U.S. Underground Economy Getting Bigger As Traditional Economy Contracts

Analysts cited in a CNBC story Wednesday believe the mainstream economy in the U.S. would look a lot worse, if not for a burgeoning off-the-grid network of transactions that has kept many Americans afloat as traditional employment has suffered.

Experts believe the underground economy may account for as much as $2 trillion per year in the United States, with all of those untaxed transactions falling beneath the radar of the Internal Revenue Service.

Tellingly, one professor compares the circumstances surrounding the surge in the American underground economy to those of developing countries, with participants motivated by a combination of desperation over generating income by traditional means and resignation that things aren’t going to fix themselves.

“You normally see underground economies in places like Brazil or in southern Europe,” said Fordham University professor Laura Gonzalez. “But with the job situation and the uncertainty in the economy, it’s not all that surprising to have it growing here in the United States.”

DARPA Developing Satellite-Free GPS-Replacement Technology

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing an alternative for global positioning systems the military hopes to use as a means of weaning soldiers from any need for dependence on a systemic array of satellites and signaling networks.

Citing concerns that enemy technology can scramble GPS signals, confuse American equipment and strand men in the field, DARPA and researchers at the University of Michigan are working on autonomous locating devices that could be carried individually — residing on tiny chips that use accelerometers and gyroscopes to pinpoint a person’s position and direction of travel.

“DARPA envisages using this technology to replace GPS in some contexts, especially in small-caliber ammunition or for monitoring people,” observes France24.

Store Pulls Pressure Cookers, Weiner Comes Clean, ‘We’ve Had Enough Bushes,’ Celebs Consume Poverty Lifestyle, Taxing The Flu: Thursday Morning News Roundup 4-25-2013

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.

 

  • The Williams-Sonoma chain of upscale kitchen stores has decided to temporarily remove pressure cookers from its Massachusetts stores. Insensitive Crate & Barrel, meanwhile, is still selling them. And, at last check, evil gas stations were still selling explosive gasoline.

 

  • Disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who’s trying to make a political comeback in a bid for the New York City mayor’s office, admitted Wednesday there may be more embarrassing photos of himself floating around besides the 2011 ones he tweeted that led him to resign from office.

 

  • Amid talk that son Jeb may be considering a run at the Presidency in 2016, former first lady Barbara Bush doesn’t sound enthused about the next generation of Bushes entering national politics. “He’s by far the most qualified man, but no,” Babs told the “Today” show. “We’ve had enough Bushes.”

 

  • Ben Affleck and other celebrities are attempting to raise awareness for worldwide hunger by pledging to live for $1.50 per day as part of the Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below The Line” campaign. For people who feel guilty about being wealthy, choosing a week of austerity stems from the same consumerist impulse as buying a new Jaguar.

 

  • Congress is set to impose a 75 cent per-shot tax on flu vaccines administered in the United States, in anticipation of raising more than $100 million to fund a “no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims.” The fund itself has been around since 1988, and has paid out $2.5 billion. Its current balance without the tax? $3.5 billion.

 

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

U.S. Gives Preferential Treatment to Saudi Travelers As Number Of Post-9/11 Immigrants Surges

Amid an ongoing debate over the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill and its hasty omission of national security measures and only three weeks after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted “trusted traveler” status to Saudi Arabia, CNS News has published a report revealing the number of Saudi students living in the United States has increased fivefold since Sept. 11, 2001.

Whether you’re a 9/11 truther or a believer in the official line that 15 of the 19 men who plotted and carried out the attacks were from Saudi Arabia (and may have had help from some pretty high places) doesn’t matter: The comparatively light scrutiny Saudi nationals receive when attempting to enter the U.S. is cause for concern.

According to the report, there were 5,579 Saudi nationals enrolled in U.S. colleges at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Last year, there were 34,139.

The Presidential infatuation with Saudi Arabia transcends political parties; George W. Bush was slammed post-9/11 for targeting Iraq while holding out on any sort of condemnation of Saudi extremism. Bush was President for most of the period between 2001 and 2012, and much of the influx happened under his watch. But the Saudi number has taken off under Barack Obama; it jumped from 22,704 to 34,139 — a 50.4 percent increase — last year alone.

