School scolds physician dad for contents of daughter’s lunch

A substitute teacher in Kirksville, Missouri, sent a letter to the parents of a primary school student because she didn’t approve of the contents of the young girl’s lunch. The youngster’s father, who is a doctor, promptly set the nosy educator straight.

Dr. Justin Puckett and Mrs. Kylene Puckett received a letter from the Kirksville Primary School informing the parents that their child’s packed lunch, which she believed contained chocolate, crackers, a pickle and marshmallows, was nutritionally deficient.

“Dr. and Mrs. Puckett, The cafeteria reported to me that Alia’s lunch today included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers and a pickle. Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow,” the note said.

The letter, which Dr. Puckett posted to his Facebook, ended with a request for a parent signature. The irked parents filled in the space provided with the words “request denied.”

“The letter didn’t have what she had, correctly,” Dr. Puckett told local reporters. “She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and awhile as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having.”

“She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate,” he added. “She ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program.”

But, Puckett contended, the teachers’ mistake isn’t what irritated him.

“What does bother me is that it just seems that we are constantly being inundated with the inability to be parents of our children,” he said.

The healthcare professional continued, “I’m responsible for them and for the choices that they make and do whether it’s at school or not.

“I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offense that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

The school’s principal has since apologized for the incident.

Many conservatives have cited the Pucketts’ story as yet another example of a growing mentality that communities and institutions should have more authority to determine minors’ best interests than parents.

Related:

‘Free-range’ parents under scrutiny for letting kids walk home from the park

Washington mom refuses flu vaccine for baby; state threatens confiscation

Update: Connecticut Supreme Court rules teen must continue receiving treatment against her will

American satisfaction with federal tax rates hits 12-year low

Surprise! Americans are dissatisfied with the amount of federal income taxes they are forced to pay.

Polling data out from Gallup shows that 63 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the federal tax rate, the highest number recorded by the polling agency in 12 years.

“It is only exceeded by the 51% recorded in mid-January 2003, a week after President George W. Bush proposed extending certain 2001 tax cuts and implementing new ones, measures that ultimately became known as the 2003 Bush tax cuts,” Gallup reported.

A majority of those upset over federal taxes, 46 percent, say that the nation’s income tax is too high. Spread-the-wealth pandering from President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats doesn’t appear to be encouraging many people to willingly fork over a larger share of their earnings to the taxman — just 4 percent of respondents think their taxes are too low.

Thirteen percent of those polled said they are unhappy with taxes but offered few specifics about how the system should be changed.

Middle-class and wealthy Americans are similarly likely to call for tax cuts.

“Majorities of Americans in all income groups, except those in the lowest income bracket, are dissatisfied and believe taxes should be reduced,” Gallup said. “About as many Americans in households bringing in less than $30,000 per year are satisfied with the amount Americans pay in federal income taxes (39%) as say they should be decreased (31%).”

Broken down by political affiliation, Democrats (47 percent) are far more likely to be satisfied with the amount of taxes they pay than Republicans (23 percent) or independents (29 percent). Even so, just 5 percent of Democrats say they would support a tax hike and 31 percent would like to pay less.

Tax proposals from Obama and Democrats in Congress in the past year have increased anti-tax attitudes among Republicans.

“Republicans’ preference for decreasing taxes has swelled by nearly 20 percentage points — from 44% to 61% — which largely accounts for the increase in this viewpoint nationally,” according to Gallup.

According to Gallup, Americans’ support for Obama’s plan to cut certain taxes on the middle class while increasing capital gains and inheritance taxes hinges largely on who controls the message in Washington in coming months.

“If Americans view this plan as mainly providing significant tax relief for the middle class, it should be received positively,” Gallup predicts. “But if Republicans are successful at defining it as an effort to raise revenue to not just pay for middle-class tax credits, but to expand government spending, concern could prevail.”

Cruz: It’s common sense that Americans who join terrorists should lose citizenship

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) re-introduced legislation Friday that would strip U.S. citizenship from individuals suspected of traveling overseas to fight alongside ISIS and other known terror organizations.

“We’ve seen the grave consequence of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy unravel with respect to Iran, Russia and now Yemen,” Cruz said of the legislation. “These consequences are not confined to faraway lands. They directly threaten America and our allies.”

“That is why this week, I am re-filing the Expatriate Terrorist Act, which prevents Americans who have fought abroad for designated terrorist groups from returning to the United States,” he said. “I look forward to working with senators on both sides of the aisle on this and additional measures to secure our nation and restore America’s leadership in the world.”

Cruz first presented a version of his Expatriate Terrorist Act (E.T.A.) last year, but Senate Democrats quashed the proposal because it hadn’t been examined by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Legislation that grants the government the ability to strip citizenship from Americans is a serious matter, raising significant constitutional issues,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) at the time.

Cruz responded to objections against the legislation with disappointment, saying that his common-sense proposal was meant to quickly address a direct threat to the safety of American citizens.

“The question is very simple: would any reasonable person want an American who is right now in Iraq, who is right now training with ISIS, who is right now taking up arms, who is right now participating in crucifying Christians, who is right now beheading children, who [has] right now participated in beheading two American journalists, who is right now standing arm in arm with virulent terrorists who have pledged to take jihad to America — would anyone of good conscience in either party want that person to be able to come back and land in LaGuardia airport with a U.S. passport and walk unmolested onto our streets?” he said.

Cruz contends that the changing nature of global terror threats– including the increasing ease with which terror groups can reach out to and radicalize Westerners using social media — merits a new discussion about providing due process to people who leave the U.S. to join foreign radicals.

Along with his legislative announcement, the Texas lawmaker released a video criticizing President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and weak response to global terror.

The video, titled “It’s Time To Face Reality,” challenges statements Obama made on Russia, Iran, Yemen and Islamic terrorism.

‘Privacy is dead': Tech giants and researchers discuss the end of anonymity in Davos

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, kicked off this week with tech industry giants discussing the future of technology and what it means for individual privacy. They concluded that the world’s current understanding of privacy will soon become a thing of the past.

“Welcome to today. We’re already in that world,” Harvard computer science professor Margo Seltzer said, adding, “Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible… How we conventionally think of privacy is dead.”

According to Seltzer, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a world where mosquito-sized drones controlled by corporations, governments or individuals perpetually observe people or collect biometric information.

“It’s not whether this is going to happen, it’s already happening,” she said of the possibility of surveillance becoming more pervasive. “We live in a surveillance state today.”

Another Harvard academic, Sophia Roosth, discussed the inevitability of individuals’ personal genetic information being available through the Internet in the near future, saying that possible government uses of such information will lead to an “age of genetic McCarthyism.”

While the Harvard researchers’ predictions might sound outlandish to observers who haven’t kept up with the latest developments in the relationship between technological advances and privacy concerns, the venue at which they were made should relieve any suspicion of outright paranoia.

Traditionally, the forum in Davos opens with Nobel laureate economists discussing the world economy. This year, technology and privacy took center stage, underscoring the import of a serious global discussion about protecting individual privacy.

Other panelists joining the discussion included tech industry leaders Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce; John Chambers, CEO of Cisco; Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT; and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T.

Mayer emphasized government’s responsibility to be transparent in its quest for digital information about citizens.

“When you go through security at the airport, when you sign up for a driver’s license, you know exactly what you’re disclosing to the government and you know what you get in exchange,” she said.

Political scientist Joseph Nye also discussed government surveillance, contending that there are often unintended consequences to setting up online surveillance networks.

“Governments are talking about putting in back doors for communication so that terrorists can’t communicate without being spied on. The problem is that if governments can do that, so can the bad guys,” Nye said.

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth noted that future developments in technology designed to make life easier will, as it already has in some respects, give snoops an array of options for gathering extremely personal data.

“All the data in my phone is available to the government because I shared it.”

“I’ve lost my privacy rights. Now what happens when that goes into your home? If you have a robot in your home, you lose the privacy even in your own home,” Roth said.

“We don’t want to get rid of the technology, but we do have to be careful… for some of these technologies, you’re much better off keeping the genie in the bottle.”

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Gas tax increase appears stalled at federal level as states plan hikes

Good news! Lawmakers who were pushing to increase the nation’s gas tax just as Americans began getting some relief at the pump appear poised for failure.

According to Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, the unpopularity of raising the gas tax makes it unlikely that supporters could get the votes needed for congressional passage.

“The popular thing that a lot of people are talking about is the gas tax. But I just don’t believe the votes are there in the Congress at this point to do that,” Shuster told a Wednesday gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington.

Instead, lawmakers interested in increasing government funding for infrastructure improvements will have to look for alternatives such as working with Democrats to include the funds in a broader tax reform package.

“The number one source that’s being talked about is this repatriation of funds,” Shuster continued. “So, as we go through this process and tax reform, it’ll be part of tax reform. We’ll figure out how to get there.”

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama expressed interest in finding common ground with Republicans on transportation funding, saying, “When it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.”

Shuster, who contends that producing a long-term transportation bill should be a priority for lawmakers, said Obama is right to suggest that U.S. infrastructure improvements can be made without too many partisan obstacles.

“We’re looking for places that we can work together with the president, and I think one of those places is in transportation and infrastructure in this country,” he said. “The president mentioned it — not as much as I would’ve liked, but he mentioned it in his State of the Union address.”

The federal gas tax was last increased in 1993, bringing it to its current level of 18.4 cents per gallon. While the tax provides about $34 billion in infrastructure revenue each year, lawmakers calling for an increase have noted that the federal government currently spends a yearly average of $50 billion on transit projects.

Even as Washington’s push to hike the federal gas tax is faltering, the discussion is gaining steam in statehouses throughout the nation.

Governors and lawmakers in South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Louisiana, New Jersey, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee are at various stages in discussions about increasing fuel taxes at the state level. In Arizona, Gov. Nikki Haley is also proposing a fuel tax increase. Her plan calls for a gas tax increase of 10 cents per gallon — but only if legislators restructure leadership at the state department of transportation and lower the state income tax rate from 7 percent to 5 percent.

Arizona state lawmaker wants to end private party gun sales without background checks

An Arizona Democrat has submitted three new legislative proposals aimed at ending gun sales between private parties without a background check and putting new restrictions on youth firearms use in the state.

Two of the measures proposed by Arizona state Rep. Randall Friese would make it a crime for residents to privately sell or buy firearms without the assistance of a federally licensed firearms dealer to conduct a background check.

Via Guns.com:

House Bill 2118 would prohibit the current practice of private gun sales in the Grand Canyon State by legislative action. With few exceptions, it would require that most transfers first go through an FFL who would conduct a background check for which they would be allowed to collect a $20 fee.

Exceptions would include those for military and law enforcement, those loaned a gun for target practice at a shooting range provided it stays on the premises of the range, security guards using company-owned guns and those loaned a firearm by the owner for hunting as long as the owner accompanies them.

Violations of the law, should it take effect, would be considered Class 5 felonies. Under state law this would bring punishments ranging between 6 months and 2.5 years imprisonment.

The companion measure, HCR 2009, uses the same language but would send the question to the voters in the form of a ballot initiative.

The third measure would prohibit individuals under the age of 14 from possessing or firing any firearm “capable of shooting more than one shot automatically, without manual reloading, by single function of the trigger.” The bill would make an exception for youth shooters under the supervision of a firearms instructor at a firing range.

GOP’s weak SOTU response blown away by fiery Rand Paul rant

The GOP responses to President Barack Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union speech offer underscore ongoing divisions in the party that hopes to retain control of the White House in 2016 after two terms of a Democratic presidency.

The official GOP response to Obama’s speech was a folksy affair delivered by freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The lawmaker began by informing viewers that she didn’t intend to merely respond to Obama’s speech.

