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THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: AP Report: Government Says Report On Power Grid’s Detailed Vulnerabilities Mishandled, Should Have Been Kept Secret. “Federal energy regulators improperly allowed widespread access to a sensitive document that outlined specific locations where the nation’s electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats, a government investigator said Wednesday. The document created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have been kept secret as a national security matter, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said. Instead the information was provided in whole or in part to federal and industry officials in uncontrolled settings.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Yes, the Obama SEC was colluding with banks on CDO prosecutions. “Now that this information is public, the SEC should apologize to all of us for its behavior, and promise not to collude with Wall Street again.” Er, at the very least.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Shocking details of rampant racism, sexism prompt Rep. Sean Duffy to ask if it’s time for CFPB’s Richard Cordray to resign.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Secret Service incident in Netherlands was on heels of car wreck during Obama’s Miami trip. “As the U.S. Secret Service arrived in the Netherlands last weekend for a presidential trip, managers were already on high alert to avoid any further em­barrassing incidents involving agents. The agency’s director had admonished supervisors after two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking were involved in a March 7 car accident during a presidential visit to Miami, according to several people with knowledge of the incident. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was not arrested.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Secret Service agents on Obama detail sent home from Netherlands after night of drinking. “Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave Sunday after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, the people said. . . . The alleged behavior would violate Secret Service rules ­adopted in the wake of a damaging scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012, when a dozen agents and officers had been drinking heavily and had brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms before the president’s arrival for an economic summit.”

Remember, only trained law enforcement officers can be trusted with guns. Plus, from the comments: “It’s time for serious look at how the culture of government employment could get to a place where people in a life and death professional job could get so bombed that they are lying in a hallway.” A fish rots from the head.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Former NSA Official Thinks A Blog Containing Nothing But His Own Tweets Is ‘Defamatory.’

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: A former policeman convicted of tipping off a terror suspect is now a senior official at the IRS.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Treasury investigator led life of lies, government dependence.

A high-ranking investigator in charge of rooting out fraud by Treasury Department employees was himself fraudulently drawing simultaneous salaries from both the military and the Treasury.

The same investigator then petitioned the government for a full disability retirement.

But wait, there’s more!

He also pretended to be a peace officer and lied about it, all while racking up massive debts and filing for bankruptcy, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

The very best.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Top Treasury employees swindled thousands of dollars, in-the-know bosses did nothing. One in the Bureau of Public Debt, amusingly.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Why a prominent academic was rejected from the National Council on the Humanities. Key bit: “I was not willing to commit to never criticizing the administration, nor to restricting my publishing agenda to topics that were unlikely to be controversial.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Exclusive: HHS official found White House in ‘disarray’ months before health law rollout.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Iranians hacked Navy network for four months? Not a surprise.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Money for nothing: Feds in D.C. closed 25% of the time. “Between snow days, official holidays and the government shutdown, federal employees have worked a normal business day less than 75 percent of the time since Oct. 1, marking a startlingly chaotic beginning to the fiscal year.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: New Details Emerge In Massive Army Financial Scandal.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Senate cybersecurity report finds agencies often fail to take basic preventive measures. “They aren’t even doing the simple stuff.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Stark warning: Admiral concedes U.S. losing dominance to China.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Director of National Intelligence Counterterrorism Map Misspells ‘Israel.’

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Federal Election Commission Vulnerable To Hacking, Inspector General Warns.

Deficient computer security at the Federal Election Commission has already led to high-level breaches and puts the agency “at high risk” of continued hacking, according to a federal Inspector General report released this month.

FEC information systems, which in the previous election tracked more than $6 billion in political spending, “have serious internal control vulnerabilities and have been penetrated at the highest levels of the agency,” according to the FEC Inspector General’s final audit for fiscal 2013.

The report, which reiterates security concerns flagged by federal auditors for several years running, identifies two specific, high-level hacking incidents. In May of last year, an adversary identified as an “Advanced Persistent Threat” compromised a commissioner’s personal user account, as well as several FEC systems, for eight months running.

During that period, the unidentified hacker had potential access to such sensitive information as details of FEC investigations; General Counsel’s reports; briefs; subpoenas, and personal identifying information.

The second intrusion took place in August of this year and involved the FEC’s public disclosure website, forcing the agency to shut down portions of the system while it investigated. While the FEC was working on remediating the August breach, “another intrusion was detected on the agency’s website in early fiscal year 2014,” according to the report.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Obamacare delays create New Year’s confusion.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Chief Judge For 9th Circuit Cites “Epidemic” Of Prosecutor Misconduct.

