Inspector General: EPA Potentially Basing Costly Regulations On Fraudulent Data

President Barack Obama has made no secret his willingness to use the Environmental Protection Agency to unilaterally impose business-killing regulations aimed at securing his legacy as the Nation’s first green President. But as the agency prepares a round of harsh carbon emissions rules affecting coal-fired plants in the U.S., the agency’s inspector general warns that the EPA may be drawing conclusions about pollution in the Nation based on fraudulent data.

A report released Thursday by the EPA inspector general contends that officials in the agency have failed to put protections in place to prevent fraudulent data from being used to influence EPA regulations.

Fraudulent data, according to the EPA’s definition, can result from outright fabrication by researchers, calibrating equipment incorrectly, modifying samples and manipulating analytical results, among other things.

From the report:

The agency has three policies and procedures that address how to respond to instances of fraudulent data, but they are all out of date or unimplemented. Our survey of EPA regional offices disclosed that a majority of respondents were unaware there was a policy, and approximately 50 percent expressed the need for such policies and procedures.

The problem, according to the inspector general, also extends to State EPA agencies.

The report goes on to note that EPA officials claim to have a plan to issue improvements to ensure that accurate data is used by 2017 — after some of the most onerous recent regulations are expected to be approved.

In the meantime, the inspector general report notes that fraudulent data could be used as the basis for more regulatory expansion.

Via the inspector general:

[U]nimplemented and out-of-date policies and procedures — and lack of EPA staff awareness of those policies that do exist — create risk that EPA staff will fail to properly communicate the information regarding fraudulent data to appropriate program offices and data users; review and analyze the data for potential impacts to human health and the environment; or review and amend, if possible, past environmental decisions that were based on fraudulent data.

The EPA largely relies on Federal contractors to collect the environmental data behind many of the environmental warnings and regulatory decisions made by the agency. But, according to the report, a lack of communication between the EPA and the companies with which it contracts — combined with a lack of a clear procedure to verify data — could be allowing bad science to be included in the justification for new regulations.

According to some estimates, the annual compliance cost of EPA regulations for the U.S. economy as a whole is nearly $400 billion.

[scribd id=227031700 key=key-HZhr8YhYkr3lQfBtTwyz mode=scroll]

House Approves Measure To Increase Funding For Gun Background Checks

In response to last week’s mass shooting in Santa Barbra, Calif., House lawmakers approved a funding increase for the Nation’s background check system for firearms on Thursday.

An amendment to a 2015 appropriations bill provides an additional $19.5 million in grant funding for the FBI National Instant Background Check System (NICS). The background check system has been championed as a tool which keeps firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill in the U.S.

“Right now, all of the information isn’t getting in. When the information doesn’t get into the system, we can’t enforce the law, and dangerous people who otherwise wouldn’t pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns,” the amendment’s sponsor, Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) said.

Thompson said that the additional funds are intended to strengthen the background check system, particularly with regard to mental illness red flags.

Currently, States are encouraged to report information about illegal immigrants, domestic violence offenders and the severely mentally-ill to NICS, but not all do. The Thursday funding approval is aimed at incentivizing States to provide that information.

“Our states need more resources to get all their information into the NICS system. If we give them the resources, we can stop dangerous people from getting guns, and we can save lives,” Thompson said.

In 2007, problems with the NICS’s ability to keep track of people deemed a potential threat because of mental disturbance were revealed when 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on and near the campus of his college. Two years earlier, Cho had been declared mentally unstable by a Virginia judge; he was never flagged in the system.

The amendment, co-sponsored by Republican Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), was able to muster modest GOP support.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, said “Enforcing existing laws that keeps guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals is a goal we all share.”

The National Rifle Association took a “neutral stance” on the amendment, which will bring grant funding for NICS to $78 million for FY2015 if passed by the Senate and signed into law. That’s up from $59 million this year and just $18 million in FY2013.

Historically, the NRA has supported NICS funding.

“Look, NRA’s all for the Instant Check. We were there before anyone else was even talking about it,” Wayne LaPierre said back in 2011. “We need to fund it, we to make the sure the states turn over their records.”

 

State Department Official Claims Obama Should Get More Credit For Foreign Policy, Journalists Think It’s A Joke

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki argued that President Barack Obama “doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world” during a presser on Thursday. The assembled press corps’ reaction was priceless.

“I would argue the president doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world, and that’s how the secretary feels too,” the State Department spokesperson said. “We would not be engaged in comprehensive negotiations with Iran, which is where the program is stalled and is rolling back, if it were not for the role of the United States, along with the P-5 plus one partners, certainly.

“Ukraine, we’ve been engaged more or as much as any other country in the world in supporting the elections process and supporting the government and supporting their efforts moving forward,” she added. “Yes, there’s more work that needs to be done. The point is, we need to continue to stay at it.”

“Jen, you would argue the President doesn’t give himself enough credit,” one journalist repeated before inquiring, “How much credit would you give him?”

Mike Lee, a reporter for The Associated Press, interjected sarcastically, “What, like, 200 percent credit?”

“For engagement initiatives like Iran, what we’ve done on Ukraine, efforts to dive in and engage around the world,” she responded.

“I mean, Russia has still annexed Crimea … I mean, Iran — there’s ongoing negotiations, but is that the success here that you’re talking?” another reporter incredulously asked.

To that, Psaki responded, “We’re talking about engagement in the world and taking on tough issues that present themselves. And the United States continues to play a prominent role doing that.”

In essence, the President doesn’t want credit for actually accomplishing anything with his foreign policy initiatives—just for being engaged in the world.

On Wednesday, President Obama defended portions of his foreign policy during a commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The President also hinted at a foreign policy reset coinciding with the formal end of the Afghan war later this year.

Waiting Lists Just The Beginning: Texas VA Hospital A ‘Crime Syndicate,’ California Vet Allegedly Beat To Death By VA Cops

As a preliminary independent review by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general confirmed Wednesday that veterans seeking care at the VA facility in Phoenix faced delays averaging 115 days, veterans’ care facilities all over the Nation are becoming the subject of damning scrutiny. The spotlight is revealing increasingly disturbing abuses.

Acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin said that the VA report confirms not only that there was a problem at the Phoenix facility, but that inappropriate scheduling practices are indeed “systemic throughout VHA [Veterans Health Administration].”

In Phoenix, VA officials had claimed that official data showed veterans waited an average of only 24 days for care. But the IG report discovered that left out of the official data were at least 1,700 veterans who had been placed on wait lists not included in the VA’s official reporting.

“Most importantly, these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS’s convoluted scheduling process,” the report said. “As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment.

“A direct consequence of not appropriately placing veterans on EWLs [Electronic Wait Lists] is that the Phoenix HCS leadership significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment in their FY 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases,” the report continued.

