M.D. Harmon: The war on coal, media traps, firearm sales and circus animals


David Gregory.AR15 magazineWhen the going gets tough, the tough take their fun where they can find it.

So, rather than dwell on the mess in Washington to no good effect, let’s look instead at a few things that happened over the past couple of weeks that show liberals are hitting at least a few speed bumps as they drag the nation deeper into darkness.

While President Obama’s Lidless Eye may have pried the One Ring out of Frodo Romney’s fingers on the way to Mt. Doom, one sparkly bit remaining to conservatives is that the former information monopoly exercised by the major networks, newspapers and news magazines has been irretrievably broken.

The breadth of the Internet and the blogosphere’s ability to report what really happened when all that the majors are reporting is one side of a story—if they report it at all—may just help keep sanity alive.

So, here are five examples, some gun-rights-related and some not:

ONCE AGAIN WE SEE AN OBAMACRAT get hosed for being a hoser. This time it’s not even about an attorney general whose department gets hundreds of people killed by forcing U.S. gun dealers to sell weapons illegally to Mexican drug gangs, or a Treasury secretary who cheats on his taxes, or a State Department whose leader lets its staffers enter a free-fire zone with no protection.

Instead, this time it’s about an Environmental Protection Agency administrator whose job performance met every requirement of her boss’s coal-industry-destroying agenda, but whose own ethical standards seem a bit short of ideal.

Which is to say, the Associated Press story announcing her pending resignation failed to mention a small detail related in many Internet reports: She maintained an apparently illegal email account (under a man’s name, no less: “Richard Windsor”) to do government business, a practice prohibited by federal law.

The EPA’s inspector general is currently conducting an investigation into the account and the contents of the thousands (!) of messages sent under that alias. (Now why would the AP have overlooked something like that, we wonder?)

As The Washington Examiner‘s executive editor, Mark Tapscott, wrote in a column Dec. 27, “The use of private or secret emails enables high government muckety-mucks like Jackson to hide things about which they don’t want the rest of us to know.”

As he noted, “In the course of litigation initiated a few months ago by Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Christopher Horner, an internal memo from the EPA’s IT department turned up. It described the process for establishing and using secret email accounts.

“The conflict is far from over, and the odds favor some ugly revelations before any cease-fire is declared. Jackson’s defenders will claim her departure has nothing to do with these matters.

“But Horner well makes the obvious point to the contrary: ‘It is not only implausible that Lisa Jackson’s resignation was unrelated to her false identity, which we revealed, given how the obvious outcome and apparent objective of such subversion of transparency laws was intolerable. But it became an inevitability when, last week, the Department of Justice agreed (as a result of our lawsuit) to begin producing 12,000 of her “Richard Windsor” alias accounts related to the war on coal Jackson was orchestrating on behalf of President Obama outside of the appropriate democratic process.'”

ON DEC. 30, under the headline, “If Journalists Start a Privacy War, Where Does It End?”, law blogger Prof. William Jacobson of Cornell Law School noted the reaction to the publication by the Lower Hudson Journal News in New York State of the names and addresses of every handgun permit holder in two entire counties in its circulation area, just north of New York City.

(New York, unlike Maine, requires a permit to buy or possess a handgun. Long-gun ownership would not show up on such a list, which makes its publication problematic if “assault rifles” are your concern.)

The publication of the list, which is a matter of public record, raised an outcry because handgun owners rightfully said it could make them targets for thieves. So bloggers struck back by publishing the publicly available names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of staff members at the Journal News, which reportedly led many of the staffers to start deleting accounts on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

Turnabout’s fair play, but the paper wasn’t deterred, instead announcing its intention to publish a list of permit holders in a third county shortly.

However, that county’s officials have said they will not give the Journal News the data, as they are “misusing” it. Presumably the paper would have to file suit to see it.

But will it double down on a practice that even other journalists find unwise?

One such critic, Al Tompkins of the media-focused Poynter Institute, writes: “I am not a big fan of the maps that show sex offenders, but at least there is a logical reason for posting them . . . (but) the permit holders are accused of nothing . . . I like it when journalists take heat for an explosive, necessary, courageous investigation that exposes important wrongdoing. There is journalistic purpose and careful decision-making supporting those stories. But the Journal News is taking heat for starting a gunfight just because it could.”

