Texas Grandmother Claims Cop Tackled Her And Charged Her With Public Intoxication In Her Own Yard

A Texas grandmother is suing the City of Seabrook and one of its police officers after she alleges the officer tackled her as she watered flowers in her front yard and slapped her with a fraudulent public intoxication charge.

According to a lawsuit filed in a Southern Texas District Court, Barbara Nichols was watering flowers in her front yard on May 16 when she noticed uniformed police officers headed her way — a sight that, at least for a fleeting moment, made her feel safe.

But when officer Austin Schwartz barked an order that the elderly woman failed to comply with, her false sense of security was quickly shattered.

From the lawsuit: “Seeing that the officers were walking down the street, plaintiff perceived that there was no danger to her in her own yard and continued watering her plants and flowers. Defendant Schwartz instructed plaintiff to return to her home in a rude and abusive tone and stated that there was a ‘vicious dog’ on the loose that had ‘attacked a child.’

“Observing that there was no dog in the immediate vicinity of plaintiff s home, plaintiff again perceived that there was no danger to her in her own yard and refused to return to her home.”

Nichols says that Schwartz was unhappy with her decision to remain outside after determining for herself that she was not in danger of being attacked by the dog.

“Immediately and without warning, defendant Schwartz and another large male officer tackled plaintiff, an elderly grandmother with preexisting serious health issues, to the ground, handcuffed her hands behind her back, and forced her into the back of a police car,” the complaint states.

After being taken into custody, the elderly woman spent the night in jail. During her stint behind bars, she says the officer refused to provide her with a blanket or any pain medication for the injuries she sustained when she was tackled to the ground until she agreed to allow him to book her on a bogus public intoxication charge. Because she was in her own yard when the incident occurred public intoxication is a “legal impossibility,” Nichols claims in the suit.

The woman is suing for official oppression, illegal arrest and detention, assault and battery, trespass, infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and civil rights violations to the tune of $3 million.

FBI Director Doesn’t Think Agency Will Spy On Americans, Fails To Mention It Already Is

FBI Director James Comey insisted during a House Judiciary Committee Hearing Wednesday that his agency doesn’t — and will not — use the government’s sophisticated facial recognition technology to keep tabs on innocent civilians. But there’s probably more to the story than he let on.

Earlier this year, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that the FBI plans to database more than 52 million pictures in its Next Generation Identification facial recognition program by next year.

“One of our biggest concerns about NGI has been the fact that it will include non-criminal as well as criminal face images,” Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the EFF said in April. “We now know that FBI projects that by 2015, the database will include 4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes.”

According to Lynch, the agency could include in its database photos of Americans who applied for jobs or had non-criminal interactions with government that have traditionally required fingerprinting and background checks.

“Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check, your prints are sent to and stored by the FBI in its civil print database. However, the FBI has never before collected a photograph along with those prints,” Lynch continued. “This is changing with NGI. Now an employer could require you to provide a ‘mug shot’ photo along with your fingerprints. If that’s the case, then the FBI will store both your face print and your fingerprints along with your biographic data.”

During yesterday’s hearing, Comey told lawmakers that the EFF’s concerns were unfounded, saying that the database will only contain criminal mug shots.

Pressed by Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents a district squarely situated in California’s Silicon Valley, Comey added that some non-criminals might be included if they apply for certain jobs or licenses.

“I think there is some circumstances in which when states send us records, they’ll send us pictures of people who are getting special driving licenses to transport children or explosive materials or something — but as I understand it those are not part of the searchable Next Generation Identification database,” he said.

The FBI director said that he even asked for an explanation from his underlings following the release of the EFF report when Lofgren cited the numbers put out by the electronic privacy organization.

“I saw some of the same media,” he said, “and that’s what led me to ask my folks: So what’s the deal with this? And the explanation to me was the pilot is mug shots, because those are repeatable, we can count on the quality of them, and they’re tied to criminal conduct, clearly, and so there was not a plan and there is not at present where we are going to add other non-mug shot photos. But again, if I’ve got that wrong I’ll fix it with you.”

Comey also said that he wasn’t sure if the 52 million figure is accurate.

“It’s my understanding that the contractor who is building this Next Generation database, a company called MorphoTrust, also built the State Department facial recognition database, which contains 244 million faces,” Lofgren pressed further. “Will your Next Generation Identification system be capable of importing the State Department records or searching the State Department records?”

Comey said that he didn’t know — but the FBI director did insist that the agency would not be importing photos from areas such as State driver license databases.

The FBI director’s light-on-facts testimony comes just weeks after The New York Times published a piece detailing how the National Security Agency scoops up and stores as many as 55,000 images that sleuths in the agency consider “facial recognition quality” from the communications they intercept each day.

The Times reported:

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions.

And despite halfhearted assurances from top officials that a similar strategy is being implemented in domestic intelligence and law enforcement, the legal gray area in how Federal privacy laws treat new technology like facial recognition is a big worry for privacy advocates. In addition, the FBI is not very far removed from the NSA’s activities thanks to the agency’s obscure Data Intercept Technology Unit.

As Foreign Policy reported in November:

When the media and members of Congress say the NSA spies on Americans, what they really mean is that the FBI helps the NSA do it, providing a technical and legal infrastructure that permits the NSA, which by law collects foreign intelligence, to operate on U.S. soil. It’s the FBI, a domestic U.S. law enforcement agency, that collects digital information from at least nine American technology companies as part of the NSA’s Prism system. It was the FBI that petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order Verizon Business Network Services, one of the United States’ biggest telecom carriers for corporations, to hand over the call records of millions of its customers to the NSA.

In essence, Comey’s agency — acting as a proxy for the NSA — is already doing much of what he claims he doesn’t think his agency plans to do.

Entrepreneur Survey Reveals Best, Worst Places For Small Business

Politicians love to claim that they plan to create jobs during campaign seasons— even if they aren’t always able offer a clear plan. But, according to the results of survey of the actual job creators who run the Nation’s small businesses, formulating one should be pretty simple: do away with ridiculous licensing requirements and minimize regulation.

The latest iteration of the Kauffman Foundation/Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey found that a majority of 12,000 American small business owners polled cited professional licensing requirements as the most important regulatory issue in determining a region’s friendliness toward entrepreneurs.

map

“Licensing regulations were overwhelmingly the biggest headache for the small service businesses that we surveyed,” Jon Lieber, Chief Economist of Thumbtack.com, told Personal Liberty. “The time-cost and complexity involved with complying with multiple licenses in multiple jurisdictions were the single largest regulatory factor that affected perceptions of overall friendliness of a city or State.”

This is unsurprising, considering the 2012 report from the Institute for Justice which made this shocking observation about licensing regulations: “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.”

Beyond licensing, the small business poll found that overbearing environmental, zoning, health and safety regulatory burdens also inhibited business growth.

Taxes were also an issue for entrepreneurs— but concerns were more focused on confusing filing procedures than tax rates.

“[Tax rates were] a less important factor than the ease of regulatory compliance in determining the overall friendliness score of a jurisdiction,” the poll found. “Two-thirds of respondents said they paid their ‘fair share’ of taxes – that is, they felt like they were neither under-paying nor over-paying.”

According to Lieber, the business owners aren’t very pleased with the filing process at the Federal level.

“The Federal agency that we most often heard about was unsurprisingly the IRS,” he said, adding that the diverse group of entrepreneurs interacts with a wide range of Federal agencies— the IRS was the arm of government they all had in common.

If State and local governments want to take proactive steps to draw small business, according to the poll results, policymakers should forget about creating new regulations and create workforce-related training programs.

“Awareness of training programs raised overall scores by 10 percent, while 76 percent of those who said they were aware of government-sponsored training programs for business owners ranked their local government as ‘somewhat’ or ‘very supportive,’ and only 8 percent of these said local government was unsupportive,” the poll found.

So where are the Nation’s most entrepreneur-friendly regions?

“Utah, Idaho, Texas, Virginia and Louisiana gave their states the highest rating for friendliness to small business,” the survey said. “Small businesses in Colorado Springs, Boise and Houston gave their cities the highest ratings.

“In contrast, small business owners gave California, Rhode Island and Illinois an ‘F,’ while Connecticut and New Jersey both earned a ‘D’ grade. Sacramento, Providence and Buffalo were the survey’s worst-performing cities as rated by their small business owners.”

See how your State and city stacked up using the interactive graphic at Thumbtack.com.

Competitive Enterprise Institute Sues To Get Government To Rat On Itself

The pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is seeking to use the Federal government’s own surveillance to access text message records that it has been unable to acquire from the Environmental Protection Agency.

For months, the Institute has been asking EPA officials to turn over text messages and email logs that could implicate top environmental officials in regulatory wrongdoing. The EPA has maintained that it doesn’t store the data that the organization is seeking.

The Washington Times reports:

The institute also filed an open records request with the EPA on Monday seeking information about secondary email accounts that two top officials maintain to do business within the agency.

[CEI lawyers] has no objection to either Administrator Gina McCarthy or top deputy Bob Perciasepe having the secondary addresses, but he cited internal EPA documents showing the addresses have been scrubbed from the agency’s enterprise content management system.

By not storing the data for the secondary accounts, CEI lawyers argue that the EPA could be shielding official business from public view. But even if the EPA no longer has the records, it’s likely that another government agency does.

“What today’s request will get us closer to is seeing the audience for and the subject matter of the very small [amount] of correspondence that our documents show exist on these atypical accounts, such as for whom and what topics were these nonpublic accounts reserved?” CEI lawyer Christopher C. Horner said of the lawsuit filed Monday.

The organization is asking the NSA to provide “metadata” (including time of the communication, duration, sender and recipient) from McCarthy’s communications made by phone, email and text message. In response to the CEI’s previous Freedom of Information Act requests, EPA officials argued that all of that information had been destroyed.

“We have found the silver lining of the NSA affair: While spying on all of us, our federal spooks inadvertently caught some of their lawbreaking political operatives at EPA,” Horner said.

Blaming The Constitution For A Meth Head’s Rampage

Jerad Miller, a felon and reported advocate of crystal meth use who — along with his wife, Amanda, fatally shot two Las Vegas police officers and an armed citizen who tried to intervene on Sunday — is anything but the patriotic Constitutionalist he purportedly fancied himself. Rather, Miller was a miscreant abandoned by his family — likely due to behavioral issues stemming from his drug of choice — who, grasping for something to be a part of, was infatuated with the most extreme conspiracies that plague the far-right in America.

Unfortunately, little has been noted in the media of the deeply troubled individuals the Millers were, even as an hour’s worth of piecing together evidence about the two provides an exemplary illustration of a couple most Americans wouldn’t want to have as neighbors.

Instead, the meme adopted by most network media outlets is that provided by the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, which didn’t waste a moment pinning the Millers’ repugnant actions on an entire group of Americans who wholeheartedly agree with the Constitutional principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — three things the deranged couple denied their victims.

We can’t expect agenda-driven provocateurs to focus on anything that doesn’t fit the agenda they seek. For the SPLC, that agenda entails anti-2nd Amendment activism and the demonization of anyone who has a modicum of distrust for government. Because the group serves as a sort of go-to for media wanting to discuss what the Millers did, Americans can also not expect to get the whole story solely from the major news networks.

The SPLC and mainstream media have focused on the fact that the shooters were present at Cliven Bundy’s ranch earlier in the year as he quarreled with Federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management; they’ve noted that the Millers were fond of calling themselves “patriots” and spouting revolution rhetoric on their social media profiles; they’ve noted that the two criticized government overreach and supported patriot and Constitution advocates from across the Nation; and they’ve attempted to implicate Constitution-friendly public officials like Constitutional Sheriffs founder Richard Mack and David VanDerBeek, a gubernatorial candidate for the Independent American Party of Nevada.

In short, the message is that the Millers weren’t unlike any other freedom-loving Americans who defer first to the U.S. Constitution. To the SPLC, any conservative is likely to be the next person shooting innocent people in a shopping center in an effort to spark a new American revolution.

But here are a few facts that the SPLC and the talking heads who’ve sought its input are ignoring.

The Millers were asked to leave Bundy’s ranch because of their bizarre behavior.

Via The Associated Press:

Ammon Bundy told The Associated Press that Jerad and Amanda Miller were asked to leave his father’s ranch after being there for a few days this spring.

He said that while details were still sketchy, the Millers’ conduct was the problem. He called the couple “very radical” and said they did not “align themselves” with the protest’s main issues.

“Not very many people were asked to leave,” he said. “I think they may have been the only ones.”

Jerad Miller was a criminal who disobeyed existing gun laws.

Also from the AP:

Jerad Miller, 31, was convicted of felony vehicle theft in Washington state, police said. He also had a criminal record in Indiana.

Conservative candidates had turned down the Millers’ offers to volunteer on campaigns because their psychological problems were obvious.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported:

Gordon Martines, a former Las Vegas police detective and candidate for Clark County sheriff, said Jerad and Amanda Miller, who died in an apparent suicide pact after the shooting rampage, tried to become involved in his campaign months ago. They began showing up for debates and campaign events so often that they were noticed.

They freely offered all the resources available to them, Martines said, which struck him as odd because he didn’t see any reason why they would be such strong backers.

Martines checked into the couple. When he discovered that Jerad Miller had a criminal history that included DUI, assault, theft and mischief charges, he asked the Millers to back off.

“I said, ‘Look, I appreciate your support but I can’t be associated in any way, shape or form with you,’ ” Martines said. He noted that from the start, there was something strange about Jerad Miller. Though he couldn’t immediately identify what it was, his gut feeling was to keep them at arm’s length.

“After a while, you can just smell it,” Martines said of the couple and their strange presence. Looking back, he said he suspects the Millers wanted to be associated with a long-time law enforcement official to add to their credibility and access to the department.

Even after the candidate told the two that he didn’t want their help, they reportedly persisted.

Jerad Miller — and likely his wife — regularly used crystal meth.

VanDerBeek, the conservative Nevada gubernatorial candidate, described the Millers as “polite and friendly,” but also noted that there was something off about the couple in an interview with Daily Mail. The candidate, who is also a licensed counselor, described the two — whom he recalled meeting on at least five occasions — as “sick human beings who should have been locked up” long before.

VanDerBeek also noted that Jerad Miller was a “crystal meth user obsessed over the belief that all recreational drugs should be legalized,” according to the article.

The candidate’s claim is corroborated by an interview with one of the Millers’ neighbors published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Residents of the Bruce Street apartment complex gathered outside the building to talk about the couple whose unit was being searched.

Several neighbors identified the man as Jared, while one called the woman Amanda.

Like many of the neighbors contacted, Krista Koch said she didn’t know the couple’s last names. She described them as “militant.” They talked about planning to kill police officers, “going underground” and not coming out until the time was right to kill.

Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often.

They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamine.

If you still aren’t convinced that Millers were drug-addled freaks whose actions were sparked by their addictions, watch a few minutes of the video below. It was reportedly taken last year before Jerad Miller was scheduled to go to prison for a drug conviction.

Anyone who has been forced to deal with a drug-addicted friend or relative can quickly point out some of the more obvious indicators of Miller’s substance issues: his unfettered and often-misplaced emotional outbursts, his propensity for blaming others for his problems, his incoherent rambling and visions of a “f*ck the world” future in which everything will miraculously fall into place.

Given the facts that have been conveniently ignored by the SPLC and its adherents, the Millers’ violent rampage had little to do with American Constitutionalists. It was a product of mental illness and the paranoia that results from methamphetamine abuse.

Your Cell Phone Likely Isn’t Impervious To Snoops Even When The Device Is Off

For years, “paranoid” surveillance critics have questioned whether cell phones could be used as listening devices by government snoops. Last month, National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden said that they can—even when they’re turned off. Tech experts have now confirmed Snowden’s claim.

