Plus: Read more about the history of the Senate hair salon where lawmakers get their taxpayer-subsidized budget cuts.
Calhoun: Fotosearch/Getty Images, Burnside: Library of Congress, Kennedy: Library of Congress, Thompson: AP Photo, Biden: Brian Synder/Reuters, Edwards: Mike Segar/Reuters, Sen. Strom Thurmond: Larry Downing/Reuters, Hutchison: US Congress, Paul: US Congress
Last week, CBS News got its hands on a copy of a Star Trek-themed training video the IRS made for its employees in 2010. The video and a Gilligan's Island-themed one also shot in the tax agency's in-house studio reportedly cost $60,000 to make. William Shatner is not amused:
So I watched that IRS video. I am appalled at the utter waste of US tax dollars.
Predictably, congressional belt-tighteners have set their phasers to outrage. "There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous," fumed Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.). (Meanwhile Congress is acting highly illogically by spending $380 million on photon torpedoes that don't work and no one wants.) Cowed by its critics, the IRS has apologized for "the space parody video."
At least none of your tax money was spent on acting lessons:
And so far, no one is freaking out about these Star Trek-themed spots produced by the Social Security Administration. Probably because they feature George "Sulu" Takei, who is awesome.
And let's not forget the time NASA decided to name a spaceship after the USS Enterprise.
In "10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down", I collected a range of research and statistics that challenge some of pro-gun advocates most popular sound bites. The National Rifle Association took notice and has been returning fire with a series of short videos attacking the "media misinformation." The clips score a couple of good points, but they're far from bulletproof. So let the debunking of the debunking of the debunking begin!
Myth #1: They're coming for your guns.
"Mother Jones is right," declares NRA News host Cam Edwards as he kicks off what he promises will be a 10-part rebuttal. "There is no way to round up all the privately owned firearms in the United States."
That hasn't stopped his colleagues at the NRA from claiming that the government will soon be coming for your guns. The group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has long insisted that the Obama administration is behind a secret "conspiracy" to impose "gun owner licensing and gun registration regimes that could be used for gun prohibition, confiscation, and ultimate destruction." (He was at it again recently, claiming universal background checks would lead to your guns being taken away.)
Besides, nobody in Washington is proposing gun confiscation. Tellingly, Edwards only cites nonlawmakers, such as this Daily Kos writer, who have called for restrictions far beyond anything being considered on Capitol Hill. And regulating firearms doesn't make confiscation inevitable. For example, the National Firearms Act of 1934, which requires the owners of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns to register with the federal government, led to no such roundup, and today machine guns are hardly ever used in crimes. When it passed, the law was endorsed by the NRA.
Myth #2: Guns don't kill people—people kill people.
Here Edwards claims that "we know that there really is no correlation between gun ownership rates and suicide rates." Yet researchers have found a link between higher rates of gun ownership and higher rates of suicide by gun—but not by other means—in the United States.
Edwards is correct that the suicide rate is much higher in virtually gun-free Japan. (Most Japanese suicides are hangings.) Obviously, gun availability isn't the only factor behind suicides in Japan (or the United States). Yet internationally, as the World Health Organization reports, readily available firearms "facilitate unplanned suicide acts" and "increase the suicide frequency."
The younger you are, the more likely you are to support gay marriage. But what if there's another dimension to this generational shift—the sushi gap? Raw data from a new survey of Americans' food preferences shows that age-based unwillingness to put delicious uncooked fish in your mouth correlates nearly perfectly with existing data about who disapproves of marriage equality.