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« Liberal Outrage: March 2008 | Main | Liberal Outrage: May 2008 »

Liberal Outrage

First It Was Sagging Pants

Now they want to ban you from school if you shave your eyebrows.

Some students at Centennial High School have shaved vertical lines into their eyebrows in a trend recently made popular by hip-hop star Soulja Boy. School officials say the mark looks like a gang symbol.

Centennial administrators are telling students with the lines that they can't return to school until they shave their eyebrows off. Assistant Principal Mark Porterfield said the students are not suspended, but they are not allowed in school until they cooperate.

And i thought Oregon was full of liberals.

The school's line is that some gang's have started shaving vertical lines in their eyebrows as a way to show they are in that gang and the school's not having any of that, regardless of whether or not the kid's in a gang.

What happened to good ol' fashioned tattoos to show your gang status?

Exactly what does this accomplish anyway? They're not saying you can't come to school if you're in a gang. They're not saying they're going to use this to identify which kids are the ones to watch. They're not saying that they're going to implement a program to try to get these kids to quit their gangs. No. They're just saying that if you try to exhibit anything that could be construed as gang affiliation, you can't come to school.

Well, i don't know any kid who doesn't know which kids belong to a gang and which don't without the use of identifying clues. So, if the school is worried about the shaved eyebrows being a necessary component before a gang member can start intimidating another student, let me assure them that this is not the case. They will intimidate whoever they want anyway.

Instead, like the sagging pants, school administrators are taking something that would have come and gone and been a complete non-issue and making into one. As Jazie B. pointed out, just tell them Vanilla Ice used to do it and they'll stop right quick.

On a side note, this quote from a student at the school makes me realize how old i am.

Gonzalez, 17, says he isn't in a gang and shaved the lines to look cool and impress girls.

Yes. Vertical lines in a boy's eyebrows are super cool and have always been a personal turn-on of mine.

Mebbe it's not a sign of my age but a sign of my eternal lack of cool.


By min | April 29, 2008, 2:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



And another thing!

While i'm on a roll, i figure it's a good time to do my rant on junk mail.

We don't get a lot of real mail, but we have a tiny mailbox down the block from our townhouse, and we have to go to it every day so that we can empty it out because just about every day it is full of crap. Crap that we do not look at. Crap that goes right into the recycling bin (even though i suspect a lot of it isn't really recyclable). It is absolutely pointless. Think of the environmental waste. Think of the fact that we could have our mailmen and women cover a much wider area if they didn't have to deliver all this garbage. Think of the fact that every two weeks we need to have our recycling people come and pick up our bin full of crap. And god knows how much sorting and processing and whatever else happens after that.

It is the most ridiculous exercise in pointlessness, and it's happening at a time where the Federal Post Office is underfunded, losing business to the internet and commercial delivery services, and constantly updating the cost of its stamps. How about raising the cost of the bulk rate until it either puts the Post Office back in the black and offsets the environmental and recycling costs or it is prohibitive enough that the Post Office can change its business model?


By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 11:15 AM | Liberal Outrage & My stupid life | Comments (3)| Link



Local conundrum

Spored made a very good point the other day that we don't deal much with local politics on this site. Part of the reason for me is my philosophy is actually the opposite of the 'all politics is local' maxim. I actually believe that national policies are the major driver in determining local policies.

We are currently in a recession. The recession was caused by federal policies, including the fact that Alan Greenspan at the Fed allowed first the stock market bubble, and then the housing bubble, to continue without interference. Now New Jersey has a huge budget problem, due to the fact that it is not pulling in the revenue that was planned for. On top of that, we have the fact that the Bush Administration has cut federal funding to states across the board, so Jersey is basically left on its own with some very unappealing options*.

On the one hand, we can increase taxes - but people are already screaming about property taxes in New Jersey; they have been for years, and now with property values decreasing it will be harder to justify raising taxes. In general, raising taxes is another way of saying "I would no longer like to hold office" in New Jersey.

On the other hand, we can cut services. Every attempt to cut funding to one area of local government or another has met with massive protest from angry citizens and local politicians. This has, i believe, driven our governor Corzine, who was previously a fairly dependable liberal Senator, quite mad, causing him to come up with all sorts of crazy schemes to try and find revenue. I don't agree with a lot of what he's done or attempted to do, but i find it hard to fault him too much considering his options**. So my focus is to look at the root causes of these issues, which always leads me back to the federal level.




*It's also important to note that in general, industrialized and post-industrial states like New Jersey (which also happen to trend Democratic) generally pay more in taxes than non-industrialized states in the mid-west and the South (which happen to trend Republican). Conversely, more federal funding goes to the "Red" states, so from a certain point of view Jersey sees less ROI on its taxes, putting it in a revenue hole to begin with.

