Video: President Obama Rejects All The Absurd Views Held By Political Straw Men

President Obama has a rhetorical gift for absolutely crushing absurd contrarian views that virtually no one holds. This video mash-up, compiled by the staff at The Washington Free Beacon, offers a Presidency-spanning highlight reel of all the phony political adversaries Obama’s taken down in his growing repertoire of straw-man speeches.

One of our favorites is Obama’s courageous firebrand stance against people who think all problems disappear when you ignore them. “I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves,” he boldly asserts.

Who doesn’t reject that view? People with no problems?

H/T: The Washington Free Beacon

U.S. Intelligence Anticipates Four Of The Freed ‘Taliban Five’ Will Return To Terror

According to high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, the odds strongly favor the eventual re-assimilation into the Taliban terror network of four Taliban members whom the Administration of President Barack Obama released last week in exchange for the freedom of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

At a Senate briefing last week, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Robert Cardillo advised lawmakers that only one of the freed prisoners — former high-ranking Taliban operative Abdul Haq Wasiq — does not appear likely to rejoin a regional militia or terror cell, according to a report Monday at Obama-friendly news website The Daily Beast (TDB).

Although TDB devotes a requisite amount of its story space to a poignant justification for the Obama Administration’s decision to act quickly and independently of the Congressional vetting process required under Federal law to release the five Guantanamo detainees, the site nevertheless acknowledges U.S. intelligence knew what the White House was risking before the deal was done:

According to a pair of U.S. officials, the briefing from Robert Cardillo, a deputy director of national intelligence, represented the latest community-wide U.S. intelligence assessment on these Taliban Five, completed in 2013.

It also means that President Obama was faced with a particularly excruciating choice as he weighed whether or not to swap these five for American hostage Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The government of Qatar, which agreed to look after the five Taliban leaders as part of the deal for Bergdahl, warned that factions within the Taliban were growing impatient, and campaigning to kill Bergdahl instead of trading him.

“Time is not on your side,” they told U.S. negotiators, according to two senior defense officials.

… It all added up to a painful dilemma for the White House: free Taliban leaders who might return to the fight–or risk losing America’s last service member held abroad. Obama ultimately chose to make the deal, despite his intelligence services’ estimate that four of the five Taliban detainees would ultimately resume their struggle against American allies.

Obama himself admitted as much in a remarkably defiant statement when he met with reporters in Poland last week.

“We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely,” Obama said. “We have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if in fact they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.”

That begs the obvious question: If their behavior is so predictable, and so likely to threaten national security, why set them free in the first place?

Obamacare Opt-Out Penalties Will Hit 1 Million Low-Income Americans In First Year

A report last week from the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 1 million Americans will be required to pay a penalty to the Federal government by the end of next year as a “tax” for declining to purchase health insurance under Obamacare’s individual mandate provision.

In all, CBO now expects about 4 million people — including the estimated 1 million low-income Americans who live below the government’s 200 percent poverty threshold — to pay the Obamacare penalty for 2016.

From the report:

“CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] JCT’s estimates of the number of people who will pay penalties account for likely compliance rates as well as the ability of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to administer and collect the penalty payments.

All told, CBO and JCT estimate that about 4 million people will pay a penalty because they are uninsured in 2016 (a figure that includes uninsured dependents who have the penalty paid on their behalf). An estimated $4 billion will be collected from those who are uninsured in 2016, and, on average, an estimated $5 billion will be collected per year over the 2017-2024 period.

Of the 1 million Americans the government regards as “low-income,” roughly 200,000 will earn gross income of less than 100 percent of the government’s poverty baseline; another 800,000 will earn less than 200 percent of the gross income poverty line, which places them in a category of low-income earners eligible to receive a host of Federal poverty entitlements. For a breakdown of how the Department of Health and Human Services assesses “poverty” as a ratio of household size to annual income, see the department’s 2014 poverty guidelines.

The CBO graph below illustrates the Obamacare penalty forecast as a function of income demographics:

Obamacare opt-out graph

“In general, households with lower income will pay the flat dollar penalty (with adjustments to account for the lower penalty for children and the overall cap on family payments), and households with higher income will pay a percentage of their income,” the report indicates.

The Obamacare opt-out penalty is the greater of a flat “tax” ($695 in 2016 and pegged to inflation thereafter) or “a percentage of a household’s adjusted gross income in excess of the threshold for mandatory tax-filing” (2.5 percent in 2016 and beyond). The CBO is expecting most people living beneath the 200 percent-of-poverty line to pay the $695.

Last week’s report represents a marked downward revision of the CBO’s 2012 prediction that roughly 6 million people would end up paying the Obamacare tax. If that sounds like a good thing, it’s a function of your point of view: CBO is also anticipating a commensurate drop in expected Obamacare funding, thanks to the drop in penalty payments. And many Americans who the CBO originally predicted would have to pay the penalty have since been lumped into the entitlement group of low-income Obamacare recipients who qualify for exemptions.

“The decrease in the number of people who are projected to pay the penalty largely stems from an increase in CBO and JCT’s projection of the number of people who will be exempt from the penalty,” the CBO stated. “That increase is attributable in part to regulations issued since September 2012 by the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury and in part to technical updates and changes in the economic outlook.”

More Selective Enforcement Of Obamacare As States See Key Provision Delayed

Eighteen States are getting a reprieve from the Obama Administration in rolling out an Obamacare provision that requires their State-managed insurance markets to offer an array of coverage to small business employees.

In granting the delay, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) did not decline any of the 18 States that petitioned for more time to deploy the employee choice feature of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), according to The Hill.

