BEARD PAC Funds Candidates Who Sport Facial Hair

In a move that inevitably will be decried, somewhere, for its intrinsic sexism, a new political action committee (PAC) has organized around the idea that candidates with beards (beards, not mustaches or wimpy soul patches) are sorely missing from American elected offices.

So the Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD) PAC is throwing its financial weight behind candidates at all levels of government who sport the facial hair. There’s no other politics tied to the PAC’s agenda. Whether liberal or conservative, Democrat, Republican or independent, a candidate seeking elected office could get the PAC’s campaign support simply for having a beard.

It’s a joke, yet it’s serious at the same time. BEARD PAC’s website argues there’s something to be said for the dedication and commitment it takes to grow and keep a beard:

Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (BEARD PAC) feels that individuals with the dedication to grow and maintain a quality beard are the kinds of individuals that would show dedication to the job of public service, as such it is our mission to help elect bearded candidates from across the political spectrum and across all levels of government.

Our support will go to candidates with both a full beard, and a savvy mind full of growth-oriented policy positions that will move our great nation towards a more lush and magnificent future.

What about women? BEARD PAC sends its regrets, saying it’s a shame that women make up less than 20 percent of the present Congress — but they’re not eligible to receive the group’s backing.

Unless they, too, have beards.

Alabama Bill Could Give Gun Owners Free Lifetime Car-Carry Permits

If a bill approved by the Alabama Senate last week passes this year, gun owners would be able to obtain a lifetime permit to carry pistols in their vehicles, something that now requires a concealed-carry permit.

Under the bill, there would essentially be a new category of permit created, one that applies to vehicles only. Gun owners who plan to keep pistols only inside their cars for personal protection wouldn’t need a concealed-carry permit; rather, the lifetime permit — which wouldn’t cost anything — would suffice.

And gun owners who already do possess a concealed-carry permit would automatically be allowed to carry weapons in their cars — just as they presently do.

In addition, the bill would prevent employers from telling employees they can’t keep guns in their private cars while at work. It also would expand the “Castle Doctrine,” which allows for the use of deadly force in self-defense at one’s home, to businesses where employees elect to protect themselves against intruders.

The bill’s sponsor said the new law is really an effort to clarify that Alabama is an open-carry State, and it is intended to strengthen the spirit of that message. The original draft of the bill wouldn’t have required a permit of any kind for guns to be carried in vehicles.

Federal Judge Says Morning-After Pill Can Be Had Over The Counter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must end restrictions on how old a woman can be to obtain the pregnancy-halting “Plan B” morning after pill, according to a Federal judge’s ruling Friday that excoriated the Administration of President Barack Obama for politicizing the issue.

Before the ruling, the morning-after pill was available only to women who show proof to pharmacists that they’re 17 or older. Pharmacists could also, for reasons of conscience, refuse to sell the pills to anyone at all.

The new ruling makes the pills as easy to get as vitamins or headache medicine, and effectively removes the moral onus from pharmacists by moving the pill out onto store shelves, where a prescription or proof of age isn’t required to make a purchase.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman criticized the Obama Administration, saying a 2011 decision by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the department of Health and Human Services, to limit sales of the pill to those over age 16 was “obviously political.”

“Even with eyes shut to the motivation for the Secretary’s decision, the reasons she provided are so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith,” the judge wrote of Sebelius.

Unless the appeals process leads to delays, the order will take effect nationwide in 30 days; and morning-after pills could appear on drugstore shelves.

Maryland Goes After Guns, Facebook Goes After Your Privacy, You’re Still Not On Disability!?, Mickey D’s Workers Strike In NYC, Even Hispanics Think U.S. Should Enforce Immigration Law: Friday Morning News Roundup 4-5-2013

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.

  • Yesterday, Connecticut; today, Maryland. The Old Line State has joined the competition to see who can pass the Nation’s most draconian gun-control laws, with the General Assembly approving a by-now predictable bevy of restrictions aping similar laws passed recently in New York and Connecticut. Novel for the Maryland law is this bit of tyranny: Buy a gun, give up your fingerprints.

 

  • The new Facebook Home app for mobile phones has privacy advocates concerned. Installing the app, which essentially takes over your Android phone’s main screen, could enable the app to surrender just about every move you make on your phone — as well as your GPS-based whereabouts in real time — to Facebook servers. It “destroys any notion of privacy,” warns one tech blogger.

 

  • The number of Americans now receiving Federal disability benefits hit a record 8.85 million people in March. That’s more people than live in the entire State of Virginia (and 37 others).

 

  • Employees of fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, are on strike in New York City, protesting $7.25 hourly wages and leveraging to form a union. For some reason, the walkout was timed to coincide with the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed amid his ongoing support of a strike organized by Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers.

