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« Liberal Outrage: February 2013 | Main | Liberal Outrage: April 2013 »

Liberal Outrage

First they came for the grease trucks...

Yglesias covers this topic often and surely it's not at the top of anyone's list of problems, but i do recognize it as something that can happen. Where min and i went to college, there used to be food trucks that could actually drive around the campus. By the time we got there they were restricted to a single parking lot, which defeated the purpose, and then the trucks all got bought by a single vendor and later there was just a single "truck" which was really more of a permanent structure. And i'm not even sure if that exists anymore. I always thought it was mainly a traffic concern. But Yglesias suggests, and has talked about in more detail in the past, that the reason you have these laws restricting the movement of food trucks is because the brick & mortar restaurants are lobbying for it because the trucks are a threat to them.

Depending on how you frame it, it's either a conservative anti-regulation argument or a "more democracy in local government" argument (especially in a college town where the customers aren't voters).


By fnord12 | March 28, 2013, 1:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



I Think Creationists Lack a Basic Understanding of the Definition of Science

In that, simply "because it's in the Bible" does not qualify something as scientific or factual. Link

A California creationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Dr Joseph Mastropaolo, who says he has set up the contest, the Literal Genesis Trial, in the hope of improving the quality of arguments between creationists and evolutionists, has pledged to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account before the debate. His competitor would be expected to do the same. The winner would take the $20,000 balance.

...

Mastropaolo plans to have a bailiff and court reporter in attendance, along with the judge. Contest rules state that evidence must be scientific, which means it is "objective, valid, reliable and calibrated".

I think he pretty much loses the argument there. Pretty sure there's no way a literal translation of Genesis is going to be in any of those things.

Mastropaolo believes that evolution cannot be proved scientifically. "It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving, everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction," he said.

Yep. We're devolving. By next year, we'll all be pudding. And not one of those good flavors like chocolate or vanilla. No, sir. We're devolving into butterscotch pudding. *shudder*

While i'm curious to see which superior court judge has so much time on their hands that they're willing to take on the job of judging this...contest(?), i really hope there isn't a scientist out there who will validate this crazy guy by engaging with him.


By min | March 27, 2013, 9:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Apparently the line-item veto has been here all along

I know that the Justice Department has the discretion to decide which laws they want to prioritize the enforcement of, but that's a far cry from a President just deciding by himself that a law is unconstitutional and choosing not to enforce it.

TPM:

Chief Justice John Roberts took a swipe at President Obama during oral arguments Wednesday, arguing that the president should stop executing the parts of the Defense of Marriage Act he deems unconstitutional rather than relying on the courts to pave the way.

"If he has made a determination that executing the law by enforcing the terms is unconstitutional, I don't see why he doesn't have the courage of his convictions," Roberts said of Obama, "and execute not only the statute, but do it consistent with his view of the Constitution, rather than saying, oh, we'll wait till the Supreme Court tells us we have no choice."

And here's Scalia:

Which is the equivalent of the government saying, yeah, [a law is] unconstitutional but I'm going to enforce it anyway... I'm wondering if we're living in this new world where the Attorney General can simply decide, yeah, it's unconstitutional, but it's not so unconstitutional that I'm not willing to enforce it. If we're in this new world, I don't want these cases like this to come before this Court all the time.

Technically the President has to follow the law. It's literally the Supreme Court's job to decide what's constitutional.

It's true that another approach to this would be to have Congress repeal DOMA, but that's not what the Justices are saying here, and of course we all know Congress wouldn't have done that anyway, and i like it better this way since the Supreme Court can now set the precedent that discriminating based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2013, 3:41 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



If you're worried about any other kind of apocalypse, i've got nothing

Just a quickly* since i don't have any fully formed thoughts of my own on this, but Kevin Drum has an interesting post on how China and Russia have been passing up opportunities to expand their spheres of control. The article Drum is working off of is behind a paywall, so there isn't a lot to go on, but if you've been worried about an eventual apocalyptic show-down between the US and China, maybe this will relax you.

*it's like a quickie, but more formal.


