Maybe I Need One More Habit

California wants to use more facial recognition to solve crimes. Never mind that this is a not-ready-for-prime-time technology, and even license plate readers make mistakes (and come on, there’s only 36 choices per character!). Heck, today I learned first hand that the system used by the Nevada DMV can be stymied by glasses vs. no glasses.

So, I suspect I’ll be in the habit of wearing sunglasses and hats more often. Probably good for my eyes and face anyway.

In Closing: free tour with purchase of car; Gin and Tacos; an idea with ridiculous potential for abuse.

 

More NSA

I’m going to start with the revelation that an NSA employee stalked 9 women before being detected by logging and sometimes listening to their phone calls. They called it “spied on,” but let’s get down to brass tacks. That’s just one of a dozen “substantiated” cases of the NSA abusing their abilities. The Guardian says they are “technically breaches of the law.”

No! Going 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone is “technically” a breach of the law! Listening to not one but nine different women’s phone calls without a warrant is “absolutely” a breach of the law, absolutely a violation of her 4th and 5th Amendment rights, and arguably a damper on her 1st Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly! Let’s stop splitting hairs and call that waddling, quacking thing a duck!

Let’s not forget that other details dropped in the last week include the fact that they’ve tapped effectively the entire internet, and have used phone metadata not for catching terrorists, but for catching people who try to tell the truth to the media.

So, with all this information out there, it should be no surprise that some in the Senate think it’s high time to reform the program. I’d rather it was deleted, but there will still be people out there who know where the back doors are, so I’ll concede that somebody needs to be monitoring that until such time as secure devices can be deployed.

The NSA of course doesn’t want that to happen. Shame Mr. Alexander shot himself in the foot by admitting he’d like to have legal cover for having all our phone records. Um, yeah. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that in public. Alarmingly honest for a change.

Follow Up: Meat Loaf!; on normal people in today’s economy.

In Closing: climate change; debt ceiling; what not to wear at work, duh; looting public pensions; the real sodomites; and way to show you “care.”

Return to BloodShorties Lake

You can thank Drew for the title inspiration. It’s sometimes tough to keep thinking of Shorties titles!

Beating the same drum: so here’s today’s tab dump on the freaking mess that continues to be the NSA, DEA, FBI, and Edward Snowden.

And now for something completely different: a nice selection of  health, health insurance, and healthy diet links.

Armchair economist: yeah, still collecting choice bits on the economy and how it effects Joe Average for you. But hey, at least Congress gets plenty of vacation days. After all, they work so hard preventing legislation.

Oh Look: the Duhpartment of Research has been at it again.

I can’t bring myself to spend that: Average price of a new car is now over $31k.

Education Official has Moment of Sanity: Huh, maybe school should start later.

On Libertarianism and Property Rights: Seriously.

Don’t you think you should have read the book before writing about it?:did read the book, thank you. I wasn’t required to. I wanted to as part of a research project. How about we stop focusing on the fact that there was a lot of racism years ago, and celebrate the improvements that have been made to medical care, medical privacy, and race relations since then? Not saying everything is perfect, just better. How about we temper praise for the author compiling primary source materials with the fact that it’s hard to find any scholarship on the subject not filtered by her findings and bias?

Speaking of medicine: Gin and Tonic and the British Empire.

Shhhhhhh: A judge has thrown out the right of the US to maintain an international no-fly list.

And Finally: a couple of nice videos to waste your time.

A choice selection of NSA and spying on citizens links

So much for “We’re only using it to track bad guys overseas. Ok, well maybe Americans but only if they’re terrorists.” Turns out the DEA, CIA, FBI, and IRS got a piece of that action too. And then they tried to cover it up. Here’s a hint folks, government officials don’t try to cover up good and perfectly legal things.

Oh, and it turns out that they are only willing to go on the record about 13 “contributions” to an arrest. How much is this program costing taxpayers — in an environment where at least one party is constantly screaming about the national debt — per arrest? Any sensible CEO would have pulled the plug.

When CNN notices that 1984 is uncomfortably close to what we are experiencing, you have to wonder.

Cloud computing is now dead. After all, if you can’t trust that the government doesn’t have your data, how can you possibly trust that your competitors, enemy, or ex-wife doesn’t have it?

