Legendary cop Serpico says America’s police are still out of control

Frank Serpico, the former New York City police officer immortalized on-screen in 1973 by actor Al Pacino, penned a piece for Politico this month noting that little has improved with regard to law enforcement corruption since his own crooked colleagues allowed him to be shot in the face by a drug dealer decades ago.

Serpico rose to national attention when, as an NYPD narcotics officer in 1971, he became trapped in a doorway was shot as fellow officers stood by refusing to help because he’d uncovered police corruption.

Via Politico:

Even now, I do not know for certain why I was left trapped in that door by my fellow police officers. But the Narcotics division was rotten to the core, with many guys taking money from the very drug dealers they were supposed to bust. I had refused to take bribes and had testified against my fellow officers. Police make up a peculiar subculture in society. More often than not they have their own moral code of behavior, an “us against them” attitude, enforced by a Blue Wall of Silence. It’s their version of the Mafia’s omerta. Speak out, and you’re no longer “one of us.” You’re one of “them.” And as James Fyfe, a nationally recognized expert on the use of force, wrote in his 1993 book about this issue, Above The Law, officers who break the code sometimes won’t be helped in emergency situations, as I wasn’t.

According to Serpico, he still receives hate mail from active and retired police officers for daring to blow the whistle on police corruption more than 40 years ago.

After multiple attempts to force internal investigations into the police corruption at the time, Serpico eventually took his story to The New York Times. That led to the formation of the Knapp Commission, the outside investigative panel formed by then-Mayor John Lindsay to investigate the corruption.

In his Politico column, Serpico concludes that police corruption and abuse of whistle-blowers is alive and well today.

Serpico writes:

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

According to Serpico, a combination of poor training and screening of officers, over-arming, and a lack of internal and community policing of law enforcement agencies have created an environment where officer interactions with the public can quickly turn wrongfully deadly.

In his piece, the former police officer also advises that waiting for improvements to be offered by politicians is a fruitless endeavor.

Serpico writes:

As for Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, they’re giving speeches now, after Ferguson. But it’s 20 years too late. It’s the same old problem of political power talking, and it doesn’t matter that both the president and his attorney general are African-American. Corruption is color blind. Money and power corrupt, and they are color blind too.

Read Serpico’s full article, complete with policy recommendations, at Politico.

Hillary 2.0? Senator Michelle Obama could become reality in California

If you can’t wait for elderly gun-grabbing Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to leave office because of her penchant for big government and distaste for the Constitution, you should be careful what you wish for. That’s because Feinstein’s replacement could end up being the stuff of conservative political nightmares: Sen. Michelle Obama (D-Calif.).

With 81-year-old Feinstein expected to finally retire in 2018, there is some chatter that the first lady could consider a political run for the seat if the Obamas relocate to California after leaving the White House.

Last week, New York-based Orb Magazine quoted an unidentified source close to the first family who said that relocation to California is a top choice for the Obamas following 2016 because “Hawaii is too remote; Illinois is a cesspool of political corruption which they prefer to avoid; and New York, which they love, is too dense with Clintons and Clinton acolytes.”

Furthermore, the article goes on, the Obamas have many friends in the area, some of whom are reported pushing the first lady to consider a political career and, according to Orb, reminding her “that California is solidly Democratic and there is no apparent frontrunner to succeed Feinstein — certainly no one with the stature, broad appeal and fundraising connections Michelle has.”

“Michelle has strong opinions, but she was told by the President’s staff to stay ‘on message’ and on the few occasions she went ‘off message’ she upset West Wing officials and was excoriated in the press,” the source said.

Feinstein, who still won’t say for sure if she’ll actually leave the Senate in 2018, said over the weekend that she’d be “flattered” for Obama to run for her seat.

Pervert cops busted stealing, sharing intimate photos from suspect cellphones

Some California Highway Patrol officers are in hot water following revelations that they routinely steal intimate photos from suspects’ cellphones and distribute them among one another as part of a sick “game” centered on violating the 4th Amendment.

The Contra Costa Times reported earlier this month that Dublin-based California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington was suspected of forwarding himself scantily clad images from the phone of a 23-year-old female DUI suspect as she was booked.

The unnamed woman discovered the intrusion of privacy when she discovered via a cloud service that images of her “in various states of undress” were forwarded to an unidentified number while she was in police custody.

Via Contra Costa Times:

Just after midnight, Harrington and his partner stopped the woman’s white-colored sedan on Interstate 680 near Crow Canyon Road in San Ramon for making an unsafe lane change. She failed field sobriety tests and was detained on suspicion of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of .29 percent, more than three times the legal limit.

At some point during the woman’s traffic stop, Harrington asked for her cell password, which she gave him, the woman told investigators. She was taken to the county jail in Martinez, where the woman asked Harrington to get a phone number from her contact list. He wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to her, an action verified by surveillance video, the inspector wrote.

Investigators determined the photos to be forwarded at 2:08 a.m. the morning of her arrest, and Holcombe wrote that based on video evidence from the booking scene, Harrington was in possession of the woman’s phone and Jane Doe was in custody at that time.

The woman’s DUI charge, reportedly for driving at more than twice the legal blood alcohol limit, was dropped as a result of the investigation into Harrington’s actions.

But investigators have now learned that the officer’s abuse of power was not an isolated incident.

