Government watchdog: Reporter’s computer wasn’t hacked, she broke it

Just after Former CBS reporter Sheryl Attkisson slammed the Obama administration’s anti-1st Amendment tactics at a Senate hearing Thursday, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General charged that her claim that she’d been spied on by government agents is false. According to the Feds, Attkisson’s backspace key was just stuck.

Related: “Obama treats journalists like ‘enemies of the state’”

Attkisson has long been a critic of the government’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers because she believes she has firsthand experience of the abuse. In a book titled “Stonewalled,” the former reporter accused the DOJ of hacking into her computer and deleting files related to the terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and the botched “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation.

According to the OIG, an incident where text was eliminated from her personal computer “appeared to be caused by the backspace key being stuck, rather than a remote intrusion.”

Furthermore, the watchdog charges that whoever inspected Attkisson’s personal computer before the government investigation altered the computers logs.

“The OIG’s forensic examination further found what appeared to be searches and queries performed by an examiner with knowledge of computer logs,” the report noted.

Rand Paul beautifully trolls Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently released an audio clip on Soundcloud that he claimed to be a secretly recorded telephone conversation between likely 2016 presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. The clip, which is of an imagined phone call, is an excellent piece of satire on modern U.S. political dynasties.

The audio, produced by Rand PAC, begins with niceties between the imaginary Clinton and Bush until the former Florida governor informs the former first lady: “Well, it’s true — I’m thinking about running for president.”

“Well, Jeb, so am I,” Clinton responds.

Bush suggests that the two should “work something out,” prompting Clinton to explain: “What do you mean, Jeb? It’s clearly my turn: Bush, Clinton, Bush. Now, Clinton.”

Bush then informs Clinton that the GOP is ready to regain control of the White House and “there hasn’t been a Republican White House without a Bush since 1977.”

GOP lawmakers said to be crafting Obamacare alternative

Not that it will come to much without some help from the U.S. Supreme Court, but a handful of GOP lawmakers is reportedly slogging through the early stages of crafting legislation aimed at replacing the Affordable Care Act.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday the Republican “working group” is manned by a trio of committee heads in the House of Representatives: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee; Fred Upton of Michigan, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee; and John Kline of Minnesota, who chairs the Education and Workforce Committee.

According to McCarthy’s announcement, the group’s mission is twofold: to provide an alternative to Obamacare in the event of a full repeal and to have a legislative “contingency plan” in place if the Supreme Court rules against the federal government in King v. Burwell, which challenges the legality of federal Obamacare subsidies in states that have declined to expand Medicaid and create health insurance exchanges.

The group issued a joint statement elaborating on the GOP approach:

This law is fundamentally flawed: It takes power away from the patient and hands it to bureaucrats. Instead of making people’s health care decisions easier, in many cases it makes those decisions for them.

Immigration drama heats up with DHS funds on the line

By the end of the day Tuesday, it will be clearer whether congressional Republicans have any chance of making good on promises to reverse President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration overhaul.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that the first of a series of procedural votes will take place on a Department of Homeland Security funding bill that will likely contain language walking back some of Obama’s immigration actions.

The House has already passed its version of the bill, complete with language that would reverse almost all of the president’s immigration policies.

“The House-passed bill we’ll consider would do two things: Fund the Department of Homeland Security and rein in executive overreach. That’s it,” McConnell said Friday. “It’s simple, and there’s no reason for Democrats to block it.”

Republicans face considerable pressure in coming weeks as a Feb. 27 deadline looms for reauthorizing funding for DHS’s national security operations.

But with strong Democratic opposition making it highly unlikely that the GOP could muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the upper chamber, the Senate version is expected to be tamer.

Gearing up for 2016

At last weekend’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Citizens United played host to pretty much everyone who’s anyone on the Republican scene. Under normal circumstances, if you’ve been to one of these political gas leaks, you’ve been to most of them. However, in light of the Democrats’ current death spiral, the Iowa Freedom Summit represented anything but normal circumstances.

