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« Liberal Outrage: January 2015 | Main | Liberal Outrage: March 2015 »

Liberal Outrage

Only bad guys hack into innocent third party's computer networks

Intercept:

AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.



By fnord12 | February 20, 2015, 8:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



NYPD: Protesters are Terrorists

And it's ok to mow them down.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by New York City's Police Foundation Thursday, the commissioner unveiled a new unit-the Strategic Response Group or SRG-that will be made up of hundreds of officers tasked specifically with counterterrorism and "disorder" policing.

"They'll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not," the commissioner said. "They'll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances." Bratton said the SRG "is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris."

The NYPD spokesman then clarified, they won't actually be carrying machine guns into protests. They'll just "have access to the weapons 'either on them or in their vehicles'". So, they won't be "carrying" them, but they might be "on them"...as hats?

It is pretty insulting that citizens would demand police accountability. And tying up traffic is an unforgivable offense, so i can see why Commissioner Bratton would want to arm his men with machine guns. If we've learned anything from the Civil Rights movement, it's that peaceful protest and civil disobedience are stepping stones to extremism.

Disappointingly, De Blasio seems to be on board with this mischaracterization of protesters as terrorists, supporting the SRG initiative, though refraining from outright endorsing the idea that officers should carry machine guns.

I'm trying to figure out how a reasonable person could see and hear the public outcry against the use of excessive police force and lack of accountability and walk away from that thinking the solution is to arm the police with even bigger guns. That's what you do when you want to shut people up, not if you want to fix a problem. The police are supposed to be working for the citizenry. They shouldn't be a regime that seeks to terrorize the people into obedience. There's a slippery slope here, but it's not the protesters who are in danger of sliding.


By min | February 19, 2015, 2:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Were they ever *in* step?

I don't know how this will end. It's a weird but potentially promising situation:

Republicans have hoped to seize on recent Democratic policy moves that riled tech companies, including a push for strict anti-piracy rules and the Obama administration's continued backing of National Security Agency surveillance of Internet users.

But the hot issue in Silicon Valley now is net neutrality. And on that issue, the GOP and the tech industry are mostly out of step.

Kevin Drum says that Republicans opposition to Net Neutrality is really just a knee-jerk anti-Obama reaction, since (as Drum sees it; i don't necessarily agree) it's really just a war between two rival industry groups. But i actually think their stance on Net Neutrality is more consistent with their usual anti-regulation philosophy than the other things listed. As much as i don't like the Democrats on copyright and on the surveillance state, Republicans are worse.

I'd be more than happy to be surprised, though.


By fnord12 | February 13, 2015, 12:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Why So Threatened, Bro?

I wish they hadn't chosen a pic of Britney Spears and her ex(?)-husband for this article. Makes me feel like i'm reading celebrity gossip.

[emphasis mine]

In 2013, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business published a paper that looked at 4,000 U.S. married couples who responded to the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that when the wife was the higher earner, the chances that the couple would report being in a "happy" marriage fell by 6 percentage points. Couples in which the wife earned more were also 6 percentage points more likely to have discussed separating in the past year.

Trying to understand the causal link between female breadwinners and divorce, the authors looked at housework and child care. On average, women do more than men (that's well known), but the researchers found that the housework gap got even larger when the woman was the primary earner. They think this finding, which is based on eight years' worth data from the American Time Use Survey, "suggests that a 'threatening' wife takes on a greater share of housework so as to assuage the husband's unease with the situation." Ultimately though, that "second shift" becomes too tiring for the woman and places additional strain on the marriage.

There are other ways in which an income gap can lead to marital stress. Christin Munsch, then a doctoral candidate at Cornell University, analyzed data on 18- to 28-year-old couples (some were married and some were cohabiting) from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. She found that the more that a man is financially dependent on his female partner, the more likely he is to cheat on her. Men who are entirely dependent on their girlfriends or wives are five times more likely to cheat than men who earn the same amount as their partners. In contrast though, the more financially dependent a woman is on her male partner, the less likely she is to cheat. The trend was clear, despite that the overall numbers were low -- 3.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women admitted to cheating on their partners in a given year between 2002 and 2007.

Women reading this may wonder whether the only men suitable for marriage are those who earn a lot more. But the research from Cornell found that men who made significantly more than their female partners were also more likely to cheat.

I would have liked to see it broken down by couples who had kids and those who didn't and compare those happiness numbers. Are couples without children as likely to be unhappy when the wife is the higher earner than those with?

One hopes that at some point, some study will come up with a better causal analysis so that we can't comfortably fall back on "men suck". I'm more inclined to think "people suck at communicating expectations" is the cause of most relationship ills.

Sadly, according to these numbers, only 29% of women earn more than their husbands. I guess i should be happy that at least it's trending up. I don't think it can ever reach 50% because babies. Even with paternity leave and fathers being more than willing to put in their fair share of the work, unless parents choose to formula-feed, moms are kinda chained to that infant for the first couple of months, at a minimum, and that has to impact a woman's career, especially if there's more than one child. Unless society moves to a Walden Two Skinner-esque model, that is (why aren't you putting your baby in a Skinner crib??? why???).


By min | February 11, 2015, 1:09 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link



My argument for the welfare state

Matthew Yglesisas reminds us that the unemployment numbers that we look at are seasonally adjusted, meaning, for example, in the run up to the holiday season the unemployment number doesn't suddenly shrink as people are hired for temp retail jobs, and vice versa in January. It's definitely the correct number to use for quarter by quarter comparisons. But, as Yglesias says, it obscures the fact that over 2 million people lose their jobs every January.

