Democratic congresswoman admits Election Day won’t be pretty

As voters hit the polls for Election Day, even Democrats are predicting that the results aren’t going to be pretty for their party.

During an interview on MSNBC Monday, Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) attributed a combination of having a Democratic president in the White House and the tough political environment to the fact that “it’s not going to be a pretty Election Day” for Democrats.

“I think it’s actually — you know, the case and in midterm elections historically, the president’s party in power actually loses about 29 seats on average. And I don’t think that this midterm, frankly, is any different from others,” she said.

Edwards also noted that many key Democratic demographics have become disenchanted with some politicians on the left and, more specifically, President Obama.

For months, many of Edwards’ vulnerable colleagues up for re-election have made an effort to run away from Obama in a midterm election that most political analysts now agree will go down in history as a referendum on the president.

And Obama’s recent comments about the election certainly haven’t helped politicians on the left.

“I am not on the ballot this fall…,” the president said. “But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

America agrees: Democrats are shameless race baiters

Democrat talking heads have long claimed that racism is a key element in opposition to their policies in an effort to drum up support from minority voters. But a recent poll suggests that a majority of likely voters understand that political use of the race card is a simple ploy to pick up votes.

Rasmussen reported Monday that 78 percent of politicians who make race an issue do so not because they believe there are serious racially issues in America which must be addressed, but because they want to be elected. That’s comparted to just 7 percent who voters believe have legitimate racial concerns.

The polling numbers come out on the heels of reports that Democrats are going out of their way to get black voters to head out to the polls for the 2014 midterms. Earlier this month, a top Democratic pollster warned that politicians on the left ought to get busy energizing black voters or prepare for “crushing Democratic losses across the country” in the midterms and beyond.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, a former pollster for President Obama, wrote in the Oct. 1 memo. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

But according to the Rasmussen numbers, political race baiters are fooling no one.

Sixty-eight percent of blacks agree with 79 percent of whites and 81 percent of minorities that most politicians raise racial issues just to get reelected.

When it comes to President Obama, there is a broader consensus that opposition to his policies could include a racial component.

Via Rasmussen:

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of black voters believe those who oppose Obama’s policies do so because of racism. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of whites and 56% of other minority voters think instead that opposition is primarily because they believe the president’s policies are bad.

Among all voters, 59% think people who oppose Obama’s policies do so because they don’t like those policies. Thirty-one percent (31%) believe their opposition is due to racism, but that’s up from 28% in mid-July and up 13 points from 18% in October 2011.

Still, only 41 percent of likely voters say that racial issues are a key factor in how they vote, compared to 55 percent who say that racial issues are of little importance. Furthermore, 38 percent say that political candidates spend too much time talking about race.

Similar findings are true of the Democrats’ accusations that the GOP is waging a war on women in the U.S., with 55 percent saying that is invention.

Actor, author and conservative pundit Ben Stein weighed in on the issue of race in politics during an appearance on Fox over the weekend, accusing Democrats of trying to racialize all politics in America.

“I watch with fascination — with incredible fascination — all the stories about how the Democratic politicians,” he said, “especially Hillary [Clinton], are trying to whip up the African-American vote and say, ‘Oh, the Republicans have policies against black people in terms of the economy.’ But there are no such policies.”

Stein concluded, “It’s all a way to racialize voting in this country. This president is the most racist president there has ever been in America. He is purposely trying to use race to divide Americans.”

Secret Service visits anti-Obama artist, he tells them how he really feels about the president

A Los Angeles-based artist who has made headlines with conservative-leaning and anti-Obama artwork was visited by the Secret Service Wednesday over messages he posted to Twitter last month. During the videotaped exchange, the artist didn’t hold back in expressing his contempt for the president.

The agents, visiting to talk about tweets that the artist “may or may not have sent out” under the handle unsavoryagents, apparently told the artist, who goes by Sabo, prior to their arrival that they wanted to talk to him about possible identity theft.

Here are the tweets:

“If you didn’t send out the tweets, then somebody probably took your IP address…,” one agent said before asking, “Did you send out the tweets about bringing back Lee Harvey Oswald as a zombie?”

“How likely is that gonna happen?” Sabo answered.

