Obama promises his ‘project’ will continue after 2016

Here’s some bad news for anyone hoping 2016 will bring an end to President Barack Obama’s era of “hope” and “change”: The commander in chief recently promised Democratic donors that his “project” of transforming America will continue long after he leaves the Oval Office.

Speaking at a recent Democratic National Committee fundraiser recently held at a private residence in New York, Obama said that he intends to do his best to make his policy visions reality during his remaining time in the White House. His goals, the president told donors, will be easier to accomplish from the bully pulpit with the knowledge that, “I don’t have another race to run.”

But the president went on to note that Democratic donors shouldn’t worry too much over what he fails to accomplish while in office because his “project” will continue once he leaves the White House.

From Obama’s remarks:

Now, I intend to get as much done in the next 22 months as possible. As you’ve noticed, I’ve been pretty busy and I will continue to be. And I’m hopeful that we may find some opportunities for collaboration with the Republican Congress — for example, on trade. Hopefully, on infrastructure. There may be some things where there’s some convergence. But if we’re going to deliver on the promise that’s there for all of us, then we’re still going to need to realign our budgets to our values, and we’re going to have to fight for priorities like immigration reform.

And those battles are going to depend, in large part, on the continuing effort in the political arena. And we’ve got to have strong candidates. But more importantly, we’ve got to have an engaged citizenry. And that’s why, despite the fact, as Michelle helpfully reminds me, I don’t have another race to run — and she’s pretty happy about that — that’s why I’m here this evening. And I know that’s why you’re here. Because this is not a project that stops after a certain term in office, and it’s not a project that stops after an election. This is something that we have to sustain over the long term.

And the values and ideals that I believe in are ones that I’ve never expected to realize just in one term or in one presidency. In fact, I said that in Grant Park the day I was elected.

H/T: The Weekly Standard

Bernie Sanders wants America to resemble Scandinavia

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who recently jumped into the 2016 presidential race, says that it is time for a “political revolution” and believes mainstream Americans will have no problem voting for a self-described socialist.

Joining ABC’s “This Week,” Sanders told host George Stephanopoulos that he may be considered a long-shot candidate in 2016 but that he also has a number of long-shot political victories under his belt.

“Don’t underestimate me,” Sanders said, noting that his opponents never expected him to become elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, to the U.S. House or to the Senate.

Now, Sanders said, he’s ready to lead a U.S. “political revolution.”

Asked whether his socialist leanings might turn off even the most progressive mainstream voters, Sanders said that educating voters about how democratic socialism works in other countries would be key.

“Well, so long as we know what democratic socialism is,” Sanders said. “And if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously. The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, healthcare is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”

Stephanopoulos responded with skepticism: “I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: ‘He wants America to look more like Scandinavia.”

But Sanders said it wouldn’t be an attack, responding, “What’s wrong with that?”

As for his ability to convince Democratic voters that he’s a better choice than front-runner Hillary Clinton, Sanders said: “I think it has a lot to do with our records. I think at a time when we have seen trillions of dollars shift from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, we have got to say very frankly that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes; profitable corporations can’t stash their money in the Cayman Islands and avoid about $100 billion a year in taxes.”

New info on cellphone tracking could come from DOJ review

Americans may soon learn more about how local and federal law enforcement agencies use cellphone-tracking technology after years of government efforts to keep the tracking devices called StingRays secret.

StingRays work by parroting nearby cellular towers to trick cellphones into picking up their signal and location data, along with pretty much every other piece of metadata that is normally transmitted to a carrier’s tower.

The U.S. Department of Justice has said that police do not need a warrant to do this, as long as they don’t listen in on actual conversations.

Last fall, Americans learned that many local police agencies gained use of the StingRay cellphone tracking devices by agreeing with the FBI not to disclose the fact that they were using them. That, along with reports that the Justice Department routinely attaches the devices to aircraft and fly them over a majority of the country to collect thousands of Americans’ cellphone metadata, has increased calls for transparency in StingRay use.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Justice Department review of Stingray use could be a first step toward StingRay transparency:

The Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded more details from the Justice Department about their use in response to the articles.

“We know it’s got to come out,” one law-enforcement official said. “At some point, it becomes more harmful to try to keep it secret than to acknowledge it. We just want to acknowledge it carefully and slowly, so we don’t lose what is a very effective tool.”

Officials said they don’t want to reveal so much that it gives criminals clues about how to defeat the devices. Law-enforcement officials also don’t want to reveal information that would give new ammunition to defense lawyers in prosecutions where warrants weren’t used, according to officials involved in the discussions.

Of course, given the Department of Justice’s track record with transparency on the issue of StingRay use combined with officials’ unwillingness to give up information that might help bad guys, transparency advocates shouldn’t expect to learn too much from the review. A recent Freedom of Information lawsuit concerning StingRays reportedly yielded 5,000 nearly blank pages from the DOJ.

Americans expect racial unrest to increase as ‘Black Spring’ begins

The American Civil Liberties Union declared Friday that “Black Spring has begun,” and a majority of Americans believe that a summer of increased racial disturbances and rioting lies ahead.

“#BlackSpring has begun,” ACLU tweeted. “Protesters, #knowyourrights!”

On Saturday, demonstrations in solidarity with protestors in Baltimore popped up in at least 25 cities throughout the nation.

A post on the website Ferguson Action declared:

The war on Black people in Baltimore is the same war on Black people across America. Decades of poverty, unemployment, under-funded schools and police terrorism have reached a boiling point in Baltimore and cities around the country.

This past winter our people were presented with hollow reforms. This spring we present to the world our visionary demands. Demands that speak to a world where all Black Lives Matter.

And with police having to divert resources to crowd control to deal with the protests, there are concerns that the law enforcement agencies will be unable to keep up with other policing duties.

In Baltimore, where protests have raged for more than a week, this is especially true.

“We don’t get a break on crime because of the unrest that is ongoing,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told the Baltimore Sun. “We have to figure out a way to do both. It’s something we’re working on.”

Baltimore police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk told the newspaper that the city has seen an alarming uptick in violent crime, noting that about eight homicides and 12 shootings occurred in the city in a week’s time as the nation focused on the protests.