The initial report stopped short of confirming whether veterans died as a result of being placed on the wait list, noting that the investigation is ongoing.

The inspector general report also said that further review was needed to get to the bottom of a recent flood of complaints about mismanagement, corruption and outright incompetence throughout the Veterans Health system.

“Lastly, while conducting our work at the Phoenix HCS our on-site OIG staff and OIG Hotline received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility,” the report said. “We are assessing the validity of these complaints and if true, the impact to the facility’s senior leadership’s ability to make effective improvements to patients’ access to care.”

A report published by The Daily Beast this week underscores the possibility of widespread wrongdoing by Veterans Affairs employees throughout the Nation. Internal memos and emails from the Texas VA obtained by the outlet, along with firsthand information from an unnamed whistleblower, illustrate how the VA has devolved into a “crime syndicate.”

“For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,” the whistleblower, aTexas VA employee, told The Daily Beast. “People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”

“I see it in the executives’ eyes,” the whistleblower continued. “They are worried.”

The Daily Beast report reveals rampant scheduling fraud, incentives for VA doctors to cut patient care and a cover-up similar to what happened in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, a California widow named Norma Montano filed a Federal lawsuit on Friday alleging that the Loma Linda VA Police Department killed her husband when he grew tired of waiting for treatment on May 25, 2011.

According to the lawsuit, Jonathan Montano became irritated after waiting more than four hours for a dialysis appointment and decided to leave the Loma Linda VA facility and seek treatment at a facility in Long Beach. Montano’s family said that he did not want to allow the hospital to remove a shunt placed in his arm for the treatment; but VA officials insisted that it be done because, they said, it would be too dangerous to travel with it in place.

The hospital called in VA Police to deal with Montano, claiming that he had become belligerent as he insisted that he be allowed to leave the facility with the shunt in place. The veteran’s widow alleges that the officers subsequently threw Montano to the floor, beating him and damaging his carotid artery, causing a stroke. Two and a half weeks after the incident, Montano was dead.

The hospital initially told Mrs. Montano, who was not present when the incident occurred, that her husband suffered the stroke in a fall.

“Later on, one of the nurses at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda took Norma Montano aside, and told her that her husband didn’t fall, but was slammed to the ground by the VA Police, that Norma Montano was being lied to, and that it wasn’t right what the VA Police did to Jonathan Montano,” the suit alleges.

In December 2013, the VA reviewed the incident and declared that there was “no evidence of negligence or wrongful act or omission by VA employees that resulted in injury to, or the death of, the veteran patient in June 2011. Although a terrible and unfortunate incident occurred, VA personnel acted and responded appropriately.”

After Tragedy, Dems Consider Gun Control In Spending Bill

Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday that a renewed push for gun control is likely to surface in debates about a sweeping spending bill making its way through the House of Representatives this week.

Representative Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters that his party is considering making a push for amendments to the 2015 funding bill for the Commerce and Justice departments that would expand background checks for gun purchases and preserve a Federal rule requiring reporting of multiple purchases of semi-automatic rifles in border States.

The gun control talk has resurfaced after a severely disturbed 22-year-old went on a shooting spree in California which left four people dead, including him. The murderer had earlier stabbed three others.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed the attack on the National Rifle Association.

“Unfortunately, the NRA continues to have a stranglehold on Congress,” she said, “preventing even commonsense measures like universal background checks that have overwhelming support. Until that happens, we will continue to see these devastating attacks. Shame on us for allowing this to continue.”

The rampage took place in a region where many of the gun control mandates Feinstein is pushing at the Federal level already exist at the State and local levels.

Hoyer admits that it is unlikely that expanded background checks would have done much to prevent the most recent shooting tragedy, but contends that Congress must act in some way.

“In this instance it may not have made a difference, but it’s clear that in many instances it would have made a difference,” Hoyer said.

“And it’s also clear the overwhelming majority of the American public think it makes sense to make sure somebody is mentally stable before they buy something that, misused, can cause damage to a lot of people very quickly,” he added.

Outrage Over The VA Report And Obama’s Failure To Act Is Growing By The Second

Calls for the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign increased on both sides of the aisle after the VA inspector general released an explosive preliminary report confirming excessive wait times for veterans seeking care and a cover-up by VA officials.

The watchdog’s report discredited official figures from the Phoenix VA that said that veterans waited, on average, just 24 days for care. The IG report discovered that, left out of the official data, were at least 1,700 veterans who had been placed on wait lists not included in the VA’s official reporting. As a result, the actual average wait time for veterans’ care was closer to 115 days.

Shinseki expressed anger and surprise in a statement after the report made headlines.

“I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to veterans,” Shinseki said in a statement.

The official also went into damaged-control mode, attempting to assuage public outrage by provide timely care for the affected veterans by ordering the VA to “immediately triage each of the 1,700 veterans identified.”

But the actions are too little, too late for many people watching the Veterans’ Affairs scandal unfold—and there is likely more damning evidence of VA malfeasance to come.

Senator John Walsh, a Montana Democrat and the only Iraq War veteran in the upper legislative chamber, said that the findings of the IG report require immediate action from President Obama.

“The Inspector General’s report confirms the worst of the allegations against the VA and its failure to deliver timely care to veterans. It is time for President Obama to remove Secretary Shinseki from office,” Walsh said.

The lawmaker added, “Accountability lies with President Obama, Secretary Shinseki, the VA, and also with Congress, which has the obligation to fully fund the costs of war. Congress must provide the resources that will eliminate the backlog and improve the quality of care available to men and women who have served.”

Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall also called for Shinseki to be removed from office.

“In light of IG report & systemic issues,” the lawmaker said via Twitter, Shinseki should step down.

The condemnations are a far cry from Representative Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) assertion earlier in the week that the VA situation doesn’t necessarily qualify as a “scandal.”

“I think anytime our men and women in uniform are not served in a manner they deserve, you could perhaps call it ‘a scandal,’ because it’s scandalous,” she said in an interview with Vox. “Whether its ‘a scandal’ with intention and the rest of that the evidence remains to be seen.”

Many Republicans have expressed similar sentiments since the first reports about the VA problems surfaced. Other members of the GOP who have avoided such harsh criticisms were also moved to call for the President to act by the IG report.

“I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for Gen. Shinseki to move on,” Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN.

Meanwhile, veterans’ groups were outraged by the findings of the report.

“The VA’s problems are broad and deep — and President Obama and his team haven’t demonstrated they can fix it,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America chief executive Paul Rieckhoff, adding. “Today’s report makes it painfully clear that the VA does not always have our veterans’ backs.”

The White House stopped short of saying whether Shinseki’s job was at peril during a press conference Wednesday— though Press Secretary Jay Carney said the President “found the findings [of the report] extremely troubling.”

Television personality Montel Williams, who served 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, summed up the growing public outrage over the VA’s failings and the White House’s failure to act during an appearance on Fox.