This brings me to an old point of mine, so old that it hasn't been relevant for as long as i've been writing on this blog. For the past decade or so, we went from recession to jobless recovery to the Great Recession or Little Depression or whatever they will call it. But even when the economy is doing well, the Fed likes to keep the unemployment rate around 4 or 5%. When the unemployment rate gets too low, the Fed raises interest rates which makes it more expensive for companies to invest, so they hire less. The fear is that if the unemployment rate gets too low, workers will be too in demand and wages will rise, causing inflation. Right now as we approach 5% unemployment, the Fed is getting pressure from conservatives to raise the interest rates. Liberal economists are arguing that the risk of inflation is so low (the Fed can't even hits its target of 2% inflation, and we actually risk going into deflation), and that the Little Depression was so hard on workers that we can afford to keep interest rates low and get the employment rate down even further. Workers need to see their incomes rise to make up for what was lost during the downturn, and there are a lot of discouraged workers sitting on the sideline not reflected in the official unemployment numbers. So i agree that it is too soon to raise interest rates.

But even liberal economists generally agree that in normal times the Fed needs to manage the unemployment rate and not let it get too low. The unemployment rate only reflects people that are looking for work. So that that means (as Michael says in the comments) with a workforce of of about 160,000 people, we make it impossible for some 6 to 8 million people to ever get work.

It sounds like a paranoid conspiracy: the Federal government deliberately keeps 6 million + people unemployed so that wages don't get too high. But it's true (although it's never said quite that way), and considering the consensus among economists, i guess it might really be necessary. You can definitely find less mainstream voices that reject the policy. But accepting that it's true, it's worth considering the scope. By way of comparison, there are a little over 8 million people in the most populous city in the country, New York City (all five boroughs), and almost 9 million people in my entire state of New Jersey (we're small, but we're the densest state in the nation. In more ways than one, ha ha). So 6-8 million people is A LOT of people. That is a lot of hardship for a lot of individuals and families.

And by standard Fed policy, we're stuck with that number. If those 8 million people work really hard and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, it just means that a different 8 million people will be unemployed. And that actually is what happens; there is a lot of churn with people drifting in and out of employment.

So that's always been my argument for a strong welfare state. If we're saying that some 8 million people need to be unemployed so that the rest of us don't suffer from inflation, we at least ought to take care of the people that are taking the hit. Talking about replacing welfare with job training or education credits or whatever misses the point; some 8 million people are going to be unemployed no matter what. So we need a permanent and generous program that helps those that are unemployed.

We did have something permanent (not necessarily generous) at one time, but it was replaced during the Bill Clinton administration with TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (also called the Welfare to Work program). It lasts 60 months within a lifetime (and states can and do shorten that further) and has work requirements that are practically a Catch-22. It was a major change to the way welfare works in this country. Clinton signed it with the hope of "taking welfare off the table", i.e., trying to stop Republicans from demagoguing about welfare queens during elections. Obviously that hasn't worked at all. And while the program may have seemed to make sense during the boom times of the late 90s (when unemployment really did approach 4%), it was shown to be inefficient during our past decade; it was certainly successful in pushing people off of welfare, by definition, but it did nothing to reduce the poverty rate or actually help people. So (stop me if this sounds familiar) Democrats compromised their principles for political gain and have nothing to show for it. So we need to reverse direction and do what's right, not because of some bleeding heart desire to help the least fortunate (although there's nothing wrong with that) but because we are deliberately doing this to a segment of the population.

Anyway, that's my argument for the welfare state. I highly doubt we'll be hearing it from the wife of the guy that dismantled it.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2015, 9:12 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (5)| Link



Net Neutrality Win

Pretty big deal. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has changed positions and now supports regulating braodband the same way the FCC regulates telephone networks. That means banning "paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services". We can thank internet activism for this, but also the new and improved Barack Obama, who made a similar about-face after the 2014 elections. I have to eat crow because i thought Obama's new position was just posturing, but i'm happy to be wrong.

As Kevin Drum says at the first link, in absence of a new law this change in policy is only in effect as long as there's a friendly in the White House and the courts don't strike it down for some reason, but it's still good news.


By fnord12 | February 4, 2015, 1:41 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Negotiating options

Every health and economic policy wonk says that Obamacare is working well, and if it's provided subsidies or Medicaid to millions of Americans that didn't previously have healthcare, it's obviously a good thing. But at the same time it still feels like an unwieldy mechanism and the sudden panic regarding the compliance reporting during tax filing says to me that they still haven't really thought everything through. That's probably perfectly normal for a new major government program, but in a world where you're facing outright opposition from Congress, state governments, and the Supreme Court, it seems pretty dangerous. It's also worth noting that "everybody gets Medicare" might have caused different kinds of complications, but it would have avoided the surprise tax fees and would have rendered the state government obstruction and Supreme Court challenges moot.

At a minimum, i hope that if Democrats ever gain non-filibuster proof control of Congress again, they learn a lesson from this. It seems to me you ought to have two options in the form of two different bills. The bi-partisan consensus building Rube Goldberg version (which is what the current law was, regardless of how Republicans voted) that you will pass if the opposition will drop its filibuster and support the law, and the "extreme" but simple version that you'll pass via reconciliation if the opposition won't.


By fnord12 | February 1, 2015, 10:41 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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