“We have to move to address it,” he said. “We’re doing that. We have investigators who are working very hard to find suspects in these cases and we’re going to work to make sure we can do everything that we can to stop the violence.”

While officers in Baltimore and elsewhere may be hope protests will subside in coming months so that they can address day-to-day crime, a majority of Americans believe that racial tensions, along with the protests and riots they spark, will only increase.

That’s according to the results of a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll:

A resounding 96% of adults surveyed said it was likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer, a signal that Americans believe Baltimore’s recent problems aren’t a local phenomenon but instead are symptomatic of broader national problems.

The poll also found that black and white Americans have different feelings about the true motivations behind the riots:

Asked to choose between two possible explanations for recent events, 60% of blacks said they reflected “long-standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African Americans.” Some 27% of black respondents said the disturbances were caused by people who used protests over an African American man dying in police custody “as an excused to engage in looting and violence.”

But among whites, the balance of opinion flipped: 58% said people were seizing an excuse to loot, while 32% said the events reflected long-standing frustrations with police.

New device could mainstream e-voting worldwide

Thanks to security advances discovered by researchers at the University of Birmingham in England, the ability of citizens in nations throughout the world to participate in electoral politics from the comfort of their homes may be a step closer to reality.

Officials in most countries have shunned proposals that would allow voters to cast ballots in national elections from home because of security risks that could allow criminal hackers or foreign governments to manipulate election results without detection.

But the University of Birmingham researchers say that technology similar to that which is used to keep banking information safe could be applied to voters’ personal computers to ensure secure elections. They’ve developed a prototype that could be ready for use in UK national elections as early as 2020.

“This system works by employing a credit card-sized device similar to those used in online banking. It is called Du-Vote, and we have been developing it over the past two years,” said Birmingham Professor Mark Ryan. “From the voter’s perspective, it’s straightforward: you receive a code on the device and type it back into the computer.

“The main advantage of this system is that it splits the security between the independent security device and a voter’s computer or mobile device. A computer is a hugely powerful, all-purpose machine running billions of lines of code that no one really understands, whereas the independent security device has a much, much smaller code base and is not susceptible to viruses.”

The researchers contend that their separate e-voting device, when paired with voters’ personal computers, will allow citizens to vote without governments having to take additional steps to protect results from home computers already infected with malware. According to the researchers, about 20 to 40 percent of computers throughout the world are infected with malware, usually unbeknownst to users.

“This is currently the only piece of work that addresses a core problem of e-voting – namely, that someone may have viruses or other malware on their computer,” Birmingham researcher Gurchetan Grewal said. “For example, the system in Estonia, where they have already introduced online voting, does not deal with this potentially undetectable source of vote manipulation or breach of voter privacy.”

U.S. blows billions trying to control Afghan opium production

The United States has spent years and billions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to stem drug production in Afghanistan. A new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reveals, however, that the war-torn nation is the “global leader” in opium cultivation despite U.S. efforts.

According to the new SIGAR report out Thursday, opium production in Afghanistan is currently at a 12-year high.

“The U.S. has provided $8.4 billion for counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, and the country is the global leader in illicit opium cultivation and production,” the quarterly report said.

The SIGAR report breaks down U.S. counternarcotic funding to Afghanistan thusly:

Congress appropriated most of these funds through the Department of Defense Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities (DOD CN) Fund ($3.0 billion), the Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) ($1.6 billion), the Economic Support Fund (ESF) ($1.5 billion) to encourage farmers to plant crops other than poppy, and a portion of the State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account ($2.1 billion).

Despite the massive amounts of spending, U.S. intervention is having little effect in preventing drug production or use within the country.

In 2013, Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007. One hectare accounts for about 2.5 acres.

By 2014, the year for which the most up to date opium production numbers are available, Afghan farmers cultivated 224,000 hectares of opium poppy.

Each year, the SIGAR report says, Afghanistan produces about 13 million tons of the drug, which is a precursor to heroin.

According to experts on the matter, U.S. funds used to encourage farmers to grow other crops in the region could actually be increasing Afghan opium production. For instance, farm equipment donated to Afghan farmers to make it easier for them to plant other crops routinely makes its way into poppy fields.

Inspector General John Sopko told lawmakers last year that the U.S. must rethink its current costly and ineffective opium eradication strategy in the country.

“In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,” he told lawmakers at the time. “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last 12 years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”

View the SIGAR report below.

DHS Secretary: Questions about Americans’ privacy are ‘beyond my competence’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday grilled DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about the government’s collection of U.S. communications data from third party service providers. Asked by Paul if the 4th Amendment “applies to third party records,” Johnson refused to answer.

“I’m not sure what you mean by third party records,” the DHS official responded to Paul’s query.

“Telephone company records,” Paul clarified.

“Uhhh, you’re asking me a legal question,” Johnson said with a chuckle before being cut off by the senator.

“Well it’s a pretty big question,” Paul said.

“I’m sorry, senator, I’m not sure I know how to answer that,” Johnson said.

Paul rephrased the question, “Do you believe the government has the right to have bulk collection of records from millions of individuals without a warrant?”

“Ahh, I see,” Johnson said, before “respectfully” asserting, “That is beyond my competence as the secretary of Homeland Security to answer in any intelligent legal way. I wouldn’t want to hazard a legal judgement on that.”

“Here’s the problem, though, your agency is in charge of cooperating and being part of this,” Paul shot back. “And that’s the whole debate we have in our country is over whether we should do this.”

The lawmaker noted that tech companies are choosing to increase encryption standards—something that Johnson and other top law enforcement officials have decried— as a direct result of the federal government’s abuses of users’ 4th Amendment rights.

“I would propose that there is no person named Verizon, so you do not have an individualized warrant under the Fourth Amendment when to say to Mr. Verizon we want hundreds of millions of records. And this is a debate, and it’s an important one,” Paul said. “And if we’re going to complain about encryption, and we’re going to complain about individuals wanting privacy, we really need to have a thorough discussion of the Fourth Amendment and the complaints by many of us that you’re doing something without a warrant.”

