Cop’s Teenage Son In Coma After Run-In With The Law

After being stopped by police because the car he was driving matched an outstanding warrant for a woman, a 17-year-old boy ended up stunned with a Taser, on the ground and in the hospital, where medical staff had to induce a coma to stabilize the injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of the Independence, Missouri, police.

The Kansas City Star reported that the FBI has launched an investigation into the incident and that “Independence police said that they would cooperate ‘hand-in-hand’ with the federal investigation and the officer had been placed on administrative leave.”

The boy, Bryce Masters, is the son of a police officer in nearby Kansas City. He was allegedly driving alone Sunday afternoon in a vehicle whose license plate matched that of a woman whom the police had been hunting.

She wasn’t in the car, and Masters reportedly couldn’t get his window to roll down when ordered to do so by Independence officer Tim Runnels. The Star cites witnesses who indicate Runnels appeared frustrated that Masters wasn’t rolling down his window, and that Runnels’ subsequent alleged actions appeared to show him taking that frustration out on the boy:

Police said the stun gun was used on the teen while he was still in the car. At some point, Masters got out of the car under his own power but later fell to the ground, Maj. Paul Thurman said.

…Witnesses said police overreacted.

‘Several times, the cop put his foot on the kid like he was stepping on his neck, but it was on his back,’ said Robert Baker, who lives nearby. ‘I think (the officer) was wrong, because the kid tried to explain to him that his window won’t roll down.’

Others said that Masters, who was in the neighborhood to visit a classmate, did not resist when Runnels pulled him over. They said Masters told the officer that the car’s window would not roll down.

Another witness said she saw Runnels drag Masters into a driveway and drop him, causing Masters’ head to hit the pavement. Masters was listed late Monday in critical condition at a nearby hospital.

“Independence police have firmly defended the actions of Officer Tim Runnels, saying he used a stun gun on the 17-year-old in accordance with department policy,” KCTV News reported Monday. “Runnels has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in cases like this.”

Get Ready For A Shift In The Gun Control Narrative: Scary-Looking Guns Are Out; Handguns Are In

Progressive efforts to take firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens may be rounding a corner in the arms race of government overreach. A new report from ProPublica and The New York Times suggests gun control advocates may be turning their attention away from the failed narrative against intimidating-looking assault weapons, raising the specter of a new menace to take their place: handguns.

Using data that’s been available anytime they cared to look, the reporters stumbled across this well-known fact:

“It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.”

Whoa, dude.

Read far enough, and the article gets around to acknowledging the inconvenient truth that homicides in which guns were used have declined steadily and dramatically over the past 20 years. But the authors don’t pair that information with another significant fact: Americans — already ahead of other developed nations in per-capita gun ownership — are buying more and more guns, even as the so-called “gun murder” rate has declined.

The article’s one observation that merits much more attention from the left is this:

“Annually, 5,000 to 6,000 black men are murdered with guns. Black men amount to only 6 percent of the population. Yet of the 30 Americans on average shot to death each day, half are black males.

“… Even as homicide rates have held steady or declined for most Americans over the last decade, for black men the rate has sometimes risen. But it took a handful of mass shootings in 2012 to put gun control back on Congress’s agenda.”

Oh, so there’s a political component to this whole gun control thing? An insincere, dishonest one — one that ignores cultural problems that progressive policies (policies that have nothing to do with guns) have only fomented and exacerbated?

The authors didn’t say that. But it’s between every line of the progressive gun control agenda.

Something Stinks: Liberals, Conservatives Have Different, Distinct Smells

This is too easy. There’s a new study out that asserts conservatives and liberals don’t smell the same. Not only that — the study claims that sensitive noses can pick up on the smell of politically like-minded people, and differentiate that smell from that of people who hold political views with which they don’t agree.

The American Journal of Political Science has published the findings of an academic study called “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues,” which claims that “[a] growing body of evidence reveals that the mechanisms that account for differences in ideological attitudes are genetically and biologically influenced and conscript olfactory processes.”

In other words, people use their sense of smell, whether they realize it or not, to detect when they’re in the company of someone who thinks as they do.

Implicit in the findings are that people unsurprisingly prefer to hang out with others who share their views — in part because they find their scent more agreeable than those whose views differ from their own.

The nuts-and-bolts research behind this study truly smells. Test subjects had to live with stink-collecting armpit pads attached to their bodies for 24 hours, then remit those pads so that they could be sniffed by a separate group of participants, who indicated the degree to which they found those smells agreeable. Then the political ideologies of members from each group were factored in, and — well, you nose the rest.

Similar research has uncovered other sensory and behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals. “Conservatives will look at an unpleasant image 15 percent longer than liberals, and they’re also more likely to keep an organized dorm room in college,” The Week reported Tuesday. “In fact, one study showed that conservatives are more generally conscientious and liberals are more open to new experiences. Libertarians display some psychological aspects of both groups, albeit with a far lighter helping of respect for authority.”

