Conservative Book Club says the Constitution is still a bestseller

A growing number of Americans are evidently looking to brush up on their knowledge of the nation’s Constitution.

That’s according to a bestseller list created by one of the nation’s oldest conservative book clubs.

After more than 50 years of celebrating conservative publications that are too often shunned by the mainstream media’s more liberal arbiters of good literary taste, the Conservative Book Club recently began publishing a weekly conservative bestseller list.

“While the mainstream media tends to celebrate only books from the Left, the Conservative Book Club has provided a much-needed resource for readers interested in conservative politics and conservative values,” the book club says on its website.

“Our Weekly Conservative Bestseller List tells you what’s hot, what’s rising, and what’s got staying power in the world of conservative books,” the website also promises.

The inaugural edition of CBC’s top 10 bestseller list included one surprising addition that’s been around for more than two centuries: the nation’s Constitution. The document weighed in at No. 7 on a competitive list of highly marketed and recently released conservative books.

Paul Bedard, who originally noted the Constitution’s staying power as a conservative publication on his Washington Secrets blog, surmised that “Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid or the fight over Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law” might account for increased bulk sales of a particular pocket Constitution published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies.

He’s probably not far off in his assumption. But there’s also hope that a healthy portion of the buyers are disgruntled Americans who want to know their rights and to find ways to halt government abuses.

“We are pleased to see that The Constitution of the United States is still a bestseller after 239 years,” Christopher Malagisi, editor of the Conservative Book Club, told Bedard. “Perhaps President Obama should buy himself a copy as a reference guide.”

Here’s the complete CBC bestseller list:

  1. “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” by Chris Kyle (Publisher: William Morrow)
  1. “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of WWII’s Most Audacious General” by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt and Company)
  1. “Killing Jesus: A History” by Bill O’Reilly (Henry Holt and Company)
  1. “Duck Commander Devotions for Kids” by Korie Robinson (Thomas Nelson)
  1. “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy” by Mike Huckabee (St. Martin’s Press)
  1. “Rush Revere and the American Revolution: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans” by Rush Limbaugh (Threshold Editions)
  1. “The Constitution of the United States” by James Madison (National Center for Constitutional Studies)
  1. Inside ISIS: The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Threat by Benjamin Hall (Center Street Books)
  1. “George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution” by Brian Kilmeade (Sentinel)
  1. “You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.” by Ben Carson (Zondervan)

Alabama lawmakers want to strike law that makes it illegal for residents to teach minors to shoot handguns

Alabama is known as a pretty gun-friendly state. But a recent legislative proposal to make it easier for parents and mentors to teach youngsters proper handgun techniques is under fire from critics who say it will put handguns in the hands of minors.

Under current Alabama law, anyone younger than 18 is prohibited from handling a handgun. And a person found guilty of “delivering a pistol to a person under the age of 18 years …” could land in legal trouble.

Bills proposed in both chambers of the Alabama Legislature would amend the law to allow minors to use handguns for sporting and training purposes with the permission and supervision of a parent, guardian or spouse who is over 18.

“The intent is to basically allow a minor have the legal right to target practice, compete or take safety classes under strict supervision and controlled environment,” Alabama State Republican Rep. Corey Harbison, a sponsor of the House version of the legislation, told Personal Liberty.

Harbison and fellow sponsors, state GOP Reps. Ed Henry, Mick Hammond and Barry Moore, contend that most Alabamian firearm enthusiasts have probably broken the law at one point or another while introducing a young person to the joys of shooting sports.

“This is what most Alabamans do on a regular basis anyway. It’s just illegal,” added Harbison, who represents a largely rural district in Cullman, Alabama.

And according to the lawmaker, firearm-friendly Alabama is alone with regard to its handgun policy for minors.

“After speaking with the NRA, Alabama is the only state that does not allow a minor to carry a firearm in some type of controlled environment,” Harbison said, noting that even .22 handgun range competitions sponsored by the Boy Scouts violate the current handgun law.

“It’s technically illegal in Alabama because the law clearly says no one under the age of 18 can hold a handgun,” Harbison said. “A father cannot even legally take his son to target practice.”

The lawmakers’ proposal has come under fire from critics who argue that it could lead to armed teens roaming Alabama streets, ratcheting up handgun violence in the state. Among those concerned are local law enforcement officials.

“I’m concerned with the bill and have questions,” longtime Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper told The Cullman Times. “Specifically, the section that allows anyone over 18 years of age as a supervisor, without specifying that person’s qualifications or disqualification’s to be the adult overseeing this.”

With proper clarification, Culpepper said that he could probably support the legislation.

“I absolutely support the right of a parent or guardian to take a child hunting, or to teach them gun safety, but this just has some questions I’d really like to see answered first,” he said.

And the lawmakers are taking note.

“This bill is a work in progress at this point in time and I have requested a handful of changes from the bill’s sponsor,” Harbison said of the GOP lawmakers’ willingness to work with people worried about language in the legislation derided by critics as overly broad.

Alabama GOP Sen. Arthur Orr, who has sponsored similar legislation in the state Senate, has also noted that no language in either of the bills would affect federal law prohibiting minor handgun purchases. In fact, he said the supervised possession provision actually more closely resembles federal law.

Other language in the bills would reduce redundant paperwork firearm sellers currently must fill out in the state.

Cruz, Paul gaining ground in new GOP presidential poll

For now, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is benefiting from an early announcement that he will run for president in 2016, according to new polling data.

Public Policy Polling’s latest poll of likely Republican voters shows Cruz closing in on establishment GOP favorites and likely presidential contenders Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. Support for Cruz has jumped from 5 percent to 16 percent voter support in just over a month.

Walker, meanwhile, saw his support drop 5 percentage points over the past month, but he still leads the GOP pack at 20 percent of national support. Jeb Bush has 17 percent support among likely GOP voters.

Via PPP:

Cruz has really caught fire with voters identifying themselves as ‘very conservative’ since his announcement. After polling at only 11% with them a month ago, he now leads the GOP field with 33% to 25% for Walker and 12% for Carson with no one else in double digits. Last month Walker led with that group and almost all of the decline in his overall support over the last month has come within it as those folks have moved toward Cruz. Cruz’s name recognition with Republican voters has increased from 61% to 82% since his announcement.

The polling agency also noted that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has yet to officially announce whether he’ll run, has enjoyed favorable momentum in the past month. The Kentucky lawmaker, seen as a direct competitor for a portion of the libertarian-leaning GOP voters Cruz is wooing, jumped from 4 percent support to 10 percent in over the month.

While it’s still early, PPP says that the a crowded field for the 2016 GOP primary could mean that Republican voters are in for an experience similar to the party’s 2012 nomination fight.

