Sequester Email: ‘Make Sure You Are Not Contradicting What We Said The Impact Would Be’

An administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was cautioned by superiors this week not to distribute reduced funding from last week’s sequestration spending cuts in a way that mitigates the measure’s supposedly dire effects.

The Washington Times reports that Charles Brown, APHIS eastern regional director of wildlife services, instead was told, in so many words, to bring the pain.

According to the report, an internal email exchange between Brown and the APHIS Budget and Program Analysis office (BPAS) began when Brown asked whether he could equitably distribute sequester-mandated spending cuts throughout his region in order to ensure none of the programs under his administration would experience any undue operating hardships.

He was advised not to do anything that would make the White House’s predictions about the harmful effects of sequestration look foolish:

“We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Senator Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) coaxed some backtracking out of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack when she grilled him Tuesday about the email and its sinister implications:
 

 

And so the Administration of President Barack Obama continues its casting about for high-profile illustrations of how badly sequestration hurts regular people — even if it has to manufacture them. CBS News notes three instances in the past 10 days of White House officials putting their foots in their mouths (i.e., lying) when pressed to describe how not spending Federal money as quickly as Obama wishes translates into real moments of doom and gloom.

Nevertheless, a poll CBS released Monday revealed that 53 percent of Americans who responded feel the sequestration cuts will affect them personally. To the Obama Administration’s undoubted relief, most of them blame Congressional Republicans’ intransigence in agreeing to a deficit-reduction package.

Proof: Obama’s Always Wanted To Grab Your Guns

A former academic peer occasionally used to talk public policy with President Barack Obama, back when the two were faculty members at the University of Chicago in the mid-1990s.

Now he writes books about the President’s cataclysmic foreign, economic and social policies, reflecting what he says is a more-populist evolution of deeply liberal views Obama held, with more extremity and conviction, before Oprah Winfrey ever introduced him on a national stage.

In At The Brink, John Lott Jr.’s new book, the President’s former colleague reveals how quickly his efforts to engage Obama in genial academic discussion about their differing 2nd Amendment views were always dismissed — with prejudice.

CNS News reports that Lott, who’s used his publishing career to assiduously carry the flag for the protection of Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights, was flatly rejected when he asked Obama to swap ideas on the topic over lunch.

Obama reportedly “grimaced and turned away,” a typical response coming from a man Lott said “preferred silent, scowling disdain to collegiality.”

One day, Obama told Lott, “I don’t believe people should be able to own guns.”

There it is, short and sweet.

As Commander in Chief, clearly the President does believe that governments should be allowed to own guns. He certainly has some experience in instructing agents of our government to use some pretty big ones.

The CNS report breaks down a segment of Lott’s book that tracks Obama’s on-record gun control stance over the years:

  • In 1996, Obama supported a ban on handguns
  • In 1998, he supported a ban on the sale of all semi-automatic guns
  • In 2004, he advocated banning gun sales within five miles of a school or park, which would have shut down nearly all gun stores

Lott also noted the President could exert greater long-term influence over 2nd Amendment policy though his power to appoint Supreme Court justices who make free with revisionist interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

“The greatest threat is in his power to reshape the federal courts,” he writes. “Each appointment to the Supreme Court could determine whether the people are allowed to keep their guns.”

Trending: Don’t Get Mad, But You Could Need Anger Management To Buy Bullets In Florida

If a Florida State Senator gets her way, residents will need to prove they’ve conquered an anger management class every decade before the State will allow them to buy bullets from stores.

The Florida Times-Union is reporting a bill filed over the weekend by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) would make it a second-degree felony to purchase ammo without having completed a two-hour anger management course every 10 years.

The bill would also force residents to sit out a three-day waiting period before buying a handgun.

Gibson said the proposed law “encourages introspection before purchasing ammunition.”

No word on whether the Senator did any soul-searching before writing a bill that could make felons out of thousands of current law-abiding gun owners.

The Left Cries For Chavez, Feds Take A Snow Day, NY Senator Says Congress Should Be 51 Percent Female, Sequestration Won’t Slow Obamacare Juggernaut, NYSE Says ‘What Sequester?!’: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 3-6-2013

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.

  • Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Sean Penn and Oliver Stone: the Left Isn’t taking the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez well. Shocker.
  • Not a shocker: Real Venezuelans in the U.S. exclaim, “He’s gone!”
  • Possibly the best thing to happen in Washington since 2008? Weather puts a temporary halt to the madness in D.C. today.
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) knows how to fix Congress: Let its demographics favor women.
  • The Sequestration isn’t about to slow the implementation of Obamacare — or hamstring the Federal government’s resources (read: Internal Revenue Service) to collect your money.
  • Last week: sequestration. This week: record day on Wall Street. Investors knew from the start sequestration is “a distraction” that has “no impact other than on the microphones in Washington.” Meanwhile, bashful White House Democrats “don’t comment on markets.”

