Big Sis Deploys DHS ‘Officers’ To Watch Tea Party At Nationwide Protests Tuesday

As Tea Party supporters gathered outside IRS offices Tuesday in planned demonstrations against the agency’s discriminatory thwarting of their attempts at organizing nonprofit groups, armed officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stood watching.

They’re easy to spot at this St. Louis rally:

 

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano sent out the goon squad to “monitor” Tea Party protests in Missouri, Florida, Indiana and Illinois.

As expected, all the protests went off peacefully nationwide, which is more than can be said for some other high-profile demonstrations that were spared any DHS presence.

Congress Isn’t Done Questioning IRS Exemptions Official Because ‘She Waived’ Right To Invoke 5th Amendment

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sat down Lois Lerner, who’s in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Unit, for questioning early Wednesday, despite forewarning from her attorney that she would invoke the 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination by not answering any questions.

Later in the afternoon, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he planned to haul her back before the same committee for more questioning. Why? Because Lerner gave a statement to the committee before pleading the 5th — a move Issa believes waived her right to refuse testimony.

“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”

What did Lerner say in her opening remarks?

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 committee.

Issa said Lerner shouldn’t have attempted to squeeze a declaration of innocence into her testimony if she intended to remain silent on any questions the committee had.

“The precedents are clear that this is not something you can turn on and turn off,” he said. “She made testimony after she was sworn in, asserted her innocence in a number of areas, even answered questions asserting that a document was true … So she gave partial testimony and then tried to revoke that.”

The IRS scandal became public after Lerner admitted on May 10 that the agency had discriminated against conservative nonprofits that had applied for tax-exempt status.

M.O. Fleeing Barack’s Mess, Bernanke Leaves The Faucet On, Brains Like Fewer Calories, FEMA Leans On ‘Waffle House Index’ To Triage Disaster, DOJ Went After Conservative Reporter’s Parents: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 5-7-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • First lady Michelle Obama is evidently tiring of the scandal swirling around her husband — so she appears to be planning to get out of the White House, and stay out, all summer long on an extended vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.

 

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to tell Congress today that the U.S. economy is too weak to handle a bump in interest rates or a slowdown in the money-printing, dollar-debasing scheme known as quantitative easing.

 

  • A study reveals that reducing calories prevents the loss of brain cells and cognitive decline through aging, and can help avoid degenerative mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

 

  • Craig Fugate, the corpulent director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, apparently likes the Waffle House well enough to take policy cues from the 24-hour restaurant chain. In triaging the scale of the disaster left in the wake of a tornado, he’s come up with something called the “Waffle House Index.”

 

  • The U.S. Justice Department is already stammering excuses for the illegal manner in which it gained access to the communications of conservative-leaning news reporters. But targeting their parents? That’s what allegedly happened to FOX News reporter James Rosen, whose parents’ phone records appear to be part of a broad DOJ investigative dragnet.

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

Tea Party Up, IRS Down In Public Opinion

That the Internal Revenue Service has sunk even lower in the eyes of the general public over the past couple of weeks is no surprise to anyone who follows even mainstream news outlets.

No one likes the IRS, even for its designated function of dispassionately confiscating wealth and offering it up to the government for redistribution. But the idea that the agency is using its power to help the President’s friends and hurt his enemies gives a sharp new bitterness to what’s always been, for most people, a dull hatred.

A joint poll released Tuesday by ABC News and The Washington Post estimates that a majority of Americans blame the IRS hit job not on incompetence or administrative mistakes, but on deliberate targeting ordered by someone or coordinated by a group. Forty-five percent further believe that the Administration of President Barack Obama knows more about who’s to blame for all the discrimination than it’s telling.

What’s more surprising is the corresponding bump in the proportion of Americans who, according to a separate poll released Monday, approve of the Tea Party and its small-government message in the wake of the IRS scandal that gummed up the works (as Obama loves to say) for the conservative groups as they sought tax-exempt status.