“The delays mean that small-business employees seeking to buy health insurance in the SHOP system will only have one option in those 18 states,” The Hill reported today. “The Affordable Care Act intended to allow customers on the SHOP exchange to pick from a variety of options, but the rollout of that feature has been delayed several times.”

The delay represents the latest in a long line of unilateral decision by the Obama Administration to forestall or selectively implement portions of the Affordable Care Act following its poorly-received and problem-plagued rollout last October.

Most of the States that petitioned CMS to delay the employee choice feature are those that declined to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare’s Federal matching-funds program, along with six that have accepted the expanded Medicaid program.

They include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Woman Files Federal Lawsuit Over Naked Pepper Spraying Ordeal At Indiana Jail

An Indiana woman is preparing a Federal lawsuit following a March ordeal in which she allegedly was pepper sprayed, stripped and paraded by police through a local jail after being detained on a pair of misdemeanor charges. Video from the incarceration shows the woman was pepper sprayed in her cell and left without clothes for almost an hour before being allowed to wash out her eyes.

An attorney representing Tabitha Gentry, the alleged victim, told local media that Gentry will file the suit next week against officers with the Floyd County, Ind., Sheriff’s Department. She alleges the officers violated her Constitutional rights while she was in their custody.

Gentry, who lives in New Albany, Ind., was brought to the jail in the early hours of March 30 on charges of resisting and disorderly conduct after police responded to a domestic call at a residence. Her attorney, Laura Landenwich, said things escalated quickly once she arrived at the jail.

“Almost immediately upon entering the jail, she’s assaulted by four officers. They grab her around the neck; they grab her body,” Landenwich told WDRB News. “They hold her down. There are two male officers and two female officers and they forcibly remove her pants, her shoes, her underwear and her shirt and bra.”

From the video, Gentry appears to be unruly (she was reportedly very intoxicated when taken into custody), but she does not appear violent. Without an accompanying audio track, the surveillance video doesn’t reveal what Gentry said that prompted the team of officers to throw her to the floor and drag her into a padded cell, strip her of her clothing and leave her naked and begging for something to wear.

Landenwich said Gentry attempted to escalate her demands for clothing by banging on the cell door, and that officers responded by pepper spraying her and leaving her alone in the cell for another 45 minutes before allowing her to wash the spray from her face. After she finally was provided an opportunity to clean herself up, she was placed back in the cell for another five hours.

“There is no justifiable law enforcement purpose to treating someone this way,” Landenwich told WAVE News. “There is no officer safety issue that is implicated by her having clothing. What this is, is humiliation.”

There was a standard-issue smock in the padded cell. At one point, the video shows Gentry draped in the loose cover. Isn’t that “clothing?” Doesn’t the smock ensure detainees’ Constitutional rights remain intact?

Maybe, but Landenwich insinuates that this incident reflects a larger pattern of detainee abuse by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department. In a similar case last year involving one of Gentry’s relatives at the Floyd County jail, the county ended up settling with a plaintiff who alleged officers had withheld clothing in order to humiliate her. And she points out an obvious, but overlooked, fact: Detainees aren’t convicts. Unless and until they’re found guilty of crimes, treatment of the kind that Gentry allegedly received amounts to a form of punishment.

“Now this is a woman, who under our system of law, is innocent until proven guilty,” Landenwich said. “She’s charged, and she’s charged with a misdemeanor crime that’s not a violent crime…What we also see on the video is, there is another inmate also being held naked prior to her entering that cell. These are egregious Constitutional violations.”

Hillary’s Hard Choices Is Hard To Praise, Say Critics

Boring. Politically correct and eager not to offend. Devoid of critical thought. Not insightful. Of little news value.

Those aren’t assessments of Hillary Clinton, the person. But they are assessments of her new book, Hard Choices, an in-her-own-words revisiting of her time as President Barack Obama’s first-term Secretary of State ghostwritten by Ted Widmer. Hard Choices releases today, but advance reviews of the book by critics and pundits alike have been dismissive — at best.

POLITICO’s Mike Allen went off on the book, calling it a “newsless snore.”

TRUTH BOMB 1: “Hard Choices” is a newsless snore, written so carefully not to offend that it will fuel the notion that politics infuses every part of her life. In this book, like in “The Lego Movie” theme song, everyone is awesome!

Allen also quotes a Republican acquaintance who read the book and found it less than compelling. “Honestly, it is so vanilla and picked over. They leaked out the very few interesting anecdotes in the [656] pages to make it seem more interesting than it is… There is no insightful Obama stuff beyond the ’08 part that’s been discussed a lot already.”

Slate’s John Dickerson had trouble finding scintillating-sounding adjectives to capture the book’s (evidently) essential tepidness. “Clinton’s account is the low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert. She goes on at great length, but not great depth,” he wrote. “Even Condoleezza Rice, one of the most loyal [George W.] Bush aides on the planet, was more candid in her memoir about the inside workings of power relationships than Clinton.”

Then there’s The New York Times, the authoritative voice for so many literates seeking a North Star to guide their general well-roundedness. Here’s what The Times’ Michiko Kakutani had to say:

There is little news in the book. And unlike former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s rawly candid memoir “Duty,” this volume is very much the work of someone who is keeping all her political options open — and who would like to be known not only for mastering the art of diplomacy, but also for having the policy chops to become chooser-in-chief.

“Hard Choices,” like Mrs. Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, does not evince a grand, overarching foreign policy vision, as Henry A. Kissinger’s 1994 book “Diplomacy” did. Rather, Mrs. Clinton displays a pragmatic, case-by-case modus operandi.

And that’s considered praise. New Republic’s Isaac Christopher griped that The Times’ review is too sunny; that it is, in fact, not “a ‘book review’; it’s a press release.”