The agent continued, “No, I was just asking if you sent these out. About, you know, paying the Secret Service in hookers to look the other way.”

After Sabo informed the agents that he was the author of the messages, one of the men lectured: “You’ve really gotta think about some of this stuff you’re tweeting, it could be construed in many different ways.”

That’s when Sabo made his true sentiments toward the current administration known.

“I realize we have a f*ckhead in the White House and the Constitution no longer means sh*t, but as far as I’m concerned we still have a First Amendment,” he said.

When the agents suggested that he was advocating violence, Sabo added, “Unless I could bring Lee Harvey Oswald back as a zombie, then I could see there would be some violence, but until I get the CDC a way to figure how out to make that happen, it’s a dream.”

“So,” the agent asked, “you didn’t actually intend any violence against the president?”

“Obviously not,” Sabo said. “The guy’s a jack*ss, f*ck him. I hope his plane crashes. I don’t want any violence, I’m not gonna do any violence.’

The artist then showed the agents anti-Obama toilet seats he’s working on, saying they “sell like hotcakes.”

obama toilet

Learn more about Sabo and his work here.

 

Gun control support at near record lows

Political candidates from both sides of the aisle have gone out of their way to be seen with firearms in hand in the run-up to the 2014 midterms after more than two years of anti-gun rhetoric from the White House and the left. Recent polling data reveals why: Less than half of Americans support stricter gun-control laws.

According to Gallup, only 47 percent of likely voters say that American politicians should focus their efforts on enacting stricter gun control throughout the nation. That’s compared to 52 percent who believe that gun laws are fine the way they are (38 percent) or should be made less strict (14 percent).

For comparison, when emotional calls for tighter gun control reached fever pitch in 2012 following the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 58 percent of Americans wanted lawmakers to make gun ownership more difficult.

Support for stricter gun control is just above the all-time low of 43 percent Gallup recorded in 2011.

“Ten years ago, three in five Americans … said they favored stricter laws regulating the sale of firearms, but support fell to 44 [percent] in 2009 and remained at that level in polls conducted in the next two years. Days after the Newtown shooting, support for stricter gun sale laws swelled,” the polling agency noted. “Since 2012, however, Americans have retreated from those stronger attitudes about the need for more gun control, and the percentage of Americans who say the laws should be less strict — although still low — has edged up.”

In fact, between 2012 and 2014 support for stricter gun sale laws has decreased in almost every political and demographic group. The most notable drops in support occurred among Democrats and self-described liberals (both 8 percentage points less likely to support stricter gun control today) and women (14 percentage points less likely).

The polling data shows that Americans are particularly averse to gun control proposals that would ban handguns, the firearms most often carried for concealed personal defense. Asked whether “handgun possession should be banned for everyone except the police and other authorized persons,” a near record 73 percent of Americans dissented.

Uncle Sam issues credit cards to federal employees

Rest assured that employees at the Department of Homeland Security are abrogating the Constitution and failing to enforce border policies fresh out of the gym and with a comfortable caffeine buzz, courtesy of America’s taxpayers.

Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Washington-based NBC News4 reveal that the federal government has spent in excess of $20 billion this year on “micropurchases” for items that officials aren’t required to justify to the taxpaying public.

The unjustified government spending is done by thousands of government employees in custody of credits cards handed out by Uncle Sam. State Department, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Defense officials are all swiping away, using the government cheese to make all manner of purchases which, as long as they are under $3,000, aren’t itemized or subjected to thorough oversight.

NBC News4 provided a sampling of some of the purchases revealed in the FOIA documents.

One example of questionable expenses is DHS’s $30,000 worth of drinks and other goods charged at Starbucks coffee stores, $12,000 of which at a single location in California. According to the report, many of the charges were for just under the “micropurchase” threshold of $3,000.

While most hardworking Americans wouldn’t deny federal employees free workplace coffee to combat the dreaded 2 p.m. workday slump, the “micropurchase” policies, which negate the need for a bidding process, incentivizes fraud and waste in buying office coffee supplies and ignores possible cheaper options.

And coffee isn’t the only thing federal employees are charging on taxpayer accounts with little oversight.

