Monday’s case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, involved a white woman who was denied admission to the university and sued on the grounds of racial discrimination, arguing that other less-qualified minority students had been admitted ahead of her, thanks to affirmative action.

Instead of delivering a seismic ruling that favored either the plaintiff or the university, the Supreme Court essentially interjected the court system into future affirmative action policies at universities by asserting that schools must apply “strict scrutiny” in justifying the role racial background is to play in the admissions process. As Amy Howe explained the ruling Monday on SCOTUS blog:

The Court in Fisher took pains to make clear exactly what this means:  courts can no longer simply rubber-stamp a university’s determination that it needs to use affirmative action to have a diverse student body.  Instead, courts themselves will need to confirm that the use of race is “necessary” — that is, that there is no other realistic alternative that does not use race that would also create a diverse student body.  Because the lower court had not done so, the Court sent the case back for it to determine whether the university could make this showing.

Chicagoland Mayor Ditches Bloomberg Gun Grabbers; Rangle Wrangles The GOP; Snowden Pardon Petition Hits Target; Jim Carrey’s Krazy Gun Control Tweets — Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-24-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

 

Chicagoland Mayor Ditches Bloomberg’s Gun Control; Embraces Concealed Carry

A Chicagoland mayor is embracing concealed carry in a very personal way, revealing he’s parting ways with Mayors Against Illegal Guns after learning the group’s agenda goes far beyond its implied purpose of taking guns out of criminals’ hands. Read More… 

 

Dem Lawmaker: GOP Can Save Itself By Being More Democrat

Representative Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) has set about on an odd mission: saving the Republican Party by urging members of the GOP to support Democrat legislative proposals. Wait, what? Read More… 

 

White House Website Petition To Pardon Edward Snowden Surpasses Threshold For Presidential Response

A petition begun June 9 at President Barack Obama’s “We The People” White House petition website calling for the pardon of Edward Snowden has crossed the 100,000-signature threshold needed in order to elicit an official response. But in Snowden’s case, the Administration wouldn’t be breaking precedent if it’s met with silence. Read More…

 

Jim Carrey Shoots Off His Mouth About Gun Violence

Comedian Jim Carrey caused a firestorm in March when he released the anti-gun video “Cold Dead Hand.” Now, the loudmouthed actor is once again making headlines for spouting off about gun violence. Read More… 

White House Website Petition To Pardon Edward Snowden Surpasses Threshold For Presidential Response

A petition begun June 9 at President Barack Obama’s “We The People” White House petition website calling for the pardon of Edward Snowden has crossed the 100,000-signature threshold needed in order to elicit an official response.

As of Monday afternoon, the petition had exceeded 113,000 signatures. It calls Snowden a “national hero” and commends him for shining a light on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) furtive spying programs he observed as a former contractor:

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Pardon Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.

We The People has been active since Obama launched the site in 2011 as a high-profile effort to demonstrate his Administration’s commitment to transparency and accessibility. But scandals involving the National Security Agency, The Associates Press and the Internal Revenue Service have damaged whatever goodwill the President may have created with the American public in his bid to appear trustworthy. And in order to open or sign a petition, users must create an account at whitehouse.gov that links them to the site.

In Snowden’s case, the Administration wouldn’t be breaking precedent if there’s no response, despite the petition for his pardon meeting requirements Obama himself help put in place. Successful petitions for the President to intervene amid ongoing investigations of other criminal suspects like Chris Williams, who allegedly violated the law by growing medical marijuana, have been met with silence.

Chicagoland Mayor Ditches Bloomberg’s Gun Control; Embraces Concealed Carry

A Chicagoland mayor is embracing concealed carry in a very personal way, revealing he’s parting ways with an influential gun-control group after learning the group’s agenda goes far beyond its implied purpose of taking guns out of criminals’ hands.

Larry Morrissey, mayor of Rockford, Ill., a Chicago suburb, announced at a town hall forum Saturday he had dropped out of Mayors For Illegal Guns, the gun-control group begun by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after realizing the group is more interested in infringing on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights than in making sure that criminals don’t “illegally” get their hands on firearms.

“The reason why I joined the group in the first place was because I took the name for what it said – ‘against illegal guns,’” Morrissey said. “As the original mission swayed, that’s when I decided it was no longer in line with my beliefs.”

Morrissey, who won election in 2005 as a political independent, said he’s received death threats since taking office, and had so far availed himself of extra protection offered by the Rockford Police Department in order to keep himself and his family safe.

But he believes citizens should have the power to keep themselves safe, regardless of whether they have the luxury of a police detail. He told the a crowd of more than 200 that he intends to apply for an Illinois conceal carry permit — an announcement that garnered him a roar of applause.

“Any doubt that I might have had in my opinions about concealed carry when I first came into office changed quickly as I became an elected official and became very familiar with the types of crimes we’re dealing with,” he said. “The focus should not be against law-abiding citizens… I don’t want to put my family’s life at risk or my own life at risk if I can otherwise protect myself.”

