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« Liberal Outrage: February 2012 | Main | Liberal Outrage: April 2012 »

Liberal Outrage

And Now He's a Birther, Too

My god, Dave Mustaine's totally gone around the bend.

First Megadeth's Dave Mustaine endorsed conservative Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Now, the heavy metaller has denied that Barack Obama was born in the United States, suggesting that the president was the beneficiary of a vast and "invisible" conspiracy.
...
"How come [Obama] was invisible until he became, uh, whatever he was in Illinois?" he asked. (Obama was previously a senator.) "They don't have any record of him."

Cause just endorsing Santorum wasn't crazy enough.

Kids, this is what happens when you mix drugs with AA. Let that be a lesson to you.


By min | March 30, 2012, 12:20 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (1)| Link



Laboratories of Democracy

Paul Krugman's Sunday column is an essential read:

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida's law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence...
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What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization -- that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC's claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2012, 12:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



So That's What Smells Like Licorice

Everytime we drive over the Casciano Memorial Bridge, we have to turn the recirc on in the car because, frankly, it stinks. Fnord12 claims it smells like licorice to him. To me, it just smells like stink. However, we've never been treated to a light show on our drive home.

Parts of the Union County sky lit up early this morning, prompting a few strained necks and concerned phone calls from residents wondering what exactly was causing that glow.

A house fire? No. An explosion? No. Extra-terrestrials looking for runway clearance at Newark Airport? Sadly, no.

The truth, it seems, is far more pedestrian. A ConocoPhillips refinery in Linden was releasing excess gas, which burned bright against the foggy night sky, said Elizabeth Police Officer Thomas Glackin.

I feel cheated.

This site lists common components of refinery gas as "butanes, butylenes, methane, ethane, and ethylene". Mmm....


By min | March 26, 2012, 1:41 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



IAEA Invited Back to North Korea

As part of an agreement struck with the U.S., in exchange for food aid, North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear work. To that end, they've invited inspectors to come in and check things out. They were kicked out three years earlier.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though, because on the same day they sent out those invitations, they also announced they were going to launch a satellite and that sent up a big red flag for the U.S.

Without disclosing North Korea's terms, the IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said it had received the invitation on Friday. That was the same day Pyongyang announced plans to launch a satellite on a rocket, a move that Washington has suggested could jeopardise a nuclear moratorium deal reached with the United States last month.
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"Obviously there's benefit for any access that the IAEA can get," [US state department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland told reporters. "But it doesn't change the fact that we would consider a satellite launch a violation not only of their UN obligations but of the commitments they made to us."
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"The launching of the satellite is part of our right to develop space programmes," [senior North Korean nuclear negotiator] Ri said, warning that North Korea would respond to any threats on its sovereignty.

"Regarding the peaceful purpose of the satellite launching, if others are practising double standards or inappropriately interfere with our sovereign rights, we will be forced to react to it. But we will try our best for these things not to happen," he said.

It's interesting that North Korea is seemingly more open to negotiations. I don't know if it's the new leadership or if it's that their people are starving and they really want that food aid. The response from the N. Korean negotiator is certainly more tempered than what we're used to hearing from North Korea under Kim Jong-Il.

He's also got a point. Yes, satellites are a gateway technology to long-range missiles, but you can't seriously think it's a convincing argument to say "You can't have a satellite in space" because you might shoot missiles at us one day. You can trust we have your best interests at heart. Afterall, we're the good guys."

Can you imagine saying this to Russia? Putin would fall off his chair laughing. And then he'd shoot you. Ofc, I don't know what the agreement actually says. Mebbe there's a line in there that specifically says "And you can't have satellites - for any reason", in which case, yeah, that would be a violation of the agreement.

I think getting North Korea to suspend nuclear testing and to let inspectors back in seems pretty amazing. I hope it doesn't get undone by a political pissing contest.

Also, using food aid as a bargaining tool against a starving populace is a pretty shitty thing to do. Just saying.


By min | March 20, 2012, 2:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Where can you live on minimum wage?

Nowhere.


By fnord12 | March 19, 2012, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Whatever happened to the 40 hour work-week?

This long-ish article explains how we got it...

By 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers' pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight. The National Association of Manufacturers criticized him bitterly for this -- though many of his competitors climbed on board in the next few years when they saw how Ford's business boomed as a result. In 1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal. By that point, there were a solid five decades of industrial research that proved, beyond a doubt, that if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe, and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.

