What If The Lights Stay Out?

Massive storms left nearly 2 million people in the United States without power, and some without basic emergency services, last weekend and early this week.

People scattered from Washington, D.C., through 10 States from Indiana to Delaware — including about 410,000 in West Virginia; 400,000 in Ohio; and 340,000 in Virginia — had no electricity by Monday evening after storms last Friday and Saturday devastated power infrastructure.

In Northern Virginia, a commercial power failure at Verizon, the company that operates the area’s 911 call systems, left residents unable to report emergencies over the weekend. While no deaths or serious injuries were reported, the incident highlights the importance of being prepared for a disaster that causes the power grid to fail.

Here are some basic things that everyone should have on hand for an emergency (from Bob Livingston’s How to Survive the Collapse of Civilization):

  • Weapons and plenty of ammunition (A handgun, 12-gauge shotgun, .22 rifle and larger caliber rifle  — .308 or 30-06 — would be excellent choices for whatever comes your way in defense or hunting needs.)
  • Good hunting knife and sharpening stone
  • Extra clothing, hats and boots
  • Fire starter kit
  • Candles, lanterns, matches, lighters
  • Extra fuel for your cook stove
  • Compass
  • Bear pepper spray (Even if you don’t live in bear territory this can be useful to help you deter looters or someone wishing to do harm.)
  • Rain gear
  • Tarpaulin
  • Fishing gear (rod, reel, stocked tackle box)
  • Chain saw and extra fuel
  • An axe and a hatchet or hand axe
  • File for sharpening axe and chain saw
  • Gas masks and extra filters
  • Vegetable seeds for planting a garden
  • Tools for tilling the ground and digging
  • A bicycle (It would give you alternate mode of transportation as long as the streets are safe to travel on.)

While many of the above preparations are for a long-term grid-down scenario and may seem excessive for a power outage, it is better to be prepared for the lights to stay off forever than to have to go about gathering these items after the fact.

It is also a good idea to have a store of clean water and non-perishable food on hand for the short term along with batteries, flashlights, medical kits and other “no-brainer” emergency supplies.

To brush up on your prepper skills, check out Personal Liberty’s “Survival and Self-sufficiency” section and Bob Livingston’s survival handbooks for practical survival advice.

Sun May Create Fourth Of July Fireworks For Some

As Americans throughout the Nation prepare to fire up their grills and load up on fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, the sun may be shooting off some fireworks of its own.

Sunspot AR1515 erupted on July 2 and produced an M5.6-class solar flare that was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. According to Spaceweather.com, the M-class flare is a powerful event, eclipsed only by a more extreme X-class solar flare.

Earlier in the week, the solar activity disrupted radio communications over Europe and produced brilliant auroras near the Earth’s magnetic poles.



“On July 1st we enjoyed a beautiful display of aurora australis over the German Antarctic Research Station Neumayer III,” said researcher Stefan Christmann. “The air temperature was -30°C with 10 knots of wind. Even so, this was one of the most beautiful experiences so far.”

The latest eruptions from the sun could send beautiful light shows throughout the sky just as many Americans are preparing to ignite their first fireworks in celebration of their Nation’s founding. Check spaceweather.com and NOAA to see if you can expect auroral activity in your area.

Last year, unusually strong solar storms gave people residing in Southern areas of the United States the unique opportunity to enjoy the light shows in the sky.

Gun Safety Group Uses Firearm Roundup To Its Benefit

A National Rifle Association youth group used a gun buyback initiative in Chicago to raise money for a youth shooting camp.

On June 23, Chicago held a gun buyback called “Don’t Kill A Dream, Save A Life.” The Chicago Police Department program pays $100 for guns and $10 for BB guns, air guns or replica firearms turned in with no questions asked. The money is given in the form of a Visa debit card.

The gun rights group Guns Save Lives, based about three hours south of Chicago, saw the buyback as a perfect opportunity to get rid of non-operational and unsafe firearms while raising money for youth shooting programs, according to MSNBC.

The gun freedom advocates netted a reported $6,240 to fund gun-education initiatives, having turned in about 2,360 of the total 5,500 guns collected.

“This was rusty, non-firing junk that we turned in,” John Boch, president of Guns Save Lives, told Chicago Sun-Times. “We are redirecting funds from people who would work against the private ownership of firearms to help introduce the next generation to shooting safely and responsibly.”

Some Chicago officials, however, didn’t appreciate the gun rights group’s actions.

“We host the gun turn-in event on an annual basis to encourage residents to turn in their guns so we can take guns off the street and it’s unfortunate that this group is abusing a program intended to increase the safety of our communities,” Melissa Stratton, a police spokeswoman, told the newspaper.

Trouble Brewing In Iran, Stirred By Sanctions

As the United States and its European allies continue to impose sanctions on Iran, the Mideast country is becoming more defiant and combative.

European companies will no longer be involved in insuring Iranian oil. The latest measures come on top of previous sanctions levied by the United States and the West that have already hit Iran’s economy.

The United States imposed a new round of sanctions on Thursday, targeting financial institutions of any country that buys Iranian oil. Twenty economies are exempt from the sanctions for a period of 180 days.

As an EU oil embargo took effect on Sunday, Iranian leaders said the country was beginning a new round of war games that would involve firing missiles at models of foreign air bases.

The nation’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee also drafted a bill calling for Iran to attempt to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz — a key oil shipping route — to countries that support sanctions, a committee member reportedly said on Monday.

Iranian General Hossein Salami said last week: “Iran has complete control of all the enemy’s interests around the world and is on a path to reach equivalency with world powers.”

According to Salami, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have more than 1,000 ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching all U.S. bases in the region, all of Israel and some capitals in Europe. He added that the nation is also working with China and North Korea on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Mainstream Media Reports Were Wrong: Surprise!

Last week, amid the media buzz about the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, CNN and FOX News managed to botch coverage of what may have been one of this year’s most explosive news stories.