Contra Costa district attorney inspector Darryl Holcombe said in an affidavit obtained by the local newspaper that Harrington, a five-year-police veteran, was playing a “game” that he had learned from other officers during his law enforcement tenure.

“Harrington said he first learned of this scheme when he was working in the Los Angeles office,” said the affidavit. “Harrington said when he was assigned to the Dublin office, he learned from other officers that they would access the cell phones of female arrestees and look for nude photographs of them. “Harrington said if photographs were located, the officers would then text the photographs to other sworn members of the office, and, to non-CHP individuals. Harrington described this scheme as a game.”

The court documents also reveal another specific instance where Harrington and another officer shared pictures stolen from a 19-year-old woman involved in a DUI accident.

“Taken from the phone of my [woman in custody] while she’s in X-rays. Enjoy buddy!!!” Harrington reportedly texted to other officers.

An officer reportedly replied, “Nice,” and, “HaHa,” prompting Harrington to respond: “Just rerun a favor down the road buddy. :)”

The officers’ actions are made more damning by a June Supreme Court ruling that police must obtain a warrant to scour the contents of a suspect’s cellphone.

Tax overreach may be driving up citizenship renunciation

Corporations taking actions to shield themselves from high U.S. tax rates have been in the headlines in recent months, but they aren’t the only ones increasingly willing to look outside the U.S. to protect earnings. According to the Treasury Department, many individuals are also taking steps to renounce their U.S. citizenship or end long-term residency in the nation.

The Treasury lists 2,353 individuals who have taken such steps so far in 2014, with 776 of those added in the department’s third-quarter list of people opting to formally cut ties with the United States. Last year, a record total of 2,999 people renounced.

While Treasury doesn’t list individuals’ reasons for renouncing citizenship or giving up long-term residency, financial experts report that the U.S.’s tax code, including provisions that require U.S. citizens to pay taxes on money earned anywhere in the world.

The Wall Street Journal, reporting on the renunciations last week, noted that the U.S. has increasingly scrutinized money earned and held offshore in recent years because of the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA):

[T]he growing number of renunciations by U.S. citizens and permanent residents is linked to a five-year enforcement campaign against U.S. taxpayers who have undeclared offshore accounts. The campaign began after Swiss banking giant admitted in 2009 that it had systematically encouraged U.S. taxpayers to hide assets in secret Swiss accounts.

About 100 other Swiss financial institutions are currently in a U.S. Justice Department program designed to uncover other secret accounts. Recently, attorneys representing 73 of them protested that the terms of the program were too harsh.

According to Federal Register data cited in recent reports, renunciations spiked by about 39 percent between FATCA’s implementation and September of this year. A recent poll of Americans living and working abroad conducted by deVere Group, an independent financial advisory group, suggests that number could increase exponentially in coming years.

There are currently an estimated 7.6 million Americans living overseas. Of more than 400 expatriates surveyed by deVere, 73 percent said they have “actively considered,” “are thinking about” or “have explored” turning in their U.S. passports in response to FATCA. That’s compared to 16 percent who said they wouldn’t consider giving up U.S. citizenship.

Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group, called the survey findings alarming.

“Nationality, especially for an expatriate, is an incredibly important part of one’s identity and typically it’s a very emotional issue too,” he said. “It is our experience that most Americans are extremely saddened at the prospect of giving up their U.S. citizenship to avoid the harsh implications of a new and utterly flawed tax law.

“However, it should come as little surprise that such a high number are prepared to do so because FATCA’s reporting requirements are excessively onerous, burdensome and expensive. Also many non-U.S. banks and other financial institutions will no longer work with Americans which can make living outside the U.S. achingly complicated.”

Indeed, the law requires foreign financial institutions to keep track of Americans with accounts in excess of $50,000 and necessitates care in dealing with such customers. Failure to comply can get the financial institutions frozen out of U.S. financial markets.

More than 80 nations — including traditional tax shelters and nations with tenuous relationships with the U.S. — and 77,000 financial institutions have agreed to comply with the far-reaching tax law.

FBI: ISIS is bent on killing more Western journalists

An FBI bulletin released late last week informs that the agency has recently received “credible information” indicating that Islamic State terrorists have been “tasked with kidnapping journalists.”

The ISIS terrorists, who recently executed two American journalists in the Middle East, have described Western reporters in the region as “desirable targets” for kidnapping and execution in response to U.S. airstrikes.

“The FBI assesses, based on open source statements and postings, that [ISIL] members and supporters view members of the US media establishment as legitimate targets for retribution attacks as the US-led air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria continues,” the FBI bulletin states. “Online supporters of ISIL have called — via various social media sites — for retaliation against the United States and US interests abroad, especially since US-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria began.”

According to the FBI, members of an ISIS-affiliated group have been tasked with kidnapping journalists working in the Middle East and returning them to Syria.

The FBI bulletin also references an online post allegedly created by an ISIS sympathizer titled, “A Message to 2.6 Million Muslims in the United States: This Is How To Respond to Obama’s War on Islam,” which called on extremists to target American reporters, talk show hosts and anchors. The post deemed media personalities “proved to be biased” and prioritized targets for execution.

The ISIS threat will only increase significant danger faced by journalists covering recent conflicts in the Middle East. More than 70 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict since March 2011, and more than 20 are currently missing in the region, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

EPA official calls climate change a major concern for Americans as Weather Channel founder and 9,000 scientists insist it doesn’t exist

Speaking Friday at a Conference on Energy and the Environment at Georgetown University, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy insisted that climate change is an “overwhelmingly” major area of concern for Americans.

