Congressional Republicans adopt rule that could slash feds’ pay

From the Federal Times:

Tucked in the 115th Congress’s House Rules package is a quintessential throwback measure that has unions leery of the future of federal employee jobs and salaries.

The Holman Rule is a 140-year-old measure that allows Congress to “retrench” agency spending by allowing amendments to appropriations bills affecting everything from federal employee salaries paid from the Treasury Department to the number of employees in an office. Continue reading

USPS investigating “letter carrier” who says mail with Eid Greetings stamp will be “lost or destroyed”

Buzzfeed reports that the US Postal Service is investigating a person claiming to be a letter carrier, who posted a warning on Facebook that mail bearing the recently issued Eid Greetings stamp will be “lost or destroyed.”

The threat came in response to a Facebook post by the Islamophobe Pamela Geller, who claimed that the stamp was issued “in the wake of” the Orlando mass shooting. The stamp was actually announced months ago, and issued the week before the massacre. (Eid stamps have been issued by the USPS since 2001, during the Bush Administration.)

The threat was posted on the Facebook page of “Catherine An Ray”. We haven’t been able to find such a person in the USPS employee database, and apparently neither has the USPS.

Update: Catherine An Ray’s Facebook was inaccessible for a while, but is now available once again. Here’s a link to the original threat, which appears to be unchanged. And, in case it’s disappeared again, here’s a screen grab of the item as it appeared on Thursday:

eidthreat

Raw Story has some additional “highlights” of Ray’s rantings on Facebook here.

 

From Buzzfeed:

The USPS now trying to determine if the woman is an actual employee.

“At this time we cannot confirm if the person involved in this matter is a postal employee, but we can assure you that the incident is being fully investigated and that the Postal Service will take whatever action is appropriate,” Toni DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the postal service, said.

Refusing to deliver mail would result in the employee being fired, she added, noting that the USPS prohibits discrimination and harassment in any form based on religion, race, creed, color, or national origin.

The delay or destruction of mail is also federal offense that can result in jail time.

Catherine An Ray did not immediately respond to requests for comment via Facebook.

 

Donald Trump bumper sticker lands postal worker in hot water

It’s election season (when is it not?) which means it’s time for the Hatch Act! From the Lancaster, Pennsylvania LNP:

Tomas Strouhal just wanted to openly support Donald Trump.

The 23-year-old Quarryville resident put a Trump bumper sticker on his 2003 Chrysler Sebring and hung up a newspaper clipping inside his locker at the Leola post office, where he works.

But Strouhal’s employer took issue with them. Citing the Hatch Act, which governs political activity by federal employees, his supervisor said the “Trump: Make America Great Again” bumper sticker must go if his car is parked in the post office parking lot.

The USPS later relented, after learning that Hatch Act regulations do allow the display of one election related bumper sticker on a personal vehicle parked in an employee parking lot.

Strouhal says he thinks it was his support of Trump that got him in trouble, and claims that “it’s caused his co-workers to treat him differently and have a general ‘attitude’ toward him”.

Strouhal says he’s hoping to vote for Trump in November, but there’s one slight problem.

Strouhal is not a US citizen.

The LNP story says he emigrated from the Czech Republic in 1997, and hopes to become a naturalized citizen by election day so he can vote for the notoriously anti-immigrant Trump.

The story doesn’t indicate whether or not Strouhal is aware of Trump’s opinion on foreigners coming to the US and taking “American” jobs, but his knowledge of his favorite candidate seems sketchy at best:

“(Trump) is not a politician,” Strouhal said. “He’s a normal, working-class American, and my views are just like his.”

Oh.

Source: Donald Trump bumper sticker lands postal worker in hot water | Pennsylvania | lancasteronline.com

USPS responds to Daily Caller’s “War on Religion” story

The US Postal Service has responded to the Daily Caller’s bizarre claim that the agency is waging a “War on Religion” because it isn’t printing more religious Christmas stamps this year. In a letter to the owner of the tea party blog, USPS spokesperson Mark Saunders pointed out that the agency already has half a billion religious holiday stamps in its inventory. That’s enough to satisfy the demand for two full holiday seasons.

charliebrownxmasThe USPS also noted that that the story was apparently inspired by the reporter’s inability to find religious Christmas stamps at a PO he visited. Of course, the normal time for people to buy Christmas stamps is, well, Christmastime- not August or September- so it’s hardly surprising to find that a post office doesn’t have a ready supply of the stamps at the time. I imagine he’d have a hard time finding Christmas cards in the middle of summer, too! Does that mean drug stores and Wal-Marts are waging “War on Religion”?

The Daily Caller writer has posted a followup to the USPS letter, but you get the feeling that he didn’t actually read it- for example:

Saunders noted in his letter that there is a large inventory of religiously-themed stamps issued in previous years available for purchase by the public.

He didn’t say how many in the inventory depict religious images or how many feature non-religious images like 2015’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Snowflake” commemorative stamps.