“A series of other recent purchases, reviewed by internal government auditors, include wasteful and inappropriate purchases by government employees — including a gym membership and JC Penney clothing — that were not detected or stopped until after the purchase was completed,” the NBC report also noted.

The problem with government “micropurchases” is not new. The Washington Post noted last week: “In 2008, the GAO issued a report that found cardholders had used their purchase cards on Internet dating sites, iPods, and expensive dinners. In 2012, Congress passed a law to implement stricter rules for the cards, but they are still difficult to contain.”

House Oversight lawmakers re-examined the issue last month, with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), Government Operations subcommittee chairman, calling the amount of taxpayer money continuing to be spent on the government issued credit cards “startling.”

The lawmaker said his subcommittee is currently investigating ways to tighten federal regulations pertaining to the purchases.

Oregon to test mileage-based tax

Amid recent calls for lawmakers to increase the federal gas tax or come up with an alternative transportation revenue scheme to offset tax losses created by increased passenger vehicle fuel efficiency, Oregon lawmakers are preparing to launch a pilot project to examine how a state mileage tax would work.

The Oregon program will allow 5,000 motorists to volunteer to either keep a travel diary or install an odometer tracker or a GPS on their vehicles to enable government officials to keep tabs on their travel habits.

“GPS will be the most hassle-free option,” Michelle Godfrey, an official involved with the implementation of the program, told The Oregonian. “But it’s also the option that people tend to dislike the most.”

Oregon motorists currently pay around between 48 cents and 52 cents per gallon on fuel — broken down, that’s 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax, a 30 cent per gallon state tax and local taxes ranging from 1 cent to 5 cents per gallon.

The Oregon Department of Transportation program will deal with the state tax, sending drivers in the pilot program a monthly bill and/or a rebate check to offset the 30 cent per gallon state tax.

It’s fitting that Oregon is at the forefront of testing new gas tax options, as it was the first state to introduce a state fuel tax all the way back in 1919.

GOP candidates embrace Rand Paul for midterm campaign help as Democrats continue run from Obama

As Democrats continue to distance themselves from President Obama ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans are rallying around firebrands in their party — especially Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

According to a piece published in Breitbart this week, Paul has traveled to 30 states over the course of the past year to campaign for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates as well as candidates running for state and local offices.

The conservative news publication noted that Paul has “probably been the GOP’s most visible and most sought after surrogate this year.”

“We’ve been getting a lot of requests, and people reach out because they think we can get voters beyond the Republican Party, we can reach independents, and in the last final days of elections, elections go one way or another based on undecideds,” Paul told Breitbart. “That’s where the real power is in politics — in those who can sway the uncommitted. I think a lot of the invitations we’ve gotten, frankly, are because they think we can have influence on the independent voters.”

Paul doesn’t think his popularity among GOP voters should come as a surprise, as “Everything the President has touched in recent months has turned to stone.”

“Running away from the President, not willing to be forthright, all of those things are just — I think the Democrats’ campaigns are just collapsing before our very eyes,” Paul told Breitbart. “The race in Colorado is sort of almost comical that Democrats are saying Republicans are against condoms. So I see a collapse of the Democrat platform right now.”

Indeed, even Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was forced to admit this week that her colleagues on the left are taking measured steps away from the president.

“As someone who is on the ballot myself in six days from now, I can tell you that any candidate wants to be able to stand on their own,” she told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Though she’s taken care not to portray Obama as a negative for Democrats in the interview, Schultz has recently struggled to name a Senate race where the president has been invited to actively campaign on behalf of a vulnerable candidate.

Ted Cruz: Run a moderate Republican in 2016 if you want Hillary to win

Many conservative voters decried Mitt Romney’s nomination as the GOP presidential candidate in the 2012 election, calling the former Massachusetts governor too moderate to excite right-leaning voters. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appeared to agree with those sentiments in a recent interview when he predicted that a similar scenario could jettison Hillary Clinton into the Oval Office in 2016.

Cruz called out Romney, along with Bob Dole and John McCain, as establishment Republicans who lacked the ability to excite broad contingents of conservative voters under the GOP umbrella. The lawmaker said that Republicans “need to learn from history.”