They know when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know when you’re downloading porn so be good for goodness sake! No, actually they just know the IP (internet protocol) address of every site you visit.

And they’ve hacked a major internet anonymizer to keep track of you when you don’t want it. Wikipedia is trying to lock them out. Good luck with that, seriously.

The frosting on this rotten cake? They won’t even tell Congress what they are up to.

Over 100 organizations think this is a bad thing that needs to stop now.

“A matter of national security — The age old cry of the oppressor.” — Jean Luc Picard.

Follow Up: Americans cars are getting older.

In closing: to do list; on pregnancy; lefties against Obama.

Springtime

IMG_20130412_115717

Taken in my back yard with a “potato”*. At least one lantana is starting to bloom, which means the hummingbird and butterfly buffet will soon be in full swing.

In Closing: Why doesn’t Johnny just go to broadway and get it over with?; Save Our Post Office; Wingnut screaming about how if we had Russian wiretap laws we could have prevented Boston in 3…2…1…; there just has to be a middle ground between “college for all” (value of a degree for none) and “you are clearly doomed to menial labor because of your race/ethnicity/gender”; the monolithic “left“; dumbass; Compare and Contrast.

* Derogatory term for certain cell phone cameras.

Quite Possibly the Most Offensive Christmas Song Ever

Don’t play it if you don’t have a sense of humor. Don’t play it if you don’t want to hear “bad words.” You probably shouldn’t play it at work.

 

In Closing: the choice to fail; the majority of Americans want common sense; tweeting pope; and you thought American banks were bad; on the economy; explaining Iceland; let me save you some reading; NDAA sucks and the new version is no better; “And when a story has enough obvious holes in it that small children roll their eyes, its literal truth is going to be a tough sell”; all the econo-talk you can stand in one place; on Grover Norquist; avoiding the cliff; and the smartest thing I ever read about small business taxes is “My company and my competitors never made a decision based on taxes.  They made decisions incorporating what the tax structure is because we can’t change it.”

Shorties Night 3D

Ok, I’m all tabbed up so let’s get rolling!

Not sure what to think: Ron Paul wants to make sure kids aren’t subjected to mandatory mental health screenings. On one hand I don’t want to see kids needlessly medicated. On the other hand, I know people who really could have and should have been diagnosed with treatable mental health disorders as kids!

Side Effect: Women are suing cops for tricking them into long term relationships with their undercover alter-egos. Oops.

Never Thought I’d Link Glenn Greenwald: But he’s right about the detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act. It’s there in black and white, no matter how people spin it.

Cat Herding: How Occupy Portland outsmarted the cops (without necessarily planning it that way).

Good Grief: 10 things you didn’t know about “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

I hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on that research: “The more a person drinks the more likely they are to have unprotected sex, according to research.”

This looks good: Dark Chocolate Macadamia Bark with Sea Salt.

Remember this when your Christmas bills arrive: Minimum payments will eat you alive.

Let’s see if that’s more than talk: Most Americans think we need a third party.

Turns out the Military is a way out of a bad neighborhood in more ways than one: Military schools smack around local schools, particularly when it comes to poor and minority kids. Now if only there weren’t the occupational hazard of being shot at!

You’ve seen my musings: Now here’s Anderson Cooper on traveling.

Turning Japanese: 68% of Japanese cars sold in the U.S. were made here in America, in 29 plants that employ 50,000 people. For reference, “American” car manufacturer GM has roughly 68,000 employees in the United States.

About Time!: 6 Fannie/Freddie execs charged with fraud. They might actually go to prison. There’s another big mortgage fraud suit here in Nevada.

Dim Bulb: One idiot thinks those curly light bulbs are so bad, she says she’s giving incandescent bulbs as Christmas presents. Don’t let her kids anywhere near her car with a carton of eggs.

How does that work?: As condition of a plea bargain, a man had to agree to give up a home he didn’t own and never did own.

And Finally: A boy chokes on a meatball in the school cafeteria. The sad part is that rather than make sure all the staff know CPR, they will probably take meatballs off the school menu.

Inland Shorties

To Paraphrase My Source: why do we demonize doctors for over-prescribing (and parents for over-demanding) antibiotics when 80% of them are used on the farm?

