it’s like that, and that’s the way it is

First and most important, c/o Phanatic (who swiped it from a friend of his) here’s some fresh breakin’ to start your day.

Next: I remember reading a copy of the Journal at the kitchen table in the family homestead over Christmas and seeing a full-page ad for Lifelock – an identity theft protection service. In this ad, which I’m sure you’ve seen since, Todd Davis, CEO of Lifelock, stood in front of block text declaring his Social Security Number to the world. So confident was he, apparently, in his company’s product.

Well, according to a class action lawsuit filed last week, the inevitable happened:

“The lawsuits allege that LifeLock and its multi-million-dollar advertising campaign provided false and misleading information about the limited level of identity protection the company provides, and failed to warn them about the potential adverse impact the company’s services could have on their credit profiles,” according to the press release.

Additionally, the release alleges that Lifelock CEO, Todd Davis has been a victim of identity theft multiple times since using his SSN as a marketing tool to sell the service.

Oops.

Next up: could the “obesity epidemic” plaguing America have anything to do with … the shifting definition of obesity?

“Overweight:”Definition changed from BMI ≥ 27 to BMI ≥ 25 by the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in 1998, instantly increasing by 43% the numbers of Americans, an additional 30.5 million, deemed ‘overweight.’

“High cholesterol:”Definition changed from a total cholesterol ≥ 240 to ≥ 200 in 1998 increasing by 86% the numbers of Americans labeled has having high cholesterol, an additional 42.6 million adults.

“Hypertension:”Definition changed in 1997 from 160/100 to 140/90, instantly adding 35% more Americans, 13.5 million, to the rosters of hypertensive. A new definition for ‘prehypertension’ in 2003 increased to 58% the Americans believing they have hypertension.

“Diabetes:” Definition changed from a fasting glucose of ≥ 140 to ≥ 126 in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association and WHO Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus, increasing by 14% and 1.7 million the people diagnosed with diabetes. With the proposal of a new term, ‘prediabetes’ by the First International Congress on Prediabetes, and promoted by the International Diabetes Federation (sponsored by 12 pharmaceutical companies), 40% of the adult population was added to the rosters believing they have diabetes and are in need of treatment.

I’ve still seen plenty of fat Americans, but this explains a lot.

In news abroad, Jesus tapdancing Christ, don’t fucking invade Burma in the name of humanitarian aid, you fucking stupid fucks:

One of the illusions that convinced some otherwise well-meaning people to go along with the conquest of Iraq in 2003 was, “Iraq is so bad, how could we make it worse?” But we could. So with Burma. I know almost nothing about the junta that rules Burma. But I know that it’s the junta that rules Burma – that is, that they’ve extended their writ over a preponderance of the territory we think of as Burma, more or less. That is to say, they successfully maintain power.

The junta apparently numbers 19 guys, but 19 guys don’t run a place like Burma by themselves. They’ve got people for that. Cops, soldiers, secret policemen, bureaucrats. And those people have families and friends and hangers-on. Stakeholders. And apparently “regional commanders enjoy a great deal of autonomy in their respective areas.” So they and their retainers and whoever else profits from existing arrangements have a stake in the existing system. And the habits and attitudes of the bulk of the population are the habits and attitudes that enable one to survive under tyranny. It’s not about knocking off that one bad guy and his eighteen friends. There’s a whole set of structures and class interests and cultural patterns, local peculiarities and regional fault lines to cope with. I don’t know much about Burma, but I know that much about any place. It’s hubris to be sure you can start rearranging such a society without a good chance of making it even worse.

And, because I haven’t ragged on President Dog in a while:

“I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.’’

[…]

Asked if he thought Mr. Obama was an appeaser — the Democratic candidate has said he would be willing to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran — Mr. McCain sidestepped and said, “I think that Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is the head of a government that is a state sponsor of terrorism, that is responsible for the killing of brave young Americans, that wants to wipe Israel off the map, who denies the Holocaust. That’s what I think Senator Obama ought to explain to the American people.’’

I should barely need to open my mouth to refute something this illiterate, but:

(1) Reagan had no problem sitting down with Iranian religious extremists when he needed some loose cash to fund Nicaraguan guerillas.

(2) Not that I want to defend Obama’s foreign policy acumen, but: Senator Obama would probably want to sit down with the head of Iran for the same reason Reagan sat down with Gorbachev, or the same reason Nixon shook hands with Mao Zedong. I know these aren’t strictly analogous cases, as Russia and China were threats to the U.S. and Iran is not, but I hope everyone can still follow along.

From the Washington Post, an op/ed that examines the social cost of terrorism:

Fear, in other words, is a tax, and al-Qaeda and its ilk have done better at extracting it from Americans than the Internal Revenue Service. Think about the extra half-hour millions of airline passengers waste standing in security lines; the annual cost in lost work hours runs into the billions. Add to that the freight delays at borders, ports and airports, the cost of checking money transfers as well as goods in transit, the wages for beefed-up security forces around the world. And that doesn’t even attempt to put a price tag on the compression of civil liberties or the loss of human dignity from being groped in full public view by Transportation Security Administration personnel at the airport or from having to walk barefoot through the metal detector, holding up your beltless pants. This global transaction tax represents the most significant victory of Terror International to date.

The new fear tax falls most heavily on the United States. Last November, the Commerce Department reported a 17 percent decline in overseas travel to the United States between Sept. 11, 2001, and 2006. (There are no firm figures for 2007 yet, but there seems to have been an uptick.) That slump has cost the country $94 billion in lost tourist spending, nearly 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in forgone tax revenue — and all while the dollar has kept dropping.

[…]

What is happening to the American character? True, the country has gone through crises of confidence before, some of them cresting in sheer hysteria — from the Alien and Sedition Acts to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s search for a commie under every State Department desk. But the worst acts from 1798 were repealed or allowed to lapse within three years, and the senator from Wisconsin was censured a few years into his red-baiting career. Alas, the USA Patriot Act and DHS have already endured longer than either earlier excess, and neither is fading.

I vaguely recall someone mentioning how important it was that American citizens live out their lives as normal – without fear, in other words – in the days immediately following the September 11th attacks. My mistake.

Next, you might have seen this on a CNN scrolling banner last week: Marijuana may up heart attack, stroke risks. Of course, the beauty of modern cable news comes from not having to tell you the interesting parts of the story:

The marijuana users in the study averaged smoking 78 to 350 marijuana cigarettes per week, based on self-reported drug history, the researchers said.

78 joints per week makes 11 per day, or one every hour and a half while awake. 350 joints per week makes 50 a day. Drinking 50 glasses of distilled water per day would cause kidney problems, but you don’t see that making the news.

Was there some mythical era of American journalism when obviously bogus news stories like this one would have been caught at the editor’s desk? Or is that wishful thinking?

Finally, I worry about the rising price of oil as much as anyone, but I hope that my worries sound more literate than those of the dumbest man with a Times byline, Paul fucking Krugman:

Now, speculators do sometimes push commodity prices far above the level justified by fundamentals. But when that happens, there are telltale signs that just aren’t there in today’s oil market.

[…]

The only way speculation can have a persistent effect on oil prices, then, is if it leads to physical hoarding — an increase in private inventories of black gunk. This actually happened in the late 1970s, when the effects of disrupted Iranian supply were amplified by widespread panic stockpiling.

But it hasn’t happened this time: all through the period of the alleged bubble, inventories have remained at more or less normal levels. This tells us that the rise in oil prices isn’t the result of runaway speculation; it’s the result of fundamental factors, mainly the growing difficulty of finding oil and the rapid growth of emerging economies like China. The rise in oil prices these past few years had to happen to keep demand growth from exceeding supply growth. [emphasis mine]

Speculators? Hoarders? Heaven forfend, Dr. Krugman! Are the Freemasons poisoning the wells? Should I let some blood to dispel the bad humo(u)rs? Quick, without peeking at a calendar: what century are we living in right now?

The bizarre distinction between “speculators / hoarders” and the “fundamental” business of the market belies an odd, illiterate bias on Krugman’s part. To demonstrate why, substitute the word investor for every instance of the word speculator or hoarder. They’re the same thing: people who buy a commodity in the expectation that its price will rise. But one can be found in every basic Econ textbook in print today – none of which, apparently, Krugman has ever read – while the other evokes images of a miser in a mud hovel on the outskirts of a Prussian village. Speculators! Hoarders! Assemble a posse! Notify the burgomeister!

Maybe I wouldn’t be so mad all the time if I lived in Iceland:

Iceland, lodged in the middle of the North Atlantic with Greenland as its nearest neighbour, was too far from the remit of any but the more zealously obstinate of the medieval Christian missionaries. It is a largely pagan country, as the natives like to see it, unburdened by the taboos that generate so much distress elsewhere. That means they are practical people. Which, in turn, means lots of divorces.

