Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, April 3, 2014 7:21 pm

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling: Of the money, by the money, for the money.

In a sane country, the Supreme Court would recognize that the right of the people to a government free of undue influence by a tiny minority of the wealthy elite dramatically outweighs the right of one person to spend as much as he damn well pleases supporting political candidates, particularly when the spending creates at least the appearance, and almost definitely the certainty, of corruption: corruption in which the donor’s interest outweighs the public’s and the candidate, once elected, votes accordingly.

But we do not live in a sane country.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Citizens United ruling, 2010: “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” 

Chief Justice John Roberts, in the McCutcheon ruling, just this week: “The aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

To both gentlemen: Are you farking blind?

Of course independent expenditures give rise to the appearance of corruption — and to the real thing. Of course aggregate limits would make it harder for apparent or actual corruption to occur. If it ain’t the money that’s causing it, gentlemen, then, pray tell, what is?

You morons have just declared as a matter of both fact and law that water is dry, that the sky is chartreuse with emerald-polka dots, and that the country and the public interest are but offal to be fed to the nation’s honeybadgers. Because honeybadgers don’t … well, you know:

UPDATE: Actually, this metaphor might do a disservice to honeybadgers, which at least do useful things like killing and eating cobras. I thought about substituting jackals, but then, generally, they only eat the dead, while our nation’s sociopath elite are at least metaphorically feasting upon the living as we speak. I don’t know what the appropriate animal would be for this metaphor, but I know what it does: It feeds on the living, particularly the poor, brown, female, and otherwise vulnerable, and it pees fracking chemicals and defecates coal ash.

Friday, March 21, 2014 11:16 pm

An educator unworthy of the name

Long story short, a high-school publication in Fond du Lac, Wisc., is, in the words of regular contributor Doc at First-Draft.com, “being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.” And, more specifically, that at Fond du Lac High School, lots of people make jokes about rape, which REALLY sucks for those students who have been, you know, raped.

The school system is imposing a sweeping prior restraint on student publications because a student magazine dared to make an issue of this. Here’s the issue in question; the story at issue begins on page 11. Read the article — indeed, read the whole issue, or at least skim it to get a feel for the kind of publication it is trying to be — and then judge for yourself who’s being responsible here and who is not.

Doc, who works with student journalists in some capacity elsewhere in that region, and his First Draft companions who are scattered around the country, are keeping the heat on, with subsequent posts here, here, and here.

I weighed in with my own missive to the school system’s superintendent, Dr. James Sebert:

Dear Dr. Sebert:

I write as a lifelong red-state Republican, the father of a high-school daughter about to turn 16 — and a former journalist who won a lot of awards for publishing unpleasant truths. And I have one very simple question for you:

What in the pluperfect hell do you think you’re doing?

It is not your job to ensure an environment full of nothing but rainbow-colored unicorns. It is not your job to try to shield students from life’s unpleasant realities because they might somehow interfere with the educational process.

In fact, the very idea that you could is laughable. By the time they cross Fond du Lac’s thresholds for the first time, nontrivial numbers of students at the high school will already have endured more unpleasantness than most U.S. adults could possibly imagine, including but not limited to starvation, bullying and other physical abuse (including from family members), sexual abuse and incest, date rape, stranger rape, psychological abuse, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and pretty much anything short of a mass murder. Are you seriously arguing that those aren’t already interfering with the educational process? And if not, then why don’t you want to talk about them? Certainly we won’t stop them from interfering with the educational process until we do talk about them.

Are you seriously arguing that students shouldn’t talk about these issues, issues that are a real, and damaging, part of their lives, issues that are harming and will continue to harm their educational processes whether Cardinal Columns discusses them or not? Because if you are, you forfeit all moral claim to the title of “educator.”

It’s that simple. Sure, a misbegotten Supreme Court ruling might give you the right to censor student publications. But keep a couple of things in mind. First, this is basically the same Supreme Court that more recently has stated as a fact that campaign finance does not cause corruption, which is on an intellectual par with the high court’s declaring that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka-dots. Second, having the right to do something is not the same thing as saying you must, you should, or that it might not be a bad idea.

Anyone who seriously considers himself an educator and engages in prepublication review ought to presume news items publishable unless they are proven otherwise, and ought to require no more than the minimum change necessary to make unpublishable items publishable. Topics in general shouldn’t be reviewed at all because high-schoolers are high-schoolers: They’re going to write about what’s important to them, whether or not you like it and maybe even because you don’t. What should you do about that? Nothing. Let. It. Go.

I reviewed the article in question and found it not perfect, but excellent for high school journalism, with due consideration obviously given to the journalistic imperatives to report the truth while minimizing harm. And if you want to argue that the article was not necessary, you need only consider the results of the accompanying poll, which is about as rigorous as polls of students at a single high school can get. Rape jokes are everywhere at Fond du Lac High — and so are the rape victims who have to listen to them and are degraded by them. As an educator, you ought to find THAT intolerable, not a piece of journalism about it.

You’ve still got a chance to make this a teachable moment — for yourself, the school system, the high-school faculty and administrators, and the students. If you’re truly an educator, then that’s what you’ll do. If you need to consult outside experts — rape-crisis experts, clinical mental-health counselors, whatever — for context and advice, swallow your pride and do it.

The kids at Fond du Lac High deserve better. So do their parents. So does their community, whose taxes pay your salary. How you handle this situation going forward can make a nontrivial number of students’ lives easier than they are now — and, oh, by the way, improve the educational process. So get going.

Sincerely,

Lex

Obviously, I don’t expect either a response or a change of heart. But this sorry excuse for an educator is now all over the Internetz as a stick-up-his-butt censor, which may well give pause one day to any larger school system that might consider hiring him. And I think it’s important for reporter/editor Tanvi Kumar and her fellow student journalists, who performed admirably not only in their original journalism but also in how they have handled themselves so far in the resulting dispute, to know that there are people out here watching them with pride and admiration.

I’m sharing the story of these kids with my own high-school-age daughter. I want her to know that the adults in her life (other than me, of course) are fallible, and that this is what one very important kind of fallibility looks like. But I also want her to understand the merits of what these student journalists were trying to do, and why, and how well they went about it, and to learn from them as well — things like responsibility and curiosity and courage and judgment that to date have been utterly absent from the people running that high school and that school system.

