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« Liberal Outrage: January 2013 | Main | Liberal Outrage: March 2013 »

Liberal Outrage

Actually, you're wrong...

Min has covered one Supreme Court case in the post below, but the other one going on right now is about the Voting Rights Act and whether it is constitutional to apply stricter standards to historically racist states (e.g., to ensure that when Alabama moves a polling station, it isn't being done to disenfranchise poor people without cars by making it more difficult to get there to vote).

Based on the Justices' questions and statements so far, chances for the Voting Rights Act aren't looking so good. But a TPM reader has a really good counterpoint for Scalia.


By fnord12 | February 27, 2013, 2:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Supreme Court Ruling Protects Warrantless Wiretapping Law From Questions of Constitutionality

Glenn Greenwald

The Obama justice department succeeded in convincing the five right-wing Supreme Court justices to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, which vastly expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. In the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, released today, which adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ, while the Court's four less conservative justices (Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) all dissented. This means that the lawsuit is dismissed without any ruling on whether the US government's new eavesdropping powers violate core constitutional rights.
...
In 2008, the Democratic-led Congress (with the support of then-Sen. Barack Obama) enacted the so-called FISA Amendments Act, which dramatically expanded the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers beyond what they had been for the prior 30 years. The primary intention of that new law was to render the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program legal, and it achieved that goal by authorizing the NSA to engage in whole new categories of warrantless surveillance aimed at Americans.

Since its enactment, the Obama administration has been using that massively expanded eavesdropping authority to spy on the electronic communications of Americans without the need to obtain specific warrants (the law simply provides that the government must periodically obtain court approval for their general methods of eavesdropping, but not approval for their specific eavesdropping targets). At the end of last year, the Obama administration relied on overwhelming GOP Congressional support to extend this law for another five years without a single reform.

...

With perfect Kafkaesque reasoning, the Obama DOJ says that (1) who we spy on is a total secret, and therefore (2) nobody has the right to obtain a judicial ruling as to whether what we are doing is legal or constitutional.


By min | February 27, 2013, 11:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Emergency Room Bargains

There's apparently some actual journalism in the latest Time magazine, both Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias cover it. First, an excerpt/summary from Drum:

Most people who come to the emergency room have no choice and no bargaining power. Hospitals can, almost literally, charge them whatever they feel like. And as Brill documents meticulously, they do. They're not eager to talk about it, either. As one hospital spokesman told Brill when he asked to see the "chargemaster" price list used to bill uninsured patients, "Most people never pay those prices....So I'm not sure why you care." Faced with an actual bill, he got annoyed: "I've told you I don't think a bill like this is relevant. Very few people actually pay those rates."

Then Yglesias:

I can see two reasonable policy conclusions to draw from this, neither of which Brill embraces. One is that Medicare should cover everyone, just as Canadian Medicare does. Taxes would be higher, but overall health care spending would be much lower since Universal Medicare could push the unit cost of services way down. The other would be to adopt all-payer rate setting rules--aka price controls--keeping the insurance market largely private, but simply pushing the prices down. Most European countries aren't single payer, but do use price controls. Even Singapore, which is often touted by U.S. conservatives as a market-oriented forced-savings alternative to a universal health insurance system relies heavily on price controls to keep costs down.

For reasons I do not understand after having read the conclusion twice, Brill rejects both of these ideas in favor of meaningless tinkering around the edges.

What neither the article nor my go-to bloggers mention is the fact that a major Republican talking point around the ACA is that the use of emergency rooms is effectively a safety net for the uninsured. And this article pretty clearly illustrates how ineffective and costly that is.


By fnord12 | February 22, 2013, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Bait & Switch or Boogie Man Set Up?

The U.S. is accusing Russia and China of "cyber-espionage" and warning us that it's quite "aggressive".

In a report outlining plans to deal with the theft of American trade secrets that comes in the wake of revelations about Chinese hacking in the US, the White House warned that both countries would remain active in trying to illegally obtain sensitive information.

"We judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive US economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace," the report stated.

...

In its section on China, the report said the Chinese intelligence services, as well as private Chinese companies, often used people with family ties to China as a way to hack into sensitive information. "[They] frequently seek to exploit Chinese citizens or persons with family ties to China who can use their insider access to corporate networks to steal trade secrets using removable media devices or e-mail," the report said.

Unless they mean bootlegged movies, i dunno what these trade secrets could be. If China's going to steal technology secrets, they should steal them from Japan. They're building people over there!

When i read something like this, my immediate thought is "What is the U.S. government doing that they're trying to hide?". Is it a smokescreen for some illicit activity they are engaging in or is it the creation of a boogie man so that the public is more amenable to accept some other charges they will make at a future date? And just what are those illicit activities or future charges?

And really, our government is living in a glass house. They have been perpetrating their own cyber-attacks. I guess it's only an act of war if someone is doing it to us. That's fair.