As the Court issued its ruling, CNN and FOX News initially told thousands of viewers, reportedly including President Barack Obama, that the healthcare initiative had been struck down as unConstitutional. For a few minutes, the Twitterverse was alight with jubilee from conservatives throughout the country.

Then, the real story emerged. If you’re reading this, you likely already know what transpired.


The failure of the two aforementioned news networks to report the story correctly the first time perhaps offers a valuable lesson in the constantly growing importance of new media and citizen journalism in the United States.

Anyone who was depending on CNN for coverage of the Supreme Court decision spent about seven minutes believing that the healthcare reform law had been struck down. FOX News viewers were given the wrong information for only about two minutes.

But those people who have decided not to accept the mass media’s version of events as news breaks likely had the right information all along. Thanks to the power of the Internet, about 1 million people who were viewing live updates about the ruling via SCOTUS Blog had the correct information even before FOX News and CNN issued their erroneous reports.

That is indicative of how new media has given every individual the power to be his own best news source. But if you have yet to turn away from mainstream news channels to find your own version of current events, becoming your own news source can be a daunting task.

Here are some good places to start:

C-SPAN: On C-SPAN’s website you can watch live Congressional testimonies and votes. You also have access to hundreds of hours’ worth of archived video of happenings on Capitol Hill.

SCOTUS Blog: For matters regarding the Supreme Court, SCOTUS Blog offers minute-by-minute coverage and access to court documents.

Government websites (whitehouse.gov, justice.gov, defense.gov, etc.) are excellent places to read statements and remarks from government officials and press releases explaining government actions. Also, the official websites of U.S. lawmakers contain informative press releases.

Stop-And-Frisk Police Tactic Spreading

The New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk police tactic is spreading.

In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee is considering “edgy” police tactics to increase pat-downs of people suspected of carrying firearms and other weapons, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

“The mayor is very frustrated with the level of gun violence, especially in the southeastern part of our city,” Lee’s spokesman told the newspaper. “We can’t keep doing the same thing. We need to get better results and the mayor has clearly stated to the community that he is willing to try something edgy, something controversial. However, he’s not willing to infringe on anyone’s civil rights.”

Lee is reportedly planning to work with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss tactics that are being used to get firearms off of the streets in that city.

In New York City stop and frisk policies led to close to 700,000 stops in 2011 alone. From January through March 2012, the number of stops rose to 203,500 from 183,326 during the same quarter of 2011, according to The New York Times.

Cellphone Companies Give Your Info To Cops, Not You

Mobile phone service providers log data about your locations and store it for years. In the event of a criminal investigation, they routinely release such data to police; it is also provided — with personal information removed — to companies for advertising purposes.

But, according to ProPublica, you can rarely gain access to your own location data.

The organization asked its staffers to request such information from their cellphone providers. Here’s what they discovered:


On releasing location data to you: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “Unless a customer consents to the release of information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, Verizon Wireless does not release information to law enforcement without appropriate legal process.” A spokesman said being more specific would “require us to share proprietary information.”


On releasing location data to you: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “If the government is seeking ‘basic subscriber information’ (defined in 18 USC sec. 2701, et seq) it can obtain that information by issuing a subpoena. If the government is seeking Sprint records relating to our customers that go beyond ‘basic subscriber information’ then the government must furnish Sprint with a court order based on specific and articulable facts. If the government is seeking customer’s content then it must obtain a warrant based on probable cause.”


On releasing location data to you: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “We do share data with law enforcement as part of a valid legal process – for example, a court order or a subpoena.”


On releasing location data to you: “No comment.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”

The phone companies hand over cellphone location information to police and the FBI thousands of times each year when a court order is provided.

ProPublica’s observation comes as the government is increasingly looking to use mobile phone location data to bolster prosecutions after a Supreme Court ruling that said the government must obtain a warrant to affix a GPS device to track a vehicle’s every move.

A Sampling Of Obamacare Ruling Fallout

Americans have been hearing about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for years. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, declaring President Barack Obama’s healthcare law Constitutional, expect to hear much more in coming months.

Thursday morning, almost immediately after the Court handed down its decision, the Internet was abuzz on all fronts with news and commentary about what it means in a political context now and how it will change American healthcare in years to come.

Here is a sampling of some of the Web chatter surrounding the Supreme Court’s ruling:

Several news and commentary sites immediately pointed out that the Court’s precedent describing the individual mandate provision of the healthcare bill as a tax contradicted what the Obama Administration has claimed in the past.

Representative Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) joined in in pondering how the individual mandate turned into a tax, “In selling Obamacare, Congressional Democrats and President Obama assured the American people that it was not a tax. Today, the Supreme Court ruled it was, in fact, a tax. This tax was imposed on the American people amidst an extended recession and is one of the many reasons our economy remains stagnant under President Obama’s leadership.”

Not only has the Court ruled the individual mandate a tax, but it is being called one of the largest tax hikes in American history on the middle class.

Also, statements from American lawmakers, politicians and scholars decrying the decision were released en masse on Thursday.

Representative Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) office released the following:

The Supreme Court missed an historic opportunity to rein in the federal government. For decades, Congress has stretched the Constitution to authorize whatever new mandate it invents. Instead of acting as an impartial referee, the Court has been complicit in allowing Congress and the President to expand their power at the expense of state governments and the people.

The Court’s decision green lights the continued expansion of the size and scope of the federal government. It also underscores the need to have congressmen who resist the impulse to aggrandize power in Washington. Now more than ever, Congress must commit itself to following the Constitution and limiting the federal government. We can begin to fulfill that commitment by repealing the President’s health care law in its entirety.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned through his office:

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be “constitutional” does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.

Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our health care system. This now means we fight every hour, every day until November to elect a new President and a new Senate to repeal Obamacare.

Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul said:

Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a “mandate.”  The issue is not whether Congress can compel commerce by forcing you to buy insurance, or simply compel you to pay a tax if you don’t. The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse. The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force. In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also offered his opinion:

Let’s make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do. What the court did do today is say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do is to say that Obamacare is good law or that it is good policy. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today. Obamacare was a bad law yesterday. It is bad law today.

