Bill Nye seals up the semantics of ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’

Bill Nye, who is literally a “science guy” with a mechanical engineering degree and not a research scientist with any postgraduate study under his belt, has devised a way to pretty much be right all the time when speaking about weather phenomena that deviate from historical norms: just say whatever’s applicable to help you bolster your case.

Nye was amazingly transparent about the importance of framing the global warming (or climate change, or whatever it’s called at this moment) agenda with context-appropriate language in a recent interview on MSNBC.

Nye admonished Joy Reid, his sympathetic interlocutor, on the semantic difference between “global warming” and “climate change” with a simple, easy-to-remember tip: only say “global warming” if you’re talking about a weather incident that involves, y’know, warmth. If you’re just talking about crazy weather in general, say “climate change.” In either case, the integrity of your agenda won’t be compromised, he explained.

“No, no; let’s not confuse or interchange ‘climate change’ with ‘global warming,'” he instructed. “Global [warming means] the world is getting warmer; there is more carbon holding in more heat.

“When the climate changes, some places get colder. And the thing that’s really consistent with climate change models is this variance where it’s cold, it’s warm, it’s cold, it’s warm.

“And, so, what I would hope for — my dream, Joy — is that you all, you and the news business, would just say the word ‘climate change.'”

That’s pretty bulletproof, really. Following that rule would create a linguistic closed system so perfect that no amount of objection over the semantics of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) could thwart it. After all, everybody agrees that the climate changes, even if they don’t agree on which way it’s actually trending, whether “weather” is a component of “climate” or why any of the changes are occurring.

When you speak on behalf of taking action to halt “climate change,” using the science guy’s logic, you’re free to take your argument in whichever direction suits your emotional purpose, because you’re asking everyone who’s listening to simply follow a moving target.

The cherry on top is that you, the AGW evangelist, get to move the target as you see fit.

College effectively ends student’s career because he reminded rape victim of her attacker

Even though you haven’t raped anybody, or thought about raping anybody, or know anything about other rapes that may or may not involve perpetrators who resemble you in ways obvious and less so, you can still be singled out for unilateral persecution by college administrators if you remind a rape victim of the stranger who actually attacked her.

That’s the message one female attorney is sending with a piece in the Harvard Law Review that deals, in part, with the woeful due process double standard that separates alleged college rape victims from their alleged attackers… or innocent bystanders who happen to superficially resemble them.

Harvard law professor Janet Halley’s piece, “Trading the Megaphone for the Gavel in Title IX Enforcement,” describes one of Halley’s experiences assisting a male college student in Oregon who was never accused of rape — rather, he was simply accused of too greatly resembling the actual rapist for the victim’s emotional well-being.

I recently assisted a young man who was subjected by administrators at his small liberal arts university in Oregon to a month-long investigation into all his campus relationships, seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them (an immense invasion of his and his friends’ privacy), and who was ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away. He was found to be completely innocent of any sexual misconduct and was informed of the basis of the complaint against him only by accident and off-hand. But the stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that.

When the duty to prevent a “sexually hostile environment” is interpreted this expansively, it is affirmatively indifferent to the restrained person’s complete and total innocence of any misconduct whatsoever.

In other words, victim zero — the actual rape victim, that is — holds supreme prerogative in creating, from thin air, other victims, even for a goal as foreign to the law as catharsis.

College administrations, in recent months, have embraced this lazy, rigor-free approach to keeping up appearances when it comes to advocating for the rights of alleged rape victims. Under this approach, the rights of the rape victim trump the rights of all others.

“These cases are becoming increasingly easy. Interim measures and environmental security provisions are justified as ‘merely administrative,’ the equivalent of determining that more lights should be installed on campus walkways or that food safety certificates should be required for all vending machines. And like merely administrative acts conducive to public safety, they follow a strict liability model. But ending or hobbling someone’s access to education should be much harder than that,” writes Halley.

“It may well be that the only effective way to convince people that this tendency is dangerous is to point to the rights they invade: rights to privacy, to autonomy, to due process. But the tendency itself is due for scrutiny.”

Until colleges begin to face damaging lawsuits from bystanders caught in the crossfire of their knee-jerk responses to rape allegations — responses that increasingly deny everyone but the alleged victim of their due process — don’t hold your breath for their administrators to scrutinize their ill-conceived policies.

Montana legislator wants to limit use of license plate scanners

Montana lawmakers are taking up a state legislator’s new bill aimed at restricting the use of license plate scanners by law enforcement, over the predictable objections of the law enforcement community.

Montana State Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican, introduced a bill earlier this month that would limit the state’s legal authority to purchase and deploy the devices, in anticipation of a burgeoning market for scanners as the technology matures. Zolnikov also crafted the bill in the hope of setting some boundaries that would protect the data that the scanners, in limited use, collect so that the federal government can’t gain access to it.

“The purpose of this legislation is to severely limit Montana’s consideration of purchasing and implementing these devices,” Zolnikov told the Montana House Judiciary Committee at a hearing last week. “We have a very short period of time before the state likely starts implementing license plate scanners and starts sharing it with the Department of Justice.”

At the same hearing, however, law enforcement officials testified that the bill’s aim isn’t primarily to protect drivers’ info from the prying eyes of the Feds — rather, they claimed, it’s to “tie the hands of law enforcement” by effectively banning the devices altogether, even in cases involving the issuance of a search warrant. Specifically, they claim that the bill’s definition of scanning devices is so broad that virtually no device — whether a license plate “reader” or a camera — would be legal for police to use.

That language could change during the markup process. But while an outright ban on all such devices may not hurt the feelings of the bill’s supporters, Zolnikov’s concerns with the Feds are real.

“A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security killed a solicitation for bids to establish and maintain ‘a National License Plate Recognition (NLPR) database service’ after a chorus of public outrage,” Reason noted Tuesday. “… If passed, the Montana measure couldn’t block such efforts from D.C., but it would prevent agencies within the state from contributing to those schemes.”

Zolnikov’s bill includes a confidentiality clause which restricts data obtained by scanners as “private” and “not a public record” subject to “public disclosure,” and mandates that no state agency can retain the data for more than 30 days.

Man offers free books with curbside library outside his home; city forces him out of ‘business’

A Shreveport, Louisiana, man who wished to share his abundance of books with neighbors and passersby created a lemonade stand-type kiosk at the edge of his front yard so that interested readers could help themselves with a quick stop near the curb. The plan was to make the books free to take away and return, because the man behind the plan was interested in reading — not money.

But the city shut him down after a single anonymous complainer reported the activity. Officials with the Caddo Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission sent a cease-and-desist letter to Shreveport resident Ricky Edgarton, citing an alleged violation of a zoning ordinance that regulates “commercial activity” in residential zones.

From Watchdog.org:

Ricky Edgarton told Louisiana Watchdog he doesn’t make a cent from his makeshift library.

Caddo Parish officials, however, still regard it as a commercial enterprise and last month sent a cease-and-desist letter to his house.

The now-retired Edgarton, who said he has so many books at his home that he and his wife need a rolling ladder to reach them all, established the Little Free Library.

“When it said to cease any activity, I could have just taken the books out and brought them inside, but instead, for effect, I put a padlock around it,” Edgarton said.

Other Shreveport residents have set up similar libraries in front of their homes, but MPC officials have singled out Edgarton.

Edgarton set up the kiosk in the spirit of the “Little Free Library” movement, whose goal is as uncomplicated as its name: make reading materials available to borrow and return, for free, from a ubiquity of community-driven lending locations. “In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share,” the program’s website explains.

Edgarton told Watchdog.org that it will cost him $500 to appeal the city’s order — even though he believes his library does not fall under the residential zoning restrictions for a “commercial” enterprise.

City enforcers disagree, noting that the ordinance not only limits the type of activity that can take place in the R-1H residential zone, but where on the property that activity can legally occur.

“Libraries are only allowed in our B-2 commercial zoning,” said planning commission director Mark Sweeney. “… but the key issue here, more than anything else, is that under our ordinance, where it talks about accessory buildings and structures, well, those can only be located in the backyard.

“They can’t be located in the side or front yard of a residence. That’s the key issue.”

At least he — and that concerned anonymous neighbor — are diligent.

NYC collects, sets 2016 expiration date for illegal aliens’ personal info ‘in case a Tea Party Republican comes into office’

In only a month’s time, New York City’s new city-issued ID card program for illegal aliens has generated more than 200,000 responses. The municipal ID was conceived to afford illegals in NYC a measure of confidence in availing themselves of the same liberties the rest of the city’s citizens enjoy. Mayor Bill de Blasio describes the card as illegals’ “gateway to city services.”

Launched Jan. 12 of this year, the “IDNYC” card is, according to the mayor, “not only a card for all New Yorkers, it is the gateway to city services, the key to opening a bank account or getting a library card, and the ticket to many of our city’s finest cultural institutions.”

But the city council’s decision to approve the new cards last June carried a built-in feature that is only now coming to light, thanks to a new report by the New York Post: all the personal information the city collects on each illegal alien who receives a card is slated for destruction at the end of 2016, in the event a conservative president is voted into the White House.

According to the Post:

The city’s new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law’s co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.

The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.

“In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, ‘We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,’ we’re going to take the data,” he explained.

The next president assumes office Jan. 20, 2017.

“That date is an important signal to the future of immigration reform. That allows us to prepare for any new leadership,” Menchaca said.

To obtain an IDNYC card, illegal aliens must give the city their real names, their aliases, addresses and birth dates, according to the Post. But municipal leaders have attempted to win the confidence of New York City residents living in the U.S. illegally by structuring the program so that illegal aliens understand, when they apply for the card, that they are sharing their information only with a sympathetic city administration — not with the federal government. Hence the expiration date on the personal data, which one advocate described as a “sunset.”

“The sunset is part and parcel of the effort to ensure confidentiality,” the New York Immigration Coalition’s Steven Choi explained.

ATF seeks to reclassify commonly used round as ‘armor piercing’ ammo in order to ban it

From the guns-don’t-kill-people; ammunition-kills-people files: The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is seeking the authority to reinterpret the Gun Control Act of 1968 so that a specific loading of 5.56 ammunition is deemed illegal, except for “sporting” uses determined by the bureau.

To accomplish this, ATF is proposing to remove the “armor piercing” exemption that has applied to SS109/M855 5.56 NATO ammunition. The proposal ostensibly would apply to handgun ammunition; here’s how Bearing Arms’ Bob Owens explains it:

SS109/M855 is one of the two most common loadings for 5.56 NATO chambered AR-15 rifles, featuring a 62-grain bullet with a mild steel penetrator core. The cartridge was adopted by NATO in the late 1970s to give soldiers better long range performance, and reduce the possibility of fragmentation seen in the prior 55-grain M193 round cartridge that some viewed as “inhuman” and “devastating.” Civilian shooters like it because it is accurate, plentiful, and relatively economical to shoot.

… The “logic” behind the ATF reclassification attempt is that recent prevalence of AR-15 pistols means that the SS109/M855 cartridge is now an armor-piercing pistol bullet according to the absurd definitions crafted by politicians and bureaucrats who can’t tell a bolt-face from a “shoulder thing that goes up.”

