Lois Lerner Will Testify About IRS Scandal — If She’s Granted Immunity

Lois Lerner, the former director of the Internal Revenue Service’s division responsible for quelling Tea Party groups while fast-tracking liberal nonprofits during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, told a House oversight panel this in May:

I have not done anything wrong, I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. While I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I have been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject manner of this hearing.

Then she attempted to invoke her 5th Amendment right not to testify against herself.

But now Lerner’s changed her mind, offering to testify about the IRS discrimination scandal — if she’s guaranteed immunity from prosecution. (Hey, no problem — she didn’t do anything wrong, remember?)

On Wednesday, Lerner’s attorney said she would testify before the House oversight committee, telling POLITICO: “They can obtain her testimony tomorrow by doing it the easy way … immunity. That’s the way to resolve all of this.”

The House oversight panel held a bipartisan vote last week, determining that Lerner indeed waived her 5th Amendment protection when, at her hearing in May, she prefaced her “silence” against self-incrimination by first telling the panel she was innocent of any wrongdoing. Republicans pounced, noting that Lerner attempted to have her legal cake and eat it, too, by rewriting the rules on how much a witness can say before clamming up under Constitutional protection.

Under the committee’s assertion that she waived her 5th Amendment rights, Lerner could be held in contempt if she refuses to testify at a future, as-yet unscheduled recall appearance.

Obama’s Approval Numbers Plummet (Again)

President Barack Obama’s rapport with the American people continues to slip. A poll released this week by Investors Business Daily (IBD) shows more than half the country now disapproves of the President’s second-term performance.

Only 41 percent of Americans said they approve of Obama when the survey was conducted at the end of June, as the President shrugged off yet another surveillance scandal before dashing off to a lavish tour of Africa. But a 52 percent majority said they disapprove.

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The surveillance scandals have hit the President hard.

“A clear majority, 59%, said government surveillance invades innocent Americans’ privacy, vs. 34% who disagreed,” the survey summary reports. “Among independents, the split was 72%-25%. Even 42% of Democrats agreed the surveillance invades privacy. Obama has taken heat from his liberal base over the NSA program and the seizure of phone records of AP reporters and Fox News’ James Rosen. Normally friendly editorial pages have been scathing and have noted Obama’s broken 2008 promise to promote civil liberties.”

Obama has seen a particularly steep drop in support from single women — a key demographic that buoyed both his election campaigns. His approval from single women has fallen 29 percent, from 74.5 percent last November to 52.9 percent in late June.

The IBD survey employs a number of factors in assigning the President’s overall approval rating a number known as the Presidential Leadership Index. In only a single month, Obama’s already-low index rating fell from 48.9 to 43.2 on the 100-point scale. “The 11.7% slide was the worst since Obama took office. For the fourth straight month, the reading stood below 50, signaling disapproval,” the report notes.

Police Chief Tries To Shoot Dog; Shoots Owner Instead; Ignores Victim; Gets Sworn In

A North Carolina woman was hit by a ricocheting bullet meant for her dog, after Winston-Salem police chief in-waiting Barry Rountree got scared of the dog last week and tried to shoot it.

The woman, Tamara Whitt, was shot by Rountree as he was responding to a 911 call alleging a man with a gun was roaming the neighborhood, aiming the weapon at people.

Evidently there was such a man: Rountree. Police said after he and other officers arrived in the area to investigate, Whitt’s dog approached them in a “threatening manner.” Rountree got scared of the dog and tried to shoot it, but the .40 caliber bullet bounced off the pavement and hit Whitt in the leg.

According to Whitt – who described her pet’s behavior throughout the ordeal as “very passive” – Rountree’s reaction to her injury was to walk across the street and have a cell phone conversation, then cross back over to ask her if she was alright.

“He did not come to me. He backed away,” she said. “He walked across the street over there by that car over there and he was on his phone … and I told the SBI [State Bureau of Investigation] he did not come to me.”

Whitt hasn’t had the bullet removed; doctors have told her the procedure would be too dangerous.

At the time of the shooting, Rountree was in line to be sworn in as the new Winston-Salem chief of police. He was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, but has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. Rountree was sworn in as chief of police on June 30.

The dog, a boxer named Lebrone, is still alive, but remains in the custody of Forsyth County Animal Control.

