I thought this was called “Extortion”

Extortion (also called shakedown, outwresting, and exaction) is a criminal offense of unlawfully obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion…. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense…. Neither extortion nor blackmail require a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to elicit actions, money, or property from the object of the extortion.

So here we are, getting ready to argue about the debt ceiling again. And Speaker Boehner is telling us there’s no deal without gutting Social Security. He’s willing to tank the nation’s credit to get his way.

What, Grandma doesn’t need to eat, does she?

How dare he. And if the President thinks for one minute about appeasing him, how dare he.

Remember that Social Security doesn’t add one penny to the national debt — in fact, the Feds borrow money from Social Security so they can pay the bills!. Further, the anticipated problems with future cash flow can easily be fixed by raising the maximum amount taxed for Social Security. Without Social Security, count on a lot more poverty.

Now, it’s all well and good to say that individuals must be responsible for [read, pay for] their own retirement, it’s just callous to say that in an environment where minimum wage is less than it was in 1963 when adjusted for inflation and many Baby Boomers experience long term unemployment. How the heck are people supposed to “be responsible” for retirement in that environment?

Be sure to contact your Congressperson and Senators to let them know how you feel about this. Remind them that you — and your parents — vote.

In Closing: you know these days it’s hard to end a post without giving you some choice tidbits about the NSA and/or Snowden; when the heck are schools going to learn that their authority ends when students are dismissed and off school property?; blurred lines; they needed a study to show that laptops in class are a distraction even for the kids without them?; a couple comics ladies might appreciate; pragmatism (or, you can’t ship your busted toilet to India); and TR.

Over 95% Bums and Idiots

I’m more than a little peeved at Washington today.

Let’s start with the reply I got from Senator Reid regarding NSA spying programs, including this paragraph:

These surveillance authorities are important tools for the counterterrorism officials working to dismantle foreign terrorist networks and keep America safe. These authorities have played a vital role in helping the U.S. Government identify and disrupt terrorist plots, and have helped our Intelligence Community better understand the nature and extent of terrorist networks. However, I share your concerns about ensuring transparency and protecting the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding Americans as our government uses these expansive tools. I have strongly supported efforts to strengthen oversight and disclosure requirements as we have periodically reauthorized these surveillance authorities.

Really, Harry? Are you sure about that? If these programs are so successful, how come they can’t trot out some captured terrorists? The other day, the NSA said they can’t actually search through the “Centuries of Data” they are prepared to collect. Now which is it? “This is a vital program that helps us find and catch bad guys,” or “I dunno, it’s in here somewhere”?

The nicest thing I can say about having voted for you, Harry, is that you were more sane than your opponent. Don’t make me regret that, Senator.

Remember that the Amash amendment failed bipartisanly. That means the RepubliCANTS and DemocRATS are equally in favor of letting the spies violate your rights under the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments all they like.

Speaking of bipartisan idiocy, why won’t Steve King just shut up? Bad enough he wants to compare immigration to choosing “a pretty good bird dog” and can’t understand why anybody thinks that’s offensive. Now he’s doubled down with talk about how most immigrants are drug smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes. Steve, sweetie, when even Mr. Boehner thinks your remarks are  hateful and ignorant, they probably are.

Remember that an immigration “reform” plan that doesn’t include a way for undocumented workers to eventually become citizens is saying “We like having easily exploited, illegal workers in this nation.” See also, the truth about guest workers, and why unemployment is “down.”

And now there’s serious talk about making Larry Summers the Fed chair? Oh please.

Are there more than a handful of intelligent elected officials who aren’t owned by special interests in all of Washington DC? Who the heck am I supposed to vote for when all my choices are idiots, nutcases, liars, hopelessly out of touch, paid to do as they are told, openly against my interests, and/or quietly working against my interests while telling me it’s for my own good? Jon Porter was a Republican, but at least he had the guts to tell me “I respect your opinion but I disagree because….” on multiple occasions.

In Closing: Thanks for saving Ohio the expense of a heavily publicized trial; some of the smartest stuff I’ve read about Detroit; why yes, I find it convenient to be alive.

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.

I think I have a better idea….

So Clark County School District — the 5th largest school district in the nation — has a “successful” pilot of a program to keep track of students on school busses. Parents can theoretically find out whether their kids got on the bus, and where the bus is. Roughly 700 of the 110,000 students who daily ride the bus got special ID cards and were tracked for 4 whole weeks. Clearly something short of a representative sample. However, “because of financial problems, the district has shelved any large-scale program.”

Good for administrators for realizing that there were concerns about losing passes, and concerns about the costs of the system.

However, here’s the thing. There’s already a great technology in the hands of many middle school students and virtually all high school students that parents can use to keep track of their kids. Better yet, there is absolutely zero cost to the school district for this technology; most parents willingly — nay, eagerly — pay for implementation and all necessary equipment. I personally tested it for 4 years within the Clark County School District Transportation Department, and I feel certain that other parents here and elsewhere have similar experiences. In one case, I was even alerted to a wreck involving the school bus. This of course not only delayed pickup, but changed the pickup location. Use of this amazing technology saved the school district the time and expense of individual notifications to parents in most cases.

It’s called a cell phone.

