The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees’ union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.
The directive was written by Danny Werfel, a former budget official who has since been appointed acting IRS commissioner.
(Read More: IRS Officials Face Grilling Over Lavish Spending)
IRS Under Fire, Again
Video of IRS employees dancing during an employee conference is stirring up controversy, reports CNBC’s John Harwood.
“The IRS always claims to be short on resources,” Grassley said. “But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”
Yesterday, shortly after I posted a column on Secretary of State John Kerry’s push to have the White House approve U.S. strikes on Syrian airfields — and how Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey pushed back strongly against the idea — I heard from a number of people who support Kerry’s stance and think that the Pentagon is being unnecessarily timid. 2. For negotiations to work, the regime of Bashar al-Assad must feel that its existence is threatened. This might be the most important point, or at least the most immediately relevant one. Kerry wants upcoming peace talks in Geneva to work. In order for that to happen, he believes that the playing field in Syria must be leveled; in recent days, regime forces, which now include the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, have been swatting back the rebels with comparative ease. Airstrikes, and other U.S. measures, would provide the regime with the incentive to sit down and talk. There is no reason to talk compromise with the opposition when you are winning. This is true even for people who aren’t psychopathic mass murderers. 3. Whether we like it or not, we are in a conflict with Iran, and our credibility is on the line. Obama seems eager to exit the Middle East. Most foreign policy experts, up to and including the secretary of state, believe that there is no hiding from its problems. The U.S. must play a leadership role in the Mideast or the vacuum left by its departure will be filled by radicals, of both the Shiite and Sunni varieties. It is true, as Dempsey has argued, that there is no exit strategy for Syria (in part because there’s not much of an entrance strategy, either), but the U.S. will soon face even bigger problems in the region if it doesn’t intervene now. Kerry understands the price of intervention. This is the lesson of Iraq. But he has also argued that there is a price to be paid for nonintervention. 5. The Israelis did it, and so can we. Kerry himself, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t made this argument to the generals — knowing, I assume, that it would, if nothing else, irritate them like nothing else. But others in the interventionist camp have raised the issue. Israel, has struck at Syrian targets three times recently, using standoff weapons fired from over the border. Israel thinks that it made its point: There will be consequences if Syria transfers weapons and delivery systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Dempsey, in the White House situation room last week, argued that in order to launch an effective attack on regime targets, the U.S. would have to first suppress Syria’s air-defense system, which would require at least 700 sorties. Interventionists tend to believe that the Pentagon — and the White House — are using this an excuse for inaction.
Ice House is a place that draws me back again and again. It changes with the season and with the recent dry spell the creek is pretty dry. We had to hike in a ways to get to it before it had all soaked into the creek bed.The time was at about noon, hardly ideal. So we headed for the cover of trees and found the dappled light. The action of water and light caught my eye. Most photographers use a longer exposure with water but I felt the sharpness of the reflection of light was worth keeping.
More: Ballard Light Capture
Just a tiny shaft of light came through to this little tiny waterfall.
In this light the water was looking a bit blue. Interesting effect of the light and shadows.
As with so many significant privacy violations of late by government agencies — from the NSA to the IRS — it’s become clear that technology has far outpaced law. Federal laws meant to protect our Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure” do not adequately cover Americans’ property online.
The reason is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Originally intended to protect — not violate — the privacy of our digital communications, this act set standards for government access to private information (such as emails, private photos, documents) transmitted and stored on the internet with an online service provider.
But ECPA was passed in 1986. Twenty-seven years ago, most Americans did not have a home computer or an email account. They did not all carry cell phones. “Facebook” described only the hardbound photo books of university freshmen and “Twitter” was an adjective used to describe the chattering of birds — such social networking sites did not even exist.
Whether they occur online or offline, our private communications should be protected. And that’s why we, a bipartisan group of representatives — Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), Tom Graves (R-Georgia), and Jared Polis (D-Colorado) — have come together to introduce the Email Privacy Act. We’ve already gained a bipartisan group of 94 co-sponsors, and are pleased to join with our colleagues in the Senate, Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, who are pushing companion legislation that would modernize the ECPA.
By JESSE J. HOLLAND
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law.
Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court’s majority.
The court was considering the legality of Arizona’s requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “motor voter” registration law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004.
Scalia’s majority opinion (PDF) found that the Arizona law conflicts with a federal “motor voter” law. The federal law allows would-be voters to mail in a registration form, without supplying proof of citizenship. Instead, the federal law says, those signing the form need only swear that they are citizens.