Asked about the buzz around the possibility of a potential Jeb Bush candidacy, Cruz said: “Jeb has not declared his candidacy. I like Jeb. I’m a fan of Jeb Bush’s. I’m going to let him decide if he’s running first and let the primary voters make a decision.”

But Cruz then suggested that, based on the results of past elections, Bush may not be the man for the job.

“[I]f we run another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole [in 1996] or a John McCain or Mitt Romney, we will end up with the same result, which is millions of people will stay home on Election Day, which is what happened for all three of them,” Cruz said on CNBC.

The senator added, “And if we run another candidate like that, Hillary Clinton will be the next president.”

Cruz has long declared that the GOP must allow more conservative candidates a shot at the nomination.

In a June New Yorker profile the senator skewered recent GOP presidential history.

“President George Herbert Walker Bush ran as a strong conservative, ran to continue the third term of Ronald Reagan, continue the Ronald Reagan revolution,” Cruz said in the piece. “Then he raised taxes and in ’92 ran as an establishment moderate — same candidate, two very different campaigns. First one won, second one lost. In 1996, you got Bob Dole; 2000 and 2004, you have George W. Bush; 2008, John McCain; 2012, Mitt Romney. And what does the entire D.C. Republican consulting class say? ‘In 2016, we need another establishment moderate!’ Hasn’t worked in four decades. ‘But next time will be the time!’”

As for a potential Cruz campaign for the presidency emerging in the run-up to 2016, the wheels already appear to be turning. The senator’s political action committee has spent more than $250,000 in recent months making donations to Republican candidates, and Cruz has crisscrossed the nation to hold more than 40 speaking fundraisers leading up to the 2016 midterms in a show of good will.

Obama White House official calls Netanyahu a cowardly ‘chickenshit’

An Obama administration official caused controversy this week for calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “chickenshit” and a “coward” who’d rather protect himself politically than make tough decisions to help de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

The anonymous official’s comments were reported by The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg in a piece titled: “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here”.

Goldberg writes:

The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively “unbreakable” bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it’s ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.

That, apparently, is not the first time a top U.S. official has insulted Netanyahu in such a sophomoric manner, as Goldberg notes:

Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)

Still, the latest remark has ignited controversy in Washington and sent the Obama administration into spin mode.

“We think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive,” Alistair Baskey, Deputy Spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council told Haaretz. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president have forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the president hosted the Prime Minister in the Oval Office.”

Meanwhile, others are wondering who the real “chickenshit” is in a match-up between Obama and Netanyahu.

chicken

Democrats losing ground with key demographics

With the 2014 midterms just days away, Democrats appear to have alienated demographics that were key to the political victories that put their man in the White House two times, according to new polling data.

A survey released this week by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University suggests that so-called millennial voters, people ages 18 to 29, are “up for grabs” in next week’s elections.

According to the results, 51 percent of people in the key demographic would prefer a Congress controlled by the GOP compared to 47 percent who feel Democrats should hold the most legislative power.

The numbers represent a reversal from polling of the millennial generation prior to the midterm elections four years ago. Back then, young voters preferred Democratic control by a 55 percent to 43 percent margin.

“Millennials could be a critical swing vote. Candidates for office: ignore millennial voters at your peril,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Director Maggie Williams.

The newfound preference for Republican candidates is likely directly related to millennials’ souring view of President Obama, whose approval rating among the demographic is just 43 percent.

A separate poll, out from The Washington Post and ABC News, shows Hispanics, another key demographic for the left, gradually shifting toward GOP support.

Two years ago, President Obama enjoyed about 70 percent support among Hispanic voters. According to the polling numbers out this week, however, the demographic is ambivalent about the importance of Democrats retaining control of the Senate.

Fifty percent of Latinos say that they don’t care who controls the Senate next month. And among those who do care 30 percent say Republican control would be a positive, compared to 15 percent who worry about the prospect.

 

Poll shows Americans are furious

A new poll reports that 70 percent of Americans expressed outright anger at the direction the country is headed and 53 percent don’t think President Obama is doing his job satisfactorily.

According to the CNN/ORC poll:

  • 30 percent of Americans are “very angry” about the way things are going in the country.
  • 38 percent are “somewhat angry” about the way things are going in the country.