Don’t expect the Tea Party to win any vapid mainstream popularity contests anytime soon. But the poll, conducted by CNN, saw public approval for the Tea Party climb from 28 percent only two months ago to 37 percent now — a number almost identical to the conservative movement’s all-time high in 2010.

The number of those who approve is still smaller than the proportion of Americans — 45 percent — who said they still have an unfavorable view of the Tea Party. But with the majority of Americans still getting their news from left-leaning and omissive mainstream media, it’s remarkable that the number’s not much higher — especially considering that both these polls were done by left-leaning and omissive mainstream media outlets.

But if lawsuits, such as the one filed this week against the IRS by a California Tea Party group, bring to light new evidence about who authorized the scandal and who was involved in covering everything up, the Tea Party movement could be welcoming — and educating — many more defectors from the partisan, business-as-usual political PR wars, as more and more regular Americans wake from their complicit indifference to the hidden crimes of the Obama Administration’s first four years.

Florida Governor Yanks Funding For Police ‘Snitch’ Program To Report ‘Suspicious’ Neighbors

Early this month, the sheriff of Palm Beach County, Fla., announced a new, Orwellian “violence prevention” program designed to pit neighbors against each other by having people anonymously call the cops on anyone who doesn’t like the government or takes a picture of a bridge.

Why? Because people who voice their disapproval of the way their leaders are representing them might be terrorists, the kind of people who’d shoot up a school or set off a bomb at a public event or important landmark.

The local program was to receive $1 million in State funds, apportioned by the Legislature, to train deputies, mental health professionals and case workers to respond whenever someone called the 24-hour citizen hotline, so that they could then visit alleged terrorists, at their homes, unannounced, with the goal of diverting their latent violent behavior before they commit an atrocious act.

A bonus: The sheriff’s office would have dirt on people reported to the hotline, stacking the deck against supposed “terrorists” by exposing them to unwarranted scrutiny and making otherwise-innocuous citizens look like festering threats, if ever they should come before the law for any reason.

At the time, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said this:

We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him. What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, “Hey, is everything OK?”

Neighbors helping neighbors, eh? East Germans lent each other a similar helping hand during the Cold War, when the Stasi state security ministry recruited regular people to rat out their neighbors and coworkers for harboring anti-government sentiment.

But folks in Palm Beach eager to turn on their fellow man may have to go back to calling 911 or the police dispatch line, thanks to Republican Governor Rick Scott’s recent veto of the $1 million in State money originally earmarked to subsidize the $3.2 million tattling scheme.

Of course there’s a twist: Scott didn’t veto the Legislature’s earmark on principle; in fact, he called the prevention program “a very well-intended project.” His reason, rather, was that Florida’s taxpayers as a whole were being asked to support a program that “benefits” only the residents of Palm Beach County.

With nearly a third of his funding gone, Bradshaw has said his department is reconsidering deploying the program at all. That’s welcome news to residents who were outraged about the plan — not only on Constitutional grounds, but for its outright stupidity.

“Kill this thing before it grows like a cancer,” an unnamed Tea Party supporter told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The idea may not be dead nationwide, though. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is enabling local enforcement agencies to do, by proxy, what Congress, to the disappointment of George W. Bush, forbade it from doing upon its creation in 2001: acting as an info dump for Stasi-style tipsters. Through nearly $500 million in local “urban area security” grants last year, DHS has primed local agencies, including the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, to mine citizens’ paranoia for information about who’s got it in for their government.

Rand Demands Independent IRS Investigation

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told a New Hampshire audience Monday that Congress shouldn’t let those responsible for perpetrating the IRS Tea Party-targeting scandal get away with a wrist-slapping from the Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Rather, said Paul, the politically-motivated stymieing of conservative nonprofits under the guise of IRS enforcement demands an investigation fully independent of any ties to the Administration of President Barack Obama.