**Now there are some things he can do, but they are more radical than we can expect of our politicians. If i were governor i would propose significantly raising the corporate tax rate. If you were to do this, you would have to be prepared to deal with the fact that many corporations would threaten to pick up and leave the state, which means you would have to have a solution in place to replace those lost jobs. My solution would be to at least temporarily have the state run any abandoned businesses at least until they are re-stabilized and can be sold back to an entrepreneur, but now you are running into charges of socialism in addiiton to copyright/patent issues. Another option is to lobby to change our state constitution so that we can run a deficit - as i've discussed previously, it actually makes sense for governments to run a decifit during recessions in order to stimulate the economy. This is seemingly politically unviable though as it lets Republicans make charges of 'fiscal irresponsibility'.

Update: Look what i find a few minutes after writing this post. Clearly, Jersey's problems are part of a larger trend.


By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 10:44 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Not that easy

Devilstower on the DailyKos site talking about environmentalism:

The solution lies in making choices as boring as picking up that fluorescent light bulb. The answer is conservation.
  • Drive less.
  • Take public transit.
  • Walk.
  • If it's too far to walk, use a bike.
  • If it's too far to bike, and there no public transportation, car pool.
  • If you can't car pool, use a smaller, more efficient vehicle.
  • If you have a long commute, move closer to work.
  • If you can't move closer, take a closer job.
  • If you can't get a different job, see if you can telecommute.

It really is that simple. Which of course, doesn't mean it will be easy. We're accustomed to jumping in our personal battleships and cruising the highway at speeds just less than supersonic every time we get a craving for a Slurpee

This is one of the biggest failings of the environmental movement: linking massive environmental problems to the actions of individuals. The problems are systematic: the way our suburbs are designed, the failure to fund and develop mass transportation and alternative energy sources, weak regulations on car mileage and emissions, etc.. Do these people realize how out of touch they look, telling people to just get a new car, a new job, a new house? In this economy, do they really think people can just quit their jobs and find another one within walking distance? Or sell their house? Do they think it's acceptable to show up at your job with your business suit all sweaty from having biked three miles up hills, on roads with no bike lanes or sidewalks? Not only are these suggestions unhelpful, they are actually detrimental, reinforcing the belief that environmentalists are all elite trust fund college kids with no understanding of how the world works.


By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 10:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Yeah! And what's his position on boy bands and emo?

I don't even know if i should link to this stupid article:

Obama thus far has equivocated on rappers. He has criticized their language, but adamantly refused to denounce the whole sordid genre as the unique cultural problem that it is.

Oh fine, just so you don't think i made it up: Obama's Other Jeremiah Wrights


By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 10:26 AM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (0)| Link



The Obama Doctrine

Understanding a presidential candidate's policy positions is sometimes like reading tea leaves, but this article gives me some hope about Obama on foreign policy (Note: that article is about a month old; i found out about it through a link this post, which complains about the fact that the candidates have basically stopped talking about foreign policy.).


By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 10:16 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Self-Censored

You may have heard about the New York Times article published last Sunday that detailed the huge propaganda effort that the Pentagon engaged in by placing supposedly retired and objective generals on all the news outlets. It turns out that the generals weren't all that retired - they were still working for the Pentagon and additionally many represented "defense" contractors that had a vested interest in the US going to and remaining in a war. This revelation is outrageous - it is illegal for the Pentagon to engage in propaganda inside the US and it also shows either a complete failure of our media's ability to vet its "experts" or its lack of objectivity.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse - an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

...
As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.
...
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, "the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world." Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many - although certainly not all - faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

I actually didn't blog about this because i thought this was such a big story that anything i'd write would be redundant. I (naively) expected some level of outrage among the cable bobbleheads - one would think that the 'Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world' would not appreciate being manipulated. At the very least, i expected some lame defense of their behavior from the press, and a flip denial of the scope from the White House.

Stupid me.

Instead, there has been a complete media blackout of this story; literally no coverage at all.

Questions by the White House press corps: None
Frontpage coverage in major newspapers: None
Discussion on T.V. talk shows: None
Questions to Defense Secretary Gates: One

Apparently Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer like being manipulated.

The fact that the media was complicit in this (and their silence lends to the impression that they were aware of what was going on, and not just incredibly incompetent) may be part of the reason why they have been unwilling to comment on this. But even ignoring their own involvment, this is part of a larger pattern of self-censorship within the media in support of government policies. Glenn Greenwald discusses this at length in several posts on his blog. I think his Kremlin allusion is powerful; the issue here is the media's ability to be silent and effectively prevent people from finding out about this.

