Cord Cutting

Here’s a little PSA for anyone on DISH network. DISH had a little spat with AMC, they kissed and made up, but DISH is a little passive-aggressive, so they moved AMC out of their regular lineup of channels to the channel ghetto where the Korean broadcasting network and Brigham Young University TV hang out (the 9600’s). If you have your DVR set for Mad Men, you’ll need to change it.

Apparently, the DISH/AMC spat was due in part to AMC’s decision to put past episodes of Mad Men and other popular programs on Netflix and to sell current episodes on Amazon and iTunes, which according to DISH “devalued” the networks. They have a point: it costs $70/month to have a DISH package with a DVR and AMC. If you’re only watching a couple of shows, like Mad Men, it makes more sense to get a Roku or Apple TV, buy those shows at $2/each, and cancel DISH.

But here’s what doesn’t make sense: pissing off the rest of your customers by making an unannounced channel change right before the last two weeks of Mad Men is about to air, which means that all their DVR timers are fucked up. I realize this is a first-world problem, but since I just threw down to help fund this Kickstarter project so I can finally cut my cord, I think it’s also a problem for the bottom lines of the cable providers.

Sometimes Total Bastards Are Correct

Perhaps to commemorate his acquittal today, words from a very bad man who is nevertheless one of those rare politicians who actually understands what is necessary to save this country:

Even better, Youtube commenters— the lowest life form in the known universe– get it right with regards to this video:

“I agree 100% accurate. He’s a phony, fraud, cheat, and criminal. But that was one hell of an of-the-cuff speech.”

“As disgusting as he was towards his wife, this message he speaks here is 1000% true”

“The people with the power are not just going to give it up. We have to take it back. We have to demand government FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE”

Via Matt Yglesias’s Twitter.

Freedom To Be Ripped Off Is In The Constitution Or Something

Ladies and Gentlemen, my senator, Rand Paul:

Under our current FDA laws, FDA says if you want to market prune juice, you can’t say that it cures constipation.

You can’t make a health claim about a food supplement or about a vitamin, you can do it about a pharmaceutical, but you’re not allowed to do it about a health supplement.

I think this should change. There have been several court cases that show this goes against not only the spirit but the letter of the law of the First Amendment. So this amendment would change that.

This amendment would stop the FDA from censoring claims about curative, mitigative effects of dietary supplements. It would also stop the FDA from prohibiting distribution of scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in protecting against disease. Despite four court orders condemning the practice as a violation of the First Amendment, the FDA continues to suppress consumers’ right to be informed and to make informed choices by denying them this particular information. It’s time for Congress to put an end to FDA censorship.

In other words, if the food giants and the drug giants want to lie and say their product cures cancer, they should be allowed to.  If the product doesn’t do what the claims say they do and actually ends up killing you, well then the free market will step in and consumers will put that company out of business.  Furthermore, the FDA saying “But these claims aren’t true, you can’t use them” is robbing our precious mega-corporations of the Founder’s God-Given Right(tm) to bilk you out of billions with false data and misleading studies.  After all, if you’re not smart enough to be able to judge the claims on your own, you deserve to have the Invisible Hand take your wallet.  And really, what better way to remove stupid people from the population than through food and drugs that are dangerous but freely available on the market without regulation?  It’s win-win!

Freedom to be fleeced for everybody!  What’s more American than that?

Some extremely minor news that you should probably ignore, because it’s a “distraction”

Don’t tread on them:

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign spending.
The Supreme Court is being asked to reverse a state court’s decision to uphold the Montana law. Virginia-based American Tradition Partnership is asking the nation’s high court to rule without a hearing because the group says the state law conflicts directly with the Citizens United decision that removed the federal ban on corporate campaign spending.

This is American Tradition Partnership:

American Tradition Partnership (ATP) is a no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda. We support responsible development of natural resources and rational land use and management policies. Only together can we protect access, private property rights, and affordable energy for all Americans!

So, a front group for energy interests. Energy interests, of course, like poor defenseless private equity, have no influence in Congress and no voice in elite opinion (if you don’t count a majority in the US Senate) so can’t be expected to abide by any laws regulating corporate campaign spending, anywhere.

The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana law until it can look at the case.
The Montana case has prompted critics to hope the court will reverse itself on the controversial Citizens United ruling. The 22 states and D.C. say the Montana law is sharply different from the federal issues in the Citizens United case, so the ruling shouldn’t apply to Montana’s or other state laws regulating corporate campaign spending. But the states also said they would support a Supreme Court decision to reconsider portions of the Citizens United ruling either in a future case or in the Montana case, if the justices decide to take it on.
Legal observers say don’t count on the Supreme Court reconsidering its decision.”It is highly unlikely that the Court would reverse its decision in Citizens United,” said law professor Richard L. Hasen of the University of California-Irvine. At best, the court would listen to arguments and might agree a clarification is needed to allow the Montana law to stand. But even that is a long shot, Hasen said.

It’s a great story. Rugged individualist Montana tries to get out from under (to quote a respected conservative leader) these “black-robed tyrants and their radical agenda”:

It’s a legal long shot, but Montana’s attorney general is mounting a brave defense against the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed super PACs on American democracy.
To their credit, 22 other state attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna – are backing Steve Bullock’s attempt to protect Montana from the Citizens United ruling.
Montana was once a poster boy for money-corrupted politics; its history shows how vulnerable states are to the unlimited corporate spending the Supreme Court allowed when it overturned key federal campaign finance restrictions in 2010.
More than 100 years ago, Montana politicians were bought, sold and openly traded by mine-owners known as the Copper Kings. The bribery and other corruption were more or less inevitable, given the ease with which a handful of plutocrats could have their way with an agrarian state.
Montana lawmakers finally reined in the power of Anaconda Copper and other corporate barons by enacting the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which sharply curtailed how much they could spend electing friendly officeholders.

The history behind the Corrupt Practices Act flatly refutes Citizens United. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority decision in that case, proclaimed that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Okey-doke. Might be time to occasionally leave that building and take a stroll out among us, Justice Kennedy.

You’ll recall we’ve had years of exhaustive coverage of the opposition to President Obama’s health care law (although, oddly, very little practical information on the provisions of the law) and here’s real opposition to the Citizens decision as applied to the states and it’s ignored. Of course, the Citizens decision is favored by libertarians, conservatives, and the millionaires who carry water for billionaires (but I repeat myself) and the health care law is not, so maybe that explains the disparity in coverage here.

Here’s the states’ brief:

the sovereign States have for over a century been enacting and enforcing laws regulating corporations’ expenditures in state and local political campaigns. Although the States’ laws governing corporate campaign expenditures vary in important respects, they all seek to ensure that such expenditures do not undermine principles of accountability and integrity in state and local elections, while protecting residents’ rights to participate in the electoral process.

Petitioners’ challenge to Montana’s election laws asks this Court to address the permissible limits of state regulation of independent corporate expenditures in state and local candidate elections under the First Amendment. Any decision by this Court here will have consequences for state laws across the country. The amici States therefore have a strong interest in the outcome of this case, and a particularly strong interest in opposing petitioners’ request that the Court summarily reverse the decision of Montana’s Supreme Court, based on the Court’s decision two years ago in Citizens United v. FEC.

And here are the states backing Montana:

New York, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Update: It occurs to me, reading the list of states, that this is bipartisan opposition!

Late Night Open Thread: I (Once Again) Agree with Doghouse Riley

Because ‘piling on’ is an established Balloon Juice tradition, I feel compelled to quote Doghouse Riley’s response to Mann & Ornstein’s brave, bold, however-did-the-Repubs-come-to-this thumbsucking:

Pfui. Both of you have punditological careers dating to the Carter administration. Did you sleep through the Reagan presidency? Miss the rhetoric of the Nixon years? Tricky Dick didn’t deliver the famous “Silent Centrist Majority” speech, y’know. Though he might’ve, since it’s you guys who remained silent while the Republican party went from cabal of 19th century capital pirates to cabal of 19th century capital pirates cosseting Nixonian lunatics, to cabal of Nixonian lunatics who revere 19th century capital piracy in thirty years….

