Mining With the Invisible Hand

This is what corporations do WITH regulations:

Massey Energy Co. could have prevented the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers last year and the company failed to disclose some hazards in reports it provided to government inspectors, federal safety officials said Wednesday.

Patricia Smith, the U.S. Labor Department’s top lawyer, said not recording hazards where required was a potential criminal violation of the Mine Act and “we have notified the U.S. attorney of that.”

The Justice Department’s probe of the accident is continuing, it said recently. Its investigation has so far resulted in a criminal indictment against the former head of safety at the Upper Big Branch mine for allegedly attempting to destroy evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.

The April 2010 explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., was the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years. It resulted in several wrongful-death lawsuits against Massey and led to the resignation of the company’s chief executive and the sale of Massey to Alpha Natural Resources Inc. of Abingdon, Va.

At a briefing Wednesday in Beaver, W.Va., Kevin Stricklin, coal administrator for mine safety and health at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said, “We found there to be two sets of books” kept by Massey.

Clearly if we got rid of these pesky regulations, corporations would do a better job managing themselves.

Open Thread: Thursday Garden Chat

From commentor WoodyNYC:

For years I’ve been working on a patch of land behind our summer shack in the Catskills, trying to make a low maintenance semi-deerproof rock garden. It’s all about rocks up there. A central feature is a bunch of rocks with thyme growing between them, and right now the thyme is blooming.


Another failure-to-photo week for me, so I stole WoodyNYC’s shots from Sunday’s comments. (Since I plant thyme in one or another part of my garden every May, only to have it die by July, I’m impressed!) As a partial excuse, we had 4 straight days of overcast-with-drizzle, which means my tomato plants are growing well & flowering prolifically but the miniscule fruits aren’t getting enough sun to swell up, much less ripen. The Sun Gold I was worried about last week came back and is looking good, but the Gold Nugget decided to wither & die — I like low-acid tomatoes, but I have to admit I have about a 40% fail rate with the yellow varieties.
When it comes to flowers, the early daylilies (hemerocallis) are now flowering prolifically… as are the few pansies I planted this spring. Weird year, for sure.
So… send me some jpgs, fellow gardeners… (Opie Jeanne, I’m looking at you, pleadingly)… and I hope to have more to share on Sunday, despite the holiday weekend.
Meanwhile, how are things in your neighborhood tonight?

education: the subject where you can just make shit up

I grow discouraged.

So here’s Liz Dwyer, education editor and blogger at, asserting that “Recent college grads still looking for full-time employment—or faced with the prospect of moving back home to live with mom and dad—are probably cursing their English and philosophy degrees.”

Totally. I mean, those fruity humanities degrees are probably worthless, right?

No! It’s not true! It’s just not true. If you actually bother to check the facts– if you aren’t just intuiting the world but instead check the facts– you’ll find that English and philosophy majors, like most people with bachelors degrees, are doing quite well. They are employed at far higher rates than the general public and earn far more than the general public. Dissatisfied grads are entitled to curse the world for failing to provide them everything they dreamed, but the facts tell us that as a group they are, in any reasonable context, in good shape.

What little evidence Dwyer has comes from Dwyer herself points out some of the problems with Payscale, but leaves out the biggie, which is that Payscale does not publish sample size. (If someone is giving you statistics but is keeping the sample size private, run away.) They don’t include people with advanced degrees, which severely discriminates against certain majors.  But even if we take Payscale’s own numbers at face value, mid-career English majors make $67,500 a year. Philosophy majors make $72,900 a year. The median household income in this country is $50,221.

Part of the problem with people’s understanding of employment and compensation is that people who went to college tend to assume everybody went to college. Less than 28% of Americans above 25 has a college degree. If you’re working for a (generally quite good, I think) publication like Good and you are surrounded all the time by other college graduates, you might look around you and say, pretty much everybody has a college degree, and boy, there’s so much unemployment. But the truth is, as much as we need a better job market across the board, the unemployment rate for college graduates is dramatically lower for people with a college degree– 5.4% for those with only BAs, 10.3% for those without.