“I’d like to talk about your priorities,” she said. “I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.”

Her speech, which spoke largely to working middle-class Americans, was peppered with anecdotes about her all-American upbringing.

“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees,” Ernst said early in her speech. “We were raised to live simply, not to waste.”

Ernst went on to underscore the importance of Americans valuing frugality over handouts.

“You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry,” Ernst said.

“But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet,” she continued.

Ernst went on to assure voters that the GOP heard the message voters sent in November when Republicans regained control of Congress and vowed that she and her colleagues have big legislative plans for the months ahead.

But while she did touch on issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to tax reform and cybersecurity, Ernst delivered few specifics about the GOP’s plans to combat Obama’s agenda through the end of his presidency.

She did note that the GOP plans to fast-track the Keystone pipeline with a jobs bill.

Ernst also drew on her military experience to criticize the president’s seeming lack of a strategy in addressing current threats in the Middle East, hinting at the possibility of new GOP efforts to ramp up military action in the region.

“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform; today, as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be,” Ernst said. “The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.”

If, like many conservatives, you found Ernst’s non-rebuttal a bit milquetoast as Obama prepares to double down on his policy agenda, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) unofficial rebuttal likely sounded much better.

The likely 2016 presidential contender opened his 12 minute online response by suggesting that Obama had offered Americans a rosier assessment of the country’s situation than reality permits.

“I wish I had better news for you, but… All is not well in America,” Paul said. “America is adrift. Something is clearly wrong.”

The libertarian leaning Republican called for new leadership not just in the White House but throughout government, saying that many of the nation’s problems can be ascribed to stale leadership.

“I’ve only been in office a short time, but one thing I’ve discovered is that there is no monopoly on knowledge in Washington,” he said.

“The best thing that could happen is for us — to once and for all — limit the terms of all politicians,” Paul continued. “We already limit the President to two terms.

“I think we should put limits on the terms of Congress and infuse our government with fresh ideas.”

Paul went on to directly criticize Washington’s failed 50-year “War on Poverty” and Obama’s insistence that the politics of wealth redistribution can make it a success.

“[Obama] misunderstands that the bulk of America wants a bigger pie,” the lawmaker said. “They want to work and don’t want a handout — but a hand up.”

Furthermore, Paul said, Washington will never succeed in lifting millions of Americans out of poverty until the president and Congress learn how to balance the nation’s budget by limiting unnecessary government spending.

“You cannot project power from bankruptcy court. It does not make us appear stronger when we borrow money from China and send it to countries that burn our flag,” he said.

Paul’s speech, in many ways, criticized his own party as much as the president’s policies.

He noted that the advocates of unfettered military spending are those most responsible for the “hollowing out of our national defense.”

“Unfortunately, both parties too often seek military intervention without thinking through the possible unintended consequences,” Paul said. “Many Republicans only complain that we didn’t send U.S. ground troops or we didn’t stay long enough.”

The GOP lawmaker said he plans to propose “the first ever Audit of the Pentagon” to “seek ways to make our defense department more modern and efficient.”

Along a similar line, Paul said that the nation’s out-of-control spending on social welfare initiatives could only be addressed if politicians are willing to cut corporate welfare.

“I say: We will not cut one penny from the safety net until we’ve cut every penny from corporate welfare!” he said.

But before any improvements can be made for the American people, Paul said, Congress must start doing its job.

“So much of Washington’s inability to cut waste in government comes from them not doing their job,” he said. “It has been several decades since Congress passed all the spending bills individually.

“Instead, the spending bills are lumped together in something they call a ‘Cromnibus’ that is thousands of pages long. They allow no amendments to cut wasteful spending. Often the bill is plopped on our desk with only a few hours to review. No one, and I mean no one, is able to read what is in the bill.”

The lawmaker announced forthcoming legislation, the “Read the Bills Act,” which would hold congressional votes for a waiting period of one day for every 20 pages in new legislation.

“We have set up a privileged class in Washington, and Americans are sick and tired of it,” Paul said, announcing that he also plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure that lawmakers abide by every law they pass.

Paul’s anti-Washington response also included familiar calls for expanded civil liberties protections and a demand that Congress reverse any legislation that runs afoul of the nation’s Bill of Rights.

The Kentucky lawmaker concluded his speech with a vision for the future of America which includes, “a simple, fair tax system,” common-sense national defense, clampdowns on special interests and justice reform.

“The path we are on now does not lead there,” he said. “But there is time to change course.”

Paul’s speech leaves little doubt that his presidential efforts are already in full swing, even if won’t officially announce his candidacy until this fall.

GOP representative offers legislation to protect interstate transport of firearms

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) has introduced legislation that would make it impossible for authorities in areas with restrictive firearm ordinances to abuse law-abiding gun owners attempting to transport their weapons from one place to another.

Griffith’s bill (HR 131) would, according to a summary provided by the Congressional Research Service, prohibit the arrest or detention of lawful gun owners “for a violation of any state or local law or regulation related to the possession, transportation, or carrying of firearms unless there is probable cause to believe that the person is doing so in a manner not provided for under federal law.”

The legislation is designed to protect Americans carrying firearms across state lines or into municipalities with harsh gun restrictions by requiring prosecutors that the individuals broke a federal law rather than anti-gun regulations produced at the state and local level.

From the bill:

A person who is not prohibited by this chapter from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm or ammunition shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where the person may lawfully possess, carry, or transport the firearm to any other such place if, during the transportation, the firearm is unloaded, and — if the transportation is by motor vehicle, the firearm is not directly accessible from the compartment of the vehicle, and, if the vehicle is without a compartment separate from the passenger compartment, the firearm is in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console, or is secured by a secure gun storage or safety device; or if the transportation is by other means, the firearm is in a locked container or secured by a secure gun storage or safety device.

The bill offers a similar provision for the transport of ammunition.

The legislation would apply to travelers on the road as well as those seeking “temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment” and other activities “incidental to the transport.”