Toy Gun March On Washington Draws 2nd Amendment Supporters

While there’s no sign that remnant supporters of the dubious, now-cancelled  July 4th armed march on Washington, D.C. are coalescing near the capitol with loaded weapons, 2nd Amendment supporters did turn out Wednesday to stage a legal demonstration – using toy guns.

From the “Toy Gun March on DC” Facebook page, the event’s mission is to “communicate the importance of 2nd Amendment rights to the citizens of the District of Columbia.”

The Toy Gun March is a gathering of liberty loving people and their families to promote responsible gun ownership, private charity and to bring public perception of gun owners into a better light.

Due to the fact that it is currently illegal to carry a loaded firearm into the District of Columbia, we liberty lovers have decided to tweak the nose of big government and show Obama what a clown he is for trying to restrict our natural rights. Join us as we march on DC fully armed with toy guns!

 

“We’re trying to make the point that it’s ridiculous for little kids to be getting in trouble for playing with toy guns and being suspended for things like biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun,” organizer Austin Petersen told The Huffington Post. “We’re also trying to send the message that gun owners are responsible” and that many, who identify themselves as libertarians, “aren’t all crazy gun nuts.”

The event, which was conceived and staged by Libertarian Republic, also raised money and toy donations for Toys for Tots.

Wednesday’s demonstration did, ultimately, descend into a gun battle – only, at the end, everyone was soaked in water instead of blood, and the “casualties” picked themselves off the capitol grounds and walked away in peace.

Putting Lipstick On Obamacare; Rick Perry’s Buzz Machine; The Gun Veto That Won’t Stick; FBI Sleeps On IRS; Restoring Rubio’s Conservative Cred — Wednesday Morning News Roundup 7-3-2013

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

  • The Administration of President Barack Obama is postponing the “employer mandate”  portion of Obamacare — the part that would levy financial penalties on businesses with more than 50 employees that fail to provide health insurance that meet the minimum standards and “affordability” — until 2015. The move delays implementation of at least one component of the unpopular law until after the next mid-term elections. Source: Human Events… 
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry promised friends and top fundraisers Tuesday he’d reveal “exciting future plans” next week in San Antonio, sparking wide speculation he will announce if he’ll run again for Governor. Source: CBS Houston… 
  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn moved Tuesday to tighten legislation that would end Illinois’ last-in-the-Nation prohibition on gun owners’ carrying their weapons in public places, setting the stage for near-certain legislative defeat for him next week. Source: Chicago Sun-Times… 
  • More than a month and a half after it was announced that the FBI would launch an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the groups and their legal representatives are still waiting to hear from the FBI. Source: CNS News… 
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) agreed Tuesday to be the lead sponsor of a Senate bill to ban abortion after an unborn child is 20 weeks old. Source: Weekly Standard… 

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

Nearly Half Of Americans Want Governors To Spurn Obamacare

To date, 26 States have agreed to sign on to an expansion of their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, while 13 have remained firm, opting out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s promise of matching Federal subsidies for those who get with the program.

But with the October start date for State-managed health insurance “exchanges” to begin enrolling applicants, public opinion is souring on Obamacare, as well as on the Governors of States that lined up to become early adopters.

A survey done by Rasmussen Reports in late June reveals that 48 percent of Americans now want State Governors to opt out of Obamacare, while only 41 percent hope their Governor supports the plan. Another 11 percent haven’t made up their minds.

The survey, which polled 1,000 “likely voters” over the telephone, confirms Americans’ steadfast antipathy toward State-managed healthcare. CNN found that public attitude toward Obamacare hasn’t changed much in the three years since Congress approved the plan, with the most recent assessment — done in May of this year — showing 54 percent opposed.

A proliferation of reports indicating insurance rates will increase under Obamacare hasn’t helped sell the plan, especially as the picture of how it will be rolled out becomes clearer. Writing for National Review, James Capretta notes:

Study after study — by Oliver Wyman, by Milliman, and by the Society of Actuaries — have confirmed the views of the experts, which is that premiums are going up a lot for most people in the individual-insurance market. Looking across these studies, one can expect premium increases, on average, in the range of 30 to 50 percent, depending on the state.

Remember when President Barack Obama said this?

Why Doesn’t America Have Feminist Extremists Like These?