And now we have what is by all metrics a huge new story regarding more fundamental media failures (at best), and they collectively invoke the Kremlin-like methods of Dick Cheney -- they refuse to comment, refuse to reveal even the most basic facts about what they did, and do everything possible to hide behind the wall of secrecy they maintain. They don't even feel the slightest bit obligated to say whether they have any procedures to prevent manipulation of this sort in the future. And those classic information-suppressing tactics are all being invoked by news organizations -- which claim to be devoted to disclosing, not concealing, scandals, corruption and facts about how our political institutions function
...
The fact that they simply refuse to account for their behavior -- hiding behind "no comment" walls of obfuscation or issuing cursory, empty statements -- demonstrates rather conclusively that they are in the business of doing everything except revealing relevant news to their audience. It's really the height of hubris, and unmistakable proof of their core corruption, that not even a front-page, lengthy NYT expose can cause them to address their central, ongoing role in uncritically disseminating government propaganda about the weightiest of matters.

As a footnote, here is a relevant interview between then CNN Anchor Aaron Brown and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now radio from 2003:

JEREMY SCAHILL: Aaron, will you consider hiring a paid antiwar analyst for NewsNight?

AARON BROWN: I honestly don't think it's a particularly relevant question. I mean, it's not - it's - we're in a war. There's going to be times after the war when we're going to have to talk about how that - how the occupation is being run and whether it's being run appropriately by the right people, and in a fair and smart way, and what the implications are of an American occupation of an important Arab capital. And at that point, by and large, the generals go away because there's no war to cover. Or there's a different war to cover, a different kind of war to cover. And we'll look for a range of people to talk about those issues.

AMY GOODMAN: But right now?

AARON BROWN: But again, no, because I think it's a red herring issue.

AMY GOODMAN: To have an antiwar analyst onboard, paid to be at your beck and call, like the generals?

AARON BROWN: I think -- yes. As my daughter would say, I'm not sure what part of that answer was confusing. But yes, I don't think that's the question, and I don't think it's how we use the generals at all, period. I mean, I don't know how many times we're going to go over the same thing. I just don't think we use the generals to argue the war. We use the generals to explain what is happening on the ground and why. That's an important thing to do, and that's the role they play.

In addition to Brown's seeming ignorance as to what the generals were being used for, note also Brown's built-in assumption that we may not hear from war critics while we are at war, and his snarky outrage that Goodman would continue to press him on that topic.

We need a better media.



By fnord12 | April 25, 2008, 9:29 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Free Island Offered to Jersey

Except Corzine is doing his best to not accept the offer without actually coming out and saying it. Link

Environmentalists Monday urged Gov. Jon S. Corzine to accept the free offer of a history-laced, half-square-mile island in the Delaware River and turn it into a nature center, unique as a wilderness easily accessed by urban residents of Camden County.

The island, among the largest in the Delaware, has been at the center of controversy because developers and their backers have eyed the former Citgo Petroleum Corp. terminal on Petty's Island to build condominiums with a golf course and retail shops, among other money-spinning commercial efforts.

Two years ago, a pair of bald eagles chose to nest on Petty Island, so ofc all development plans were halted. In the end, when the eaglet died, state wildlife officials accused developers of hiring an ornithologist to harass the bird. Nice.

Now, the plan to develop this island into a golf course is backed by a rich Democrat named George E. Norcross III, so, i suppose you could put this down as motive for Corzine's hemming and hawing. That and the fact that Jersey's having a bit of a budget crisis and a golf course and condos means revenue for the state. Cha-ching. (I guess Barbara Buono's idea of cutting the Christmas tree budget isn't going to save us enough money to bail the state out after all. Who knew?)

The word from Corzine's spokesperson is

"The discussions are ongoing, and no final decision has been made. The governor is committed to the island's cleanup before any decisions are made about its final use," said Corzine spokesman Jim Gardner.

Which makes perfect sense except

[David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation] said Citgo has offered to pay for the cleanup and wants to hand New Jersey $2 million to help manage the property.

So, governor, what exactly are the discussions about?

Meanwhile, the Republican candidate for governor Douglas R. Forrester has actually been very critical of Corzine and the Dems in general for basically bowing to a rich donor.

"When I'm governor, I have pledged, and will follow through on that pledge, to make sure that we don't have that kind of warped public policymaking," Mr. Forrester said. "This is the sort of thing that costs taxpayers money."

I don't know about you, but a Republican talking this way about "warped public policymaking" and costing taxpayers money strikes me as funny. And not in a good way.


By min | April 24, 2008, 2:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



Difference between "forced" and "pouring"

ME: Actually, Mr. Ashcroft, my question was about this other document. (laughter and applause) This other document is a section from the judgment of the Tokyo War Tribunal. After WWII, the Tokyo Tribunal was basically the Nuremberg Trials for Japan. Many Japanese leaders were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture. And among the tortures listed was the "water treatment," which we nowadays call waterboarding...

ASHCROFT: (interrupting) This is a speech, not a question. I don't mind, but it's not a question.