Griffith produced similar legislation last year but was unable to get it passed.

His current legislation has 10 Republican co-sponsors and has been championed by the National Rifle Association which says the law is necessary because: “anti-gun local officials are using overly restrictive state licensing laws to harass and prosecute travelers who have made every effort to comply with the law, resulting in seized guns that are sometimes never returned, delayed travel, legal fees, and sometimes even unnecessary guilty pleas.”

Millennials will outnumber baby boomers in 2015… if they don’t already

Though no one is really sure the precise age group defined by the term, it’s pretty clear that so-called millennials are on track to replace baby boomers as the largest segment of the nation’s population.

An analysis published Monday by The New York Times estimates that the millennial population’s (The Times defines them as people born between 1981 and 1997) numbers will inch past the nation’s 74.9 million baby boomers (1946 to 1964) this year.

From the piece:

How does a generation that has stopped enrolling members manage to keep growing? An influx of immigrants, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. And, of course, members of the boomer generation, currently at 74.9 million, are beginning to die in greater numbers.

Whatever the reason for the millennial’s new designation as the nation’s largest population segment, experts interviewed by The Times say that the shift will bring changes:

For one, expect the often-maligned generation to push back against negative stereotyping, said Jeffrey Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University who has written extensively on millennials.

“They are tired of being stereotyped by boomers, whom they view as ruining the world for them,” he said. “This could allow them to demand more respect than they’ve gotten so far.” Perhaps more important, it will give them “more power in the conversation about where American society should go in particular.”

With so many members, millennials are likely to wield more power in the workplace, too, said Jan K. Vink, a demographer at Cornell University.

“You will have more young people with less experience” making up the work force, he said. “It will affect productivity, but also opportunity. With a generation retiring, there will be more opportunities for people to move up in the work force.”

Other observers, such as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, contend that a growing trend of extending the parameters of birth membership to the millennial generation from 1981 all the way to 2004 creates a different scenario where the group already greatly outnumbers boomers.

Obama’s regulatory blitz begins

Just under three weeks in, the Obama administration has already managed to finalize 78 new regulations and set the wheels in motion for hundreds of millions of dollars in increased regulatory compliance costs in 2015. According to experts, the regulatory deluge from the waning administration will only increase in intensity in coming months.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute released a report Monday noting that 40 new final regulations totaling 1,119 pages were added to the Federal Register last week, meaning that the Obama administration cranked out one new regulation every four hours and 12 minutes.

So far in 2015 the administration has only produced one new rule that meets the criteria to be declared “economically significant,” bringing the compliance cost of new regulation to $477 million less than a month into the new year.

CEI highlighted the following regulatory activity from last week:

  • The EPA issued a 122-page definition of “solid waste.”
  • The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has indefinitely delayed a rule restricting imports and interstate movement of certain fish.
  • In line with the recent move to open up U.S.-Cuba relations, the Industry and Security Bureau and the Foreign Assets Control Office issued new rules to begin implementing policy changes.
  • The Mexican wolf is now an endangered species. An additional regulation covers an experimental population in Arizona and New Mexico intended to increase the Mexican wolf’s range.
  • The FAA is withdrawing a rule which increased “the allowed use of aviation training devices” instead of actual flights for certain airplane pilot certification programs.
  • In 2008, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act ended the Export Enhancement Program and the Dairy Export Incentive Program. Seven years later, the Commodity Credit Corporation issued a rule to remove regulations related to those programs from the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • New energy efficiency standards for commercial washing machines.
  • Mining machines are now required to have proximity detection systems.

While the government’s early 2015 regulatory agenda would appear weighty to many Americans, CEI noted that Americans would actually suffer less regulation this year if the administration continued at its current pace.

“Currently at 2,586 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 58,773 pages, which would be the lowest page count since 1992,” the Institute said on its website.

With President Obama looking to make his mark in the time he has left in the White House, however, most watchers expect the pace of regulation to rapidly increase.

CEI analyst Wayne Crews issued a report last fall predicting that the total cost of new regulation in 2015 could soar to $1.8 trillion, more costly than that of 2014 and higher than the GDP of most of the world’s countries.

Sandy Hook Commission to propose ban on any firearm with more than 10-round capacity, hopes for national acceptance

An advisory panel created by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy in the wake of the mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook school recently said that it would advocate for strict new gun regulations regardless of whether they are constitutional.

The panel consisting of 16 members with backgrounds in mental health, education, law enforcement and public policy have been meeting for more than two years in an effort to produce a common-sense plan to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

Members say they are compiling a final report with recommendations for safer school design, improvements in law enforcement response to mass shootings and keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. In addition to the preventive measures, the panel members have indicated that they plan to call for a ban on the sale and possession of any firearm that can be fired more than 10 times without reloading.

Connecticut lawmakers have already increased firearm regulations in the state in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, passing 2013 legislation that expanded the an assault weapons ban and made it illegal for residents to buy or possess high-capacity magazines.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, a Democrat who heads the Sandy Hook Commission, said that the new proposal for an outright ban on firearms with the potential to hold more than 10 rounds would make it easier to ban multiple classes of firearms simultaneously.

“You don’t have to classify it as an ‘assault weapon’ or handgun or another category,” he told the local 22News. “The commission felt that this was a more coherent way to set public policy.”

Hartford Police Chief Bernard Sullivan, another member of the gun panel, said that members are concerned with neither the headaches their proposals would create for shooting sportsmen nor the constitutionality of the plans.

“Whether or not this law would stand the test of constitutionality is not for this commission to decide,” he told The Associated Press. “The commission has expressed very strongly that this is a statement that is needed regarding the lethality of weapons.”

Panel members contend that their emphasis on banning guns is warranted because, as one of the experts said, guns are a common denominator in shooting tragedies.

“The single biggest common denominator between them is not mental health, it’s not the structure of the school, and school safety issues, it’s access to, possession of, and use of these weapons of war,” Harold Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, told 22News.