ATF has written up its proposal, which you can read in full here. There’s a public comment period that ends on March 16 of this year (the proposal gives instructions for commenting at the end of the document.)

Owens also argues that effectively banning — or, in ATF’s parlance, “reclassifying” — the SS109/M855 cartridge would be counterproductive to the bureau’s stated purpose of achieving “safer” ammunition:

The ban on “armor-piercing pistol ammunition” is a great idea in theory, but is utterly absurd as a practical matter. Rifle caliber bullets are much more powerful than true pistol calibers. And all will easily penetrate Level IIa, Level II and Level IIIa “soft” body armor worn by police, even fired from rifle-class “pistols.” The key difference is velocity, not the metals used in bullet construction.

Both lead-core M193 and steel core SS109/M855 easily penetrate all police soft body armor, but the tendency of lead bullets to mushroom and fragment means that a ban on the steel core bullets that holds their shape better would mean that people shot by rifle-caliber pistols (both armored and unarmored) are more likely to suffer “devastating” wounds once the bullet penetrates the body.

By banning a less damaging bullet, the ATF would create the potential for more grievous wounds.

If approved, the reclassification would make it illegal to manufacture, import, exchange or sell the ammunition. Here’s how the proposal attempts to reassure the arms-bearing public:

ATF recognizes that this ammunition is widely available to the public. Because it is legally permissible to possess armor piercing ammunition under current law, withdrawing the exemption will not place individuals in criminal possession of armor piercing ammunition. However, with few exceptions, manufacturers will be unable to produce such armor piercing ammunition, importers will be unable to import such ammunition, and manufacturers and importers will be prohibited from selling or distributing the ammunition. ATF is specifically soliciting comments on how it can best implement withdrawal of this exemption while minimizing disruption to the ammunition and firearm industry and maximizing officer safety.

Well, abandoning the plan entirely would be a good start. But, barring massive public backlash, the chances of that happening are slim.

Shaming whatever conservative lawmakers you may have into demonstrating their much-touted pro-2nd Amendment stance might be a good place to start, though.

Facing U.S. capital gains tax, London mayor renounces dual citizenship

London Mayor Boris Johnson was born in New York City in 1964, and he has held dual British and American citizenship throughout his life. Recently, after months of grousing about having to pay a capital gains tax to the U.S. on the sale of his house in Greater London, Johnson announced he would renounce his U.S. citizenship.

Johnson’s disgruntlement with U.S. tax laws for expatriates and dual citizens is, of course, less cut and dried than that of the many Americans who renounce their citizenship to avoid double taxes. Johnson’s political career may necessitate a show of full and exclusive loyalty to the U.K. (think Ted Cruz’s renunciation of his Canadian citizenship.) He has much to gain by going all-in for the Crown. And his recent comments about dropping his dual citizenship have more to do with patriotism and optics than with finances. He called his U.S. citizenship “an accident of birth” and reaffirmed his “commitment is, and always has been, to Britain.”

But there’s no denying Johnson holds the same aversion many other dual citizens harbor toward the IRS. And there’s a bit of irony in observing a prominent Brit revolt against American tax oppression.

Here’s a well-explained snippet of Johnson’s tax dilemma, taken from an article in The Spectator late last year, written by American expat Anne Jolis:

So it is with great interest — and some sympathy, on the part of yours truly — that we expatriates in London learn of Johnson’s dispute with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Speaking to American National Public Radio (NPR) this month Johnson said:

‘They’re trying to hit me with some bill, can you believe it?’

Yes, we can.

The IRS apparently wants its 15 per cent cut from the sale of Boris’s first home, a north London four-storey that he and his wife sold in 2009 for more than twice the 1999 purchase price. The sale of a first residence ‘is not taxable in Britain’, Johnson explained to American listeners (so there’s one stamp-duty loophole that he’s not clamouring to eliminate).

However, it is taxable for US citizens, no matter where in the world the transaction takes place and particularly if the gain has gone untouched by other jurisdictions. Asked if he plans to pay the bill, Boris retorted:

‘No. … I think it’s absolutely outrageous. Why should I?’

The short answer, to borrow the Mayor’s logic, would be because capital-gains tax on real estate is paid by virtually everyone else who holds US citizenship – except those who can afford the clever lawyers to avoid it.

That hardly makes it just, and this American wastes no love on the ‘incredible doctrine of global taxation’, as Johnson described it to NPR. Adding insult to absurdity, the IRS does not adjust for inflation in setting capital-gain tabs, so its bill to Boris probably reflects the full nominal increase on the sticker-price of his London home.

In that same conversation with NPR, Johnson elaborated on his reason for not hastening to pay the U.S. tax.

“I think, you know, I’m not a… I, you know, I haven’t lived in the United States for, you know, well, since I was 5 years old… I pay the lion’s share of my tax, I pay my taxes to the full in the United Kingdom where I live and work.”

As you’re probably aware, renunciation of American citizenship is at an all-time high, even as the government works out new ways to discourage it by making it more expensive.

“[I]t should come as little surprise that such a high number are prepared to… [renounce U.S. citizenship] because FATCA’s [the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act’s] reporting requirements are excessively onerous, burdensome and expensive,” international financial consultant Nigel Green explained last October. “Also many non-U.S. banks and other financial institutions will no longer work with Americans which can make living outside the U.S. achingly complicated.”

Senate bill would give concealed carry across state lines the same reciprocity ‘as a driver’s license’

You may recall the case of Shaneen Allen, a woman from Pennsylvania who was stopped for a lane-change violation in New Jersey — only to end up facing 10 years in prison, all because she told the police at the scene about the pistol she carried in her purse and showed them her Pennsylvania carry license.

