Privacy? Oh, were you using that?

The incident in Paris is already being used as an excuse to take away what little privacy (and other rights) remain in the world, despite the fact that privacy is a necessary feature of security. In the meantime, bulk data will continue to be collected by both the government and various corporations (who of course, can sell that information to the government without anybody having technically violated the 4th or 5th Amendments). Nor is the NSA the only agency collecting information; the DEA is doing it too. Are they at least sharing nicely, or are We The Taxpayers paying to collect all this stuff twice?

Now, don’t forget for one minute that the President is proposing laws that crack down on “hackers”. Those laws would make a dizzying array of normal and sometimes necessary activities illegal. That’s on top of the undead CISPA cyber”security” bill. Oh yeah, and that nasty old TPP that would make corporate rights more important that national rights.

At what point does Joe Average get fed up? Congress is doing the opposite of what he wants almost every chance they get. And thanks to rigged Congressional districts, all of our political voices are diluted. Further even though the amount of money made in our nation per person is near a record high, Joe Average has very little to show for it. What happens now?

In Closing: why you can’t have hot and cold running municipal internet; misinformation; how dare you be a crime victim; brother, can you spare a bridge; some of us would like our sons to know this stuff too; backfire; denial; take the money and run.

 

But What Would be the Point?

Wednesday, I thought I’d put up an open letter to the President to the effect of “Hey, listen, America needs you to be a grown up when Congress inevitably sends you piles of doggie doodoo.”

But, as my title says, what would be the point? He not only hasn’t delivered on a bunch of things he said were important, he’s outright backtracked on some of them. I don’t see him leading on curbing unconstitutional surveillance — in fact I see government agencies wanting more power to trample my rights in their quest to find mostly imaginary terrorists. I don’t see Gitmo closing. I keep hearing about job creation, but then I keep seeing homeless guys on nearly every major corner. I don’t see things getting better for Joe Average. TPP hasn’t been crushed under the threat of veto by the President of the United States. I guess at least there are attempts to whittle down Too Big To Fail.

So that’s where I’ve been all week, mentally at least.

Shorties Fright

The Monk who Saved Lives: Ittetsu Nemoto.

The Priest who Preached Happiness: Let’s hear it once more for Pope Francis.

Israel and Palestine: Just a few assorted and random links.

You know you want it: Here’s the NSA, privacy, FBI, CIAWar on Terror, and related links.

Broken:  immigration and immigration reform problems.

Wow: Larry Kudlow seems to have found his lost mind.

All about the Jobs: We did have good jobs numbers this week. Let’s put it in perspective.

Research supports my observation:  Indeed: “[I]t sure does seem like the vast majority of the people who say diets don’t work have somewhere in their story a sentence like ‘I went on my first diet when I was 13.’ Or 11. Or 16.”

Fiddling while America Burns: Congress is too busy making baseless lawsuits and running out of town, so they can’t be bothered to fund things like fighting forest fires.

Want to know the interesting thing about this article?: This article about events that empower girls by reinforcing gender stereotypes was written by a man.

And finally: Keep it clean, people.

Talking out both sides of their mouths.

The White House says they have a plan to end NSA collection of data, by which they mean they are going to make phone companies keep the data and see to it that the courts issue subpoenas when anybody with a badge asks have overview. Snowden says well hey, that’s better than nothing!

And of course, the new proposal only covers American’s phone records, and doesn’t even address the internet, so the rest of the world had better be careful what they say (or follow Mr. Carter’s lead and use good old fashioned snail mail).

Meanwhile, most of the Congress-critters critical of the NSA are quietly being removed from places where they might cause trouble.

Yeah, that sounds like tossing some glitter on “business as usual” and calling it “new and improved” to me.

In Closing: minimum wage; tuberculosis and diabetes.

I saw the news today, oh boy.

I made the mistake of watching my local noontime newscast. Here were the items covered before breaking for weather:

  • Yesterday’s school shooting!!! Complete with interview of distraught parents!!!
  • Benghazi!!! No, nothing new to report. Just Benghazi!!!
  • Firefighter pointing out what he thought was a deceased victim before the fire truck ran over her…. last year!!! New footage!!!
  • Identification of a snowboarder who unfortunately died on Mount Charleston (yesterday)
  • Kids set fire in vacant house (yesterday).
  • Late night shooting in North Las Vegas.
  • Sentencing delayed for the alleged pimp (who allegedly shot another pimp, causing him to crash into a taxi and burst into flames) on [unrelated] sexual assault charges. This is one of those cases that would make a better CSI script than the stuff they film sometimes.

