Now that the President-elect elected to select the unelectable Rick Perry to direct the Department of Energy — the very agency he infamously tried, and failed, to inform voters he would shut down if they made him President of these United States — I thought now might be a good opportunity to instruct the media on word choice.
You may have never heard of Yakima, WA, so please allow me to introduce you. It’s a cute little town in Eastern Washington with beautiful views of Mount Rainier that I’ve driven through a number of times. Though it sits within view of a fearsome volcano, Yakima was actually listed as one of the 10 safest places to live in the United States — considering only the risk posed by natural disasters — as recently as two years ago.
But not all is well in paradise. In February 2010, researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency sampled 331 homes in the Yakima area, and found that about 20 percent of their wells contained water above the safe standard for nitrate levels. A follow-up study conducted two years later concluded that the most likely source of contamination was the high concentration of dairy farms nearby. Nitrates can percolate into groundwater from fertilizer or manure.
And nitrates are serious business. According to the Yakima Herald:
[Headline updated to reflect the fact that a deal was reached to avert filibuster reform. The rest of this post was written before that happened.]
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Harry Reid is ready to exercise the “nuclear option” to force filibuster reform:
In a Monday speech at the Center for American Progress, the Senate majority leader announced his readiness to invoke the so-called nuclear option and push through filibuster reform on a procedural vote.
Reid, citing the refusal of Senate Republicans to allow up-or-down votes on seven of the president’s nominees, including Tom Perez to be secretary of Labor and Gina McCarthy to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said, “The Senate is broken and needs to be fixed,” and emphasized “I am prepared to take whatever actions necessary” to do so.
As the Senate inches to within reach of DEFCON 0, Reid seems to have discounted the risk that the schtick he’s about to pull will come back to bite him and other Senate Democrats in the ass [pun intended]:
“I’d actually look at what’s going on today rather than have some hypothetical in the future.”
I suppose bluffing is a good negotiating tactic, but that future — Nate Silver felt compelled to chime in — might be coming sooner than Reid would like. Yesterday, the Sultan of Stat took to Five Thirty Eight for the first time in five days to predict that control of the Senate after 2014 (the coming election) looks like a tossup:
A race-by-race analysis of the Senate, in fact, suggests that Republicans might now be close to even-money to win control of the chamber after next year’s elections. Our best guess, after assigning probabilities of the likelihood of a G.O.P. pickup in each state, is that Republicans will end up with somewhere between 50 and 51 Senate seats after 2014, putting them right on the threshold of a majority.
The post didn’t explicitly mention the nuclear option or filibuster reform, or anything else about the current Senate, but the implication was clear: Reid should be careful what he wishes for.
That said, I’m not so sure that conclusion is correct. On the one hand, Silver doesn’t predict that Republicans will take the Senate in 2014, and the smaller the Democratic majority, the more important will be its ability to break the filibuster. But his post also serves as an obvious reminder that in changing the rules, the Democrats risk ceding power to an inevitable Republican majority — if not in 2014, then sometime soon thereafter. And that’s precisely what Republicans are counting on to call Reid’s bluff (and continue blocking executive branch nominees). Said Lamar Alexander (R-TN):
“It might be a Democratic train going through the Senate now, but a year and a half from now, it might be the tea party express and some of them might not like that.”
Incorrect, Mr. Alexander: all of them will not like that. Still, Alexander makes a terrifyingly good point about control of the Senate, and it’s certainly something that should give Reid pause before he reaches for that big red button.
But I want to focus on something else Alexander said that actually undermines this line of argument:
In its January/February issue, Mother Jones covered a report on the link between lead and human behavior. Rick Nevin, a consultant at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development ran some tests on the link between lead and violent crime:
In a 2000 paper (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
As the graph linking pirates and global warming famously shows, it’s possible to commit a correlation/causation fallacy any which way you like, so Nevin repeated his research in other countries for confirmation: