Matt Vespa - Uh, The IRS Failed To Conduct Background Checks On Its Contractors
Posted: 8/15/2014 8:15:00 AM EST

The Internal Revenue Service has become the poster child for government incompetence, inefficiency, overreach, and corruption. They allegedly targeted conservative groups, they’ve lost emails, and now we’re learning that they failed to conduct background checks on some of their contractors; people who have access to highly sensitive information about your life. As a result, millions of Americans are now vulnerable to identity theft and fraud (via Associated Press):

The IRS failed to do background checks on some private contractors who handled confidential taxpayer information, exposing more than a million taxpayers to an increased risk of fraud and identity theft, a government investigator said Thursday.

In one case, the IRS gave a printing contractor a computer disk with names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 1.4 million taxpayers, but didn't require a background check for anyone who worked on the job, said a report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

In another case, to transport sensitive documents the IRS used a courier who previously had spent 21 years in prison on arson and other charges. In other cases, contractors underwent background checks but weren't required to sign agreements not to disclose sensitive information, the report said.

Yet, liberals wonder why conservative are so distrustful of Washington. And to think that this was the agency tasked with making sure that those Obamacare taxes got paid–or else.

Matt Vespa - Is Senator Hagan Getting Nervous?
Posted: 8/14/2014 8:15:00 PM EST

Is Senator Kay Hagan getting nervous? The incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator from North Carolina is the proud beneficiary of a $9 million dollars worth of media buys from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Hagan is vulnerable this cycle, with polls showing her in a dead heat with her Republican opponent, Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Thom Tillis. Media buys are common in elections, but this is the biggest one in this race so far, which has some people wondering if Hagan is hitting the “panic button” (via Charlotte Observer) [emphasis mine]:

The ad buy, the largest so far in North Carolina, would be paid out through the end of the campaign. It reflects both the outside interest in a race that will help decide control of the Senate and, some say, concern about Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.

“It tells me a couple things,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Washington-based Cook Political Report. “One, that she really is in trouble. They’re not going to spend that kind of money defending an incumbent who’s in reasonably good shape.

“Two, they’re going to do the negative ads because I don’t think her approval ratings can take any more hits.”

Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the buy signals that Democrats have hit the “panic button.”

“The DSCC very clearly believes that if Kay Hagan loses North Carolina, their majority is gone,” he said in a release.

Along with this media buy, Hagan is hoping to link discontent with North Carolina's GOP leadership to Tillis, while Tillis is trying to make Hagan synonymous with Obama and his failed policies. Republicans look like they have the Senate races in Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota locked, but they need three more to retake the Senate. And North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas all have vulnerable red state Democratic Senators–with each race being a bellwether for survival for the other two. Grab some popcorn.

Leah Barkoukis - School Districts Brace for Influx of up to 50,000 Unaccompanied Immigrants
Posted: 8/14/2014 7:05:00 PM EST

Back to school just got a lot more complicated for school districts across the nation, as many prepare to deal with enrolling up to 50,000 unaccompanied minors who recently entered the U.S. illegally.

[O]ther states have received thousands of unaccompanied minors, which could create a strain on some school districts. The highest number were released to relatives or other sponsors in Texas (5,280), followed by New York (4,244), California (3.909), Florida (3,809), and Virginia (2.856).

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 62,998 unaccompanied alien children under the age of 17 have illegally crossed the southern border since October of last year. So there are still thousands of children and teens in detention centers waiting to be processed before they are released throughout the U.S.

The vast majority are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, according to the CBP.

Educationally speaking, schools in America are already lagging behind their foreign counterparts. When compared to 64 other countries around the world in math, science, and reading, the U.S. ranked below average in math, and only average in reading and science, according to the Program for International Student Assessment’s 2012 report. The influx of children, most of whom do not speak English, will only make getting ahead all the more difficult.

“We don't know the educational background (of the students), if they've even been to school, the language issue and operational issues that could raise costs,” Francisco Negron, the National School Board Association’s general counsel, told USA Today.

Back in May, the Obama administration reminded public schools that they are required, by law, to provide children access to education, no matter what the student or their parents’ immigration or citizenship status is.

The cost to taxpayers, however, is not something that can be ignored. Some districts, such as Florida’s Miami-Dade County, have requested additional federal funding to support the flood of new students. In addition to language training, schools will need to account for social and psychological services as well as basic technology training, as many immigrant students have never seen a computer before.

"We haven't started school yet, so we are all just holding our breath to see what's going to come on the first day of school," Caroline Woodason, assistant director of school support for Dalton Public Schools in Georgia, told USA Today.