“Keeping all her political options open” is the book’s likely endgame for Clinton. Other pundits more explicitly connect the strategic dots between the timing of the book’s release, its relative political banality and the ticking of the clock as it winds toward the 2016 Presidential campaign season.

Reporting not on the book itself but its role in laying some groundwork for a Hillary 2016 candidacy, POLITICO’s Todd S. Purdum explains how the book can, maybe, win a few Hillary converts by showing Hillary at her best — while simultaneously pulling double duty as the vehicle for critical research into voter demographics:

She has 100 percent name recognition, prohibitive political support in the polls — and more money than most ordinary people could ever dream of. So why does Hillary Clinton need another book, much less one that’s pre-sold a million copies and dominated news coverage even before its official release?

The answer: Her forthcoming book tour and the attendant multiplatform media blitz are about everything but the book and the bucks. To begin with, the rollout of “Hard Choices,” which officially begins Tuesday, presents a perfect way to gather priceless retail consumer data that can later be put to political use.

…Personal appearances will drive book sales, which could eventually drive voter turnout, and Clinton has data resources available to her in the age of social media that Powell and his would-be backers could only dream of.

“They can really take advantage of all these new tools with her, because she has a huge social media following,” said Gretchen Crary, a veteran book publicist who now runs February Media, her own public relations and marketing firm. “Authors really should take a page from politicians’ playbooks, because you build an audience the same way you build a constituency: You have to go to these anemic coffee klatches where three people show up, and turn them into your ambassadors.”

But the little people have to like the book for that to happen, across the country, thousands of times over.

More problematic for the Hillary 2016 pep squad, the little people have to want to read Hard Choices in the first place.

“[E]ven if the book is a guaranteed best-seller (the initial printing of 1 million copies has already sold out to retailers), some in Clinton’s circle nevertheless confess a certain anxiety about sales,” wrote Purdum, “if only because the book’s commercial performance will inevitably be viewed as yet another straw poll of Clinton’s political prospects.”

Don’t say we didn’t do our part: Here’s where you can rush out to buy Hard Choices.

Why Do Police In New Mexico Need 42 MRAPs?

The New York Times has a lengthy Sunday piece on the continuing militarization of America’s municipal police, which you can read here.

The article questions the need for, and the possible motives behind, the wholesale adoption of military tactics and gear in cities and communities whose violent crime problems, where they exist at all, typically don’t gibe with comparisons to war zones.

“The [decommissioned military] equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units,” The Times laments. “Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘barbering without a license.’”

People who read websites like Personal Liberty Digest™ likely already know all that. But the story included an infographic from the Department of Defense that offers a breakdown of the number of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles (MRAPs) currently in service in every State — and, even if you accept the premise that armored tank-cars are an acceptable addition to our new era of militarized policing, the proportions in several cases seem to be a little out of whack.

mrap_map
Take New Mexico, the 36th most-populous State in the U.S. with slightly more than 2 million people. If we’re counting the little square boxes on the DoD graphic correctly (the graphic bears a strong resemblance to some Common Core math puzzles), the Land of Enchantment has 42 MRAPs, making it No. 1 among all the States for MRAP-owning bragging rights.

Oklahoma, the 28th most-populous State, is a very close second, with 40 MRAPs in service. South Carolina, 24th on the population charts, has seven more MRAPs (28) than California, which is the most populous State in the Nation.

How many MRAPs do the populous States have? California has 21; Texas has 37; New York has 16 and Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio have 10, eight and eight, respectively.

For some strange reason, local authorities in Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire (which isn’t too far down the population list from New Mexico) and Rhode Island haven’t hopped on the MRAP/military surplus gravy train — or, at last count, they hadn’t done so successfully.

Law enforcement agencies offer a predictable variety of reasons to justify their rush toward militarization, with the appeal of free stuff that local taxpayers don’t have to pay for typically topping the list.

But we like the alternate-universe myopia earnestly reflected in the comments of Pulaski County, Ind., Sheriff Michael Gayer, who (presumably while wearing a straight face) told the Indianapolis Star over the weekend that we live in a Nation that’s all war, all the time — even tiny Pulaski County (pop. 13,124):

“The United States of America has become a war zone,” Gayer told the Star. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Jeez, now we’re afraid to get in our cars at the end of the day and brave the public streets.

Unless…

Can private citizens get in on the free MRAP racket, too?

Veterans Agree: Obama Administration Should Not Have Swapped Terrorists For Bergdahl

The Obama Administration doesn’t fare well among the general public on the question of whether the U.S. made the right call in exchanging five Taliban detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. But among veterans, Obama fares even worse.

A USA Today/Pew poll released today reveals the vast majority of American military veterans aren’t pleased with the Obama Administration for trading five known terrorists for a possible deserter. By a 68-16 percent margin, veterans polled said Obama “made the wrong decision,” according to USA Today.

Asked whether they found Bergdahl a sympathetic figure, veterans were similarly displeased: “Only 6% of veterans who responded say they sympathized with him, while 33% say they were angry,” the summary indicates.

Among the general population, “43% of Americans say it was wrong for Obama to make the deal, compared with 34% who say it was the right thing to do.”

The head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars public affairs office, Joe Davis, told USA Today he believes veterans are angered by what they perceive as the Obama Administration’s subversion of longstanding diplomatic values that reflect American ideals even as they serve soldiers’ welfare.

“If he [Bergdahl] was a captured prisoner of war, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. He put his teammates in jeopardy, and you absolutely don’t do that in a combat zone,” said Davis. The U.S. government has “a long history in this country of not negotiating with terrorists. And we just did.”

