A Look Into The Islamic State’s Power – And The Powerlessness Of Its Native Enemies

While U.S. airstrikes have had some effect – it’s not known how great – on the Islamic State’s jabs into mountainous territory where fleeing Iraqi civilians have stranded themselves in flight before a murderous land grab, many outside observers have been surprised at the relative ineffectiveness of Kurdish forces in the region at beating back the jihadists.

Vice News has put together perhaps the most thorough reporting package on the unfolding catastrophe in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, embedding a cameraman with Islamic State terrorists and affording the world a look at their operations from the inside. Vice’s five-part video essay on the Islamic State is required viewing for anyone wishing to glimpse the fanatical psychology driving the well-funded, well-organized and utterly relentless “caliphate.”

You can link to the landing page for their video series here.

On Wednesday, Vice reporter Hetav Rojan followed up on the video dispatches with an interesting piece breaking down the relative weakness of the Kurdish Peshmerga – the army of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq thought to offer the best local resistance to the Islamic murderers.

The Kurds’ lack of resistance, despite the Peshmerga’s best effort, boils down to inferior weapons, inferior logistics, lack of experience in fighting the Islamic State’s unique brand of warmonger, and poor cooperation between the Kurds’ two rival political parties.

Here’s a sample from that piece, focusing on the Islamic State’s weapons superiority:

While the peshmerga is technically one force, the two main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both have their own affiliated peshmerga groups. Both KDP and PUK forces have large stocks of Soviet-era weapons, vehicles, and artillery at their disposal.

When Saddam Hussein fell from power, the peshmerga was able to capture significant amounts of the Iraqi army’s battle tanks, howitzers, and sizable stock of small arms. However, a source from within PUK’s peshmerga told VICE News that spare parts for armored vehicles and artillery are scarce, making it hard to maintain offensive capabilities. Then there’s a very real shortage of small arms ammunition and artillery rounds, so the peshmerga forces are starting to lose the upper hand in battle.

The fall of Mosul on June 10 also meant a remarkable equipment upgrade for the Islamic State (then known as ISIS), as the Iraqi government’s roughly 30,000 soldiers abandoned their bases, leaving behind a massive cache of US-supplied armored vehicles and heavy weaponry. This hardware made its way to frontlines in Syria and elsewhere in Iraq, bolstering the Islamic State’s rapid annexation of the Mosul Dam and Sinjar.

Even though the peshmerga can easily outgun the Islamic State in numbers, the Sunni fighters may nullify that advantage with their better-quality weapons and more effective tactics.

Here’s Part 1 of Vice’s video documentary. You can watch all 42 minutes of their Islamic State piece here.

Martha’s Vineyard Golfers Frisked Without Warning So Obama Can Play Through

Rich guys hanging out on the golf course at the Vineyard Golf Club were surprised this week when they were suddenly approached by law enforcement – members of President Barack Obama’s security detail – and frisked without warning.

It was to ensure the safety of the President, who is vacationing and golfing at a rented home in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts this week and next week. Vacationers and residents were taking in a round of golf and dining at the clubhouse on Tuesday when Obama appeared, prompting immediate searches of everyone in the vicinity.

“Some regulars at the club were said to have been irritated at being frisked by Mr Obama’s security detail, who used hand-held metal detector ‘wands’ to check for concealed weapons,” The Telegraph reported.

The New York Post’s “Page Six” has more:

Regulars at the Vineyard Golf Club in Martha’s Vineyard were gobsmacked when President Obama unexpectedly strolled onto a nearby green and they were immediately frisked. “There was no warning he was coming,” sniffed a guest.

“There was security on the way in, but no word as to why they were there.” The member added, “While eating, overlooking the golf course, guests had to stand up and be wanded.” One asked if he could finish his hot soup first, and an Obama security man cracked, ominously, “So, you’re not cooperating?”

Obama reportedly smoothed things over by making the rounds and shaking everyone’s hand.

Wednesday night, the Obamas attended a party at a private residence. A good time was had by all.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump was critical, insinuating that the President and his handlers appear tone-deaf to domestic problems.

It’s 11 p.m. ET, hours after law enforcement officers appeared on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in armored vehicles, hours after two reporters (including the Post’s Wesley Lowery) were arrested, and shortly after another night of unrest and tear gas unfolded on the streets of the St. Louis suburb.

… Yes, citizens of Ferguson, you may sleep easier tonight knowing that the much-trumpeted party for Vernon Jordan’s wife Ann, the party at which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were supposed to hug, ended amicably.

Some fellow Democrats are beginning to express their own frustration with the President, accusing him of being uncommunicative and out of touch with rank-and-file incumbents as they prepare for a Congressional midterm election.

“It’s hard for us to fathom; I mean, is it just lack of full staffing and resources?” Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told The Hill.  “[Is it] professional commitment? Is it a disdain for the legislative branch? I mean, what is it? People like me want to be allies [of the President] — I mean, I am an ally. So work with us, reach out to us; you know, we’re not the enemy.”

Another Fail For Bloomberg’s Gun Control Spending Strategy

Another state-level candidate has failed to cross the finish line, this time in a sheriff’s race pitting a candidate backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg against the incumbent sheriff.

Bloomberg-backed Chris Moews, a lieutenant with the Milwaukee Police Department, lost to incumbent sheriff David Clarke in the Milwaukee County Democratic primary election. Bloomberg had donated $150,000 to Moews’ campaign. Clarke won the election with 52 percent of the vote; Moews took 48 percent. Since no Republican is running this fall, Clarke secured another term as sheriff with his Aug. 12 primary win.