As the Democrats, led by an increasingly punch-drunk President Barack Obama, wobble toward 2016, anytime more than a few conservative notables get within a few feet of each other, it’s possible the next president of the United States is in the room. Moreover, it’s a chance for the political prognosticators to put on our swami hats and peer into the — God, forgive me — “Crystal” ball.

Not everyone who headlined the IFS is — or even plans to be — a presidential contender. And not every presidential contender attended the IFS. Most importantly, not everyone who has expressed interest in running is — in my estimation — a serious contender (Sit down, Mr. Trump). With that in mind, here are our contestants.

Birth Pangs Of The Coming Great Depression

Birth PangsThe signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them.  When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together.  But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense.  Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression.  As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful.  This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years.  The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.  In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge.  This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn.  Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining.  This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching.  The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.

The Death Of The American Dream In 22 Numbers

Abandoned HomeWe are the generation that gets to witness the end of the American Dream.  The numbers that you are about to see tell a story.  They tell a story of a once mighty economy that is dying.  For decades, the rest of the planet has regarded the United States as “the land of opportunity” where almost anyone can be successful if they are willing to work hard.  And when I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was living the American Dream.  I lived on a “middle class” street and I went to a school where it seemed like almost everyone was middle class.  When I was in high school, it was very rare to ever hear of a parent that was unemployed, and virtually every family that I knew had a comfortable home and more than one nice vehicle.  But now that has all changed.  The “American Dream” has been transformed into a very twisted game of musical chairs.  With each passing year, more people are falling out of the middle class, and most of the rest of us are scrambling really hard to keep our own places.  Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet Americans are very deeply divided when it comes to finding answers to our problems.  We love to point fingers and argue with one another, and meanwhile things just continue to get even worse.  The following are 22 numbers that are very strong evidence of the death of the American Dream…

Students opt for junk food contraband to avoid Michelle Obama’s gulag lunches, nutrition experts say

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the first lady’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 officials at the School Nutrition Association are asking lawmakers to rethink the tough nutrition standards.

“SNA supports strong federal nutrition standards for school meals, including calorie caps and mandates to offer a greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables,” SNA CEO Patricia Montague said.

“However, some of USDA’s regulations under the law have unnecessarily increased costs and waste for school meal programs and caused many students to swap healthy school meals for junk food fare.”

The problem, SNA says, is that students are opting out of school lunch programs in droves to avoid unappealing menu options provided by schools struggling to meet the standards with common cafeteria foods.

“Many schools are doing a great job serving healthy meals at the current reimbursement rates,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Agri-Pulse. “But it can be tricky for smaller schools, schools with lower participation rates, schools in areas with higher costs of living, etc.”

Obama treats journalists like ‘enemies of the state’

Former CBS reporter Sheryl Attkisson told senators on Thursday that a journalist’s job of “getting at the truth has never been more difficult” than it is under the Obama administration.

Testifying before the Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, Atkins said that the Obama Justice Department has potentially done “long-term damage to a supposedly free press” and urged Lynch to enact policy changes to end the DOJ’s abuse of journalists.

“Facets of federal government have isolated themselves from the public they serve. They covet and withhold public information that we as citizens own. They bully and threaten access of journalists who do their jobs, news organizations that publish stories they don’t like and whistleblowers who dare to tell the truth,” Attkisson said.

The reporter, who is one of many journalists who’ve been spied on by the government, then outlined a number of incidents where she was personally bullied by White House officials waging a “frenzied campaign” to chill reporting in the U.S.

“If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don’t like, you will be attacked and punished,” she said. “You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state.”

Do you stash cash?

Americans may be getting a break at the pump and feeling less stressed about the economy as a whole, but that’s not stopping many people from socking away extra cash for an emergency.

According to a new survey from the credit card giant American Express, 29 percent of Americans eschew traditional financial institutions when it comes to at least some of their savings. And among those who prefer keeping cash and coins on hand, 53 percent say their physical holdings are nestled in a secret location.

“We’ve long asked people about how they’ve planned to keep their savings, and for the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in people saving cash,” said Kimberly Litt, public affairs manager at American Express.

“I’ve also heard of people using it as a budget technique, keeping cash in envelopes set aside,” Litt added.

Financial anxiety plays a large role in the decision to go the cash-on-hand route. The poll found that about 20 percent of respondents expect to face a significant financial emergency in the year ahead.

“We saw a surge of this back in 2008, when the banking crisis was going on,” security expert Todd Morris told CNBC.

Pentagon declares taxpayer spending in Afghanistan confidential

A policy change to protect “sensitive information” at the Defense Department means that watchdogs will soon have no way to track how billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on ongoing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

For years, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has kept U.S. lawmakers and taxpayers apprised of how their money was being spent in war-torn Afghanistan. Though the Afghan war officially ended in 2014, more than 9,000 American troops remain in the country to provide training and support.

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, SIGAR said that it will no longer be able to provide up-to-date information on the effectiveness of $65 billion worth of “strength, attrition, equipment, personnel sustainment, infrastructure, and training” programs because all Pentagon information on the Afghan National Security Forces is now classified.

Adding insult to injury, the Pentagon decided to make the information classified after much of the necessary information had already been shared with the watchdog.

“[The Pentagon] is about to come and scrub our computers of the data,” Alex Bronstein-Moffl, SIGAR’s director of public affairs, told a reporter for Fusion.

Federal spending down 40 percent in ‘red’ states under Obama

A new analysis of how the Obama administration has exercised its discretion in carrying out congressional earmark spending finds that the White House has invested federal dollars in states where Democratic support is strongest, while dramatically reducing the amount funneled to traditionally conservative states where Democrats languish at the polls.

A Reuters analysis, released Wednesday, drew a line between the president’s application of congressional spending measures and the political climate in the states where the money has — or hasn’t — been spent.

“As Washington has tightened its belt in recent years, the budget cuts have sliced most deeply in states where President Obama is unpopular,” Reuters reported:

Between the 2009 and 2013 fiscal years, funding for a wide swath of discretionary grant programs, from Head Start preschool education to anti drug initiatives, fell by an average of 40 percent in Republican-leaning states like Texas and Mississippi.

By contrast, funding to Democratic-leaning states such as California and politically competitive swing states like Ohio dropped by 25 percent.

Reuters’ methodology was to divide the U.S. states into three groups: “red” states, where Obama received less than 45 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election; “purple” states, where he received between 45 percent and 55 percent; and solidly “blue” states, where he received more than 55 percent.

This public school has made it impossible for kids to receive anything less than 50 percent credit — even if they do nothing

Ignored your assignment? Didn’t even bother to write the instructions down? Cool! Here’s 50 points.

That’s the new policy at the William J. Christian K-8 school, a public school in Birmingham, Alabama, where principal Nichole Davis is attempting to address chronic low student performance by offering half credit, even when students don’t lift a finger to do any work.

A group of teachers at the school approached the Alabama Media Group with concerns that the policy, enacted last November, is exacerbating behavioral problems and sending students the message that they’re not accountable for their performance.

“The policy, which is not a district-wide policy, was implemented after a parent questioned her child’s low score on a progress report,” Al.com reported Thursday. “Some students who are aware of the policy aren’t doing classwork and projects, and just taking 50s.”

Lest you think there must be more to the story — some mitigating factor that might make more sense of such a policy — an opinion piece by Al.com’s Edward T. Bowser clarifies:

In November, the school instituted a “no zero policy” — if a student doesn’t turn in an assignment, they now will receive a score of 50 instead of the traditional zero.

History Channel’s not-so-historical ‘Sons of Liberty’

At the opening of the old radio and then television show “Dragnet,” we were told: “The story you are about to hear is true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” series, which aired this week, should have been preceded with the disclaimer: “The story you are about to see bears little resemblance to the truth; only the names are real.”