Matt Vespa - Will Perry's Leadership On The Border Revive His Presidential Appeal?
Posted: 8/14/2014 3:45:00 PM EST

If there’s anything that will rehabilitate Texas Governor Rick Perry’s image as a presidential candidate, it’ll be how he’s handling the border. In 2012, Perry briefly took the top spot within the Republican field for president only to see his support evaporate after a couple of debate performances that one could only describe as disastrous.

Perry’s hunting location with a racially insensitive name also elicited some controversy, but where he saw his conservative support evaporate was over his bill that provided in-state tuition for illegal aliens.

At the recent RedState Gathering in Texas, Perry’s leadership on securing the border is having a positive effect on his reputation. Kevin wrote that his speech to the attendees covered all the topics conservatives like to see their candidates espouse on the campaign trail. Perry touted his economic record, criminal justice reform, and how the Lone Star state is the mecca for high-tech exports. Such rosy economic news isn’t what’s being disseminated at the national level.

As for his bill allowing illegals to receive in-state tuition, some feel that his leadership on the border has “inoculated” himself from those attacks on the right, others aren’t so sure (via NRO):

“The people who are here this year who have been deeply skeptical of him in the past are seeing the whole national guard issue and securing the border and suddenly reacting to him differently than they did in the past,” RedState editor Erick Erickson told National Review Online after Perry’s speech Friday at the RedState Gathering in Fort Worth. “They don’t think he’s squishy on the issue since he’s sending the soldiers.”

Perry was the morning star of the conference, though. “If Washington won’t act to secure the border, as the governor of Texas, I will,” he declared, eliciting a 22-second standing ovation.

“Dealing firmly with what’s happening on the border now will to some degree inoculate him from statements in the past,” DeMint told NRO during a Friday interview. “And so, we’ll see how it plays out. There’s no one who will run who hasn’t made a statement or voted for something that wasn’t exactly what they would want now.”

Heritage Action and other conservatives have used the same “magnet” metaphor deployed against Perry to describe President Obama’s immigration policies, though. Is it easy for a presidential rival to say that Perry and Obama’s magnets helped create the border crisis?

“It’s all rhetoric, it’s all done in front of the cameras,” Katrina Pierson, a close ally of Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas) — she was an early supporter of his Senate campaign and Cruz’s father, Rafael, endorsed her congressional bid — told NRO. “Just going back to the last legislative session, he could have ended sanctuary cities, he could have ended all kinds of magnets.”

Let’s see what happens. It’s not like the 2016 race is over for Republicans if Perry decides to sit it out. But for now, Perry is certainly highlighting he's a leader on immigration enforcement, which is a red meat issue for conservatives due to Washington inaction.

Daniel Doherty - Obama Discusses Iraq, Missouri Crises in Press Conference, Immediately Returns to Golf Course
Posted: 8/14/2014 2:45:00 PM EST

Briefly interrupting his annual vacation on Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday, President Obama addressed two looming crises facing the nation: the situation in Iraq and the ongoing rioting in Ferguson, Missouri.

He began with Iraq.

“First of all, we continue to make progress carrying out our targeted military operations," he argued.

These operations were absolutely essential to repelling ISIS forces and protecting Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar, he continued.

“Without food or water, they had a terrible choice: starve on the mountain or be slaughtered on the ground,” he said. “That’s when America came to help.”

He also announced that a “small team” of American military and civilian personnel had conducted a comprehensive assessment of the humanitarian situation on the ground yesterday. They concluded that food and water had been reaching thousands of civilians, and thousands more were being evacuated every night.

"The situation on the mountain has greatly improved," he declared. “We broke the siege of Mount Sinjar."

In the meantime, he said, the U.S. will continue to launch airstrikes against ISIS military targets, provide arms and weaponry to the Kurds, and urge support for Iraq’s “new, inclusive” government.

He then turned to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri -- vowing to get to the bottom of what happened.

“I’ve already asked the DOJ and FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown,” he said. “I made clear to the attorney general to determine exactly happened and to make sure justice is done.”

“We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances,” he continued. “He was 18-years-old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again. And when something like this happens, the local authorities need to be open and transparent about how they're investigating this kind of a situation.”

At the same time, he said, both peaceful protestors and police alike need to begin respecting one another and the rule of law.

“I know that emotions are raw in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what happened,” he continued. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family.”

After concluding his remarks, the president left without taking questions, and went directly to the golf course.

UPDATE: Impressive.

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Sarah Jean Seman - MA Governor Signs Into Law Stricter Gun-Control Measures
Posted: 8/14/2014 1:30:00 PM EST

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) signed into law a package of gun-control laws Wednesday that will take the Bay State’s callousness towards the Second Amendment one step further.

The multi-faceted law titled "An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence," includes tougher penalties for gun-based crimes. As reported by the AP:

Another part of the law mandates Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System, which requires the state to transmit information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database that police can use to review firearms applications.