“From all the recent public opinion work out there on climate change, what stands out to me is this: First, people overwhelmingly consider climate change a problem, and they want action. And second, what’s even more impressive, is the overwhelming support specifically for EPA action to curb carbon pollution from power plants,” the official said.

Of course, recent polling data out from Gallup refutes the EPA official’s claim, as CNS News noted:

[O]nly 40 percent of respondents identified climate change as either a “very important” or and “extremely important” factor in their votes. That was well behind the second-lowest-ranking concern, which was abortion and access to contraception, which was considered an important factor by 50 percent of respondents.

Likewise, a Gallup poll in March 2014 found that only 24 percent of Americans worried a great deal about climate change. In that poll, both “climate change” and “quality of the environment” were near the bottom of a list of 15 issues Gallup asked Americans to rate.

And in last month, a Pew Poll found that while most Americans believe in climate change, they give it a low priority. Forty-eight percent rated global climate change as a major threat — well behind the level of concern shown for other issues.

Worse yet for global warming alarmists such as McCarthy, John Coleman, the founder of Weather Channel and a leading meteorologist, said in a letter last week that he and 9,000 Ph.D. scientists all agree: “There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future. Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant ‘greenhouse’ gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed. There has been no warming over 18 years.”

The 80-year-old weatherman’s comments were made in an open letter to the Hammer Forum, a discussion venue at the University of California, Los Angeles, which recently scheduled Michael Mann and Brenda Ekwurzel — both firm believers in global warming — as speakers.

Coleman continued in his letter:

[A]t your October 23 Hammer Forum on Climate Change you have scheduled as your only speakers two people who continue to present the failed science as though it is the final and complete story on global warming/climate change. This is major mistake.

I urge you to re-examine your plan. It is important to have those who attend know that there is no climate crisis. The ocean is not rising significantly. The polar ice is increasing, not melting away. Polar Bears are increasing in number. Heat waves have actually diminished, not increased. There is not an uptick in the number or strength of storms (in fact storms are diminishing). I have studied this topic seriously for years. It has become a political and environment agenda item, but the science is not valid.

I am the founder of The Weather Channel and a winner of the American Meteorological Society honor as Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year. I am not a wacko flat Earther. Nor am I a “paid shill” (as has been claimed) of the Koch Brothers. I am a serious Professional. I am strongly urging you to reconsider your plan.

William Happer, Ph.D., a Princeton University climate researcher who Coleman named in his letter, said in a later interview that he supports the Weather Channel founder’s view, noting to The Express:

No chemical compound in the atmosphere has a worse reputation than CO2, thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control and energy production.

The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.

Survey: Voters with GOP on key issues, but hold favorable view of Democrats

Closing in on the 2014 midterm elections, a majority of likely American voters agree with Republicans on key issues. But Democrats continue to enjoy a more positive image than politicians on the right.

That’s according to the latest numbers out from the pollsters at Pew Research.

Republicans led Democrats by 17 points when voters were asked about the parties’ ability to handle terror threats, by 15 points on budgetary matters, by 6 points on the economy and by 5 points on immigration.

“However,” Pew points out, “the Democrats have advantages on a number of qualities and traits — from honesty to empathy and a willingness to compromise. And on some dimensions, the Republican Party is viewed less positively by voters than it was just prior to the 2010 election, when it captured the House.”

Democrats led by 22 points when voters were asked about each party’s commitment to bipartisanship, 21 points on being empathetic to the needs of people, and 8 points on honesty and ethics.

According to the poll, voters deem Democrats better able to handle the nation’s healthcare (by 6 points), they believe Republicans can better manage the federal government overall (by 3 points).

“This year’s elections, like the previous two midterms, will take place against a backdrop of deep public dissatisfaction with national conditions,” Pew also notes, pointing out that 65 percent of likely voters say they are dissatisfied with the direction the nation is headed.

Behind the scenes, U.S. officials fret about ISIS attacks on homeland

Even after the deadly terror attacks in Canada this week, some Democrats continue to insist that the Islamic State poses no threat to the U.S. homeland. But the apologist rhetoric from the left aimed at easing worries over President Obama’s ISIS aloofness is upended by a recently released government bulletin warning of impending ISIS attacks on U.S. law enforcement.

The October 2014 intelligence bulletin revealed by Breitbart Texas comes from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and is titled “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Its Supporters Encouraging Attacks Against Law Enforcement and Government Personnel.” It focuses largely on Internet chatter about possible ISIS threats to the U.S.

“While we have no information indicating any ongoing plotting within the Homeland, FBI and DHS would like to ensure law enforcement and government personnel are aware that ISIL and its supporters continue to issue threats online,” the bulletin states.

One online call to action discussed in the document is attributed to ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. A translation of a recorded message delivered by the terror affiliate calls on ISIS sympathizers to conduct domestic “lone wolf” attacks on Western “soldiers, patrons, and troops… their police, security, and intelligence members.”

Another alleged ISIS member cited in the bulletin similarly calls for attacks on “military, law enforcement, FBI personnel, government officials, and media figures” in the U.S. via “open source jihad.”

The intelligence bulletin notes that officials haven’t discovered any credible evidence that ISIS has a firm plan to attack targets in the U.S., but notes a possible ISIS-related attack in Australia and an allegedly thwarted ISIS plot in Britain as cause for concern.

The murder of a Canadian soldier at a national military monument in Ottowa at the hands of recent Islamic convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau Wednesday raises additional concerns from U.S. officials.

“There’s no doubt in my mind behind the scenes the U.S. Capitol Police, the Secret Service, the State Department are well aware of the events unfolding and probably, very quietly, ramping up surveillance and exterior coverage,” former U.S. Diplomatic Security special agent and deputy counterterrorism chief Fred Burton told U.S. News and World Report on the heels of the attack.

Coburn releases his final government Wastebook

Outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn’s final rendition of his government Wastebook was released this week, chronicling $25 billion worth of wasteful spending on 100 “silly, unnecessary, and low priority projects.”

“Washington politicians are more focused on their own political futures than the future of our country,” Coburn declares in the introduction of the publication. “And with no one watching over the vast bureaucracy, the problem again isn’t just what Washington isn’t doing, but what it is doing.”

The lawmaker’s 182-page report provides example of government’s wasteful use of taxpayer dollars at all levels, pointing out examples everywhere from the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department to the National Science Foundation.

Here are just a few examples of the sort of waste Coburn highlights:

  • $4.6 million spent by Customs and Border Patrol for luxury homes for temporary agents.
  • $48.6 million spent by the Department of Homeland Security for vehicles which are not being used.
  • $331,000 spent by the National Science Foundation to examine how spouses interact with voodoo dolls when they are hungry and angry.
  • $16 billion for the Department of Defense to destroy ammunition.
  • $450,000 in Department of Homeland Security spending on gym memberships.

With accusations flying in recent weeks that budget cuts have hindered government’s ability to respond to Ebola threats, Coburn also points out bogus public health spending such as $371,026 spent to determine whether mothers love their dogs as much as their children.

Via the Wastebook:

Dogs and children were first “photographed in the participants’ home.” Mothers were then shown a series of dog and child photos from other participants in the study, as well as photos of their own. As they looked at each, their brains were monitored with an MRI scanner.

“As you read through the entries presented in this report, ask yourself: Is each of these a true national priority or could the money have been better spent on a more urgent need or not spent at all in order to reduce the burden of debt being left to be paid off by our children and grandchildren?” Coburn said in the report.

Read The Full Report Below:

Another failed drug war: 10 years and $7 billion couldn’t kill Afghan opium

The United States’ failed war on drugs is a global affair, and a new report of this week illustrates how the nation’s efforts to quell the cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan is equal parts expensive and ineffective.

According to the report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), 10 years and $7 billion in U.S. taxpayer money has done nothing to quell opium production in the country. In fact, the report notes, Afghan poppy cultivation is at an all-time high.

“Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan,” Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote in a letter to the officials, “I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counternarcotics efforts when planning future initiatives.”

The SIGAR report points out that, Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000 hectares in 2007. Yeilds for this year are expected to be higher.

According to Sopko, the proliferation of opium crops creates a real danger that terrorists emboldened by narcotics trading could undo U.S. improvements to the Afghan region which have taken place over the past decade.

“In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,” he told lawmakers. “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last 12 years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”

Rand Paul: Maybe a doctor could fix Obamacare

Senator Rand Paul weighed in on the Ebola crisis this week at a gathering of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Chicago. The lawmaker called for a quarantine of countries where the disease is prevalent.

“If quarantine works within a country, maybe countries should be quarantined for a certain period of time,” he said. “We could still send medical supplies and help to them, but if they’re coming to visit their cousin or their aunt, couldn’t they wait a couple months?”

Telling the audience that the Obama administration has focused more on “spin” than controlling the outbreak, Paul said that the president should ban all flights from countries stricken by the epidemic.

And while he said that U.S. citizens shouldn’t panic about Ebola, the junior senator lamented that the Obama White House hasn’t been forthright about the contagious nature of the disease. For instance, Paul said, the president was wrong to insist that “you can’t catch Ebola on a bus.”

“If they are [symptomatic], you can,” Paul said. “If they vomit on you, you can.”

The lawmaker added: “We are talking about something that is exponentially, probably, more transmittable than AIDS. It is exponentially more infectious.”

In a speech that focused widely on healthcare-related topics, Paul also spoke about Obamacare. The lawmaker likened the president’s healthcare overhaul to communism.

“When prices are set by a central planner, inevitably mistakes occur,” he said. “The Soviet Union failed for the simple reason that they couldn’t determine the price of bread.”

While he admitted that the pre-Obamacare medical system wasn’t perfect, Paul contends that the healthcare system could have been improved more effectively by “getting government out of the business of setting prices.”

The lawmaker said he doesn’t believe that Republicans can fully repeal Obamacare, but he believes conservative lawmakers do have a chance at undoing the medical device tax and expanding medical savings accounts.

“Maybe it’s time for a doctor to fix the problem,” Paul also said, alluding to the possibility of a 2016 presidential bid.

Immigration officials say they are preparing for another surge of illegal aliens

The Obama administration has promised to make good on a plan to put millions of additional illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship following the 2014 midterm elections. In the interim, federal officials say that Americans can expect thousands of new undocumented minor aliens to make their way across the border this year.

That’s according to new Citizen and Immigration Services director Leon Rodriguez, who said at a gathering of the 11th annual immigration law and policy conference hosted by Georgetown Law School that his agency was preparing to deal with the aftermath of Obama’s plan.