“A couple of months ago Ben Carson was the hot thing in the field, now Ted Cruz is and Carson’s support is drying up. It’s very reminiscent of the boom and bust we saw with various candidates four years ago,” Dean Debnam, PPP president said of the results. “And Jeb Bush remaining steady as others rise and fall is also similar to how things went for Mitt Romney that cycle.”

D.C. lawmaker: The city’s anti-gun laws are needed to protect dignitaries

Firearm-hating politicians and pundits are ramping up hyperbole as Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to push legislation designed to strengthen Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights.

Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act, legislation aimed at rolling back some of the District of Columbia’s notoriously strict firearm regulations.

“In order to achieve the American Dream, people need to be able to live in safe communities and be able to protect themselves, their families and their properties from danger. The lawful exercise of the Second Amendment is part of what makes this possible,” Rubio said in a statement. “For years, the District of Columbia has infringed on its residents’ Second Amendment rights and rendered them vulnerable to criminals who could care less what the gun laws are.”

Washington Times opinion editor Emily Miller brought national attention to the city’s burdensome gun laws last year in a book titled “Emily Gets Her Gun,” a “personal story of how being a single, female victim of a home invasion drove her to try to obtain a legally registered gun in Washington, D.C.”

“The narrative — sometimes shocking, other times hilarious in its absurdity — gives the reader a real life understanding of how gun-control laws only make it more difficult for honest, law-abiding people to get guns, while violent crime continues to rise,” Miller’s publisher said of the book.

The Rubio/Jordan legislation would eliminate some of the city’s barriers to legal handgun ownership, allow out of state concealed carry permit holders to bring firearms to Washington and do away with the city’s firearm registration system.

Conservatives and the National Rifle Association have championed the bill.

But gun control advocates, including the White House and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), are deriding the legislative effort as an example of congressional and NRA interference into a matter they believe should be left to city officials.

“Gun laws that are made by the District of Columbia should be made by the District government,” press secretary Josh Earnest recently told reporters. “Home rule is important.”

Norton says that Washington, which doesn’t have a vote in Congress, is being bullied by the gun lobby.

“If Senator Rubio and Representative Jordan are concerned about the reach of the Second Amendment in the United States, there are many opportunities in the federal sector where current law bans their own constituents from possessing guns,” she said. “Rather than infringe on the democratic rights of the 650,000 District of Columbia residents, I urge them to turn their attention to the federal ban on guns in federal facilities.”

According to the delegate, the city’s strict gun regulations are also necessary to protect the political elite.

“We’re talking about the nation’s capital,” she said. “Every day our streets are flooded with foreign dignitaries and high-ranking public officials.”

Unemployed college grads can lose driver’s, professional licenses in many states

More and more Americans are getting bamboozled into taking out mountains of student loan debt for degrees that don’t always pay off increases. As that occurs, some are refusing to pay; others simply can’t. But in some states, defaulting on student loans can create problems that make it impossible for the borrowers to catch up on payments.

The average student loan debt burden for U.S. graduates is currently hovering around $30,000. But many college graduates throughout the country face considerably higher burdens after years of specialized training.

Libertarian columnist Jeff Berwick pointed out the collective magnitude of the problem, writing in a piece published by Personal Liberty earlier this year:

[S]ince the housing bubble collapsed, the focus has been on the college bubble to get people to spend four years of their lives getting mostly useless pieces of paper and going deeply into debt to “save the economy.” This has resulted in an explosion in student loan debt.

Student loan debt has now surpassed mortgage debt at the peak of the housing bubble in 2008.

Scarier is that only 56 percent of student loan debtors are currently making payments. Compare that to less than 10 percent of mortgagees who were delinquent when the housing bubble collapsed, and you can see this is a ticking time bomb.

Student loans have most recently blown through the headlines with news of a group of students refusing to pay loans for degrees that turned out to be worthless following federal scrutiny of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which closed its more than 100 Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech campuses last year.

Via The Washington Post:

On Tuesday, the strikers met with senior officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Education Department and Treasury Department to discuss having their loans discharged under a federal statute to protect college students from fraud.

The strikers are among 400 former Corinthian students to have filed what’s known as defense to repayment claims, an appeal to the Education Department to forgive their federal loans on the grounds that Corinthian broke the law. The department has broad authority to cancel loans when colleges close or commit fraud against students.

Some observers contend that the Corinthian students just might have a chance of getting some relief because of the college company’s shady practices. But that shouldn’t encourage other student loan debtors to follow suit.

Life can get pretty miserable for those who fall behind on payments and, after 270 days of nonpayment, default on student loans because of personal financial troubles. Remember, bankruptcy is not an option for student loan debt.

Defaulting on student loans often means:

  • Mandatory deductions from paychecks
  • Negative consequences to credit scores
  • Snowballing late fees and collections costs
  • Withholding of state and federal tax returns
  • Lawsuits

Worse yet, for student loan debtors living in at least 22 U.S. states, failure to repay student loans can lead to the loss of professional and driver’s licenses.

For instance, failure to repay student loans in Iowa can lead to the revocation of any state-issued license; Texas doctors and dentists who fail to pay can be shut down for the transgression; and Tennessee teachers can be barred from the classroom.

Bloomberg recently reported that Montana — where legislators are currently trying to change student loan debtor laws — “has suspended the driver’s licenses of 92 people for defaulting on their student loans.”

Iowa has been more prolific in punishing student loan debtors, revoking around 900 licenses up to 2012 when the process for student loan collections changed.

Montana state legislator Moffie Funk, who has sponsored legislation to change the state’s student loan laws, says taking away driver’s licenses in a state with little public transportation is a wrongheaded approach to collecting on delinquent student loans.

“It’s the most inappropriate consequence, because you are taking away their ability to eventually pay [their loans] back,” Funk said.

The lawmaker also contends that the laws make “criminals out of people who … have defaulted on their student loans.”

“It’s so punitive and so demeaning,” Funk said.

Group calls for disarming NYPD, removing officers from neighborhoods

A group calling itself “Disarm NYPD” wants the nation’s largest city to create cop-free zones and eventually prohibit New York City Police Department officers from carrying firearms.

According to the website “Waging Nonviolence,” the activists plan to team up with local activists and police watchdogs to pressure the NYPD to pull officers “from over-policed neighborhoods and then maintain these cop-free zones with alternative, community-based forms of conflict resolution.”

The group says it got the idea to push police out of New York neighborhoods from the group Take Back the Bronx, which in 2011 began protesting the NYPD on heavily policed blocks throughout the Bronx.

The group says it plans to use civilian patrols to monitor police activities in hopes that police “will become more hesitant to abuse their power and even retreat from neighborhoods because they don’t want to be incessantly monitored.”

“We want to use these copwatch patrol units … to keep the pressure on [the police] so they can back up,” one member of Disarm NYPD said. “And when they back up, we want to try to fill that space with something that can create new, revolutionary potentials. And we’d like everyone to take part in that.”

