EPA continues to keep government watchdogs in the dark

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Thursday accused officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become increasingly powerful under the Obama administration, of blocking federal watchdogs.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins and members of his staff have appeared before Congress three times since May to complain that the agency’s homeland security office is impeding investigations.

Since last year, the Inspector General has been investigating personnel issues at the EPA stemming from the revelation that EPA employee John Beale posed as a CIA agent in order to get paid time off. But the EPA has used a 10 employee homeland security division created after the 9/11 attacks to thwart government investigators.

“As the official in charge of internal investigations at EPA, I am very concerned that vital information regarding suspected employee misconduct is being withheld from the OIG,” Patrick Sullivan, who heads the Inspector General’s investigations team, told lawmakers in May.

Little had changed by September.

“The EPA office of homeland security continues to impede the investigations of this OIG,” Elkins said last month. “This impairment by the EPA … is still not resolved.”

In a letter to EPA Gina McCarthy sent Thursday, Issa said that the continued obstruction is unacceptable.

“The committee remains deeply concerned about the apparent lack of progress on any of these fronts,” Issa wrote.

“It has been three months since the hearing at which you appeared and four months since the committee first learned of these issues and urged the EPA to address them.”

This is only the latest of many battles the Oversight Committee has had with the EPA over the past year.

Last month, Issa and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) launched an investigation to explore ties between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a lobbying group active in shaping global warming rules.

The GOP lawmakers are attempting to better understand what role NRDC played in the EPA’s denial of a permit for the Pebble Mine in Alaska and a separate draft rule aimed at limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants.

“It appears that NRDC’s unprecedented access to high-level EPA officials allowed it to influence EPA policy decisions and achieve its own private agenda,” Issa and Vitter wrote to the EPA and NRDC in September. “Such collusive activities provide the NRDC, and their financial backers, with an inappropriate opportunity to wield the broad powers of the executive branch.”

“The fact that an ideological and partisan group drafted a rule that places a tremendous cost on everyday Americans through increased electricity prices is harmful and outrageous,” the two continued. “Accordingly, these practices must cease immediately.”

Voters are fed up with Congress, worried about nation’s future

WASHINGTON — Most Americans view the country moving in the wrong direction and don’t see their financial futures getting better anytime soon, attitudes likely to make it harder for Democrats to do well this fall, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Sixty-one percent see the nation on the wrong track, down from 64 percent in August but still historically high.

A big reason for the anxiety: Only 30 percent expect their personal family finances to improve in the coming year, down from 35 percent in February. Fifty-four percent see their finances staying about the same.

People want their elected officials to make things better but don’t see much progress, so they give lawmakers low marks.

“It has to do with paying bills and economic security at a personal level,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the Sept. 24-29 poll.

The economic recovery, he said, “still hasn’t reached folks the way the macrodata suggest.”

The wrong direction/right track number is considered a key barometer of voter sentiment, and people strongly disapprove of how their elected officials are performing. Seventy-one percent of registered voters disliked how Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, are governing, while 61 percent felt the same about Democrats, who control the Senate.

President Barack Obama, whose job approval rating jumped to 46 percent last month thanks largely to his handling of the terrorism crisis, still got low marks from voters. Fifty-seven percent disapproved of his handling of the economy, and 41 percent said he was more likely to make them vote Republican, while 38 percent said they would vote Democratic.

Since Democrats control the White House and Senate and since virtually all of the most vulnerable Senate seats are now in Democratic hands, the party stands to be hurt by the current mood.

“The political environment is bad, but more so for the Democrats, since they occupy the White House,” said Miringoff.

Republicans currently have a 233-199 majority in the House. Independent analysts predict the party will gain two to 10 seats.

In the Senate, Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win control, and their prospects are brightening slightly. In a new analysis Thursday, Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics saw a Republican trend.

Congressional approval ratings

“So many undecided contests are winnable for the GOP that the party would have to have a string of bad luck — combined with a truly exceptional Democratic get-out-the-vote program — to snatch defeat from the wide-open jaws of victory,” they found. “Or Republicans would have to truly shoot themselves in the foot in at least one race, which has become a clear possibility over the last few weeks in Kansas.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) faces a tough challenge from independent Greg Orman. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll Saturday through Tuesday put Orman ahead, 46 percent to 41 percent.

The problem facing Roberts, as well as other officeholders, is that voters — most notably, independents who could decide races — have soured on incumbents.

Two-thirds of independent voters disapprove of how Obama is handling the economy, and 53 percent have an unfavorable impression of the president. Most ominous for Democrats: Forty-one percent of independents say that impression makes them more likely to vote for a Republican for Congress, while 25 percent said it would swing them Democratic.