Glenn Beck has been making a lot of noise since last week’s Boston Marathon attacks about a Saudi national who initially received some scrutiny from the FBI and DHS as a possible suspect. The student, Ali Al-Harbi, came to the United States via Boston, ostensibly to enroll at an Ohio university that has no record of his attendance.

Beck maintains that Al-Harbi went from primary suspect marked on DHS’ ‘No-fly” list to witness to free man to victim in a matter of hours because of an Obama Administration cover-up, one that presumably hides inscrutable arrangements between the White House and the Saudi government.

States Get Crafty In Effort To Ease Cost Of Obamacare

Lawmakers in Washington State have devised a way to bail State government out of massive new costs related to funding Obamacare mandates, by rearranging part-time public worker classifications so that more employees become eligible for coverage under a Federal exchange program — where they’ll be covered by Federal, instead of State, dollars.

In order to do that, a lot of part-time workers will have to give up their present coverage, choosing instead from among private plans set up under an exchange program run by the State. How will that save the State money? Because health exchanges, a key feature of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are eligible for Federal subsidy.

For States like Washington that have signed on to Obamacare, it’s a futile attempt at exerting some measure of sovereignty in implementing an unfunded — or grossly underfunded — Federal mandate.

The more States realize how big a chunk Obamacare will take from their annual budgets, the more they’ll seek ways to displace that burden by “qualifying” more covered individuals for insurance coverage that the Federal government, under the new law, must pay for.

But doing so debases insurance coverage and drives up premiums, as more people who previously went without coverage join the ranks of the insured. And in order for Obamacare States to keep up with the jump in enrollees and the accompanying jump in State costs, they will have to agree to more subsidizing by the Feds — subsidizing that comes across only if the States agree to all the terms.

It’s a vicious cycle. The Federal government can continue to justify an expansion of sovereign powers over the States as long as it regulates them into an untenable position of either accepting Federal subsidies, per the terms of the Act, or opting out altogether and watching their annual public revenues disappear under the crushing weight of Medicaid.

Washington State’s proposal isn’t the only example of a State government innovating ways  to put the costs of Obamacare back on Washington, D.C. Because the Obamacare plan stipulates that anyone who works more than 30 hours a week is a “full time” employee for coverage purposes, States like Virginia already have slashed wage-grade public employees’ hours in order to put them in the group eligible for Federal subsidy.

Leftist TMZ Rips Model For Gun Dress

Apparently, no corner of American society is safe from liberal gun bashing — not even fashion.

Sleaze mongers TMZ ripped into model Karolina Kurkova over the weekend for daring to step onto a public sidewalk in New York City wearing a white dress covered with silhouettes of various guns.

The website called her selection in daywear “by far the most insensitive fashion choice for anyone, much less a supermodel, could make on this particular day….Either Karolina’s been under a rock…or she just doesn’t give a crap.”

Hopefully, she doesn’t.

Hat tip to Breitbart, which offered this retort:

“Wear a Che Guevara T-shirt any day, any time, and no one from the media will say a syllable about it.”

Oof.

The Worst Job In America? News Reporter

What do door-to-door salesmen, lumberjacks, soldiers, meter readers, mail carriers and roofers have in common?

They all have better jobs than reporters.

A survey by Careercast.com has found, to no one’s surprise, that being a reporter is the worst job in America (for those of us who do still have jobs) in 2013.

The report used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to assess the quality of more than 200 professions according to criteria including work environment, physical demand, income, stress and job outlook.

Low pay, high stress, terrible schedules, near-universal disdain from media consumers, the rise in popularity of alternative online news and the high cost of journalism school are all factors contributing to the reporting profession’s dubious honor.

Bill Could Mandate Background Checks For Gunpowder

A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would mandate background checks on anyone attempting to buy traditional gun powder, commonly known as black powder.

The move comes as Democratic Senators react to the Boston Marathon bombing. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), on whose behalf Reid introduced the bill, said requiring the checks “is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of our communities.”

