Jay Carney Joke Of The Day: IRS Testimony Was Satisfying

Though Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have expressed disdain over Internal Revenue Service officials’ dodgy answers to Congressional questions about the agency’s undue targeting of conservative groups, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is satisfied with the responsiveness of the IRS to the matters of Congressional interest.

Lois Lerner, director of the IRS division in charge of the controversial program, invoked the 5th Amendment and refused to testify.

Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was then grilled, but largely gave the same answers Senate lawmakers heard at an earlier hearing during which they threatened to appoint a special prosecutor if witnesses did not start to open up.

Of course, the White House is satisfied; that’s how a cover-up works.

 

Bachmann To Retire, Welfare For The Dead, Majority Of Americans Want Gun Talk Dropped, Rand Welcomes The Freaky People, Larry King’s New Show On RT, And More: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 5-29-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Wednesday that Republicans throughout the Nation would be “relieved” Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has decided to retire.

 

  • According to a new report from the Massachusetts State auditor, more than 1,000 dead people recently received welfare benefits in State.

 

  • The latest Reason-Rupe national poll finds just 33 percent of Americans feel the “Senate should debate and vote on gun control legislation again,” while 62 percent want the Senate to “move on to other issues.”

 

  • Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on completed his tour of the early Presidential primary States. His message: Republicans must accept newcomers to their Party if they want to win back the White House.

 

  • Iconic American newsman Larry King will host a new political talk show on RT beginning next month. King’s show will feature interviews with leading establishment figures as well as with activists who are not afraid to go against the grain.

 

  • More Saudi abuse of migrant workers on film: A passport official in Jeddah was taped Sunday beating an African worker who had accompanied his Saudi domestic employer to the passport office. “These images are shocking, but unfortunately they offer just one small example of the mistreatment suffered by migrant workers in Saudi Arabia,” said Saudi human rights worker Walid Abou Al Khair.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

–Staff writer Ben Bullard contributed to this report.

Fed’s Full On Assault On Currency Alternatives Goes Global

Since the virtual currency Bitcoin began receiving widespread attention in the media as a viable alternative to cash, Federal agencies have been keeping a close watch on the startup and on firms with which it does business. The recent Federal attack on Liberty Reserve, another online currency, could provide clues to what government officials have in mind for Bitcoin and all future currency alternatives enabled by technology.

Liberty Reserve is an online money transfer system based in Costa Rica. On Tuesday, the Justice Department charged the company with money laundering and used the Patriot Act to lock it out of the American financial system in what Federal officials say could be the largest global prosecution of this type in history.

Arthur Bodovsky, 39-year-old Ukrainian native who moved to Costa Rica to start the business, was arrested along with five alleged co-conspirators who Federal prosecutors argue designed and operated Liberty Reserve as “a financial hub of the cyber-crime world, facilitating a broad range of online criminal activity, including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography, and narcotics trafficking.”

“Overall, from 2006 to May 2013, Liberty Reserve processed an estimated 55 million separate financial transactions and is believed to have laundered more than $6 billion in criminal proceeds,” the government’s indictment reads.

Officials go on to claim that Liberty Reserve “deliberately attracted and maintained a customer base of criminals by making financial activity on Liberty Reserve anonymous and untraceable.”

Police in 17 different countries were involved in the takedown.

The government has built its case around the fact that Liberty Reserve allowed its customers to anonymously convert money into virtual currency and transfer it from account to account with a 1 percent transaction fee. Justice and the Treasury officials say this allows criminals to hide the sources of their money.

“The global enforcement action we announce today is an important step towards reining in the ‘Wild West’ of illicit Internet banking,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “As crime goes increasingly global, the long arm of the law has to get even longer, and in this case, it encircled the earth.”

More than 1 million people (200,000 in the United States) were users of the service, according to officials.

Is College Worth It? Further Highlights How Federal Money Damages Students, Universities, Society

It’s no secret that the value of a college education is — and has been for some time — on a downward slide, but that isn’t stopping thousands of young Americans from taking on mountains of student loan debt in order to earn a degree. In the new book Is College Worth It?, former Secretary of Education William Bennett and his co-author try to understand why higher education is becoming more of a burden than a boon for many Americans.

Bennett and his co-author, David Wilezol, write in a recent column for CNBC:

Many students are tempted to believe that college is no longer a value proposition for them. After all, costs have risen over 1,100% since 1978, far outpacing inflation.

