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« Liberal Outrage: August 2012 | Main | Liberal Outrage: October 2012 »

Liberal Outrage

We can't handle jokes right now!

We all fell for the Mitt Romney airplane window thing, and i'm still not sure about that Forbes article, and now there's this crazy Politico article. The article was riffing off of a Charles P. Pierce post in Esquire with this quote:

If the Republican ticket loses in November, the rush by Mr. Ryan and other 2016 hopefuls to position themselves for the Iowa caucuses "is going to look like Best Buy the night after Thanksgiving," said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa. "I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he'll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him."

So Politico wrote their weird article about how Ryan is now calling Romney "the stench" and everyone took it at face value. Roger Simon has now said it was meant to be satire and reading the article it's pretty clear that that was the case, but in our ADD world, satire needs to be a little more obvious. People go to the Politico for news (i imagine; i mean, i don't know why you would go there at all). On page two of the article, if you bothered to click it, there's the "PowerPoint was invented to euthanize cattle" bit which would be a clue that something odd was going on here, but as satire the piece is generally weak. I missed this in realtime so i've got no personal stake in it but look: we're all a little stressed right now so maybe it's best if Politico leaves the satire to the professionals at The Onion and the Philadelphia Trumpet.


By fnord12 | September 27, 2012, 1:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Watch Out Media - You Could Be Charged with Treason

To temper my two previous bizarro posts, here's a depressing "the state of our country" post from Glenn Greenwald:

It seems clear that the US military now deems any leaks of classified information to constitute the capital offense of "aiding the enemy" or "communicating with the enemy" even if no information is passed directly to the "enemy" and there is no intent to aid or communicate with them. Merely informing the public about classified government activities now constitutes this capital crime because it "indirectly" informs the enemy.

The implications of this theory are as obvious as they are disturbing. If someone can be charged with "aiding" or "communicating with the enemy" by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn't that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else? In other words, does this theory not inevitably and necessarily make all leaking of all classified information - whether to WikiLeaks or any media outlet - a capital offense: treason or a related crime?

Bradley Manning and Wikileaks are the focus of the military's ire at the moment, but it's not hard to see how it could easily include the usual media outlets. People might look at Wikileaks as this shady operation, so it might sit fine with some to term them as "the enemy". But how are you going to feel next time when the news outlets get grouped in the mix, too? As Greenwald points out in this article, the New York Times has certainly leaked more sensitive information many times.

Of course, that outcome would almost certainly be a feature, not a bug, for Obama officials. This is, after all, the same administration that has prosecuted whistleblowers under espionage charges that threatened to send them to prison for life without any evidence of harm to national security, and has brought double the number of such prosecutions as all prior administrations combined. Converting all leaks into capital offenses would be perfectly consistent with the unprecedented secrecy fixation on the part of the Most Transparent Administration Everâ„¢.

The irony from these developments is glaring. The real "enemies" of American "society" are not those who seek to inform the American people about the bad acts engaged in by their government in secret. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama - in the age of Daniel Ellsberg - people who do that are more aptly referred to as "heroes". The actual "enemies" are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.

Mebbe that's how things used to be. Now the theme of the decade is "Keep your head down and don't make waves if you know what's good for you." Certainly an ideal one can look up to. Yay, Obama.


By min | September 27, 2012, 12:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Terror

I was feeling a little rah-rah after seeing the latest Obama poll numbers earlier today, but this article brought me back down. It's sad that even with an election coming up there's no one to vote for that will stop this.


By fnord12 | September 25, 2012, 1:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Drawing the line on calorie labels

An article on Ezra Klein's blog about the new calorie labeling requirements (the nutshell is that people generally appreciate the labels but so far it's not changing eating habits). But it ends with this guy:

I did find one customer who had noticed the calorie labels: Dick Nigon of Sterling, Va. He and his wife, Lea, had stopped by McDonald's after seeing an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. Dick had ordered for the couple, noticed the calorie labels and liked them.

"I like that you have the information before you order," he told me, when I asked about the labels. "It's better than some kind of government health mandate in Obamacare."

I told him that the calorie labels were, in fact, a government health mandate in Obamacare.

