Last week, a New York grand jury declined to indict a police officer who, in efforts to restrain a non-compliant suspect, held him in what many saw as a chokehold. Their announcement came in the wake of public uproar over controversial events nearly 1,000 miles away in Ferguson, Mo.
Americans were fixated on a St. Louis County, Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer, Darren Wilson, for shooting at an 18-year-old aggressor following a convenience store robbery.
Although the facts of the cases are dramatically different, good people have raised legitimate questions about police tactics and a perceived divide between law enforcement and at-risk communities.
But it is time to take a step back and look at the long-term ramifications of the behavior of those surrounding the ordeals – the media, the Obama administration and radical activists.
In addition to exacerbating the problems in Ferguson, all three have contributed to an epidemic that will most adversely affect those for whom they claim to advocate. Their insistence that law enforcement is inherently biased against or willfully ignorant in their dealings with the African-American community is transparently political.
Their words and actions have insinuated – if not altogether declared – that America's police work actively in opposition to the people they are supposed to serve. In sowing these seeds of distrust and discontent in our inner cities, those seeking to undermine law enforcement are implying that police are simply untrustworthy, making it less likely those living in at-risk communities will cooperate with the very officers who seek to protect them. Without civilian cooperation, the police cannot keep communities safe.
The Obama administration set the tone by sending three representatives to the funeral of Michael Brown. It is reasonable to assume that in doing so, the White House was demonstrating they believed Brown to be the victim and the police officer to be the aggressor.
The Obama administration knew what it was doing when they invited radical racial activists, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton – who owes a whopping $4.5 million in back taxes – to participate in a "civil rights" discussion at the White House. Of course, this discussion resulted not in a call for greater accountability in urban communities, but instead, in additional directives for police, yet again implying that law enforcement created the catastrophe we're experiencing, not criminals.
This false narrative, accepted by too many as true, imposes a chilling effect on the decision-making of good police officers across the country. Instead of maintaining the confidence necessary to adequately and competently perform their jobs, leaders in the law enforcement community worry that cops will second-guess their training for fear that their actions will be characterized as racist, malicious, unrestrained or irresponsible.
We witnessed a gut-wrenching example of this very form of contrived circumspection when police stood by as the town of Ferguson disintegrated into mob rule and a dozen local businesses were burned to the ground. Law enforcement, having in August been criticized as hyper-militarized and heavy-handed, mutely looked on as the St. Louis suburb was ignited, crushing the spirit of countless residents who watched their American Dreams go up in smoke.
These false ideas ultimately served to denigrate due process protections and the rule of law in our nation. While Officer Wilson was exonerated by a grand jury for his split-second decision-making on that August afternoon, he was unjustly regarded as "guilty until proven innocent" in the court of public opinion. His life is forever threatened and his family will always be at risk.
Many yearned for a scalp so desperately that they quickly discounted inconvenient facts, while demanding their desired result. As the grand jury discovered after weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses, Michael Brown was the aggressor on August 9th. Brown controlled his own fate, Brown made his own flawed decisions.
The reason Officer Wilson intersected Brown had nothing to do with biased policing. The fateful meeting occurred because Brown had just committed a felony by stealing cigars and assaulting the store worker who challenged him. Notably, Brown wasn't stealing food because he was hungry or drink because he was thirsty and had no money. He stole cigars. Why? Because he could. One need only observe his willingness to menace the store employee to get what he wanted to conclude that Officer Wilson received similar treatment.
The remarkably uncurious press seemed all too willing to make this about a white cop shooting an unarmed black teenager, instead of finishing that clause with "…who had just committed a felony." In efforts to sensationalize what was otherwise a local crime story, hundreds of members of the media descended upon Ferguson, attempting to portray the events occurring as part of a larger injustice imposed on black citizens by a reckless justice system. Their presence and excessive coverage served only to fan the flames.
There are real and meaningful justice reforms that must be made to protect our communities and ensure the rights of all citizens. Those begin with an honest assessment of the threats to our communities as well as training and funding of the police rather than the cynical blame-shifting of Ferguson.
As we learn more about the case in New York, it also serves as an opportunity to get it right this time. Let's hope we all seize upon it.
Ronald T. Hosko, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, served as assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation until April 2014.
While headlines celebrate the significance of Ireland voting to become the first nation in the world to make gay marriage legal, the real significance of the vote may be found in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a case before the Supreme Court right now, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said that such a profound change in the institution of marriage should be decided not by “an intermediate court” like his, but by “the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes.”
In reading the 2-1 verdict handed down in November, readers will find that Judge Sutton made the strong case that there is no constitutional right for the Federal Court to interfere with what is clearly a states rights issue, particularly since the gay marriage movement has been so successful in persuading citizens to vote to give them the rights they seek. In three states they have won a popular vote legalizing gay marriage, while also being successful in eight other states by convincing state legislators to enact state laws granting them the rights they seek. In fact, the democratic process has been reliable.
Judge Sutton clearly saw that these successes undermined the case of the gay marriage advocates, in which they claim that the courts must intercede on their behalf because they have been unfairly denied their rights through the traditional processes. This simply is not true. They want the courts to do their work for them in pursuit of “rights” they claim they deserve, regardless of how court action would trample the actual, well-established constitutional rights of millions of their fellow citizens. That is not how the democratic process works.
The election last weekend in Ireland further demonstrates that the goals of the gay-marriage advocates are within their grasp, if they are willing to do the work to make their case to their fellow citizens. As many of the quotes in the media after the Irish election suggested, “it is just a matter of time.” They are right, but not how they mean it. The factor of time is in fact the key to the Court’s decision. Our Supreme Court Justices should clearly see the evidence that Judge Sutton saw and not move to exceed the Court’s powers. A ruling by the Supreme Court imposing gay marriage on citizens in all 50 states, throwing out the legal votes of tens of millions of citizens and undermining the rights of states to determine their own laws, is now clearly not only unnecessary but legally indefensible.
The ruling to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) illegal was the right ruling because the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA infringed on states rights. The Supreme Court must follow its own precedent and uphold the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and overturn the lower court rulings in other districts which deny citizens and states their constitutional rights. We look forward to a legally and factually sound ruling by the Court this June and to continuing the “the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes.”
Tom Zawistowsi is president of the We the People Convention.
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Mogadore, Ohio - The Portage County TEA Party Executive Director, Tom Zawistowski, made clear today that the consequences for the Republican betrayal in the Senate will far exceed the consequences of any DHS "Shutdown". Zawistowski explained, "Senator McConnell and his ilk in the Senate need to clearly understand that the betrayal of all of their campaign promises, the betrayal of the very Oath of Office he himself swore just weeks ago to defend the Constitution, and the betrayal of the base of the Republican Party by allowing 5.5 million illegal non-citizens to acquire social security numbers and drivers licenses so that they can vote Democrat in coming elections, will result in the loss of the Senate and the White House in 2016. Their refusal to fight and win on DHS only provides further proof that they lied to the voters in 2014. Millions of Republican's and conservatives will no longer be played for fools by voting for liars and hypocrites. Romney did not win Ohio because hundreds of thousands of Ohio conservatives stayed home in 2012. Senator Rob Portman and the Republican presidential nominee can expect an even larger shunning by conservative Ohio voters in 2016. The unprincipled and cowardly actions of liberal RINO's like John McCain are an insult to any voter that calls themselves a Republican."
