Bills Requiring Welfare Recipients To Pass Drug Tests; Do Volunteer Work Move Through Michigan Legislature

The Michigan State Senate has approved a measure that requires able-bodied welfare recipients to show a little good faith if they’re willing to ask for, and receive, government assistance.

According to CBS Detroit, the State Senate passed a bill requiring those receiving public assistance to perform volunteer work. The House Commerce Committee, meanwhile, has vetted a separate bill that would require periodic drug testing, and that would revoke the benefits of any recipient who declines to take the tests, or tests positive.

“The whole intention is to make certain folks have some skin in the game, and I don’t feel that there’s any problem with making folks go out and do some kind of community service in order to receive their cash assistance,” said Republican State Senator Joe Hune, who sponsored the volunteer bill.

The legislation isn’t sitting well with some Democrats, though. “These people, they already need as much money as they can get, they wouldn’t be asking for it if they didn’t need it,” said Democratic State Senator Vincent Gregory. “… A lot of people are embarrassed to even be there [asking for benefits], and they have this put on them — It’s this feeling that ‘This is what the public wants.’ But the public doesn’t want to see people beaten down.”

The legislation has been written to allow for a lot of leeway in its implementation, with Hune noting that the State’s Department of Human Services is better equipped than elected politicians to implement the new programs on a functional level – should the two bills become law.

An accompanying viewer poll on the CBS Detroit website asked readers, “Should People Be required To Perform Community Service To Receive Welfare?”

At last check, the “yesses” had a slight lead over the “nos” – 97.23 percent to 2.77.

Does Harry Reid Hear What He’s Saying?

Close on the heels of his observation that Congressional Republicans must be a bunch of anarchists, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday the House GOP is “trying to get rid of” the government.

Bristling at the House GOP’s forthcoming plan to defund Obamacare by attaching a proviso to its stopgap government-funding bill, Reid struck a particularly condescending tone.

“We’re waiting to see what comes from the House on whether to fund the government or not,” Reid said. “Waiting to see what the House is going to do — to see what absurd idea will prevail over there.”

Apparently a believer that even a nursery rhyme could sound sinister if it’s recited in an appropriately alarming voice, Reid also accused Republicans of something many true conservatives — without the added hyperbole — embrace as a virtue.

“We have a number of Republican Senators and lots of Republican House members who don’t believe in government,” he said from the Senate floor Wednesday. “They want to get rid of it, and they’re doing everything they can to get rid of it.”

Yeah, guess that’s why they’re mostly career politicians. Reid’s Republicans are a bunch of radical ideologues willing to get elected so that they can subvert the system from within, like sneaky nihilistic ninjas.

But how, even in Reid’s view, does accusing conservative lawmakers of advocating for limited government sound like something that would resonate with all but the stupidest of Americans? Only the strident language makes it sound like a bad thing. And only a child would take emotional cues from the form, and not the content, of a message.

Maybe Reid is hoping there are enough functional illiterates out there who can be persuaded by his words so that the Democrats’ inevitable victory over raising the Federal debt limit can be reported on television to look like a mandate from the people.

IRS Was ‘Acutely’ Aware Of Obama’s Desire To ‘Crack Down’ On Tea Party

A House Oversight Committee investigation finds that Internal Revenue Service staffers involved in the Tea Party political discrimination scandal took their cues on which nonprofit conservative groups to single out for bureaucratic harassment from President Barack Obama and other progressive political leaders.

While the investigation’s most recent report, which began circulating Tuesday, doesn’t explicitly accuse the President or any other elected leader of instructing the IRS to deny Tea Party groups’ applications for nonprofit status, it does allege that IRS staffers had a clear understanding that slowing down conservatives was something the President wanted them to do.

Ongoing portrayals of the Tea Party, in mainstream media, as a menacing assortment of ignorant wingnuts further bolstered IRS staff in their belief that the various conservative groups were ripe for targeting — since no one, evidently, would notice or care if the government decided to illegally violate the free speech of members of a movement the left-leaning media all but described as a hate group.

“In one of the key findings, investigators said negative press coverage of the tea party was one reason why the IRS gave the groups special scrutiny,” reports The Washington Times:

IRS employees were “acutely” aware in 2010 that President Obama wanted to crack down on conservative organizations and were egged into targeting tea party groups by press reports mocking the emerging movement, according to an interim report being circulated Tuesday by House investigators.

…The Republican oversight report traces the growing pressure on the IRS to act, beginning with Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in his 2010 State of the Union address to calls from top members of Congress for the IRS to give special scrutiny to tea party applications.

