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In days gone by I worked in the travel industry, and I still keep up with legislation that is relevant to airlines. There's a very important bill that has received little media coverage, and that if enacted would make it effectively impossible to comparison-shop airline fares. It's misleadingly called the "Transparent Airfares Act," but what it would really do would allow airlines to advertise fares that are much lower than what anybody can actually get.

And I know, you're thinking, "But they do that already." They do, as much as they can - but they are currently constrained by something called the Full Fare Advertising Rule." As Anolik Associates, a law firm specializing in the travel industry, puts it on their Website),

"The Full Fare Advertising rule is a federal consumer protection law established to prevent and punish deceptive airfare advertisements.  The rule mandates that whenever a carrier or their ticket agent states a price for air transportation, the full price be stated.  Put simply, the price advertised is the price that the customer must pay.  If this is not true and the total cost of the ticket exceeds the advertised price, then the advertisement is likely in violation."

The new law would repeal that rule, allowing airlines to quote fares that could not be obtained under any circumstances.

Follow me below the cloud with the sun behind it and I'll explain more...

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I was talking to a friend who is in a demographic that would benefit most from the Affordable Care Act - he and his wife spent years unemployed, and when he did find a job he was offered the choice of lower pay with benefits or higher pay without. He chose with health benefits as he had years of unmet medical and dental needs, but it means they they now make barely enough to get by. His wife is unemployed with no serious likelihood of getting a job - they have only one car and public transportation in their area is awful, and there are no jobs within walking distance. Their low  income and high needs mean that they would almost certainly benefit from enrolling using California's website.

Last night I asked him why he hadn't enrolled, and he said that he had been told by a friend who knows about computer security that California's site has an unreasonable number of links and security holes in their pages. I think I know who the source for this is, and he's a tea-partier type, which makes me suspect deliberate misinformation. To paraphrase as closely as I can remember, he said "even the front page is spaghetti code - what should be a simple page is very complex. There are all sorts of links and information trackers built in, and nobody knows where that stuff is going."

I can't argue with him about this because I don't know about computer security, and calling his source's motives into question will just restart an argument I don't want to have. Can anybody help me with citations by recognized computer security experts saying the the California site is safe? It would probably be good to have these reassurances for other state's sites too. I don't need citations about how they work, but about their security. If this has already been diaried on DK, I haven't seen it and would appreciate a pointer to that discussion.    

Thanks, PNE


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I was listening to NPR this morning and they ran a feel-good piece about a pair of gay men who circumvented Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage by marrying on a Cheyenne reservation there. Coming as it did the day after a gloomy piece on how draconian restrictions in Texas have forced health clinics which provide abortions to close, it made me wonder - could this tactic be used to offer women health care in Texas and in other states?

Putting a health clinic on the reservations would presumably have to be done in conjunction with the Indian Health Service - but that is a federal organization and not under Texas law. Could tribes across Texas invite health care operators to open women's clinics under the proviso that they be open to tribal members at little or no charge? If so, it would be a win for tribal administrators, who would receive new state-of-the-art facilities funded by the non-tribal members. The clinics would hire local tribe members as clerical and office staff, so there would be some boost to the reservation economy.  

Texas has only three Indian reservations, one on the outskirts of El Paso, one about two hours west of San Antonio, and one about an hour north of Houston. It is not enough locations to help all the women of Texas, not by a long shot, but it's better than nothing. Am I right that this is possible despite Texas state law, or did I miss something?  


So negotiations about negotiations have started, and everybody is breathing a sigh of relief. Except I'm not, because the rainbow pony of compromise must be achieved, and Boehner and Cantor have to "Get Something." If Obama and Reed start the negotiations from the exact position where we were - that victory is defined as going back to the point where we were before the Tea Partiers started balking - there is nothing to give without it being a loss only for Democrats.

So I'll only know this can end well when I see the Democratic leadership saying, "You know how you say you'll come to the table with no preconditions? Then we'll be at that table, and we'll deal with the deficit that you say is so very important. Here's the list of loopholes that allow companies and high wealth individuals to avoid US taxes, and here's how we'll close them. And while we're at it, let's look at that Joint Strike Fighter contract for an aircraft the Air Force doesn't want, and hey, how about those cotton and sugar subsidies? And once we get this revenue problem fixed, we can get to how much of the sequester funding we restore - my starting bid is 100%. Now let's start talking about how much should be allocated to repair roads and bridges and get people working."

Maybe we won't get all those things, or most of them, or any of them - but we make the Republicans defend some unpopular causes and sink their ratings even further. Boehner can come out of such a meeting with a credible claim that restoring the status quo was a victory, not that anybody will believe him, but the game theory will be satisfied and he'll keep his job, which is all that matters to him. And we'll muddle along until we can elect a majority that really will aggressively pursue the closing of loopholes and elimination of corporate welfare, and the return of our country to greatness.

Or maybe, if everything works out right, we can start repairing the damage that years of underinvestment and pampering the billionaires have caused.  


Are we taking a negotiating stance that reflects our values, and should we demand more?

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On Twitter this morning: "America was not shut down properly. Would you like to start America in safe mode, with free healthcare and without the guns? (Recommended)"

I hadn't seen this posted elsewhere on the site, and it gave me a boost about an otherwise awful situation...


Benjamin Netenyahu has  been quite stern on demanding accountability and inspection on Iranian nuclear facilities, but strangely enough has not volunteered to open Israeli facilities to reassure the world that Israel does not have bombs. Since Israel almost undoubtedly does, and has never denied this, it seems somewhat odd that nobody has asked whether Israel is willing to undergo the same inspections.

Perhaps I have missed the asking of this question, and his answer - does anybody remember whether this has been raised? I would be very interested in knowing his response.


Do you think Israel should declare their nuclear stockpile (or lack thereof) in order to be taken seriously in anti-proliferation discussions?

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The media have been devoting much airtime and ink, but little thought, to the real issues of the email and phone surveillance, and in case someone at NPR is actually concerned about covering the whole story, I sent the following letter:

Your coverage of the revelation that Americans have had their correspondence secretly monitored has been entirely within the context of detecting would-be terrorists, and within that framework people support it. You have failed to ask a few things that would reframe the debate. I would like to hear your reporters ask these two questions of the people you interview:

1. Do you believe that if the government has access to a trove of data on all citizens, this data will never be used for political purposes by an administration determined to stay in power, or to tarnish the reputation of those with whom it disagrees?

To anybody who says, "Certainly not - that could never happen," I might remind them of the Watergate burglaries. If each of those actions - burglary of information and bugging of offices, directed from the White House - had been against an actual enemy of the USA such as foreign spies or the mafia, it would have been a legal and defensible operation. Instead they were done by an American administration against political enemies for the sole purpose of swaying an election. It must be noted that the operation was successful - Richard Nixon and the Republicans succeeded in winning the subsequent election partly because they knew the Democratic Party's strategies. The precedent is clear - American administrations will collude with political parties to influence elections, and that strategy does work.

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I think I just lost a friend over a discussion of guns in America. He was someone I've known for thirty years, but since he moved from California to a small town in the midwest he has become very uncritical about Republican ideas. He's a smart guy, but over the last decade I've seen him go from thoughtful examination of evidence to parroting Republican talking points. We used to be able to disagree politely and he'd actually give the same scrutiny to my evidence and assertions that I'd give to his, but once the conversation turned to weapons, that was all over. Any time I propose a piece of legislation that might address problems, he parrots the line,"there are laws on the books, and they aren't enforced."

Well indeed there are, and they aren't enforced because of the weakness of the ATF, which was deliberately engineered by Republicans. In my most recent email I explained what the Tiahrt amendment was, and asked if he supported its repeal and the appointment of a permanent director so the ATF could do it's job. It has been days and I have received no answer, this from someone who usually responds quickly. It could be that he is seriously considering the proposition and researching options, but based on the partisan tone of his last few messages I have my doubts.

More below the little orange dust cloud...

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There have been several proposals on DK about how to best remember the victims of the mass murder of students of Connecticut, especially the teachers who did so much to protect their charges. Some have suggested legislation, some demonstration, some other forms of activism. These things are appropriate and necessary, but perhaps we should be thinking bigger, about a way to literally carve our respect in stone.

The National Mall in Washington has monuments to servicemen who died in times of war, to politicians, and to activists - all of whom have done their duty and served this country. However there is not one stone standing on another to honor the teachers who serve every single day of every year to educate our children, and in times of fire, earthquake, or mad gunman lay their lives on the line, all for pathetic levels of pay.


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Many diaries here at DKos have bewailed the injustice of current congressional districts, and sometimes proposed fantasy maps that a Democratic legislature might enact were they in power. These usually remedy one injustice by proposing the opposite injustice, which might be satisfying but doesn’t do much to capture the moral high ground.

I have been thinking for a while about how to create a system that would achieve demonstrably fairer districts, one that would be difficult to oppose for any reason other than naked political scheming.  

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The uncertainty about the accuracy and security of electronic votes threatens to erode the confidence of the electorate in the value of voting, but since any fraud would have to involve an employee of the manufacturer, a government official, or both, it's hard to prove. Any individual who did come forward to expose the fraud would be doing so for purely altruistic reasons, and would be subject to vicious attempts at revenge by those who seek to cover up the illegal activity. Even if someone deep within one of the companies remembers their duty as a citizen to protect the integrity of the system, they'd be taking a hell of a risk.

Great risk deserves great reward. Some Democrat who has the money to credibly do so shout offer a ten million dollar reward for any information that leads to a successful prosecution of fraud using electronic voting machines. Ten million bucks could do a lot to make someone with an attack of conscience decide that honesty is the best policy.

Compared to the vast sums being throw around during this campaign, ten million isn't much - and unlike the money for campaign commercials that don't change any minds, this cash will only be spent if it is effective. Even a single successful prosecution will have ripple effects around the country as the security of the various systems is questioned, and if the money is never collected then we might have some greater confidence in the integrity of the system.

It would be very interesting to see what some of the people who are yowling about electoral fraud by illegal individual voting would do when this reward was announced - I hink it would be very difficult to oppose.

I don't have ten million - but someone who reads this might. Can you spare it to save our entire democracy? It will only be spent if it saves our country.    


Is the idea of a reward for electoral fraud whistleblowers who rig electronic voting machines a good idea?

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I was reading a diary that appeared today about the ways in which Republican governors may try to steal the election using electronic voting machines, and two questions occurred to me:

1. What federal authority sets the standards for accuracy of voting machines, and is there a process by which citizens or legislators can formally request that the machines be checked for accuracy nationwide by that department? I know that the machines were purchased by state governments, and I can understand that the federal government wouldn't have the same jurisdiction in a statewide race, but is there no federal agency that can assure the validity of a federal election?

2. Are vote-by-mail/absentee ballots immune to this form of rigging? If so, it seems that we should be going all out to encourage this as opposed to in-person voting. In-person voting is likely to be difficult anyway if those governors divert resources from Democratic-leaning districts to Republican districts, so we should probably do that even if the machines are trusted.

Given that the Republicans keep yowling about alleged voter fraud, surely they can't object to federal oversight of machines to be sure they can't be tampered with. Right? Or did I miss something here...    

I would appreciate any explanations from the folks out here who know this stuff.


Will you be voting by mail, in person, or not at all?

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