ME: It will be, sir, just give me a moment. The judgment describes this water treatment, and I quote, "the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach." One man, Yukio Asano, was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor by the allies for waterboarding American troops to obtain information. Since Yukio Asano was trying to get information to help defend his country--exactly what you, Mr. Ashcroft, say is acceptible for Americans to do--do you believe that his sentence was unjust? (boisterous applause and shouts of "Good question!")

ASHCROFT: (angrily) Now, listen here. You're comparing apples and oranges, apples and oranges. We don't do anything like what you described.

ME: I'm sorry, I was under the impression that we still use the method of putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water down their throat...

ASHCROFT: (interrupting, red-faced, shouting) Pouring! Pouring! Did you hear what she said? "Putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water on them." That's not what you said before! Read that again, what you said before!

ME: Sir, other reports of the time say...

ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read what you said before! (cries of "Answer her fucking question!" from the audience) Read it!

ME: (firmly) Mr. Ashcroft, please answer the question.

ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read it back!

ME: "The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."

ASHCROFT: (shouting) You hear that? You hear it? "Forced!" If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...does this college have an anatomy class? If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...

ME: (firmly and loudly) Mr. Ashcroft, do you believe that Yukio Asano's sentence was unjust? Answer the question. (pause)

ASHCROFT: (more restrained) It's not a fair question; there's no comparison. Next question! (loud chorus of boos from the audience)

Lots more Ashcroft insanity at Digby


By fnord12 | April 23, 2008, 3:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (6)| Link



Who Thinks This is a Good Idea?

For months, the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been hearing suggestions of a so-called dream ticket of Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, has pressed the idea most aggressively. It also came up in debate last week, and a major Clinton supporter in the Pennsylvania primary, Governor Ed Rendell, has blessed it, too.

And some uncommitted superdelegates - the party leaders and elected officials whose votes may determine the nominee - see such a unity ticket as a way to short-circuit a fight for the nomination all the way to the Democratic convention in August, and to blend the voter bases of the two candidates.

"It would be great to see them on the same ticket - they had attracted so many new voters and so much excitement, it seems so obvious," said Sam Spencer, an uncommitted superdelegate from Maine.

"Hillary would be the LBJ of 1960 - both served longer and had more experience, and LBJ was willing to take the vice presidency. And Obama would only come into his own more as vice president," he said, referring to Lyndon B. Johnson, who was John F. Kennedy's vice president and then successor.

Link

All of you who do, you need to stfu and go home. I don't know if i'll vote for Obama in November, but i sure as hell don't want that Republican bootlicking, right of center, pro-big business woman anywhere near the White House. *shudder*

She just went on tv this morning and threatened Iran with obliteration! We've had 8 years of Bush and Cheney mucking everything up. I don't need another 4-8 years of someone else who's clearly on crack running the country. I don't know if she noticed, but that invasion of Iraq she signed off on in 2003 - it's not going so well. And our military is stretched too thin as it is, trying to fight their two-front war. She thinks we can manage to sustain a three-front war? Or mebbe we'll just "glass 'em" from above. I suppose that would be much much neater.

I will most certainly give my vote to Nader if she's on the ticket. And don't start with your "throwing away your vote" or "helping the Republicans win" bullshit. If anyone's into helping the Republicans, it's Hillary Clinton and her ilk, and i refuse to vote for someone i don't like just because she might be an inkling better than McCain. You can go suck on an egg. She doesn't get my vote for being not quite as loathesome as the other guy. She doesn't get my vote as a default. She has to earn it. Just like everyone else.


By min | April 22, 2008, 2:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



Cambio

Congrats to Paraguay for breaking out of their 60-year one party rule this past weekend. Paraguay adds to the leftward trend of Central and South American countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. While he's not as leftist as some may like, it's still a historical moment and represents one of the positive aspects of the Bush administration's incompetence: previous US administrations, both Republicans and Democrats alike, have found ways, legal and otherwise, to ensure that US-friendly right-wingers remain in power in the countries to our south. The current administration's inability to walk and chew gum at the same time has allowed democracy to flourish in Central and South America, and i hope to see the trend continue.

Fernando Lugo, good luck, and whatever you do, don't take advice from people who cite the Heritage Foundation approvingly.


By fnord12 | April 21, 2008, 2:18 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



GAO: Bush Administration has no plan to catch Bin Laden or wipe out al Qaida

Link (and you can click through to get the PDF of the actual report, which is worth reading):

The Bush administration doesn't have a comprehensive strategy for eliminating Osama bin Laden's sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal region and preventing the region from being used for launching terrorist attacks on the United States, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.

President Bush and his senior lieutenants frequently claim that eradicating the threat that bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network poses to United States and its allies is their top national-security priority.

But in a scathing report, the Government Accountability Office said there was no plan that "includes all elements of national power - diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic and law enforcement support - called for by the various national-security strategies and Congress."