Scalia said states weren’t entirely hamstrung, however. They may still reject would-be voters based on information establishing they are ineligible. Also, they may ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the federal form to include information they need to determine eligibility. If the commission rejects a request, the states may appeal. In the case before the court, Arizona wasn’t able to persuade the commission to change the form, but it may still appeal, Scalia said.
Scalia had appeared to side with Arizona in March oral arguments. At that time, he had suggested that it would be fine for a state to ensure the integrity of its voting system when the federal form is lacking. “When the commission fails to do what enables the state to assess qualifications, the state will do it,” he said. “No problemo.”
The 7-2 opinion in opinion in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council is based on the elections clause, which allows Congress to pre-empt state regulations governing the “times, places and manner” of holding congressional elections.
In February of last year a writer friend gave me a challenge. “Write a story for a two minute video”. I came back with an idea. So what if a self sure man bought a haunted camera? I’m beginning to submit to the first few film festivals. For that reason the film will not be online for some time. There will be a limited release of blu ray discs for interested friends, the cast and crew. If you enjoy the trailer please do share and give it a like.
Rogers: NSA ‘is not listening’ to Americans’ phone calls
CNN’s Ashley Killough
Updated 11:03 a.m. ET, Sunday, 6/16
(CNN) - The chairman of the House intelligence committee strongly asserted Sunday that the National Security Agency is not recording Americans’ phone calls under U.S. surveillance programs, and any statements suggesting differently amount to “misinformation.”
Lining up with Obama administration officials — and the president himself — Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls” or monitoring their e-mails.
The congressman, Jerrold Nadler, issued a statement Sunday to CNN regarding his his exchange with Mueller at the hearing.
“I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant,” Nadler said.
SACRAMENTO — As the Democrats who control the Capitol congratulated themselves over this week’s state budget deal, another dynamic emerged: support from across the political divide for Gov. Jerry Brown’s thrifty ways.
Republicans who a few years ago had enough clout to hold up spending plans and block tax increases now rely on the governor, once the epitome of liberalism, to give them a voice in budget talks. They praised Brown as “conservative” and “restrained” — even if their support lacked a certain warmth — saying he at least attempted to put the brakes on the Legislature’s more generous Democratic leadership.
“In many ways, he’s the Republicans’ vehicle for budget negotiations,” said Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), vice-chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. “It’s through his less liberal approach that Republicans are able to … participate in what’s going on.”
This video of a drone with a gun will freak you the hell out
If you were already feeling a little paranoid about drones, this video will put you into complete terror mode. It’s a DiY drone with a gun. What could go wrong? Find out, in this slo-mo capture of a drone on a shooting rampage.
Luckily, the drone is only shooting fruit and my mobile phone (well, not my EXACT phone, just the make and model).
Cameron Manwaring writes in to io9 to say:
So some of my friends who work for a screen protection company took a remote control quad copter, attached a handgun to the gimble, added a remote control trigger, and then shot a bunch of stuff up. Scary but cool.
I’m going to say this is far toward the “scary” end of the scary/cool spectrum.
I should note that I’m not entirely sure this video is real, either. We do see the trigger being pulled, but there are a lot of “cut away to show the explosions” bits that suggest that this is just a super creepy piece of science fiction that could be real any minute now.
The data sets are in, and marriage equality isn’t the harbinger of death for “traditional” marriage between men and women, according to a study from the School of Community Health at Portland State University published this week in PLOS ONE.
The study took the number of opposite-sex marriages from all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 1989 to 2009, as a percentage of the adult population in each state (somewhat poetically referred to as “those ‘at risk’ of marriage”), and compared it to opposite-sex marriage rates from the 13 states (and D.C.) where either same-sex marriage or same-sex unions became legal before 2009.
The researchers found that indeed, same-sex unions aren’t bringing down the venerated institution of marriage. The rates of opposite-sex marriage did not differ in states where same-sex marriage or civil union were legalized in the time period analyzed.
“We conclude that there is no relationship between implementation of same sex marriage or strong or weak same sex union laws and rates of opposite sex marriage,” the researchers write. They had hypothesized that there could be a jump in the marriage rate with same-sex marriage laws directly after legalization, because of movements like the National Marriage Boycott where LGBT allies pledge to forgo marriage until same-sex marriage becomes legal, but the data didn’t bear that theory out.