 

  • A new poll conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies reveals that a majority of Hispanics, 53 percent, think the U.S. government has done “too little” to enforce its own laws on immigration.

 

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

Congress To Hash Out Cybersecurity In The Dark

Privacy advocates are standing up to oppose a bill before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that would grant more powers to corporations for sharing customer data among themselves and, if the bill survives the committee process whole, the government.

Not only is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) a potential legal tool for companies and law enforcement agencies to pass citizens’ private information back and forth; it’s also a piece of legislation the Intelligence Committee doesn’t want to discuss in front of the public as it considers additions.

According to a report at The Hill, the committee is closing the doors on media and the general public when it begins marking up the bill next week, and it won’t allow the proceedings to be streamed on the Internet.

A committee spokesperson deflected criticism, saying the move will expedite the process, that there’s a lot of confidential information that could get out and that the committee did the same thing last year anyway, in similar discussions.

But critics say these are exactly the kind of talks that should be open to the public, because they involve lawmakers trading thoughts over how to craft a bill that one opponent describes as a “backdoor wiretap” on warrantless private data searches.

More than 40 organizations implored the Intelligence Committee to hold open-door talks when CISPA comes up next week, publicizing a letter sent out to committee members Wednesday. The letter asserted that the public “has a right to know how Congress is conducting the people’s business, particularly when such important wide-ranging policies are at stake”:

All Congressional committee hearings and votes should be conducted in accordance with our country’s highest principles of transparency and openness and made accessible to the public…The general rule should be open government.

As you know, it is the practice of most other committees not only to open their markups, but also to webcast them and share the text of the legislation in advance of voting. Closure of the entire markup is unwarranted.

Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Intelligence Committee chairman, is sponsoring the bill. A copy of the draft — minus, of course, any amendments to come out of the closed-door revisions next week — can be found here.

Connecticut Passes Gun Grab While Other States Dig In To Protect 2nd Amendment

The Connecticut Legislature passed its sweeping package of gun control early Thursday, vastly tightening restrictions on firearms ownership in a State already regarded by gun control advocates, long before the December 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy, as having the Nation’s fifth-toughest gun laws.

The State’s House of Representatives closed the deal shortly after 2 a.m. Eastern time, approving  a broad ban on scary “assault” weapons and high-capacity magazines, along with a host of other regulations on ammunition sales and mental health checks.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy promptly signed the bipartisan bill into law, following a day of demonstrations in which 2nd Amendment supporters greatly outnumbered gun control advocates outside the State Capitol.

The new laws, which also require “eligibility certificates” for prospective gun buyers and mandate universal background checks — even for private sales — begin taking effect immediately. Other provisions, such as the creation of the Nation’s first “dangerous weapon offender” registry, will be implemented over time.

As the Legislature spent the day preparing to vote on the measure, anxious customers made a run on guns and ammunition at specialty stores throughout the State. Shops already experiencing chronic shortages sold out of weapons and ammo. One store owner called it “panic buying,” motivated by genuine fear that government was further tightening the noose around regular citizens’ 2nd Amendment powers.

The rush to interject government into private gun ownership in States where leaders invoke mass shootings and public safety fears has been offset in other States by Legislative action designed to ensure residents their right to bear arms won’t be infringed.

The contrasting approach of lawmakers in the gun-grab States and the gun rights States is stark, with 10 States recently enacting laws that actually broaden residents’ gun ownership rights. Thirty-six States have passed some form of “nullification” legislation intended to repel the enforcement of any Federal-level gun restrictions that may pass Congress.

That’s essentially a Constitutional challenge by the States, daring the Federal government to expose its own double-standard take on the Bill of Rights by inviting it to invoke the 10th Amendment’s Supremacy Clause in order to enforce gun control that violates the clear and simple language of the 2nd Amendment.

First Magpul, Now HiViz: Gun Companies Continue To Flee Colorado

Another firearms company is getting out of Colorado, saying the State’s recent legislation banning high-capacity magazines and requiring residents to obtain and pay for their own background checks is unConstitutional and demonstrates lawmakers’ willingness to infringe citizens’ right to bear arms.

HiViz Shooting Systems of Fort Collins, which makes sights, recoil pads and accessories, announced April 1 that it will relocate out of State, although management hasn’t made a final decision on where the company will end up.

CEO Phillip Howe said in a release that he’d like to be able to stay in Colorado, but promoting business in a State that has begun telling residents where to draw the line on firearms afflicts his conscience and sends the wrong message to lawmakers and residents alike.

