A year later, new stuff continues to trickle out

So here we are.

Edward Snowden has been in Russia long enough that his visa has been extended. You can actually buy t-shirts with his face on them. There are people who consider him a traitor and people who consider him a hero. He’s got a huge spread in the current issue of Wired. The list of things we know about the NSA and America’s electronic spy infrastructure thanks to Mr. Snowden just keeps getting longer! Just this week we learned that the NSA has cyberwarfare capabilities and is responsible for a country-wide internet blackout in Syria.

Yet, to paraphrase Yoda, There Is Another. Maybe more than just one other.

And since The Powers That Be can’t seem to stop the obvious violations of what most of us understand to be our rights under the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments, no wonder Millennials are not enthusiastic about politics.

How deep does the NSA Rabbit Hole go?

In Closing: Challenging civil forfeiture; yoga can be manly; cartel profits are going to pot; the economy; banks; I hate that he’s right; politics and you; the real consensus turns out to be further along the curve; math is a harsh reality; damned if you work, damned if you don’t; and the cat that rides the bus.

Federal Judge Rules that Banks Must Follow the Law

More specifically, a Federal judge has ruled that MERS tried to circumvent state law, costing counties millions of dollars in lost recording fees, compromising public records, and confusing consumers. Needless to say, executives form MERS disagree with the judge’s interpretation of state law.

This ruling could cost MERS millions of dollars — billions if other jurisdictions are included. Since I have always felt that the entire purpose of the corporation was to get around the law, I hope they get what legal penalties they have coming to them.


In Closing: Yeah yeah I’ll keep posting NSA links as long as there are links to post (bonus anti-terror link!); tax reform; maybe it’s because nobody can afford overpriced organizing stuff; that does sound a little unfair; it turns out that Medicaid is better than nothing– for hospitals!; a couple diet, exercise, and obesity items; about nothing, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”; and “take our puppet, please!”

“Oh No, Say It Ain’t So, Joe”

B000444Today, I got a letter from Joe Biden. I was kind of excited when I saw it. He asked about my family and how my classes were going… No, not really. He wanted money for the DSCC, “the only organization solely dedicated to electing and reelecting Democrats to the Senate.”

So in short, here’s my reply: Sure, Joe, do you want me to make that check out to Democracy for America or MoveOn? Because the DNC, DSCC, DNCC, and other ‘official’ Democratic groups aren’t getting any more of my money until you start representing my interests!

Want my money? Well Joe, you’re the head of the Senate. Make those idiots actually stand up and talk when they threaten filibuster. You don’t need Harry Reid’s permission to do that, do you?

Here’s another place you can start: Throw some support behind Senator Warren’s bill to revive Glass-Steagal! Heck, Sandy Weill said almost exactly a year ago that it needed to be done, and he was the guy who forced the Feds to repeal it. Funny how we didn’t have a financial catastrophe in the decades it was law. You don’t suppose….?

Maybe you could personally use some of your “pull” in the administration to at least slow down the mad acceleration towards a police state. For example, if we stop spying on citizens, then we have noting to fear from guys like Anonymous or Ed Snowden (btw, you do know that trying to prevent him seeking asylum is kinda a violation of international law?). Another example, maybe get the “Justice” Department to back of marijuana prosecutions in places where voters have decriminalized it? Instead, maybe “Justice” could start prosecuting employers who hire undocumented workers, often violating other labor laws in the process? You don’t even have to pass an immigration “reform” bill to do that! We do have millions of Americans out of work who — assuming those jobs actually pay a living wage (yeah ha I know right?) — might like to have those jobs.

Speaking of “reform” bills, Joe, I would like to register my disappointment once again in the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Ok, yes, probably better than nothing. Yes, thanks for the no-deductible birth control pills. However, the solution to soaring prices for health insurance was mandatory health insurance with no public option: forcing us to pay up to the profitable companies that got us into this mess. Let me recycle some links from the other day on that, and an ancient post. That’s like doubling down on a pair of deuces. This one is easy enough to fix if you can find the political will: support Alan Grayson’s “Buy into Medicare” plan. What was it you heard when you guys were trying to ram ACA through? “No socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare?” I bet Medicare’s cost per person would go down if young, healthy people were allowed to enroll!

You official Democrats have disappointed me on these issues as well as student loan reform, environmental issues, the farm bill, the Sequester, failing to let the Bush tax cuts lapse, failing to close Gitmo, not even trying to fix the problems the Supreme Court found in the Voting Rights Act or Citizens United, and so many other things I just can’t keep track of them all anymore.

