“A federal government program to promote gender equality in Afghanistan and help women find employment is costing taxpayers over $200 million but has only found jobs for 55 women.”
‘The USAID program, Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs, or Promote, is a five-year $216 million effort. USAID has spent $89.7 million in three years but “has not demonstrated whether the program has made progress” toward its goals…’
“A 2017 goal of the program was to help 420 women find new or better employment, enroll 1,968 women in the internship program, and have 900 program graduates. By halfway through the year, Promote had only found new or better employment for 39 women, or 9.2 percent of its goal.”
Official data show serious discipline for feds is rare, but secret settlements obscure true figures.
One in four federal employees suspended by federal agencies in 2016 had been suspended before, according to a new review, which suggested an array of best practices for agencies to reduce misconduct in the workplace…
The review examined misconduct issues rather than poor performance. GAO cited as examples of misconduct “time and attendance infractions; intoxication; workplace violence; physical aggression toward an employee; improper use of a government-issued credit card; misuse of government equipment (such as viewing pornography or gambling); use of public position for private gain; and behavior that affects national security.”
‘The legislation, H.R. 5404, would “define the dollar as a fixed weight of gold,” according to a summary posted at govtrack.us. Sponsored by Representative Alex Mooney (R-W.V.), the bill would order the Secretary of the Treasury to define the U.S. dollar as an amount of gold, based on that day’s closing market price, two and a half years after the measure is enacted. It would also order all Federal Reserve Banks to make Federal Reserve notes (dollars) exchangeable for gold at the statutory gold definition of the dollar. In short, you could trade the pieces of paper in your wallet for real money…
…at the state level, lawmakers and experts are hard at work in the effort to restore sound money. Numerous states have passed laws to facilitate commerce in gold and silver, with some states even defining the precious metals as legal tender. In Texas, state authorities are even working on a gold bullion depository to help sideline the Fed and expand the use of gold in trade. But for the American people to truly prosper, it is important for Congress to take action. After all, Congress created the problem by unleashing the Fed and its awesome powers over the lives of every American. It is time for lawmakers to do the right thing.’
It can distract us from rational thought and meaningful compassion.
Jimmy Kimmel (Reuters photo: Kevork Djansezian)
Just over 14 years ago, my daughter almost died minutes before entering the world. My wife had to have an emergency C-section. The whole thing was harrowing. Someday I’ll tell the whole story. But because of that experience, and simply because I am a father, I could empathize with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s story about his son’s birth. His story is almost surely more harrowing than my story, but that doesn’t matter. Empathy is the [imagined] ability to feel what someone else is feeling.
Empathy is different than sympathy or compassion. Sympathy is when you feel [bad] for someone. Compassion is when you do something about it.
But empathy is something else. Researchers studying the brain can actually see how the various centers controlling certain feelings light up when we observe [and/]or imagine the experiences of others. “If you feel bad for someone who is bored, that’s sympathy,” writes Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in his brave and brilliant new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, “but if you feel bored, that’s empathy.”
Bloom, a liberal transplant from Canada, distrusts empathy because empathy is like a drug. It distorts our perspective, causing us to get all worked up about an individual or group. He compares it to a spotlight that illuminates a specific person or group, plunging everything and everyone else into darkness.
“When some people think about empathy, they think about kindness. I think about war,” Bloom writes. He’s got a point. Look at the Middle East today. Sunni nations empathize with the plight of suffering Sunnis, and that empathy causes them to further hate and demonize Shiites. Many people around the world empathize with the Palestinians, blinding them to the legitimate concerns of Israelis. And vice versa.
Adolf Hitler was a master of empathy — for ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, Austria, and elsewhere. The cause of nationalist empathy for the German tribe triggered profound moral blindness for the plight, and even the humanity, of Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.
Again, Bloom is a squishy liberal by his own account, but he’s also a leading scholar of how the mind actually works, not how we wish it would work.
Human beings are naturally inclined to sympathize and empathize with people like them. There has never been a society where people didn’t give priority to helping family and friends over strangers. This tends to blind us “to the suffering of those we do not or cannot empathize with,” writes Bloom. “Empathy is biased, pushing us in the direction of parochialism and racism.”
Look at the intractable debate over the phrase “black lives matter.” The slogan itself is a kind of spotlight, argue supporters, highlighting the legitimate complaints of African Americans. But it also blinds them to why others respond to the term by saying “all lives matter.”
I don’t go as far as Bloom in detesting empathy. It seems to me not only natural but also defensible to give priority to figuratively kindred people. England is a lot more like America than, say, Singapore. That similarity has forged a long and important bond, both formally (e.g., treaties and shared institutions) and informally in terms of an emotional and cultural bond. If England were attacked, our empathy for its plight would inform our response in ways that I think are important and useful.
But where I agree with Bloom is that empathy alone is dangerous and can distract us from rational thought and meaningful compassion.