The general public also believes, by a 2-1 margin, that the White House should be legally obligated to notify Congress before moving on any prisoner transfer with diplomatic or military implications. Just last year, Obama signed the law obligating him, as President, to do that very thing with regard to Guantanamo Bay prisoners – although he protested the law’s potential to limit his flexibility to “act swiftly” in negotiating such deals.

 

There’s No Winning: Conscientious Pennsylvania Kid Gets Suspended From School For Voluntarily Turning In Toy Gun

You can’t win for losing with the effete, fearful, gun-obsessed, progressively-correct adults overpopulating the ranks of the Nation’s public school teachers and administrators. One kid who realized he’d accidentally brought a toy gun to school inside his backpack recently tried, and was promptly slapped with a suspension for violating the school’s gun-replica policy.

Darin Simak, a first grader at Martin Elementary in Kensington, Pa., reportedly came to school with an old backpack his mom had dragged out of storage as a temporary replacement for the daily-use backpack he’d accidentally left in a friend’s car. Once at school, he realized there was a toy pistol inside the old backpack, from whenever it was last used.

Evidently aware, on some level, of the school’s no-toy-guns policy, Darin reportedly brought the toy to his teacher and said “I’m not supposed to have this.”

Sounds adorable to us.

Not so much to his teacher or school administrators, though. His teacher allegedly sent him to the principal’s office on the spot, where he was suspended from school. The New Kensington-Arnold School district has a one-year expulsion policy for bringing a replica of a gun to school, although the policy also allows administrators discretion in meting that punishment, based on the circumstances.

The suspension strongly angered Darin’s mother, Jennifer Mathabel, and she resolved after a day had passed to send him on to school anyway. But the principal called her after Darin arrived that morning and allegedly told her to come get her son.

“I said, ‘I’m sending him to school because he is entitled to be in school and be educated,’” Mathabel told WTAE News in Pittsburgh. No dice – the school elected, at that point, to place Darin into in-school suspension while officials contacted his father, who reportedly came and picked him up.

Those in positions of power often argue that they can be trusted with it. But instances like this one illustrate that kids can also learn, through experience, that it’s often better not to engage – on any level – the powerful people they’ve been told they can trust. As long as our fascistic strain of nanny culture continues to permeate American thought and, yes, government, it’s a lesson kids might as well carry into adulthood.

“He did the right thing, and we’re trying to teach him the right way,” said Chris Simak, Darin’s father. “And now they’re teaching him the wrong way.”

Superintendent John Pallone would not comment on the matter to the local newspaper. An expulsion hearing for Simak was scheduled for today.

UPDATE – Following today’s hearing, Darin Simak has been allowed to return to school Monday, with his suspension retroactive to include June 5 and June 6 – the two days of school he “officially” missed.

“I’m glad he can go back to school on Monday and get his last couple of toys the teacher took throughout the year and of course his report card,” Chris Simak told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He was upset that he was going to miss the last day of school.”

 

Sunday News Show Roundup

Sunday’s TV news talk didn’t add much depth to the ongoing controversy surrounding the United States’ exchange of five Taliban detainees for the mysterious Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but it certainly added to the volume.

The Bergdahl story took center stage Sunday as the Administration of President Barack Obama continued to defend its decision to swap Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl — a soldier who, according to anecdotal reports from those who served with him, allegedly deserted the Army by walking off base in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Secretary of State John Kerry doubled down on President Obama’s rhetoric last week, which defended the swapping of mid-to-high-level Taliban for Bergdahl as justified, because Bergdahl is “somebody’s child.”

“What I know today is what the President of the United States knows — that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what — to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things, and we would consciously choose to do that,” said Kerry.

“That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anyone would [forsake a soldier]; that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

But the Obama Administration didn’t get much sympathy for its decisionmaking Sunday, nor for the reasoning the President has employed to explain why the prisoner swap represents a good deal. In fact, GOP critics insinuated that the philosophical focus of Obama’s Bergdahl narrative; the Administration’s emphasis on not leaving a lone soldier (or child) behind, distracts from the more serious problems the swap has created for U.S. diplomacy.

“I think that completely misses the problem here,” Michigan GOP Congressman Mike Rogers told ABC’s This Week. “This is a huge regional problem for the United States now,” he added, saying the terrorist trade sends “the wrong message at the wrong time.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), a reliable foreign policy hawk, said on “State of the Union” there’s little reason to share the Obama Administration’s faith that the newly-freed terrorists won’t eagerly find their way back to the Taliban terror network.

“Qatar is not renowned for its ability to keep things in security,” McCain said. “We know that 30 percent of those who were released from Guantanamo before have re-entered the fight. These people are in the leadership. They are the ones who are dedicated, the hardest of hardcore, and — by the way — they became a lot harder after their years in Guantanamo.”

Under terms of the swap agreement, the freed Taliban are obligated to live in Qatar, without freedom to leave the country, for one year. There is no restriction on their movements within that country, and the men are reportedly residing in a well-appointed residential compound where they’ve been reunited with family from across the Middle East.

The terrorists’ newfound freedom of movement has grown into a bipartisan concern, with a frustrated Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offering a similarly pessimistic assessment on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I heard John Kerry this morning say, ‘don’t worry about them in Doha [Qatar]’ — you can’t help but ‘worry about them in Doha,’ and we have no information on how the United States is actually going to see that they remain in Doha; that they make no comments; that they do no agitation…and another rumor is that one Taliban has apparently said that he would return to the battle field.

“So it’s a mixed bag, at best.”

Majority Believes Obama Administration ‘Less Competent’ Than Bush, Clinton

A majority of Americans believe the Obama Administration is a less competent occupant of the White House than either of President Barack Obama’s two Presidential forebears: one a Democrat; the other a Republican.

