A #NODAPL victory?

The infamous pipeline is going to be rerouted.

The Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works announced Sunday.

It must be a good decision, because it’s really pissing off the right people.

North Dakota’s sole member in the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican, expressed his disapproval in a scathing statement released Sunday that slammed President Barack Obama as well as the protestors.

“I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law. However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road,” Cramer wrote. “Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country. Roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms and water lines will be very difficult, if not impossible, to build when criminal behavior is rewarded this way.”

Building infrastructure is great. Building great dangerous leaky pipelines to pump poison over water supplies, and to torment and abuse the people most affected by them, is not. Suppressing the people’s right to protest is also not great.

The Friedman Singularity

Years ago, I imagine that the management of the New York Times met to work out criteria for who would write the opinion columns in the paper. They walked in with one iron-clad commitment: they believed in “balance”, you couldn’t just bring on writers of reason and evidence, because that would be unfair to the right wing. They also tut-tutted the awkwardness of strong language and vigorously supported opinions, so they needed to find a middle ground. They decided that the way to fill their quota of conservative voices was to simply hire deeply stupid people.

And this is how Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Ross Douthat got their sinecures on the pages of the prestigious (but losing its luster) New York Times.

I think David Brooks is the worst of them, but then every time I read anything by Friedman I feel like changing my mind. This doesn’t happen often, though, because Friedman makes me vomit out of my eyesockets, which is generally incompatible with being able to read further.

Matt Taibbi has a stronger constitution than I do, apparently, and reviews Friedman’s latest metastatic column, I mean “book”, Thank You for Being Late. He is very unkind. Not unkind enough, but he gets close to what we need.

We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76 percent of the world’s taxi drivers, for predicting “the next six months will be critical” on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, “the Friedman unit”), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic “rule of holes”: “When you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

Friedman’s great anti-gift is his ability to use many words when only a few are necessary. He became famous as a newspaper columnist for taking simple one-sentence observations like, “Wow, everyone has a cell phone these days,” and blowing them out into furious 850-word trash-fires of mismatched imagery and circular argument.

Yeah, that’s our man Tom. Terrible writer, inane pseudo-philosopher, the most predictably unimaginative source of idiotic “ideas” on the NY Times roster. I have no idea why he’s still employed. There must have been some kind of blood pact signed at the meeting I imagined, or perhaps they closed the deal with an orgy and Friedman has recordings.

Taibbi singled out one example of Friedmanesque unprofundity: this graph, intended to illustrate his claim that we’re being overwhelmed by our own technology.


Bad timing. I’ve been grading lab reports lately, so I’m particularly sensitive to abominations like that. Label your axes! What are the units? Are “adaptibility” and “technology” even measurable in the same way and with the same units? Hey, the ordinate is “rate of change” — do you actually intend to argue that human adaptability, for instance, is increasing? Where’s your evidence? And then I draw big red slashes through the whole thing and tell the student that this is unacceptable, you get a 0 for this assignment, go back and rewrite it.

No, really, this is disgraceful. It’s an obvious attempt to pretend that a subjective claim is factually objective by falsely casting it in the form of a quantitative measurement. You don’t get to do that.

And then it gets worse. Friedman draws a second version of the graph, with his suggestion for how we can correct this mismatch between adaptability and technology.


Hey, my metaphor of vomiting out of my eye sockets no longer looks so hyperbolic, does it?

So the Friedman solution for our current production of excess technology beyond our capacity to absorb (a problem that he hasn’t actually shown to exist) is to build a time machine, go into an undefined moment in the past, and make people “learn faster”. He’s written a whole book about an undemonstrated problem, illustrated it with a bogus graph, and solved it by drawing a line on the graph that shows he doesn’t understand his own illustration, and that requires multiple amazing technological feats to accomplish…in a book that complains about the rapidity of our technological advances.

I know what this means. He’s trying to get a raise from the NY Times by feeding them more of what they hired him for.

News from the homeland

Minnesota is a fairly liberal state, but Washington, especially western Washington, is where I’m from and where my heart is*. It’s good to see that Seattle is maintaining a tradition of liberal empiricism: they raised the minimum wage there a few years ago, against conservative howling that it would destroy the local economy. They’ve now acquired enough data to test that prediction, and guess what? The conservatives were full of it.

The unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%, as the city continues to thrive. I’m not sure what else there is to say at this point. The doomsayers were wrong. The sky has not fallen. The restaurant business, by all accounts, is booming (in fact, probably reaching a saturation point when one looks at eateries per capita). I think it’s safe to say we’ve got enough data – over almost two years now – to declare that Seattle has not suffered adverse consequences from its increases in the minimum wage, and has certainly not experienced the dire effects foretold by the anti-min wage crowd.

Not that evidence matters to that group. Nor, unfortunately, to very many voters in the homeland.

It seems that Grays Harbor county (where my brother and his wife live…hi, Jim and Julie!) went Trump in this last election. They’ll get their just reward, though.

It turns out Grays Harbor County is one of the places in our state that the dreaded Obamacare has been propping up the most. This issue got barely any attention in the election — though I bet it will now.

A few years ago, 19 percent of the people there had no health coverage, one of the higher uninsured rates in the state. Today, only 9 percent remain uninsured. Almost all of that improvement is because Obamacare provided Medicaid coverage, for free or nearly free, for more than 8,000 Grays Harbor adults.

An incredible one in five Grays Harbor adults signed up for it. That’s a sign-up rate more than double King County’s.

Yet the county that’s relying on it just voted for the candidate who vowed to get rid of it.

You can’t blame my family for that, though. They all voted for Clinton. In fact, I’m one of those lucky people who would have been perfectly happy to get together with family over Thanksgiving, because they’re all raving socialists who would have voted fervently for unions and better minimum wages and supporting education and all that pinko stuff. I think our only arguments would have been over exactly how wonderful Bernie is.

*Don’t bother hunting for my phylactery, it’s well-hidden and guarded by vicious octopods.

A sudden craving for Froot Loops

While I made my brief and entirely unpleasant visit to Breitbart to read that dishonest Delingpole article, they flashed a big ad in my face telling me to BOYCOTT KELLOGG’S — apparently because the company yanked their ads from Breitbart’s big Nazi hate site. And to do that, they showed me a screen full of the products I’m supposed to avoid.


I’m honestly not much of a breakfast cereal eater, but next time I’m at the store I’m picking some of those up. Very effective advertising, Breitbart!

Kellogg’s: the cereal of healthy Nazi-smashers everywhere!

Up is down, rich is poor

Ivanka Trump has a self-help book? Of course she does. And Jia Tolentino at the New Yorker read it. It explains so much about that whole rotten, corrupt family.

When Ivanka was a kid, she got frustrated because she couldn’t set up a lemonade stand in Trump Tower. We had no such advantages, she writes, meaning, in this case, an ordinary home on an ordinary street. She and her brothers finally tried to sell lemonade at their summer place in Connecticut, but their neighborhood was so ritzy that there was no foot traffic. As good fortune would have it, we had a bodyguard that summer, she writes. They persuaded their bodyguard to buy lemonade, and then their driver, and then the maids, who dug deep for their spare change. The lesson, she says, is that the kids made the best of a bad situation. In another early business story, she and her brothers made fake Native American arrowheads, buried them in the woods, dug them up while playing with their friends, and sold the arrowheads to their friends for five dollars each.

Her bad situation was being wealthy; her solution was to compel her servants and bodyguards, you know, the little people, to give her more money, and to lie to her friends to trick them into giving her yet more money. And she’s completely oblivious to the ethical problems with what she did!

I hope all of her businesses fail and that she is publicly scorned by all of her friends, but I suspect she’s just going to come out of the next few years richer, and that her friends are all just as awful as she is.

How bad are Trump’s advisors?

How bad is Jeff Sessions, his pick for Attorney General? This bad.

His anti-choice record includes:

  • Voted against a resolution in support of Roe v. Wade in 1999
  • Voted to defund organizations that perform abortions in 2007
  • Co-sponsored a bill prohibiting taking minors across state lines for abortion and then voted to increase funding to enforce the in 2008
  • Voted in support of a bill notify parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions in 2006
  • Voted no on a plan that would have allocated $100 million in federal funding for family planning services that sought to reduce teen pregnancy through education programs and access to contraceptives in 2005
  • Voted to ban partial birth abortions, except for cases in which a woman’s life is in danger in 2003
  • Voted to maintain a ban on military base abortions in 2000
  • Voted to prohibit federal funding for abortions in 2011

There’s a theme running through all of that. I wonder what it is?

How bad is Tom Price, his pick for Health and Human Services? This bad. He belongs to the AAPS, a fringe society of conservative physicians.

Before the big 9/12 rally in Washington, AAPS cosponsored a protest on Capitol Hill with the Tea Party Patriots that AAPS says attracted 1,000 physicians. The organization’s president, Mark Kellen, appeared with Georgia representatives Tom Price and Phil Gingrey—GOP members of the congressional doctors’ caucus—to slam the bill. The group (which did not return calls for comment for this story) has been around since 1943. Some of its former leaders were John Birchers, and its political philosophy comes straight out of Ayn Rand. Its general counsel is Andrew Schlafly, son of the legendary conservative activist Phyllis. The AAPS statement of principles declares that it is “evil” and “immoral” for physicians to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and its journal is a repository for quackery. Its website features claims that tobacco taxes harm public health and electronic medical records are a form of “data control” like that employed by the East German secret police. An article on the AAPS website speculated that Barack Obama may have won the presidency by hypnotizing voters, especially cohorts known to be susceptible to “neurolinguistic programming”—that is, according to the writer, young people, educated people, and possibly Jews.

Oh jebus. Andrew Schlafly gets mentioned, too, a notorious anti-evolution kook.

I can guess who’s going to be appointed to lead the NIH, if this trend continues.

Pipeline politics explained

That contentious oil pipeline being built across the Standing Rock reservation’s water supply has a revealing history. It wasn’t originally supposed to go there!

As Bill McKibben explains for the New Yorker, the pipeline was originally supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, but it was moved over concerns that an oil spill at that location would have wrecked the state capital’s drinking water. As a result, the pipeline was shifted to a crossing half a mile from the reservation.

All the white folks in Bismarck didn’t need to camp out and get shot at and blown up and frozen in order to express their disapproval — a few words of “concern” and oil executives decided to pick a less important population to poison.

But don’t worry. I now have a solution to the whole problem.

As relayed in a memo to employees, the company insists that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.”

Excellent! So just pack up and move the thing to the original, planned location, which isn’t full of uppity, fractious natives who are willing to fight for their land.

I’m glad that was so easily solved. I’m sure the residents of Bismarck will find that memo totally reassuring.