“Any person who would use the power or abuse the power of government to go after their political opponents, I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, to take that brute force, that bullying force of government and to use it against your opponents, there is something distinctly and profoundly un-American about that,” he said. “I don’t see any way the president can gain back trust, and for goodness sake, somebody’s got to get fired or go to prison.”

More Liberal Defectors From Obamacare: This Time, It’s Unions

Organized labor leaders are the latest in a growing group of liberal special interests to take a pass on President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The president of a labor union representing the construction trade called on the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety last month. Now, bosses with the 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) are fretting over how to integrate increased Obamacare insurance costs into its members’ health care plans.

UFCW president Joe Hansen recently wrote a guest column for The Hill, essentially accusing Obama of lying when, in 2009, he promised unions their employees would be able to keep their existing insurance under Obamacare.

“[T]he president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers,” said Hansen. “You can’t have the same quality healthcare that you had before, despite what the president said.”

‘Terror’ Map Shows U.S. A Good Place To Do Business; Mideast, Not So Much

Living under oppression creep in the United States, it is common — and right — to view today’s America as a severely compromised, quasi-socialist version of the land envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.

But a little present-day perspective can be informative, too. And while there’s a lot of work to do if the Nation is to ever live up to the ideals that gave it birth, the United States is still far ahead of most countries when it comes to providing the basic, raw materials that lay the groundwork for the pursuit of happiness.

Risk management firm Aon, which sells insurance to companies that seek to establish an international footprint, released its global “Terrorism and Political Violence” assessment map for 2013 last week, revealing that countries in North and South America, generally, are among the Earth’s most politically stable, most terror-free and most friendly to new business.

2013-Terrorism-Map-14-05-2013

The assessment reviews the relative political stability of each Nation on Earth, looking at factors like internal sabotage, the threat of terror, labor unrest (such as strikes and riots), insurrection and revolt, war and civil war in predicting the risk factor for businesses that require peace and some measure of domestic happiness just to open up shop.

By those measures, the United States and Canada, along with 12 other countries in the Americas, all are regarded as low-risk business zones. Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina are considered to be “medium”-risk countries. Six more — Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Paraguay — were rated as “high” risks for upheaval in its various forms. But no country in North or South America was rated as a severe business risk.

Contrast that with nearly all of Central Africa and the Mideast, where severity is the norm, or even Western Europe, where France and Spain find themselves in the same category as Mexico, Kazakhstan, China and Bosnia.

The report names terrorism — which it ominously describes as a “foreseeable risk” — as the lone man-made factor threatening American businesses’ physical capital and human resources, whereas all of the “severe”-risk countries are threatened not only by terrorism but by violent internal strife, as well as the threat (or the existing condition) of outright war.

Of the developed nations, only Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland and Iceland are considered to harbor “negligible” man-made risk.

Is White House Visit From Union Leader The Missing Link That Implicates Obama In IRS Conspiracy?

One day before the Internal Revenue Service began its now-infamous hit job on Tea Party nonprofits, the leader of the labor union representing the agency’s employees — a vocally anti-Tea Party group — met with President Barack Obama at the White House.

What Obama discussed with Colleen Kelley, president of the 150,000-member National Treasury Employees’ Union (NTEU), isn’t known. But they met on March 31, 2010. And on April 1, the very next day, the IRS got busy going after the Tea Party.

According to the Inspector General for Tax Administration, whose independent report on the scandal was released last week:

April 1-2, 2010: the new Acting Manager, Technical Unit, suggested the need for a Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party cases. The Determinations Unit Program Manager Agreed.

The NTEU has a public history of hating the Tea Party. Its political action committee endorsed Obama in both his Presidential campaigns, and it spent a lot of money to ensure Tea Party opponents got elected in other races. Meanwhile, the union’s members, while on the job as ostensibly dispassionate tax collectors and government enforcers, used their positions to bully the Tea Party while giving their liberal political enemies the “all clear” on their way to tax-exempt status and timely election-season campaigning.

