No wonder he’s clueless: Obama has attended less than half of daily intelligence briefings

President Barack Obama blamed intelligence community failures for his foreign policy ineptitude in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday. But a new report out from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) reveals another explanation for why the president doesn’t seem to know what’s going on: He has attended less than half of his daily intelligence briefings since taking office.

“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama passed the buck on Monday.

In a study of Obama’s first 2,079 days in office, running from Jan. 20, 2009 through Sept. 29, 2014, compiled from the White House calendar and information gathered from POLITICO, GAI found that the president attended a total of 875 intelligence briefings over the course of 2,079 days in office.

That means Obama has attended only 42.09 percent of his Presidential Daily Briefs.

GAI also compared the president’s briefing attendance during his first and second terms:

First Term: President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 and was re-elected in November 2012. Between January 20, 2009 and January 19, 2013, President Obama attended 620 PDBs over a possible 1,461 days for a 42.43% attendance rate.

Second Term: President Obama was inaugurated for his second term on January 20, 2013. Between January 20, 2013 and September 29, 2014, President Obama attended 255 PDBs over a possible 618 days for a 41.26% attendance rate.

This isn’t the first time Obama’s intelligence briefing attendance has come under fire. In 2012, GAI reported that the president preferred to receive written versions of intelligence briefs over having face-to-face meetings with intelligence officials.

At the time, former White House press secretary Jay Carney laughed off questions about Obama’s attendance at the crucial daily meetings.

“He gets it every day, OK? The president of the United States gets the presidential daily briefing every day,” Carney said. “There is a document that he reads every day when he is not — well, he always reads it every day because he’s a voracious consumer of all of his briefing materials.”

But as the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Thiessen pointed out in September 2012 (and Obama’s foreign policy aloofness has since proven), the process of quizzing intelligence officials on matters of national security and global threats “cannot be replicated on paper.”

In a recent Daily Beast piece about Obama’s attempt to blame intelligence officials for the mess in the Middle East, a senior Pentagon official summed the president’s claims up thusly: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”

Groups call on Obama to undo his administration’s damage to Freedom of Information laws

A group of government transparency advocates delivered a letter to the White House Monday calling on the Obama administration to do away with its policy of reviewing Freedom of Information Act requests determined by the executive to contain “White House equities.” The policy has “caused significant confusion and delay among agencies in their compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.”

In 2009, the Obama White House handed down an edict requiring agencies to present all FOIA requests, including “documents and records, whether in oral, paper, or electronic form, that relate to communications to and from the White House, including preparations for such communications,” to the executive branch for review.

According to transparency advocates, the requirement creates confusion as federal agencies attempt to comply with FOIA requests because it was put into place without any official statute, rule making or other guidance. Furthermore, the group argues that the 2009 memo interferes with congressional oversight and contradicts FOIA’s intended purpose of allowing public access to government records.

“Not surprisingly, a policy based around protecting an ill-defined term can sow confusion among agency officials and the public, and make it very hard to know exactly the effect of the policy,” OpenTheGovernment.org director Patrice McDermott said in a statement.

In one example of how “White House equities” may have been abused to keep damaging knowledge out of public view, the Obama administration reviewed FOIA requests seeking more information about the General Services Administration’s (GSA) egregious abuses of taxpayer dollars in recent years.

“E-mails between GSA and the White House Counsel’s Office show that the Administration affirmatively sought to review document requests related to politically-sensitive issues,” Cause of Action, one of the signatories to the letter sent this week, reported earlier in the year.

This is not the first time Obama’s “most transparent” administration has come under fire for other FOIA practices and attempts to keep government information out of public view.

The administration has routinely been criticized by the members of the nation’s press for everything from denying access to outright intimidation of sources. Furthermore, its record on whistleblower protection is abysmal.

“Public promises of transparency are no excuse for secret memos that prevent it. Americans deserve a government that is fair and open and delaying the release of documents prevents the ability of a free press to educate the public,” Cause of Action director Dan Epstein said in a statement. “Our hope is that President Obama honors the laws in place designed to provide transparency, such as the Freedom of Information Act, and withdraws this 2009 memo.”

Poll after poll shows GOP gaining momentum in key Senate races

A series of electoral forecasting models are predicting that the likelihood of Republicans winning enough seats to take the Senate this fall is growing. Prognosticators have credited momentum in GOP races in Alaska, Colorado and Iowa as the driving force behind the trend.

Real Clear Politics (RCP) last week reported that Alaska GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan holds a 4.7-point lead over Democrat Mark Begich. The RCP finding was calculated by averaging results from Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling and CBS/NYT/YouGov, which, respectively, show Sullivan leading by 5, 3 and 6 points.

In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardener currently holds a narrower lead over Democrat Mark Udall, with an RCP average of 0.8 points. That’s based on USA Today/Suffolk, Quinnipiac, Denver Post/ SurveyUSA and Rasmussen polling showing the GOP candidate leading by 1, 8, 4 and 2 points, respectively.