Fifty percent of the class of 2011 was unemployed or dramatically underemployed. In another survey, only 16% of employers reported that new hires from four-year colleges were “very qualified” for the workforce. Academically, one study showed that only 45% of students showed any meaningful cognitive gains after three semesters. Regardless of what one considers the purpose of college to be, it is clear that costly dysfunction is plaguing the system.

With such dismal outcomes across the board, is college still worth it?

The authors contend that higher education may still be a good option for many students, but only if institutions work to fix “massive inefficiencies” in the education system.

First, the authors say, colleges must end the “academic arms race” by doing away with over-the-top amenities on campuses that provide little or no benefit to students’ education.

They write:

As a result of increased revenue campuses often are furnished with extravagant amenities like rock-climbing walls, hot tubs and apartment-style dorms. Boston University even has a “lazy river” inner-tube ride for students. These are nice creature comforts, but ones that are ultimately unessential to the mission of educating students. These, too, are designed to attract the wealthiest students.

Another important aspect of revitalizing the value of college is cutting back on the “superabundance of personnel who manage campus life and ideology but contribute little to student learning,” contend Bennett and Wilezol. They believe that colleges could vastly cut costs to students by doing away with employees whose sole purposes are fundraising, overseeing diversity programs or researching without teaching.

A recurring theme presented in Is College Worth It?: Because colleges have access to too many Federal dollars and are incentivized to chase those dollars, the very programs designed to make college more accessible for Americans have an inflationary result, driving up the price of college. Meanwhile, the value of a degree falls. That is to say, colleges are spending money to chase money and the students are left behind.

But the authors of Is College Worth It? are certainly not the first to point this out. Consider what Scripps University assistant economics professor Sean Flynn recently said about academia’s big spending addiction: “The scariest number I’ve seen is that in the Cal State system between 1970 and 2008… the number of faculty only went up 3 percent, but the number of administrators went up 237 percent. The entire educational system has had massive amounts of money thrown at it and most of it has gone to things that have not improved the actual educational outcomes.”

And in December 2010, writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Vedder, the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, penned an article entitled “The Great College-Degree Scam.” In his work, Vedder essentially concedes that the government push for higher education has saturated the job market and forced more graduate and post graduate degree holders to take jobs for which they are overqualified and/or underpaid.

“…[T]he push to increase the number of college graduates seems horribly misguided from a strict economic/vocational perspective. It is precisely that perspective that is emphasized by those, starting with President Obama, who insist that we need to have more college graduates,” Vedder writes.

He goes on to explain that degrees are becoming little more than screening tools for employers later in the piece, “…[C]redential inflation arises from a perceived need by individuals to demonstrate potential employment competence through a piece of paper, i.e. a college diploma. Employers are using education as a screening and signaling device, at a low cost directly to them (although not costless because of the taxes they pay to sustain much of this), but at a high cost to the prospective employees and to society as a whole.”

Many people employed in academia suffer a sort of cognitive dissonance that disallows them to see what harm could come from making campuses live up to ivory expectations and hiring massive administrative staffs to recruit students who may or may not belong in college, but have access to fistfuls of Federal money. But in Is College Worth It?, the authors, both of whom are members of the academic community, admonish that America’s institutions of higher learning will likely destroy academia with an addiction to Federal funds: “If traditional higher education wants to retain its prestige, its historical significance, and its students, it should re-establish a college education that serves the heart, the mind and the checkbook. If it doesn’t, the future of higher education may move on without it.”

Government Too Powerful…Duh, Potentially Lying Holder Shopped For Judges, Military 3D Guns, And A Transsexual Superhero For Children: Tuesday P.M. Edition Links 5-28-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

Majority Of Americans: Government Too Powerful

According to Gallup polling results, since 2005 at least half of all Americans have believed that the Nation’s government is far too powerful. Read More…

‘Judge Shopping’ AG Holder Spurned By Two Judges Before Third Granted Secret Subpoena Warrant

When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder decided to unleash the hounds on FOX News reporter James Rosen, he had Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., go looking for a court order to obtain a warrant that would allow the Department of Justice to subpoena Rosen’s communications without the reporter or his employer ever knowing about it. Read More…