"Well that changes things a bit," he responded. "I thought this was more of a voluntary sort of thing. Now I'm not quite sure how I feel about it."

He and his wife talked it over a bit -- she eating her grilled chicken sandwich, him eating a Big Mac -- and didn't come to much of a conclusion about whether this was a good idea.

"The government does do certain things to make us healthy," Dick said. "But you have to draw the line somewhere."

You have to admire the honesty of the guy. I think we all have to admit that our opinions are influenced by where something comes from. Heck, i'm more likely to decide i like a comic book if i already know it's by a writer i like. We're all tribal animals. But I would probably do a "Huh, well i guess i have to give him credit for this, at least!" type of thing if confronted with something like that. Not this guy.

Also of interest, a commenter links to another article saying the labels are having more of an effect on the restaurants than the customers.


By fnord12 | September 25, 2012, 1:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Surely he's joking

This is all over the internets:

Romney's wife, Ann, was in attendance, and the candidate spoke of the concern he had for her when her plane had to make an emergency landing Friday en route to Santa Monica because of an electrical malfunction.

"I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don't think she knows just how worried some of us were," Romney said. "When you have a fire in an aircraft, there's no place to go, exactly, there's no -- and you can't find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don't open. I don't know why they don't do that. It's a real problem. So it's very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she's safe and sound."

I dunno; i want to hear the audio on this. I mean, he was at an event, and Dennis Miller was going to speak. So i'm really hoping he was making a joke. Because - forget being president - anyone who doesn't understand why you can't open windows on a plane is to dumb to, well, breathe.

Update: Confirmed that he was kidding. Thank god.


By fnord12 | September 24, 2012, 4:30 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Why congress can't get things done

I know i've been a sort of Yglesias/Drum clearing house lately, and on that grounds i passed on this when i originally read these posts on Friday, but then Friday night we were catching up on our Ricky Gervais show backlog and they had a bit about how in Greek times a group of citizens were randomly picked, on an occasional basis, to propose a few laws which would then get voted on via referendum (i'm roughly paraphrasing here due to not being able to fully hear the details due to Friday night shenanigans), and i think that's a great idea since it circumvents congress and would allow some popular laws to get enacted.

So back to these posts for why we'd have to circumvent congress.

Yglesias is nearly in conspiracy territory:

Well, roughly because there's no political percentage in writing a bill that passes. Increased immigration of foreign technical experts isn't just widely popular among policy analysts and opinion leaders, it's a key priority for high-tech companies. So legislators have the goal not so much of doing what the tech companies want, as trying to structure the situation so as to align the tech companies with their partisan interests. So Texas Republican Lamar Smith's challenge was to write a bill that did what the tech companies wanted (more visas for skilled foreigners) but that wouldn't actually pass the House of Representatives. He took a two-step approach to this. One was to ensure that each new visa for a skilled foreigner would be offset by one fewer visa allocated under the current system. That helped gin up Democratic opposition. Then the House leadership ensured the bill would be introduced under rules that required a two-thirds vote for passage. The combination of the ruleset and the poison pill was sufficient to achieve Rep Smith's objective--overwhelming GOP support for a bill tech companies love and that failed in the House.

Conversely, the way Democrats like to play this issue when they have the majority is by linking increased immigration of high-skill foreigners to a broader comprehensive immigration reform package that creates a path to citizenship for current undocumented residents. That way it's Republicans who block what the tech companies want.

One moral of the story is that everything about Congress is terrible. Another moral of the story is that American politics is both more and less polarized than it seems. Less because it's not actually true that Democrats and Republicans disagree about everything--the polariztion of voting patterns is in part an artificial construct of agenda control.

Drum's explanation is a little more mundane:

Whenever there's a contentious bill on the table, at least a few pundits will start to suggest that instead of something big, Congress should "go small." Why not just pass the two or three things that everyone agrees on and leave the hard stuff for later?

