Saturday: A Grab Bag For Your Reading Pleasure

in other news2

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the State Department released its report on the Keystone XL Pipeline, apparently giving it their seal of approval. The original NYT headline on their story by John Broder was “A 2000-Page Lubricant for Keystone XL.” At some point it was changed to “Report May Ease Path for New Pipeline.” I guess the first was was a little too graphic for the Gray Lady, but the two combined sound even more lewd–or is is just me? Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

The State Department issued a revised environmental impact statement for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline on Friday that makes no recommendation about whether the project should be built but presents no conclusive environmental reason it should not be.

The 2,000-page document also makes no statement on whether the pipeline is in the United States’ economic and energy interests, a determination to be made later this year by President Obama.

But it will certainly add a new element to the already robust climate change and energy debate around the $7 billion proposed project. The new report does not make any policy recommendations, but its conclusion that the environmental and climate change impacts are manageable could provide Mr. Obama political cover if he decides to approve the pipeline.

Although the study will help guide the president’s decision, it does not make the politics any easier. Environmental advocates and landowners along the route have mounted spirited protests against the project, including a large demonstration in Washington last month. They say they view Keystone as a test of Mr. Obama’s seriousness about addressing global warming.

And of course, as Broder points out, “the pressure from industry, the Canadian government, most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, local officials and union leaders” is also intense.

Are you getting the feeling this is a done deal? Isn’t John Kerry supposed to be an environmentalist?

The “sequester” cuts have begun, and guess who has an op-ed in the NYT about it? Brace yourself.

Singing the Sequester Soap Opera, by Joe Scarborough. I’ll skip the fake-poetic introductory paragraphs {Gag} … go to the link and read them if you desire. Actually, all the paragraphs are over-the-top, IMO. Joe’s point seems to be that Obama “overplayed his hand”

Americans who endured the grimmest warnings from President Obama and his administration need not fear that the cuts will jeopardize military readiness; limit our nation’s ability to forecast hurricanes; compromise food safety; lead to outbreaks of E. coli; undermine airport security; and cause older Americans to go hungry.

The Republicans have won this round, according to “Morning Joe,” because no one is going to feel any pain whatsoever.

…this year’s reductions will not do great damage to domestic and defense programs. Congress will have $85 billion less to spend this year, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the actual cuts implemented this year will amount to only $42 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget. That means that politicians will have to cut a little more than a penny out of every dollar that it spends this year.

Does Mr. Obama really want to claim that his administration, which has added $6 trillion to the national debt, is unable to save a penny out of every dollar it spends? Does he really expect Americans to believe — after four years, the banking and auto bailouts, several stimulus bills and a run of record deficits — that our $16 trillion economy cannot absorb $42 billion of spending reductions?

Good to know, Joe. Thanks for that comforting message. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if your predictions are accurate.

Oddly, WBUR in Boston is reporting that thousands of Federal workers in the city are facing furloughs:

Thousands of people work in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building at Boston’s Government Center. It’s actually twin 26-story buildings. On Thursday, the word “sequester” seemed to be on the lips of federal employees going in and out. Bethany Seed said she’s not looking forward to Monday, when she might be handed a furlough notice.

“For me, personally, a furlough would be a problem because I’d still be paying for full-time child care,” Seed said. “And I’d be losing my pay from work. So it’s not something I would like to see happen.”

Seed is an economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. When you hear things like jobless numbers, she works on those statistics. Her boss — not her director supervisor, but way up the chain — is Seth Harris, the acting U.S. labor secretary, who was visiting Boston Thursday.

“Unfortunately, a sizable number of my workers are going to be subject to furloughs,” Harris said. “It’s going to vary from agency to agency across the department. We’re going to lose about six days of work from our employees on average. That’s a big loss.”

But Seed can now breathe a sigh of relief, because “Morning Joe” has decreed that no one will be hurt by the “sequester” cuts. Or did he only me no one who is important to him will be hurt? Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

In contrast to Know-Nothing Joe Scarborough, Bob Cesca seems to know a little bit about the issues–at least this piece at HuffPo made sense to me: The Sequestration Fight Is Based on Lies and Stupidity. Here’s the introduction; if it grabs you too, please read the whole thing at the link.

As a political writer, being outraged by certain issues and policies is like rocket fuel. I’m not an angry guy by nature, but there’s a universe of things in politics that anger me and, combined with an almost involuntary drive to seek and disseminate the truth, I’m never really at a loss for topics to cover.

But the sequestration issue has been one of those rare items that frustrate me to the point of being incapable of spending time on it. When I read about sequestration, my brain seizes. The stupidity of it all simply confounds me to the point of being speechless. For me, this is a shocking and rare predicament.