That’s not true- here’s what Saunders wrote:

We have more than a half billion religious-themed holiday stamps in inventory and based on prior year’s purchases, that’s more than twice sold during a typical Holiday season.

That’s the thing that the Daily Caller just can’t seem to grasp- most Americans aren’t clamoring for more religious Christmas stamps. If they really want them so much, why are there half a billion sitting in the warehouse?

Here’s the text of the USPS letter. Click the link at the bottom of this post for the Daily Caller’s followup.

Tucker Carlson
Editor in Chief
The Daily Caller News Foundation
tucker@dailycaller.com

Dear Mr. Carlson,

Your Sept. 10 article “Ìs the Postal Service Declaring War on Religion?¨ is incorrect and misleads your readers into thinking Post Offices will not be offering religious-themed holiday stamps this year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Allow me to set the record straight.

We have more than a half billion religious-themed holiday stamps in inventory and based on prior year’s purchases, that’s more than twice sold during a typical Holiday season.

Our decision to print select holiday-themed stamps every other year is a business decision based on supply and demand while serving the needs of our customers. Moreover, we have found that the popularity of Holiday Forever stamps ÷ which are good for mailing a one ounce letter anytime in the future regardless of price changes ÷ result in more stamps purchased at a time.

Evidently the story idea about the “Postal Service Declaring a War on Religion¨ began when your reporter visited a Post Office and found that it had no religious- themed stamps available. Postmasters have the ability to order holiday stamps, but as most customers wait until after Thanksgiving to mail their greeting cards, Postmasters typically order these stamps in late September or early October.

Customers can purchase stamps at Post Offices or online at usps.com/shop.

Religious-themed Forever holiday stamps available this year include: Christmas Magi; Eid; Hanukkah; Holy Family; Madonna of the Candelabra by Raphael; and, Virgin and Child by Jan Gosseart. Secular Forever stamps include: A Charlie Brown Christmas (available Oct. 1); Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer; Geometric Snowflakes (available Oct. 23); Winter Fun; Global Holiday: Silver Bells Wreath; Global Holiday: and Evergreen Wreath.

The Postal Service has a long standing history of celebrating the religions of the world on postage stamps.

Mark Saunders
U.S. Postal Service Headquarters
Corporate Communications, Rm. 10501
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260-3100

Source: The Postal Service’s War On Religion Continues | The Daily Caller

Republican budget would take $32 billion from your TSP retirement savings

The Republicans slipped a little surprise for postal and federal workers into their recent budget proposal- essentially making the TSPs’ G Fund worthless, according to the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson:

Among the policy retreads, there was a surprise in the House package.

Republicans want to make the most popular employee investment fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) worthless. To save $32 billion over 10 years, House Republicans propose changing the fund’s interest-rate calculation, because, the resolution says, “those who participate in the G Fund are rewarded with a long-term rate on what is essentially a short-term security.”

Going after the TSP “is a new one,” said Kim Weaver, a TSP spokeswoman who has seen “nothing like this before.”

The savings for Uncle Sam would come at a great cost to his staff.

The fund’s current annualized interest rate is 1.88 percent. Adopting the House plan would result in a precipitous interest-rate drop to an annualized 0.01 percent, according to the TSP.

Read more: GOP budget plan has a surprise among list of cuts for federal employees – The Washington Post.

Flashback: Chaffetz wants to fire tax delinquent federal employees- but why stop there?

jason_chaffetzHere we go again- Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the supposedly kinder, gentler replacement for Darrell Issa on the House Oversight Committee, is conducting his semi-annual witch hunt for public sector tax delinquents.

Jason wants to fire federal employees who don’t pay their federal taxes. Sounds kind of reasonable, until you consider that the vast majority of tax delinquents in the US work for the private sector. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Jason to go after them. More importantly, IRS statistics show that federal employees have a far lower rate of delinquency than private sector workers. While GOP planted “news” stories often target US Postal Service workers as the worst of the lot because they owe the most money, it turns out that the delinquency rate for postal workers is exactly the same as the rate for another group of federal employees:

The House of Representatives!

Here’s what we had to say about Jason’s first witch hunt, four years ago:

Congressman Jason Chaffetz had this to say today in the Daily Caller:

If you’re collecting a federal paycheck, you should pay federal taxes. That’s the premise of a bill I introduced last week to require federal employees to pay their taxes or be fired.

Going after public workers has become fashionable among right wing politicians- they follow Muslims, Gays, Hispanics and African Americans as the latest scapegoats for whatever is ailing the country at the moment. But there is a certain logic to Chaffetz’s argument. He suggests working for the federal government is a privilege, and that in order to benefit, you should satisfy all your obligations to the feds. Fair enough- and Chaffetz goes so far as to say he would include federal contractors in the deal- don’t pay your taxes, your contracts get cancelled.

