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« Liberal Outrage: October 2013 | Main | Liberal Outrage: December 2013 »

Liberal Outrage

COINTELPRO returns

Glenn Greenwald at HuffPo.

As the article says:

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI harassed activists and compiled secret files on political leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr. The extent of the FBI's surveillance of political figures is still being revealed to this day, as the bureau releases the long dossiers it compiled on certain people in response to Freedom of Information Act requests following their deaths. The information collected by the FBI often centered on sex -- homosexuality was an ongoing obsession on Hoover's watch -- and information about extramarital affairs was reportedly used to blackmail politicians into fulfilling the bureau's needs.

In this case it's Muslim "radicalizers" and even if you think that makes it ok (and you shouldn't), what's to stop them from using it against someone else next.


By fnord12 | November 27, 2013, 9:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



First step is to stop calling it a blue slip "rule"

It's a tradition that smacks of cronyism in the first place and in today's poisoned Senate it should just be ignored at the first sign of abuse. Don't expect that to happen, though:

"I assume no one will abuse the blue slip process like some have abused the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees on the floor of the Senate," [Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick] Leahy said. "As long as the blue slip process is not being abused by home state senators, then I will see no reason to change that tradition."

Leahy had to be dragged kicking and screaming to filibuster reform, so expect it to take him a long time before he sees any evidence of blue slip abuse.

Blue slips. Such nonsense. Guys, George W. Bush had this right. Just go in front of the camera every day and say "Upperdown vote! Upperdown vote!". All your arcane and weird traditions are garbage.

Then there's this:

Despite progressives' hopes that the end of judicial filibusters will motivate Obama to pick more liberal judges, the administration official said not to expect the rule change to affect the president's approach when deciding who to nominate. As legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin sketched out in his book The Oath, Obama believes social change should come from elected leaders and not judges.

Republicans, however, believe social change should come from anywhere you can get it. Which i don't fault them for. So expect Democrats to keep nominating centrists and Republicans to keep nominating ideologues and we can all wonder together why the Voting Rights act and other laws keep getting struck down.


By fnord12 | November 27, 2013, 7:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Obamacare works when it's allowed to work

Kentucky set up its own exchanges and has allowed the Medicaid expansion. And so we have this report of success stories. It's a good reminder that the law can work when opponents aren't actively denying their constituents access to healthcare to score political points. Stories about people with family history of lung cancer and spots on their lungs that they haven't been able to get checked out because of lack of coverage are heartbreaking.

Of course there was a simpler way to do this. As Atrios snarks:

certainly the Medicaid expansion is one of the best things about Obamacare. I think there's a lesson there but maybe I'm a bit stupid and can't quite figure out what it is...

By fnord12 | November 24, 2013, 2:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



The preliminary Iran agreement

Digby:

Back in 2007 and 2008 when President Obama was battling it out for the Democratic nomination, this was what I thought he was running to do. All that got lost in the sturm und drang over health care and the ongoing economic crisis, neither of which I ever believed were Obama's strong suit... This big picture, nuclear disarmament, reorienting of the middle east alliances was the passion of the man who'd spent time overseas and had the global perspective since he was a kid. That was where I thought the hope 'n change had a potential to really happen.

I've been a harsh critic of this administration on any number of fronts, including national security and foreign policy where the president has seemed to concentrate all his energies on counter-productive covert warfare. But the two big things they've done in the 2nd term are truly hopeful signs of some real progress in this ugly old world: backing down on Syria and this opening up with Iran. They are both bold decisions taken outside of our normal national security framework and are pretty much begging for hysterical criticism from some of the most powerful American allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, not to mention the local American lunatics.

Unlike Digby, i can't claim that i thought all along that this was one of Obama's main goals for his presidency. But i do recall the repeated "criticism" during the 2008 debates that Obama would agree to meet with Iran without "pre-conditions". And there's no doubt that his willingness to negotiate (along with changes in Iran) are a major factor here.

To see this continue, however, the 2016 Democratic primaries are going to be very important. Not all Democrats are happy with this preliminary deal, and i'm not so sure Hillary Clinton would be willing to follow Obama and Kerry's path on this.