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

Airports Refute Big Sister’s Claim Of Long Delays Following Sequester

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told interviewers at a POLITICO event Monday that the onset of sequestration made for a rough weekend at airport security checkpoints nationwide.

Napolitano told interviewers at a breakfast celebrating the anniversary of the DHS that security lines at airport Transportation Security Administration checkpoints were “150 to 200 percent as long as we would normally expect” over the first weekend of sequestration.

“Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs; now that we have instituted a hiring freeze… we will begin today sending out furlough notices,” she said. “We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of entry; some of the big airports, for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend.”

The off-camera interviewer cut in quickly: “Specifically where?”

“I wanna say O’Hare; I wanna say LAX; ahm, I want to say Atlanta but I’d have to check. The New York airports got through OK, but that is gonna be temporary, so we will see these effects cascade over the next week.”

The Daily Telegraph got hold of Napolitano’s comments and called security chiefs at the airports she mentioned.

A Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) spokesman who worked through the weekend said there hadn’t been “any slowdowns at all.”

The director of media relations at Chicago’s O’Hare said there had been “no unusual delays or cancellations” and that the weekend’s lines had been “normal.”

The spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta went into refutation overkill, saying: “There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as a result of sequestration.”

The Telegraph also checked with travel industry representatives to see if anecdotes from actual travelers would uncover information the airport representatives had overlooked. They got the same story.

“I can only tell you what we’ve heard from our members, which is they have not seen any abnormal delays,” said a spokeswoman for airline industry trade group Airlines for America.

“We’re on a mailing list for LAX that tells us whether there are any security delays and we have meet-and-greet people at the airport who tell us if there are any delays and at the moment we haven’t heard anything,” offered a Los Angeles-based travel agent.

Obama Administration Reportedly Draconian And Vile In Efforts To Work The Press

More White House reporters have begun filing through the crack opened by Watergate reporting icon Bob Woodward, who last week claimed he had been threatened by a White House adviser for publishing an unfavorable opinion of the President’s handling of the sequestration fiasco.

Perhaps emboldened by Woodward’s revelation, less-famous White House correspondents have begun relating anecdotes alleging the Administration of President Barack Obama has verbally abused, bullied, retaliated, spoon-fed and marginalized them in a way the press hasn’t experienced under any other President.

In a searing New York Post story this week, a number of Washington reporters — some named, others anonymous — reveal how the Administration has pressured them to report or not report the news; how it has attempted to influence reporters’ judgment in determining whether a topic should be covered; and how, when things don’t go Obama’s way in the press, there are consequences.

One longtime Washington journalist related how he’d assigned a young reporter to cover an Obama cabinet secretary. The reporter was asking “tough, important” questions and got the bully treatment for doing her job.

“…[T]hey were trying to bully her. In an email, they called her the vilest names – bitch, c—t, a—hole.”

After getting the runaround from the email’s author, the senior reporter confronted that person, saying: “From now on, every email you send this reporter will be on the record, and you will be speaking on behalf of the President of the United States.”

Good for him. But that account hints at an underlying problem with the way the press has always dealt with the Obama Administration — or, rather, how it’s allowed the Obama Administration to deal with it. Those emails could have been on the record without that reporter having to make it plain. The author of those emails was already speaking on behalf of the President of the United States. The White House press has handled this President with kid gloves, and, like any classic relationship based on disingenuous and insincere motives, it’s reaping abuse for the service.

And in the Internet Age, the White House is often finding it easier to control its own media through press releases, tweets and Facebook postings than to float information before reporters who can talk back. As a February piece in Vanity Fair explains, it’s essentially a form of state-controlled media:

In a real sense, the most powerful and pervasive news outlet “covering” the White House is the White House itself. That is a legitimate cause for concern. No American wants to live in a world of state television or sanitized photo handouts.

The press corps has been primed since 2008 to remain pliable to the wishes of an Administration it’s wanted to admire, an Administration that issues press releases through social media while dodging questions from the press. It’s hard to say which side deserves more what it’s getting; but Americans who’ve been getting their political news from TV, radio and boilerplate print media are still the biggest losers.

Chavez’ Successor TBD By Elections

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died Tuesday, left behind a nation that holds one of the world’s largest known reserves of oil.

His successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, announced his death on Venezuelan television – likely to many poor Venezuelans accustomed to receiving various subsidies from the redistribution of wealth from the country’s nationalized oil industry.

And, though Chavez helped prime Maduro as his eventual successor, it’s not clear whether circumstances in Venezuela will afford him that opportunity.

Venezuela’s constitution requires that an election be held to replace Chavez within 30 days. Maduro isn’t the only likely candidate; National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who heads the country’s military, may also seek the office. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in the 2012 elections, could also run again.