While gunpowder is no longer used in the majority of modern consumer ammunition, it’s still used for explosives, fireworks and muzzle-loading weapons. Other types of munitions powder, including modern smokeless powder, would also require background checks for amounts exceeding 50 pounds.

 

Gay Paris, Washington Whitewashes Words, Acquittals For Gosnell, Wrong Guy In Ricin Case, And Pay Up, Mr. President: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 4-24-2013

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.

  • Amid a highly charged and polarized atmosphere of vehement support and opposition, the French parliament legalized gay marriage Tuesday. Then, in the streets of Paris, things got ugly.
  • No more offensive words like “penmanship,” “freshman” or “fireman.” The Governor of Washington State has signed into law a bill that mandates words that could be construed as favoring one gender (the male one) be eradicated from all State legislation, both existing and in the future.
  • With more murder charges still pending, Pennsylvania abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was acquitted by a judge Tuesday on three murder counts, as well as one count of infanticide and five counts of abusing a corpse. There’s no reason to go into the grisly details of this man’s trial here, but the grand jury report describes more than you could ever want to know.
  • The Tupelo, Miss., man arrested last week for allegedly sending ricin-tainted letters to the President and some members of Congress has been set free and his charges dropped. The FBI says it can’t find evidence that Paul Kevin Curtis had any access to ricin after searching his home.
  • President Barack Obama was in the California town of Atherton a few weeks ago, attending a series of dinners to help raise funds for the Democratic National Committee. The visit, which had nothing to do with Obama’s job, required the town to commit its police services as supplements to the President’s already beefy retinue of Federal security guys. So the city council is sending him an $8,000 bill.

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

Pew Study: Nearly All Americans Lost Worth Under Obama-Led ‘Recovery’

According to a new statistical report, the only Americans who saw their money grow during the past two years of “economic recovery” touted by the Administration of President Barack Obama are those who weren’t hurting to begin with: the wealthy.

Everybody else? On the whole, they lost money. But who does that group include, exactly?

Why, nearly everyone.

According to the report, published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, 93 percent — that’s 93 percent – of the American population saw their households’ mean net worth fall by an average of 4 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Four percent isn’t negligible, but it’s at least small enough a number to defend rhetorically: “[W]e are poised to grow in 2013,” Obama dissembled in February, after a bad economic report indicated his spending-spree recovery policy might not be working.

But 93 percent isn’t negligible. That’s almost everyone — every household in the United States. Whether incomes in those households rose a little, stayed flat or fell, their net worth, on average, was less in 2011 than it was in 2009.

And here’s another number that isn’t negligible: 28 percent. That’s how much the net worth of the richest 7 percent of American households grew, on average, over the same time period.

In contrast with the unwashed masses, who got 4 percent poorer while the American Recovery and Investment Act went forward and the Federal Reserve printed money, the rich got 28 percent richer:

From 2009 to 2011, the mean wealth of the 8 million households in the more affluent group rose to an estimated $3,173,895 from an estimated $2,476,244, while the mean wealth of the 111 million households in the less affluent group fell to an estimated $133,817 from an estimated $139,896.

That’s because speculation under Obama is good business, while real goods keep seeing their worth shrivel. “Affluent households typically have their assets concentrated in stocks and other financial holdings, while less affluent households typically have their wealth more heavily concentrated in the value of their home,” the report notes.

Guess what the stock market’s done over the past two years? Now think about home values over the same time period. The money made by the richest 7 percent was still enough to lift the aggregate wealth of American households, both rich and poor, by $5 trillion, or 14 percent.

Rand Paul Says Gang Of Eight Immigration Bill Doesn’t Address System’s Failures

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter Monday urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold up any action on proposed immigration reform until Congress better understands what’s actually broken with the immigration laws already in place — laws that failed to halt the immigration of the alleged Boston bombers from proceeding unchecked.

“Before Congress moves forward, some important national security questions must be addressed,” Paul said. “The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don’t use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs.”