There’s some solace for Democrats: While 28 percent of registered voters say Obama is a major factor in deciding their vote, the number drops to 22 percent among independents. Most people say the president is not a big factor.

And two of three independents disapprove of the job Republicans as well as Democrats are doing in Congress.

Overall, voters split as to whether they’d pick a Democrat or a Republican in their congressional district. That number can be misleading, since congressional races are decided on a district-by-district, state-by-state basis. They’re also often decided by swing voters, and independents prefer Republicans 43 percent to 35 percent.

The telephone survey polled 1,052 adults, including 884 registered voters. The poll has an overall margin of error of 3 percentage points. The margin is 3.3 percentage points among registered voters.

-David Lightman

_________

©2014 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

GOP lawmakers say that Obama lacks Ebola plan, is downplaying threat of U.S. outbreak

As an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. becomes increasingly possible, Republican lawmakers are taking the Obama administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to task for downplaying the threat.

A Liberian man diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital Tuesday, leaving public health officials scrambling to contact and monitor as many as 100 people the man may have been in contact with leading up to the diagnoses.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham this week, saying that as a nation “we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions” needed to keep the disease from spreading.

Paul contends that President Barack Obama is putting “political correctness” ahead of public health.

“I am concerned about it, and it’s a big mistake to downplay it and act as if it’s not a big deal,” Paul said, adding, “This could get beyond our control.”

The Kentucky senator is joined by GOP colleagues in insisting that the administration ought to be focused on securing the nation’s borders and placing limits on travel Ebola-stricken areas of Africa.

“Recent events highlight the need for elevated levels of screening at U.S. ports of entry,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement Thursday. “The time for action has come and gone and the CDC has yet to answer why they are resisting this next commonsense step that is long overdue.”

Other lawmakers have argued that the president should appoint an “Ebola czar” to lead efforts to keep the disease from spreading in the U.S.

“I don’t think there is a person in charge,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee’s health subcommittee, told BuzzFeed on Thursday. “And I don’t think there is a plan internationally to bring the folks together to combat this.”

Meanwhile, Democrats argue that the federal government must begin spending more money on Ebola research and reversing cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health.

“Funding for biomedical research is crucial and when Congress works on a funding bill in the coming months we need to ensure the [National Institutes of Health] is fully funded,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement.

GOP group celebrates Obamacare exchange anniversary ahead of midterms

GOP groups celebrated the “unhappy” birthday of President Barack Obama’s healthcare exchange this week by criticizing Democrats who, leading into the 2014 midterms, are increasingly finding themselves in electoral danger because of Obamacare.

In honor of the healthcare exchange anniversary, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a video collage of several vulnerable Democrats extolling the benefits of Obamacare. The video is complete with several utterances of the infamous “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise.

“Over the past six years Barack Obama and Washington Democrats have proven that they not only don’t have the right solutions to get America growing again, but they lack the credibility to be trusted to keep their promises,”  NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen said in a statement.

A new poll out this week from McLaughlin & Associates illustrates that Republicans looking to capitalize on Obamacare’s failures leading into the fall election season have public opinion on their side. Fifty-nine percent of likely voters would support repealing Obamacare if a conservative alternative were on the table.

The pollsters asked: “Would you support or oppose repealing and replacing Obamacare with a conservative alternative that would save $1 trillion, reduce premiums, enhance access to doctors, and increase the number of people with private insurance by 6 million, but would cover 6 million fewer people overall because fewer people would be on Medicaid?”

A majority of Democrats also supported the plan, with 49 percent saying they’d be in favor and 37 percent against.

A separate Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 47 percent of Americans view the healthcare law negatively compared to just 33 percent who approve.

Pentagon: Obama’s airstrikes won’t defeat ISIS

Confirming the suspicions of the president’s harshest foreign policy critics, Pentagon officials told reporters this week that they shouldn’t expect airstrikes to do much to weaken the Islamic State terrorists gaining ground in Iraq and Syria.

Despite the approximately 310 U.S strikes on ISIS targets across Iraq and Syria launched by the end of the day Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Admiral John Kirby said that ISIS “remains a very potent force.”

Kirby said that ISIS fighters are countering the strikes by attempting to blend in to urban areas where airstrikes could cause civilian casualties and being less brazen, but that they still pose a significant threat.

“Yes, they’re dispersing, and yes, they aren’t communicating quite as openly or as boldly as they once were,” Kirby said. “That’s a good thing, because if they aren’t operating as freely, then they aren’t as free to achieve their goals.

“That doesn’t mean ISIL doesn’t still pose a threat. It doesn’t mean they aren’t still trying and in some cases succeeding at taking and holding ground,” he continued. “No one said this would be easy or quick, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate air strikes. We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.”