The Sandy Hook Commission is expected to release its report following a final meeting on Jan. 30. From there, members say they plan to advocate for the strict gun policies in Connecticut and throughout the nation.

“We’re hoping that some of our recommendations will go far beyond the borders of the state of Connecticut,” Jackson said.

Republicans, reform advocates prepare for battle over Obama’s new tax proposals

Republicans and anti-tax advocates are up in arms over a new tax plan President Barack Obama is expected to fully unveil during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

On Saturday, the White House released the initial details about $320 billion in new taxes the president plans to implement over a 10-year period.

The proposals include provisions for raising the base capital gains tax rate to 24.2 percent from 20 percent. The increase brings the total capital gains tax to 28 percent when factoring in the 3.8 percent Medicare surcharge, up from a total of 23.8 percent.

The president’s plan also includes provisions for a new “bank tax” on institutions with assets totaling more than $50 billion, new limits on contributions to IRA and 401(k) type accounts, and changes that would amount to a hike in the nation’s death tax.

Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax group headed by Grover Norquist, has decried all of Obama’s proposals, paying special attention to changes in the inheritance tax.

The group notes that the plan implements a “second death tax”:

Under current law, when you inherit an asset your basis in the asset is the higher of the fair market value at the time of death or the decedent’s original basis. Almost always, the fair market value is higher.

Under the Obama proposal, when you inherit an asset your basis will simply be the decedent’s original basis.

Example: Dad buys a house for $10,000. He dies and leaves it to you. The fair market value on the date of death is $100,000. You sell it for $120,000. Under current law, you have a capital gain of $20,000 (sales price of $120,000 less step up in basis of $100,000). Under the Obama plan, you have a capital gain of $110,000 (sales price of $120,000 less original basis of $10,000).

… If you are going to hold an estate liable for tax, you can’t then hold the estate liable for tax again when the inheritor sells it. This adds yet another redundant layer of tax on savings and investment. It’s a huge tax hike on family farms and small businesses.

Norquist likened Obama’s lust for higher taxes to the sexual impulses of a teenage boy.

“Democrats are demanding, yet again, tax increases on America. This never ends. When it comes to tax hikes Democrats are like a teenage boy on a prom date: They keep asking the same question different ways but always to the same point,” he said.

Still, the White House defended Obama’s tax plan over the weekend, saying the “president is not piling on additional taxes.”

“These are proposals he thinks are necessary to fill out the vision of how the middle class can get ahead in today’s economy,” an administration official said Saturday.

For the Obama administration, helping the middle class get ahead involves using the tax increases to implement $235 billion in new programs the president has announced over the past week, including expansions in broadband Internet service, mortgage incentives for U.S. families and a proposal to provide two years of free community college to eligible students.

The president’s proposal also calls for a new $500 tax credit for two-income families, an increase in tax credits for childcare and new tax breaks to incentivize college.

White House officials have said that GOP pushback should be limited because Republicans have supported similar tax proposals in the past.

But Republicans argue that Obama’s current proposals will end up hurting more Americans than they help.

“We’re not just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this nation,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, said on CNN Sunday.

A spokesman for House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that Obama’s proposals don’t represent a serious plan for helping middle class families.

“We lift families up and grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more Washington spending,” the spokesman told The Hill.

Intelligence experts, lawmakers continue to fret copycat terror attacks on U.S. soil

Lawmakers and top defense experts doubled down over the weekend on warnings that the U.S. faces an imminent and growing threat of terror within its borders.

Leon Panetta, who served as Defense secretary and CIA director under President Barack Obama, said during a weekend interview that the world currently faces “a much more aggressive form of terrorism” than it has in the past.

“I don’t think we can take anything for granted,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, adding that foreign nationals in terror hotbeds such as Syria and Iraq pose a “real threat” to Americans’ safety.

Panetta contends that unless the U.S. beefs up intelligence sharing efforts with key allies, Americans could see attacks similar to recent atrocities in other Western nations at home.

“What has happened in Paris, what happened in Ottawa, what has happened in Belgium is something that we need to understand that these terrorists are now engaged in a much more aggressive effort based on their recruiting, based on what’s happening in Syria and Iraq and Yemen, they are engaged in a much more aggressive effort to conduct violence not only in Europe, but I think it’s a matter of time before they direct it at the United States as well,” the former intelligence official said.

Panetta added that the attacks in Paris were largely the result of intelligence failures because the gunmen who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices were on a terror watch list.

“I know that, in some ways, they were tracking them, but because of priorities or because of resources, obviously, they weren’t aware that these attacks were going to be conducted,” he said.

Panetta’s concerns are also shared by U.S. lawmakers in key intelligence positions.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, joined Fox News Sunday to warn Americans that they should assume that there are currently terror “sleeper cells” in the U.S.

“What you’re seeing happen in Europe, you’re seeing how widespread that is,” he said. “I think you have to assume that that is a risk that we have to consider.”

Johnson said that Obama should be doing more to combat the terror threat by redoubling efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“As long as ISIS is not losing, they are perceived as winning,” he said. “We have to defeat ISIS. We can’t let them continue threatening the rest of the world for years.”

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed the terror concerns, noting that the ISIS ideology has successfully spread throughout the world.

“What has made it more interesting and dangerous is the fact that some of these individuals that are plotting these attacks may have never traveled to the Middle East,” Rubio said.

“They have been radicalized at a local mosque or online, and they have received instruction and/or inspiration about how to carry out these attacks in the West from online platforms,” he added. “So, I think that’s a very real risk for Europe, which is closer to the Middle East and has large immigrant populations from that region, but it’s a real risk here in the United States, a country where every single year millions of people visit, travel to, emigrate to.”

Americans feel better about personal finances in 2015

Falling gas prices and an uptick in productivity on Wall Street has many Americans feeling good about their personal finances, even as a majority of people remain skeptical about recent Obama administration claims regarding economic improvement.