Over the weekend, a coven of Ukranian feminists dressed in black robes went to a mosque in Stockholm. They went inside, taking off their shoes as a show of respect. The place was mostly empty, which hurts the impact of what they did a little bit. But we’re all reading about it, so what they did next obviously resonated beyond Sweden.

They ripped off their black robes, revealing slogans emblazoned across their topless torsos. The slogans said things like “No Sharia in Egypt and the world” and “My body is mine, not somebody’s honor.” They shouted things like “Free women!” and “No oppression!”

As happened at a similar protest six weeks ago in Tunisia, the half-naked protesters were hilariously dragged from the scene, probably by sheepish men in impeccable suits. They were jailed and charged on charges of suspicion of disorderly conduct.

The women are members of FEMEN, a 5-year-old Ukranian women’s organization that, unlike the consumer-grade lifestyle feminist movements that preoccupy the affluent ennui of liberals in Western society, actually has a few things to fight about — and Islamic repression lies at the heart of nearly all of it.

“If we did that demonstration in my country, we [would be] raped; we’re going to be cut with knives; we [would be] killed,” said Egyptian protester Aliaa Magda. “We should not be called ‘whores,’ or [told that] we are doing something shameful, like they were calling us today in the mosque,” said another unnamed protester. “They were calling us whores, whores from hell.”

Call them whatever you want. But they’re not fighting for more social support for prostitutes or Federal mandates on access to late-term abortions. They’re fighting against Islamic extremism and the brutal male fantasy of Sharia law, which imposes unbelievable structure, bondage and punishment on women living in societies where Sharia serves as the arbiter of Islamic justice.

The Clarion Project, a New York-based nonprofit group that targets Islamic extremism, describes the danger the United States faces if its political, business and cultural leaders don’t start drawing a line to turn back the slow creep of Sharia influence, as Muslims put down roots in the Western world in greater numbers. It’s clearly a case of encouraging assimilation into liberal Western society, as opposed to fostering pockets of Islamic extremism that remain capable of adhering to Sharia practice in a radical colonization of the West:

Under Muslim Sharia law, the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, and the television you watch would all be censored. Behavior in public is legally restricted and controlled. And Sharia is the ideal social system for those that preach Radical Islam. Sharia is an Arabic term referring to a legal framework to regulate public and private aspects of life based upon specific Islamic teachings.

Sharia does not dominate the rule of law today in western society, but dangerous elements of Sharia are rapidly creeping into institutions across the western world. Sharia has infiltrated major western financial institutions that now run Sharia Finance or Islamic Banking Divisions. Sharia ideology has a very real influence on the creation of public school curriculums and the publication of textbooks in the United States. Radical Islamists promote the idea that Muslim communities should be subject to their own separate law.

Very few American leaders have shown they possess the combination of common sense and resolve necessary to publicly speak against even the extremist form of Islamic practice — even though it prescribes all-out social revolution in countries like the United States and insinuates itself not merely into the religious sphere of citizens’ private lives, but also into the fabric of society itself: jurisprudence, property ownership, law enforcement and politics.

If FEMEN stages one of its protests on American soil, will anyone have the will to stand up and say it’s right?

Rubio’s Immigration Push Not Winning The Hearts Of Hispanic Voters

Even though Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has bent over backwards – or at least 180 degrees – to help craft an immigration reform package amenable to millions of non-citizens residing in the U.S. as illegal aliens, it hasn’t helped his standing in the eyes of Latino voters.

An early poll gauging the tendencies of would-be Hispanic voters in the 2016 Presidential election shows Rubio trailing far behind other possible candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden – though he did lead the pack of Republicans whose names have been tossed around as potential nominees.

According to the poll, conducted by Latino Decisions, eligible voters preferred Clinton over Rubio by a 66 to 28 percent margin; Biden also led Rubio 60 percent to 28 percent. Rubio did receive considerably more interest from Hispanic voters than other Republicans, though, with 29 percent favoring him over Chris Christie (14 percent), Jeb Bush (13 percent) and Paul Ryan (11 percent), among others.