…Emails among IRS officials, and committee interviews with them, show agency employees were aware of the pressure, sending one another news reports and commenting — in sometimes derisive language — about the tea party applications.

By contrast, the report finds that liberal groups that applied for nonprofit status were typically approved quickly — even as Tea Party applications were stymied for up to three years.

The Oversight Committee’s finding is bolstered by a report Wednesday in USA Today that revealed the IRS was targeting groups “based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ‘emotional’ statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.”

That report found that only 11 progressive groups (out of 162) were named on an internally circulated “propaganda” list, while more than 80 percent were specifically identified as conservative.

This Picture Might Explain The Journalistic Confusion About Guns

With all the mass confusion among reporters in the mainstream media over which bad guy used which bad gun in which bad murdering spree, isn’t it about time someone gave these hapless journalists a little help?

One Twitter user thought so. On Wednesday, Mike Morrison, a self-described “advocate of Liberty,” offered this handy visual reference guide. From now on, Piers Morgan, you have no excuses.

BUYCQ_tCAAA0JYk.jpg large.

Mistake Or Malfeasance? Doesn’t Matter; This Textbook Gets The 2nd Amendment Dead Wrong

It could be the innocent product of overzealous editing, or it could be intentional. Either way, a high school textbook supplement has a lot of parents upset for what it’s telling students about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

The Denton, Texas, Unified School District adopted the book, United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination, as a supplement to a larger course of study for students aiming to ace the AP U.S. History test to jump-start their college careers.

School officials in Texas say it’s meant to serve as a supplemental guide to assist more thorough study of the Constitution, but the book has drawn anger from some parents who believe it’s a subversive effort to rewrite what the Constitutional framers originally wrote.

The Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

And now the book:

Second Amendment: The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.

The paperback version sells for about $37 on Amazon. Until word of the Bill of Rights butchering began circulating among conservative Internet sites this week, it had received almost universal praise from student reviewers throughout the country who’d used it to anticipate the questions they’d face on the AP U.S. History exam.

But the book’s user rating, which appears to have hovered around four stars (out of five), has taken a dive down to two stars just in the past week, after all the publicity began driving angry Constitutionalists to the site.

For some perspective, though, here’s the (hastily written?) opinion of one review from back in 2010, offered by a customer who identifies as an AP teacher (“DBQ” stands for “Document-Based Question”):

The book leaves out a subtantial maount of essential information, and is downright deceptively bias in many areas of national politics. (note the background and inclination of the authors on the inside flap). As the book is highly slanted politically throughout and SELECTIVELY avoids facts that are essential to FULLY answering the DBQs, I would not at all recommend this book to any student who is preparing dilligently for the exam. The political cartoons in this book were especially repulsive in their political slant as well as deceptions for the student. Unless most of the AP readers are teachers/profs. from Boulder Colorado, or Santa Cruz California, the student will fail to be able to provide a well rounded and informed answer on his DBQs which will result in a lowered overall score. This brief readers digest (TIME/NEWSWEEK) version of history should only be used along with another tome that covers both partisan sides of the American political and social spectrum over the past 300 years. Caveat emptor with this one folks!

Youth-slant political website PolicyMic makes the case — perhaps inadvertently — for the argument that the book simply isn’t written by people who understand any portion of the Bill of Rights. PolicyMic’s Saad Asad writes:

Students are taught the complete version in classes, and the supplemental textbook is only used as a quick guide to prepare before the AP exam. As someone who once took these classes, I can attest to the inaccuracy of many of these supplemental textbooks, which are only meant to be review guides.

Although the Second Amendment summary is receiving a lot of criticism, the authors also erroneously summarized the Third Amendment by stating: “The people cannot be required to quarter (house) soldiers during peacetime.” This skims over the clause that explicitly forbids quartering during times of war. In fact, the history of the Third Amendment is explicitly rooted in protesting the British quartering of soldiers in wartime. It would be silly to assume there is some ideological bias behind this summary of quartering.

Whether intentional or just dumb, it’s time for this mangled reimagining of the 2nd Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, to end. There’s already enough agenda-driven misinformation being foisted on young people, as ever-zealous progressives carry on their tireless campaign to obscure the plain language of our Constitution.

Another Stimulus-Backed Green Energy Company Goes Broke

ECOtality, the San Francisco-based “leader in clean electric transportation technologies” (they make electric car charging stations), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday after laying off employees last week and repaying $96 million out of a total $115 million in stimulus money awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009.

Trading in the company’s stock was halted Tuesday morning; a single share of ECOtality stock can currently be had for 23 cents. The bankruptcy filing is pessimistic, noting the “Company’s common stock will have very little or no value given the amount of the Company’s liabilities compared to its assets.”