It’s not even the chronic brinksmanship — the reoccurring doomsday countdowns and the Republican-manifested economic sabotage that’s behind it all. It’s not the Keynesian in me who opposes the very notion of deficit reduction during a sluggish recovery. Granted, these are both points of irritation, but the characteristic of the sequester that ought to force us all into complete apoplexy and subsequent outrage-induced catatonia is the epidemic of ignorance regarding the status of the federal budget deficit.

This post by David Atkins at Hullabaloo is also well worth a look: Alternate Universe Land.

Sinkholes and a Missing Governor

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Florida man who disappeared into a sinkhole. This morning NPR (via AP0 reported:

Engineers worked gingerly to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.

Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy.

Engineers were expected at the home to do more tests after sunrise Saturday. They spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.

“I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet,” Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a “very large, very fluid mass.”

Apparently sinkholes are endemic in Florida, so much so that homeowners must have insurance for the possibility that their home may be sitting on one.

“You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese,” Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. “Any house in Florida could be in that same situation.”

A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state’s environmental agency.

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Yikes! So…what about that sinkhole near New Orleans then? Residents angry as Assumption sinkhole keeps growing

BAYOU CORNE, La. — The Assumption Parish sinkhole is a lot like a living, breathing thing. More than 200 days after it mysteriously started swallowing up the swamp, hundreds of residents are still under a mandatory evacuation order.

Geophysicists say the cavern that caused the sinkhole at the surface is still collapsing, leaving Bayou Corne residents wondering if there will ever be an end in sight….Geophyisicists [sic] now say the western side of one of the brine caverns is collapsing, filling in from deep in the Earth, causing the sinkhole at the surface to expand and contract.

Former residents of the area would like some answers.

Many of the ones they keep getting are conflicting and confusing, especially from the state and the company that once mined the collapsing salt cavern Texas Brine.

“The cause of the sinkhole is the subject of pending litigation. At this point, I don’t think it’s proper to have any discussion about what the cause is and whether we accept what anyone has said regarding the cause of the sinkhole,” Troy Charpentier, an attorney for Texas Brine, told the committee.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources flat-out testified at the same hearing, “The cavern collapse led to the sinkhole and created a path for the natural gas to come to the surface.”
But Secretary Stephen Chustz slipped out a backdoor, with his press secretary only offering an interview with himself after the hearing without giving us the chance to ask him any questions.

Hmmmmm… What about the governor then?

From David J. Mitchell at the Baton Rouge Advocate: Inside Report: Sinkhole critics: O, Governor, where art thou?

For months now, a vocal group of activists and residents has found fault with Gov. Bobby Jindal over his absence from the scene of the Bayou Corne sinkhole.

Why, they ask, has he not made the commonly seen leadership visit to a disaster area that, while brief, boosts morale and provides hope?

Sinkhole activist John Achee Jr., a regular critic of Jindal and state government’s handling of the sinkhole and salt dome regulation, leveled this complaint again during a Feb. 19 joint hearing of the House and Senate committees on Natural Resources.

He called Jindal’s absence “disheartening” and “very concerning.”

Jindal’s office issued a response, saying that the good governor gets updates on what’s happening and that he thinks “abundant resources” have already been provided. Translation: “I couldn’t possibly care less, so f&ck off, loser!”

Odd and Ends

I just had to share this story from Gawker about a nervous mom and her fight to find out where her son had got off to: World’s Most Embarrassing Mom Makes Peruvian Government Hunt Down Her Son When He Stops Posting on Facebook. I have to say I’m much more sympathetic to the mom than Gawker is. I think someday the young man will grow older and wiser and will look back and understand how much his mom loves him. I’d much rather have a mom like that than one who doesn’t worry when I disappear into the wilderness for months.

I’m running short on space, so I’ll end with this oldie-but-goodie from 1996 by the great Joan Didion at The New York Review of Books, in which she ripped Bob Woodward and his clunky writing from stem to stern: The Deferential Spirit. It’s long, but please go read it–even if you read it back in 1996. It’s priceless!

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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35 Comments on “Saturday: A Grab Bag For Your Reading Pleasure”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have you heard about this one about media whores, I mean journalists?

    Covert Malaysian Campaign Touched A Wide Range Of American Media

    A range of mainstream American publications printed paid propaganda for the government of Malaysia, much of it focused on the campaign against a pro-democracy figure there.
    The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

    • dakinikat says:

      I think they were caught doing something similar not too long ago. Trying to remember who for … but basically that is also par for any of them that write for climate change denying think tanks

    • RalphB says:

      A take on those “writers”…

      booman: Remember Online Integrity?

      Joshua Treviño co-founded Red State. For a while he even teamed up with Armando LLorens of Daily Kos on a now (pretty much) defunct project called Swords Crossed. He wrote speeches for the George W. Bush administration. He used to be known by the pseudonym Tacitus, in honor of the legendary 1st and 2nd-Century Roman historian of the same name.

