Supreme Court Gives EPA Big Victory

Well, that’s a shocker. The Court in a 6-2 vote gave the EPA a big victory upholding a rule adopted in 2011 to limit smog causing emissions that drift from state to state. Alito was not part of the decision. Thomas and Scalia dissented. So that means Roberts joined the majority and will be further excoriated by the right wing as a traitor since his Affordable Care Act decision.

The ruling means that the polluting states will be forced to reduce smokestack pollution that sullies the air in downwind states. Industry and upwind states had fought the effort and paint it as another attempt by the administration to shut down coal-fired power plants.

Common sense wins, for a change, at the world’s most respected crap shoot.

Update: In his dissent, Scalia made an embarrassing blunder. I once had a debate with a conservative who tried to explain Scalia’s tendency to be, as he explained it, “the gadfly, the contrarian, not politically correct.” My response was that the other way to interpret his actions is that he’s just an asshole.

America’s Best Bread Recipe is 38 Pages Long (Nom, Nom, Nom)

Smithsonian.com writes about Chad Robertson, an artisan baker from San Francisco (natch), who has what may be the best bread recipe going. Baking is indeed a science. Many throw stuff together with imprecision, but you know what you get? Imprecise and inconsistent results. Good enough? Sure.  It’s BREAD! I’s pizza dough, it’s rolls, buns, crackers, what have you, it’s all fucking great! I could eat nothing but bread and butter for the rest of my life. But if I had to I’d much prefer it to be really great bread.

And a really great bread takes days, no, weeks to put together. 38 pages!! I’m getting this book.

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Look at that. OMG, come on. Where’s the butter?

High School Grad Rate Tops 80% For First Time

Image This is good news, unquestionably. But why does it feel almost irrelevant? Given the deflation of the value of a high school diploma in getting a job and making a living wage, we’re more focused on college graduation rates. Also, most of us who are privileged enough to have kids for whom graduating High School was never in doubt may never really consider the challenges that those other kids face in getting that first walk down the aisle. 

The improvement has been driven by steep gains among African-American and Hispanic students and by progress in shutting down hundreds of troubled urban schools dubbed “dropout factories.” And it’s not confined to one region of the country. Rural states such as Iowa, Vermont and Nebraska are among the best at keeping kids in school until graduation — but other top performers include Texas, Tennessee and Missouri, all of which serve large numbers of low-income students in densely populated cities.

I suppose this should be a big deal. It sure is a big deal to that 1.7 million kids who got degrees over the last decade that statistically wouldn’t have if not for the improvement. Congratulations to them.

Good News Dept. – The Oscars for Comprehensible Govt. Writing Handed Out

Mother Jones writes about The Clearmark Awards, sponsored by the Center for Plain Language – lauding the honorable efforts of government and business to keep their written materials and websites plain and understandable for users. In short, the opposite of a nightmare sign like this one on a California road:

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We go after the bad guys who use language to lie and obfuscate. To be fair it’s only right to honor those making the effort to keep it simple.

On Tuesday, for the 11th-consecutive year, the nominees gathered at the National Press Club in downtown Washington to nibble on chocolate mousse and celebrate their colleagues for making bureaucratic copy comprehensible. Up for awards were the Social Security Administration, for its redesigned website; the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, for its revision of its rules of procedure; and the National Diabetes Education Program, for its pamphlet on taking care of your feet. In a year in which a broken website became a symbol of bureaucratic ineptitude, these were the heroes the media never told you about.

As Elizabeth Warren made her whirlwind tour to promote her book, her greatest accomplishment to date, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was being recognized for its efforts to teach consumers in plain language about the predators.

The big winner of the night was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, at Elizabeth Warren’s behest, and designed to safeguard regular folks from financial chicanery. The agency received the Grand Clearmark award, the CPL’s top honor, for its new loan modification tutorial. “There’s a sense of full revelation—no tricks, no hidden revelation,” one judge gushed.