I think it's telling that the report brings up the "threat" posed by social activists (who are clearly very much into stealing technological secrets, don't you know).

"Political or social activists may use the tools of economic espionage against US companies, agencies or other entities, with disgruntled insiders leaking information about corporate trade secrets or critical US technology to "hactivist" groups like Wikileaks," the report said.

Are they really concerned about technology secrets being stolen or are they actually worried their dirty laundry will be aired? Tough call there.


By min | February 22, 2013, 10:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Our sad media

Two unrelated stories showing what a failure our media is: Origins of Friends of Hamas and Bipartisan At All Costs.


By fnord12 | February 20, 2013, 2:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Orwell on Nationalism

I was reading Glenn Greenwald's post today (*groan* i know) and came across this George Orwell quote from "Notes on Nationalism":

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

It made me think of that interview with Alan Clark, the British Minister of Trade in the 80s:

John Pilger (JP): "Did it bother you personally that you were causing such mayhem and human suffering (by supplying arms for Indonesia's war in East Timor)?"
AC: "No, not in the slightest, it never entered my head."
JP: "I ask the question because I read you are a vegetarian and you are quite seriously concerned about the way animals are killed."
AC: "Yeah..?"
JP: "Doesn't that concern extend to the way humans, albeit foreigners, are killed?"
AC: "Curiously not. No."

Curious, indeed.


By min | February 18, 2013, 2:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Tesla vs. New York Times

It seems Tesla Motors had a problem where a television show called Top Gear faked a problem with their car, so now they monitor the car's log files when they give them out for reviews. So when the NYT's John Broder (who apparently doesn't think much of electric cars) came out with a negative review, Tesla has released data showing that he's a faker too.

Broder had already put out a response to Tesla's CEO's earlier tweets, but it seems the New York Times is now doing an investigation and will come out with a formal response.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2013, 8:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



All We're Missing Are the Giant Kangaroos

As real life moves closer and closer to imitating science fiction (Tank Girl, in this case), we now have corporations grabbing up land and water.

As a growing population stresses the world's food and water supplies, corporations and investors in wealthy countries are buying up foreign farmland and the freshwater perks that come with it.
...
The "water grabbing" by corporations amounts to 454 billion cubic meters per year globally, according to a new study by environmental scientists. That's about 5 percent of the water the world uses annually.

Investors from seven countries - the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, United Kingdom, Egypt, China and Israel - accounted for 60 percent of the water acquired under these deals.

...

For countries reliant on farming and already suffering from poverty, the potential impacts are huge, said Paolo D'Odorico, a University of Virginia professor and co-author of the new report that estimates the water supplies at stake. About 66 percent of the total deals are in countries with high hunger rates.

"In many of these countries, the sum of the water being grabbed would be enough to eliminate malnourishment," said D'Odorico, who collaborated with scientists from Italy's Polytechnic University of Milan.

And what's one of the culprits behind the need for all of this land and water? Biofuels. Goddamned biofuels.


By min | February 13, 2013, 11:54 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



More Greenwald on Obama's Kill List

I'm with him on being completely annoyed, angry, and worried about the complete lack of outrage on the left. I'm not so much shocked by the behavior of the Democratic politicians, but by the bloggers who were so outraged by Bush's overreach but aren't the least bit phased because they trust Obama to wield the power of the One Ring.

Link

Baker also noticed this: "Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama's hands, not Mr. Bush's." As but one example, the article quoted Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor and fervent Obama supporter, as admitting without any apparent shame that "if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms" because, she said "we trust the president". Thus did we have - while some media liberals objected - scores of progressives and conservatives uniting to overtly embrace the once-controversial Bush/Cheney premises of the War on Terror (it's a global war! the whole world is a battlefield! the president has authority to do whatever he wants to The Terrorists without interference from courts!) in order to defend the war's most radical power yet (the president's power to assassinate even his own citizens in secret, without charges, and without checks).

Yay change! Ugh.


By min | February 11, 2013, 2:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Pfizer Doctoring Their Drug Trial Reports

In a shocking reveal, researchers discovered there was a distinct difference between what the company has presented for publication in peer-reviewed journals and what has been recorded on internal documents. Link

The results, the researchers say, suggest that the published trials were biased and misleading, even though they read as if standard protocols were followed. That lack of transparency could mean that clinicians prescribe drugs based on incomplete or incorrect information.

"We could see all of the biases right in front of us all at once," says Dickersin, who was an expert witness in the suit, which was brought by a health insurer against Pfizer. Pfizer lost the case in 2010, and a judge ruled it should pay $142 million in damages for violating federal racketeering laws in promoting Neurontin for treating migraines and bipolar disorder.

...

In three of the 10 trials, the numbers of study participants in the published results didn't match those in the internal documents. In one case, data from 40 percent of the participants were not included in the published trial. Dickersin and her colleagues also tried to directly compare several other aspects of the studies. But they found so many differences in definitions and in the analyses and protocols that the comparisons turned out to be difficult, she says.