A February poll conducted by Reuters placed Maduro in front of Caprilles in a hypothetical election. Cabello was not included in the polling.

Farrakhan Says White Americans Using Birth Control To Outnumber Blacks

At times, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan can sound like something of a social engineer.

Last month, he encouraged gang members to learn military tactics and then go serve as resident security guards for rural property the Nation of Islam is buying in Georgia.

In a Michigan speech over the weekend, he criticized white Americans for manipulating society in the hope of continuing as the Nation’s majority racial demographic.

How? Birth control for black women. Apparently, black women knew nothing of birth control until whites decided it was time to introduce it to them, “because they don’t want no more black babies.” By his calculation, blacks will outnumber whites in the United States by 2050, in part because the Nation of Islam plans to revolutionize the role blacks play in American society.

Farrakhan said black people face a defeatist culture in American public schools and universities, one that conditions them only to remain malleable and expendable to what he characterized as the white-controlled status quo.

“Do you think they are really educating and training you to do something with yourself, or are they training you to be subservient?” he admonished.

Like any good ideologue, not all of Farrakhan’s remarks were inflammatory, nor aimed at easy targets. He continued his ongoing general criticism of black Americans for making what he said are bad choices with their diets, relationships and spending habits.

He followed up those exhortations with tweets Sunday urging black people to consider farming their own land as a starting point for economic self-sufficiency.

Biden Regrets Not Being In Selma; Holder Says South Still Needs Voter Law Oversight

Flanked by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (as well as a few people who actually don’t use racial conflict for personal gain) Vice President Joe Biden told Southerners he felt guilty for not having been a part of the original Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches almost 50 years ago.

Biden was in Selma, Ala., Sunday, visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 48th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” police attacks, which helped draw national attention to institutional racism in the South during the late 1960s.

“I regret — and although it’s not a part of what I’m supposed to say — I apologize it took me 48 years to get here… I should have been here,” said a contrite Biden.

This year’s Bloody Sunday anniversary came only a week after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on both sides of a challenge to eliminate a portion of the Voting Rights Act, a piece of civil rights-era legislation that has tasked nine States (seven in the South) with seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Justice anytime their legislatures take up voter redistricting or similar electoral changes.

The Act, including the nine-State “preclearance” provision, was most recently reaffirmed by Congress in 2006. Except for a few individual counties named in the Act, the other 41 racism-free states can change their elections laws without permission from the DOJ.

Biden kept his comments on target, and he never condescended to present-day Southerners by indicating racism is endemic to only one part of the Nation. Neither did he use the occasion to overtly promote any current White House policy agenda.

But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who also made the trip, did just that, drafting a speech with a not-so-subtle message from the Administration of President Barack Obama that the Supreme Court shouldn’t strike down the preclearance requirement:

“Let me be clear:  although our nation has indeed changed, although the South is far different now, and although progress has indeed been made, we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act can be deemed unnecessary. The struggle for voting rights for all Americans must continue – and it will.”

Holder’s remarks pleased Jackson, who later said a Voting Rights Act requiring the same electoral diligence from all 50 States would be “terribly damaging to democracy,” and that a Supreme Court ruling invalidating the preclearance requirement would amount to a “judicial scheme” that once again invites racist gerrymandering in the South.

Wealthiest Americans Pay More Tax Than Ever; Would Pay More Under Obama’s Path Out Of Sequestration

As lawmakers continue to argue about whether wealthy Americans should take on a heavier tax burden, it turns out wealthy families are already paying the highest tax bills in three decades — even as the rest of the Nation continues to pay historically low rates.

A new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a research arm of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution , reveals average taxes for wealthy families are higher now than at any time since the Congressional Budget Office began crunching the numbers in 1979. Families from middle and low-income brackets are paying less in Federal taxes than in the past.

According to an Associated Press breakdown of the data, if you’re among the top 20 percent of income earners, you’re in a group that will average 27.2 percent in Federal tax this year. If you earn $1.4 million, you’ll pay an average of 35.5 percent.

Taxes included in the cumulative assessment include income, payroll, corporate and estate taxes.

On the other hand, the bottom 20 percent of income earners will pay no Federal taxes, receiving instead Federal credits that not only zero out all their tax liability, but in fact give them a “negative” tax rate.

The report comes as Congressional Republicans continue fighting Democratic proposals to raise Federal revenues through a package of tax rate increases that affect the highest-earning segment of the population.

Read the full AP story here.

Asian Billionaires Now Outnumber Those In North America

Chinese luxe finance magazine The Hurun Report revealed last week that more billionaires hail from Asia than from North America, a first since the publication was founded in 1999.

