FAA

At Altar of Diversity, “PC” Means “Plane Crashes”

FAA

 

We live today in a world saturated with the groupthink of political correctness. Ideas, beliefs, and traditions that were just a few years ago non-controversial because, to borrow from the Declaration of Independence, they were “self-evident”, can now bring upon you heaping condemnations, boycotts, and even lawsuits for their mere utterance. Merely disagreeing with those that have parted ways with tradition can brand you as a “denier”, a bigot, homophobe, racist, or worst.

We have become a nation where the wisdom of generations of collective understanding, and human experience, has been replaced by the shiny new novelty of “enlightened” thinking, which tells us that there is no difference in the sexes, that gender is a social construct that can be chosen or changed at will, rather than a biological characteristic inherent at birth. This same groupthink elevates “diversity” as the Holy Grail of social engineering, a goal to be pursued at the expense of common sense, fairness (actual fairness, based on merit, not the redistributionist fairness of “social justice”), and achievement.

Privacy concerns expressed over Amazon.com’s drone delivery service

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon.com has joined the drone revolution.

During an interview this weekend on 60 Minutes, Jeff Bezos, founder of the online retailer, announced that new service, Amazon Prime Air, that would fulfill customer orders within 30 minutes via delivery by drone.

This is possible thanks to legislation passed last year to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Tucked away in that bill was language that expanded use of drones for law enforcement agencies and commercial interests.

Amazon isn’t the first company to take advantage of drones for commercial purposes. For example, Domino’s announced earlier this year that it was testing pizza delivery via drone, though, regulations allowing the use of such services have yet to be finalized. Bezos expects the be running the service by 2015.

The reaction on social media has been mostly positive, but there are some real privacy concerns about the service, as fascinating and convenient as it may be for consumers, that the FAA will have to address as it moves forward on regulations for commercial drones:

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said privacy protections need to be in place before Amazon starts delivering packages with drones.

Colorado town to vote this fall on “drone hunting”

commercial drone

Who’s up for a little drone hunting? The sound of heading out doors to shoot down privacy invasive unmanned-vehicles flying in the sky above is actually appealing. That’s why some in a Colorado town are pushing a measure to be voted on this fall that will allow people to obtain “drone hunting” permits:

For the people of Deer Trail, Colo., November elections usually are reserved for electing town board members and state and federal lawmakers.

But in November, residents of the small town will decide whether to license the nation’s first official “drone hunters.”

On Tuesday night, the town board split evenly, with three members voting “yes” and three voting “no,” on an ordinance that would have made it legal for residents to apply for licenses and then shoot unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky in exchange for a $100 cash reward.

The controversial measure now will appear on the November ballot, leaving the decision up to voters in the town of about 550 people.

Some Deer Trail officials and residents — along with many others across the nation — fear that the rapid rise of domestic drones poses grave new threats to personal privacy. Echoing the concerns of privacy groups, civil liberties activists and many state and federal lawmakers, those pushing the Deer Trail ordinance argue that citizens must resist the unprecedented surveillance capabilities brought by drones.

FBI already using surveillance drones inside the United States

Look! In the sky. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…an FBI drone?

That’s right, folks, fresh off revelations that the NSA is collecting phone records and Internet metadata of ordinary Americans who are suspected of no crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted for the first time that it has used surveillance drones inside the United States.

During congressional testimony on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that the agency he oversees has used drones inside the United States, though he insisted that reliance on them is limited:

The United States uses drones for surveillance in some limited law enforcement situations, FBI Director Robert Mueller said on Wednesday, sparking additional debate about President Barack Obama’s use of domestic surveillance.
[…]
“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on U.S. soil?” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Yes,” Mueller said, adding that the use was in “a very, very minimal way and very seldom.”

Mueller did not go into detail, but the FBI later released a statement that said unmanned aircraft were used only to watch stationary subjects and to avoid serious risks to law enforcement agents. The Federal Aviation Administration approves each use, the statement said.

IRS to give out $70 million in bonuses to union employees

At a time when the Internal Revenue Service is under fire for targeting Tea Party and conservative groups and its lavish spending at conferences, the embattled agency will soon dole out $70 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to union employees:

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 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.”

The IRS said it is negotiating with the union over the matter but did not dispute Grassley’s claim that the bonuses are imminent.

FAA Furlough Fix Increases Deficit

On Friday, the House passed legislation already approved by the Senate that would undo politically motivated furloughs for air traffic controllers that were implemented due to the sequester. But the fix will cost taxpayers. Over at the FreedomWorks blog, Jon Gabriel notes that undoing furloughs will add around $6 million to the deficit over the next 10 years:

From what little has been publicized,  the bill appears to increase outlays this year in return for a promise of reductions in later years. Much like Lucy promised Charlie Brown that this time she wouldn’t yank the football.

But even the promised reductions wouldn’t cover the entirety of the bill’s cost. According to the House GOP website, “most, but not all, of that near-term increase would be offset by corresponding reductions in outlays in future years, resulting in net increases in outlays totaling $4 million over the 2013-2018 period and $2 million over the 2013-2023.”

One thing is clear: this “fix” will increase the deficit for 2013 and beyond.

This amount of money doesn’t even amount to a rounding error in the broader scheme of the federal budget, but it’s not about that. As had been noted several times at United Liberty, the sequester isn’t even really a spending cut in terms of actual outlays. It’s just a cut to the rates of spending increases. The sad thing is that these relatively unsubstantial “cuts” come after years of dramatically increased spending under both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Congress Passes FAA Furlough Fix

airport

After a few days worth of flight delays, Congress has bypassed the Obama Administration on FAA furloughs for air traffic controllers. The Senate acted last night, unanimously passing a resolution that requires the Department of Transportation to move funds to the FAA to prevent the furloughs. In a 361 to 41 vote earlier this afternoon, the House followed suit:

Congress approved a bill ordering the Transportation Department to move money to the Federal Aviation Administration in order to put air traffic controllers back on the job — and requiring Mr. Obama’s team to make cuts elsewhere in the department.

“I think we all agree the FAA and the administration has handled the sequester poorly,” said Rep. Tom Latham, Iowa Republican. “The administration has played shameful politics with sequestration at the expense of hardworking families.”

The bill passed the House 361-41, and the Senate had already pre-approved the bill unanimously late Thursday night.

It now goes to Mr. Obama, who signaled he will sign it — though the White House was not happy about it.

Despite concocting the sequester and signing it into law, President Obama has done everything he can to avoid responsibility for it by trying to shift blame on Republicans. That rhetoric has backfired on the White House and Senate Democrats, and Leftist pundits like Ezra Klein are whining that they’ve given up their only leverage on the issue.

No Furloughs for ObamaCare Regulators

In what is a completely politically motivated action, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has furloughed air traffic controllers, causing flight delays in airports across the country and leaving passengers with long waits to get to their destination. The furloughs are designed to make Americans feel the affects of the sequester, automatic reductions in spending increases that took effect at the beginning of March.

But one agency that has avoided furloughs and pay cuts is the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which is responsible for implementing various parts of ObamaCare:

The office implementing most of President Obama’s healthcare law is not furloughing its workers as a result of sequestration, its director said Wednesday.

Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said Wednesday that his office has not cut its workers’ hours and pay as a result of the automatic budget cuts that went into effect in March.
[…]
The fact that ObamaCare officials haven’t been furloughed shows that the cuts are political, Rep. Greg Harper (R-Miss.) said Wednesday.

“We’re talking about at least a 15 percent furlough of current air-traffic controllers, resulting in delays and perhaps safety concerns, but yet this has been a selective political item by the administration,” Harper said.

Harry Reid Compares Tea Party to “Anarchists”

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took a shot at the Tea Party movement while discussing the sequester and the Simpson-Bowles fiscal reform plan with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Coburn, who is serving his last term in the Senate, objected to S. 788, which would suspend the sequester for the current fiscal year. The sequester — a plan that merely cuts the rate of spending increases, is being blamed for flight delays due to FAA furloughs of air traffic controllers — a move with political motivations behind it.

“What is happening in the Senate is phenomenal, and I want the American people to see this, Coburn explained. “The Federal Government is 89 percent bigger than it was 10 years ago. We just heard the majority leader say flexibility can’t work because we are already dealing with the same amount of money — 89 percent more than we were 10 years ago.”

“I didn’t vote for the Budget Control Act. I think sequester is a stupid way to cut spending. But I want us to understand exactly what is going on,” Coburn continued. “This is a contrived situation because no effort — zero effort — by the FAA or the Department of Transportation has been made to have any flexibility in terms of how they spend their money. They have made no request for a reprogramming of funds within the FAA. They have over $500 million unobligated sitting in balances that aren’t obligated, so none of this had to happen. This has been a created situation.”

Reid responded with revisionist history, bogus numbers, and a slam against both Coburn and the Tea Party movement.

The Senate’s Rushed Debate on NSA Spying Powers

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

As I write, the Senate is gathering in an unusual special session to debate the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act, which I discussed in a recent Cato podcast. Unfortunately, as Sen. Ron Wyden pointed out in opening the discussion, this sparsely-attended holiday session is likely to be the only full floor debate on sweeping surveillance legislation that has been in force for four years already (during which we know it has already been used unconstitutionally), and is all but certain to be renewed for another five. That’s especially disturbing given that, when the House debated the law back in September, its strongest supporters revealed themselves to be profoundly confused about what the law does, and just how much warrantless spying on the communications of American citizens it permits, despite being nominally restricted to “foreign targets.”


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