Georgetown University Law Professor Randy Barnett chided the Supreme Court in a brief statement:

Today’s decision validates our claim that a Congressional power to compel that all Americans engage in commerce was a constitutional bridge too far. By rewriting the law to make it a “tax,” the Court has now thrown ObamaCare into the political process where the People will decide whether this so-called “tax” will stand. And the People will also decide whether future Supreme Court nominees will pledge to enforce the Constitution’s restrictions on the power of Congress.

Those who support the healthcare initiative joined the President in describing the decision as “a victory for people all over the country.”

Holder Contempt Resolution Passes In House

During a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to full cooperate in an investigation regarding the fatally flawed Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation, several Democratic lawmakers walked out.

Despite many Democrats’ unwillingness to participate, by a vote of 255-67 the House passed the resolution to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement explaining why its members walked out:

We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people.  We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice. We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority—creating jobs.  At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.

The White House also released a statement echoing similar sentiments.

Currently, heated debate about the veracity of this unprecedented contempt vote is under way on the House floor. Republican lawmakers are making appeals for the power to move further with legal actions that would allow them to obtain the Fast and Furious documents that have been requested.

Holder has released a statement regarding the vote:

Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year.  By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.  Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers, like Agent Brian Terry, who keep us safe – they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome.

…When concerns about Operation Fast and Furious first came to light, I took action – and ordered an independent investigation into what happened.  We learned that the flawed tactics used in this operation began in the previous administration – but I made sure that they ended under this one.  I also made sure that agents and prosecutors around the country knew that such tactics must never be used again.  I put in place new policies, new safeguards, and new leadership to make certain of this – and took extraordinary steps to facilitate robust congressional oversight.  Let me be very clear – that was my response to Operation Fast and Furious.  Any suggestion to the contrary simply ignores the facts.


The House also voted 258-95 to hold Holder in civil contempt, giving lawmakers the ability to seek counsel and appeal to a Federal court for a subpoena for the documents that have not yet been turned over to the House Oversight Committee.

Obama’s Healthcare Bill Survives Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act upholding many of the laws central provisions Thursday morning.

One of the most important rulings by the Court regarding the Constitutionality of the healthcare overhaul was describing the individual insurance requirement as a tax, rather than a forced purchase.

In the Court’s opinion, the decision is explained as follows:

Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.

Because the mandate was found to be Constitutional, the Court did not decide what other parts of the statute were Constitutional, except for a provision that required States to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. The Court found that the Medicaid provision is Constitutional as long as States would lose only new funds for failure to comply with the new requirements.

The Affordable Care Act was declared Constitutional in a 5-4 decision. Liberal-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in support of the law. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Ron Paul’s Victory

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s mission to conduct a broad audit of the Federal Reserve moved a little closer to fruition on Wednesday.

The House oversight committee voted Wednesday to demand a broad audit of the Federal Reserve System by Congressional investigators in relation to a bill sponsored by Paul.

The bill was passed by a voice vote and will now advance to consideration in the full House.

“Clearly the Fed must be made too big to fail, and too big to fail requires a considerable amount of oversight,” said Representative Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, according to The Washington Times.

Paul’s bill has garnered 257 co-sponsors from both parties and would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full audit of the Federal Reserve’s operations, including its monetary policy deliberations.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) attempted to introduce an amendment that would prevent the GAO from auditing the Fed’s deliberations on monetary policy, but withdrew the attempt after Issa said it would “gut the bill.”

“This whole idea about ‘Well, we can’t touch the Fed’ is baloney,” said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio). “We have to be able to have control over the Fed because it’s controlling every aspect of our economy.”

Guns Didn’t Kill, Bureaucrats Did

Gun control advocate Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a strong case for 2nd Amendment rights on Tuesday; it was, in fact, the same case that gun rights activists have been making for years.

According to The Hill, Hoyer unleashed the following diatribe on Capitol Hill reporters while discussing the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, the man killed in 2010 by members of a Mexican drug cartel armed with weapons that “walked” into Mexico as part of the failed Fast and Furious initiative:

“The premise is that somehow letting these guns go across the border resulted in this tragic death,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “[But] people kill people, not guns, I’m told on a regular basis.

“And controlling guns — whether it’s assault weapons or others — would not solve the problem, I am told by some,” he added, referring to gun-reform critics. “So such legislation is not necessary because it is people who kill people. I hope you see the contradiction in the positions being taken.

“The fact of the matter is this life was tragically lost because there are some criminals on both sides of the border who facilitate violent criminal behavior,” Hoyer said.

In Hoyer’s view, Congressional Republicans’ focus on the guns that were used to kill Terry and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata is misplaced and the focus should be on the criminals that killed him. The Representative is right in noting that the men were killed by criminals.

Unfortunately for Hoyer, his careless remarks in trying to spin the Border Patrol agent’s death as a rebuttal to gun control critics come off as ill-informed at best and, at worst, downright insidious.

Perhaps Hoyer could have borrowed another familiar refrain that is used by 2nd Amendment advocates each time stricter and unConstitutional gun control laws are proposed: In many places, already existing gun regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun advocates already exist.

And when guns do get into the hands of criminals, law enforcement authorities often come down hard on the people who run legitimate gun businesses.

  • In Randolph County, Ind., agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided the Federally licensed gun shop of Charles “Fred” Ludington in April of last year, because they believed he had committed record-keeping offenses. This April, Ludington was sentenced to serve four years in Federal prison for selling firearms to a convicted felon and an out-of-State resident. A judge also ordered him to forfeit the 4,276 firearms, nearly 600,000 rounds of ammunition and more than $159,000 in cash seized by ATF from his shop in April of 2011.
  • Paul Copeland, a Vietnam Veteran and Texas-based gun seller, was sentenced to prison time and two years of probation by a Federal court in 2010 for selling a gun to an undocumented alien, Hipolito Aviles, at the Texas Gun Show in Austin. The alien was not charged in the case.
  • A New Mexico family of gun sellers was arrested in August of last year, on charges of knowingly selling guns to Mexican smugglers and various other related charges. Rick Reese and his two sons Ryin and Remington have been in jail for nearly a year, denied bond because a judge found that they may be a flight risk or attempt to barricade themselves on their property, which has a well for water and solar power, in a Ruby Ridge-style standoff. Their charges involve about 30 guns. Find out more about the bizarre case against them here.