And as Professor Jacobson pointed out this week, the paper has now hired armed guards itself due to “threats,” which led a commenter at his site to ask, “Does this mean they will print the names and addresses of the guards?”

Residents of some other states had trouble understanding the fuss. As one Texan said, “Every household in the state has a list of firearms owners. We call it the phone book.”

AS MENTIONED IN last week’s column, sales of firearms and related items (primarily magazines and ammunition) have depleted supplies in sporting goods stores, gun shops and distributors all over the nation.

Many manufacturers, who have been having record years since Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, now report their highest production levels ever: the past two months have seen magazine sales normally seen in a three-year period, and ammunition sales in popular calibers have depleted supplies by up to 90 percent.

The new factor is that Obama says he plans to make restrictions on firearms a top priority of his administration (we can all suppose the economy is in such great shape that he can afford to do that).

That means he will continue to rank as “the best gun salesman ever,” according to Second Amendment defenders.

But his odds of success seem slim. Many red-state Democrats, along with most Republicans, are unlikely (to say the least) to support his nostrums. But that may matter less to him than the support he will gin up in his left-wing base for other priorities down the road.

THERE ARE few things more amusing than a media bigwig getting caught in a major act of blatant hypocrisy.

Not since Dan Rather came up with his “fake but accurate” letter denigrating George W. Bush’s National Guard service has there been a knee-slapper to match what happened when NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory tried to trap NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

Gregory thought that by holding up a 30-round magazine for an AR-15 rifle and castigating him for thinking they should remain legal, he had LaPierre in a trap. But not only did LaPierre not bite, it was quickly discovered that Gregory was the fall guy, by his hand.

What Gregory’s network had been told by law enforcement in the District of Columbia, where “Meet the Press” originates, is that possession of such a magazine is already illegal in the District.

Not use, mind you, but possession. Although the network claims it was given conflicting advice about displaying the magazine, the ordinance plainly bans possession by anyone for any reason.

As I write this, the D.C. cops are “still investigating” what might be done about Gregory’s brandishing. But as one blogger noted, “If Gregory had been a black teenager, he’d already be in jail.”

What, the law is different for media bigwigs than for ordinary shlubs? Say it’s not so, Dave.

But as superlative columnist Mark Steyn noted on Dec. 28, “Notwithstanding that (per Gallup) 54 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the NRA while only 40 percent have any trust in the media, the latter regard themselves as part of the ruling class. Which makes the rest of you the ruled. Laws are for the little people—and little people need lots of little laws, ensnaring them at every turn.”

(I have to note that the law under discussion is itself an expression of stupidity squared, because it prevents exactly zero crimes, but that wasn’t Gregory’s point, was it?)

FINALLY, ANIMAL RIGHTS activists are finding that you can’t just say anything you want about circuses. Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, just wrangled a $9.3 million settlement out of the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals to settle the company’s claims that the ASPCA and other “animal rights” groups reportedly paid almost $200,000 to an ex-circus employee to act as a sworn witness about alleged abuse of the circus’ elephants.

Animals deserve protection, but they aren’t benefited by groups that take in donations and keep most of the money. Feld’s suit remains active against the Humane Society of the United States (which is not the same as state and local humane societies), the Fund for Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and others involved in the claims about elephant abuse, including the former employee.

A statement by Feld said, “These defendants attempted to destroy our family-owned business with a hired plaintiff who made statements that the court did not believe. Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses.

“This settlement,” the statement continued, “is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Bros. in the face of such targeted, malicious rhetoric.”

One commenter, Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds, noted that the settlement showed how far astray the ASPCA and other such groups have gone from their PR image of defenders of abused cuddly pets.

He cites one of his readers, Alan Cole, who wrote: “After recent news broke about the big judgment against ACPCA in the circus elephant case, I have been noticing lots more TV commercials soliciting contributions to ASPCA—to rescue poor abused doggies and kitties and horsies, etc., from harm. By me, Truth In Advertising would dictate that ASPCA disclose that what it really needs the money for is to pay $9.3 million to Ringling Bros.”

Indeed, if you like doggies and kitties and horsies, your local animal shelter is a far better place to send your contributions than the big national groups with their highly paid directors and staff and huge advertising budgets.

The conservative moral here is that the biggest bang for the buck, as usual, is found closest to home.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com.



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