Zawistowski concluded by saying, "Let's also stop insulting the intelligence of Republican voters. The result of the supposed "Government Shutdown" in 2013 was a LANDSLIDE victory by Republicans in 2014. Claims to the contrary are contrived inside the beltway fiction. The result of the Senate not having the courage of a Ted Cruz on the DHS bill will be exactly the opposite, a LANDSLIDE victory for the Democrats in 2016. The only reason the RINO's in the Senate don't want a shutdown is because it will work and they don't want it to work. The don’t want to protect American jobs. They don't care about the black Americans and legal hispanic Americans who will lose work to these illegals. They don’t want to live up to their campaign promises to voters in their states. They want illegal immigration to placate their big monied Chamber of Commerce masters and their actions prove it. We get the message, you represent them and not us. We will be sure to vote accordingly in 2016, or more precisely not vote at all."
The TEA Party is not a political party but a grassroots cultural movement. The movement is educating American citizens about the Constitution and the uniquely American form of self-governance that has made our country so successful. Through this education, the movement is attempting to re-define what it means to be an American citizen, by encouraging individuals to vote, to run for office and to attend government meetings in their areas so that they can participate in their self-governance. The acronym TEA stands for Totally Engaged Americans.
New testimony reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) used “hundreds of attorneys” to hide critical information from Congress’s investigation of the IRS targeting of conservatives.
According to new congressional bombshell testimony today, the IRS set up a previously unknown “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two politically appointed positions at the IRS).
The “special project” this team was given? Concealing information from Congress.
The IRS’s director of privacy, governmental liaison, and disclosure division, Mary Howard, testified that soon after the IRS targeting scandal was revealed, the IRS “amassed hundreds of attorneys to go through the documents [requested by Congress] and redact them.”
Mary Howard, who also works as the head Freedom of Information Act officer in the IRS, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that once the “special project team” was created and operational, she never saw requests for information.
“My understanding was that it started soon after the request came from Congress and other investigators asking for documents around this whole issue,” which she surmised meant around spring of 2013.
In other words, as soon as the IRS targeting scandal broke, the IRS set up a special team of hundreds of attorneys, including President Obama’s political head of the Chief Counsel’s office, to keep requests for publicly available information away from the person who would normally review those documents and turn them over to Congress and the public. That “special” team then overly redacted, delayed, and determined which documents it wanted Congress to see.
After setting up a special “group” to target and delay applications by Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status, the IRS set up a new “special project team” to delay and redact information from Congress about that targeting. Can you smell a cover-up?
When asked about these revelations and the ongoing investigation by Congress into the IRS and former top IRS official Lois Lerner’s involvement, Howard testified, “I think that Lois Lerner was the tip of the iceberg.”
This is what we at the ACLJ have been arguing all along. The targeting of conservative groups, the delays, the unconstitutionally abusive questions go far beyond former top IRS official Lois Lerner. We expect to learn more about Lerner’s role and the disappearance and later recovery of many of her emails later this month as the Inspector General for Tax Administration is due to issue its report.
Out of the spotlight for most of the investigation into the IRS targeting has been IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, who was appointed by President Obama. His office has been directly implicated in the delay of the initial “test” group of Tea Party applications and the formulation of numerous abusive and intrusive questions, including illegal requests for donor information.
According to multiple IRS attorneys in D.C., including tax law specialist Carter Hull, who oversaw the review of the Tea Party cases, Lois Lerner, former Director at the Exempt Organizations Division, and her top advisor directed that certain Tea Party applications as part of a “test” group be sent to her office and IRS Chief Counsel for review in the winter of 2010-2011.
Chief Counsel’s office, after months more of delay, then demanded Mr. Hull make further inquiries of the Tea Party. According to the testimony, it was Chief Counsel’s office that was demanding to know more information about the conservative groups' activities “right before the  election period. In other words, immediately before.”
In addition, the testimony indicates that the Chief Counsel’s office was heavily involved in preparing a template for handling these cases, something Mr. Hull testified was impractical “because these organizations, all of them are different. A template wouldn’t work.” Yet, as he testified, a template was prepared by someone in Chief Counsel’s office in conjunction with other tax law specialists. Even more disturbing he testified that after three years, IRS Chief Counsel’s office had not made a determination about these “test” Tea Party cases, even though in 2011, Mr. Hull had all the information he needed to make a recommendation as to their request for tax-exempt status.
Of course, when asked about all of this, IRS Chief Counsel Wilkins conveniently forgot. As the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s interim report noted:
[D]uring his transcribed interview with Committee staff, Wilkins stated “I don’t recall” 80 times in full or partial response to questions. His inability or unwillingness to recollect important aspects of the misconduct – after over five months to prepare and refresh his recollection – suggests a deliberate attempt to obfuscate his role.
Congress’s investigation is far from over. At the ACLJ, our ongoing lawsuit on behalf of dozens of conservative and pro-life groups targeted by the IRS is far from over. Our appeal is pendingbefore a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.
Unfortunately, the targeting is far from over as well, as the application of one of our clients has been pending for well over five years.
We will not give up. The more we learn the worse it gets. The IRS has become a bureaucratic behemoth that – as I describe in my new New York Times Bestselling book “Undemocratic” – is institutionally incapable of self-correction.
We will continue fighting to expose IRS corruption and pursue justice for the American people.
Judicial Watch Files Seven Lawsuits to Expose Clinton Email Scandal
Two months ago, on March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported then-Secretary Clinton used at least one non-“state.gov” email account to conduct official government business during her tenure as the Secretary of State. It also was reported that Secretary Clinton stored these records on a non-U.S. government server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. For two months, other than one Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by one media outlet, official Washington has sputtered outrage but no strong steps have been taken to ensure accountability for Hillary Clinton’s and the Obama administration’s brazen lawlessness. Federal records, many surely classified, were mishandled, stolen, secreted, and supposedly destroyed in violation of several criminal and civil federal laws. The failure of leadership on this massive corruption issue did not stop Judicial Watch. We’ve been stepping into this gap for some time for the American people concerned about a government and politicians out of control.
Indeed, JW shook up Washington this week with a historic legal effort that shows your JW is boldly taking the lead in uncovering and curtailing the escalating corruption at the highest levels of government. This week, our expert team of attorneys filed seven – yes, seven – new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. State Department to obtain the release of documents about the Clinton email scandal, including the emails of her top aide Huma Abedin, and records about the Benghazi and Clinton Foundation scandals.JW filed one of the lawsuits on Monday, May 5 and six on Tuesday, May 6. (Last week, Judicial Watch also filed a lawsuit for records on Hillary Clinton’s use of an iPad and iPhone.)
As we have reported in the past, JW already has at least 18 active lawsuits, 10 of which are active in federal court, and about 160 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that could be affected by Mrs. Clinton and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business. In Judicial Watch’s various FOIA lawsuits, our lawyers have informed attorneys for the Obama administration that Hillary Clinton’s and any other secret accounts used by State employees should be secured, recovered, and searched. Judicial Watch’s litigation against the State Department has already exposed key documents about both the Benghazi and Clinton cash scandals.
