Monday, June 10, 2013

Last Call For You Can Call Him Al

There's a reason as a former Minnesota resident and voter that I've backed Al Franken since the beginning of his Senate career, and I'm glad to see him not only freely admit that the briefings the intelligence community gave were valuable to the Senate, but that the American people should take reassurance that safeguards that were not there under Bush are there now.

Franken, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, also said there are aspects of security programs that he should be aware of but the public should not.

"There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that’s not appropriate for the bad guys to know," he said. "Anything that quote the American people know, the bad guys know so there's a line here, right? And there's a balance that has to be struck between the responsibility of the federal government to protect the American people and then people’s right to privacy. We have safeguards in place …The American people can’t know everything because everything they know then, the bad guys will know."

He said that the data the security agency has collected have kept Americans safe.

"I have a high level of confidence, that it is used…to protect us and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism," he said.

The senator, who is running for re-election, said, however, that he is not confident that the proper balance has been struck between privacy and safety concerns.

"We haven’t quite hit the exact balance we want to," he said. "I have been for more transparency and I actually co-sponsored legislation to require the FISA court to release their opinions on why they’ve decided the way they have."

I support that legislation, and I'm hoping that Senator Franken will be a key player in any effort to repeal the Patriot Act.  Yes, that's a massive long shot, but it's got to start somewhere.

We'll see.

Meanwhile Back In Reality

Where we're not buried in GOP-manufactured "scandals", that is, Sen. John Cornyn is quietly about to kill immigration reform, sparing both Marco Rubio and John Boenher from having to do anything other than blame Obama.  Ed Kilgore:

You’d have to say that Marco Rubio and Harry Reid don’t exactly see eye to eye on immigration legislation. Last week Rubio raised eyebrows by saying the Gang of Eight legislation with which he has been immensely identified didn’t have the 60 votes needed to survive a Senate filibuster. He counseled delay and modifications to bring more Republicans on board. Reid responded by scheduling floor action on the unmodified bill for this week. Then Rubio revealed he’d been working behind the scenes with Gang of Eight opponent John Cornyn to develop a “border enforcement” amendment that would not only boost the vote total for a Senate bill, but would open up House Republican hearts and minds to comprehensive reform.

Reid’s answer to that thinly veiled demand for a bill that would focus on Marco Rubio’s distinctive political needs came out bluntly yesterday, as Reid called Cornyn’s amendment a “poison pill” (on Univision, no less) echoing the private assessment of reform proponents. This declaration is likely to stiffen Democratic resistance to any significant preemptive surrender to Cornyn’s demands (as channeled by Rubio). And it will also make it much harder for Rubio for keep playing both sides agains the middle.

Once again, Cornyn's border enforcement amendment putting enforcement before immigration makes these enforcement conditions literally impossible to meet:

“We have a senator from Texas, Senator Cornyn who wants to change border security, a trigger, saying that it has to be a 100 percent border security, or [there will] be no bill. That’s a poison pill,” Reid said on Univision’s Al Punto.

Anything less than perfection on the border?  No path to citizenship, no green cards, no DREAM Act stuff, nothing.  Cornyn is trying to bury the legislation and he knows it.

Will anyone in the media fall for it?

En-Tire-Ly Ridiculous

What happens when you apply the rent-to-own ripoff model to auto parts?  Scuzzy "rent-a-tire" businesses that are crushing the poor with 300% markups and repo men from hell that will strip your tires in minutes.

When the tires on their Dodge Caravan had worn so thin that the steel belts were showing through, Don and Florence Cherry couldn't afford to buy a new set.

So they decided to rent instead.

The Rich Square, N.C., couple last September agreed to pay Rent-N-Roll $54.60 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. Over the life of the deal, that works out to $982, almost triple what the radials would have cost at Wal-Mart.

"I know you have to pay a lot more this way," said Florence Cherry, a 57-year-old nurse who drives the 15-year-old van when her husband, a Vietnam veteran, isn't using it to get to his job as a prison guard. "But we didn't really have a choice."

Socked by soaring tire prices and short on funds, growing numbers of Americans are renting the rubber to keep their cars rolling.

Rent-to-own tire shops are among the newest arrivals to a sprawling alternative financial sector focused on the nation's economic underclass. Like payday lenders, pawn shops and Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots, tire rental businesses provide ready credit to consumers who can't get a loan anywhere else. But that access doesn't come cheap.

Customers pay huge premiums for their tires, sometimes four times above retail. Those who miss payments may find their car on cinder blocks, stripped of their tires by dealers who aggressively repossess. Tire rental contracts are so ironclad that even a bankruptcy filing can't make them go away.

And since busted tires mean no car and an immediate lost job in today's at-will employment America, it's getting loan-sharked for $1200 for a $300 set of tires or lose your job, your home, your car, and having to face Republican laws that all but criminalize being unemployed.  These businesses are preying on the working poor, and the GOP is more than happy to take money from the "small business owners" who are providing jobs in the community.  You know, for tire repo guys.

Legalized loan sharking where the GOP gets a cut?  Working as intended.


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