“Colorado is a beautiful State with great people, but we cannot in clear conscience support with our taxes a state that has proven through recent legislation a willingness to infringe upon the constitutional rights of our customer base,” Howe explained.

HiViz follows Erie-based accessory manufacturer Magpul as the second high-profile company to quit Colorado since Governor John Hickenlooper signed the gun control bills into law last month.

Following Founders’ Wisdom An Unsafe Choice In Modern America

It’s a sad irony that American government has, over roughly the latter half of our Nation’s lifespan, so thoroughly reversed its Constitutionally defined role. It’s remarkable and hard to believe that government has cast to the margins those Americans possessed of the expectation that the Bill of Rights means today what it has always meant — and that it always should.

There are countless ways in which our leaders have incrementally and systematically betrayed the thinking of our Nation’s Founders. There are just as many ways our own government now seeks to betray those remaining citizens whose serious adherence to the Constitution targets them, in the eyes of Big Government, as extremists, relics and kooks:

Do you feel that the United States and other global military powers grow more and more borderless in their sphere of activity? Do you believe the justification for American military first action, occupation or police-state intervention gets more and more flimsy, more reliant on the discretion of the Commander  in Chief, less considering of the Constitutionally devised tripartite system of checks and balances than ever before?

Do you believe that the conceptual line of demarcation separating wartime from peacetime in America has been purposefully obliterated by our Presidents and war-profiteering policy makers?

Do you really regard civil law enforcement officers in your city, county, State and Nation as citizen peers whose sworn (and compensated) duty is to answer to you and respond when another has criminally infringed on your safety or your property? Would you deign to speak to your servants and protectors as an equal, to let them know, face to face, your expectations and concerns about the public space you share and the private space you each hold dear?

Do you wish that the Federal Reserve would stop printing money to forestall crashing America’s debt-based, fiat economy, while simultaneously weakening our Nation’s ability to negotiate sensible trade agreements because of a devalued currency?

Do you have an inherent suspicion of building up a revealing online presence through the use of Facebook or Twitter? Maybe it’s not even a suspicion; maybe you’re just a very private person. Or maybe you simply believe in the experience of real things, that your outsized personality is too robust a thing to represent via facsimile on a rectangular computer screen.

Do you take responsibility for the manner in which you view, hear and read the information that purports to tell you what’s going on in the world around you? Do you feel that mainstream media lacks incentive to deliver that information to you? Do you prefer to get your news from a bevy of Internet sites that traverse the spectrum of political views?

If you’re among those who answer “yes” to some — or all — of these types of questions, know that it’s getting harder and harder to convince your elected leaders in today’s Washington that you don’t fit some government agency’s description of a domestic terrorist.

It’s small consolation that, were they alive today, the Founders would be right there with you.

DHS Says Fewer Bullets Stockpiled Than Reported; Buys In Bulk To Save Cash

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was among the earliest officials to criticize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for entering into contracts that obligate it to buy more than a reported 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition — enough for a 20-year war.

He demanded an explanation from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter he sent last November. “Big Sis” evidently responded sometime back in February, but Coburn didn’t publish the full response on a Senate website until this week.

As many critics of the mass bullet buy had predicted, the response (issued not by Napolitano, but by Nelson Peacock, DHS assistant secretary for Legislative Affairs) reveals what the department has been doing, while utterly concealing any real motive as to why:

DHS routinely establishes strategic sourcing contracts that combine the requirements of all its Components for commonly purchased goods and services such as ammunition, computer equipment, and information technology services. These strategic sourcing contracts help leverage the purchasing power of DHS to efficiently procure equipment and supplies at significantly lower costs.

The official response, then, is that computer equipment, IT support and ammunition for guns all cost less when you buy in bulk.

That’s all the verbiage Coburn managed to elicit as to why DHS needs that much ammunition. But, taking at face value the amount of ammo DHS self-reported in an attached itemized summary, the momentum behind earlier reports that the department is stockpiling billions of bullets indeed falters — if only a little.

That’s because DHS reports “only” 263 million total rounds of ammo in its present inventory, though it also disclosed it will maintain the pace of recent years in continuing to spend roughly $37 million on additional ammunition.

As this analysis of the numbers points out, it’s evident that DHS, by its own accounting, isn’t expending ammo at the same rate as it’s buying up the stuff. Rather, it’s averaging more than 70 percent inventory retention (aka “stockpiling”) over the past three years, even though the department’s annual spending on ammunition hasn’t dropped off as its inventory of bullets swells.

Washington State Mulls Allowing Employers To Grab Facebook Passwords

Bosses investigating allegations of workplace misconduct in the State of Washington could soon legally obtain passwords and full access to individual employees’ social media accounts.