Don’t Panic: Yellowstone has risen by as much as 10″ in spots.

Useless: New food labels tell you everything they think you need to know at a glance on the front of the package! Except, of course, how big a serving is.

Follow Up: Great Jack LaLanne quotes.

Been a while since we had a Japanfilter: Old pictures, traditional recipes. Less traditional. Free Japanese lessons.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Enough said.

About Jobs: It’s not about competition; this might take some time; if he’s right, his wife may be unemployed in 2 years.

ACLU: Oh Snap.

Unaffiliated: Monitor lizard.

When can I buy one?: VW‘s latest mileage monster.

Harry? Is that you??: Reid says we must “reintroduce truth into the public debate.” Among other things!

Sharron: Won’t rule out running for President in 2012. Shudder.

Google: strange sense of censorship.

Deficit: Why austerity is a sucker’s game.

Duh: Financial crisis was avoidable.

The War On Drugs Gets Silly: Drug catapult.

That Nixon Was Too Liberal: Newt Gingrich says the EPA must go.

JP Morgan Takes the Fifth: Won’t detail a half million loans.

No, really?: Housing bust means workers can’t move to new jobs, a key feature of the “job market.”

Rare Fossil: Pterosaur and egg.

Propaganda

Raise your hand if you think your net worth is over a million dollars!

If your hand is up, you are in a very, very small minority.

It’s been some years since I have had the occasion to say anything about the estate tax. However, now the temporary rollback of that tax is about to expire and all of a sudden we are seeing little pieces in the news designed to make us panic. It’s part of a scheme to blame Democrats for “tax hikes” that are really nothing more than letting the disastrous, deficit fattening Bush tax cuts expire. Today’s salvo from USA Today is titled “Estate tax to return in 2011, and it could hurt ordinary folks.” Of course, it’s mostly wrong.

A $1 million exemption would affect a lot of families that are well out of Steinbrenner’s league. “You take a home, an IRA or 401(k) retirement account, some other savings and you get to $1 million pretty easily,” says Richard Behrendt, senior estate planner for Robert W. Baird and a former IRS attorney.

Let’s take this apart a little bit. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the median price of a single family home in May of 2010 was $166,100. Currently, HousingTracker.net does not report any metropolitan areas with a median price above $500,000.

As for retirement savings, a report that came out earlier this month suggests that most people, even many wealthy people, will run out of retirement savings. It’s hard to find an estimate of just how much money people have saved up. This 2006 item suggests that even the best off of us had less than $100,000 savings in their retirement accounts, and that way before the Great Recession. Considering what stocks have done, it’s not likely that these accounts doubled in value. Even if they did, many were raided by their unemployed owners in the interest of keeping the bills paid.

As for other savings, this Washington Post article, also from 2006, says that we only had $3800 in the bank on average.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal says that at the end of 2009, the average net worth of an American was only $175,600, down from a peak in 2007 of $218,650. And that’s without accounting for mortgages or credit card debt! Even somebody with 4 times the peak average net worth wouldn’t be touched by a tax on estates over $1,000,000. Certainly, somebody with a median priced home, median IRA/401K accounts, and median savings is nowhere near being at risk of owing estate taxes.

It’s pretty easy to see that the expert cited by USA Today is in no way connected to reality as you and I know it. The truth is that fewer in one in ten Americans will receive any inheritance whatsoever.

Of course after pointing out the truth of this statement, opponents of the Estate Tax will do two things. First, they will revert to calling it a “death tax,” just because it sounds scarier and like it will effect more people. Second, they will start talking about how it could [in some alternate reality] effect small businesses and farms. This point applies to so little of the population that George W. Bush couldn’t find a single “victim” of this tax consequence to put in the gallery at the State of the Union Address in the 8 years of his Presidency.

Seriously, if you’ve got a million dollars of net worth and can’t afford some estate planning, you’ve got bigger problems than what happens after you are dead.

And how fascinating that this issue comes up just as some on Capitol Hill are saying Social Security is too expensive and needs to be cut. Talking out of both sides of their mouths as usual.

In closing: Tony Horton Goes to Italy; “Improving neighborhoods is a desirable goal, but it’s not education reform”; 13 reasons the economy really sucks; Darn, I agree with Glenn Reynolds again (this is becoming an annoying habit).