By min | February 7, 2013, 3:01 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1)| Link



Longform Atrios

Atrios got a column in USA Today and used it to push the idea that - forget cutting social security beneifts - we need to be raising them. It's weird reading more than a sentence at a time from Atrios and i was so distracted by that i'm not sure if he made the case very well. But i like that he's not writing defensively; he's pushing forward with a proposal instead of first addressing why don't need to be cutting the program.

Give it a read if you can tolerate USA Today's strange website format, which i guess is optimized for mobile.


By fnord12 | February 7, 2013, 1:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Post Post Office Post

Felix Simon notes another angle on the Post Office: they don't actually have the power to unilaterally cancel Saturday delivery. Congress has to approve it. But Congress is a mess, so the USPS is just moving forward without their approval.

The idea is both delicious and dangerous: go ahead an implement the plan whether Congress likes it or not. And then dare them to bring down the hammer, or simply capitulate to the inevitable.

I really think the Obama administration ought to follow suit and start executive orders and tell Congress that they can go ahead of overrule them. As Simon says, it's dangerous, and undemocratic, but so is having a non-functioning branch of government.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 2:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Post Office Post

Speaking of Post Offices, i don't imagine that the cancellation of Saturday deliveries will result in major howls of protest. Yglesias says it's a good first step but ultimately we're going to have to stop delivering to rural areas, which is a very controversial Slate-tarian type of thing to say but it helps illustrate the point that the USPS is a government service, not a for-profit corporation. And i of course want to push my agenda of eliminating the bulk rate; either companies will pay more to have their junk delivered or the Post Office will have to sort and deliver less junk.

Finally, whenever we talk about Post Office budget issues, we should repeat the fact that the USPS's problems are largely due to the fact that it is required to pre-fund its employee benefits unlike any other business in the world.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 1:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Bipartisanship

If you're looking for reactions to the memo on Obama's kill list that came out on Monday, try Glenn Greenwald and Ta-Nehisi Coates (and more from him here).

I want to focus on a different aspect, though. In this era where Congress can barely get a Post Office named without a filibuster, this is one area where you hear nothing. In fact, everybody's getting along:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday said he agrees with his Republican colleague Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on the use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens who are believed to be senior al-Qaeda members. In a statement Tuesday, Rogers defended the use of the strikes, arguing that the government has the authority and obligation to protect itself from terrorist threats.

During a press conference Wednesday, Boehner said he agreed with Rogers' statement. "That's all," he said.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 12:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Immediate and predictable

The consequences of the failure to reform the filibuster are already showing and they're exactly what you'd expect.

Republicans are blocking Obama's appointment to the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It doesn't matter who it is. The Republicans are blocking the appointment because they don't like the CFPB. Democrats of course have enough votes to approve the appointment, but the Republicans are filibustering.

Kevin Drum:

Democrats could have gotten more out of [filibuster reform]. They could have gotten real filibuster reform, or, failing that, at least some concessions in return for a compromise. But they chickened out. Even after winning the fiscal cliff battle, and then forcing Republicans to back down over the debt ceiling, Dems still didn't understand the value of playing hardball. It was an opportunity missed.

I wonder if the speed at which this was thrown back in their faces is resulting in any soul searching. They're probably so used to it they don't realize anything's wrong.


By fnord12 | February 4, 2013, 12:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Is the White House driving the debate on gun control?

Justin Green, at David Frum's site, thinks so, emphasizing how the White House is bypassing the media by also using Twitter and linking to a series of posts that show how the buzz about gun control is staying alive much longer than after previous massacres.

I don't care about gun control. Not really. I'm for it, more or less. But it's not something i'd be pushing for right now, with ~8% unemployment. And it seemed like a lost cause at this point anyway (see this Tom Tomorrow cartoon). But i bring it up because previously, when we were discussing the size of the stimulus, or the Public Option, or Cap & Trade, or the Union Check Card issue, wild eyed liberals like me would ask "Why doesn't the president get out there and rally his supporters to push Congress to act on this stuff? Where's the bully pulpit?". And more sensible Democrats would pat us on the head and tell us that's a nice romantic view of the presidency we've got there but the president doesn't really have that kind of power.

Well, he sure seems to have it now. Granted, it might reflect the fact that we've reached critical mass on the gun tragedies. But i still think the president has the power to influence public opinion, or at least better focus his supporters, in all cases.

To end on a positive note, you may remember that prior to the first Obama campaign there were a number of online advocacy groups that were growing in power. MoveOn. Democracy For America. And those got subsumed by Obama For America, which was very successful at focusing online activism into getting Obama elected. But after that, instead of keeping the organization alive and focused on pushing Congress to enact Obama's agenda, they let it die. Well, they seemed to have learned their lesson (or plan to be less cautious during Obama's second term) and are converting OFA to "Organizing For Action".


By fnord12 | February 1, 2013, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



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