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How to read the New York Times

We really are at the mercy of the people who report the stories. Not all of the misinformation is by design; some stories are simply too complex for a non-insider to grasp, and the creation and propagation of various derivatives is complicated even for most people who work in the financial field.

But Yves Smith does a great job taking down this Times reporter’s one-sided defense of the SEC’s attempt to let Citigroup off with a mere slap on the wrist. The bottom line is, when a reporter relies on the same old names in his or her Rolodex, their stories will reflect that.


Digby on the NYTimes editorial board coming out in support of Medicare vouchers:

I don’t understand what world these people live in. Do these people honestly believe that the elderly, most of whom are already sick in one way or another or are destined to become so (after all, it’s a rare person who stays perfectly healthy and then dies peacefully in his sleep at age 92) should be forced into a more complicated system than that which already exists? It’s as if they are being accused of irresponsibly running up big bills and must be taught a lesson in prudence before they die.

I would love to know where this penchant for making the health care system even more complicated and unworkable comes from? And why does everyone have to be a “consumer?” We are citizens and human beings and when we get old we get sick, period. Making elderly people shop around in order to live is utter nonsense when we know that the only reason to do so is to keep our “privatized” system reaping profits every step of the way.

It’s the abstraction in all these debates that drives me crazy. People, not statistics. Patients, not consumers. Yes, health care costs are high and are absorbing more and more of our GDP, but the sick people are not the problem. Getting sick can happen to anyone and getting old is something that will happen to everybody (if they’re lucky). Treating being human as a problem is the problem.

Jet engines

I’ve often wondered why they don’t use some version of a giant blowdryer to melt snow, so this is very satisfying to me.

A visit to the food pantry

A mother stands in line for her daughter.

Deep thought

If you think it’s not exhausting spending three weeks worrying about your digestive system, you’re wrong.

It was a nice surprise to see a smidgeon of actual history in a newspaper — an explanation in the NYT for Iran’s deep hostility toward Britain, providing context for the story of the storming of the British Embassy earlier this week. More here.


Life after “It’s a Wonderful Life” wasn’t so great.

Oh, I have kissed a few…

…A few have kissed me too
I guess I’m just a stubborn kind of fellow
Got my mind made up to love you

PATRIOT act killing jobs?

From Intoxination:

This is something I never thought of, the stronger hand of our government, at the behest of the Patriot Act, actually hurting us on the tech front. It turns out that is exactly what is happening:

Cloud computing is a gold mine for the U.S. tech industry, but American firms are encountering resistance from an unexpected enemy overseas: the PATRIOT Act.

The Sept. 11-era law was supposed to help the intelligence community gather data on suspected terrorists. But competitors overseas are using it as a way to discourage foreign countries from signing on with U.S. cloud computing providers like Google and Microsoft: Put your data on a U.S.-based cloud, they warn, and you may just put it in the hands of the U.S. government.

We don’t need no stinkin’ principles

I think pieces like this, which analyze the incoherent, inconsistent public positions of candidates, in this case Newt Gingrich (with an honorable mention to Mitt Romney’s “ever-changing stripes”), while valuable in calling bullshit in very specific terms on bullshit artists masquerading as public servants, miss the larger point.

If politicians’ words and deeds seem to be connected more to the prevailing political winds than to the deeply held beliefs of the speaker, maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe it’s time to abandon the notion that these politicians apply their deeply held principles and values to their public utterances and policy positions, or that such deeply held principles and values even exist. Rather than respond with shock and outrage every time a politician does or says something that contradicts what they have done and said in the past, we should look for a metric that more consistently explains (and could predict) what we see. Maybe the only underlying political philosophy at work here is winning, and the only relevant deeply held values are those of the wealthy individuals and institutions that can make or break the political ambitions of these aspiring lapdogs.

If the trainwreck George W. Bush administration was good for anything, it was for the development of a powerful sense of political cynicism. That administration’s polices were widely criticized as being dumb because they did nothing to help the vast majority of Americans (99 percent, according to some estimates), let alone mankind. But those policies appear dumb only if one assumes they are actually designed to help the vast majority of Americans and/or mankind. If one assumes that those same policies were designed to move vast amounts of money into the hands of the wealthiest humans on earth, then one can’t possibly argue with the ruthless effectiveness of those policies.

Here’s a handy rule of thumb: If politicians have to stop to think before discussing one of their “deeply held values,” it ain’t all that deeply held. Peoples’ principles don’t have to be written on note cards (or their palms) to be remembered. And unless you are very rich, stop assuming that politicians care about you. Their individual utterances might change, but the class of people that benefits from their actions doesn’t.

And those stories that call bullshit would be more valuable if they focused less on the bullshit and more on who benefits.

(Cross-posted at Redsoxville)

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