The money came via Bloomberg’s Independence USA super PAC. His involvement in the local election had everything to do with guns. And his intervention, late in the campaign season, carried the Milwaukee County sheriff’s race into the national spotlight.

From an article Wednesday at The Washington Post’s conservative “Volokh Conspiracy” blog:

The race attracted national attention last week when Michael Bloomberg put $150,000 into the campaign against Sheriff Clarke — more than the total combined campaign spending by Sheriff Clarke and his primary opponent Chris Moews.

…Sheriff Clarke has urged Milwaukee citizens to arm themselves for lawful self-defense. One method of disseminating this message was public service radio advertising in early 2013, paid for from the Sheriff’s Office budget.

This April, Sheriff Clarke spoke at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis — denouncing Michael Bloomberg, and recounting incidents in which armed citizens had saved lives.

Clarke had bought radio ads encouraging people to arm themselves against a rise in violent crime, touting Wisconsin’s Personal Protection Act and encouraging residents to “[c]onsider taking a certified safety course in handling of firearms, so you can defend yourself until we [law enforcement] get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”

Texas GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes Deregulating Entry Points For Small Businesses

Greg Abbott, attorney general of Texas and the GOP’s candidate for Governor, recently unveiled a proposal that, if adopted, would put an end to State licensure requirements that currently govern such small-business occupations as cosmetology, coaching, dog training and interior design.

Under Abbott’s plan, the State would repeal occupational licensure requirements that currently bureaucratize a number of occupations that otherwise would be accessible to a greater number of small-scale entrepreneurs: barbers, hairdressers, towing operators, auctioneers and the like.

Here’s a portion of Abbott’s proposal as it relates to cosmetology, justifying the repeal of such licenses on the basis of their unnecessary expense and invasive government oversight:

Important  health  and  safety  laws,  such  as  those  requiring  sanitary  conditions  in  salons,  or  other consumer  protection  laws,  such  as  the  prohibition  on  price  gouging,  would  be  maintained. However, Texas should scale back its  licensing  laws  considerably.  Doing so will create more opportunity  for individuals and result  in increased  economic growth.  For  example,  when  Mississippi  repealed  its cosmetology  license  requirement  for  hair braiders  and  replaced  it  with  a  registration  requirement,  300 new  braiders  registered  with  the  state. Not only  did  they  relocate from neighboring  states, but  also stopped  working  in  Mississippi  in  secret  and  became  open  members  of  the  economic community.

…Requirements  that  otherwise  limit  the  ability of  qualified  individuals  to  pursue  their  chosen career  path are  unnecessary  and  should  not  be  adopted.

The proposal would also abolish criminal penalties for not obtaining licensure in fields for which it is not required by the State on the basis of protecting public safety and public health.

“A person seeking to engage in economic activity should not be made a criminal for failure to comply with a licensing requirement, except where public health or safety is clearly at risk,” the proposal states. “Just as a license is no guarantee that the holder will not engage in criminal activity, so the lack of a license should not, by itself, render the person a criminal.”

Abbott’s plan has drawn praise from conservative policy groups since its unveiling earlier this month. “Of all the proposals designed to help poor and lower-income people, this one deserves major kudos,” wrote the National Center for Policy Analysis. “It does not involve expansion of a massive government program, and it reduces the cost to those who wish to profit from their knowledge and skills.”

Abbott is running against Democrat Wendy Davis in a bid to succeed current Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The Average American Has ‘Essentially Zero’ Influence Over U.S. Policy

An academic look into the driving forces behind American Federal policymaking concludes that the average citizen in the United States has “essentially zero” influence over the direction of government.

According to the report, even when a majority of Americans wants the government to do something, it is powerless against the influence of “economic elites” – the corporations, people and monied special interests that drive nearly all U.S. policymaking.

That information comes courtesy of a preliminary study draft prepared by Princeton University’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page. A final version of their report is due later this year.

The researchers culled public opinion data from nearly 2,000 surveys and polls taken between 1981 and 2002, juxtaposing the responses of median-income Americans against those of “fairly affluent” (90th percentile of income) Americans. Then they compiled information on the policy preferences, year by year, of Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” corporations, as well as the ten industries not on that list that had spent the most money on Federal lobbying. Then they compared each group’s policy preferences with the actual policy outcomes that took shape over that 21-year period.

What they found was that the average American citizen has virtually no voice in shaping Federal policy compared with the “economic elites.”

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule – at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

…When the alignments of business-oriented and mass-based interest groups are included separately in a multivariate model, average citizens’ preferences continue to have essentially zero estimated impact upon policy change, while economic elites are still estimated to have a very large, positive, independent impact.

Interestingly, the study finds that the economically powerful often have policy interests that (incidentally) overlap with the policy interests of average Americans.

“It turns out, in fact, that the preferences of average citizens are positively and fairly highly correlated, across issues, with the preferences of economic elites,” the authors wrote. “Rather often, average citizens and affluent citizens (our proxy for economic elites) want the same things from government… Ordinary citizens, for example, might often be observed to “win” (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policymaking, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

Turning their attention to monied interest groups (i.e., lobbies), though, the story changes dramatically:

But net interest group stands are not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens. Taking all interest groups together, the index of net interest group alignment correlates only a non-significant .04 with average citizens’ preferences!  …This casts grave doubt on David Truman’s and others’ argument that organized interest groups tend to do a good job of representing the population as a whole.

The takeaway is that the interests of “economic elites” and interest groups always trump those of individuals, whose chief power over government is the voting process. The interests of powerful groups can and sometimes do overlap with those of average citizens, producing policy outcomes that please both groups. However, when those interests diverge, it is the elites who nearly always win out, and the people who nearly always lose.