Paul went on to note that despite being, “one of the biggest civil libertarians there is,” he’s all for allowing law enforcement to access Americans’ digital communications data as long as they have individual warrants for the information being sought.

“Get a warrant with someone’s name on it. If it doesn’t work well, put more judges there and have them on the phone 24 hours a day,” Paul said. “We do it for the police, the police don’t go into a home, unless there’s a commotion going on or imminent danger, the police stand on the curb at three in the morning and they call a judge.

“We should do the same for American citizens,” Paul added. “That’s why we’re mad, and that’s why people are attempting to encrypt information is to prevent the government from doing illegal searches of our records.”

Johnson rebutted Paul’s remarks, saying, “The marketplace is demanding deeper and deeper encryption into places where the warrant authority of the government does not extend.”

Paul again reminded him that calls for deeper encryption are a response to “overzealous” government “collecting all of our records.”

ACLU app makes recording police encounters easier than ever

Want to make sure that your encounters with police are recorded and made available to potential witnesses who could testify on your behalf if officer misconduct ensues? There’s an app for that.

The California chapter of the Americans Civil Liberties Union has produced a new smartphone app that allows user to record their interactions with police and automatically sends the videos to an ACLU database for preservation. According to its creators, the app ensures that footage is preserved even if officers destroy the cellular device being used to record.


“We’re merging the power of technology with the power of the ACLU and the power of the people,” Hector Villagra, the executive director for the ACLU of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times. “We are so proud to put an innovative new tool in people’s hands, empowering people to know, to assert and to protect their rights.”

In addition to recording and preserving videos, the Mobile Justice app includes a function to allow users to call for their own backup— in the form of other nearby Mobile Justice users— at the scene of a police encounter to further encourage officers to act professionally.

Here’s how the ACLU describes the app’s functions:

RECORD

To start recording, simply hold down the camera button on the outside of your phone, or open the app and hit the red ‘Record’ button and the app will use your phone’s camera to record both audio and video. To stop recording, simply tap the screen. As soon as you stop recording, the video will be automatically sent to the ACLU.

After each recording you will be prompted to fill out a short survey. You can bypass the survey by simply pressing cancel. However, we encourage you to fill it out, so we can learn more about what you witnessed. Required fields in the survey are marked ‘Required.’ If you are unsure of the information asked in the survey, simply mark ‘Unsure.’ Finally, press the ‘Submit Incident Report’ button to send your survey to the ACLU.

You can also test the record function by clicking on ‘Test’. The video captured in test mode will not be submitted to the ACLU.

WITNESS

This feature allows you to know if people around you are getting stopped by the law enforcement. When others in your area use Mobile Justice CA, you will get a message reporting where the encounter is happening. If the dot by this feature is green, it means the ‘Witness’ feature is activated. If the dot is red it means the ‘Witness’ feature is not activated and you will not receive reports on where officer activity is happening. This feature is especially useful for community groups who monitor law enforcement activity.

ALERTS

This feature allows you to keep up-to-date with important local and statewide alerts and events hosted by your local ACLU affiliate. To enable or disable this function, go to the ‘Settings’ tab of this app.

“As we’ve seen in headlines over the previous few months, recordings by members of the public is a crucial check on police abuse,” Sothern California ACLU staff attorney Peter Bibring said. “We’ve seen a number of examples of high-profile incidents of abuse and unlawful shootings or killings that never would have come to light if someone wouldn’t have pulled out their phone and taken video.”

Individuals who believe that have witnessed or become the victim of police misconduct can use the app to “complete an incident report and send it to the ACLU for review, along with their contact information, for follow-up.”

In an effort to help users approach interactions with police from a position of constitutional knowledge the Mobile Justice app includes ACLU “Know Your Rights” publications,” including an overview of the rights individuals have when stopped by law enforcement.”

Currently, versions of the ACLU’s Mobile Justice apps are available for Android and IOS users in Oregon, Nebraska, Mississippi, Missouri, New York and California. Developers say more states will soon be added to the list.

Clinton: We must undo criminal justice policies I once supported

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that it is time to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system to “end to the era of mass incarceration.” But just over two decades ago, Clinton helped to put many current criminal justice policies in place by advocating for her husband’s plan to put more police on the streets and ramp up us prison construction.

“We need to restore balance to our criminal justice system,” Clinton said at Columbia University in New York.

Clinton said that current unrest in Baltimore is a symptom of Americans’ failure to “to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice” in the nation.

“There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes,” she said.

In order to change the system, Clinton said the nation must adopt policies aimed at lowering its record incarceration rates and do a better job of holding police accountable.

“There is something wrong when the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve breaks down as far as it has in many of our communities,” Clinton said, calling for police body cams to become “the norm everywhere.”

“That will improve transparency and accountability; it will help protect good people on both sides of the lens.”

Clinton also applauded GOP presidential rival Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for his longstanding dedication to U.S. criminal justice reform.

In return, Paul pointed out that Clinton is advocating the dismantling of criminal justice policies “she cheerfully supported as First Lady.”

“Earlier today, Hillary Clinton proposed various criminal justice reform ideas in an attempt to undo some of Bill Clinton’s work—the same work she cheerfully supported as First Lady,” said a statement from his campaign. “Not only is Hillary Clinton trying to undo some of the harm inflicted by the Clinton administration, she is now emulating proposals introduced by Senator Rand Paul over the last several years, and we welcome her to the fight.”

Indeed, in 1994 Clinton spoke in support of her husband’s major crime bill designed to expand prisons and increase sentencing requirements in the U.S.

“This bill will put more police on the streets, would have locked up violent offenders so they can never could get out again, would have given more prison construction money available to the states as well as the federal government,” she said at the time.

Parent, Gun Group sue school district over open carry ban for permitted gun owners

A Michigan 2nd Amendment group and a local parent have teamed up to sue the Ann Arbor school district over a policy enacted last month which they say contradicts state law and the Constitution by banning firearms on school grounds.