Rodriguez, who says he is sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, said that the president’s proposals are no substitute for congressional action on immigration reform.

The official’s remarks come on the heels of reports that his agency is soliciting bids from potential vendors to provide the government with as many as 34 million blank green cards for an expected 2016 immigration surge.

Via Breitbart:

The agency is buying the materials need to construct both Permanent Residency Cards (PRC), commonly known as green cards, as well as Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD) cards which have been used to implement President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program. The RFP does not specify how many of each type of card would be issued.

Jessica Vaughan, an immigration expert at the Center for Immigration Studies and former State Department official, said the document suggests a new program of remarkable breadth.

The RFP “seems to indicate that the president is contemplating an enormous executive action that is even more expansive than the plan that Congress rejected in the ‘Gang of Eight’ bill,” Vaughan said.

Americans frustrated, feel nation is ‘out of control’ ahead of 2014 midterms

As the nation barrels toward the 2014 midterms, Americans increasingly hold an unfavorable view of government, with those who hold the most politically polarized views being pegged as those most likely to turn out on Nov. 4.

Gallup numbers out last week reveal that just 14 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job with just weeks to go until the midterm elections. The October approval numbers are in line with average approval numbers for 2014 and only five points higher than the Congress’s historical low point of 9 percent in November 2013.

The polling agency reports that the low approval ratings in a midterm election cycle could result in higher turnover for members of Congress in the president’s party.

“[C]ongressional job approval in October was 21% in 2010, and 23% in 1994, two years when the president’s party lost a large number of seats,” Gallup states.

A separate poll from Politico finds that it isn’t just Congress that is angering Americans — it’s the entire direction of the country.

“An overwhelming majority of voters in the most competitive 2014 elections say it feels as if events in the United States are ‘out of control’ and expressed mounting alarm about terrorism, anxiety about Ebola and harsh skepticism of both political parties only three weeks before the Nov. 4 midterms,” Politico reported.

According to the numbers, 64 percent of those polled said “things in the U.S. feel like they are out of control right now.”

Pew Research, meanwhile, reports that the most polarized Americans will likely turn out in larger numbers than those with more centrist views in November.

“Those who are consistently conservative and liberal, who together make up only about one-in-five (22%) in the general public, make up 36% of those most likely to vote. By contrast, those with mixed opinions will be only 24% of the electorate, although they constitute 39% of the general public,” Pew reports.

According to the results, 73 percent of strongly conservative Americans are likely to show up at the polls, compared to 58 percent of consistently liberal voters.

FBI director wants government to force cellphone companies to work for law enforcement

Following government criticisms of private sector tech firms seeking to alleviate consumers’ surveillance concerns by tightening data encryption standards, FBI Director James Comey is calling on Congress to force smartphone developers to give law enforcement a backdoor entrance into all communications devices.

During a speech at the Brookings Institution last week, Comey insisted that law enforcement investigations must not be hindered by individuals’ ease of access to data encryption processes.

“The FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people,” Comey said. “Unfortunately, the law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public-safety problem.”

Apple and Google have both recently announced that they are taking steps to keep their costumers’ digital communications data safe from law enforcement hackers and identity thieves. The announcements have been met with law enforcement criticisms, including condemnation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who called it “worrisome” that the tech firms would make it easier for criminals to thwart officials.

Comey wants lawmakers to update the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which mandates that wiretap access for law enforcement be built into conventional telephone networks, to include Internet and digital modes of communication.

“[W]e have to find a way to help these companies understand what we need, why we need it, and how they can help, while still protecting privacy rights and providing network security and innovation,” Comey said. “We need our private-sector partners to take a step back, to pause, and to consider changing course.”

The digital privacy-advocating Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized Comey’s remarks as “bad for every person who wants to be sure that their data is as protected as possible.”

“[T]he FBI is trying to convince the world that some fantasy version of security is possible—where “good guys” can have a back door or extra key to your home but bad guys could never use it. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of security can tell you that’s just not true,” the organization said. “So the ‘debate’ Comey calls for is phony, and we suspect he knows it. Instead, Comey wants everybody to have weak security, so that when the FBI decides somebody is a “bad guy,” it has no problem collecting personal data.”

Conservatives call for an end to federal gas tax

The conservative Club for Growth called Monday for officials to put an end to the federal gas tax, instead allowing the money to flow back to the states for infrastructure repairs.

Currently, money raised through the federal gas tax is applied to the nation’s Highway Trust Fund. The fund, which subsidizes transportation projects, was recently extended by Congress through May 2015.

Club for Growth president Chris Chocola called the trust fund “a politician’s dream because it transfers power to Washington and away from states, where the real decisions are made.”

Chocola, in a USA Today column, argued that the fund is outdated in an era where all 50 states have the tools in place to manage the money without federal meddling.

“All 50 states have Departments of Transportation. More than 70% of all transportation spending in this country is already financed and spent at the state and local level,” he wrote. “Each state has very specific infrastructure needs, and those needs are most effectively addressed at the local level, where those making the decisions are held most accountable by the taxpayers.

“The federal gas tax is just another layer of taxation that finances another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy. When the money is sent to Washington, the politicians spend it and then borrow even more.”

Club for Growth is currently backing a GOP alternative to the way the transportation infrastructure is handled which comes in the form of legislation from Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.).