“The President just promised $5 billion for terrorists around the world?!” he asked Neil Cavuto angrily. “At West Point?! Where he could have used today to say, ‘I’m sorry! For the pain that I’ve caused you, the families! And I’m going to fix it today!’”

Williams was referencing Obama’s Wednesday commencement speech at the military academy, which paired a muddled foreign policy message mixed with a dollop of global warming caution.

 

Clinton Is Already Running For President. Top Issue… The ‘Cancer Of Inequality’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Americans must come together and make “hard choices” in a battle against the Nation’s “cancer of inequality” in a video promoting her forthcoming memoir “Hard Choices.”

Clinton’s book is due out June 10 and will be followed by a book tour that is a likely a prelude to a Presidential bid that looks increasingly inevitable for the former first lady. Americans can expect to hear a great deal more about wealth redistribution schemes and the so-called 99 percent If Clinton takes a shot at the White House.

Here’s an excerpt from the video:

“At the time I became secretary, there was a fairly strong current of thinking that the United States was in decline,” Clinton says in the nearly four minute video. “… I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now, but I also don’t believe that our leadership is somehow endowed from [the] birth of our country. I think people will see that we are strong and well-equipped to restore prosperity here at home, to deal with the cancer of inequality, to give people in our country the ladders of opportunity that have always been a hallmark of the United States and the American Dream, but they will recognize that doesn’t happen by accident or wishing for it or engaging in ideological and rhetorical battles.”

Clinton and her handlers have been promoting the dynasty politician’s book for weeks and her book tour will likely keep her in the headlines for weeks to come. Republican strategist Kevin Madden, USA Today reported, called Clinton’s tiered rollout of her memoir a perfect example of the “Clinton industrial news complex.”

“[Clinton] seems to be trying to keep a candidacy at arms length, yet there is an entire political economy revolving around her right now,” Madden said of how the longtime public figure is working the media.

DOJ Will Inventory Bureaucratic Firepower

The Justice Department is slated to conduct a full inventory of guns possessed by the Nation’s various bureaucratic Federal agencies for the first time in six years following complaints from conservatives and libertarians about an increasingly armed government.

By 2015, the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is expected to report to the public how many weapons the government agencies possess as well as how many Federal bureaucrats are armed and have the authority to make arrests.

A similar review conducted in 2008 found that the majority of the Nation’s 120,000 armed agents belonged to the Department of Homeland Security or branches of the Justice Department. About 20 percent of the armed agents, however, were members of lesser-known armed divisions of bureaucratic institutions like the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration.

The issue of the government firepower got a great deal of attention in April when the Bureau of Land Management sent heavily armed agents to force Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to remove his cattle from Federal land.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised issue with the BLM’s heavy show of force at the time.

“[T]he Federal government shouldn’t violate the law, nor should we have 48 Federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams,” Paul said.

This month, a USDA equipment order for the purchase of.40-caliber submachine guns with 30-round magazines again raised concerns about heavily armed bureaucrats.

POLITICO reported:

USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe says the guns are needed by the more than 100 agents employed by the law-enforcement division of the department’s Office of the Inspector General. They’ve carried machine guns for 20 years, she notes. USDA OIG officers “are placed in very dangerous law enforcement situations,” another USDA official told POLITICO. “They make arrests, they serve subpoenas and they engage in undercover operations.”

The Justice Department’s last inventory of the government’s firepower showed that Uncle Sam armed an additional 15,000 agents from 2004 to 2008. It’s likely that the latest review will reveal a much larger jump in the number of armed bureaucrats in the U.S.

American Conservatives Might Learn A Thing Or Two From Friends Across The Pond

The political establishment in Britain was rocked last week as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) — a political upstart for conservatives across the pond who would likely agree with many of the Tea Party’s positions — cleaned up at local elections.

The New York Times reported Friday:

The populist U.K. Independence Party is on course to make sweeping gains in local elections in Britain, according to early results on Friday, delivering a blow to its established rivals and confirming its role as an emerging political force.

The two parties that govern Britain in a coalition, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, suffered a battering as the first results were announced from Thursday’s voting. The opposition Labour Party made gains, but they appeared less substantial than its supporters had hoped. After results from 59 councils had been declared, Labour had gained 94 seats, and the U.K. Independence Party had gained 86 seats.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage described the victories in local council elections as the beginnings of the U.K.’s “biggest political earthquake in 100 years.” While UKIP doesn’t have any members in parliament, the local elections have sown the seeds for the once marginalized party to become a political force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, the new seats will give UKIP the political leverage to win parliamentary elections set to take place next year.

With all of the political problems going on in the U.S. today, you may be asking why anything political in the U.K. should matter to U.S. conservatives.

The democratic, libertarian UKIP has existed since 1993, though—much like anything bearing libertarian semblance in the United States— has historically been ridiculed and marginalized in tag-team fashion by opposing factions of the U.K. political establishment. In recent years, the party has successfully grown its ranks thanks in large part to populist support of its mission to withdraw the nation from the European Union and increase immigration controls.

Farage, a founding member of the party, has headed UKIP since being elected leader in 2006 and again in 2010. Under his leadership, the Party has gained considerable ground in U.K. politics.

In his official bio on the UKIP website, Farage is described—in part—thusly:

A firm believer in Independence for the United Kingdom he is a proponent of free speech and has faced considerable hostility from his political opponents for speaking out in favour of free and fair referendums on the transfer of power from elected politicians to the EU.

In his very rare spare time he likes fishing, country sports and traditional English pubs. However, most of his time is spent travelling around the country and other countries in the EU telling the truth about the European Union.

In other words, Farage is an average guy. He likes beer, fishing and freedom. And, based on the results of the most recent round of elections, his countrymen have noticed.

Success also draws attention from the political establishment, which—as is the case in most countries—isn’t comprised of average people in the U.K. But the power structure, unable to connect with the average masses most anywhere, have created an effective farce to curry favor with voters. That is, find ways to label the most patriotic, understanding and tolerant citizens of any nation as the most unpatriotic, uneducated and anti-diversity class of people around.

Just as the U.S. Libertarian Party and libertarian-leaning Republicans have been accused of being, at least, insensitive to the poor and, at worst, racist, UKIP has been maligned by the political establishment.

Take, for instance, this parody map published in the U.K. version of Huffington Post:

huffpoUK

If that looks familiar, it’s because conservatives in the U.S. have been smeared similarly on numerous occasions by the Nation’s left.

The criticisms in both cases, however, don’t come exclusively from the left.

Here’s how establishment Prime Minister David Cameron, who describes himself as a “liberal conservative” described Farage and his UKIP compatriots back in 2006, “Ukip is sort of a bunch of … fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists mostly.”

