Texas is one step closer to becoming the latest state to permit the open carry of handguns. The Texas Senate earlier today voted 20-11 along party lines to allow residents of the Lone Star State to carry a weapon unconcealed without a permit.
More than half of U.S. states permit people to carry firearms without a permit. Texas was one of just six states (plus the District of Columbia) that forbids the practice. On the other end of the spectrum, Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming are "constitutional carry" states that permit residents to carry both concealed and openly without a permit.
From the Associated Press:
Senators voted 20-11 Monday to approve Senate Bill 17, which would allow open carry legal for those with a concealed handgun license.
Vote after vote on more than 20 proposed floor amendments to SB 17 showed party lines were drawn. Every vote was 20-11, with the 20 Republicans voting in favor and 11 Democrats voting against.
The bill would allow concealed handgun license holders to display their guns outside of their clothes.
Right before CPAC, Sen. Tammy Baldwin decided to address the controversy surrounding her over a report that highlighted the unusually high rate of opiate prescriptions at the Veterans Affairs center in Tomah, Wisconsin which is linked to three deaths. She said a comprehensive review was being conducted.
Now, in the report over the incident, it blames sloppy constituent services and mistakes from senior staff members for the delay in action, but also stressed that Sen. Baldwin didn’t intentionally sit on the report (via AP):
A report commissioned by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office blames her constituent services team for mishandling a report on overmedication problems at a Tomah Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, but also acknowledges that senior staff members made mistakes.
The review, done by Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm, found that the Madison Democrat’s office ineffectively communicated constituent concerns about the Tomah hospital, but did not intentionally sit on the report. Baldwin’s office released a five-page summary of the findings Friday.
The constituent services team failed to take proper action in passing on complaints of painkiller overprescribing practices to senior staff members, the report said, and all staff members took too long in reacting to constituent concerns.
“The bottom line is this: Senator Baldwin’s staff took some important steps to investigate the abuses at Tomah VA, but then missed numerous chances to follow up and press for action,” the report said.
Baldwin said she accepts that her staff erred, and said her office would redouble its efforts to improve communication.
“There were missed opportunities for my office to move forward more swiftly,” she said Friday. “And I take responsibility for that.”
Nevertheless, the Tomah VA report was given to her office last summer, and when Ryan Honl, the whistleblower on the prescription practices, learned that Sen. Baldwin had the report for months last November; he emailed her office multiple times to take action, according to emails obtained by USA Today.
Additionally, the AP noted that the review singled out Baldwin’s deputy state director for constituent services, Marquette Baylor–though it didn’t mention her by name–for the messy communication over the VA report. Baylor was fired due to the fallout from this controversy last January.
At the same time, the article also mentions that Baldwin’s colleague, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), also received disturbing information from Tomah VA center from Honl, and his staffers promised to bring these complaints to the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Contracting Oversight; Johnson never moved forward with these complaints, citing the 2014 elections.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald has already sent his top people to investigate the center, and Veterans Affairs unveiled a new computer tool earlier this month aimed at helping doctors track their patients' use of prescription drugs:
The program, called the opioid therapy risk report, provides information about appropriate dosages for patients experiencing pain symptoms. About 2,000 VA doctors across the country now have access to the program, said Carolyn Clancy, the VA’s interim secretary for health.
“We’re not waiting for reviews to be done to improve how we do opioid safety,” Clancy said Monday. “This just makes the right thing really easy to do... and that’s the whole point.”
The VA is investigating reports of overprescribing and retaliatory behavior at Tomah. Separate investigations also have been launched by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has taken up boxing—for one night only. On May 15, Romney will fight former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield in Salt Lake City as a fundraiser for CharityVision. CharityVision is dedicated to preventing blindness in developing countries by training local doctors to perform surgeries to correct vision impairments. It currently operates in 25 countries.
Romney isn't over-confident about his chances in the fight. He told the Salt Lake City Tribune that he predicts the fight will be quite short.
"It will either be a very short fight, or I will be knocked unconscious," Romney quipped in an interview recently. "It won't be much of a fight. We'll both suit up and get in the ring and spar around a little bit."
The fundraiser will also include bouts between "real" prizefighters in addition to the marquee match up of Romney/Holyfield.
You know what? Good on Romney. I feel like most 68-year-olds wouldn't immediately agree to jump into a boxing ring with anyone for any reason, never mind Evander Holyfield. This is probably going to raise a lot of money for a good cause, and while Romney could have just cut the organization a check, he is directly getting involved and will (likely) make a fool of himself. That says something about him as a person.