In Asia, 608 individuals have a net worth in excess of $1 billion (all figures are adjusted to U.S. dollars), followed by North America with 440 and Europe with 324.

The U.S. still has more billionaires — 409 — than any other country, followed distantly by China, whose 317 billionaires make up just more than half of all those throughout Asia. But Asia’s diverse and burgeoning economies have produced more newly rich individuals, nearly all of whom have made their own fortunes.

That’s a contrast with Europe — where a disproportionate amount of billionaires’ wealth is generational and inherited — and with North America, whose billionaires have found varying paths to fortune.

All of China’s billionaires have become wealthy in their own lifetimes through real estate transactions. Noting the trend reflects “the [Chinese] urbanization boom of the last generation,” Hurun reports seven of the world’s top 10 real estate billionaires reside either in Hong Kong or in China.

With 76 billionaires (every one of them self-made), Moscow is home to more than any other world city, including second-place New York, which has 70. Like the rest of Asia, a significant portion of Russia’s wealthiest residents have ties to real estate, along with manufacturing and energy.

Most European billionaires are either majority owners of industrial or retail concerns, or scions of luxury fashion brands: Louis Vuitton, Hermes, BMW and Patek Philippe, to sample a (very) few. Of the 31 billionaires worldwide whose wealth was made in luxury goods, only seven reside outside Europe. Two more brands — DeBeers and Cartier, both South African — deliver diamonds, a “luxury commodity” with close ties to the European luxury market. A third, the OCTEA mining group, is based in Israel.

Americans who top the list generated their money primarily through investments; technology, media and telecommunications; and the retail market. Berkshire Hathaway primary shareholder Warren Buffett remained the richest man in the United States (second worldwide), followed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates (fourth worldwide).

Mexican investor and diversified shareholder Carlos Slim remained the richest man in the world, with a personal fortune worth an estimated $66 billion.

The United States remains atop the billionaire list in another aspect: combined wealth. The 409 American billionaires on the Hurun list retain a total net worth of $1.712 trillion. Hurun did not disclose a researched figure for the combined wealth of billionaires in second-place China.

Chinese ambition fuels the publication’s interest in compiling the list, with Hurun Report Chairman and founder Rupert Hoogewerf noting that “China’s entrepreneurs want to see the global context of their recent success. This is why Hurun Report, a media headquartered in Shanghai, China, has set out on this quest to track down and rank the world’s billionaires.”

Interestingly, the publication freely admits it hasn’t succeeded in enumerating every billionaire worldwide, with Hoogewerf estimating there may be twice as many as were listed in this year’s Hurun Report list.

View the complete list as well as supporting statistics and billionaire demographics here.

Pennsylvania County Latest Local Government To Tell Feds ‘Don’t Touch Our Guns’

The three-member, bipartisan County Commission of Susquehanna County, Pa., passed a resolution last week to abrogate any future “Federal act, bill, law, rule or executive order that in any way infringes on our Second Amendment rights by attempting to reduce the private ownership of any firearm, magazine or ammunition,” according to a Times-Tribune report.

Commissioners said the measure was intended to send a message that any potential Federal gun ban or restrictions being pushed by the Administration of President Barack Obama won’t be taken as law in their county.

“The Constitution is in place to protect us from the government,” said Republican County Commissioner Michael Giangrieco, who proposed the resolution after neighboring New York passed unConstitutional gun control legislation. “They’ve got it backwards.”

As in other instances, such ceremonial resolutions lack legal teeth. But the Susquehanna County Commission’s vote is just the latest gesture upholding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights, adding another link to the growing chain of similar acts by local governments across the Nation.

Some States are also getting in on the game, taking up legislation this year that, if passed, will essentially reaffirm powers already enumerated in the 2nd Amendment.

In areas where unrestricted gun ownership enjoys avid support, such moves certainly serve the self-interest of politicians. The recent cavalcade of gun-rights resolutions are easy political scores for State legislators and local elected officials where gun owners dominate the political culture.

Then again, what else would constituents ask of their leaders but for their interests to be mirrored in those whom they’ve elected and their rights represented fairly?

And, while the passing of so many laws and resolutions — as well as defiant pre-emptive strikes from other local officials — may be legally redundant, it does send a signal that there are plenty of individuals throughout the Nation ready to stand in defense of the liberties guaranteed them by the Bill of Rights, even if the threat carries the force of a State or Federal law.

Kerry’s public rebuke of Turkish PM backfires as two meet face to face

After John Kerry used the press as a diplomatic middleman, publicly chiding Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a Feb. 27 U.N. speech allegedly portraying Zionism as a “crime against humanity,” he arrived in Turkey Friday for an already-scheduled face-to-face with the man himself.

It didn’t go well, according to this report in the Washington Post.