Just under a third of those polled expressed “no anger” at all.

According to CNN polling director Keating Holland, the number of “very angry” Americans is in line with the 2010 mood of the nation just before Republicans regained control of the House.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds similar sentiments among likely voters.

Via The Washington Post:

Six in 10 say they cannot trust the government in Washington to do what is right — the same as a year ago in the aftermath of the government shutdown and the botched rollout of the federal Web site for the Affordable Care Act.

With multiple crises confronting the country — including the spread of Ebola in West Africa and cases here at home, as well as threats from Islamic State militants — a majority now says the government’s ability to deal with big problems has declined in the past few years. Among those who say this, more — by 3 to 1 — blame Obama and the Democrats rather than Republicans in Congress.

That’s good news for a GOP looking for a net gain of six seats needed to control the Senate following the 2014 midterms.

Local police bring military vehicle to collect civil judgment against elderly resident

SCREENSHOT/Roger Hoeppner runs a pallet repair business.

Police officers in Stettin, Wisconsin, recently sent a militarized 24-man SWAT team and an armored vehicle to collect fines from a 75-year-old man whose property was deemed untidy by local officials.

Following what his lawyer, Ryan Lister, described as a “long-running, heavily litigated dispute” over how he used his 20-acre property, Roger Hoeppner was ordered to clean up his land or face a $500-a-day fine.

Here’s a little background on the case, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Hoeppner owns about 20 acres along Packer Drive, which runs nearly parallel with Highway 29 west of Wausau, where he restores antique tractors and runs a pallet repair business. The latter at times featured giant piles of the wooden pallets visible from Packer Drive.

In 2008, the town sued Hoeppner over claimed violations of ordinances about zoning, signs, rubbish and vehicles. About a year later, the two sides settled; Hoeppner was supposed to clean up his property, and the town was supposed to open discussions about its zoning.

The town felt Hoeppner had not complied, and it brought a motion for contempt and enforcement. In September 2010, a judge ordered Hoeppner to remove certain items from his land.

The following May, the judge found Hoeppner had still not complied and authorized the town to seize assets. In the summer of 2011, the town hauled away several tractors, pallets, equipment and other items and auctioned them off for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Lister.

The fine went into effect after the elderly man lost a final appeal in March. By October, without notifying Hoeppner or his attorney, the county’s jack-boot brigade was sent to his home to collect $86,000 they say he owed.

“Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice… and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment [with a show of force],” the man’s lawyer told the local newspaper.

That’s right, 24 armed men and a military vehicle stormed the man’s property while his lawyer, after being notified that the police had arrived and heading to the scene, was detained at a nearby roadblock — all in order to collect a civil judgment.

The elderly Hoeppner must be known locally as one bad S.O.B., huh? Well, not exactly, but local Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean explained that he had been known to be argumentative. Also, the official said, officers didn’t bring out the military vehicle until Hoeppner refused to come out of his house.

“People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” Bean said.

(No doubt, if towns are going to be in the business of telling hardworking Americans how they are allowed to use their personal property, confiscating their belongs and robbing them of their retirement savings, military vehicles could come in handy.)

The argumentative elderly man eventually gave in to the police demands.

“The $86,000 figure is enough to shock most men,” he said. “And they wanted it now, today.”

Hoeppner eventually settled with the town for $80,000 after officials graciously allowed him to keep $6,000 to cover the cost of removing remaining items from his property.

Chicago activists say Democrats and abusive black leaders are African-Americans’ ‘real oppressors’

Earlier this month, a top Democratic pollster warned that politicians on the left ought to get busy energizing black voters or prepare for “crushing Democratic losses across the country” in the 2014 midterms and beyond. But if the message coming from a group of black activists in Chicago this week is any indication, Democrats have their work cut out for them.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, a former pollster for President Obama, wrote in the Oct. 1 memo. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

Belcher undoubtedly has a specific type of black voter in mind when he suggests that the left should be organizing in an effort to reach out to the “over half” of potential African-American surge voters who could potentially save the bacon for Democrat candidates in places like Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina.

