Thought Police alert: federal government dedicates $1 million to wage a war on memes

It’s never too late to wage a war on something you deem terrifying – if you’re the government. A recent report has highlighted the obvious: Washington has no idea of what to do with all the easy taxpayer cash it has access to.

It’s almost as if bureaucrats aren’t good at spending your money wisely!

According to The Week, the federal government is using a grant offered to the National Science Foundation to target memes. That’s right; Washington has used about $1 million of your money to finance a database of memes they deem suspicious. Officials, following instructions that tell them to single out any “suspicious memes” or any “false and misleading” political ideas that may have turned into memes, hunt for these images by browsing through social media websites.

The Indiana University is the official headquarters for the special “war on memes” department. The official title of the program is “Truthy.” It’s reportedly inspired on Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” concept.

And what do officials do while browsing for potentially life-threatening memes?

They look for the origin of the memes so they may identify the source as a professional political activist or just a good old Internet user like you, for an instance.

While the program seems harmless enough on the surface, one million dollars thrown at an effort to catalog memes and identify their sources so that the federal government can put up a web service offering the public info on suspicious meme trends seems eerily close to what a thought police would look like. Or am I just seeing things here?

Mike Huckabee’s cultural reactionarism isn’t the solution for America, liberty is

Mike Huckabee has joined a group called World Congress of Families (are they Workers too?) in opposing “sexual radicals” who previously opposed their upcoming conference in Australia. Unclear if the group also opposes long-haired hippie music, flowers, and Woodstock.

The letter signed by Huckabee and dozens of other theocrats and social reactionaries, including former Texas Congressman and terrible dancer Tom DeLay, claims to support the “international pro-family movement”. They of course specifically define the “natural family” as “a man and women united by faith and tradition, raising their children in a loving environment.” They don’t say if the combination of singular “man” and plural “women” is an intentional endorsement of polygamy or an unintentional one, nor if non-religious or childless couples count as families. They would probably grudgingly admit they are, as long as the genders were of the approved variety.

The end of the letter illuminates the real problem with Huckabee & Co’s worldview (and subsequent politics):

River of red ink continues: CBO says the budget deficit will top $500 billion this year

Although Washington isn’t running $1+ trillion budget deficits — like taxpayers saw from fiscal years 2009 to 2012 — the river of red ink is still flowing rapidly. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report this morning in which it revised upward the budget deficit for the current fiscal year (emphasis added):

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday raised its projection for this year’s federal deficit to $506 billion.

The budget office’s last report in April had projected the deficit for fiscal 2014 would top out at $492 billion on Sept. 30.

But the CBO said it is increasing the deficit figure now, in part, because receipts from corporate income taxes are turning out to be $37 billion less than expected.

This year’s deficit projection represents a major drop from the other years of the Obama presidency. Last year’s deficit was $680 billion, compared to the $1.1 trillion deficit the government racked up during Obama’s first year in the White House in 2009.

The CBO says the budget deficit will fall to $469 billion in FY 2015 before it slowly begins to tick back upward again. As you can see in the chart below, the budget deficit will approach $1 trillion by the end of the 10-year budget window:

Government schools are where free speech goes to die

University of Oregon

The first time I ever heard the term “freedom of speech” was in a public school classroom. I’d be willing to bet that was true for a lot of us. Classes on the Constitution invariably spent a fair amount of time discussing the Bill of Rights. While the Second Amendment didn’t get as much attention, the First definitely did.

It seems ironic that I find two stories regarding schools and their inability to understand what free speech is on the same day, considering where I first learned the term.

To start with, let’s go to college. The University of Oregon, to be specific.

On June 9, 2014, the female student in question was visiting with friends in UO’s Carson Hall dormitory. According to the student, looking out of the dormitory window, she spotted a male and female student walking together (she did not know either of them) and shouted “I hit it first” at them in jest. The female of the couple responded with two profanities and the couple reported the student’s comment to the Resident Assistant of the dorm. The Resident Assistant located the student and insisted that she apologize to the couple for her remark. The student readily obliged.

Here’s more evidence the IRS really doesn’t want Congress to know what Lois Lerner may have been doing

Judicial Watch just keeps on uncovering more information about the Internal Revenue Service’s actions both before and after its targeting of conservative groups became public knowledge.

The conservative watchdog group managed to get the Justice Department to admit that the missing emails, including those of Lois Lerner, still exist on a backup system. Now, via National Review, Judicial Watch has discovered that the IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry, after — yes, after — Congress began looking into the targeting scandal, and didn’t bother to save any of the information on it:

According to the second round of IRS affidavits submitted to U.S. district court judge Emmett Sullivan, who is presiding over the lawsuit brought against the nation’s tax agency by watchdog group Judicial Watch, Inc., IRS technical analysts did not search Lois Lerner’s Blackberry for her allegedly “lost” e-mails — and the smartphone was destroyed after congressional investigation had begun.

Rick Perry has prepared a constitutional defense to combat the utterly absurd indictment against him

Texas Governor Rick Perry is hoping to get the indictment against him dismissed. His attorneys filed a 60 page brief on Monday to get the case tossed out, mostly on constitutional grounds. Their arguments are interesting to read because of how thorough they are.

