Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, August 29, 2013 7:24 pm

Also from Texas, news analysis …

Filed under: Fun,Journalism — Lex @ 7:24 pm
Tags: , ,

… courtesy of Juanita Jean, who, if she keeps up, is going to start getting mentioned in the same breath with Molly Ivins:

With Jon Stewart gone for the summer, Fox News has stepped up to fill the humor void.

This week, they had on an “expert” doctor who explained that gender bias in health care costs is not only legitimate, it is fair.  He said that women should have high health care costs because we have ta-tas, ovaries, and all manner of mysterious stuff going on inside us.

Men don’t have that messy stuff.  Men “only have the prostate,” he said.  Well, that does kinda explain why they are so freekin’ stupid.  You know, lacking a brain and all.  They are just one giant prostate walking around wearing socks with sandals.

I don’t know about you, but I find this notion even funnier than the giant, inflamed gall bladder walking around that I dreamed about last week while under the influence of Percocet and Trazadone after having my own gall bladder removed. And now that I’m healing up, that’s pretty damn funny.

Because you looked too damn secure for my taste, chemical explosions edition

Apparently the Dallas Morning News, bless it, is not dead yet:

Even the best national data on chemical accidents is wrong nine times out of 10.

Dallas Morning News analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West that killed 15 people and injured more than 300.

In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information.

As a result, the kind of data sharing ordered by President Barack Obama in response to West is unlikely to improve the government’s ability to answer even the most basic questions about chemical safety.

“We can track Gross National Product to the second and third decimal, but there is no reliable way of tracking even simple things like how many [chemical] accidents happen,” said Sam Mannan, a nationally recognized expert on chemical safety who recently testified before a congressional hearing on West.

“This is just scandalous.”

h/t Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money, who adds, quite accurately:

Let’s be clear, this is intentional. Corporations don’t want you to know where things are produced or under what conditions. Business has ensured that the relevant government agencies that could effectively track this information remain chronically underfunded. We can blame government and there’s no question that it isn’t enough of a priority for either political party. But one party is opposed to the sheer existence of these agencies and that makes it awfully hard to craft an effective regulatory system.

To put it even more bluntly, the operators of these chemical plants don’t give two hoots in hell whether you live or die, because they don’t have to: If you die, your death is just a tax-deductible cost of doing business for them — if it costs them anything at all. And this degree of lethality will continue as long as corporations are allowed any say, direct or financial, in how we are governed. There’s a word for it, and all the Tea Partiers in the world to the contrary, that word is not “socialism.”

 

Monday, August 26, 2013 6:41 pm

Things fall apart, or, Does anybody really know what time it is?

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

At one point this morning, my cell-phone clock was five minutes behind my office computer clock, which in turn was six minutes behind my office phone clock. Each of these devices is part of an Internet-connected network, so they should, at least in theory, be running on more or less the same time. Certainly there shouldn’t be an 11-minute spread. That’s enough of a spread for mischief to happen. And I am not in the mood today for mischief (at least, not of my own making). So attention, all electronic devices: Get your lies straight. There is no room in my calendar this week for addressing a rift in the space-time continuum, even if I use that rift to try to do so.

Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:17 pm

Friday Random 10, Recuperation Thursday edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10,Housekeeping — Lex @ 12:17 pm
Tags: ,

Guns N’ Roses – “You’re Crazy”

Motors – “Forget About You”

Tallest Man on Earth – “Thousand Ways”

Melissa Etheridge – “Talking to My Angel”

Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ – “Ain’t It Strange”

Neil Young – “Vampire Blues”

Nirvana – “Stay Away”

2 Cellos – “With or Without You”

Bob Dylan – “Girl from the North Country”

Warren Zevon – “Heartache Spoken Here”

lagniappe: Vaselines – “Dum-Dum”

For them as has not heard, I unexpectedly had my gall bladder removed last Friday evening. It went uneventfully — a stone had blocked the duct, the organ was already somewhat inflamed, but we caught it early and now it’s dealt with, I went home from the hospital Sunday morning, and now, although my energy level isn’t great, I’m mostly pain-free. I’m planning to return to the office tomorrow. I’m banned from lifting much or physical exertion, although it’s OK for me to walk (and I’m doing so).

Word gets around, so I’ve already heard from a few of you. Thank you for your kind words of support.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:10 pm

Foreseeable harm, Spanish edition

This is why you don’t try to balance your national budget when unemployment is 25%.