By fnord12 | March 26, 2013, 1:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



At the risk of getting all New World Order on you

From Jay Ackroyd posting at Atrios:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership isn't getting enough attention (by design, it seems.) The idea is that a supranational body would be empowered to override national regulations if a country had a regulatory regime in, say environmental policy or copyright policy, that was more restrictive than other countries, it would be forced to bring its regime in line with the others.

After noting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Sierra Club (PDF) are against the treaty, Ackroyd continues:

The broader idea is the elimination of national regulatory authority over production and distribution of manufactured goods, natural resources and "intellectual property." To be clear, this is not an instance of "free trade." The elimination of the public domain under copyright law is a restriction on trade. A bad one.

This is just a continuation of NAFTA and the WTO. And the issue here isn't (just) that corporations are conspiring to bring all countries' regulation to the lowest common denominator. It's that we have a global economy but not a functional global government. Global corporations are right to want consistent regulations in the various countries in which they do business. But the solution is to have a stronger global government that can implement regulations that take into account the interests of all the people, not just the business people.


By fnord12 | March 25, 2013, 3:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Your choices are increase social security benefits, or Logan's Run.

Ted Siedle at Forbes:

We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the "new normal" for many elderly Americans.

Calling 401k plans a "disaster", Siedle notes that the average 401k has about $25,000 in it, and regarding those few people who still have pensions, "Whether you know it or not, someone is busy trying to figure how to screw you out of" it.

Another thing to consider, only briefly touched upon in the article, is that due to this crisis, people aren't retiring, and that means less opportunities for the next generation A few years back the big crisis in the HR world was aging baby boomers nearing retirement age and how that was going to require a massive recruiting effort, which would necessitate accommodating Gen Y-ers in a big way, leading to a lot of articles like this. The positive spin on this (and you could even form a conspiracy theory if you wanted to) is that companies will have more time to deal with those issues. But of course that means more out-of-work young people during their formative years where job experience is tremendously important.

This is why Atrios is always, correctly, pushing the "We need to increase, not cut, social security benefits" angle. And if "because we don't want old people to starve to death" is too moralistic a motivation for you, there's also the societal cost to all of this. Eliminating the income cap on SS payments and even increasing the overall tax is a lot less costly than dealing with millions of elderly people struggling in poverty.

And looking at that second Atrios post i re-linked to... from the Forbes article:

Let me emphasize that we're talking about the overwhelming majority, not a small percentage who arguably made bad decisions throughout their working lives.

And just to keep this post going in as many directions as possible, here's why we'll never actually address this issue.


By fnord12 | March 22, 2013, 12:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Barrett Brown Defense Fund

Glenn Greenwald has a post today about prosecutorial abuse in the case of journalist Barrett Brown who was investigating the unfair treatment of whistleblowers (like Bradley Manning) and campaigning for internet freedom.

The issues Brown was investigating are complex and serious, and I won't detail all of that here. In addition to Gallagher's article, two superb and detailed accounts of Brown's journalism in these areas have been published by Christian Stork of WhoWhatWhy and Vice's Patrick McGuire; read those to see how threatening Brown's work had become to lots of well-connected people. Suffice to say, Brown, using the documents obtained by Anonymous, was digging around - with increasing efficacy - in places which National Security and Surveillance State agencies devote considerable energy to concealing.

For those of you familiar with Aaron Swartz's experience with prosecutorial abuse before his suicide, this story about Brown won't come as a shock. And here's a link to his defense fund.

Fnord12 was concerned at first that after donating, the jackbooted thugs would come crashing through our door, but he realized how silly that was. They can just drop a bomb from a drone.


By min | March 21, 2013, 3:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Filibuster reform success stories

I've already mentioned two cases of how well Harry Reid's "gentleman's agreement" of a filibuster reform has already proven itself a spectacular failure, but TPM has some more:

Here, for instance, is our most recent story about must-pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Long story short, some Republicans weren't allowed votes on their amendments. Then instead of accepting the fact that the bill has supermajority support, they wasted three legislative days out of protest. That's three days the Senate wasn't debating the Dem budget Republicans have been salivating over for four years.