The main argument against the abuse of office charge is on the separation of powers in the Texas Constitution and the fact there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Perry’s part.

These are legitimate points to raise. It is within the governor’s power to veto funds. Here’s what the Texas Constitution says:

If any bill presented to the Governor contains several items of appropriation he may object to one or more of such items, and approve the other portion of the bill. In such case he shall append to the bill, at the time of signing it, a statement of the items to which he objects, and no item so objected to shall take effect. If the Legislature be in session, he shall transmit to the House in which the bill originated a copy of such statement and the items objected to shall be separately considered.

Burger King looking to become a Canadian corporation because of the United States’ insane corporate tax code

U.S. fast food giant Burger King is looking to buy Tim Horton’s in Canada, and move its corporate headquarters to Canada. It’s a tax move called corporate inversion that’s been taken by companies that aren’t in the public eye like Burger King, and it’s been a bone of contention between Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

Democrats think that the solution to the problem lies in making it more difficult for American corporations to buy smaller companies abroad, to justify moving out of the U.S. Keeping businesses in America with competitive tax rates is the solution Republicans support. As for this particular case, Burger King is looking to save around 20 percent in taxes.

Canada’s corporate tax rate is 15 percent, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. rate is 35 percent, the highest among OECD nations, although most businesses pay significantly lower effective rates.

The Washington Examiner pointed out one obvious problem. In addition to not being competitive, there is no such thing as a standard effective tax rate for businesses in the U.S. As we head into the mid-term elections, tax reform should be an issue of concern, especially corporate taxes.

America needs to be encouraging businesses to move here with low tax rates. President John F. Kennedy understood that, when he decreased taxes - it is always better to collect smaller amounts from more people and businesses than it is to continually increase tax burdens on few. As Burger King is showing, the few can choose to just move away.

Justice Department confirms the Lois Lerner emails still exist, proving that IRS officials are a pack of liars

Well, look at that. The Justice Department has confirmed to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch that the emails of several IRS officials, including those of Lois Lerner, still exist, despite claims that they’d been lost due to hard drive crashes and destroyed backup tapes:

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Justice Department lawyers informed him that the federal government keeps a back-up copy of every email and record in the event of a government-wide catastrophe.

The back-up system includes the IRS emails, too.

“So, the emails may inconvenient to access, but they are not gone with the [broken] hard drive,” Judicial Watch spokeswoman Jill Farrell told the Washington Examiner.

Judicial Watch is now seeking the release of the emails, which Justice Department lawyers say would be hard to find because of the significant size of the backup system.

Yeah, Judicial Watch is probably the least of the Justice Department and IRS’s concerns. The House Oversight and Government Reform and House Ways and Means committees, both of which are investigating the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, aren’t going to care how difficult of a task it will be to recover these emails.

Yes, guns are a crime deterrent: Chicago sees crime rates fall after Illinois began issuing concealed carry permits

Don’t look now. Chicago may be beginning to shed its reputation as one of the most violent cities in the United States, though it has a long way to go. (Sorry, Rahm Emanuel.) The Washington Times reports that the Windy City has seen its crime rate fall by a noticeable margin, which, gun rights supporters note, came after Illinois began issuing concealed carry permits:

Since Illinois started granting concealed carry permits this year, the number of robberies that have led to arrests in Chicago has declined 20 percent from last year, according to police department statistics. Reports of burglary and motor vehicle theft are down 20 percent and 26 percent, respectively. In the first quarter, the city’s homicide rate was at a 56-year low.

“It isn’t any coincidence crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “The police department hasn’t changed a single tactic — they haven’t announced a shift in policy or of course — and yet you have these incredible numbers.”

As of July 29 the state had 83,183 applications for concealed carry and had issued 68,549 licenses. By the end of the year, Mr. Pearson estimates, 100,000 Illinois citizens will be packing. When Illinois began processing requests in January, gun training and shooting classes — which are required for the application — were filling up before the rifle association was able to schedule them, Mr. Pearson said.

It Doesn’t Seem Possible, but France Is Going from Bad to Worse

Remember when Paul Krugman warned that there was a plot against France? He asserted that critics wanted to undermine the great success of France’s social model.

I agreed with Krugman, at least in the limited sense that there is a plot against France. But I explained that the conspiracy to hurt the nation was being led by French politicians.

Simply stated, my view has been that the French political elite have been taxing the nation into stagnation and decline and there is every reason to think that the nation is heading toward a severe self-inflicted fiscal crisis.

But it turns out I may have been too optimistic. Let’s look at some updates from Krugmantopia.

We’ll start with a report from the Financial Times, which captures the nation’s sense of despair.

…if the country’s embattled socialist president was hoping for some respite from what has been a testing year, he can probably think again. … the French economy barely expanded during the second quarter of this year after stagnating in the first. …the result will make it all but impossible to achieve the government’s growth forecast for 2014 of 1 per cent… Bruno Cavalier, chief economist at Oddo & Cie, the Paris-based bank, says one reason is the huge constraint on disposable income posed by France’s tax burden, which has risen from 41 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 45.7 per cent last year – one of the highest in the eurozone.

 


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