The policy was enacted after a man caused alarm last month when he legally open carried his firearm to his little sister’s choir concert at Pioneer High School. After speaking to the police and confirming that he was legally able to carry the weapon, the man was allowed to go about his business without incident.

That’s because Michigan state law dictates that concealed carry license holders may carry their firearms in “pistol-free zones” as long as they are not concealed.

But the law didn’t stop Ann Arbor school officials from changing the school’s firearm policies because of last month’s “alarming” incident.

Under their new policy, any sighting of a weapon on school property constitutes an emergency.

“Our teachers and school leaders have incredible responsibility already, how can we possibly determine the intention of a gun-carrier on campus, to sort out the ‘good guys’ from those with malicious intent,” Superintendent Jeanice Swift said in a statement. “The presence of guns in schools runs contrary to everything we are wired for in education, and is counterproductive to maintaining a rich, productive, and healthy learning environment for our children.”

But the group Michigan Gun Owners and parent Ulysses Wong, in a lawsuit filed Monday, contend that the district’s new policy violates gun rights granted under Michigan law and U.S. Constitution.

“We have those rights that were granted to us — that big, long word ‘inalienable’ comes up. Those are rights that we were born with, and now people want to take these rights away,” Michigan Gun Owners President Mike Borders told WWJ Newsradio 950.

“Our ideal situation is that the Ann Arbor school district, and any other school district, that thinks they can pass and enact their own laws to circumvent the state law that they will be set straight in their ways in the state court system,” Michigan Gun Owners President Mike Borders told WWJ Newsradio 950.

Young Americans want a Democrat in the White House in 2016

The results of a new Harvard Institute of Politics poll show that GOP presidential candidates have some work to do if they hope to capture the youth vote in 2016. A solid majority of 18-to-29-year-olds want a Democrat in the Oval Office following the next presidential election.

Overall, 55 percent of likely voters in the demographic are hoping that the Democrats retain control of the White House in 2016, compared to 40 percent who say it’s time for Republican leadership.

Support for a Democratic president in 2016 is particularly high among young minority voters, with 87 percent of young blacks saying they’d prefer a left-of-center president and 68 percent of young Hispanics holding the same view.

Among young white voters, meanwhile, a majority (53 percent) said they’d like to see a Republican elected in the next election. Forty-one percent of young whites plan to support a Democrat.

Among the majority of young voters who plan to support a Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton is a solid frontrunner.

From the Harvard Institute of Politics:

Among potential Democratic primary voters (definite, probable or 50-50; n=619) a hypothetical match-up showed Hilary Clinton (47%) with a commanding lead over potential candidates Elizabeth Warren (11%), Joe Biden (8%), Martin O’Malley (3%), Jim Webb (2%), and Bernie Sanders (1%), with 28% undecided.

A clear frontrunner has yet to emerge among Republican supporters.

Again from the Institute of Politics:

In a hypothetical match-up, Ben Carson captured ten percent, closely followed by Rand Paul (8%), Jeb Bush (7%), Mike Huckabee (7%), Scott Walker (5%), Sarah Palin (5%), Ted Cruz (5%), Chris Christie (4%), Rick Perry (3%), Rick Santorum (3%), Marco Rubio (2%), Carli Fiorina (2%), Bobby Jindal (1%), George Pataki (1%), Mike Pence (0%) and Lindsay Graham (0%) – with 36% undecided.

The data underscore perceptions that the GOP has a problem with youth and minority outreach. But, based on youth polling in recent previous presidential elections, the GOP is gaining support among the demographic.

When Obama ran against John McCain in 2008, 66 percent of young voters said they wanted a Democratic president compared to 32 percent who supported the GOP candidate. In the 2012 election, 60 percent supported Obama while 37 percent of young voters favored challenger Mitt Romney.

The gradual increase in youth support for the GOP, said Institute of Politics polling director John Della Volpe, is a sign that young voters could be “up for grabs” in 2016.

“There are plenty of opportunities for Republicans to make inroads with the generation,” he said, according to McClatchy. “If Republicans can hold the Democrat nominee to less than 60 percent of the young vote nationally, their chances are dramatically improved for a Republican Electoral College win, in my opinion.”

Patriot Act reauthorization unveiled

Privacy advocates are decrying legislation designed to enact modest reforms at the National Security Agency while reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.

House Judiciary Committee leaders revealed a new version of the USA Freedom Act Tuesday, a bill that would change the nation’s intelligence powers more drastically than any legislation in the past decade.

The legislation sets the stage for debate between lawmakers over NSA privacy concerns not addressed in the reforms provided ahead of the June expiration of the Patriot Act authorizations.

Among the Patriot Act provisions set to expire is Section 215, which provides the National Security Agency authorization for its bulk collection of digital communications data. That provision was met with public outrage following former defense contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks.

In its current form, the Freedom Act would reauthorize the NSA’s snooping powers with certain restrictions on how the agency can use the powers including implementing a warrant process through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to search through specific records and requiring the agency to store the records through a third party.

A version of the bill introduced last year was initially embraced by U.S. privacy advocates because of its reforms but quickly criticized as lawmakers watered down privacy protections in an attempt to get the legislation passed.

This go-around, lawmakers can expect similar pushback from privacy groups. The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday shot down the current iteration of the Freedom Act Just after it was unveiled.

“The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform. Congress should let Section 215 sunset as it’s scheduled to, and then it should turn to reforming the other surveillance authorities that have been used to justify bulk collection,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director.

Still, the Freedom Act is better for privacy advocates than a Patriot Act authorization introduced last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That bill, praised by many members of the GOP establishment, would extend Patriot Act provisions with no additional checks on the government’s spying powers.

Energy official: Cyberattack could bring U.S. grid down

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said this week that, despite the federal government’s best efforts to “stay ahead of the bad guys,” the nation’s energy infrastructure remains “a major target of cyberattacks.”

“The energy infrastructure is a major target of cyberattacks. That is increasing in frequency and perhaps source,” Moniz, said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

According to Moniz, U.S. natural gas pipelines represent a particularly weak link in the infrastructure chain.

“The natural gas system, the distribution pipes, are a big issue,” he said. “About half of the distribution pipes in the country are 50 years old or older, so that’s a very obvious area.”