I’ve had some thoughts on the subject myself.

NOTHING SHADY ABOUT THIS: NPR: Report Details ATF’s Use Of Mentally Disabled In Gun Stings.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel just : Based on court records, police reports and dozens of interviews, the paper details how the ATF used “rogue” tactics — including providing underage youths with alcohol and allowing them to smoke pot — to run storefront gun and drug stings across the country.

In our estimation the most explosive allegation made in the report is that the agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used mentally disabled people to run their stings.

The country’s in the very best of hands. Here’s the original report.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct. “The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.”

How, exactly, do you leave behind a bullet from your service weapon? Like this: “The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in.” But why? Shouldn’t it have just stayed in the holster, whatever hanky-panky went on?

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: FBI: Help us find our missing sniper rifle, M16.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Obamacare ‘tech surge’ experts are White House fellows. Basically, a step or two above interns, a few hundred steps below the Zuckerberg/Bezos level.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: IRS Made $133 Billion in Improper EITC Payments in Past Decade, 25% Error Rate Violates Executive Order. The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Anonymous Twitter Troll Turns Out To Be White House Official. Well, he’s fired now, but he left us with gems like this: “I’m a fan of Obama, but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me.” I don’t think she’s vacuous at all. I think she knows exactly what she’s doing.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Health Website Woes Widen as Insurers Get Wrong Data: New Errors Indicate Technological Problems Extend Issues Already Identified.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: NSA Agent’s son caught downloading kiddie porn on dad’s NSA laptop. Er, if you’ve got an NSA secure laptop, shouldn’t you keep that, you know, secure? Also, the story says that most of the kiddie porn was anime, but the Supreme Court has ruled that child porn laws can’t apply to porn without actual children. Not clear if that mattered in the case.

IT’S COME TO THIS: Ezra Klein calls the ObamaCare launch a “failure.” And there are more failures hiding behind today’s failure:

In the weeks leading up to the launch I heard some very ugly things about how the system was performing when transferring data to insurers — a necessary step if people are actually going to get insurance. I tried hard to pin the rumors down, but I could never quite nail the story, and there was a wall of official denials from the Obama administration. It was just testing, they said. They were fixing the bugs day by day.

According to Bob Laszlewski, those problems aren’t resolved. They’re just not getting much attention because the health-care law’s Web sites aren’t working well enough for people to get that far in the process.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: NSA’s Own Hardware Backdoors May Still Be a “Problem from Hell:” Revelations that the NSA has compromised hardware for surveillance highlights the vulnerability of computer systems to such attacks. “In 2011, General Michael Hayden, who had earlier been director of both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, described the idea of computer hardware with hidden “backdoors” planted by an enemy as ‘the problem from hell.’ This month, news reports based on leaked documents said that the NSA itself has used that tactic, working with U.S. companies to insert secret backdoors into chips and other hardware to aid its surveillance efforts. That revelation particularly concerned security experts because Hayden’s assessment is widely held to be true. Compromised hardware is difficult, and often impossible, to detect. Hardware can do things such as access data in ways invisible to the software on a computer, even security software. The possibility that computer hardware in use around the world might be littered with NSA backdoors raises the prospect that other nations’ agencies are doing the same thing, or that groups other than the NSA might find and exploit the NSA’s backdoors.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Fed Chair Nominee Janet Yellen:

“For my own part,” Ms. Yellen said, “I did not see and did not appreciate what the risks were with securitization, the credit ratings agencies, the shadow banking system, the S.I.V.’s — I didn’t see any of that coming until it happened.”

Well, okay then.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Shutdown overreach: More personnel sent to WWII memorial than Benghazi; Park Service closes park it doesn’t run.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: 12 True Tales of Creepy NSA Cyberstalking. “It’s a fascinating look at what happens when the impulse that drives average netizens to look up long-ago ex-lovers on Facebook is mated with the power to fire up a wiretap with a few keystrokes. . . . Some of the abuses were referred to the Department of Justice, but none resulted in prosecution.”

ONE OF OBAMACARE’S WEAKEST LINKS: Information Technology.

During the design and passage of the Affordable Care Act, its architects and supporters described a fantastic new system for buying insurance. You would go onto a website and enter some simple information about yourself. The computer system would fetch data about you from various places — it would verify income with the Internal Revenue Service, check with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that you were a citizen or legal resident, and tap a database of employer coverage to make sure that you were not already being offered affordable coverage (defined as 9.5 percent of your income or less) by your employer. Provided you passed all those tests, it would calculate what subsidies you were eligible for, and then apply that discount automatically to the hundreds of possible policies being offered on the exchange. You would see the neatly listed prices and choose one, buying it as easily as you buy an airline ticket on Travelocity.

Before I went to business school, I used to work in an IT consultancy, and setting up this system sounded like an enormous job to me — a five- to eight-year job, given government procurement rules, not a three-year rush special. But Obamacare’s stewards seemed very confident, so I assumed that they must have it covered.

As time wore on, the administration has steadily stripped major components out of the exchanges and the data hub behind them as it became clear that they couldn’t possibly make the Oct. 1 deadline when all of this was supposed to be ready. The employer mandate was delayed, and then it was announced that at least some of the exchanges would be relying on self-reporting of income, rather than verifying with the IRS. . . .

How did we get to this point? The exchanges were the core selling point of Obamacare. (The Medicaid expansion was actually a bigger part of the coverage expansion, at least until the Supreme Court ruled that the administration couldn’t force states to take part, but it tended to be downplayed, because no one’s exactly a huge fan of Medicaid.) They were going to introduce competition to a fragmented and distorted marketplace, and make it easy for middle-class people to buy affordable coverage from a bevy of insurers. How can it be that one week before the deadline for opening, no one’s really sure the exchanges are going to work?

The country’s in the very best of hands. Plus, from the comments:

If Obamacare were merely an IT project I wouldn’t think twice about it. I would take it in a heartbeat over what Obamacare actually is.

Obamacare is not about the exchanges and I’m stunned that you would say that it is. Obamacare is a five-fold reentrenchment of the insane health care payment system that we have somehow allowed to evolve from its origins as a wretched socialist mistake made in the 1940s by the wretched socialist FDR administration attempting to put price caps on salaries.

Obamacare is a giant leap forward on the path of more bureaucracy, less choice, worse quality, and higher cost. It continues removing decisions from consumers and providers and placing them with third parties. It makes health care decisions even more contingent upon rulings by the IRS (THE IRS!!!) than they already were – and the fact that our health care financing system is largely overseen by our tax collection agency should be absurd on its face, and yet Obamacare doubles down on this absurdity.

If it were all about the exchanges I’d be ECSTATIC. Write the specs then take bids from Amazon and IBM and Raytheon and call it a day. It’d be full of problems but it would work eventually.

What we have instead will never work, even if the exchanges someday do. What we have instead will only serve to make things worse.

Amazing that this dumb law, and huge financial costs for the nation, ultimately stem from FDR’s dumb wartime wage controls, but in fact that’s correct.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Glenn, first off, please do not use my name if you choose to mention anything I say in this email.

I work for one of the largest Telecom providers in the country. I’m an engineer who designs dedicated data links (DS3s, OC3s, etc…) for major companies across the US.

For background, some of these circuits can be put up fairly quickly, but not the ones that I work on. The ones I design can take up to 90 business days to install.

Anyways, a few weeks ago, we got deluged with orders for circuits that needed to be installed by October 1st. These were circuits to support Obamacare.

Needless to say, they aren’t going to make that deadline. Some of the circuits are being held up due to construction builds that won’t be complete until the end of November. The others won’t make the deadline due to the complexity and the number of various companies involved.

The customer is basically screaming and escalating but because they requested the orders so late, there isn’t much that can be done.

I can only imagine that this same scenario is playing out with other Telecom companies in the United States.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Hundreds of U.S. security clearances seen falsified. “Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in recent years, illustrating what some lawmakers call systemic weaknesses in the granting of federal security clearances. . . . In one case, a private contractor investigator, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement, reported interviewing a person who had died more than a decade earlier. Another investigator was found guilty of making false statements in checks for applicants seeking ‘top secret’ clearances for jobs in the Air Force, Army, Navy and U.S. Treasury.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Company Behind Snowden Vetting Did Washington Shooter Check.

ROLL CALL: After Navy Yard Shooting, Ayotte Calls for Hearing on Contractor Hiring.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire urged leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel to hold a hearing on federal contractor hiring practices at military installations, following a mass shooting Monday at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard.

In a letter to Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., and ranking member Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Ayotte said senators should have a better understanding of hiring practices for contractors at military bases so that only qualified candidates who do not pose serious threats to personnel or national security become employed.