Before the 2008 crash, Spain was running a surplus, news that too frequently comes as a surprise to austerians. But it, like many other countries, was experiencing a housing bubble. That bubble was caused by many of the same bankers who are now insisting that Spain “take its medicine.” What should happen instead is that those bankers should take their medicine, including an outright scalping on their bond holdings. The Spanish people didn’t cause this problem, and visiting unnecessary pain and poverty on Spaniards will not get Spain out of this problem. If both economics and history are any guide, it’s more likely to lead to bankers dangling from lampposts than to economic prosperity in Spain. But nobody, not even bankers, believes that bankers act in their own best long-term interests all the time, mainly because they don’t. So here we are. Well, here the Spaniards are. And if the Republicans got their way, here we would be as well.

Monday, August 12, 2013 6:16 pm

Quote of the day, newspaper-industry edition:

Charlie Pierce:

Nobody, I assure you, knows anything. They’re just bailing like hell, and people like [Washington Post buyer Jeff] Bezos and [Boston Globe buyer John] Henry are the newest, shiniest buckets.

In the case of the Post, I suppose it’s possible that Bezos will bring Amazon.com’s customer-service technical know-how to the business side in salutary ways. But the content side has problems you don’t have to be a technology entrepreneur to see: It’s too focused on the horse race at the expense of policy coverage, it’s too focused on inside-the-Beltway middle-school cat fights at the expense of the kind of policy reporting a national newspaper ought to strive to provide, and its op-ed page is, with a few honorable exceptions, staffed with hacks who are either flat wrong or else clinging to a world view that went out of style the day after the Berlin Wall fell. His best hope is to turn the Post into an online-first operation and then look for ways to phase out or kill the print edition, and even he seems in no hurry to do that.

As for Henry, it’s hard to see what he gets out of this besides (even more of) a megaphone for his Boston Red Sox. He’s paying 5% of what the New York Times paid for the Globe 20 years ago and no matter what he does, he’ll be lucky to sell at a profit in his remaining lifetime.

Julia Ioffee is my new blogging hero

I’ve not had much use for The New Republic ever since they published that crap that was reputed to have eviscerated Clinton’s health plan (and did nothing of the sort, not that I’m bitter), and to be honest, before today I don’t recall hearing of Julia Ioffee despite subscribing to The New Yorker, for which she spent time in Moscow. But — and speaking of evisceration — her takedown of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is one of the most righteously satisfying things I’ve read on a blog — or anywhere else, for that matter — since Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” If they ever find a way to turn this post into a movie, Morgan Freeman’s status as an icon may be in serious danger. Just go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:55 pm

Drug sentencing reduction: Everyone wins except Charles Grassley

When Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which was designed to reduce the disparities in sentencing between cases involving powder cocaine and cases involving crack, Sen. Charles “#deerstilldead” Grassley predicted nothing but gloom and doom:

Mr. Chairman, last year, we passed the Fair Sentencing Act.  That law reduced sentences for crack cocaine, and directed the Sentencing Commission to establish changes to the Guidelines.  The law applied prospectively only.

Now, however, the Sentencing Commission is considering applying its crack cocaine guidelines retroactively.  By its own calculations, the sentences of 12,000 inmates would be reduced.   

Most of these offenders are violent and likely to reoffend.  Although these offenders are now serving time for crack cocaine offenses, the vast majority have been convicted of serious crimes in the past.  

According to the Commission, nearly 30 percent have been convicted of a crime that involved the use of a weapon, and 15 percent have been convicted of a firearms crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence.

More than 70 percent of the eligible offenders under the Commission’s proposal have been convicted of multiple serious crimes.  Some of these individuals have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, aggravated armed robbery, rape, and other serious violent offenses.  Many committed serious crimes while on parole.   

If the Commission makes its guidelines retroactive, these are the kinds of people who will be turned loose, or released sooner.  This would represent a major threat to public safety.

If everything had been as Grassley said it was, then in all fairness he wouldn’t have sounded out of touch with reality. But it wasn’t, and he did:

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the vast disparity in the way the federal courts punish crack versus powder cocaine offenses. Instead of treating 100 grams of cocaine the same as 1 gram of crack for sentencing purposes, the law cut the ratio to 18 to 1. Initially, the law applied only to future offenders, but, a year later, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to apply it retroactively. Republicans raged, charging that crime would go up and that prisoners would overwhelm the courts with frivolous demands for sentence reductions. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said the commission was pursuing “a liberal agenda at all costs.”