I suspect that most people who watched tje show on the History Channel thought they really were watching “history.” Unfortunately, it’s just too easy to completely overlook or misconstrue what the network meant when it showed its brief disclaimer that the show was a “dramatization.” Hint: That’s code for “completely made up.”

It was mere seconds into the first episode when the History Channel completely jumped the shark. Samuel Adams was neither a bachelor, nor a drunk, nor a thug, nor a ninja capable of climbing walls and jumping from rooftops; nor was he ever forced to contemplate such a thing. The real Samuel Adams was 43 years old in 1765, when the events portrayed in the series began.

The amazing arrogance and stupidity of Barack Obama

I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. Remember when George W. Bush damaged his presidency and legacy by arrogantly proclaiming “mission accomplished” on an aircraft carrier as he announced the end of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? He looked foolish when thousands more American soldiers came home in body bags and tens of thousands more were badly injured.

The reality Bush didn’t understand was that this was only the beginning of a guerrilla war using terrorist tactics. The biased liberal media, of course, never let the American public forget Bush’s mistake. They called him dumb and arrogant.

The question now is what do you call someone stupid enough to repeat the same mistake as his predecessor? You call him Barack Obama.

In his State of the Union address, a smug, arrogant Obama just declared “mission accomplished” on multiple fronts. He gloated that the economy is booming and the “fact” that he has defeated ISIS. Obama told Americans the recession is over, that it’s time to move on. He said it’s old news and it’s time to ignore any mention of hard times.

Gas tax drama continues in Washington

Politicians and bureaucrats have been calling for hiking the federal gas tax since the price of gasoline began its steady decline last year. The talk of raising the tax has led 50 conservative organizations to join forces to lobby in opposition of the increase.

Among the groups fighting against the tax hike are high profile organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity.

“Falling gas prices are the first significant relief many Americans have experienced in years,” AFP Vice President of Government Affairs Brent Gardner said. “Congress should let them take advantage of it rather than treating it as just another opportunity to reach into people’s pockets and take more away in taxes. Lower-income Americans deserve a break from trying times, not to be slapped with another tax that disproportionately affects them.”

Indeed, Americans are currently saving at the pump. AAA reported late last month that falling gas prices in the U.S. already saved American motorists more than $14 billion on fuel costs in 2014.

If the trend continues throughout 2015, AAA says that the number could jump to as much as $75 billion by this time next year.

The controversial invitation to Israel’s prime minister

House Speaker John Boehner sure has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next month. The deal was arranged without any consultation with the Obama administration, which has angered a bunch of folks here and in Israel.

A White House official has been quoted as saying, “He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

This not-very-subtle threat follows another leak by a White House insider last year, when an anonymous official described Netanyahu as “chickensh*t.” Everyone knew that such nasty name-calling was a deliberate provocation — a warning shot in the diplomatic maneuverings, if you will. You can imagine how well it went over in the prime minister’s office.

The immediate issue concerns U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The deadline for coming to an agreement has already been delayed twice and currently expires at the end of June.

The Next War In The Middle East Has Begun And Israel Vows ‘To Act Powerfully On All Fronts’

Israeli Tank - Israel Defense ForcesIsrael and Hezbollah are at war.  On top of everything else that is going on in the world, now we have a new war in the Middle East, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next.  Israel has been preparing for this moment for more than 8 years.  So has Hezbollah.  According to some reports, Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006.  If all-out warfare does erupt, we could potentially see tens of thousands of missiles rain down into an area not too much larger than the state of New Jersey.  And of course the Israeli military is also much more sophisticated and much more powerful than it was back in 2006.  If cooler heads do not prevail, we could be on the verge of witnessing a very bloody war.  But right now nobody seems to be in the mood to back down.  Hezbollah is absolutely fuming over an airstrike earlier this month that killed six fighters and a prominent Iranian general.  And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts” in response to a Hezbollah ambush that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven.  Just such an incident is what sparked the war between the two sides back in 2006.  But this time, a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could spark a full-blown regional war.