In a wide-ranging phone poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted over the first three days of June, FOX News found that, on the heels of the Veterans Affairs hospital scandal and the controversial exchange of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees, the Obama Administration’s standing among Americans generally has taken a substantial hit.

Asked whether the Obama Administration has made America stronger or weaker, 55 percent of all respondents replied “weaker,” compared with 35 percent who felt the Nation has become stronger under Obama.

That sentiment carried over into questions about the Obama Administration’s comparative strength alongside the Administration of his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, as well as that of President Bill Clinton — Obama’s last Democratic successor in the White House.

Overall, 48 percent believed the Obama White House is “less competent” than the Bush White House, while 42 percent disagreed. And, in an evident indication that Americans continue to hold the Bush Administration in low esteem, even more people believe Obama’s White House leadership to be incompetent when compared with Clinton.

A full 68 percent believe the Obama Administration is less competent than the Clinton Administration, with only 18 percent weighing in in favor of Obama.

And, even though much of the controversy surrounding the Bergdahl release had yet to metastasize at the time the poll was conducted, more people — 47 percent — indicated their disapproval for the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap than the 45 percent who approved.

Additionally, the Bergdahl story — at least in the early going — had failed to focus public attention away from the broad Veterans Affairs scandal. Seventy-eight percent of those polled said they were following the VA mismanagement story either “very” closely (45 percent) or “somewhat” closely (33 percent), while half believed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay receive better healthcare than that received by U.S. veterans. And 59 percent said they disapprove of how the Obama Administration had handled the VA scandal; only 29 percent approved.

Obama’s 54 percent overall disapproval rating nearly matches his all-time high of 55 percent disapproval, which he reached in November of last year. His current approval rating, however, matches the 40 percent he received in that iteration of the poll.

Old CBO: Obamacare Will Save $120 Billion. New CBO: We Have No Idea

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revised – if you can call it that – its forecast on the long-term impact Obamacare will have on the Federal deficit, all but abandoning any attempt at assigning a concrete dollar figure after reporting in 2010 that the law would trim the deficit by $120 billion over ten years.

Now, the CBO is indicating there’s just no telling what kind of financial impact Obamacare will have on the deficit – but, after already doubling its initial estimate of the law’s implementation costs once before, it’s not attempting to set a new estimate this time around.

“Four years after enactment of what is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s key legislative achievement, however, it’s unclear whether the health care law is still on track to reduce the deficit or whether it may actually end up adding to the federal debt,” Roll Call reported Wednesday. “In fact, the answer to that question has become something of a mystery.”

In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law. That conclusion came as a surprise to some fiscal experts in Washington and is drawing concern. And without a clear picture of the law’s overall financing, it could make it politically easier to continue delaying pieces of it, including revenue raisers, because any resulting cost increases might be hidden.

Anyone who’s been watching Obamacare gestate since the President’s first term in office won’t be surprised. Here’s a nice recap from Town Hall:

[O]n the eve of Democrats’ party-line Obamacare vote in 2010, they used a cynically manufactured Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “score” to provide jittery members a fig leaf with which to justify an ‘aye’ tally. The report they hailed purported to show that Obamacare would cost less than a trillion dollars and that it would help reduce deficits. Republicans argued that it was preposterous to suggest that the creation of a brand new, massive entitlement program could possibly save the government money, but triumphant Democrats waved around the CBO document as the gospel truth.

In February, CBO went ahead and let everybody in on the poorly-kept secret: Obamacare would cost at least $2 trillion (emphasis on at least) and – in stark opposition to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) cheerleading assertion that it would actually create 400,000 jobs “almost immediately” – would cost jobs.

Now, the CBO is essentially saying there’s no reason to even try to measure the reality of life after Obamacare. In light of the bad news it brought the last time it tried, that’s a pretty unsettling “no comment.”

Obama-Friendly Study: New EPA Regulations Are Cheaper Than The Cost Of Bad Weather

Because bad weather will happen only if the President doesn’t get his way, automakers will be financially better off just biting the bullet and accepting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposals to curb carbon emissions.

That’s the logical conclusion of a new study commissioned by a trade group with close ties to the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Business Forward, founded in 2009 by a gaggle of Democratic consultants, played its part in the Obama Administration’s climate change drama this week by releasing the new study, which assures American manufacturers that the shared cost of making bad weather go away is nothing compared to the cost of doing nothing.

The study presumes, of course, that industry’s embrace of EPA policy will act as a soothing balm for otherwise-inevitable devastation. Using the automotive sector as a case in point, Business Forward predicts financial mayhem if we don’t curb coal-fired emissions:

The results of the report are striking in two ways.

First, the potential cost of higher electricity rates (adding $7 to the cost of producing a $30,000 car) is quite small, while the cost of weather-related shutdowns is enormous ($1,250,000 per hour). Like most manufacturers, automakers spend less than 1% of their budgets on electricity, which means that if it costs them $100 to manufacture a part today, the EPA’s standards could eventually add 6 cents.

Second, American manufacturers rely on supply chains that are increasingly large, specialized, global and fast. The very characteristics that make them efficient also make them interdependent, and this interdependence is what makes them susceptible to severe weather. Climate change is disrupting our ports, highways, bridges, and rails — and, because producers come from all over the world, severe weather in Asia affects us, too.

An alternate view would suggest that severe weather affects infrastructure in general, and the world has never had as much infrastructure — much of it along waterways and coasts where the vicissitudes of nature toyed with sparse populations long before they burgeoned into sophisticated population and production centers — as it has now. When people put stuff like factories, sewer systems and bridges where there used to be grass and trees, weather tends to amplify mankind’s perception of the power of weather to devastate.

The Obama Administration and apologists like Business Forward take that a step further by adding a massive dose of hubris: If the weather is doing bad things to people, then it’s ultimately up to people to change it. And those who don’t wish to mount such a Quixotic, gargantuan effort, or who question the need or efficacy of doing so, are themselves bad people.

Nowhere does the Business Forward report (full download here) make any attempt to relate the desired outcomes of the newly proposed Obama EPA rules with actual weather. Instead, with progressive hubris at full sail, it simply assumes that EPA policies will fix all the global weather-related problems it attempts to urgently present:

About $60 of the $100 parts suppliers and automakers spend on electricity (per car) is consumed at the final assembly plant. If those costs rise 6.2 percent in 2020, as result of the EPA’s new standards, the assembly line’s cost (per car) rises $3.72. The cost of electricity for an entire shift (8 hours) rises about $1,860. By comparison, if a plant has the typical downtime cost ($1,250,000 per hour), the cost of losing an entire shift is $10,000,000.

If a plant assembles 300,000 vehicles each year, the increase in the plant’s annual electricity-related costs ($1,116,000) is less than the cost of losing less than an hour of production time.

This past winter, several assembly plants lost days of production to severe weather.

This, of course, will only come to an end if the EPA is allowed to curb domestic carbon emissions from American coal-fired power plants.

Now that’s hubris.

The Bergdahl Exchange Video: A Negotiation With Terrorists

Even as State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf continued to insist today that the handover of five Taliban detainees in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl wasn’t a bad deal for U.S. interests, multiple reports continued to emerge that paint the exchange as a multi-tiered disaster for the Obama Administration.

From anecdotes describing Bergdahl’s extended absence as a desertion that needlessly cost U.S. soldiers their lives, to the VA-beleaguered Obama Administration’s evident surprise at how terribly the swap backfired, to stern scolding from Democratic allies over the operation’s secrecy and dubious legality, to the hometown cancelation of Bergdahl’s planned welcome-home celebration – there’s been no political upside for the Obama Administration. On the heels on multiple scandals, the Bergdahl fiasco – entirely a creation of the Obama Administration – is, simply put, a scandal.

Now comes the video – released to western media by the Taliban – showing the moment of Bergdahl’s release into U.S. custody. It’s a bizarre exchange, and, watching it, it’s hard not to see the interaction between Taliban and Americans as nothing more nor less than a negotiation between a powerful sovereign Nation and…terrorists.

 

Obama’s Popularity Drops In U.S. As It Increases In The Arab World

A new CNN poll out Tuesday demonstrates a continuing decline in President Barack Obama’s policy approval rating across nearly all American demographic categories.

Obama’s general disapproval rating debuted at 23 percent in February of 2009, but shot to 50 percent for the first time in December of that year, outpacing his approval rating (48 percent) for the first time. After reaching a historic high of 56 percent (compared with an approval rating of 41 percent) for consecutive months late last year, Obama’s disapproval rating now sits stagnantly at 55 percent (compared with his current 43 percent approval rating).

As Breitbart observed Wednesday, it’s not just that Obama’s approval rating stinks – it’s that key demographics coveted by progressives have turned on him:

On no single issue does a majority of Americans approve of Obama’s position. On many important issues, e.g. health care, immigration and foreign policy, his approval ratings have reached new lows. Perhaps surprisingly, however, his approval ratings are worst among America’s working class…

It should be noted that Obama’s approval ratings have collapsed across the issues, not just with this sub-group. On voters’ top issue, the economy, 61% of voters disapprove of Obama’s performance. Just 38% approve. Obama’s numbers are 7 points worse than they were on the eve of the GOP landslide in 2010. His approval ratings on health care, illegal immigration, gun policy and the federal deficit have all reached new lows, with Obama’s approval mired in the 30s. On the deficit, 67% of voters disapprove of Obama.

As bad as these numbers are, they are worse among America’s working class voters. On every issue, Obama receives lower marks from those earning less than $50k and those who never attended college than the general population. A staggering 67% of those who didn’t attend college disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, for example. 69% disapprove of his handling of health care.

You can view the full findings in the CNN poll here.

At the same time, Obama’s standing among residents of Arab countries as well as the disputed Palestinian territory, has improved by an order of magnitude in recent years, according to a new report from Zogby Research Services, a K Street consulting firm.

Polling residents of seven Middle Eastern territories – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Palestinian territories (which the survey treats as its own sovereign entity) – Zogby saw dramatic gains in opinion for Obama. “Despite the persistence of negative attitudes toward several U.S. policies in the Arab World, there has been an uptick in U.S. favorable ratings in some Arab countries and an increase in Arab support for President Obama in all countries,” the study’s summary asserts.

That includes a massive jump in Egypt (three percent approval for Obama in 2011, compared with 34 percent today), as well as double-digit gains in nearly every other Arab state.

Unsurprisingly, occupants of the area at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict found the Obama Administration to be far more even-handed in its diplomatic temperament than residents in other parts of the Middle East:

When assessing the United States’ efforts to negotiate a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, overwhelming majorities in every country reject the notion that the United States has been even-handed in these negotiations. It is worth noting that while more than eight in ten respondents in Jordan (88%), Morocco (88%), Lebanon (84%), and Egypt (82%) express this view, Palestinians (and Arabs in the Emirates) are less inclined to be negative. Among Palestinians 30% say the United States has been even-handed (along with 31% of those in the UAE), and 57% say they are not confident in U.S. fairness in the negotiations.

Still, Obama has a ways to go before he’s regarded as favorably among Arabs as Bill Clinton, whom the survey describes as “far and away…the most positive U.S. president in recent history.”