An anonymous staffer in the Cincinnati IRS office from which much of the Tea Party stonewalling emanated told The Washington Post that the agency’s worker bees didn’t act to take down the Tea Party on their own. Rather, said the source, everything they did was directed from on high:

“We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”

For now — and, if Congress doesn’t act, probably forever — Obama’s connection to the scandal is obscured for a lack of evidence. The Inspector General’s report is cursory, and it didn’t proceed from an evidence-based investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder isn’t going to take it upon himself to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal; and even if he does, it will be a dog and pony show, a farce perpetrated by an appointee “as loyal to Obama as John Mitchell was to Richard Nixon.”

But Congress can introduce a piece of Independent Counsel legislation to replace the law that expired in 1999, following the investigation by Ken Starr into the activities of the Bill Clinton Administration. If that happens, Obama — and Holder — will be subject to a level of scrutiny that, until now, they’ve only known how to perpetrate against others. And the Nation would learn whether Obama is, at best, an inept leader who remained disconnected from what his allies and appointees were doing — or, at worst, a criminal who hid behind the power of the Presidency to win at all costs.

Youth Demo Rejecting Obamacare As Too Expensive

A new poll by the American Action Forum reveals that, if President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — ends up failing, the President will have simple market forces to thank.

That’s because young people, who typically incur lower healthcare costs as a demographic  far less exposed to health risks than the elderly, are showing signs they won’t opt into any form of mandatory health coverage if the premiums they have to pay climb very far — as many insurance forecasters predict they will.

If premiums rise 30 percent, for example, only 55 percent of young people polled said they would choose to purchase health insurance. That’s a lot fewer than the 83 percent who said they’d still buy insurance if the cost under Obamacare rises “only” 10 percent.

And if premiums do rise, the regressive subsidy that the young demographic’s artificially inflated Obamacare premiums were supposed to inject into the States’ new insurance “exchange” programs will disappear. That, in turn, would drive up premiums for the diminished number of people who do buy insurance — a phenomenon that would hit the elderly especially hard.

As for the younger people who choose not to deflate other people’s premiums at the expense of their own insurance costs? According to the poll, they’ll just drop out and pay the mandatory penalty.

Researchers Baffled By Standstill In Global Warming

Researchers writing in the journal Nature Geoscience are perplexed that the theory of global warming isn’t holding sway over what the Earth has actually been doing for the past 14 years.

Revising one’s views about such an inconvenient truth isn’t easy, so the international group of scientists who published the report is being cautious in how the news is presented.

“It has been argued that this observation might require a downward revision of equilibrium climate sensitivity,” the researchers admit. “The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before.”

The trend of increasing global temperatures as a result of the warming of Earth’s atmosphere halted in 1998 and has remained relatively stable since then.

Now That’s How You Do Wealth Redistribution: France’s Wealthy Taxed Above 100 Percent Of Income

French business publication Les Echos reported last week that the French government sent more than 8,000 wealthy households a tax bill last year that, incredibly, topped 100 percent of their income.

Those who earned more than 1.3 million euros were subject to hand all of their money — and then some — to the government, thanks to a special levy imposed by the Socialist government as a way of undoing a rebate plan the outgoing administration had, mercifully, devised to cap the tax rate at 50 percent of income.

A French administrative court has told President Francois Hollande that any taxation on individuals that exceeds 66.66 of their income is confiscatory. Before that ruling, Hollande had been preparing a proposal that would have allowed individual earnings of more than 1 million euros to be taxed at 75 percent. That would have a fulfilled a key campaign promise that, remarkably, helped get Hollande elected.