I want her, in short, to learn very quickly at least as much as these Fond du Lac student journalists already know about how, when, and why you speak truth to power. Because everything I see in our society suggests to me that we need more of that, not less, and will need more for many years to come. I want her and her generation prepared, for one small and simple reason: The future of the country and the well-being of their fellow citizens depends on it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 8:35 pm

Today’s prayer of gratitude …

… courtesy of Esquire’s Charlie Pierce:

… thank you again, Anthony Kennedy, for telling us that “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption,” a statement that should rank with Roger Taney’s disquistion on the rights of black folk as the leading examples of what abject meatheads Supreme Court justices can be.

This is just one example of how, in Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United, the Supremes’ insistence that black is white and up is down keeps bumping up against inconvenient truths. Our government is thoroughly corrupted at the federal and state levels by corporate campaign contributions, a fact that might send Mr. Justice Kennedy to his fainting couch but is fact nonetheless. (And if you liked how that worked out, you’ll no doubt love how it works out at the county and municipal levels, too.)

Monday, March 10, 2014 9:34 pm

Hey, conservatives: Here’s where personal responsibility meets gun ownership

Richard Mayhew, Balloon Juice’s resident health-insurance guru, on firearm safety:

When I learned how to shoot, I was taught the following three things:

  • Only point a weapon at something or someone that you intend to kill
  • Always assume a weapon is loaded, and the safety is off.
  • You are always responsible for your weapon until the weapon is in the armory’s gun safe.

Can we incorporate these basic assumptions into civil law where the assumption is that any discharge (intentional or accidental) is the responsibility of the owner of the weapon and therefore the owner is liable for whatever damage a bullet fired from his weapon causes.  Liability would follow even stolen weapons if reasonable efforts to secure the weapon were not made. …

There have been attempts to regulate firearms as a consumer protection issue, but the NRA is too strong.  This proposal moves responsibility down the chain to the individual owner instead of the manufacturer.

Which is exactly where it should be. Hello, personal responsibility.

The rational response of creating the assumption that the weapon owner is liable absent extraordinary circumstances instead of the current assumption that [expletive] happens is for responsible owners to buy insurance to cover their liability.  Speaking as an insurance company bureaucrat, I would assume insurance companies would offer good rates to individuals who own longarms instead of handguns, who have a gun safe, who have trigger locks, who have gone to safety classes and who have otherwise demonstrated that they actually are reasonably likely to be safe.

Individuals who think “tactical” masturbatory fantasies are reality and believe that everyone should have a loaded pistol in their unlocked night stand even if they have two pre-kindergarteners in the house would probably be rated as high risk for negligent discharge.  Individuals who have more weapons than fingers would probably be rated as risky.  Individuals who have a history of accidental discharge would be rated as risky.

I’m not a fan of using liberterianish policy making as a first best choice, but my political judgement is that this type of regulation is the only viable away forward right now.  And going back to my health policy wonkery, reducing gun woundings means lower trauma costs, and lower recovery costs to cover.

I’m sure the NRA as an organization would fight this tooth and nail, of course. But I think it would be instructive to see the number of “personal responsibility” conservatives and libertarians and the number of so-called responsible gun owners who would fight it as well. I’d be delighted to be proved badly wrong on this, but I suspect that well more than half of American gun owners, if polled, would oppose this measure even if the reasons and benefits were explained carefully to them.

Because for way too many American gun owners, it’s not about rights and responsibilities, it’s about I want what I want and [expletive] you. I saw that attitude over and over and over again while covering cops (not from cops, but from many of the people with whom they interacted), and that’s why I say this: Whatever else it is, the American gun-owning public is in no way, shape or form a well-regulated militia.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 7:41 pm

Giving a [bleep] about kids: Dems vs. GOP edition

Mistermix at Balloon Juice:

My dad is a lifelong Democrat because his family felt that Roosevelt and the Democrats gave a [bleep] about their kids during the Depresssion. I’m a Democrat because it’s clear who gives a [bleep] about my kid, and none of them have an R after their name.

They don’t give a [bleep] that hating gays leads to teen suicide.

They don’t give a [bleep] if kids go hungry because food stamps were cut.

They don’t give a [bleep] if teenagers can’t get birth control.

And they certainly don’t give a [bleep] that a kid who has epilepsy, or Crohn’s, will be saddled with a life of worry over whether she’ll be able to buy insurance.

After all the noise over the website dies down, after the Republicans try to shut down the government three more times and vote to repeal another dozen times, this is what’s going to be left for thousands of American families: a man and a party that gave enough of a [bleep] about them to endure a five year temper tantrum from a party that clearly has a broken give-a-[bleep]er when it comes to children.

It’s fine to talk in principle about limited government. (It must be — I do it, although I often mean something by “limited” that is different from what the RWNJs mean.) But when the real-life results of your actions carry an actual and nontrivial body count, you either change your positions or you mark yourself as a sociopath.

Moreover, the real reason why the GOP has carried on a five-year temper tantrum about Obamacare is that they know that if it works — and it is working, even if the website still has bugs — people will embrace it like Social Security and Medicare and the party will be screwed politically for at least a generation.

 

Thursday, December 5, 2013 5:42 pm

If you want to lay money on how well Obamacare is going to work …

… then you might want to pay attention to where insurance companies are putting their money, as insurance executive Richard Mayhew points out:

I was at physical therapy this morning.   As I did my stretches and balancing exercises for my ankle, the local generic “alt” rock radio station was being piped through the speakers and Good Morning America was on the wall television.

On the rock station, I heard a Healthcare.gov “I got covered” ad, an ad from my company advertising its Exchange product.  I heard two other competitors advertise their on and off-Exchange products.  This radio station’s typical advertising rotation is a combination of bars, strip clubs, debt consolidation agencies, cash for gold and structured settlement companies.  The normal advertising mix assumes a fairly young, male and broke listening audience.  This is a prime demographic for the subsidized Exchanges.