A coalition of Congressional leaders — you know them as the Democrats and RINOs of the “Gang of Eight” — are backing an immigration bill up for debate this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That bill includes a number of new immigration enforcement provisions, including measures to tighten the U.S.-Mexico border, monitoring visa holders and adding more customs agents. And, in keeping with President Barack Obama’s immigration reform blueprint, the bill would set illegals on a 13-year track toward American citizenship.

Paul is arguing that these steps are borne more from concerns over illegal immigration originating from the southern U.S. border, but don’t do much to examine how the system as a whole fails to stop the entrance of Islamist terrorists who came here legally from across the Atlantic.

Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism? Were there any safeguards? Could this have been prevented? Does the immigration reform before us address this?

…In the wake of 9/11, there was a comprehensive reform of our intelligence gathering system, yet our improved intelligence gathering system did not adequately detect these extremists. We need to understand possible intelligence failures and craft solutions.

Paul is calling for hearings in the Senate Homeland Security and Government affairs committee to study ways that would-be immigrants hoping to enter the United States from “high-risk areas” can be vetted by a more thorough security screening process.

Other Republicans, like Senator John Conryn of Texas, have expressed similar security concerns with the Gang’s proposed reform.

Then there are real cops, who have to enforce whatever Congress passes. They think the proposed comprehensive reform bill stinks.

“Never before have I seen such contempt for law enforcement officers as what I’ve seen from the Gang of Eight,” Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, said in testimony Monday. “Senators invite illegal aliens to testify before Congress… but American citizens working as law enforcement officers within our nation’s broken immigration system are purposely excluded from the process and prohibited from providing input.”

On the whole, Paul is voicing a conservative view shared by many who, in light of the Boston bombings, have reflected on just what the proposal before the Senate really accomplishes (amnesty) and what it can’t prevent (terrorism).

But with the proposal’s strong media play, as well as assiduous support from the Obama Administration, pointing out the other side of comprehensive immigration reform to average Americans, who are being sold the plan with every “click” of the TV dial, may prove too challenging for Paul and other conservative critics to overcome.

Disgraced Rangel Sues To Overturn House Censure From 2010

Comic-relief Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who last month told Americans that assault weapons are killing “millions of kids” in the United States, is suing seven lawmakers — including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — to have his House Censure from 2010 overturned.

You may remember that clownfest from three years ago. The House smacked Rangel hard, voting 333-79 in favor of the rebuke for Rangel’s admitted involvement in:

  • Dodging Federal income tax on money he made from rental property — for 17 years.
  • Filing purposely misleading documents with the Internal Revenue Service.
  • “Failing” to report $3 million in business dealings from 2002 to 2006.
  • Omitting the 2004 sale of a Harlem residence from his tax filing.
  • Lowballing his assets’ worth — by $780,000 — when reporting to the IRS in 2007.
  • Using Congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a monument to himself — literally — and receiving the money from companies and charities that had matters before Congress’ Ways and Means Committee, which Rangel chaired at the time.
  • Operating a campaign office out of a Harlem apartment he instead claimed as his residence.

A censure is a bad thing (in fact, the only worse thing Congress can do to one of their own is to expel him altogether), and it involves ceremony and public humiliation. Rangel had to stand in the well of the House while then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) read a House resolution telling him what a bad guy he’d been. It was great public theater.

 

But, in practical terms, censure is dreaded more for what it can do to a political career than for any legal teeth it has. In Rangel’s case, censure didn’t affect his career, other than his having to step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel’s Harlem constituents have re-elected him consecutively and, usually, overwhelmingly to additional terms ever since he first took office in 1971, and they did it again in 2012.

Now 82 years old, Rangel, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, isn’t content with immunity from prosecution and sailing to re-election yet again. Five months into his new Congressional term, he’s going after history itself. He wants the censure gone.

He’s not proclaiming his innocence, though. Like any good lawyer, the former Federal attorney is trying to get off on a technicality. Rangel claims the House Ethics Committee knowingly deceived the full body by not revealing that it may not have followed procedural rules as it conducted the investigation.