The GAO is a non-partisan, independent office. Its composition does not change based on who controls Congress. It has never been accused of partisan bias. Expect that to change now, of course, if this story actually gets any play (so far nowhere to be seen on the homepage for Yahoo News or CNN, unlike "Polygamy teen turned to topless dancing").


By fnord12 | April 17, 2008, 3:38 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



That's what they say every week.

Weekly jobless claims rise more than expected.

These same economists who are surprised every week by the jobless report and didn't see the housing bubble also believe this:

Economists believe that the downturn should be short and mild, ending this summer with the help of the economic stimulus package that will send rebate checks to 130 million households.

So nothing to worry about, right? Once we get our $600 checks, it'll be smooth sailing. I know if i were unemployed, nothing would make me feel better than $600.


By fnord12 | April 17, 2008, 9:20 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Hippies - the people who know what they are talking about

Krugman:

One of the defining features of the last 8 years or so has been the way ideas go from crazy stuff that only DFHs believe to stuff everyone knows, without ever going through a stage in which the holders of conventional wisdom acknowledge that they were wrong. Oh, and the people who were right are still considered DFHs; you see, they were right too soon. It looks as if peak oil may be going that way:
Russian oil production has peaked and may never return to current levels, one of the country's top energy executives has warned, fuelling concerns that the world's biggest oil producers cannot keep up with rampant Asian demand.

If you like being depressed you can also read this post, which compares the current run-up in food prices with the one from 1972-1974 (in which a million people died in Bangladesh), and wonders if this is just a temporary spike like that time, or something "more fundamental"? Ye gods.


By fnord12 | April 15, 2008, 3:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Who Woulda Thunkit?

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are on Medicare!

Or people like them, in the eyes of McCain.

McCain also called for wealthier Medicare recipients to pay higher premiums to qualify for the prescription drug coverage that President George W. Bush and the Congress added to the program a few years ago, over his objections.

"People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet don't need their prescriptions underwritten by taxpayers," he said. "Those who can afford to buy their own prescription drugs should be expected to do so. This reform alone will save billions of dollars that could be returned to taxpayers or put to better use."

That's right. It's the billionaires on Medicare who are getting away with paying low premiums that's the problem. Once we get them paying a higher price for their health insurance, it'll take a load off of the less ultra rich Medicare recipients out there who are struggling to pay for prescription medication.

I think this would be a definite "You're out of touch" moment if Obama would like to take advantage of it. Except he's not only out of touch with the people, he's out of touch with reality itself.


By min | April 15, 2008, 3:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Crude Oil Update

Link

Crude oil and gasoline prices rose to records Tuesday as investors purchased commodities because their returns have outpaced stocks, bonds and other financial instruments.

Oil climbed to $113.93 a barrel in New York, the highest since futures began trading in 1983. Rising global demand for raw materials and a weakening dollar have led to record prices this year for commodities including corn, rice and gold.

China said Tuesday that diesel imports surged 49 percent in March.

According to the article, the price of crude oil today is 78% higher than it was a year ago. Here comes the $4/gal gasoline. Someone leave a note on Bush's dresser about it so that he'll know. Thanks.


By min | April 15, 2008, 1:57 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Invasion!

Dean Baker:

Financial Leaders Try To Repair Damage From Failed Policies

This is what the headline of a Washington Post article discussing the meetings of the G-7 finance ministers, the Internation Monetary Fund, and the World Bank should have said. Instead, the Post decided to turn reality on its head with the Orwellian headline, "A Weekend to Start Fixing the World."

This is really one of those moments that leaves one wondering whether laughing or crying is more appropriate. I mean, let's be serious, why is the world broken? The alleged fixers are precisely the people who designed the financial policies that led to the current crisis.

The Post headline is written as though the economic crisis descending on us was an invasion from another galaxy that our brave leaders are now determined to combat. The real story is that the financial wizards meeting in Washington repeatedly ignored all the warnings that there were large imbalances (like the housing bubble) and that the financial system was overly leveraged and under-regulated. These are the people that missed the boat, that stifled dissent, the know-it-alls that got it wrong.

Let's stop the airbrushing of history.


By fnord12 | April 15, 2008, 11:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



What good, then, is the Unemployement Rate metric?

NYT:

THE unemployment rate is low. The jobless rate is high.
...
The unemployment rate paints a less gloomy picture. Among men ages 25 to 54 - a range that starts after most people finish their education and ends well before most people retire - the unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.
...
But there is another rate - called the jobless rate in this article - that counts the proportion of people without jobs. To be sure, some of them do not want to work. Some are raising families on a spouse's income, or are disabled, retired or independently wealthy. But others may be discouraged workers, who would take jobs if they thought any desirable positions were available.

In the latest report, for March, the Labor Department reported the jobless rate - also called the "not employed rate" by some - at 13.1 percent for men in the prime age group. Only once during a post-World War II recession did the rate ever get that high.