Let's hope Romney is well-prepared for his fight.
Since his rise to prominence there have been naysayers who claim Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is ineligible to succeed President Obama in 2016 because he was born in Canada. Nevertheless, he has since renounced his Canadian citizenship and maintained that he is a natural born citizen because his mother is an American. More on that in a minute.
As a reminder, according to Article Two, Section One of the U.S. Constitution:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
So to be clear: Cruz meets the age prerequisite and has lived in the country for more than 14 years. But what does the term “natural born Citizen” mean—and does Cruz meet that unambiguous requirement?
In a fairly straight forward and compelling essay published in the Harvard Law Review, distinguished litigators Neal Katyal and Paul Clement maintain that he does. They defend the notion that “natural born Citizen”—as understood in the context of the U.S. Constitution—applies to any child born to an American parent with citizenship irrespective of geography.
Their argument essentially hinges on two key concepts:
The Supreme Court has long recognized that two particularly useful sources in understanding constitutional terms are British common law and enactments of the First Congress. Both confirm that the original meaning of the phrase “natural born Citizen” includes persons born abroad who are citizens from birth based on the citizenship of a parent.
To summarize, they argue that during the 18th century—under British common law—“children born outside the British Empire to subjects of the Crown were subjects themselves.” Hence, when the framers decided to adopt the expression “natural born Citizen” in the U.S. Constitution, they were aware of such language and therefore used it expressly to mean the exact same thing as their British counterparts. Secondly, they argue, the Naturalization Act of 1790 (which later became less stringent and more encompassing) made it absolutely clear that all children born to American citizens abroad could—and later would—be deemed "natural born Citizens." They write:
The Naturalization Act of 1790 expanded the class of citizens at birth to include children born abroad of citizen mothers as long as the father had at least been resident in the United States at some point. But Congress eliminated that differential treatment of citizen mothers and fathers before any of the potential candidates in the current presidential election were born.
So the law was later amended, but the intention was clear. Consequently, this means that potential candidates like Ted Cruz (and other foreign-born children like him) are eligible to run for and occupy the White House once they satisfy the other two constitutional requirements. Case closed?
Of course, those blinded by a strong dislike or even hatred of the fiery conservative are unlikely to be swayed by such compelling arguments. But like it or not, Cruz is apparently constitutionally permitted to run for president of the United States.
According to these two distinguished lawyers at least, the law is on his side.
The most transparent administration in U.S. history is preparing to exempt a key White House office from Freedom of Information Act requests thanks to Bush administration precedent. More from The Hill:
The White House on Tuesday will announce new rules exempting an administrative office from subjection to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows citizens to obtain government documents from federal agencies.
In a Federal Register notice scheduled to publish Tuesday morning, the action to exempt the Office of Administration is listed as a final rule, which means there will be no opportunity for public comment.
While much of White House operations are not subject to FOIA laws and regulations – including the president, vice president and immediate advisors – one of its largest offices, the Executive Office of the President, must hand over certain documents when requested.
The Executive Office of the President is headed by the president’s White House chief of staff and includes the Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisors.
The Office of Administration is also within the Executive Office of the President – and complied with FOIA requests for years – but stopped doing so during the Bush administration.
Amazing. Stripping themselves from basic FOIA requests without allowing the public to comment.
The White House is using the argument that because the Executive Office isn't technically an agency, it isn't subject to FOIA. A court ruling has determined the same and uses the Bush administration's decision to stop fulfilling FOIA requests as precedent. That isn't the point. Regardless of whether the Executive Office is an "agency," based on President Obama's transparency promise, the Office should be open to fulfilling FOIA requests. Further, Obama pledged to be different than the Bush administration in terms of government transparency. The opposite has happened.
Meanwhile, a USA Today editorial board op-ed argues the administration stiff arms FOIA requests across the federal government despite requirements by law to comply and provide documents.
Many federal agencies haven't gotten it.
They slow-walk requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was passed a half-century ago to ensure public access to government business — which, in fact, is the people's business.
Delays can last for years. Long before news broke this month that Hillary Clinton used private e-mail for government business while she was secretary of State, the Associated Press had sought records from Clinton's tenure. The AP made its first request five years ago. Last week, tired of waiting, it filed suit to force release.
How tenaciously does government guard its secrets? One group has been battling the State Department for more than 13 years for details of phone conversations of former secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.
This arrogant attitude — that government information doesn't belong to the people — extends even to issues of public safety.
Last year, after reports that 19 veterans died and dozens were injured by delays in medical screenings at VA hospitals, the Department of Veterans Affairs refused to release the names of the hospitals. The VA denied FOIA requests from a reporter. After a battle and pressure from Congress, the VA finally relented.
