Spying is keeping special brownies away
All day I sat around waiting for something to break loose. In Topeka, in Washington, even in Europe where they are talking about a deal with Iran. And the only thing that broke was our poor Secretary of State's leg. John Kerry stepped away from the negotiations to get a little exercise, rode his bike into a curb and broke a leg.
Secretary Kerry is about my age. He should have know better. Biking in the Alps can be a bit dicey at best. But those bozos in Congress and the Kansas legislature should also know better. The Republicans are firmly in control of both bodies but don't seem to be able to get their collective acts together. It is not even an election year (though you can't tell it by watching Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, et al.
In Topeka, they can't agree on how to close a budget gap of nearly $400 million for the next fiscal year. Some of the far right believe that they have to make sweeping cuts which will have to affect schools, public health and welfare or highway maintenance and construction. They have signed Grover Norquist's no tax pledge.
Others want to raise the property tax rate, restore cuts to individual income taxes on small businesspeople and maybe do away with deductions on home mortgages. Some are holding out for an sales tax exemption on food. By the time you read this, hopefully the roadblocks will be cleared away.
After all, they are costing the state treasury about $43,000 a day in salary and expenses. But I am skeptical.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the subject is the American Freedom Act. Since the Patriot Act expired May 31, the NSA and other security agencies are feeling unloved and maybe even neutered.
The massive data collection of phone calls and emails that the NSA has been operating was supposed to have ended at midnight Sunday.
As we know because of the brave if ill advised revelations of Edward Snowdon, the NSA has been amassing unprecedented piles of data on our electronic communications. The NSA will be quick to point out that the data is limited to who we called or lasted and how long the calls were. They say they don't listen to the calls unless a suspicious pattern emerges from the data mapping and they get a special court's permission to pry further.
I don't think many of us believe that, especially after Snowdon's revelations. Wasn't there something about an NSA official using his resources to listen in on his ex-wife? Any way, it is enough to get Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) up in arms. (Well, it could also be that his presidential nomination quest is not going well and he needs the ink.)
Senator Paul has used the Senate's arcane rules to tie the bill up, much to the consternation of his fellow Kentuckian and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And McConnell is one of Rand's few supporters in Congress.
A compromise bill came out of the House allowing the storing of data, but in the hands of the telecom corporations, not the NSA, with a court order necessary for the government to get access. Good hairsplitting say many, including President Obama. Potayto-potahto says Sen. Paul.
So, supposedly no data is being collected right now and not until a bill passes. The intelligence community is crying wolf to anyone who will listen. Most of us will probably not notice the difference.
Folk singer/songwriter/storyteller Utah Phillips used to spin a yarn about when, in March, he told everyone who called him that he was storing weapons in the field behind his house. And the FBI dug up his potato field for him.
It had not bothered me that my calls were being logged until last week. A close friend and his wife were in Colorado on vacation. I had an urge to call him and ask him to do a little shopping for me while he was there. Maybe find a recently opened bakery that produces, shall we say, specialty brownies and cookies.
Then I thought better on it. I had no illusions that the vigilant Kansas Highway Patrol would find out that he was importing comestibles. But I did have a thought that Big Brother in some remote listening station in West Virginia might be scanning for code words such as "magic brownies" or "celestial cookies."
I realize that it is probably foolish to be paranoid, but as George Clinton says, "If it wasn't for flashbacks, I wouldn't have any memory at all."