H/T: Rockford Register Star 

Big Sis’ Border Fence; Schumer’s Dire Warning; SCOTUS On The Verge; Facebook’s Eye In The Sky; The Matrix Pill — Monday Morning News Roundup 6-24-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Another loophole inserted into the new version of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill allows Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (or any of her successors) to nix the construction of a required border security fence if she does not find it to be an “appropriate” use of resources. Source: Breitbart 
  • As the Supreme Court heads into its summer recess at the end of June, we’re still awaiting decisions this week in four landmark cases. “In the court’s modern history, I don’t think there has ever been one week with so much at stake,” said Tom Goldstein, founder of the respected SCOTUSblog website. “We have four pending cases that may be cited for at least a century” involving Affirmative Action, the Voting Rights Act, the definition of marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act. Source: Free Republic 
  • Senator Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the lead Democratic sponsor of the Senate immigration reform bill, said House Republicans would likely spark massive civil rights rallies if they try to quash measures to create a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens already in the country. Source: The Hill 
  • According to admissions in its blog, posted late Friday afternoon, Facebook appears to be obtaining users’ offsite email address and phone numbers and attempting to match them to other accounts. It appears that the invisible collected information is then being stored in each user’s “shadow profile” that is somehow attached to accounts. The data is being gathered about individuals through their Facebook  friends’ information about them — harvested when a user grants Facebook address book or contact list access. Source: ZDNet
  • An FDA-approved pill has appeared that allows the electronic devices of people who take it to recognize identity and remember passwords. It uses batteries that run off stomach acid and last for 30 days. The controversial pill is being championed by DARPA Director-turned-Motorola executive Regina Dugan. “Essentially, your entire body becomes your authentication token,” she says. Source: Daily Mail 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Inflates ‘Violence’ Stats With ‘Victims’ Shot By Police, In Self-Defense

Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control outfit, recently rattled off a list of names of victims of gun violence at a New Hampshire rally. The event made headlines for the group’s inclusion of shooting “victim” Tamerlan Tsarnaev — one of the guys suspected of instigating the Boston Marathon bombing, who was killed in a shootout with police.

Outrage and public pressure elicited a next-day apology from MAIG, but the slip got 2nd Amendment advocates interested in the other names MAIG was using to round out its list of gun violence vicitms.

Turns out, the group has been using a list on the Slate website that tallies the number of Americans “Killed by Guns Since Newtown.” It’s just a list of names of people who died from a gunshot wound (or wounds) — not a retelling of the stories of their deaths.

The Washington Examiner noted Friday:

A preliminary analysis of the list of shooting “victims” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns is reading at rallies for new gun control laws finds that one in 12 are crime suspects killed by police or armed citizens acting in self-defense.

The review of 617 killings found that 50 were suspects in crimes ranging from assault to murder, not the type of violence Bloomberg’s group suggests in its “No More Names” campaign to draw attention to the estimated 6,000 gun death “tragedies” since the mid-December Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newton, Conn.

To use the Bloomberg group’s logic, one would have to accept that everyone who’s shot and killed by a police officer or by a citizen acting in self-defense categorically fits the description of a “victim” of gun violence. Examples of police shootings are, sadly, abundant; but it’s unlikely every cop shooting is a tale of bad cop, poor victim. Even fewer, perhaps, are the instances of reported self-defense shootings that turn out to be false.

As Nick Leghorn succinctly put it in a blog over at The Truth About Guns, “In the minds of MAIG, I guess being shot by a gun is like instantly being turned from a sinner into a saint.”

Ted Cruz Launches Petition To Thwart Gang Of Eight As Dems Reveal Amendment To Legalize ‘Victims’ Displaced By… Climate Change

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) started a grass-roots petition last week to pressure his fellow Senators to back away from the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan immigration bill.

Telling supporters the bill isn’t principled in its pitch to grant amnesty to more than 10 million illegal aliens living in the United States, Cruz said it’s “urgent” that constituents send a unified message to Congress that legal immigration has to be the cornerstone of any attempt to reform laws and policies that direct a foreign national down a path to U.S. citizenship.

“This is urgent. We must stop this Gang of 8 immigration bill, which would give amnesty to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants with no guarantee of a secure border,” said Cruz in an email to his supporters, as reported by Breitbart. “The Senate debate is in the final stages and we need to send Washington a strong signal of the overwhelming grassroots opposition to this amnesty bill from Americans across the country…act now – without delay – to help us defeat amnesty and stand for legal immigration!”

The petition kicked off just a day after Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced an amendment to the immigration plan that, if approved, will allow “stateless,” displaced people staying in the United States to apply for legal status if their native countries have been altered by natural disaster due to climate change.

Schatz said climate change is not an “abstract challenge” but an indisputable fact with a human toll the U.S. can help mitigate, by allowing its many foreign victims to seek legal status here (since, presumably, America is immune to the “climate change” that’s running everyone else to our shores):

The amendment I am proposing is quite simple. If enacted, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may designate individuals or a group of individuals displaced permanently by climate change as stateless persons.

Again, let me be clear about what this amendment does. It simply recognizes that climate change, like war, is one of the most significant contributors to homelessness in the world. And like with states torn apart and made uninhabitable by war, we have an obligation not to deport people back to a country made uninhabitable by sea level rise and other extreme environmental changes that render these states desolate. It does not grant any individual or group of individuals outside the United States with any new status or avenue for seeking asylum in the United States.

The amendment may not seek to grant anyone a new status, but it does immeasurably swell the population of non-citizens who can claim a legal foothold in the United States. And it does so disingenuously, by sheltering the argument for seeking legal status under the incredibly divisive, controversial and very dubious aegis of climate change as an incontrovertible, immutable fact.

The proposed amendment also would require funding for a study to assess (or, more likely, assign) the impact of climate change on populations who migrate internally within the U.S.