“Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” –James Madison
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
ATF Takes Advantage of Mentally Challenged, Flouts Gun Laws
If the horribly botched ATF Operation Fast and Furious wasn’t enough, a lengthy investigation by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reveals that a number of sting operations conducted by the ATF were executed with highly questionable tactics, such as using mentally challenged men as unwitting marks to buy and sell arms. Many of those men were then charged for their involvement. The newspaper found a half-dozen operations where legally dubious methods were used to rack up significant numbers of arrests; unfortunately, most of those prosecuted were small-time criminals.
On several occasions, undercover agents found low-IQ men and enlisted them as helpers in their schemes. Their general mode of operation was to open up a storefront or pawnshop that openly traded in stolen goods, including guns, and use the “slow-headed” helpers to work odd jobs and bring in the desired types of customers.
Yet when dealing in guns, the undercover agents frequently allowed known felons with stolen guns to “walk” them out of their stores. One store was even located directly across the street from a middle school, a mistake the responsible agent said he made because he entered the building through a back door and never noticed the school. The owner of that building incurred $30,000 in roof damage when the ATF agents removed an overhead light that lit an adjacent parking lot. Other landlords were left with removed walls and electrical wiring in disarray from the installation of hidden video equipment.
In other locations where the ATF opened undercover pawnshops, local authorities had to deal with a rash of break-ins and burglaries in these areas, with some perpetrators literally driving from the scene of a crime to a pawnshop to get quick cash.
Obviously, the very nature of undercover work is that of a tradeoff: committing some illegal acts in order to bring down a larger criminal conspiracy. These stings seemed to yield high numbers of arrests and convictions, the Journal-Sentinel writes, but many in the legal community question their value. “That is a waste of federal resources,” said a former U.S. attorney who worked in the organized crime unit.
And while many would protest by saying these criminals got what was coming to them, the question of how many criminals were manufactured in these operations is a nagging one. There’s enough real crime out there without creating more incentives in order to make headlines and an excuse for a larger budget.
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ECONOMY, REGS & TAXES
Economic Freedom Report Knocks U.S.
Canada’s Fraser Institute recently released its 2013 Economic Freedom of the World report, and the results are discouraging for the U.S. First, the definition of economic freedom: “Individuals have economic freedom when (a) property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and (b) they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.” As ideal as that sounds, it’s becoming more difficult and rare.
It wasn’t that long ago that the U.S. was a world leader in economic freedom. According to the report, “Throughout most of period from 1980 to 2000, the United States ranked as the world’s third-freest economy, behind Hong Kong and Singapore.” However, “By 2005, the US rating had slipped to 8.21 and its ranking fallen to 8th. The slide has continued. The United States placed 16th in 2010 and 19th in 2011,” the latest year considered in the report. It’s worth noting that the decline began under George W. Bush, though it has accelerated under Barack Obama.
The report notes in ranking states and provinces that Canadian provinces fair better than U.S. states. The top two in North America are Alberta and Saskatchewan, and four of the top seven are Canadian provinces. Delaware is the highest ranked U.S. state at number three; Texas and Nevada are the next highest U.S. states. It’s telling that the states with no income tax tend to score higher. Unfortunately, the trend is going in the wrong direction, and Canada is not winning by becoming more free but by not being as bad as the U.S. The prescription for our sluggish economy is obviously to get back to the fundamentals of economic freedom.
Warfront With Jihadistan Comes to Wichita
A planned suicide bombing at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport was foiled by federal officials Friday when they arrested Terry Lee Loewen for seeking to commit “violent jihad against the United States.” Loewen was an avionics technician at the airport who tried to detonate a car full of what he thought were explosives.
Loewen was inspired to bomb the airport after studying the writings of the late al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamist cleric that also inspired Nidal Hasan to murder his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, as well as the failed Christmas 2009 “underwear bomber.” Al-Awlaki was introduced to his virgins by a U.S. predator drone in Yemen in 2011.
As for Loewen, he wrote to an undercover FBI agent, “Brothers like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki are a great inspiration to me, but I must be willing to give up everything (like they did) to truly feel like a obedient slave of Allah.” He was not associated with any organized religion in Wichita, though he claims to be Muslim. According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste, “Lone wolves – homegrown violent extremists – remain a very serious threat to our nation’s security.” Of course, Loewen is only “homegrown” in the sense that he was born here. All his inspiration came from radical Islamists abroad.
CULTURE, SCIENCE & FAITH
Climate Change This Week: Warmer Then, Not Now
A new study from Swedish climate scientists indicates that the earth was likely warmer during the ancient Roman empire and Medieval period than it is today. Leif Kullman, the study’s author, found that tree lines were at higher elevation during those times than they are today, mainly because “summer temperatures during the early Holocene thermal optimum [Roman and Medieval period] may have been 2.3°C higher than present.” Something tells us that wasn’t because of all the Roman SUVs.
