Senators Question IRS Spying
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew demanding to know why the IRS is using secret cellphone tracking systems to spy on Americans.
"This warrant-less eavesdropping appears to be a blatant invasion of privacy," Grassley complained. "It's precisely the kind of overbearing intrusiveness that our Constitution sought to prevent."
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted the spying, but justified it as "necessary. We can't allow a claim of privacy to deter us from gathering evidence against persons harboring anti-government animus or attempting to deny us access to funds the government needs."
Koskinen argued that the IRS "is obligated to rise above a simplistic servitude to a 200 year-old clause in a mostly out-dated document and use every bit of modern technology to carry out its mission to ensure the financial security of the government. When people know that we are watching their every move and that we have the capacity to listen in on every phone conversation they will be more compliant."
Secretary Lew characterized the senators' concern as "overly paranoid. We're not talking about foreign enemies obtaining state secrets for nefarious purposes here. The IRS agents listening it on cell phone conversations are loyal employees of the federal government. As fellow members of the government the senators should know that they have nothing to fear."
In related news, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against abolishing the death penalty, averring that "there are some crimes—treason, insurrection, attacks on government officials or policies—for which the threat of this ultimate sanction is needed to deter dangerous disobedience."
Obama to Order Troops to Syria
Despite concrete promises to never send ground troops into Syria, President Obama announced that a contingent of Special Forces would be sent to the war-torn country.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest attempted to maintain that "the President didn't break a promise. Unforeseen circumstances have altered the realities upon which the initial ban on boots-on-the-ground was decreed. First of all, there is a new player in the game—Russia. Its intervention in Syria changes everything. Our careful plan to degrade terrorist forces is endangered by Russia's unbridled intention to destroy them. This could upset the balance of power in the region."
"Second, the original promise was not to send combat troops," Earnest said. "We are sending military advisers. They won't even have any bullets. So, they cannot engage in combat. Their role will be twofold. First, they will advise moderate Muslim opponents of the Assad Government on how to fight back against the Russian invaders of their country. Second, they will serve as human shields that will help deter Russian attacks."
Secretary of State John Kerry defended the new intervention, saying that "the Middle East today is the home of populations that are energetic, youthful, and forward-looking. It is in them that we place our faith. In my mind, no price would be too high to pay if just one Muslim life could be saved by our efforts."
Republicans held mixed views over the decision. Sen. John McCain (R-Az) praised it as "a necessary step to fulfill our solemn obligation to the Syrian people. Russia has been our country's primary adversary for 70 years. We cannot turn aside from confronting this latest attempt to embarrass us." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken) labeled the move as "a risky venture with no obvious upside. Syria is a mess that the United States has no business jumping into. Getting more deeply involved makes no sense."
Alabama "Teacher of the Year" Unqualified
2014-2015 Alabama Teacher of the Year and 2015 National Teacher of the Year finalist Ann Marie Corgill was judged "unqualified" to teach in Birmingham's schools due to lack of specified state credentials. Corgill holds National Board Certification to teach children ages 7-12 and has been teaching in grades 1-6 for 21 years.
Kennita Allen, an education administrator with the Alabama Department of Education insisted that "neither demonstrated success in the classroom nor a national certification can substitute for the required state-issued certificate. Regulations are regulations. They cannot be waived for anyone no matter how competent they may have shown themselves to be." Allen also said that "Ms. Corgill's resignation wasn't necessary. We would have granted her probation and given her an opportunity to take the classes she needed to earned the state certificate."
Corgill challenged the utility and validity of the classwork demanded for state certification. "I would think that two decades of award-winning success might carry more weight than yet another layer of bureaucratic hoops that I would be compelled to jump through," she speculated. "Skill and passion are what is needed to inspire students to learn, not more paperwork to placate the education establishment."
In related news, the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 4% of Detroit public school eighth graders are proficient in math and only 7% in reading. This compared unfavorably with nationwide figures of 33% and 32%, respectively. Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Karen Ridgeway questioned the significance of the findings, declaring that "math and reading are skills no longer required in our modern society. We have computers to do the math and videos to provide a superior format for information over the written word."
Sanders Vows End to Islamophobia
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-Vt) told voters that he will "bring an end to the Islamophobia that has stained our country. Americans' fear of terrorism is excessive. Muslims in this country aren't massacring people. There is no cause for anyone to be apprehensive or mistrustful toward them. Suppressing such irrational fears will be a major emphasis in my administration."
The possibility that fear of Muslim immigrants might be warranted escaped Sanders' purview. For example, since opening its borders to a surge of Muslim immigration, Sweden has experienced a 1400% increase in rapes and now ranks second in the world in this crime category.
The problem is that under Islamic law, Muslim women serve little more purpose than catering to their husbands' sexual demands. The "uncovered whores," i.e., Western women who do not comply with sharia law, are considered legitimate targets for rape by Muslim men.
The Swedish government's approach to this problem has been to crack down on Islamophobia. Nevertheless, an unfazed Sanders reaffirmed his belief that "the Scandinavian countries provide a model we should emulate."
NYC to Ban Smoking in Public Housing
A new ordinance sponsored by New York City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens) would bar tenants of government-subsidized housing from smoking in their apartments. The rule would apply to an estimated 178,000 units controlled by the City's Housing Authority.
Richards maintained that "as hard as it may be on some of the tenants, the measure is for their own good. The fact that a person lives in subsidized housing is a pretty good indication of a basic lack of competence to make good decisions," he said. "Inability to support yourself imposes this burden on someone else. Whenever that someone else is the government we have the right and the duty to impose better choices on these people. Discouraging them from smoking is one of those better choices."
The Councilman hastened to point out that "New York isn't the only city to take such a step. Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Diego have similar prohibitions. Looking out for the welfare of the people isn't simply a matter of giving them what they want. Sometimes we have to determine what they need and don't need. Cigarettes are something they don't need. It is our job to try to prevent them from indulging in this pernicious vice."
In related news, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Harlem) called for President Obama to bypass Congress and seize the funds needed to save Puerto Rico from bankruptcy. "That Congress would balk at spending money we don't have for the great humanitarian purpose of rescuing Puerto Rico from the consequences of spending money they didn't have is the height of hypocrisy," she charged. "President Obama needs to rise above the limitations of law and do the right thing."
French Mathematicians Question Global Climate Hysteria
A recent report authored by a team of mathematicians from the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA challenged what it concluded is "a costly and pointless crusade against a naturally variable climate. The forces driving change are huge and beyond human control. The contribution to climate change that can be traced to human activity is tiny. The measures touted to combat climate change would be both expensive and ineffectual."
Global climate expert Al Gore denounced the report as "detrimental to our efforts to unite humanity in this crucial battle to save the planet. I'm not a math whiz, but I know if we do nothing we can't accomplish anything. Rather than sit by while the world burns wouldn't it be better to try everything we can?"
Gore brushed aside the fact that the planet has endured climates far warmer before the human species ever rubbed two sticks together, asserting that "just because we can't have an effect on the major factors behind climate change doesn't mean we shouldn't go all out to control the minor factors. That way, whether we end up sweating or shivering we'll know that it isn't our fault. The value of such knowledge would be priceless."
Ga?lle Tournié, one of the authors of the report, professed "it is difficult for me to decide whether Monsieur Gore is insane or idiotic. That he would gladly bankrupt humanity in an essentially futile endeavor to achieve a minuscule impact of doubtful success would support either assessment."