Democrats Leading Push For Legal Parity Between Citizens And Illegal Aliens In New York

Ahead of a general election that could flip control of the New York State Senate to the Democratic Party, right-leaning media outlets are beginning to take note of an already-active bill that seeks to immensely expand the state’s legal accommodation for illegal immigrants — up to and including the right to run for public office — simply by recognizing them as “New York State Citizens.”

Sounds like a case for the Department of Justice.

Done laughing? The “New York is Home” bill, introduced in June by Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, would bestow a bounty of citizens’ rights on illegals who’ve made New York their home. The law “would bar police from releasing any information about them to the feds, unless it involves a criminal warrant unrelated to their immigration status,” the New York Post wrote Monday. “Under the proposed legislation, undocumented immigrants could also apply for professional licenses and serve on juries.”

It would also grant them the right to vote (but not in Federal elections) and even to run for office, according to Bloomberg.

That all sounds ambitious and far-flung until you read the bill, which begins by flatly stating its purpose: “To establish New York State citizenship, regardless of immigration status, and providing certain rights and benefits to persons with such citizenship.”

Is it a stunt? Well, California along with several other states have already moved to grant drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. And Democratic officials in New York aren’t ramping up the rhetoric into Harry Reid-worthy hyperbole; rather, they’re speaking in reserved, realistic tones about the likelihood of its passage and enactment. “The bill would have a better shot at passing with a Democratic Senate,” one legislator told the Post.

Republicans are taking it seriously, too. “This bill could pass if the Democrats are in charge of the Senate,” state Sen. Marty Golden told the paper. “They’re out of their minds…This is astounding. This undermines our nation’s immigration laws and procedures.”

Will Militia Plan To Block Border Bridges Lead To Standoff With Police?

This Saturday, a U.S. militia group will attempt to block the flow of traffic along one or more bridges connecting Mexico and the United States. At least, that’s the message the group allegedly has been sending since last week. What isn’t known is whether such an effort will actually materialize and, if it does, how it will play out as local and federal law enforcement look on.

And despite their limitations on enforcing portions of U.S. immigration law as elected official play fast and loose politics with the sworn duties of officers in the field, there is indeed a heavy law enforcement presence near designated international crossings.

“The region is currently jammed packed [sic] with law enforcement,” Breitbart News wrote in a Sunday piece anticipating the potential standoff.

“In addition to the normal compliment [sic] of local, state, and federal police, there are currently surge operations in place that have brought in over 2,000 people to protect the region; Ranging from additional border patrol officers, to the surge of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, to the recent deployment of 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard.”

What’s more, law enforcement asserts that it knows the militia is coming — at least, that it has promised to come. That builds tension into an event ahead of its unfolding, regardless of how it actually does (or does not) play out. International bridges aren’t exactly the most expedient routes for illegal immigrants to brave as they contemplate sneaking into the U.S., but they do facilitate millions of dollars’ worth of commerce between Mexico and the U.S. each day.

“We will not allow these groups to disrupt the economic commerce of our region and we are prepared to use force to keep the bridges open,” one unnamed officer told Breitbart. He also went on to assess the plan put forward by the militia as “lawless.”

Which militia — or militias — are these? The original story about Saturday’s expected blockade came from KRGV News in Weslaco, Texas, and it reported on only one militia — without naming names:

Officials say they received word that members of a militia are threatening to block ports of entry.

In Starr County, international bridge authorities met with Customs and Border Protection officials Thursday. Their goal was to discuss the potential problem and find a plan of action.

Starr County has international bridges in Rio Grande City, Roma and Falcon Dam.

Officials received word that members of a militia plan to protest illegal crossings by blocking traffic on Sept. 20.

Breitbart went on to allude to “militia groups” in its report, but didn’t elaborate further.

So far, only representatives from law enforcement appear to be talking with the media, which some observers believe raises questions about the intent and the veracity of the original report.

The Replacement For Fingerprinting? FBI Facial Recognition Program Set To Supplant Current ID Methods

Facial recognition technology and surveillance have been cohabiting for a long time, but today the FBI announced it’s officially wedding itself to a $1 billion program intended to help supplant older, traditional methods (think: fingerprinting) of identifying and tracking individuals.

The new facial recognition system is to be deployed alongside other features in the ongoing rollout of the FBI’s so-called “Next Generation Identification” program, a biometric detection infrastructure which relies on big data to more reliably (according to the FBI) identify and keep tabs on surveillance subjects.

“The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of US citizens,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) writes:

The system will include facial recognition capabilities to analyze collected images. Millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects will be included in the database. Many of these individuals will be unaware that their images and other biometric identifiers are being captured. Drivers license photos and other biometric records collected by civil service agencies could be added to the system. The NGI system could be integrated with other surveillance technology, such as Trapwire, that would enable real-time image-matching of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras. The Department of Homeland Security has expended hundreds of millions of dollars to establish state and local surveillance systems, including CCTV cameras that record the routine activities of millions of individuals. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States. The NGI system will be integrated with CCTV cameras operated by public agencies and private entities.