Snowden said last month that the NSA and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have the ability to eavesdrop on sounds picked up by the microphones built into mobile phones, particularly Apple’s iPhone.

“They can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off to the device,” Snowden had claimed.

According to the UK-based Mirror, Los Angeles software engineer Eric McDonald said that Snowden is correct, and users whose devices had been compromised would likely never know.

“The screen would look black and nothing would happen if you pressed buttons but it’s conceivable that the baseband [the cellular function] is still on, or turns on periodically,” McDonald said. “And it would be very difficult to know whether the phone has been compromised.”

When Snowden initially made his claim during a televised interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, the cybersecurity blog Errata Security quickly denied that the NSA could remotely manipulate cellular devices. But after considering the agency’s ability to install an “implant” on a device—either by physical manipulation or through wireless networks— the technology blog came to a different conclusion.

Errata Security consultant Robert Graham explains: “An ‘implant’ is when the NSA intercepts your phone and installs hardware or software on it. Usually this is because they intercepted a shipment, snuck into your hotel room, or ran a remote exploit (via the Internet or via the baseband). Yes, an implant gives the NSA full control over your phone — but it’s difficult getting the implant on your phone in the first place.

“Once the NSA installs an implant, then of course they can remotely ‘power on’ your phone, because it’s not really powered off — even when you think it is,” he continues in a blog post.

Graham is careful to point out that it would be difficult and likely illegal for the NSA or other agencies to conduct surveillance on American citizens in such a manner.

“In theory, the NSA can’t operate in the United States — so the department that’d be hacking your phone would be the FBI,” the tech expert writes.

“And what they can do legal is …. I just don’t know anymore,” he continues. “I’d’ve said in the past that they’d need a warrant, but apparently police departments are hacking phones without warrants.”

White House: Obama Prepared To Act ‘Unilaterally’ Again Using ‘Executive Authority’ On Guns

President Barack Obama is looking for new ways to act “administratively, unilaterally using his executive authority” to enact new gun control legislation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press conference Tuesday.

The official was responding to a journalist’s questions about the President’s reaction to news of a shooting that occurred at an Oregon high school. Two people were killed, including the shooter.

While the President is looking for ways to implement his gun control agenda unilaterally, Earnest stressed that the Administration would also like to see legislative action to increase gun control.

“The President’s goal is to look for opportunities to act administratively, unilaterally using his executive authority to try to make our communities safer,” Earnest said. “We’re always looking for those opportunities. But none of those opportunities when they present themselves is going to be an acceptable substitute for robust legislative action.”

Following the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Obama implemented 23 new executive actions designed to strengthen gun control laws.

“There’s no doubt there has been an alarming frequency of tragic incidents of gun violence that are concerning to Democrats and Republicans in Washington but more importantly to people all across the country,” Earnest said. “The question is what can we do to make certain something like this never ever happens again? There are going to be other tragedies. The question, I think, really facing lawmakers right now is what common sense steps can Democrats and Republicans take to reduce the likelihood of gun violence.”

During an Internet question-and-answer appearance on the social networking site Tumbler Tuesday, President Obama told participants that he felt his biggest frustration as President was his inability to convince Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation.

“People ask me what I’m proudest of and what are my biggest frustrations as president,” Obama said. “My biggest frustration is that this society hasn’t been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do damage. We’re the only developed country where this happens. And it happens weekly. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.

“If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change,” he said.

 

Senator Michelle Obama: Who’s Ready For Another Liberal Political Dynasty?

If you’ve enjoyed watching the Clinton Dynasty become a permanent fixture in liberal politics, you’re going to love this: Senator Michelle Obama.

Reuters published a column last week by White House Dossier editor Keith Koffler in which he speculates that the first lady has her eye on Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s seat in 2016.

Koffler’s assertion that Obama could be headed in a Hillary-esque direction stems from observations of her recent attacks on Republican lawmakers who have dared to attempt to roll back her wildly unpopular school lunch nutrition standards.

Here’s a little background via a May 27 Associated Press report:

An agriculture spending bill approved by a House subcommittee last week would allow schools to waive the standards if they have a net loss on school food programs for a six-month period. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who wrote the bill, said he was responding to requests from school food directors.

The standards championed by the first lady have been phased in over the past two school years, with more changes coming in 2014. The rules set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond.

While many schools have had success putting the rules in place, others have said they are too restrictive and costly. Schools pushing for changes say limits on sodium and requirements for more whole grains are particularly challenging, while some school officials say kids are throwing away fruits and vegetables that are required.

Obama penned a New York Times column last month accusing Republicans of attempting to “override science” by doing away with nutrition standards that are leaving school kids dissatisfied with lunch options and costing schools money.

“…[S]ome members of the House of Representatives are now threatening to roll back these new standards and lower the quality of food our kids get in school,” Obama wrote. “They want to make it optional, not mandatory, for schools to serve fruits and vegetables to our kids. They also want to allow more sodium and fewer whole grains than recommended into school lunches.”

The first lady’s increasingly antagonistic — and unachievable, if not for political nepotism — relationship with Congress isn’t the only thing that makes her a prime suspect for a Democratic challenger to the GOP Senator in 2016.

Kirk is a Republican in a heavily Democratic State. But Koffler wagers that the Senator’s brave recovery from a stroke that he suffered in 2012 could help him to curry favor with voters, making it a tough race for a challenger. That is, unless the lawmaker opts to retire at the end of his term — which, perhaps, would give Democrats even more incentive to find an unbeatable candidate to hedge against the uncertainty of an open race.

Either way, Obama’s “star power” and fundraising ability enabled by what Americans already recognize as an extremely efficient Obama campaign apparatus would stack the cards in the first lady’s favor. Furthermore, she’d be running in a heavily Chicago-centric district where her community organizer husband is still fondly remembered.

“She could represent the Democrats’ best chance to pick up a desperately needed — and winnable — seat,” Koffler wrote.

 

Susan Rice: Spouting Inaccurate Talking Points Doesn’t Make Me A Liar

During a television appearance on Sunday National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that Pfc. (Sgt.) Bowe Bergdahl had served his country with “honor and distinction.” On Friday, CNN’s Jim Acosta called her out, hinting that she’s either a White House parrot or an outright liar.

“I realize there has been lots of discussion and controversy around this,” Rice said when asked to clarify her “honor and distinction” remarks. “But what I was referring to was the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing.”

Many Americans—and soldiers who served alongside Bergdahl— have raised questions about whether he deserted his post in Afghanistan, or worse, actively sought out the Taliban insurgents who would eventually hold him captive for five years.

Acosta was unsatisfied with the answer and pressed, “But honor and distinction?”

“Jim, really, this is a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about. He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty,” Rice deflected. “He’s now being tried in the court of public opinion after having gone through enormously traumatic five years of captivity — his parents, the same. I think what we need to care most about is his health and well-being and recovery.”

The National Security Advisor added that, pending the results of a military review, Bergdahl will be held responsible for his actions if he is found guilty of wrongdoing.

Continuing to focus on Rice’s “honor and distinction remarks, Acosta reminded Rice of how she has misspoken in the past.

“After Benghazi, you blamed that attack on an anti-Muslim video and of course you know you’ve become sort of a GOP lightning rod,” Acosta said. “You’ve been accused by Republican critics of being fast and loose with the facts during some of these Sunday talk show appearances.

He then asked, “Are you being upfront with the American people or are you being guided by talking points too much when you go on these programs?”

Rice again reiterated that the Obama Administration isn’t prepared to condemn any of Bergdahl’s actions at this time. With regard to Benghazi, Rice said that she had simply delivered the “best information that the U.S. government had at the time.”

“Parts of it turned out to be wrong,” she added. “I regret that the information I was provided was wrong and that I delivered to the American people. That doesn’t make me a liar.”

Watch the full interview via CNN.