CBS Seattle reports a bill before the Washington Legislature could be amended to create the exemption, which would permit employers to “require or demand access to a personal account if an employee or prospective employee has allegations of workplace misconduct or giving away an employer’s proprietary information.”

Additional language in the proposal requires employers to keep whatever they find confidential, unless what they find is deemed criminal. A bankers’ lobbyist lauded the proposal as a way for employers to take care of alleged crimes against their interests without involving the police by expanding private businesses’ investigative powers.

An advocate for online privacy said the whole idea infringes not only on a workers’ rights to individual privacy, but also on the privacy of everyone whom he or she has befriended through social media. The American Civil Liberties Union also blasted the amendment, calling it “an employer fishing expedition.”

Driving High, Mark Of The Beast, J.T. Brings Sexy Back To White House, President A Sex Symbol (So Says Mooch), Big Sis ‘Answers’ Questions About Her Billion-Bullet Spree: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 4-3-2013

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.

  • Secondary issues surrounding the legalization of recreational pot continue to harsh the liberal Colorado Legislature’s mellow. The same Legislature that uses the 2nd Amendment as toilet paper is now grappling with a bill to help Colorado police (who do still have guns) determine what to do when a motorist is too stoned to drive.

 

  • How the Internet does love polls. More than 10 percent of Americans believe President Barack Obama is the one and only Antichrist, according to this one. The same poll shows about twice as many people believe a UFO really did crash in Roswell, N.M., and that the U.S. government has been hiding the truth.

 

  • The White House may be on lockdown to the general public, thanks to that awful sequester, but Justin Timberlake, Cyndi Lauper, Queen Latifah and The Alabama Shakes get a pass. They and other musicians are putting on some kind of Memphis-themed concert for the President and his wife next week; PBS will broadcast it. No word on whether J.T. will reprise his “D!@% In A Box” “Saturday Night Live” character for the First Family…

 

  • …But the first lady is definitely digging in to this pop culture thing. Michelle Obama didn’t exactly demur when “Entertainment Tonight” asked if husband Barack isn’t an American “sex symbol” in the tradition of other Oval Office studs like JFK and Billy Bob. Mooch told the hoary TV tabloid: “He’s got a little swag, you know?” Oh, we know.

 

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has at last responded to an Oklahoma Senator’s formal request for an explanation of why the department has committed to buying up enough ammunition to wage a 20-year war. Don’t get your hopes up that the curtain’s been pulled back, though; DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano says it’s just a cost-saving effort to buy in bulk. Kind of like Costco, only for hollow-point bullets.

 

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

Obama Administration Leads The Way In U.N. Approval Of Global Small Arms Treaty

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other organizations advocating for the 2nd Amendment are opposing President Barack Obama’s formal endorsement of a treaty limiting the sale of small arms among members of the United Nations.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) strongly condemned an eleventh-hour change in the Obama Administration’s standing caveat — one that Obama’s predecessors also held — that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty should not be brought to a General Assembly vote until it had the consensus support of all member nations.

That condemnation came after an unnamed representative of the President’s position told reporters Tuesday that the President now believed the U.N. should vote on the treaty regardless of whether all member nations were in agreement on whether a vote should even take place:

It’s important to the United States and the defense of our interests to insist on consensus. But every state in this process has always been conscious of the fact that if consensus is not reached in this process, that there are other ways to adopt this treaty, including via a vote of the General Assembly.

The spokesman also revealed that, if a vote is held, the United States will vote in favor of such a treaty before the General Assembly – whether there’s full international consensus or not.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened later on Tuesday, with the U.N. voting overwhelmingly in favor of the Arms Trade Treaty.

In leading American support for the treaty’s approval, the President ignored outright a 53-46 Senate vote last month that specifically blocks the United States from signing the treaty.

While that measure now appears nothing more than an academic exercise, the Senate still holds ratification power over the United States’ participation in the treaty. Two-thirds of the Senate must now approve the U.N. vote, which is highly unlikely.

The NSSF’s Lawrence Keane blasted the Obama Administration’s reversal that led to Tuesday’s vote, saying it reveals the President’s ulterior desire to place global handshakes above the U.S. Constitution at the precise moment when the Senate is set to wage a largely partisan fight over Federal gun control here at home:

This abrupt about-face on the long-standing United States requirement for “consensus” illustrates that the Obama Administration wants a sweeping U.N. arms control treaty. We are troubled by the timing of the Obama Administration’s decision to abandon consensus on the eve of the Senate debate on pending gun-control measures. The United Nations treaty would have a broad impact on the U.S. firearms industry and its base of consumers in the U.S.

