Today’s Silly News

Looks like someone has finally decided to strike back against the obnoxious French knights of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

British Inventor Builds Giant ‘Fart Machine’ to Fire at France

Colin Furze, a plumber and inventor from Stamford, Lincolnshire, has begun building the biggest fart machine ever, which he plans to place on top of the cliffs of Dover and aim across the Channel towards France. His hope is that the French, 21 miles away, will hear the blast.

The machine, which Furze will house in a pair of specially constructed buttocks, is a giant pulse valveless jet engine – as used in Nazi V-1 bombs during the Second World War – that creates a plume of fire to go along with its deafening roar. Furze hopes to mount the contraption on the cliffs of Dover on July 24, between 6 and 7pm.

And here’s the video if you want to see it being put together:

And while we’re in this territory, check out this roster of the 11 Best Monty Python Moments.  Worth bookmarking, don’t you think?

Finally, Weird Al Yankovic (except he’s not really that weird is he?) is getting a lot of attention for his new collection of videos, but I like this one best, just out yesterday, mocking the eminently mockable jargon of the corporate seminar room:

Was Lois Lerner Transferred to the FAA?

It is quite clear that Lois Lerner was the designated political hit-person for Obama at the IRS, targeting Obama’s political opponents.  Could she have been transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration and no one was told?

The question arises from the peculiar decision of the FAA to prohibit American air carriers from flying to Israel, now extended to a second day, despite there being no new incidents of rockets falling near the Ben Gurion airport.  Shouldn’t the decision about whether to fly to Israel be left to the individual air carriers to make?  Looks more to me as though the Obama Administration is using the understandable concern about air travel in the aftermath of MH17 last week in Ukraine to impose a form of sanctions on Israel without admitting it.  Just the kind of job Lois Lerner is good at.  Wonder if there is any email traffic that needs disposing?

Montana Dem Senator revealed as plagiarist

The New York Times is reporting that Montana Sen. John Walsh plagiarized “at least a quarter” of his 2007 master’s degree thesis for the U.S. Army War College. According to the Times, Walsh copied an entire page nearly word-for-word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution.

The Senator’s response? “I didn’t do anything intentional here.” Let’s call it a drafting error.

Walsh was generally thought to have little chance of holding this seat for the Democrats even before the Times’ report. Now, surely, his chance is practically nil.

But maybe Walsh is vice presidential material.

Shocker: GAO sting reveals Obamacare fraud

The National Journal reports on a sting operation conducted by the Government Accounting Office to test the strength of Obamacare’s eligibility-verification system. To no one’s surprise, the verification system failed the test. Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts. The total amount of the subsidies for the 11 approved applications was about $2,500 per month.

The investigators created fake identities by inventing Social Security numbers, income, and citizenship, and by counterfeiting documents. Eleven of 12 fake online or telephone applications were approved. The only exception occurred when the investigator refused to provide a Social Security number.

Apparently the laxity of the telephone verifiers is limitless as long as one doesn’t defy them.

The investigators had little success when they applied in person. Presumably, word will quickly spread that the best way to cheat is by phone or online.

What is the Obama administration’s response to the GAO study? Spokesman Aaron Albright says “we are examining this report carefully and will work with GAO to identify additional strategies to strengthen our verification processes.”

But how much “strategy” is required to spot an invented Social Security number?

The problem here isn’t strategy. The problem is that the Obama administration isn’t concerned about fraud. Indeed, it would probably like to dole out as much subsidized health care (aka free stuff) as it can get away with. Otherwise, Team Obama would not be doing such a pathetic job of detecting fraud.

Is Amnesty a Civil Right?

Eric Holder says that amnesty for illegal immigrants is “civil and human right.” On the Senate floor, Jeff Sessions brings an appropriate level of indignation to that illogical claim. Sessions said, in part:

Obama administration officials have gone so far as to describe amnesty as a civil right. That is an argument against the very idea of a nation-state….How could this possibly be, that the Attorney General of the United States of America would assert that people have a constitutional right to enter unlawfully and be given amnesty? … The actual legal rights that are being violated here today I suggest are the rights of the American citizens.

Here is the whole thing:

If you don’t believe in national sovereignty, if you don’t believe that a country is entitled to have a border, then it makes sense to say that a non-citizen has a civil (i.e., legal) right to enter the country and remain forever, regardless of any laws to the contrary. Otherwise, Holder’s proposition–which I think accurately reflects the thinking of the Obama administration–is nonsensical.

Incident at Wafa Hospital

The IDF has posted the illuminating video below (it’s posted here), explaining that “Hamas has turned Wafa Hospital into a command center and a rocket-launching site. Hamas has fired at Israel and at IDF forces from the hospital. As a result, the IDF repeatedly conveyed warnings to the hospital staff and urged civilians to leave the area. Hamas continued firing from the hospital. In response, the IDF targeted specific sites and terrorists within the hospital grounds. Secondary explosions can be seen, confirming IDF intellgience about the site.”

Inside the IRS, part 5

William Henck has worked inside the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel as an attorney for over 26 years. We posted his personal account, including his testimony to a retaliatory audit conducted by the IRS against him, this past February in “Inside the IRS.” We followed up with subsequent posts including part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Yesterday we learned that the IRS disseminated the following announcement by email:

Gary Gray, Deputy Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration), recently announced his plans to retire, effective August 31st, 2014, after 34 years of Federal service. Gary joined the Office of Chief Counsel in January 1999 as Assistant Chief Counsel (General Litigation) and later served as Assistant Chief Counsel (Collection, Bankruptcy and Summonses) before assuming his current position in 2007. Prior to joining the Office, from 1984-1999, he was an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, where he ultimately held the position of Assistant Chief, Appellate Section, Tax Division. From 1980-1984, Gary was a Captain in the Army JAG Corps.

Over the past 30 years, Gary has been a driving force in the development of the law with respect to IRS collection and information gathering and the defense of the Government’s interests in bankruptcy. As the principal reviewer of bankruptcy appellate matters while at the Tax Division, Gary played a key role in nearly every significant bankruptcy case decided by the Courts of Appeal during his tenure, arguing many of the cases personally. Since coming to the Office of Chief Counsel, Gary has been a critical part of the implementation of new legislation, the development of new collection processes, and the defense of IRS collection actions in the Tax Court. His hard work, critical eye, and collaborative spirit have been a model for Chief Counsel attorneys and managers and his contributions will be sorely missed.

The IRS also announced Gray’s replacement, Fred Schindler. Schindler achieved notoriety in connection with the famous IRS Anaheim conference that brought the IRS’s lavish spending on itself to public notice. Politico reported that Schindler was placed on administrative leave following the conference and, according to congressional sources, slated for termination.

The IRS message continues with the announcement of Schindler’s appointment:

We are pleased to announce that Fred Schindler will assume the role of Deputy Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration) effective September 1st, 2014. Fred joined the Office of Chief Counsel in 1998 as an attorney in the General Litigation Division and later served as Assistant to the Branch Chief, Special Counsel, and Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel in the Collection, Bankruptcy, and Summonses Division. In 2006 Fred was selected into the IRS Executive Development Program. He served as Director, Collection Policy, in the Small Business/Self Employed Operating Division from 2006 through 2010, and as Director, Implementation Oversight, in the Affordable Care Act Office from 2011 until rejoining Counsel in October 2013 as Counselor to the Associate Chief Counsel (P&A).

Bill Henck comments:

I don’t know Mr. Schindler personally, but others have told me that he is a good attorney and a good person. Maybe a subsequent investigation exonerated him regarding the Anaheim conference. However, this appears to be one more example of the arrogance displayed by IRS chief counsel management. They rammed through his selection to a Senior Executive Service position without any explanation regarding his role at the conference. They did it because they can.

Bill adds:

It is highly unusual for a replacement to be named in the same e-mail announcing someone’s retirement. For whatever reason, they decided not to go through the usual selection process.

I called IRS public affairs this morning put in a request for comment by noon today. I was asked to submit my inquiry by email with contact information. I have confirmed receipt of my message by the IRS public affairs office; the IRS has so far declined to comment. I will update this post if I hear back from the IRS.