The objective reality is that most English and philosophy majors are fine. Sure, there are plenty of outliers in that group who are looking for jobs, but averages and medians have to be our interest if we are considering public problems.  And what we find when we check the reality of the medians and averages is that worrying about college graduates of any major is to misplace our priorities. That’s what empiricism tells us. If Dwyer has tears to shed, she should shed them for the large majority of Americans who don’t have a bachelors degree.

I like Good a lot, most of the time, and I read Dwyer’s blog daily. But her job is to produce journalism about education. She has a responsibility to get it right. There’s no indication that she did anything for this post beyond what fifteen minutes of Googling would tell you. The post fits the typical, intuitive but entirely wrong narrative that college educated people often assume, that there’s this dramatic reduction in the employability of less “practical” majors. Paralegal and law studies strike me as an entirely practical major, but if Payscale’s numbers are accurate, they do far, far worse than English and philosophy majors.  (Of course, this also points to the absurdity of exempting those with advanced degrees, such as law degrees, from your sample.)

I don’t want to pick on Dwyer. But her readers are less informed than they were before she posted that, and it’s likely that the record will never be corrected in that space. (Does she care? Do her editors?) And it’s part and parcel with what strikes me as the number one biggest problem in blogging, the most glaring and consistent issue I have: bloggers mistaking their suppositions and deductions for the truth. Just because things make deductive or intuitive sense doesn’t mean that the are true. Understanding reality requires checking reality. There was a time when doing that was understood as what professional journalists do.

There’s just no accountability on the blogosphere, I’ve decided. If it doesn’t come from the individual bloggers, it just doesn’t exist. If you’ll excuse me, I need a beer.

Update: I wrote that those without BAs have an unemployment rate of 10.3%. That wording suggests I’m including those without high school diplomas, but such a figure would be far higher. I should have written that 10.3% is the rate for those with only a high school diploma.

Early Evening Open Thread – Soulwax Radio

A Musical Interlude in the Harem - Fabbio Fabbi (1861-1946)

Musically I’m all over the shop, my dears. In my 92 (almost 93!) years, I’ve seen and enjoyed the birth of almost every modern musical style that doesn’t involve catgut strings and dancing in a circle around a fire (and some that do). I’ll listen to just about anything, and if the musical experience can be enhanced with alcohol and/or drugs (and let’s face it, what isn’t?) then Grammy is a happy girl.

Today I’m excited about Radio Soulwax, a new and free website and Ipad/Iphone app from the gentlemen behind Soulwax, The Flying Dewaele Brothers and 2manydjs.

If you haven’t experienced them, their musical style is … um … somewhat like seven monkeys on a crack and acid bender being given access to a set of decks and a symphony orchestra.

Imagine that two mad Belgians locked dozens of hooks and lyrics and tunes from familiar songs in a small room with no food and a lot of vodka and left them to fight or fuck it out, so that they could come back in the morning and see what mutant musical offspring has sprung forth, and you’re getting close.

Anyway, Radio Soulwax (in either website or app form) will eventually play a full 24 hours of remix sets. The first one hour set, Introversity, is a mix of 420 song introductions, from almost every musical style imaginable, that is exhilarating, confusing and teasing, as tiny snippets of incredible songs fly past at an incredible pace, coupled with album cover animations which would make Terry Gilliam giggle like a loon. Fortunately, they do promise that most of the songs will return in the later mixes in a more substantial form, but even in this truncated form some of the odd conjunctions and inter-mixtures of song intros made me laugh out loud.

I have found the Flash on the website a bit buggy in Firefox so far today, so I have downloaded the first mix to the Ipad app and it’s a dream.

Radio Soulwax has the potential to keep me entertained for weeks.

Now, where did I put that coke?

By the way, did I mention it’s my birthday this weekend? I’m a Fourth of July baby. There may be fireworks.