Law Professor: Obama Has Undoubtedly Set The Nation On Course To Crown Government

“It is not what he would do if he were king, or if only people who supported his proposals were in Congress.” — Press Secretary Jay Carney discussing the President’s budget proposal last year

“I am not a dictator; I’m the President. So, ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?”President Obama on his inability to divert sequestration last year

On more than one occasion when Congress has stymied the White House’s agenda, Americans have heard the President or top Administration officials lament that Barack Obama is not a dictator and not a king. But George Mason Law Professor Francis Buckley believes that Obama will indeed be remembered as “the person who assumed king-like powers as President.”

Buckley, the author of a recently released book titled The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown in America, penned a column for FOX last month declaring that Obama will be “the most consequential American president since George Washington.”

Buckley wagers that the Obama Administration’s leadership style is setting the U.S. on course to return to a sort of crown government on par with the governance of Britain under George III, who held the British seat of power during the American struggle for independence.

In his column, the scholar describes Obama’s role in conditioning Americans to return to leadership under absolute power as a gradual one.

“While this didn’t start with Obama, he’s taken it to an entirely new level,” he writes.

Buckley examines the ways in which Obama has embraced and expanded upon his most recent predecessor’s willingness to sidestep Congress in matters of spending taxpayer money, committing America’s fighting men to conflict overseas and forming alliances or dissolving relationships with the Nation’s international peers.

“He is rex quondam, rex futurus — the once and future king,” Buckley contends.

The professor goes on to note that, looking ahead to 2016, the Democratic Party is poised to continue the Nation’s march toward governance under a royal executive.

“We’re seeing evidence of the transformation of American politics in recent campaign spending decisions,” he writes. “Large Democratic donors have been ignoring appeals to spend their money on November’s congressional candidates and putting their money into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign instead. And that’s just what we’d expect, if the president holds all the cards.”

That’s a frightening observation, considering Clinton’s assertion a little over a month ago that “democracy is a relay race,” insinuating that voters can expect her to pick up the torch and charge in Obama’s policy direction if she runs and wins the Presidency.

Not to mention, the author notes of the Clinton Dynasty, “Nothing is more central to the Founders’ Constitution than the idea that the centralization of political power in a single person is a threat to liberty. If you’re skeptical, take a look at the failed presidential regimes, where presidents become presidents-for-life, or where an Argentinian spouse succeeds a term-limited spouse in office.”

The law professor says that conservatives who believe that Obama is the weakest President in memory have it all wrong. Just look at the President’s weak foreign policy.

He writes, “When they look at Obama’s foreign policy, some conservatives hint darkly of a deep-rooted antipathy to America by someone they never quite accepted as a fellow countryman.

“I don’t buy it,” Buckley continues. “Instead, I see a logical desire to shift spending from defense to social welfare, just what one would expect from a progressive politician.”

Without a major change in leadership and a major focus on helping the Nation’s apathetic youth understand how the rise in Presidential power will affect them, America’s highest office will turn into the “elected monarch” George Mason warned about at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

“So here’s the question, ya know we’ve got this constitution which was supposed to, it was really more than anything designed to ensure we wouldn’t get another George the third,” Buckley said in a recent interview. “And here’s my question, is the only part of the Constitution that’s relevant right now as far as the federal government is the President has to get elected every four years, nothing much else matters. Well, that would make the President what George Mason called an ‘elected monarch’ and he thought that was worse than the real thing.”

It has often been noted that Obama’s background as a professor of Constitutional law makes him the prime candidate to be the President who will disembowel the Constitution. And as academic peers of the President like Buckley come out of the woodwork to sound the alarm, it’s a view that — even for the most ardent Obama supporters — is becoming increasingly difficult to deny.

Veterans Affairs Whistle-Blowers Likely Faced Retaliation From The Top

Thirty-seven whistle-blowers who helped to bring the veterans’ care scandal to light may have faced reprisals from leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the government’s Office of Special Counsel.

OSC, the Federal agency tasked with protecting government employees who report bureaucratic wrongdoing, announced Thursday that it is investigating complaints from VA employees in 19 States who attempted to shed light on the VA’s improper scheduling practices.

The complaints range from reports of managers being demoted to employees being suspended for reporting problems up the chain of command at VA facilities.

At the time of this report, the independent OSC had already blocked disciplinary actions waged against at least three VA employees who had reported wrongdoing. The investigative agency said that it is acting swiftly in order to make sure that other employees with information about veterans’ care issues come forward while the VA is being investigated.

“Receiving candid information about harmful practices from employees will be critical to the VA’s efforts to identify problems and find solutions,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement. “However, employees will not come forward if they fear retaliation.”

Before stepping down, Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had promised that VA whistle-blowers wouldn’t face retaliation from within the Department. But the OSC’s recent announcement raises questions about whether VA officials at the local level are making good on the promise.

The investigative agency is also reviewing 49 employee reports related to scheduling problems and other mistreatment of patients at VA facilities.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in whistleblowing complaints for scheduling and health and safety issues at the VA generally,” said a spokesman for the OSC, according to The Wall Street Journal. “They’re all related to patient safety, but not all have to do with appointment scheduling.”

In one instance, a VA employee who notified the inspector general’s office to report problems about scheduling mismanagement and fraudulent record-keeping was hit with a seven-day suspension and lowered scores on a mandatory employee performance evaluation. Another, who brought to light overuse of patient restraints which violated VA policies, was suspended without pay for 30 days.

Also on Thursday, the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation designed to address several issues at the VA. The agreement would allow some veterans to seek care outside of the VA system and provide hundreds of millions of additional taxpayer dollars to hire more doctors and nurses at VA facilities.

“When tough compromises are made, usually that’s a sign of bipartisanship and a sign that it’s a good piece of legislation,” he said.

“Can we sort of pledge that we are committed to seeing this all the way through? I would urge our colleagues to do that,” he later continued. “Let’s not get hung up on certain other aspects of our differences that most people would view as gridlock in this body.”

A similar version of the legislation is currently making its way through the House.

A Hero?: Obama’s Reasoning On Bergdahl Is Baffling

President Barack Obama left no questions during a Thursday press conference in Brussels when he said that he makes “absolutely no apologies” for the prisoner swap which led to the return of Pfc. (Sgt., if you count promotions following his defection) Bowe Bergdahl. But that isn’t stopping many people in the United States from continuing to heavily criticize the White House’s actions.

Appearing alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint press conference, the President also defended the White House decision to go ahead with the plan of trading five former top Taliban officials held captive at Guantanamo Bay for the soldier. Many people, including some of the men he served alongside, have accused Bergdahl of being a deserter.

Obama said that he “discussed with Congress that something like this could occur.”

The President also criticized lawmakers who have publically criticized the prisoner swap.

“I think it was important to understand this is not some abstraction, not some political football,” he said.

Still, for all of Obama’s concrete rhetoric, it seems as though the White House is having a tough time getting its Bergdahl story straight.

Senior White House officials were quoted this week claiming that they were caught off guard by the tidal wave of criticism stemming from the Bergdahl deal.

The Hill reported Thursday:

The administration believed any criticism of the deal would be overshadowed by a positive story: the freeing of a U.S. soldier after five years of captivity in Afghanistan, just as the war there is drawing to an end.

It expected some criticism over the release of the Guantánamo prisoners, and it also expected lawmakers would be angered they weren’t informed of the deal in advance. But it didn’t see the criticism of Bergdahl himself coming.

Despite the blowback, which the White House sought to quell with a classified briefing for the entire Senate on Wednesday night, the administration remains confident that the deal to release Bergdahl will eventually be seen as good policy and the right thing to do.

“I think the principle of leaving no man behind will ultimately win out,” said a senior White House official, who predicted most people will agree that the president was compelled to seek Bergdahl’s rescue.

But following reports like the aforementioned Hill story, White House officials changed their tune. The Administration’s communications director, Jen Palmieri, said during an MSNBC interview Thursday that the White House never expected the Bergdahl release “to be a good news story.”

