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« Liberal Outrage: January 2012 | Main | Liberal Outrage: March 2012 »

Liberal Outrage

The Donuts are In Jeopardy!

Scientific American tells me that the southwestern U.S. looks like it might experience a drought similar to Australia's nine year drought.

Australia experienced the worst and most consistent dry period in its recorded history over much of the past decade. The Murray River failed to reach the sea for the first time ever in 2002. Fires swept much of the country, and dust storms blanketed major cities for days. Australia's sheep population dropped by 50 percent, and rice and cotton production collapsed in some years. Tens of thousands of farm families gave up their livelihoods. The drought ended in 2010 with torrential rains and flooding.
...
The southwestern U.S. bears some resemblance to parts of Australia before the drought. Both include arid regions where thirsty cities and irrigated agriculture are straining water supplies and damaging ecosystems. The Colorado River no longer flows to the sea in most years. Water levels in major reservoirs have steadily declined over the past decade; some analysts project that the largest may never refill. The U.S. and Australia also share a changing global climate that is increasing the risk of drought.
...
The Millennium Drought did have one benefit: it got people's attention. Australians responded to these extremes with a wide range of technical, economic, regulatory and educational policies. Urban water managers in Australia have been forced to put in place aggressive strategies to curb water use and to expand sources of new and unconventional supplies. They have subsidized efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, launched public educational campaigns to save water, and more. Between 2002 and 2008 per capita urban water use--already low compared with the western U.S.--declined by 37 percent.

Other efforts focus on tapping unconventional supplies, such as systems that reuse gray water, cisterns to harvest rooftop runoff, and sewage treatment and reuse. The country's five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion to double the capacity of desalination, enough to meet 30 percent of current urban water needs.

Even in the midst of the drought, Australia moved forward with plans to restore water to severely degraded aquatic ecosystems. The government has continued with plans to restore rivers and wetlands by cutting withdrawals from the Murray-Darling river basin by 22 to 29 percent. It has committed $3 billion to purchase water from irrigators to restore ecosystems. Regulators introduced water markets in the hope of making farms more water-efficient and reducing waste. Despite efforts to phase out subsidies, the government announced more than $6 billion in aid to improve irrigation infrastructure and make it more productive.

The southwestern U.S. states would do well to push for these kinds of reforms before a similar disaster strikes. They need to tackle difficult policy issues, such as development of water markets and pricing, expansion of water efficiency and productivity programs, elimination of government subsidies that encourage inefficient or unproductive water use by cities and farms, and agricultural reform. As the climate continues to change, smart water planning may help ease the impacts of unexpected and severe shocks that now appear inevitable.

Is it wrong that my first reaction after reading that last paragraph is "*snort* Yeah, right."?

Ofc, once the shit hits the fan and there is a drought, the whining will start in earnest. If it's a Democrat in the White House, it will be his Commie Socialist Liberal Satan-loving policies that caused it all. There will be a few more years of finger-pointing and complaints, but no real action to fix things. People will simultaneously complain that the government isn't doing enough while accusing the government of being too involved in people's lives. And then depending on how financially important that area is, the government will either let it die or put together some half-assed solution to keep it going.

But let's get to the issue that's really important here. Without water, how the hell is Ronald's Donuts supposed to keep making delicious vegan donuts for me to eat? To hell with the rest of the southwest. I want my won ton noodle soup, dammit.


By min | February 24, 2012, 9:12 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link



Good Luck Getting This Passed

Alcohol is addictive. It impairs your senses. It affects your behavior. Why is it socially acceptable when it's no better than any other drug we're "waging war" on?

When considering the world's worst killers, alcohol likely doesn't come to mind. Yet alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.

For middle-income people, who constitute half the world's population, alcohol is the top health risk factor, greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco.

...