Allen was on her way to a kid’s birthday party in New Jersey. A mother of two, she’d been robbed twice in the past before determining that getting herself a firearm and learning how to use it was probably a smart idea.

Like more than a dozen other states, New Jersey doesn’t recognize other states’ concealed carry laws, even for people just passing through. Atlantic County, N.J., prosecutor Jim McClain — “the same prosecutor who let Ray Rice off with pretrial diversion” — allowed the case to build toward a trial and had remained adamant that Allen would face a count of illegal possession of a firearm and another count for possession of illegal ammunition. Helped along by some public shaming, he finally reversed himself last September, allowing Allen to instead enter into a pretrial diversion program.

That is still a ridiculous punishment for an exercise of one’s natural and constitutional rights.

Fast-forward to now: A Senate Republican has introduced a reciprocity bill that would impose on every state a legal obligation to recognize the concealed carry permits of travelers hailing from any other state where they obtained their concealed carry permits.

The so-called Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (CCCRA), according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, is intended specifically to “eliminate some of the ‘gotcha moments,’ where people inadvertently cross state lines” without realizing that doing so can automatically make them a potential criminal.

“This operates more or less like a driver’s license,” Cornyn told The Hill. “So, for example, if you have a driver’s license in Texas, you can drive in New York, in Utah and other places, subject to the laws of those states.”

Cornyn sponsored a similar bill in 2013, and it fell only three votes short of passing the then-Democratic-controlled Senate.

Cold weather scuttles Yale protest against global warming

With most of the country’s eastern half in the doldrums of a wicked cold snap, one student-based group at Yale University that’s aiming to curb reliance on fossil fuels has been forced to put its plans for a weekend rally on ice.

You already know why: It’s just too cold.

The Fossil Free Yale group, whose self-stated mission revolves around “organizing for climate justice on Yale’s campus” — in part by persuading the university “to divest its $23.9 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry” — had to indefinitely postpone its scheduled celebration of global divestment day because of anticipated blizzards, freezing temperatures and general icy ickiness.

Despite being chock full of academics, the group apparently didn’t apprehend their ironic position. The postponement owed to more than just cold weather, they explained; it also had to do with things not-so-tangential to the cold: logistics and speaker cancellations.

“[T]he event, which was meant to be held on Saturday [Feb. 14], has been postponed indefinitely,” reported the Yale Daily News. “FFY Project Manager Mitch Barrows [class of] ’16 said the delay is due to unfavorable weather conditions and other logistical issues, including some cancellations from speakers and performance groups.”

Regional cooling has far-reaching, yet instant, ramifications, it would seem.

Report links American hostage deaths with Obama administration decision to delay rescue

The Obama administration held on to British-sourced intelligence that could have saved the lives of American hostages held by ISIS in Syria, according to a report that all but pins the deaths of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Kayla Mueller on that decision.

The Daily Beast, a website that’s no enemy of the Obama administration, alleged in a scathing report last week that the White House frustrated British officials by sitting on the intelligence reports, waiting an entire month after receiving them only to stage a (failed) rescue attempt — based, in the end, on the exact same intelligence.

“White House Stalled ISIS Rescue. Foley, Sotloff, and Mueller Died,” the Beast’s headline reads.

Here’s more:

Toward the end of May, the British government had identified two or three locations in and around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State, where the militants had moved hostages during the previous weeks and months. But the British were not absolutely sure in which location the Westerners were held. The captives included American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well aid worker Kayla Mueller. The information — based on debriefings of European captives who had been released, satellite and drone surveillance, and electronic eavesdropping — was not definitive in May.

Then, in early June, London had a “positive identification and that information was shared with Washington,” said a British source. The delay of nearly a month before the rescue bid was mounted remains a source of bewilderment for British officials.

But a U.S. official said that inside the White House, Obama’s senior national-security advisers were not willing to base a raid on intelligence developed by a foreign service. “The issue was that they didn’t trust it, and they wanted to develop and mature the intelligence, because it wasn’t our own,” said the U.S. official, who asked to remain anonymous when discussing sensitive hostage-rescue efforts.

“They got the information. They just didn’t trust it. And they did sit on it, there’s no doubt about that,” the official said.

After Americans began dying, one by one, in gruesome and public events tailor-made for the media-consumer culture, the victims’ families began to question the Obama administration’s decisions.

“The State Department said they were connecting with the French and everybody at the highest levels,” Foley’s mother, Diane, told the Beast. “Very specific information was available as early as mid-March. And that’s what’s been so tough for us as families, because apparently they were held in the same place all those months.”

Read the rest of the report here.

It’s come to this: a bill to forbid government employees from watching porn at work

This isn’t a commentary on whether it’s a good idea to heap rules on top of rules to address ever more-specific abuses and offenses; rather, it’s simply an observation that we live under a federal bureaucracy that invites lawmakers to make such rules.

On Wednesday, House Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) announced his sponsorship of a new bill aimed at stopping federal employees from watching porn while they’re at work — or, at least, from watching it on government computer screens.

Answering reports last year that one EPA employee had been discovered to have wasted hours and hours each day watching porn while on the job, Meadows’ “Eliminating Pornography from Agencies” (EPA — get it?) Act would prohibit federal employees from “accessing pornographic or explicit material on government computers and devices.”

In a release on his congressional Web page, Meadows said the case involving the EPA (the agency, not the bill) inspired him to craft the legislation.

“Last year, an Inspector General report revealed that one Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office on his government computer. The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer. To date, this employee has yet to be fired and we continue to learn of similar bad actors.