All of these individuals have been deemed criminals by the Federal government, and a simple Google search yields hundreds more stories just like these.

So if gun control advocates like Hoyer want people to focus less on the guns and more on the criminals in the case of Fast and Furious, Congressional Republicans on the House oversight committee should take note of the policies adopted by the likes of Bloomberg and the ATF. These policies have made criminals of people who have simply sold guns, often unwittingly, to individuals who wanted them for criminal purposes.

Evidence suggests that the Justice Department assisted in the illegal sales of more than 2,000 firearms, some of which were used in deadly crimes. Unfortunately, there has been no serious talk about holding the people who were responsible for this crime accountable in court, and the President is complicit in covering up damning evidence.

A thorough investigation holding the gun pushers within the Justice Department to the same standard as the above mentioned gun sellers, however, would likely result in arrests leading all the way to the Oval Office.

Tune Out The ‘Impostures Of Pretended Patriotism’

Independence Day is just a week away, and political language, especially that of the election year back and forth, is awash with patriotic memes.

At a campaign event on Monday, President Barack Obama provided a familiar narrative about why people are willing to pay more taxes: because they love their country.

Obama said, “[T]here are plenty of patriotic, successful Americans all across the country — I meet them every day — who’d be willing to make this contribution again because they understand there is such a thing as the common good. They understand that we’re in this thing together.”

Many conservatives are appalled by the President’s understanding of patriotism and how it relates to “the common good.” But he isn’t the only one throwing the word around. In a recent article, Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, skewered Republicans who use the word in a different sense.

Reich writes:

Recently I publicly debated a regressive Republican who said Arizona and every other state should use whatever means necessary to keep out illegal immigrants. He also wants English to be spoken in every classroom in the nation, and the pledge of allegiance recited every morning. “We have to preserve and protect America,” he said. “That’s the meaning of patriotism.”

He goes on to assail members of the GOP for substituting “partisanship for patriotism” and for believing that unless it fits into their agenda, no motive can be patriotic.

He concludes:

Their patriotism is not about coming together for the common good. It is about excluding outsiders who they see as our common adversaries.

Former Speaker of the House and failed GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich quipped earlier this month about his view of American’s patriotic duty.

“We want to make it clear in a calm, pleasant but direct way: Barack Obama and the values he represents and the amateurish incompetence he has proven are a direct threat to the survival of America as we know it — and defeating him is a national, patriotic duty,” Gingrich said.

As Americans make plans for fireworks and barbeques next week with all of this talk from the political sphere about what is or isn’t patriotic buzzing in the background, a columnist for Michigan’s The Muskegon Chronicle, Steve Gunn, offers a little perspective in arguing for the Pledge of Allegiance in American schools:

Back in far better days, some things, like patriotism, remained above politics.

Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, union members and management all shared a love and appreciation of the United States of America and the fundamental freedom it stands for.

If patriotism is not what America’s politicians have co-opted the term to mean, and if the citizenry is unable to turn to its leaders for a clear idea of the best ways to express love for one’s country without adhering to political paradigms, perhaps history is a good place to turn for a patriotic self-revival.

Here are some ways you might learn to be more patriotic in the week preceding the celebration of our Nation’s independence.

  1. Read a copy of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. Hillsdale College, a longtime advocate of the American Founders’ vision, offers free printable versions here. Hillsdale has even mounted a “Read the Declaration” campaign to encourage millions of Americans to read and discuss the founding document with friends and family this Fourth of July.

  3. Take some time to better understand the story behind our Nation’s founding. Why did the men who created our Nation fight so passionately? What would have happened had they failed? Are there similarities between what our country has become and the tyranny they fought against? At the website Revolutionary War and Beyond, you can access thousands of historical documents related to our Nation’s founding and learn why revolution was vital, in the words of our Founders.

  5. The United States is currently not in the best shape in history. Modern problems ranging from a poor economy to serious political disagreements on social issues keep many Americans in a state of perpetual political polarization. This benefits no one but the political establishment of both the left and the right. With the help of the Internet, you can find that many of these problems are not new. America has seen crises, social tension and poverty before. Take off your political blinders and do some research about how some of our Nation’s problems were solved in the past.

Whether you call yourself Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent or you are defined by other political beliefs, your patriotism likely transcends your political ideology and represents more a feeling of gratitude to reside in a Nation whose citizens have the freedom to agree to disagree. Learning about the blood and sweat that begot that freedom and how that freedom has been used throughout the years to better the Nation is certainly more productive than allowing the President, Gingrich and political commentators to soil the true meaning of patriotism. After all, in a free country what it means to be a patriot is up to you to decide; and George Washington, our Nation’s first President, warned Americans about those who would seek to do it for you in his farewell address:

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

Law Enforcement’s War On American Insurgents

In the small rural town of Mayberry, Sheriff Andy Taylor didn’t even see a reason to carry a gun while he policed the townspeople in the iconic American television program The Andy Griffith Show.

Of course, that was a television show, and it aired during what some people may argue was a simpler time in America’s modern history — a time when a small-town sheriff in a town like Mayberry would not need a gun except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Others have argued that Taylor didn’t carry a gun in the show because its producers were pushing an anti-gun Communist message.

Whatever the reason, reports of how many small-town law enforcement agencies have now become armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry make it certain that an unarmed sheriff like Taylor would not make a believable character today.