Report: American Wages Down 23 Percent Since 2008

A new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors delivers a sobering, if unsurprising, statistic about America’s economic recovery since the recession of the late 2000s: Present-day wages in the U.S. are down 23 percent from their 2008 levels, resulting in $93 billion in lost pay for American workers.

Released Monday, the report finds that average wages for pre-recession jobs remain at roughly three-quarters their 2008 levels.

While the USCM touts the report’s usefulness in “addressing income inequality” under a task force headed by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, its findings are nevertheless troubling for those who instead view the Obama economy’s central problem as one of stifling economic mobility:

The annual wage in sectors where jobs were lost during the downturn was $61,637, but new jobs gained through the second quarter of 2014 showed average wages of only $47,171. This wage gap represents $93 billion in lost wages.

Under a similar analysis conducted by the Conference of Mayors during the 2001-2002 recession, the wage gap was only 12% compared to the current 23% — meaning the wage gap has nearly doubled from one recession to the next.

Among major metropolitan areas, 73 percent of cities (261 out of 357) have more households earning less than $35,000 per year than households that earn $75,000 per year or more.

Although a massaged Bureau of Labor and Statistics report recently proclaimed the addition of more than 200,000 jobs during the month of July, private-sector wages for the same period remained flat, continuing a post-recession trend.

Obama Administration Always Scoffed At Idea A Caliphate Could Rise From Al-Qaida’s Ashes

John Brennan, current director of the CIA and a former counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama, expressed the Administration’s dismissive attitude toward planning U.S. strategy around the real ambitions of al-Qaida and its offshoots back in 2011.

But here we are.

Brennan delivered his prepared remarks to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on June 29 of 2011, unveiling Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism, “which formalizes the approach that we’ve been pursuing and adapting for the past two and half years to prevent terrorist attacks and to ensure al-Qa’ida’s demise.”

The idea that America needs to prepare itself for terrorism emanating from anything so organized and powerful as an Islamic caliphate, he said, is “absurd,” a “feckless delusion that is never going to happen.”

Scroll to the 15:35 time marker.

“Our strategy is also shaped by a deeper understanding of al-Qa’ida’s goals, strategy, and tactics. I’m not talking about al-Qa’ida’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate.  That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counterterrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen.  We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.

“Rather, President Obama is determined that our foreign and national security policies not play into al-Qa’ida’s strategy or its warped ideology.  Al-Qa’ida seeks to terrorize us into retreating from the world stage.  But President Obama has made it a priority to renew American leadership in the world, strengthening our alliances and deepening partnerships.  Al-Qa’ida seeks to portray America as an enemy of the world’s Muslims.  But President Obama has made it clear that the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam.”

H/T: The Weekly Standard

Eric Holder Spends $14,000 In Public Funds To Fly His Kids Around In A Government Plane; Pays Only $1,000 In Reimbursement

It’s completely legal for high-profile Federal officials to spend public funds to do private things, thanks to a convoluted system of rules governing spending and reimbursement for air travel expenses.

Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, flew himself, his daughters, his daughters’ boyfriends and two guards to the Belmont Stakes in June – a trip that cost $14,440 in public funds. But since he is legally obligated only to pay the reimbursement equivalent of what that trip would have cost on a commercial air service, he repaid the government $955.

On to the next trip.

The Daily Caller, which recently obtained the record of Holder’s travel expenses under a Freedom of Information Act request, fills in the rest:

Even for personal trips like this, the attorney general doesn’t fly commercial. For security reasons, Holder — like other top government officials — flies a government plane, though is required to reimburse taxpayers for airfare.

That one day trip to Elmont, N.Y. on June 7, according to records provided to TheDC by the Department of Justice, ended up costing the government $14,440.

But Holder only had to reimburse the government $955 for flying him and four passengers to the final leg of the Triple Crown horse races that day.

That’s because he only has to pay the equivalent cost of a coach commercial airline ticket for each non-law enforcement passenger — not the total cost to charter the plane.

Neither Holder nor other Obama officials is unique in taking advantage of the perks of government air travel. Look for examples of how President George W. Bush used Air Force One for fundraising travel, and you will find them.

Democrat or Republican, the ethics at play indicate a systemic incentive for Federal officials to take personal trips – with all the protections their power demands – that they otherwise might forego if they had to jostle with the business-class hoi polloi…while paying market rate for the privilege.

‘Transparent’ Obama Administration Blocks Inspectors General From Conducting Investigations

More than half of the Federal government’s 78 inspectors general (IGs)complained to Congress last week that the Administration of President Barack Obama habitually obstructs their lawful mission to conduct investigations into government waste and corruption.

The letter, submitted to the ranking members of the House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees by 47 of the 73 Federal IGs, never mentions Obama by name, instead citing numerous examples of stonewalling from agencies whose policies are guided by the Obama Administration — including the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

From the letter:

We have learned that the Inspectors General for the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (in his role as Inspector General for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board) and the Department of Justice have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas. In each of these instances, we understand that lawyers in these agencies construed other statutes and law applicable to privilege in a manner that would override the express authorization contained in the IG Act. These restrictive readings of the IG Act represent potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.

Congress passed the IG Act in 1978, expanding the powers of IGs in a 2008 reform measure. IG offices have law enforcement powers similar to those enjoyed by the FBI; many IG officers are armed as they go about their duties. IG offices have subpoena power independent of the Department of Justice and have broad powers of surveillance over  government employees and contractors.

Even though a number of IG positions are Presidential political appointments, under Obama there has nevertheless been significant backlash from IG offices for stonewalling — a puzzling phenomenon that belies the Obama Administration’s oft-repeated boast of offering a precedent-setting degree of transparency.