Born in Miami to first-generation Cuban immigrants, Rubio was elected to his Senate seat in 2010 as a come-from-behind candidate, riding a wave of Tea Party support in winning the Republican nomination over incumbent Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Borrowing From The Borrowers To Fund Obamacare

As Congress fights over whether to permanently raise interest rates on Federal student loans, or to keep them level or peg them to financial markets, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a report that indicates the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will appropriate billions of dollars in student loan interest to subsidize the state-managed health insurance program.

According to the report, Obamacare will incur an additional $8.7 billion in interest on Federal student loans over the next ten years. The government is claiming it will save more than $60 billion by eliminating bank-based lending and administering student loans in-house, but instead of passing that savings on to borrowers, it’s breaking off a huge chunk for Obamacare.

That means the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found a way to bankroll the ACA on the backs of young people, regardless of whether they actively choose to buy in to Obamacare (and many have said that they won’t.)

In a sad way, though, it’s a no-harm, no-foul situation for the busted student loan program. Student entitlements have been a major factor in driving up college costs and bloating university programs for decades. Perhaps Monday’s doubling of student loan interest rates will have the same effect on the wallets of young would-be borrowers as Obamacare, passing the threshold at which it makes financial sense for them to opt in.

Obama Does Damage Control; European Romance Shattered; China & Russia On A Boat; Muslim Brotherhood Digs In For Morsi; Dems Run For The Hills As Obamacare Looms — Tuesday Morning News Roundup 7-2-2013

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

  • President Barack Obama has sought to limit the damage from the growing transatlantic espionage row after Germany and France denounced the major snooping activities of U.S. agencies and warned of a possible delay in the launch next week of ambitious free-trade talks between Europe and the U.S. Source: The Guardian… 
  • It has taken a long time, but the world’s fantasies about Barack Obama are finally crumbling. In Europe, once the headquarters of the global cult of Obama, Monday’s newspapers were full of savage quotes about the perfidy of the Obama-led U.S. Source: Financial Times…
  • China will join Russia later this week for its largest-ever naval drills with a foreign partner, underlining deepening ties between the former Cold War rivals along with Beijing’s desire for closer links with regional militaries. Source: The Guardian… 
  • A member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party addressed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters on Tuesday, calling on them to sacrifice themselves in defense of Morsi’s legitimacy in the face of millions of demonstrators who demand an end to his rule. Source: Egypt Independent… 
  • With just three months away from the Oct. 1 enrollment start date, nothing about the Obamacare implementation process should be politically encouraging for Democrats. In fact, the more people learn about Obamacare, the more frightened they become. Source: Washington Post…

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

Concealed Carry Dawns In Violent, ‘Gun-Free’ Chicago

Over the objection of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, it will soon be legal to carry a concealed weapon on the streets of Chicago.

The change in the law comes via the actions of conservatives in the Illinois Legislature, as well as from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that discarded a Chicago “carve-out” exemption that would have continued to allow Cook County and its municipalities to pass broad gun bans. A supermajority of the State Legislature passed a “veto-proof” concealed carry bill in January, making Illinois a “shall-issue” State in spite of the Governor’s strident opposition. Under the law, the State police are responsible for the licensing process, a prerogative that can’t be usurped by municipal fiat.

While 2nd Amendment supporters aren’t crazy about Illinois’ gun laws in general, those among Cook County’s 358,000 gun owners (yes, that number represents those who are “registered”) can at least expect the same measure of protection (or infringement) under the State’s mechanism for regulating gun ownership as that enjoyed by residents everywhere else in Illinois.

Under the new law, the Illinois State Police shall issue a concealed carry license to “any gun owner with a state-issued Firearm Owners Identification [FOI] card, who passes a background check, pays a $150 fee, and undergoes 16 hours of training.” FOI permits must be renewed every five years, and guns are still outlawed in government buildings and on college and school campuses.

On the bright side, any municipality that takes steps to add its own regulations on top of the State gun law faces a per-day penalty of $10,000 per occurrence — even Chicago.

Palin: Leaving GOP An Option For Conservatives Who’ve Had Enough

Conservatives’ frustration over mainstream Republican response to expanded government surveillance, immigration reform, and financial and administrative bloat leaves them with few options for effecting fundamental changes via the traditional political process — at least as long as that process is dominated by two political parties that are, especially on the national level, often indistinguishable.