Most Want Congress To Unleash The Hounds, North Korea Pops Off, Iran On America’s Tail, Obama Hearts John McRINO, Twitter Is Hell: Monday Morning News Roundup 5-20-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents in a new poll believe Congress is making the right moves investigating the Administration of President Barack Obama. The poll also finds 54 percent of Americans approve of the attention Congress is giving to the Administration’s Internal Revenue Service scandal.
  • North Korea fired two short-range missiles Monday. That makes six launches in three days. The Hermit Kingdom also condemned South Korea for criticizing what it said were its legitimate military drills.
  • Iran has deployed a new (for Iran) warship to tail Western forces engaged in a joint minesweeping exercise in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians have gotten within a mile of the Westerners.
  • Saudis who don’t want to forfeit their souls should follow the advice of the head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police and stay off Twitter. Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told the BBC that anyone who uses the service “has lost this world and the afterlife.”

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

 Staff writer Sam Rolley contributed to this report.

City Sues Good Samaritans Who Feed Strangers’ Parking Meters

A group of six self-described “Robin Hooders,” who estimate they’ve saved about 4,000 New Hampshire motorists from parking tickets by feeding their expired meters, now faces a lawsuit in the small city where they’ve been active since December.

The small band of residents, local members of a larger New Hampshire libertarian movement called the Free State Project, play a cat-and-mouse game with meter maids in Keene, N.H., looking for parked cars in front of meters that have expired. Staying about 20 feet ahead of the city’s small squad of ticket-writing meter maids, they re-up expired meters and leave behind calling cards that show an image of Robin Hood on one side and a quote — “We saved you from the king’s tariff! — Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.” — on the other.

In the suit, the city’s three meter maids complain the Robin Hooders have “regularly, repeatedly, and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated” them by “following, surrounding, touching or nearly touching, and otherwise taunting and harassing.” The suit asks the court to order the group to keep a 50-foot distance from the meter maids — at least one of whom has complained of getting heart palpitations from the stress — at all times.

The group’s members have told various media outlets the city is having to stretch the truth in order to make claims like that, noting that none of them has been charged with harassment.

“The Robin Hooders have always been courteous in my experience,” defendant Ian Freeman told NBC News. “The city is upset because they are losing revenue and are coming up with anything they can to try to stop it.”

“I don’t follow them home or try to find them off duty,” defendant James Cleaveland, who knows the meter maids by name, told Reuters. “They always use the excuse ‘I’m just doing my job.’ I always say ‘I’m just doing my activity too.’

“It’s my philosophy. I could go talk to the city council at every meeting but to me, actions speak louder than words.”

Those actions are a lot more popular with residents in the “Live Free or Die” State than with the city. The group’s “Free Keene” Facebook page has nearly 5,000 friends, and drivers quoted in local and national reports favor what the Robin Hooders are doing — and the spirit in which they’re going about it.

Bailing people out of $5 parking tickets isn’t the toughest fight the Free State Project’s Keene chapter has waged. The group has also supported relaxing drug laws by publicly smoking marijuana in a downtown protest. In 2009, the group protested attacks on the 2nd Amendment by having a half-naked woman walk through the city armed with a holstered handgun.

Appeals Court Spurns Obama’s UnConstitutional Recess Appointments

Just as the Obama Administration’s public reputation is at its lowest ebb over unConstitutional surveillance and discriminatory targeting of political enemies by government agencies with unfettered power comes a decision in which an appeals court ruled the President himself violated the Constitution when he made appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was taking a break.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia handed down the 2-1 decision last Thursday, invalidating not only the President’s appointment of Craig Becker to the NLRB in March 2010 — when the Senate was in a two-week intrasession recess — but also some of the NLRB’s subsequent actions in which he participated.

The Senate had blocked Becker’s nomination to the same position only a month earlier. In all, Obama filled 15 vacancies by recess appointment during the March 2010 break.

Last week’s ruling is similar to one made against Obama in January of this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which invalidated the President’s appointments of Sharon Block, Terence Flynn and Richard Griffin to the NLRB at a time when the Senate was adjourned for Christmas break. The President has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The NLRB had argued Obama’s position that the definition of “recess,” as stated in in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution (the “Recess Appointments Clause”), would allow the President to unilaterally make appointments that normally require Senate ratification, so long as the Senate essentially wasn’t assembled — and, therefore, not available to conduct business.