In general, agencies don't relent. They deny all or key parts of requests, often by stretching the meaning of the law.
I'll leave you with this:
"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
“This will be an issue,” declared Craig Smith, a top adviser for the Ready for Hillary super PAC, echoing the views of many supporters and detractors alike. “When you run for president, voters and the press have an insatiable appetite for people’s histories, what they’ve done, who they are. … It raises questions about his judgment, about the kind of people he would bring with him into government, into a campaign.”
Prior to Wednesday's verdict, the national Obamedia paid scant attention to the relationship between their preferred candidate and Mr. Rezko, who was convicted on 16 of 24 federal counts. A jury found Obama's longtime friend and financier guilty of aiding and abetting bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering—all of which will likely contribute to a lengthy prison sentence. The federal convict and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee have known each other for the better part of two decades, with the former raising approximately $250,000 for the latter's various campaigns. After Rezko first offered Obama a job in the early 1990s, a friendship and political alliance was born; the two men shared dinners, joint outings with their wives, and a lucrative political network. Rezko served on Obama's financing committee during his 2004 campaign, helping to raise approximately $160,000 for the aspiring U.S. Senator...By 2005, Rezko's shady business deals and alleged illegal activities had been widely reported in the Chicago press. Even so, Obama decided it would be a wise move to enter into a major property deal with his scandal-tainted friend. On the very same day Obama paid $1.65 million (a substantially smaller sum than the asking price) for his Hyde Park mansion, another buyer purchased an adjoining lot for $625,000—an additional sum the Obama's could not afford. The new owner? Rezko's wife, Rita, who somehow managed to secure the property despite an annual salary of $37,000. A short while later, Mrs. Rezko generously sold a strip of her new property to Obama so he could build a fence he had been hoping for. At the time of this second transaction, Obama admits he knew Rezko was experiencing some "legal problems." Nonetheless, the deal went through and a lovely wrought-iron fence—paid for by Rezko—was erected between the two properties.
The politically correct debate in the National Football League (NFL) over the Washington Redskins supposedly racist nickname has made its way to a local school district in upstate New York - and political correctness won. In a controversial and unanimous decision, a school board has just decided that the "Redskins" symbol was just too offensive:
In a noisy public session that followed an executive session, The Lancaster School Board has voted unanimously to end the use of the "Redskins" nickname, team name and mascot. The decision followed weeks of discussion about the issue that saw the town divided.
WBEN described the source of the division:
While supporters of the nickname said it was a source of pride and never meant to offend, a resolution by Superintendent Michael Vallely said it has become a "symbol of ethnic stereotyping" and that keeping it could subject students to retaliation.
Lancaster's decision to do away with the nickname comes after pressure from schools that cancelled lacrosse matches in protest against the Redskins name and purposefully removed the symbol from uniforms, and, in one case, left the name off a new billboard.
The National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation applauded
We offer our sincere congratulations to the Lancaster Central School District Board for their admirable choice. Tonight the people entrusted to teach our children stood up for what is right. They listened to all sides of the debate and arrived at a fair decision that demonstrates tolerance and respect, and embodies the values that we as Americans hold dear. "
Despite the school boards' choice to officially discontinue the nickname, students loyal to the Redskins logo they've worn their whole life will continue to do so.
"All of these years we've never used it in a negative way," Lancaster High School senior Emily Koeppel said after the meeting. "It was never meant to be hurtful."
Indeed, polls suggest that the majority of Native Americans do not believe the name was supplied to schools or sports teams out of malice. Yet, those who espouse political correctness aren't interested in numbers or facts, however. They just keep finding more and more cultural norms at which to get offended.
The Lancaster school board has yet to pick another nickname for the school district, but I can only imagine the list of options in this PC culture is very short.
Last week the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced they would not move forward at this time with a ban on common AR-15 5.56 M855 "green tip" ammunition. Citizens submitted more than 80,000 comments to ATF about the proposal, the majority of which opposed the ban.
"Although ATF endeavored to create a proposal that reflected a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen, the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework, and include issues that deserve further study," an ATF press release stated. "Accordingly, ATF will not at this time seek to issue a final framework. After the close of the comment period, ATF will process the comments received, further evaluate the issues raised therein, and provide additional open and transparent process (for example, through additional proposals and opportunities for comment) before proceeding with any framework."
Now new legislation, the Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act, has been introduced in the House by Republican Patrick McHenry and would bar ATF from ever banning this type of ammunition. The legislation would also keep ATF from classifying AR-15 "green tip" ammunition as "armor piercing."