The lawmakers’ Transportation Empowerment Act, first introduced in November 2013, is touted as a way for states and communities to spend money raised from commuters on projects that they feel are important without federal input.

“This bill would devolve the gas tax to the states, allowing each state to fund its own projects, rather than sending the money to Washington to send less back down again with strings attached,” Chocola notes. “This would mean more accountability for gas tax revenue, and more local control for the taxpayers.”

Chocola’s column was written in response to calls that the federal gas tax be raised from its current rate of 18.4 cents a gallon to 30.3 cents to offset funding losses due to increased automobile fuel efficiency.

The U.S. is aiding ISIS with taxpayer money

Each year, the United States sends massive amounts of taxpayer dollars overseas in the form of humanitarian aid. And while much of the aid goes to worthy causes, it’s unsurprising that The Daily Beast reported Sunday that “truckloads of U.S. and Western aid has been flowing into territory controlled” by Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettner reported from Turkey:

The aid—mainly food and medical equipment—is meant for Syrians displaced from their hometowns, and for hungry civilians. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, European donors, and the United Nations. Whether it continues is now the subject of anguished debate among officials in Washington and European. The fear is that stopping aid would hurt innocent civilians and would be used for propaganda purposes by the militants, who would likely blame the West for added hardship.

The Bible says if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him something to drink—doing so will “heap burning coals” of shame on his head. But there is no evidence that the militants of the Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, feel any sense of disgrace or indignity (and certainly not gratitude) receiving charity from their foes.

Quite the reverse, the aid convoys have to pay off ISIS emirs (leaders) for the convoys to enter the eastern Syrian extremist strongholds of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, providing yet another income stream for ISIS militants, who are funding themselves from oil smuggling, extortion, and the sale of whatever they can loot, including rare antiquities from museums and archaeological sites.

U.S. and Western aid finding its way into the hands of foes is nothing new.

For example, American taxpayers provide about $400 million per year in aid to the Palestinian Authority, which came under scrutiny this year when it entered into a unity agreement with the designated terror group Hamas.

The Congressional Research Service provides context for the U.S. aid relationship with the PA: “Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.”

According to reports over the summer, the PA has taken careful steps to structure its Hamas-backed government to avoid running afoul of U.S. regulations that strictly prohibit Hamas from benefitting from the aid.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a longtime proponent of cutting U.S. aid, drafted a bill that would prohibit the PA from receiving any U.S. assistance so long as it was in any way tangled with Hamas. The bill never made it to a full Senate vote, instead languishing in the Foreign Relations Committee.

In another example from 2012, U.S. officials were forced to cut military aid to Rwanda following reports from the United Nations that the U.S. taxpayer funding was being funneled to Congolese rebels guilty of gruesome human rights abuses.

Some watchers of the current aid abuses in the Middle East are calling on government officials to shut down aid to the region altogether. But critics argue that cutting aid will simply better ISIS’s ability to gain support from people reliant on the U.S. support.

White House reporters come up with plan to beat Obama administration’s censorship

The long-suffering White House press corps is taking steps to thwart the Obama administration’s continued attempts to sanitize news coverage on the government’s executive branch.

Press pool journalists currently must submit their work to the White House press office, from which the reports are distributed via email to news organizations throughout the nation.

Last month, reports surfaced of the White House’s efforts to influence the content of the information press pool reporters pass along to their news industry colleagues on a daily basis by demanding changes or threatening to revoke journalists’ access for unflattering reports.

The Washington Post reported at the time:

When Anita Kumar of the McClatchy newspaper chain covered Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” for the press pool last year, she wrote a detailed account of the taped program. Kumar thought her story would be sent to pool recipients hours before the show aired. Instead, White House press staffers objected to the length of her file, saying it violated an agreement with the program’s producers to limit advance publicity. They told Kumar to pare down her account before they would distribute it.

Kumar reluctantly complied, but the request made her uneasy. “The worry is that when you send in a pool report, the White House is reading it and approving it,” she said.

Other journalists tell similar tales about White House objections.

While the majority of the White House’s press nitpicking involves minor details and trivial issues, press pool journalists have warned that the administration’s involvement in editing the news is a slippery slope.

“The independence of the print pool reports is of utmost importance to us,” said Christi Parsons, a Los Angeles Times reporter and the White House Correspondents Association president, last month. “Our expectation is that the White House puts out the pool report and asks questions later.”

For that reason, The Washington Post reports, press pool reporters have collaborated to set a press report distribution system of their own.

Via The Post Wednesday:

A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalist.

(…)But now, some journalists are sharing their White House reporting using Google Groups — the digital service that allows registered users to receive and send information within a closed circle. In an early test of the supplemental system, journalists shared pool information about President Obama’s trip to Chicago this month. The system has been used for “advisories,” such as where the pool is assembling, when another pool report will be issued or whether a correction is in the works.

Currently, about 90 print journalists subscribe to the Google Groups list, compared to about 8,000 who are on the official pool list. Parsons has described the list as a sort of backup that could eventually serve as “a supplementary system for the print poolers so they can send out information directly to other reporters whenever they feel they need to, much as the TV and radio poolers do now.”

Unfortunately, there are obstacles to journalists wresting control of the press pool information distribution from the White House.

Again from The Post:

The key obstacles appear to be not technological but administrative and financial. The WHCA is wary of the cost of taking over all the managerial tasks of the pool system from the White House, which does the job with its own staff at taxpayer expense.