Similarly in the U.S., Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), disagreeing with the foreign policy opinions of libertarian-leaning Republicans like Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), proclaimed last year, “They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else. But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”

It’s obvious to the majority of citizens that the status quo isn’t working in politics—therefore, voters are supporting unconventional politicians. On both sides of the pond, those new-elects are derided as racists, fruitcakes and wackos.

But there remains a difference in the political systems of the U.S. and U.K. that could, within a decade, determine which nation makes the biggest strides in the name of liberty: the importance of local elections.

The U.K.’s recent charge toward conservatism ensures that UKIP will have a chance in upcoming Parliamentary—similar to U.S. Congressional—elections. But the seats to which many of the UKIP politicians have been elected are much lower-key battlegrounds than the average U.S. Congressional elections.

Meanwhile, voters in the U.S. continue to support incumbent candidates in Congressional primaries even at a time when public polling registers Congressional approval at all-time lows.

If Americans are going to change the Nation’s two-party system, patience will be important. But by electing candidates who eschew the political establishment at the local and State levels, voters can make it easier to enact change in the U.S.’s national political system with time.

Sunday News Show Roundup

With Memorial Day, the time Americans set aside to remember the Nation’s fallen veterans, just around the corner, the Sunday political talk circuit was dominated with talk of the Federal government’s failure to properly care for living veterans in the United States.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union”, House Committee of Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said that the growing scandal of inadequate care in the VA extends far beyond embattled VA leader Eric Shinseki.

“You’ve got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veteran,” he said.

To unravel the bureaucratic mess which is harming the Nation’s veterans, Miller contends, the VA must be reformed from the ground up.

“We have got to move away from a World War II concept into the 21st century,” Miller said.

That means allowing for veterans to seek private doctors with VA benefits, the lawmaker said. He then applauded the VA’s Saturday announcement that veterans cab seek non-VA care with a portion of the government help to which they’re entitled.

Other lawmakers expressed frustration that it has taken so long for the VA’s issues to become a top priority in the public eye.

“What took so long?” Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said. “This is not a new issue in terms of the backlog,” he added on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota added that the Obama Administration should have even taken swifter action when the belated reports of problems in the VA hit mainstream media.

“I think the President just waited way too long to get into this…” he said. “That was the issue that many of us were raising as you had reports of up to forty people who died on waiting lists.

“You had these reports of secret lists and falsifying records and all those sorts of things. And it took three weeks for the President to act,” the lawmaker continued. “I’m glad that he is engaging, the things that were said yesterday about giving veterans access to non-VA facilities to– if they can’t get into VA facilities, I think, is a welcome change.”

Army combat veteran Wes Moore, the executive producer and host of the PBS documentary series “Coming Back With Wes Moore”, joined “State of the Union” to remind Americans that Memorial Day is one of the loneliest days of the year for many of the Nation’s veterans. The holiday is not, he reminded, an excuse to barbeque or the first official day of summer.

Journalist: Americans Should Embrace Wealth Redistribution Or There Will Be Blood

A journalist who has published a new work focused on American income inequality believes that the U.S. had better embrace wealth redistribution or prepare for a revolution that will be “the bloodiest thing the world has even seen.”

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston put together “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Income Inequality” to increase focus on income inequality, a favorite Democrat talking point.

The collection of essays, speeches and excerpts is described by the liberal blog Salon as a “kind of inequality reader.” In a lengthy interview with the blog, Johnston lends insight to the thinking behind the left’s championing of forced wealth redistribution.

Because the 99 percent might do something more intense than wrecking parks, getting pepper sprayed and playing bongos next time:

We will either, through peaceful, rational means, go back to a system that does not take from the many to give to the few in all these subtle ways, or we will end up like 18th century France. And if we end up in that awful condition, it will be the bloodiest thing the world has even seen. So I think it’s really important to get a handle on this inequality. After all, since the end of the Great Recession, one-third of all income increases in this country went to just 16,000 households, 95 percent of it went to the top 1 percent, and the bottom 90 percent’s incomes fell, and they fell by 15 percent. So we need to recognize that there is a very, very serious problem here that has to get addressed. But it won’t just go on forever because if you follow that to its logical absurdity, one person ends up with 90 percent of the wealth in the world. And that’s not going to happen.

A couple things to note: The happenings in 18th century France were largely the result of governance not very unlike that touted by big government proponents in America today.

As the Cato Institute puts it, “The French state engaged in wars throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. To pay for the wars, it employed complex and burdensome taxation, tax farming, borrowing, debt repudiation and forced ‘disgorgement’ from the financiers, and debasement of the currency.”

As you read on, you’ll note that the journalist means to say **insert any Communist revolt here**.

But, the journalist added:

While I certainly am worried that we could end up in a violent revolution somewhere in the future, sparked by extreme inequality,  I’m [an] indictable optimist and believe that [if] the American people have access to explanations and information they will, over the long run, make smart choices.

Because Guns! And (no doubt he means conservative) Demagogues! And Non-Intellectuals!:

Oh, yes. I’ve written about people on the far right and the far left since the ’60s. Back in the ’60s, I was in the homes of people who built bombs, both left and right. And we live in a country now where we have members of Congress who have either questioned, or ignored questions about, killing the president of the United States. We are seeing all these laws passed allowing people to carry guns openly. We are coming apart as a society, and inequality is right at the core of that. When the 90 percent are getting worse off and they’re trying to figure out what happened, they’re not people like me who get to spend four or five hours a day studying these things and then writing about them — they’re people who have to make a living and get through life. And they’re going to be swayed by demagogues and filled with fear about the other, rather than bringing us together.

Of course: The 2nd Amendment isn’t really a recent development.

Yep, He Meant Conservatives:

I think it would be easy for someone to arrive in the near future and really create forces that would lead to trouble in this country. And you see people who, they’re not the leaders to pull it off, but we have suggestions that the president should be killed, that he’s not an American, that Texas can secede, that states can ignore federal law, and these are things that don’t lack for antecedents in America  history but they’re clearly on the rise. In addition to that, we have this large, very well-funded news organization that is premised on misconstruing facts and telling lies, Faux News (formerly Fox News), that is creating, in a large segment of the population — somewhere around one-fifth and one-fourth of it — belief in all sorts of things that are detrimental to our well-being. President Theodore Roosevelt said we shall all rise together or we shall all fall together, and we need to have an appreciation of that.

Yes, other outlets certainly do a better job with no nonsense reporting… and hiring accomplished straight-news talking heads:

The Answer… Democrats, Unions, Bigger Government:

Number one, we’ve got to change the makeup of Congress. The Democrats got 1.4 million more votes than the Republicans [in 2010] but they have a minority [in Congress] because of gerrymandering. So we need to have state legislatures — and we may need a constitutional amendment to make districts evenly divided between the parties — that will get us more centrist candidates rather than extremists on both left and right.