“It’s not as if the IGs are a clique of obsessive, conservative Inspector Javerts,” observes National Review’s John Fund. “President Obama appointed most of the IGs in office today, and all those who were appointed by him have been confirmed by a Democratic Senate… That makes the complaints raised in the IGs’ letter all the more serious. More and more agencies are setting documents off-limits by declaring them “‘privileged.’”

Yet the Obama Administration continues to just say whatever sounds good, regardless of the crescendo of voices pointing out the obvious contradiction between wishful fiction and fact. Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Monday letter to the Society of Professional Journalists, in response to SPJ’s recent transparency complaint against the Administration, is insistent that Obama’s transparency is real and magnanimous. 

“Simply put, we’ve backed up — with action — the President’s ambitious, early and ongoing commitment to transparency,” wrote Earnest:

The President’s commitment to transparency and the crucial role of the independent press is unwavering. The President has set an historically high standard of transparency that is part of the legacy to which future presidents will aspire and the President and his Administration are justifiably proud of these accomplishments.

How did SPJ president David Cuillier receive that? 

“Typical spin and response through non-response.”

Federal Work-From-Home Program Rife With Fraud As Employees Collect Checks For Doing Nothing

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a program that allows its patent examiners to work from home. The results of an investigation into the efficacy of that practice, sprung from multiple complaints, has now revealed that a lot of those employees have routinely lied about the number of hours they’ve worked, and they have even received bonuses for work that was never done.

Sounds like a government program alright.

The internal investigation, done by a special Patent Office “task force,” reveals employees falsely logged time when they had not been working, massaged work dockets to receive unearned bonuses and “mortgaged” their work by “submitting incomplete work for credit before the end of a bi-week [pay period] and then going in after the bi-week to submit valid work.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday that top officials at the Patent Office had even stymied past attempts by the employees’ supervisors to investigate the allegations.

Some of the 8,300 patent examiners, about half of whom work from home full time, repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in, and many were receiving bonuses for work they didn’t do. And when supervisors had evidence of fraud and asked to have the employee’s computer records pulled, they were rebuffed by top agency officials, ensuring that few cheaters were disciplined, investigators found.

From the “Time Fraud” portion of the Patent Office’s memo, the report on which The Post based its story:

d. The agency is not policing or monitoring abuse of timesheets.

e. Conduct issues and time fraud are routinely overlooked as long as an examiner’s production levels are acceptable.

f. There is a lack of accountability for Patent Examiners participating in the Hoteling [work from home] Program.

g. Unnamed Patent Examiners are receiving overtime pay for time they are not working.

h. Management is dissuading supervisors from questioning employees about time and attendance discrepancies.

It goes on and on like that.

The Patent Office appears to have redacted the worst examples of employee abuse from the version of the report it eventually delivered to the Commerce Department inspector general last year. “The Washington Post obtained copies of the internal report and the version provided to the inspector general, which at 16 pages is half the length of the original,” the story observes.

Meanwhile, the Patent Office has amassed a backlog of patent applications “swelling to more than 600,000 and estimated waiting times of more than five years,” according to The Post. The Patent Office employs 11,627 people.

U.S. Intelligence Official Fires Back At Obama: Iraq Catastrophe Not A Product Of ‘Intelligence Failure’

A day after President Barack Obama indicated that the Iraqi advance of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had proceeded more rapidly than U.S. intelligence had predicted, an intelligence official told The Wall Street Journal that’s nonsense.

“This wasn’t a U.S. intelligence failure,” said the unnamed official. “It was an Iraqi military failure. The job of the intelligence community is to warn. We did that. If there was a surprise, it was in just how quickly Iraqi forces initially disintegrated when the shooting started.”

On Saturday, Obama had said intelligence coming out of Iraq over the past months had not led his Administration to anticipate the terrorists’ ability to so quickly and effectively surge through the country and claim territory for its caliphate.

“There is no doubt that their advance; their movement over the last several months, has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates, and, I think, the expectations of policy makers both in and outside of Iraq,” Obama said.

The Journal reported that U.S. intelligence in Iraq was limited following the 2011 American withdrawal.

“A decline in U.S. spy resources after the U.S. military pulled out of Iraq in 2011 has limited American intelligence capability in the region,” the report stated. “In some cases, intelligence officials have been frustrated by the Obama administration’s reluctance to get more involved in Iraq and Syria, current and former U.S. officials said.”

But the unnamed intelligence official resisted the Administration’s assertion that it was caught off guard, saying the U.S. has been watching al-Qaida spinoff groups “for years” – including the militants that coalesced in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war to form what’s now known as the Islamic State – and that these groups’ strategic strengths and weaknesses among the U.S. intelligence community is well known.

Obama’s ‘Jayvee Team’ Dismissal Of Islamic State Militants Comes Full Circle

What a difference a few short months of fundraising and golf outings make.

Back in January, President Barack Obama started the year with what seemed at the time a fresh optimism, sitting down with The New Yorker for a sympathetic interview in which he dismissed the boiling kettle of Sunni extremism in Syria and Iraq as the bumblings of an inept “Jayvee” team – as in, these guys are lightweight terrorists compared to the al-Qaida we just decimated.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama told The New Yorker’s David Remnick in January. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

In Obama’s imperfect comparison, the jayvee has turned out to be Kobe. Obama just saw the opponent he wished he had, instead of the opponent the Islamic State has been in the process of becoming all along.