But these bold legal actions were a prelude to a massive legal effort without compare. This latest raft of lawsuits gets to the heart of several Clinton/Obama scandals:
The seven new Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits ask federal courts to require the Obama administration obey the law and turn over:
Judicial Watch is seeking access to all emails of official State Department business received or sent by former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin from January 1, 2009, through February 1, 2013, using a non-“state.gov” email address.
Judicial Watch is seeking all emails sent or received by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in her official capacity as secretary of State, as well as all emails by other State Department employees to Secretary Clinton regarding her non-“state.gov” email address.
Judicial Watch is seeking access to records concerning the use and expense of a non-“state.gov” email address and server domain by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Such records include, but are not limited to, records concerning security, classification, preservation, and compliance with the Federal Records Act and/or the Freedom of Information Act.
Judicial Watch is seeking access to all records that identify the number and names of all current and former officials, officers, or employees of the U.S. Department of State from January 20, 2009, to the present who used email addresses other than their assigned “state.gov” email addresses to conduct official State Department business and the policies in place to ensure that emails were searched for responsiveness to FOIA requests.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s communications during the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, during which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith were killed. A second assault targeted a nearby compound, killing two government contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00692)).
Judicial Watch is seeking all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concerning the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as well as all communications between State Department employees and members of Congress, congressional staff or the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
State Department policies, procedures and review process enacted to ensure against conflicts of interest between foreign interests and the Clinton Foundation, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00688)).
Judicial Watch is seeking records that identify the policies and/or procedures in place to ensure that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal or charitable financial relationships with foreign leaders, foreign governments, and business entities posed no conflict of interest to her role as secretary of State; and all records related to the State Department’s review of donations to the Clinton Foundation for potential conflicts of interest with former Secretary Clinton’s role as secretary of State.
Judicial Watch is seeking access to all records completed and/or signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding her resignation from the office of secretary of State, as well as other State Department employees. Such records include, but are not limited to a “separation statement” signed by Hillary Clinton upon her resignation as Secretary of State.
A weak and hapless Congress, a compromised Justice Department, and a pliant liberal media won’t do the work of taking on Clinton and Obama corruption– and JW is happy to continue its leadership role in exposing government malfeasance. There is a rule-of-law and transparency crisis in Washington. But our new FOIA lawsuits are intended to make certain that Mrs. Clinton and her co-conspirators in the Obama administration will be held accountable for the violations of transparency law, criminal destruction and mishandling of government records, their Benghazi lies, and the Clintons’ continuing abuse of office for personal and political gain.
I want to assure you that as massive – and historical – as this is, we are just getting started. This is just the first round of newly planned lawsuits, since (as it won’t surprise our readers to learn) the State Department, and other Obama agencies, have failed to respond as required by law.
These lawsuits come just as former President Bill Clinton has entered the fray to explain away his wife’s ethical lapses and the many conflicts of interest involving foreign donations to his family’s foundation. You doubtlessly have heard President Clinton dishonestly talk in media interviewsabout how he and Hillary have done nothing “knowingly inappropriate” (which translates as “I’m guilty, but have mercy.”). He said he’ll continue to accept cash payments from whatever and whomever because “I gotta pay our bills” and that the Clintons are really victims who are being held to an unfair standard.
In typical Clintonian fashion, his complaint is the exact opposite of truth. In fact, few citizens, businesses, or even politicians would think they could use their public office to make themselves tens of millions of dollars from foreign potentates and then steal, destroy, and secret government records that could shed light on the illicit moneymaking! Bill’s bellyaching about explaining his, Hillary’s, and Chelsea’s monumental grifting might give pause to the friendly liberal media and Democratic partisans running the Justice Department. But, as you can see with our flotilla of new federal lawsuits, JW won’t be deterred by the latest round of Clinton evasions.
Skiing and Politicking on the Taxpayer Dime
When Daniel Craig returns as Agent 007 James Bond this fall, he will be appearing in one of the most expensive spy films ever made. SPECTRE, like many Bond films before it, includes a high-speed ski chase. Fortunately, the American taxpayer wasn’t forced to pony up for the elaborate production’s ski escapade costs. (I’m sure the producers of any movie would happily have accepted the financial support.) Unfortunately, however, the taxpayers were forced to pay, and pay through the nose, for Michelle Obama’s ski weekend escapade in pricey, trendy Aspen, Colorado, this past February. This is what we learned in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request we made to the U.S. Air Force on February 18, 2015. We asked for:
Any and all records concerning mission taskings relevant to First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to Aspen, Colorado.
Any and all records concerning transportation costs.
Any and all passenger manifests for the trip.
The records we obtained from the U.S. Air Force tell us that the First Lady’s trip cost us all a pretty penny. According to the newly released records, the transportation costs for the four-day trip to Aspen were based on a flight cost of $7,712 an hour for the First Lady, her daughters, and support personnel in the Gulfstream aircraft (as opposed to the $700 that the average American can spend for a roundtrip flight all the way to Europe and back). Not included were the attendant costs for U.S. Secret Service personnel, accommodations, meals, rental cars, lift tickets for skiing at Buttermilk, and related expenses. The $57,068.80 tab Mrs. Obama and her daughters ran up in travel expenses alone for their weekend trip is more than 14 times what the average American of four spends for an entire week-long vacation.
It has been apparent to us for some time now that the Obamas abuse taxpayer money with unnecessarily luxurious vacations and travel. How many times did the Obama family travel to Aspen prior to the presidency? Misusing the perks of presidency to travel to luxury hot-spots is an abuse that must end. If Congress is looking to save tax dollars, they might consider trimming the platinum travel budgets of this and future presidents.
Apparently, the ski trip was intended to be low-key, and it may have stayed under the radar had it not been for the Obama’s motorcade having been forced to stop for a two-car collision ahead of them, which closed the road for 40 minutes. Though the Obamas had been allowed to “sneak through while they waited on tow trucks,” according to Aspen Police Chief Brian Olsen, the presence of the First Lady was noticed. The Obama family reportedly stayed at the home of Jim and Paula Crown, a Chicago couple who have been major campaign contributors to President Obama throughout his political career.
Barack and Michelle Obama and other members of their family have traveled more during his presidency than any other first couple, including extensive and costly trips to Spain, Africa, South America, and China, accompanied by staff and often by friends.
Including the Aspen trip, government records indicate that the beyond-first-class travel of the Obamas and Vice President Joe Biden have cost the American people well over $56 million.
The Obamas have trained Vice President Biden well on how to use tax dollars for personal and political use. Air Force records we received in response to a September 19, 2014, FOIA show that Biden’s September 3, 2014, trip to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire cost taxpayers $17,025 in transportation expenses. Biden was in New Hampshire to campaign for Democratic Senate and House candidates. We had asked for:
1) Any and all records concerning mission taskings of Vice President Biden’s September 3, 2014 trip to New Hampshire;
2) Any and all records concerning transportation costs for Vice President Biden’s September 3, 2014 trip to New Hampshire; and
3) Any and all passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Vice President Biden’s September 3, 2014 trip to New Hampshire.
