‘Decimated’ Al-Qaida Appears Emboldened In New Video

Less than two years after being fully and finally “decimated” by the Administration of President Barack Obama, Al-Qaida has somehow managed to foment new leadership and organize into what CNN described Wednesday as “what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering in years.”

That story featured a video Wednesday that depicts a large open-air gathering of more than 100 al-Qaida terrorists rallying and listening to a fiery anti-U.S. pep talk from the group’s worldwide second-in-command, Nasir al-Wuhayshi. A CNN terrorism analyst said the group met somewhere in Yemen.

Notably, there’s a brazenness to the tone of this gathering, as the story observes.

A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn’t know about it or couldn’t get a drone there in time to strike….

In the middle of the clip, the man known as al Qaeda’s crown prince, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, appears brazenly out in the open, greeting followers in Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi, the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has said he wants to attack the United States. But in the video, he looks unconcerned that he could be hit by an American drone.

The video is better-produced than many that have emanated from al-Qaida in the past, and analyst Peter Bergen believes the group is demonstrating a fresh confidence in its ability to carry out strikes against the U.S. — though U.S. intelligence either doesn’t know, or isn’t commenting on, the nature of any plots against the Nation.

“The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised that such a large group of al-Qaida assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn’t notice,” said Bergen. “… The main problem about this group is that it has a bomb maker who can put bombs on to planes that can’t be detected.”

Obama touted the imminent eradication of al-Qaida as a terror threat against the U.S. throughout his re-election campaign, telling multiple audiences that the group is “on the path to defeat” and its loose network of affiliates are “on the run.”

An alternate theory suggesting a reason behind al-Qaida’s recent resurgence might posit that the terror group never has been “decimated” and that its organizational, communications and recruiting tactics have simply changed to accommodate both the Obama Administration’s few successes and to take advantage of newly lawless zones that permeate freshly destabilized areas of the Mideast.

Feds Seek To Set New, Needless Regulation Between Brewers And Farmers

The Obama Administration is backing a new FDA proposal that seeks to create regulatory interference where, historically, there has been none whatsoever: in the relationship brewers with leftover grain and farmers who need some extra grain to feed to their cattle.

The proposed FDA rule would set the government between the brewers and the farmers, forcing the brewers – who often give away or sell the surplus grain for a modest sum – to demonstrate that they have verified the “safety” of the material in the same way that pet food manufacturers currently are regulated.

Never mind the fact that, in this instance, cattle are downstream from humans in this brewer-farmer supply chain. Under the FDA’s proposal, what was sourced and exploited first as fit for human consumption – the grain to be fermented into beer – would have to be vetted for safety after the breweries are done with the material and before the cows could come near it.

Chicago brewery owner Josh Deth told Fox News the new rule would either make it too costly for him to prepare the grain for the farmers, or cost him more than $100,000 a year to send to a landfill. “The whole brewing community was shocked about it,” he said.

Here’s more from Fox News:

Deth, whose title is “Chairman of the Party,” says it’s always been a great deal for both sides. The ranchers get the grain, and the brewers get those leftovers removed from their facilities for free.

“We’re trading, giving something of value to each other and working it out. I think that’s one of the really great things, and people really hate to see the government get involved in something where they can just as easily stay out of this.”

… The regulations are part of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping new food safety reform law signed by President Obama in 2011. According to the FDA, the purpose of the law is to improve the safety of animal food.

There’s no record of spent grains causing any problems for cows or humans, though, according to Chris Thorne, a spokesman with the Beer Institute.

“We already meet or exceed the goals that the FDA would like us to see. So we see these regulatory procedures as completely unnecessary,” Thorne told Fox News.

The FDA has issued a boilerplate statement pledging to review the many complaints from brewers and farmers (and the Congressmen who’ve taken up their cause) before establishing a final rule next year.

White House-Directed Change In Census Survey Guarantees Skewed Obamacare Data

The Census Bureau has been directed to change the wording of questions concerning Americans’ health coverage so that it will be impossible to compare the answers with those provided by takers of the bureau’s interim annual surveys in previous years.

First reported Tuesday in The New York Times, the change drew criticism not only from conservatives — who have smelled some kind of agenda-driven motive from the Administration of President Barack Obama ever since oversight of the Census Bureau was taken out from under the Commerce Department and placed under the control of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — but also from mainstream media, including Times reporter Josh Barro:

Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle was “speechless” at the news:

What’s got them so upset? Here’s the first sentence of The Times’ story:

The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.