By fnord12 | November 24, 2013, 2:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Too little, too late

The Democrats have finally pushed through a sort-of filibuster reform but it really is a case of too little, too late.

Too little:

After years of threats and warnings, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and his Democratic majority on Thursday executed the "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster for executive branch and judicial nominees, except for the Supreme Court.

...

The "Reid Rule," as supporters are calling it, does not affect the minority party's ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees or legislation.

(Leave it to Democrats to splice things out to this degree. Only for appointments! Oh but not Supreme Court appointments!)

Too late: Even if this reform had affected legislation, we're way past the point where Democrats would have benefited from it. The time to do this was in 2008, when Republicans were already telegraphing the fact that they were going to filibuster everything that the Democrats did, and when the Dems had majorities in both houses. Even now, it's been five years of Obama's appointments getting held up.

Any idiot could have seen this abuse of the filibuster coming years ago, but it took the Dems this long to do something about it, and even now only partially. Still, let's hope this opens the floodgates.

And just to be clear, i'm completely for Republicans not being stymied by abuse of the filibuster either. Their lopsided abuse of the filibuster in recent years is well documented, but i still think when they are elected to govern, they should have the ability to govern. That doesn't mean the Democrats should disarm unilaterally - as long as the filibuster exists they should use it to the fullest extent because you know the Republicans will - but it does mean i accept that there can be negative (from my perspective) consequences of getting rid of it.


By fnord12 | November 21, 2013, 1:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Duh!

I like Matthew Yglesias but his lack of real world experience sometimes causes him to have revelations that are blindingly obvious to those of us working in offices. Of course you are judged on how much of your vacation you actually used. And everyone knows you have to work an 80 hour week before and after your vacation to make up for the time you are away. And you are expected to take calls and keep up with emails while you are on vacation.

Until recently my company had a forced shutdown period at the end of the year and the good thing about that was everyone was theoretically forced to take off so there was no shame in doing so, and there wasn't as much of a build-up while you were out. But even then there were plenty of people who made sure to let everyone know that they would still be working because they just had too much important stuff going on.

Add to this the fact that everyone involved has a bullshit job as per the post below, and it's just this really weird game of self-torture that we play.


By fnord12 | November 21, 2013, 1:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Non-productive jobs

Quoted from an interview with Ian Welsh by Jay Ackroyd. File this under "echo chamber" because i'm not sure Welsh, a pretty radical Scottish politician, is bringing any new data to the discussion, but i agree with his sentiment (as per my previous posts like this and this) that we're doing a poor job of sharing the productivity gains of the modern economy.

...why do we distribute surplus through jobs? All right, why do you need a job in order to survive, right? I mean the fact of the matter is 80% of the population could stop doing what they do tomorrow and all the food would still get produced, and all of the goods would still get produced. About 60% of the population does nothing but shuffle numbers at this point. What they're doing is keeping track of who owns what, right? The actual productive labor in the economy is remarkably little.

Full interview is audio-only. Annoyingly inefficient!


By fnord12 | November 21, 2013, 1:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Baby Showers Suck

For so many reasons.

I mean, they're boring as hell, for one. You usually only know a handful of people. You have to sit around making small talk (i despise small talk) with strangers (STRANGER DANGER!). And the games. The games!!! Ugh. And how excited can i be watching someone open gifts that won't be a surprise because Baby Gift Registry? Der.

But on top of all of that, the worst thing they do is promote gender stereotypes. Most are women-only. Why? With a heterosexual couple, both parents contributed to making the baby. Both parents want the stuff you're gifting them with. Shouldn't both parents attend the shower? The couple prolly also has close guy friends. Why are they excluded (read "let off the hook")? Don't men wish to congratulate the expecting parents? Why is a co-ed shower the exception, not the norm?

And don't get me started on the gender-specific gifts/decorations. Especially if it's going to be a girl. The explosion of pink and frilly things is not for the faint-of-heart. Girls apparently can't like trucks. Or safari animals. Not precious enough.