Even beyond measuring the strength of the current recession, the fact that we use the more optimistic unemployment rate is problematic. Often when comparing our social programs to those of European countries, we are told "Yeah, but their unemployment rate is like 11%!". In Europe, they count people who have given up looking for work, so our unemployment rates are actually comparable.


By fnord12 | April 15, 2008, 11:46 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Things are fine, if you don't look too closely.

Headline: Retail Sales Post Modest Gain in March

But for those who actually read the article:

Consumers, beset by a credit crunch, rising energy and food costs and a prolonged housing slump, stayed away from the malls in March. Retail sales posted only a small increase after a big drop in February.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that retail sales edged up 0.2 percent in March after a 0.4 percent decline in February. The March gain primarily reflected higher costs for gasoline, which climbed to record highs. Excluding a big 1.1 percent rise in sales at gasoline service stations, retail sales would have been flat last month.

The new report did nothing to dispel worries that consumers will cut back so sharply on spending that the country will tumble into a recession. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity.


By fnord12 | April 14, 2008, 2:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



They're absolutely right. He should just drop out now.

Media Matters:

On Hardball, while remarking on Sen. Barack Obama's reported request for orange juice after being offered coffee at an Indiana diner, David Shuster asserted: "[I]t's just one of those sort of weird things. You know, when the owner of the diner says, 'Here, have some coffee,' you say, 'Yes, thank you,' and, 'Oh, can I also please have some orange juice, in addition to this?' You don't just say, 'No, I'll take orange juice,' and then turn away and start shaking hands." Host Chris Matthews agreed, "You don't ask for a substitute on the menu."

By fnord12 | April 11, 2008, 4:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Florida: Shoot First, Shoot Often

Remember when Florida trotted out the Shoot First law last year?

Now they've made it easier to do that.

The bill, allowing workers to keep guns in their cars for self-protection, was approved by the Florida Senate by a vote of 26-13. It now goes to Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to sign into law.

Backed by the National Rifle Association and some labor unions, the so-called "take-your-guns-to-work" measure would prohibit business owners from banning guns kept locked in motor vehicles on their private property.

The measure applies to employees, customers and those invited to the business establishment as long as they have a permit to carry the weapon.

...

The measure exempts a number of workplaces including nuclear power plants, prisons, schools and companies whose business involves homeland security.

Well, aggravated teachers won't be able to shoot their students. At least, not on school grounds. Mebbe at the supermarket. I wonder how the post office feels about this. Would getting fired by your boss count as a threat, thus opening the way for using deadly force on them? What about an irate customer? Does the clerk have justification to shoot them? Irate customers do get a bit aggressive sometimes. It could be considered threatening. And before the clerk would have to go all the way home to get their gun and by then it would be too late. How much more convenient now to be able to make the short trip to the car and take care of the situation right away.

Consider this: Last year, the DEA had 69 firearms stolen from them, including 1 submachine gun. The majority of the thefts were out of the cars of the agents when they parked outside restaurants, hotels, gyms, etc. How much easier it will be to just go to Florida and break into any random car to get a gun than to have to follow a DEA agent and wait for him to break the rules and leave a firearm in the car before you can steal it.

The question is, why aren't people hauling ass out of Florida before they get shot?


By min | April 9, 2008, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Oh, Good

From TPM:

As you may have heard by now, a Federal probe has concluded that Ned Lamont's campaign did not bring down Joe Lieberman's campaign Web site with a hack attack, as the Lieberman camp charged on Election Day 2006.

What really happened was that the Lieberman camp's server failed.

Cause we were all worried that Lieberman might not be crazy and all his decisions were a result of rational thought. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

"The sad thing is, Lieberman himself repeated the charge all day in an attempt to discredit his opponents and drive down Ned's primary vote," Tagaris instant messages to me. "It was broadcast on every cable news channel, and papers from The New York Times to the Hartford Courant wrote about it."

"And he got away with it -- who cares what's reported today," Tagaris continues. "He won the election based on a pattern of lies loudly repeated and dutifully stenographed."

"Now maybe someone will run an investigation into Joe Lieberman's repeated claim that no one wants to end the war more than he does," Tagaris concludes.

Sadly, this is the pattern of things. By the time the truth comes out that "hey, voting machines in Ohio were rigged" or "the Bush administration wanted a way to get into Iraq from day 1," nobody cares anymore. Especially the stenography pool we rely on for news. It's not sensational now, so why bother?

How many politicians and government officials have you seen write a book after it's way past the time where the information would have been useful and relevant? Those people are the most despicable. They stood by and did nothing while it was happening and now they're making money off of their lack of conscience.


By min | April 9, 2008, 1:12 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



The Banks Broke It All

Here's an article on the role banks played in creating the economic crisis we're now dealing with. And it's not just us. It's rippling all around the world. It's a long read, but interesting. The short of it is they invested heavily into things they ought not to have done. And they should have known better.