We hope that the Members of the U.S. Senate are closely watching the White House abandon its principles and promises in the rush to ramrod this flawed treaty into effect. Not only will they later be asked to ratify this attack on our constitution and sovereignty, but they will also be lavished with new promises from the administration in its drive to push a broad gun control agenda through the U.S. Senate when it returns from recess. They would be right to question those promises strongly.

Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, celebrated the treaty’s approval before the U.N., pledging the treaty won’t create a slippery slope toward a future in which global policy votes supplant Americans’ Constitutional freedoms:

[The Treaty is] a strong, effective and implementable Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade.

Nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

The NRA and NSSF strongly dispute that argument, saying the treaty does cover the civilian firearms market in the United States, and that it will have negative effects on the import of foreign-made firearms presently sold on the U.S. consumer market. They also argue that language in the treaty referring to the “transit” of firearms is so broad it can be applied to anything from mass shipments of weapons to a single person who carries a hunting gun on a trip abroad.

Connecticut Set To Pass Major Gun Control Bill

The Democrat-controlled Connecticut Legislature is likely to approve a series of gun-control measures that, if approved by Governor Dannel P. Malloy this week, would give the State broad and comprehensive power over individuals’ acquiring, owning and keeping track of firearms.

Members of both political parties are backing the measure in the State Legislature. Malloy, who has been outspoken in his push for the State to adopt tougher laws against gun ownership, had not gone on record Tuesday indicating whether he would approve the agreement, but State lawmakers said they expect him to sign the bill into law.

In an agreement Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney described as “a package that the majority of the people of Connecticut I know will be proud of,” lawmakers portrayed the deal, in part, as an admonition to Congress that “bipartisan” support for a gun control bill at the Federal level is both possible and desirable.

“In Connecticut, we’ve broken the mold,” Democratic Senator Donald Williams Jr. boasted. “Democrats and Republicans were able to come to an agreement on a strong, comprehensive bill. That is a message that should resound in 49 other states and in Washington, D.C. And the message is: We can get it done here and they should get it done in their respective states and nationally in Congress.”

Among other measures, the new legislation would do the following:

  • Ban the sale of “high-capacity” magazines.
  • Require immediate background checks for all gun sales.
  • Require background checks for even private gun sales.
  • Create a new database for mandatory registration of existing magazines that hold 10 or more rounds.
  • Create a statewide “dangerous weapon offender” registry — the first of its kind in the United States.
  • Expand the State’s assault weapons ban to include more than 100 models of firearms.
  • Set the minimum age for buying a semiautomatic weapon at 21.
  • Increase penalties for “firearms trafficking” and “illegal possession” offenses.

Connecticut has remained a ground-zero talking point for gun-grabbing legislators, governors, mayors, Congressmen and President Barack Obama since last December’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown.

A legislative vote is expected to pass the bill on to the Governor today.

AP Stylebook Dropping ‘Illegal Immigrant’

The Associate Press, which for 60 years has published the de facto style reference for newsprint journalism, announced Tuesday its venerable Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law would no longer recommend using the term “illegal Immigrant.”

AP director of media relations Paul Colford attempted an explanation, of sorts, on the agency’s website, beginning with a most paradoxical salvo: “The AP Stylebook is making some changes today in how we describe people living in a country illegally.”

The goal, he continues, is to abolish “labels” that describe actions — in other words, an act can be “illegal,” but an individual cannot be.

The post goes on to offer a number of examples offering alternatives that can be used to refer to someone who’s illegally immigrated somewhere without calling such a person an “illegal immigrant.”

Those include things like referring to a person “living in” or “entering a country illegally” or “without legal permission,” but refraining from using terms like “illegal alien,” “undocumented” or “an illegal.”

Good luck, MSM newswriters.

Dallas Communities Eye Free Guns For Protection Via Armed Citizen Project

Last week, we told you about the expansion into Tucson, Ariz., of the Armed Citizen Project (ACP), a private, Houston-based gun distribution and training program for residents living in high-crime areas.

Now the program is set to launch in North Texas, where receptive residents in and around Dallas can qualify to receive a free shotgun for personal protection after they’ve completed a safety course and demonstrated they’ve lived at the same address for at least a year.

In addition to providing a free shotgun for qualifying citizens, ACP also hopes to keep track of crime statistics in areas where the free guns have been in use — and then use those numbers to compare crime in gun-rich areas with crime in areas where gun-control restrictions prevail.

ACP has gained in popularity as news of its mission has gotten out, and the organization’s website states the free gun program is establishing a footprint in other cities — ones where the outcomes could make for some very interesting comparative studies. In addition to Houston, Tucson, Dallas and Indianapolis, ACP is also working to deploy in Detroit, New York and — perhaps most interestingly — Chicago.

