Dogs, the IRS & the CIA

     If I were a raccoon dog, I’d be having an identity crisis right about now.
     OK, if I were a raccoon dog, I might not be doing a lot of thinking, but play along.
     Last fall I told you that the Federal Trade Commission was trying to decide whether the fur of a certain canine that is not related to raccoons should be labeled as coming from raccoon dogs or Asiatic raccoons.
     Fur sellers claimed it was misleading to call them dogs because, well, they are dogs, but no one will buy dog fur.
     People who sell things think it’s misleading to say anything that will prevent sales.
     And now, as you may have noticed, raccoon dogs have popped into the news once more because they’re real.
     Neiman Marcus, DrJays.com, and Eminent had to promise the FTC they would no longer sell clothes supposedly containing fake fur that actually include real raccoon dog fur.
     The term “faux faux fur” has entered the news lexicon.
     It seems that fur sellers not only do not want to call raccoon dogs dogs, they don’t want to call them animals at all.
     And fake fur is more valuable than real fur.
     How dare someone pawn off the real thing on me when I paid good money for fake?
     The animal kingdom may be a lot safer than it used to be.
     
     Out of This World: I’m not often left speechless, but it took me a while before I could open my mouth after forcing myself to sit through the Internal Revenue Service Star Trek video.
     In case you missed the news reports, politicians and pundits got upset the other day because the IRS spent about $60,000 on a pair of videos for a training conference in 2010.
     Naturally, politicians and pundits completely missed the point.
     Sixty thousand dollars is peanuts for the federal government. Saving video money isn’t going to solve anyone’s budget problems.
     The real issue here is artistic sensibility.
      Watch the video yourself.
     Did you make it all the way through?
     I discovered I could never be a film critic. I couldn’t even begin to describe that thing. I desperately wanted to purge it from my memory.
     If the idea was to make us afraid of contact with IRS employees, the film was a success.
     Fortunately, there is a good use for this video that justifies the investment: threaten to show it to anyone who cheats on their taxes.
     It’s cruel and unusual, but it should be effective.
     
     Res Ipsa Loquitur: I have a trick question for you: If a government agency decides to send drones to kill enemy targets, will they make note of it somewhere in their records?
     You think you know the answer?
     Yeah, I do too. Someone might keep track – if nothing else, to make sure their drone supply is current.
     Logical?
     OK, now go read American Civil Liberties Union v. Central Intelligence Agency, a ruling of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in which we learn that the CIA refused to say whether it had any drone records or not.
     Bookkeeping? What bookkeeping?
     Why would they refuse to say they had records?
     So they wouldn’t have to explain why they shouldn’t have to give them up.
     You don’t have to justify something if you don’t admit it exists.
     Those guys aren’t spies for nothing.
     You have to dig for it – down to page 11 of the ruling – but the CIA position brought out a nice little bit of sarcasm from the federal appellate court.
     Note their italics: “The defendant is, after all, the Central Intelligence Agency. And it strains credulity to suggest that an agency charged with gathering intelligence affecting the national security does not have an ‘intelligence interest’ in drone strikes.”
     Maybe intelligence is the wrong word to apply to these guys.

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