Moreover, third parties are already attempting to develop crime prevention platforms that could make the FBI’s next-generation program seem antiquated. Check this out.

tjeff

As The Hill reported Monday, the FBI is denying that it will collect and store information on citizens not under suspicion of criminal activity. But that hasn’t assuaged the concerns of a burgeoning grass-roots anti-surveillance culture in the U.S., which is attempting to develop low-tech methods of its own to thwart unconstitutional mass surveillance — even if it entails making yourself look ridiculous in the process.

Nevada Scraps Do-Over For Failed State Healthcare Exchange

Nevada abandoned its contract with a company to run its failed state Obamacare exchange back in May, waving goodbye to $75 million in wasted contract money in the process. The plan was to shift everyone buying Obamacare coverage over to Healthcare.gov, take a breath and recommit to crafting a new state exchange that could deploy in time for next year’s open enrollment period.

Instead, Nevada’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board voted to stop looking for a new vendor to build a new state exchange, and just use the Healthcare.gov exchange permanently. Insurance customers in Nevada will still access the Healthcare.gov enrollment backbone by visiting the state’s Nevada Health Link site, but underpinning it will be the same software and database system employed by the federal Obamacare exchange.

That’s a calculated gamble, since Healthcare.gov isn’t secure. But for the state exchange board, it has become a case of refusing to throw good money after bad.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week:

Shawna DeRousse, chief operating officer of the exchange, said Nevada Health Link enrollments had dwindled to 34,000, down from 38,000 earlier this summer, and sign-ups may drop more as customers face re-enrollment in November. If member counts drop, the state may not be able to support a third switch. Moving onto the federal website will cost an additional $25 million for the state Division of Health and Human Services, which runs Nevada Medicaid. The state’s General Fund must match $3 million of that.

Said the exchange report: “If the next open enrollment is not successful, there is no guarantee that implementing a third system within three years would produce a successful result. Additionally, if the current federal infrastructure fails, it fails nationally, and federal resources will be utilized to fix the system. No additional state funding would be required to remain on the system, given current legislative status.”

There’s nothing like pinning your hopes on an inevitable loser, only to enjoy the benefit of having someone else take the blame for the mess.

Nevada residents filed a class action suit against Nevada Health Link in April, claiming they were paying for coverage they weren’t receiving, thanks to the site’s inability to correctly process and track enrollments.

As the nationwide 2015 enrollment period inches closer, expect a revival of the daily Obamacare horror stories that dominated the news late last year.

“It’s been pretty quiet lately on the Obamcare front… So quiet, that there has been a flurry of articles recently over how Obamacare has dropped to a second or even third tier issue and will hardly matter come election-time,” health policy researcher Bob Laszewski blogged last week. “The last couple of months have been very quiet for Obamacare… That is about to end.”

Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto Of Bill Permitting Armed Teachers

Both chambers of the Missouri legislature this week accomplished an override of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill expanding both concealed and open carry rights at schools in the Show Me State.

Nixon had vetoed S.B. 656 in July, arguing that training educational staff to carry concealed firearms on campus “would not make our schools safer” and that only school resource officers should be allowed to possess weapons on school grounds.

The bill  provides for school boards to designate “one or more school teachers or administrators as a school protection officer” after holding a public hearing, requiring the employee to complete a MPOSTC-approved training program, and sharing all information about the resource officers with the state Department of Public Safety. It also provides criminal penalties if a school protection officer fails to secure his weapon while at work.

The Senate overturned Nixon on a partisan 23-8 vote. The House followed suit a day later, overriding the veto Thursday on a bipartisan 117-39 vote.

The bill also does a number of other things, as summarized by The Missouri Times’ Collin Reischman:

An omnibus bill dealing with firearms, Nixon vetoed this bill for it’s provisions allowing schools to designate and train a “school protection officer,” to legally carry a firearm on school property. The bill also lowers the minimum age for a CCW permit from 21 to 19. The bill also prohibits health care professionals from asking about requiring asking a patient about firearm ownership or recording and/or reporting such ownership to a government entity. The bill also addresses so-called “open carry” law. Under the bill, local governments will not be able to prohibit CCW holders from engaging in open carry practices. Democratic Senators Scott Sifton and Jolie Justus spent nearly two hours discussing the bill in a semi-filibuster. The bill ultimately passed by a vote of 23-8 along party lines.

All of those provisions are reinstated by the veto override. S.B. 656 will take effect in Missouri.

Obamacare Hits 250,000 Virginians With Canceled Policies, Extends Opportunity To Buy More Expensive Ones

Last year, U.S. wages and consumer spending fell, even as spending on healthcare costs increased. That’s got to be especially good news for the quarter million people in Virginia who are learning their existing health plans will be canceled this fall.

WVIR News in Charlottesville reported Wednesday that the cancellations fall in line with so many other policies nationwide that simply aren’t legal, because of their coverage options, under the one-size-fits-all Affordable Care Act.

“Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said the local anchor. “That is because many of them did not…are not following, I should say, new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies [will] make the individuals choose new policies.

“…This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heard before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it,’” says a spot reporter. “Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. …[A] staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.”

Those plans will cost more — something insurers have known since at least May. Aside from increased premiums that will likely hit 15 percent on the high end, Obamacare’s metal-graded coverage tier system (platinum, gold, silver and bronze) relies heavily on out-of-pocket contributions that exceed what most canceled policyholders have had to pay prior to the healthcare law.

Here’s an interesting rundown of how out-of-pocket costs are changing, using 2015 rate filings from several states (including Virginia) to illustrate the difference. Hint: the structure is regressive. The costliest tier is also the most expensive out-of-pocket. And it also shares the greatest similarity, in terms of how thorough its coverage options are, to many of the canceled plans it’s supposed to be replacing.

Harry Reid Loses Both The Vote And The PR Campaign As Constitutional Amendment Bill Goes Down In Flames

Remember that supposed Constitutional amendment to restrict political spending by the Koch brothers and repudiate the Citizens United decision? The one that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was hell-bent on bringing up for repeated floor votes? The one that was supposed to be the “salvation of our country,” as Reid declared in May?

Well, consider the country unsaved. The amendment bill died today. And thanks to some procedural Russian roulette from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), it appears to have died for good.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), aimed to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution handing Congress the regulatory power to limit and oversee campaign spending for federal elections. It would also have granted the same power to states to similarly regulate state-level campaign spending. Reid had drawn a line in the sand earlier this year, saying such an amendment is do-or-die for an American elections system hijacked by Koch money.

“It’s been tried before, we should continue to push this and it should become our issue. That really puts the Koch brothers up against it. We believe and I believe that there should be spending limits,” he had said. “… We’re going to arrange a vote on it. We’re going to do it until we pass it because that’s the salvation of our country.”

The bill was never anything more than political theater, a scripted token of Reid’s Koch-ranting midterm elections strategy designed to lay blame at Republicans’ feet for obstructing campaign finance reform. “This bill has no chance of amending the Constitution, or Harry Reid wouldn’t be ready to stage a floor show themed around a phony battle against evil Republicans intent on frustrating its chances,” we wrote in May. “This is the kind of bill that makes for great Sunday news show fodder once it’s failed.”

One big problem: The bill didn’t fail the way Reid had planned. It failed honestly, so to speak, rather than dishonestly. From Washington Examiner today:

Democrats never really thought the measure would go anywhere, as they drafted it on the assumption Republicans would immediately block it. Democrats had hoped then to hold up the vote as an example of GOP obstructionism, a ploy they expected to exploit ahead of the November congressional elections.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Reid’s bluff Monday when he allowed the measure to advance on an initial procedural vote, turning what was supposed to be a Democratic messaging bill against them. McConnell allowed a second procedural vote to pass Wednesday on a voice vote.

The Kentucky Republican then blasted Reid for wasting Senate time on a measure he knew had a slim chance of passing.

So the measure died in today’s partisan 54-42 vote. (It needed 60 to continue.) As majority leader, Reid typically votes against ill-fated bills he supports, since he can reconsider a measure after having voted against it. But since the thing made it all the way to a full Senate vote, he was compelled to vote his… conscience… on a motion to proceed.

Here’s a link to the Examiner’s Tuesday story on how McConnell and the Senate GOP got set to win this one. It has a funny headline.

One-Third Of Voters Don’t Even Know Which Party Controls House, Senate

In two months, U.S. voters will determine whether Congress continues into President Obama’s last two years with a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. But a chunk of those likely voters don’t even know which party currently holds the majority in each chamber.

Rasmussen Reports said Thursday that only 63 percent of likely voters have a clue about which party is in charge of the House and the Senate. As for the remainder, many of them aren’t simply ignorant — they’re (somehow) misinformed.

Twenty percent (20%) mistakenly believe Democrats control the House, while 17% are not sure. Similarly, 18% think the GOP is in charge in the Senate, but 19% are not sure.

This is even less awareness than voters expressed in March of last year. Remember, too, that these are respondents who are the likeliest to vote this November and so presumably are more politically aware than most other Americans.

Broken down by demographics, Rasmussen reveals that “women and those under 40” know less about the present arrangement of party control over the bicameral legislature. As for likely voters who claim a party affiliation, “Republicans are more aware than Democrats and unaffiliated voters, but a sizable number of GOP voters don’t know which party controls which house of Congress.”

And while the general public perceives Republicans to be anti-Obamacare, the party-line votes against the original law — as well as all the repeated GOP-led repeal efforts — haven’t exactly earned each and every Representative a commensurate level of notoriety for their efforts.

“Even though not a single Republican member of either the House or Senate voted for the new national health care law, 31% of likely voters say they are not sure how their representative in Congress voted on Obamacare, an issue at the forefront of this election cycle,” Rasmussen states.