I’ll probably still keep voting for you guys, because I don’t really see that the other party is going to run anyone I can vote for without self-loathing.

But don’t count on my check.

In Closing: Malala is back, and she has a posse!; and didn’t Trayvon also have the right to stand his ground? After all, some strange guy with a gun was following him home!

Cognitive Dissonance

Hey Christians, can you do me a favor and stop pretending this song has anything to do with Jesus?

Ok, yeah, Light of the World. I get it. The lost without him thing. I get that too.

But there’s no way around the fact that none of you can think of a reason it would be appropriate to say “How can it be wrong when it feels so right” to Jesus.

In Closing: more nonsense they want to stick in the immigration “reform” bill; information coming out confirming what some people already suspected, Bank of America was actively trying to screw underwater homeowners; sociological research; and cheetahs.

A Few Words about Taxes and the IRS

Forbidden Fruit. Apple has been getting grilled for following the law in a manner that reduces their taxes. Frankly, most of us choose to do legal things to minimize our tax liability. Give a charitable donation? Buy a house with a mortgage? You could be guilty of following the law! I’m with the CEO of Google and Bill Gates on this one: Don’t like it? Change the law!

The Scandal That Wasn’t: So thanks to Karoli of Crooks and Liars for actually digging up some facts to go with our conspiracy theory witch hunt on the IRS allegedly investigating too many conservative groups. When roughly 80% of applicants are conservative groups, you should be shocked if roughly 80% of those investigated aren’t conservative groups! But hey, let’s not let reality get in the way of a good rant.

That’s it for now.

In Closing: a small example of manmade climate change; cats at sea; so that’s why; supply and demand; an interesting man; inequality; duh; they deserve better; dumb idea; about time; even handed reporting on immigration reform; family leavecrack babies; and I hardly consider it “freak” when something crashes into it.

R.I.S.D: Rest In Shorties Department

I Would Watch That!: I have been given permission to share my son’s brilliant idea for a new TV show: he calls it “Law and Order and Batman.”

Dumbasses: There are plenty of vegan parents out there who manage not to starve their babies to death.

Leia: 20 facts, 20 pictures, one princess.

Startling: The amount of data that cell phone companies might have.

Pope Francis: I could like this Pope.

Coincidence, I’m Sure: The Feds cut off Vegas’s counter-terrorism funds (whatever) the same day a “suspicious package” forced evacuation of Nellis AFB’s hospital and the day after a suspected pipe bomb was left by the side of the freeway.

Sheila Bair Sounds the Alarm: the banks are getting ready to screw the economy again.

On Expanding War: “[Our leaders] should not casually initiate conflict with only limited understanding of complex situations. It’s past time for greater caution in commitments of U.S. military forces, particularly in the Middle East.”

Here Comes the Sun: Sunshine turns out to be good for humans.

Let’s Get Physical: So is exercise.

Imagine: Today and here are the important things.

What?: A man and his bike and his cat.

What Would Bryan Boitano Do?: Bacon restaurant and bacon cocktails (check the slide show).

Extremism and Understanding: Turns out they don’t go together well.

Yuck: Margarine.

About Time: Costa Concordia captain finally facing a trial. Hey, let’s not rush into anything, it’s only been a year and a half.

Dave is Right: Let’s fix the real problems.

German Efficiency: Not always a good thing.

Valjean’s Confession: Right, because preventing desperate people from feeding their families will totally solve the problem of crime. I’ve said this about Megan’s Laws and I’ll say it about this: if we have decided that some people will always be criminals, they should be put in prison for the rest of their lives, but then we need to have a serious discussion about what that means.

America Knows Best

Sorry for the little hiatus. Finals are coming Real Soon Now and my writing has been monopolized by a paper on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells. Fascinating stuff. For a minimally sciencey version, check out this biography.

Depending what day it is, the world news front is likely to say something about Iran, North Korea, and/or Syria. Iran is developing nuclear technology, and probably weapons. North Korea is more open about their weapon development. The US is warning Russia that they had better not send Syria better missiles, particularly since Syria is accused of using chemical weapons.

Now make no mistake. I don’t think anybody really wants Iran or North Korea having nukes. I don’t think most people think a better armed Syria is a good thing. But here’s the thing: who gave us the right to enforce our opinion?