The group also wants the city’s cops to be disarmed.

“We feel that the police have proven that they’re not responsible enough to carry arms due to the fact that they’ve been killing people so consistently for so many decades,” an anonymous Disarm NYPD told the website. “We feel that they should be disarmed immediately.”

Colorado lawmaker wants to reaffirm residents’ right to record police

A Colorado legislative proposal would reaffirm the right of residents to film police officers by imposing up to $15,000 in civil penalties if an officer confiscates or destroys a civilian’s recording device or attempts to intimidate a citizen journalist.

The measure comes as part of a package of police oversight bills recently introduced in the Colorado Legislature.

“Primarily, it came up as a result of the number of news reports we’ve been seeing about police officers telling people, ‘Give me your camera,’ or taking the data away, and that is unacceptable conduct,” state Rep. Joe Salazar, a co-sponsor of the bill, told ABC7.

The legislation, which would force local municipalities to pay up when officers violate residents’ 1st Amendment rights, has garnered bipartisan support in the state. And Salazar and its supporters want to make clear that it isn’t meant to make officers’ jobs more difficult.

“It takes a very special person to be a police officer,” Salazar told local media. “We want to honor them; but at the same time, we have a few bad apples who need to be aware that their conduct now has major, major consequences.”

Still, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police has decried the legislation.

“There’s already an existing process,” said Wheat Ridge Police Chief Dan Brennan. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to legislate penalties.”

GOP lawmakers propose bills to repeal federal death tax

Republicans on Capitol Hill are signaling that there’s a real chance for a repeal of the federal estate tax as lawmakers in the Senate line up to support legislation from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that would stop the IRS from punishing Americans “for a lifetime of hard work.”

Last week, the Senate adopted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposed by Thune that would “create a deficit neutral reserve fund to eliminate the death tax.” The proposal was adopted by the Senate in a 54-46 vote.

Thune has also reintroduced legislation to permanently do away with the United States’ federal estate tax. So far, 27 Republicans have endorsed the legislation.

“Death should not be a taxable event,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one’s life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has introduced companion legislation in the House.

At 40 percent, the United States has the fourth highest estate tax in the world. Only Japan (55 percent), South Korea (50 percent) and France (45 percent) tax estates at a higher rate.

Despite being one of the highest in the world, Democrats and President Barack Obama have argued that the current death tax’s threshold, requiring estate assets to total $5.43 million before they are taxed, creates an unfair loophole for the wealthiest Americans.

Earlier this year, the president proposed changing the death tax to levy a new capital gains tax on inherited assets totaling more than $200,000 acquired by married couples or more than $100,000 for those acquired by single individuals.

The Wall Street Journal explained the president’s proposal thusly:

Under current law, when, say, a parent dies and passes a valuable asset to a child, no capital gains tax is due on the value that accumulated during the parent’s lifetime.

To be sure, estate tax is due if the parent were rich enough. And the child has to pay capital gains tax on the asset if he or she later sells it, but the heir gets to figure that gain by starting with the value at the time of the parent’s death — not the parent’s original cost.

For example, suppose an individual leaves stock worth $500,000 to an heir. When purchased, it cost $100,000. That means $400,000 of gain currently goes untaxed, because the capital gains tax doesn’t apply on this transfer, and the law allows the heir to sell it and figure any gain based on the stock’s stepped-up basis of $500,000.

The Obama administration basically would get rid of the stepped-up basis, by imposing capital gains tax on the transfer of the asset to the heir.

Critics of Obama’s plan to impose capital gains taxes on inherited assets contend that it would bring the U.S.’s death tax rate to 57 percent. Factoring in state inheritance taxes, some heirs could pay as much as 68 percent of the value of inherited wealth to the government.

“What makes the Obama plan shocking to estate-tax planners is that he would tax the estates as capital gains and as an inheritance — a double-tax whammy,” the conservative Heritage Foundation recently noted.

A Republican Capitol Hill staffer said in January that the president’s proposal is a way for the White House to try to head off GOP estate-tax repeal legislation.

But Thune is poised to forge ahead with his attempt to repeal the death tax, and he has the support of the GOP leadership.

“The death tax unduly burdens American families by taxing assets that are handed down from generation to generation, like family farms or small family businesses,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a recent statement. “It is the federal government’s final insult to tax your family when you have already paid taxes on your property throughout your life.”

Rand Paul heads up police body cam legislation

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation that gives a nod to President Barack Obama’s call last year for police officers throughout the nation to be equipped with body cameras to hold officers accountable.

Paul, along with Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, recently unveiled the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015 to create a pilot grant program to help state and local law enforcement purchase the cameras.

“Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” Paul said in a statement. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police.”

According to Paul’s office, the grant program would be subject to review in two years to “assess the impact body-worn cameras have on reducing the use of excessive force by police, its effects on officer safety and public safety, and procedures to protect the privacy of individuals who are recorded.”

At the height of public outrage over civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. police officers, Obama announced $263 million in funding to improve law enforcement resources, training and accountability. The president’s spending package included $75 million to help pay for the purchases of body-mounted cameras for officers throughout the nation and required state and local governments to shoulder some of the cost of equipping officers with as many as 50,000 body cams.

A recent study showed that body camera use by officers at one department resulted in a 59 percent reduction in officer use of force and an 87 percent drop in the number of complaints against officers from the previous year.

Hillary Clinton’s Nixonian nature

The nation’s Republican leaders have likened former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to disgraced President Richard Nixon as her private email scandal continues to unfold. Of course, Nixon’s clumsy secretary erased only a few minutes of the former president’s White House recordings. Clinton is missing nearly 30,000 email records.

House select committee investigating the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, subpoenaed Clinton’s private email server earlier this month in an effort to determine whether the former secretary of state used liberties when determining which emails were “official.”

But the Clinton camp maintains that the lawmakers aren’t going to be able to find anything on the server.

Clinton’s lawyer informed a congressional committee Friday that there are no copies of any of the emails the former secretary of state sent from her private email account while at the State Department. That’s because once the former top diplomat sorted out “government-related” emails, all others deleted automatically after 60 days.

“Thus, there are no emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Clinton lawyer David Kendall said in a letter to the lawmakers.

Kendall further told lawmakers that Clinton couldn’t even turn over emails that she had determined to be “official” without permission from the State Department.

“Secretary Clinton is not in a position to produce any of those emails to the committee in response to the subpoena without approval from the State Department, which could come only following a review process,” he wrote.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who heads up the committee investigating the Benghazi attack, said that Kendall’s response to the congressional request only makes Clinton appear more culpable in a cover-up attempt.

“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Gowdy said Friday.

While it isn’t clear when Clinton decided to delete her emails, Gowdy added, “it appears she made the decision after Oct. 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the secretary to return her public record to the department.”

Gowdy and his colleagues are currently considering “next steps” to investigate Clinton’s “unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office to permanently delete” emails.