Biden’s cost included three hours of flight time at $5,675 an hour, which does not include Secret Service expenses or costs incurred by local law enforcement in New Hampshire. While the Obama administration claimed Biden was in New Hampshire to celebrate shipyard workers, it’s clear that he was in campaign mode. London’s Daily Mail reported that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, along with Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud of Maine, all joined Biden at the shipyard.
And tax dollars are sacrificed on the altar of Mr. Biden’s political ambition.
CNN Politics reported, “The vice president, who’s mulling a 2016 presidential bid, made his remarks at the Portsmouth Naval Yard in a speech about the economy. He was accompanied on stage by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who’s running for re-election this year.” The dirty little not-so-secret is that candidates, campaigns, and political parties pay nearly nothing for the political use of Air Force One (or Air Force Two).
The Obama family and Biden mistake the Air Force for Uber. The scam of presidents and vice presidents using tax dollars to subsidize candidates running for office must end. Did Shaheen reimburse taxpayers for a reasonable portion of the costs Biden to campaign for her? Our military has been decimated and is under strain. Biden might want to consider this when he next considers using Air Force Two for a trip to New Hampshire or Iowa as he runs for the presidency.
Your JW has been on top of these taxpayer-funded junkets for some time now.
We previously reported that flight costs for President Obama’s Labor Day 2014 weekend trips for fundraising, personal business, and politicking came to a total of $1,539,402.10 in taxpayer-paid transportation expenses. A break-down of these costs obtained from FOIA told us that:
Flights for Obama’s 2014 Labor Day weekend fundraising trips to Westchester, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, cost taxpayers $527,192.50
Transportation for Obama’s round-trip flight from D.C. to Westchester, New York, to attend a wedding cost taxpayers $358,490.90
The flight for Obama’s trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to speak at “Laborfest 2014” cost taxpayers $653,718.70
Unfortunately, the White House does not appear inclined toward a more fiscally responsible approach to travel as the Obama years wind down. So look for the tab to continue to skyrocket as the high-flying couple attempt to squeeze every last cent they can out of the White House travel budget. And with a presidential campaign heating up for Mr. Biden and other Democrats, your tax dollars will increasingly be the fuel for wasteful travel.
Are Courts Above the Law?
We have a president who thinks he can rewrite the law on his own. This has long been the practice of too many activist judges, but rarely have courts simply ignored a core provision of a law governing their operations. And that is why we filed an amicuscuriae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to review a Fourth Circuit ruling that conflicts with the Three-Judge Act by allowing only one judge to rule in a critical Maryland gerrymandering case. The Judicial Watch brief was filed to support the petitioners in Stephen M. Shapiro et al. v Bobbie S. Mack et al.
The Three-Judge Court Act, dating back more than a century, requires that three-judge panels must hear all constitutional challenges to legislative redistricting unless, according to past Supreme Court rulings, the case is “obviously frivolous,” “essentially fictitious,” “wholly insubstantial,” or “obviously without merit.” Yet, in 2003, the Fourth Circuit Court began to ignore this precedent in determining that a single judge could decide not to convene a three-judge panel if he determined the case was not “plausible.” The Fourth Circuit again applied the same contrarian standard in its 2014 ruling against plaintiffs Shapiro, Benisek, and Pycha.
Congress and the courts have recognized the vital importance of safeguarding voters against gerrymandering abuses by passing and upholding the Three-Judge Court Act. The Fourth Circuit subverts this law by allowing one judge inordinate power to effectively decide whether voters can challenge how a state draws congressional and state legislative districts. And JW’s position is that no one is above the law, most especially the courts.
In November 2013, Shapiro, Benisek, and Pycha sued Bobbie Mack (the chair of the Maryland State Board of Elections) and Linda Lamone (the state administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that the 2011 congressional districts established by the Maryland General Assembly violated their constitutional rights. When a single district court judge dismissed the suit, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In October 2014, the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court ruling, denying the plaintiffs an oral hearing before a three-judge panel. In February 2015, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our legal team argues that the Fourth Circuit decision “raises an important issue of federal election law that should be heard by this Court,” adding:
In particular, Judicial Watch is concerned that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling violates the Three-Judge Court Act and will allow states to delay judicial review of gerrymandered redistricting plans that disenfranchise voters and violate the Constitution. Judicial Watch has represented parties in two recent cases in Maryland concerning a ballot referendum on the state’s gerrymandered redistricting plan. Moreover, Judicial Watch may wish to be involved in challenges to gerrymandering on behalf of members or clients in the future, and believes the federal judiciary should not be erecting further obstacles to review.
We also point out that the Fourth Circuit’s circumvention of federal law results in “an allocation of authority” to one federal court judge that “cannot be squared with Congress’s judgment—recognized by this Court and others—that apportionment challenges and other types of three-judge cases are too important to be decided in the first instance by a single judge. Nor is the difference between one and three judges merely a formality.”
Let’s review some recent history to help drive home the importance of this case and what it means for average voters across the country.
Congress intended redistricting and other constitutional challenges under laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be heard under the “exceptional procedure” of a special three-judge panel. In 1976, Congress strengthened the Three-Judge Act by specifically ensuring that redistricting cases were handled by such panels in order “to assure more weight and greater deliberation by not leaving the fate of such litigation to a single judge.” As we say in our amicus, by instead using “motions to dismiss” to arbitrarily limit access to three-judge courts, the Fourth Circuit has “turned the Three-Judge Court Act’s purpose and framework on its head.”
The Three-Judge Court Act allows appeals from the district court three-judge panels to go directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the federal circuit courts of appeals. This statute assures a speedy resolution to this important class of cases:
And when the clock is always counting down towards the next election, such a delay can control whether the alleged constitutional violation can be remedied or if it is something that a state’s voters simply must swallow.
The 2013 lawsuit by Shapiro, Benisek, and Pycha challenged a congressional districting plan signed into law by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley in October 2011. Critics at the time charged that the new congressional map was specifically designed to enhance the power of select incumbents while minimizing the voting power of minorities, rural voters and Republicans. The Washington Post editorialized: “The map, drafted under Mr. O’Malley’s watchful eye, mocks the idea that voting districts should be compact or easily navigable. The eight districts respect neither jurisdictional boundaries nor communities of interest. To protect incumbents and for partisan advantage, the map has been sliced, diced, shuffled and shattered, making districts resemble studies in cubism.”
Your JW has been out in front of this case for some time now. We first entered the Maryland redistricting battle on August 10, 2012, when we represented MDPetitions.com and Delegate Neil Parrott in the successful lawsuit to block a move by the state’s Democrat party to have an Election Day voter referendum on the state’s controversial gerrymandering plan removed from the ballot. Three weeks later, Judicial Watch again represented Parrott in filing a complaint against Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough and the State Board of Elections challenging the misleading wording of the ballot question.
Whether or not the Supreme Court decides to review the case (grants cert), Judicial Watch isn’t walking away from the gerrymandering abuse in Maryland. You can expect more court action to uphold constitutional protections of citizens’ voting rights from shady state politicians who treat entire communities and voters like pieces on a game board.
College should be a place of new ideas and challenging views. Instead, liberals have made it a place of fear and intimidation.