Michelle Malkin noted Monday that Rangel might be courting disaster by asking for an examination of how the Ethics Committee did its investigative work. It’s possible, after all, it didn’t catch every crime and malfeasance the first time around.

Post-Boston Gun Sales Offer More Proof That Gun Grabbers’ Agenda Is Backfiring

Every time there’s a highly publicized violent crime with multiple victims in America, liberals co-opt the tragedy to talk about updating the 2nd Amendment to make the country safer.

Meanwhile, normal Americans go to gun shops and arms themselves against the twofold — but strangely related — threat of domestic terrorism and government tyranny.

Breitbart recounted, on Tuesday, the devotion of attendees at the Syracuse, N.Y., gun show over the weekend. People had to wait two hours in nasty weather just to get inside.

According to one shop owner, the threat of additional terror attacks, combined with ongoing fears that Congress isn’t done with fiddling with Constitutional gun rights, had most attendees showing up not to just to browse or sell; they came to buy. The problem is demand is so high that gun selection is limited, and ammunition orders are so far behind that vendors have stopped taking new ones.

Mideast Chicken, Open Season On Privacy, W. Library Opens, Don’t Tread On The Gadsden Flag, Get On The Bus…Or Else — Tuesday Morning News Roundup 4-23-2013

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.

  • The saber-rattling gets louder as Israel and Islamic countries spar with words over what they’d do to each other in hypothetical first-strike situations. Iran’s military officials are saying Israel’s pledge last week to act independently to strike any perceived nuclear threat there would be “so unwise as to commit suicide.”
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the privacy-grabbing Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act last week, killing off an amendment at the last minute that would have at least kept Federal employees from having to give their bosses access to their private social media accounts. Here’s hoping the Senate keeps its focus on other matters and the bills fades away.
  • All five living U.S. Presidents converged on Dallas for the opening of the George W. Bush library and museum, bringing together a set of mutual antagonisms — some ongoing, some from the past — that some handle more graciously than others. Reflected the National Journal on W. the man: He’s basically a decent guy.
  • With a story that goes back nearly 300 years, the Gadsden Flag’s famous coiled snake and “Don’t Tread On Me” motto has a history that predates the Tea Party movement, which is by no means the first media-age entity to appropriate the image. No matter if you’re in New Rochelle, N.Y., where city officials had the Gadsden Flag removed from the armory, of all places, because people might conflate its greater meaning.
  • Las Vegas Health officials are feeling heat after articles exposed their evident policy of putting mental patients on Greyhound buses and shipping them one way across the State line, and dumping them. Most of the alleged 150 patients who were removed from Nevada have yet to be located.

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

Lefty Maher Goes Bulldog On Islamist Apologist

Bill Maher, famously liberal and noted antagonist of religion, is showing signs of cracking. Even he believes there’s something fundamental about Islamic teaching that, for extreme adherents, sanctions killing. More surprisingly, he thinks that’s wrong.

On his Real Time talk show on HBO last week, Maher found himself sitting across from guest Brian Levin – director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. And within seconds, he found himself defending Christianity against Islam – and getting called an “Islamophobe” by someone more liberal than he.

Discussing the Boston Marathon bombing and motives behind it, Maher said it was hard to understand how a young extremist could wear his devotion to Islam on his sleeve while simultaneously chasing a middle-class life; a career and money.

His guest interrupted, saying “it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths – Jewish; Christian – who say they’re out for God and end up doing not so nice things.”

Shockingly, Maher replied with, “You know what?… You know what? That’s liberal bulls#!% right there.”

“There are no Christian hypocrites?” Levin retorted. Of course there are, Maher replied, but:

[T]hey’re not as dangerous. I mean, there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about “Christian versus Islam… Now, obviously, most Muslim people are not terrorists, but ask most Muslim people in the world, if you insult the prophet, do you have what’s coming to you. It’s more than just a fringe element.

Maher has rattled the sword against blatant liberalism a couple of times recently, ranting about regressive taxation last month, and described the Koran as a “hate-filled book” in 2011; one ripe for misappropriation by Eastern extremists who come from a “culture that is in its medieval era.”