But the court recognized the absurdity of that argument, noting:

And therein lies the implausibility of the [NLRB’s] unavailable-for-business definition. As explained above, the Board argues that a recess occurs any time members of the Senate do not have a duty to attend, the Senate chamber is empty, and the Senate is unavailable to receive communications from the president.

…The problem with this definition is that the Senate fulfills these criteria whenever its members leave for the weekend, go home for the evening, or even take a break for lunch. In each of these instances, the senators have no duty to attend, the Senate chamber is empty, and the body cannot receive messages from the president.

Defining recess in this way would eviscerate the divided-powers framework the two Appointments Clauses establish. If the Senate refused to confirm a president‘s nominees, then the president could circumvent the Senate‘s constitutional role simply by waiting until senators go home for the evening.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s been among the President’s most vocal critics over last week’s multiple scandals involving discrimination and abuse of power by the Executive Branch, told FOX News the two rulings illustrate the egregiousness of what he called an “unprecedented power grab” by the President.

Did Treasury Department Target Conservative-Owned GM Dealers In 2009 Auto Bailout?

Two Republican Congressmen are inquiring whether the U.S. Treasury Department went after auto dealerships owned by conservatives after the Federal government, in 2009, became majority owner of General Motors as part of a $50 billion Congressional bailout.

Mike Kelley (R-Pa.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) released a letter they sent to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Thursday, asking that he release information pertaining to the methods used by the Automotive Task Force as it selected which GM dealerships would be shut down in an effort to streamline the bankrupt company’s operations.

Renacci himself was one of the car dealers to get the ax; a Pennsylvania dealership owned by Kelley’s father also didn’t survive.

“As member s of Congress who each went through the dealership closing process in our private capacities, we have concerns regarding the criteria used by both General Motors and Chrysler in the automakers’ dealership wind-down,” the letter to Secretary Lew states. “More importantly, we are interested in determining the role that your department played and the input it provided in drafting this methodology.”

The Congressmen are requesting “all emails, phone records, notes, memoranda, reports and other communications regarding the decision-making process,” as well as the identities of those involved in that process.

H/T: Breitbart 

‘This Is No Ordinary Scandal’ – WSJ Says IRS Debacle ‘Worst Washington Scandal Since Watergate’

Peggy Noonan, who’s written speeches for two Republican Presidents and served as a consultant on NBC’s ‘The West Wing,’ penned a column in the Wall Street Journal Thursday that bypasses the partisan indictments of the Administration of President Barack Obama over the IRS’ political discrimination scandal, focusing instead on the issue’s threat to the fundamental integrity of government, regardless of the party that’s in charge.

While those who’ve long been jaded by the mainstream media’s doe-eyed coverage of Washington politics might argue that government integrity is itself a laughable paradox, Noonan has a point when she says the Administration deserves a thorough investigation by an independent counsel:

The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again…

…This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.

Read the full column here.

Mayor Gets Medieval In Plea To Residents To ‘Fight For Stockton’

Seeing the mayor of a California city of nearly 300,000 people don a studded warrior’s helmet and brandish a medieval-looking mace in order to make a point might have been bizarre for residents of beleaguered Stockton.

But at least Mayor Anthony Silva didn’t pull out a gun, or a model of a gun, or – God forbid – a pastry he’d bitten until it looked like a gun.

Perhaps his decision to wield a weapon people aren’t conditioned to be afraid of kept the audience gathered to hear his impassioned “State of the City” address Thursday from panicking. In fact, CBS Sacramento reports the crowd appeared to respond to the mayor’s histrionic stunt rather well.

“After his almost hour-long speech, Silva pulled out armor with a helmet and mace while asking the crowd to go to war for the broke and crime-ridden city… “If ever [there was] a time to stop rooting for your new mayor to fail, the time is now.”

