Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May, 2017, Part 11, Political Class Insanity: Congress Gets Hacked, The Rich Get Richer, The IRS as a Political Weapon

It is the beginning of another month which means it is again time to review the latest political class insanity from Washington and around the world. Political class insanity takes many forms including the wasting of taxpayer wealth, criminal fraud within government programs, inane and stupid political quotes and actions, the inability to create and implement effective and efficient government programs, stupid and ill performing economic policies and strategies, and other forms of insanity that continue to evolve and surprise and shock us.

Today and for all of the insanity posts this month, let’s start off with a welcome piece of honest political dialog. It comes from a State Department spokesperson. Mark Toner, who is about to start the daily State Department press briefing. In a joking matter, he makes the following quote: "Welcome to the State Department. I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency and democracy."

He then burst out laughing at his own quote, indicating he also knew what a joke the Obama administration has been, especially Mr. Toner’s State Department, when it comes to cover ups, lack of transparency, denial of Freedom of Information Act requests, the prosecution of whistleblowers, etc. But at least it was a little refreshing to finally hear some actual honesty out of Washington as we see from the actual clip of the news conference:

With that context of honesty, let’s see what other insanity has been going down:

1)We have often talked about how the Obama administration shredded the First Amendment rights of millions of citizens when it used the IRS as a political weapon to deny non-profit status to Tea Party and other non-liberal organizations. Very serious stuff, the political class turning agencies against the citizens that support both entities because of legitimate free speech.

But it seems that shredding the First Amendment was not where it ended, based on very scary testimony in a court proceeding regarding the political weaponizing of the IRS,. According to a recent USA Today report on May 12, 2017 by Dan Horn:

  • IRS officials, testifying in court, claim that their lives are at risk in the Tea Party suit before a judge.
  • The judge has already ruled that there was a “strong showing” that the IRS had a systemic bias against Tea Party organizations.
  • During the court proceedings, former and current IRS executives, Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, testified that information in recent or future court filings and proceedings should not be made public.
  • They feel that the public’s right to understand what the Obama administration did to American citizens should be secondary to the threats to their lives that would exist if the truth was actually made public or they were forced to testify in public.
  • According to the article: ‘"This documentation, as the court will see, makes very personal references and contains graphic, profane and disturbing language that would lead to unnecessary intrusion and embarrassment if made public," their attorneys argued in a recent court brief. "Public dissemination of their deposition testimony would put their lives in serious jeopardy."
  • Currently, everything and every document associated with the case is under lock and seal per the judge’s order.
  • An attorney for the Tea Party claims that: "Generally, our position is that this is a matter of great public interest and there is no legal basis for sealing the depositions or the arguments about whether the depositions should be sealed."
  • The attorneys for Lerner and Paz put forth a real weak argument why the truth should be suppressed: "Although there is a compelling need for sealing, there is no countervailing need to make those details public. Allowing public dissemination ... would likely lead to media coverage that may then subject both individuals to the very harms they seek a protective order to avoid."

So sad that we are even discussing any aspect of this conversation on so many levels: the strong likelihood that First Amendment rights were squashed, that the truth has to be suppressed, and that government workers are afraid for their lives because of the truth. Insanity.

2) We have often written about how the Federal government’s desire to hand out farm subsidies usually ends up being subsidies for the rich. According to a recent Heritage Foundation article by Daren Bakst on May 22, 2017, nothing has changed since our last visit with this wasteful practice:

  • The Federal government and American taxpayer currently spend about $15 billion a year on different commodity and crop insurance programs.
  • Since the recipients of government handouts in these programs usually consists of millionaire farmers or large agriculture companies, less wealthy Americans are subsidizing more wealthy Americans and major corporations.
  • For example, according to 2015 data, midsize farm households have a median annual income that is three times higher than the median income of all U.S. households and the median wealth level of midsize farmers is 26 times higher than the median wealth level of all U.S. households.
  • Commercial farming operations and corporate agriculture companies represent only 10% of all farms in the U.S. but generally receive over 70% of all government subsidy payments.
  • But government handouts are also selective when paying out taxpayer money with 95% of the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage program payments in 2015 going to only five crops (corn, peanuts, rice, soybeans, and wheat), other crops be damned.

The rich get richer, the poor and middle class pay more and more in taxes and the political class lets it happen anyway.

3) Democrats in Congress are obsessed with somehow proving that the Russians have infiltrated the Trump administration, a task that they have failed miserably at achieving. But maybe they need to worry about how their own operations in Congress and their lives have been infiltrated by some shady Middle Eastern types:

  • According to an article by Luke Rosiak on May 22, 2017 for the Heritage Foundation, Congressional computer experts believe that a recent computer breech executed by an outside computer technology company, owned and operated by a Pakistani family, working for Congressional members may be using or could use the information that was gathered by the breech to blackmail members of Congress with their own data and information.
  • The company employees, all family members, provided IT employees and support to various Democrats in Congress but they have recently been banned from Congressional computer networks after suspicions arose that the family members accessed Congressional computers and files without permission.
  • The article claims that: “Congressional technology aides are baffled that data-theft allegations against four former House IT workers—who were banned from the congressional network—have largely been ignored, and they fear the integrity of sensitive high-level information.”
  • Furthermore, “Five Capitol Hill technology aides told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that members of Congress have displayed an inexplicable and intense loyalty toward the suspects who police say victimized them. The baffled aides wonder if the suspects are blackmailing representatives based on the contents of their emails and files, to which they had full access.
  • Pat Sowers has managed IT roles for several House of Representative members over the past twelve years and she was even more explicit: “I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point with no arrests. Something is rotten in Denmark.”
  • A local computer technology company had offered their services to Democratic House members at one quarter the price that the brothers were charging but were rebuffed in their bid, further raising suspicions.
  • Another computer company also tried for Congressional business but ran into more suspicious behavior: “The Awans’ ban sent 20 members searching for new IT workers, but another contractor claims he’s had difficulty convincing offices to let him fill the void, even when he seemed like a shoo-in. He says he has the sense some members wrongly believed that he blew the whistle on the Awans’ theft and they were angry at him for it.”
  • The Heritage article references a similar Politico article that claimed that the family members are “accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.”
  • Follow up analysis after the brothers were banned found that Congressional data was sent to an offsite server in violation of policies and procedures.
  • Family members have been paid $4 million for their computer services since 2010.
  • The family members had access to all emails of dozens of members of Congress and access to any computer files those members and their staffs stored.

Great, Democrats in Congress are worried about Trump while they are possibly being robbed blind of information within their own realms of responsibility, information that is quite possibly being sent overseas or being used for blackmail purposes domestically. Insanity.

Nasty stuff today: Congress gets hacked, the rich get richer, and turning the IRS into a political weapon now makes Americans fear for their lives. More insanity to follow.

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