But the reason is obvious, and it's not wholly down to partisan cynicism: it's those easy parts that help grease the skids for the bigger, harder-to-pass bill. If you pass all the popular stuff on its own, you're left solely with a bunch of controversial and/or unpopular bits, and what chance does that have to pass? About zero. Passing the small, popular bits on their own basically dooms your chances of ever sweetening up a comprehensive bill enough to get a majority of Congress to swallow it in the face of all the sour bits they're going to have to swallow alongside it. So you save those bits for later. That's politics.

Back to the Greek idea, the truth is it's fairly utopian and probably would be more of a danger than a blessing in a large modern society. In fact, the example that Yglesias uses as a springboard, handing out more work permits to high-skilled foreigners with STEM degrees, isn't necessarily something i agree with! But it's an interesting thought experiment.


By fnord12 | September 24, 2012, 11:28 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Like avocados? Thank NAFTA

So says Yglesias, courting not a little controversy, as seen in the comments.


By fnord12 | September 20, 2012, 4:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Inflation is the point

I've been waiting for Paul Krugman to re-explain why we actually want the Fed's QE3 action to result in higher inflation so that i can link to it (because i'm too lazy to try to put it in my own words), and he does today, but actually i think Kevin Drum's version is a little more digestible:

Nonetheless, higher inflation would be good. The simplest way to see this is to look at interest rates. Once the Fed has reduced interest rates to zero, it can't go any further. But what if the economy is so bad that all the standard models suggest you need negative interest rates to get the economy back on track? The only answer is higher inflation. If inflation is running at 2% and interest rates are at zero, the real interest rate is -2%. If you borrow money, you're effectively being allowed to pay back less than you borrowed, which provides a big incentive to buy a house or expand your business.

But if even that's not enough, then how about inflation of 4%? As long as you promise to keep interest rates at zero, the real interest rate is now -4%. The Fed is making it almost irresistable to take out a loan and buy new stuff. And there's a virtuous circle here: businesses understand that negative borrowing rates stimulate consumption and demand, so not only is it super cheap to expand production, but they have good reason to think it will pay off as demand increases in the future.

Both Krugman and Drum note that the problem is that we have such a fear of the concept of inflation that the Fed is unwilling to actually come right out and say that they're targeting higher inflation. We're in a liquidity trap; interest rates are as low as they can go, but it's not low enough to fix our unemployment rate. So we need to do these tricks to get the "real" interest lower. If the economy actually started heating up and inflation actually became a concern, the Fed clearly has a lot of room to raise interest rates to control it.


By fnord12 | September 20, 2012, 12:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Racism: are we winning?

In light of Romney's 47% comment, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes an interesting point in a pair of posts.

He starts with the familiar quote from Lee Atwater describing the "Southern Strategy":

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

(In his second post he has a similar quote from Nixon-era Pat Buchanan.)

But instead of just saying that what Romney is exploiting here is the obvious continuation of that, he uses it to say that it's actually a sign that racism is on decline, and politicians who exploit it have to get more and more abstract (and therefore include more and more collateral targets) to make it work.

I think what's often missed in analyzing these tactics is how they, themselves, are evidence of progress and the liberal dream of equal citizenship before the law. It's true that for a century after the Civil War, the South effectively erased the black vote...

More to the point, as tactics aimed at suppressing black citizenship become more abstract, they also have the side-effect of enveloping non-blacks. Atwater's point that the policies of the Southern Strategy hurt blacks more than whites is well taken. But some whites were hurt too. This is different than the explicit racism of slavery and segregation... at each level what you see is more non-black people being swept into the pool of victims and the pool expanding.

And then...

As I argued on Tuesday, as a racist appeal becomes more abstract, it doesn't simply become more devious, it becomes less racist, and thus less potent. Inveighing against the 47 percent isn't racist; "Welfare Queen" kind of is; William F. Buckley claiming black people don't want to vote really is; and John Booth mumbling, "That means nigger equality, by God I'll run him through" and then shooting the president in the head is straight white supremacist violence.

The Southern Strategy is often conceived as magic. I would argue that it is better conceived of as another engagement during white supremacy's fighting retreat into oblivion...

And so robbed of symbols, a previously racist attack disperses into a hazy diffusive blabbering. The most striking thing about Mary Matlin's "producer vs. the parasites" line is that she declines to say who the parasites are. Who specifically are the takers?

