The Center for Effective Government notes how the Jan. 17 50,000-gallon oil leak near Glendive, Montana contaminated the town's drinking water, and reminds us that a Keystone XL pipeline would bring a lot more of the same. I pity the fool who says why do you talk about individual pipeline spills, when the vast majority of pipelines don't break? Because pipeline spills cause a lot more damage than their relative infrequency would suggest, that's why. It would be like someone causing a car accident that killed people and then huffily pointing all those other days this year he didn't cause an accident.
The Washington Post finally evaluates Rand Paul's claim that half of those on Social Security disability programs aren't really earning their benefits, and gives his claim "Three Pinocchios," which I find rather generous, given their analysis, which is well worth reading in full. But note that Mr. Paul's spokeshack tries to defend his boss by claiming he was answering a "spontaneous" question in public and speaking "without prepared remarks," as if it's too much for citizens to expect Senators to answer questions upon which they haven't been specifically briefed that day, or to speak extemporaneously without distorting issues.
As a public service, Yes! magazine distills five tips for getting and staying out of debt from the Occupy movement's Debt Resisters' Operations Manual. They are: avoid payday lending and other "fringe" loan services, make an offer to pay part of your debt (since selling your debt to a debt collector actually makes creditors very little money), know and defend your rights, think of other ways to get what you need without a credit check (like references and portfolios), and try alternatives, like bartering networks and local time banks. It's good to have options, especially in These Interesting Times.
CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act will cost 20% less than previously forecasted over the next decade. Some of that's due to low inflation and some of that's due to states refusing Medicaid expansions, but the right wing is already squealing ZOMG TEH OBUMMERCARE SPENDZ $56,000 PER PERSON!!!! (They're dividing the $1.35 trillion price tag by 24 million expected insured.) This is, of course, a scare number -- they never tell you that's $56,000 per person over ten years, which means $5,600 per person annually, which is very likely a little over half what your employer pays to insure you.
Finally, Johann Hari argues that the main cause of drug addiction isn't necessarily the drugs themselves, but a life unconnected to people and things you love. Inspiration: a scientist follows up on a famous rat experiment -- the one where a rat in a cage drinks from a heroin-laced water bottle all day rather than a just-water bottle -- by putting a rat in a cage with all sorts of toys and food and tunnels and other rats in it, and finding that the rat never drank from the heroin-laced water bottle though it was always available. Could this be the paradigm shift we need in ending the War on Drugs? Perhaps, but we'll also need serious change in economic policy, too, so people have more opportunities to have the good life that'd keep them off drugs. At the very least that means talking taxing the rich, hard, so we can pay to provide those opportunities, and also because they're the ones standing in progress's way most of the time.