Some companies and govt. agencies do get it, do try to serve the public, are fighting the good fight everyday to do things the right way for consumers and constituents. They should be applauded as they shame the wolves of Wall Street to be more forthcoming, honest and clear.

There was also a consensus on which sector is consistently the worst at making its content readable. “The finance industry doesn’t get it,” said Cheek.

I asked her why that is, and she paused for a moment.

“Arrogance.”

Arrogance, and profit. Especially in the finance, lending and banking community, if they could make more money using clear language they’d do it, but it’s clearly more profitable fore them to use opaque language or enervating fine print to sneak their real intentions past consumers, and increasingly, the regulators as well.

Being Progressive is Like Living in the Future

We saw Bundy for who he was (old nutty douchebag) a week ahead of it becoming obvious to conservatives.  That’s partially true because progressives are smart enough to read the subtext of people’s words and actions and see the patterns of history – so progressive reporters, and comedians, saw immediately the profound contradictions between Bundy’s situation and the well worn anti-moocher positions usually on display at Fox, as well as the racist militia movement underpinnings to almost everything that came out of the mouths of Bundy and his well armed but brain dead supporters. Conservatives seem to always just take things at face value and almost willfully keep their insights no further than skin deep (no pun intended) until the underlying truth becomes obvious and it, hilariously, blows up in their puzzled faces. 

This situation played itself out in a fairly compact time period so it had peak effectiveness in undermining conservative credibility. All too often the truth is revealed months later when mainstream and conservative media has already moved on and the impression of the first reporting being correct is left out there. Like when a newspaper prints a retraction on page 37 while the lies were on page 1 – nobody sees the retraction so the lie lingers in the common mind. In the Bundy situation, the entire basket of crazy was deliciously dumped out while everyone was still watching.

But back to living in the future – progressives keep taking positions that conservatives fight against but over time are validated as more factual, more effective, better policy for the greater good. Whether it’s slavery, universal suffrage, human rights, science and medicine, labor laws and unions, progressive taxation, public education, activist government, foreign military interventionism against Nazism and fascism and restraint against Communism – the progressive, liberal position has been substantiated by history and adopted by society. Then eventually co-opted and claimed by conservatives as really and truly their idea originally, when convenient. Then undermined by them relentlessly as they claim to agree with its basic tenets. 

It’s like living in the future. But constantly visiting a stupidly frustrating past.

We May Have Hit “Peak Beard”, Thank Goodness

I am constantly asking myself where all the beards came from. I’m particularly puzzled by the shaved head but big, bushy, backwoods beard look. It just throws the whole hair/head balance off in a disturbing lumberjacky sort of way way. Especially when seen in a Starbucks in Chelsea.

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But this Smithsonian article helps allay my fears of a bearded planet by asserting that we may have hit peak beard and, like the asinine cigar fad, they’ll probably start fading away again.

But, says Brooks, as “more and more people get onto the band wagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes, so that might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard’.”

“Negative frequency dependent” selection is common in the animal kingdom, and it can be summed up as the notion that rare traits are sexy. In a sea of heavily-stubbled men, it’s the clean-shaven chap who stands out.

I’m not very beardly myself, can’t really grow a decent one – but when I’ve eschewed the razor for a week, to see what I could do, I’ve found it really uncomfortable and the wife HATES IT. So yeah, not into the beard. However, I at least understand the choice and that some women do like it, so go grow that beard if you can, man. What I don’t understand (kind of like how some people don’t get bisexuals) is the 3-day growth. Either be clean shaven or beard guy, CHOOSE!

I’m REALLY wondering how the 3-day growth look, pioneered 30 years ago by Don Johnson in Miami Vice, became so ubiquitous on TV lately that it now seems as if every man in every commercial has it. Who thinks that’s such an overwhelmingly sexy look that it’s an absolute necessity? In commercials people go to supermarkets, buy cars, go on dates, GO TO WORK with the 3-day growth that most real men actually only have when on vacation, accompanied by “I give up” sweat pants.