Why are baby showers such utter hell? Is it the preciousness? Is it the ooh-ing? Is it the painstaking unwrapping of every single gift, including a rectal thermometer? What exactly is it that makes it such utter torture, and how can something that only lasts an hour be so awful? More importantly, why the hell haven't we been making men do this for centuries already?

I'm not sure there's a way to solve the problem of the boredom and oddly insufferable chatter of the baby shower. I loved getting the baby stuff when I was pregnant, but it was hard for me to have a shower, because I'm just not a shower person. I think the solution is to make everyone suffer together, or make it more fun for everyone and less hey, look, another onesie.

OMG, what the hell is with the collective ooh-ing??? It's always perfectly timed so that everyone is in sync. It both amazes me and makes my teeth itch. It's just another pair of socks, people. Let's keep it together.

But back to the gender issues. I enjoyed the sarcasm in this article at the end when discussing how we must change things to "entice" men. What? Women don't want games we'll enjoy? Or food?

So, what i'm saying is

1) stop torturing me
but barring that (cause you're an evil jerk)

2) let's make everyone suffer equally.


By min | November 20, 2013, 10:17 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Walmart Running Food Drive for Its Own Employees

Stop. Read that again. Walmart pays its employees such shitty wages, it's asking for donations so these people can have Thanksgiving dinner. Do you remember that scene in Mickey's Christmas Carol where the Cratchit's have their Christmas dinner and the goose is miniscule cause it's all they can afford?

Walmart is the Scrooge to their employees' Bob Cratchit!

Unfortunately, we've gone 'round 180deg, and today's society doesn't view the Scrooges as the obvious villains anymore. Instead, they're "shrewd businesses" that aren't letting "lazy people" take advantage of them whilst nurturing a sense of community amongst their employees. Right.

Link

One might be tempted to take this as a sign that the country's largest retailer (and grocer) doesn't pay their workers enough to put a holiday meal on the table. The company, however, would prefer you think of it as proof that Walmart employees are a tight-knit bunch:
Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, said the food drive is proof that employees care about each other.

"It is for associates who have had some hardships come up," he said. "Maybe their spouse lost a job.

"This is part of the company's culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships," he said.


Cause Walmart sure ain't gonna take care of them.


By min | November 19, 2013, 9:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Airplane deregulation led to crappier planes

Every time we watch an older movie featuring airplanes (this time it was Die Hard 2) Min wonders why the planes look so spacious. So here's a recent post by Yglesias on that.

The declining quality of air travel has to do with deregulation in the 1970s. Interstate air travel used to have its fares set by a federal agency rather than market forces, and it tended to mandate relatively high fares. That was cozy for the airlines, gave airline labor unions a lot of revenue to try to grab for their members, and generally led to a high level of service. You couldn't compete on price, but you could try to compete on quality, and unions were happy to agree to schemes featuring high levels of staffing and low plane density. Then came deregulation, competition, fare wars, price cutting, layoffs, staff givebacks, and everything else that makes plane travel annoying but fairly cheap.

It's not his first on the subject and this post takes it for granted that his theory is correct and moves on to talk about why that in turn means that airports have gotten "nicer" (in my opinion, more like shopping malls, but i don't know if that really translates to nicer), but he does lay out the basic idea.


By fnord12 | November 17, 2013, 10:49 AM | Liberal Outrage & Movies | Comments (1)| Link



Just give everybody money

I support that.


By fnord12 | November 17, 2013, 10:45 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



What the hell is the difference between quinoa and couscous?

Some fluff for you.


By fnord12 | November 14, 2013, 1:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Guys, corn is delicious. You eat it.

The latest in why ethanol sucks.


By fnord12 | November 12, 2013, 11:17 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Jubilee Success

I mentioned this a while back, and we did donate a little money to it, and now it seems that with about $600,000 in donations they've abolished $14.7 million worth of debt for 2,693 individuals. That seems pretty cool to me.


By fnord12 | November 12, 2013, 10:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Richard Cohen strikes again

Is he just trolling me? Maybe i shouldn't provide a link:

Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled -- about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York -- a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts -- but not all -- of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all.