Personal Liberty Digest™ has run a number of stories in recent months that describe increasingly militaristic tactics and armament among local police departments. With the help of organizations like the CATO Institute and its police misconduct website, there have also been stories about law enforcement officers who have fallen short of their promise to “serve and protect” and have abused authority and committed crimes both against individuals and the Constitution.

WIRED’s “Danger Room” blog, in a post yesterday, pointed out that over the past five years through the “Department of Defense Excess Property Program,” small-town law enforcement agencies have increasingly been the biggest beneficiaries of surplus military gear.

Here’s some of what is revealed:

  • A 50-officer police department in Oxford, Ala., a town of 20,000 people, has received about $3 million worth of military equipment including M-16s, helmet-mounted infrared goggles and a tank-like armored vehicle called a Puma.
  • The Nebraska State Patrol has three amphibious eight-wheeled tanks.
  • Police in Lebanon, Tenn., where fewer than 30,000 people live, have acquired $4 million worth of military equipment, including weapons and heavy equipment like bulldozers and truck loaders, as well as an LAV 150 armored car.
  • The Fairmont Police Department in northern Georgia, a department that serves about 7,000 residents, received 17,145 items from the military in the past five years.
  • Police in Issaquah, Wash., a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.

Two concerns have been raised by critics of the military arming of community police departments:

  1. Even though this equipment is bought on the cheap, officers in such small communities — much like Sheriff Taylor — seldom find use for tanks and assault rifles that have to be stored and maintained at a cost to the taxpayer.
  2. Often, the officers who will be operating this equipment once it has been acquired are poorly trained and are sometimes overly eager to use such military weaponry in situations when it could cause more harm than good.

The Defense surplus program was partially suspended in May, when it was revealed that an Arizona police department was caught selling some of the equipment it acquired to non-law enforcement agencies to pad its budget. However, departments still can get grants for military equipment through a Federal anti-terror initiative put in place after the 9/11 attacks. Since its inception, the grant program has racked up nearly $34 billion, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Whether Americans think military equipment in the hands of law enforcement is good or bad, it appears to be here to stay. One increasingly popular military-turned-law-enforcement piece of equipment is the drone. Most of the drones that American law enforcement agencies employ are small and resemble remote control helicopters more than military equipment.

But last year, police in Lakota, N.D., used a Predator drone owned by the Department of Homeland security to conduct the first drone-assisted arrest in the Nation. Rodney Brossart and his family face a number of criminal charges related to a conflict they got into with law enforcement officers after six cows from a neighboring farm wandered onto their 3,000-acre ranch. After refusing to return the cows and a subsequent standoff with police, the drone was launched to watch the movements of Brossart and his family while a SWAT team rushed in to arrest the bunch.

Brossart’s lawyer Bruce Quick argued in court earlier in the month that “the warrantless use of unmanned surveillance aircraft” was unlawful on 4th Amendment grounds. Citing “outrageous governmental conduct, unlawful surveillance, illegal seizures and searches, unconstitutional application of North Dakota law, vindictive prosecution, and other statutory and constitutional injury” the attorney has asked a judge to dismiss charges in the (as far as law enforcement drones are concerned) possibly precedent-setting case. A ruling on whether the charges will be dismissed is expected within the next few days.

Retiring Congressman: The Public Is Dumber Now

The people are getting dumber.

That was the message from retiring Representative Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) when asked about the difference in cooperation across the aisle in Congress and how it has changed during his 30 years as a lawmaker.

“Congressman Ackerman, you’ve been here 30 years. Can you define comity as it existed when you arrived versus how it exists now?” Bloomberg Businessweek asked him.

Ackerman’s response: “Your premise is that comity exists now. It may not be entirely accurate. It used to be you had real friends on the other side of the aisle. It’s not like that anymore. Society has changed. The public is to blame as well. I think the people have gotten dumber. I don’t know that I would’ve said that out loud pre-my announcement that I was going to be leaving. [Laughter] But I think that’s true. I mean everything has changed. The media has changed. We now give broadcast licenses to philosophies instead of people. People get confused and think there is no difference between news and entertainment. People who project themselves as journalists on television don’t know the first thing about journalism. They are just there stirring up a hockey game.”

While Ackerman’s statements may anger some, there is evidence to show that on a broad scale he is correct.

A few years ago, The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public high school students. They learned that 77 percent of the students didn’t know that George Washington was the first President, and 86 percent couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence. If they were administered a U.S. Citizenship Test only about 3 percent of the high school students would have been able to pass.

Newsweek gave the U.S. Citizenship Test to 1,000 Americans last year—38 percent failed. Twenty-nine percent couldn’t name Joe Biden as the Vice President. Another 73 percent didn’t know what the Cold War was about.

Of course Ackerman and his colleagues in Congress are also getting dumber, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation. Using the Flesch-Kincaid test, which equates higher grade levels with longer words and longer sentences, to examine Congressional speeches the Institute found that Congress collectively speaks to the public at a 10.6 grade level. In 2005 they were at 11.5. Ackerman did, however, manage a personal grade level of 12.07.

Four Stories About Stupid Gun Laws

Humans are very distinct from other creatures in their ability to perfect the use of tools to improve quality of life. Even more remarkable of man, however, is our willingness to restrict the use of even our most valuable tools in the name of “safety.”

Firearms have for the past few hundred years been one of man’s most useful tools. America’s Founding Fathers realized this and held gun ownership in such a high regard that they opted to include it in the country’s Constitution.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Here are four things that the men who wrote those words knew, that modern anti-gun zealots in the United States and abroad can’t seem to understand:

#1— Guns are extremely useful in deterring criminals who would otherwise steal from you and likely injure or kill you in the process. That is why Keyna Oduyoye, 30, of Randallstown, Md., brought her registered .40 caliber Beretta handgun along when she carried $4,000 to meet with a person selling a car on Craigslist. When she and her boyfriend arrived, they were robbed by the people they met.

From The Baltimore Sun:

She told police she grabbed a .40 caliber Beretta from the glove compartment of her car and fired a warning shot in the air. The gunman dropped his weapon, she told police, according to court charging documents, and then she chased the man up the street firing three times in the air.