We’re guessing (pure conjecture) he’s looking for folks like this:

To be sure, Belcher isn’t suggesting that Democrats reach out to black voters who resembling Chicago activists Paul McKinley, Mark Carter, Joseph Watkins and Harold “Noonie” Ward, the stars of a recent video imploring African-Americans to consider who the “real oppressors” of their community are.

According to the activists, the answer is abusive black leaders and the broader Democratic Party.

“They always talk about black on black crime, and when you hear the words black on black crime, the first thing you think of is a black man is a black man robbing you or breaking in your house, and that is a black on black crime,” McKinley said. “But let’s take it one step further. There’s a black on black crime down in city hall, there’s a black on black crime down in all the state capitols in America, where all the black folks are voting against our interests.”

The activist used Detroit as an example of black leaders harming black residents.

“In Detroit, where are your leaders at? There’s no white folks running Detroit cutting water on black folks… them black folks running that city,” he said.

The dysfunction in heavily Democratic areas stems directly from neoliberal agendas pushed by politicians, the activists contend. They also point out that there are usually no Tea Party groups to blame for black suffering in predominately Democratic cities.

“We are always talking about what the Republicans haven’t done for us or what they will do to hurt us,” activist Joseph Watkins said in the video. “My life has been hurt by Democrats.”

According to RebelPundit.com, where the video was originally released, the men in the video all took to the streets of Chicago to fight against the injustices in their community after learning from mistakes in their past that led to prison time.

Report: Post Office allowed law enforcement to scrutinize 50,000 pieces of mail last year

Electronic surveillance of digital communications is routinely in the headlines these days. But a report out this week from The New York Times reveals that Americans with privacy concerns should also be worried about government spying on old-fashioned snail mail.

According to reports, the U.S. Postal Service approved almost 50,000 requests from law enforcement agencies and its own mail-inspection wing to monitor Americans’ parcels for criminal investigations and national security concerns last year.

The information was obtained from the a 2014 audit conducted by the Postal Services inspector general, which Politico recently reported, as well as Freedom of Information requests filed by The Times.

Via a June Politico report:

The Office of Inspector General audit of so-called “mail covers” — orders to record addresses or copy the outside of all mail delivered to an individual or an address — found that about 20 percent of the orders implemented for outside law enforcement agencies were not properly approved, and 13 percent were either unjustified or not correctly documented.

Meanwhile, some of the safeguards set up to catch these shortcomings were missing: The Postal Service wasn’t regularly conducting the annual reviews required by federal rules.

While many Americans have abandoned so-called snail mail for most of their communications, the auditors found the Post Office issued 49,000 mail cover orders in the past fiscal year. And postal workers were often slow to stop recording and sending data on mail even after those orders expired: The audit found 928 covers considered “active” even though the orders for them had expired.

The Postal Service “mail covers” surveillance has been going on for more than a century and has been lauded by investigators as a means for law enforcement to learn intimate details about the business and personal relationships of people suspected of crimes.

Officials are unable to open suspects’ mail without a warrant. But address information (both recipient and return) and the names of people on packages often helps to build cases.

The Times expanded on the depth of the Postal Service snooping Monday:

The mail cover surveillance requests cut across all levels of government — from global intelligence investigations by the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, which requested 500 mail covers from 2001 through 2012, to state-level criminal inquiries by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which requested 69 mail covers in the same period. The Department of Veterans Affairs requested 305, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security asked for 256. The information was provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information request.

Postal officials did not say how many requests came from agencies in charge of national security — including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection — because release of the information, wrote Kimberly Williams, a public records analyst for the Postal Inspection Service, “would reveal techniques and procedures for law enforcement or prosecutions.”

While the Postal surveillance programs are not as sweeping as the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of electronic communications, there are some similarities.

For instance, the Postal Service photographs billions of envelopes and packages each year through its Mail Imaging program. Those images are used primarily for processing of mail, though there have been instances where law enforcement requested information stored as part of the program.

Another program put into place following mail anthrax attacks, the Mail Isolation and Tracking Program, specifically targets packages that could potentially contain biohazards and places them under additional investigative scrutiny.

The NSA’s actions and Postal Service surveillance are also tied together by insistences from the administrations of both Barack Obama and George W. Bush that the “mail cover” programs justify the NSA’s surveillance in the electronic realm.

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.