Kerry arrived in Turkey, but tarried a little long with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before sitting down with a perturbed Erdogan. Primed with news reports that Kerry wasn’t pleased with his remarks fanning anti-Israeli sentiment, the Prime Minister greeted him by snipping, “You [and Davutoglu] must have spoken about everything, so there is nothing left for us to talk about.”

The report states Kerry wasn’t able to joke his way through Erdogan’s stony reception as the talks continued.

In context, Erdogan’s earlier comments lack the stridency American media outlets had singled out for emphasis. He hadn’t simply lambasted Zionism, as reports like this one imply.

Taken altogether, what Erdogan actually had said comes across a little differently.

Relations between Muslim Turkey and Israel have been in decline, and Erdogan used his U.N. speech to point out that “Islamophobia”  and Zionism are essentially two sides of the same coin.

The BBC provided a detached western perspective Friday on how the U.S. is wooing Turkey, a NATO ally, into a bridge-building role to resolve the ongoing civil crisis in neighboring Syria. Al Jazeera also offered this report.

Colbert Campaigning, Kerry Slapping Turkish Wrists, Harvard’s Liberal Problem And The Sequestration Apocalypse: TGIF Morning News Roundup 3-1-2013

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.

  • Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” served as the main draw last week at a South Carolina fundraising dinner for his Democratic sister, who’s staging a run at a Congressional seat.
  • The Administration of President Barack Obama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California’s 2008 same-sex marriage ban.
  • Austerity means spending more than you ever have in your life, but not as much as you want: The Sequestration clock winds down! To get a taste of how badly it’s gonna hurt, think back to last year’s Mayan apocalypse.

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

Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC Has NRA In Its Crosshairs

Since its formation last October, the ironically named Independence USA, the super PAC (political action committee) started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has pledged to support the campaigns of gun-control candidates nationwide as a redress to what it describes as America’s “scourge of gun violence.”

Now that the PAC has actually helped a gun control candidate win an election in Illinois, Bloomberg has ramped up the anti-gun part of the fund’s message with a warning to the National Rifle Association that it won’t win a spending contest when the 2014 congressional and gubernatorial election season heats up.

According to a report from The Hill, Independence USA has plans to aggressively promote candidates who run on a strong gun control platform.

Perhaps taking a bit too much credit for the national implications of Robin Kelly’s victory over Debbie Halvorson in a special Democratic primary election to fill a vacant congressional seat in Illinois this week, Independence USA spokesman Stefan Friedman pointed to the win as an indicator that Bloomberg’s gun control PAC is just getting warmed up.

“If this election proved anything, it is that the NRA is no longer alone in being able to educate voters and have their positions taken seriously,” Friedman said.

Bloomberg himself said after the election that voting in a gun control advocate to represent Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District marked “the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change” from Washington to place heavier restrictions on access to guns.

Never mind the fact that voters in the district already lean heavily in favor of gun control or that Halvorson, who nominally supports 2nd Amendment rights, was playing from behind. The Bloomberg money clearly mattered in helping Kelly to victory, and it will matter in future races. But some districts’ voters, particularly in the rural South, won’t budge anytime soon on gun control for any liberal candidate, no matter how well-funded.

Perhaps the greatest impact Independence USA can have on forthcoming elections is its potential coercive power — that is, the power to seduce candidates who are either on the fence about gun control or would rather keep quiet on the topic — with campaign dollars.

Bloomberg’s PAC spent more than $2 million on the Chicagoland primary. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

NY Governor Exempts Hollywood From State’s Tough Gun Law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn’t intent on letting the NY SAFE Act, his State’s extremely restrictive and reactionary new gun law, hamstring police and the film industry from access to weapons that are now illegal for residents.

After rushing to pass one of the Nation’s toughest gun laws on Jan. 15 (without public hearings or the three-day waiting period required by the State constitution for any new bill), Cuomo is now telling reporters the Legislature needs to revise its language to accommodate screen productions filmed in New York so they can portray assault weapons.

Also under the “corrections,” as Cuomo describes the revisions, cops would be allowed to continue wielding high-capacity guns now off-limits for regular New Yorkers. They also would be allowed to bring their firearms onto a school campus without clearance from school personnel.

The NY SAFE Act has already banned all kinds of scary-looking guns, forced residents into passing a background check before buying ammunition and dropped magazine capacity from 10 rounds to seven. It requires doctors and mental health specialists to report gun-owning patients whom they consider to be a threat. It permits police — the ones with the high-capacity guns no one else can have — to begin disarming subjects based on probable cause instead of obtaining a warrant.

As for the Hollywood exemption, Cuomo offered this:

“I don’t know that it’s a real issue because they don’t use real guns,” he said. “Apparently, they have blanks or phony magazines or something. So I don’t know that, legally, it would even be classified as an assault weapon if it’s a phony gun. But people want certainty, and there’s no reason not to make a change like that — to give an industry comfort — especially when it’s an industry that we want doing business in the state.”