“… While there are rules in place at most agencies to ban this kind of unprofessional and potentially hostile workplace behavior, it continues to take place. There is absolutely no excuse for federal employees to be viewing and downloading pornographic materials on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Last May, an inspector general’s report indeed revealed not only that the EPA employee had spent hundreds of hours watching porn at work, but that the unnamed employee was actually in the very act of downloading porn when the IG came into his office to investigate the matter.

A follow-up report in September revealed the same employee continued to earn a $120,000 annual salary while on administrative leave.

GOP Senator: ‘I smell a rat’ in thousands of recovered Lois Lerner emails

Usually when people say things like this on TV, they know enough of the backstory to say it confidently — or not at all. And while he didn’t get specific, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told a national audience Thursday that he’s all but convinced the Obama administration played a larger role in the IRS political discrimination scandal than it has so far admitted.

Despite ongoing protestations from the IRS that it had been unable to recover Lerner’s “missing” emails — or that retrieving them was proving to be an insurmountable task — an Inspector General’s investigation seized Lerner’s backup data and managed to retrieve tens of thousands of emails that had been stored on rewritable tape drives.

“The way they found these emails is they went to the backup tapes. But the IRS didn’t go to the backup tapes; the Inspector General Seized the backup tapes in June of 2014. And, of course, they reported last November that they though they found about 30,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails. Now, after further investigation, it’s about 80,000,” Widen told Fox News.

“… [IRS Commissioner] John Koskinen said they went to ‘extraordinary’ efforts to find these things. And obviously he didn’t because his inspector general, once he seized the backup tapes, within a couple of months uncovered 30 — and now 80 thousand — emails.”

A significant portion of those are duplicate emails, but Widen said he still believes there are roughly 16,000 unique email messages salvaged from the Lerner tapes. Considering these findings, as well as the timeline of the scandal, Widen said it’s becoming clearer to him that Lerner’s computer crash was part of a “plot.”

“What we have to do is, we have to piece together this plot,” he said. “This [presidential] administration has been completely opaque… Who was communicating with Lois Lerner? What emails were exchanged with the White House or the Treasury Department?”

Arizona lawmakers look to nullification to preempt future federal gun bans

Lawmakers in Arizona are advancing legislation that aims to preemptively nullify any future federal ban or other new limitation on 2nd Amendment rights, with support for the measure lining up along party lines.

Arizona’s state Senate may soon consider a GOP-backed bill that cleared a committee hurdle this week. The bill, SB 1330, would make any new federal gun law subject to state-level review before being cleared for enforcement. It also seeks to penalize any state or municipal officeholder or employee who knowingly assists the Feds in investigating alleged violations of such laws.

From the bill:

  1. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER LAW, THE STATE TREASURER SHALL NOT TRANSFER ANY MONIES TO A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE IN THE FISCAL YEAR AFTER A FINAL JUDICIAL DETERMINATION IS MADE THAT THE POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE ADOPTED A RULE, ORDER, ORDINANCE OR POLICY THAT INTENTIONALLY VIOLATED THIS SECTION.
  2. ANY AGENT OR EMPLOYEE OF THIS STATE OR ANY POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHO KNOWINGLY VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS DEEMED TO HAVE RESIGNED ANY COMMISSION FROM THIS STATE THAT THE PERSON MAY POSSESS, THE PERSON’S OFFICE IS DEEMED VACANT AND THE PERSON IS FOREVER AFTER INELIGIBLE TO HOLD ANY OFFICE OF TRUST, HONOR OR EMOLUMENT UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS STATE.
  3. ANY PERSON OR CORPORATION THAT PROVIDES SERVICES TO OR ON BEHALF OF THIS STATE AND THAT VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS FOREVER INELIGIBLE TO ACT ON BEHALF OF, OR PROVIDE SERVICES TO, THIS STATE OR ANY POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE.

Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward is sponsoring the bill. “The intent of the law is to allow Arizona to function under Arizona’s own power and not allow any current or future federal laws that go into effect [regarding] the Second Amendment to affect people who live in Arizona,” Ward said Monday.

According to the East Valley Tribune, lawmakers also are taking aim in a separate measure at Arizona municipalities that defy current state law by passing localized gun ordinances. “State law already bars cities from enacting regulations stricter than state statutes. But Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said Tucson has ignored that preemption,” the Tribune reported.

Under SB 1291, individuals and entities “adversely affected” by local gun laws would gain the right to sue local governments for monetary damages (capped at $100,000) and empower judges to assess penalties on officials found responsible for enforcing local ordinances that reach beyond state law.

 

Illinois governor ends mandatory union dues for public employees

Public employees in Illinois will no longer be compelled to submit a portion of their paychecks in union dues — even if they aren’t union members — thanks to an executive order issued this week by Bruce Rauner, the state’s new Republican governor.

Rauner’s order upends the state’s old “fair share” provision for unions, which mandated that even non-union government employees cough up union dues to help spread the financial burden among all of the employees who, in theory, are collectively served by union activism.

“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,” Rauner said Monday.

“Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inexorably linked. An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.”

Oof. Illinois Review has a copy of the order here.

On the same day he issued the order, Rauner also announced he had assembled a legal team dedicated to having the “fair share” provision declared unconstitutional. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rauner has tapped former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to seek a declaratory judgment action against the provision in federal court. Webb and his law firm are reportedly doing the work as a pro bono service.

Labor unions representing public-sector employees weren’t exactly happy. Their reactions to Rauner’s order were emotional and accusatory, if not substantive.

“Child protection workers, caregivers for veterans and the disabled, correctional officers and everyone else employed by state government has a right to a voice at work and in the democratic process through their union,” offered Roberta Lynch, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power.”