“We knew that this was going to be a controversial decision,” she said. “That was why we wanted the President to speak to it.”

The White House maintains that criticism of Bergdahl is unfair because, as Palmieri put it, “We don’t know what happened.”

The communications director did acknowledge that information concerning the soldier’s decision to walk away from his duty has been in the public domain.

To make matters worse for the Obama Administration’s damage control mission, NBC reported Thursday that Taliban officials said they found Bergdahl “acting abnormally and cursing his countrymen.” And classified materials obtained by The New York Times detail that Bergdahl had left his post on occasions before the defection that led to his capture by the Taliban.

And then there’s this, via Fox:

The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.

That’s the same Bergdahl who National Security Advisor recently said “served with honor and distinction.”

The question that some Americans are beginning to wonder is “honor and distinction” to whom?

Here’s a picture posted to Facebook by Shannon Allen, the wife of disabled Afghanistan veteran Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, who she says was injured in a firefight in Kabul that resulted from the search for Bergdahl.

10377991_1430720357191028_6370401805357541770_n

“Meet my husband, injuries directly brought to you by the actions of this traitor. He can’t give an account of what went down, because he can no longer speak” Mrs. Allen wrote in an accompanying post. “Now, which guy is a ‘hero’ again?!? Sick.”

If Obama owed it to Bergdahl’s family to bring their son home, he certainly owes Allen’s family a clear explanation of his reasoning.

NSA Chief: It’s Your Fault You Have No Privacy

Newly appointed National Security Agency top dog Adm. Michael Rogers told an audience at a Bloomberg cybersecurity event on Tuesday that by “choice and by chance” anonymity is a thing of the past. His agency, the spy chief said, is caught in the middle of the shifting privacy paradigm.

“In the world we’re living in, increasingly by choice and by chance, we are forfeiting privacy at levels that as individuals I don’t think we truly understand,” Rogers told the crowd. ”I’m the first to admit, the idea that you can be totally anonymous in the digital age is increasingly difficult to execute.”

Rogers said that the NSA isn’t the only entity involved in track Americans attitudes and behaviors, noting that an entire industry has sprung up around data brokerage.

The Hill explained how data brokers monitor Internet activity and sell information on users to marketers in an article late last month:

The companies build the profiles based on publicly available information on social media platforms, retailers’ records of offline and online purchases made with credit and debit cards and information that consumers volunteer online, such as online surveys, warranty forms and sweepstakes entries.

The data also comes from public documents made available by federal, state and local governments, such as court records, mortgages and voter registration information.

Rogers said that, given the new privacy reality, he didn’t want Americans to permanently characterize as the 4th Amendment abrogating behemoth it was portrayed as by contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks.

“One of the things that I try to tell the workforce out there is: this is not what is going to define us,” Rogers said. “We cannot go into this hunched-down crunch. We have an important mission.”

By increasing the agency’s transparency and helping Americans better understand what the Internet age means for personal privacy, Rogers said he hopes to promote “broad dialogue of what we’re doing and why [it] is a good thing for us as a Nation.”

Rogers also vowed that his NSA wouldn’t overhype threats in an effort to expand its surveillance powers.

“Now, I’m not one who’s going to sit here and overhype the threat [or say] that in the name of this threat we have to make dramatic changes and curtail our rights, because if we go down that road, in the end, they’ve won,” he said. “If we change who we are and what we believe and what we represent in the name of security, they have won. I have always believed that.”

Rogers’ speech comes on the heels of reports that the NSA collects millions of photos and images from emails, text messages, video conferences, social media and other sources for use in a facial recognition database.

The New York Times reported Saturday:

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.

“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting,” noted a 2010 document.

Welcome to the future.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

‘Where Are The Liberals?’: Democrats Willing To Kill All Free Speech To Win Elections

Campaign finance has been in the spotlight this week, as Senators debated Tuesday a proposed Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to regulate and place limits on spending for Federal campaigns.

The amendment, drafted by Democratic Senators Tom Udall (N.M.) and Michael Bennet (Nev.), would walk back the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens’ United ruling, which classified political spending as a form of free speech.

The Democratic initiative would place caps on the amount office seekers are allowed to spend on campaigns, focusing especially on political contributions from outside groups. It would also give States similar powers to regulate the political process.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) — who has perpetually attacked the campaign spending of wealthy conservatives like that of brothers Charles and David Koch — is, unsurprisingly, a vehement supporter of the idea of the Constitutional amendment.

“I am here because the flood of dark money into our nation’s political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my tenure in public service,” Reid said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee.

Lamenting that the Supreme Court has created an electoral system wherein billionaires are pitted against billionaires, leaving average Americans voiceless, Reid called on lawmakers to support the amendment.

“We sit here today faced with a simple choice: We can keep the status quo and argue all day, all night, weekends, forever about whose billionaires are right, or we can work together to change the system, to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principle of one American, one vote,” Reid said.

The brothers Koch have come under repeated fire from Reid and vulnerable Democratic lawmakers in recent months after news broke that the wealth industrialists planned to spend more than $100 million to unseat Democrats in the midterm elections.

“The American people reject the notion that gives the Koch brothers, corporations or special-interest groups a greater voice in government [than other voters],” Reid complained.

The Senate’s top Democrat also called out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday, noting that the GOP lawmaker had supported a 1988 amendment to limit independent campaign expenditures.

“Senator McConnell had the right idea then. I am optimistic that we can find a way to rekindle those noble principles in him now,” he said.

But McConnell, in follow-up testimony, said that the Democrats’ proposal jeopardizes Americans’ 1st Amendment protections.

“The First Amendment is about empowering the people, not the government,” McConnell said.

“The proposed amendment has it exactly backwards. It says that Congress and the States can pass whatever law they want abridging political speech — the speech that is at the very core of the First Amendment.”

The Kentucky Senator also accused Democrats of using the proposal to excite their voter base.

“This is a political exercise, and that’s all it is,” he said. “The goal here is to stir up one party’s political base, so they’ll show up in November.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted Democrats who support the amendment, claiming that it could represent the first step in government’s power to limit all manner of free speech.

“And where are the liberals today — why is there not a liberal standing here defending the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment?” Cruz exclaimed.

He went on to explain that the amendment is an assault on both sides of the political spectrum.

“Forty-two Democrats have signed their name to a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to muzzle Planned Parenthood and the National Right to Life,” he said. “Forty-two Democrats have signed their name to giving Congress the right to muzzle the Sierra Club, to muzzle the the National Rifle Association and the Brady Center on Handgun Violence. To muzzle Michael Moore and Dinesh D’Souza. To muzzle the Teamsters and the National Education Association. To muzzle the NAACP. To muzzle the Anti-Defamation League. To muzzle pastors and priests and rabbis who organize their parishioners to be involved in politics.”

The Texas lawmaker also announced two pieces of legislation he penned to counter the Democrats’ campaign finance amendment. Cruz’s “Free All Speech Act” would declare that all free speech laws apply equally to average citizens and media corporations. And his SuperPAC Elimination Act of 2014 would eliminate caps on direct contributions from citizens to candidates, while requiring all donations over $200 to be disclosed within 24 hours.

Though the Democrats’ Constitutional amendment has little chance of garnering the support needed to change the law of the land, Americans can be sure that they haven’t heard the end of campaign finance talk from the left.

A new book out from journalist Ken Vogel leaves no doubt that campaign finance is still an issue that President Barack Obama could attempt to wade into, using the bully pulpit of the Oval Office.

During a 2012 closed-door fundraiser in Seattle, according to Vogel’s Big Money, Obama told a group of wealthy liberal donors that after he secured a second term, he’d be “in a very strong position” to demand that the Constitution be amended to limit political spending.

“Now, I taught constitutional law. I don’t tinker with the Constitution lightly. But I think this is important enough that citizens have to get mobilized around this issue, and this will probably be a multiyear effort,” Obama said, according to an excerpt published by Mother Jones.