Under the filing, ECOtality will receive a $1.25 million loan from Nissan, an unsecured creditor, and will continue to operate until its remaining assets have been sold off.

Critics of the cozy relationship between the Administration of President Barack Obama and the green energy sector told The Washington Times ECOtality’s demise is only the latest example of how government has no business putting its thumb on the competitive scales that weigh a company’s viability in the private marketplace.

“Government is terrible at picking winners and losers for a simple reason: Politics always interferes,” energy policy expert William Yeatman, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Times. “That news is only the latest costly reminder that Energy Department bureaucrats shouldn’t be running a taxpayer-backed investment bank for green energy.”

More from the same article:

Jonathan Read, the company’s former CEO, styled himself as a “political beast.” Read boasted about his political connections, and received bonus payments contingent on ECOtality winning DOE support.

One ECOtality executive blamed the company’s financial troubles on Read, who, the executive said, “offered no leadership and either directly or indirectly […] squandered or pocketed all the government money.”

News of a possibly bankruptcy filing had been swirling since August, so it was only natural that investors were waiting in the wings Tuesday with a class action lawsuit. According to The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch site, the suit alleges that the company knew its finances were dire long before disclosing any negative information to investors

Does that mean the U.S. government, which got had on its $115 million deal, can prosecute?

Despite some Congressional criticism and a Labor Department probe into its payroll practices, that’s a moot question. The Obama Administration, which has vetted speculative green energy ventures in doling out the stimulus money, isn’t likely to take an adversarial position against its own failed policies.

CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook: Bad, Really Bad

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a majorly pessimistic revision to its long-term Federal budget outlook Wednesday, predicting that publicly-held Federal debt will rise to 100 percent of the National GDP within the next 30 years – instead of the already-alarming 73 percent of GDP it accounts for now.

Describing Congress’ annual capitulation to pressure to raise the Federal debt ceiling an “unsustainable” fiscal scheme, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf hinted that disaster lies ahead if the best that government can do is continue its tax-and-spend policy over the long term.

“The federal budget is on a course that cannot be sustained indefinitely,” Elmendorf said. “Because federal debt is already unusually high relative to GDP, further increases in debt could be especially harmful.”

The increasing ratio of debt service (that’s loan repayment for public debt) to GDP is on track to jump from 2 percent of GDP to 5 percent, meaning that the government will be spending more of tomorrow’s dollars to pay for tax-and-spend debt it’s incurring now. That, coupled with an enormous jump in Federal entitlement spending (an even 200 percent by 2038), threatens to commit the lion’s share of tomorrow’s economy to the economic equivalent of treading water.

The upshot is that the Federal debt is on track to reach – literally – 100 percent of GDP within the next 25 years.

“The policy responses to mitigate rising debt levels are all politically difficult,” writes Reason’s Peter Suderman. “Federal policymakers will have to cut spending, increase revenues, or some mix of the two. But it will be especially hard to raise revenues since they’re already on track to be higher as a percentage of GDP than is typical. Rapid changes might negatively shock the system. But letting debt continue to rise is dangerous too: ‘because federal debt is already unusually high relative to GDP,’ the report says, ‘further increases in debt could be especially harmful.’”

Congress is set to fight over another hike in the Federal debt ceiling next month, though an increase is all but inevitable if the government is to avoid defaulting, given its present rate of spending.

Read a pretty in-depth synopsis from the CBO here. Access the full report here.

First Recall; Now Repeal: Colorado 2nd Amendment Groups Aim For Overturn Of Gun Laws

Backers of the successful recall of two Colorado State Senators are pledging to continue fighting for the repeal of the same gun control laws that led to the two Senators’ ouster, following their support of the anti-2nd Amendment legislation earlier this year.

On Breitbart’s Sirius XM radio broadcast Sunday, Jennifer Kerns of Basic Freedom Defense Fund (BFDF) – a Colorado nonprofit established earlier this year in response to the State Legislature’s “appalling act of government overreach” – said the group is only halfway done with the task of remedying a Constitutional infringement perpetrated by elected officials.

“We won and now we want more,” she said, adding that the recall effort’s grassroots success will, hopefully, keep the pressure on the State legislature to overturn the pair of new laws, which have been on the books since July.

One of those laws restricts the size of ammunition magazines to 15 rounds; the other expands background checks to include private sales, as well as firearms sales done online. Sheriffs from 54 of the State’s 64 counties have filed a lawsuit, alleging that the laws are unConstitutional.