As the congressional investigation into Clinton’s email habits continues, it’s certain that Republicans looking ahead to 2016 won’t let the scandal be forgotten.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus joined Fox News Monday where he opined that the former top diplomat’s actions were likely “criminal in nature.”

“I mean this is intentional behavior, which in many cases, Steve, is criminal in nature,” Priebus said, noting that Clinton began deleting emails as the Benghazi investigation heated up. “I mean, you cannot just destroy documents when an agency is telling you to turn them over.”

In an earlier statement, the RNC chair had said, “Even Nixon didn’t destroy the tapes.”

TSA’s secret (and ineffective) terror profiling tactics revealed

Yawning, complaining, whistling, arrogance, throat clearing or looking disheveled are all things that could cause an unsuspecting air traveler to be pegged as a potential terrorist by Transportation Security Administration agents, according to confidential documents made public Friday.

The Intercept, which obtained the TSA documents, reported that TSA employees use a checklist and scoring system to identify potential terrorists through a process called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT.

The TSA employs specially trained Behavior Detection Officers to screen crowds in the nation’s airports in search of individuals acting in ways that indicate “stress or deception.”

The agents check their observations against a 92-point checklist divided into categories that assign different point values to different behaviors or characteristics.

For instance, “stress” factors like an “obvious ‘Adam’s Apple’ jump” when directed to a screening area, late arrival, “exaggerated yawning” or “sweaty palms” can add one point to a travelers’ terrorist potential. A “cold penetrating stare,” being dressed similarly to another traveler, “widely open staring eyes” or a “powerful grip” of luggage are among a list of several “fear” factors worth two points on the checklist. Three points are given for “deception” factors such as obviously wearing a disguise, appearing confused or failing to respond to “authoritative commands.”

TSA officers may also deduct points. Men over 65 and women over 55 years of age have one point deducted and members of families or married couples over 55 get two points scratched from their final tally.

Once the tally is complete agents refer travelers with more than four points for additional screening. Those whose tally more than six points are reported to law enforcement.

The SPOT program, which has been used by the TSA since 2007 at a taxpayer cost of about $1 billion, has been routinely criticized as being ineffective and based on pseudoscience.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed the program in 2013 and recommended that Congress halt SPOT funding after concluding that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

At the time, GAO director of homeland security and justice Stephen Lord told members of Congress that the costly detection program hadn’t foiled a single terror plot since its inception. It had however, led to a few arrests for minor crimes at airports.

“Of the approximately 61,000 SPOT referrals made during fiscal years 2011 and 2012 at the 49 airports we analyzed, approximately 8,700 (13.6 percent) resulted in a referral to LEO,” Lord said during his testimony. “Of the SPOT referrals that resulted in a LEO referral, 365 resulted in an arrest.”

Other critics have argued that SPOT encourages racial profiling at the nation’s airports.

Despite widespread criticism, the TSA’s SPOT program remains in used today.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the TSA for records on the SPOT program.

“What we know about SPOT suggests it wastes taxpayer money, leads to racial profiling, and should be scrapped,” said Hugh Handeyside, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The TSA has insisted on keeping documents about SPOT secret, but the agency can’t hide the fact that there’s no evidence the program works. The discriminatory racial profiling that SPOT has apparently led to only reinforces that the public needs to know more about how this program is used and with what consequences for Americans’ rights.”

Following The Intercept’s publication of its SPOT documents, the TSA defended the costly screening program in a statement.

“Terrorists have used a variety of items and ways to attempt to inflict harm to aircraft — everything from shoes to liquids — but consistent across all methods of attack is the malicious intent of the actor,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

“Looking for suspicious behavior is a common sense approach used by law enforcement and security personnel across the country and the world, that focuses on those behavioral indicators, rather than items, and when used in combination with other security layers helps mitigate a variety of threats.”

Kansas police require motorists to put their hands up during traffic stops

Police in Topeka, Kansas, have decided to treat each routine encounter with motorists like a standoff with a dangerous criminal by implementing a new policy requiring drivers to reach for the sky during traffic stops.

As part of a new policy dubbed “hand compliance,” the Topeka Police Department is directing motorists to put their hands up in the air or on top of their steering wheel during encounters with police on the road.

“As we all know, we’ve lost three officers in less than two years. And as a result of that, we’ve had to take a hard look at the way we’re conducting business, particularly as it relates to car stops,” Officer Matt McClimans told the local KSNT of the policy.

“Before we even approach a car, is to see the hands of the driver and occupants, it doesn’t matter what the infraction is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a soccer mom, it’s just gaining that hand compliance,” he added.

Many local residents have criticized the “hand compliance” policy, saying that it’s dangerous for the public for officers to consider everyone a threat.

“To put my hands up, I mean, I just can’t see how people are not offended by that,” one resident said.

Others have suggested that making motorists place their hands in plain sight as a matter of policy rather than a courtesy to officers is a ploy to cut down on the number of people recording traffic stops.

There are also fears that the “hand compliance” policy gives officers more leeway to act aggressively toward motorists.

“This is just reason for them to act more aggressive, they already flip shit if you move too quickly, now you’ll be in cuffs or on the ground,” a commenter on one local story said. “How many cars you think will have guns pointed at them because people don’t know this new ‘rule.'”

Topeka’s police maintain that the policy is a simple officer safety matter.

Police Sgt. Colleen Stuart told the Topeka Capital-Journal, “When we walk up to a car, we don’t know anyone in that car or what their intentions are,” she said.

When motorists place their hands up, Stuart added, it “gives us a better idea that they are complying with our orders and that it’s going to be a positive encounter.”

Report: Federal agencies spend big bucks on gadgets they can’t use

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent $600,000 in taxpayer money on six surveillance drones that the agency never used, according to a government watchdog report out this week.

The Justice Department inspector general reported that the ATF’s Special Operations Division began buying the drones for aerial surveillance missions in 2011 “but never flew them” because of technical problems.

The OIG called it troubling that ATF supervisors would authorize such significant spending on drones with issues “significant enough to render them unsuitable for deployment.”

According to the report, agents complained that one $90,000 drone had a battery life of less than 20 minutes, making it unsuitable for surveillance. An ATF official told the OIG that another similarly expensive drone turned out to be too difficult for agents “to use reliably in operations.”

“[A] gas-powered… model, which cost approximately $315,000 and was specified to fly for up to 2 hours, was never operable due to multiple technical defects,” the report said.

By 2014, the ATF’s Special Operations Division opted to scrap its drone program. Less than a week later, another division of the agency called the National Response Team spent $15,000 on drones that the agency would never successfully use.

The OIG report noted that interagency communication could have saved taxpayers money by transferring the recently decommissioned drones between ATF units.