Asked Friday whether the White House still considers the Islamic State to be the kiddie team, Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest made this ridiculous adjustment to the President’s analogy:

I think what is appropriate to say is there is no question that the Lakers uniforms that were worn, to use that analogy a little bit, that were worn by the al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan has been decimated and defeated in Afghanistan…We do remain concerned about the military proficiency that has been demonstrated by ISIL and that’s why you’ve seen the president take steps, including the authorization of military force that would protect American citizens who might be harmed by them.

Three years after an Iraqi pullout that left no residual force behind, and in the aftermath of a bipolar contribution to “resolving” the Syrian conflict, coach Obama has known all along that Sunni sectarians holding U.S. weapons in a power vacuum weren’t “jayvee” — he just didn’t think they’d appear on this year’s schedule. Perhaps not even next year’s. Another President can worry about the Middle East; Obama’s got a domestic agenda to complete.

Presidents don’t govern over a theoretical closed-system agenda containing only their own pet projects. Things happen — unexpected things that call for a response, whatever that response may be. 

In Syria and in Iraq, things were happening long before the Islamic State handed Obama a camera-worthy opportunity for intervention by trapping a host of Yezidis on a mountain and threatening Americans in the Kurdish city of Erbil. If you have a strong stomach, you can easily google and view a pictorial montage of the many damnable things the Islamic State has been doing for months.

They hold the Mosul dam, which essentially means they hold Baghdad’s fate in their hands. They hold an unknown number of militants from Europe and the U.S. — passport-holding jihadi extremists who don’t need a convenient U.S. border crisis to freely enter the country. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said last week (and has said before) that the Islamic State fully intends to target the United States — and he can bring varsity resources to Obama’s “game.” Christianity in Iraq is on the verge of extinction; the Yezidis — a pre-Islamic religious population that doesn’t evangelize — are on the verge of annihilation. 

And that’s just what’s happening in Iraq. There are plenty of other fires, though:

At this late hour in the Iraqi debacle, even Obama’s most perfect strategy — whether’s it’s to do nothing; do something, or, as he’s so far indicated, some noncommittal combination of the two — will mean choosing from among the least awful of nothing but truly awful options.

This is what happens when the President of the United States sends no signal. Or, rather, when he knows only how to send political signals. 

“The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.”

Obama said this only two months ago. 

There’s a midterm election this year, and — like Obama’s “jayvee” dismissal of the terror group too abhorrent for al-Qaida — that was a political signal. It reflects what any sitting President would like to be able to say to the Nation. It may even be true. But Obama’s closed-system optimism isn’t about truth — it’s about politics. The rest of the world just won’t cooperate with his game plan. And he’s a thinker, not a doer; a campaigner, not a leader. Obama is still looking down at his 2007 playbook, even as the Nation, and the world, changes all around him. 

He doesn’t know how to call a new play. He only ever had that one plan.

More Than Half Of All Americans Can’t Come Up With $400 In Emergency Cash… Unless They Borrow

Count yourself fortunate, or something, if you’re among the 48 percent of Americans who can cough up a spare $400 in emergency cash without having to beg, borrow or steal. According to a Federal Reserve report on American households’ “economic well-being” in 2013,  fewer than half of all Americans said they’d be able to come up with four Benjamins on short notice to deal with an unexpected expense.

The report, released last week by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, indicates a disparity between how Americans view their financial situation and the reality of where their finances actually stand — a signal that the recession of the late 2000s fundamentally altered the concept of doing well for many, as well as an indication that the subsequent recovery may yet be more nominal than real.

Under a section titled “Savings,” the report notes that “[s]avings are depleted for many households after the recession,” and lists the following findings:

  • Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57 percent reported using up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath.
  • 39 percent of respondents reported having a rainy day fund adequate to cover three months of expenses.
  • Only 48 percent of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.

Obviously, an enormous financial gulf separates the 39 percent who can live for three months off their savings and the 48 percent who can’t even come up with an extra $400 on their own.

“Overall, the survey found that many household were faring well, but that sizable fractions of the population were at the same time displaying signs of financial stress,” the report observed.

Yet more than 60 percent of those surveyed said they were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably” — in spite of the fact that some of those same people aren’t able to afford even a minor financial emergency.

Note from the Editor: Hyperinflation is becoming more visible every day—just notice the next time you shop for groceries. All signs say America’s economic recovery is expected to take a nose dive and before it gets any worse you should read The Uncensored Survivalist. This book contains sensible advice on how to avoid total financial devastation and how to survive on your own if necessary. Click here for your free copy.

911 Dispatcher Tells Octogenarian To Lower Her Weapon And Wait For Police While Thug Breaks Into Her Home

N.J. Logan, an 80-year-old Florida woman who had recently had hip replacement surgery, was resting at her home Holmes Beach, when some noises outside her window startled her. After discerning that it wasn’t her husband — who wasn’t expected home yet — her attention focused on protecting herself.

“Once I realized it wasn’t my husband… you have no idea how fast you can go,” Logan told Tampa’s Fox 13 News. “All I wanted was my gun.” The invader had smashed the plate glass of Logan’s door, and had then cut out the screen behind it. Logan didn’t know whether someone was still inside her house, or where in the house an intruder might be.

According to the report, Logan headed toward the source of the noise, gun in hand, yelling warnings at whomever had entered her home. “I really didn’t want to have to shoot anybody,” she said.

Only after arming herself did she call 911 for help. But the dispatcher repeatedly told her to put down her weapon.

“When I called 911, she [the dispatcher] kept saying, ‘put the gun down, put the gun down,’” Logan told Fox 13. “I said, ‘I’ll put the gun down when I see the police.’”

Not only is it a bad idea to throw away your best option for self-defense when someone intends to do harm to you or your property — it’s also a bad idea to take a firearm out of your own hands and place it in neutral territory, where the bad guy has an opportunity to grab the weapon and use your own gun against you.

Logan didn’t come face to face with the intruder (or intruders). They fled after she announced that she was armed. Local police had not found a suspect in the break-in as of Thursday afternoon.

“I believe in guns inside your house, because I don’t think anybody has a right to break into your private domain,” Logan said.

Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer evidently sees things Logan’s way. “I think it’s a wake-up call to any would-be burglar,” he told Fox 13.

Dartmouth Student With A Stalker Problem Can’t Carry A Gun, According To School Officials

Taylor Woolrich, a student at Dartmouth College, knows she’s being stalked. When she was living in San Diego, as a high school student, a man in his 60s began showing a sinister interest in her while she worked at a local café, and since then, no amount of legal cajoling has gotten him off her back – even though she moved across the country.

It started when she was 16 years old; now she’s a 20 year-old junior at the Ivy League school. She took out a restraining order on her alleged stalker, 67 year-old Richard Bennett, but, according to a Wednesday article at Fox News, “it did little to keep Bennett away.”

Woolrich says he constantly harassed her during her first two years at Dartmouth, stalking her on social media and sending messages in which he “promised” to fly across the country to see her at college.

“I thought they were empty threats, but when I came home from school last summer, he was at my front door within eight hours of my plane landing,” she said. “That’s when I realized how serious it was.”

Woolrich and her family called the police, and Bennett was arrested. A search of his car uncovered a slip noose, a knife, gloves and other items.

Right now, he’s in jail in California, awaiting a court date later this month for violating the restraining order and for felony stalking.

Uncertain as to her alleged stalker’s immediate future, Woolrich wants a gun for personal protection – and she wants it to be with her at all times, which of course includes the times she’s on the Dartmouth campus. But college officials are adamant that that’s not going to happen.

After researching gun laws in both California and New Hampshire, where Dartmouth’s located, Woolrich realized both States have provisions that could afford her an exemption from their restrictive gun laws.

But that exemption ends where the Dartmouth campus begins.

“[Guns on campus are] strictly prohibited and we are not in the habit of making exceptions,” college spokesman Justin Anderson told Fox News. “But we certainly do everything we possibly can to make all our students feel safe.”

That’s a relief – so much so that Woolrich says she will leave Dartmouth if Bennett is released from jail while she’s still a student there.

“Every morning I check the inmate lookup online to see if he has made bail. I feel safe for now, but the day he gets out is the day I will have to leave Dartmouth,” she said.

IRS Won’t Have To Allow An Independent Expert To Hunt Down Lost Lerner Emails In True The Vote Lawsuit

A conservative group suing the IRS for political discrimination was dealt a crucial defeat today when a Federal judge ruled that the tax agency would not have to allow an outside expert to follow a forensic trail back to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails.

Federal Judge Reggie Walton denied the request from Texas-based nonprofit True the Vote, which had asked the court to appoint an independent computer expert to locate two years’ worth of Lerner’s missing emails, or to explain to the court why they can’t be recovered. True the Vote had also sought an injunction prohibiting the IRS from destroying any more documents.

Walton said True the Vote had failed to persuade him that a special hunt for the lost emails was warranted in order to prevent irreparable harm to its interests, and that such an investigation would be redundant in light of a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigation that (presumably) seeks the same end.

Walton’s remarks (by way of POLITICO):

Despite the general distrust of the defendants expressed by the plaintiff, the Court has no factual basis to concur with that distrust … and therefore concludes that the issuance of an injunction will not further aid in the recovery of the emails, if such recovery is possible, but will rather only duplicate and potentially interfere with ongoing investigative activities.

…Walton also said although it is in the public’s interest to find Lerner’s email, it’s not in the public’s interest to “allow … a third party, as requested by the plaintiff, to inspect IRS computers” because it would “necessarily result in the disclosure of tax returns and return information to that third party.”

Also on Thursday, reports surfaced that another government agency had deleted emails relating to the rollout of Obamacare, comprising its ability to cooperate in a House Oversight Committee investigation into the botched deployment of the Obamacare website last year.

Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), deleted an unspecified number of emails during the months leading up to the launch of Healthcare.gov – a fact revealed in a letter CMS sent to the National Archives and Records Administration Thursday “out of an abundance of caution” against any future accusation of a wilful failure at CMS to disclose information.

“There is no evidence that Marilyn Tavenner, an Obama appointee who leads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, intentionally hid information or deleted records; rather, the gaps appear to be the result of sloppy record keeping,” reported MSNBC in an article sympathetic to the Obama Administration. “But Republicans have attempted to turn missing emails into a political scandal before, as they did with Lois Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of a separate controversy over alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.”

Can Obama’s progressive bureaucrats not even take credit for their own scandals?

Civil Rights Commissioner Blasts Obama Amnesty’s ‘Disastrous Effect’ On Black Americans

A member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) penned a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, urging the President to consider the effect any executive action granting amnesty to illegal aliens will have on black Americans, a demographic that has fared especially poorly since Obama entered the White House.

Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, who sits on the eight-member Federal agency created when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, told the President an executive act of amnesty isn’t good for Americans generally, and it especially isn’t good for blacks.

From Kirsanow’s letter:

I write as one member of the eight-member U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and not on behalf of the Commission as a whole. It has been widely reported in the press that you are preparing to issue an executive order that purports to grant legal status and work authorization to millions of illegal immigrants. I write to remind you of the disastrous effect of illegal immigration on the employment of all Americans, but particularly black Americans. Any grant of legal status will serve as a magnet to prospective illegal immigrants and further depress employment opportunities and wages for African-Americans. Given that the labor force participation rate is at an historic low, the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, and there has been a precipitous decline in household wealth, the timing for such a grant of legal status could not be worse.