Though she managed to keep herself from being possibly murdered by her armed assailants after having her money stolen, Oduyoye was jailed last week on $35,000 bond. She is charged with having a handgun on her person and in her car, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm on a public street. Even though her gun was registered, because of Maryland’s restrictive carry permit laws she is a criminal in the eyes of the law.

#2— The bad guys are never going to give up their guns, and there is nothing even the most restrictive nanny governments can do about it. Case in point, New York City. Even with liberty assaulting police tactics like “stop and frisk” that allow New York cops to search just about anyone they want to on the street, gangsters still have access to guns.

From the New York Post:

Ruthless gangbangers are drawing on lessons from kindergarten — adopting policies of “share and share alike” when it comes to their illegal handguns, cops said yesterday.

“People aren’t carrying around their own guns anymore, they’re sharing them and stashing them,” said Detective Joseph Cruzado of the Queens gang squad.

“Four, five years ago, we’d see almost every gang member carrying their own gun. You don’t see that anymore.”

Now criminals in the city simply stash weapons in secret locations — such as bushes — so that other members of their organizations can retrieve the weapons when needed.

Good luck finding a weapon stash if you find yourself on the wrong end of a criminal’s barrel.

#3— Guns have uses that are in no way related to crime. This story comes from Manitoba, Canada but explains a problem that many American farmers and ranchers also deal with. Because of restrictive laws aimed at protecting wildlife from poachers, farmers in the province are unable to legally defend their cattle from predators.

The Wildlife Act, which governs hunting in Manitoba, says hunters may kill wildlife on their own land to defend property. But the following restrictions apply: can’t hunt at night or use lighting or reflecting equipment when hunting; can’t use poison to trap or kill wild animals; can’t have a loaded gun in a vehicle; and can’t fire a gun from a vehicle.

That causes real problems for farmers like Henry Hendrickson.

From Winnipeg Free Press:

In one year, the farmer raises 300 cattle and loses between 10 and 12 to predators: coyotes and wolves, mostly.

Hendrickson would like to protect his herd by hunting the predators, but the laws make it difficult. For example, coyotes are nocturnal creatures, but laws governing gun use prevent farmers from hunting at night. They also can’t legally shoot from a moving vehicle, even though vehicles are the only way to keep pace with fleet-footed coyotes and wolves.

#4 Governments are capable of doing some pretty terrible things to helpless populations. Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, who is currently running for a Senate seat in Ohio, is taking heat for releasing the following ad recently:

But, in a Nation where armed bureaucrats continuously raid farms because of raw milk sales, the police are becoming ever-increasingly militarized and abuse of power seeps from town halls, Congress, the Justice Department and the White House, people who want a defenseless American populace would likely do well to heed the warnings of history.

Land Of The Inmate

The United States, land of the free, is home to a staggering 1.6 million State and Federal prisoners.

That number, recorded in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has some people wondering if we live in a Nation of criminals. But the evidence suggests that government largess—and the profiteers who run the privatized American prisons where 128,195 U.S. inmates reside—may have as much to do with incarceration as crime does.

The Times-Picayune in Louisiana recently published an eight-part report detailing how that State incarcerates more people than any other place in the world. One out of 86 adult Louisiana residents live behind bars— that is three times more people than are jailed in Iran and seven times as many as China, the paper reports.

Throughout the series, reporters describe Louisiana prisoners as “vehicles for profit” and explain that powerful prison lobbies have blocked reforms to the State’s multi-million dollar prison industry. While Louisiana may have the most prisoners, it certainly isn’t the only place in the Nation where incarceration is big business.

ProPublica breaks down the numbers in a recent report:

Corrections Corporation of America

66: number of facilities owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company based on number of facilities

91,000: number of beds available in CCA facilities across 20 states and the District of Columbia

$1.7 billion: total revenue recorded by CCA in 2011

$17.4 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

$1.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

$3.7 million: executive compensation for CEO Damon T. Hininger in 2011

The Geo Group, Inc., the U.S.’s second largest private detention company

$1.6 billion: total revenue in year 2011, according to its annual report

65: number of domestic correctional facilities owned and operated by Geo Group, Inc.

65,716: number of beds available in Geo Group, Inc.’s domestic correctional facilities

$2.5 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 8 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

$2.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

$5.7 million: executive compensation for CEO George C. Zoley in 2011

The millions the prison-industrial complex spends on lobbying each year is heavily focused on ensuring that medicinal marijuana reform is stalled, and in more recent years has been used to push for stricter immigration laws. The Huffington Post reports that illegal aliens make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population.

While many Americans may favor harsh laws regarding immigration and drugs, the prison-industrial complex also routinely lobbies for draconian laws across the board. According to a Justice Policy Institute report, corruption of the judicial system can also result.

The extent to which corporate campaign contributions influence elected officials‟ decision-making is a matter of much debate. But in one recent case, a private juvenile correctional facility crossed the line, making outright payments to judges in a clear quid pro quo with tragic results.

In Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, two local private youth prisons made illegal payments to two judges totaling over $2.6 million. In what came to be known as the “kids for cash” scandal, the Mid Atlantic Youth Service Corporation paid the judges for sentencing youth to confinement in their two private youth prisons. It is estimated that over 5,000 children appeared before the two judges over the past decade, and half of those who waived their right to counsel were sentenced to serve time in one of the private correctional facilities. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, privately owned corporations operate more than 50 percent of youth correctional facilities in the United States.

The Institute reports that the prison companies are routinely in talks with judges, legislators and law enforcement agencies to encourage policies that drive-up incarceration rates throughout the Nation.

Berkeley Moves To Reduce Police State

The City Council in Berkeley, Calif., has decided to move to do away with some post-9/11 police powers that assault civil liberties. Those powers made it easier for local, State and Federal authorities to spy on citizens and share information.