But the filibuster reform flop is also partially to blame for the early demise of Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban.

...
Now it's hard to escape the conclusion that Reid is hiding behind this filibuster, or at least isn't terribly distraught about it... But yet a third supposed goal of rules reform was greater transparency -- preventing senators from using parliamentary procedure to hide power moves from public scrutiny. And it's not working very well in that regard either.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2013, 9:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Heck, you'd think even "high-income individuals" would like to take vacations

Ygleasias looks at David Brooks trying to criticize the CPC's budget and failing.

The biggest problem the liberal faction of the Democratic Party generally has is getting heard at all, so I'm really glad that David Brooks dedicated a column to explaining his problems with the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget that was released last Thursday. In a way, I think Brooks' complaints make the case for the CPC budget more strongly than any of the praise I've read.
...
Long story short, I would say the CPC budget has the following main advantages over the Ryan budget:

  • More food and medical care for poor children.
  • Less air pollution and a meaningful chance to avert the worst consequences of climate change.
  • Lower taxes on middle-class and working-poor families.
  • Medicare reform focused on reducing the unit price of health care services rather than increasing it.
  • More funding for transportation infrastructure and basic research.

Brooks says the Ryan budget has the following main advantages over the CPC budget:

  • High-income individuals will be less inclined to take vacations or retire and more inclined to work long hours.

By fnord12 | March 20, 2013, 9:53 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Forming a committee to discuss forming a committee to discuss it

TPM summarizing WaPo:

The Obama administration is "leaning toward" revising a centerpiece of its second term agenda, a proposal to regulate gas emissions from new power plants, in order to bolster its standing against potential legal challenges.

Just to put this in context, in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was failing in its job to regulate carbon. Six years later, under a Democratic administration, they are still dragging their feet.

By the way, this was supposed to be the leverage for Cap & Trade. You get the EPA running on this Day 1 of Obama's first term, and you use it as a bargaining chip to pass a law that isn't as restrictive as just setting hard limits, which is what the EPA has the power to do.

Related: Obama signals to Republicans that he is serious about cutting entitlements. Why do we bother with elections?


By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 1:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Point and Counterpoint

Yglesias and Drum do a little accidental debating here:

I'm glad that Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has reconsidered his view on gay marriage upon realization that his son is gay, but I also find this particular window into moderation--memorably dubbed Miss America conservatism by Mark Schmitt--to be the most annoying form.

...

Rob Portman doesn't have a son with a preexisting medical condition who's locked out of the health insurance market. Rob Portman doesn't have a son engaged in peasant agriculture whose livelihood is likely to be wiped out by climate change. Rob Portman doesn't have a son who'll be malnourished if SNAP benefits are cut. So Rob Portman doesn't care.

...

Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don't just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching?

Vs.

I admit that my first reaction to this was disgust: I'm tired of conservatives who suddenly decide that Medicaid should be more generous with stroke victims after they've had a stroke themselves, or who suddenly decide gay marriage is OK when someone in their family turns out to be gay. Is it too much to ask that they show a little empathy even for people and causes that don't directly affect their own lives?

But first reactions aren't always right. I do wish conservatives could demonstrate a little empathy even for people and causes that don't directly affect their own lives, but it's not as if this is an exclusively conservative thing. It's a human thing. Personal experience always touches us more deeply than facts and figures, and in the case of gay marriage we all knew this was how progress would be made...

We all knew this was how it would happen, slowly but steadily. We knew it. And now it's happened to Rob Portman. It's progress. It's human. And I should be less churlish about it.

I'm with Yglesias here. There's a limited number of issues that can turn out to directly affect a politician, so having empathy and/or the ability to apply the implications of policy positions to actual people ought to be one of the job requirements. I'll take progress any way i can get it, but intellectually, a guy that believes homosexuality is morally wrong even if his son is gay makes more sense to me than a guy who changes his opinion only when it affects him personally.


By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Is anyone surprised by this except Senate Dems?

TPM:

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed.

"The general agreement was that Republicans would only filibuster nominees in the case of extraordinary circumstances, and once again Republicans are expanding the definition of that term to make it entirely meaningless," the aide said.