The Pentagon official told reporters that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are currently in the best position to put pressure on ISIS and that American efforts will require a “long struggle” and “strategic patience.”

“This group will adapt, and we’re going to have to adapt right along with them,” he said. “And airstrikes alone, you’re just not going to bomb them away. It’s not going to happen like that.”

The Pentagon’s low expectations for U.S. airstrikes against ISIS are shared by forces fighting the terror group on the ground in the Middle East.

Sefqan Ciya, a field commander of People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish group fighting Isis, told Newsweek in a recent interview: “We in the YPG have been fighting alone for a year, holding out against Isis in Kobane, but the U.S. and the international community are ignoring this fight. The reality is that Isis will not be stopped in northeast Syria unless the international community, above all the U.S. and EU countries, provide us with adequate military aid and cooperate with us in order jointly and effectively to target and attack Isis positions.”

Nancy Pelosi reveals she is hopelessly out of touch

UPI/FILE

During her weekly press briefing Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said a couple of things that reveal her as a truly out-of-touch Washington elitist.

At one point during the press event, the House Democrat got into a verbal scuffle with a reporter over the political correctness of the term “illegal aliens.”

“If President Obama does what he has promised to do and take executive action to legalize some illegal aliens in the United States…” a reporter asked Pelosi.

The politician interrupted, “Are you referring to undocumented people who are in the United States?”

“Illegal aliens. Yes, ma’am,” the reporter replied.

“Undocumented people, OK,” Pelosi retorted before talking about the U.S.’s many borders and Obama’s amnesty policies.

In a separate exchange, Pelosi attempted to sound like an average American by weighing in on Major League Baseball. She managed to sound as out of touch as ever.

“How about the Giants?” a reporter asked as Pelosi made her exit.

“How about the Giants, and how about the Orioles?” Pelosi replied.

“You know, my father brought the Orioles to Baltimore when he was mayor of Baltimore, so I’m happy to see them do so well,” the lawmaker continued.

“My next door neighbor owns the Nationals,” she went on. “So there’s a lot of good teams that could win the Pennant and then win the…win the World Series, so stay tuned.”

That Pelosi is totally out of touch with the nation is probably good news for Republicans looking ahead to the 2014 midterms, as she also predicted Wednesday that Democrats will control the White House and Congress by 2016.

“Their days are numbered,” she said of the GOP. “I know that in two years, I know we’ll have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.

“I’d like it to be in two months,” Pelosi added.

HT: Free Beacon

Lawmaker urges DOJ to examine Oklahoma beheading as terror case

A House Republican called on outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the recent beheading in Oklahoma as a case of terrorism rather than workplace violence. But given the DOJ’s track record in ignoring select forms of religious extremism, along with some of Holder’s attempts to scorch the earth on his way out, a terror investigation is highly unlikely.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said Tuesday Holder must launch a terror investigation into the gruesome murder, rather than allow the crime to be swept under the rug as just another killing at a place of employment.

Wolf likened the murder, in which recent Muslim convert Alton Nolen allegedly admitted to decapitating Colleen Hufford at the Vaughan Foods processing plant in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, last Thursday, to the sensational beheadings perpetrated by members of the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria.

According to The Hill, Wolf condemned the DOJ’s history of declining to link domestic terror incidents with global terror movements. From a letter Wolf sent to Holder:

In the wake of the department’s failure to “connect the dots” between Anwar Aulaqi and Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan, it is more important than ever for you to make clear to the department’s agents and attorneys that this is, in fact, terrorism and to determine whether this or other plots are part of an effort by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al Qaeda to radicalize Americans and direct attacks in the U.S.

But Holder’s recent tweaks to DOJ policy indicate there’s little chance that crimes motivated by evident religious zealotry on U.S. soil — even those that closely mimic the atrocities perpetrated by anti-U.S. terror groups abroad — will be approached as acts of domestic terror.

Holder reportedly will soon announce changes in the way federal investigators target suspects, banning law enforcement from scrutinizing potential suspects on the basis of their religious ties.

“The new policy will add to long-standing bans on racial profiling and extend them for the first time to national-security probes,” Fox News reported Tuesday.

That, according to BizPac Review’s Joe Saunders, amounts to nothing less than “a parting shot of PC idiocy” on Holder’s part.

“Banning the use of religion in cases of national security investigations when you’re at war with a gang of religious fanatics  is like running a DUI checkpoint but trying not to smell booze — an act, put on for show and not accomplishing even a minimal goal,” wrote Saunders.

The new restrictions, which include a ban on investigating mosques in the absence of direct evidence that a crime has been committed, are to be announced in the coming weeks, according to Fox News.

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.’”