Stop trying to reinvent the wheel, and stop pretending that a child’s RFID tag is necessarily in the same location as the child.

In closing: good call; inconvenient truth for anti-porn crusaders; Heinlein; I guess none of the researchers ever played the “telephone game”, or they could have saved a lot of research; so some busybody docs and pharmacists think they know more about women’s reproductive health than gynecologists; support a political cartoonist; hackers, crackers, and black swans; Expert Ezra; what could possibly go wrong; income inequality; the Buffett Rule; sure, there’s no such thing as inflation; and Cat Heaven Island. Enjoy an early Caturday.

Oh Boo Hoo

Fortune Magazine tells us that “For banks, it’s getting harder and harder to earn a buck.” That’s because interest rates are so low. Or at least that’s what “conventional wisdom” would tell us. Please cry for the banks and demand higher interest rates!

Not so fast. If banks are having such a hard time making an “honest” buck, then how come “U.S. bank earnings rose 21% in the April-June quarter and lending to consumers increased, adding to evidence that the industry is strengthening four years after the financial crisis.” Turns out there’s actually a good reason the banks are doing so well:

That’s because most of them have increased the historic spread between the interest they charge for mortgages and the interest they have to pay for their own borrowing and, of course, the now minuscule rates they pay to folks with savings accounts. As a result, according to a recent news story in the New York Times, bankers are enjoying ballooning profits from their mortgage business.

If the banks were using the formula that was in effect up until a couple of years ago, the 3.55 percent rate for a 30-year mortgage would be close to 3.05 percent. Or, they could increase the rates they pay savers by about a half percent.

So yeah, the gap between “what they pay you” and “what we pay them” got bigger despite mortgage rates near record lows.

I hope Fortune Magazine isn’t hoping for a subscription fee from me anytime soon.

In Closing:  you might want to disable Java; trying to change the law without bothering to involve lawmakers; 14.8% of Americans are on food stamps; and Boehner admits that the easiest way to win is for poor people to stay home on election day.

Music Monday: Computer Generated?

I’ve become convinced that the Black Eyed Peas are actually performing songs written by a sure-fire no-fail hit writing computer algorithm. How else do you get lines like “Beats so big I’m steppin’ on leprechauns”? People in the place, give it up:

Of course, I prefer the Bad Lip Reading version:

Now, at some point I think the algorithm got “borrowed” by LMFAO:

There. Doesn’t that explain a lot?

In Closing: Scam; is there some reason they couldn’t have raided the store in daytime?; Stereotypes; not normally something one does alone; and that’s why they have to disenfranchise as many people as possible; hope he’s right; look, you silly man, the reason it needs to be better regulated is that if the shareholders and owners lose everything, the FDIC — that is the taxpayers — are on the hook.

A Plea for Civility

Can we please all stop with the name-calling?

Seriously, I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, we need to stop hurling around insulting names. It doesn’t do a bit of good, certainly doesn’t persuade anyone to your way of thinking, and it makes everyone who agrees with you look like an asshole.

I’m tired of hearing about Mooselini, the Chimpinator, McLame, Speaker Boner, Rummy, General Betray-us, Tweetie, Slick Willy, George Snuffleupagus, the O-Bomber, Wiener’s wiener, Rahmstein, Bachman-Poptart-Underdrive, Al Frankenstein, the Koch-heads, Dumb-o-craps, Repuglicants, MoDoDo, GingGrinch, and any other creative insults you can think of. Can’t we refer to people with their names and/or titles like civilized adults? “The President,” or “Senator So-and-so”, or “Mr. Clark”?

Now, I will concede a handful of exceptions. The Governator earned his nickname fair and square. So did “Heckuva Job” Brownie — the President himself gave him that nickname. To refer to Pat “Go F*** Yourself” Leahy is a compliment to his restraint. The Cyborg Dick Cheney, well, he is a cyborg.

The rest of it? Knock it off, already! It’s a distraction from real issues, like our eroding Constitutional rights, the developing American oligarchy, the endangered social safety net, the disappearing middle class, our crumbling infrastructure, the failed War on Drugs; our anemic economy, and the elimination of women‘s rights.

In Closing: Dam, dam, dam; Hollywood‘s out of ideas; the most sensible thing I’ve read about the Wal-Mart ruling; it’s a good start; and exercises at work.

This Just In

51% of Republicans polled are batshit crazy still think the President needs to show his original birth certificate.

Now here’s the thing. Go ahead and call the records office of the county where you were born. Tell them you need a copy of your birth certificate. It might cost you $10. I am willing to bet that 9 out of 10 of you will end up with a fresh computer printout of your birth certificate, rather than a certified copy of the “original” one with the signature of the doctor who delivered you. So by wingnut standards, you can’t prove you were born in the United States.

Furthermore, Hawaii is part of the United States. If you don’t know this, you really shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

And don’t even get me started on Boehner and the Budget. As Ezra Klein said on NPR this morning, if anybody in Washington were serious about cutting the deficit, they wouldn’t have extended the Bush tax cuts!

In Closing: 7 kinds of malicious hackers; truth; crime victims need not apply?; Susie‘s right; the House may have shoved it through, but the Senate can still stop the PATRIOT Act from being renewed; please tell me this was no shock; taking Kate to task; collider; and lessons of Star Wars.