On Good Morning America, I saw another Healthcare.gov ad, and three ads from two other insurance companies in the area.  One was the same company on the radio, and the other was the fourth private plan advertising.  The pitch for the last one was “You need to sign up by Dec. 23 for Jan.1 coverage and even if the government website is jacked up, we can help you at 1-800-555-5544″

[That] four  insurance companies are putting their money behind the relaunch with the advertising campaign is a tell that entities with real money to lose if they guess wrong are guessing that things are working right.

But Obamacare will never work. It can’t work!

Sunday, October 27, 2013 9:50 pm

Oh, I’M sorry, you were worried about the DEFICIT and not whether Americans had health care?

Read this and weep, you freakin’ sociopaths:

The Affordable Care Act is already working: Intense price competition among health plans in the marketplaces for individuals has lowered premiums below projected levels. As a result of these lower premiums, the federal government will save about $190 billion over the next 10 years, according to our estimates. These savings will boost the health law’s amount of deficit reduction by 174 percent and represent about 40 percent of the health care savings proposed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles commission—in 2010.

Moreover, we estimate that lower premiums will lower the number of uninsured even further, by an additional 700,000 people, even as the number of individuals who receive tax credits will decline because insurance is more affordable.

In short, the Affordable Care Act is working even better than expected, producing more coverage for much less money.

And just because you’re evil and you suck, you should also read the whole damn report, while I make an adult beverage out of vodka and your bitter, bitter tears.

Friday, October 18, 2013 7:56 pm

Hey, Paul Cox of Leicester, NC — why did you go on Hannity’s show and lie about Obamacare?

Because you did, and you’ve been busted.

Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:00 pm

Quote of the Day, shutdown edition: On dealing with terrorists

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, speaking to Dave Wiegel of Slate:

Dealing with terrorists has taught us some things. You can’t deal with ’em. This mess was created by the Republicans for one purpose, and they lost. People in my district are calling in for Obamacare—affordable health care—in large numbers. These guys have lost, and they can’t figure out how to admit it. … You can’t say, OK, you get half of Obamacare—this isn’t a Solomonic decision. So we sit here until they figure out they f—–g lost.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:52 pm

Why you don’t want insane Ayn Rand fanboys running your company, Sears Holdings edition

It’s well known that libertarians want government shrunk, and that many of them profess to have been influenced by the Objectivism, the “philosophy” of the awful novelist Ayn Rand, who preached that properly channeled selfishness created the greatest good for the greatest number. And such techniques are supposed to make businesses prosper, right? So after this insane Rand-spouting hedge-fund guy, Eddie Lampert, became CEO of Sears Holdings, broke the company into more than 30 units and told them to be selfish (i.e., turn on each other), guess what has happened?

In January, eight years after (Eddie) Lampert masterminded Kmart’s $12 billion buyout of Sears in 2005, the board appointed him chief executive officer of the 120-year-old retailer. The company had gone through four CEOs since the merger, yet former executives say Lampert has long been running the show. Since the takeover, Sears Holdings’ sales have dropped from $49.1 billion to $39.9 billion, and its stock has sunk 64 percent. Its cash recently fell to a 10-year low. Although it has plenty of assets to unload before bankruptcy looms, the odds of a turnaround grow longer every quarter. “The way it’s being managed, it doesn’t work,” says Mary Ross Gilbert, a managing director at investment bank Imperial Capital. “They’re going to continue to deteriorate.”

Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem: Lampert. Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

That’s just moronic. Either you’re a company, with all units competing toward a single goal, or you spin off the units you don’t need. You don’t make your people fight internal wars; you have them fighting for customers and you, the CEO, need to have their back with a sensible strategy and adequate supplies/training.  Sure, it’s fun to play sand tiger shark and have your babies eating one another in your womb, but it’s also a good way to become a “species of concern,” “vulnerable” or even endangered.

Friday, May 17, 2013 6:17 pm

Their insane world is now our world. And we’d better deal with it.

Like it, dislike it (as I do), but you can’t deny it, and to his credit, neither does Michael Tomasky:

I think the notion of impeachment is industrial-strength insane. There is utterly no proof that the President Obama even knew anything directly about the shifting Benghazi responses, let alone did something about them (yes, folks; under the Constitution, the President must do something). And as for the Internal Revenue Service story, from what we now know, those transgressions were committed by IRS staffers in Cincinnati who have never been closer to Obama than their television sets. … [T]he idea that Obama has any direct culpability in either of these matters is, given what we know today, utter madness. Okay?

But this is my point: utter madness is what today’s Republicans do. You can present to me every logical argument you desire. Benghazi at the end of the day was a terrible tragedy in which mistakes, bad mistakes, were certainly made, and in which confusion and the CYA reflex led to some bad information going out to the public initially, but none of this remotely rises to the level of high crime. The IRS cock-up was just that, a mistake by a regional office. I get all this, and I agree with you.

But what we think doesn’t matter. I can assure you that already in the Pavlovian swamps of the nutso right, the glands are swelling. Theirs is a different planet from the one you and I inhabit. …

At this point some of you may be protesting: but at least Clinton did commit a crime, however lame a crime it was. Obama has done no such thing. Again, in reality-land, no, he hasn’t. In their land, however, he has committed a string of them; he just hasn’t been caught yet. And that’s what Darrell Issa and his committee are there to unearth. Besides, he need commit no conventional crime. A high crime or misdemeanor is whatever the House majority decides it is. Remember, in January 1998, impeachment talk started before Clinton [allegedly] had perjured himself. …

Okay, but surely, you say, if facts don’t matter, then public opinion does? Think again, my friend. In 1998, support for impeachment of Bill Clinton was rarely above 30 percent. Here’s a little sampling of surveys from August and September of that year, during the heat of battle—the release of Clinton’s grand-jury testimony and of the Starr Report. Levels of support for impeachment were 26 percent, 25, 18, 27, 17, and so on. There was one poll where it hit 40 percent, but most were far lower. And remember, in political terms, 40 is the butt end of a massive landslide. The public hated the idea.

Did that stop anyone? No. And it won’t stop them now. They do their base’s bidding, not America’s. How many times do you need to see them do this before you accept that it is the reality? And now there’s an added element. They want to gin up turnout among their base for next year’s elections. And if they gin it up enough, and the Democratic base stays home, they could end up holding the House and taking the Senate. And if they have both houses, meaning that the vote in the House would not be certain to hit a Senate dead-end, well, look out.