Secondly, we’ve got to restore unions. If you believe in market economics, you’ve gotta believe in unions. Now, unions aren’t perfect, but neither are corporations, or the government or, for god’s sake, the clergy. Unions allow people as a group to negotiate for reasonable pay, and without unions you have big corporations, and individuals who have no bargaining power, such as a lot of unemployed workers. Our competitors all have unions. The Germans even have unions for executives. So we need to get back to unions if we’re going to improve people’s economics.

 

 

We need to have a big enough government to enforce the law. We have not prosecuted any of the “too big to fail” banks and we have a president who has said, Well, these things look awful, but they may not be crimes. I’m sorry — the banks falsely certified documents … there are plenty of witnesses who have emails and memos they wrote and can testify that they said that this is illegal and wrong and they were told to shut up or were gotten rid of.

To be fair, these are excerpts. The journalist does actually make a few good points on some of the issues covered— the operative word being few. Feel free to read the full interview at Salon.

Republicans Make Push For Deregulation That Would Help Working Americans

Democrats are fond of trotting out examples of wealthy business moguls who lean Republican to support baseless claims that conservatives support deregulation because it benefits the Nation’s wealthiest inhabitants. But despite the weird infatuation liberals like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have for those evil Koch types, the evidence that fewer regulations would open doors for all Americans is overwhelming.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech on Thursday, Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) joined the American Enterprise Institute to discuss the Republican plan to improve workforce training in the U.S. and remove barriers to employment.

Since last year, conservative leaders in Congress have been pushing a domestic reform agenda which, by eliminating needless regulations, seeks to empower lower- and middle-class Americans.

“The bulk of the people in this country are not those who have a college or graduate degree. They’re wage earners,” Cantor said. “They’re people who are feeling that this country is not there for them.”

On Wednesday, lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation to reform the way Federally subsidized job training programs work. Cantor told the AEI audience that the programs — which profit from Federal funds and steep licensing fees — hurt people seeking work in skilled labor fields with burdensome and often unnecessary training requirements.

AEI President Arthur Brooks noted that cosmetology is a good example of a field where licensing requirements are out of control. In Washington, D.C., it requires 1,500 hours of training for an aspiring hairdresser to be licensed. Meanwhile, Brooks said, real estate licensing in the city requires only 135 hours of training.

The panel also discussed the findings of a 2012 report from the Institute for Justice report, which made an even more shocking comparison: “States consider an average of 33 days of training and two exams enough preparation for EMTs, but demand 10 times the training–372 days, on average–for cosmetologists.”

Cantor said that he plans to huddle with Governors throughout the Nation to examine the most onerous licensing requirements and determine if changes at the Federal level could help American workers.

“The Federal government is funding training programs that actually help those licensing regimes grow. We need to stop that. The incentives are wrong,” he said.

The panel members also discussed the Obama Administration’s efforts to help American workers, calling the President’s support for minimum wage hikes “devastating” to the most economically vulnerable Americans.

Scott said that the wage hikes would lead employers to raise job qualifications, automate and raise prices. The Senator contends that one out of five people currently working minimum wage jobs will be pushed out of the workforce. Lee added that ridding government of policies that promote crony capitalism would be a much better approach to aiding Americans at all income levels.

Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don’t Buy The Electric Car The Government Makes Us Produce

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne told an audience at the Brookings Institution that he hopes people don’t buy electric models of the Fiat 500 because government mandates are killing the company’s bottom line.

“If you are considering buying a 500e, I hope you don’t buy it, because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000,” Marchionne said. “I’m honest enough to tell you that.”

Fiat has sold more than 11,000 gas-powered Fiat 500s, which can be bought for less than $17,300, this year.

The electric car, which Fiat produces to answer government demands, has a base price of nearly $33,000 before Federal tax credits available to buyers. At that price, Marchionne believes most Fiat buyers are no longer interested.

“I will sell the [minimum] of what I need to sell and not one more,” Marchionne said.

Fiat doesn’t publicize sales numbers for the electric Fiat.

“If we just build those vehicles, we’ll be back asking … in Washington for a second bailout because we’ll be bankrupt,” Marchionne said, referring to Chrysler’s 2009 government bailout.

This isn’t the first time the CEO has complained about green auto mandates.

Marchionne said of the electric car last year, “We will lose $10,000 per vehicle. Doing that on a large scale would industrial masochism.”

‘Gun Free’ Restaurant Robbed By Bad Guys With Guns

The Pit Authentic Barbeque restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, has a specialized “No Weapons/No Concealed Firearms” sign prominently displayed at its entrance. The armed robbers who terrorized workers in the restaurant’s kitchen Sunday night didn’t seem to notice.

ABC 11 News reported (emphasis added):

Authorities said just before 9 p.m. Sunday, three men wearing hoodies entered the restaurant through the back doors with pistols, and forced several staff members to lie on the floor.

The bandits assaulted two employees during the crime, but they were not seriously injured.

“They’re doing great,” restaurant owner Greg Hatem said. “One of them actually went to the hospital and was released. They took a good look at him, he’s fine.”

Hatem also said there were a few patrons in the dining room while the robbery was happening in the kitchen area. Workers were able to ask them to leave, and got them out safely through the front door.

“We’re offering $2,000 for the arrest and conviction of these guys,” Hatem said. “We take this very seriously. We want to make sure our guests and our staff are taken care of.”

Here’s a photo of the sign provided by the North Carolina Gun Blog:

The-Pit-Posted-1

The blog also reported that The Pit’s owner operates several restaurants through a company called Empire Eats.

“[H]is original ‘The Pit Authentic Barbecue’ in Raleigh was the host restaurant for Gabby Giffords’ anti-gun carpetbagger tour last July. They lied to us back then and said ‘We host all sorts of political functions. We don’t mean to take sides,’” the blog said.

FBI Director Says ‘People Should Be Suspicious Of Government’ As House Lawmakers Strip Reforms From Anti-Spying Bill

As privacy advocates complained that House lawmakers have watered down a bill designed to limit government spying, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers in the Senate Wednesday that he welcomes Americans to be suspicious of government power.

“I believe people should be suspicious of government power. I am,” Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think this country was founded by people who were worried about government power so they divided it among three branches,” he added.

Comey, who took over as FBI director shortly after Edward Snowden’s explosive revelations about government spying last summer, was explaining to lawmakers how his agency uses Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act-authorized spying programs.

The FBI head told Senators that his agency can tap into Internet data networks using the PRISM program to access emails, documents and photos of people under investigation. The agency also uses national security letters to track terror suspects in the United States. Comey also told lawmakers that the programs are “extraordinarily valuable” to the FBI.

The Senate hearing was an effort by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to raise concerns about the newest version of the USA Freedom Act making its way through the House.

House lawmakers are scheduled to vote today on the bill, designed to reform the government’s surveillance tactics. The Freedom Act, as originally written, would have introduced new constraints to bulk data collection and how U.S. agencies are allowed to use programs like PRISM. Earlier this week, however, House leaders made a series of changes to the legislation, which privacy advocates say make it overly broad and ineffectual.

Leahy, who has sponsored a version of the bill in the Senate, said that he is “glad the House is poised to act on a revised version of the USA Freedom Act,” but he is disappointed that lawmakers in the lower legislative chamber stripped “important reforms” from the legislation. The Senate is set to take up surveillance reform this summer.

Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center For Democracy And Technology, accused House lawmakers of pushing a useless reform bill in an effort to “end the debate about surveillance, rather than end bulk collection.”

“As amended, the bill may not prevent collection of data on a very large scale in a manner that infringes upon the privacy of Americans with no connection to a crime or terrorism. This is quite disappointing given the consensus by the public, Congress, the President, and two independent review groups that ending bulk collection is necessary,” Geiger added.

The privacy advocate contends that the bill lawmakers are likely to vote on today will do nothing to stop the government’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ communications data.

House lawmakers have acknowledged that the once-tough anti-surveillance bill is now little more than a symbolic gesture. California Democrat Adam Schiff told The Hill that there was broad consensus among his colleagues that the bill is too weak — but he added that there is little that can be done if they want it to pass.

“[My] gut sense is that the bill overall, even with the manager’s amendment, is probably about as good as we’re going to get,” he said.

Obama Downplays Findings Of Veterans’ Care Report As He Announces It

President Barack Obama feigned anger over allegations that the Department of Veterans Affairs covered up long delays in medical care for veterans and vowed to punish whoever is responsible. But given that the he was well aware of major problems in veteran care even before taking office, many people watching the latest Obama scandal unfold found it difficult to take the President’s Wednesday speech seriously.

“It is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period,” Obama told White House reporters during a 20-minute speech about the controversy.

Moments earlier, Obama had met with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has been heavily criticized since reports about lackluster care for the Nation’s veterans first surfaced. Despite calls for Shinseki to step down, the President said that the official, along with White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, are in the process of conducting a review of the agency.

“I know that people are angry and want swift reckoning. I sympathize with that. But we have to let the investigators do their job and get to the bottom of what happened. Our veterans deserve to know the facts. Their families deserve to know the facts. Once we know the facts, I assure you if there is misconduct it will be punished,” Obama said.

Obama said that he expects preliminary results of the review next week and a full report within a month.

“I think it is important to recognize that the wait times generally — what the IG indicated so far, at least, is the wait times were folks who may have had chronic conditions, were seeking their next appointment, but may have already received service. It was not necessarily a situation where they were calling for emergency services. And the IG indicated that he did not see a link between the wait and them actually dying,” Obama said, addressing reports that as many as 40 veterans have died while waiting for treatment.

Obama said the Nation’s most recent military conflicts amplified a backlog problem that has existed at veterans’ hospitals in the Nation for years.

“Keep in mind, though, even if we had not heard reports out of this Phoenix facility or other facilities, we all know that it often takes too long for veterans to get the care that they need. That’s not a new development. It’s been a problem for decades, and it’s been compounded by more than a decade of war,” Obama said.

The President also expressed full confidence in the department’s leadership.

“The responsibility for things always rests ultimately with me as the president and commander in chief,” Obama said. “Ric Shinseki has been a great soldier. He himself is a disabled veteran, and nobody cares more about our veterans than Ric Shinseki.”

Obama’s angry tones echoed remarks made by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Sunday a Sunday broadcast of CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

“The president is madder than hell, and I’ve got the scars to prove it,” McDonough said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of those things, fix them and ensure that they don’t happen again.”

Judging by the President’s Wednesday remarks, however, the White House appears poised to downplay any findings of significant wrongdoing that may surface in the report.

Are Open Carry Advocates Helping To Kill The 2nd Amendment?

Open carry activists have been in the headlines since a group of gun-wielding 2nd Amendment supporters dined at a Chipotle in Dallas, allegedly making some customers and employees in the restaurant uncomfortable.

“We had all different types of long-guns, some people had shot guns. I personally carry an AK-47,” Alex Clark, an Open Carry Texas member who attended the lunch, told a CBS. “There were a few AR-15′s there. The rifles were loaded. There’s no reason to carry an unloaded weapon — it wouldn’t do any good.”

After hyperbolic reports of the pro-gun demonstration made the Internet rounds, Chipotle released a statement asking customers not to open carry in its restaurants in the future.

Moms-Demand-open-carry-slobs-2
Open carry activists at Chipotle. Credit: Moms Demand Action

The statement:

The issue of gun ownership or gun rights has become one of the most contentious debates in the country. Chipotle has never taken a position on this issue, as we focus instead on our mission to change the way people think about and eat fast food.

Recently participants from an “open carry” demonstration in Texas brought guns (including military-style assault rifles) into one of our restaurants, causing many of our customers anxiety and discomfort. Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.

Historically, we felt it enough to simply comply with local laws regarding the open or concealed carrying of firearms, because we believe that it is not fair to put our team members in the uncomfortable position of asking that customers refrain from bringing guns into our restaurants. However, because the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers, we think it is time to make this request.

We acknowledge that there are strong arguments on both sides of this issue. We have seen those differing positions expressed in the wake of this event in Texas, where pro-gun customers have contacted us to applaud our support of the Second Amendment, and anti-gun customers have expressed concern over the visible display of military-style assault rifles in restaurants where families are eating. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens and we appreciate them honoring this request. And we hope that our customers who oppose the carrying of guns in public agree with us that it is the role of elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle.

We always welcome the exchange of ideas and opinions: it is one of the many things that make our country such a special place. But this issue is not central to the operation of our business, and we do not feel that our restaurants should be used as a platform for either side of the debate.

Chipotle’s stance on open carry is similar to that of the coffee chain Starbucks, which, after open carry advocates celebrated the company’s previously pro-gun policy of allowing open carry, told open-carry advocates to leave their guns at home when getting their caffeine fix.

The left has rejoiced over Chipotle’s decision to frown upon open-carry activism, with outlets like Huffington Post declaring, “Gun-rights activists have shot themselves in the foot, again, with a gun rally that caused another major American retail chain to declare firearms unwelcome.”

And even 2nd Amendment supporters are beginning to decry brazen pro-gun activism like dining while heavily armed— because, as some have pointed out, people who don’t want guns banned, but also don’t know enough about them to be comfortable with a restaurant filled with rifle-packing diners, may be easily swayed to the anti-gun camp.

That’s the gist of this angry open letter from a 2nd Amendment supporter to open carry activists posted on Mad Ogre:

Congratulations to the Open Carry Activists in Texas.   You got the rest of us all shut out of Chipolte like you wanted.