According to the energy official, small gas distribution pipelines that carry fuel to gas customers are aging and at capacity. Some high-volume pipelines, meanwhile, remain “underutilized” despite the U.S. shale boom of the past decade.

Updating the pipelines would be a costly endeavor, the official said.

“If you look at aging infrastructure, the estimate just to replace all of the very old – like 50 years and older – natural gas distribution pipes, for both environmental methane leaks and safety reasons, is estimated at a quarter trillion dollars,” Moniz explained.

Beyond aging infrastructure and the possibility of cyberattacks threatening the nation’s energy supply, Moniz said that extreme weather could also pose big threats. Still, the official noted, cyberattacks occur more frequently than grid-down national disasters.

“We certainly identify it as one of the major risks; extreme weather, cyber. By the way physical attacks we’ve seen on the grid and it’s obviously a widely distributed and therefore somewhat exposed system.”

Moniz said that the U.S. has not yet suffered a major disruption in energy infrastructure but added that “it’s not for lack of people trying.”

“You’ve just got to stay ahead of the bad guys all the time,” he said.

What’s the deal with Rand Paul’s latest drone remarks?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday defended President Barack Obama against criticism over the accidental killing of innocent hostages in a January strike near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Media outlets have reported that a strike on an al-Qaida stronghold near Pakistan earlier this year killed American Dr. Warren Weinstein and an Italian man named Giovanni Lo Porto. The White House said last week that the president was briefed on the botched CIA operation two weeks ago and the administration issued a brief apology for the loss of innocent life Thursday.

Given Paul’s past spirited criticisms of U.S. drone policy under the Obama administration, media outlets wasted no time asking the 2016 presidential contender to weigh in on the issue.

But despite the Kentucky lawmaker’s aversion to allowing the U.S. government to violate American citizens’ due process with drone technology (most famously displayed during a 13-hour filibuster in 2013), he says he welcomes the U.S. of drones on the battlefield.

“There is a valuable use for drones and, as much as I’m seen as an opponent of drones, in military and warfare, they do have some value,” Paul told “Fox and Friends.”

Paul also said that he hopes that the latest reports of a botched drone strike isn’t the result of the armed forces replacing human intel with drone strikes.

“I’ve been an opponent of using drones about people not in combat; however, if you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat,” Paul said, adding that the abductors we’re “in a warzone and probably got what was coming to them.”

The lawmaker also said that he believes President Obama was “trying to do the right thing” by ordering the botched strike.

“The world is so partisan, I tend not to want to blame the President for the loss of life here,” he told the Fox cast.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has long criticized Paul as an isolationist, took advantage of the Kentucky lawmaker’s apparent effort to clarify his position on the use of drones on the battlefield. On Twitter, the South Carolina senator insinuated that Paul had flip-flopped on the drone issue, saying: “Glad to see your new position on drones/targeting Americans who join al-Qaeda & affiliated groups. They do so at their own peril.”

Paul also caught flack from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who pointed out that the Kentucky senator’s current stance regarding due process in war zones doesn’t jibe with earlier his statements.

“[I]f his big maverick view is now reduced to ‘no drone killings of Americans on US soil,’ it’s hardly interesting,” Greenwald said on Twitter.

In a separate tweet, Greenwald mused: “I don’t get his strategy: he’s never going to attract GOP hawks, so why dilute what makes him interesting/unique?”

Indeed, Paul has previously criticized the Obama administration for killing Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and terror sympathizer killed in a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

Certainly voters haven’t seen the last of Paul the presidential candidate having to reconcile his current political situation with remarks made when he was Paul the libertarian GOP firebrand. If he does so without walking back on too much of his libertarian-ish background, he may be in a position to draw broad support. If not, he may join Mitt Romney on the list of presidential candidates who’ve had their faces printed on pairs of flip flops.

Police chief suggests Texas will become a post-apocalyptic hellscape following open carry passage

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has spoken out against the passage of open carry legislation in the Texas House. The lawman’s frantic condemnations of the legislation suggest that he expects his city to resemble a scene from John Carpenter’s “Escape From L.A.” once the bill takes effect.

The Texas legislation would allow residents to carry a handgun openly on their person without fear of being harassed by police officers. The bill would require all carriers to obtain a permit but would bar cops from stopping a law-abiding citizen who is carrying openly unless a crime had been committed.

For Acevedo and other police officials in the state, the inability to stop residents for nothing more than exercising 2nd Amendment rights is a problem.

The Austin chief vented last week via social media:

Yesterday’s amendment to Texas’ Open Carry Legislation is beyond belief and Aiken to open season for gang members, drug cartels, outlaw motor cycle gangs and any other criminal or extremist to defy the law with impunity, just brilliannt! If criminals, drug cartels, and extremists had a seat at the policy writing table they couldn’t have come up with s better Amendment.

By prohibiting law enforcement from stopping or detaining to check for CHL, Texas is authorizing within our state lines any and all criminals to carry a firearm. My heart goes out to domestic violence victims and the victims of violent crimes in our State. Through this amendment we are facilitating the victimization of the people we are sworn to serve, protect and lead.

Here is a scenario, next time groups face off in our Capital City at the Capitol, Klan with their hoods on, Panthers with their faces covered, ISIS sympathizers with their faces covered and just about any other extremist group, armed with firearms authorized by Open-Carry, law enforcement will have absolutely no authority to ensure the people who are armed as they wish……….why bother common sense has officially died and writing any further would be fruitless.

Texas is currently one of just a handful of states that prohibit open carry, the regulations for which are usually more lax than for concealed carry for pedestrians. And, so far, none of the other states have endured Klan versys Panthers versus ISIS versus cartels shootouts on their capitol lawns.

For less hyperbolic police officials and Texas Democrats, the problem is less about visions of a doomsday scenario and centers more on a belief that carrying weapons in urban centers is different than carrying in rural areas. The Texas bill doesn’t allow cities to opt out of the open carry allowance.

“Rural open carry is different than densely populated open carry,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) who proposed the amendment. “If you put this to a vote in big cities, I think people are going to say resoundingly no.”