“In the wake of this tragedy, we must thoroughly review and fix deficiencies within existing federal contracting hiring practices that the alleged Washington Navy Yard gunman exposed and exploited to ensure the safety of the rest of our service family—servicemembers, civilian workers, and contractors, alike,” wrote Ayotte, who is a member of the panel. “It is with this in mind that I request a committee hearing as soon as possible to examine these important issues.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus Tuesday demanding further answers about the Navy’s management and oversight of contractor access to Naval installations. McCaskill cited a watchdog report released Tuesday that detailed deficiencies in an independent contractor’s execution of the Navy Commercial Access Control System and failure to properly screen contract employees before they were granted access to Naval installations.

Well, in this tight job market, you can’t . . . oh, wait.

Related: Security gaps: Felons often on military bases, report finds. The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Replica Enterprise bridge used to sell surveillance to Congress. “He sold members of Congress by letting them sit in the big chair and ‘play Picard.’”

Nothing creepy about a facility named the “Information Dominance Center,” either.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Debbie Wasserman Schultz says ‘dozens’ of countries stand with US on Syria, can’t name them.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Bryan Preston: How the FBI and DoD Blew and Continue to Miscast the Fort Hood Massacre.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Big Blunder At The Money Factory.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: The Obama Administration Is 10 Steps Behind The Guardian in Addressing Leaks.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Marshals Lose Track of Encrypted Radios Worth Millions: Loss of Equipment Could Endanger Judges, Witnesses.

The U.S. Marshals Service has lost track of at least 2,000 encrypted two-way radios and other communications devices valued at millions of dollars, according to internal agency documents, creating what some within the agency view as a security risk for federal judges, endangered witnesses and others. . . .

The Marshals Service guards judges and federal courthouses, and it runs the Witness Security Program, which provides new identities and security to witnesses or their families at risk of being killed. The Marshals also seek to apprehend fugitives.

“It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property,” according to a 2011 presentation by the agency’s Office of Strategic Technology. “Simply put, the entire system is broken and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues…The 800 pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged.”

Some involved in the work of tracking the missing equipment inside the agency estimated the value of the unaccounted-for radios at $6 million or more, according to documents and interviews with some of the people involved. Radios range from about $2,000 to $5,000 or more each. . . . A series of handwritten notes by one Marshals employee indicates that after the Journal began submitting FOIA requests, at least one person within the agency discussed the FOIA request and instructed others to communicate on the issue only by phone, not in email.

But remember, only law enforcement officers can be trusted with guns. Because they’re professionals.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Average Cost of Department of Energy Contract Employees In Washington? $247,000 Each.

THE HILL: Obama Is Faulted On Leadership. “Supporters and critics of President Obama are looking for leadership on many pressing issues from the White House, but many believe they are not getting it. On Monday, Obama held a Cabinet meeting and spoke about his effort to modernize government databases. He avoided public remarks on several matters seen as more pressing, such as turmoil in Egypt and the wider Middle East, faltering efforts to reform immigration in the U.S. and the rocky implementation of ObamaCare.” The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: US agency baffled by modern technology, destroys mice to get rid of viruses.

HOW THEY DO THINGS IN OUR NATION’S CAPITAL CITY: Metro rips out Phantom Planter’s flowers at Dupont Circle station.

The transit system regularly pleads poverty, yet employees devoted supposedly valuable time to remove more than 1,000 morning glories, cardinal flowers and cypress vines that Docter donated to the city — albeit without permission. The plants would have bloomed from August to October in a patriotic display of red, white and blue.

Instead of greenery today and colors to come, the 176 flower boxes along the top stretch of the escalators at the station’s north entrance now feature dirt, a few straggling stems and the occasional discarded soda can.

“It never occurred to me that Metro would think it was more efficient to rip out the plants than to let someone water them,” Docter said. Metro tore out the foliage without waiting to solicit the neighborhood’s opinion, as it said it had planned to do.

“We want to meet with the community and see what the community would like. We will move forward with their wishes, as long as they are reasonable, sustainable and safe,” Michael McBride, manager of Metro’s Art in Transit Program, said June 21.

No meetings have taken place since then. Local leaders were aghast that Metro ignored their wishes for a compromise to keep the flowers in place.

“They paid people to tear out plants that everyone loves? Well, this is cause for insurrection. Talk about fixing something that’s not broken,” said Robin Diener, a member of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association board of directors.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: US government declares hacking an act of war, then hacks allies.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: ATF leader who oversaw botched sting will run Phoenix office: Move puts him in charge of office known for infamous ‘Operation Fast and Furious.’

The ATF leader who oversaw a botched undercover operation in Milwaukee will now be in charge of the agency’s embattled Phoenix office, where agents allowed more than 2,000 guns to walk into the hands of suspected criminals through the infamous “Operation Fast and Furious.”

Bernard “B.J.” Zapor will be reunited in Phoenix with Fred Milanowski, another key figure in Milwaukee’s “Operation Fearless,” where a Journal Sentinel investigation found agents lost government guns, had their storefront ripped off and arrested at least four of the wrong people.

Zapor was in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ St. Paul Field Division, which covers Wisconsin and three other states. In November, shortly after the Milwaukee sting was abruptly shut down, he was promoted to a position in Washington, D.C., supervising eight field divisions.

Officials from the ATF and the U.S. Department of Justice told congressional staffers in April that disciplinary action was under way against Zapor because of the Milwaukee operation. They won’t say if Zapor’s assignment to Phoenix is punishment.

At the ATF, apparently, failure is the swiftest route to promotion.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: 5 Senators Who Support Immigration Bill Don’t Know Answer to Key Question About It.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Here’s How Edward Snowden Got ‘Top Secret’ Clearance.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: IRS Agents ‘Accidentally’ Discharged Guns 11 Times. “Special agents at the IRS accidentally shot their firearms 11 times between 2009 and 2011, and at least three of the cases ‘may have resulted in property damage or personal injury.’ Agents actually fired their guns accidently more often than they intentionally fired them in the field, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Senate Staffers Told To Pretend Top Secret Documents Are Not Widely Available On Web.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Obama Appointee In Charge Of Nuclear Security Hacked.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Dallas District Attorney Under Fire: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations the Democratic district attorney for Dallas abused the power of his office by filing a fraud lawsuit to benefit a campaign contributor. The investigation concerns accusations that Dallas County DA Craig Watkins filed a mortgage fraud lawsuit against Albert Hill III in order to benefit Lisa Blue, a Dallas trial lawyer who is one of Watkins’ campaign contributors, the Wall Street Journal reports.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Canadian relief for Moore tornado victims denied at border. “A Canadian shipment of relief goods bound for storm-ravaged Oklahoma has been stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ont. American officials will not allow the 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers into the country until every item on board is itemized in alphabetical order and has the country of origin of every product noted.”

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: As the US Naps, China Doubles Down on Caribbean Policy.

China is beefing up its presence in the Caribbean and making it clear that the region is a strategic priority going forward. Over the past few months, Beijing has begun investing hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment in countries very much in need of that money, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. And in addition to the monetary aid, President Xi Jinping will be visiting Trinidad and Tobago next week as part of a tour of the Caribbean and Latin America. That visit will mark the first time a Chinese president will have toured an English-speaking Caribbean country.

The US, meanwhile has become largely disengaged from the region as its focus turns farther afield to places like Syria and Iran. This is a significant reversal for a region that for obvious reasons has traditionally had much closer relations with the US than with China. . . . China isn’t matching its funding with political demands yet, but it isn’t hard to imagine this influx of money swaying the minds of Caribbean people frustrated with a lack of US engagement. Greasing the struggling economies of the region is a quick way to build up Beijing’s soft power there. This is significant because, in addition to increasing China’s global clout, having friends in the Caribbean is useful in international organizations. Like states in the US Senate, countries in the UN get a vote no matter how large or small their size.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Benghazi Suspects ID’d, But Administration Won’t Nab Them Because It Doesn’t Want to Send Them to Gitmo.

THE TWO ACTUALLY TEND TO GO TOGETHER: The IRS: Not Just Thuggish, But Also Incompetent.

The report shows that little oversight at the IRS has led to erroneous refunds sent to dead taxpayers, millions of extra tax credits mistakenly allocated to the Highway Trust Fund and major miscalculations of how much the agency is owed in unpaid taxes, among other issues.
GAO auditors found calculating errors totaling at least $829 million between 10 taxpayer accounts with balances equal to or exceeding $32 million, which went undetected by the agency’s internal review procedures.

“…IRS does not have a detailed listing, or subsidiary ledger that accurately tracks and accumulates unpaid tax assessments and their status on an ongoing basis,” the report said.