The backlash this week stems from fresh suspicions, although wary conservatives were upset way back in 2009, when the Census Bureau was placed under the loving care of the White House. At the time, there was no smoking gun signaling the Obama Administration’s motive for the change, but conservative lawmakers knew the move was politically motivated.

“Requiring the Census director to report directly to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is a shamefully transparent attempt by your administration to politicize the Census Bureau and manipulate the 2010 Census,” Republican lawmakers wrote to Obama at the time.

“It takes something that is supposedly apolitical like the census, and gives it to a guy who is infamously political,” Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) chimed in.

Of course, the new wording on the annual survey questions all but guarantees a favorable — yet apples-and-oranges — comparison between the ration of newly insured Americans to those who’d obtained insurance for the first time in previous years.

“An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a ‘total revision to health insurance questions’ and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured,” reported The Times. “Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

“’We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,’ said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.”

But of course.

Watch for this one to go unreported, underreported or, if all else fails, spun beyond comprehension in the mainstream press.

Overwhelming Majority Of Arizona Republicans Favor Anyone Else To John McCain In 2016

If a recent survey commissioned by the Citizens United Political Victory Fund is any indication, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) will have to double his current polling numbers with Arizona Republicans if he hopes to hang on to his Senate seat in the 2016 election cycle.

Released Monday by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, the poll shows only 29.3 percent of the likely voters in the GOP primary would vote for McCain, while an overwhelming 64.2 percent would vote for an unnamed “new person.”

From the summary:

Arizona Senator John McCain confronts a very challenging primary landscape should he decide to run for a sixth term in 2016. Although his job approval-disapproval rating among Republicans statewide is evenly split, and his image is slightly underwater (47.7% favorable, 51.4% unfavorable), it is the fact that Republican Primary voters in Arizona are over twice as likely to elect “a new person” (64.2%) than they are to re-elect McCain (29.3%) that spells trouble.

… This is not simply “trouble with the Tea Party” or “far-right angst.” Senator McCain struggles at various levels with Republicans across the ideological spectrum, as shown in the Appendix (Tea Party Republicans, Strong Republicans, Not-so-strong Republicans and Independents).

Not only does McCain fare poorly against a hypothetical unnamed opponent, but he also can’t beat named opponents pitted against him in the Citizens United poll. According to the results, current Republican Governor Jan Brewer would beat him (47.7 percent to 29 percent), Arizona District 5 Representative Matt Salmon would beat him (48.2 percent to 30.3 percent) and current Arizona Congressman David Schweikert would beat him (40.1 percent to 33.9 percent).

“Heading into 2016, Senator McCain will have the normal trappings of a Senator who has been in the United States Senate for 30 years, e.g., solid funding and the power of incumbency and in his case, the unique service to our nation of a war veteran,” the summary observes. “Still, to fellow Republicans in his own state, that incumbency seems to cut both ways, and currently, appears to be a liability.”

When his present Senate term — his fifth — expires in 2016, McCain will be 80 years old. The Senator held a fundraiser late last year in New York City, inviting guests to the St. Regis Hotel to lend their financial support “as I consider running for re-election to the US Senate.”

Holder Pursues $15 Million To Fund Active Shooter Cop Training

Advancing the Obama Administration’s philosophy that regards law enforcement professionals as the only legitimate response to put down an immediate armed threat, Attorney General Eric Holder tied this week’s shootings in Kansas City to an appeal to Congress to fund more police training to address “active shooter” situations.

Focusing his weekly video message to Congress on the request, Holder justified the request based on his belief in the effectiveness of similar training that’s already received Federal funding.

“This vital work must continue — but to provide training, we need adequate funding. This critical funding would help the Justice Department ensure that America’s police officers have the tools and guidance they need to effectively respond to active shooter incidents whenever and wherever they arise,” he said.

The text summary accompanying the video on the DOJ website explains the need for more active-shooter-trained police (no mention of concealed carry on military bases, faithful interpretation of the 2nd Amendment or renewing the focus on the maze of local laws that currently go unenforced) as a function of the “alarming” increase in “active shooter incidents since 2009…”

Amid an alarming rise in the number of active shooter incidents since 2009 – and following the recent tragedies at Ft. Hood and at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas – Attorney General Eric Holder urged Congress to approve $15 million in funding for active shooter training and other officer safety initiatives. These initiatives are critical to providing front-line officers-who are usually first on the scene of an active shooting incident-with the tools, training, and equipment they need to respond to threats, to protect themselves, and to save innocent lives.