The root of nearly every free-speech infringement on campuses across the country is that someone—almost always a liberal—has been offended or has sniffed out a potential offense in the making. Then, the silencing campaign begins. The offender must be punished, not just for justice’s sake, but also to send the message to anyone else on campus that should he or she stray off the leftist script, they too might find themselves investigated, harassed, ostracized, or even expelled. If the illiberal left can preemptively silence opposing speakers or opposing groups— such as getting a speech or event canceled, or denying campus recognition for a group—even better.
In a 2014 interview with New York magazine, comedian Chris Rock told journalist Frank Rich that he had stopped playing college campuses because of how easily the audiences were offended. Rock said he realized some time around 2006 that “This is not as much fun as it used to be” and noted George Carlin had felt the same way before he died. Rock attributed it to “Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.” Sadly, Rock admitted that the climate of hypersensitivity had forced him and other comedians into self-censorship.
This Orwellian climate of intimidation and fear chills free speech and thought. On college campuses it is particularly insidious. Higher education should provide an environment to test new ideas, debate theories, encounter challenging information, and figure out what one believes. Campuses should be places where students are able to make mistakes without fear of retribution. If there is no margin for error, it is impossible to receive a meaningful education.
Instead, the politically correct university is a world of land mines, where faculty and students have no idea what innocuous comment might be seen as an offense. In December 2014, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, sent an email to the student body in the wake of the outcry over two different grand juries failing to indict police officers who killed African-American men. The subject heading read “All Lives Matter” and the email opened with, “As members of the Smith community we are struggling, and we are hurting.” She wrote, “We raise our voices in protest.” She outlined campus actions that would be taken to “heal those in pain” and to “teach, learn and share what we know” and to “work for equity and justice.”
Close to 60 percent of the four hundred–plus colleges they surveyed “seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students.”
Shortly thereafter, McCartney sent another email. This one was to apologize for the first. What had she done? She explained she had been informed by students “the phrase/hashtag ‘all lives matter’ has been used by some to draw attention away from the focus on institutional violence against black people.” She quoted two students, one of whom said, “The black students at this school deserve to have their specific struggles and pain recognized, not dissolved into the larger student body.” The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that a Smith sophomore complained that by writing “All Lives Matter,” “It felt like [McCartney] was invalidating the experience of black lives.” Another Smith sophomore told the Gazette, “A lot of my news feed was negative remarks about her as a person.” In her apology email McCartney closed by affirming her commitment to “working as a white ally.”
McCartney clearly was trying to support the students and was sympathetic to their concerns and issues. Despite the best of intentions, she caused grievous offense. The result of a simple mistake was personal condemnation by students. If nefarious motives are imputed in this situation, it’s not hard to extrapolate what would, and does, happen to actual critics who are not obsequiously affirming the illiberal left.
In an article in the Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer—a lawyer and free-speech advocate—declared, “Academic freedom is declining. The belief that free speech rights don’t include the right to speak offensively is now firmly entrenched on campuses and enforced by repressive speech or harassment codes. Campus censors don’t generally riot in response to presumptively offensive speech, but they do steal newspapers containing articles they don’t like, vandalize displays they find offensive, and disrupt speeches they’d rather not hear. They insist that hate speech isn’t free speech and that people who indulge in it should be punished. No one should be surprised when a professor at an elite university calls for the arrest of ‘Sam Bacile’ [who made the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims] while simultaneously claiming to value the First Amendment.”
On today’s campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficial tactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling—and more far reaching—is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don’t like. They’ve invented a labyrinth of anti-free speech tools that include “speech codes,” “free speech zones,” censorship, investigations by campus “diversity and tolerance offices,” and denial of due process. They craft “anti-harassment policies” and “anti-violence policies” that are speech codes in disguise. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) 2014 report on campus free speech, “Spotlight on Speech Codes,” close to 60 percent of the four hundred–plus colleges they surveyed “seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of students.” Only 16 of the schools reviewed in 2014 had no policies restricting protected speech. Their 2015 report found that of the 437 schools they surveyed, “more than 55 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red light’ speech codes—policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff attributed the slight drop to outside pressure from free-speech groups and lawsuits.
For many Americans the term “speech code” sends shivers up the spine. Yet these noxious and un-American codes have become commonplace on college campuses across the United States. They are typically so broad that they could include literally anything and are subject to the interpretation of school administrators, who frequently fail to operate as honest brokers. In the hands of the illiberal left, the speech codes are weapons to silence anyone—professors, students, visiting speakers—who expresses a view that deviates from the left’s worldview or ideology. Speech that offends them is redefined as “harassment” or “hate speech” both of which are barred by most campus speech codes. At Colorado College, a private liberal arts college, administrators invented a “violence” policy that was used to punish non-violent speech. The consequences of violating a speech code are serious: it can often lead to public shaming, censoring, firings, suspensions, or expulsions, often with no due process.
Many of the incidents sound too absurd to be true. But true they are. Consider, for example, how Yale University put the kibosh on its Freshman Class Council’s T-shirt designed for the Yale-Harvard football game. The problem? The shirt quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line from This Side of Paradise, that, “I think of all Harvard men as sissies.” The word “sissy” was deemed offensive to gay people. Or how about the Brandeis professor who was found guilty of racial harassment—with no formal hearing—for explaining, indeed criticizing, the word “wetbacks.” Simply saying the word was crime enough. Another professor, this time at the University of Central Florida, was suspended for making a joke in class equating his tough exam questions to a “killing spree.” A student reported the joke to the school’s administration. The professor promptly received a letter suspending him from teaching and banning him from campus. He was reinstated after the case went public.
The vaguely worded campus speech codes proliferating across the country turn every person with the ability to exercise his or her vocal cords into an offender in the making. New York University prohibits “insulting, teasing, mocking, degrading or ridiculing another person or group.” The College of the Holy Cross prohibits speech “causing emotional injury through careless or reckless behavior.” The University of Connecticut issued a “Policy Statement on Harassment” that bans “actions that intimidate, humiliate, or demean persons or groups, or that undermine their security or self-esteem.” Virginia State University’s 2012–13 student handbook bars students from “offend[ing] ... a member of the University community.” But who decides what’s “offensive”? The illiberal left, of course.
The list goes on and on. The University of Wisconsin-Stout at one point had an Information Technology policy prohibiting the distribution of messages that included offensive comments about a list of attributes including hair color. Fordham University’s policy prohibited using email to “insult.” It gets worse: Lafayette College—a private university—instituted a “Bias Response Team” which exists to “respond to acts of intolerance.” A “bias-related incident” was “any incident in which an action taken by a person or group is perceived to be malicious ... toward another person or group.” Is it really wise to have a policy that depends on the perception of offense by college-aged students? Other schools have bias-reporting programs encouraging students to report incidents.
Speech codes create a chilling environment where all it takes is one accusation, true or not, to ruin someone’s academic career. The intent or reputation or integrity of the accused is of little import. If someone “perceives” you have said or acted in a racist way, then the bar for guilt has been met. If a person claims you caused them “harm” by saying something that offended them, case closed.