At least we’re all self-aware in our ignorance. Only nine percent of those surveyed indicated they believe that Americans make for well-informed voters.

House Votes To Block EPA Power Grab That Would Regulate Small Waterways On Private Property

In a somewhat bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved H.R. 5078, a “statement” piece of legislation that aims to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s unprecedented reach for regulatory power over small streams, ponds and similar catchments on private lands.

The measure passed on a 262-152 vote, with 227 Republicans and 35 Democrats supporting it. One Republican and 151 Democrats voted against the bill; 17 congressmen did not cast a vote. It now heads to the Senate, where vulnerable Democrats are feeling pressure from lobbies on both sides to kill the bill or save it. The Obama administration indicated on Monday that the President is likely to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk, saying the law is “not an act of good government.”

That’s to be expected, because the EPA’s vision for redefining language in the Clean Water Act to include small catchments and seasonal creeks is in lockstep with the Obama administration’s overarching program of expanding the government’s role in environmental stewardship.

Land-use industries such as oil, farming and the construction trades hailed the House approval of the bill and focused their attention to its passage in the Senate.

“Allowing these agencies to radically increase their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act would impede the fledgling housing recovery by greatly increasing the number of construction sites required to obtain permits, which would also delay and raise the cost of home building projects,” the National Association of Homebuilders’ Kevin Kelly said Tuesday. “… Today’s House vote sends a strong message to the EPA to go back to the drawing board to find a common-sense middle ground plan that will maintain environmental safeguards and protect landowners from unnecessary regulation.”

“Passage of H.R. 5078 isn’t just a clear rejection of the overreach that lies in the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. rule,” the American Farm Bureau Federation said in a statement after the bill passed. “Today’s action is an unmistakable signal that the tide is turning against those who ignore the constitutional separation of powers in the United States. We will ditch this rule.”

Separation of powers and federal encroachment were clearly on the mind of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), who titled his legislation the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act.”

“For more than 40 years, America’s waters have been made cleaner and safer by a balanced regulatory partnership between the states and the federal government. The basis for this partnership was a commonsense understanding that not all waters are subject to federal jurisdiction, and that the states must have the primary responsibility for regulating waters within their own boundaries,” Southerland said from the House floor Tuesday.

“But now, decades of success have been put at risk under the guise of ‘clarifying’ the scope of the federal jurisdiction. Under its proposed rules, federal agencies like the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would see their regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act drastically expanded to the point of covering almost any body of water throughout America — from ditches to culverts to pipes to watersheds to farmland ponds.”

Those environmentalists who view the government as a just arbiter of land use issues weren’t happy with the vote.

Salon’s Lindsay Abrams characterized the bill’s robust GOP support as “hysterical rhetoric” and accused Republicans of “twisting” a benign, much-needed clarification of policy language into an election-year issue to politically isolate rural-state Democrats.

For more on what the bill actually says, just check it out.

Commissioner Koskinen Says IRS Tries To Follow The Law ‘Whenever We Can’

Take comfort in knowing that, just as you only try to follow federal tax law “whenever you can,” the agency that collects and enforces those same laws is right there with you.

What? You always follow federal tax law because you don’t have much of a choice? Never mind then — the IRS hasn’t got anything in common with you.

At a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the panel the IRS sometimes does what the law prescribes. “Whenever we can, we follow the law,” said Koskinen, prompting a quick retort from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), according to The Hill: ““I encourage you to follow the law in all instances.”

Koskinen’s remarks came amid a barrage of questions about how the IRS will manage to ensure that everyone who’s required to report their healthcare coverage information to the agency this tax season will provide accurate information. It’s a crucial point: The Obama administration has missed the mark repeatedly in assurances about deadlines, premium costs, the security of patient information and the expediency of incorporating insurance verification into the annual tax-filing gauntlet.

Healthcare.gov’s Andy Slavitt faced questions about such concerns, with House members pointing out the website was recently reported to have been hacked — just one of several serious rollout failings that have engendered, in Slavitt’s own words, a “trust gap” between congressional overseers and the public on one hand, and the Obama administration on the other.

Wednesday’s hearing came only a few days after another potential IRS scandal-within-a-scandal emerged, when a Department of Justice spokesman reportedly called Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) office by mistake in an attempt to drum up some help on how to continue shaping the IRS narrative in its ongoing political discrimination scandal involving conservative nonprofits. Issa is chair of the House Oversight Committee, which has an ongoing investigation into the scandal.

“Apparently thinking he had reached the office of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) [Cummings is on the House Oversight Committee], [DOJ spokesman Brian] Fallon said the department wanted congressional staffers to get documents to selected reporters so that officials could comment on them ‘before the majority’ did,” The Hill reported Tuesday.

“After Issa spokesman Frederick Hill replied that Oversight Committee staffers would have to examine those documents first, the line went silent, and Fallon placed the call on hold for three minutes.

