Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tubes part 2

One of the most heartening things about the US Senate is that sometimes extremely elderly men with no knowledge of things like technology are put in charge of making laws and regulating things pertaining to technology. Who can forget Ted Stevens' immortal "the internet is not a truck... it's a series of tubes" argument? Less funny was the fact that he was in charge of the committee tasked with regulating the Internet. On and on this goes, with 70+ year old men faced with laws and votes on things they can't understand; like the magic elves that cool their food inside that big white rectangle in their kitchens, the invisible string that allows them to talk to Mabel on their pocket tin can, why we have pleasant diplomatic relations with the Kaiser, and on and on.

Of course this kind of ignorance extends to the current financial reform debate. There, this is not so much a disadvantage, as no one understands what the hell it is Wall Street and banks do. Strike that, the people who are getting copious amounts of money from the financial sector do and they write in lots of wonderful loopholes. But surely our geriatric elected betters' unfamiliarity with technology wouldn't be making things difficult during floor votes for financial reform, would it?
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been fighting unsuccessfully this week for a vote on his proposal to limit the fees charged for using the ATM of a financial institution other than your own.
[Ben Nelson] pleaded ignorance when asked this week whether Congress should cap ATM fees. Nelson said that while he's no fan of unnecessary fees, he's unfamiliar with the charges.

“I've never used an ATM, so I don't know what the fees are,” Nelson said, adding that he gets his cash from bank tellers, just not automatic ones. “It's true, I don't know how to use one.

“But I could learn how to do it just like I've . . . I swipe to get my own gas, buy groceries. I know about the holograms.”
"The holograms". By which he means "bar codes". This man is an elected official and he doesn't understand ATM's, ATM fees, or how banks gouge people with those fees. And so Harkin's amendment is having trouble getting any traction. "Surely Nelson is the only elected oaf who doesn't understand how the magic money card machine works, right?" Nope.

Mike Johanns (R-Neb) opposes the attempt to cap fees at $.50... he admits to having used one around 5 times in his entire life. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is on the fence about the issue. He says he hasn't reviewed the proposal but wants you to know that he understands the concept of ATM's but that he has "a credit card, but I don't use it for cash”, which shows that he doesn't understand things. And these are just three of the four Senators the Omaha World-Herald interviewed for a small story on an ATM fee amendment due to their proximity to Omaha.

So don't worry, dear readers. Adults are in charge and making laws for you. And while they are completely baffled by something you or I use every day, they want you to know that while they don't use it, they know about the holograms and the cash credit cards. They know about the holograms. Sleep tight.

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