...how we lost it (once again, nerds ruin everything)...

The first is the emergence of Silicon Valley as an economic powerhouse in the late 1970s. Since WWII, the valley had attracted a unique breed of worker -- scientists and technologists who carried with them a singular passion for research and innovation. Asperger's Syndrome wasn't named and identified until 1994, but by the 1950s, the defense industries in California's Santa Clara Valley were already drawing in brilliant young men and women who fit the profile: single-minded, socially awkward, emotionally detached, and blessed (or cursed) with a singular, unique, laser-like focus on some particular area of obsessive interest. For these people, work wasn't just work; it was their life's passion, and they devoted every waking hour to it, usually to the exclusion of non-work relationships, exercise, sleep, food, and sometimes even personal care.
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And then, in the early '80s, Tom Peters came along, and promoted the Silicon Valley work ethic to the rest of the country in the name of "excellence." He extolled tech giants like HP and Apple for the "passion" of their workers, and told old-industry employers that they could move into the new age by seeking out and rewarding that kind of passion in their employees, too. Though Peters didn't advocate this explicitly, it was implicitly understood that to "passionate" people, 40-hour weeks were old-fashioned and boring.

....and why it'd be good for everyone, employers included, to bring it back.

What these studies showed, over and over, was that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days. So paying hourly workers to stick around once they've put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let 'em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It's better for everybody.
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In fact, research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do -- on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight. It sounds strange, but if you're a knowledge worker, the truth of this may become clear if you think about your own typical work day. Odds are good that you probably turn out five or six good, productive hours of hard mental work; and then spend the other two or three hours on the job in meetings, answering e-mail, making phone calls, and so on. You can stay longer if your boss asks; but after six hours, all he's really got left is a butt in a chair. Your brain has already clocked out and gone home.

The other thing about knowledge workers is that they're exquisitely sensitive to even minor sleep loss. Research by the US military has shown that losing just one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level. Worse: most people who've fallen into this state typically have no idea of just how impaired they are. It's only when you look at the dramatically lower quality of their output that it shows up. Robinson writes: "If they came to work that drunk, we'd fire them -- we'd rightly see them as a manifest risk to our enterprise, our data, our capital equipment, us, and themselves. But we don't think twice about making an equivalent level of sleep deprivation a condition of continued employment."


By fnord12 | March 15, 2012, 3:12 PM | Liberal Outrage & My stupid life & Science | Comments (0)| Link



Never got past the turtle

In this strange New York Times article that complains that today's kids don't move around enough (i guess they're supposed to be chasing jobs all around the country), the author bizarrely admonishes people to be more like the Joad family from Grapes of Wrath.

AMERICANS are supposed to be mobile and even pushy. Saul Bellow's Augie March declares, "I am an American ... first to knock, first admitted." In "The Grapes of Wrath," young Tom Joad loads up his jalopy with pork snacks and relatives, and the family flees the Oklahoma dust bowl for sun-kissed California. Along the way, Granma dies, but the Joads keep going.

And then at the end:

In the mid-'70s, back when every high school kid longed for his driver's license and a chance to hit the road and find freedom, Bruce Springsteen wrote his brilliant, exciting album "Born to Run." A generation later, as kids began to hunker down, Mr. Springsteen wrote his depressing, dead-end dirge, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." We need to reward and encourage forward movement, not slouching. That may sound harsh, but do we really want to turn into a country where young Americans can't even recognize the courage of Tom Joad?

Did the authors actually read Grapes of Wrath? Because as i remember it, the whole point of the book was that the Joad family pinned their hopes on the idea that there would be jobs in California, and when they got there, they found out that there weren't any and they wound up being treated like second class citizens, abused by the system and scraping to survive.

Not exactly the right message for the kids of today. I think they should just stay at home and mess around on facebook.

Dean Baker does a good job destroying the rest of the article.


By fnord12 | March 13, 2012, 1:08 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Anne Frank in Mormon Heaven

Clearly everyone reads through all the Webcomics we have in our little drop-down on the side nav so this isn't necessary, but min thought i should link to this one specifically.

If you don't know why this is funny, see here.


By fnord12 | March 9, 2012, 2:59 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



California Being California Again

In other words, awesome. Remember when fnord12's job booked him at a cancer hotel? Well, your cola's a deadly killer and California's calling them out!