Kirsanow went on to cite the USCCR’s own data on how illegal immigration has harmed job opportunities and wage levels among black Americans, referencing a 2008 study that found blacks were affected more profoundly by illegal immigration and its economic consequences than was the general population.

From that report, Kirsanow reminded Obama that “Professor Gordon Hanson’s research showed that ‘Immigration . . . accounts for about 40 percent of the 18 percentage point decline [from 1960-2000] in black employment rates.’ Professor Vernon Briggs writes that illegal immigrants and blacks (who are disproportionately likely to be low-skilled) often find themselves in competition for the same jobs, and the huge number of illegal immigrants ensures that there is a continual surplus of low-skilled labor, thus preventing wages from rising.”

He also takes aim at the Obama Administration’s complicity in encouraging — or, at the very least, certainly not discouraging — illegal immigrants from making the journey across the border:

“Since 1986, we have seen that granting legal status to illegal immigrants, or even mere rumors that legal status will be granted, increases illegal immigration. Likewise, the evidence indicates that the flood of illegal immigrants across our southern border is mostly attributable to your directive granting temporary legal status to people allegedly brought to the United States as children. This is unsurprising. When you incentivize bad behavior, you get more of it.”

There’s much more, including the inherent unfairness of granting amnesty to a horde of illegal aliens while holding aspirants who seek legal status to rigid naturalization standards, as well as the incisive observation that an act of amnesty is, ironically, “at cross-purposes” with the Obama Administration’s stated efforts “to increase employment opportunities” for black Americans.

“The proposed executive order will… necessarily disproportionately benefit people who are Mexican and Central American, which means that it will disproportionately disadvantage other ethnic groups,” Kirsanow writes. “In other contexts, this would be considered a violation of Title VII.”

A violation of Title VII? No problems for Obama there; Eric Holder’s the Attorney General. Title VII only has to work whenever the Obama Administration needs it to.

Read Kirsanow’s full letter here.

…In A Handbasket: New Poll Finds Americans Have Grave Opinion About The Future Of This Country

More than three quarters of Americans now believe their kids won’t inherit a better life than the lives they themselves enjoy, according to a far-ranging poll released Wednesday that finds aught but bleakness among most Americans’ attitudes on an array of economic and cultural topics.

Findings in the poll, conducted for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, read like a statistical elegy for America, penned by its own inhabitants.

“Two words sum up the mood of the nation: Fed up,” begins NBC – normally among the mainstream media’s most robust water-carriers for the Obama Administration – in its summary of the poll’s revelations:

“Six in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy, more than 70 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and nearly 80 percent are down on the country’s political system, according to the latest NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll.

“The frustration carries over to the nation’s political leaders, with President Barack Obama’s overall approval rating hitting a new low at 40 percent, and a mere 14 percent of the public giving Congress a thumbs up.”

The Obama approval rating is an all-time low, by the NBC/WSJ poll’s count, and falls at or near the level of concurrent tracking polls from other outlets. It also closely mirrors former President George W. Bush’s approval rating at the same point in his two-terms presidency.

Across the ideological spectrum, economic concerns seem to drive the malaise. Forty percent of respondents said “someone in their household lost a job in the past five years.” Sixty-four percent indicated they’re still feeling the effects of the “Great Recession” personally. Fifty-seven percent said they were mad enough to “carry a protest sign for a day.”

NBC presented two “word cloud” graphics, each reflecting the most common phrases that Democrats and Republicans would put on their hypothetical protest sign in that scenario. As different as those two word clouds are (and they indeed are very different), the one significant phrase both share in common is “Focus on our own country.”

“This is a bad poll for President Obama, and not a good poll for anybody else,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who helped conduct the survey.

If you’ve still got an appetite for more, you can see the poll’s full results here.

BLM To Re-educate Native Americans On How To Live With Nature; Mitigate Climate Change

Native Americans, infamous throughout human history for their notoriously scornful attitude toward nature and their lustful despoliation of pristine land, are about to get learned on how they can modify the way they interact with the environment and save their corner of the planet from climate change – all thanks to the missionary outreach of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

In the Federal government’s latest noble attempt to soften the edges of brutish native savagery, the BLM is spending nearly half a million dollars to teach Indians in the American northwest how to incorporate climate adaptation plans into their routine interactions with the great outdoors.

From a report Tuesday at CNS News:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to spend up to $450,000 in taxpayer dollars to teach Native American tribes in the Great Basin region ”climate adaptation plans” for their hunting, fishing and gathering activities.

… The Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GBLCC) is one of 22 LCCs nationwide established by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in 2010 to “better integrate science and management to address climate change and related issues.” The Great Basin area covers parts of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and California.

… Todd Hopkins, GBLCC’s science coordinator, told CNSNews.com that the trainings will focus on “actions that the tribes can take in response to changing climatic conditions.”

The initiative involves four tribes, each of which has GBLCC representation, and will follow a climate change curriculum developed by the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals.

“In July, President Obama announced the Tribal Climate Resilience Program to ‘help tribes prepare for climate change,’” CNS News reported. “As part of this initiative, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will ‘dedicate $10 million in funding for tribes and tribal organizations to develop tools to enable adaptive resource management, as well as the ability to plan for climate resilience.’”

There’s no word on whether the BLM will be handing out Bibles (or the Obama Administration’s religious book du jour.)