Numbers out from the Gallup polling agency indicate that nearly half (47 percent) of Americans currently report that they are financially better off than they were at this time last year. That’s compared to just 28 percent who say they’re in worse financial shape than they were a year ago.

By comparison, a majority of Americans (42 percent) said that their financial situation had deteriorated between 2013 and 2014 in the same poll last year. Thirty-five percent reported financial improvement in that poll.

Gallup notes that the current data is indicative of Americans feeling better about the economy than they have at any point since the Great Recession induced plummeting economic confidence.

“The current personal financial situation ratings are now at or near the high levels Gallup measured in the past four decades when the U.S. economy was strong,” Gallup said. “The improvement is especially notable given that just five years ago, near the end of the Great Recession, Americans gave the bleakest assessment of their personal finances at any time in the last 40 years.”

Improvements in personal financial confidence were recorded by Americans across the board, with young Americans (age 18 to 34), college graduates, nonwhites, people earning more than $75,000 a year and Democrats expressing the highest degree of satisfaction with their current economic situations.

Looking ahead, a 65 percent of those polled by Gallup expect their finances to continue to improve over the next year.

“At no point in the last 40 years — even during tough economic times — have more Americans predicted their finances to get worse rather than better,” the polling agency noted.

While feelings about personal finances may be trending positive, a separate poll recently conducted by YouGov illustrates that Americans aren’t quite convinced that the Obama administration’s routine rosy assessments of the national employment situation are accurate.

“Many Americans — especially Republicans — simply don’t believe the data,” the organization observed last week. “Only one in four think (sic) the unemployment figures are accurate. More than half think there are more people unemployed than the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures say there are.”

Gallup recorded similar economic dissatisfaction among members of the GOP but discounted the segment, inferring, “Republicans may be reluctant to acknowledge that circumstances of any kind are getting better at a time when the sitting president is a Democrat.”

California Democrat targets homemade guns, body armor with new restrictions

Sen. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) unveiled a set of three legislative proposals last week aimed at tightening restrictions on home gunsmithing and prohibiting the sale and possession of certain types of body armor.

“We need a common sense approach to reduce gun violence,” Honda said last week. “These bills can make our streets safer, and protect our citizens, police, and first responders. I will continue to fight for sensible public safety laws.”

Honda’s Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act (HR376) would prohibit the manufacture, sale and import of popular gun parts kits including receiver castings and other base firearm components. The ban would likely include the popular 80 percent lower receiver kits widely available for AR-15 style rifles.

The legislation would also make it more difficult for surplus arms dealers to import de-milled firearms for parts.

Another of Honda’s bills, the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act (HR377), would require Americans to apply for a serial number for all homemade firearms and have them registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF currently recommends that home gunsmiths apply a serial number to DIY firearms but does not require such firearms to be numbered or registered provided that they are not for sale.

Honda’s third legislative effort would ban so-called enhanced body armor, which the lawmaker defines as wearable armor such as helmets, shields and vests that offer ballistic protection of Type III or higher. Under the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act (HR378) such armor would be available only to police, members of the military and other government employees.

“We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing,” Honda said in a statement about the proposals. “These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

Gowdy: ‘About damn time’ Congress cut funding to defeat Obama

“It’s about damn time” Congress took on President Barack Obama’s executive overreach, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy said this week on the House floor as he urged his colleagues to support a House initiative to block funding for the president’s immigration actions.

“This is not a fight between Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “This is not even a fight over immigration reform. This is a fight over whether this branch of government will ever find the courage to stand up for itself.”

Gowdy insisted that the congressional spending authority outlined in the Constitution was the GOP’s most valuable weapon in reversing Obama’s immigration action, which the lawmaker called “one of the largest extra-constitutional power grabs ever by a chief executive,”

“The same document that this and all presidents swear to defend gives this body certain tools,” Gowdy said in his floor speech. “Tools like the power of the purse and it’s about damn time we use that tool.”

The bill passed in the House Wednesday 236-191 as an addendum to the Homeland Security spending bill. Two Democrats joined the GOP in voting for the bill.

NRA sues major Pennsylvania cities for violating gun rights

The National Rifle Association is suing three Pennsylvania cities for laws the gun rights organization says have violated residents’ 2nd Amendment rights for decades.

According to the NRA lawsuit, the cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Lancaster have local anti-gun ordinances on the books that violate a 1974 state law barring cities from infringing on 2nd Amendment rights with local policies.

The lawsuit resulted from the passage of House Bill 80 in Pennsylvania last year — the legislation cleared the way for citizen groups such as the NRA to challenge local municipalities in court.

Prior to the passage of the legislation, which critics have decried as a gift to the state’s gun lobby, municipalities openly ignored the state’s 1974 gun rights law with burdensome local firearm ordinances. After it was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett (R), however, more than two dozen Pennsylvania towns and cities repealed local gun laws to avoid lawsuits.

The three major cities named in the NRA lawsuit have refused to budge on their gun regulations, including ordinances that require a permit for carrying firearms in vehicles or on person, prohibit firearm discharge except at approved target ranges, create free zones and increased firearm reporting requirements.

“The cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Lancaster have openly defied state law for decades. They continue to willfully violate the law and insist on politically grandstanding at taxpayers’ expense,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “The reality is the illegal ordinances in question do not make people safer. They are simply tools to further the gun control agenda and infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile, the three cities have also filed suit in a bid to repeal the legislation which precipitated the NRA challenge.

“We will not be deterred and we will keep our lawsuit going against the unconstitutional act passed in Harrisburg,” Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto told reporters on Wednesday. “It is unconstitutional, it never should have been passed, and it breaks with more than 200 years of history in Pennsylvania, by allowing organizations without standing the ability to sue.”

In the past, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has been friendly to the state’s gun owners, striking down an ordinance banning so-called assault weapons and another limiting firearm purchases to one a month in a 2010 ruling.