Well, shoot. In their symbolism, how do phony guns, realistically portrayed on the screen, get a cultural pass not granted the obviously phony cowboy pistols kids get in trouble for bringing out to the playground?

If grown-ups can’t defend themselves to the extent the police can and if kids can’t have some harmless fun with crude toy copies of what the film industry depicts with such realism, the upshot of Cuomo’s message is that institutions and companies are more important than people — that free people, in fact, are the threat.

Oakland Neighborhoods Tire Of Police; Turn Vigilante

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

That DIY maxim is apparently fueling some Oakland, Calif., civilians’ community-minded vigilantism. A CBS San Francisco report Tuesday featured a number of residents living in San Francisco’s less-affluent inland neighbor, all of whom revealed crime has become so commonplace that they’ve written off the cops and instead begun patrolling the streets and posting “wanted” signs for bad guys.

The majority of the ongoing lawlessness involved property crimes, and the report didn’t mention whether residents are packing guns. Some of the residents said they had been robbed at gunpoint or had witnessed armed robberies firsthand. Violence is definitely a problem in Oakland, and residents have little faith in the city’s police department to respond.

That lack of faith in law enforcement has been earned through many years of abuses, lawsuits, leadership changes and even a judge’s consent order either to reform the department or face a Federal takeover. It also doesn’t help that nearly all of the city’s police officers don’t even live there.

In neighborhoods that can afford it, residents have already begun pooling their funds to hire private security forces that patrol defined areas. The city’s police force, decimated by layoffs and scandalous resignations, simply doesn’t have sufficient manpower. The Oakmore neighborhood, home to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, may soon deploy one such company.

But private security services aren’t comprised of sworn officers, and they can only disrupt crime as they see it happening. Thankfully, they’re not permitted by law to perform general searches or to detain suspects on a warrant. They aren’t connected to the criminal justice system except in the handing over of suspects they’ve been able to detain under the same legal authority any citizen has to make an arrest.

Oakland’s residents are used to vigilantism of many kinds in recent history, both within the police department and from the community. That activity has typically been marginal, thuggish or just plain corrupt.

Time will tell if Oakland’s neighborhoods can successfully arm themselves against armed criminals.

Should Paramedics Carry Guns Deep In The Heart Of Texas?

Paramedics who act as first responders to emergency calls can tell some pretty incredible stories about the violence they’ve seen.

Gunshot wounds, stabbings, domestic beatings — there are times when those events are still in progress when paramedics arrive. There are times when paramedics and EMTs beat police to a scene by several minutes. There are times when they know only what their dispatchers have been able to glean, over the phone, about the security of an unfamiliar location and the intent of its occupants.

Those times make for some crazy stories. But there are a few emergency responders who aren’t around to share them anymore, because they were shot dead while on a call, doing a job fraught with nearly as many dangers as firefighting and police work.

In rural Texas, paramedics could soon be allowed to carry firearms for on-the-job protection, if a bill introduced this year by Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) succeeds before the State Legislature. The bill would also allow firefighters and “other individuals,” both paid and volunteer, to carry weapons if they’re engaged in an emergency response operation.

CBS 11 News in Dallas/Fort Worth heard both opposition and support for the idea Tuesday from people in the local Emergency Response business.

Whether residents support arming emergency responders is another matter.

On one hand, first responders certainly face exposure to agitated, excited and dangerous people more frequently than does the general population.

On the other, arming paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and “other individuals” would undoubtedly alter the fundamental public perception of what it means to be an emergency responder and could inadvertently lend medical and fire personnel the aura of enforcers. Citizens may balk at the idea that special legislation can extend gun-carrying protections to a new category of uniformed public service workers at a time when the general population’s 2nd Amendment rights are under fire.

Given the right cocktail of bad circumstances, it might even force well-intentioned emergency workers to make choices about whether to use their firearms in “shoot first” scenarios. And in America’s tort-drunk legal environment, that could be disastrous for the private companies and public agencies that employ them.

The Texas bill isn’t sweeping in its ambitions; it’s aimed only at emergency workers in counties of 50,000 or fewer people. It wouldn’t affect densely populated areas — where violent crime is typically more frequent – and, therefore, won’t “protect” many of the very paramedics and firefighters likely to face self-defense situations.

But the bill does raise the question of whether arming public servants engaged in non-defense and non-enforcement work exceeds the 2nd Amendment powers afforded regular civilians.

Iran’s Game Of Musical Nuclear Reactors, Hagel Confirmed In ‘Bipartisan’ Senate Vote, Fed-Backed Green Energy Company Cited For Pollution, Bloomberg-Backed Gun Control Candidate Wins In Illinois, Is It A Crime To Fantasize About Doing Very Bad Things?: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 2-27-2013

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.