3-D Printing The Military/Industrial Complex

While the Federal government is doing everything it can to curtail civilians from using 3-D printing technology to manufacture firearms by doing things like shutting down Defense Distributed, a nonprofit company started by a University of Texas law student, which has successfully made and fired a 3-D gun, the military could soon move forward with the technology in big ways. Read More…

House Judiciary Committee Investigates Whether AG Holder Lied Under Oath

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is investigating testimony Attorney General Eric gave May 15 concerning his Department’s role in the Associated Press secret surveillance scandal. Read More…

In New Children’s Show: Little Boy Dresses Like Little Girl, Saves World

The gender-bending main character of a new children’s show on the Hub network — co-owned by Hasbro and Discovery — is both a prepubescent boy who, at times, is magically transformed into a female superhero by placing a ring on his, err her, finger. Video…

Majority Of Americans: Government Too Powerful

According to Gallup polling results, since 2005 at least half of all Americans have believed that the Nation’s government is far too powerful.

As the recent gamut of government scandals continues to ride the headlines, the pooling agency reports that 54 percent of Americans believe that the Federal government has too much power. The number is only slightly higher than the result from the same poll last year, and is actually lower than the number of Americans worried about government power in 2010 and 2011.

From Gallup:

Americans’ views of federal power have become a renewed focal point in recent weeks with allegations that the IRS used its power to selectively audit certain types of organizations, and news reports of Justice Department investigations into Associated Press and Fox News records and emails. It does not appear, however, that these news stories have dramatically altered Americans’ views of the federal government’s power. The 54% who now say the federal government has “too much power” is in the same general range as it has been since 2005.

Only 8% of Americans say the federal government has “too little” power, while 36% say the government has about the right amount of power.

As would be expected, there is a major gulf between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on this issue. More than twice as many Republicans (76%) as Democrats (32%) say the government has too much power, with a majority of independents coming down on the same side as Republicans.

3-D Printing The Military/Industrial Complex

While the Federal government is doing everything it can to curtail civilians from using 3-D printing technology to manufacture firearms by doing things like shutting down Defense Distributed, a nonprofit company started by a University of Texas law student, which has successfully made and fired a 3-D gun, the military could soon move forward with the technology in big ways.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Llenza writes in a recent commentary for Armed Forces Journal that Navy ships should use 3-D printing to become floating munitions factories.

He writes:

As Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Neil Gershenfeld puts it, the revolutionary aspect of 3-D printing is that it allows us to make things into data and data back into things. For the Navy, the technology promises to shift inventory from the physical world to the digital one. Instead of actual parts, a ship might carry 3-D printers and bags of various powdered ingredients, and simply download the design files needed to print items as necessary.

Certainly, today’s ships and subs are not going to make everything they need on board, although it is tempting to imagine better uses for freed-up storage spaces. Today’s printers are generally limited to printing parts made of just one material, and variance is a big issue. But the development of multiple-material devices is well underway, and the technology is racing ahead. Perhaps closer at hand is a distributed global production network in which sailors and Marines send an email with a digital scan or design for a part they need and have it created at the nearest certified printer. Thinking bigger, the fleet might convert some Military Sealift Command ships into floating factories that can take print-on-demand orders from the battlegroup.

The things that might be ordered go far beyond mere parts. Several university labs and at least one defense contractor have turned out UAVs comprised entirely of printed parts, excepting the motor and electronics.

While there is still a great deal of research and development to be done, it looks as though 3-D printing will become a big part of America’s military/industrial complex. The question of whether the ability to produce weapons will be used by the government to keep 3-D printing out of civilian hands remains unanswered.

In New Children’s Show: Little Boy Dresses Like Little Girl, Saves World

The gender-bending main character of a new children’s show on the Hub network — co-owned by Hasbro and Discovery — is both a prepubescent boy who, at times, is magically transformed into a female superhero by placing a ring on his, err her, finger.

“When I first heard about the show, my reaction was ‘Are you out of your minds?'” Margaret Loesch, chief executive of the Hub told the Los Angeles Times. “Then I looked at it and I thought, ‘This is just funny.'”

Network executives hope the seemingly transsexual crime fighter depicted in “SheZow” will not only save the world in each episode, but will also save the networks ratings.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Launched in October 2010, the Hub has barely registered a blip in the highly competitive kids’ TV marketplace. It has a few minor successes including “My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic” and “Transformers,” but overall its ratings are tiny. Among kids 2 to 11, the Hub’s primary target, it averages 56,000 viewers a day, according to Nielsen. Disney and Nickelodeon each average 934,000 kids in that group.