Threat of terror grows as ISIS propaganda catches on with U.S. youth

Congressional law enforcement officials have warned lawmakers and other Capitol Hill workers that lone-wolf terrorists consider the nation’s capital a prime target after the FBI arrested an Ohio man Wednesday on suspicion that he was planning an ISIS-inspired bombing attack on the U.S. Capitol.

ABC News reported on terror suspect Christopher Lee Cornell’s apprehension on Wednesday:

Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, was arrested on charges of attempting to kill a U.S. government official, authorities said.

According to government documents, he allegedly planned to detonate pipe bombs at the national landmark and open fire on any employees and officials fleeing after the explosions.

The FBI first noticed Cornell several months ago after an informant notified the agency that Cornell was allegedly voicing support for violent “jihad” on Twitter accounts under the alias “Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah,” according to charging documents. In addition, Cornell allegedly posted statements, videos and other content expressing support for ISIS — the brutal terrorist group also known as ISIL — that is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.

FBI officials allege that the terror suspect was in the “final steps” of his plan, having recently purchased two semi-automatic weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition prior to making his travel arrangements to Washington, D.C.

The House sergeant at arms on Thursday sent a letter to legislative offices asking staffers to “maintain vigilance at all times.”

“With this arrest, we are again reminded that the United States, and especially the Capitol complex, remains a potential target for terrorists — be they organized attacks or so-called ‘lone wolf’ assaults,” the letter said. “Therefore, it is essential that every member of the House community maintain vigilance and security awareness at all times. We encourage all Members and staff to report anything of concern to the USCP…”

Cornell’s arrest has also increased attention on ISIS’s efforts to radicalize frustrated youths in Western nations. FBI Director James Comey said last fall that government officials are aware of a dozen Americans who are believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in the Middle East, while more than 100 have either been arrested on their way to or returning from the region.

Government officials currently have no concrete estimates on the number of radicalized Americans who could currently be in the U.S.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate’s intelligence and armed services committee, joined CNN Thursday to discuss the threat of young people carrying out potential lone-wolf attacks.

“The real weapons of mass destruction today are unemployed 22-year-olds who fall for this radical ideology and we’ve got to figure out how to counter that,” he said.

King said that the U.S. must adopt a strategy that goes beyond intelligence and military intervention overseas to answer the “deeper question” of how to stop the spread of radical ideology.

“We are not going to be able to take them out by killing them one at a time. It’s not going to work,” King said. “We’ve got to go deeper than just police, FBI, CIA and military. We’ve got to talk about how do we stop this movement toward radicalization because otherwise this is going to be a 100-year war.”

Video: California cop finds private sale of ammo between citizens ‘bizarre’ and ‘illegal’

A police officer in Eureka, California, recently told two pro-gun activists that they were breaking the law by selling .22 caliber ammunition on the street before demanding to see a business license and accusing one of the men of being a felon in possession of ammunition.

“Why are you guys doing this?” the officer asked the men after explaining that he’d had “a lot of calls” about illegal activity.

“Because we have the right to, sir,” one of the activists rightly responded. “It’s 100 percent legal. Don’t answer any of his questions.”

The officer then claimed that a business license was required in order to conduct the ammo sales.

“Absolutely not, sir. Check your law. It’s our constitutional right, you can check it in the… California laws,” the activist informed the officer, adding that the officers’ ignorance of the law was no excuse for the questioning.

The officer pressed on, claiming that it was illegal to “conduct business in the city of Eureka without a business license.”

“That’s a city code; you don’t know the law,” the activist shot back. “Cite the law. … I can sell my personal items as long as I follow the rules of California code. … The supremacy clause of the Constitution says that you cannot make a law that dilutes my constitutional rights.”

The back and forth continues for about 15 minutes, with the officer becoming sarcastic — but roundly defeated — by the end.

Rand Paul: Romney 2016 is ‘the definition of insanity’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose 2016 presidential ambitions now look like a sure thing, slammed potential rival Mitt Romney on Wednesday, saying a third attempt at the Oval Office by the former Massachusetts governor would be “the definition of insanity.”

“When you do the same thing and expect a different result, it’s sort of what Einstein said, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” Paul told the New Hampshire Journal of another possible Romney candidacy.

The Kentucky Republican added that he admires Romney, but that the two-time failed candidate should follow his own advice.

“A couple of months ago he said that he’d had his chance and it was time for somebody new,” Paul said. “He was probably right when he said that.

“I think we do need somebody and something new,” Paul continued. “We had a great 2014 but really a presidential election is a completely different election. Twice as many people vote and a lot of the people who vote in presidential elections seem to vote for the Democratic Party.”

Paul also questioned fellow possible 2016 contender Jeb Bush’s ability to bring new life to the GOP, saying that the former Florida governor is too similar to Romney.

“[Romney and Bush] occupy the same space and are competing somewhat for the same voters — people who want something that is safe, something that is sort of historical,” Paul said. “But even people who are looking for ‘safe’ realize that ‘safe’ hasn’t won in the past.”

Though he says he won’t formally announce his candidacy until spring, Paul said that his campaign would take a fresh approach aimed at bringing new voters to the GOP cause.

It’s going to be a nasty tax season

Tax experts are predicting that this tax season is going to be the worst Americans have seen in more than a decade due to rapidly declining customer services at the Internal Revenue Service and mass confusion brought on my President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

National taxpayer advocate Nina Olson said that the IRS has experienced a “devastating erosion” in taxpayer services just ahead of what promises to be a tumultuous tax season for millions of Americans confused about how Obamacare affects their filing status.

“As we enter 2015, we are deeply concerned that taxpayers are receiving markedly less assistance from the IRS now than at any time in recent history,” the IRS watchdog said in a report released Wednesday.

According to Olson, the service cuts mean that Americans attempting to get in touch with the IRS will face longer wait times. Those who are able to get through to the agency, she said, will be faced with the frustration of speaking to the lowest level employees, who are unable to answer complex tax questions.