It’s possible that Liberals who push their agendas too aggressively; who speed the churning process of gradualism too urgently, could end up outing themselves and their cause to uninformed and disinterested Americans who, so far, have been exposed to the more benign effects of liberal policy. In that sense, power-hungry liberals might themselves become the alarm that finally wakes the rest of the sleeping public.

Starving North Korea Looks To Mongolia For Food Aid

North Korea has issued an appeal to landlocked Mongolia for food assistance, bypassing strained relations with neighboring China in an effort to send nourishment to the starving, isolated country.

Information on the extent of North Korea’s malnourishment is limited, but the World Food Program notes that one in three North Korean children experiences stunted growth because of malnourishment, and North Koreans as a whole have gone from being physically taller than their South Korean neighbors to half a foot shorter.

“We ask Mongolia to seek possibilities of delivering food aid to North Korea,” the North Korean ambassador wrote to Mongolian President Ts. Elbegdorj last week.

The Express U.K. last week reported an escapee’s account of routine cannibalism in the Hermit Kingdom under both deceased Dear Leader Kim Jong-il and his son, current dictator Kim Jong-Un.

 

Drone Makers Capitalize On Boston Terror

The president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International told an American publication that drones would have been perfect for post-attack reconnaissance following last Monday’s bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon.

“UAS [Unmanned Aircraft Systems] could be an important tool in the tool kit for first responders,” Michael Toscano told U.S. News and World Report. “Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, UAS can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach.”

Constitutionalists, who’ve been protesting President Barack Obama’s drone policy, estimate there could be tens of thousands of drones in domestic skies by 2020. Numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration seem to back that prediction.

Sequester Skies, Gun Shows Grow, Obama’s Stressing Us Out, Celebs Losing It, RINOs Talk Terror & Citizenship — Monday Morning News Roundup 4-22-2013

  • Interest in guns and gun ownership seems to be sky high, despite Federal and State assaults on the 2nd Amendment. Attendance at gun shows this month has exceeded what many longtime enthusiasts have seen – even in New York, where people are seeking to arm themselves because they’re “scared.”
  • Today’s apparently the moment of truth for the airline industry, which will fly its first-ever day under the Federal Aviation Administration’s staffing cutbacks, thanks to Federal sequestration spending “cuts.” New York and L.A. have had a few delays so far; other than that, the AP doesn’t report much in the way of chaos.
  • But if you want chaos, look around. A new compilation of stats shows Americans living through the Administration of President Barack Obama are more suicidal, more stressed, sicker, more medicated and generally poorer than ever before.
  • Take celebs, for instance. Poor they may not be, but they can’t seem to keep it together. NFL  broadcasting legend Al Michaels, of all people, was quietly busted on suspicion of DUI over the weekend. But there was nothing quiet about Reese Witherspoon’s pompous tantrum as she watched her hubby get taken down in Atlanta Friday for the same offense.
  • With immigration reform shaping up as Congress’ next big fight, the RINO gang of eight is putting together a talking point agenda that uses Boston and other terror incidents as reasons to adopt their proposal to “legalize” more than 11 million illegal immigrants and start keeping tabs on who they are.

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

Detroit Cops Kidnapping, Abandoning Homeless People Outside City

The Michigan arm of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into the Detroit Police Department’s practice of forcing homeless people into vans and taking them “for a ride” miles out of town, where the cops then desert them.

In many cases, police would offer homeless loiterers a ride to a local shelter, church or warming center, but would instead drive them outside the city limits, tell them to empty their pockets of any money and abandon them.

“DPD’s practice of essentially kidnapping homeless people and abandoning them miles away from the neighborhoods they know — with no means for a safe return — is inhumane, callous and illegal,” said Sarah Mehta, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “The city’s desire to hide painful reminders of our economic struggles cannot justify discriminating against the poor, banishing them from their city, and endangering their lives.”

The complaint stems from a year-long investigation by the ACLU, which began after the organization began receiving complaints that police were essentially “deporting” homeless people hanging out in the touristy Greektown entertainment district because they were bad for area businesses.

