the latest from Joebloggers

the other balancing act

Most of us try to balance civil liberties and national security interests when figuring out where we stand on intelligence surveillance. But a different balancing act is required on the issue of immunity for telecom companies that cooperated with surveillance efforts.

I’m not sure where I stand. On the one hand, when we share our personal information within a contractual relationship that defines how that information is used, we should be able to expect to stay within those limits, short of a subpoena. There are federal privacy laws that protect that expectation.

On the other hand, when the government, with its authority (and its monopoly on the legal use of force) asks you (a private company) for certain information, ostensibly acting under specific legislative authority, do you really think you are free to refuse? What if the government certified to you in writing that it was acting within its legal powers?

How Much Better Does YOUR Insurance Make You Feel?

A friend of mine had physical therapy for a joint injury. During the session, even as his joint felt better, nagging stress started to tighten up the rest of him. This – his sixth session – was not covered by insurance, even though his doctor recommends three more. Yet he has what’s considered a very generous insurance policy through his employer.

His story made me think of the presidential election (because most things do)… but seriously, do you notice how often “health care” gets conflated with “health insurance” in the national debate?

The remaining viable presidential candidates seem to focus on getting insurance (well, except McCain; his “plan” is a $2500 to $5000 tax credit if you’ve spent that much on healthcare. If you don't earn enough for that to help you, then he has a great lecture for you on “personal responsibility").

Spirit of '76

1976, that is. As Obama and Huckabee demonstrate that their campaigns are for real, I'm reminded of the last time that underdog insurgent candidates actually made an impact on the presidential race with a real chance of getting the nomination -- the post-Watergate '76 campaign.

First in History vs. First in History

The race for the Democratic nomination has gotten quite interesting; with John Edwards out of the race, we are left with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama fighting for the remaining delegates to send to the national convention. Now, many people have been asking me, if I could vote, who would I vote for? For the past several months, the answer to that question for me was John Edwards, primarily for his stance on healthcare. But now, it looks like I have to choose someone else.

Since I haven't really been nitpicking, I haven't really seen any major differences between Clinton's and Obama's campaigns. However, I will now take the time to examine the two campaigns and see with whom to place my "vote."

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Hillary Clinton: The Potential First Female President

fixin' for a stimulus

You can always count on Congress to pull it together when disaster occurs. National monument hit by terrorists? Hurricane washes away port city? Credit crunch tips off recession? Congress drops its partisan theatrics and grabs a moment to whip out the checkbook and actually make itself useful.

The skeptic in me - which never doubts the Senate's ability to bollix a popular bipartisan plan - was partially shamed this week when Congress sent the president a stimulus package that most politicians and economists could at least nod approval at, if not jump for joy over.

But my inner cynic still sighs and wonders why it's so easy for Congress to act nobly when they don't have to pay the price for doing so.

Southern Border

I live in El Paso, Texas. We share this section of the U.S. / Mexico border with our sister city of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Most of my life, EL Paso was the larger of the twp cities. Today there are 700,000 in EL Paso and 2,000,000 in Juarez. The population here has always been ambivalent about the border. When Pancho Villa laid seige to Juarez in the early 20th century, the citizens were glad the border was here. They lined the river and watched as the cannons rained shells down on Juarez and the U.S. Army brought re-enforecements in.

publishers pushing partisanship

When I gripe (on that rare occasion) about the media's role in widening the partisan divide, I usually have in mind TV, talk radio, the dailies, mags and blogs. Somehow in my naivete, I thought books were the last refuge of modulated and thoughtful analysis.

Oh, how, how naive.

On a hunt this morning for potential Joe speakers, I thought I'd trawl the upcoming releases from major publishing houses. Random House was my first random pick, and - oh baby - do these guys like a pissing match.

Punches from the left: The Bush Tragedy; Truth and Consequences - Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values; Great American Hypocrites - Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics; and The Dark Side - The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.

this is not an Obama endorsement

But a question. Is it possible we have a truly great leader on our hands?

Having been born after the era of MLK and Jack Kennedy, I - like most Americans - have never got to witness first hand what it's like to follow an inspiring leader. I know the Gipper did it for some, but even if I hadn't been a lefty teen at the time, I doubt Reagan ever got close to getting so many all "goosebumpy" as does O.

Never would I have imagined at tribute to an electable politician like this star studded video. Never would I have guessed that in the same week that a politician was pronounced the "number 1 most liberal senator," that he would also be the topic of an op-ed "Why Republicans Like Obama."

I mean, something serious is going on here. I, for one, hope it doesn't stop anytime soon.

politics, elections & lead toys

A few weeks back, I marvelled on this blog over the had-to-believe fact that, going into a presidential election year, the Federal Election Commission was, well, out of commission.

A political wrestling match over appointees left the FEC without a quorum to do its job - you know, do things like enforce election laws and clarify vague campaign rules. 

Turns out the FEC isn't the only agency that's been Eunich-ized. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which keeps an eye on lead in toys from China, for one, became largely defunct on Friday when its waiver to operate under-quorum ran out. (Thankfully, the CPSC can still enforce its regulations - although it's now unable to make new guidelines.) Seems there's also a political stalemate over appointees to their commission.

speak to me, Uncle Sam

Being a balanced source of information and all, citizenJoe isn't normally supposed to promote bills in Congress, but the Plain English bill, HR 3548, that's moving through the House, is something all Americans who try to twist their minds around government documents can whoop for collective joy over.

This isn't a "make English the official US language" bill - it's a "when you're using English, please use an English non-bureaucrats can actually understand" bill. It'd apply to all federal agencies that write up letters, forms, instructions, etc. for folks like you and me.

For anyone who's uttered a "what the #%*^!" when trying to read a tax instruction or found themselves crying over government filing (okay, maybe I'm the only one), this is welcome relief.

Sadly, the bill doesn't apply to regulations or laws, so cJ will still have cause to cuss and cry.