Digby links to a piece by Felix Salmon about what blogging offers, and has this to say:

Independent blogging isn’t very important anymore, if it ever was. But what it invented — culling and synthesizing disparate pieces of information, engaging in the conversation, adding value and passing it on — is still a necessary function. Indeed, I think it grew out of the natural human desire for people to gather together and talk about the world at large (as opposed to their immediate personal lives)and a need for someone they trust to put the vast amount of information available on the internet in some context. We live in a social media world now and the way information is being exchanged is redefined on a daily basis. Whether old country bloggers like me are the ones to “curate” it or professional journalists do it isn’t as important as the fact that somebody who understands how to hold this conversation in a way that engages people does it.

Romney’s theory of the ‘taker’ class

Ezra Klein:

So notice what happened here: Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.


You’d think protection from toxic substances in your food wouldn’t be too much to ask of an advanced government….

In a study published in “Food and Chemical Toxicology”, researchers led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini from CRIIGEN have found that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup tolerant GM maize or given water containing Roundup, at levels permitted in drinking water and GM crops in the US, developed cancers faster and died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet. They suffered breast cancer and severe liver and kidney damage.

In the first ever study to examine the long-term effects of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and the NK603 Roundup-resistant GM maize also developed by Monsanto, the CRIIGEN scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females, compared with 23 and 14 months respectively for a control group.

Led by Professor Seralini, the researchers studied 10 groups, each containing 10 male and 10 female rats, over their normal lifetime. Three groups were given Roundup – developed by Monstanto – in their drinking water at three different levels consistent with exposure through the food chain from crops sprayed with the herbicide. Three groups were fed diets containing different proportions of Roundup resistant maize at 11%, 22% and 33%. Three groups were given both Roundup and the GM maize at the same three dosages. The control group was fed an equivalent diet with no Roundup or NK603 containing 33% of non-GM maize.

Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist and gene expert at Kings College, London, and member of CRIIGEN stated: “This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of cancers developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.  I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts.”

Big brother

Every step you take, every move you make:

The Bravo 300,” a tactical drone man­u­fac­tured in New Or­leans by Cres­cent Un­manned Sys­tems. Weeks after New Orleans local investigative paper The Lens began digging into city of­fi­cials’ plans to use a U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment aer­ial drone to mon­i­tor crowds at the upcoming Super Bowl, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu announced that the city is no longer pursuing those plans.

Spokesman Ryan Berni of­fered no rea­son for drop­ping the eye-in-the-sky tech­nol­ogy, telling a re­porter to sub­mit a pub­lic-records re­quest. In a brief phone in­ter­view, he would say only that the de­ci­sion to ditch the drone was made “over the past sev­eral days.” In a fol­low-up email, Berni said Home­land Se­cu­rity would be pro­vid­ing a manned he­li­copter, equipped with a cam­era, and that “the City learned by phone in the last few weeks” about the switch.


Ezra Klein on Romney’s 47% video:

Still, for my money, the worst of Romney’s comments were these: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When he said this, Romney didn’t just write off half the country behind closed doors. He also confirmed the worst suspicions about who he is: an entitled rich guy with no understanding of how people who aren’t rich actually live.

The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier.

That’s what money has bought Romney, too. He’s a guy who sold his dad’s stock to pay for college, who built an elevator to ensure easier access to his multiple cars and who was able to support his wife’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s great! That’s the dream.

The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.

In their book “Poor Economics,” the poverty researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo try to explain why the poor around the world so often make decisions that befuddle the rich.

Their answer, in part, is this: The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted:
Continue Reading →

A modest proposal

Atrios wrote an online column for USAToday yesterday:

We already have an excellent, if not especially generous, program in place. Workers contribute during their working lives in exchange for a promised benefit level during their retirement years. This program is called Social Security.

Instead of considering some exciting new program to try to encourage workers into saving more, another Rube Goldberg incentive contraption designed to nudge individual behavior in the right direction, we should increase the level of retirement benefits in the existing Social Security program.

That sounds like blasphemy because we’ve all been fed the myth that Social Security is bankrupt. It is almost universally accepted in policy circles and in the pundit class that strengthening Social Security involves cutting future benefits relative to what current law promises because according to current projections, Social Security only has the ability to pay promised benefits in full until 2033, and then 75% of them thereafter. The basic thinking is that we must promise to cut benefits now so that we won’t necessarily have to cut them 22 years from now. What?

Imagine if that is how we treated defense spending. Since it appears budgets will be tight in the 2030s, best to mothball all those aircraft carriers today. Who would buy that argument?

The reality is that we will make our defense decisions about the 2030s in the 2030s. That’s just how we should treat federally financed retirement programs. We never actually have to cut benefits if we make the policy choice to keep funding them.

Social security is only bankrupt to the extent that our political leaders lose the will to invest in a decent retirement for American workers.

As the system exists, large numbers of Americans nearing retirement will have little more than fairly meager Social Security benefits (the average benefit for retired workers is currently $1230) to survive on in their old age. We can doom them to a life of insecurity and relative poverty or we can take the obvious step to improve their lives: Increase Social Security benefits.

The goal of a retirement system should be to ensure that retired people have sufficient income to live out the remainder of their lives without a radical reduction in quality of life after they stop working. Our current system, a modest mandatory government retirement program combined with individual savings, is failing to do that. Strengthen Social Security now, not by cutting benefits, but by increasing them.

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