      If you’ve been around the blogosphere for long enough, you probably remember Tacitus-Treviño. You may even remember that he pioneered something called Online Integrity, but almost all direct (linkable) evidence of it has been converted to porn sites or Chinese spam. Much like it is necessary to read Origen if you want to read Celsus, it is necessary to use secondary sources like Thers if you want to remember Online Integrity. In any case, the long and short of it was that Tacitus did things like “coquettishly” let slip Billmon’s last name, then call all such behavior monstrous and then shove petitions to ban all such behavior in the faces of bloggers like Chris Bowers. Of course, if you want to read about that, you must rely on another secondary source (this time, HTML Mencken). It seems as if 2006 was covered in volcanic ash or suffered some other catastrophe favored by the ancients.

      Shilling for an oppressive anti-Democratic government after asking bloggers to have some integrity? That’s pretty rich. And who were his co-consprirators?

      Trevino’s subcontractors included conservative writer Ben Domenech, who made $36,000 from the arrangement, and Rachel Ehrenfeld, the director of the American Center for Democracy, who made $30,000. Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary, made $5,500 (his byline is attached to the National Review item linked to above). Brad Jackson, writing at the time for RedState, made $24,700. Overall, 10 writers were part of the arrangement.

      You might remember Ben Domenech. He’s another co-founder of Red State, who the Washington Post actually hired to blog for them (as some kind of balance for the great Dan Froomkin) but who had to resign after three days because he’s a plagiarist.

      All this time I thought the Wingnut Welfare rightwing bloggers rely on was coming from rich white dudes in America. Why would Muslim autocrats pay the editor of Commentary?

      Oh, who the fuck cares?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Joe Weisenthal: An Economic Tragedy That Everyone Saw Coming Is Now Unfolding In Europe…

    Joe Scarborough should get someone to read this to him.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    This made me smile: 22 Babies Who Discovered Selfies

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I can’t resist one little quote from the Joan Didion piece (link toward end of post).

    What seems most remarkable in this new Woodward book is exactly what seemed remarkable in the previous Woodward books, each of which was presented as the insiders’ inside story and each of which went on to become a number-one bestseller: these are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent.

    • purplefinn says:

      Also this, “In any real sense, these books are “about” nothing but the author’s own method, which is not, on the face of it, markedly different from other people’s.”

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    The report on Keystone didn’t surprise me. Not that I’m psychic, but I’ve believed since before the election that Obama would approve Keystone. Without a doubt, Romney definitely would have done so. Comments on the report are being accepted for the next 45 days – there’s always a comment period following environmental proposals like these. I personally don’t know of any that have been reversed by the overwhelming comments. Lawsuits are usually the only chance to prevent stupid environmental decisions made by state & federal biostitutes (biologists who write what they’re paid to write). Anyway, although this piece is over a year old, ya’ll might want to read about the after effects of a major tar sands pipeline disaster: http://www.onearth.org/article/tar-sands-oil-plagues-a-michigan-community

    Sinkholes are relatively common in central Florida. The one you mentioned from 1981 was the biggest in my memory. Here’s a video of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVRZSvhsK3s That road in front of the businesses is still there & carries lots of traffic everyday. Part of the reason for sinkholes occurring is the drawing down of our underground aquifer. Lower rainfall, increased population & therefore increased water usage and drawing water from our natural springs contributes to the collapse of the limestone base which is much like swiss cheese. When underground water levels are stable & high, it keeps the limestone from caving in.

    And, yes, I agree – the sequester isn’t going to hurt the people that actually count, it’s only going to hurt real, everyday, average people who really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The 1% can “bet” their investments on the unstable economy – buying at low prices or selling now before stocks of companies that will be hurt start to fall. No doubt it will an investor’s bonanza. No pain for the public, no gain for the investor. They profit from suffering.

  6. RalphB says:

    Paul Krugman’s great take on governors expanding Medicaid via Obamacare’s private model.

    Welfare for the Medical-Industrial Complex

    • NW Luna says:

      Oh, I guess you might believe that the relevant politicians sincerely believe that the magic of the [healthcare insurance] market will somehow lower costs, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and that rewarding their friends has nothing to do with it. Hey, I have this bridge to sell you.

      So true.

  7. RalphB says:

    Paul Krugman: The Immorality of the Interest Rate Hawks

    Business Insider reports on a Bloomberg TV interview with hedge fund legend Stan Druckenmiller that helped crystallize in my mind what, exactly, I find so appalling about people who say that we must tighten monetary policy to avoid bubbles — even in the face of high unemployment and low inflation.

    Think about that: he’s saying that ordinary workers and families who have nothing to do with financial speculation should suffer severely — because that’s what happens in a recession — in order to curb the irrational exuberance of a handful of incredibly well-paid financial industry types. This is as opposed to, just to make a wild suggestion, actually regulating financial markets the way we used to, giving rise to a half-century without major financial bubbles.