That’s an understandable reason to want homeless people to take themselves somewhere else. Homeless people don’t attract a lot of sympathy, whether from hardworking, productive members of society, in general, or from anyone, in particular, who’s ever tried to run a business in an urban area where vagrancy is a problem. Individualists who rightly hold others in society to the same standard by which they themselves live often give homelessness no quarter.

But if there’s a Constitutional way to deal with homelessness, this isn’t it. Lacking a criminal pretense for taking the homeless into custody, Detroit police innovated, devising an unConstitutional “solution” that works only for as long as it takes the transplanted, stranded victims to find their way back to the exact same spot.

“The ACLU’s letter to Detroit documents the experiences of five individuals who were doing nothing illegal, yet were subjected to this abusive and unlawful treatment on multiple occasions,” the organization said in a press release. To read all five (and then some), go here, but here’s a taste:

Andrew Sheehan, 37, was “taken for a ride” at least four times since December 2011. Andrew has been homeless on and off for several years because of a substance abuse problem. He has since completed a drug rehabilitation program and is now working, living in an apartment, and continuing to attend religious services at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Greektown. Andrew has been picked up several times while sitting on a manhole in Greektown to keep warm. Police have driven him anywhere from five to seven miles away. On one occasion officers said they were taking Sheehan to a shelter, but instead dropped him off at the boundary between Detroit and River Rouge on Fort Street – eight miles from where he was picked up.

 

 

According to the ACLU complaint, the Detroit PD’s tactics represent repeated violations of the Constitutional right to due process and the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizures. The ACLU also argues that by arresting, detaining and forcibly removing homeless people without probable cause, the police department is also in violation of a 2003 consent order from the Department of Justice.

Is Depression Contagious?

A study by two University of Notre Dame professors suggests that spending time around someone who’s depressed can be more than just a drag; it could end up saddling you with the same condition.

The study, which followed more than 200 first-year students who’d been randomly assigned, in pairs, as housing partners, found that individuals paired with roommates whose depression stemmed from their “cognitive vulnerability” to stressful situations were more likely to develop the same symptoms than those who were paired with emotionally healthy students.

By contrast, some depressed students paired with roommates who handled the stresses of first-year college life well were likely to shake off many of their own negative symptoms.

The key factor, the study indicates, centers upon the type of a depression a person has. In the case of cognitive vulnerability depression, individuals don’t handle life changes well and view their circumstances as unchangeable or the product of personal failings.

In simple terms, negative thinking leads to cognitive vulnerability depression. The common-sense corollary is that hanging out with someone who’s a negative thinker increases the chance that you’ll become a negative thinker, too — unless you’re such a positive thinker that your influence starts to rub off on that depressed person you’re spending so much time around.

In the study, it took about six months for someone to go from happy to depressed, once they’d lived with a roommate already struggling with cognitive vulnerability depression. But signs of “contagion” were already evident after sharing living quarters for only three months.

“The findings provide striking evidence for the contagion effect, confirming the researchers’ initial hypothesis,” the study states.

“Our study demonstrates that cognitive vulnerability has the potential to wax and wane over time depending on the social context,” wrote Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames, who co-authored the study. “This means that cognitive vulnerability should be thought of as plastic rather than immutable.”

In other words, a pessimist can think himself into a state of depression; but with changes in both his surroundings and his view of how to solve problems, he can think and act his way back out of it.

“Our findings suggest that it may be possible to use an individual’s social environment as part of the intervention process, either as a supplement to existing cognitive interventions or possibly as a stand-alone intervention,” the study says. “Surrounding a person with others who exhibit an adaptive cognitive style should help to facilitate cognitive change in therapy.”

Scouts May Lift Homosexual Policy, But Not For Adults

The Boy Scouts of America could soon lift a long-standing policy that prohibits homosexual boys from joining the organization.

The 103-year-old group decided last Friday to lift the policy on homosexuality for young men, but will continue to bar gay adult men from serving as leaders in the organization. The decision must be ratified in a nationwide vote to be held next month.

Gay rights advocacy groups still want adults included in the revised statement.