Here’s a promo for the show:
 

 
It looks like the dress may become the new cape.

Protecting Or Bullying? Cop Posing As Student Gets Autistic Kid To Buy Some Weed

A scary trend in which cops infiltrate American schools and set up unassuming students for drug deals is emerging in the United States.

Last week, the parents of a special-needs boy in Temecula, Calif., filed a claim against the local school district for helping “local authorities in an undercover drug sting that intentionally targeted and discriminated against their son.”

 
Via ABC News:

“It is shattering to our son. I don’t know how he will ever be able to trust friends again,” Doug Snodgrass, the father of the student, told ABCNews.com “He is changed for life by this.”

Snodgrass said his 17-year-old son, whose name has been withheld at the request of his parents, transferred to Chaparral High School, a public high school in Temecula, for his senior year. District discipline records from his previous school, Temecula Valley High School, “showed 10 discipline referrals”  between August 2011 and May 2012, according to court records, but Snodgrass said the reason for the transfer was the family’s move to a different section of Temecula.

He was placed into an art class at Chaparral where he met Daniel, who befriended him.  Not having any friends, his father said, his son quickly latched on to Daniel.

Snodgrass’ son began texting round the clock with his new friend, which at first thrilled his parents, happy that their son had made a new friend, Snodgrass said.

What they didn’t know was that Daniel was an undercover police officer, who the family claims would pressure their son to procure drugs.

“Our son was a new kid in August, and this undercover cop befriended him,”  Snodgrass said. On the second day of school, Snodgrass said, Daniel asked the boy to buy drugs. “He asked my son if he could find marijuana for $20,” Snodgrass said. ”Three weeks later my son was able to bring back a half joint he received from a homeless guy.”

Later, Snodgrass said, “he asked to purchase my son’s prescription medication, but our son refused.”

It took the 17-year-old three weeks to procure a half joint of marijuana, according to court documents filed later in Riverside County juvenile court. After he was pressed again by the police officer, the student retrieved another joint for $20, from another homeless man, the documents said.

A similar case was reported on the radio show “This American Life” last year. In that story, several young police officers were sent undercover to pose as students at three high schools in Palm Beach County, Fla., and tasked with making drug arrests.

Researcher: It’s Free, Swipe Yo EBT

It is a common belief, held by top officials in the Administration of Barack Obama as well as a number of American academics, that the key to ending poverty is enabling it.

A University of Illinois researcher, in a paper funded by ConAgra Foods, opines that American efforts to alleviate food insecurity should include encouraging more people to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps, “because it works.”

“We already know that SNAP leads to reductions in food insecurity, and poverty, and there is no evidence that it leads to obesity,” researcher Craig Gundersen said. “We need to make it easier for people to apply for the program, to recertify once they’re in the program, and to increase benefits, especially for those who are at the lower end of the benefits structure.”

The researcher holds the belief — in line with rhetoric from the Obama Administration — that reducing the stigma associated with being on food stamps should be an important goal of American policymakers.

“There is a perception among some that people who receive SNAP benefits are lazy — this has historically been the reason for stigma in SNAP,” Gundersen said. “In recent years, the stigma associated with SNAP participation has shifted toward a prejudice against people who are overweight. You hear a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who are overweight may be uncomfortable using SNAP. They feel like people are judging them for buying food. If we could become a society that doesn’t judge others about their weight, we could reduce stigma.”

Gunderson also defends the use of food stamp benefits for low, or no, nutrition foods — he compares telling welfare recipients what is and isn’t an acceptable purchase with assistance to telling a working American how to spend an earned paycheck.

“Stores would have to add a lot of expensive signage and reconfigure cash registers to read new bar codes on foods that may or may not be eligible for SNAP. And who would make those decisions? It’s also just patronizing and offensive to poor people; it’s telling them that because they don’t know how to shop for their family, we’ll tell you how to shop and what’s best for them. When I worked for the federal government, no one told me how to spend my paycheck, and Social Security recipients aren’t told how they can spend their money,” he said.

After all, it isn’t as if food stamp abuse is a prevalent and widely recognized problem in America.

Here’s a satirical video that points out many of the problems with the researcher’s aforementioned assertion that America should encourage more people to use food stamps: