I agree with John Boehner: the dairy program in the farm bill is "Soviet-style." Therefore, it's a huge disappointment that a bipartisan effort to streamline the program just failed in the House of Representatives:
An amendment to gut the dairy program sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) was defeated on a 20 to 26 vote. ...
Goodlatte argued that dairy should have access to margin insurance without a requirement that farmers participate in a program to limit production. He cited the opposition of House GOP leaders to the dairy program as being a reason the farm bill effort failed last year and an extension of the 2008 farm bill was needed.
With much love for the fine folk who work in the dairy industry, you're all basically a bunch of communists. Seriously, read this paragraph from a letter the dairy lobby sent to Congress:
The Washington Post's Brad Plumer recaps a report on border enforcement:
The best outside estimate is that the U.S. government now stops about half of all illegal border-crossings from Mexico. The apprehension rate appears to have increased in recent years as a result of stepped-up border security:
“Based on the best currently available evidence,” the report says, “the apprehension rate along the southwest land border between the ports of entry is likely in the range of 40 to 55 percent.”
That's an improvement, but there's a long ways to go.
I'm working on a little less than all cylinders this week, but I don't want to overlook an important piece by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. Thompson contrasted the decisive and effective government response to the financial crisis of 2008 to the weak and exhausted response to the unemployment problem.
You might begin this story in 2011, when Congress (led by Republican obstructionism) embarked on a historic quest to crush deficit spending by any means necessary. Hold the economy hostage over the debt ceiling? Check. Kill the American Jobs Act while scheduling a too-awful-to-be-a-real-law sequester? Check. Allow the too-awful-to-be-a-real-law sequester to become a real law? Checkmate.
The deficit fell fast. As unemployment ebbed, the ranks of long-term jobless calcified, creating two separate job markets. One broken market for people out of work for more than six months. And another slowly healing market for everybody else. But the combination of a thermostatic recovery and a deep aversion to stimulus crushed any hope that the long-term unemployed would get the help they needed. Long-term unemployment isn't special just because it's longer; it's special because it's self-perpetuating. Skills atrophy, networks dry up, and employers discriminate, creating a vicious cycle of joblessness that can't be cured by normal economic growth.
There is little question that, in the last two years, Washington has essentially left the long-term unemployed to fend for themselves -- and permanently scarred the labor market.
Last night, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis was lit to celebrate gay marriage coming to Minnesota. Considering that we were worried back in November about a constitutional referendum to ban gay marriage, this came incredibly fast.
Congratulations to the citizens of Minnesota. Change is here.
A 2,300 year old temple in Belize is being destroyed so its limestone bricks can be used for raw material in road construction, reports CNN:
Local media in the Central American country of 334,000 people report the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers last week.
"This is one of the worst that I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize," John Morris, an archaeologist with the country's Institute of Archaeology, told local channel 7NewsBelize. "We can't salvage what has happened out here -- it is an incredible display of ignorance
It's really tough to say "you should be more willling to trust the government" when the government is so effective at being terrible.
I endorse this satirical (I think?) idea from the R Street Institute:
[T]he Making Environmental Offsets for Windpower Act proposes the U.S. Department of Energy require — both as a pre-condition for the citing of new wind turbines, and on an ongoing annual basis — that turbine operators demonstrate they are in compliance with a new offset program designed to remove from the natural environment an even greater threat to birds: namely, free-ranging domestic cats.
According to a September 2012 paper published in Nature Communications by researchers from FWS and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Migratory Bird Center, free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds annually, with a mid-range estimate of 2.55 billion birds killed by American cats each year.
I think Josh Marshall has this figured out quite nicely:
Let’s assume for the moment that this plays out with some mix of poor judgment and perhaps bias at lower levels of the IRS but no direction from on high that would implicate the administration or top appointees themselves. The nature of this scandal - the government, particularly the IRS singling out and persecuting conservatives - appeals to the heart of the right-wing conspiracy-generating mindset.
If you wanted create a scandal to have maximal appeal to GOP base freakout, this is it. And it has the additional advantage of not creating the same sort of off-putting crazy as hitting other bugaboos beloved by base Republicans. It’s not about Obama’s ties to the Muslim brotherhood or his foreign birth. It’s about taxes, something everyone has an experience with and understands. And it’s at least rooted in something that’s true. Something really did happen. And it’s not good. It shouldn’t happen. It even has unexpected knock-on effects like the IRS’s supposed connection to the dreaded ‘Obamacare’.
That’s why you’re seeing Mitch McConnell go so full bore on this. He’s not particularly well-liked in his state and he’s not particularly well liked by Tea Parties or base Republicans. But now he can bang the drum on something that appeals deeply to these folks. He can now be with them cheek and jowl. And that is a very, very big deal. As can basically every other national Republican elected official. And again, all of this applies even if, as I assume, we learn that none of this stemmed from political hanky-panky from administration leaders.
If an eagle dies because of a power line or in any way related to oil production, huge fines are on the way, but the same can't be said when an eagle is killed by a windmill.
The Washington Post reports on the White House's willingness to put wind power above the law:
Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It’s also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines.
But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret.
Eli Lake offers up some tips on responding to trolls:
[H]ere is what works. Retweet the hater’s tweet, appending the phrase “I love your passion,” or some variation. This may seem counterintuitive. After all, the hater has just insulted you and you respond with a compliment. But “I love your passion” is no compliment at all. It’s what you hear from someone who is about to disappoint you. It’s what you hear when you don’t get the job.
And here's how not to deal with haters:
Kevin Drum writes for Mother Jones that we'll be in a robot paradise by 2040:
We've moved from computers with a trillionth of the power of a human brain to computers with a billionth of the power. Then a millionth. And now a thousandth. Along the way, computers progressed from ballistics to accounting to word processing to speech recognition, and none of that really seemed like progress toward artificial intelligence. That's because even a thousandth of the power of a human brain is—let's be honest—a bit of a joke. Sure, it's a billion times more than the first computer had, but it's still not much more than the computing power of a hamster.
This story of Peter Worthington's surfaced in my memory this morning, I first heard it years ago.
As a young boy, Pete had been very afraid of heights. He set out to conquer this fear by learning to dive and succeeded in becoming a very accomplished diver. (We have a photo of him in his mid-50s diving off the cliffs at Acapulco, Mexico.)
In 1945, Pete was serving as a new lieutenant aboard a Canadian warship (a destroyer if I remember right). Early in the voyage, he decided to start the day with a sea bathe. He had the bright idea of diving off the ship's tower. He climbed to the top, looked over the ocean, and realized that it was higher over the water than he'd expected. Much too high. He began back away from the edge. At just that moment he was seen from below by two seaman. "Look! Lieutenant Worthington is going to dive!"
He realized: there was no decent retreat. He returned to the edge, thought "I'm going to break my neck - what a stupid way to die," and dove. When he hit the water, the jolt was so hard that he thought he had broken his neck. He survived, and from then on was something of a hero on the ship.
Sorry, fellow young men, but your health insurance is about to get significantly more expensive. CNN reports:
Currently insurers can charge premiums based on gender. Men usually pay less than women, since they typically visit the doctor less frequently. The Affordable Care Act, however, doesn't allow insurers to charge different rates to men and women. Taken together, men ages 25 to 36 could see rate increases greater than 50%, according to Milliman's O'Connor, but women of the same age will only see their premiums creep up 4%. Meanwhile, men age 60 to 64 could see their premiums drop by 12%.