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing the way they make the caramel colouring used in their drinks as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label.

The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. The changes have already been made for drinks sold in California.

...

A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods.

"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Ciarlante said in an email.

The FDA rep mentioned in the article says that a person would have to drink 1,000 cans of soda/day to be affected by the carcinogen, so he doesn't think it's really that big a deal.

Here's the thing - we ingest, inhale, absorb thousands of carcinogens in a day, all in small amounts that individually probably amount to nothing. But combined could be a huge problem. And considering how many people get cancer in a year, i think something has to be responsible. Does anyone not know at least 1 person who has/had cancer? So, yeah, i think everyone should do everything they can to minimize any known carcinogen and for the FDA not to recognize this is infuriating as well as unsurprising. And it's pretty clear that it wouldn't have been all that difficult for Coke and Pepsi to have done this all along. All it took was deciding to do it and letting their manufacturers know. Again, who's surprised they only bothered because they didn't want to have to put a cancer warning label on their products?

As a bonus, here's an article about why you should stop eating bacon. HA HA.....no, really. They want you to stop eating bacon.


By min | March 9, 2012, 10:46 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Kucinich

I know he's often portrayed as - and seems to be - a little nutty, but only one member of congress says things like this:

Outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- who lost a brutal primary battle on Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) -- vehemently criticized the Obama administration's program of targeted killings of US citizens abroad without due process, declaring it a "dangerous" violation of the Constitution that ought to meet resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.

"Any assault on the Constitution ought to be challenged," Kucinich told TPM in a Thursday interview at his Capitol Hill office. "This is absolutely an assault on the Constitution."

"The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience," he argued. "The fact that our government can set itself up as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, all wrapped into one fatal moment, should cause every person who loves this country to be deeply concerned about the direction we're going."

Compare to:

Asked for comment Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-CA) both claimed to be unfamiliar with the administration's legal rationale.

Bold leadership!

There's talk of Kucinich running for Governor of Ohio or carpetbagging to a congressional position in Washington state. I do hope he lands somewhere.

Actually, there are a few other congress people who talk like this. One of them is Ron Paul, who is often portrayed as - and seems to be - a little nutty. And as much as i disagree with his apocalyptic anti-government vision and distrust him over his newsletters, i'm glad he's running in the Republican primary.


By fnord12 | March 9, 2012, 8:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



This Was a "Targeted Kill", Not an Assassination

Because "assassination" is a loaded term.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, said the decision to kill a US citizen living abroad who poses a terrorist threat "is among the gravest that government leaders can face", but justified lethal action as legal and sometimes necessary in the war on terror.

Holder's comments on Monday broke the administration's silence on the legal justification for its decision to kill US-born al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki five months ago in Yemen.

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"The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that at times originate with our own citizens," Holder told a packed Thorne Auditorium.
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Al-Awlaki's killing in a joint CIA-US military drone strike on a convoy in Yemen sparked a public debate over whether the president should have the authority to kill an American citizen without a conviction and despite an executive order banning assassinations - which Holder called a "loaded term" that doesn't apply in this case.
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"Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen - even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaida in a foreign land - is among the gravest that government leaders can face," Holder said. "The American people can be - and deserve to be - assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws."

Unfortunately, the Administration won't release its legal justification for this targeted kill/assassination, so it's a little hard to be assured that it's consistent with the law. That's really my main issue. Mebbe they had sensitive information they needed to keep secret prior to the operation. But now that it's done, shouldn't we at least get to hear the reasons why they felt it was ok to go ahead and kill this guy who also happened to be a U.S. citizen?

And don't give me that "we're at war with the terrorists" schtick again, using that to justify every questionable action. If you felt you needed to do what you did, but it was not necessarily a "good" thing, you still need to own up to it. You shouldn't be allowed to cloak it with the "we're at war" blanket and feel no other justification is necessary.

Back in 1993, a guy from Kuwait planned and executed the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. We found the guy, captured him, extradited him, and tried him in a NY District court, and he wasn't a citizen. When did we stop doing that? When did the solution to everything become "shoot it, bomb it"? I love Hawkgirl, i really do, but even i know in real life you can't solve every problem by smashing it with your electrified mace.