I hope the White House knows this. I hope they understand, I hope the President himself understands, that the fever has not broken and will not break. … If my worst fears are never realized—well, good, obviously. But it will only be because they couldn’t identify even a flimsy pretext on which to proceed. Never put the most extreme behavior past them. It is who they are, and it is what they do.

It’s not just the White House that needs to understand this. It’s every American who thinks a majority of batshit-crazy Republicans in both houses of Congress would be a bad idea. Here’s why. A lot of Democrats and independents, butthurt over what was or was not in the Affordable Care Act or else just plain lazy, stayed home and didn’t vote in 2010. As a direct consequence of that little fit of temper and/or laziness, the lunatics are running the U.S. House asylum as well as turning my state of North Carolina into Mississippi with (for now) more teeth.

Look, never mind that Benghazi was a bad and tragic mistake and not a political/criminal conspiracy (except the part where it might have been a Republican conspiracy). And never mind that whatever a bunch of IRS functionaries in Cincinnati might have done, the IRS did much worse to liberal groups under Bush and the Republicans never said a word. These people are not rational. They’re not even sane. If they take the Senate next year, I’m even more confident than Tomasky that they will find some pretext, any pretext, on which to base multiple articles of impeachment. They will fling as much feces against the wall as they can, knowing that in a GOP-held Senate, at least some of it likely will stick. And the strong likelihood that either an incumbent President Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton running as the Democratic nominee in 2016 would drink their blood for it will not matter in the slightest.

Thursday, April 4, 2013 7:46 pm

The 70-year-old economic priorities of an old-school conservative

Winston Churchill, March 1943:

… let me remark that the best way to insure against unemployment is to have no unemployment.* …

Next there is the spacious domain of public health. I was brought up on the maxim of Lord Beaconsfield which my father was always repeating: “Health and the laws of health.” We must establish on broad and solid foundations a national health service. Here let me say that there is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies. Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.

Following upon health and welfare is the question of education…. In moving steadily and steadfastly from a class to a national foundation in the politics and economics of our society and civilization, we must not forget the glories of the past nor how many battles we have fought for the rights of the individual and for human freedom. We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except the politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges. I say “trying to build” because of all the races in the world our people would be the last to consent to be governed by a bureaucracy. Freedom is their life blood….

It is in our power, however, to secure equal opportunities for all. Facilities for advanced education must be evened out and multiplied. No one who can take advantage of higher education should be denied this chance. You cannot conduct a modern community except with an adequate supply of persons upon whose education, whether humanitarian, technical or scientific, much time and money have been spent….

Interesting, isn’t it, that those who now call themselves conservative are so actively fighting that for which Winston Churchill stood when few national leaders in history have been proven so right as he? Thom Tillis and Phil Berger, y’all might want to listen to and learn from your philosophical and moral better.

*That’s not as stupid as it sounds. In context, it means putting people to work even if doing so requires running larger deficits in the short term.

Thursday, March 14, 2013 8:42 pm

Former “Patch” editor explains why it didn’t, couldn’t work, which anyone in newspapers could have told Patch and many did. Years ago.

Whocouldaknowed, am I right?

Ken Layne [interviewer for The Awl]: So you are a newspaper reporter and editor, and at some point you decided to “go digital” and get a job with the hyperlocal Patch.com sites run by AOL. How and when did this happen?

Sammy [Sturgeon, pseudonymous former Patch editor]: ‪Well, I’d been laid off and was desperate. I had enough connections that I was able to get an audience with the Patch people, and somebody kind of shooed me in.‬ This was about three years ago.

Ken: Patch was expanding at that point, right.

Sammy: Wildly. The news from New York—where all the MBAs who run Patch live—was that everything was “really exciting,” all the time. “Oh my god, gang, we have some really exciting news. We have launched 11 more sites this past week! We’re super excited.”‬

[snip]

Ken: But the concept was that local reporters would cover local news, like high-school sports and planning commission meetings and neighborhood police blotters, right?

Sammy : That was the concept, originally. Then the MBAs realized that that actually takes more manpower than they were able to afford. I guess they thought all that copy and content just sort of wrote itself!‬

Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:55 pm

March 7 study break, “NC Medicaid IS NOT BROKEN” edition

h/t: Fec

Disclosure: Jeff Shaw of the N.C. Justice Center is a classmate in my current grad program. Further disclosure: He is not a bullshitter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 5:28 pm

No consequences

Some of the biggest names of political punditry spent the days leading up to yesterday predicting not just a Romney win, but a Romney landslide. Now they’re hoping you’ll forget that so that they can keep their overpaid sinecures (or, as they were called in “Blazing Saddles,” their phony-baloney jobs). But even though I seldom make predictions (more on which in a minute), I knew these people were full of crap, and I wanted to memorialize their fecal fullness so that perhaps voters, if not current and potential future employers, would have some idea just how seriously to take not only their powers of prognistication, which can fail anyone at any tmie, but also their grip on current reality, which, for most people, can be allowed little or no down time without serious consequences.

Fortunately, The Blaze has compiled a handy list of some of our most prominent prognosticators and their predictions:

  • CNBC Anchor Larry Kudlow: ” ”I am now predicting a 330 vote electoral landslide.”
  • MSNBC host Joe Scarborough: “But my gut tells me there are two likely scenarios: (1) President Obama will squeak out a narrow Electoral College victory or (2) Mitt Romney will carry Ohio and be swept into office by a comfortable margin. After practicing politics for 20 years, I suppose I would rather be in Mitt Romney’s shoes than Barack Obama’s. Incumbents who are under 50 percent two weeks out usually go down to defeat.”
  • Addled GOP whore Karl Rove: ““In addition to the data, the anecdotal and intangible evidence–from crowd sizes to each side’s closing arguments–give the sense that the odds favor Mr. Romney. They do. My prediction: Sometime after the cock crows on the morning of Nov. 7, Mitt Romney will be declared America’s 45th president. Let’s call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more.”
  • Addled Washington Post whore George Will: “George Will outlined a huge Romney Election Day in an interview on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ predicting a 321-217 landslide that included nearly every swing state including Minnesota.”
  • Toe-sucking whore (or sucker of whores’ toes; I can never keep that straight) and Faux News contributor Dick Morris: “Reasonable voters saw that the voice of hope and optimism and positivism was Romney while the president was only a nitpicking, quarrelsome, negative figure. The contrast does not work in Obama’s favor. His erosion began shortly after the conventions when Indiana (10 votes) and North Carolina (15) moved to Romney (in addition to the 179 votes that states that McCain carried cast this year). Then, in October, Obama lost the Southern swing states of Florida (29) and Virginia (13). He also lost Colorado (10), bringing his total to 255 votes.And now, he faces the erosion of the northern swing states: Ohio (18), New Hampshire (4) and Iowa (6). Only in the union-anchored state of Nevada (9) does Obama still cling to a lead. In the next few days, the battle will move to Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (15), Wisconsin (10) and Minnesota (16). Ahead in Pennsylvania, tied in Michigan and Wisconsin, and slightly behind in Minnesota, these new swing states look to be the battleground. … The most likely outcome [in the Senate]? Eight GOP takeaways and two giveaways for a net gain of six. A 53-47 Senate, just like we have now, only opposite. Barack Obama’s parting gift to the Democratic Party.”
  • Washington Examiner and Almanac of American Politics editor Michael Barone — the one guy among these clowns, in other words, who is even reputed to do actual reporting: “Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals.”

Keep in mind, please, that the only reason these people have jobs is that they are supposed to know something about this stuff. (Not that I want their jobs, but I did better than all of them.) But the emperors have no clothes; their bare bums glistened this morning in the (here in Greensboro, anyway) bright autumn sun. They. Don’t. Know. Shit.

But you know who did? Nate Silver. The numbers guy. The nerd. The reporter. (He correctly called the Tea Party surge in 2010, too, in case you think he’s just a partisan who got lucky.) He stuck to his numbers even on his Twitter feed; this appears to have been the closest he ever came to gloating:

Note the time: 9:29 p.m. Eastern last night. Polls in a lot of states hadn’t even closed yet. And what had Nate done to that point? Only correctly predicted 30 states out of 30 that had been called to that point. More specifically, he had correctly predicted them in June.

Credit where due: Dean Chambers, the guy who ran the “Unskewed Polls” site, which a lot of Republicans were using before the election to try to convince themselves and others that Nate Silver’s poll sampling was overly weighted toward Democrats, told Business Insider today, “Nate Silver was right and I was wrong.” Not only that, he also called some other conservative pollsters out by name, particularly Scott Rasmussen, saying, “He has lost a lot of credibility as far as I’m concerned.”

UPDATE: Earlier today, Sarah, Proud and Tall at Balloon Juice had the following to say about the foregoing hacks:

In a fair and just society, political pundits who got things this [expletive] wrong would never be listened to again. When their names were mentioned, people would mutter embarrassedly and try to change the subject. If they ever tried again to appear on television or write a column about politics, people would point and laugh at their cluelessness until stuff came out their noses. Children would throw turds at them in the street and pin “Kick Me” signs to their backs. The sheer shame engendered by their own stupidity would trap them at home forever, dressed in the tattered rags of their reputations, wearing only one shoe and constantly revisiting the rotted ruins of a table laid with celebratory cake and Romney/Ryan How to Vote cards.

Upon reflection, and upon reminding myself that both of Obama’s victories have had as much to do with America’s evolving demographics as anything else, I’m inclined to go a little less harshly on these folks than is Sarah, but only for this reason: Sarah seems to think that the point of political pundits is to get things right. After a night and day of reflection, I’ve come to a slightly different conclusion, which is that their point isn’t to get things right, it’s to provide entertainment and psychological sustenance for the aging, dying cohort that is the Fox/GOP base right now. It’s about telling an audience what they want to hear, not what they need to know. And among the corporate entities that employ the above-named miscreants, Fox, at least, hasn’t always been completely dishonest about what it was trying to do.

‘NOTHER UPDATE: Besides Silver, two other people nailed this year’s EV count, although I don’t know as much about their methods as I do Silver’s (and I don’t know all that much about Silver’s except that it doesn’t involve his gut): Democratic strategist Chris Lehane and Josh Putnam, who professes political science at my alma mater, Davidson. (h/t commenter Scott Denham.) It’s worth clicking through to that chart and noting that of the prognosticators with a political affiliation, only one Democrat, CNBC’s Jim Cramer, scored worse than the best-scoring GOP pundit, Ross Douthat of the New York Times. Douthat predicted a 271-267 Obama victory and was the only one on his side to predict an Obama win at all.

I wouldn’t take financial advice from Cramer, either.

Monday, November 5, 2012 10:09 pm

Quote of the Day, One Week After Sandy Edition

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

– Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, a member of the commission that investigated the cause of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, in his appendix to the commission report.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 3:54 pm

Does Dr. Seuss’s ghost need to choke a bitch?

Why, yes. Yes, I believe he does, if so-called journalists are going to pull sweeping indictments of blue states right out of their feces-choked derrieres:

Well, perhaps if instead of sprinting off to write a page’s worth of “nuh uh, YOU’RE the poopyheads” drivel, you could have hung around and read the studies cited showing the math on how blue states rate better than red states. Perhaps you could have even gone on to see the correlations in Europe that further back up the sobering reality that yes, it turns out that liberal economic and social policy really do create stronger economies and happier people.

Almost as if people are less likely to be stressed out balls of violent desperation when people aren’t willing to collapse society just to “get at them” and where tightly-wound right-wing psychotics can see that the gay isn’t really the existential threat they pretend it is to make the truck stop visits more exciting. Where people can just be people.

And as if the economy was healthier in areas where racing to the bottom wasn’t the only game in town and people have a social safety net to fall back on if things get hard. Because it turns out that founding new industries and businesses and retraining workforces to new industries is easier when people aren’t freaking out about starving if things go wrong.