Feds Warn Georgia Not To Enforce Law That Makes Passing A Drug Test A Condition For Receiving Food Stamps

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed into law earlier this year a bill the State Legislature passed that makes passing a drug test an eligibility contingency for some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – aka food stamps.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the ever-expanding SNAP program, is cautioning State officials not to enforce the new law, because it places State-controlled parameters on a program that’s administered under Federal guidelines.

House Bill 772, now a Georgia law, requires drug testing for SNAP applicants who, according to language in the bill, raise a “reasonable suspicion” that they’re abusing illegal drugs. Approximately two million of Georgia’s estimated 10 million residents are on food stamps. Nationwide, government spending on SNAP benefits more than doubled during the five-year span between 2007 and 2012.

The new law was scheduled to take effect July 1, but the USDA warned health officials this week that placing State qualifiers on eligibility for Federal assistance is a violation of Federal law. The agency sent a letter Tuesday to Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton, cautioning that Federal law “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of applicants and recipients.”

Defenders of the Georgia law say the Federal government is making a big deal out of a modest and well-intentioned qualifier, although few are arguing that the law does, in fact, add an additional layer of requirements to SNAP guidelines established at the Federal level – in direct violation of Federal law.

But the State-Federal conflict does expand an ongoing debate over whether Congress should modify SNAP and other forms of public assistance to encourage recipients to help themselves at the same time. Congressional Republicans attempted to tag on a drug testing amendment to the Farm Bill last year in the House, but that effort was weighed down by bad – if facile – public relations, and was abandoned.

Eric Holder Pivots To ‘Homegrown’ Terror

Describing last year’s Boston Marathon bombing as a “homegrown threat,” Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday the revival of a domestic anti-terror task force originally formed during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The goal of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, he said, is to augment Federal law enforcement’s focus on foreign-bred terrorism, rooted in culture and ideology, with redoubled scrutiny directed toward “self-radicalized” nutcases in the United States as well.

The Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee (DTEC), said Holder, “Will be comprised of leaders from components within the Department of Justice, and co-chaired by a member of the U.S. Attorney community, the National Security Division, and the FBI.” DTEC will engage in information sharing with multiple tiers of law enforcement nationwide to identify and monitor domestic terror threats.

In his weekly video address Monday, Holder explained the revival of the task force as a counter to “the danger we face” from the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, mass shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, both of which he characterized as “homegrown threats.”

Horrific terror incidents like the tragic shootings at Fort Hood and last year’s Boston Marathon bombing demonstrate the danger we face from these homegrown threats.

Now — as the nature of the threat we face evolves to include the possibility of individual radicalization via the Internet — it is critical that we return our focus to potential extremists here at home.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno first launched the task force following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — an attack that later resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh and a life sentence for Terry Nichols, both of whom Federal prosecutors characterized as far-right anti-government radicals.

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Secret Service Solicits Software To Detect ‘Sarcasm’ By Social Media Users

The Secret Service believes it can develop software to help it determine when you’re being a smart aleck on social media. Why that’s important to the Secret Service, though, is a question no computer can answer.

According to Nextgov, the Secret Service is soliciting bids for proprietary software development that will enable the agency to eye not only the content of social media posts, but – the Feds hope – the intent of the people writing that content as well.

The product is being developed for use by the Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs.

In a work order posted on Monday, the agency details information the tool will collect – ranging from emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages.

Its capabilities will include “sentiment analysis,” “influencer identification,” “access to historical Twitter data,” “ability to detect sarcasm,” and “heat maps” or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.

In addition, the software would be capable of sending out messages of its own, though the work order isn’t specific enough to ascertain whether that’s an automated function (as many of the software’s features evidently are designed to be) or a feature that can be tailored for use by an individual investigator.

Bill Would Ban Congressmen From Lobbying For Life – But Does It Have A Future?

Two Democratic Senators have introduced a bill that aims to ban, for life, any former member of Congress from serving as a lobbyist once his public service career has ended.

Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a bill that, in addition to ending the pathway to lobbying for Congressmen, also would forbid former Congressional staffers who’ve become lobbyists from lobbying Congress for six years (as opposed to the current limitation of one year) after their employment with a Congressional office has ended.

Currently, former House members only have to wait one year after leaving office to enter the lucrative world of Washington, D.C. lobbying. Former Senators must wait two years. But the new bill would place a lifetime ban on Congressional lobbying for any former Congressman. It would also require K Street firms to make known any consulting work done by former Congressional staffers.

Both Senators had attempted in February to attach an amendment with similar intent to the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, but that effort died with virtually no further action following its draft release.

While the new bill has obvious public appeal, Bennet has been criticized in his home State for reviving these accountability measures in order to score cheap and essentially meaningless political points with voters.

“Bennet’s populist K Street bashing makes good, short-term political sense,” wrote The Colorado Observer in late February. “But his rhetoric doesn’t exactly match up with his fundraising habits.”

Taking potshots at nameless, faceless “lobbyists” and proposing tough sounding “lifetime bans” and draconian penalties (even if you have no real intention of ever putting them to a vote) may seem like a good strategy for papering over tens of thousands in contributions from lobbying interests. And that kind of duplicity may fly in Washington (which Mr. Bennet is fond of railing against), but it is likely to be far less convincing with those of us who live two thousand miles from the DC cocktail circuit.

Indeed, the new legislation may – perhaps intentionally – get lost in the shuffle once its backers have taken their political benefit from a couple of favorable headlines.

“Congress has typically not enacted ethics or lobbying reform legislation unless a major scandal adds momentum,” The Hill observed Tuesday. “At present, Bennet and Tester’s bill is not expected to receive legislative action.”