Florida Manipulating Enforcement Revenues By Tricking Motorists Into Red Light Camera Fines

Florida may be known as a tax-friendly State, but a damning report this week reveals leaders are finding innovative and crooked ways to surreptitiously nickel-and-dime citizens in order to enrich public coffers.

Local TV news investigations are often vapid attacks on straw men, publicity stunts that bear no evidence of real investigation or service to the community. But not this investigative report by Tampa TV station WTSP-10. Reporter Noah Pransky took on the State of Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), looking into why FDOT implemented a subtle policy change — without telling anyone — that shortens the length of the yellow portion of the traffic light cycle in traffic signals statewide.

In Florida, citations for running red lights cost $158 a pop, with $70 of each ticket going straight to the State General Fund.

About 70 communities in Florida currently use surveillance cameras at traffic signal-controlled intersections as a way to ticket motorists who, either deliberately or inadvertently, don’t make it out of an intersection before the light turns red. Camera enforcement in Florida last year produced more than $100 million in revenue.

But, following FDOT’s recent removal of language in the State engineering guide that mandates yellow lights be timed to accommodate either the posted speed limit or the actual speed 85 percent of motorists are traveling — “whichever is greater” — the revenues are certain to jump dramatically:

FDOT’s change in language may have been subtle, but the effects were quite significant. The removal of three little words meant the reduction of yellow light intervals of up to a second, meaning drastically more citations for drivers. A 10 News analysis indicates the rule change is likely costing Florida drivers millions of dollars a year.

Currently, 24 States employ some form of camera enforcement to ticket motorists either for speeding, for running red lights or, in 13 States and Washington, D.C., for both.

A year ago, a Florida judge ruled that red light cameras are unConstitutional. But the losing parties (a number of cities in Pasco County) in that case are appealing the decision, and the cameras have continued to proliferate unchecked.

Almost all the traffic cameras in the United States aren’t even owned by the municipalities and States that profit from their use; they’re owned by private companies that, of course, also profit, since the government gives them a cut of each traffic fine. “It’s a private business that has a vested financial interest in making sure you are portrayed as doing something illegal,” notes one Albuquerque-based citizen advocate.

Conservatives in some State legislatures have introduced bills that aim to ban traffic cameras, saying they’re “insidious” infringements on citizens’ freedom and actually create more fender benders as wary, brake-happy drivers attempt to make last-second stops.

“Red light cameras are a for-profit business between cities and camera companies and the state,” James Walker, of the National Motorists Association, told Pransky. “The (FDOT rule-change) was done, I believe, deliberately in order that more tickets would be given with yellows set deliberately too short.”

The National Motorists Association lists reasons why traffic cameras are ineffective and unConstitutional at its website. Car and Driver also has an article here that, although outdated, features many detailed pictures of various types of traffic cameras, just in case you’d like to get an idea of what to watch out for the next time you’re out on the road.

To give yourself some protection from traffic light cameras, special license plate covers and spray-on coatings that defeat the radar cameras are available. These can be found by using an online search engine. Some companies that sell the covers or sprays include: OnTrack Automotive Accessories (www.ontrackcorp.com), PhotoBlocker Spray
(www.phantomplate.com) and Veil (www.laserveil.com).

Benghazi, IRS, The AP And Now… the EPA?! One Scandal Follows Another In Exposing Obama’s Culture Of Discrimination

The scandals involving ideology-based discrimination and politically motivated targeting under the Administration of President Barack Obama are revealing more than a lack of oversight; they’re revealing a pervasive culture of illegal, unethical and immoral discrimination against conservatives and political opposition emanating from the executive branch — an ironic truth that defines the Nation’s first Black President.

After suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for access under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nonprofit, libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) finally got its hands on public documents that show how the EPA handled public information requests made in 2012 from individuals, nonprofits and other organizations.

In light of what the Nation has learned about the Obama Administration over the past week, CEI’s findings may anger you — but they won’t surprise anyone.

