Sunday, July 28, 2013

More good news and bad news

The Amash-Conyers amendment would have been a blow to the NSA's spy-on-everyone schemes, and it got 94 votes from Republicans. But "the Democrats didn't come through - and by a 217-205 margin, the House killed his amendment." Nevertheless, losing by only 12 votes is a win - it shows the consensus on leaving this program in place is nowhere near solid enough to keep it safe. And maybe if Congress members start getting calls from constituents about why they should all have supported it, those 12 votes can be found next time around. And make no mistake, it's going to be easier to get Republicans to vote against a program that is associated with Obama (while he is still in office) than it will at any other time, but that's just what makes it hard to get enough Democrats to do the right thing.
A bare majority of the House killed the amendment. But it did so in a way that bucked up the NSA's critics, convincing them that they could win. "The side of transparency and openness is starting to put some points on the board," declared Sen. Wyden in a speech this week. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was something "virtually no one had heard of two months ago and now the public asks me about it at the barber."

Wyden's little joke was loaded. After next week, members will spend a month in their districts. The NSA's critics expect the issues they work on to smolder through August, right in time for a "second wave" of bills. California Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is ready with a bill that would create a "public advocate" for the FISA court, someone who'd argue for the public when the court was asked for a warrant. Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has readied a bill to move up the "sunset" of FISA reauthorization from December 2017 to June 2015. There's no grand strategy for passing these bills. But there's no grand strategy for stopping them. There's something quite panicky and ad hoc, something that Amash, Wyden, and 200 other odd members of Congress are no longer moved by.

Sam Seder and Cliff Schechter talked about how Nancy Pelosi pushed hard against this amendment on The Majority Report.

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Atrios on Thieves: "Pretty sure that if I break into your house , steal all of your stuff, and then sell it then I'm going to go jail. But I'm not a bank, so laws actually apply to me."
"Ohio Woman Wants Her Stuff Back After Bank Steals From Wrong House." (The trouble with the television story is that it ends with the quote from an unnamed bank vice president claiming "the bank is trying to come to terms with Katie, and they hope to have things resolved very soon." Obviously, if this were the case, there would have been no story. They broke into her house and stole her stuff and act like she's got a lot of nerve expecting them to make it up. The indifference of the police is a story in itself, too - oh, it's not a problem if a bank sends someone who can't figure out how to use his GPS to just randomly break into houses, steal the contents, and change the locks.)

"Under a cost-saving plan by the U.S. Postal Service, Americans moving into newly built homes will not have mail delivered to their doors and will instead have to trek to the curb or neighborhood cluster boxes."

Obama pivots from his pivot from his pivot from his pivot on building the economy vs. deficit reduction.

Ezra Klein acknowledges that "There's no such thing as 'the center'" - that is, as the term is used, to imply something middle-ground in the American polity that is represented in Congress by "moderate" thinkers. But's not middle-ground at all, it's stuff that most people hate. He doesn't quite put it that way, but: "What unites the policies Martin names [as away from the center] is that they're really, really popular." But of course, that's not the center they mean - they mean the Centers of Power. And those people are winning, as usual.

"U.S. Asks Court to Limit Texas on Ballot Rules" - A section of the Voting Rights Act that wasn't struck down by the Supremes allows the DOJ to step in whenever any jurisdiction appears to be suppressing voter participation. They should do this a lot.
Ari Berman, "North Carolina Passes Country's Worst Voter Suppression Law."

"NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own Emails: [...] But ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' email? The agency says it doesn't have the technology." Yeah, right.

"Lasting Damage: A Rogue Prosecutor's Final Case [...] It's worth it, then, to appreciate the impact of Stuart's career in greater detail, how the misconduct took place, how it has complicated the continuing pursuit of justice, and how the consequences of Stuart's misconduct still linger, years after the man himself was exposed and disgraced."

Senators want a Cone of Silence on their stupid tax ideas: "Is this what it's come to in the Congress? Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont) and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have promised their committee colleagues that their tax code suggestions will be kept under lock and key for the next fifty years, allowing them to offer policy without being under the watchful eyes of the voting public. They're hoping to get more input from the rest of the boys club if they promise to hide the identities of those making the policy suggestions."

"Judge Orders Police To Return $1 Million Seized Based On Drug Dog Sniff" - Sniffer dogs have a remarkable record of being able to sniff out your money, and then the cops just take it away from you.

"Halliburton Agrees To Plead Guilty To Destruction Of Evidence In 2010 BP Spill, Pay Maximum Fine: On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that Halliburton had agreed to plead guilty to criminally destroying evidence in the investigation of the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010. The company 'signed a cooperation and guilty plea agreement,' will pay the maximum fine of $200,000, and undergo three years of probation."

Why Nate Silver was fired from The New York Times - because he was objective rather than "objective".

"Study: KXL Pipeline Would Raise U.S. Gas Prices: Consumer Watchdog, a nationally recognized nonprofit consumer group, has reviewed corporate, industry and government data and found that pipeline developers and the Canadian government intend to use the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to raise the price of Canadian tar sands oil on the global market by shipping oil directly to the Gulf. This would raise U.S. gas prices in the Midwest by up to 40 cents a gallon."

"An elite hacker who was due to demonstrate how heart implants could be hacked has died unexpectedly in San Francisco."

"John Lewis Receives a Hero's Welcome at Comic-Con" - With the publication of a comic about the civil rights activist, the man who is now a member of the House of Representatives has become a superstar among many comics fans.