In a joint press release Friday, BFDF and Pueblo Freedom and Rights, a “grassroots issues committee,” announced the repeal movement “will not be going away silently into the night,” calling on all State legislators to respond to a survey sent by BFDF last week:

In an effort to understand where State legislators stand on Colorado’s new gun laws, we are writing to ask your position on key issues. As you are likely aware, we recently succeeded in the first successful recall of not one, but two, State officials in Colorado history.

As we consider our next endeavors, we wish to know where every legislator stands on a repeal of Colorado’s unlawful new gun restrictions.

Please take a moment to answer this simple, 2-question survey:

Will you vote for a repeal of Colorado’s new gun laws if given the opportunity in the 2014 legislative session? ___ YES or ___ NO

Would you support a Ballot Initiative that would repeal Colorado’s gun laws? ___ YES or ___ NO

“While we consider Tuesday’s election a significant victory, we realize that these egregious gun laws remain and we want to know where each and every Colorado State legislator stands on them,” said Kerns in the statement. “It is a new day in Colorado and constituents expect their legislators to represent the will of the people. No one is immune from the reach of the grassroots efforts which powered these two recall elections.”

In addition, the two groups sent the same survey to every announced candidate planning to run for a State office in 2014. The responses will be made public Oct. 1.

Colorado voters recalled two Democratic state Senators – Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse – last week in a special election that liberals outside the State claim was unfairly weighted in favor of 2nd Amendment advocates – because mail-in ballots were not allowed.

SWAT-Style EPA Raid In Alaska Shines A Light On Federal Agencies With Arrest Power

After EPA agents in tactical gear swarmed a mining operation in the tiny Alaskan outpost of Chicken last week, the State’s governor blasted the Feds, calling the raid an “absolutely unacceptable” example of government resorting to intimidation tactics to enforce something as nonviolent an (alleged) offense as the Clean Water Act.

Now, a new analysis of government data reveals the EPA is only one of dozens of Federal agencies that have self-contained armed divisions.

Looking past the DEA, FBI and, since 2002, the DHS, there are about 12,000 full-time Federal officers across 40 agencies who can carry firearms and arrest suspects, according to a Fox News analysis of a Justice Department report. Of those, at least a dozen agencies aren’t concerned at all with law enforcement, but nonetheless retain enforcement officers with guns.

“Though most Americans know agents within the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Prisons carry guns, agencies such as the Library of Congress and Federal Reserve Board employing armed officers might come as a surprise,” the Fox report states:

The number of federal department [sic] with armed personnel climbs to 73 when adding in the 33 offices of inspector general, the government watchdogs for agencies as large as the Postal Service to the Government Printing Office, whose IG has only five full-time officers.

The late-August raid on Chicken, a small gold mining town near the State’s eastern border, involved officers from the EPA, FBI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Coast Guard, NOAA and the U.S. Park Service. The Federal agents were allegedly acting in concert with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force, but the State’s Congressional delegation, as well as the State police, weren’t buying it.

“Their explanation – that there are concerns within the area of rampant drug trafficking and human trafficking going on – sounds wholly concocted to me,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)… This seems to have been a heavy-handed, and heavy-armor approach. Why was it so confrontational? The EPA really didn’t have any good answers for this.”

Chicken is a tiny place, with nothing resembling a block-grid infrastructure. Lying near the State’s Eastern border with Canada, it has a current population of seven. The only year-round access to the town is via a small local airstrip.

An Alaska State Trooper spokesperson also told the Alaska Dispatch that the State police had not advised the EPA of any “dangerous drug activity” in the area. “We do not have evidence to suggest that is occurring,” said Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

State Department Employees Hold Private Benghazi Memorial After No Official Event Scheduled

A small group of State Department staffers held their own private memorial ceremony last week to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. With no official ceremony planned, it was the least they could do.

According to political news site Talking Points Memo, the private memorial ceremony came together after employees realized the agency wouldn’t be organizing a formal commemoration of the tragedy, which took the lives of four Americans – including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“A State Department staffer who worked with Stevens in Libya and asked not to be named told TPM there were about 20 to 25 staffers at the memorial,” TPM’s Hunter Walker wrote. “The informal gathering was put together after staffers inquired and learned the department would not be holding an official event to mark the anniversary.”

State Department employees were among recipients last week of a widely-distributed internal email, sent by Secretary of State John Kerry, with the heading “Remembering September 11.” That email allegedly referenced both the commercial airplane hijackings and the Benghazi attacks.

But one recipient involved in holding the private memorial said no one in the chain of command offered an explanation for why a formal, organized event had not been planned.

“It was very meaningful — we hugged, told stories, laughed, cried. Someone put flowers by the wall, we stood awkwardly, then we went back to work,” the anonymous State Department source told TPM.