“After my reelection, my sense is that I may be in a very strong position to do it,” Obama reportedly went on.

Bergdahl And How The Taliban Has Won

Americans need look no further than the controversy surrounding the U.S.-brokered release of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been in terrorists’ custody in the Mideast for five years after walking off of his post, to understand how miserably the U.S. has failed in its recent military misadventures.

Since Bergdahl was traded by the U.S. government for five former top Taliban officials who were held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there has been a great deal of talk about what the Nation’s top leadership’s motives were in securing his release.

The Obama Administration has been criticized for trading dangerous terrorists for a soldier who is largely thought to have abandoned his duties as a soldier—especially since it did so without notifying members of Congress.

And while Bergdahl’s story is a complicated one, one thing can be garnered from the reports of his disappearance and return: It’s a story of the Nation’s broad failures in the wars in the Middle East.

Bergdahl abandoned his duty at a time when troop morale about the U.S.’s mission in Afghanistan was already largely in decline as soldiers realized that many in the region had no desire for help from the U.S.

As Rolling Stone, in a 2012 write-up about Bergdahl, noted:

The unruly situation was captured by Sean Smith, a British documentary filmmaker with The Guardian who spent a month embedded with Bowe’s unit. His footage shows a bunch of soldiers who no longer give a shit: breaking even the most basic rules of combat, like wearing baseball caps on patrol instead of helmets. In footage from a raid on a family compound, an old Afghan woman screams at the unit, “Look at these cruel people!” One soldier bitches about what he sees as the cowardice of the Afghan villagers he is supposed to be protecting: “They say like, the Taliban comes down and aggravated­ their town and harasses them… Why don’t you kill those motherfuckers? All of you have AKs. If someone is going into my hometown, I know my town wouldn’t stand for that shit. I’d be like, ‘Fuck you, you’re dead.'” Another soldier laments, “These people just want to be left alone.” A third agrees: “They got dicked with by the Russians for 17 years, and now we’re here.”

But, unlike Bergdahl, many Americans finished the tours they signed up for despite their disillusionment. For that reason many of the men who served alongside, and subsequently searched for, Bergdahl have decried the White House’s actions. Some are calling for the soldier to be disciplined for walking off of his post.

The New York Times reported this week:

The furious search for Sergeant Bergdahl, his critics say, led to the deaths of at least two soldiers and possibly six others in the area. Pentagon officials say those charges are unsubstantiated and are not supported by a review of a database of casualties in the Afghan war.

“Yes, I’m angry,” Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, said in an interview on Monday arranged by Republican strategists. “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl. If we were doing some mission and there was a reliable report that Bergdahl was somewhere, our orders were that we were to quit that mission and follow that report.”

Sergeant Bergdahl slipped away from his outpost, the former senior officer said, possibly on foot but more likely hiding in a contractor’s vehicle. “He didn’t walk out the gate through a checkpoint, and there was no evidence he breached the perimeter wire and left that way,” the ex-officer said.

Still, the White House decided to trade five former top Taliban members to secure Bergdahl’s release.

”Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity,” Obama said defending the action.

But, if the Afghan war was about quelling the threat of terror sparked by Islamic extremism, even the President realizes that the decision was self-defeating for U.S. interests. The President acknowledged Tuesday that there is no way the government can promise that the terrorists will not rejoin the effort to kill Westerners in the name of Allah.

Furthermore, Taliban leader Mullah Omar delivered a statement Sunday calling the trade a “great victory.”

“We shall thank almighty for this great victory,” said the statement. “The sacrifice of our Mujahedin have resulted in the release of our senior leaders from the hand of the enemy.”

He also thanked the “faithful Muslim nation of Afghanistan,” Bergdahl’s captors and the Amir of Qatar for his “tireless efforts” to move the deal along.

“May Allah grant all of them with rewards,” the statement says.

Of course, the Taliban official wasn’t the only one talking to Allah after the soldier’s release.

Clare Lopez, “a former CIA operations officer, a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, WMD, and counterterrorism issues,” and a friend of Colonel Allen West, relayed in an email to the conservative commentator:

What none of these media is reporting is that the father’s (SGT Bowe Bergdahl’s father Bob) first words at the WH were in Arabic – those words were “bism allah alrahman alraheem” – which means “in the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful” – these are the opening words of every chapter of the Qur’an except one (the chapter of the sword – the 9th) – by uttering these words on the grounds of the WH, Bergdahl (the father) sanctified the WH and claimed it for Islam. There is no question but POTUS knows this.

Does anyone remember what supposedly got us involved in this Afghanistan bullshit in the first place?

NRA, Gun Rights Groups Tell Open Carry Advocates To Cool It

The National Rifle Association is warning gun rights supporters that recent controversy surrounding the activism of open carry advocates in the Lone Star State could provide fodder for anti-2nd Amendment groups looking to place new restrictions on responsible gun owners.

“Here at NRA, we are big fans of responsible behavior … legal mandates, not so much. We think the Founders of this country were right to trust its people with the freedom to make their own choices,” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a recent open letter to supporters. “We also think they were wise to build checks into our constitutional system so that one view could not easily dominate the others and so that officials could be held accountable for their decisions.”

For every poor decision that gun owners make, the letter goes on, there are consequences.

“These consequences could be simple and transitory, such as watching a trophy buck bound away into the woods after a missed shot from an improperly sighted rifle,” NRA-ILA said. “They could also be lasting and consequential, such as turning an undecided voter into an antigun voter because of causing that person fear or offense.”

In Texas, there are no restrictions on openly carrying long arms in public. But the NRA believes that this will change due to a recent string of incidents involving open-carry activists gathering in public while open carrying in an impractical manner.

We reported on one incident that occurred in the State late last month:

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.

Since then, Texas open carry activists have provided more fodder for the anti-gun left. In a video that was floating around the Internet last week, activists confront and follow a man claiming to be a Marine veteran who exercised his 1st Amendment rights by complaining to activists gathered at a busy intersection in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04k4OWPquK4&feature=youtu.be

Instead of brushing off his foul language and sending the man on his way, however, one of the armed activists followed the man, declaring, “I’m following this guy around.”

In a later interview, the man in the video explained that he is not anti-gun — but doesn’t feel the open carry activists are accomplishing anything for their cause.

“I’m all for responsible gun owners,” he said. “What I was taught was not to wear it around like a gold chain. What they’re doing is irresponsible. It intimidates the public, and people have just as much right to be comfortable in their public environment as these guys have a right to own their firearms.”

The argument over whether the mere sight of a rifle in public is “intimidating” doesn’t really matter in this case. The confrontational tones from both sides of the argument in the video provide reason to question the common sense of the gun rights activist who felt it was a good idea to follow the man around.

And even the leaders of Texas open carry groups are getting worried that members are pushing the limits.

Open Carry Texas said in a joint statement with other regional pro-gun groups:

We ask that members take a step back and make an objective assessment of what we are trying to accomplish and help us to get open carry passed for everyone. We must be willing and able to recognize what works and what doesn’t, but we need your help to make these efforts a success. It will be very difficult to spin holstered, black powder revolvers into a negative story. This is the goal we are currently striving for, open carry of handguns. We know everyone is working hard for this cause. It is simply time to focus on what has been proven to work. The conversation has shifted from open carry of handguns to rifles in businesses, negating our efforts and distracting us from our mission.

That’s also the crux of the NRA’s message to Texas open carry advocates who continue to make headlines by getting kicked out of once gun-friendly establishments.

From the organization’s letter to supporters:

[W]hile unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

Read the NRA’s letter in full.

Common Core And Cronyism In Alabama

As voters in Alabama cast primary ballots on Tuesday, many will go to the polls with Common Core education standards in mind. For conservative voters in the State, where GOP lawmakers have stood on Common Core is particularly important.