RCP reports that Iowa Republican Joni Ernst leads Democrat Bruce Braley by an average of 2.2 points. Both Rasmussen and Fox News are reporting a tie in polling results for the two, while the Des Moines Register and Quinnipiac both award Ernst a lead of 6 points. A CNN/Opinion Research poll is the outlier among the data set, reporting that Braley currently holds a 1-point lead.

Numbers on the three races reported by The Washington Post’s Election Lab give even more favor to the GOP contenders. According to The Post, there is a 68 percent chance that Sullivan will take the seat for the GOP in Alaska, a 66 percent chance Republicans will celebrate a Gardener victory in Colorado and an 83 percent chance that Ernst will become a GOP senator from Iowa.

According to the Washington Post’s overall assessment, the GOP could pick up a total of seven Senate seats in the forthcoming midterms, putting them one seat over the required 51 spots for majority control of the upper Congressional chamber.

White House spokesman says Obama isn’t passing the buck on ISIS; everyone else disagrees

White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the president Monday, telling reporters that Barack Obama wasn’t passing the buck when he blamed intelligence failures for the Islamic State’s rise to power in Iraq and Syria.

“The president’s commander in chief, and he’s the one who takes responsibility for ensuring that we have the kinds of policies in place that are required to protect our interests around the globe,” Earnest said in response to questions about remarks Obama made in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.

Obama had said, “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

The president’s comments set off a firestorm of controversy among GOP lawmakers and some members of the intelligence community, who have argued that Obama should blame himself for failure to act on information provided.

“I very much doubt that the intelligence community was asleep at the switch while [ISIS] was gaining strength in Syria,” former State Department special adviser on Syria Frederic Hoff told The Telegraph. “None of this was exactly hidden from view.

“No doubt President Obama and his advisors were perplexed when it came to policy options, and no doubt the scope and speed of the [ISIS] thrust into Iraq were surprising. But I doubt that the U.S. intelligence community is to blame for any policy shortfalls.”

Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz.) called Obama’s remark a “dog ate my homework speech.”

“Every president in history had made a mistake, acknowledged it and then moved on. President Reagan with Iran contra, President Clinton in Bosnia, President George W. Bush after the debacle in Iraq, when he started the surge — but it doesn’t seem to be in this president’s DNA,” he told Fox News.

As reporters pelted him with questions about the president’s refusal to admit his administration’s failures in the Middle East, Earnest turned the tables to attack Republicans who have said that U.S. boots on the ground may become an unavoidable reality in the fight against ISIS.

House Speaker John Boehner said of ISIS Sunday, “At the end of the day, I think it’s gonna take more than air strikes to drive them outta there. At some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.”

Earnest told reporters the remark was unsurprising.

“That’s something that senior members of the Republican Party advocated in the previous administration,” he said. “It’s something that senior members of the Republican Party advocate in this administration.”

But it isn’t just Republican lawmakers who foresee U.S. troops fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll released over the weekend, 72 percent of respondents said that they believe the U.S. will end up using boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria despite the Obama administration’s repeated promises that troops will not be deployed in a combat capacity.

The results of that poll were exaggerated Monday with reports that ISIS fighters are reportedly staging roughly one mile outside of Baghdad even though U.S. airstrikes were supposed to keep the fighters from reaching the city.

Daily Read: Everything is racist

The Daily Caller’s long-running series, “The Alphabet Of Racism,” offers a satirical look at how political correctness can be used to deem almost anything racist.

“If you’ve been thinking lately that pretty much everything has been deemed racist these days, you are absolutely right,” The DC’s Eric Owens wrote on the inaugural edition of the column back in July. “The word has been bandied about so much that it is rapidly losing any real meaning.”

Indeed, here’s an excerpt from the July edition:

Air is racist, according to a Think Progress article published in April. “[N]on-white people breathe air that is substantially more polluted than the air that white people breathe,” the breathless piece explains. “Altogether, people of color in the U.S. breath [sic] air with 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide in it than their white counterparts, particularly due to power plants and exhaust from vehicles.”

This week, Owens finds seven innocuous things starting with the letters “U” and “V” that progressive have deemed racist. They include the University of Utah’s fight song, venture capital and the word “urban,” among other things.

The best excerpt from the column this week is DC’s explanation of the PC police justification for deeming the word “unqualified” as a racial epithet:

The word “unqualified” is racist because it’s a “code word” used by Republicans to attack people who do their jobs completely ineffectively, such as U.S. National Security Advisor and former U.S. diplomat Susan Rice. The context of the fracas over the word came in November 2012 after Rice had comically embarrassed herself while talking about the attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. “These are code words,” said Democratic congressman James Clyburn, according to Mediate. “We heard them during the campaign. During this recent campaign, we heard Senator Sununu calling our president ‘lazy,’ ‘incompetent,’ these kinds of terms.”

Find out what else is in this week’s racist alphabet and catch up on letters “A” through “T” over at The Daily Caller.

Majority of Americans expect boots on the ground in Iraq, Syria

A strong majority of Americans believe that President Barack Obama’s current strategy to defeat Islamic State terrorists will fail, requiring U.S. troops to be deployed to Iraq and Syria.

In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll released over the weekend, 72 percent of respondents said that they believe the U.S. will end up using boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria despite the Obama administration’s repeated promises that troops will not be deployed in a combat capacity.

“As your commander in chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama told members of the military this month. “After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures. And that’s the only solution that will succeed over the long term.”

Even as a majority believe that a combat mission is inevitable, Americans are more divided on whether they support the idea of ground troops being sent to the region. Forty-five percent say that combat troops should be used if military commanders believe that is the best way to neutralize ISIS, while 37 percent are opposed to boots on the ground in any scenario.

Still, public perception about the U.S.’s roll in responding to the ISIS threat is evolving rapidly. Just three weeks ago, a WSJ/NBC poll found that only 34 percent of Americans supported boots on the ground, while 40 percent said the U.S. should relegate its ISIS strategy to airstrikes.

Is Big Sis in the running for attorney general spot?

Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general last week has led to widespread speculation about whom the Obama administration will pick as a replacement. There are rumors that former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is on the administration’s list of top contenders.

Based on comments made by people with close ties to the attorney general’s office, it’s likely that the Obama administration is seeking primarily female candidates for the AG position.

During an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law School professor with ties to the first family and Holder, repeatedly used female pronouns when referring to a possible replacement.

“I said she would be a great attorney general. And I’m not gonna put her name out. We’ll just see what happens, because I don’t want her to not be able to be confirmed by the Senate,” he told MSNBC’s Alex Witt. “And I think he’s gonna be sitting there for a long time waiting for the Republican senators to confirm a Democratic candidate, but I think she will be a great attorney general, and she will be in the steps of Janet Reno and other people and I think that will be great for the White House and the Department of Justice.”

On Thursday, POLITICO noted that Napolitano had been very close to being handed the position before:

There’s also at least one high-profile long-shot on the informal list being circulated inside Obama’s camp: former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who left Washington in 2013 to take over the massive University of California system, according to one Democrat with close ties to the White House. Napolitano was the original choice for the job at the start of Obama’s first term — a favorite of then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Holder, who had considered himself the sole front-runner for the job, was startled during the 2008-09 transition period when he was handed a Department of Justice binder that included headshots of himself and Napolitano as potential AGs.

The Holder-Napolitano rivalry was legendary: Once, after the former Arizona governor asked Holder about his future plans, the AG joked to a friend, “Sometimes I feel like Janet is touching me just to see if I’m still warm.”

Napolitano, who served as Arizona’s governor and attorney general before her stint at DHS, is currently the president of the University of California system. During the Clinton administration, Napolitano served as U.S. attorney for Arizona; and she has been considered for nomination to the Supreme Court in the past.

Napolitano’s tenure at DHS routinely brought her into the media spotlight as she attempted to defend her agency in multiple controversies. Under her watch, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was accused of failing to enforce immigration laws because of a policy of “prosecutorial discretion” that allowed ICE officials to ignore certain immigration violations. She was also visible in debates about Transportation Security Administration abuses.

“Secretary Napolitano’s tenure at the Department of Homeland Security was defined by a consistent disrespect for the rule of law,” said Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) when she stepped down.

If Napolitano is offered the position, there’s a chance she isn’t willing to give up her new gig to serve as AG for the final two years of the Obama presidency.

Andrew Gordon, a friend and former colleague of Napolitano, told Arizona Central that he’d be surprised if she took the spot.

“She’s new at the University of California. She loves her job. She finds it very challenging. She finds it really interesting. I haven’t spoken to her, but I would be very surprised,” he said.

Sunday Shows: Lawmakers call for vote on ISIS response, Obama passes the buck

Guests on Sunday’s political television shows focused largely on the ongoing U.S. mission to weaken Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria and President Barack Obama’s evolving strategy in the region.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, warning that the U.S. may have “no choice” but to send ground troops to Iraq and Syria to destroy the ISIS terror network.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s gonna take more than air strikes to drive them outta there,” he said. “At some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.”

Boehner acknowledged that the president has staunchly opposed the idea of sending in troops, but noted that the U.S. should do whatever it takes to finish the job of defeating ISIS.

“If I were the president, I probably wouldn’t have talked about what I wouldn’t do. And maybe we can get enough of these forces trained and get ‘em on the battlefield. But somebody’s boots have to be there,” Boehner said.

The House Speaker added that, given ISIS’s stated mission, the U.S. has no choice but defeating the group.

“These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re gonna pay the price,” he said.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy (Conn.) also weighed in on the current U.S. response to the ISIS threat and the possibility of an expanding war during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Murphy lamented that the U.S. lacks a “realistic political strategy” to dismantle ISIS without a full-scale military conflict unraveling in Syria.

“What we know is you ultimately can’t defeat ISIS with a military strategy alone, you need a realistic political strategy and I just don’t think we have that today in Syria right now,” he said.

The Democrat said that the White House’s plan to rely on Syrian rebels to beat ISIS is likely to fail.

“Ultimately, I don’t think we have a partner in the Free Syrian Army, who ultimately can win that fight militarily, so I worry you get sucked into a long-term conflict,” Murphy said.

The lawmaker said that, because there may be a necessary expansion of U.S. military force, the White House should seek explicit permission from Congress to use the military in Syria.

“That’s the check of a war without end is a Congress speaking for the American people that can put an end date on an authorization for military force or put a limitation so you can’t use ground troops,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s suggestions echo the opinion of fellow Senate Democrat Tim Kaine (Va.), who called Sunday for Congress to go back into session for a vote on whether the U.S. should declare war against ISIS.

“We’re not supposed to start a war without Congress,” Kaine, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The Virginia Democrat has sponsored legislation that would, with limitations on executive power, formally authorize the White House’s ISIS strategy.

“I include a sunset where the president would have to come back and keep Congress informed to extend the mission beyond a year, a limitation on ground forces, repeal of the 2002 Iraq authorization so we don’t have dueling authorizations out there, and a careful definition of who the target is,” he said.

Republican Senator John Barrasso (Wyo.) also called for Congressional authorization for military action against ISIS Sunday.

“The president has an obligation to call us back to start this debate,” Barrasso told Fox News, noting that Britain’s prime minister recently held a vote in Parliament on military action against ISIS.

“The decision to go to war was to be made by the people closest to the ground, the elected officials, to make those decisions,” Barrasso added. “I think that the public deserves it, they should be demanding it.”

President Barack Obama appeared in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night to defend his ISIS strategy and blame intelligence failures for what the public has largely viewed as a delayed and mismanaged response to the terror threat.

“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that Obama is currently dealing with the consequences of his previous foreign policy failures.

“We are quite late at addressing the problem and there are people who will agree that had we addressed the issue of how do we empower the more moderate opposition to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad two years ago, ISIS might never have taken off,” Chertoff said in an interview with The Hill.

Rand Paul tells religious conservatives they have a friend in liberty

Back in February, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told an American Principles Project that his libertarian leanings do not equate to a libertine ideology. The senator emboldened that message Friday, telling a crowd at the Values Voters summit that liberty is a natural ally to the beliefs held by social conservatives in the United States.

“Where there is liberty there is always plenty of space for God,” Paul said at the conclusion of his speech this week.

Paul argued that social conservatives can make a bigger impact on the nation’s moral values by seeking a “revival” in socially conservative cultural norms rather than attempting to force social legislation through Congress.

“What we need is something more than laws. We need something that civilizes a nation, and that is virtue,” he said. “What America really needs is a revival.”

Paul argued against the notion that people are forced to make a choice between liberty and virtue, a position which often leads religious voters to stand firmly behind doomed single-issue social conservatives at the polls.

The great achievement of the Constitution’s framers, Paul contends, was in providing a means for synthesizing freedom and tradition.

Paul also used his speech to explain how a philosophy fusing liberty and virtue plays in to his foreign policy positions.

“Our foreign policy has too often accepted war instead of peace and intervention instead of strength, leading to unintended consequences,” he said.

While it is important for American Christians to stand behind Christians currently being persecuted in the Middle East, Paul said, “That does not necessarily mean war and that certainly doesn’t mean arming both sides in every conflict.”

Paul said that the U.S. should certainly refuse aid to any country where Christians face religious persecution, such as in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian currently imprisoned in Pakistan.

“[Until Bibi] is freed, Pakistan should not receive a penny of U.S. aid,” Paul said.

Budget Analysis: One-quarter of people in ‘prime working years’ unemployed in Obama economy

A new chart released by the GOP minority members of the Senate Budget Committee illustrates an unsettling reality: Nearly one-quarter of Americans ages 25 to 54 are jobless.

According to the chart, 28.9 million Americans who are in their prime working years are now absent from the labor market, compared to 95.6 million 25- to 54-year-olds who are currently employed.

Among those unemployed, the GOP Budget Committee members report, 10 million U.S. men in their prime working years “are simply not working.”

---Million-Men-In-Prime-Working-Years-Are-Simply-Not-Working

One out of 8 men in the U.S. have left the labor force altogether, according to the GOP numbers. That’s the highest level of labor force disengagement among men ages 25 to 54 since records began in 1955.

Record---In---American-Men-In-Their-Prime-Working-Years-Are-Not-In-The-Labor-Force

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee explain:

There are 124.5 million Americans in their prime working years (ages 25-54). Nearly one-quarter of this group — 28.9 million people, or 23.2 percent of the total — is not currently employed. They either became so discouraged that they left the labor force entirely, or they are in the labor force but unemployed. This group of non-employed individuals is more than 3.5 million larger than before the recession began in 2007.

Those attempting to minimize the startling figures about America’s vanishing workforce — workplace participation overall is near a four-decade low — will say an aging population is to blame. But in fact, while the workforce overall has shrunk nearly 10 million since 2009, the cohort of workers in the labor force ages 55 to 64 has actually increased over that same period, with many delaying retirement due to poor economic conditions.

The Department of Labor continues to report modest declines in jobless rates, despite the abysmal numbers above. That’s largely because the DOL statistics don’t count Americans who have given up looking for work as jobless; all of those people are, in the eyes of government, happily unemployed.

Daily Read: If the police are to be militarized, they should follow military crowd control guidelines

Tactical officers work their way north on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)

As riot police made headlines in Ferguson, Missouri, last month for mistreating protesters, Gawker’s Adam Weinstein penned a column titled “Don’t Call the Police ‘Militarized.’ The Military Is Better Than This.” His main point, and a valid one, was that the U.S. military is more disciplined and better trained than the civilian officers getting their hands on heavy-duty battle equipment.

From the piece:

Despite their expensive costuming, the police in Ferguson are putting on an unsophisticated, unscripted performance, a copy without an original. If these cops were to take a page out of the Army’s book on crowd control, it would be an improvement. But they seem to be making up tactics to go with the gear they’ve acquired.

It goes without saying that the American military is not benign or without defect. Its primary job—and the orientation of its training and equipping—is to defeat violent threats with superior firepower and maneuver. It an inherently violent mission. The military is an inherently violent institution.

As the Ferguson saga played out, social media was alight with comments from veterans and active duty military personnel who were often quick to point out overkill and a lack of discipline and restraint among the heavily-armed officers.

overkill

Reason magazine recently spoke with former Army officer Jason Fritz, a West Point graduate, about the disconnect between military and civilian police crowd control tactics.

In a piece published by the magazine this week, Fritz officers militarized police departments throughout the nation five lessons based on the guidelines in the US Army Technique Publication 3-39.33.

They are:

1. Training Saves Lives

Leaders and police must have an understanding of how, when, and to what degree to use force, and this is only accomplished through extensive training. Buying equipment is just the beginning. Often having the equipment without training is more dangerous than not having any equipment at all.

2. Understand the Crowd

Crowds are composed of real people expressing a real grievance. Most protesters are law-abiding citizens exercising their fundamental right to assembly. They must be respected.

3. Openly Communicate with Protest Leaders

Using open dialogue with protest leaders as this often avoids misunderstandings and results in protesters policing themselves. Coercion of crowds, on the other hand, rarely results in good outcomes and often exacerbates the unrest.

4. Initiate a Graduated and Proportional Response

Police should negotiate their actions based on crowd behavior. A non-violent crowd warrants a non-violent police response. The unnecessary use of tear gas and guns tends to add to crowd panic and tends to increase rather than decrease unrest. If the crowd becomes violent, police should respond with the least amount of force necessary.

5. Record Everything

Recording everything in a civil disturbance helps hold everyone accountable for their actions — police and protestors alike. In addition to the police recording themselves, the media should not be treated as an enemy. Stifling and repressing the media only gives the impression that the police are trying to hide something.

Fritz discusses the five lessons in further detail in a video produced by Reason’s Amanda Winkler:

Check out Reason’s full piece, “5 Lessons Police MUST Learn from the Military on Crowd Control,” here.

Read Weinstein’s August column, “Don’t Call the Police ‘Militarized.’ The Military Is Better Than This,” here.

Why Defense Contractors Must Love ISIS

For most Americans, anxiety is the only thing that increases when global unrest makes the world look like it is on fire. But in the defense industry, global turmoil means soaring stock prices.

According to numbers from Bloomberg, Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) is leading the nation’s biggest defense contractors in a trend of higher-than-ever stock prices. The trend can mostly be attributed to President Barack Obama’s declaration that the U.S. will conduct open-ended airstrikes on Iraq and Syria, leading shareholders to anticipate rising sales in drones, missiles and other implements of death and destruction.

“As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Jack Ablin, a defense investing expert, told Bloomberg. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.”

Defense stocks are currently outpacing the broader market, as Bloomberg’s index of the four largest Pentagon contractors shows 19 percent growth for the companies this year. That’s compared to 2.2 percent growth for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

And there is plenty of money to go around for the military contractors. Fortune reports: “American military operations targeting ISIS have cost some $600 million since mid-June, with the U.S. now spending more than $7.5 million a day on the conflict by the Pentagon’s own accounting.”

Thanks to the open-ended nature of the Obama Administration’s ISIS strategy, no one is sure how long the trend will continue — though most military experts say to expect years rather than months.

On Monday, U.S. forces reportedly launched 200 munitions along with 47 Raytheon-made Tomahawk missiles, at about $1.5 million a pop.

With the $85 billion Overseas Contingency Operations account at the ready and Congress’s usual giddiness to fund military operations, there is undoubtedly more where that came from.

Sharpton says he’ll pick next AG

If you were excited that race-card Eric Holder is on his way out of the Attorney General’s office, this may ruin your day: The Rev. Al Sharpton says his civil rights organization, the National Action Network, is trying to help the White House pick Holder’s successor.

“We are engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General Holder,” Sharpton said in a statement.

Sharpton suggested that he’d like to see the next AG be similar to Holder.

“The resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder is met with both pride and disappointment by the Civil Rights community,” he said. “We are proud that he has been the best Attorney General on Civil Rights in U.S. history and disappointed because he leaves at a critical time when we need his continued diligence most.”

The next AG, Sharpton said, should urgently take up investigations on racially charged matters such as the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose death sparked the Ferguson, Missouri, riots.