Which brings me back to Jimmy Kimmel. His story about his son aroused a riot of empathy across the nation. And he used that response to make an argument about health-care policy that was largely devoid of any consideration of the facts, trade-offs, or costs of what is the best way to deal with people, including babies, who have pre-existing medical conditions. He was largely wrong on the facts: Babies with dire medical conditions are covered by their parents’ insurance, and when their parents are uninsured, doctors don’t just let the baby die on the table. That doesn’t mean there aren’t inequities in the system or that the current health-care regime is anywhere close to perfect.
But it is very difficult to have a rational discussion about the trade-offs inherent to any health-care system — including socialized medicine — when all anyone can think about is the ordeal of a newborn baby and his loving parents.
Simply depositing cash in sums of less than $10,000 was all that it took to arouse agents’ suspicions, leading to the eventual seizure and forfeiture of millions of dollars in cash from people not otherwise suspected of criminal activity …
The report found that in 91 percent of those cases, the individuals and business had obtained their money legally.”
“…Amazon will collect sales tax in all 45 states that require it, ending one of the company’s more drawn-out regulatory fights that the e-commerce giant had resigned itself to losing years ago. (For the record, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon do not have a state sales tax.)…”
The public has already responded to President Donald #Trump’s America First budget plan. #MealsOnWheels’ average amount of daily donations increased by 50 times on Thursday after the White House proposed cuts to some of the program’s funding, a spokesperson for the group said, according to CNN…
President Trump’s executive order on travel may be generating big protests, but an IRS missive on travel and passports may not go down too well either. More than a year ago, in H.R.22, Congress gave the IRS a new weapon to collect taxes. Tax code Section 7345 is labeled, “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.”The law isn’t limited to criminal tax cases, or even cases where the IRS thinks you are trying to flee. The idea of the law is to use travel as a way to enforce tax collections. It was proposed and rejected in 2012. But by late 2015, Congress passed it and President Obama signed it.
Now, over a year later, the IRS has finally released new details on its website. If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRS can notify the State Department. The State Department generally will not issue or renew a passport after receiving certification from the IRS. The IRS has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department. The IRS says certifications will begin in early 2017, and the IRS website will be updated to indicate when this process has been implemented.
Here is the new information from the IRS. Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $50,000 (including interest and penalties, but subject to an inflation adjustment) for which:
A notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted or
A levy has been issued
Some tax debt is not included in determining seriously delinquent tax debt even if it meets the above criteria. It includes tax debt:
Being paid in a timely manner under an installment agreement entered into with the IRS
Being paid in a timely manner under an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS or a settlement agreement entered into with the Justice Department
For which a collection due process hearing is timely requested in connection with a levy to collect the debt
For which collection has been suspended because a request for innocent spouse relief under IRC Section 6015 has been made
Before denying a passport, the State Department will hold your application for 90 days to allow you to:
Resolve any erroneous certification issues
Make full payment of the tax debt
Enter into a satisfactory payment alternative with the IRS
There is no grace period for resolving the debt before the State Department revokes a passport.
Taxpayer Notification. The IRS is required to notify you in writing at the time the IRS certifies seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department. The IRS is also required to notify you in writing at the time it reverses certification. The IRS will send written notice by regular mail to your last known address.
Reversal Of Certification. The IRS will notify the State Department of the reversal of the certification when:
The tax debt is fully satisfied or becomes legally unenforceable.
The tax debt is no longer seriously delinquent.
The certification is erroneous.
The IRS will provide notice as soon as practicable if the certification is erroneous. The IRS will provide notice within 30 days of the date the debt is fully satisfied, becomes legally unenforceable or ceases to be seriously delinquent tax debt. A previously certified debt is no longer seriously delinquent when:
You and the IRS enter into an installment agreement allowing you to pay the debt over time.
The IRS accepts an offer in compromise to satisfy the debt.
The Justice Department enters into a settlement agreement to satisfy the debt.
Collection is suspended because you request innocent spouse relief under IRC Section 6015.
You make a timely request for a collection due process hearing in connection with a levy to collect the debt.
The IRS will not reverse certification where a taxpayer requests a collection due process hearing or innocent spouse relief on a debt that is not the basis of the certification. Also, the IRS will not reverse the certification because the taxpayer pays the debt below $50,000.
Judicial Review. If the IRS certified your debt to the State Department, you can file suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court to have the court determine whether the certification is erroneous, or the IRS failed to reverse the certification when it was required to do so. If the court determines the certification is erroneous or should be reversed, it can order reversal of the certification.
IRC Section 7345 does not provide the court authority to release a lien or levy or award money damages in a suit to determine whether a certification is erroneous. You are not required to file an administrative claim or otherwise contact the IRS to resolve the erroneous certification issue before filing suit in the U.S. Tax Court or a U.S. District Court.