It’s worth noting that, after a cavalcade of post-Sandy Hook reports from left-leaning and mainstream media outlets decrying a recent and dramatic increase in mass shootings, those who bothered to follow up had to eat crow after a Boston criminologist and academic debunked that myth.

Holder evidently didn’t read that report – or the report from the FBI’s own NICS database that shows violent crime has decreased as more and more law-abiding citizens seek to obtain firearms.

Real-Time Map View Surveillance Allows L.A. Deputies To See Crime — And Everything Else — As It Unfolds

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been testing an innovative surveillance system that enables officers sitting in front of large electronic displays to watch people move around the city of Compton from a bird’s-eye view.

The system can coordinate with static on-the-ground surveillance, such as street-level security cameras, to allow police to track a person of interest from above, and identify him from the ground.

The so-called Persistent Surveillance System (PSS) — that’s a brand name — captures in real time (and then stores) film footage of a prescribed area from an aircraft, allowing police either to take down a suspect as a crime unfolds, or to piece together evidence identifying a suspect once that suspect’s movements have been verified and cross-checked with identifying features (such as hair, tattoos, clothing) captured from land-based surveillance.

As tested, the system is reportedly designed to capture a live feed continually for six hours at a time, and to encompass an area of 25 square miles using high-resolution cameras that can capture the movements of both pedestrians and automobiles.

Gizmodo reports the PSS system has also been tested in Baltimore and in Dayton, Ohio — although the Compton experiment had remained a guarded secret until an April 11 story by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed the extent of its use. Before then, according to one L.A. sheriff’s official, the project was intentionally kept “pretty hush-hush” out of concern over backlash from citizens leery of “the eye in the sky, the Big Brother…”

That sounds like a reasonable fear on the citizens’ part. “Plenty of critics,” says Gizmodo, “argue the technology is an ominous invasion of privacy: Video surveillance free of any traditional technological barriers, tracking everyone and everything that moves in a city.”

Ross McNutt, owner of the Ohio-based PSS, says the technology is similar to “a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities.” He also says there’s no reason to believe the technology can’t be improved, with only a few years’ time, to cover an area as large as 50 square miles, which is larger than the land area of a city like San Francisco.

Sharyl Attkisson: Obama Administration Intends ‘Chilling Effect’ On Journalism With Aggressive Pressure Campaign

Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News investigative reporter who left her job after both the White House and her own employers allegedly stonewalled her investigation into the truth behind the Benghazi terror attack, believes the Administration of Barack Obama poses a historically significant threat to media transparency.

Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Attkisson said the executive branch has never before been so bold in its efforts to influence or even thwart the editorial decisions of independent media.

“I think any journalist who has been covering Washington for a few years would agree… that there is pressure coming to bear on journalists for just doing their job, in ways that have never come to bear before,” said Attkisson.

Under Obama, the White House has all but institutionalized a strategy to shape what the media reports — or whether a story gets reported at all, according to Attkisson. That kind of pressure, she believes, has the effect of making media executives and editorial higher-ups uncomfortable with reporting that digs too deep — even when reporters like her have the ability and inclination to pursue a story wherever it leads.

“There have always been tensions; there have always been calls from the White House — under any administration, I assume — when they don’t like a particular story,” she said. “But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama Administration, and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized and designed to have sort of a chilling effect.

“And, to some degree, [that strategy] has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it,” she added. “Why put on the controversial stories that we are going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?”

Attkisson, who worked for CBS News for 20 years before exiting the network with time remaining on her contract, ruffled the Obama Administration’s feathers repeatedly. She earned the network an investigative reporting award in 2012 for her tireless coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal. She then turned her attention to the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — an event the Obama Administration and State Department seemed to publicly wish away with a dismissive and inconsistent narrative tailor-made for evasiveness.

That attack took place only two months before the 2012 Presidential election; Attkisson was among the only mainstream reporters who wouldn’t let the story die once the headlines had focused on other sensations.

The White House not only attempted to head off coverage before it had begun, said Attkisson, but the Obama Administration also weighed in on published stories with which the President didn’t agree.

“… [T]he last year or so, when I would write an article online — which would be sort of the fallback position: when something couldn’t get on television, but was still a great story that could be circulated, I’d publish it online — they [Obama staffers] would even call about those. Or they would call about the headline of the online article.”

Californians Realize They Pay The Government Too Much In Taxes

It’s always easier to survey the landscape from afar than while stuck down in one of its ravines, so credit Californians with coming to the slow realization — in greater numbers than ever before — that they pay too much money to the State’s maze of governments in taxes.

According to a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 60 percent of the State’s taxpaying residents believe the government is confiscating too much of their earned wealth.

The far-ranging March survey finds that “a record-high 60 percent of adults say they pay much more in taxes (30%) or somewhat more (30%) than they feel they should in state and local taxes…” The same survey also finds that about half believe the State’s tax system is fairly structured, although the prevalence of that sentiment declines as respondents’ reported incomes increased.

Progressive government’s successful obfuscation of the relationship between the individual and the state has evidently infected many Californians, however. A majority of the surveyed group — the very same group in which that majority believes it pays too much in taxes — favors increasing taxes — at least on the highest earners — in order to raise State revenues:

In light of their overall impressions of the state and local tax system, how do Californians feel about raising some state taxes? Among four types of state taxes, we find solid majority support for raising  income taxes on the wealthy, while half favor raising state taxes paid by California corporations. A  majority is opposed to extending the sales tax to services not currently taxed, but when asked about  extending the sales tax to services while lowering the overall tax rate, they are closely divided.

At least Democratic Governor Jerry Brown can get comfortable. Across every demographic category, the survey found it likely that he’ll trounce his Republican competitors in the State’s June primary (California uses a “top-two” primary system in which candidates from all political affiliations must participate.) Even among Republicans, only one GOP candidate — Tim Donnelly — enjoys a lead over Brown, and it’s a modest one: 20 percent for Donnelly, compared with 15 percent for Brown.

What To Do When Your Boehner Lasts More Than 23 Years

One of Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s many GOP primary challengers has launched an attack ad that must be making everyone else jealous for not having thought of it first.

Riffing on the pronunciation of the Speaker’s last name (as well as Boehner’s own efforts to make light of its occasional mispronunciation), Ohio GOP candidate J.D. Winteregg has a new anti-Boehner ad that parodies all the tired pharmaceutical come-ons for man pills on TV by prescribing voters a solution for “electile dysfunction.”

“If you have a Boehner lasting longer than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention,” the ad advises, portraying Winteregg as a conservative alternative to middle-of-the-road cronyism in the GOP.

The modest production values of the ad may serve to reinforce the high-school tone of its message, but we have to admit: it’s a funny bit. And, notwithstanding whether Winteregg is the right choice to replace Boehner, its criticism of the Speaker is well placed.

Rural Population Continues To Decline In The U.S.

One of the fundamental dichotomies separating America’s ideological halves was further reinforced last week, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released statistics revealing a continuing decline in the Nation’s rural population.

The USDA’s most recent assessment shows that America’s non-metropolitan population has fallen by some 100,000 since 2010, even though the overall population of the U.S. has continued to grow.

Recent year-by-year statistics may suggest a slowdown — USDA figures show a loss of 28,000 in 2012-2013, compared with 47,500 the previous year — but numbers in the tens of thousands are too small to form a basis for broader, long-term generalizations.

The USDA acknowledges how difficult it is to predict future population trends with confidence, observing greatly erratic patterns of growth and decline in America’s rural counties. As their map indicates, population growth and population loss in non-metropolitan areas is often a leapfrog phenomenon between neighboring counties.

USDA_1

The urban-rural split in the U.S. isn’t simply geographic. It has cultural and ideological implications that have provided an ongoing source of debate, among those who would define what it means to be American, since before the time of Jefferson. Here’s a fascinating map, taken from the Freedom’s Lighthouse blog, that illustrates how all counties in the lower 48 States and Hawaii voted in the 2012 Presidential election. The familiar red=Republican and blue=Democrat convention applies, with more intense color representing more lopsided party voting:

2012electoralcountybycountymap111612web

“The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside,” Josh Kron wrote for The Atlantic in late 2012:

Not just some cities and some rural areas, either — virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.

The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.

That’s a weighty statement. Whether you agree, it’s hard to dismiss the idea that the health of America’s body politic is permanently contingent on how — or whether — the Nation continues to reconcile country and city values, country and city life.

Note: It’s always a good idea to take government data with a grain of salt. It’s often the only data out there, but the government’s methods and motives are always inscrutable. Here’s a tidbit from the Senate Republican Policy Committee concerning redundancy at the USDA:

The federal government uses 15 definitions of “rural,” including 11 at USDA alone. “These varying definitions have become a baroque example of redundancy and duplication in Washington,” according to a June 8, 2013 article in the Washington Post. “They mean extra costs for taxpayers — and extra hassle for small-town officials — as separate offices ask them the same question in up to 15 different ways.” While there is bipartisan support to reform the quagmire of competing definitions, one Obama administration agency — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — plans to create yet another one.