Of course:

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session.

Sure, sure. Let's not get hasty.


By fnord12 | March 13, 2013, 10:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Failing the "Success as measured in skyscrapers" test

I'm catching up on my RSS feed after traveling and getting to the coverage of Chavez' death. And everyone is noting this paragraph from the AP:

Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

Just to be clear, whatever you think of Chavez (and he certainly became nuttier the longer he was in office, but of course when everyone is out to get you...), here's what he did accomplish:

...proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years.

Yeah, that sucks.

More from Yglesias, Lawyers, Guns and Money, and FAIR.


By fnord12 | March 11, 2013, 2:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Articles that you'd think we wouldn't need

How Raising the Retirement Age Screws the Working Poor.

Up next: How Kicking Puppies Hurts Puppies.


By fnord12 | March 11, 2013, 12:57 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



I mean, what if the United States declared financial regulation "done" and repealed Glass-Steagall in the 90s. Oh wait.

I'm not sure i follow Matthew Yglesias on this one. Microsoft has apparently violated a legal agreement in the EU regarding Internet Explorer, and now they are being fined for it. Yglesias says that regulators should consider the browser wars "done", declare victory, and move on.

My understanding is that the concern was that Microsoft could use its vast penetration in the Operating System and Office efficiency software markets to essentially force people to use IE. Essentially force people to use it. Imagine not being able to set a different browser as your default, for example, or having to go through difficult and buried configuration settings to access the internet through anything besides IE. Think of devices like smart phones and tablets, where what you can install is much more locked down.

Yglesais says, "Which isn't to say the initial scrutiny of Microsoft was misguided--arguably today's browser ecology is the result of that scrutiny." So he acknowledges the value of the regulation. Why does he think that not enforcing it wouldn't just cause these issues to start creeping up again?


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 10:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Better luck next time

Atrios is on the "Increase Social Security Benefits" beat again in USA Today, and i really liked this:

Some people who have objected to my proposal for increasing Social Security retirement benefits have done so on the basis that this is something people should be personally responsible for. Essentially, life's a big test, and one element of that test is a lifelong commitment to amassing significant personal wealth that can be drawn down in your twilight years. If you fail, well, better luck next time. Except ...

But there's no need for retirement income to be in this special category of things we must be personally responsible for. We are not personally responsible for many things in our lives. I didn't build the roads I drive on, or purchase the buses that stop regularly on my corner. I have little to do with the hiring and management of police and fire personnel or air traffic controllers.


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 8:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Jon Stewart to Direct Docu-Drama

Stewart is taking the break to make his feature directorial debut with Rosewater. Stewart also wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari's New York Times best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.

Bahari's book tells the story of his 2009 arrest by the Iranian government while covering an election protest. He subsequently was interrogated and tortured during the next 118 days.

Link

John Oliver will be taking over the hosting for the 12 weeks Stewart will be away. I hope he doesn't try to do any accents during that stint cause he's god awful at it.

I read about this in the Guardian first which had the requisite "what did he do before" paragraph at the end. It brings up Jon Stewart's acting career, which i already knew about in a vague sort of way. What i didn't know was his acting career included playing romantic leads in at least 2 films! Look at these - Wishful Thinking (1996) and Playing by Heart (1998)! He's on the covers! Sean Connery is in one of these movies!

Oh, you know i just added these to my Netflix queue. I bet they'll be awful. Squeeee!!!


By min | March 6, 2013, 11:45 AM | Liberal Outrage & Movies & TeeVee | Comments (0)| Link



NIMBY, Sex Offenders

In California, if you've been convicted of a sex offense, have served your time, and are now out of jail, you still can't live near a school or a park or a daycare center.

This has the unintended consequence of concentrating sex offenders in areas that aren't near those (ubiquitous) institutions, and the solution of the neighborhoods seeing these concentrations is to build more parks.

I certainly understand the reasoning behind those laws, but it's an interesting problem. Since the laws are recognizing the likelihood of repeat offenses, maybe it would make sense to combine the restriction with some sort of treatment program?


By fnord12 | March 1, 2013, 1:52 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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