Sarah Palin intimated Saturday on FOX News that the time may be near when conservatives disenfranchised by elected leaders who represent their interests less poorly than a more liberal opponent, but still not well, may wake up and realize that the modern American political landscape is a product of citizens’ own making and that it should be changed.

 

Palin reminded viewers that Republican and Democrat are appellations affixed to private political parties, that they don’t entwine with any founding document or Constitutional charter, and that nothing prevents Americans from organizing new parties and movements if they’re fed up with how far the collective ideology of the ruling class has strayed from its primary role of enacting the will of the people.

“Remember, these are private parties, and no one’s forcing us to be enlisted in either party,” she said. “If the GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform, then, yeah, more and more of us are gonna start saying, ‘You know, what’s wrong with being an independent?’ — kind of that libertarian streak that much of us have.

“In other words, we want government to back off and not infringe upon our rights. I think there will be a lot of us who start saying, ‘GOP, if you abandon us, we have nowhere else to go except to become more independent and not enlisted in one or the other of the private majority parties that rule in our Nation — either Democrat or Republican.’”

Palin pointed to the Senate’s hasty passage of a bipartisan immigration bill, which lawmakers passed without having read through it, as a prime example of both parties’ summary disregard for the electors who placed them in Washington, D.C.

“I think that Republicans who caved, along with Democrats who caved in to [President Barack] Obama’s wishes to legalize illegal aliens, is a matter of a lack of principle and respect for the rule of law. This was an absolute betrayal of working-class Americans who do respect the rule of law and [of] legal immigrant who have come here, stood in line and paid their dues — that’s some of the hypocrisy of our permanent political class in Washington, D.C., which is such an indication of such a problem about abandonment of what we, the people, expect from our representatives and those whom we elect to fulfill the will of the people.”

The stranglehold the two-party system has had on the quadrennial popularity contest known as the Presidential election showed brief signs of weakening in 2008 and in subsequent midterm elections. But even though the Tea Party movement drove a wedge between some RINO politicians and their conservative constituents, it often meant different things (Is the Tea Party about small government only, or does it embrace social conservatism across the board?) to people in different States.

Going forward, can conservatives’ frustrations galvanize future leaders — and their electors — in a more organized fashion? And, if so, will the idealism of a conservative party’s constituents get in the way of the necessary bureaucratic operational mechanics required for a modern political party to function on a national scale? Or will conservatives, as Palin suggests, be content with a grass-roots approach, backing independent candidates and winning small political victories here and there, biding their time until there’s finally sufficient will among our elected leaders to reform the underpinnings of America’s morally bankrupt two-party system?

Obama’s $7 Billion “Power Africa” Energy Scheme

President Barack Obama revealed a plan to bring electricity to sub-Saharan Africa on a massive scale Sunday, pledging $7 billion in Federal funds to a new program he said will bring “light where there is currently darkness.”

Under the President’s “Power Africa” program, the U.S. will commit to funding the expansion of the region’s infrastructure by undertaking projects that ambitiously seek to double the reach of the electrical grid. The President’s own assessment of the project pinpoints the overall capital investment needed to accomplish that goal at $300 billion.

Obama announced the initiative Sunday at a stop on his African itinerary in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” said the President. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

More than 85 percent of rural sub-Saharan Africa has no electrical infrastructure, affecting approximately two-thirds of the population.

Critics fret that such massive American investment in an area with a history of political instability (to say the least) could result in giving power players in regional conflicts a new, high-stakes trophy to justify more civil strife.

California Sheriff Strips Feds Of Enforcement Authority Over 2nd Amendment Rights

John D’Agostini, Sheriff of El Dorado County, Calif., has revoked the authority of U.S. Forest Service officers to enforce State law within his countywide jurisdiction. The new policy is set to kick in July 22.

D’Agostini said he made the decision after hearing numerous complaints from visitors to the El Dorado National Forest who reported being stopped by Forestry officers and questioned about their activities on Federal public lands. Complainants said the Federal officers showed particular interest in whether they were carrying guns.

“They want to know what you’re doing here, where you’re going, do you have any firearms on board?” park visitor Cory Ward told CBS Sacramento.

D’Agostini said he takes seriously the “style and manner of service we provide” to citizens and visitors, and that the Forest Service, “after many attempts and given many opportunities, has failed to meet that standard.”