That is what you wanted, right? Because, I mean, you guys did see what happened with Starbucks, right? So getting us shunned at one of our favorite Burrito joints had to have been your goal. Couldn’t you have picked a place we didn’t like to hold your Activism at? Like Panera Bread, Checkers, Dairy Queen…

Seriously, you guys packing the AR-15′s everywhere… You are ruining Open Carry for Everyone.   The guys that insist Open Carry means they can walk around with AR-15′s and not cause problems – are causing problems. You guys are turning open carry into a 2nd Amendment Gay Rights Parade. Something no one cares about – but you throw it everyone’s faces and dare people to say something. I don’t care if you are gay… But Chaps and a Thong is not dignified attire to be out in public in. Same with an AR-15 Rifle. This isn’t Israel. This isn’t Baghdad. And you are not a PMC Contractor… What you are is an insensitive jerk throwing your rights in people’s faces at the expense of everyone else’s. That’s not the Libertarian Way.

You guys are not helping.

We want to make Open Carry a normal thing. And within the gun rights community there is enough people who are actually advocating against OC, giving preference to Concealed Carry Only.   Me, I advocate “Carry”. Open or Concealed, you are talking about the condition of your Shirt Tails, not the guns… but that’s not the question here. That’s not the problem. The problem is you Clownshoes who think you need to walk into the diner with a rifle.     You guys are going to bring down a lot more heat on the 2nd Amendment as a whole rather than get the Middle Ground Folks to come over to our side.   “Oh those guys in the Booney Hats and Shorts with the Scary Rifles… Those were Nice Guys! I want to be like them!”   No, that’s not going to happen. Instead you are going to turn those people who don’t mind guns – into people voting against guns.

If you gotta have your Rifle with you when you eat out – Go through the Drive Through!

Look, I’ve OC’d long guns many times. I’ve slung Tactical Shotguns, AR’s, PSL’s, a Sterling SMG, and rode through town on motorcycles.   But the one thing I never did was was stop and go into a place of business with it, because I knew that even in rural high desert Utah, that was just not acceptable. Even while “Perfectly Legal” it’s just not acceptable behavior. Much like wearing a thong and twerking out on Main Street…. Sure, it’s legal. But it’s also not acceptable behavior.

While some of the author’s points are off, the primary gist of the letter does make sense. Open carry is preaching to the choir: Those who witness people exercising their 2nd Amendment rights by carrying a firearm in plain view and don’t panic are most likely already familiar with the right to bear arms and comfortable around firearms.

And if you don’t believe that open carry can backfire, consider for a moment how California got set on its path to draconian gun legislation.

From “Gun Control Has Always Been A Part Of American History”:

Martin Luther King Jr., upon whose Bible Obama swore to uphold the Constitution on Monday, reportedly kept an arsenal of firearms in his home to ease his mind about the near-constant death threats he received. The peace-promoting civil rights leader even applied for an Alabama concealed carry permit, but was denied due to racism on the part of the police that had the authority to issue the permit. The Alabama permit law under which he was denied had been an NRA-backed initiative.

King knew that if his life was in danger, he could not count on the police for protection. His willingness to exercise his 2nd Amendment rights was also shared by other notable civil rights activists. Among them, Malcom X, who famously posed on the cover of Life magazine with an M1-Carbine.

The Black Panther Party took Malcolm X’s firearm brandishing and made it a part of their persona. At a time when police harassment of blacks was epidemic throughout the Nation, members learned about gun safety when they weren’t studying Marxism.

The YouTube videos of people open carrying through neighborhoods today to assert their 2nd Amendment Rights are reminiscent of similar armed displays by the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Panther leaders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale said that because government was “either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property” of blacks, they ought to defend themselves “by any means necessary.”

The Panthers took to patrolling urban neighborhoods while brandishing firearms to essentially “police the police,” who were infamous for abusing black Americans at the time.

Throughout all of this, the NRA has been on both sides of the gun debate and even supported a measure signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan that set California on track to having some of the Nation’s strictest gun control laws. The 1967 Mulford Act effectively neutralized the Panther Police Patrols by prohibiting the carry of loaded guns in public.

Let us know how you and your 2nd Amendment supporting friends feel about open carry activism by taking the poll above and sharing this story. We’d also like to hear from you if you have an open carry story or need to explain more than the poll allows. Email us at newstips@personalliberty.com or simply leave a comment below. Some submissions may be considered for a guest post on personalliberty.com.

White House Senior Adviser Vows That Obama Will Ignore The Constitution

Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer took to The Huffington Post Tuesday to declare that President Barack Obama is “picking up the pace on executive actions,” claiming that Congress has focused on “obsessively trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act” and “ginning up politically motivated investigations” rather than the economy.

In a blog post titled “How to Govern When Congress Would Rather Repeal and Re-investigate Than Legislate,” Pfeiffer criticized House lawmakers for forming a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks.

“Next week, as congressional Republicans spend their energy on yet another partisan investigation, we’ll be picking up the pace on the executive actions to help the economy,” Pfeiffer added.

Obama’s adviser did not reveal the nature of the executive actions Americans can expect the President to take but said that Obama would “use every ounce of his authority to unilaterally improve economic security.

Pfeiffer wrote:

Around the White House we refer to this strategy as “the Pen and the Phone” — the Pen is the use of executive orders, presidential memorandums, and other authorities; the Phone is the 21st century version of Teddy Roosevelt’s Bully Pulpit — using the power of the Oval Office and social media to get businesses, local communities, nonprofits, and ordinary citizens to take steps to improve the country.

President Obama is putting his pen and his phone to work, making measurable progress on the Opportunity Agenda laid out in the State of the Union. Since the start of 2014, he’s taken more than 20 executive actions — from launching high-tech manufacturing hubs to creating retirement programs that makes it easier to save — that will help create jobs, while broadening opportunity for millions of Americans. And there are more on the way. None by itself is a moonshot, but taken together these executive actions represent concrete, meaningful steps to help the middle class and everyone who wants to join it.

Scanning through recent roll call votes that show lawmakers working on budgetary matters and other day-to-day legislative drudgery, it is evident that Congress is not entirely preoccupied with the Benghazi select committee as Pfeiffer suggests. In fact, the senior aide’s fixation on the Benghazi investigation indicates that Obama’s re-hashing of the “pen and phone” style of governance is likely an attempt by the White House to distract Americans from what may be a damning Congressional inquiry.

Today, Obama is expected to whip out his pen and designate nearly half a million acres in New Mexico as a national monument. This will be the 11th time the President has established a national monument since taking office and the largest one to date. For comparisons’ sake, President George W. Bush designated only four national monuments during his tenure in the White House.

“A recent, independent study found that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers and recreational users,” Obama press secretary Jay Carney said of the monument earlier this week. “This signing is part of our larger weeklong focus on helping businesses invest here in America to further grow our economy and create jobs.”

And early next month, the President is expected to personally unveil a series of climate-related rule changes for coal-fired power plants.