In a commentary appearing today (Feb. 15) in the journal Nature, [Devi Sridhar, a health-policy expert at the University of Cambridge] argues that the WHO should regulate alcohol at the global level, enforcing such regulations as a minimum drinking age, zero-tolerance drunken driving, and bans on unlimited drink specials. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Abiding by the regulations would be mandatory for the WHO's 194 member states.
...

"Countries are aware of the problem, but several haven't made a real commitment to implementing the recommendations," Sridhar told LiveScience. "The problem is not with ministries of health but with ministries of finance, trade, etc. who prioritize other interests first."

Link

And that's precisely why you'll never see such a regulation put in place. Financial interests trump everything. Imagine all the ad revenue sports events would lose. What's a few million deaths compared to that? Without alcohol, they might have died early anyway. At least this way, we're making the most of what we can from their brief time here.


By min | February 16, 2012, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



It's ok when he's one of "ours"

NYTimes:

"The government does not pursue every leak," said Mark Corallo, who served as the Justice Department's spokesman in Mr. Bush's administration. "On balance, it is more important that the media have the ability to report. It's important to our democracy."

That does not seem to be the view of the Obama administration, which has brought more prosecutions against current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined.

...
Mr. Corallo, who served under Mr. Bush's attorney general John D. Ashcroft, said he was "sort of shocked" by the volume of leak prosecutions under President Obama. "We would have gotten hammered for it," he said.

As Glenn Greenwald has said repeatedly:

Indeed: is there even a single liberal pundit, blogger or commentator who would have defended George Bush and Dick Cheney if they (rather than Obama) had been secretly targeting American citizens for execution without due process, or slaughtering children, rescuers and funeral attendees with drones, or continuing indefinite detention even a full decade after 9/11? Please. How any of these people can even look in the mirror, behold the oozing, limitless intellectual dishonesty, and not want to smash what they see is truly mystifying to me.

By fnord12 | February 16, 2012, 11:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



I guess no one's buying...

Dave Mustaine became a born-again christian after attending AA. Now he's endorsing Rick Santorum.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2012, 5:10 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (0)| Link



Richard Nixon, 1971

Found on David Frum's site:

We should take no comfort from the fact that the level of unemployment in this transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy is lower than in any peacetime year of the sixties.

This is not good enough for the man who is unemployed in the seventies. We must do better for workers in peacetime and we will do better.

To achieve this, I will submit an expansionary budget this year--one that will help stimulate the economy and thereby open up new job opportunities for millions of Americans.

It will be a full employment budget, a budget designed to be in balance if the economy were operating at its peak potential. By spending as if we were at full employment, we will help to bring about full employment.

I ask the Congress to accept these expansionary policies--to accept the concept of a full employment budget. ...

With the stimulus and the discipline of a full employment budget, with the commitment of the independent Federal Reserve System to provide fully for the monetary needs of a growing economy, and with a much greater effort on the part of labor and management to make their wage and price decisions in the light of the national interest and their own self-interest--then for the worker, the farmer, the consumer, for Americans everywhere we shall gain the goal of a new prosperity: more jobs, more income, more profits, without inflation and without war.

Unemployment was 6% in 1971.


By fnord12 | February 10, 2012, 10:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



I'm the wet blanket

I've been trying to stay away from political posts lately (which has resulted in... no posts from me, i know. Luckily min has picked up the slack) but with reports that the improving economy is bolstering Obama's chances against Romney, i thought i ought to throw out some caveats. Yes, the economy is improving. It actually has been improving, slowly, since the stimulus was first passed. Here's employment levels since 2008 (click on any of the charts below to go to the source).

Job losses and gains since 2008

The job situation was plummeting prior to Obama's presidency (do i really have to say that?) and continues during a period that is technically part of Obama's term but before a single policy of his was implemented. Once the stimulus takes effect, the losses slow and eventually reverse.

However, the stimulus was inadequate, and we are climbing out of the hole much too slowly.