‘That is not something to be proud of,’ said [city councilor and single mom] Oddny [Sturludottir], with a brisk smile, ‘but the fact is that Icelanders don’t stay in lousy relationships. They just leave.’ And the reason they can do so is that society, starting with the parents and grandparents, does not stigmatise them for making that choice. Icelanders are the least hung-up people in the world. Thus the incentive, for example, ‘to stay together for the sake of the kids’ does not exist. The kids will be just fine, because the family will rally round them and, likely as not, the parents will continue to have a civilised relationship, based on the usually automatic understanding that custody for the children will be shared.

Fewer Puritans, a high GDP, greatest number of books per citizen and hot springs? I now have a designated escape country.

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18 Responses

  1. Actually, Reagan had a nice warm cuddly relationship with Iran well before he started selling them weapons. It’s generally accepted by historians that Reagan contacted the regime and cut a few deals so they would ignore Carter and release them when Reagan was in office. Which he promptly followed up by firing half the city of Washington in the middle of a recession. Why the man isn’t reviled as one of our worst Presidents astounds me.

  2. I totally agree that Obama, should he be president, should sit down with Iran. Many critics point to our “abandonment” of Iran back in 2003 as the fulcrum for their seeming return to “evil.” Hell, we had them on our side when we invaded Afghanistan, but the Bushies and their cowboy ways decided it was just easier to make them into an enemy. Can we hear a Nixon going to China people?

    Americans are fat because our consumer culture makes us this way. Bad food is cheap and we’re encouraged to drive rather than walk by various factors, the biggest of which is ease. I could pontificate on this point, but it’s an old argument sung often but heeded rarely.

    I can’t imagine smoking 11 joints a WEEK, much less a day. Oy.

    I wanna go back to Iceland and see more now than just their lovely airport.

  3. ‘Why the man isn’t reviled as one of our worst Presidents astounds me.’ – very stiff competition for that honor. Lincoln, Wilson, Johnson and FDR all murdered more Americans than Reagan did.

  4. Mark – how does our consumer culture differ from that of, say, France?

  5. It probably doesn’t, significantly. I only point it out because it’s a self-reinforcing cycle of sloth and consumption that is creating all sorts of havoc with our economy, environment, health, etc. I think the French just mitigate many of these because of their universal health care system, so at least they can treat some of these ails.

  6. I don’t think universal health care mitigates obesity. I’m not sure how it would, in fact.

  7. Almost got me, Gavin, I actually thought you were serious for a second.

  8. If Gavin’s not, I am. You think Lyndon Johnson’s a better President than Ronald Reagan? You think the notoriously racist, imperialist Woodrow Wilson doesn’t sit at least one or two ranks higher on the Evil Scale?

  9. social cost of terrorism:

    I like the world “autoterrorism” to describe this.

    If there’s any succor, it’s that it’s not just us. Britain’s gone from this to this.

  10. It’s generally accepted by historians that Reagan contacted the regime and cut a few deals

    Which historians would those be? I dimly recall an article in Playboy to that extent back in the late 80s, but I’m not sure that counts.

  11. Oh, I see. The October Surprise conspiracy theory turns out to have originated with Lyndon LaRouche. Okay, but since when is he a historian?

  12. Britain’s gone from this to this.

    30 Rock parodied that sentiment to the best effect I’ve seen yet: “If You Suspect Anything, Do Everything.”

  13. “Was there some mythical era of American journalism when obviously bogus news stories like this one would have been caught at the editor’s desk? Or is that wishful thinking?”

    Such stories wouldn’t have reached the editor’s desk because most of them wouldn’t have been written. In this magical time, newsrooms were given enough staffing and resources to really dive in and dig up stories. Cut budgets, reduce reporting staff in the manner that that has been taking place as of late and this is what you’re going to get. Reporters don’t have time to do anything in-depth and still produce the copy the copy desk needs for the following day’s paper.

  14. Vickie – So the era of “press release as journalism” is lately upon us? When did we start to suffer under it? Who can I properly blame it on?

  15. Dude, it’s too bad we don’t get Chinese television here. There are dancing soldiers ALL THE TIME.

  16. Communism: Come for the Gulags, Stay for the Line Dancing!

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