Patrick has praised the measure, despite the fact that lawmakers failed to include his proposal that would have limited individuals to the purchase of no more than one gun per month.

The new law also increases the penalty for carrying a firearm on school grounds; increases the punishment for being armed with a firearm while carjacking; creates penalties for transporting firearms into the state for criminal activity or unlawful distribution; establishes penalties for gun dealers who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon and mandates that an individual whose license to carry firearms has been revoked, suspended or denied must surrender all guns in their possession.

Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control advocacy group, commended Patrick for the added security measures.

The law goes into effect immediately. You can read more about the law in my previous post.

Leah Barkoukis -  Poll: Majority of Americans Don’t Want to Press 1 for English
Posted: 8/14/2014 12:40:00 PM EST

While the demographics of America have been gradually changing over the past few decades, a major shift is expected in the next 50 years, according to Pew. As things currently stand, however, the debate over whether English should be America’s official language is already heating up.

In the past year, we’ve reported incidences of a principal being fired for asking that English be spoken in the classroom, as required by state law, and more disturbing, the federal government sued a private business earlier this summer, claiming that the company’s English-language requirement amounts to “discrimination.”

Although the United States does not have an official language, 83 percent of Americans think the federal government should take that step in favor of English, according to a new Rasmussen survey of 1,000 adults. Only 10 percent disagreed.

Thirty-one states across the country have already taken this step. Five more states are hoping to make English their state’s official language this year, reports Rasmussen.

Conn Carroll - Are Federal Funds Fueling the Riots in Ferguson?
Posted: 8/14/2014 12:35:00 PM EST

If you've been following the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, at all, you've already seen this truck multiple times:

It is a Lenco BearCat which is actually just an acronym for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. They retail for anywhere between $200,000 to $300,000.

So how did the St. Louis County Police Department (which is helping the much smaller Ferguson Police Department) get their hands on such an expensive piece of equipment?

If you guessed the federal government was involved, you are correct.

There are two possible ways the federal government could have helped the St. Louis County Police Department get the BearCat.

First, as suggested by David Mastio of USA Today, St. Louis County could have gotten the vehicle through the Department of Defense's 1033 program:

Since the creation of the 1033 program by Congress in the early 1990s, the program has distributed $4.3 billion of excess equipment, ranging from innocuous office supplies to bomb-disposing robots and other advanced technology. The flood of military supplies — along with the continuing drug war and grant programs from other federal agencies that provide military-style equipment — has pushed the culture of police forces far from its law-enforcement roots.

A second possibility is the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Grant Program, which has been helping local law enforcement agencies like the St. Louis County Police Department acquire big ticket tactical vehicles like the BearCat for years.

Above is a picture of current St. Louis County Police Department Chief Jon Belmar (who was commanding officer for the department's division of special operations before he became chief) standing in front of a BearCat with the St. Louis County Police Department logo. The accompanying story reports:

A grant from the Department of Homeland Security has allowed the St. Louis County Police Department to equip its Tactical Operations Unit with a new specialized equipment truck and an armored vehicle.

The two vehicles will help the unit’s SWAT team respond more effectively and efficiently to various kinds of threats, from “active shooters” to a biological terrorist attack. Bureau of Patrol Support Commander Capt. John(sic) Belmar said the $240,000 equipment truck and $360,000 armored vehicle were paid for entirely by the grant, but the money was not easy to come by.

“We were pretty stoked about it,” he said. “It is a lot of hard work to not only apply for [the grant] but to be in the position to accept it.”

A story from the same time corroborates the Patch story:

The St. Louis County Police Department has acquired a new armored vehicle, a tactical vehicle, and a helicopter for use during major disasters, criminal incidents, and possible acts of terrorism. The department acquired a LENCO BearCat, a Tactical Support Vehicle, and an MD500E Model Jet Turbine Helicopter.

The BearCat features an elevated, protected platform that can place police officers onto the second story of a building or onto the outer door of a plane. It also comes equipped with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) detection sensors.

The Tactical Support Vehicle, which was funded via the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), is designed to hold tactical equipment. It also comes with a computer and communications equipment that enable it to act as a command post.

The UASI program is just one of many ineffective federal safety grant programs that U.S. taxpayers are wasting billions on every year.

House Republicans have repeatedly try to cut both the Department of Justice's ineffective COPS program and the equally ineffective Department of Homeland Security fire grant programs.

But Democrats have successfully defeated these spending cuts every time, demonizing Republicans for wanting to cut "vital" security spending.

If Americans want to begin right-sizing both federal spending and their local police forces, cutting federal grants to local governments would be a perfect place to start.

Daniel Doherty - "When People Are Dying, You Must Come Back From Vacation"
Posted: 8/14/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

Or so says French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

'I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,' Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,' but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.'