  • Satellite images show Iran operating, and guarding, a nuclear facility that’s been off-limits to international inspectors since 2011.
  • Four Republican Senators’ support makes Chuck Hagel’s confirmation “bipartisan,” according to the President.
  • A solar energy company that borrowed nearly half a billion dollars from the Federal government was fined in Colorado apparently for building pollution right into its Earth-friendly product.
  • The Chicago Democrat who ran on a gun control platform — and campaigned with $2 million of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money — won Tuesday’s special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress.
  • A former cop in New York is on trial for wanting “to taste some girl meat” — although he isn’t accused of indulging.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

 

 

BP Suit Dangles New-But-Familiar Windfall Carrot Before States

The long-simmering civil suit to assay the extent of British Petroleum’s negligence leading up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast disaster began Monday.

But whether the case ever makes it through a trial — or ends up in a settlement — is almost irrelevant for the States certain to get a payout.

Think about it: There is almost no chance that Alabama and Louisiana — the two States formally attached to the suit — as well as Florida, Mississippi, Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice won’t see BP money before it’s all over. And it will probably be a lot of money, especially for the three less-populous tax base States between Florida and Texas.

Those States’ poorer general fund and education budgets get a little tingly when they smell free money. And the custodians of public funds, regardless of their day-to-day fiscal rhetoric, get positively giddy.

The belt-tightening lip service State leaders pay to the handling of public funds has a reliable tendency to dissipate utterly when the opportunity to aggrandize public coffers at the expense of the private sector appears.

Want examples? Just Google “State general fund windfalls” and order a pizza.

Lotteries, lawsuits, revenue-raising referenda, “found” money, tax projections that turn out to have been pessimistic: all these, and more, provide States — not only in the South, but across the Fruited Plain — the year-by-year deus ex machina their Governors and legislatures need to keep constituents grateful for the last-minute budgets they manage to pass.

Now there’s talk of a settlement in the Deepwater case. Leaving aside BP’s culpability (or its absence) in the ordeal, you can bet State heads in the South are imploring their attorneys general to go for the surest play. In all likelihood, that’s a settlement of the civil lawsuit.

The boilerplate fiscal values of Governors, legislators, cabinet appointees and public service commissions — ultimately, of any State-level official who inherits his little slice of the labyrinthine and pervasive administrative structure supported by each State’s general fund — are ephemeral when the prospect of a quick score rears its head. Due process — yes, even for an international megacorporation loathed both by environmentalists and people who put gas in their cars — doesn’t get a lot of spotlight from State Houses.

State leaders send a message to their citizen bosses and benefactors when they spend the months before a tough legislative session talking about steep budget cuts, reductions in staffing for courts, law enforcement, state-run mental hospitals and pretty much everything else. (Roads and teachers are sacred cows of the political cycle and are usually safe from devastating harm.)

The South’s elected fiscal conservatives, such as they are, reached office in part on the strength of tough talk about bloated government, redundancies in State services, welfare-state public employees (except for teachers!) and getting back to the business of carrying out no more and no less than the tasks of office as ordained in each State’s constitution.

When those same leaders ramp up the rhetoric for each year’s budget fight, the talk is always about tough decisions, too many “needs” and not enough dollars, and how proud they are that the people who elected them share their austere approach to fiscal policy and will “please bear with us” as they feebly shore up — but never, ever eliminate — all the big-government programs, entitlements and agencies they were elected to trim or to end outright.

When Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas get their BP dole, you can expect it to be absorbed into their State budgets to the maximum extent the settlement agreement will allow. There will be earmarks for environmental reparation, as well as other qualifiers regarding where a portion of the money goes, but every discretionary cent likely will be padded in to each State’s business-as-usual operating budget next year.

With few exceptions, State programs don’t die. Their near-miss budgeting survival, year in and year out, leaves the public with the vague impression that they’re absolutely crucial and, probably, mandated by that State’s Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.

For politicians of any stripe holding the public purse strings, that’s a pleasant lie. Along with State taxes and fees that either stay level or increase, erratic windfall money keeps State leaders everywhere addicted to the superfluity of big government.

 

Another One Bites The Obamacare

Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted the yoke of expanded Medicaid funding under the terms of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to a Star-Ledger report Tuesday.

Christie’s decision to embrace Obamacare this year appears to stem from overall fiscal exigencies in the 2013 State budget he presented in an annual speech before the Legislature. The budget details a disparity in the State’s real-versus-projected revenues for the year, a $473 million shortfall he’s pushing to defer until next year and a sense that accepting the inevitable expansion of Medicaid can benefit the State now, while the Federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost (a percentage that will drop to 90 percent in three years).