In addition to distributing the pool reports and maintaining an ever-changing list of recipients, the White House press office has several staffers who schedule reporters for pool duty, coordinate security clearances so that they can be in proximity to the president and find substitutes when there are no-shows.

Polling increasingly favors GOP in midterms

With fewer than three weeks until the 2014 midterms, a growing number of polls and election models favor the prospect of a GOP-controlled Senate leading into 2015.

As of Wednesday, The Washington Post’s Election Lab was reporting that the GOP has a 94 percent chance of gaining the six seats it needs to control the Senate.

The Republicans’ high chances of winning the Senate are underscored by the results of a poll released Wednesday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

That poll found that 46 percent of Americans favor a Congress controlled by the GOP, compared to 44 percent who want Democrats to assume legislative control.

The margin in voter support is tighter than the last Congressional midterms. At this point in 2010, Republicans enjoyed a 7-point lead over Democrats.

On the issues, voters in a separate Washington Post/ABC poll reported that new jobs and an end to Washington gridlock are at the top of their voter wish lists, followed closely by the formulation of an appropriate government response to the Islamic State terror threat in the Middle East.

Two-thirds of likely voters believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 60 percent believe that the president and Republican members of Congress are equally incompetent.

Despite preferring Republican control, likely voters assigned the GOP an abysmal 33 percent favorability rating. Democrats’ favorability rating is similarly bad, reaching a 30-year low of 39 percent.

President Barack Obama’s disproval rating, meanwhile, eclipses unhappiness with Congress. Just 40 percent of likely voters believe he is handling his job correctly. Forty-four percent of voters agree with the president’s handling of the economy, 29 percent his handling of immigration and 35 percent his handling of the ISIS threat.

Democrats blaming GOP for Ebola destroyed by numbers, facts

Democrats continue to blame GOP cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lack of a clear strategy to deal with Ebola in the U.S. Unfortunately for the political left, facts add a little static to the sound bite political messaging they’ve embraced for the issue in the run-up to the 2014 midterms.

The Democrats’ accusations stem from a 2011 bill passed by the House that would have cut $60 billion from the federal budget across the board, including millions of dollars in possible cuts in CDC funding. Though it passed in the House in February of that year, the spending bill never made it to the Senate.

At about the same time, President Barack Obama presented his budget plan, which came with its own CDC cuts.

The Wall Street Journal noted at the time:

Funding for a public health emergency preparedness program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was cut by about $72 million below fiscal 2010 levels in the budget proposal. Those funds are used to help state and city public health departments monitor for potential outbreaks and threats, hire and train staff to respond and other activities.

In the end, no agreement was reached and the federal government proceeded through the next year with a number of budgetary continuing resolutions.

Fast-forward to fiscal 2014 and the facts get even more depressing for GOP-caused-Ebola Democrats. In a January 2014 report, the Atlanta Business Journal declared “CDC wins big in budget deal.”

Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will see an 8.2 percent budget increase for fiscal 2014, thanks to a $1.1 trillion spending bill announced by Congress Jan. 13.

This influx of cash will raise the CDC budget to $6.9 billion, which is $567 million more than it received in 2013. This is more than the agency anticipated, because the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for it was just $6.6 billion — a decrease of $270 million from fiscal 2012.

Of the $6.9 billion, $1.3 billion was allocated to protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats, both intentional and naturally occurring. $255 million will go to support bio-defense efforts, and $160 million will be set aside for states to address their most pressing public health needs. The CDC will get $30 million for Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD), which will help identify potential disease outbreaks earlier and more accurately.

Long story short, both parties have offered budget plans in the past which would have — or did — cut CDC funding, but a bipartisan spending agreement (which passed the GOP-controlled House without issue) actually gave the health organization more money that the Democratic budget requested in 2014.

The real political issue is not how much the CDC receives, but how the money is spent.

Small-business owners glum on nation’s economy

Small-business owners remain pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook despite the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the economy is improving. That’s according to a survey of the nation’s movers and shakers out from the National Federation of Independent Businesses this week.

The NFIB survey found that the optimism index for American small-business owners declined 0.8 points in September, bringing it to 95.3. The index currently sits at 5 points below pre-recession optimism averages between 1974 and 2007. Six of the 10 business-related components studied in the survey fell from August to September.

“Small businesses just can’t seem to get out of second gear. In order for the Index to get back to the average, responses to the 10 Index component questions would have to improve 50 percentage points cumulatively. That’s a lot of ‘positive’ responses to makeup to get back to ‘average’ much less reach a level that means a solid recovery,” said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “A decline in job openings and capital spending plans were primarily responsible for September’s Index decline. Overall, small business owners are still stuck in a rut that has been difficult to escape.”

Even though small business owners’ confidence is lagging, some still report that they currently feel comfortable modestly expanding their firms. To that end, owners hired an average of 0.24 workers per firm last month compared to just 0.02 in August.

Half of the business owners reported that they had tried to hire new employees in the last month, but 42 percent said they found it difficult to find qualified candidates to fill the positions.

The number of business owners reporting sales growth for September dipped 2 points from a month prior, as 14 percent said that weak sales are their top business problem.

The slide in sales growth unsurprisingly coincides with a 5-point drop in the number of small businesses planning to make capital expenditures for business expansion or improvement.