Democrats Want To Force Gun Insurance, Saudi Women On Bikes, Texas Governor Digs In Over Obamacare, L.A. Wages War On Gridlock, There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 4-2-2013

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.

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry is still holding out on his State’s anticipated acceptance of nearly $100 billion in Federal health insurance funds, sticking to his long-standing pledge not to make Texas a “hostage” of the Federal government by accepting the terms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

 

  • Some Congressional Democrats are pushing to make a Federal gun-control law that would force any gun owner who doesn’t take out liability insurance pay the government a $10,000 fine. You’ll know it as the “Firearm Risk Protection Act” when the TV talking heads start chattering.

 

  • Women are being allowed to ride bikes openly under a kinder, gentler interpretation of Saudi Islamic law. They can do it only for fun — not to actually go anywhere — and they have to be covered from head to toe. And they have to have a male relative with them at all times while pedaling about. (How does that work?) And they still can’t drive.

 

  • City life: Los Angeles has somehow managed to synchronize every single one of its traffic signals in an effort to reduce the city’s legendary gridlock.

 

  • A New Mexico man has left treasure in the ground in the mountains north of Santa Fe. If it actually contains gold, maybe it’s worth looking for right about now.

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

No Fooling: President Declares April ‘Financial Capability’ Month

President Barack Obama has issued a proclamation declaring April “National Financial Capability Month,” urging individuals and families to become more conscientious about how they manage their personal budgets.

The proclamation states the Administration’s conviction that there’s “no economic engine more powerful than the middle class,” and refers would-be home economists to two government websites, mymoney.gov and consumerfinance.gov, to help them attain greater “financial literacy.”

The apparent lack of ironic intent on the part of the Administration for selecting April, of all months, as a time to encourage Americans to do not as the President does, but as he says, was quickly seized upon by one Internet site after another, after another.

Some snippets from the President’s proclamation:

During National Financial Capability Month, we recommit to empowering individuals and families with the knowledge and tools they need to get ahead in today’s economy.

My Administration is dedicated to helping people make sound decisions in the marketplace…

…Together, we can prepare young people to tackle financial challenges — from learning how to budget responsibly to saving for college, starting a business, or opening a retirement account.

Of course, there’s no point in the President issuing a proclamation on personal finance without throwing in a little regressive economics:

We also know that too many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to take advantage of tools that would help them plan for a middle class life. That is why we must build ladders of opportunity for everyone willing to climb them – from a fair minimum wage that lifts working Americans out of poverty to high-quality preschool and early education that gets every child on the right track early. These reforms would encourage the kind of broad-based economic growth that gives everyone a better chance to secure their financial future.

CNS News nicely parsed the absurd irony of this President entreating Americans to live by the basic financial principles that no one in the White House (and few in Congress) have managed to apply toward government borrowing and spending. The national debt has increased by $53,377 per household. It’s increased more than $6 trillion, up from $10 trillion in 2009 to $16 trillion today. And the President still hasn’t submitted a fiscal year 2014 budget.

Poll Finds Most Religious U.S. Cities Vote With GOP, Least Religious With Democrats

A poll released last week links Americans’ measure of religious devotion with geography, noting a clear pattern shared among the Nation’s most-religious (and least-religious) cities.

The Gallup poll, which ranks residents of America’s metropolitan areas from most religious to least, noted the majority of areas where people strongly identify with religion lie predominantly in the South, as well as in Mormon-dominated Utah.

The Provo-Orem, Utah, metro area topped the list, with more than 77 percent of residents who responded identifying themselves as “highly religious” and only 12 percent claiming they are “not religious.” Following Provo as “highly religious” cities are Montgomery, Ala. (64 percent); Jackson, Miss. (63 percent); Birmingham-Hoover, Ala. (56 percent); and Huntsville, Ala. (55 percent).

Other Southern cities also approached the top of the list, including metro areas in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Only one Northern metro — Holland-Grand Haven, Mich. — was listed among the top 10.

For purposes of the survey, “highly religious” means respondents attend worship services weekly or almost weekly.

By contrast, Northern and Western cities abound on the bottom of the chart, with Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., claiming the fewest respondent — 17 percent — who identify themselves as “highly religious,” followed closely by Boulder, Colo. (17 percent); Manchester-Nashua, N.H. (21 percent); Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine (21 percent); and Santa Rosa-Petaluma, Calif. (23 percent). The metro areas of San Francisco; Eugene, Ore.; Boston; Bremerton, Wash.; and Albany, N.Y., rounded out the bottom 10.

Using the poll’s numbers, it’s simple to relate so-called “religious” areas with residents’ mainstream political leanings, as CNS News has done:

The poll results show that the states with the 10 least religious metro-areas went to Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, while nine of the 10 most religious metro-areas were in states that went to Republican Mitt Romney.