In 2010, Republicans in Alabama secured supermajority status by riding a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm to victory. But even with the GOP in charge of both houses in the State Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction and the party being in charge of every State-level executive office, the Alabama school board adopted Common Core in a 7-2 vote in November of that year.

Also in 2010, Alabama’s newly-elected Governor Robert Bentley had sought to hold off on the State’s embrace of the standards. The new Governor agreed with the two dissenting school board members, Betty Peters and Stephanie Bell, who had argued that the standards fit the definition of Federal overreach and were largely untested.

The standards were rushed through, however, because outgoing Governor Bob Riley, acting in ex-officio capacity on the school board, voted for the standards on his way out of the Governor’s mansion.

At the time, there was some protestation from Alabama small government groups. But the Common Core plan, enacted in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, was still new and hadn’t been around long enough for Alabama voters to see the results that would later result from the passage of Common Core in other States.

Thanks in part to an influx of political spending by an organization called the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government late in the primary season, the standards- which have been making their way into Alabama course materials since 2012- have become a major issue in the most recent round of primaries. And the organization’s activism, coupled with ridiculous Common Core-related news from States further along in the implantation of the standards, has many Alabama conservatives wondering how any of the GOP lawmakers who cruised to victory in 2010 could support the education overhaul.

But the anti-Common Core foundation and its founder, former State Senator John Rice, have faced considerable pushback from the Alabama GOP establishment as well as the political left.

Rice’s Alabama Foundation for Limited Government ignited a political firestorm it recent months as it funneled nearly $1 million into the State’s primary races through the Stop Common Core PAC, which the former lawmaker also chairs. The funds largely went to Tea Party challengers in races against longstanding Alabama GOP lawmakers and to challenges against other Republicans who were elected as recently as 2010 but have since toed the establishment line, including backing Common Core.

The former lawmaker says he is driven to defeat Common Core because the $600 billion in Federal and State spending that will take place before it is fully implemented coupled with how rapidly the unproven standards have been put into place create a perfect storm of cronyism.

“All you have to do is look behind the curtain, and there will be the money.” Rice told Personal Liberty. “The retooling of education to fit Common Core standards is a $600 billion industry over the next five years.

“Many of the Republican establishment in Montgomery has not listened to the wishes of the State or national parties to throw Common Core down the drain,” he continued. “… Why did 34 other Senators now become irrelevant? Is it because [Senate President Pro Tem] Del Marsh said so, or is it just so much money on the table?”

The former lawmaker said that he is certain that the GOP establishment’s failure to quash Common Core is tied kickbacks related to State and Federal contracts related the implementation process.

Rice has faced unrelenting criticism from two of Alabama’s most powerful Republicans, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (Auburn) and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (Anniston). In a television advertisement earlier this year —which was later the subject of a complaint filed with the Alabama Secretary of State by Marsh— Rice’s foundation accused the two of “pay to play” politics and backroom deals.

Stop Common Core provided a little over $130,000 to Hubbard’s primary challenger Sandy Toomer in March and April. On his website, Toomer advocates for a vote to repeal Common Core in Alabama and describes himself as “a Conservative Christian Republican who is Pro-Life, Pro-Family & Traditional Marriage, Pro-Business, Lower taxes, and Smaller Government.”

But Hubbard— who, despite Republican voters’ wishes, has failed to bring the education standards to a vote before the full State legislature— contends that Common Core is a non-issue and has accused Rice of being a closet liberal.

“They are desperate to hide the liberal sources funding their false attacks,” Hubbard’s campaign said in a written statement. “Instead of Stop Common Core PAC, it should be called Stop Conservative Candidates PAC, since it does the dirty work for cowardly liberals hiding behind its misleading name.”

The Alabama Speaker’s accusations stem from complaints from establishment politicians that Rice’s organizations are skirting laws in the State that ban PAC-to-PAC transfers. Furthermore, Hubbard alleges that the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government and Stop Common Core PAC are doing the bidding of a favorite boogeyman of the State GOP establishment: the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

Yellowhammer, a popular political blog in the State, linked Rice’s organizations to an out-of-State advertising group that the blog reported deals almost exclusively in liberal causes earlier in the year. The blog asserted that the AEA is using Rice and foundation to clandestinely influence political power in the State by propping up weak candidates in GOP primaries so that Democrats have a better chance of winning in the general election.

“Front groups are nothing new in Alabama politics, especially for the teachers’ union. In 2010, for instance, the AEA funneled big money into a political action committee named ‘True Republican PAC’ to influence the Alabama gubernatorial primary,” the blog stated.

In responding to his critics, Rice said he has a couple of key points on his side.

Hubbard is the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation tied to complaints that he failed to properly report business deals on his Statement of Economic Trust, used his office for personal economic gain and voted for legislation that directly benefitted business clients.

And Rice contends that, even if his detractors were correct and he were a liberal operative, his message would remain the same.

“They’re fleecing the State and it has got to stop,” Rice said.

As for the charge that he is doing the AEA’s dirty work, Rice questioned who the real enemy of conservatives is in Alabama: The AEA— which hasn’t taken a hard stance on Common Core—or the State’s GOP establishment—which has practically endorsed the standards.

“I don’t want one group richer because they figured out a way to fleece taxpayers,” he said. “For some reason the legislature can’t even find a way to give our teachers a pay raise this year, but Mike Hubbard gets $1 million extra in his Speaker’s budget—just for doing whatever he wants to.

“Here’s the interesting partnership that has come about,” he continued. “We Tea Partiers and small government-minded people now see that the teachers are actually being picked on by establishment Republicans in Montgomery, not the State GOP. And the insider Republicans are trying to vilify AEA as the bad guy so they can shrink benefits for the teachers so they’ve got more for themselves.”

As for whether he thinks Tuesday’s elections will be a referendum on the Alabama GOP establishment’s inaction on Common Core, Rice believes that his organization got started too late in the election season to be sure. Furthermore, members of Alabama’s mainstream media haven’t exactly painted him or his foundation in a positive light.

“They call me and ask me for a quote, then they say, ‘John Rice who operates the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, who’s been accused by Mike Hubbard and others of being an AEA dark money operative,’” Rice said. “Stop right there and think: Who’s been accused by Mike Hubbard, who is under questioning of indictment and two people have already indicated him in felony cases… in grand jury… Now would that not be the fair way to put it?”

A north Alabama newspaper reporter–who asked to remain unnamed– said that the State’s journalists aren’t all that interested in Common Core, opining that lingering concerns about the education standards exist only in the minds of Tea Party gadflies.

“It went through years ago and everyone was fine with it then,” he said. “But now there are some Tea Party folks out there raising a stink about it. Mostly, I think, just because they think it’s a Federal takeover because of talking points.”

Nonetheless, candidates who have garnered the support of Rice’s organization seem convinced that voters care about Common Core— and the Alabama conservatives that helped so many Republicans to victory in 2010 want the standards repealed in the State.

Corey Harbison, the 27 year old mayor of Good Hope running to unseat incumbent Representative Mac Buttram (R-Cullman), is one of those candidates.

“Common Core is a huge deal for a lot of the voters I’ve talked to,” Harbison said. “And judging by some of the materials that were seeing used in other States, I don’t see how anyone calling themselves a conservative would want to subject school kids to that.”

Buttram became an Alabama lawmaker in 2010 during the Tea Party sweep—but has since drawn criticism from some conservatives for his support of Common Core and establishment positions.

Rice said that Buttram, like many of the Republicans who promised a pivot toward smaller government in 2010, did little more than move the State from Democrat cronyism to Republican cronyism.

And regardless of how Tuesday’s primaries turn out, according to Rice,  his fight against Common Core will continue as long as it takes to defeat the standards.

“I’ve got seven grandchildren, I can’t leave them to Common Core,” he said.

Sunday News Show Roundup

Sunday’s political talk shows were dominated by discussions about U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been imprisoned by al-Qaida for the past five years, and the implications of the negotiations that led to his release. Also up for debate was the continuing scandal over mistreatment of U.S. veterans by the VA.