The OIG also pointed out that the FBI has spent about $3 million on 34 drones “and associated control stations” in recent years. Unfortunately, only half of the equipment is being used and the agency lacks employees trained to fly the drones.

“Additionally, [FBI Surveillance and Aviation Section] officials told us that they began training four additional UAS pilots in November 2014.” The OIG noted. “We note, however, that FBI officials also told us that there have been times in the past where they have had multiple UAS pilots trained, but these pilots transferred, retired, or otherwise did not keep current on training.”

Read the full OIG report here.

Sexual misconduct report highlights DEA sex romps with cartel prostitutes

In recent years, Drug Enforcement Agency agents have taken breaks from wasting billions of taxpayer dollars perpetuating the nation’s failed war on drugs to mingle at “sex parties” with prostitutes paid for by Colombian drug cartels.

That’s according to a new inspector general report out from the Justice Department Thursday.

According to the IG report, DEA agents held “loud” parties on government-leased property in the country between 2005 and 2008 where they had sex with prostitutes paid for by the very narco-criminals they were tasked with investigating.

The report also details allegations that foreign police officers were enlisted by the U.S. federal agents to protect “DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties.”

From the IG report (emphasis added in bold):

During a series of interviews the DEA OPR conducted from 2009 through 2010, former host-country police officers alleged that several DEA agents, consisting of an Assistant Regional Director (ARD), an Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC), six Supervisory Special Agents (SSA), and two line Special Agents formerly assigned to the an overseas office, solicited prostitutes and engaged in other serious misconduct while in the country.

The foreign officer allegedly arranged “sex parties” with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years. Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds. A foreign officer also alleged providing protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties. The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.

The OIG report doesn’t state a specific location for the overseas parties. A Politico analysis of the report, however, said that the agents were in Columbia.

Among the DEA property left vulnerable to foreign law enforcement and cartel prostitutes during the DEA romps were “agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment,” leaving the agents vulnerable to “extortion, blackmail, or coercion,” according to the report.

According to the report, seven of the 10 agents alleged to have attended the parties admitted to misconduct and were punished with suspensions of between two and 10 days.

The OIG report detailing the DEA misconduct also includes damning reports of sexual misconduct in the Justice Department’s other three law enforcement agencies: the FBI; the U.S. Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The report provides examples of inappropriate sexual affairs, use of taxpayer funds and government property for inappropriate sexual conduct, sexual harassment or solicitation of prostitutes by employees of each of the agencies.

Other examples of misconduct include:

  • A report that ATF training instructors were carrying on inappropriate sexual relationships with students for years.
  • An ATF Director of Industry Operations “solicited consensual sex with anonymous partners and modified a hotel room door to facilitate sexual play” while on official business.
  • A U.S. Marshal became romantic with a fugitive’s spouse and refused to break off the relationship under orders from superiors.
  • A U.S. Marshall admitted to soliciting prostitutes in Thailand.
  • Numerous reports of sexual harassment across the four agencies.

But, according to the OIG, the DEA exhibited particularly lax enforcement of sexual misconduct policies.

The agency also refused to fully cooperate with the watchdog’s probe.

“We interviewed DEA employees who said that they were given the impression that they were not to discuss this case,” the OIG said of incidents involving agents’ prostitute parties.

The report goes on to explain the light punishments handed down to offending DEA agents:

In interviews, DEA officials explained that they are afforded wide latitude when making discipline decisions under the Conduct Unbecoming a DEA Employee offense category, which supports penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to removal. When we asked why DEA officials do not charge under the Criminal, Dishonest or Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct or Inappropriate Conduct of a Sexual Nature offense categories where the subject had solicited prostitutes, one DEA official told us that Conduct Unbecoming or Poor Judgment has always been charged in cases of this type. The DEA official also stated that the Criminal, Dishonest or Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct offense category offers less flexibility to proposing and deciding officials, with penalties ranging from suspension of 14 days to removal. He said that therefore, DEA officials have traditionally not used it.

In other words, not only does the DEA leadership allow agents to behave like frat boys, it embraces a standard of conduct that encourages the behavior.

The OIG report was met with heavy criticism on Capitol Hill, where sexual misconduct in federal agencies has been a topic of discussion since the Secret Service’s 2012 Columbian prostitution scandal.

“Once again, some federal law enforcement agents are acting like they belong in a college frat house rather than at a taxpayer-funded law enforcement agency tasked with interdicting illegal drugs,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said. “It’s extremely troubling that federal drug agents lacked the common sense to know that engaging with prostitutes hired by drug cartels was a bad idea.”

Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) also weighed in, saying that the federal agents’ sexual misconduct puts Americans in danger.

“Let there be no mistake, this is a national security threat,” he said. “The gross misconduct of DEA agents follows a disturbing pattern of risky and improper behavior afflicting Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.”

Chaffetz also called for the immediate firing of agents involved in the misconduct.

Lawsuit alleges Clintons are guilty of racketeering, influence peddling

A conservative watchdog has filed a racketeering lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguing that the nation’s former top diplomat used a personal email server in order to sell access in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation.

The complaint, filed by conservative activist Larry Klayman’s Freedom Watch organization, also names Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation as defendants. It alleges that both Bill and Hillary Clinton “systematically and continuously… conducted a corrupt enterprise” under the definition of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The suit also alleges that the Clintons used mail and wire fraud to ignore multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for documents pertaining to State Department waivers to people and business thwarting U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran.

The suit explains: “Plaintiff has filed many Freedom of Information Act requests for public records created or held by the U.S. Department of State… which records are of the public interest and importance to the citizens of the United States. … As it has now been revealed, a primary reason that the plaintiff did not receive the records to which the plaintiff is entitled by law is that Defendant Hillary Clinton — upon information and belief together with Cheryl Mills and Defendant Bill Clinton and other Clinton ‘loyalists’ — set up a private computer file server operating a private, stand-alone electronic mail system.”

The complaint goes on to charge that Clinton’s “off the books” email setup is evidence of a deliberate and calculated scheme to steal public documents for personal financial gain.

“Using those concealed communications held on the private email server, upon information and belief, the defendants negotiated, arranged and implemented the sale of influence and access to U.S. government officials and decision-makers and official acts by State and other instrumentalities of the U.S. government in return for gratuitous and illegal payments — bribes — disguised as donations to defendant The Clinton Foundation and extraordinarily high speaking fees paid to Defendant Bill Clinton and Defendant Hillary Clinton,” the complaint continues.

The lawsuit is the latest of many Klayman has filed against the Clintons during his years as a conservative activist.

“This is the first and only hard-hitting case to address the growing email scandal. What Hillary Clinton, her husband, and their foundation have done is nothing new. It is simply part of a criminal enterprise which dates back at least 10 years, all designed to enrich themselves personally at the expense of the American people and our nation. It’s time, however, that they finally be held legally accountable,” Klayman said in a statement.

