Thursday, June 13, 2013

Headline, money graf (and some opinion and perhaps a conversation-starter)

-- Grand Bargaineers still want entitlement cuts:

The underlying issue here has nothing to do with deficits and debt and everything to do with the extent of government fiscal transfers to the elderly. There is a view, driven by a mixture of motives, that it is simply wrong and irresponsible for the government to be devoting a large and growing share of the economy to bolstering the living standards of old retired people. For whatever reason, the people who want legislative action to reduce the living standards of senior citizens prefer not to frame it that way. But their view is that a government guarantee of high living standards for senior citizens reduces the savings rate and reduces labor force participation and that this trend in public policy should be halted.

If that analysis is morally and economically correct, then it remains correct regardless of interest rates or 10-year budget projections. And it would be helpful to the world to debate it plainly.  

Medicare and Social Security were instituted in large part because so many seniors were living in poverty.  Many no longer do, but there is a younger generation saddled with enormous student debt and bleak prospects for middle class employment. With a Congress that increasingly caters to the 1%, it's no wonder the conversation in DC is all about tax cuts and never about jobs.

This intractable societal issue is only worsening. I say this as an aging boomer somewhere around the age to get screwed royally as part of any kind of 'reform'.

-- The conversation we should be having about our private data...

The NSA data-gathering "scandal" is being used a proxy for all sorts of other political fights, from Obama Sucks to ending the War on Terror to smearing whistleblowers. But the real scandal is how completely unregulated data gathering is generally. In truth, the NSA didn't go snooping around in the computers of private individuals to obtain metadata. They simply asked for it from the corporations who are gathering it in the first place. Corporations who had less choice in delivering it than you did in providing it. There are little to no regulations on "terms of service" agreements or in what you can be asked to disclose about yourself. The technological revolution in information gathering is changing the nature of what privacy means and who has a rightful claim to it. But the proxy political fight over the NSA is obscuring the real conversation we ought to be having.

Because surely, someone, anyone, needs to be asking about these reams of data and how they are being used. Or why certain data needs to be kept in the first place. For what purpose is AT&T collecting data on my daily movements? Why is my local grocer keeping track of my buying habits? What is really happening when I haven't moved or touched my phone in day or two, yet there it is sending and receiving streams and streams of I-don't-know-what. We need a modern conversation about life in the modern world and what the boundaries are. With respect to privacy, we should be talking about what privacy means in a world where everyone, or just about everyone, is walking around with listening and watching devices. Everyone can spy on everyone else. It is literally to the point of seeing videos published of people secretly recorded having sexual relations in their own homes, making a private moment a global event.

What Facebook is making us all "share" is, in many cases, not at all what we actually want to share. But they don't care. Not even if stockholders complain. Because on FB, you're not the customer... you're the merchandise. And why would any merchant care about what his inventory is worried about?

Sheep to the slaughter.

-- Why Democrats don't trust Republicans on immigration:

Senate Republicans don't believe President Obama will enforce the bill's border-security provisions--and they don't want to let millions of illegal immigrants begin working their way toward citizenship until they see the president is serious about locking down the borders. That's why they want those immigrants' eligibility for citizenship to be contingent, or “triggered,” on the U.S. Border Patrol meeting benchmarks.

But Democrats don't think Republicans will play fair when it comes to such a trigger. They fear Republicans will hold out for a trigger and then vote against the bill anyway. Or set benchmarks for a trigger that can't be reached. Or establish a trigger but then deny the Border Patrol the funding it needs to meet the benchmarks.

“The lack of trust is real,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican in the middle of the trigger back-and-forth. He is a member of the Senate “gang” who sympathizes with Democrats’ desires to legalize the undocumented population but also with Republicans’ concerns that border security will never be taken seriously.

And everyone, Graham said, is worrying about their leverage.

Enter Sen. John Cornyn ...

Cornyn's 'poison pill' amendment was gutted like a fish yesterday, and he threw a temper tantrum about it.

-- Two legal eagles in hot water: Judge Edith Jones, and Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg.

Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court formally ordered on Wednesday that a rare public judicial misconduct complaint against 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones be reviewed by officials in a different circuit — one based in the nation's capital.


It is only one of a handful of times in U.S. history that a federal circuit judge has been the subject of a public judicial misconduct complaint and a formal disciplinary review. Normally such matters are secret under federal law.

Gov. Rick Perry has indicated that he’s willing to veto the $7.5 million two-year budget to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit because of the district attorney’s DWI conviction. He wants DA Rosemary Lehmberg to step down, according to this report in the Austin American-Statesman.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty without putting up a defense, served jail time and is planning to return to her office this week after voluntarily submitting herself to a therapeutic program.

Her blood alcohol level at the time of her April arrest was three times the legal limit.

Both women are in tremendous messes entirely of their own making, and both should take the dignified route out of office.

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