Prisoner Exchange

National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the Sunday show rounds to respond to critics of the prisoner exchange with the Taliban that led to Bergdahl’s release. The American soldier was turned over to U.S. forces after five Guantanamo detainees, including two senior militant commanders, were released by the U.S. government.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said that the Obama Administration has set a troublesome new precedent by negotiating with terrorists.

“If you negotiate here, you’ve sent a message to every al-Qaida group in the world that says … there is some value now in that hostage in a way they didn’t have before,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The lawmaker also criticized the White House for not notifying members of Congress before going forward with the plan.

“I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t engage with people [in Congress] who have done this for a long time,” he said.

On NBC’s “Meet The Press”, Hagel said that the Defense Department notified the appropriate members of Congress on Saturday.

Rice said that the Administration had fulfilled “a sacred obligation” by ensuring that the Nation didn’t “leave a man or woman on the battlefield.”

On ABC’s “This Week”, she said, “Sgt. Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that because of the negotiations “every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.”

The Texas Senator argued that the U.S. should have secured Bergdahl’s release with military force.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined CBS’s “Face the Nation”, expressing concerns that the newly-released Guantanamo detainees will orchestrate future attacks against the U.S.

“It is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to re-enter the fight,” he said.

Rice and Hagel both argued that the prisoners do not pose a threat to Americans.

“[T]hese prisoners will be carefully watched, that their ability to move will be constrained,” Rice said on CNN.

And on “Meet the Press”, Hagel offered, “I will not sign off on any detainee coming out of Guantanamo unless I am assured, unless our government assured, our country can be assured that we can sufficiently mitigate any risk to American security.”

VA Scandal

Discussing VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s Friday resignation, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder Paul Rieckhoff said that it is hard to believe the VA’s former top official was unaware of the veterans’ care problems.

“We’ve been trying to tell him, there have been congressional testimonies. Me personally, every other veterans group in the country had been trying to warn him, trying to warn the President. The IG report has been supported by dozens of other IG reports, GAO reports – they didn’t listen,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

On “Face the Nation”, McCain offered Obama some advice about finding a replacement for Shinseki.

“I would ask Tom Coburn, if there [is] anybody in Congress that knows more about health care. Then Tom Coburn should be the next secretary of the Veterans Administration, in my view,” he said.

Coburn, a renowned Senate budget hawk, is slated to retire from Congress at the end of the year.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent with Democratic leanings, unveiled a broad proposal to revamp the how the Nation handles veterans’ healthcare during an appearance on “Face the Nation.”

“The truth is that when people get into the VA, the quality of care is good. The problem that we have to address is access to the system and waiting lines,” Sanders said.

Among the provisions in the lawmakers’ bill are changes that would expand coverage for veterans with certain types of injuries, make it easier for veterans to seek care outside of the VA system and require the VA to implement software that would more effectively process patients and monitor wait times.

A hearing on the legislation, which does not yet have a price tag, is scheduled for Thursday.

Clinton and Benghazi

Also featuring prominently in this week’s political talk shows was former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her role in the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which are still under GOP scrutiny. Last week, Clinton accused Republicans of attempting to use their investigation for political gain.

The former top diplomat came under fire for her remarks and for including a chapter on Benghazi in her forthcoming memoir.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus described mentions of Benghazi in Clinton’s book as an “organized political defense” on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I think she gets an ‘F’ as Secretary of State. Whether it is Russia, Iran sanctions … and now obviously Benghazi,” he said.

On “This Week”, Cruz noted that Clinton is more interested in criticizing Republicans than taking responsibility for her failures.

“[S]he’s more focused on blaming the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy than on the terrorists,” he said.

House Democrats Introduce New Gun Control Bill

Democrats in the House introduced new legislation Friday that supporters say would enact new protections to make sure that firearms don’t fall into the hands of the severely mentally ill.

The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Mike Thompson of California and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, is called the “Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014.” If passed, the legislation would place tougher restrictions on gun ownership by prohibiting individuals convicted of stalking, domestic violence or similar crimes from purchasing firearms. It would also revoke gun ownership rights from anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

“While no one law or set of laws can end gun violence, by taking these steps — and requiring background checks on all commercial gun sales — we can make our communities safer and prevent more shootings while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Thompson said.

Furthermore, the bill would expand grant funding for State and local law enforcement education about Federal gun laws and bolster gun-violence prevention efforts. One such effort touted by supporters of the legislation would give lawmakers more options for attaining warrants to confiscate firearms from individuals they deem a danger to themselves or others.

The legislation was introduced exactly one week after a shooting tragedy in California involving a 22-year-old who had previously been investigated for possible mental disturbance by police. Officers reportedly interviewed the suspect and decided he was not a threat. The officers didn’t search his dwelling where supporters of the new House legislation say they would have found evidence of his murderous plans.

“This young man’s family reached out for support and did not find the support there,” Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), said. “It is our duty, as members of Congress, to ensure that families, law enforcement [and] mental health professionals have the support they need to keep us safe.”

Critics of the legislation worry that broad language regarding citizens’ mental health history could lead to violations of both 2nd and 4th Amendment rights for people who have sought help with mental health issues unrelated to potential violence.

It’s unlikely that the bill will advance through the Republican-controlled House.

Montel Williams: ‘There’s A War On Veterans’

Last week, television personality and 22-year military veteran Montel Williams delivered a passionate rebuke of the Obama Administration’s and lawmakers’ disregard for military veterans. The Marine veteran is leading a public charge to increase funding for veterans’ care in the U.S.

Here’s the emotional speech Williams gave at a Memorial Day Picnic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:

Williams, a longtime proponent of veterans’ rights, has seized upon the recent veterans’ care scandal to call on government to provide a monetary “surge” to benefit the Nation’s veterans rather than the usual calls lawmakers make for increased war funding.

“Four years ago in Afghanistan when we weren’t getting the job done, the President said ‘Please. Please. Please. Congress give me the money to surge.’ We spent $60 billion dollars sending troops over to Afghanistan,” Williams explained Wednesday on a Denver Fox affiliate. “Right now we need a surge to clear the back log of all of our veterans tomorrow.”

Williams is spreading the word via a social media campaign using the hashtag #VAsurge on Facebook and Twitter.

“We have soldiers dying on a daily basis just because they can’t go see a doctor,” Williams told Fox. “You promised me that if I go put this uniform on and take a bullet, you will take care of me. And all you do is lie to me.”

On Wednesday, Williams joined Fox News’ Neil Cavuto to argue that the problems with the VA system extend far beyond leadership and require a complete overhaul of the veterans’ care system.

http://youtu.be/hooE45FopWk

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down on Friday—but questions remain about what other changes to the veterans’ care system will be made to ensure that government fulfills its promise to those who have served.

NSA Releases One Email From Snowden, Says He’s Still A Traitor

After claiming that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden never attempted to express concern about the agency’s actions to the proper authorities before going public with details of its spying, the NSA admitted to finding one email with questions from Snowden.

The agency on Thursday released an email sent in April 2013 by Snowden, who was working for the agency at the time. As an argument to secure whistleblower, and not criminal, status, Snowden has long maintained that he repeatedly tried to voice concern about NSA actions before resulting to leaking documents.

But the agency argues that the email it released this week hardly qualifies as evidence of an in-depth explanation of privacy concerns from Snowden.

“NSA has now explained that they have found one e-mail inquiry by Edward Snowden to the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said Thursday. “The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed. There was not additional follow-up noted.”

The release comes on the heels of a high-profile interview Snowden gave with NBC News’ Brian Williams, during which Snowden said, “I actually did go through channels, and that is documented. The NSA has records.”

The whistleblower claimed that there should be evidence of at least 10 of his attempts to impart concerns to higher-ups.

“They have copies of e-mails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me raising concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities,” Snowden said.

The NSA maintains that only one email exists, and it was a simple question about executive authority.

Here is the email exchange the agency released:

email1email2

“There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations,” Vines said. “We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.”