It felt like a lightbulb went off when i first read it but of course i want to ponder it a bit. Two initial trains of thought (not necessarily objections):

First, there are two categories of people who engage in this sort of dog whistle; the ones who are really racist and the ones who are just using racism as a way to further an anti-social program agenda (and surely there's overlap). Even if the racism aspect is on decline, it sure seems to me that the motivation behind it, the reason that second category employs the dog whistles, is stronger than ever. Republicans are attacking the very premise of the modern welfare state more than ever before and Democrats, as usual, are fighting back by offering deficit reduction during a recession. So it may be a win on the racism side but not on overall liberal goals.

Second, i was schooled years ago during a formative read of Lies My Teacher Told Me not to look at the fight against racism as a progression of events where things keep getting better. I'm sure Coates, who's been doing a lot of scholarly investigation into the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, would agree, but his formulation here sort of triggered that alarm bell for me. And at the same time Mitt Romney is reduced to using the 47% symbol, i think we've seen a lot more overt racism from other quarters.

Again, no conclusions; just rambling a bit (this is a blog, you know!). But i am intrigued by Coates' perspective.


By fnord12 | September 20, 2012, 11:40 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Ethanol sucks

It's not good for the environment, it's one of the reasons we barely got any good corn this summer, and now it's the cause of some truly weird regulations.


By fnord12 | September 19, 2012, 2:48 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Don't they remember "cling to guns and religion"?

I don't know how politicians haven't learned yet that everything is recorded and everything you say will get out.

Mitt Romney:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what...These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Much more at the link.

Romney is rebutted by Bill Kristol (Bill Kristol!), who says:

It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters--especially of course seniors (who might well "believe they are entitled to heath care," a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they're not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.

Update: On the liberal blogs i read, there is a lot of pushback to the idea that Obama's "cling" comment is like Romney's "47%". I was using the comparison in the context of "things you say in private fundraisers that you would never say in public, not so much that the specific comments were the same. And it is true that there's a big difference: Obama's comment was about the difficulties in voter outreach to the types of people he was talking about (stereotyping?), whereas Romney is dismissing his category as a lost cause, both in terms of voting and in terms of "tak[ing] personal responsibility and care for their lives".


By fnord12 | September 18, 2012, 11:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Kevin Drum is funny

You have to click through to the Media Matters link to get the joke.

My only quibble is when MediaMatters say "This alternative measure of unemployment, which conservatives often call the 'real' unemployment rate". I and a lot of people do agree that the U6 number is a better measure of the state of unemployment. Granted some opportunistic conservatives only started using the number during the Obama administration. But i don't like seeing the entire measurement slandered!


By fnord12 | September 11, 2012, 3:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



And 10% give Romney credit for sunny days and blue skies

Now that i'm a partisan democrat (see previous post), let's do some nutpicking. To be fair, these are some serious nuts:

Actually, that 31% wanted to give credit to a time traveling Lincoln but couldn't find that option.

Here's the poll results, from Public Policy Polling (PDF). It's a poll of Ohio, a swing state. Crosstabs show 15% of Republicans give credit to Romney.

Via Comedy Central, but it's not a joke.


By fnord12 | September 11, 2012, 10:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



OK, then all is forgiven

Kevin Drum points to an interview where Obama is defined as an introvert:

JH: Obama is an unusual politician. There are very few people in American politics who achieve something -- not to mention the Presidency --in which the following two conditions are true: one, they don't like people. And two, they don't like politics.

KC: Obama doesn't like people?

JH: I don't think he doesn't like people. I know he doesn't like people. He's not an extrovert; he's an introvert. I've known the guy since 1988. He's not someone who has a wide circle of friends. He's not a backslapper and he's not an arm-twister. He's a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities. He's incredibly intelligent, but he's not a guy who's ever had a Bill Clinton-like network around him.

He still shouldn't authorize killing people with remote drones or prosecute whistle-blowers, but i guess i feel a little more supportive of him now.


By fnord12 | September 11, 2012, 10:18 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Why i'm not talking politics right now

Latest job report not good. Neither presidential candidate has a plan.


By fnord12 | September 7, 2012, 9:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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