The Illinois Federation of Teachers’ Dan Montgomery sounded a similar note, calling the change an “ideological and illegal attack… on working families” and a symptom of Rauner’s “unproductive, partisan politics.”

“[W]e fully intend to hold this governor accountable to the U.S. Constitution, Illinois law, and collective bargaining agreements,” Montgomery added.

Federal judge finds ban on interstate gun transfers unconstitutional

On Wednesday, federal Judge Reed O’Connor overturned a longstanding ban on handgun transfers between individuals living in separate states, declaring the ban unconstitutional.

Reed, judge for the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Texas, issued a 28-page decision in the case, which pitted a trio of individuals with support from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Director B. Todd Jones.

The plaintiffs argued the ban not only violates the 2nd Amendment, but also “limits their choices as consumers, harms competition in the market and raises prices.” Holder and Jones had motioned for the case to be dismissed.

Instead, O’Connor agreed fully with the plaintiffs, finding the interstate ban on handgun transfers violates both the 2nd Amendment and the due process clause of the 5th Amendment.

Here’s what O’Connor had to say about the latter (some legal references have been omitted for readability but can be found in the original):

Plaintiffs contend that, because the laws discriminate based on residence, Defendants’ enforcement of the federal interstate handgun transfer ban violates Plaintiffs’ right to equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides, in relevant part: “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Supreme Court has consistently held that the Due Process Clause contains an equal protection component, which prohibits the United States from discriminating between individuals or groups.

“[E]qual protection analysis requires strict scrutiny of a legislative classification only when the classification impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class.” Mass. Bd. of Ret. v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 312 (1976). Here, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has also held that strict scrutiny is required where the challenged classification impinges on residency. The Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny in situations where state laws discriminated against non-residents, and those cases involved benefits offered by the state, not constitutional rights. …Based on the strict scrutiny analysis above, the Court finds that the federal interstate handgun transfer ban also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

O’Connor also rejected the defendants’ arguments that the ban is intended to bolster public safety, writing that it “is not substantially related to address safety concerns. Thus, even under intermediate scrutiny, the federal interstate handgun transfer ban is unconstitutional on its face.”

Alan Gura, the 2nd Amendment attorney who helped the plaintiffs argue and win the case, said the ban, from its inception, was a “bizarre and irrational” application of burdensome restrictions on interstate commerce — one that doesn’t pass the smell test when applied to other legal goods.

“It is bizarre and irrational to destroy the national market for an item that Americans have a fundamental right to purchase,” Gura said.

“Americans would never tolerate a ban on the interstate sale of books or contraceptives. And Americans are free to buy rifles and shotguns outside their state of residence, so long as the dealers respect the laws of the buyer’s home state. We’re gratified that the Court agreed that handguns should be treated no differently.”

Obama administration refuses to release IRS targeting documents, despite paper’s FOIA request

Remember the IRS political discrimination scandal, which revealed the agency engaged in election-year stonewalling of conservative groups’ applications for nonprofit status? Although coverage of the scandal has abated, little has been resolved.

Nonplussed that the Obama administration denied its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for access to IRS documents, The Hill on Tuesday offered the next-best thing to reporting on what those documents contain: reporting on how the Obama administration handled the publication’s attempts to lay hands on the information in the first place.

“The Obama administration is refusing to publicly release more than 500 documents on the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups,” the story flatly states. What kind of documents is the White House blocking?

The Hill sought access to government documents that might provide a glimpse of the decision-making through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The Hill asked for 2013 emails and other correspondence between the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The request specifically sought emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner and Treasury officials, including Secretary Jack Lew, while the inspector general was working on its explosive May 2013 report that the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” to review the political activities of tax-exempt groups.

TIGTA opted not to release any of the 512 documents covered by the request, citing various exemptions in the law. The Hill recently appealed the FOIA decision, but TIGTA denied the appeal.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration informed The Hill that there were a variety of good reasons for refusing to disclose the litany of documents, “ranging from interagency communication to personal privacy.”

The report came days after Judicial Watch — a conservative government watchdog suing the IRS over the scandal — revealed a fresh batch of documents (which had to be wrested from a reluctant DOJ by order of a U.S. District Judge) showing the IRS stonewalling a criminal investigation into its own conduct.

From the Feb. 5 Judicial Watch story:

Judicial Watch today released new internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents revealing that the Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel’s office delayed approval of an IRS employee’s meeting with DOJ and FBI investigators into the Obama IRS targeting scandal. The emails also detail the involvement the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division with the investigation. The documents show, the Public Integrity Section was investigating the IRS scandal only a month after it reached out to Lois Lerner about prosecuting targeted tax-exempt entities. This is the first window into the criminal investigation of the alleged IRS abuses.

… The emails show that, on June 12, 2013, the lawyer for a cooperating IRS employee in Cincinnati complained to a DOJ prosecutor about the IRS Counsel’s office delaying approval of a meeting between the IRS employee and Justice Department prosecutors: “[W]e find it amazing that they didn’t immediately respond giving us the green light to meet with you.”

The DOJ prosecutor wanted to know who the contact in the IRS Counsel’s office was and wrote back: “Let’s talk in am if they don’t get back to you. Thanks.”

The IRS keeps rehiring frauds, liars and tax cheats

If it takes one to know one, then the IRS should be in relatively decent shape when it comes to busting people who don’t pay their due taxes.

That’s because the agency has a recent track record of rehiring former employees who have “known conduct and performance issues,” all the way up to, and including, willfully failing to file a federal tax return.