“When he returned to the line, Fallon was ‘audibly shaken,’ according to an account of the conversation that Issa recounts in a letter sent to [Attorney General Eric] Holder.”

You can read the letter Issa sent to Holder following that incident here.

Every Day They’re Unemployed, More Jobless People Go Shopping Than Look For Work

Looking for a job — especially when jobs are hard to find — is a drag. But shopping’s fun. And because so many people in the U.S. can live funded and jobless at the same time, more of them are spending their days buying stuff — not even necessary stuff — than looking for work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS), unemployed people from 2009 through 2013 spent more time shopping for nonessential goods on a daily basis than hunting for a job or following up on invitations to job interviews.

From CNS News, which recently crunched the BLS’ survey numbers:

Only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed (in surveys conducted from 2009 through 2013) spent time in job search and interviewing activities on an average day, according to BLS. Yet 40.8 percent of the unemployed did some kind of shopping on the average day — either in a store, by telephone, or on the Internet. 22.5 percent of the unemployed, according to BLS, were shopping for items other than groceries, food and gas.

The upshot, then, is that 22.5 percent of unemployed Americans shopped for stuff other than gas and groceries, while only 18.9 percent looked for work. Unemployed Americans also spent 9.24 hours per day, on average, sleeping and 5.93 hours per day on leisure and social activities.

Statistics released by the Census Bureau last month revealed that 110 million Americans — more than 35 percent of the population of the United States — are now receiving some form of means-tested welfare from the government. Add in Medicare and Social Security, and that number jumps above 150 million, or just under half the U.S. population.

As Cato Institute fellow Michael Tanner recently observed, the present surge in welfare benefits is a legacy of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “[T]he growing welfare caseload cannot be blamed solely on President Obama,” Tanner wrote in National Review.

“True, the number of people on welfare has increased by 12.5 million since he took office. But welfare also increased during the Bush administration: The proportion of households receiving SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), or SSI (Supplemental Security Income for the disabled) increased 36 percent during his presidency.”

VA Officials Allowed To Influence Inspector General Report To Downplay Alleged Role In Patient Deaths

A draft of an Inspector General’s report on a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital was modified to include softer language absolving VA officials of any alleged role in causing delays that may have contributed to patient deaths — but only after the draft, without that benign language, had been submitted to VA administrators and then released to the public.

The Washington Examiner reported on the “crucial” omission Monday, noting that agency officials succeeded in effecting revisions to the version of the IG report that went public — evidently in an attempt to avoid the criticism that might have followed if the public had reviewed the harsher, final version.

“The single most compelling sentence in the inspector general’s 143-page final report on fraudulent scheduling practices at the Phoenix veterans’ hospital did not appear in the draft version, according to a staff analysis by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” wrote the Examiner.

“It was inserted into the final version, the only one that was released to the public, after agency officials had a chance to comment and recommend revisions.”

That meaning of that sentence revolves on the omission of a passage that proclaimed the IG could not “conclusively” prove that Phoenix VA officials’ delays had led to anyone dying:

While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans.

“No such language appears in the draft version that was sent by the IG to agency officials for comment,” the Examiner reported.

That means the higher-ups in the VA thought the draft of the report was too damning, and they persuaded the IG to dress it up for their benefit. The IG had already concluded that the Phoenix VA had falsified appointment logs to conceal the delays in patient care.

Government Jacks The Cost Of Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

The State Department is about to quintuple the cost for renouncing U.S. citizenship, even as the number of Americans who voluntarily abrogate their relationship with the Unites States continues to surge. Talk about an inversion of the concept of supply and demand.

Even as the number of people renouncing their U.S. citizenship is on pace to exceed 4,000 this year, setting a new record in the process, the government is taking steps to get one last ounce of money from each soon-to-be ex-citizen in the bargain. 

Yahoo News reports that the State Department this week is hiking the price of renunciation from $450 to $2,350 — evidently in an attempt to create an incentive for tax-weary Americans to think twice before severing their formal commitment to their country. It’s perhaps an interesting footnote to mention that, before 2010, renouncing one’s U.S. citizenship didn’t cost a cent

In 2013, 2,999 people renounced their citizenship, obliterating the next-highest annual number, 1,781, who walked away from U.S. citizenship in 2011. 

Unsurprisingly, the chief reason for cutting ties seems to focus on the way the U.S. government requires its citizens to report (and pay taxes on) the wealth they generate in other countries. The U.S. and Eritrea are the only countries in the world that tax their citizens on everything they earn, whether it’s earned at home or abroad. Too, the record-setting number of freshly minted expatriates coincides with a general surge in the American tax burden. 

“[T]the most likely cause appears to be the Obama-era crackdown on U.S. citizens hiding wealth overseas,” observes Yahoo News:

From 2001 to 2008, 3,937 people who had lived on U.S. soil for at least eight years either renounced their citizenship or gave up lawful permanent resident status, according to Andrew Mitchel, an international tax attorney in Centerbrook, Connecticut, who tracks the figures closely.