The GOP hasn’t “moved from the mainstream”. It’s gained more power. The “center of power” hasn’t gone much of anywhere. It may have followed Goldwater West and South, thanks to the evil genius of Nixon, but it’s not exactly a seismic shift from Joe McCarthy to Jesse Helms, from John Wayne to Glenn Beck. When th’ hell was it Chuck Hagel’s party? When was it Nelson Rockefeller’s, for that matter? They called Truman a commie, for chrissakes….

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.

More to savor at the link. Mann and Ornstein went rummaging through their closets looking for a safe place to hide from this year’s crop of Republican monsters, and discovered the tiny, shrivelled, long-forgotten remnants of their journalistic ethics. Kudos to both of those fine professionals. But the fact that airing vulgar truth in front of the other Media Villagers qualifies as news just demonstrates how far “our” standards have fallen.

The Bees Are Still Dying

Small changes, cascading into big tragedies. Thought about using this information on a “Garden Chat” thread, but it’s too godsdamned depressing. Looks like scientists may have a pretty good idea of the problems behind Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD):

In [the March 29] issue of the journal Science, two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies. One experiment, conducted by French researchers, indicates that the chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. The other study, by scientists in Britain, suggests that they keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.

The authors of both studies contend that their results raise serious questions about the use of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids…

But pesticides are only one of several likely factors that scientists have linked to declining bee populations. There are simply fewer flowers, for example, thanks to land development. Bees are increasingly succumbing to mites, viruses, fungi and other pathogens…

Yet the research is coming out at a time when opposition to neonicotinoids is gaining momentum. The insecticides, introduced in the early 1990s, have exploded in popularity; virtually all corn grown in the United States is treated with them. Neonicotinoids are taken up by plants and moved to all their tissues — including the nectar on which bees feed. The concentration of neonicotinoids in nectar is not lethal, but some scientists have wondered if it might still affect bees…

Wired looks behind the curtain to see which strings are being pulled:

… Neonicotinoids emerged in the mid-1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to human-damaging pesticides. They soon became wildly popular, and were the fastest-growing class of pesticides in modern history. Their effects on non-pest insects, however, were unknown….

Leaked internal reports by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that industry-run studies used to demonstrate some neonicotinoids’ environmental safety were shoddy and unreliable. Other researchers found signs that neonicotinoids, while they didn’t kill bees outright, affected their ability to learn and navigate…

Both Goulson and Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group, said neonicotinoids won’t be the only cause of colony collapse disorder.

“If it was as simple as that, the answer would have been discovered a long time ago,” said Goulson. “I’m sure it’s a combination of things. I’m sure that disease is a part of it, and maybe the two interact.” He noted a study in which honeybees exposed to neonicotinoids were especially vulnerable to a common bee parasite. Another study found that neonicotinoids dramatically increase the toxicity of fungicides.

Vaughan raised the issue of industrial-scale beekeeping practices, which have also been linked to bee declines. “We’ve potentially created a situation where behavioral impacts, compounded with a lack of genetic diversity and the food they eat, results in something like colony collapse disorder,” he said.

On the New Yorker website, Elizabeth Kolbert talks about the HFCS link to “Silent Hives“:

… The Pennsylvania beekeeper Dave Hackenberg was one of the first to draw attention to the problem of Colony Collapse Disorder, or C.C.D., and, as a result, he became a celebrity, at least in apian circles. I interviewed Hackenberg in the spring of 2007, and he told me he didn’t believe that the culprit was a virus or a fungus or stress. Instead, he blamed a new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Now it looks like Hackenberg was onto something.

Over the last few weeks, several new studies have come out linking neonicotinoids to bee decline. As it happens, the studies are appearing just as “Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson’s seminal study of the effect of pesticides on wildlife, is about to turn fifty: the work was first published as a three-part series in The New Yorker, in June, 1962. It’s hard to avoid the sense that we have all been here before, and that lessons were incompletely learned the first time around…
Read more

Public Enemies: “How Pete Peterson is driving the fiscal consensus”

Felix Salmon pulls back the curtain to show who’s pulling the strings:

Trudy Lieberman has a good post at CJR on the “surprisingly broad consensus” around the need to reduce the fiscal deficit in general, and to take aim at Social Security in particular. “Social Security,” she writes, “is the one issue on which the electorate is not divided” — but that hasn’t stopped a bipartisan group of Washington grandees from preaching doom whenever it is brought up.

More generally, the idea of “fiscal responsibility” seems to have become as American as motherhood and apple pie — both parties preach it, and say the other guys are the profligate ones. The group of people saying “hey, we print our own money, interest rates are at zero, inflation is not an issue, the corporate sector isn’t borrowing, there are a thousand more important things to worry about right now, why on earth is everybody worried about the deficit all of a sudden” is in a decided minority.

The obsession about fiscal prudence is a new phenomenon, and can be dated, pretty much, to 2008, when Blackstone went public and Pete Peterson took his billion dollars in proceeds and decided to use it to found the Peter G Peterson Foundation. Wherever fiscal prudence is preached, Peterson’s money can nearly always be found…

One of the most annoying parts of the fiscal debate, at least for me, is the way in which it has become synonymous with spending cuts rather than tax hikes. Say “fiscal balance” and people start thinking in terms of means-testing Social Security, rather than, say, implementing a carbon tax or a financial-transactions tax. And so we get the likes of Paul Ryan being taken very seriously — Mitt Romney is positively gushing about him, these days — even as the idea of paying for expenditures by raising taxes becomes increasingly un-American.

Reasonable people can differ on the question of how important it is to balance the budget, but I think it’s fair to say that there are lot of screamingly important issues, from endemic long-term unemployment to global nuclear proliferation, which aren’t getting a fraction of the attention that fiscal policy is getting. Which only goes to show, I think, just how powerful Pete Peterson’s targeted millions can be.

Pete Peterson, needless to say, is not ‘donating’ his millions so much as he is investing them — in a longterm scam offering him, if he can fool enough people / buy enough politicians, a very respectable ROI.

Not that he doesn’t have plenty of help, much of it from people who should know better. It’s well worth reading Trudy Lieberman’s whole post, too, because she focuses on the media’s failures intersecting with those of our political ‘masters’:

… The media haven’t reported much about how the nuts and bolts of proposals to fix Social Security would affect ordinary people, but they’ve done a super job of showing how Social Security’s opponents have brought one of the biggest segments around to their way of thinking—Congressional Democrats, including the second ranking member of the Senate, Dick Durbin, who is often the media’s go-to guy for the progressive perspective. It’s kind of a validation of Cato’s manifesto. As Politico reported, though Durbin had long allied himself with Social Security supporters, he said he’s been convinced that action is vital. “If we don’t do something and do it quickly bad things can happen in a hurry,” he said.

“We used to have Democrats speaking out (in support of the program) which we don’t have today, “ says Eric Kingson, co-director of the advocacy group Social Security Works. It was the Democrats who pushed for the payroll tax holiday—helped along by the media, which have passed along their quotes about assisting working people. Too often the reportage has glossed over the negatives of the tax cut, without noting what would happen if the tax is not restored. Kingson’s group and others, including some Republicans, argued that if the payroll tax is not restored and the government must borrow money from the Treasury to pay benefits to current recipients, Social Security will contribute to the deficit, which it doesn’t do now. That will produce more reasons to change the program. “Once the dominant view on each side of the aisle was that seniors need Social Security, and it was fair to everyone,” said Kingson. “Generations were not in conflict.”…