Last week, the Inspector General for Tax Administration released a 15-page report, done in December of last year, titled “Additional Consideration of Prior Conduct and Performance Issues Is Needed When Hiring Former Employees.” It levels criticism at the IRS for failing to vet former employees with known behavioral issues. From the report:

TIGTA reviewed a random sample from more than 300 employees with significant prior performance or conduct issues who were hired between January 2010 and July 2013 and determined that the IRS appropriately applied OPM [Office of Personnel Management] suitability standards (e.g., determining whether applicants had prior criminal activity, material false statements, or illegal drug use).

However, TIGTA identified hundreds of former employees who were hired with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues. For example, 141 former employees with prior substantiated tax issues, including five who the IRS found had willfully failed to file their Federal tax returns, were hired. Other substantiated issues from previous IRS employment included unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.

Although they may meet OPM suitability standards, rehiring prior employees with known conduct and performance issues presents increased risk to the IRS and taxpayers. For example, TIGTA found that nearly 20 percent of the hired former employees sampled with prior substantiated or unresolved conduct or performance issues had new conduct or performance issues (e.g., tax noncompliance or unauthorized access to tax account information).

Five of the re-hires from that period were former employees whom “the agency knew…had intentionally failed to file their taxes within the last two years,” The Washington Times reported.

Here’s a graphic included in the IG’s report that further illustrates all the things you can do at the IRS without unreasonable fear that, should you quit or be dismissed, will haunt your chances of being rehired:

IG_IRS_1

 

Unemployment rate rises as more people return to the labor force

As if to corroborate more than a year’s worth of reports linking America’s artificially low unemployment rate with a massive drop in the number of people looking for work, January’s unemployment numbers are out — and they show that when one trend reverses, the other must necessarily follow.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the government’s official unemployment rate climbed from 5.6 percent in December to 5.7 percent in January.

At the same time, the labor participation rate — that is, the percentage of people seeking employment among all whom the government considers eligible — rose from 62.7 percent in December to 62.9 percent in January.

Beginning in mid-2012, the BLS’s unemployment figure had declined slowly but steadily — much to the delight of the Obama administration and its narrative of economic recovery — even as the number of people admitting they’d given up looking for work climbed. By December of last year, 92,898,000 Americans over the age of 15 had given up on looking for work. The population of the U.S. is approximately 320 million.

BLS considers a person not to be participating in the labor force when he’s unemployed and hasn’t actively sought new employment for four consecutive weeks.

The January BLS data appears to confirm what Gallup CEO Jim Clifton described last week as government’s “Big Lie.”

“The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie,” Clifton wrote.

“… While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently [using December 2014 data] 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast ‘falling’ unemployment.”

IRS wants 9,000 new employees to help enforce Obamacare

President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal has no chance of passing; but, as always, it serves as a compass for his agenda. And when one of that agenda’s key features is an ever-expanding government, agencies that request more things get plenty of consideration.

Take the IRS, which can’t stop complaining about how short-staffed and underfunded it’s been since the GOP side of Congress has sort of, kind of held on to its unwieldy purse strings. The IRS has asked for — and received (from Obama, anyway) — approval for a bump of more than 9,000 employees and an addition $2 billion in its annual operating budget.

From The Daily Signal:

The billions of dollars will help the agency bolster its staff by adding more than 9,280 full-time employees. The proposed jump in employment at the IRS is an 11 percent increase from 2015.

To enforce the 46 new tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act specifically, the IRS asked for $67 million. That will cover 483 new employees related to Obamacare’s implementation.

… In addition, the agency requested $301.5 million to hire close to 3,000 additional staff to assist taxpayers calling into the agency with questions. The IRS said it needs to staff to address the “increased demand” for assistance resulting from Obamacare’s implementation and managing taxpayer submissions relating to the health care law.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, you may recall, has promised even poorer “customer service” from the IRS this year. He told the media in December that Americans shouldn’t expect to quickly connect with a live, helpful IRS representative if they call the agency this year with questions about the new tax code.

“Every time I say you can call us, in the back of my mind I almost feel like I should say: ‘You should be prepared to stay on the line for half an hour before you get through. And a lot of you won’t get through to a live person,'” Koskinen said.

Not that the IRS does a better job when it has more resources. The case has been made more than once that, short of abolishing the IRS, the next best thing to ensure its (relative) efficiency is to keep it on a diet.

Angry California STEM workers train their H-1B replacements ahead of layoffs

As the Obama administration and an establishment GOP-dominated Congress push for an expanded guest worker program for foreign workers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), labor experts continue to point out that the U.S. doesn’t have a labor shortage in the technological sector and that there is, consequently, no need to import more of it.

Here’s an example from real life: IT employees slated for layoffs at Southern California Edison, the region’s biggest utility company, are winding down their final weeks at their jobs by training their foreign replacements, some of whom hold H-1B visas.

From a Thursday story at Computerworld:

Information technology workers at Southern California Edison (SCE) are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training the H-1B visa holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs.

The employees are upset and say they can’t understand how H-1B guest workers can be used to replace them.

… “They are bringing in people with a couple of years’ experience to replace us and then we have to train them,” said one longtime IT worker. “It’s demoralizing and in a way I kind of felt betrayed by the company.”

In all, about 500 people are being phased out at SCE, 400 of whom are being laid off. According to Computerworld, the H-1B visa-holding replacements are employees of two Indian companies — Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services — that have contracted with SCE.

Academics have implored the public to get wise to the Obama administration’s efforts to placate the president’s corporate supporters by securing artificially cheap labor for the U.S. tech sector. “IT industry leaders have spent lavishly on lobbying to promote their STEM shortage claims among legislators,” a group of policy professors wrote in a USA Today column in July. “The only problem is that the evidence contradicts their self-interested claims.”