The conservative activist is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order the Clintons to turn over the former secretary of state’s email server for examination and publication of its contents. In addition, Klayman wants the Clintons to be hit with $5 million compensatory and $200 million punitive damages along with any other applicable RICO penalties.

Rand Paul embarks on dual offensive against Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) recent announcement that he intends to run for president in 2016 has put fellow libertarian-leaning GOP firebrand Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on the rhetorical offensive.

Hours after Cruz made official his presidential campaign, Paul — who has yet to make his presidential intentions official — told Fox News that he and Cruz definitely disagree on strategies to make the GOP appeal to a broader voter segment in 2016.

“I guess what makes us different is probably our approach as to how we would make the party bigger,” Paul told Fox’s Megyn Kelly. “And I’m a big believer that you should stand on principle and be true to your principles, but I also think we should take those principles and try to bring in new people with them.”

Paul has long focused on the GOP’s need to reach out to a broader audience, including social libertarians and minority voters, with a small government, liberty-centered message that he contends has natural appeal to a majority of U.S. voters.

“It isn’t just about rousing a base. It’s about exciting the base by being for the principles of liberty, but it’s then taking those principles of liberty — not diluting them — and taking them to new people and bringing them into the party. That’s the way you win general elections,” he told Fox.

Cruz has only recently begun making similar points about reaching out to a new set of potential GOP voters. Echoing Paul’s long-held position on the matter, the Texas Republican opined in a separate Fox interview with Sean Hannity that potential GOP voters pining for an Obama alternative weren’t given a small-government option in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

“The only way to win is to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who have been staying home. The millions of Christians, the millions of Reagan Democrats who have been staying home,” Cruz told Sean Hannity. “As I look at the field, I see a lot of good people who I like, who I respect. But I don’t see … a whole lot of candidates who I think can energize and mobilize the conservatives who stayed home in ’08 and ’12.”

For Paul, Cruz also doesn’t fit the bill of a candidate bound to energize GOP voters.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative, but it also goes to winnability,” Paul said. “And people will have to make a decision, which is the Republican who can not only excite the base but also bring new people into the party without giving up their principles.”

For sure, GOP voters are certain to see Cruz/Paul backbiting increase in intensity over the next several months as each of the two candidates works to distinguish himself as a viable alternative to big-government conservatism.

A Cruz adviser told The Hill earlier this week that Paul’s recent remarks are aimed at nothing more than muddying the waters and confusing voters about the Texas senator’s conservative record.

“These stories are intended to distract, and we’re not going to take the bait,” the unnamed adviser said.

And for what he lacks in originality regarding “broaden the GOP base” rhetoric, Cruz has already hinted that he intends to distinguish himself from Paul by appealing to establishment GOP voters and going for what many political analysts see as the Kentucky lawmaker’s Achilles’ heel: foreign policy.

“I’m a big fan of Rand Paul; he and I are good friends. I don’t agree with him on foreign policy,” Cruz told ABC’s “This Week” last year. “I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world, and I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad, but I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did.”

But Cruz should avoid selling Paul short on the foreign policy front because he’s quickly overshadowing a past of noninterventionist ideas with criticism of the current administration’s overseas endeavors.

In addition, Hillary Clinton’s disastrous tenure as secretary of state has given him the opportunity to make several highly publicized criticisms of the Obama administration’s foreign policy ineptitude in recent years.

Paul recently took Clinton to task over her family foundation’s acceptance of donations from Saudi Arabia, a move that The New York Times described as a calculated attempt “to turn one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s greatest strengths into a weakness, implicating her in a ‘war on women’ because of gifts she has received from foreign countries.”

“They say there’s a war on women,” Paul said. “Well, yeah, there is in Saudi Arabia. You can be raped in Saudi Arabia, and they put you in jail. You can be raped in Saudi Arabia, and they publicly lash you and whip you for being raped.”

Controversy over Clinton’s email habits at the State Department has also aided Paul in building a reputation one of the GOP’s most ardent anti-Clinton bulldogs, a designation that would serve well any GOP presidential nominee faced with battling her in a general election.

“I’ve been offended by the fact that she said she didn’t want to carry two cellphones for convenience,” Paul recently said of Clinton’s attempt to explain away the controversy. “First thing, we ought to inform her than in the 21st century you can put two email accounts on one phone… It is insulting that she says for convenience sake that she may have endangered our national security.”

Paul’s camp seems to know that, sometimes in politics, the actions a candidate roundly condemns can appeal to voters as much as his own policy vision. The Kentucky lawmaker is expected to officially announce his bid for the presidency on April 7.

‘Threat-sharing’ Internet legislation gaining ground in Congress

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee unveiled Tuesday legislation that would make it easier for the government to get communications data from private companies.

The legislation, called the Protecting Cyber Networks Act, would provide liability protections to private communications companies who are asked to hand over user data to government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

The legislation would allow for corporations to pass user data along to a designated civilian government agency; the information could then be provided to the Department of Defense or National Security Agency.

The legislation is part of a package of cybersecurity legislation being shuffled through Congress.

Via The Hill:

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved a similar measure by a 14-1 vote two weeks ago. That bill is seen as the Senate’s omnibus offering on cyber information sharing. Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate bill specifies the DHS as the preferred data portal but also allows some direct, nonelectronic data sharing with the NSA.

The House Homeland Security Committee on Friday also unveiled its own cyber information-sharing measure, which is seen as complementary to the House Intelligence panel’s efforts.

All three bills are expected to get floor votes sometime in April. Observers give the entire batch a fair chance of passing, but the result of those votes will determine how congressional leaders move forward on a final cyber bill.

Supporters of the Protecting Cyber Networks Act and its Senate counterpart, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, point to a series of recent high-profile cybersecurity breaches, such as the attacks on Home Depot and Sony Pictures last year, as the reason heightened private sector/government communications data sharing is necessary.

But opponents contend that both pieces of legislation aimed at encouraging data sharing are cloaked attempts to broaden government and corporate digital surveillance capabilities.

A recent analysis by the Open Technology Institute charged that the Senate’s CISA would allow “any entity of the federal government, including intelligence agencies and law enforcement” to use information handed over from private companies “for a broad array of garden-variety investigations and prosecutions, not just for cybercrimes.”

“If excessive sharing of Americans’ personal information is not enough to establish that CISA is as much a surveillance bill as it is a cybersecurity bill, the breadth of investigations and prosecutions that law enforcement can use the information for leaves no room for doubt,” the analysis said.

Los Angeles learns it can’t force people to be healthy

The nanny state has its work cut out for it in trying to force Americans to make healthier choices, according to new study examining how a 2008 fast food restaurant ban in Los Angeles affected obesity rates.

In 2008, officials targeted a 32-square-mile section of South Los Angeles with high rates of obesity and poor health with a ban on the opening of new fast-food restaurants. The law was heralded as a powerful anti-obesity measure by proponents and derided as anti-market government interference by critics.

Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND Corporation, was skeptical of the ban from the onset. The economist has noted that the fast food ban’s moratorium on the construction of new “standalone” restaurants didn’t limit access to unhealthy foods in strip malls and corner stores.

A new study from RAND found that not only did the government obesity solution fail to limit access to fast food in the area but also that people living under the ban have actually become more obese than other L.A. residents over the past few years.

“The South Los Angeles fast food ban may have symbolic value, but it has had no measurable impact in improving diets or reducing obesity,” said Sturm, lead author of the study. “This should not come as a surprise: Most food outlets in the area are small food stores or small restaurants with limited seating that are not affected by the policy.”

According to RAND’s numbers, 17 new fast food restaurants opened in convenience stores and strip malls in the area covered by the ban between 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile, obesity rates in South Los Angeles rose from 63 percent to 75 percent between 2007 and 2012, compared to a national increase of just one percent (from 57 percent to 58 percent) during the same period.

“The one bright spot we found is that soft drink consumption dropped, but the decrease was similar in all areas across Los Angeles,” study co-author Aiko Hattori of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said. “Unfortunately, the rates of overweight and obesity increased and they increased fastest in the area subject to the fast-food ban.”

While Los Angeles’s attempt to regulate residents into healthier living is a failure, national attitudes about healthy eating appear to be forcing national fast food chains to have market-based conversations about changing their menus.

Business Insider recently reported that McDonald’s is experiencing a 4.6 percent decline in sales for U.S. locations each month and other fast food giants are seeing similar declines. Market watchers say the sliding profits are resulting from health-conscious consumes increasingly giving fast food the cold shoulder. In a recent poll conduct by Technomic, a food industry group, 64 percent of respondents said that health and nutrition are important to them.

As a result, fast food retailers are making — or, at least, pretending to make — menu changes to cater to the health conscious. For instances, McDonald’s recently announced that kale, one of the nation’s latest trendy superfoods, will soon make an appearance on its menu.

Gun business wants government to do away with suppressor regulations

A company that sells firearm suppressors is urging 2nd Amendment advocates’ “fighting the noise” and making it easier to shoot without worrying about hearing loss or noise complaints by calling for an end to taxes and paperwork hurdles to suppressor ownership.

SilencerCo, a fast-growing firearm suppressor company, says its customers are being “suppressed” by federal laws that require ATF background checks and a $200 transfer tax for suppressor purchases.

CEO Josh Waldron told The Blaze last week that the company’s new campaign is aimed at helping Americans enjoy quieter shooting sports by “asking the federal government to get their grubby hands off our industry.”

“The Suppressed are changing the perception of an industry and leading the revolution with a clear message: Guns don’t have to be loud,” the company says on its website.

In most U.S. states, it is completely legal to own a firearm suppressor by meeting the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a suppressor from a dealer.
  • Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a suppressor from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
  • Be at least 18 years of age to possess a suppressor as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
  • Be a resident of the United States.
  • Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  • Pass a BATFE background check with a typical process time of 4 to 9 months.
  • Pay a one time $200 Transfer Tax.
  • Reside in one of the 39 states that currently allows civilian ownership of suppressors.

Waldron contends that the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulates suppressors, is misguided and ignores the benefits of making firearms quieter. Opposition to suppressors, he said, is strongest among people who don’t understand how they work.

“The fact of the matter is you wouldn’t drive around your car without a muffler. When guns don’t have to be loud, why would you do that?” Waldron said. “It’s just a common-sense device that makes shooting a firearm safer and more enjoyable. Why does the government have to get involved with so much of the process?”

Learn more about firearm suppressors from The American Suppressor Association.

Cities lower minimum standards for cops as applications dwindle

A recent news report out of St. Louis highlights how growing public anger at police is making it hard for many departments to fill vacant law enforcement jobs.

Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told CBS St. Louis in a recent interview that a series of high-profile civilian deaths, which have sparked anti-police protests throughout the nation, are making law enforcement careers less attractive.

“The recent events in many cities protesting law enforcement have also discouraged applicants because they know even if they do the right thing in a split-second decision that the media and others will spend years second-guessing them and many just feel that type of stress is not worth the meager salaries and reduction in benefits,” he said.

In the long run, ongoing public outcry for better policing could have a deleterious effect on the quality of local law enforcement agencies as they are forced to take less-qualified applicants to fill positions.

“Many cities are reducing the minimum standards to attract candidates and there is a general lack of applicants who have higher education or experience that is commensurate with the profession,” Canterbury said.

A number of existing studies show that experience and education goes a long way in reducing bad behavior among police officers.

USA Today reported in 2006:

There are about 700,000 state and local police officers across the nation… 25% to 30% have four-year degrees … departments have been reluctant to adopt stricter recruiting standards despite evidence suggesting that better-educated cops perform better.

In an analysis of disciplinary cases against Florida cops from 1997 to 2002, the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that officers with only high school educations were the subjects of 75% of all disciplinary actions. Officers with four-year degrees accounted for 11% of such actions.

A 2005 study of officers in Minnesota similarly indicated that more education is better for officers:

[O]fficers with bachelor of arts degrees have work habits (sick time usage, traffic collisions, discipline, and commendations) that are similar to officers with an additional 10 years of age and experience. It is also worth noting that the officers with 10 years of experience and who exceed 45 years of age are more reflective of officers who are not working in a patrol capacity. This seems to make the officers with bachelor of arts degrees stand out even more. Officers with bachelor of arts degrees tend to work in patrol assignments where they are more likely to receive citizen complaints that could result in discipline and spend more time driving patrol units. It stands to reason that they are likely to have more traffic collisions than older officers who are more frequently working in administrative assignments.

Lawmaker: ‘Developments in bullet propellants, coatings and materials’ make bullet bans necessary

Angry Democrats and an embarrassed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are poised to launch a renewed assault on the 2nd Amendment.

Conservatives and 2nd Amendment advocates rejoiced earlier this month when the ATF opted to rethink a proposed ban on popular AR-15 ammunition and current Director B. Todd Jones announced his resignation. But new threats to gun rights are emerging as congressional Democrats vow new ammo regulations and increased anti-gun pressure on incoming ATF Director Thomas Brandon.

On Friday Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) criticized the ATF for “sloppily” rolling out a regulatory proposal that would have banned certain types of 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition.

ATF officials announced on March 10 that they planned to shelve the proposal in order to conduct more research before moving forward following weeks of grass-roots, congressional and lobbying backlash and criticism from 2nd Amendment supporters.

“This was sloppily handled and as a result the outcome was surprising, disappointing and even confusing,” Israel said in an interview with The Hill. “I hope under the new leadership the ATF can have a more transparent and responsive process.”