From January 2009 to the quarter ending June 30, 2014, the number rose to 9,566, according to a Yahoo News analysis of the figures published on a quarterly basis by the Internal Revenue Service.

The rise has coincided with a campaign that has scooped up about $6 billion in taxes, interest and penalties from more than 40,000 U.S. taxpayers since 2009.

Government policies to quell expatriation have increasingly targeted the wealthy. New renouncers have to pay what amounts to an “exit tax” — one “predicated on the legal fiction that you sell all of your worldwide property at its fair market value on the day before you expatriate,” according to liberty blogger Mark Nestmann.

Currently, the threshold for the “exit tax” stands at $2 million in global net worth and the long-term fulfillment of a couple of tax liability prerequisites before you renounce. 

If you’re interested, here’s what the government has to say to those thinking about renouncing their citizenship. But before you round up $2,350 and head to a U.S. consulate, read this first.  

America’s Labor Force Is Becoming Less Flexible As Government Becomes More Intrusive

It’s getting harder and harder to get hired into a legitimate job, as municipal, state and federal regulations continue to chip away at the incentive for ambitious individuals to seek a profit – or for job seekers (particularly low-skilled ones) to pursue employment.

That’s a sentence that could have been written decades ago, but the present gauntlet of licensing and regulation (on the startup side), as well as the increasingly rigorous employee vetting process (on the labor side) have clouded the United States’ once-flexible labor environment so that it’s coming to resemble Europe’s or Japan’s.

That’s the conclusion of Steven Davis and John Haltwanger, two American researchers who presented some of their findings to Fed chair Janet Yellen and her European counterparts at an economic conference last month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They point to the ongoing ossification of America’s once-fluid labor force, as well as an ever-escalating government regulatory threshold that makes entry into the ranks of the employed more difficult than it’s ever been.

From an analysis of their research in The Economist:

Some of this may be down to structural changes in the economy…But less benign forces are also at work. The spread of occupational licensing, for everything from horse massage to hair braiding, has raised barriers to entry for occupations that once required little or no training. American employers used to be free to sack workers more or less as they pleased, but that “employment at will” doctrine has been eroded somewhat by court decisions that have established an implicit contract between employee and employer. That makes firms less likely to fire people, and therefore to hire them. The authors also finger the information revolution: a job applicant these days could be undone by a criminal record, a poor credit history or even an impolitic Facebook posting, all of which are easy to find online.

On the labor side, that trend is particularly harmful to young, low-skilled job seekers – mostly male. “All this…could explain why the employment rate (the share of the population with jobs) has fallen so much for less educated men in recent decades,” notes The Economist. “[P]olicymakers should not try to increase turnover for its own sake, but rather remove artificial barriers that trap workers in poorly paid, insecure jobs.”

The advent of mandatory, portable, one-size-fits-all health insurance (Obamacare) was supposed to represent the removal of one such barrier, but nothing the government does to improve people’s lives occurs in a vacuum. “In America, Obamacare could improve fluidity by making it easier for employees to change jobs without losing health insurance,” the analysis observes.

“But it could also expand the ranks of part-time workers by requiring employers to provide insurance only for full-time ones. That is something America’s bifurcating job market could do without.”

Only The Rich Are Getting Richer In The Obama Era

The September bulletin from the Federal Reserve includes an observation that presents a problem for the Obama administration’s avowed war on income inequality: Over the past three years, only the very rich have increased their wealth. On average, everyone else — and that’s roughly 97 percent of all Americans — is either treading water or drowning.

According to the Fed bulletin, the wealth held by the richest Americans has surged to historically high levels, but it’s not a trend that extends to the upper-middle, middle and lower classes — in other words, the vast majority.

Here’s how the Fed’s Board of Governors describes the disparity:

Income inequality, particularly the share of income received by the top 1 percent of the income distribution, has received increased attention in recent years. The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is uniquely capable of contributing to our understanding of trends in income and wealth inequality because the survey collects data on net worth in addition to income, and it also effectively samples affluent families.

Data from the 2013 SCF confirm that the shares of income and wealth held by affluent families are at modern historically high levels. Also, the gains in income and wealth shares have been concentrated among the top few percentiles of the distribution. Contrary to some analysis of Internal Revenue Service data indicating wealth gains are isolated to the top 1 percent, or even 0.5 percent, data from the SCF show that the top few percent of families have experienced rising shares of income and wealth.

The bulletin goes on to show that only the top three percent of income earners in the U.S. has both rebounded from and added to their wealth since the general economic downturn beginning in 2007. 

The Fed bulletin came only days ahead of the latest data dump from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which revealed that the nation added some 60,000 fewer jobs in August than the already-tepid 200,000 jobs most economists had expected. 

Even MSNBC didn’t try to spin that. 

Ban On Homemade Guns One Signature Away From Becoming Law In California

California Governor Jerry Brown has but to sign a bill passed by the legislature for homemade guns both past and future to become illegal in California, except under strict conditions that document the weapons with government-issued serial numbers.