A Forest Service representative is set to meet with D’Agostini this Wednesday in an attempt to resolve the standoff, but legal experts say the Sheriff is within his rights to supersede the Feds on determining whether they can enforce State law in his county.

‘A Victory For Common Sense’: Charges Dropped Against Teen Who Wore NRA Shirt To School

More than two months after 14-year-old West Virginia student Jared Marcum wore a National Rifle Association T-shirt to Logan Middle School, criminal charges stemming from his refusal to take off the shirt have been dropped.

Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant dismissed a charge of obstruction last Thursday, following an agreement struck with prosecutors and school faculty that there was no point in creating a criminal record for Jared, whose behavioral record as a student was previously unblemished.

(Side note: It took two months for adults to reach that conclusion?)

Prosecutors had been forging ahead in the case as recently as Monday of last week, when Jared was summoned back into court after the State had requested a gag order against both Jared and his father, Allen Lardieri, who had appeared on several television stations discussing the case.

Prosecutors had claimed the order was for the defendant’s own protection, but defense attorney Ben White found that a risible argument, saying it was simply a PR move designed “to take it [the case] out of the court of public opinion.”

Jared was immediately suspended following the T-shirt incident, during which he continued talking about how his 1st Amendment rights were being violated after band teacher David Burroway, who evidently wasn’t too keen on the 2nd Amendment, told him to stop arguing about changing shirts. But the then-eighth-grader’s persistence in voicing his beliefs incurred an obstruction charge.

Upon his return to school, Jared’s fellow students signaled their solidarity by wearing their own NRA T-shirts to class, with no opposition from school administrators.

“I think, with the gun issue, with what is going on, this is a victory for common sense,” White told WOWK-TV after the charges had been dropped. Jared’s parents have indicated they will file a civil suit against the school system.

Sanity Prevails: Traffic Cams Come Down; Judge Holds Ohio Town In Contempt

An Ohio judge has slapped town leaders in the Village of Elmwood Place, a Cincinnati suburb, with a contempt charge and has ordered the county sheriff’s office to dismantle and impound the traffic monitoring cameras the town had been using to ticket speeders.

Elmwood Place must also pay for storage fees incurred by the impoundment, and it must refund money it has collected from alleged speeders “caught” by the cameras since they were installed in September.

Judge Robert Ruehlman made the ruling last week at a contempt hearing in which he found both the town and the camera company — Maryland-based Optotraffic — in violation of an injunction in place since March. That’s when Ruehlman found the cameras UnConstitutional and barred the town from operating the cameras and collecting any more fees from motorists.

Under its service contract, the town was collecting 60 percent of revenues from the camera-generated tickets, with Optotraffic taking the rest. But the judge slammed both parties after learning the town had turned the cameras back on, ostensibly only to collect traffic data, and had continued to accept an additional $48,000 in fines from motorists who had come in to pay off outstanding tickets, at $105 a pop, after the date of the original injunction.

Drivers paid their fines through Optotraffic, and town officials said refunds will have to be issued from data the company maintains, since no one in Elmwood Place has any record of who received a ticket. Overall, the town and contractor have collected more than $1.7 million in camera-based ticket fines since the devices were installed.

Ruehlman called the ticketing program “a scam that the motorists can’t win.”

“The entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic,” he wrote.

The Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a ban on red light and speeding camera enforcement last Wednesday, sending the legislation to the State Senate for approval. If passed, only mobile camera enforcement within school zones, during restricted hours, would be permitted.

The Columbus Dispatch lamented the House vote in an editorial, calling the ban “reckless lawmaking” that places individual freedom over public safety.

[T]he Ohio House on Wednesday threw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s now up to the Senate to block House Bill 69, a wholesale ban of an important law-enforcement tool… Sure, many drivers hate these cameras. But as a result, most change their driving behavior for the better. For lawmakers to cave to populist sentiment by helping people skirt safety laws is bad policy.

An untold number of Ohioans have been spared accidents and are still around to complain about their tickets. The Senate should recognize that it is being asked to make roads less safe and reject this bill.

A leading Senate Republican said he favors banning the cameras, but can’t predict how the bill will fare in the Senate.