In November 2013, more than two dozen graduate students at UCLA entered the classroom of their professor and announced a protest against a “hostile and unsafe climate for Scholars of Color.” The students had been the victims of racial “microaggression,” a term invented in the 1970s that has been recently repurposed as a silencing tactic. A common definition cited is that racial microaggressions “are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color.” Like all these new categories, literally anything can be a microaggression.
So what were the racial microaggressions that spawned the interruption of a class at the University of California at Los Angeles? One student alleged that when the professor changed her capitalization of the word “indigenous” to lowercase he was disrespecting her ideological point of view. Another proof point of racial animus was the professor’s insistence that the students use the Chicago Manual of Style for citation format (the protesting students preferred the less formal American Psychological Association manual). After trying to speak with one male student from his class, the kindly 79-year-old professor was accused of battery for reaching out to touch him. The professor, Val Rust, a widely respected scholar in the field of comparative education, was hung out to dry by the UCLA administration, which treated a professor’s stylistic changes to student papers as a racist attack. The school instructed Rust to stay off the Graduate School of Education and Information Services for one year. In response to the various incidents, UCLA also commissioned an “Independent Investigative Report on Acts of Bias and Discrimination Involving Faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles.” The report recommended investigations, saying that “investigations might deter those who would engage in such conduct, even if their actions would likely not constitute a violation of university policy.”
By: William Green, Ohio State Director, Frederick Douglass Foundation;
Thomas Zawistowski, Executive Director, Portage County TEA Party
Akron, OH - May 1, 2015 - Black Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said this week, while reflecting on the upcoming 50th Anniversary of former Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes becoming the first black mayor of a major American city, "Sadly, not that much has changed in 50 years. We are still addressing aging infrastructure, poverty and issues on the police department." His comments are both insightful and problematic.
They reflect what we are seeing in Baltimore today, and in Ferguson and New York and in fact every major American City over the past 50 years. A total failure of the regressive Democratic party statist big government philosophy that started with Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and has seen its peak with the failed policies and unchecked social spending of outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama who is the embodiment of that failed philosophy. They also indicate that Mayor Jackson and his equally befuddled counterpart, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, not only don’t know why their shared philosophy is failing, but have no clue how to fix it. This is no mystery.
Conservatives in the TEA Party movement and those who have studied and celebrate the teachings of successful black American heroes like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Sarah Breedlove, will not accept the excuses and the attempts by liberals, and their allies in the media, to deflect blame for what is in fact their failure. The Democrats and the left own this - lock, stock and barrel. The problem in Baltimore, Cleveland, Ferguson and all over our nation are two fold - families and jobs. The answers to those problems are not unknown, they are ignored by those who benefit from these failed policies.
It boggles the mind that Democratic Party acolytes, like Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, would dare suggest in the middle of the social tragedy laid bare in Baltimore, that after Americans have spent $22 Trillion dollars in the past 50 years on the Democrats’ failed “War on Poverty,” that the solution is “more federal spending.” In Baltimore we spend over $16,000 per year per student, second-most in the nation, to have less than 50% of High School seniors pass the High School Assessment test. We pay over $35,000 to a single mother, with two children, on government assistance,10th highest in the US. Baltimore is in fact the poster-city for the radical regressive Democratic party statist big government philosophy, and it has failed. Miserably. Just like Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and all the Democratic Cleveland Mayors since Carl Stokes, have failed to deliver on the promise they make to inner city black voters year in and year out, that they will deliver jobs and “equality” and “social justice,” and they never do. They only deliver more poverty and dependency and hopelessness. It’s all a lie.
It is a fact that more black families had fathers and mothers than white families in the US before the 1960’s. Lyndon Johnson, and the Democrat majority who controlled Congress, destroyed the black American family when they changed welfare laws to provide strong economic incentives for poor women to not have husbands. These laws actually penalize a family financially if a woman has a husband - under the guise of compassion for single women with children. These Democratic-party-passed and maintained laws are the real “war on women” in America today. The result has been a devastating decrease of blacks growing up in two-parent households, from 72% in the 1960’s to around 33% today. You get what you incentivize for, and they got what they wanted - poor and black Americans on the Government Plantation for decades. Just like LBJ predicted.
Hypocrites like the NAACP, the Black Congressional Caucus, and Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, along with race hustlers like Sharpton and Jackson, have known this for decades and done NOTHING. Even when they have had the power to fix it. Did President Obama move to change the welfare laws when the Democrats controlled all three branches of our federal Government in his first term? He did not. Where was their concern for these inner city blacks then when they could do something about it? Remember Democrats have controlled the White House and the Congress 70% of the time since 1960. They are to blame. If we change the welfare laws to incentivize two-parent households, that’s what we will get, and young blacks will have fathers - which is also a big part of the solution to the black youth incarceration rate. We call on those of both political parties in Government to do this NOW if they are serious about solving the main cause of poverty.
The second part of the solution is JOBS. Not government handouts, not government jobs, but REAL private sector jobs. This is a two-step process. First, to get a job you need an education. To get an eduction you need an education system that is focused on student outcomes, not on adult job security. To get an education system that serves students, you need to create competition for those students’ dollars so that a parent can get the best education for their child that money, our tax money, can buy. Why don’t we have a free market education system? For one reason and one reason only: because giving parents a choice about their children’s education undermines the power and control of the statists who control the Democratic Party. Let us not mince words, the teachers Unions are little more than a way for the regressive left to extort money from taxpayers to fund their agenda and the Democratic party.
Newly-elected Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, has already been taken to the “political woodshed” by the radical regressive union-controlled democratic machine for daring to suggest that they should have more charter schools in Baltimore because their public schools had an “F” rating. “Hypocrite” is too kind a word for those who oppose these obvious fixes. “Racist” would be more appropriate terms for those Democrats who killed eduction reform in Washington, DC and New York City and everywhere else in our nation. Their actions INTENTIONALLY keep the poor uneducated as a form of political control. Those are the people who deserve the blame for Baltimore. Those are the people the media should be investigating. Taxpayers are paying the equivalent of college tuition for K-12 students and are ending up with unemployable teenagers who can’t graduate from high school, let along go to and graduate from college.
Even if they go to college, they would likely not get an education that would prepare them for a productive career that provides lifetime prosperity and security for their family. Instead they would get indoctrinated like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did at bigoted Oberlin College where the radical regressive liberal “professors” taught her flawed statist anti-american philosophy so that she could go on to create more poverty and oppression of the very people they “claim” to defend.
If we want to end poverty, we need to restore the application of key American principles to public education at all levels - rigorous study of science, math, economics and history, with a focus on personal responsibility for learning, support for competition for grades, and rewards for achievement. The “Nanny State” has failed. It is time for parents and relatives to take back control of the responsibility for our children and their future. That is the first step toward job creation and it MUST be implemented.
The second step, is embracing capitalism, free enterprise and ownership of private property. Something abhorrent to statists like Barack Obama, Frank Jackson, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Demonizing all businesses, business owners and the wealthy as corrupt, greedy, and responsible for all the ills of our society doesn’t create jobs. That is why the Democrats do it, to keep the poor and blacks on the Government Plantation. We must commit to unleashing the economic power of capitalism and free enterprise that made our nation the most prosperous in the history of the world. President Obama, you and your party did not build the historic prosperity of Baltimore and Detroit and others that made them once great cities - business and industry did! Your policies destroyed that prosperity.
So, what’s the second part of creating jobs after fixing the education system? How about making all areas of the country with a 20% or more poverty rate Tax-Free Zones for all businesses? You get what you incentivize for right? No local, state or federal taxes would be a huge incentive for business owners to move their businesses to the inner cities. (SEE OP-ED BELOW THAT DOCUMENTS THIS PROBLEM) The local, state and federal government would make their money from the income taxes earned by employees, and from the property taxes from the rising value of the homes those employees would now be able to purchase. You want jobs? Let’s also remove all business regulation, except those really required for health and safety, on all businesses in the Tax-Free Zones. If we do that, we’ll have foreign companies moving businesses to our inner cities! None of that works, however, without the commitment to create competition in our schools. You can’t do Step 2 without Step 1.
It is long past time, 50 years past time, for American taxpayers to wake up and demand that the insanity stop. That the radical regressive statist anti-capitalism Democratic destruction machine be stopped. Black lives do matter, and so do white and Hispanic and Asian and all Americans lives. All of us have suffered from this flawed ideology for too long. This didn’t happen by accident, it was planned and executed by the regressive statist left through the Democratic Party. It can be fixed if we demand that the welfare laws be changed NOW. Demand that all parents and student get vouchers NOW so that they can have the power to hold teachers and administrators accountable. Demand that our governments at the local, state and national level pave the way for businesses to create jobs and stop pretending that having 93 million American adults NOT working is “good for our economy.” This is the reform that these protest marches should be demanding if they really want to fix the problem and help the people they claim to care about. They don’t need “Justice” they need fathers and jobs!
My Baltimore Business Problem
What it’s like to operate a company 150 yards from the burned out liquor store—and why it’s hard to create jobs.
The supply-chain management company I started in the late 1990s and lead today is in downtown Baltimore. On the night of the worst violence last month, there were more tempting targets than our cement, nondescript building, like the liquor store 150 yards away that was looted. Yet on any given day what takes place in this neighborhood is a slow-motion version of recent events. Graffiti, which anyone with experience in urban policing will affirm is the first sign of trouble, regularly appears on the exterior of our building. From there the range of crimes escalates to burglarizing cars in the parking lot, and breaking and entering our building.
City policies and procedures fail to help employers address these problems—and make them worse. When the building alarm goes off, the police charge us a fee. If the graffiti isn’t removed in a certain amount of time, we are fined. This penalize-first approach is of a piece with Baltimore’s legendary tax and regulatory burden. The real cost of these ill-conceived policies is to the community where we—and other local businesses in similar positions—might be able to hire more of those Baltimoreans who have lost hope of escaping poverty and government dependency.
Maryland still lags most states in its appeal to companies, according to well-documented business-climate comparisons put out by think tanks, financial-services firms, site-selection consultants and financial media. Baltimore fares even worse than other Maryland jurisdictions, having the highest individual income and property taxes at 3.2% and $2.25 for every $100 of assessed property value, respectively. New businesses organized as partnerships or limited-liability corporations are subject, unusually, to the local individual income tax, reducing startup activity.
The bottom line is that our modest 14,000-square-foot building is hit with $50,000 in annual property taxes. And when we refinanced our building loan in 2006, Maryland and Baltimore real-estate taxes drove up the cost of this routine financial transaction by $36,000.
State and city regulations overlap in a number of areas, most notably employment and hiring practices, where litigious employees can game the system and easily find an attorney to represent them in court. Building-permit requirements, sales-tax collection procedures for our multistate clients, workers’ compensation and unemployment trust-fund hearings add to the expensive distractions that impede hiring.
Harder to quantify is the difficulty people face who want to live here. Our employees reduce their tax burden and receive better public services in the suburbs. I live in the city, however, and it is a challenge to stay here. My two children attend a public elementary school where classrooms are filled beyond capacity with 30 or more students. Bathroom stall doors and toilet-seat lids are missing. The heat goes out in the winter and the air-conditioning goes out in hot weather. It’s hard to explain the importance of developing science and math skills to students wearing winter coats in the classroom.
Contrary to President Obama’s suggestion in a news conference following saturated television coverage of the riots, lack of urban “investment” is not the problem. The Maryland state and Baltimore city governments are leveraging funds to float a $1 billion bond issue to rebuild crumbling public schools. This is on top of the $1.2 billion in annual state aid Baltimore received in 2015, more than any other jurisdiction and eclipsing more populous suburban counties. The financial problem Baltimore does face is a declining tax base, the most pronounced in the state. According to the Internal Revenue Service, $125 million in taxable annual income in Baltimore vanished between 2009 and 2010.
Leadership can change this. Maryland last fall elected a new governor, Republican Larry Hogan, who campaigned on improving the state’s business climate and bipartisanship. Baltimore’s mayor since 2010, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, says she is committed to rebuilding the city. Despite some minor jabs at each other in the past few months, both showed an effective working relationship during the crisis of the past few weeks. Their political futures will now be linked as the real work begins to repair Maryland’s largest city.
They will be building on perceptions of the Baltimore area that go far beyond the 24-hour, instant-news cycle. We have corporate success stories to tell the world about, including Under Armour, a global leader in sports apparel, and McCormick, the classic American spice company founded here in 1889. But these companies succeed despite the business climate, not because of it.
The simplest, most direct way to offer hope to discouraged people is to hire them. The Baltimore business community has a simple message to law enforcement and elected officials: “Help us help you.” People making good wages, working at jobs they are proud of don’t destroy themselves or the place where they live. We have the political and business talent to rebuild one of America’s great cities, once we focus on creating the conditions for job growth.
Mr. Steinmetz, a former member of the Maryland Small Business Commission, is the CEO of Baltimore-based Barcoding Inc.
Akron, OH - Tom Zawistowski, President of the Ohio Citizens PAC, spoke out today against the hypocrisy of the left with its unwarranted and ill informed attacks on Indiana and Religious Freedom. Zawistowski said “The media knows, and the fact prove, that the largest group being discriminated against in America today are Christians and Jews. Not Muslims, not blacks, not gays - Christians and Jews. They are being unfairly stereotyped as haters and bigots and the source of discrimination in America. They are being forced out of our schools, our government and our universities by anti-American extremists on the left. It is Muslims who discriminate against women and gays, it is blacks who’s hate for white police officers are being stoked by fabricated untruths about Ferguson and other cases, it is gays who want to force their life style on Christians and take away their 1st Amendment right to Religious Freedom. We applaud the Indiana Legislature and Governor for defending Religious Freedom because it is under attack.”
Zawistowski continued by saying “The symbol of justice is a scale. It signifies that their must be a balance between the rights of one group or one person and another. The Indiana law strikes that balance, that is what the outrages the left and the media. The Indiana law does not discriminate against gays or anyone else, it does “Restore” the fact the Religious Freedom is a fundamental right. The radical regressive left doesn’t want equal rights, it wants to dominate other citizens, to force people to do what “they” say - and they do it by claiming that the opposite is true. This is right out of rules for radicals and the media is either complicit or foolish enough to buy the lie. They are the bullies and the hypocrites not Christians and Jews.”