    Bear in mind that this is what everyone saying that we should tighten monetary policy now because of bubbles is really saying: that ordinary Americans should lose their jobs because otherwise the boys on Wall Street, bless their hearts, might get a bit overexcited.

    The ugliness is awesome.

    These Wall St hedge fund assholes are fucking outrageous!

  8. NW Luna says:

    The University of Washington receives more public research dollars than any other public university in the country. And if the federal sequester goes into effect Friday, it may also have more to lose. ….

    UW analysts believe that under the terms of the sequester, the university could lose about $83 million. ….

    If the cuts are permanent, UW geneticist Jay Shendure — whose lab developed a safer alternative to amniocentesis for fetal gene testing — expects to have to reduce his lab staff by two or three people, out of a total 26. “These grants are the bread and butter of the science we do,” he said.

    Yup, Congress values the U.S.’s leadership role in the sciences!

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Illinois lawmaker comes right out and says it: Gun control is like castration.

  10. jawbone says:

    Obama clearly stating he’s going after “entitlements” during his sequester press conference, How to Sound like Republican and Still Try to Fool the Electorate:

    The problem that we have is a long-term problem in terms of our health care costs and programs like Medicare. And what I’ve said very specifically, very detailed is that I’m prepared to take on the problem where it exists — on entitlements — and do some things that my own party really doesn’t like — if it’s part of a broader package of sensible deficit reduction. So the deal that I’ve put forward over the last two years, the deal that I put forward as recently as December is still on the table. I am prepared to do hard things and to push my Democratic friends to do hard things.

    The only time Obama talked about protecting SocSec and Medicare was before important elections, usually his own. He is not loud and proud about going after “entitlements,” the earned benefits of almost all US workers.

    This is his main goal for the rest of his presidency. He will never stop working to set up crises which he thinks will allow him to cut the earned benefits of miliions and millions and millions in this nation.

    Brave, brave Obomber — going after the poor and elderly, Along with whistleblowers who let the public know about government or approved Bid Bidness wrongdoing. Going after civil liberties. What a pseudoDem.

    Via SusieMadrak

    (Sorry if this is a repeat.).

    • jawbone says:

      TYpo — He is NOW loud and proud aboutafter “entitlements.”:

      As he was in July of 2007, when Krugman tried to warn all Dems and all concerned citizens. Ignored by those swept up in Obama Mania.

    • NW Luna says:

      The problem that we have is a long-term problem in terms of our health care costs and programs like Medicare.

      Mr. President, the problem is the insurance companies.

  11. RalphB says:

    TPM: CA GOPer: Pregnancy From Rape Rare Because Body Is ‘Traumatized’

    In criticizing controversial comments made by former Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, a California GOP leader ceded Friday that pregnancies by rape are rare “because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized.”

    “That was an insensitive remark,” Celeste Greig told the Daily Democrat. “I’m sure he regretted it. He should have come back and apologized.”

    Greig is president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, a GOP volunteer organization that Ronald Reagan coincidentally once called “the conscience of the Republican Party.”

    However, in shades of Akin, Greig then added: “Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized. I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”

    These Repubs just can’t help themselves, even when they are trying not to do it. Sheesh.

  12. RalphB says:

    Warren Buffett chides ‘hand wringing’ bosses in shareholders letter

    Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire investment guru says he is looking for more American acquisitions and others should do the same

    Billionaire investor Warren Buffett admonished “hand wringing” bosses on Friday for failing to have faith in the US economy.

    In his annual letter to shareholders. Buffett, chairman of the Berkshire Hathaway investment fund, wrote there was “a lot of hand-wringing last year among CEOs who cried ‘uncertainty’ when faced with capital allocation decisions”.

    This caution came even though many of their businesses enjoyed record levels of both earnings and cash last year, he added.

    “At Berkshire, we didn’t share their fears, instead spending a record $9.8bn (£6.5bn) on plant and equipment in 2012, about 88% of it in the United States. That’s 19% more than we spent in 2011, our previous high.

    “Charlie [Munger, his long-time business partner] and I love investing large sums in worthwhile projects, whatever the pundits are saying. We instead heed the words from Gary Allan’s new country song, Every Storm Runs Out of Rain.”

    He added: “Opportunities abound in America. A thought for my fellow CEOs: Of course, the immediate future is uncertain; America has faced the unknown since 1776.”

    F’ck yeah!

  13. The original NYT headline on their story by John Broder was “A 2000-Page Lubricant for Keystone XL.” At some point it was changed to “Report May Ease Path for New Pipeline.” I guess the first was was a little too graphic for the Gray Lady, but the two combined sound even more lewd–or is is just me?

    Well, either way we are all screwed.