In a luxurious chateau in Alsace eight years ago, a top financier made a confession: some of the complex financial instruments being pumped out by the world's biggest investment banks were potentially "toxic". Top regulators were left in no doubt of the perils hiding in the financial system after the two-day summit aimed at finding and disarming the bombs waiting to explode.

The warning proved to be prescient. About a year ago one of these bombs exploded. The ensuing credit crunch could lead to a complete redrawing of the financial map and may even herald the end of globalisation.

The toxic instruments highlighted by the banker were collateralised debt obligations (CDOs). Little was known of them when this regulatory teach-in was taking place, but since then banks have embraced them as a way of shifting debt off their balance sheets, enabling them to lend more. They have been bought enthusiastically by many investors across the financial system. As they began to blow up last year, there was mayhem at banks and brokers on Wall Street, which, in turn, sent shock waves through the world's financial markets.

CDOs are the villains of the market turmoil but before they unravelled they fuelled easy credit and economic growth in many developed economies. Britons amassed a record £1.4tr of debts - more than the UK's gross domestic product - as banks loosened their lending criteria. Millions of Americans with poor credit histories who might not otherwise have bought their homes were granted sub-prime mortgages.

But as gridlock gripped the markets, the repercussions have been painful. A record number of Americans are having their homes repossessed. Britons are finding it tougher to obtain credit and home loans. The damage is still being quantified but is already far-reaching. Northern Rock was nationalised by an embarrassed British government. The US Federal Reserve orchestrated the rescue takeover of the investment bank Bear Stearns. Rogue traders were found at the French bank Société Générale and the Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

Wall Street banks that make A&L look like a minnow must have their regrets too. They reaped profits from selling these CDOs in the good years. But towards the end of 2007 Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and Bear Stearns - which collapsed into the rival firm JP Morgan Chase - had to admit the extent of their problems. The key player in CDOs, Merrill Lynch, was forced in the space of a fortnight in October to increase its writedown from exposure to these instruments by $3bn to $7.9bn. Stan O'Neal, the then Merrill chief executive, said: "We made a mistake. Some errors of judgment were made in the business itself and within the risk-management function." The grandson of a slave was out of a job a week later. Merrill has since increased its write-down to $25bn.
...
The banks are providing the most dramatic illustration of the impact of CDOs. But insurance companies are revealing their exposure to the products, too, and the US company Bristol Myers Squibb has shown that the crisis has spread to the corporate sector after writing down the value of investments related to the sub-prime mortgage crisis by $275m.
In theory, pushing CDOs and other cleverly engineered products around the financial system spread the risk. But in practice it made it difficult to work out where the explosions were going to occur. But until August it had became so easy to sell on the risk that many investment banks were relaxed about it. The banker with the pen and paper reckons that the traders responsible for selling on the CDOs started to allow some of them to remain on their books, confident they would soon be able to pass them on. As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the Bank for International Settlements said last week that demand for certain types of CDOs was so high last summer that firms were able to transfer more sub-prime risk to investors than was actually originated in 2005 to 2006.

The BIS said: "A few fundamental tenets of sound financial judgment appear to have been violated."

[all emphasis mine]

A few tenets??? No shit, sherlock.

Oh, and btw, inflation is on the rise in Asia. Couple that with the falling U.S. dollar and all that cheap stuff we were getting that was manufactured in Asia is going to start being less cheap.

Tighten your belts, kids. It's gonna get bumpy.


By min | April 8, 2008, 1:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Without A Hint of Irony

China, who controls the media, who controls the internet, who suppresses dissent among its people (usually by arresting you and never letting you see the light of day again if they don't just take you out back and shoot you instead) has the unmitigated gall to actually criticize anyone about tarnishing the Olympic spirit??

Officials in Paris on Monday were forced to extinguish the Olympic flame and carry it by bus when anti-China protesters tried to seize it. During the British leg the day before, activists waving Tibetan flags and shouting "Shame on China" turned the event into an obstacle course.

"We express our strong condemnation of the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces, who gave no thought to the Olympic spirit or the laws of Britain and France," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement posted at www.fmprc.gov.cn.

"Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit."

They've been at it so long, they are able to say this with a complete lack of irony. Not even a tiny snicker in the background. Perhaps our media and government spokesmen have been studying how China does it. They still need alot of work. They're not as naturally inscrutable.

On top of that, i think doing their best to pretend the rest of the world didn't exist until the last few decades, has caused them to forget they can't rewrite all reality (that's another tip for you, Fox News). It's bound to leak out someplace else.

The version of the torch run from the rest of the world:

The torch went out more than four times, according to the French Olympic Committee, as the police repeatedly moved it aboard the bus, including the final stretch between City Hall and the stadium that houses the French Olympic Committee's offices.

