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Bottled Water

[ 173 ] July 16, 2014 |

In the best of situations, bottled water is an idiotic industry in the United States given the safety of municipal water supplies. This is not the best of situations:

Nestlé may bring smiles to the faces of children across America through cookies and chocolate milk. But when it comes to water, the company starts to look a little less wholesome. Amid California’s historically grim drought, Nestlé is sucking up an undisclosed amount of precious groundwater from a desert area near Palm Springs and carting it off in plastic bottles for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.

The Desert Sun reports that because Nestlé’s water plant in Millard Canyon, Calif., is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, the company is exempt from reporting things like how much groundwater it’s pumping, or the water levels in its wells.

From The Desert Sun:

The plant … has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California’s drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it’s right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.

Obviously the particulars here are complex given that there is a deal between Nestle and the Morongo, but the broader point is that this bottled water industry exists in a space without any knowledge from consumers about where the water comes from and it often comes from unsustainable sources in drought-prone areas. There is no good reason for it.

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“And, In Conclusion, KU’s Teams Will Now Be Known As the Kansas Reagans.”

[ 158 ] July 16, 2014 |

Shorter Sam Brownback: “My crazy Democratic opponent thinks that raising taxes is a way to solve the disastrous fiscal meltdown caused by the tax cuts I favored. But everyone knows this solution is insufficiently Reagan because Reagan, and in addition Reagan. Note: this “Reagan” bears no resemblance to the actual Reagan.”

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Unvarnished Greed

[ 100 ] July 16, 2014 |

I am sure am glad NBA superstars have to accept a maximum value contract worth far less than their actual worth. After all, how could impoverished NBA owners pay them those salaries, what with only likely getting $15 billion in television rights fees?

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Foreign Entanglements: Gaza

[ 7 ] July 16, 2014 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt and I talk Gaza:

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The New Religious Exception: Unionization

[ 241 ] July 16, 2014 |

….Sorry for not including the link, I wrote this before a long and horrible day of travel and so just saw I forgot it now. Here is the original link, for what it’s worth 20 hours later.

Among the many potential impacts of the Hobby Lobby decision is for employers to claim unionization of their workforce violates their religious beliefs. This is already percolating through the court system, most famously at Duquense University, when that Catholic institution of higher education used this argument (because all know the Pope hates unions or something).

By declaring that “closely held” corporations may hold religious beliefs, the court may have provided businesses with a new tool for crushing workplace unionization drives. In addition to declaring themselves exempt from contraception mandates and non-discrimination laws, religious employers may soon be able to argue for an exemption from collective bargaining laws.

“All you need is one employer saying, ‘My religious beliefs tell me I shouldn’t collectively bargain,’” said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If an employer takes the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to court and uses that argument, it could set the table for a major court battle over the future of union rights in nominally religious workplaces.

Religious primary and secondary schools are already exempt from collective bargaining rules, thanks to the 1979 Supreme Court case NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over schools “operated by a church to teach both religious and secular subjects.” As a result, schools operated by the Catholic Bishop of Chicago were under no obligation to recognize employee unions, no matter the circumstances. Putting religious schools under the jurisdiction of the NLRB, the court reasoned, would present “a significant risk of infringement of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.”

Other religious schools have seized on the decision over the years. Most recently, Perelman Jewish Day School in Philadelphia decided to stop recognizing its teachers’ union, citing NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago as legal justification. A March 28 article from the labor-friendly magazine In These Times suggested that the school’s actions may have earned it the title “the Hobby Lobby of Union-Busting.” But the Perelman case may wind up being less important than another legal fight brewing elsewhere in Pennsylvania. In 2012, adjunct professors at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University requested the right to hold a union election, only to have the school claim a religious exemption. The crucial difference in this case is that Duquesne is a university, not a religious day school like Perelman or the Chicago Catholic schools.

The implication of Alito’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, if fully implemented, opens the door to employers using religious exemptions to avoid every law they don’t like, which I have no reason to believe reasonable moderate Sam Alito would oppose.

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“A thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism”

[ 50 ] July 15, 2014 |

Pierce on Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

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Conversations

[ 53 ] July 15, 2014 |

The following is a transcript of a short exchange I had with my son. It’s remarkable not just because it’s funny but because I think you could graft it on to the relationship Obama has with the Republican congress and it would still work perfectly.

Son (trying to sleep next to me): Mommy, quit making that noise!

Me: What noise? You mean my breathing?

Son: Yeah.

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“The story is a convergence of helicopter parenting with America’s primitive family policy.”

[ 323 ] July 15, 2014 |

This is…amazing in a horrible way:

Debra Harrell is currently in jail because she let her 9-year-old daughter play, unsupervised, in a public park. Almost everything about this story (which I noticed courtesy of Lenore Skenazy) is horrifying. Harrell works at McDonald’s. Her daughter used to tag along and stare at a screen at her mother’s workplace during the day. She asked to go to the park instead, was discovered to be without an adult, and her mother was arrested.

If I had grown up in South Carolina (and there was any chance these laws would be applied to white people), I think my parents would be doing life without parole. The idea that there are no circumstances under which a 9-year-old can be in public without supervision is bizarre. And the asusmption that 9-year-olds need constant supervision certainly isn’t reflected by American social policy (and that goes triple for deep red statehouses.)

And as Friedersdorf says, even if you assume that the child was in actual peril there’s no way that the trauma of being separated from her (arrested and now presumably unemployed) mother isn’t a net negative to the welfare of the child.

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In his defense, I don’t think he understood it was an insult

[ 144 ] July 15, 2014 |

SEK takes his car to TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN in order to make sure it won’t explode and kill him when he makes a road trip next week.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: You just put a new battery in it?

SEK: That I did.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Means your electrical is reset, our computer can’t do a lot of the tests.

SEK: So long as its fluids are replenished and it doesn’t have murder in its heart, I’m fine.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: So when do you need it by?

SEK: I have a meeting at 2 p.m.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I don’t think I can have it done by 1:30.

SEK: No a problem, I work online. Just need to be back home and I live around the corner.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: What do you do?

SEK: I write online.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: People do that?

SEK: As long as they pay me to.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I thought that was computers did that.

SEK: ?

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: They don’t have that shit programmed out yet? Our computer tells us what happened with a car, figure it was the same with what the President said and shit.

SEK: I don’t think they have a computer that can do that.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Couldn’t be worse than what they’ve got.

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Iron Dome?

[ 242 ] July 15, 2014 |

The idea behind Iron Dome is that Israel can (with US assistance) spend several hundred million dollars to develop and purchase a set of batteries that can launch interceptor missiles that cost at least $20000 a pop to shoot down unguided rockets that cost several hundred dollars each.

If this works exactly as expected, and shoots down 80-90% of incoming rockets, it provides a strong incentive for Hamas and Hezbollah to launch rockets into Israel (even a miss is a hit at those prices!). If, as Ted Postol and others suggest, the hit rate is much lower, Iron Dome provides even more of an incentive for Hamas to launch rockets.

But hey, at least the protection that Iron Dome provides means that Israel doesn’t need to blast the bejeezus out of Gaza every two years, amirite?

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The West’s Disappearing Water

[ 68 ] July 15, 2014 |

In the last 50 years, there’s been a lot of sadness in the environmental community over the destruction caused by many western dams. Glen Canyon is the most famous case, but a lot of beautiful land was erased by the West’s insane dam building mania of the mid-twentieth century. There’s long been calls to tear some of these dams down, but with rare exceptions such as along the Elwha River in Washington, doing so is politically impossible. But hey, long-term drought means that the land is coming back above the water line without tearing down the dams. Of course, this comes at a terrible ecological cost and threatens not only the future of the Southwest but the agricultural production we rely upon to eat lettuce in January.

Although I’m sure importing non-native insects will solve all our problems.

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The Republican War on the ACA Never Ends

[ 109 ] July 15, 2014 |

The Republican Party will never rest until it has stripped tens of millions of people of their health coverage, but at least their latest dumb lawsuit will fall into the symbolic rather than the substantive realm of opposition.

I wonder if Boehner’s stunt will even serve its central purpose, appeasing the Tea Party’s perpetual skree machine. For example, Andrew McCarthy’s new treatise P.S. I AM NOT A CRACKPOT* proposes seven articles of impeachment, “each of which has several subparts.” If the suit is ultimately limited to one narrow issue that will be moot before the suit goes anywhere, it’s hard to imagine this brigade being satisfied.

*The man who caused Pauline Kael to flee film reviewing in horror is impressed: “The Left has the late Saul Alinsky as a model. We have a rejoinder — Andrew McCarthy.” Palajams Media, at the intersection of crank and cliche.

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