The state legislature approved SB 808 last week, sending the bill to Brown’s desk for a signature to enact it into law. The bill, which made national headlines for its Democratic sponsor’s so-sad-it’s-funny press conference in January, will essentially ban the manufacture of 3D-printed guns, as well as set severe restrictions on other forms of DIY firearms.

Here’s the video from that non-event, staged by state Senator Kevin de Leon:

Here’s more on the bill from Guns.com:

…SB808…would require a state Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms background check and authorization before assembling a firearm in the home of a state resident. Additionally, before this could be granted, the candidate would have to show proof that building the gun would not violate local city or county codes.

It would further require those who in the state that have already made their own gun after December of 1968 to obtain and engrave or affix a DOJ-issued serial number and prohibit the sale, transfer or inheritance of these guns.

In a final step, all guns made by unlicensed homebuilders would have to be serialized, have that serial number logged by the DOJ, and kept on record. Furthermore, homebuilders would have to pay a fee.

Noncompliance could result in up to a $1,000 fine and/or a year in prison.

De Leon described the legislation as taking a “modest approach to address these new threats to public safety” in a press release last week, noting that recent advances have opened the way for “dangerous individuals” to “manipulate technologies at the expense of public safety.”

Lost Emails Here; Lost Emails There…IRS ‘Lost’ Emails Of Five More Employees Tied To Lerner Scandal

The number of IRS employees whose emails were allegedly “lost” by the tax enforcement agency officially rose by five today, according to an early report from The Associated Press.

All five of the employees, whose names were added Friday to the agency’s updated list of workers who suffered computer crashes, are reportedly tied in some way to the political discrimination scandal centered on former exempt organizations division director Lois Lerner.

There are now nearly two dozen current and former IRS employees connected to the scandal whose computer hard drives have allegedly crashed since President Obama launched his reelection campaign. Notwithstanding that, lawyers for the IRS admitted in late August that all of the missing emails are likely recoverable from the government’s deep trove of redundant data storage — if only it weren’t so much work to locate them.

Also on Friday, nonprofit group Judicial Watch, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the IRS over the discrimination scandal, revealed that Lerner and other IRS employees had been exchanging communication about a “secret research project” that involved inappropriately obtained donor lists for a variety of nonprofit groups — the overwhelming majority of which were conservative.

DNC Chair Overplays The ‘War On Women’ Trope, Doing Her Party No Favors In The Process

Nearly three years ago, at a time when Republicans were circling the wagons to fight a “jobs killing” anti-Obamacare bill, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who now chairs the Democratic National Committee, called for a bipartisan drawdown on savage and violent rhetoric in politics.

But that was then.

This week, Wasserman Schultz abandoned that plan in the name of perpetuating the Democrats’ midterm strategy of accusing Republicans of waging a war on women. In a blistering portrayal of Republican Scott Walker, she criticized the Wisconsin governor for grabbing women “by the hair and pulling us back.”

“Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality… What Republican Tea Party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back. And it’s unacceptable.”

Wasserman Schultz offered that assessment on Wednesday during a panel on women’s issues in Milwaukee. The comparisons to language describing domestic violence were immediate.

“I’m thoroughly disgusted that they would use the plight of women who have been the victims of domestic violence to make a case against our governor,” said Wisconsin state Senator Leah Vukmir, a Republican.

“I think the remarks were absolutely hideous and the motive behind them was despicable,” Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, also a Republican, said.

“Attacking and controlling a woman by using her long hair — the shining emblem of her femininity repurposed as a hand grip — strikes a deep chord,” wrote conservative blogger (and University of Wisconsin law professor) Ann Althouse. “It is a chord I believe Wasserman Shultz meant to strike. She wanted to reach through our conscious, critical mind and stir that most powerful emotion, fear.”

The invocation of the “war on women” has become such a Pavlovian trope for Congressional Democrats that many no longer pause to assess the relative costs and benefits of trotting it out to serve a momentary partisan use. Certainly, Wasserman Schultz herself isn’t bothering to take stock of whether comparing Walker to a caveman is really helping advance her supposedly pro-woman ideology, or exposing her insincerity in promoting it.

Here’s what she said back in 2011, when the idea of kinder, gentler rhetoric could be dressed up as a uniquely Democratic one:

I think all of us need to be more careful about the words that we choose to use, including things like the title of the repeal of health-care reform. I’m glad that Speaker Boehner chose to verbalize a different title for that bill, but they, so far, have refused to actually change the title of ‘Job-Killing Healthcare Repeal.’ I think we need to be leaders by example, and when we do that, then hopefully we’re gonna be able to push the shock jocks and others outside our process to take a page from our book. And if we have a more productive civil discourse, then we can really live up to President Obama’s words and Christina Taylor Green’s dreams, her expectations for our democracy.

But that was then. Things are more dire now for Democrats, so Wasserman Schultz is leading by a different kind of example.