The bill heads next to the state’s Senate and, if signed into law, would take effect in January 2016.

Can small-government candidates capitalize on American dissatisfaction?

New polling data revealing that a firm majority of Americans believe elected officials and bureaucrats wield too much power could spell good news for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other presidential contenders vowing to shrink the size of federal government.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Americans recently polled by Rasmussen report that they are getting tired of living in a warfare/welfare/nanny state.

According to the polling data, 62 percent of respondents said that “there is too much government power and too little individual freedom in the United States today.” That’s compared to just 10 percent who feel oppositely and 16 percent who believe the balance is just about right. Twelve percent of those polled said they weren’t sure.

The Rasmussen numbers back up findings buried in a Pew Research poll out earlier this month. That poll, which sought to measure American trust in government open data initiatives, recorded a paltry 23 percent of respondents saying “they trust the federal government to do the right thing at least most of the time.”

The findings shouldn’t be particularly surprising, considering that Pew, Rasmussen and other respected polling agencies have long reported a lack of faith in voter confidence with government.

George Washington University political management professor Lara Brown explained of the Pew findings in a recent piece for U.S. News & World Report:

[S]ince 1973, the only time more Americans trusted rather than distrusted government was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. While there have been ups and downs, which appear to be inversely related to the monthly unemployment rate, it’s clear that the back-to-back shocks of Vietnam and Watergate took their toll on the public’s perception of what Washington can effectively do and how corrupt partisan politics can be.

Beyond this, the rise of polarization shows up when one clicks the “trust by party” button. Prior to 1992, the percentages of Republicans and Democrats who trusted the government tended to move together, meaning that while Democrats trusted the government more than Republicans when Jimmy Carter was president, their level of trust fell with the Republicans’ trust over the course of his presidency. The same dynamic occurs during Ronald Reagan’s presidency — Republicans trusted the government more than Democrats, but both gained and lost trust in relation to historical events and political accomplishments.

Heading into primary season, a GOP candidate with a message focused on reigning in government is going to benefit from already lacking faith in government among Republicans in addition to whatever last-ditch effort President Obama makes to shore up his “progressive” image in the remaining days of his tenure.

On the other hand, there are candidates like Jeb Bush, a former Florida Governor and a lifetime member of a political dynasty.

The Washington Post pointed out Friday:

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush supports President Obama’s trade deal, praises his management of the National Security Agency and agrees that Congress should have moved faster to hold a vote on new attorney general Loretta Lynch.

And that’s all since last week.

It’s an unusual approach for Bush to take in seeking the nomination of a conservative party that mostly loathes the current president. The former Florida governor has gone out of his way at times to chime in on issues where he agrees with Obama — bolstering his attempt to be a softer-toned kind of Republican focused on winning a majority of the vote in a general election.

Of course, if public opinion has any merit, Bush should worry about making it onto the 2016 presidential ballot (nor should Hillary Clinton). Americans, after all, report fading trust in institutions in general. And though pollsters haven’t included political dynasties alongside lists of institutions, including banks, unions and government entities, classifying Bush and Clinton as political institutions isn’t quite a stretch.

Partisanship at a glance: Americans are electing legislators with little local loyalty

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In the above visual, researchers have drawn a dot for each representative in Congress and connected the dots of members who vote together. The dots are place according to the frequency with which members vote along party lines. From PLOS.

Researchers from the Santa Fe Institute have created a striking visualization of how the U.S. Congress has become increasingly polarized since the 1950s. And, according to their findings, as congressional division has increased, legislative productivity has fallen.

Geographer Clio Andris, a former Santa Fe Institute postdoctoral fellow now at Pennsylvania State University, set out at the local level trying to determine if gerrymandered House districts could increase congressional cooperation because of their similarities.

“I found none,” Andris said.

In fact, members of Congress often agree with colleagues from the same party across the country rather than their next-door neighbors across the aisle.

During the 111th Congress, for instance, Democratic Rep. Phil Hare, who represented Illinois’ 17th congressional district, voted the same as Rep. Aaron Shock, a Republican from the state’s 18th district, 904 times. But Hare voted the same as Rep. Mazie Hitono, a Hawaii Democrat, 1,566 times.

Andris contends that partisan loyalty trumps geography, often to the detriment of regional diversity. In other words, it leads to a political situation where voters’ unique challenges, lifestyles or backgrounds are cast aside in favor of neat red and blue boxes, whether they like it or not.

The outcome of increased partisanship is a decrease in the amount of productive legislation Congress proposes and votes on and an accompanying decrease in voter satisfaction.

“Fewer ideas [are] being explored,” said Santa Fe Institute postdoctoral fellow Marcus Hamilton. “It seems to be that congressional innovation is suffering most because of partisanship.”

But, the research reveals, U.S. voters are either ignorant or indifferent (or, as another study recently show, vote like sports fans):

While U.S. voters have been selecting increasingly partisan representatives for 40 years, public opinion of the U.S. Congress has been steadily declining. This decline suggests that voters cast their ballots on a local basis for increasingly partisan representatives whom they view as best representing their increasingly partisan concerns, leaving few if any moderate legislators to connect parties for a more cohesive Congress. Elected representatives are increasingly unable to cooperate at a national Congressional level but are re-elected at least 90% of the time, reflecting an evasion of collective responsibility.

A Gallup poll from last year similarly illustrated the average voter’s cognitive dissonance. The polling agency’s annual “Mood of the Nation” poll showed that 46 percent of Americans would vote for their Congressional incumbents again. But only 17 percent of those questioned said that “most members of Congress” should be re-elected.

If Congress sucks, the person you put there probably isn’t without fault. And if you’re a straight-ticket voter, you share as much of the blame for the current state of the nation.

Rand Paul gets ‘Constitutional Champion’ award, is slammed by establishment Republicans

Presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been getting criticized pretty heavily by his peers in the establishment wing of the GOP for his policy positions — some of them the same policy positions that just earned him a Constitutional Champion prize from The Constitution Project.

The 2016 presidential candidate received the award from the political watchdog group dedicated to fighting the erosion of Americans’ constitutionally protected civil liberties. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also received the award Wednesday.

Ginny Sloan, who serves as president of The Constitution Project, wrote of Paul in a Huffington Post piece: “Sen. Paul has … been a vocal critic of NSA spying. He introduced legislation declaring that ‘the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution shall not be construed to allow any U.S. government agency to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause,’ and has made it clear that he will vote against any extension of the Patriot Act provisions expiring in June.”

Sloan also noted: “Sen. Paul is an ardent defender of the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Along with Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.), he has been outspoken in his insistence that the Obama administration seek authorization from Congress in order to carry out military actions against Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq, disputing the assertion that the president as commander-in-chief could act alone. Finally, six months after the airstrikes began, President Obama submitted a request for war authority to Congress, and the Senate is expected to take up the issue in the coming weeks.”

Of course, not everyone has such high praise for Paul.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lashed out against Paul Wednesday on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” calling the Kentucky lawmaker “the worst possible candidate” on foreign policy.

“Sen. Paul is the worst possible candidate of the 20 or so that are running on the most important issue, which is national security.”

McCain added that Paul “does not have an understanding of the needs or the threats of United States national security.”

So who does McCain think is the best candidate?

“Lindsey Graham. Lindsey Graham. First, last and always,” he said.

Funny, Paul mentioned Graham without saying his name during his acceptance speech Wednesday.

“One unapologetic senator, who I’ve had a few rounds with, said if you’re not talking to terrorists, why are you worried?” Paul said. “He goes on to say that he would censor the mail, if he could. Really? This senator goes on to say that if you’re an American citizen, and you ask for a lawyer, you just tell ‘em to shut up. Really? Have we stooped so low that that is our standard? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear? It’s a long way from innocent until proven guilty.”

Norquist: Follow Kansas on tax policy

Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist said in a recent interview that states, and then the federal government, ought to follow Kansas’ lead in ending income taxes. Reigning taxation and government spending, he argued, is the only way the U.S. will return to a state of economic competitiveness.

Norquist made the remarks as he joined Reason’s Nick Gellespie for a promotional interview for his latest book, “End the IRS Before It Ends Us: How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America.”

“Kansas is the future. Kansas is the model,” Norquist said. “It became a Reagan-Republican House, Senate and governorship only with Governor Brownback’s governorship. He … passed a law that fazes out the income tax over time. As revenue comes in from economic growth — more than 2 percent — you ratchet down the income tax.”

Norquist also pointed out that there was no federal income tax for most of the nation’s history and that many states are currently realizing that they don’t need to tax residents’ earnings to stay in the black.

“In our 50 states, nine don’t have income taxes,” he said. “I think in the next 15 years it will be 25 that don’t have income taxes.”

Norquist based his prediction on the number of Americans currently voting with their feet.

“For those of us who think small government and low taxes is a better idea, guess what? Most people are with us,” he said. “People are moving from high-tax states to low-tax states.”

Government officials really want easy access to your digital data

Government officials are continuing to ratchet up hyperbole about the dangers of tech giants like Apple and Google making it impossible for law enforcement agents to decrypt cellphones seized in criminal investigations.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday that heightened encryption on digital communications devices are making it easier for criminals and potential terrorists to operate throughout the U.S.

“The current course we are on, toward deeper and deeper encryption in response to the demands of the marketplace, is one that presents real challenges for those in law enforcement and national security,” Johnson said during the cybersecurity-focused RSA conference in Silicon Valley.

“Encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity,” Johnson continued.

According to reports, the White House is currently putting together a report to urge tech companies to lower encryption standards to make it easier for law enforcement to access information on Americans’ digital devices.

The Homeland Security head said that the current situation is similar to if government had been unable to wiretap telephones after they became commonplace.

“I understand the importance of what encryption brings to privacy,” he said. “But, imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail.”

James Comey, who heads up the FBI, has made similar fearmongering statements about the need for the companies to lower their encryption standards.

“Tech execs say privacy should be the paramount virtue,” Comey told lawmakers last month. “When I hear that, I close my eyes and say, ‘Try to image [sic] what the world looks like where pedophiles can’t be seen, kidnapper[s] can’t be seen, drug dealers can’t be seen.’”

Calls for weakened encryption on commercially available devices are also coming from other levels of government.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. claimed Sunday that Apple’s latest encryption updates are going to make it the go-to company for criminals and terrorists in search of mobile devices.

“Apple has created a phone that is dark, that cannot be accessed by law enforcement even when a court has authorized us to look at its contents,” he said on “The Cats Roundtable.”

“That’s going to be the terrorists’ communication device of choice,” Vance added.

Vance said the encryption standards will hurt law enforcement in the near term and eventually become recognized as a “terrible disservice to the public.”

“For them to consciously, for profit and gain, to thwart those legal constitutional efforts, shame on them,” he said.

Feds launch app to help consumers avoid food waste

Agriculture Department officials want Americans to pay less attention to those “use by” dates on food because the overly cautious expiration dates lead to massive amounts of food waste.

“Many products may have a sell-by date of say April 1 but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months,” the USDA’s Chris Bernstein said in a recent video. “And by throwing those out, what you’re doing, is you’re contributing to food waste in the United States.”

According to the government agency, every American wastes about 36 pounds of food each month — that accounts for about 21 percent of the food available in the U.S.

USDA officials hope that the release of a new “FoodKeeper” app will help Americans do a better job of conserving food and storing perishables in the best way for longevity and food safety.

“This application will help reduce food waste by showing users how to store foods properly, and reminding them to use items before they are likely to spoil,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills.”

According to the USDA’s website, the app has the following features:

  • Specific product pages for more than 400 items. These offer users storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
  • Cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. Cooking advice is offered to ensure users prepare these products in ways that eliminate foodborne bacteria.
  • Calendar integration, which allows users to enter the purchase date for products and offers notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.
  • Users can search the application with swipe gestures or voice control.
  • If a user has not found the information they are looking for about a product, they can submit a question to USDA using the ‘Ask Karen’ feature of the application. ‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

The application, which could prove beneficial to penny pinchers and preppers, is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Michigan priest urges parishioners to arm themselves against a dangerous society

A Catholic priest from Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently encouraged his flock to arm themselves against worldly dangers via concealed carry because, “We’re not in Mayberry anymore, Toto.”