CEI found that conservative groups that wanted public information from the EPA repeatedly were charged access fees that the agency, historically, had waived. (In fact, Federal-level offices don’t charge watchdog and media groups for information that’s intended to be shared for the public’s benefit.) Over the same period, requests from environmental advocacy groups were expedited with fee waivers more than 90 percent of the time.

According to CEI’s report, which appeared Tuesday:

It’s not just the IRS that treats groups on the right differently from the rest. According to documents obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency is in on it too.

Public records produced by EPA in response to a lawsuit filed by CEI under the Freedom of Information Act illustrate a pattern of making it far more difficult for limited-government groups — in particular those who argue for more freedom and less EPA — to access public records.

Such groups are precisely those Congress and courts made clear FOIA was intended to protect from fees being used as a hurdle to obtaining information, without prejudice as to their perspective. Worse, CEI has now obtained proof of the spectacularly disparate nature of the practice, specifically revealing extraordinarily favorable treatment of the same green groups it’s been shown to be collaborating with on its agenda…

What kind of proof? “Green” groups like the Natural resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and EarthJustice had information fees waived in 72 of 82 cases, while CEI fellow Christopher Horner saw the EPA “effectively or expressly denied” 14 of his 15 attempts to obtain the same information free of charge. Horner appealed each denial and won each appeal, without being asked to explain why he was appealing.

“That these denials are ritually overturned on appeal, not after I presented any new evidence or made any new point, but simply restated what was a detailed and heavily sourced legal document to begin with, reaffirms the illegitimacy of these hurdles EPA places in the way of those who cause it problems. EPA’s practice is to take care of its friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information,” Horner said in the report.

CEI calls the unmistakable favoritism “mind-boggling.”

… The numbers for a sampling of comparable “national” groups are mind-boggling. Of Sierra Club’s 15 requests, EPA granted 11. And Sierra Club received the harshest of treatments. In fact, EPA granted 19 of NRDC’s 20 requests and 17 of EarthJustice’s 19 requests. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility went a perfect 17-for-17. The Waterkeeper Alliance had all three of its requests granted, Greenpeace and the Southern Environmental Law Center each were 2-for-2, the Center for Biological Diversity 4-for-4.

That is, these green pressure groups encountered a cooperative EPA 92 percent of the time, but [CEI’s] requests…were rejected more than 93 percent of the time.

Unlike the discriminatory treatment the IRS gave election-season conservative groups, the EPA’s stonewalling has an extra, and equally sinister, dimension: Not only is the agency’s favoritism discriminatory in its own right; it also skews the debate over environmental issues by artificially depriving one side — the conservative side dismissed by the Obama Administration — of information necessary to a well-informed conversation. One side’s been getting fast and free information; the other side’s had to pay and wait.

These Presidential scandals are getting hard to track, and the EPA story is just beginning to circulate. Who knows how much attention it will command in an already-crowded news cycle that has Obama and his cabinet game-planning strategic, disingenuous responses to the Benghazi, Libya, scandal; the Internal Revenue Service scandal; the Associated Press scandal?

As scandals keep mounting and the President’s ability to truthfully narrate his role publicly wilts, one wonders how soon the day will come when, somewhere deep within the White House, Michelle Obama will turn to her husband and in a beleaguered, defeated voice, whisper: “Let’s move.”

South Carolina Wants A Piece Of Growing E-Cig Market With Proposed Tax

Legislators in South Carolina, along with lawmakers in several other States, are proposing what would amount to a “sin” tax on electronic cigarettes, which are growing in popularity as traditional smokers turn to alternatives perceived as healthier.

It’s still pioneering days for the E-cig industry, as the Federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t weighed in on what effects the smokeless products have on human health.

If passed, South Carolina’s bill would tax E-cigs at 5 cents per “cartridge.” Many electronic cigarettes operate by producing heated vapor from cartridges filled with a solution of propylene glycol or other vegetable-based liquid that contains nicotine. E-cigs do not produce smoke and do not combust actual tobacco.