“Overall, spending remains in ‘replacement mode,’” the report states, “not a lot of expansion except in selected markets including Texas and North Dakota.”

White House source says no AG nominee until after midterms

Add picking an attorney general to replace Eric Holder to the list of things President Barack Obama won’t do until after the 2014 midterms, as vulnerable Democrats continue to from the administration’s policies.

Washington media reported Tuesday that a source close to the White House revealed that the Obama administration decided to hold off on naming a replacement at the request of Senate Democrats to keep the nomination process from being an electoral political spectacle.

The White House has repeatedly hinted that it wants to have an AG nominee confirmed during the current lame-duck session of Congress.

“[T]here is a precedent for presidents making important Cabinet nominations and counting on Congress to confirm them promptly, even in the context of a lame-duck session, if necessary,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest recently said, noting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was confirmed during a 2006 lame-duck session and that President George Bush’s attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey, enjoyed a relatively swift confirmation.

But Obama’s decision to hold off nominating a person for the spot could complicate the prospect of a lame-duck confirmation, a reality compounded by the criticisms of Republican lawmakers.

“First it was immigration, and now Senate Democrats have asked the president to delay his announcement for attorney general so they can avoid making clear to the voters of their states where they stand on what could be a controversial choice for attorney general,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

Notably, though, Grassley had already called on the president to wait for the new Congress “to nominate a qualified individual who can start fresh relationships with Congress so that we can solve the problems facing our country.”

Army officials worry whether fighting force is large enough for global threats

With the recent release of the Army’s Operating Concept report, which details the forces future global strategy, some are worried that the nation’s largest fighting force may soon be undermanned and ill-equipped to deal with emerging international threats.

Army officials reportedly compiled the report, “Win in a Complex World,” using lessons learned from the U.S.’s more than a decade of military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan and looking ahead to emerging threats from Islamic State extremists as well as instability in North Korea and Eastern Europe.

“The title, Win in a Complex World, emphasizes ready land forces’ importance for protecting our nation and securing our vital interests against determined, elusive, and increasingly capable enemies,” the report states. “While the concept underscores the foundational capabilities the Army needs to prevent wars and shape security environments, it also recognizes that to deter enemies, reassure allies, and influence neutrals the Army must conduct sophisticated expeditionary maneuver and joint combined arms operations.”

The new strategy focuses on creating a smaller, more agile Army whose forces are scalable to operate in a variety of environments.

On Monday, however, top Army Gen. Ray Odierno expressed concerns that the Army’s fighting force will be too small to respond to emerging threats throughout the world due to troop reductions originally approved in 2011.

Those cuts would have left the Army with a force of about 490,000. But a series of budget battles between Congress and the Obama Administration in the years since has forced the Pentagon to consider deeper reductions, which could result in a force as small as 420,000.

Currently at 510,000 members, Army reduction-in-force plans are now being implemented.

“The world is changing in front of us. We have seen Russian aggression in Europe, we have seen ISIS, we have seen increased stability in other places,” Odierno said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “So I now have concern whether even going below 490,000 is the right thing to do or not, because of what I see potentially on the horizon.”

According to Odierno, Army officials could lack significant personnel resources as early as 2016 or 2017. The general is slated to step down from his post next year.

“I swore that I would never send soldiers into a place not properly prepared, trained or equipped,” he said. “I will probably get away with that because I will leave… by the beginning of the next year. But I worry for the next chief.”

Army Secretary John McHugh echoed a similar sentiment during a speech this week at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington. The official lamented that continued budgetary constraints could put the Army in danger of “wasting away,” and he called on lawmakers to put politics aside when it comes to military funding.

“This is a time for predictability, not a time for politics. We must have predictable long term funding to keep America and her allies free from fear, intimidation and tyranny,” he said. “If sequestration returns in fiscal ’16… Another round of indiscriminate cuts will gut the force to the point that we will be unable to meet the president’s defense strategic guidance. We will be at risk of wasting away.”

Lawmakers fret whether U.S. can sustain Obama’s immigration plans

A group of GOP senators is asking the Government Accountability Office to review policies of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for unaccompanied minors crossing the southern U.S. border.

In a letter to the GAO the senators question whether the U.S. is prepared to handle another influx of unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants if the Obama administration makes good on some of its immigration promises.

Senators Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) wrote, “The increase in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has strained the capacity of ORR and its grantees to provide them with appropriate accommodations and has raised questions about ORR’s management and oversight of the program. It’s unclear if a strategy has been formulated to deal with the impending surge.”

The lawmakers also have questions about what is happening to the minors who have already been released within the U.S.

“In addition, concerns have been raised about children who are subsequently released to relatives or other sponsors throughout the country, including how sponsors are screened and monitored while they have custody of the children.  The agency is responsible for the well-being of these children, yet there’s question about whether custodians and grantees are adequately being overseen once a child leaves federal custody,” the senators wrote.

The New York Times reports that the number of unaccompanied minors flowing across the southern border from Central America fell to its lowest point in two years in September “with 2,424 youths caught crossing the Southwest border.”

From the report:

The number was down from a peak of 10,622 minors apprehended in June. In all, 68,434 minors without their parents were detained along the border in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. “The worst is over for now,” Mr. Johnson said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. But he warned, “The spike in migration we saw this summer could return.”

Indeed, executive actions being considered by the White House could bring at least an additional 145,000 unaccompanied minors into the nation.