"The proposed ban is but the latest step in President Obama's assault on our Constitution and Bill of Rights," McHenry said in a statement about the legislation. "While I'm glad the ATF acknowledged the vast public and Congressional outcry against this plan," They have still left open the possibility that it could be proposed again in the future and many Congressional Democrats have called for just that. The Ammunition and Firearms Protection Act would put an end to this attack on our Second Amendment by ensuring this popular ammunition used by countless law-abiding American sportsmen remains available and not subject to any future ATF bans."
Last week ATF Director B. Todd Jones called all 5.56 M855 ammunition a "challenge" after the ban was temporarily dropped.
More than 200 Republicans and Democrats in the House along with 52 Republicans in the Senate opposed the ATF ban proposal. However, some Democrats sent a letter to ATF last week urging they move forward with the ban regardless of Congressional and civilian opposition.
Last week Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reported the possibility of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committing a felony by failing to turn over all required documents to the Department before leaving her position in 2013. If Clinton signed a standard Separation Agreement, which is required of all State Department employees, there could be serious legal consequences for her keeping 55,000 emails on a personal server in her home for nearly two years after her departure. As a reminder:
Every person who works inside the State Department must sign an official Separation Statement, which is a document requiring an inventory be taken of personal documents departing officials plan to take with them. These documents must be submitted to and approved by Department records officials. According to the State Department Records Management Handbook, officials who fail to turn over documents can face, "fines, imprisonment or both for the willful and unlawful removal or destruction of records as stated in the U.S. Criminal Code." Clinton has argued that she has turned over all the proper documents to the State Department, but just did it two years after leaving her position.
"State Department regulations also say that departing officials have to make sure that all of their official records are in the files of the Department of State upon departure. That couldn't be any clearer," Former DOJ Attorney Shannen Coffin said last night on The Kelly File.
"If she signed it [Separation Statement], as you read the law and the manual itself which refers to the Criminal Code, if she signed that saying she had given them everything back, every federal record she had in her possession when in fact she had thousands of documents and thousands of emails sitting on her home server, did she violate the law? Did she commit a crime?" anchor Megyn Kelly asked Coffin.
"If that's the case, then there's no question. The form itself says, 'Hey, before you sign this understand that you are certifying something that we can prosecute you for.' Making a false statement in this context, knowingly and willfully, which I can't imagine anything more knowing an willful than knowing you have 55,000 records sitting in your home, if you do that, it is a felony punishable under 18 U.S.C. 1001," Coffin said.
Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told Kelly the same night that the State Department should be able to produce the document within 24-hours. It's been nearly a week and the State Department can't seem to find Clinton's file, which would contain the Separation Agreement if she signed it.
"Last week you were asked about whether the Department has a record of former Secretary Clinton signing the separation form..." Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked yesterday."I don't have an update on this Matt, we're still working on it," State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said yesterday.
"The Human Resources Department presumably has a file on every employee, it can't be that difficult," Lee followed up.
State Department officials know exactly where that form is if Clinton signed it as she was supposed to. If she didn't sign it, officials and Clinton have an obligation to explain why not and why Clinton was held to a different standard than every other State Department employee. Right now, they're simply taking advantage of time and hoping this email scandal leaves the news cycle before responding.
The First Lady visited the "Ellen Show" today and lamented to Ellen Degeneres just how 'hard' her life is in the White House.
Ellen: "Are you used to living in it?"
Mrs. Obama: "First it was like drinking from a fire hydrant. …it was hard."
She explained in more detail.
"The one thing people don't realize is, we can't do little things like open windows."
Outside the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue walls is just as rough.
"I haven’t been in a car with the window open for like seven years...I look forward to getting in a car and rolling down the window and just letting the air hit my face."
So much to pity.
This is't the first time Mrs. Obama has claimed life could be too much to handle. Last April, speaking at a meet-and-greet with military families, she described her campaigning with her husband during the presidential election as comparable to that of a soldier. Before that, in April of 2013, the First Lady said her job was the best in the world and very 'liberating,' yet it had 'prison-like elements.'
"There are prison-like elements, but it's a really nice prison," she said. "You can't complain."
Apparently you can - and, based on her appearance on Ellen, it seems life hasn't gotten much better.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall any former First Lady speaking so exhaustingly about life in the White House as much as Mrs. Obama. So much for taking joy in serving the people.
The Obamas have now coined the phrase, "Behind every Complainer-in-Chief, is a Mrs. Complainer-in-Chief."