Georgia SWAT Unit Responsible For Critically Injuring Baby Has A History Of Violence Toward Civilians

By now, you’ve probably heard about the 19-month-old Georgia baby clinging to life after a local SWAT team executed an unsuccessful no-knock raid on his parents’ home and, in the process, severely injured the child when an officer threw a flashbang grenade into his playpen. But you may not have heard that the task force involved in that raid already was responsible for an innocent civilian death in the recent past.

Bounkham “Bou” Phonesavanh was critically burned when police with the Habersham County Special Response Team (SRT) attempted to enter his parents’ Cornelia, Ga. house last Wednesday to apprehend 30-year-old Wanis Thonetheva — a suspect who allegedly had sold drugs out of the same house the previous day to undercover agents with an affiliated regional drug task force.

The sheriff’s office sought and obtained a no-knock warrant, and showed up at the house the next day. Thonetheva — a suspect who officials believed had used an AK-47 in a previous drug-related altercation with another suspect — wasn’t at the home when the SRT team came calling. But baby Bou and his parents were.

SRT tried to knock in the front door with a battering ram, but officers said it felt as though someone or something was bolstering the door. So they attempted to distract the occupants by tossing a flashbang grenade, which landed right next to Bou in his playpen. The playpen turned out to be the object “blocking” the door.

Three other children were also inside the house but were out of range of the blast. Thonetheva himself was later picked up at another home in Cornelia and charged for allegedly distributing methamphetamine.

MCT/Bou’s parents and sisters attend a prayer vigil for him.

Bou suffered severe facial burns, was placed in a medically induced coma, and was scheduled for surgery Monday to allow him to breathe again on his own.

“He didn’t deserve any of this,” Alicia Phonesavanh, the child’s mother, told a local television reporter. “He’s in the burn unit. We go up to see him and his whole face is ripped open. He has a big cut on his chest.”

After the raid, police said they had no idea a child (or, say, four children) was living in the home, and even told the judge who issued the warrant they had seen no evidence that a child was present. A review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) rapidly found no wrongdoing on the officers’ part, and Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell defended the agency’s policy for conducting SWAT-style no-knock raids.

“Here’s the problem,” The Washington Post’s Radley Balko blogged last Friday: “If your drug cops conduct a raid that ends up putting a child in the hospital with critical burns, and they did nothing that violates your department’s policy, then there’s something wrong with your policy.”

Balko may be on to something there, because, as he noted in a separate post, the Bou incident isn’t the first time the Habersham County SRT has harmed an innocent civilian in the name of drug vigilance.

Bou is fighting to live, but SRT killed its last bystander victim.

In 2009, the same unit killed pastor Jonathan Ayers, who happened to be doing ministry outreach work with a woman whom the SRT had targeted that day for a drug raid. The cops saw Ayers and the woman together in a car, and “switched their focus to him,” as Balko wrote in February.

SRT followed the pair to an ATM, where Ayers withdrew some money to give to the woman so that she could pay her outstanding motel bill and avoid eviction. Plainclothes officers (see Balko’s blog for an image of what one officer was wearing) then rushed the car, and a startled Ayers tried to flee. They shot and killed him. He was completely innocent of any crime. Nevertheless, the GBI cleared all officers of wrongdoing and the agency embarked on a deceitful and (inevitably) unsuccessful campaign to assassinate Ayers’ character.

A Federal jury awarded $2.3 million to Ayers’ wife Abigail, who was pregnant with the couple’s son when Ayers was killed. Harris County has appealed the ruling.

Another Senate Ethics Complaint Against Harry Reid

Claiming that Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) floor attacks on the conservative Koch brothers represent a historic abuse of office, Tea Party Patriots has filed a formal ethics complaint against the Senate Majority Leader Monday before the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin called Reid’s nearly obsessive, hyperbolic public remarks about the Koch brothers, whose political spending trends conservative, an example of “thuggish intimidation” campaigning tactics that improperly use Reid’s elected office as a catbird seat for partisan warfare.

“It’s been generations since a member of the Senate has abused the power of his office to attack private citizens the way Harry Reid has sought to vilify Charles and David Koch,” Martin explained, adding that Reid’s efforts amount to “nothing more than a continuation of the thuggish intimidation campaign mounted by the Obama Administration to target and silence people and organizations Democrats disagree with.”

Martin also pointed out that Reid knows he’s acting out of line when he uses his Senate floor time to steer the day’s topic toward brutal criticism of the Kansas oil billionaires, whom he has repeatedly called “un-American.”

“Reid’s repeated and mean-spirited attacks violate federal laws and Senate rules against using taxpayer-funded resources for partisan politics and he knows it, yet he repeatedly takes to the floor of the Senate and the media to attack those with whom he disagrees — and then turns around and devotes the Senate floor to a ‘talk-a-thon’ on a major donor’s key issue of climate change,” Martin said.

The filing asks the Committee to investigate whether Reid “violated Senate rules by unlawfully and unethically targeting private citizens, Charles and David Koch, whose philosophical and political views are in opposition to Senator Reid’s philosophy and to misuse Senate resources to reward Tom Steyer, a mega-donor to Democrats in the Senate.”

Steyer, a progressive donor driven primarily by environmental concerns, has received increasing scrutiny from Reid’s conservative critics, who counter Reid’s Koch attacks by pointing out the hypocrisy in lambasting the exercise of political free speech through the acceptance of major donations.

Monday’s complaint comes a month after the Roger Villere, who chairs the Louisiana Republican Party, filed a similar complaint — complete with screen captures of anti-Koch campaigning from Reid’s official Senate Twitter account and website — with the Select Committee on Ethics.