The Rev. Edward Fride announced during a sermon at Christ the King church last month that the parish would be sponsoring classes to help parishioners earn concealed carry permits in response to an uptick in crime in the area.

Fride sent a letter to parishioners using “a bad mix of two entertainment references” to explain why the church is encouraging concealed carry after some churchgoers questioned the religious merit of holding the classes.

From the letter:

Mayberry was a fictitious, idyllic rural American city in which the public safety needs were met by a kind-hearted sheriff and a clueless but well-intentioned deputy. The only “threat” to public safety was a bumbling, genial ne’er-do-well who was so accustomed to staying in jail that he had his own cell, which was never locked. The show, The Andy Griffith Show, was so popular that it had two spin offs, Mayberry RFD and Gomer Pyle, USMC. It was popular because it showed a kind of life that everybody wished were true, no threats, everything is fine, everybody’s perfectly safe, etc. There is no crisis that cannot be solved by hugs and Aunt Bea’s cooking. The “Toto” reference is to a famous line from The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy, who comes from a rural Kansas version of Mayberry, but suddenly finds herself in a dangerous environment of witches, deadly flying monkeys, (I still have nightmares about those wretched and heinous beasts!) and real threats to her life. She begins to comprehend this and says to her cute dog: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!” It is very common for Christians to simply assume that they live in Mayberry, trusting that because they know the Lord Jesus, everything will always be fine and nothing bad can happen to them and their families. Those who have followed the Lord Jesus for more than 20 minutes, however, have often experienced first-hand that the reality of living in a fallen universe can be very different. How to balance faith, reality, prudence, and trust is one of those critical questions that we struggle with all our lives. Pretending we are in Mayberry, while we are clearly not, can have very negative consequences for ourselves and those we love, especially those we have a responsibility to protect. If we are not in Mayberry, is there a real threat?

Fride goes on to explain that the ratio of police to criminals has been tipping in an unfavorable direction in the area for decades and a recent round of budget cuts has exacerbated the problem. The suggestion that churches encourage their parishioners to arm themselves, he writes, comes directly from local police officers.

Again from Fride’s letter:

When the police are expressing the fact that they cannot now sufficiently cover the areas assigned to them and are explicitly encouraging people to arm themselves and carry, who is the expert in the field of our protection that we should listen to more than them? Who knows more about the lack of safety than the ones who are formally tasked to attempt to provide it? Prudence requires taking their advice seriously. How close to home is this? A few weeks ago some of our folks had their next door neighbor killed in a robbery. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

Fride also argues that recognizing threats is prudent and encouraged by the church:

The Church urges us to grow in our understanding and exercise of the virtues and in this case in particular, prudence is of paramount importance. So what is prudent in this situation? If those tasked by our society to protect us are telling us that they are no longer sufficiently able to do so, and they in point of fact are urging us to arm ourselves for our protection and the protection of our families, how could it possibly be prudent to ignore that? How could it be prudent to ignore their professional advice? Ignoring their advice would mean one of four things: you think that they are wrong, or you and your family are already adequately protected, or the odds are ‘ever in your favor’ against an attack occurring, or you have already decided not to defend yourself or family if attacked. As to the first, if you have hard data that puts you in a better place to make judgments about these issues than the police are, I’d love to see the data. As to the second, good for you. As to the third, risking your family’s safety on essentially a coin-toss approach is ludicrous and in fact ignores the police input. As to the fourth, I have known many pacifists in my earlier times with the Quaker peace groups, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc. Some of them were absolutists who would not defend themselves and their families in any attack situation. My response was that if the adults had made that decision, that was one thing, but no adult has the right to make that decision for a minor. Kids have an absolute right to expect their parents’ protection.

The priest concludes his letter with a common-sense appeal to parishioners:

So, the choice of course is yours. Each family must consider what it is prudent for them to do. We will offer the CPL class on two more Saturdays and it is my fervent hope that people will take advantage of it, for the reasons I have mentioned. I think it perfectly appropriate for the parish to offer this class because the protection of our families and our kids is of paramount importance to us. Since the police have informed us that it is naïve and simply wrong to think that they can adequately protect us, then we must take the necessary steps to do so. The steps must be reasoned steps and not simply knee jerk reactions. Several people have said to me, I’m afraid of guns. My response to one woman was, ‘well, how do you feel about rape?’ While that may seem extreme, when we chose against one option, we do, in a sense, empower the other. Ann Arbor was plagued by a serial rapist not long ago, no doubt every woman raped had thought it could never happen to her. The threat is real, fear is a choice. If we are adequately protected, fear need not be the reality. Our families, especially our kids, are the second most precious gift given to us by the Lord Jesus. He Himself being the greatest. How we respond to threat to this gift should be very seriously considered and it is my fervent hope and prayer that all the families in Christ the King will do so.

Read Fride’s letter to parishioners in full at the Detroit Free Press.

Clinton ‘surprised’ to learn small businesses are struggling

In the most recent example of her extreme ignorance, Hillary Clinton said that once she “began to dig,” she was surprised to find that U.S. small businesses are struggling.

“I want to be sure we get small businesses starting and growing in America again. We have stalled out. I was very surprised to see that when I began to dig into it,” she said during a speech in New Hampshire. “Because people were telling me this as I traveled around the country the last two years, but I didn’t know what they were saying and it turns out that we are not producing as many small businesses as we use to.”

The White House has refused to say whether it agrees with Clinton that U.S. small businesses are stalled.

“We’ll take a look at the statistics and get back to you,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, meanwhile, called Clinton out for expressing such surprise about the state of small businesses.

“At every turn, Hillary Clinton has supported top-down Washington-driven policies that have stacked the deck against small businesses,” Priebus said. “Hillary Clinton can’t possibly be a champion for everyday Americans when she doesn’t understand their most basic economic concerns and was ‘surprised’ to learn that small businesses are struggling.”