In the bottom five cities on the list — plus San Francisco; Bremerton; Springfield, Mass.; and Bellingham, Wash. — more than 50 percent of those surveyed indicated they were “not religious” at all.

Taken in the context of another Gallup survey done in late 2012, it’s apparent that more Americans identify culturally with religion — primarily Catholicism or Protestant Christianity — than actually practice it in their daily lives. However, the survey does seem to indicate that such a strong cultural connection to Christianity is closely linked with conservative voting patterns in mainstream national politics.

Another Country Jumps Ship On U.S. Dollar For Chinese Bilateral Trade

China and Australia have entered into an agreement that will allow for the direct converting of the Australian dollar to the Chinese Yuan, in the process cutting the U.S. Dollar’s present status as a reserve currency out of the conversion process.

The move makes Australia, already a major consumer of Chinese goods, the first non-BRICS Nation to agree to buy and sell directly with China in its native currency. It differs from previous bilateral economic agreements between China and other countries, which thus far have provided for currency swaps, but never a direct conversion from a trading partner’s currency to the Yuan.

Instead, the U.S. Dollar has stood as the reserve currency for Chinese trading relationships with other countries – although China’s push to supplant the Dollar with its own currency in bilateral trade agreements is gradually marginalizing the Dollar’s status, as this Zero Hedge article details.

Study Reveals U.S. Schools Used To Do More With Less

Since the 1950s, public schools in the United States have seen their administrative rosters swell more than sevenfold, while their success at educating students has proportionately declined.

That fact, likely intuited by many who remember an era when American education was a lot more personal and a lot less bureaucratic, was revealed last month in Part Two of an ongoing study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Entitled “The School Staffing Surge,” the report notes that faculty employment numbers have so greatly exceeded the growth in public schools’ overall student population that schools seem now as equally obligated to cater to teacher demands as they are required to educate students.

Between 1950 and 2009, the number of public school children attending grades K-12 grew by 96 percent, while the number of full-time employees at public schools grew by 386 percent.

Amazingly, the study learned that “administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students” during that same time period.

At the same time, the study found that kids haven’t benefited in proportion with that kind of increase in teachers and administrators:

[T]he increases in public school employment since 1992 do not appear to have had any positive returns to students as measured by test scores and graduation rates. Some likely will try to cherry-pick an individual state and point out that a particular measure of student achievement increased at the same time that public school employment grew dramatically; however, such an approach is misleading because, across all states, public school employment surged, while student achievement did not measurably increase. If student achievement increased in a certain state, why did it not increase—or why did it decrease—in other states when public school employment increased?

…One should ask whether the significant resources used to finance employment increases could have been spent better elsewhere.

Friedman Institute fellow Benjamin Scafidi, who authored the report, called for a new approach (or, perhaps, a return to old ones) in revising the inefficient and still-accelerating administrative bloat in public education, noting the “burden of proof is now on those who still want to maintain or even increase the dramatically larger staffing levels in public schools.”

Rand Calls Gun-Hating Celebs’ Use Of Armed Security ‘Hypocrisy’

Famous people who back gun control are being hypocritical when they retain the services of security guards who carry handguns and other firearms, said Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last week.

Speaking on the “Hannity” show on FOX News, Paul said gun control devotees like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as famous Hollywood types, are right to hire security to protect their famous selves from personal harm; they’re just wrong to oppose the rights of other Americans to own firearms so they can accomplish the same thing.

I don’t begrudge any famous person like Mayor Bloomberg, or the President or the President’s family for having protection — I think they all should; there’s enough crazy people out there who would attack on the right or the left. But I think when you are being protected by people who have weapons, or responsible people, I can’t see why you would be opposed to that for other people.

So yes, many rich Hollywood celebrities have armed guards with them at all times and many regular people who live in a poor neighborhood, who have a business in a poor neighborhood and a neighborhood that may have higher crime — those people have to suffer the vicissitudes of violent crime without protection sometimes, because of gun control laws. So, yes, I think there is a certain amount of hypocrisy.

Paul and other colleagues in the Senate have pledged to filibuster gun-control legislation ahead of an expected vote next month.

Lone Star State Wants Federal Reserve To Hand Back Its Gold

Texas Governor Rick Perry is supporting legislation that would create a bullion depository in the State and bring home $1 billion in gold, currently housed by the Federal Reserve in a New York vault, for State-level protection under the aegis of a new bank that would be created for the purpose.