Payment of Taxes. If you can’t pay the full amount you owe, you can make alternative payment arrangements such as an installment agreement or an offer in compromise and still keep your U.S. passport. If you disagree with the tax amount or the certification was made in error, you should contact the phone number listed on Notice CP 508C. If you’ve already paid the tax debt, please send proof of that payment to the address on the Notice CP 508C. If you recently filed your tax return for the current year and expect a refund , the IRS will apply the refund to the debt and if the refund is sufficient to satisfy your seriously delinquent tax debt, the account is considered fully paid.
Passport Status. If you need to verify whether your U.S. passport has been cancelled or revoked, you should contact the State Department by calling the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778. If you need your U.S. passport to keep your job, once your seriously delinquent tax debt is certified, you must fully pay the balance, or make an alternative payment arrangement to keep your passport. Once you’ve resolved your tax problem with the IRS, the IRS will reverse the certification within 30 days of resolution of the issue.
Travel. If you’re leaving in a few days for international travel and need to resolve passport issues, you should call the phone number listed on Notice CP 508C. If you already have a U.S. passport, you can use your passport until you’re notified by the State Department that it’s taking action to revoke or limit your passport. If the Secretary of State decides to revoke a passport, the Secretary of State, before making the revocation, may—
Limit a previously issued passport only for return travel to the United States; or
Issue a limited passport that only permits return travel to the United States.
If your passport is cancelled or revoked, after you’re certified, you must resolve the tax debt by paying the debt in full, making alternative payment arrangements or showing that the certification is erroneous. The IRS will notify the State Department of the reversal of your certification within 30 days of the date the tax debt is resolved.
That was the ruling today out of a federal court in the Northern District of California authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a “John Doe” summons on Coinbase requesting the identities of United States Coinbase customers who transferred convertible virtual currency from 2013 to 2015. Coinbase, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a company which facilitates transactions of digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) had made the request earlier this month (California Northern District Court, Case No. 3:16-cv-06658-JSC) on behalf of the IRS since a “John Doe” summons can only be served by the IRS with federal court approval. A “John Doe” summons is an order that does not specifically identify the person but rather identifies a person or ascertainable group or class by their activities. In the past, that’s included investors in a particular tax shelter or account holders at a defined financial institution: the IRS has made use of the procedure, for example, when seeking information about offshore accounts those related to the UBS investigation.
In granting the motion, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that “[b]ased upon a review of the Petition and supporting documents, the Court has determined that the “John Doe” summons to Coinbase, Inc. relates to the investigation of an ascertainable group or class of persons, that there is a reasonable basis for believing that such group or class of persons has failed or may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue laws, and that the information sought to be obtained from the examination of the records or testimony (and the identities of the persons with respect to whose liability the summons is issued) are not readily available from other sources.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, said about the ruling, “As the use of virtual currencies has grown exponentially, some have raised questions about tax compliance. Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that whatever form of currency they use – bitcoin or traditional dollars and cents – we will work to ensure that they are fully reporting their income and paying their fair share of taxes.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen echoed that sentiment, saying, “Transactions in virtual currency are taxable just like those in any other property. The John Doe summons is a step designed to help the IRS ensure people doing business in the emerging economy are following the tax laws and meeting their responsibilities.”
The initial request was triggered, according to court documents, after the IRS found instances of tax evasion involving Coinbase customers. To clarify, it has not been alleged by authorities that Coinbase had any knowledge that any of its users might be involved in tax evasion.
Unlike other kinds of financial transactions, there is currently no third-party information which requires separate reporting for bitcoin (think of third-party reporting like the forms 1099 issued by your bank). This, says IRS, means that the “likelihood of underreporting is significant” which is why they are seeking information from Coinbase. Coinbase claims to be “the world’s most popular way to buy and sell bitcoin and ethereum” (Coinbase did not start accepting Ethereal, or ethers, until 2016, so it was not included in the summons).
The IRS is specifically seeking records for Coinbase users who transferred convertible virtual currency at any time between December 31, 2013, and December 31, 2015, with “any U.S. address, U.S. telephone number, U.S. e-mail domain, or U.S. bank account.” Requested records include but are not limited to user profiles, user preferences, user security settings and history, user payment methods, and other information related to the funding sources for the account/wallet/vault. And that’s just for starters. IRS is also seeking all records of account/wallet/vault activity including but not limited to records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction, names or other identifiers of parties to the transaction; requests or instructions to send or receive bitcoin; and all related correspondences.
The request raised concerns in the tax and virtual currency communities about the scope of the information sought by authorities. Those concerns remain, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see mounting opposition to the government’s request.
For its part, Coinbase issued a statement in response to the ruling, saying:
We are aware of, and expected, the Court’s ex parte order today. We look forward to opposing the DOJ’s request in court after Coinbase is served with a subpoena. As we previously stated, we remain concerned with our U.S. customers’ legitimate privacy rights in the face of the government’s sweeping request.