Zawistowski concluded by saying “Apple’s gay CEO Tim Cook can threaten the people of Indiana for not doing what he wants them to do, but he sells Apple products in Russian and China and Saudi Arabia where they kill gays just for being gay. The NAACP can shout the lie “Hands Up Dont’s Shoot” and “Black Lives Matter” then do nothing about the black-on-black genocide in our American Cities. Connecticut’s Governor can attack the new Indiana law knowing full well that his state has an even tougher Religious Freedom law because for the left truth does not matter, only forcing their will on others matters. This is not about gay rights, this is about destroying religion in America so that all citizens must answer to the state, not a higher power. We will not be bullied. We will not give up our rights. We will not believe your lies. We will defend our right, and the right of all Americans, to practice our religion in public and in our daily lives. God bless America.”
HYPOCRISY OF THE LEFT REACHES NEW LOWS
WITH ATTACKS ON INDIANA AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Akron, OH - Tom Zawistowski, President of the Ohio Citizens PAC, spoke out today against the hypocrisy of the left with its unwarranted and ill-informed attacks on Indiana and Religious Freedom. Zawistowski said “The media knows, and the facts prove, that the largest group being discriminated against in America today are Christians and Jews. Not Muslims, not blacks, not gays - Christians and Jews. They are being unfairly stereotyped as haters and bigots and the source of discrimination in America. They are being forced out of our schools, our government and our universities by anti-American extremists on the left. It is Muslims who discriminate against women and gays, it is blacks who’s hate for white police officers are being stoked by fabricated untruths about Ferguson and other cases, it is gays who want to force their life style on Christians and take away their 1st Amendment right to Religious Freedom. We applaud the Indiana Legislature and Governor for defending Religious Freedom because it is under attack.”
Zawistowski continued by saying “The symbol of justice is a scale. It signifies that there must be a balance between the rights of one group, or one person, and another. The Indiana law strikes that balance, that is what the outrages the left and the media. The Indiana law does not discriminate against gays or anyone else, it does “Restore” the fact the Religious Freedom is a fundamental right not to be infringed by other rights. The radical regressive left doesn’t want equal rights, it wants to dominate other citizens, to force people to do what “they” say - and they do it by claiming that the opposite is true. This tactic is right out of "rules for radicals" and the media is either complicit or foolish enough to buy the lie. We are not. Gays and the anti-American left are the bullies and the hypocrites and the bigots - not Christians and Jews.”
Zawistowski concluded by saying “Apple’s gay CEO Tim Cook threatens the people of Indiana for not doing what he wants them to do against there will, but he sells Apple products in Russian and China and Saudi Arabia where they kill gays just for being gay - how disengenuous. The NCAA can litterally use black youth as slaves to earn them billions in profits without giving the vast majority of them even an education, and then have the gall to speak down to the people of Indiana about descrimination. The NAACP can shout the lie “Hands Up Dont’s Shoot” and claim “Black Lives Matter” then do nothing about the black-on-black genocide in our American cities. Connecticut’s despicable Governor can attack the new Indiana law knowing full well that his state has an even tougher Religious Freedom law because for the left truth does not matter, only forcing their will on others matters. This is not about gay rights at all, this is about using gays as a tool to destroy religion in America so that all citizens must answer to the state, not a higher power. We will not be bullied. We will not give up our rights. We will not believe your lies. We will defend our rights, and the right of all Americans, to practice our religion in public and in our daily lives. God bless America and God bless Governor Pence and the good people of Indiana. All true Americans stand with you.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments for the King v. Burwell case starting March 4th, with a decision likely to come down sometime in June. The Court’s decision will determine whether the IRS’ illegal implementation of ObamaCare subsidies to states that refused to set up insurance exchanges can continue. If not, the true cost of ObamaCare will be revealed to the American public, a cost that has until now been partially concealed by the IRS’ decision to circumvent the written law.
Many conservatives have come to view King v. Burwell as a potential death blow for ObamaCare. If the court rules as we believe they should, the perception is that the president’s signature law will collapse and health care freedom will be restored.
But this mindset is a delusion, and a dangerous one at that. To be sure, a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be a great opportunity, but it’s one that, if not taken advantage of, could end up doing more harm than good to the cause of health care freedom.
Here’s why: suppose the Supreme Court finds in favor of King. In that case, states currently receiving subsidies through federal insurance exchanges would have that money cut off, meaning that millions of people will see the full price of their health plans—plans they are legally obligated to purchase, mind you—for the first time. This is the true effect of ObamaCare, and one that is totally unacceptable both from a policy and a humanitarian perspective. Congress abhors a vacuum, and in the rush to correct this problem—a problem created, it must be remembered, by ObamaCare, not by King—they are likely to follow the path of least resistance.
What that path is depends largely on how hard Republicans are willing to work in the intervening months. If they do nothing, things are surely going to get worse for health care, not better. One possibility is that Congress simply passes a small revision to the language of the Affordable Care Act, codifying the IRS subsidies as legal. This would restore the post-ObamaCare status quo, which for those of us who value freedom and opportunity is wholly unacceptable. A second possibility is that states simply set up their own insurance exchanges as the law originally expected they would. Once again, this does nothing to move the country towards patient-centered health care reform.
The sense of urgency created by the crisis could make it easier for the president and his party to further entrench the worst provisions of ObamaCare into law, making it all the more difficult to get rid of in the future.
To quote Dickens, “Are these the shadows of things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?" As I said, King v. Burwell is a great opportunity. If Republicans get their act together and have a credible, patient-centered alternative to ObamaCare on the table before the Supreme Court’s decision drops, we have a chance to end an unpopular law that was only able to be passed by lying to the American people about its true cost.
In the wake of these revelations, Secretary Eric Shinseki--who CVA had been demanding be fired for close to a year--resigned, along with other top VA officials. In addition, with CVA's support, Congress passed a VA reform bill that was intended to give veterans more health care freedom through the use of the Veteran Choice Card and give the new VA Secretary--Bob McDonald--more power to fire poor performing senior VA managers.
But has anything really changed at the VA in the past year? The unfortunate answer is a resounding NO--and VA's own data confirms it.
Clearly, instead of making changes on the margins, the VA needs systemic and fundamental reform. Fortunately, CVA has a plan called the Veterans Independence Act , which will put the veteran--not a VA bureaucrat--in control of their own health care by offering real health care choices, instead of the faux choice currently represented in the Veteran Choice Card. In addition, the Veterans Independence Act will make the current VA health care system a government-chartered non-profit, giving it the flexibility and competitive advantages it needs to compete with the private health care sector. Finally, the Veterans Independence Act will begin to return the VA back to its original mission of prioritizing service-connected disabled veterans--something which the VA has unfortunately drifted away from.
CVA was advocating for VA reform long before the VA wait list scandal broke a year ago. We were the first group to call for Secretary Shinseki to resign and we have been the biggest proponent of giving veterans the choice to receive their health care outside of the VA. Despite our disappointment with the lack of progress in fixing the VA, CVA will continue to fight for reforms like the Veterans Independence Act that we believe will increase the well-being of our veterans.