Israel’s remarks came just after Jones abruptly announced that he plans to step down from his position at the ATF by the end of March “to pursue other opportunities in the private sector.”

The Hill reported that Israel is “looking to capitalize on Jones’ resignation” by using it as an opportunity to pressure Brandon, currently the agency’s deputy director, into reviving the proposed bullet ban or even tougher gun regulations when he takes control at the ATF.

Israel and other Democrats jumped at the opportunity to announce new legislative bullet ban proposals in the wake of the ATF’s decision to drop the bullet ban, announcing in a letter to the agency earlier this month that they are “very disappointed” the bureau didn’t use its “existing authority” to ban the bullets.

“We hope that the Bureau will swiftly review comments on the proposed framework and issue a revised proposal that will address the danger posed by handguns that fire 5.56mm and other rifle ammunition,” the Democratic lawmakers had said.

Israel has expressed support of Democratic legislative attempts to accomplish what the ATF couldn’t and has vowed to produce his own bill to “extend the definition of armor-piercing ammunition to include all bullets that can pierce body armor and be used in handguns.”

Despite very similar legislation failing in the previous Congress, Israel contends that there is more “urgency” among Democrats to ban bullets now that the ATF failed to do so via regulatory scheming.

And the National Rifle Association contends that ignorance about firearms from Democrats like Israel make their current anti-gun zeal particularly dangerous to 2nd Amendment rights.

The gun rights organization recently explained on its website:

[T]he BATFE’s recent attempt to ban M855 has inspired gun control supporters to take another shot at a near-total center-fire bullet ban, and in the case of Rep. Israel, to do so without knowing the first thing about the subject. Israel says his bill is necessary “[b]ecause of significant developments in bullet propellants, coatings and materials, such as Teflon.”

To which we have to ask: Seriously, Teflon? The substance used to coat skillets and 1970s-era all-steel handgun bullets invented for law enforcement officers, so the bullets wouldn’t scratch the rifling of the officers’ handgun barrels? Teflon, which has nothing to do with whether a bullet can penetrate a protective vest? Teflon … the substance said to cover dishonest, misbehaving public officials who nevertheless skirt scrutiny and accountability again and again?

In essence, Israel is arguing that developments in technology that make guns more accurate, more deadly or more reliable are all Democrats need to enact broad bans on entire classes of firearms and ammunition. It’s just another form of the anti-gun crowd’s familiar “when the 2nd Amendment was written, all they had were muskets” argument.

ATF director to step down following attempted bullet ban

Following the recent controversy involving the agencies regulatory scheme to ban certain types of popular ammunition, officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced Friday that agency Director B. Todd Jones is stepping down.

Jones is slated to leave the agency at the end of this month “to pursue other opportunities in the private sector.”

“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” Jones said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to combatting violent crime, ridding the streets of criminals, and leveraging all available resources to keep our communities safe.”

“I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission,” Jones added.

Jones was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in January 2013 and confirmed by the Senate in July of that year. Before his confirmation, the ATF had not had a permanent director since 2006 due to a rule change subjecting the position to Senate approval.

Jones had previously served as acting ATF director starting in 2011.

Jones’ decision to depart from the agency which has been plagued by a series of high-profile scandals in recent years was abrupt. There is some speculation that his decision to step down was prompted by a number of Republican calls for changes to the agency ranging from restructuring suggestions to calls for its dissolution.

The National Rifle Association recently pointed to remarks Jones made following the ATF’s announcement that it would back off on a plan to ban popular AR-15 ammunition as proof that the agency would revive the plan.

The group explained on its website last week:

In a leading question, the reliably anti-gun Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked the BATFE director, why the agency reviewed the status of M855 and other steel-component bullets. Jones’s response included this ominous assertion: “But as we see more and more of the firearms that could be classified as pistols, being able to use not just this M855 round, but any 5.56 round, it’s a challenge for officer safety, public safety” (emphasis added).

Jones’s remarks suggest that it isn’t just M855-type ammunition that is on BATFE’s regulatory radar, but all 5.56-caliber ammunition. These comments could also signal that the administration would like to use innovation in the firearms industry as justification for an ever-widening ammunition ban.

With Jones’s ouster, current ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon will take the helm at the agency.

It’s time to change the tax system, but politics are in the way

About half of Americans feel that the amount of money they are forced to pay in taxes each year is “about right,” according to the results of a new survey. But a growing number of U.S. taxpayers cite inequalities in tax policies for different groups as reason to scrap the nation’s current tax system.

Pew Research Center’s latest analysis of Americans’ feelings about taxes reveals that many Americans have serious questions about the nation’s current tax code.

Just 4 percent of Americans said that they would consider the current system as “very fair,” compared to 46 percent who said it is “moderately fair.” Forty-eight percent of respondents to the poll, meanwhile, told Pew that the current tax structure is not fair.

Americans from all political backgrounds cited unfair tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans high on the list of tax system flaws.

Via Pew:

Fully 75% of Democrats are bothered a lot by the feeling that corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, and 72% say the same about wealthy people not paying their fair share.

Fewer Republicans are bothered a lot by some corporations (52%) and wealthy people (45%) not paying their fair share. Still, these rank among the Republicans’ top concerns among five items tested.

Conservative Republicans (those most likely to support flat tax reforms) were the only group Pew surveyed that were equally perturbed “by the poor not paying their fair share of taxes as by the wealthy not paying their fair share (38% each).” Seventy-two percent of Democrats chided wealthy tax breaks, while just 14 percent believed the poor should have to pay their fair share.

Pew reports that there are “relatively modest” fluctuations in satisfaction among tax fairness along party lines, with 55 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of independents saying the tax system is at least moderately fair.

A majority of Americans, 59 percent, say that it is time for Congress to take the steps to totally reform the nation’s tax system while 38 percent say that minor changes are necessary.

Republicans and independents are most likely to support tax reform as Democrats are expressing less interest in overhauling the tax system than in previous surveys, according to Pew. Currently, 66 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 48 percent of Democrats say they’d like to see fundamental changes in the nation’s tax system.

Tax reform has been a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill for years, but recent reports indicate that lawmakers and lobbyists are getting burned out on the challenge after five years of debate have brought them no closer to a tax overhaul.

The Hill recently reported:

[C]ongressional tax writers are falling back on familiar methods as they try to create a sequel to the 1986 tax reform law, like hearings on well-discussed tax issues and breaking into smaller groups to examine specific parts of the system.

Senate tax writers are convening their working groups even as they acknowledge Democrats and Republicans remain divided over tax reform’s most central issues, and as the partisan rifts in the chamber have undercut even seemingly noncontroversial measures like an anti-sex trafficking proposal.

Chris Krueger of Guggenheim Securities said that because of partisan squabbling and a looming 2016 presidential election, comprehensive tax reform has less than a 10 percent chance of becoming reality within the next two years, according to MarketWatch.