“As I stood with the families of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, and called on the Justice Department to take over the criminal investigations of those cases …. today, we hope Attorney General Holder will authorize this before his departure or that it becomes the first order of business for his successor,” Sharpton said.

It seems ridiculous that Sharpton would have anything to do with selecting a new AG. But a POLITICO article from August, “How Al Sharpton became Obama’s go-to man on race,” reveals how much faith the president has in Sharpton.

From the piece:

If anything, the Ferguson crisis has underscored Sharpton’s role as the national black leader Obama leans on most, a remarkable personal and political transformation for a man once regarded with suspicion and disdain by many in his own party. It’s a status made all the more surprising given that Obama, America’s first black president, ran on a platform of moving beyond the country’s painful racial divisions while Sharpton is the man who once defined those divisions for many Americans.

We’ll just leave this here for fun:

Dubya 2.0?: President Obama’s pivot on ISIS

President Barack Obama is receiving criticism from both sides of the political divide for calling for U.S. airstrikes to deal with the Islamic State terror threat in the Middle East without seeking congressional approval.

Former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod appeared on MSNBC Wednesday, saying that Senator Obama would have been among the lawmakers calling on the president to seek authorization from Congress for the strikes.

“I suspect that Senator Obama would have been one of those pressing for a debate and a vote on this,” Axelrod said on MSNBC. “And so it’s interesting. When a guy becomes president of the United States, he’s invested with the responsibility of being commander in chief. You have to make different judgments because the politics can get very difficult.”

The Obama administration has said that it would “welcome” a vote from Congress to authorize the strikes, but maintains that the level of military action the president has pursued does not require a legislative go-ahead.

Axelrod says that Congress, despite calls from some lawmakers to the contrary, doesn’t want to have to deal with the politics of a vote on ISIS.

“The leaders didn’t want to vote, that’s why there wasn’t a vote,” he said. “It was a potentially sticky issue, and so they said, ‘No, no, you take care of it.'”

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday, Bloomberg Politics editor John Heilmann said that President Obama’s current maneuvers in the Middle East are making people on both sides of the political divide uncomfortable because of similarities to George W. Bush’s war policies.

“This continuation largely of Bush policies — whether it’s been on drone strikes, dealing with the war on terror, broadly defined — has been a through line of the Obama administration,” Heilemann said. “The left doesn’t want to admit that he’s more Bush-like than he is and the right doesn’t want to admit he’s more Bush-like than he is. The right wants to call him a hippy pacifist and the left wants to call him the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s who’s all for holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya.’ Neither side sees the guy for what he really is.”

Host Joe Scarborough agreed with the assessment.

“They’re both wrong and it’s absolutely insane for the left to attack George W. Bush for his policies and not look at Barack Obama’s,” Scarborough said. “For right wingers to say, oh, this guy is weak and he’s a this and he’s a that. You look at the drone strikes — he’s made some tough decisions, some decisions where I think he’s gone too far.”

“You know what he’s done?” Scarborough continued. “He’s followed public opinion. You can criticize him for that and praise him for that, but he’s followed public opinion. He has been on foreign policy where the American people have been.”

Fox Radio’s John Gibson, on the heels of Obama’s Wednesday UN speech on ISIS, declared that Obama is a “shape-shifter” who “becomes Bush when convenient.”

“Obama the war phobic stayed home. Obama the wartime commander in chief showed up. He condemned ISIS and radical Islam. He bragged about his 40-country coalition,” he asserted. “He promised he and his coalition would not rest until this threat was exterminated. Or something.

“And his speechwriters pored over the George W. speeches for some red meat. Remember the Bush’s Axis of Evil?” Gibson continued. “Obama and his people have whooped it up with scorn, derision and mocking over that. Now we hear Obama speak of an ISIS ‘Network of Death.’”

Daily Read: Where are Washington’s leaders?

There are plenty of leaders in Washington, D.C., but can any of them actually lead? That’s the question posed in a recent column written by POLITICO’s Todd Purdum.

With Congressional dysfunction at an all-time high and approval on a perpetual downward slide, leadership seems to be a rare commodity in Washington. But Purdum argues that there are pockets of true leadership inside the Beltway.

He writes:

It’s not that Washington lacks leaders. It has any number of diligent, dedicated ones, who are lethally effective in their way. Cruz may have alienated his own Republican colleagues in the Senate with his faux filibuster and support for the government shutdown last year, but he got just what he wanted out of the effort: a bigger national profile, rock-solid support in his home state of Texas, interest from grass-roots and deep-pocketed conservative activists from coast to coast — in short, tens of thousands of new “followers,” and not just on Twitter.

If that doesn’t make him a leader, what does?

Rand Paul’s libertarian jeremiads may cause eye rolling among conventional politicians. But his stinging challenge to the Obama administration’s use of predator drones to take out terrorists — not to mention his candid, post-Ferguson commentary on the plight of too many black Americans at the hands of white policemen — endeared him to untold numbers of ordinary voters.

That makes him a leader, too.

Obama seized his moment on the national stage seven years ago (against the advice of more cautious leaders); made history with his election; then jammed through Congress a health insurance overhaul that had eluded Democratic presidents for more than three generations. He remains an inspiring figure to millions of people around the world.

Surely that makes him a leader, even if most of the rest of his second-term agenda seems stalled, if not dead.

Still, leadership in all three examples requires an additional step that has proven quite unachievable in today’s political world: rallying support from both sides of the aisle to get done what needs to be done.

Some of Cruz’s recent positions so visibly pivot back in the direction of the GOP establishment that he’s lost the trust of many libertarian-leaning Republicans. His ability to reach out to Democrats, voters and politicians, is limited by how he made his name politically and the direction he’s headed.

President Obama has since his initial days in the Oval Office embraced a leadership style that hinges on the politics of division. Therefore, rabble-rouser is the more appropriate term for the president who forced through the long-held Democratic dream of healthcare reform.

Of Purdum’s three examples, Paul probably represents the best potential true leader. He’s routinely taken positions that are unpopular with his own party and made efforts to reach out to traditionally non-GOP voters.

Looking ahead to 2016, leadership is going to become a major topic as candidates for the presidential nomination in both parties go through the vetting process.

Read Purdum’s full column here.

U.S. gun control advocate praises Goebbels’ ‘wise words to live by’

We’ve been telling you all along: Many of the arguments used by staunch gun control advocates reflect those used to control the populations of totalitarian regimes. Here’s a bit more proof.

Moms Demand Action, a gun control group heavily funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has recently been a major player in the anti-2nd Amendment movement.

In a since-deleted Twitter exchange, Moms Demand Action New York Chapter Leader Alison Martin allegedly responded to detractors who argued against expanding background checks.

“I don’t understand why u would be against measures like expanding background checks. Do u have something to hide,” she asked.

The exchange that followed will have you slapping your forehead:

twitpic

The true origin of the quote is unclear, but it is often attributed to Goebbels.

Mr. Goebbels, as you probably know if you happened to take a high school history class, is Adolf Hitler propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, who served the Nazis from 1933-1945.

Martin later defended her poor endorsement:

momsd

The Twitter exchange has since been deleted, but GunsSaveLife.com summed it up swimmingly, “We are simply speechless at her ignorance of history.”

And this meme, courtesy of Hypocrisy and Stupidity of Gun Control Advocates, is pretty good too:

moms

Is the Obama administration using bad accounting to hide healthcare failures?

The Government Accountability Office issued a report this week detailing how the Obama administration has failed to adequately document where $3.7 billion in taxpayer money was spent promoting Obamacare’s online marketplace.

“CMS’s processes are inconsistent with certain federal accounting and internal control standards,” the report states.

GAO officials reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) doesn’t properly track certain data necessary to determining whether the law is working. Part of the problem, according to GAO officials, is that CMS uses an outdated records system incapable of responding to data requests from public officials. Rather than receiving the data directly from the network, officials charged with keeping the government’s budget in check must rely on manually produced spreadsheets that take months for CMS to prepare.

This means that government auditors tasked with determining whether Obamacare is working must do their jobs with outdated and sometimes incomplete information.

A major area of concern with CMS’s data-reporting processes involved its Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which has worked closely with state governments to implement Obamacare. According to the GAO report, that department was unable to track spending on advertising, polling, staff and travel, among other things, for auditors.

In fact, the GAO auditors reported that the only verifiable data CMS was able to provide consisted of “estimates for total obligations for fiscal year 2014, which was $3.7 billion; the number of staff as of September 30, 2013, which was 347; and total salary expenditures from March 2010 through fiscal year 2013, which were $79.8 million.”

Outgoing House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who ordered the GAO report, slammed the Obama administration in a statement Tuesday.

“After promising transparency and then ignoring repeated requests from Congress, we now find out that the administration is not even keeping track of how many taxpayer dollars are going out the door,” he said. “Worse yet, the administration won’t even account for how much it spent on public relations campaigns promoting their unpopular law.”

Pentagon: U.S. airstrikes only the beginning of yearslong military campaign against ISIS

A top Pentagon official told reporters Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s airstrike strategy for eliminating Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria could mean that the U.S. will be expending military energy in the region for years.

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations of the Joint Staff, told reporters that the airstrikes currently being conducted in the Middle East have been successful, but added that this is only the beginning face of the campaign against ISIS.

“Last night’s strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy [ISIS],” Mayville said of strikes that commenced in Syria Monday.

As for how long Americans should expect to remain involved in the fight against the ISIS militants, the top military official added, “I would think of it in terms of years.”

Mayville noted that the ISIS militants will (and, in some cases, already have) adapt to the president’s from-the-air strategy, leading the fighters to move into urban areas where civilian populations make the strikes too risky.

“We have seen evidence that they’re already doing that. We’ve seen that now, as a result of the air campaign thus far in Iraq,” Mayville said.

“They are very well-funded. They are a learning organization, and they will adapt to what we’ve done … and seek to address their shortfalls and gaps against our air campaign in the coming weeks,” he said.

Still, officials say that no U.S. ground forces will enter Syria.

“There’s obviously a desire to put something on the ground,” Mayville said. “We’ve been able to provide air support without putting forces forward, and I think we will continue to look at how we can do that as we move forward.”

UPDATED Alaska reporter, marijuana advocate on air: ‘F*ck it, I quit’

Update 9-23-2014

Greene (whose real name is Charlene Egby) posted a video YouTube explaining her actions in further detail. In her monologue, the reporter explains her frustrations about the over-criminalization of marijuana, mainstream media’s sensationalism and prohibitionists’ misinformation.

“To question what they said was wrong, why they were given authority and where their claims of danger and peril come from,” the former reporter says of her goal in the video.

Original Story 9-22-2014

A reporter made a grand, if offensive, exit from Alaska’s KTVA-TV during a live 10 p.m. broadcast on Sunday.

Reporter Charlo Greene had just finished a report on Alaska Cannabis Club, a new medical marijuana business in the state, when she revealed herself as the owner of the business and informed viewers that she would henceforth dedicate all of her energy to marijuana legalization.

“Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said.

To her colleagues’ dismay, Greene continued, “And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f*ck it, I quit.”

With that, she walked out of the scene.

KTVA quickly went into damage-control mode, with news director Bert Rudman telling viewers via Facebook Sunday night: “We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.”

Of course, Rudman, it seems the reporter made it very clear that she quit.

Asked by local media why she left the station in such a dramatic way, Greene said that she’d hoped to bring attention to her cause.

In November, Alaska voters will vote on legalized recreational marijuana use in the state for people over 21.

“Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real … most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine,” Greene told Alaska Dispatch News.

“If I offended anyone, I apologize, but I’m not sorry for the choice that I made,” she said.

And with more than a million views of her on-air exit on YouTube, Greene has succeeded in getting the Alaska ballot measure noticed.

 

 

With airstrikes, Obama administration concedes Romney was right on foreign policy

Vice President Joe Biden, back during the 2012 presidential campaign, was fond of attacking GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions as overly hawkish.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech the vice president gave on Sept. 2, 2012 in York, Pennsylvania:

He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.

He wants to move from cooperation to confrontation with Putin’s Russia. And these guys say the president’s out of touch? Out of touch? Swiss bank account, untold millions in the Cayman Islands. Who’s out of touch, man?

Despite Romney’s “Swiss bank account” and “untold millions in the Cayman Islands,” the presidential candidate was aware of some things that the Obama administration seems only recently to have fully grasped.

And today, with troops back in Iraq and airstrike campaigns ongoing in Syria (not to mention the utter failure of that Russian “reset”) many watchers are unable to deny that Barack Obama is ever closer to earning the title of America’s worst foreign policy president.

HT: Buzzfeed

Daily Read: Reporter refuses to pay taxes for 500 days, duration of IRS targeting scandal

Daily Caller political reporter Patrick Howley says he is refusing to pay his taxes until Americans get the answers they deserve on the IRS’s targeting of conservatives. This week marks 500 days since the scandal broke and 500 days of Howley’s civil disobedience.

In a piece this week, the reporter outlines the sheer gall of the nation’s political class in refusing to produce former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails, documents that undoubtedly implicate her and others (perhaps all the way to the Oval Office) in the targeting scandal and were produced on government property for official review.

He writes:

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

How much longer will this go on? New IRS chief John Koskinen said that “hard drive crashes continue as we speak.” Lerner is giving softball interviews with Politico about how conservatives (who she once called “assholes”) are trying to ruin her life. The White House has yet to be subpoenaed for the emails it exchanged with Lerner. Same goes for the Department of Justice.

It’s totally understandable that Howley, in his attempts to get to the bottom of the scandal in Washington, would be frustrated after 500 days. The average American conservative remains frustrated but has the luxury of forgetting about the scandal from time to time. But the reporter has focused professionally for more than a year and a half on getting answers from government criminals guarded by government lackeys.

And in that time, much has changed in the world:

The government shut down because of Obamacare and Republicans got blamed. The Obamacare website was screwed up. ISIS beheaded three Western journalists. The “knockout” game ravaged pedestrians in major cities. Vladimir Putin seized Crimea. Guatemalan children poured across the border. John Kerry let Iran keep having nuclear power plants. War raged between Israel and Hamas. Armed federal agents stole a rancher’s cattle and then it was all okay because the rancher said something racist. Ebola broke out. A Malaysian plane got lost. Racial tensions spilled over in Ferguson. Obama’s Gallup rating dropped six points, from 49 to 43.

And in his personal life:

500 days ago, I lived alone in a crappy apartment in the depressing Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., six Metro stops from work. Now I live with a roommate I’d never met before in a crappier apartment in the even more depressing neighborhood of [redacted], seven Metro stops away.

American conservatives ought to applaud Howley’s act of civil disobedience and might do well to follow suit. He’s also owed a bit of gratitude. The mainstream media has left the IRS scandal behind as old news, so it’s nice to know that there are still some people in the right places trying to get the facts.

Read Howley’s full column at The Daily Caller.