But I think Jason is missing something here- he says “No one who ducks a federal tax obligation should be eligible to benefit from federal funds.” But he only targets federal employees and contractors. How about all the other people who “benefit from federal funds”? Wouldn’t that include people receiving Social Security, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, crop subsidies, disaster relief, food stamps, small business loans, Wall Street bailouts, and all the rest? Come to think of it, exactly who in this country doesn’t “benefit from federal funds”?

So shouldn’t the law be rewritten to require that ANY employer terminate any employee who is seriously delinquent in their federal taxes? Or, at the very least, shouldn’t ALL of their federal benefits be terminated? Fair is fair, right?

Somehow I don’t think the Congressman will go that far- after all, a certain subset of the tea party types that he’s desperately trying to woo have a major problem with the very idea of the federal income tax. So I’d only suggest that the Congressman correct one other logical flaw in his bill. If you’re after people who “benefit from federal funds”, remember that the big agency that always gets mentioned first in these stories, the US Postal Service, doesn’t receive any!

via Chaffetz wants to fire tax delinquent federal employees- but why stop there? | postalnews blog.

Update on TV personality’s claim that USPS is spying on her

The Washington Post has published an update to the story of the former network TV personality, Sharyl Attkisson’s charges that the US Postal Service was spying on her computer. According to the Post story, a USPS “communication channel” was “opened into her Toshiba laptop”.

The details came in a court filing obtained by the Post. There’s no word on whether or not Ms. Attkinsson had recently been checking her local post office’s hours, or perhaps looking at the pretty stamps:

Among other findings, Ms. Attkisson’s computer forensics expert has identified an unauthorized communications channel opened into her Toshiba laptop directly connected to an Internet Provider (IP) address belonging to a federal agency, specifically the United States Postal Service, indicating unauthorized surveillance.

The Post quoted a postal service spokesperson as saying the agency had not yet received a copy of the complaint, but that the USPS does not believe there is any truth to the charges.

Read more: Postal Service disputes claims in Sharyl Attkisson’s hacking lawsuit – The Washington Post.

Self-styled “Investigative Journalist” says USPS spied on her computer

A little known former network television personality, Sharyl Attkisson, has filed suit in Federal Court claiming that the US Postal Service has been spying on her computer. Why the USPS would be interested in Attkisson’s computer is not clear. According to Atkkisson’s web site, her suit also names “the U.S. Department of Justice, and certain unnamed employees and/or agents of the federal government”.

Here’s the announcement of the suit, from her personal blog:

Washington, D.C., (January 5, 2015)—Investigative Journalist Sharyl Attkisson has filed administrative claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and certain unnamed employees and/or agents of the federal government. Attkisson has also filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia alleging certain violations of her constitutional rights based on information implicating the federal government in illegal electronic monitoring and surveillance of her home and business computers and phones from 2011 to 2013.

Attkisson worked for CBS for 20 years, where in recent years she pushed stories about Benghazi and the “Fast and Furious” investigation. She also aired a number of stories promoting the long discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. According to Politico, CBS let her go last March amid concerns by some staffers about her “agenda-driven” stories which raised questions about her impartiality.

Attkisson first charged that someone was spying on her computer in 2013. This past October she released a video that she claimed showed her PC being hacked. Security experts who viewed the video say it looks more likely that she had a stuck delete key.

Aside from the lack of real evidence of hacking, Attkisson’s claim that she was targeted for her anti-Obama stories seems a bit unlikely, given her relative obscurity. Fox News, after all, relied on Fast and Furious and Benghazi for the bulk of its programming for several years, and Darrell Issa held hearings on both subjects almost non-stop during the last Congress. Attkisson’s “reports” weren’t exactly groundbreaking. Which leaves one to wonder if the lawsuit and video are part of the publicity for her recently published book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington. It’s also worth noting that Attkisson has been backed, in previous suits she has filed, by “Judicial Watch”, a right wing lobbying group which was originally created to finance legal attcks on the Clinton Administration.

So why is she suing the USPS? We still don’t know- stay tuned!

Journalist Computer Intrusion Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. Government | Sharyl Attkisson.

Carper’s replacement on Senate oversight committee wants to privatize USPS

ronjohnsonWhen Republicans take over the Senate in January, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the US Postal Service, is expected to be Ron Johnson, a millionaire tea party favorite.

Johnson wants to reduce federal employees pay and benefits, eliminate FERS pensions, and privatize the US Postal Service:

Securing the border and reducing government regulations are areas he said he thinks the committee can find agreement. Ensuring the financial security of the U.S. Postal Service should be on that list, too. But he knows his prescription for the Postal Service would draw strong opposition.

Johnson would like to see the USPS go through bankruptcy proceedings, which he said, “really would turn the post office into a private entity.” He said he realizes there are political problems and constitutional issues with that position and is open to compromise.

Read more: An incoming Senate committee chairman’s views are sure to rile the federal workforce – The Washington Post.