[Image: A Musical Interlude in the Harem – Fabbio Fabbi (1861-1946)]

Sticking the landing

I know, blah, blah, Halperincakes.

However, while acknowledging that the relevant points being made are much the same all over our side of the internets – Halperin is a douchenozzle, but perhaps we might want to concentrate more on him being a useless hack than his (not very) naughty words, and by the way has anyone in the media noticed that Republicans are holding the entire world economy to ransom? – I think some people deserve a front page mention for the sheer number of style points earned.

Steve Benen wins for plain speaking …

Let me say this as plainly as I know how: Republicans are threatening to deliberately cause a global recession. The president is willing to strike a deal that leans heavily in the GOP’s direction, and Republicans are refusing. Who, in this scenario, is being dickish?

Halperin’s choice of words pales in comparison to the fact that he’s offended by the president’s mild rebuke of political recklessness the likes of which American hasn’t seen in generations.

… while Alex Pareene at Salon just wins my undying devotion forever:

I don’t care what Halperin calls Barack Obama. But for the record, President Obama did not really act like a dick yesterday, which is unsurprising, because Mark Halperin is a horrible political analyst who is wrong about everything. (Also for the record, it takes one to know one.)

Being a professional observer of the “horse race” is bad enough, but Halperin doesn’t even understand the horse-race element of politics. He fails at being a hack. He’s too dumb to correctly parrot conventional wisdom. He is pretty sure Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are 2012 front-runners. He thought “suspending his campaign” to fix the economy and not knowing how many houses he has were both huge messaging victories for John McCain. He wrote a book about how to win in 2008 that predicted everything Hillary did, but in his world it all worked. He thought Bush’s political comeback would come any day now throughout the entirety of the years 2006-2008. He can’t interpret polls or see through the spin of GOP consultants who are much smarter than he. If I were revising the Hack list I’d put him above No. 1.

H/ts: Valvida and MattR

ETA: Just sticking a gratuitous “David Brooks is a dickhead” tag in there because DougJ left it off his post for some unconscionable reason.

EATA: Commenter ThatLeftTurnInABQ quoted for truthfulness:

From 2000-2004 we tried sticking forks, knives and spoons in whatever 110 volt outlets we could find around the house. That didn’t work so well, so from 2006-2008 we tried washing our hair. Then in 2010 the teabaggers decided that the problem with 2000-2004 was that it wasn’t enough, so now we are unplugging all the major appliances in the house so we can really get our freak on, starting with having sex with the 220 volt outlet behind the fridge.

Meanwhile, the backyard is on fire and robbers are hotwiring the SUV in the driveway, into which they’ve already loaded all of our clothes and money.

Talking to some rich folks that you know

The Aspens are turning.

The twitter machine tells me that at the Aspen Wanker Festival, Tom Friedman says we need a third party. Presumably one which agrees with Tom Friedman with everything, and of course commands majority support throughout the country.

Caption contest (h/t Steve M.)

I guess I don’t mind that our Galtian overlords and their sychophants gather to plot our enslavement, I’ve always know that was going on. But do they have to be so fucking smug about it? And what are otherwise good guys like Felix Salmon and James Fallows doing there?

What’s new, pussycat?

Yes, as Jonn says, the real crime isn’t that Halperin said the d-word, it’s that Obama is being criticized for taking on economic terrorists. But also too, Halperin is a crazy motherfucker from around the way, and his professional success is a sign of our languor or barbarism. He’s always had a thing for making genitally-tinged comments about Obama (h/t commenter hilts):

HALPERIN [discussing John Edwards’ potential endorsement of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama]: “I can tell you, he’s really skeptical of her ability to be the kind of president he wants. But, he kinda thinks Obama is…he thinks Obama is kind of a pussy…”

Halperin later apologized for this.

The relish with which Halperin called Obama a “dick” after he already got in trouble for calling him a “pussy”…whatevs, he’ll probably be in rehab or on a new high-paying Fox gig faster than you can say “blueberry pie”. Okay, maybe not that fast. But pretty fast.