Olson’s report blames the decline in services on a lack of IRS funding, a view shared by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Koskinen wrote in a letter to IRS employees this week: “People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. We now anticipate an even lower level of telephone service than before, which raises the real possibility that fewer than half of taxpayers trying to call us will actually reach us.”

“Those who do reach us will face extended wait times that are unacceptable to all of us.” he added.

The two are encouraging lawmakers to reverse $346 million in FY2015 budget cuts to the nation’s revenue agency. The IRS’s operating fund is currently $1.2 billion less than in was in 2010.

Olson contends that the IRS’s inability to provide adequate customer service could hurt government revenues.

“Without adequate support, many taxpayers will be frustrated, some will make potentially costly mistakes, others will incur higher compliance costs when forced to seek information and assistance from tax professionals that the IRS previously provided for free, and still others will simply give up and not file returns at all,” she said.

But because of Obamacare’s reliance on IRS reporting of individual Americans’ healthcare situations and yet to be resolved scandals involving the agency, GOP lawmakers aren’t likely to reverse the cuts.

And IRS critics like Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist say that’s a good thing, noting that it’s hardly believable that the IRS lacks the funding to handle its job.

“Koskinen is telling the world that he’s not competent and capable enough to manage the IRS with the budget that Congress gave him,” Norquist said. “He should apologize for taking a job he’s not ready for and step down and be replaced by somebody capable.”

Alabama school plans to ward off unwelcome guests with food — and not just the stuff in the cafeteria

An Alabama middle school says it wants to give students a “sense of empowerment” by arming them against potential intruders with canned food.

Parents of students at W.F. Burns Middle School in Chambers County recently received a letter from administrators instructing them to send their children to school with an 8-ounce can of “corn, beans, peas, etc.” that could be used as a projectile “in case an intruder enters their classroom.”

Principal Priscilla Holley explained how the canned food items would be implemented into the school’s current intruder-response plan in the Jan. 9 letter.

“The procedure will be the same as we have done in the past with the addition of arming our students with a canned food item. We realize at first this may seem odd, however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off guard,” she wrote. “The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until police arrive. The canned good item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves and will make them feel secure in case an intruder enters the classroom.”

The idea comes from the Department of Education Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) training program that is included in the emergency preparedness protocol of schools and universities in 30 states throughout the U.S.

“Understandably, this is a sensitive topic. There is no single answer for what to do, but a survival mindset can increase the odds of surviving,” the Department of Education said of ALICE when the guidelines were introduced in 2013. “There are three basic options: run, hide, or fight. You can run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide and/or deny the shooter access, or incapacitate the shooter to survive and protect others from harm.”

Response to the school’s plan has been mixed. Some observers applaud the effort to encourage students to fight back against potential intruders. Others say the scheme ignores more sensible options, like arming teachers and increasing police presence at schools, and will put students in harm’s way.

Laws allowing armed teachers exist in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Tennessee.

Obama, lawmakers quietly work to give government more snooping power

Renewed fears about cybersecurity on Capitol Hill and a new proposal on the matter from President Barack Obama could soon make life easier for government communications snoops who have found it increasingly difficult to scoop up private data without public backlash in recent years.

Obama on Tuesday said that the recent high profile cyberattack on Sony underscores the need for heightened U.S. cybersecurity regulations.

“With the Sony attack that took place, with the Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show how much more work we need to do — both public and private sector — to strengthen our cybersecurity,” the president told members of Congress.

Obama said that lawmakers should focus on crafting legislation to encourage more data sharing between private and government entities.

In other words, the Obama administration is teaming up with lawmakers to force through a renewed version of the much hated 2013 Cyber Intelligence Protection and Sharing Act, which many critics derided as a government/private sector information pipeline for data protected under the 4th Amendment.

Broad language in the original incarnation of CISPA granted private companies legal immunity for turning private communications data, including texts, emails and files, over to government snoops for “cybersecurity” purposes, effectively eliminating any private sector incentive to comply with U.S. privacy laws when faced with government information requests.

The White House publicly criticized the original CISPA legislation, a move some watchers now say stunk of political theater, based on how closely the administration’s new plan parallels the privacy damning original legislation.

“The status quo of overweening national security and law enforcement secrecy means that expanded information sharing poses a serious risk of transferring more personal information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement. “Given that the White House rightly criticized CISPA in 2013 for potentially facilitating the unnecessary transfer of personal information to the government or other private sector entities when sending cybersecurity threat data, we’re concerned that the Administration proposal will unintentionally legitimize the approach taken by these dangerous bills.”

Instead of hoping no one notices that it is walking back on promises to protect Americans’ private digital communications data by creating new ways for the government to access information, EFF argues that the administration should advocate strengthening existing information-sharing hubs and encouraging companies to use them more efficiently when a threat is detected.

The proposal given to lawmakers by the president also increase penalties in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for those charged with Internet crimes.

“[The plan] makes provisions for the prosecution of the sale of botnets, would criminalize the overseas sale of stolen US financial information like credit card and bank account numbers, would expand federal law enforcement authority to deter the sale of spyware used to stalk or commit ID theft, and would give courts the authority to shut down botnets engaged in distributed denial of service attacks and other criminal activity,” according to the White House.

EFF calls the expansion of those penalties troubling, citing “already excessive — and redundant — penalties for crimes performed with computers.”

In case you’re wondering how GOP congressional control will factor in to Obama’s attempts to push policies he once criticized, the original version of CISPA passed in the Republican-controlled House with overwhelming support from the right.

The GOP establishment hasn’t, after all, been shy about trumping privacy for the illusion on security in the past. And things are no different today.

In fact, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is already working feverishly to undo weak surveillance reforms that passed through the House last year. He’s also urging lawmakers to reauthorize the government collection of Americans’ telephone records without question before the authority expires this summer.

“We don’t want to further encumber intelligence and law enforcement communities who already have a difficult task in tracking those who wish to attack Americans at home and abroad,” he told Bloomberg.