Here's a tip: when you have to "repress a gag reflex" when looking at a biracial couple, that's not "conventional". I think "racist" covers that pretty well. Also? John Cage was avant-garde; being married to someone outside your ethnicity in 2013 is not.

Please note this post is about Richard Cohen. I have no idea if Iowa primary voters actually are repressing any gag reflexes about de Blasio. I'm not even really sure what the heck de Blasio has to do with an article comparing Chris Christie with Ted Cruz. And i guess to 72 year old Richard Cohen, a lot of things seem avant-garde. Like the internet, which might have told him that the things he learned in school about slavery 60 years ago might not have been entirely accurate. And this isn't really even about Richard Cohen per se, it's about why the Washington Post continues to allow him to be their prominent "liberal" columnist.

Although i guess in the age of the internet, him being in that prominent position wouldn't be all that important if i would stop letting him troll me.


By fnord12 | November 12, 2013, 10:24 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



The political wisdom of Boomerang

I agree with this, but it's probably not to my credit that it's the "Australian and a felon" part that annoys me more than anything.


By fnord12 | November 11, 2013, 4:43 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Comments (6)| Link



Slavery was bad, mmmmmkay?

I read this and thought surely Richard Cohen's column couldn't be as bad as all that, but it was.


By fnord12 | November 7, 2013, 1:39 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



Not enough stimulus = Failure

WaPo:

The title of a new paper from three economists at the Federal Reserve is bloodless: "Aggregate Supply in the United States: Recent Developments and Implications for the Conduct of Monetary Policy"

But its conclusions are chilling.

The paper offers a depressing portrait of where the economy stands nearly six years after the onset of recession, and amounts to a damning indictment of U.S. policymakers. Their upshot: The United States's long-term economic potential has been diminished by the fact that policymakers have not done more to put people back to work quickly. Our national economic potential is now a whopping 7 percent below where it was heading at the pre-2007 trajectory, the authors find.

As Dave Reifschneider, William Wascher and David Wilcox sum up in their abstract, "The recent financial crisis and ensuing recession appear to have put the productive capacity of the economy on a lower and shallower trajectory than the one that seemed to be in place prior to 2007."

What seems to be happening, they argue, is that people who lost their jobs in the recession have now been out of work for years, leading their skills to atrophy and them to become less attached to the workforce. As those workers' productive capacity diminishes, so does the total potential of the U.S. economy.


By fnord12 | November 6, 2013, 3:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Many will do nothing

TPM:

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out.

...

Fast forward a month, and Donna was able to log onto Washington's marketplace and shop for insurance. And what did she find? Options. A LifeWise plan with the same deductible they offered her outside the exchange was a little cheaper. Plans with a lower deductible had the same or lower premiums as the LifeWise plan. What she ended up buying was a plan through Community Health Plan of Washington with a $250 deductible.

And crucially, she also discovered she would qualify for a federal tax subsidy that would knock her monthly premium to $80. Her daughter could enroll in Medicaid, at no cost to the family.

So here's the bottom line: If Donna had taken the default option that LifeWise offered outside of the marketplace, she would have paid nearly $1,000 more per month for a worse plan than she was able to obtain on the marketplace.

It's nice that this lady was able to get on the exchange and find a better deal and that she qualified for subsidies. But many people won't know to do this or how to do it, or will try and fail (even after the technical website problems are fixed). It's complicated. People are busy. Not everyone knows how to navigate websites. Some people aren't sophisticated or technically savvy. Some are mentally impaired.

TPM frames this story as "insurance companies are cheating people" and they've also been pushing the "media stories are misleading" angle. And that's all true. But the real problem is that the system is overly complicated. We shouldn't be relying on individual 57 years olds (or 20 year olds) to figure out if they are picking the right stuff. This is why we should have just expanded Medicare or at a minimum had a Public Option ("figure it out for me; i'll have what everyone else is having").


By fnord12 | November 4, 2013, 1:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Respectability rewards

Answering the question "Why do poor people 'waste' money on iPads?".


By fnord12 | November 1, 2013, 1:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



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