Jane Austen on the money - specifically, the back of the new ten pound notes.

A 'Wooden' Version of Beethoven's Ninth: "As we explore in our Journeys with Beethoven book, the Japanese are uniquely obsessed with his 9th symphony and every December thousands gather to play and sing the "Ode to Joy" all over the country. But here's something unique: making 167 theramins inside those Russian wooden dolls "sing" it."

Joss Whedon said a lot of interesting things in his Q&A at ComicCon, with good news for fans of his work and some interesting insights scattered along the way, but around the 54-minute mark he answers a question about his economic philosophy: "... And, you know, we're watching capitalism destroy itself right now, and ultimately, all these systems don't work. I tend to, you know, want to champion the working class because they ARE getting destroyed. I write about helplessness. Helplessness in the face of the giant corporations and the enormously rich people who are very often in power giving those people more power to get even more power. We are turning into tsarist Russia, okay; we are creating a nation of serfs. ..."


  1. Mr. Obama in the interview called for an end to the emphasis on budget austerity that Republicans ushered in when they captured control of the House in November 2010.

    Does anyone remember who was President way, way back on February 18, 2010?

    1. I know, I laughed out loud. Obama, of course, is the guy who pushed austerity harder than anyone.

  2. I live in a neighborhood that has a kiosk of mailboxes as described above, it's a lot more efficient than going from house to house to deliver mail.

    1. It depends on what you define as "efficient". If your only concern is delivering mail, then perhaps it is, generally speaking. But if you want the added bonus of knowing your mailman's name, knowing who is in your neighborhood, being able to give your mailman a glass of water or lemonade on a hot day, and someone who can decipher what's on the envelope and figure out what the real address is supposed to be, you can't beat having a real neighborhood mailman who goes up to every door. Oh, yes, and it employs more people precisely because it is "inefficient" - which is a good thing.

    2. Hear hear. And I'd love to know who represents "the U.S. Postal Service." I sincerely doubt that whatever idiotic proposals come from the top are supported by the rank and file.

      Jane Austen - okay, but why not Emmeline Pankhurst?

      I liked CMike's comment on Klein - "that was quick, at least in geological time." Such a chipper youthful tone from a Stegosaurus-like mind when it comes to recognizing the obvious.

  3. Most people work two jobs these days, so it's not that likely that there will be someone around the house in the morning/early afternoon to offer lemonade/hot chocolate depending on the season. Also, if you had to work a few weeks here in the southern San Joaquin Valley going door-to-door delivering mail, when the temp can get up to 90 degrees F before noon, you might have a different take on the matter.

    1. A lot of people can't find even one job these days, and some are retired, and some are disabled, and some are being supported by their kids and/or staying at home looking after the grandchildren.

      And there are worse jobs to be doing on a hot summer's day than delivering mail. It reaches 90 degrees or more in a lot of those jobs, too, but the hours may be longer and the pay may be as low as $14 for the day. I know which job I'd rather have.

  4. Also, I've been able to handle mislabeled mail by depositing it into the slot, I don't need a mailman going door-to-door for that particular problem.

    1. And you, of course, are the world, while the elderly and disabled and those of us who enjoy human contact, are not.

    2. Are you seriously arguing, in this economic climate, that we should be doing the postman's job on our own streets instead of our taxes paying someone to do it? Just how much do you love mass poverty?

    3. I think that if the elderly and disabled are able to get out of their house to the mail box in the front of the house, they're able to make it to a kiosk less than 100 yards or so from the neighborhood it serves.

      How is putting something in a mail slot 'doing the postmans' job on our own sheets'?

      I'm willing to finance programs so that people who can't get out get some human contact of some sort, I'm just unwilling to have my taxes pay for postmen to walk around in the heat all day just because a minority of postal customers would benefit from contact with them.

    4. Dark Avenger says, "I think that if the elderly and disabled are able to get out of their house to the mail box in the front of the house, they're able to make it to a kiosk less than 100 yards or so from the neighborhood it serves."

      Actually, many elderly and disabled are NOT able to walk 100 yards. They remain independent only because they use cars to get to the market where they use scooters to shop.

      I'm concerned that clusterboxes will put increase pressure on the old/disabled to leave their homes and enter assisted living.

    5. If they're able to use their cars to go to the store, then they can drive to the kiosk to get their mail.

      I'm concerned that clusterboxes will put increase pressure on the old/disabled to leave their homes and enter assisted living.

      The proposal is for new houses and neighborhoods, the likelihood that someone old/disabled is going to have the where with-all to buy a new place in such a neighborhood is very small unless they have a house that they can sell and/or assets to buy a new house.

  5. Theremins are OK for the easy part, but what about the solo preceding it: The 'O Freunde, nicht diese Toene, sondern lasst uns Angenemehre anstimmen, und freu-eu-eu-eu-eu-eu-eudenvollere...

  6. Theremins are OK for the easy part, but what about the solo preceding it: The 'O Freunde, nicht diese Toene, sondern lasst uns Angenemehre anstimmen, und freu-eu-eu-eu-eu-eu-eudenvollere...

  7. "Judge Orders Police To Return $1 Million Seized Based On Drug Dog Sniff"

    In the interest of restoring a sense of judicial balance to the universe:

    [INDENT]>>>>>Sharon Snyder, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was fired nine months before she was scheduled to retire, sees herself somewhere in the middle and insists she would provide the same help if she had a chance to do it again.<<<<<[END INDENT]