Christie becomes the eighth Republican Governor to cave to Obamacare. Even though he’s been an outspoken critic of the plan from the start, it’s likely he’ll negotiate the backlash of reversing his stance with far less political damage than has GOP casualty No. 7, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has been trashed by conservatives since flip-flopping on Feb. 20.

Scott’s dour, insolent language did his image no favors last week when he relented. Taking a lesson from Scott’s public relations nightmare, Christie at least spoke directly and with more conviction when he addressed the New Jersey Legislature Tuesday:

Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.

But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.

No, he won’t.

Considering the servile position States now occupy with respect to the Federal government and its grip on taxation and appropriations, it isn’t difficult to understand what Governors, Republican or Democrat, are hoping to gain. It’s money — money for the State that’s controlled by the Feds and, in varying degrees of generosity, rewarded to States that accept all the contingencies that attend qualifying for those cherished funds.

That’s why Christie’s plain and tough talk about where he’s drawing his next line in the sand — “If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started” — has the same hollow ring as all the words slung in most other GOP-donkey fights. They’re misplaced. In its implementation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t a matter of Republican-Democrat; it’s a matter of Federal-State.

With the Act’s major initiatives now becoming reality, the conservative Republican Governors who opposed Obamacare for so long are starting to realize that in a tangible way. And even though not every State will accept Obamacare, the few Governors still holding out for the right time to capitulate are really only waiting for one thing: the right, face-saving moment.

Atheists Feel Persecuted, NYC Mayor Funds Chicago Gun Grabber, C. Everett Koop’s AIDS Letters, Veep Keeps Getting 2016 Love, (Accidentally) Underestimating The Taliban: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 2-26-2013

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.

  • Who knew? Evidently, it’s still hard to be a devout atheist under theocratic regimes.
  • Michael Bloomberg is funding the legislative campaign of a gun grabber running for the Chicago-area seat formerly held by Jessie Jackson Jr. Way to serve your “constituents” in Illinois, Mayor. That New York gig must leave a lot of gaps in your schedule.
  • Memorable Ronald Reagan-era Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died Monday. Browse his correspondence to see politics and policy, in the early AIDS years, pushing against each other.
  • Joe Biden might as well enjoy all the POTUS love now. He’ll be 74 in 2016.
  • Oopsie! Last month’s big reveal that the Taliban was hobbled in 2012 — thanks to stats supplied by the U.S. military in Kabul, Afghanistan — can now be quietly corrected. Turns out, they’re attacking as frequently as ever. But it’s still a win for America!

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Legal Pot Creates Quandary For State Agencies Addicted To Federal Money

In light of its ongoing status as a Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule 1 controlled substance, the decriminalizing and legalization of recreational marijuana is creating some secondary complications in States where voters have recently approved the change.

In Washington and Colorado, State-funded agricultural extension services have had to turn away amateur marijuana gardeners interested in getting some expert tips to help them grow their crops.

That’s because there’s Federal money on the line for the public universities that deploy the cooperative extension programs in the States. Federal student aid, research appropriations and technological initiatives, among other programs, all rely predominantly on the reliable flow of U.S. taxpayer money that emanates with regularity from Congress.

And so long as consuming, possessing, growing or transacting marijuana is against Federal law, State universities have a lot to lose if they elect to tell residents how to grow it — no matter how benign the circumstances.

Just as conservative States have claimed sovereignty over the regulation of healthcare, Western States struggling to protect their pot legislation from the Feds are in for a rough trip.

Recreational weed growing remains illegal in Washington but is legal in Colorado (just don’t grow more than six plants at a time). But both States face the same uncertain future when it comes to long-term marijuana law. Court challenges and shifting U.S. drug policy have a tendency to discourage States from expanding sanctioned services even tangentially related to pot.

Until Congress takes the target off marijuana at the Federal level, no State that receives Federal carrot-and-stick contingency funding is likely to cultivate a robust support infrastructure for marijuana growers — not even gardeners and hobbyists. County extension services that provide local farmers and gardeners with research, documentation and instruction on raising other crops and specialty plants simply can’t afford to risk losing the Federal dollars their agencies have become addicted to.

Marijuana policy reform group NORML compares the contemporary Federal policy on pot to Prohibition, noting the absurdity, in both cases, of enjoining States to enforce laws that had no popular support and of vastly insufficient Federal funding. Responding last year to the Colorado and Washington referenda, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano noted:

Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. Today, history begins to repeat itself.

A bill before Congress, HR 499, would end the Federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the matter for each State to decide. The passing of such a bill wouldn’t exactly be a victory for States’ rights advocates — we went through this charade in the 1920s with the Volstead Act — but it could perhaps serve as a starting point for States whose leaders are eager to recover some of the sovereignty eroded by Federal aggression (and, in recent decades, State leaders’ own lazy deference).