Michelle Obama’s School Nutrition Plan Kills Bake Sales, School Fundraisers

Over the past week, you may have seen a story or two about the rollout of more Federal school nutrition standards as the implementation timeline for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 continues to unfold.

As the new school year begins, many districts have again begun another round of grousing about how they’ll handle the difficult and unpopular food restrictions championed by first lady Michelle Obama — part of her one-size-fits-all nationwide approach to curbing child obesity and promoting public health at a young age.

In tiny Pawleys Island, S.C., the local newspaper brought a ground-level perspective to the law’s real effect on efforts to carry on school-based civic traditions — traditions that forge close bonds across the beachfront community in the spirit of doing good.

The Coastal Observer ran a recent story on how the first lady’s well-intentioned, cookie-cutter, nanny-state ideas are proving to be anything but helpful:

When Waccamaw Middle School students began a campaign to raise money to send a World War II veteran on the region’s final Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., they turned to the kitchen. They baked cupcakes and cookies and sold them at lunch as part of the effort that raised $2,500 in just over three weeks.

This year, that strategy won’t fly.

Federal nutrition standards that took effect this month limit the calories, sodium, fat and sugar content of food sold in schools as snacks and as fundraisers. “It’s going to be devastating,” Georgetown County School Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

… The standards are part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that has changed the menus in school cafeterias. “They changed the menu so that it isn’t as attractive to kids,” Dozier said. The district’s cafeteria managers have continued to come up with new recipes to make the healthier ingredients more appealing.

The Barack Obama Administration doesn’t exactly have a strong track record of reaching out to the Honor Flight veterans anyway, as any observer of last year’s government shutdown — and its neglect of Honor Flight veterans who faced rows of barricades at Washington, D.C. landmarks — illustrates.

Now, a small community that appeared to be doing just fine on its own has to come up with some way to continue sending veterans on the Honor Flight, as well as support an array of other school-sponsored activities — all in the name of slimming kids down (or keeping them hungry, depending on your point of view).

“Milkshake Mondays and Biscuit Fridays are out,” the Coastal Observer reports. “The fate of candy sales to benefit the Calypso Gators steel drum band is uncertain. The guidelines apply to food sold on campus during school hours, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which created the standards.”

So what kind of foods can you still fundraise on? Probably not the kind that people want to pay for. “Maybe we’ll have Kiwi Wednesday,” Waccamaw Intermediate School principal Tim Carnahan joked.

Obamacare Incentivizes Doctors To Deny Treatment To Patients Covered Under ACA

It’s begun: doctors turning away patients covered under the Affordable Care Act because the physicians aren’t being reimbursed at a rate that allows them to “keep the lights on.”

It’s a twofold problem, because doctors need patients in order to stay in business, and patients need doctors because, well, they’re either sick or trying to manage their health to reduce their chances of getting sicker.

But more and more doctors are beginning to decline patients covered under Obamacare plans because the reimbursement rates are too low to make accepting their insurance an economically viable option. Meanwhile, many patients under ACA plans are funneled into coverage networks that offer limited healthcare choices in order for insurers on the network to keep their costs manageable.

NPR recently interviewed Connecticut doctor Doug Gerard for a story on Obamacare — from a physician’s point of view. Gerard said it makes no sense to admit Obamacare patients whose coverage pays out at a rate that’s roughly 80 percent of what he receives from private insurers that cover patients who aren’t participating in an Obamacare exchange.

On a recent afternoon at his office in Hartford, Conn., Dr. Doug Gerard examines a patient complaining of joint pain. Gerard, an internist, checks her out, asks her a few questions about her symptoms and then orders a few tests before sending her on her way.

For a typical quick visit like this, Gerard could get reimbursed $100 or more from a private insurer. For the same visit, Medicare pays less — about $80. And now, with the new private plans under the Affordable Care Act, Gerard says he would get something in between, but closer to the lower Medicare rates.

That’s not something he’s willing to accept.

“I cannot accept a plan [in which] potentially commercial-type reimbursement rates were now going to be reimbursed at Medicare rates,” Gerard says. “You have to maintain a certain mix in private practice between the low reimbursers and the high reimbursers to be able to keep the lights on.”

Three insurers offered plans on Connecticut’s ACA marketplace in 2014, and Gerard is only accepting one. He won’t say which, but he will say it pays the highest rate to doctors.

“I don’t think most physicians know what they’re being reimbursed. Only when they start seeing some of those rates come through will they realize how low the rates are they agreed to.”

Smaller private practices have much more difficulty maintaining that “certain mix” of patients at different coverage levels in order to run a business that’s both ethical and profitable. But even hospitals, which have historically accepted more types of coverage from broad patient demographics, are beginning to struggle with the small returns on Obamacare plans.

“[H]ospitals — especially top-tier ones that treat the most difficult diseases — are also increasingly rejecting the low reimbursement rates,” The Daily Caller observed Monday. “The nation’s best cancer treatment centers are often covered by very few exchange plans in their states; if Obamacare customers end up with a difficult-to-treat cancer, they’re likely to face a lower quality of care right off the bat.”

Over time, this trend could lead to a form of quality-of-care segregation in which certain types of health care providers who accept Obamacare patients dole out faster, cheaper and poorer services than providers who limit their acceptance of Obamacare-backed plans.

“If reimbursement rates to doctors stay low in Obamacare plans, more doctors could reject those plans. And that could mean that people will get access to insurance, but they may not get access to a lot of doctors,” NPR reported.

“I think it could lead potentially to this kind of distinction that there are these different tiers of quality of care,” Kevin Counihan, manager of Connecticut’s AccessHealthCT insurance exchange, told the network.