Bloomberg: Stop-And-Frisk Is Great; Start Targeting Blacks More, Whites Less

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the city police department’s unConstitutional stop-and-frisk policy on his weekly radio show Friday, but confused his fellow liberals when he stopped to add this:

I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. It’s exactly the reverse of what they say. I don’t know where they [opponents of the policy] went to school but they certainly didn’t take a math course. Or a logic course.

Ouch. Bloomberg was basing his comments on statistics that point to blacks and Hispanics as the suspected perpetrators of 90 percent of murders in New York last year. The same stats estimate 87 percent of all stop-and-frisk stops targeted blacks and Hispanics, while 9 percent targeted whites.

Stop-and-frisk authorizes NYPD officers to stop citizens in public without probable cause and search their persons and their belongings.

Senate Panel: Is NSA Watching Americans Buy Guns? Books? Tools? Aspirin?

A group of Senators from both political parties is investigating whether the National Security Agency (NSA) has been mining data on Americans’ purchasing habits, focusing especially on firearms and media consumption.

The 26-member group sent a letter Thursday to NSA Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, asking him to explain how, and to what extent, the agency grabs up data generated from citizens’ network-based credit transactions, banking data, library records and pharmacy visits.

Asserting that the U.S. Patriot Act authorized surveillance methods that hid government’s broad reach from both American citizens and the limiting influence of Congressional oversight, the Senators question both the efficacy and the legality of relying on the Patriot Act as a rubber-stamp search tool for the vast majority of Americans who aren’t suspected of a crime.

The PATRIOT Act’s business records authority is very broad in its scope. It can be used to collect information on credit card purchases, pharmacy records, library records, firearm sales records, financial information, and a range of other sensitive subjects. And the bulk collection authority could potentially be used to supersede bans on maintaining gun owner databases, or laws protecting the privacy of medical records, financial records, and records of book and movie purchases. These other types of bulk collection could clearly have a significant impact on Americans’ privacy and liberties as well.

It has been suggested that the privacy impact of particular methods of domestic surveillance should be weighed against the degree to which the surveillance enhances our national security. With this in mind, we are interested in hearing more details about why you believe that the bulk phone records collection program provides any unique value.

…[W]e are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law. Statements from senior officials that the PATRIOT Act authority is “analogous to a grand jury subpoena” and that the NSA “[doesn’t] hold data on US citizens” had the effect of misleading the public about how the law was being interpreted and implemented.

This prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.

The letter is blunt in asking many of the same questions Americans outraged by the (known) scope of the NSA’s surveillance methods want to ask:

  • How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?
  • Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?
  • Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?
  • Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.
  • Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.
  • Please provide specific examples of instances in which useful intelligence was gained by reviewing phone records that could not have been obtained without the bulk collection authority, if such examples exist.
  • Please describe the employment status of all persons with conceivable access to this data, including IT professionals, and detail whether they are federal employees, civilian or military, or contractors.

 

House Republicans Scorn Senate Immigration Bill; Say They’ll Craft Their Own

House Republicans haven’t had time to read through the massive omnibus immigration reform bill their Senate colleagues passed on Thursday.

Judging by their comments about the bill, which creates a path to amnesty for illegal aliens in the U.S. and authorizes completion of a border fence that the DHS Secretary can choose to terminate, they’re much more likely to craft their own version – or smaller, bite-sized versions – of immigration legislation than to spend time and energy reading through the Senate package, which most of them have already dismissed.

Regard for the Senate bill in the Republican-majority House is almost universally scornful, with Congressmen insinuating the House has become the “smarter” legislative chamber, offering a moral and intellectual salve for the hasty, unconsidered and self-defeating approach to immigration reform they feel their Senate peers have taken.

Here’s a sampling of House members’ spoken disdain for the Senate bill:

  • “Just like all the Senators, I haven’t read it yet.” – Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.)
  • “The Corker-Hoeven [border security] amendment is terrible.” – John Fleming (R-La.)
  • “More work on the border is good, but it doesn’t solve all the problems with that bill.” – Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
  • “It is a pipe dream to think that that bill is going to the floor and be voted on.” – Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)
  • “[F]old it up into a paper airplane and throw it out the window.” – Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)
  • “If you think that the House is going to cave and bring up the Senate bill, that is idiotic.” – Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
  • “The Senate is, at this point, irrelevant.” – Ted Poe (R-Texas)

H/T: National Review

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.