If the idea sounds like something former Congressman Ron Paul of Texas would have come up with, that’s because he did. Although not officially involved in the current legislation, Paul told the Texas Tribune last week it’s a sound idea:

“If you think gold is a hedge, or a protection, you always want it as close to the individual and the entity as possible,” he said. “Texas is better served is it knows exactly where its gold is, rather than depending on the security of the Federal Reserve.”

Perry also sounded very much like a leader who doesn’t think the United States is immune from a banking debacle similar to the ongoing crisis in Cyprus. Perhaps in mind of Cypriots who can’t get their own money out of failing, thieving banks, Perry went on national radio last week to drive the point home, saying: “If we own it, I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination — whether we can take possession of it; bring it back or not.”

The idea behind the bill, sponsored by Republican legislator Giovanni Capriglione, isn’t to put the State into a secessionist position by stockpiling a new State bank with bullion and creating its own monetary standard.

Rather, he explained, it’s to ensure Texas is viewed by residents, businesses and anyone considering any type of investment in the State as the kind of place where leaders are serious about fiscal responsibility as they prepare to weather a broader financial crisis.

There’s more than a little concern that the Federal Reserve wouldn’t easily part with Texas’ 6,000-plus gold bars, mainly because of its practice of rehypothecation, in which gold collateral held in a depository is used as collateral yet again by the Feds on leases it makes to bullion banks. In other words, Texas’ gold may be spoken for because the Federal Reserve has encumbered it to make a speculative profit. Until that encumbrance clears, the Feds could tell Texas, “IOU.”

“We don’t want just the certificates,” Capriglione told the Tribune. “We want our gold. And if you’re in the State of Texas, you should be able to get your gold.”

Arizona Program Offers Free Shotguns For Protection

A new privately backed initiative in Tucson, Ariz., is taking the fight over residents’ powers of self-defense straight to the people, establishing a program whereby law-abiding citizens can get a free shotgun to help protect themselves and deter would-be assailants and thieves.

The work of a small coalition of residents fed up with the city’s underfunded police service, the program aims to reimburse residents in mid-to-high-crime areas of town who purchase a specific style of shotgun — once they’ve received firearms training (which the fund would also pay for).

The Tucson effort is part of a larger grass-roots crime prevention experiment that began in Houston, called the Armed Citizen Project (ACP). The ACP is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to facilitating the arming of law-abiding citizens, and analyzing the relationship between increased firearm availability and rates.”

The program has a larger goal as well: a statistics-based study of whether, and how, crime rates will change in the high-crime areas, one city block at a time, where residents have been armed with the ACP shotguns. ACP Executive Director Kyle Coplen, who conceived the project while a grad student at the University of Houston, explains the program’s logic this way:

Gun-control advocates often argue that an increase in guns in an area will lead to an increase in crime, while gun-rights advocates often believe that fewer guns result in more crime. While both sides often argue that their opponents’ policies will result in more crime, gun-control proponents have largely been the victors when it comes to policy implementation…It is our belief that gun-rights activists must take the offensive, and actively encourage the increased presence of defensive weapons in society. Both sides believe that their policies will result in less crime, and it is about time that our side begins to act with the conviction and courage that it will take to win the debate.

The single-break-action shotguns supplied to participants were chosen for their cost, facility of use, comparatively safe design and lack of appeal to criminals. But just because the group is using Vice President Joe Biden’s self-defense weapon of choice doesn’t mean they’ve spurned assault weapons. In fact, it’s to prove a point the gun grabbers often fall back on:

Another big reason for using this style of defensive weapon is to challenge the anti-gun lobby on a claim they often make. We are now quite used to hearing arguments along the lines of “why do you need an ‘assault weapon’ for home defense?” These gun-control proponents often insist that they do believe in the right to bear arms to some extent, and we are challenging them to prove it. If an “assault weapon” is too extreme to be used for home defense, then there must necessarily be a weapon that is acceptable for home defense, or else the gun-control proponent is being blatantly intellectually dishonest. This style of firearm [the shotgun] is likely to be the most palatable to any gun-control proponent that claims to believe in the right of self-defense, and we challenge them to reveal who they really are.

Back in Arizona, organizer Shaun McClusky, whom locals recognize as a former mayoral candidate, told the Arizona Daily Star he’s aware he’ll receive a fair amount of public scrutiny — both positive and negative — for launching the effort in a city that, for different reasons, has long attracted both liberal pro-regulation nuts as well as strong advocates of individual liberty. He’s unconcerned about any bad PR.

“Saying guns are responsible for killing people is like saying spoons are responsible for making people fat. If someone wants to bring me the publicity for free and sue me, bring it on,” he said.

“We need to take back our city, and it needs to come back to the citizens and not the criminals. Right now, the criminal element is winning.”