As if on cue, one of the affected U.S. workers at SCE told Computerworld that all of the work the company is planning to outsource already is being performed by American workers.

“The H-1B program ‘was supposed to be for projects and jobs that American workers could not fill,’ this worker said. ‘But we’re doing our job. It’s not like they are bringing in these guys for new positions that nobody can fill.’

“‘Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn’t already performing,'” the unnamed employee said.

New Oversight chairman turns down official portrait, says it’s a waste of money

New House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has caused some ripples in his early days on the job, not only for taking a hard tone against stonewalling and inefficient government agencies, but for upending some time-honored traditions long enjoyed by the political elite.

Chaffetz told CNN Wednesday he had no use for an official portrait — an expensive perk he considers elitist and antiquated.

“…[T]hey can go on my Instagram and pull off a picture if they want, but no, I’m not going to sit for some painting. That’s so 1800’s. I’m not doing that,” he told CNN.

Chaffetz also rankled committee members by removing the portraits of outgoing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and all those who preceded him, saying he prefers to adorn the committee chamber with images of real Americans: “[P]hotos depicting everyday America, such as images representing coal miners and civil rights activists,” according to The Hill.

“Nothing personal to those who have done it before, I just think this room should be inspired not by those who served as chairmen, but by those we work for,” Chaffetz explained to CNN.

Inspectors general voice frustration over lack of transparency at numerous federal agencies

The House Oversight Committee got an earful from various inspectors general tasked with monitoring a number of federal agencies this week, with all of the watchdogs sharing a common complaint: information stonewalling from agency personnel whenever the IGs ask for key information.

From the Department of Justice to the EPA to the Peace Corps, federal officials have deliberately withheld or refused to surrender documents requested by their respective IG monitors, according to the inspectors.

“We have had situations where we attempt to interview an employee, and the employee refuses,” said Arthur Elkins Jr., who serves as Inspector general for the EPA. “If the employee continues to refuse to comply with both the Office of Inspector General and the agency, we are left without recourse.”

The Peace Corps’ IG, Kathy Buller, told the panel she had not been allowed access to required documents relating to allegations of endemic sexual harassment problems in the field, and that the agency had foisted a memo of understanding (MOU) on her office in order to vet each request for information it hands over.

“I remain concerned about the appropriateness of my office having to enter into an MOU to obtain information we are entitled to by law and that we need to fulfill our statutory duties. Allowing agencies to unilaterally decide when they can or cannot release information to the IG presents a clear conflict of interest,” said Buller.

Perhaps the most far-reaching case of obstruction comes from the Department of Justice itself, according to Michael Horowitz, its inspector general.

From National Law Journal:

“The status quo cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely,” Horowitz told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. To access certain DOJ documents, Horowitz said, his office must first get approval from the attorney general or deputy attorney general.

“If we have to go through agency leadership to decide if we can get evidence, that’s a serious problem undermining our independence,” he said. “We haven’t ultimately had anything withheld from us, but it turns on a decision by them rather than an independent decision by the inspector general.”

According to Horowitz, the FBI since 2010 has asserted that his office is not entitled to access grand jury, Title III electronic surveillance and Fair Credit Reporting Act information, citing disclosure limitations in those statutes.

Horowitz, a former white-collar partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who was confirmed as inspector general in March 2012, counters that Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act states that IGs are to “have access to all records” in an agency’s possession.

DOJ leaders in May asked the Office of Legal Counsel to issue an opinion to resolve the dispute.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that OLC issue its opinion promptly because the existing process at the department … essentially assumes the correctness of the FBI’s legal position,” Horowitz said. Two federal district court judges in 1998 and 1999, he noted, ruled that his office could receive grand jury material.

Horowitz’ full prepared remarks to the committee are available here.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in a statement the law favors full and unfettered access to information for the IGs. The committee did not indicate what recourse it would pursues, if any.

“Inspectors General serve the American taxpayers as the first line of defense against waste, fraud, and abuse by government agencies,” Chaffetz said. “The [Inspector General] Act directs that all records be given to the IGs. There aren’t exceptions, the law is crystal clear.”

State lawmaker, a former Columbine student, seeks to arm Colorado teachers

SCREENSHOT/Columbine High School students Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, killed 12 students and one teacher on April 20, 1999.

Patrick Neville was a student on the campus of Columbine High School on the spring day in 1999 when two students went on a premeditated rampage that claimed 13 innocent lives.

Now he’s a Colorado state representative. Neville introduced a bill this week that would, according to the Denver Post, “allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit the right to conceal and carry firearms in public schools.”

Neville’s father, Colorado State Sen. Tim Neville, is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. Both men are Republicans. In a press release, Patrick Neville said the legislation aims to “allow honest law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed firearm for protection if they choose to,” and that “it will give them the right to be equipped to defend our children from the most dangerous situations.

“As was the case in 1999, criminals aren’t deterred by a flashy sign on the door. The only thing that is going to stop murderers intent on doing harm is to give good people the legal authority to carry a gun to protect themselves and our children.”

In addition to the two shooters, who finally killed themselves, 12 students and one teacher died in the shocking mass murder, which occurred on April 20, 1999. Another 21 people were injured.

The younger Neville said he believes the tragedy could have been much shorter-lived and less deadly if Columbine faculty had access to concealed weapons on that day.

“Our teachers and faculty were heroic in so many ways that day. That’s why I truly believe had some of them had the legal authority to be armed, more of my friends would still be alive today,” he said.

A Quinnipiac poll conducted last year revealed half of Colorado voters approved of the idea of allowing teachers to carry firearms on the job.