This week, we began to learn that there are no costs, only benefits. According to a preliminary report released by the commission, more than 7,300 federal prisoners have had their sentences shortened under the law. The average reduction is 29 months, meaning that over all, offenders are serving roughly 16,000 years fewer than they otherwise would have. And since the federal government spends about $30,000 per year to house an inmate, this reduction alone is worth nearly half-a-billion dollars — big money for a Bureau of Prisons with a $7 billion budget. In addition, the commission found no significant difference in recidivism rates between those prisoners who were released early and those who served their full sentences. (emphasis added)

Cocaine is cocaine, and nonviolent offenders, particularly of the first-time variety, need treatment far more than they need prison. Until we wrap our heads around that, we will waste countless lives and tremendous amounts of money.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 6:50 pm

Quote of the Day, KY Senate race edition

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a likely Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on McConnell’s obstructionism, particularly overuse of the filibuster:

“Let’s tell it like it is. If the doctors told Sen. McConnell he had a kidney stone, he wouldn’t pass it.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013 9:14 am

Happy birthday to a great American …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 9:14 am

… my brother Hugh, who turns 50 today.

Friday, August 2, 2013 6:59 pm

Quote of the day, welfare-cuts edition

Filed under: Evil,I want my country back. — Lex @ 6:59 pm
Tags: , , ,

Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog, on  House GOP plans to double cuts in food stamps to $40 billion and impose new eligibility and drug-testing requirements for recipients:

If Ayn Rand were alive today, this is the sort of bill that would lead her to say, “Aren’t you guys overdoing it a bit?”

The original version of the bill would have cut $20 billion from food stamps, which is bad enough. But apparently the House GOP believes that poor people in America aren’t suffering enough, that they must endure even more pain. And then the whole drug-testing thing, which was actually tried in Florida and ended up costing more than it saved.

These people are psychopaths, and they must be stopped.

From beyond the grave, Doghouse Riley edition:

Riley, nee Douglas Case, proprietor of the blog Bats Left, Throws Right, died a few days ago at age 59:

The contemporary Republican party was born in 1964, not coincidentally the same year the Johnson administration decided that black people could have some rights. It’s the party of Bill Buckley’s racism, and of Pat Buchanan’s, as well as Steve King’s, of Carl McIntire’s religious mania and Pat Robertson’s, as well as Rick Santorum’s. It’s the party which wrapped every little adventurist foreign excursion from Korea to Iraq II in patriotic fervor, and which found it necessary to rewrite the history of every last one (excepting, maybe, the Glorious Liberation of Grenada); Nixon’s traitor hunt of 1946 was little different than Andrew Sullivan’s in 2001, and, no, he’s one of yours. No one with eyes and ears could possibly have missed this, apart, somehow, from the DLC and today’s tiny island leper colony of sadder-but-wiser centrists. …

Okay, sure: the Republican party has become increasingly dilatory and obtuse in the halls of power, but that’s not a change of the last four years. Had Republicans had the power in 1981 they would have dispensed with all the Reagan sainthood bullshit and just rammed through their radical agenda, instead of getting Democrats to agree to do it for them. And there’s no question this has been facilitated, both by a venal and cowardly Democratic party, and a venal and cowardly Press. But, really, enough of this stuff. I’m not gonna make common cause with Democrats, or rueful Republican centrists, who suddenly notice what the GOP has become, and expect a medal for saying so. The time to speak up was thirty years ago, when this stuff was just as plain, and was being covered by a transparent rewrite of unpleasant history, and a clear retrenchment on individual rights. Y’know, when Reaganism was the Wave of the Future the Republican platform had no more chance of actually governing than it does today. David Stockman was just as big a liar as Paul Ryan. I’m going to settle for having been right about this shit all along, and hope we don’t kill too many innocents when it all blows up. Don’t offer to help me shovel now. You’ve already done enough.

RIP.

Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:32 pm

Why do I oppose a surveillance state? Must be the money.

Because arguing constitutional principles, righteous as they are, is getting us nowhere, we’ll have to argue financial principles. But maybe this argument will succeed where others have failed. James Fallows, prompted by an essay by John Naughton in the Guardian, explains:

In short: because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet’s continued growth.

  • American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance;
  • American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet’s standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.

Why were U.S. authorities in a position to get at so much of the world’s digital data in the first place? Because so many of the world’s customers have trusted* U.S.-based firms like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc with their data; and because so many of the world’s nations have tolerated an info-infrastructure in which an outsized share of data flows at some point through U.S. systems. Those are the conditions of trust and toleration that likely will change.

The problem for the companies, it’s worth emphasizing, is not that they were so unduly eager to cooperate with U.S. government surveillance. Many seem to have done what they could to resist. The problem is what the U.S. government — first under Bush and Cheney, now under Obama and Biden — asked them to do. As long as they operate in U.S. territory and under U.S. laws, companies like Google or Facebook had no choice but to comply. But people around the world who have a choice about where to store their data, may understandably choose to avoid leaving it with companies subject to the way America now defines its security interests.

Other countries will refuse to do business with U.S. tech firms for the same reason they would if the U.S. were mixing corrosive chemicals in with its exported petroleum products: The product is tainted and will damage whoever/whatever uses it.

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