Friday, December 20, 2013

Data Security Breaches - Again

The hot story today is the data security breach at Target, which is being investigated by the Secret Service.  They think data on as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been stolen.

Really makes you reconsider carrying cash, doesn't it?

What annoys me the most is that this isn't the first time.  Does anyone but me remember the stolen data from TJX Corp. (parent of T J Maxx and Marshalls) in 2006??

Friday, December 13, 2013

They Passed a Budget

I've heard a certain amount of complaining on the airwaves about the bipartisan budget that the House just passed.  I confess I was startled - I wondered what has gotten into Paul Ryan?  Apparently this summer's government shutdown scared him, or did something to him.  Most people feel the Republicans are to blame for the shutdown, and most people aren't happy about it.  He's disturbed enough that he's willing to negotiate, and even to agree on new "revenue" - although he still won't call it "taxes."  Still, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

People are annoyed because the budget doesn't extend emergency unemployment.  I agree - it would have been better if it had.  There are a lot of things it would be nice to have in the deal that aren't there.  But it gives us something we haven't had for several years:  a formal budget funding the U.S. government through this fiscal year and the next.  Remember when the sequester came into force because they couldn't agree on a budget, even though everyone agreed that the sequester was a stupid way to cut funding?

Politifact has a nice article on budget history, evaluating Ryan's January 2012 claim that Senate Democrats "have gone without any budget at all" for more than 1,000 days."  (As of January 23, 2012, that is.  Politifact called it mostly true.) 

But isn't this what we elected these people to do??  Why are they there at all if not to take care of the country's business, in a rational and organized way, working out compromises for the best deal they can cut?  Nobody likes this budget.  Good.  That means nobody got everything they wanted.  That is how politics has worked in this country for 250-plus years (with the minor exception of the War Between the States, and look how well that worked out).  I'm relieved if surprised to find Paul Ryan actually negotiating a compromise.  On past performance, I would have said he couldn't do it.  If he can learn, maybe the others can too.

We passed a Constitutional amendment in California that says legislators' pay is docked for every day they go past the annual deadline without a budget.  Now, the California constitution is hardly the shining example of the way to run an organization.  But it's just astounding how those budgets come in on time since that passed!  I don't think I'd try to amend the U.S. Constitution to do this; but I'd sure love to see Congress impose the rule on itself.  The fact that they won't is just one more of the things that are wrong with  Congress.

I still think they should have extended emergency unemployment.  But I'll take the deal they cut.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Wisdom of Art Hoppe

The columnists in the San Francisco Chronicle have come and gone in the (my God!) forty-plus years I've been reading it, some better, some worse.  I enjoyed Stan Delaplane in his day, but when they reprint his columns now I can't read them. I can still read Herb Caen, but I never could read the society column.  I wonder why they never reprint any Charles McCabe, my first example of a literate curmudgeon. 

The one columnist I genuinely miss - the way I genuinely miss Molly Ivins, and for the same reason - was the immortal Art Hoppe.  Mr. Hoppe saw the world through the clearest possible lens, and was an absolute genius at laying it out so nobody could be confused about it.  I still love his suggestion that we would improve tax collection if we simply turned the IRS over to the Mafia to manage, and his complaint after the AbScam scandal in the '70s that at $25,000 apiece, lobbyists were making Congressmen too expensive for ordinary citizens to buy.  How does that sound now??

Recently the Sunday Datebook reproduced one of Mr. Hoppe's columns from the 1960s. As I read this, I thought of all the corporate mergers I've seen go down through the years, and how the businesses get fewer and bigger.  And so I give  you:

Mickey Mouse saves the world, 1965 

Read it and weep.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy ...

Over the last 2-3 days I haven't heard anything on the radio (my normal source of news) except the death of Nelson Mandela.  In pace requiescat; et lux perpetua luceat eis.  But I did begin to wonder what was happening in (say) Syria, or Iran, or the North China Sea, which China has suddenly declared that it owns.  In fact, my very first knowledge of Mandela's passing wasn't from the radio; it came from - Facebook.  Yup, I was browsing Facebook early in the afternoon and one of my friends posted a link. That was my first indication.  I guess I do get my news from Facebook, sigh.

This reminded me of the death of another world figure, many years ago.  In September 1976, I called my mother, just to check in, and she was taken aback that Mao Tse Tung had died and I didn't know it.  I replied that I didn't need to know that right away, and in fact she'd just told me, so now I did know.  Mao died on Thursday, September 9, the Thursday after Labor Day.  I have no idea why I didn't pick this up; I usually read the newspaper.  But I didn't know.  I stand by my statement to her then that if something really important happens, someone will eventually tell me.

Odd.  Both Mao and Mandela died on a Thursday.  Should we worry about Thursdays?

What a change in information sources in 37 years!  In 1976 I accessed the Internet (yes, I did) on a 3600 baud dialup connection, to a paid (very highly paid) database that told me what the peso or whatever was worth on a given date - and only that. (I used a Texas Instruments SilentWriter 800 terminal that used heat to print out the data.  I could practically see the electrons march across the line.)   Now I'm using a high-speed broadband connection to post random reminiscences; and I find out about new events almost in real time.  I remember having more time back then, though.