Apparently, it is not newsworthy that:

  • Congress is working on an important budget bill (and congrats to the feds for having a $53,000,000,000 surplus in December!).
  • Germany may or may not be trying to negotiate a “no-spy” treaty with the United States.
  • 75 leading economists think our minimum wage workers deserve a raise.
  • Some men in Congress want to make women pay out of pocket for abortions regardless of whether they are medically necessary.
  • Anything whatsoever is going on about the NSA, the promised list of upcomingreforms,” and the court cases involved.
  • There are stalled bills to restore food stamps and extended unemployment benefits.

I could go on this way for a while, but there’s no point. Apparently I’ve been watching News Lite: 25% less relevance. I wonder how it compares to original News as far as facts.

In Closing: antibacterial soap, West Virginia chemical, and just maybe if either of the political parties actually tried representing We The People, there wouldn’t be a record level of “independents“.

Shutdown, Debt Ceiling, and Hostage Taking

So here we are over a week into the Government Shutdown. From where I sit, it sure looks like the Republicans are being more like RepubliCANTs, completely unwilling to negotiate in a world where negotiation doesn’t mean “give us everything we want.” Not that the DemocRATS are angels here, please understand. Right now nobody likes Congress very much. Individual states like Nevada are chewing their collective fingernails (and probably, secretly, making contingency plans).

It’s gotten to the point where the markets are accounting for the fact that next week, the Government may well stop paying interest on the National Debt. That’s what the debt ceiling means in real life. If our nation stops paying the bills, it’s reasonable for holders of our debt to decide it’s not worth as much, and might even be worthless. Everybody always thought “oh that would never happen, it would be too catastrophic!” Now our [Republican] elected officials are falling over themselves to say it wouldn’t be that bad. “Oh jinkies, it might be a good thing!” Oh yeah? Tell that to China. Turns out they are our biggest foreign creditor.

Looking for a silver lining? At least big corporate mergers that enrich hedge fund managers and executives at the expense of employees and consumers may have to slow down a tweak.

Let’s hope enough moderate Republicans decide they don’t want to preside over our nation going into default.

In Closing: Securing the internet from the NSA; Student loans a drag on housing; Lief Erickson; USMC reading list; Jimmy Carter on the Middle Class; keeping a schedule on a crappy job; if part time employment spiked prior to Obamacare, how did Obamacare cause it?; pay no attention to the next trade pact that’s not going to be good for American workers.

Music Monday: Happy New Year

 

In Closing: My new favorite blog; disgraceful; AC saves lives; damned if he doesn’t sound reasonable; no deal may well be better than a bad deal, but it doesn’t matter because there will be no vote tonight; yeah, that does sound kinda dumb when you put it that way; Baby Boomer Nuns; they wouldn’t be there if they could farm it legally; we never had a chance; even a broken clock is right twice a day; and somebody must write a sci-fi epic based on this picture.

Gridlock and Opportunity

The next session of Congress is either going to be complete gridlock, or an era of great bi-partisanship. I say this based on this chart from Nate Silver. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s Nate “the man who got all the numbers right when everybody else got them horribly wrong” Silver:

 

Let me point out the obvious. It takes 218 votes to get most things done in the House of Representatives. Neither the mainstream Republicans nor the Democrats (with or without the Blue Dog crowd) have those votes. The Tea Party has become a de-facto third party. To get anything done, there will have to be a coalition and/or a compromise: either between the two parties, or with the Tea Partiers. This should be obvious to both Mr. Boehner and Ms. Pelosi. The President already said it out loud. As Mr. Silver points out, on this and pretty much every bill in the next session, Mr. Boehner “will need to win the support of at least some liberal Democrats. And a bill that wins the support of some liberal Democrats will be an even harder sell to Mr. Boehner’s Republicans. For each vote that he picks up from the left, he could risk losing another from his right flank.”

Nobody knows if the glass is half-empty or half-full. Was Mr. Boehner’s ill-named “Plan B” a symptom of his increasing irrelevance, or an attempt to enter a Post- Norquist political world? Will the 113th Congress be a more sane and bi-partisan body, or a place where the right hand and the left hand quite literally don’t know what the other is doing? Let’s hope for sanity.

In Closing: military research saving lives on battlefields and eventually on American streets; why re-invent public education with things we aren’t even sure work when we can just crib off Massachusetts?; yeah, it turns out there were good guys with guns at Columbine and it didn’t help (at least the good guys didn’t injure more students); and maybe this deserves more thought.

Oh sure, I totally know him.

I’m blaming Busted Knuckles for invoking his name in comments:

In Closing: effing candyman; maybe a clue why is in the previous post’s comments?; follow up; more follow up (attackers knew irony?); Military wants to save you $3,000,000,000 but Congress won’t let them; sorry Wendy, when you serve burgers in paper wrappers on plastic trays, you are not “higher end”; can you help JP out?; and find the problem in this picture. The sad thing is I don’t know how many times I’ve driven past this sign without noticing.