The “journalist” expresses concern that blue states are growing more slowly than red states. As if that is actually some kind of problem:

Okay, yes, wingnuts, I get that the freakout about “relative population growth” is all a racist sexist freakout hoping that if you go oogedy boogedy about brown third world nations, white women will agree to give up their rights and become brood mares to “balance” things.

But still, let me make one point perfectly clear:

WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE POPULATION GROWTH.

We really [expletive] don’t. In fact, we could do with a hell of a lot of relative population shrinkage while we can still afford to do that without having to resort to costly and bloody wars over basic resources.

Sorry if this is a bit blunt, but we don’t even really have the food resources for the population we have now and we’re running out of the natural resources we need to prop up the current system. We don’t need any more [expletive] babies. I don’t care how scared you are of the third-world horde outbreeding you.

But hey, you know what might work better than trying to out-[reproduce] them? How about stop exploiting the [expletive] out of them and help give them a hand forming a legitimate first-world economy and help fight for global women’s rights and universal education. Then they’ll stop underbidding your workers and as a bonus, they’ll also stop out-breeding you as first-world nations with high education and strong rights for women tend to breed less overall.

Much, much more at the link — a lengthy but worthwhile read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:17 pm

U.S. Journalism Fail

The fall of the mainstream media has had many causes, but speaking as someone who spent a quarter-century working in it, I think few have been more damaging than the adherence to narratives that were either no longer operative or never true in the first place. And nowhere has this adherence been more in evidence than in how the MSM, your so-called liberal media, has behaved toward the Republican Party. Yes, journalists tend toward the middle of the political spectrum (there are almost no true leftists anymore), but 45 years of working the refs has had such an all-encompassing  effect that no one is mentioning the elephant defecating in the room. Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog summarizes:

But the press had a story. It’s a great, multi-threaded story, really, even though nobody in the press thinks it is. It’s a story the press could have been telling us for years, but never wanted to bother: the story of a major American political party going absolutely stark raving mad, while having the power and persuasive ability to potentially take the country with it. It’s a party that flirted with nominating barking lunatics such as Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum before settling on a guy who was able to mollify supporters of those lunatics by faking (or imbibing) madness himself, by being a pathological liar, and by spending millions of dollars — because this party is crazy about the rich, and has persuaded much of the country to want to coddle the rich even after the rich nearly destroyed the world.

The party lurches from superstitious belief to superstitious belief (in the phoniness of climate change, in the existence of massive Democratic voter fraud, in the imminence of sharia law in the U.S., in the socialist/Muslim leanings of the centrist Christian in the White House, and so on). The rich guy at its head flirted with some of those beliefs and gave aid and comfort to firm believers in them.

If the party were a celebrity or a historical figure, it would be Charlie Sheen or Caligula, and everyone would want to tell the story. But nobody wants to tell this story. Nobody wants to write that the GOP is insane. Nobody wants to write that a great country can’t survive with crazy zillionaires selling conspiracy theories to angry white people via 24/7 media, just so they can get somewhat lower tax rates.

The story is there, guys. It wasn’t good enough for you, I guess.

Or, as Driftglass puts it:

And yet the MSM continues to prop up the rotting carcass of the GOP like the corpse in ”Weekend at Bernie’s”, and waltz it lovingly across the national stage year after year after year, protecting it as ferociously as they would their own children even as it goes raving mad, putrefies and crumbles to reek and maggots in their arms.

If a guy commits a crime and you help him, you’re guilty of a crime yourself — aiding and abetting, at the least. So when you aid and abet the journey to insanity of one of the country’s two major parties, and perhaps the entire country along with it, what does that make you?

Saturday, August 18, 2012 12:02 am

American suffering as morality play for our so-called journalists

Sir Charles on the great American sport of granny-starving, as applauded by The Village:

Someday someone is going to do a study on the psychological attitudes of the worthless media elite of our time and their obsession with making life more miserable for large swaths of their fellow Americans. The degree to which Saletan, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, David Brooks, and virtually the entirety of Fred Hiatt’s funny pages (save Eugene Robinson, Harold Meyerson, and E.J. Dionne), get tumescent over granny having to move in with the kids because she can’t afford to live on her own is really like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s gratuitous cruelty at the hands of people who have far more than they deserve and confuse this status with wisdom

.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 8:01 pm

Memo to Simpson-Bowles fanboys/-girls, the New America Foundation, Paul Ryan groupies and everybody else who thinks the deficit is our biggest current problem:

You cannot slash taxes AND slash spending AND still reduce the deficit. It’s mathematically impossible. You can no more reduce the deficit this way than you can walk to the moon or skin-dive the Marianas Trench.

And if you try it, we’ll be in another recession in a heartbeat. Hell, with three straight months of falling consumer spending, we might be heading into another one even if you don’t.

This really is the era of lowered expectations. I used to pray for deliverance from extremist ideologues. Now I just pray for deliverance from people who can’t count.

Monday, July 9, 2012 10:30 pm

Projection: Mark Halperin edition

Good Christ, I have never seen a more worthless waste of a carbon-based life form, let alone a job in journalism:

Once again, we have an incumbent running in an environment so brutal that he can’t win an up-or-down referendum on his term.

Your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen.

Thus, Obama, like Bush, has to make the election a choice between two options and disqualify the other option.

We are in a radically different politico-media age than we were just eight years ago, so the metrics for measuring whether such an effort is working have been transformed. Still, there are some aspects of the Swift Boating that don’t seem to be present for the Democrats, at least not yet.

The Swift Boat line of attack went along the info-news conveyor belt from some limited paid media and a book, to right-leaning earned media, to cable news, to the broadcast networks and major print publications. So far, that hasn’t happened with the Obama attack. New media allows the Democrats on their own to spread the message through literally hundreds of platforms, but that doesn’t mean it will take over big-time earned media and dominate the campaign discourse, the way Swift Boats did.

Well, that’s a fascinating bit of horse-race speculation, which is to say it’s both wrong AND worthless. And here’s the tell on where Halperin’s loyalties really lie (as if there were any doubt):

(I should make clear: this post is about the politics of bringing down a rival. It is NOT meant to adjudicate the accuracy, relevance, or fairness of the two attacks.)

