Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, October 11, 2010 8:49 pm

Alone among the world’s nations …

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:49 pm
Tags: ,

in its levels of Teh Stoopid:

Just for the record, when the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the data this spring, it concluded: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.” Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action.

Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is “no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of.”

It will be difficult for the world to move meaningfully against climate disruption if the United States does not. And it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to act if one party not only rejects the most common solution proposed for the problem (cap-and-trade) but repudiates even the idea that there is a problem to be solved. The GOP’s stiffening rejection of climate science sets the stage for much heated argument but little action as the world inexorably warms — and the dangers that Hague identified creep closer.

Are Americans taking this position because we’re stupider than people of other countries? No, although our educational system does suck in ways large and small.

No, Americans, and in particular the Republican Party, are taking this position because their corporate benefactors have rigged the system. Corporations are buying public policy that is directly counter to the best long-term interests of Americans and residents of this planet generally, and our dysfunctional political system is too far gone to stop it.




Thursday, May 27, 2010 8:44 pm

What a government drowned in a bathtub (full of oil) looks like

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:44 pm

Dave Johnson at HuffPo:

People want to know why the government can’t do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.

The answer, these days, is always, “Government doesn’t have the resources.” And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.

See, here’s the thing. Our politicians have talked a lot over the years about taxes this and spending that and deficit the other, but we’ve never had an intelligent national conversation about what we want government to be able to do, in what order or priority, and how much each of these things would cost to do correctly and how we’re going to raise that money fairly and effectively.

This is not our only problem. Thirty years of “free market” this and “deregulation” that have left us with a governmental regulatory structure so dessicated that apparently lots of people thought it was fine to accept gifts from the people they’re supposed to be regulating. Rather than have the stones to say, “We don’t believe government should regulate offshore oil drilling at all!” (for example), most of our politicians — of both parties — have been content to take corporate money and look the other way, if not actually cheer, when corporations captured those in the executive branch who were supposed to be regulating them.

Well, why is that bad? Because we’re supposed to be a self-governing country, and self-government requires, well, government. And events of recent years have made abundantly clear that the government we have is inadequate to the tasks it faces.

We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.

And if you think that was an accident, you’re even crazier than the birthers. Because we’ve known otherwise for almost 30 years.

UPDATE: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, 2nd verse same as the first:

“Deregulation” is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren’t issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.

But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions.

And having sacked the executive and legislative branches, McClatchy (bless ’em) reports, BP and other corporations are going for the trifecta:

Facing more than 100 lawsuits after its Gulf of Mexico oil spill killed 11 workers and threatened four coastal states, oil giant BP is asking the courts to place every pre-trial issue in the hands of a single federal judge in Houston.

That judge, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.

Hughes has also collected royalties from several energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy, from investments in mineral rights, his financial disclosure forms show.

Friday, February 12, 2010 11:17 pm

Regulatory capture = dead people

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 11:17 pm
Tags: ,

“Regulatory capture” refers to the phenomenon in which a government agency that ostensibly regulates an industry or profession is in fact controlled by that industry/profession. One of the ways in which industries/professions capture their regulators is by hiring people away from the government agencies, often at multiples of their government salaries. The idea is that the private concern benefits by hiring people who know how a regulatory agency works but also know its weak points and pressure points, and who have relationships with the colleagues they left behind that may buy their new employer some wiggle room on regulatory issues or the strength/speed of enforcement thereof.

This is a matter of particular concern at the moment because of the 19 (at current count) people who have died in mishaps caused by sticking accelerators in Toyotas. It would seem that erstwhile government regulators hired by Toyota have been meddling for quite a while in government efforts that might have prevented those deaths:

Former regulators hired by Toyota Motor Corp. helped end at least four U.S. investigations of unintended acceleration by company vehicles in the last decade, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show.

Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota’s Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA, Tinto in 1994 and Santucci in 2003.

While all automakers have employees who handle NHTSA issues, Toyota may be alone among the major companies in employing former agency staffers to do so. Spokesmen for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. all say their companies have no ex-NHTSA people who deal with the agency on defects.

Possible links between Toyota and NHTSA may fuel mounting criticism of their handling of defects in Toyota and Lexus models tied to 19 deaths between 2004 and 2009. Three congressional committees have scheduled hearings on the recalls.

Well, it’s nice that Congress is scheduling hearings on the recalls, but what needs to happen is hearings on the phenomenon of regulatory capture. How many people are dead prematurely or maimed because of it, in incidents ranging from stuck car accelerators to food poisoning to workplace mishaps? How much is it costing taxpayers/consumers? How might we prevent it?

But since corporations will be paying for political campaigns from here on out, and American journalism has been weakened by its corporate ownership when it isn’t weakening itself by buying into demonstrably false narratives on the virtues of a “free” market, don’t count on those questions being asked — by Congress or anyone else in a position of responsbility.

And if your Toyota’s accelerator sticks, you are on your own. So if that happens, depress the clutch pedal if you have one, or else shift into neutral, and coast/brake to a stop in as safe a place as you can find. Set your parking brake. Turn off your engine. Turn on your 4-way flashers. And then utter a silent prayer of thanks unto God that corporations are people, too.

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