“We have many more executive actions to come, and every day the president has charged us with looking for additional ways to expand opportunity,” Pfeiffer said.

Future Leaders?: America’s College Students Don’t Want To Be Challenged Or Entertain Opposing Beliefs

If you think political correctness is bad, wait until the latest round of college graduates gains influence.

College administrators have been dealing with an alarming trend in higher education this spring, as several institutions have been forced to withdraw commencement speakers after students complained.

The Chronicle of Higher Education put together a handy “Field Guide” to the commencement speaker controversies:

Complaint: Sins of the past?

Speaker: Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University professor and former U.S. secretary of state
College: Rutgers University

Ms. Rice backed out after her selection drew vocal protests from students and faculty members, who objected to her role in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Result: Withdrew on May 3

Speaker: Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley
College: Haverford College

Mr. Birgeneau withdrew after students and faculty members questioned his leadership during a 2011 incident when university police officers used force against student protesters. (See a related article: “A Bid to ‘Control a Contagion’ of Commencement Protests.”)

Result: Withdrew on May 13

Speaker: Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California and former U.S. secretary of homeland security
College: University of California’s Hastings College of Law

Protesters raised concerns about the number of people deported while Ms. Napolitano was secretary of homeland security.

Result: Spoke on May 10

Speaker: Michael Bloomberg, businessman and former mayor of New York City
College: Harvard University

Some students felt that Mr. Bloomberg’s support for a “stop-and-frisk” policy for the New York City police made him an inappropriate choice as commencement speaker.

Result: Set to speak on May 29

William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, joined graduating students at Haverford College on Sunday and acted as a replacement speaker after students protested to have Birgeneau uninvited. He made headlines for chastising the students for their immature display of dissatisfaction with the college’s original pick for speaker.

“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of ‘demands,’” said Bowen. “In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counterarguments.”

But Bowen shouldn’t be too surprised by students’ disinterest in honest debate in the face of controversy. The aversion to speakers who may hold different beliefs than certain students in a graduating class is part of a larger phenomenon unfolding at colleges throughout the country. The Nation’s latest round of graduates appears keen to reject outright anything that makes anyone mildly uncomfortable.

For instance, The New York Times reported over the weekend that students at some prominent colleges and universities are demanding that professors warn students of potentially disturbing or offensive content in assigned course materials.

From The Times:

Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

The warnings, which have their ideological roots in feminist thought, have gained the most traction at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the student government formally called for them. But there have been similar requests from students at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, George Washington University and other schools.

The bottom line is that political correctness has evolved. And, along with the “everyone’s a winner” mentality that many of the Nation’s current students were raised with, it has manifested the very thing that PC opponents have warned about all along: the beginnings of a society where emotion, discourse and the value of being enraged from time to time are wholly unrealized.

White House Says It Will Release Redacted Drone Documents As Rand Paul Gets Ready To Contest Court Nominee

In an effort to help along Senate confirmation of David Barron to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama Administration says it will release a memo the nominee wrote which provided the Justice Department justification for using drone strikes against U.S. citizens.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) led opposition of Barron’s confirmation, arguing that his involvement in drone assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan – both U.S. citizens living in Yemen— should be further reviewed.

The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times had filed Freedom of Information suits for the memo, leading a judge to order the Obama Administration to turn over a redacted version. The White House was considering repealing the ruling to prevent the document from being released.

Earlier this month, Paul said that he will continue to block Barron’s nomination until the DOJ releases memos related to the drone strikes. In response, the White House made an underacted version of the memo available to Senators.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that Administration officials have also decided not to appeal the earlier court ruling calling for the memo to be released with redactions:

Until now, the administration has fought in court to keep the writings from public view. But administration officials said that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. decided this week not appeal an April 21 ruling requiring disclosure by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York and that Attorney General Eric Holder concurred with his opinion.

The release could take some time, since the redactions are subject to court approval. And the administration also is insisting that a classified ruling on the case also be redacted to protect information classified for national security, but not the legal reasoning, one of the officials said.

Paul is expected to take to the Senate floor Wednesday to contest Barron’s nomination.

“I’ve read the Barron memos concerning the legal justification for killing an American citizen overseas without a trial or legal representation,” Paul wrote in a Tuesday opinion piece for the Boston Herald. The lawmaker went on to note that the memo in question provides “no valid precedent for the killing of an American citizen not engaged in combat.”

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he isn’t very worried about another Paul filibuster following recent White House decisions about the documents.

“Once everything was explained,” he said. “Most everyone in our caucus is satisfied.”

Lawmaker Decries Obama Administration’s ‘Nixonian’ Intimidation Of Public Employees

Representative Frank Wolfe (R-Va.) is concerned that the Obama Administration is involved in “Nixonian” efforts to pressure government employees following reports that the top official at the Drug Enforcement Agency enacted policy changes after a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to a report from The Huffington Post last week, Holder met with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart on the heels of Congressional testimony she gave suggesting that the Obama Administration’s stance on marijuana isn’t consistent with the Nation’s laws.

From the report:

The high-level shift toward easing punishment for drug offenders, backed by public opinion, raises the question of whether any DEA chief who could win the support of rank and file agents would be willing to carry out White House reforms. So far, Leonhart appears uninterested, at best.

She publicly distanced herself from Obama’s remarks about marijuana’s relative harmlessness. She griped about the Justice Department’s failure to try to block marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state. She clings to a comically outdated view of drugs, refusing to acknowledge a difference between pot and crack cocaine. And this week, her agency picked a fight with Kentucky over the state’s purchase of industrial hemp seeds to begin a newly legalized agricultural test.

For now, it’s sentencing reform that raises the biggest questions. Leonhart’s remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month about mandatory minimum sentences caused people in top echelons of the Justice Department to ask whether she was on board with her bosses on sentencing reform, sources familiar with the tensions told The Huffington Post.

The DEA official told lawmakers that the growing acceptance of marijuana has made agents more dedicated to pursuing drug offenders.

“Our agents are fighting back against those messages,” Leonhart said. “Actually, it makes us fight harder.”

Wolfe’s concerns are focused not on marijuana policy, but on whether the Administration is putting political pressure on civil servants in order to force support of the President’s policies.

“Having served in the Nixon Administration, I am well aware of how the political leadership of an administration can try to politicize the civil service, including law enforcement,” Wolfe wrote to the Justice Department. “This article suggests a similar ‘Nixonian’ effort to pressure a career law enforcement leader into changing her congressional testimony and public comments to fit the narrative of the administration. I am deeply concerned and hope you will correct the record if the information reported was inaccurate.”

The lawmaker also defended Leonhart’s career, adding that Congress appreciated her “honest and forthright” testimony.

“It is important that you send a clear signal to Justice Department staff, both political appointees and career civil servants, that public intimidation like this leak will not be tolerated,” Wolf wrote.