Of course not. Because 1) that would be actual, you know, journalism, which Mark Halperin simply Does Not Do; and 2) the conclusion inevitably resulting from such an adjudication would leave Romney screwed. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that he would be, if I may quote one of America’s foremost pundits, “running in an environment so brutal that he can’t win an up-or-down referendum.”

 

Friday, April 13, 2012 5:40 am

They just make sh*t up, ex-gay-therapy edition

Filed under: Reality: It works,Sad — Lex @ 5:40 am
Tags:

Ill and aging, the psychiatrist who claimed in 2001 that therapy could turn gay people straight now admits that he was wrong:

The psychiatrist behind a prominent 2001 study declaring people can go from gay to straight has retracted his original claims.

Although the research is still cited by anti-gay organizations as proof that so-called ex-gay therapy works to change someone’s sexual orientation, the study has endured scientific criticism for years.

Now, Robert Spitzer, who led the research, told American Prospect that he wants to publish a retraction.

“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” Spitzer said. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”

Spitzer’s confession was part of writer Gabriel Arana‘s account of growing up gay, and struggling to change his sexual orientation by undergoing therapy.

Arana interviewed Spitzer, 79, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, at his home. He asked Arana to print the retraction of his study “so I don’t have to worry about it.”

Well, props to him for finally being honest. Too bad it comes only after he has done untold damage to untold numbers of people.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 9:09 pm

Your liberal media …

… is, as Jason Linkins observes, utterly unable to call a spade a spade.

Journalists, even the ones working in Podunkia for $15,000 a year, are held to this standard: If you knew it was wrong and published it anyway, or you published it with reckless disregard for whether it was wrong, you’re screwed. (Unless, of course, you work for The New York Times, in which case they’ll give you a regular op-ed gig alongside Tom Friedman, David Brooks and Ross Douthat.) I see no reason why a politician, particularly one running for president, should be held to a lower standard.

Mitt Romney lied — and, knowing that the media will not call him out for his lying, he seems to believe that he can successfully campaign against Obama by lying while the media say, “Oh, what an interesting campaign strategy,” instead of, oh, I don’t know, maybe, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Politico notwithstanding, calling a politician’s lie a lie is not expressing “opinion.” It’s reporting. And, dear God, do we need more of it.

UPDATE: Fox’s Megyn Kelly dismissed pepper spray as “a vegetable, essentially.” No, Megyn, the vegetable would be you. (link NSFW)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 8:22 pm

Why the economy will continue to suck until at least 2013

Because, as Steve Benen points out, Republicans are bound and determined to do what they want to do rather than stuff that will actually help the economy:

 

What you’re looking at is a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the likely economic impact of various options now being discussed and/or implemented. And although it doesn’t identify each measure with the political faction supporting it, the nonpartisan CBO finds that what actual economists like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong think we should be doing will bring the unemployment rate down faster than what the Republicans want us to do.

Benen comments:

Now, if our political process made any sense, this would be about the time that policymakers said, “We all want to improve the economy, so let’s do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.” Then, they’d look to independent analyses like this one from the Congressional Budget Office to shape the best agenda.

But our political process doesn’t make sense, and analyses like the new CBO report won’t sway Republicans at all. Confronted with evidence that their agenda won’t work, Republicans reflexively respond, “We don’t care what the evidence says; our ideology trumps all.”

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.

Like, you know, jobs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011 10:19 pm

Memo to the mainstream media …

NO, BOTH SIDES DON’T DO IT.

Now pay attention.

Friday, June 24, 2011 8:00 pm

Resources for the reality-based community

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 8:00 pm
Tags: ,

After 20 years of arguing online for a reality-based approach to public policy, I’ve pretty much decided that the time during which such a thing would happen has long since passed and, in the post-Citizens United era, will not  come in my lifetime. So I’ve pretty much stopped arguing for/about that and moved on to other things, to the extent that I still argue at all (as opposed to just pointing at weird things and saying, “Look! Weird!”).

But not everyone has. I’m grateful for that. And if you’re still doing that kind of arguing and want resources, you could do much worse than to track economist J. Bradford DeLong’s series of blog posts, “For the Virtual Green Room: Rebuttals to right-wing talking-points misinformation that I want to have at the forefront of my brain” (examples here and here). Unlike most of the talking heads who actually get face time on cable news and space in the country’s most influential op-ed sections, DeLong, like Dean Baker and the better-known Paul Krugman, has been sadly correct in most of his assessments and predictions during the past few years. If he had been making economic policy for the country since January 2009 we would be in much better shape.

Monday, August 9, 2010 9:59 pm

Not so much

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 9:59 pm
Tags: ,

I guess that in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod/Andrew Breitbart mess, I shouldn’t be surprised at this.

I blogged a couple of times last year about a case in which members of the New Black Panther Party supposedly tried to intimidate white voters and prevent them from voting, presumably for Republicans.

Only it turns out that, best anyone can tell, no one was prevented from voting and even prominent conservatives who openly dislike Obama are saying there’s no there there.

So, contrary to my earlier assertion, I guess Attorney General Eric Holder doesn’t have any explaining to do, at least on this subject.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 8:15 pm

Risk assessment

John Hussman, via Zero Hedge:

While there are about 3,800 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, only about 130 deep water projects have been completed, compared with just 17 a decade ago. So in 10 years, applying a new technology, we’ve had one major oil spill thus far. Unless there is some a priori reason to assume that the technology is pristine, despite the fact that it has failed spectacularly, the first back-of-the-envelope estimate a statistician would make would be to model deep water oil spills as a “Poisson process.” Poisson processes are often used to model things that arrive randomly, like customers in a checkout line, or insurance claims across unrelated policy holders. Given one major oil spill in 10 years, you probably wouldn’t be way off the mark using an average “arrival frequency” of 0.10 annually.

From that perspective, a simple Poisson estimate would suggest a 90.5% probability that we will see no additional major oil spills from deep water rigs over the coming year, dropping to a 36.8% chance that we’ll see no additional major oil spills from deep water rigs over the coming decade. Moreover, you’d put a 36.8% chance on having exactly one more major spill in the coming decade, an 18.4% chance on having two major spills, a 6.1% chance of having three major spills, and a 1.9% chance of having four or more major spills in the coming decade. This is quite a bit of inference from a small amount of data, but catastrophes contain a great deal of information when the “prior” is that catastrophes are simply not possible.

It’s not clear even from the context what significant growth in the number of deep-water projects would do to those odds, but common sense suggests that risk increases with the number of projects.

Last week, Steve Pearlstein at The Washington Post talked about risk and government’s role in its management:

The big flaw in the business critique of regulation is not so much that it overstates the costs, but that it understates its benefits — in particular, the benefits of avoiding low-probability events with disastrous consequences. Think of oil spills, mine explosions, financial meltdowns or even global warming. There is a natural tendency of human beings to underestimate the odds of such seemingly unlikely events — of forgetting that the 100-year flood is as likely to happen in Year 5 as it is in Year 95. And if there are insufficient data to calculate the probability of a very bad outcome, as is often the case, that doesn’t mean we should assume the probability is zero.

Another challenge in thinking about regulation is that any meaningful analysis has to go beyond merely toting up the costs and benefits to a consideration of how those costs and benefits are distributed. Regulations limiting derivatives trading, for example, may add costs or reduce profit for a bank or its corporate customers every year, but the benefits of that regulation would mostly accrue to taxpayers and the economy as a whole if it saves them from the occasional financial crisis that requires a bailout or triggers a recession. From the banks’ standpoint, such a regulation may well seem like a bad idea, but for society as a whole it would be a winner.

UPDATE: David Leonhardt at the NYT also has a good piece on this issue:

For all the criticism BP executives may deserve, they are far from the only people to struggle with such low-probability, high-cost events. Nearly everyone does. “These are precisely the kinds of events that are hard for us as humans to get our hands around and react to rationally,” Robert N. Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard, says. We make two basic — and opposite — types of mistakes. When an event is difficult to imagine, we tend to underestimate its likelihood. This is the proverbial black swan. Most of the people running Deepwater Horizon probably never had a rig explode on them. So they assumed it would not happen, at least not to them.

Similarly, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan liked to argue, not so long ago, that the national real estate market was not in a bubble because it had never been in one before. Wall Street traders took the same view and built mathematical models that did not allow for the possibility that house prices would decline. And many home buyers signed up for unaffordable mortgages, believing they could refinance or sell the house once its price rose. That’s what house prices did, it seemed.

On the other hand, when an unlikely event is all too easy to imagine, we often go in the opposite direction and overestimate the odds. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans canceled plane trips and took to the road. There were no terrorist attacks in this country in 2002, yet the additional driving apparently led to an increase in traffic fatalities.

When the stakes are high enough, it falls to government to help its citizens avoid these entirely human errors. The market, left to its own devices, often cannot do so. Yet in the case of Deepwater Horizon, government policy actually went the other way. It encouraged BP to underestimate the odds of a catastrophe.

Friday, May 7, 2010 11:23 pm

Events. Patterns. Systems.

OK, we know the recent economic collapse was due in significant part to inadequate regulation and government oversight. We know that the Deepwater Horizon disaster now erupting in the Gulf of Mexico was due in significant part to inadequate regulation and government oversight. And we now have a reasonable basis for believing that our environment’s role in causing human cancers has been badly underestimated — again, in significant part because of inadequate regulation and government oversight:

The prevailing regulatory approach in the United States is reactionary rather than precautionary. That is, instead of taking preventive action when uncertainty exists about the potential harm a chemical or other environmental contaminant may cause, a hazard must be incontrovertibly demonstrated before action to ameliorate it is initiated. Moreover, instead of requiring industry or other proponents of specific chemicals, devices, or activities to prove their safety, the public bears the burden of proving that a given environmental exposure is harmful. Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety.

U.S. regulation of environmental contaminants is rendered ineffective by five major problems: (1) inadequate funding and insufficient staffing, (2) fragmented and overlapping authorities coupled with uneven and decentralized enforcement, (3) excessive regulatory complexity, (4) weak laws and regulations, and (5) undue industry influence. Too often, these factors, either singly or in combination, result in agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.

(I should point out that while items 3 and 4 may appear contradictory, a law or regulation can be weak because it is excessively complex and therefore difficult for enforcers to understand).

The report goes into detail about a variety of environmental factors that lead to cancer (including some in the field of medicine), but unless I missed it, it doesn’t come right out and say the obvious: Preventing cancers caused in this way would be a helluva lot easier and cheaper than treating them, just as the cheapest, easiest way to “treat” lung cancer is never to start smoking. But because our legislators are bought-and-paid-for whores of industry, we keep getting cancers, we keep dying, and industry keeps profiting from all the dead people and the pain and grief of their survivors.

I suppose it’s relevant in this context to mention that we’re in the process of dumping, both on the surface and a mile under the ocean, chemical dispersants to try to deal with the oil eruption from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. These chemicals, whose composition is a trade secret, have not been tested on human beings. But here’s what we do know about them:

OSHA requires companies to make Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDSs, available for any hazardous substances used in a workplace, and the ones for these dispersants both contain versions of a disturbing statement. 9500’s states that “Component substances have a potential to bioconcentrate,” while the one for 9527A has the slightly more comforting, “Component substances have a low potential to bioconcentrate.”

This is not what you want to hear about toxins being dumped in the sea by the hundreds of thousands of gallons. The EPA defines bioconcentration as the “accumulation of a chemical in tissues of a fish or other organism to levels greater than in the surrounding medium.” In other words, substances that bioconcentrate tend to move from water into fish, where they can do damage to the fish itself, as well as be passed on to predator fish — and on up the food chain, to human eaters.

And just how toxic is this stuff? The data sheets for both products contain this shocker: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product” — meaning testing their safety for humans.

Well, that’s good, then.

And the bigger picture yet is this: We’ve tried deregulating things in a big way now for about the past 30 years. Is anyone seriously arguing that the airline industry is in better shape now than 30 years ago? The financial system? Commercial radio?

And what about you? Are you better off for the changes to these industries?

Monday, April 26, 2010 8:38 pm

Climate change: Making a decision amid uncertainty

For the record, my views haven’t changed …

… I’m just suggesting there’s a way to proceed that acknowledges the level of uncertainty, even if the real level is lower than the apparent level.

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