Full-time workers in France are guaranteed a whopping five weeks of paid vacation every year, making his plea all the more urgent.

Obama is on a family and golfing holiday in a ritzy neighborhood of Martha's Vineyard but says he will come back to Washington this weekend before returning on Tuesday to fun, sun, and more golf.

And people are dying. On Wednesday, the UN raised the level of humanitarian concern in Iraq to its highest possible rating and U.S. ground troops were deployed briefly to Mount Sinjar. These are both major developments. At the same time, the situation in Ferguson, Missouri continues to spiral out of control. Following nearly a week of rioting after an unarmed African-American teenager was shot and killed by police, the city is now being described as a “war zone.” Police are shooting rubber bullets and spraying tear gas at rioters and protestors alike. What’s more, two journalists were also arrested for very questionable reasons, and the crackdown on free expression is becoming a real cause for concern:

Meanwhile, photos surfaced last night of the president partying on Martha’s Vineyard with the Clintons and other luminaries. And, for my part, while I’ve always argued that the president deserves and needs a vacation, perhaps sometimes the optics of having tons of fun isn’t the best idea when, as Fabius put it, "people are dying."

Cortney O'Brien - De Blasio Admin Uses Nearly $13 Million for New Anti-Gun Violence Program
Posted: 8/14/2014 11:15:00 AM EST

In an effort to combat an uptick in gun violence in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration are investing in a new $12.7 million project that will focus on anti-gun violence messaging and community interventions.

Straight from the mayor's office:

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today announced the expansion of the City’s efforts to reduce gun violence, through the creation of the “Gun Violence Crisis Management System,” a citywide initiative to reduce gun violence, from five to 14 precincts accounting for 51 percent of shootings across the city. The new initiative expands on a previous system that includes and is centered around the “cure violence” model and now includes “wrap around” services, programs that respond to meet the needs of every spectrum in the community that is impacted by gun violence. This new strategy employs evidence-based community interventions, anti-violence messaging, and support services in areas with high rates of gun violence, and will be driven by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Departments of Education, Health and Mental Hygiene, Probation and Youth and Community Development, and the City University of New York.

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation beamed about their cooperation in the program, focusing on a "Guns Down Life Up" message:

“HHC has been a leader in developing hospital-based violence interruption programs in response to the devastating effects of gun shots, stabbings and assaults that are too familiar to our dedicated emergency room care teams,” said HHC President Dr. Ram Raju. With our ‘Guns Down Life Up’ message and strong neighborhood partners that work with Harlem Hospital and in HHC hospitals in Brooklyn and the Bronx, we are bridging public safety and public health to build healthier communities. We hope to link even more HHC hospitals with the new cure violence community programs.”

Ironically, the recent rise in gun crime may in part be explained by De Blasio’s decision to scale back Mayor Bloomberg’s stop and frisk policy in January. That’s not only my assumption, by the way:

A leading NYPD expert said that the spike could stem from the dramatic reduction in Stop and Frisk.

“At some point people on the streets who would have been inclined to carry guns, but didn’t because they knew they faced a risk of being stopped, they’re gonna conclude that the stop risk is now permanently dropped and they’re going to go back to carrying guns. That could well be what’s going on now,” Heather MacDonald, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

However, De Blasio is hopeful his new initiative will be a successful one:

“We’re proud to announce an investment of nearly $13 million to prevent shootings before they occur,” the mayor said.

Other supporters of the program applaud its condemnation of retaliatory violence:

Efay Charles, who runs an anti-violence program, said it’s about teaching the right skills.

“How to handle disputes without pulling a weapon,” she said.

While it may be frightening to think of more guns on the streets of New York City, it's hard to ignore the statistics when it comes to good guys who stopped criminals with their own weapon:

Guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year—or about 6,850 times a day.(1) This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.(2)

John R. Lott, Jr. at USA Today provides another important statistic:

With just one exception, every public mass shooting in the USA since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns.

De Blasio seems disinterested in these numbers in his obsession with scaling back Second Amendment rights. Last year, he even proclaimed Bloomberg didn't go far enough on gun control:

"I think he's been right on gun control, right on immigration reform and right on climate change. I think in several cases there was a sort of incompleteness to the approach," de Blasio said.

"I think on gun control we have to go after the money supply to manufacturers of guns and ammunition," he said, suggesting cutting off public pension investments to those companies so they can't "fund the industry that then turns around and funds the NRA."

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Education, Department of Health and Hygiene, Department of Probation, Department of Youth and Community Development, and the City University of New York will all take part in De Blasio’s anti-gun violence program.

I join New Yorkers in hoping this initiative is successful and significantly lowers the homicide rate. However, gun control measures have failed several times before. Plus, based on the support the new program is getting, I hope you can forgive me for being a bit skeptical.

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