SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 26, 2013

Anderson: Swinging summertime thoughts

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

---- — Summertime,

And the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’

And the cotton is high…

—George Gershwin

So there I am on a hot Sunday afternoon, rockin’ in my hammock, listening to Avi Nelson on WRKO, just taking a sip of my diet Dr Pepper, when I hear Avi say… “As you’re in your hammock, sipping your beverage of choice, listening to the show, you can call in at…”

After 40 years of listening to ’RKO I know the number. I called immediately on my cellphone, demanded to know how he knew I was in my hammock, sipping my beverage of choice! Avi insisted it was just a wild guess; he didn’t really know where I was. But I told him I don’t believe anyone anymore: The National Security Agency is watching me! Through the leafy branches of the maple tree!

It was otherwise a good show, as usual when Avi is the host. And I felt better later when we all learned that the NSA couldn’t find what airplane whistleblower Edward Snowden was on, going to what country.

But imagine my dismay when I got a letter to Citizens for Limited Taxation from the IRS on Monday! You may recall I wrote a negative column about that agency recently. I took the letter to Chip to open while I cowered in the corner of his kitchen.

Well, silly me. It was just a nice note telling me that although I had not submitted our quarterly taxes “correctly” in April (I think I got busy ranting about “Tax Freedom Day” and filed electronically a day late), “we decided to waive the penalty for this period,” which would have been 2 percent of what was owed. I am truly grateful and will be nicer to the IRS in the future.

Now, back to criticizing the NSA. I recently taped a drawing of the Liberty Bill (from the package of U.S. postal service Forever stamps) over the video camera on my laptop. But the computer is just the beginning of my privacy problem. Congressman Michael Capuano was interviewed by Joe Battenfeld on NECN last week about his bill to control the ability of our television set to watch us watching it.

Capuano, whom I have known for years and believe is genuinely concerned about these privacy concerns, said he laughed when he heard this one because he thought it was a joke. Then he learned that several large companies (he didn’t name them but one is Verizon) have tried to get a patent on this technology. The idea is to tailor commercials to what we are doing; holding a cat, eating a Big Mac, clearly in need of a new shampoo. Michael says he wouldn’t try to block any new idea, but his bill will insist we be told that our television can do this, our provider will allow us to opt out of the “service,” and, he’s only half-kidding, will require a ticker across the bottom of the screen that says, “You are being watched.”

Never mind, back to chilling out in summertime. Wait, did I just hear an ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce saying that U.S Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is supporting the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill? You can’t say that, Chamber guys; it isn’t true! Sen. Paul proposed an amendment to grant Congress an annual vote on whether the border is secure or not, mostly because he distrusts the White House to follow through. The amendment failed, and Sen. Paul said on CNN’s “State of the Union” last weekend, “Without some congressional authority (to oversee, and without border security first), I can’t support the final bill.” BTW, he is planning to sue the NSA to restore our privacy rights. I stand with Rand.

As I write this, I’m watching the C-SPAN Senate session on the latest version of immigration reform, called the Border Surge bill, as senators slowly vote to end debate. Sen. Paul just voted “nay”: the final vote is 67-27 to move forward. It looks as if another 1,000-plus page bill, like ObamaCare, with broad-ranging consequence to America, will pass soon.

We were told in 1986 by the Reagan Administration that if amnesty passed, the border would be defended; it wasn’t. The government hasn’t become more trustworthy since then.

Which reminds me, we also had welfare reform in the last century; now we have abuses of the Electronic Benefit (EBT) cards. However, the Massachusetts Senate just passed a bill to deal with this, and it’s pretty good, requiring photo IDs for card users. I don’t understand why it would take over a year to implement this, though. Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) and other House reformers are still working for the best possible final bill.

So that’s good news. We must enjoy the summertime, where my summer diet is easy: light eating at breakfast and supper, rushing to the curb for the ice cream truck, which now has several flavors of soft-serve. Or, running errands, I stop at Coffey’s for real ice cream, Sizzles for frozen yogurt, Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced butter-pecan coffee. Better than jumpin’ fish and high cotton ….

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.