Jobs gap

Looking at the above potential trendlines, it's unlikely that we'll see a return to pre-depression employment before 2024. I think even seeing a sustained increase equal to "average creation for the best year in 2000s" line is extremely optimistic if we do nothing.

I've used this chart before, but here's the latest version, showing how this recovery compares with previous post-Great Depression downturns.

Recession Comparisons

So if you subscribe to the sort of economic determinism that says that candidates win presidential elections based on the rate of change (not the level) of economic conditions, President Obama should win in 2012, unless things in Europe get so bad that it affects us here (which is a real, although seemingly lessening, possibility). But Obama seems satisfied with his economic policies and the make-up of the House and Senate isn't likely to improve much in his favor, so we're still going to be stuck in this lost "decade" that has slow but insufficient job growth. (P.S. if Romney somehow wins, we may, counter-intuitively, see a bigger stimulus, since he won't have an obstructionist Congress to deal with. Caveats: the stimulus would probably be mostly tax cuts, which are less effective, and the Tea Party wing of the Republican party might still manage to prevent any stimulus).

The point is to take all of the "improving economy" news with a grain of salt. We've got a long way to go.

Finally, let's look at where the job gains and losses are coming from.

Job Gains and Losses by Sector

As Matthew Yglesias says:

The fact that Barack Obama has been president during this time tends to somewhat confuse people's analysis, but we basically just ran a year-long experiment in the idea that curtailing the public sector would supercharge private sector growth and it's a bit hard to see the supercharging in the data.

Those public sector losses are primarily at the state level. So as Paul Krugman feared, we've got fifty Herbert Hoovers experimenting with austerity and ruining our recovery. To be fair, all states (except Vermont) are stuck with Balanced Budget amendments that prevent them from doing the sort of counter-cyclical spending that is necessary. A new Federal stimulus is needed to mitigate that.

And just to be clear, just because it's mainly the public sector that is suffering directly, a high unemployment rate hurts all workers. There are more candidates per open position, and wages are adjusted downward accordingly. It also affects consumer demand, which in turn reduces private company investment. So it's something that affects all of us, and needs to be resolved. If we cheer the lukewarm recovery and just focus on Obama's re-election numbers, i fear that we won't remember what needs to be done.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2012, 10:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Hooking Up Soldiers' Brains to Weapons

I tried to think of a movie equivalent, but i haven't managed it. What movie has a person hooked up to a computer/weapons system/etc, but is still fully conscious and able to use their brain to control things? Anyway, i think we can picture how the movie would go and agree that it's prolly not in our best interests for this to become a reality.

One of the report's most striking scenarios involves the use of devices called brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to connect people's brains directly to military technology, including drones and other weapons systems.

The work builds on research that has enabled people to control cursors and artificial limbs through BMIs that read their brain signals.

"Since the human brain can process images, such as targets, much faster than the subject is consciously aware of, a neurally interfaced weapons system could provide significant advantages over other system control methods in terms of speed and accuracy," the report states.

The authors go on to stress the ethical and legal concerns that surround the use of BMIs by the military. Flower, a professor of pharmacology at the William Harvey Research Institute at Barts and the London hospital, said: "If you are controlling a drone and you shoot the wrong target or bomb a wedding party, who is responsible for that action? Is it you or the BMI?

Considering they don't really take responsibility for shooting up wedding parties and civilians now, i don't see why ethics and legal concerns would suddenly start mattering to them. The "Oopsy" defense will prolly continue to work just as well whether or not a human is hooked up to a drone.

Poor neuroscientists. They thought they were finding ways to help people with brain diseases and mental disorders. They don't understand why people keep taking their fantastic discoveries to try to find ways to hurt people instead.

There are also drugs that are supposed to "boost performance" that are anticipated to make captives more talkative or to fall asleep. Do you suppose they'll give you the pill that makes you talkative before they waterboard you or after? I'm thinking after, cause, you know, then your spirit will be really broken down so you're much more likely to make up whatever shit you think they want to hear.


By min | February 8, 2012, 8:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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