The Council began investigating the need for reforms following questions about why police officers were being used to control demonstrators during Occupy protests.

According to Contra Costa Times, the council decided this week to approve recommendations that would make it more difficult for police to report suspected terrorists and criminals to Federal authorities. Another provision restricts police from gathering intelligence about people who are engaged in nonviolent, non-felonious civil disobedience.

They also moved to stop police from holding some people the Federal government wants in jail for immigration violations. The new policy would prohibit the police department from holding prisoners beyond their normal release for the Federal government, unless they have been convicted of a violent or felonious crime in the preceding five days.

The City Council also says it wants police to follow stricter guidelines when they decide to report people they deem suspicious to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. The center shares information with local police departments and Federal authorities. The intelligence-sharing hub was created following the Sept. 11 attacks and is one of 50 throughout the Nation.

Obama Gets Involved In Fast And Furious

In a bid to stall a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to withhold documents and communications related to the failed gun enforcement operation known as Fast and Furious.

An investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has Holder on the verge of being held in contempt of Congress for not turning over all documents investigators feel are pertinent to the operation.

On Tuesday, Holder sent a letter to Obama claiming that a release of the documents “would raise substantial separation of powers concerns and potentially create an imbalance in the relationship” between the Legislative and Executive branches.

Obama has never used executive privilege during his Presidency, but it has been used throughout U.S. history to preserve the confidentiality of information in the face of legislative inquiries.

Committee Chairman Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the White House use of executive privilege “falls short” of any reason to delay the contempt hearing and, after the President’s assertion, the committee moved ahead with discussion of the contempt citation.

Republicans say Obama’s move is proof that the White House has something to hide regarding Fast and Furious.

Governed By Decadence

It is no secret that Americans have a bad habit of becoming enthralled by and making celebrities of many people who could be described as intellectually deficient, at best, and despicable, at worst.

Just take a look at the individuals that many young people throughout the Nation believe they should attempt to emulate.

There are “Teen Moms” on MTV who — with the help of a few thousand dollars per episode — make teen pregnancy look easy. They live in high-priced apartments and have fancy cars, minimum wage jobs and children; that sounds like reality. Also on that channel are the enterprising young hooligans who have misrepresented the New Jersey Italian-American community while binge drinking and “smushing” on “The Jersey Shore.” A few channels away, we find Kim Kardashian, who has managed to make a mockery of the institution of marriage in order to turn a hefty profit. Or, if music is your taste, you could simply flip through a few top 40 radio stations to hear music that encourages you to be an oversexed, uneducated thug. Or a bum. Or a pimp. Or a whatever.

But before you criticize the youths of the Nation for lapping up this filth and go on a self-righteous diatribe about the merits of watching C-SPAN, consider the filthy characters to whom you are turning for answers. Many of your policymakers could likely get their own hit shows on MTV.

Actually, a better idea: C-SPAN should simply change its programming lineup to better suit the decadent nature of a Nation in decline. This would likely be a great way to get more brain-dead Americans to tune in to the network, and it may even get more youngsters interested in how government works (or why it hasn’t for a long time). Besides, no one has time to sit and watch Congressional speeches, and they don’t give us a good look at who the people running and working for our Nation really are. So here are some suggestions a new C-SPAN programming lineup:

“Secrets of the Secret Service”

Don’t let the name of this hot new reality show fool you; we’re not interested in knowing about who really killed John F. Kennedy or where they keep the aliens. “Secrets of the Secret Service” will document the exploits of the men charged with protecting our country’s highest leader as they tend to the more important aspects of their jobs. Get ready to find out just how easy it really is to buy a prostitute in Columbia, if name-dropping and casually mentioning that you are a Secret Service agent makes it easier to pick up chicks in a bar, and what it feels like to wield a machine gun when you have a hangover. And stay tuned for the season finale episode in which celebrity guests Snookie, J-Wow, The Situation and the rest of “The Jersey Shore” cast face off with the agents to see who the harder partiers are.

“Sex In The Capitol City”

This tell-all show will be hosted by Rielle Hunter, disgraced former Senator John Edwards’ former mistress and the mother of his child. Hunter was chosen for the spot because of the shameless way in which she graphically describes how enjoyable having adulterous sex with the Senator was in her new memoir, What Really Happened. Expect candid interviews with other political figures who have had fidelity and decency problems while in public light including: former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who abandoned his State unannounced for a week to vacation with his mistress; Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who has a thing for male prostitutes; former New York “Luv Guv” Eliot Spitzer who has a thing for expensive prostitutes; and the aptly named former New York Representative Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) who likes to “sext” pictures of his genitals.

“To Tell The Truth, Or Not”

In this throwback to the classic television game show, a political figure will sit before a contestant — who must be a registered voter — and tell his story. The contestant will then have to decide whether the politician is outright lying, embellishing facts or being truthful. The first show will feature Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the second episode President Barack Obama. Both have American success stories of overcoming underdog roots; both are complete with debatable facts.

“Who Wants To Be A $16 Trillionaire”

Hosted by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, this exciting show pits bank executives against one another to determine who can come up with the best way to rip off American citizens. The winner gets $16 trillion to use as they please as they work to enslave all Americans to debt and bankrupt the entire Nation.


If you thought “Cops” was an action-packed television show, you’ll love “Jackboots.” This documentary-style program will follow the plethora of enforcement agencies in the Nation as they use special training to injure and quiet anyone who stands in their way of complete dominance. You will get a firsthand look at how the Department of Homeland Security brands almost everyone a terrorist. You will learn how powerful it feels to Transportation Security Administration agents when they throw would-be passengers out of airports for refusing to be sexually molested. You will ride along with police officers who do not believe the Constitution restrains them in any way. And you will see the action as innocent farmers endure raids from armed bureaucrats. If you love the police state, you don’t want to miss this.

This proposed C-SPAN lineup likely seems a little absurd. What’s more absurd, however, is that programming like this would definitely cause the network’s ratings to skyrocket. And while many cringe at the antics of pop culture’s celebrities, those of the people running our Nation are in some ways worse. At least Snookie doesn’t have any legislative pull… yet.