This guy was probably a bad guy. He probably deserved to get shot in the head. I still would like my government to show me proof of that. I'd still like to know that the government and i are on the same page as to what constitutes a "bad guy".

Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact," Shamsi said. "Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power."

With lines like these coming out of the Attorney General's mouth:

"The constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

I'm not so sure i am willing to trust Obama either.


By min | March 6, 2012, 2:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Russians Protest Putin's Election

I was scolded last week for not keeping fnord12 abreast of international news, so here's some Russian news, such as it is.

Putin was elected President for a third term this past Sunday. He won easily with 64% of the vote. There were immediate cries of election fraud. Protesters gathered.

Thousands of Russians streamed through metal detectors for hours, past camouflaged trucks and under the whirring blades of a helicopter, to join a mass protest against Vladimir Putin's official return to the Kremlin.

They were furious and frustrated. Gone were the lighthearted slogans and costumes that had thus far marked the protests that exploded in Moscow in December and carried through Russia's presidential vote on Sunday.

...

Many protesters had hoped to force Putin into a second round, proving that Russia's longtime leader had indeed lost the support of the heartland.

Instead they were met with an official result of nearly 64% for Putin, buoyed, election monitors say, by massive fraud. Russia's elections chief, Vladimir Churov, called the vote the "most honest in the world".

The thing is, is anyone actually surprised? This is Putin we're talking about. The guy who basically extended his initial two terms by putting Dmitry Medvedev in the presidency. At no time has Medvedev been regarded as anything more than Putin's sidekick. In what crazy bizarro world were you living in if you didn't think Putin was going to make damn sure he got his seat back when he wanted it?

BBC News:


Nikolai Belyaev, from the website Svodny Protokol [consolidated list of results], said "so far we've seen a huge number of violations in St Petersburg".

"In some individual polling stations we've seen candidates getting half the number votes on the final election commission website than were recorded on the original lists of results".

International observers also said the election was seriously flawed, criticising a lack of real competition.

I think the only surprise has been the tepid response from the Kremlin against the protesters. So far, Putin's been allowing at least some protests. Those arrested are released within a few hours with all of their parts intact. The belief seems to be that the protests, if allowed, will run out of steam on their own. Obviously, the protesters claim this won't happen. If it doesn't, I would expect a much harsher crackdown. Putin is not likely to allow this to continue indefinitely.

This made me roll my eyes:

In a tweet on Tuesday the US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, said it was "troubling to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators" and "freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are universal values".

If I were the Kremlin, i would tell McFaul to blow it out his ear. Remember the Occupy protests and the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators? The rubber bullets fired in Oakland? The use of pepper spray on the UC Davis students who were violently sitting on the pavement? Yeah, uh, do your own housekeeping before you go taking that moral high ground, eh? Uppity.


By min | March 6, 2012, 2:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



I'm on the Peak Oil beat again

Kevin Drum has a Q&A on rising gas prices, and then follows it up with a chart from a Washington Post poll asking people who they blame for rising oil prices.

First, from the Q&A:

In the long run, the answer is just supply and demand. Oil production has plateaued over the past few years because everyone in the world is pumping full out, and there's very little spare production capacity left. Meanwhile, because the global economy is recovering, demand has increased. Americans may be using less oil these days, but that doesn't make up for rising consumption in Asia, particularly China and India. So the basic reason for climbing oil prices is Econ 101: When global supply is stagnant and global demand goes up, prices increase.
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New shale oil finds in North Dakota might increase global supplies a bit, but probably not enough to make up for increasing demand from China and other emerging economies. Basically, prices are going to stay high for the foreseeable future; even small supply disruptions are likely to cause big price gyrations; and big supply disruptions are likely to cause full-blown recessions. Like it or not, this is our future. I recommend you buy a motorcycle.


Then from the analysis of the poll:

On the bright side, only 1% of Americans blame environmental restrictions on domestic drilling, despite a full-bore Republican campaign to convince them otherwise, so that's nice. On the other hand, I'd sure like to see a lot more people blaming supply and demand. Maybe 10% isn't bad, all things considered, but I was ve-r-r-r-r-y generous about what I put in that bucket. The vast majority of Americans still have no clue what's driving all this.

I blog a lot about this, but other than read and watch a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, i don't really do anything about it. Who wants to go in with us on a solar-powered survivalist bunker near a fresh water source?


By fnord12 | March 2, 2012, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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