Who is the United States to tell another sovereign nation what weaponry it can or cannot have? Under what authority? What if some other country decided that the United States shouldn’t have nukes? Or aircraft carriers? Or [insert fancy piece of military technology here]?

I know a lot of people in the West don’t think much of Al Jazeera as a news source, but they are right to point out that the American bargaining position regarding Iran — and truly, all 3 nations — is a lot like trying to negotiate with Republicans: the only possible option is “do it our way or else.” Or, if you prefer to be more patronizing if not outright racist, “everything would run so much better if you brown people would do it our way like civilized people!”

Maybe, just maybe, international issues could be resolved more smoothly if we treated other sovereign nations like big boys and girls rather than little children who need our guidance.

In Closing: soda; I suspected as much; Jesus is coming, look busy; the Borgias are coming, look busy; um yeah, you can’t do that; student loan debt is officially bad for the economy; consumer spending is up and late mortgages are down (good news!); eVerify; Too Big To Fail must be Too Big To Exist; side effect; don’t forget that Federal law always trumps state law; and riiiiight, exactly where I want to go on Mother’s Day. Not.

Apples and Oranges

In the wake of Newtown and the failure of Congress to “Do Something Do Anything” about gun laws, various people have suggested bulletproof backpacks or even uniforms for school children, saying  “It’s no different to having a seatbelt in a car.”


No, it’s very different from a seatbelt in a car.

First off, car crashes happen much more often than school shootings. If you live in a major metropolitan area, there was a car crash in your city today. I can almost promise that. I can also almost promise that there was not a school shooting in your city today. School shootings are rare; car crashes are not. It’s reasonable to take a routine precaution against injury for something that is unfortunately an everyday occurrence.

Further, I’d like to point out that we call them automobile accidents. Almost nobody intends to get into a car crash! While accidental shootings happen, nobody accidentally takes a loaded gun to a school. That’s premeditated. Always.

I might have bought “It’s no different from having a fire extinguisher.” After all, school fires are rare, but we’re awfully glad fire extinguishers are there if they happen. Oh, but we aren’t talking about equipping every student with a $269 fire extinguisher, now are we?

Don’t dare get on the “don’t you care about the safety of the children” high horse. If we really gave a darn about the children’s safety, we wouldn’t let schoolboys play football.

Speaking of schools and gun safety, I hope this disabuses anyone of the notion that armed teachers are an answer. I fully support your right to own a gun. I just don’t support your right to have it on campus.

In Closing: gee no kidding; speaking of job creation; To Big To Fail should be Too Big To Exist; empty calories; and Happy May Day.

Prep Your Guest Room

Because if Mr. Obama gets his way, your parents will eventually have no choice but to move in with you.

CNN/Money describes Chained CPI as “The Geeky Debt Fix That Might Work.” It will do no such thing. The assumption is that “CPI overmeasures inflation” when in fact, inflation has been systematically undermeasured for many years. So the answer — according to people who don’t have to balance their own checkbooks — is to adjust inflation yet again so we don’t have to pay more going forward.

That means lower cost of living raises for Congressmen, sure. It also means lower raises for mail carriers, IRS auditors, soldiers and sailors (support our troops, right), and everybody on Social Security. So relative to real inflation, all their paychecks will feel smaller and buy less. In general, wages in this nation haven’t kept up with inflation for most of the last 50 years, so that’s going to hurt even more.

And it’s not going to cut deficits. Even if it works as planned, it will only reduce the rate at which the deficit gets bigger. That’s like going on a weight loss plan and bragging that you’re only gaining 2 pounds a month instead of 5.

Never mind that Social Security does not contribute to the national deficit in any way. Never mind that if the eggheads in Washington were really worried about the idea that at some hazy date in the future, Social Security will pay out more than it pays in, they would suggest raising the maximum contribution.

So go ahead and write or call your Representative and Senators. Send email to the White House too. Ask them point blank:

If Chained CPI is enacted, can my mom come live with you? Because I don’t think I can afford it.

Maybe if they get enough calls, they will notice that this is a bad idea.

In Closing: If this were a math test, they’d fail; Judge cuts political gordian knot; Too Big To Fail is Too Big To Exist; his little outburst earned him a $75k fine and a $100k bonus (explain again how sports makes money for colleges??); Kim, even Castro thinks you’re going too far; and huffing bears.

Follow Up: The Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners at Walgreens are a poor substitute for a Doctor. Some are so dangerous, they don’t even know what they don’t know.