The IRS also lacked an effective policy to identify deceased taxpayers- – leading the agency to send refunds to dead Americans. . . . Add to this an almost comical mistake regarding the amount of quarterly excise tax revenues distributed to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the Highway Trust Fund. For example, in March 2012, IRS added $138 million in kerosene credits to the HTF when it should have subtracted $166 million. In another instance, IRS erroneously omitted $3 million in collections from the AATF for the third quarter of 2012.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

FIRST: WE HAVE TERRORISTS IN THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM? SECOND: WE LET THEM FLY COMMERCIAL IN THE U.S.? Yep. The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: IRS Grabs Man’s Tax Refund to Recoup Social Security’s Alleged $895 Overpayment to Mother 42 Years Ago.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Food stamps pay for billions in junk food, but USDA won’t say how much. “Food stamp participation is at an all-time high, costing taxpayers $80 billion in 2012 alone, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture refuses to make public how much of that money pays for junk food. A 2012 Yale study estimated Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, formerly called food stamps, pay for $2 billion in sugary drinks alone every year. A 2010 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that spending was even higher, estimating soda companies reap as much as $4 billion each year in SNAP money. SNAP benefits are legally allowed to pay for everything from ice cream to soda. But because the USDA doesn’t make food stamp purchase data public, it’s difficult to know how much that junk food costs taxpayers.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: ‘Climate of Fear’? Obama’s ATF pick facing probe over retaliation claim.

NO, THEY’VE BEEN TOO BUSY WORRYING ABOUT THE TEA PARTY AND SCRUBBING REFERENCES TO ISLAMIC TERROR FROM THEIR TRAINING MATERIALS: WaPo: Is The FBI Focused Enough On The Real Bad Guys?

Related: CIA pushed to add Boston bomber to terror watch list. “The CIA pushed to have one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers placed on a U.S. counterterrorism watch list more than a year before the attacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.” Response: Which Tea Party group is he with? What? Well, thank you for your interest anyway.

UPDATE: Homeland Security department charged with oversight of fertilizer manufacturers in disarray. “A devastating Homeland Security inspector general report released in March lays bare an alarming pattern of poor planning and ineffective execution that beset nearly every aspect of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, as well as the subsequent misleading of congressional overseers, who were told the program was making progress.” The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Inspector General: IRS Fails to Comply With Mandated Reduction in Improper Payments — 25% EITC Fraud Costs $14 Billion/Year.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Foreclosure Settlement Checks Bounce In Latest Setback For Troubled Program. “On Tuesday, some of the first people to receive payouts under the $9.2 billion deal between federal regulators and the mortgage industry called into a government hotline to report that their bank would not cash their check.” Problem fixed now, but as the article notes, this doesn’t inspire confidence.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Video: Sessions plays Stump the OMB Director by asking … about deficits. “Remember when Paul Ryan goaded then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner into admitting that the White House had no plan to deal with mounting national debt? Yesterday, Senator Jeff Sessions got OMB Director Jeff Zients to admit that he didn’t know the dollar figure of the added deficits in the Obama budget projection he was defending.”

Yeah, I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: White House budget director doesn’t know how much Obama’s budget increases the deficit.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Health and Human Services Secretary Doesn’t Understand What Insurance Is: Kathleen Sebelius thinks insurance isn’t really insurance unless it covers routine expenses. This is exactly backwards. Yes, it is, but it’s not surprising to hear this from an advocate of the Dependency Agenda.

THE HILL: Top House lawmakers slam ICE division on ‘Fast and Furious.’

Top House lawmakers criticized a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Friday for its role in the failed gun tracking operation ‘Fast and Furious,’ after a new report detailed the agency’s involvement.

At the urging of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), officials with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit did not pursue leads on potential weapons smugglers, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general report released on Friday.

The 84-page report also found that senior leaders in ICE’s investigative Arizona division failed to read the reports from agents in the field that identified the “flawed methodology” in the “Fast and Furious” operation, according to the report.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Protesters tripped alarms like crazy, but Y-12′s security force didn’t respond.

JAMES TARANTO: Not a Dictator: Obama’s declaration of ineffectuality.

By saying “I’m not a dictator,” then, Obama is admitting that he is ineffectual: that he lacks the political skill either to strike a compromise or to bend his opponents to his will. He concluded his press conference in an even more passive vein, hoping that “Congress comes to its senses a week from now, a month from now, three months from now.”

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Instead of living in his district, lawmaker lives rent-free in a lobbyist’s house.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Every single bit of gun advice Biden gives will get you arrested.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: J.D. Tuccille: FBI Sexting and Stealing a Great Reason To Not Give The Bureau More Power.

P. J. O’Rourke famously quipped that “giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” If he were writing today, though, he might have compared the state’s self-restraint to that of FBI agents handed smart phones and surveillance equipment. As reported by Reason 24/7, an internal disciplinary report from last fall shows that our fearless G-men (and women) have been busy sending each other pictures of their junk and using their surveillance skills to bug their supervisors’ offices. So you can definitely trust them with all of that extra spying power they’ve been gathering.

Good grief.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: FBI probe of defense tech allegedly leaked from NASA stonewalled, sources say. “The claims originate with several past and current NASA employees concerned with the systemic leak of highly sensitive information relating to missile defense systems, as well as what they call a troubled investigation into the leak. . . . The accusations stem from a reported violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which governs the export of defense weaponry. In 2006, Ames adapted specialized rocket engines — originally developed for the Pentagon missile defense “Kinetic Kill Vehicle” program — for a moon lander prototype that ultimately became NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). The robotic moon orbiter is set to launch on Aug. 12, 2013. Information on guidance and terrain-mapping systems from the Tomahawk cruise missile and a radar from the F-35 were also shared, according to one report in Aviation Week.”

UPDATE: A reader who asks anonymity emails: “I hear a different story about the ‘leak’ at Ames. My sources suggest this is a fairly transparent attempt by Bolden (NASA Administrator) to oust Pete Worden.” He’s a guy I trust, so factor this in.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Twitter Valentine oops: House Democrat’s ILU to young model.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Watchdog questions Treasury’s exit plan for Ally Financial. “In the four years since the federal government pumped billions into the nation’s financial firms to stave off economic collapse, virtually all of the biggest companies have repaid their debts. But Ally Financial, once one of the largest auto lenders in the country, still owes the government $11.4 billion. Now a government watchdog is pressing the Treasury Department to develop a plan for Ally to repay taxpayers, who own 74 percent of the company. In a report to Congress being issued Wednesday, the special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program criticizes Treasury for being slow to get Ally into line.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: GAO: IRS service bad–and getting worse. “Fewer taxpayers are getting through on the Internal Revenue Service hotline, their wait times for help has surged to 17 minutes, and 40 percent of those who write in questions wait over 45 days for an answer, a deterioration of taxpayer service that is just getting worse, according to a new government audit.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Inspector General: IRS Has 60% Error Rate in Policing Noncash Charitable Contribution Deduction.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Fitch Threatens To Lower U.S. Credit Rating.

MEANWHILE, THE EPA SCANDALS CONTINUE: Glitches mar EPA release of first batch of ‘Windsorgate’ emails.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency posted a file late today containing approximately 2,100 of a promised first tranche of 3,000 “Windsorgate” emails sent by and to the agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson.

Jackson admitted last month to using the non de plume “Richard Windsor” on a government email account. She said the name came from her dog and that she only used the account for internal messaging within EPA.

It is against federal law for government officials to use email accounts bearing fake names to conduct official business.

Technical glitches marred the release, however, as a link on the EPA web site to the emails initially would not work. Later in the afternoon, it would only open to a cover letter explaining that only 2,100 emails were being released today instead of the promised 3,000.

The country’s in the very best of hands. And laws are for the little people. Just ask David Gregory.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: EXCLUSIVE: DEA agents arranged prostitute for Secret Service agent. “All three DEA special agents admitted that they had paid for sexual services of a prostitute, the investigation also found, and ‘used their DEA Blackberry devices to arrange such activities.’ In addition, the report says the agents tried to destroy incriminating information or initially lied to investigators about the incidents. All three agents have high-security clearances.”

YOUR MONEY: Second VA official quits after wasteful conferences spotlighted.

Another top Department of Veterans Affairs official has resigned in the wake of Inspector-General reports criticizing two “Patton parody” employee training conferences, The Washington Examiner has learned.

Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University that hosted the conferences, resigned effective immediately, Rafael Torres, acting assistant secretary for human resources and administration, said in an announcement to his staff Friday afternoon.

The VA confirmed her departure in a statement today issued in response to this newspaper.

Muellerweiss’ former boss, John Sepulveda, left VA in September 2012 after a VA Inspector General’s probe found hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted at the training conferences, held in Orlando in July and August of 2011.

Sepulveda quit the day before the IG reported that as much as $762,000 was wasted on the conferences for a parody video of the movie “Patton,” trinkets including pedometers and water bottles, and overpriced food and drinks.

The total cost of the conferences was at least $6.1 million, but the IG report said sloppy record-keeping by VA made it impossible to determine a precise cost figure.

The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Inspector General: Tax Preparers and IRS Agents May be Stealing Taxpayer Direct Deposit Refunds.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Maker of Airport Body Scanners Suspected of Falsifying Software Tests.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Petraeus: We Knew Right Away It Was Terrorism, But Talking Points Were Changed. “No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points.” Plus: “The suggestion that the intelligence was altered raised questions about who altered it, with King asking if ‘the White House changed the talking points.’”

UPDATE: Roger Simon: Who Is Responsible For Benghazi? “There’s your smoking gun, as the saying goes. Someone, or ones, somewhere redacted that crucial line. Who?”

Plus, someone else suggests: “Consider this possibility … the talking points came from the CIA, and they were altered by the campaign people in Chicago. The coverup has been about hiding the sharing of classified information with campaign officials who don’t have the proper clearance. This sharing of information could also be the source of the earlier leaks such as the virus in Iran’s nuclear program.” Well, stay tuned. Things seem to be unraveling, and today’s modified limited hangout isn’t likely to end the story.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Interior Secretary Threatens To Punch Reporter.

On Election Day, at a rally for Barack Obama in Fountain, Colorado, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was being interviewed by Dave Phillips, a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, about Salazar’s policies in dealing with America’s wild horse populations. When the interview was over, Salazar threatened Phillips, “If you set me up like this again, I’ll punch you out.”

This threat was made in the presence of Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation, a Colorado-based wild horse advocacy organization. Kathrens, shocked, said, “I was stunned by the Secretary’s rude and clearly hostile comment toward Dave.”

Small men tend to respond angrily when asked uncomfortable questions.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Ex-ICE Chief in Fla Gets Prison in Child Porn Case. “A former top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in South Florida has been sentenced to 70 months in prison on a federal child pornography charge. . . . Mangione ran ICE’s South Florida operations from 2007 to 2011, including numerous child pornography investigations. He retired a few months after investigators searched his home and office computers in April 2011.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: IRS Flunks GAO Audit . . . Again.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Exclusive: Libya Cable Detailed Threats.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: After $500 Million Spent, Uranium Project To Be Redesigned Because Equipment Won’t Fit. “Because the space issue was discovered so late in the design process it will have a greater impact on the project, and that could affect cost, schedule and safety, he said.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Money Mismanagement Storm at the National Weather Service. “When whistleblowers sounded the alarm, the inspector general let the potential wrongdoers investigate the alleged wrongdoings.” Kinda like letting Chris Dodd oversee Wall Street — oh, wait . . . .

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: State Department: Stop asking us about the Benghazi attack. “The State Department told reporters Friday afternoon that it won’t answer any more questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the investigation into the incident is complete.”

MILITARY IGNORANCE AT THE DNC: Russian Warships Displayed During DNC Veterans’ Tribute. The country’s in the very best of hands.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Child Porn, Coke Smuggling: Hundreds of DHS Employees Arrested Last Year. “Border Patrol agents smuggling weed and coke. Immigration agents forging documents and robbing drug dealers. TSA employees caught with child porn. Those are just a few of the crimes perpetrated by Department of Homeland Security employees in just the past year.” We should abolish the Department of Homeland Security, which has turned out to be just as big a disaster as I predicted back in 2002.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: GOP lawmakers rip ATF double dip.

Two key Republicans ripped the Obama administration on Wednesday for allowing an official involved in Operation Fast and Furious to draw a six-figure salary from JPMorgan even as he received a regular government paycheck.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the ATF let the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) official take a paid leave on the taxpayer’s dime even as he served as executive director of JPMorgan Chase’s Global Security and Investigations Group in the Philippines.

“ATF has essentially facilitated [William] McMahon’s early retirement and ability to double dip for nearly half a year by receiving two full-time paychecks — one from the taxpayer and one from the private sector,” Grassley and Issa wrote in a letter that requested an explanation from the ATF’s acting director.

“Moreover, ATF did not wait for the Office of Inspector General to complete its report on Fast and Furious before approving the arrangement,” the letter said.

I suspect they’re happy to have him out of the country.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: A lot went wrong at Y-12; NNSA says cameras didn’t work, guards didn’t respond. “Despite receiving numerous alarms from an array of sensors on the fence line, the plant’s protective force failed to react as protesters used bolt-cutters to cut through three fences. Even when security guards did respond, they took an excessive amount of time getting to the scene and, once there, failed to take control of the situation until a supervisor took charge and removed the protesters.”

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: USDA spends $2 million on internship program for one full-time intern.

Who was the intern, and what were his/her connections?

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Report finds widespread fraud in taxpayer ID program. “A recently released report shows widespread tax fraud in connection with the federal government’s Individual Taxpayer Identification Number program. The U.S. Treasury inspector general report accuses the IRS of discouraging employees from reviewing applications for the ID numbers, which are generally from non-resident workers. The inspector general specifically said there were 154 mailing addresses that were used 1,000 or more times on applications, including 15,795 numbers assigned to a Phoenix address.” Plus, claims that IRS employees were told not to investigate potential fraud.