Certainly, one report doesn’t prove anything one way or the other, but the trend is certainly not going in favor of those who want to blame “global warming” on modern human activity and then clamp down on it with draconian government measures. Despite the alarmism today, temperatures have not increased globally since 1998, leaving warmists scrambling to come up with an explanation. Indeed, just last week saw 2,000 cold and snow records broken in the U.S.
In light of this mounting evidence, some climate scientists are – gasp – becoming skeptics. Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says, “All other things being equal, adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will have a warming effect on the planet. However, all things are never equal, and what we are seeing is natural climate variability dominating over human impact.” That’s worth repeating: Natural climate variability might have something to do with the climate.
Heritage Foundation’s Rich Tucker: “Do we really need a list of the rights Americans enjoy? That was the question the Founders debated before the Bill of Rights was ratified 222 years ago this weekend. Many of those who framed the Constitution, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, believed that a separate Bill of Rights was unnecessary. … Madison eventually embraced the idea. He recognized that by listing specific rights, the Constitution would remind citizens and members of government that those rights were inalienable. He ended up drafting the Bill and introducing it as a Member of Congress from Virginia. Of the 17 rights Madison included, 12 were sent to the states for ratification by Congress and the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights were added to the Constitution when Virginia became the ninth state to ratify on December 15, 1791. Over the centuries, the rights have been limited in some ways and expanded in others – often too far. … But, like the Constitution itself, the most important thing is that the Bill exists. Its rights are written down for all to see. And we can always return to them if we can build the political momentum.”
Columnist Peggy Noonan: “The Democrats … spent the past five years on a toot, passing multi-thousand-page bills they didn’t read whose consequences they didn’t even bother to guess at. Now, to the consternation of the American people, they have blown up the American health-care system. That system was a road with a lot of potholes and not enough lanes. It needed repair and strengthening. Instead Democrats attacked it like the Bridge on the River Kwai and are now standing there scratching their heads like Alec Guinness, asking: ‘What have I done?’ That whole mess will have to be cleaned up. Maybe a budget deal will give Congress a little space – and confidence – in which to attempt it. The deal’s foes can’t just say it isn’t good enough. Of course it’s not good enough! They’re never good enough. ‘The budget’ is just a thing going in the wrong direction or the right direction. This one goes right. Have a good 2014 and it will go righter still.”
“[W]e’re not going to have real prosperity or recovery until we stop fighting the symptoms and start fighting the disease. There’s only one cause for inflation – government spending more than government takes in. The cure is a balanced budget. Ah, but they tell us, 80 percent of the budget is uncontrollable. It’s fixed by laws passed by Congress. Well, laws passed by Congress can be repealed by Congress. And, if Congress is unwilling to do this, then isn’t it time we elect a Congress that will? … The truth is, Washington has taken over functions that don’t truly belong to it. In almost every case it has been a failure. Now, understand, I’m speaking of those programs which logically should be administered at state and local levels. Welfare is a classic example. Voices that are raised now and then urging a federalization of welfare don’t realize that the failure of welfare is due to federal interference.”
For more, visit The Right Opinion.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Those that are trying to stop [gun control] legislation from going forward should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. I personally am happy with my vote to keep military-style weapons and large ammunition clips off the streets.”
NBC’s Brian Williams: “As we approach the one-year mark … of the tragedy at Sandy Hook … there is a plea tonight from this country’s psychologists. They say the gun issue is not just a political issue, that protecting our children from gun violence, including in their own homes, is a matter instead of public health.”
From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “[The Tea Party is] here to undo government. President George Washington cautioned when he left office against political parties that are at war with their own government. … They don’t believe in government. They don’t believe in science and they don’t believe in the presidency of Barack Obama. So it’s a trifecta. Those people have hijacked the name Republican, which has made such a valuable contribution to our country – the Republican Party – but they’ve taken it over the cliff.”
The BIG Lie
Nancy Pelosi: “[Republicans have] disrespect. Disrespect for the role that women have, in terms of exercising their judgment about their responsibilities. Disrespect for women in the workplace.”
Huffington Post blogger and “minister” Donna Schaper: “What is it about women that the religious right can’t tolerate? … Unwanted pregnancies cause poverty and release unprepared children into a world that increasingly refuses to sustain them. But that ‘practical’ argument is not why women can have morally good abortions. We can have morally good abortions because we are human beings, with God-given rights to human agency, just like men.”
Former Clintonista Robert Reich: “At the present rate of enrollment, we’re going to have over a million people enrolled by January and people are going to stop complaining.”
Belly Laugh of the Week
Sen. John McCain: “[T]he United States of America is fortunate to be served by as able, articulate, honest, dedicated and impassioned a world leader as my friend Joe Biden.”
Columnist Burt Prelutsky: “Recently, a friend sent me a poll that indicated that when it came to Healthcare, Obama’s approval rating was 37%; the Economy (31%); Immigration (32%); Terrorism (51%); Foreign Policy (34%); and Overall Job Approval (41%). He concluded by saying that added up to six ‘F’s’ and wondered how the Left would spin those catastrophic numbers. ‘No problem,’ I replied. ‘They will merely say that when it comes to those all-important issues, 226% of the people are behind Obama.’”
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team
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