U.N. Investigator: Obama’s Drones Violate Human Rights

A U.N. investigator wants some answers regarding President Barack Obama’s penchant for carrying out targeted drone attacks overseas that routinely result in civilian casualties.

The United States uses military drones to carry out attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In a 28-page report addressed to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that Washington must clarify the legal basis for the policy of killing suspected al-Qaida and Taliban leaders and associates rather than trying to capture them.

“The government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations,” the report says.

Details about the effectiveness of and collateral damage that comes with the United States’ continual use of drone strikes are sketchy by most accounts. In his report, Heyns cites figures from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission that claim American drone strikes killed at least 957 people in Pakistan in 2010 alone. The report also states that since 2004, roughly 20 percent of the thousands of people killed by drones overseas have been civilians.

Heyns says that international humanitarian law mandates that every effort be made to arrest a suspect and any use of force “comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality.” Washington, he says, has failed to respond satisfactorily to concerns voiced by others, including his predecessor, that have raised questions about U.S. drone policy.

“The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings … [and] reiterates his predecessor’s recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture ‘human targets’ and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent,” Heyns said.

The report, according to Reuters, was issued overnight Monday to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 47-member Geneva forum was to discuss the matter on Tuesday.

The call for an evaluation of whether the United States is in violation of international law with its drone attacks comes on the heels of heavy news coverage in the Nation concerning President Barack Obama’s hawkish use of military drones. The New York Times recently pointed out that the Obama Administration routinely pads the numbers of possible civilian casualties associated with the strikes by describing “all military-age males in a strike zone” as combatants.

The Most Pesticide-Laden Produce, And Healthier Alternatives

A new report from the Environmental Working Group shows which varieties of commercial produce are the most and the least contaminated by agricultural pesticides.

The EWG’s eighth edition of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ contains updated information on 45 popular fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads dividing produce into two groups, the Dirty Dozen Plus™ and the Clean Fifteen™.

“The explosive growth in market share for organic produce in recent years testifies to a simple fact that pesticide companies and the farmers who use their products just can’t seem to grasp: people don’t like to eat food contaminated by pesticides,” said EWG president Ken Cook. “Our shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce gives consumers easy, affordable ways to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while avoiding most of the bug killers, fungicides and other chemicals in produce and other foods.”

Researchers analyzed annual pesticide residue tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2010. The samples were first washed or peeled prior to being tested so that rankings would reflect the amounts of the crop chemicals likely present on the food when is it eaten.

Here are some of their findings:

  • About 98 percent of conventional apples have detectable levels of pesticides.
  • Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues.
  • Seventy-eight different pesticides were found on lettuce samples.
  • Every single nectarine USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues.
  • As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit, with 64 different chemicals.
  • Thirteen different pesticides were measured on a single sample each of celery and strawberries.

The researchers also found that produce like kale and collard greens were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides that are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. They are not banned, however, and still show up on some food crops.

“Organophosphate pesticides are of special concern since they are associated with neurodevelopmental effects in children,” said EWG toxicologist Johanna Congleton. “Infants in particular should avoid exposure to these pesticides since they are more susceptible to the effects of chemical insult than adults.”

For the first time, the researchers also took a look at commercially produced baby food and found that 92 percent of the pear samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue, with 26 percent of samples containing five or more pesticides and 15 different pesticides on all samples.

The researchers recommend that parents opt for organic baby food varieties or prepare their own baby food using organic produce or varieties known to have the lowest pesticide levels.

Here’s a look at which fruits and vegetables make each list:

The Dirty Dozen Plus™
Only buy these organic.
The Clean Fifteen™
Commercially lowest in pesticide.
Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines- imported
Blueberries- domestic
+ Green beans
+ Kale

**In order from highest to lowest pesticide content except for green beans and kale.

Sweet Corn
(buy organic if concerned about GMOs)
Sweet peas
Cantaloupe- domestic
Sweet potatoes

**In order from lowest
to highest pesticide content.

Among The Clean Fifteen™, 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had one or no pesticides detected. Overall, no single vegetable sample had more than five different chemicals, and no single fruit sample had more than five types of pesticides detected.

The researchers also took a look at drinking water, taking 284 samples from 12 community drinking water sources. They discovered a toxic herbicide called atrazine or its metabolites in every single sample and the herbicides 2,4-D and metolachlor in more than 70 percent of the samples. Six varieties of pesticides were also found in at least half of the samples.

Summertime Blues For Teen Job Seekers

If your teenager has neglected to find a summer job since the end of the school year this year, don’t be too disappointed: It may have more to do with the economy than motivation.

For the third year in a row, teens seeking summer employment face a hiring slump. In the summers of 2010 and 2011, economists say, teen hiring was at its lowest levels since World War II. This summer, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 24.9 percent nationally; in some major metropolitan areas it’s much higher.

Federal stimulus money was given to some cities in 2009 and 2010 to create summer job opportunities for teens. But, in many cases, the funding dried up and has proved an unsustainable means of creating teenage jobs, according to reports.

According to Reuters:

Los Angeles – with the help of federal stimulus money – created around 15,000 summer jobs for teenagers in 2009 and 2010. But as the federal program ended, that was slashed to about 6,000 in 2011. It will not rise this year…

New York City had 52,000 summer jobs for teens in 2009. Now the program is half that size. It has five applicants for every job…

Washington, D.C.’s teenage unemployment rate was 51.7 percent, an analysis by research fellow Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute showed.

Even if summer jobs in retail establishments and parks are drying up due to a weak economy, there is some good news for teens looking for extra cash this summer. Less economy-dependent positions like baby-sitting, dog-sitting, housekeeping, lawn-mowing and collecting scrap metal can all fit well into the wide-open summertime schedule of teen job seekers with an entrepreneurial spirit who may have more flexibility than their job-seeking adult counterparts.