...And China's version:

[Foreign Ministry spokeswoman] Jiang [Yu] also took issue with reports that said officials in Paris were forced to extinguish the flame, saying the relay was temporarily changed there to safeguard the security of the torch.

"The reports by foreign media are false in claiming that the Olympic torch was forced to be extinguished during its relay in Paris," she said.

Listen, mebbe the French Olympic official could have gotten the total number of times the flame went out wrong (although, i don't see how someone working for the Olympic committee would want to make things sound worse than they are), but here's a picture of the torch with no flame:

And here's another:

So....yeah.


By min | April 8, 2008, 9:13 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



McCain Getting News From Alternate Earth

That's the only explanation for his outlook on Iraq.

"We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success," McCain said.

"The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi," McCain said.

If he were getting the newsfeed from this earth, he couldn't possibly have missed the surge in violence just last week after the Iraqi military thought it would be a spectacular idea to attack Basra. And then failed miserably. Mortars were dropping in the Green Zone, fercrhissakes.

Or it could be the happy pills that turns everything he looks at into rainbows and baby pandas.


By min | April 7, 2008, 11:20 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Mark Penn Out....Sort Of

Last week, Clinton advisor extraordinaire Mark Penn trotted off to Columbia in his role as chief executive to a lobbying firm to discuss promoting a free trade deal that Clinton has said she was against. This was especially bad timing considering Clinton is campaigning in Pennsylvania where jobs have been lost to companies moving their manufacturing to other countries.

Now the Clinton camp is saying he was asked to resign from his role of Chief Strategist. However, he will continue to do the polling and provide "advice".

......Presumably on strategy?

It's good that they made a nice, clean break to distance themselves to what might be seen as a conflict of interest.


By min | April 7, 2008, 10:52 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Llamas!

Obama's Lama Problem


By fnord12 | April 2, 2008, 12:05 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Outcry? Media says 'meh'.

From a reader at TPM:

My parents were Hungarian holocaust survivors. The question most asked them about that era was, "how could it happen? What could have been done?

My mother's reply was that tyranny takes little steps. People get upset, and then accept it. Then another little step. A few more little steps and you have death camps.

Yoo's defense of torture is one more little step moving us away from civilization and closer to madness. Where is the outcry?

Here's the Washington Post on Yoo, and here's TPM (seperate link from the one above, which just has reader reactions).

Yoo's memo isn't even a top story on Yahoo news. You know this won't be discussed over and over again on cable news like Obama's bowling ability has been. There will be no outcry in the media.


**Link above corrected**


By fnord12 | April 2, 2008, 11:39 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



The most expensive form of socialism

We dump a huge percentage of our tax revenue into weapons programs that we don't need, and are never actually delivered. This is above and beyond the money we spend in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are new planes and tanks and missles and "defense" systems that have absolutely no value in a war against terrorists. The pentagon budget is essentially a black hole. We know that the money goes to Lockheed-Martin and Boeing and other such groups, but we don't really know what they do with it, despite the efforts of the General Office of Accounting and independent government watchdogs. The Pentagon, of course, feels no inclination to disclose anything.

This leads some people, understandably, to conspiracy theories, thinking that the money is being funneled off into weird clandestine programs (and perhaps some of it is), but the truth is that we really have a combination of cronyism and incompetence. Defense contractors give out heavy campaign contributions (and of course they can afford to - using our money), and anyone who questions the value of these projects can be accused of a lack of patriotism.

Saying we have the largest military budget in the world doesn't put things in the right perspective; we spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. Considering that our main opponents right now are people that are armed with boxcutters and home made bombs, you can imagine that our money can be spent more wisely, and the amount we spend can certainly be reduced. We could cut our budget by almost a third, focus half of that on special forces anti-terrorist operations, and still have more money devoted to traditional arms than China and Russia combined. There is no reason to be spending as much as we do.

One of the main remaining rationales is that our defense spending creates jobs. Our representatives often fight to bring home defense contracts to their districts, or keep unnecessary naval bases open, so that they can go home and talk about the jobs they've created in their areas. This is the most inefficient form of socialism imaginable. If we want the government to create jobs (and during a recession, we certainly do) there are much more valuable things we can have people doing (imagine building a modern national mass transportation system, retrofitting homes and buildings with solar power and greywater systems, increasing funding for schools, increasing hospital staff, etc., etc., etc.). But if the government is going to be in the business of creating jobs and sustaining the economy (certainly i think it should but conservatives will disagree - once the military fig leaf is removed), it shouldn't do so through the back door. It should do so overtly, so we can have our candidates debate it and we can vote for the plan we like best, and so it can be managed openly and governed by a central, non-secretive agency, and so that we can adjust it when reports like the most recent GOA report come out. Instead, we're basically just throwing our GDP away.


By fnord12 | April 1, 2008, 10:05 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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