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« Liberal Outrage: March 2009 | Main | Liberal Outrage: May 2009 »

Liberal Outrage

We're just so used to bailing out, we don't think about why we do it anymore

GM just announced it was laying of 21,000 more of its workers, as a means of assuring the Treasury Department the company is worthy of more bailout money. A Treasury official was quoted as saying approvingly that the goal is a "slimmed-down" GM.

What? Having General Motors or Chrysler cut tens of thousands of jobs in order to be eligible for a government bailout reminds me of "saving" Vietnam by bombing it to smithereens. Aren't we giving these companies billions of taxpayer dollars to save jobs? If not, we're just transferring money from taxpayers to GM and Chrysler bondholders and shareholders

More... (and see some comments making the 'we have to cut off the foot to save the body' type of argument, which i might understand if the layoffs were part of a grand restructuring to make GM a more sustainable and modern company. but that's not what's happening).

By fnord12 | April 30, 2009, 11:05 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Oh, But I Thought You Wanted Independence From the Union

Governor Rick Perry has issued a disaster declaration for the entire state.

Perry's disaster declaration, which he announced Wednesday, will allow officials to begin emergency protective measures and seek reimbursement from the federal government.

[emphasis mine]

Guess you like being part of the United States when you need a hand out.

By min | April 30, 2009, 8:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

No way out

Very interesting article by Willem Buiter at FT.com. Looks like the best hope for a way out of this global recession is China, but they're not focusing their stimulus the right way.

By fnord12 | April 29, 2009, 12:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

So much for that

Specter switches parties after all. (See me prematurely declaring victory here.)

By fnord12 | April 28, 2009, 1:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

What the Hell is Going on in Bolivia?

Three men were shot to death in a hotel room by the Bolivian police, supposedly because they were plotting to assassinate Evo Morales. Except, when the details come out, it sounds totally dodgy.

But while Mr. Morales has described the men killed in Santa Cruz as part of a "tentacle of a structure" intent on killing him and other senior officials named in a list obtained by his government, missteps by officials in describing their handling of the group have led to further questions about the men and what they were doing in Santa Cruz.

Mr. GarcÍa Linera, the vice president, at first said the three were killed in a 30-minute gunfight, but an insurance report filed for the hotel and obtained by La Razón, a newspaper, apparently found no signs of an exchange of gunfire. Two men taken captive at the hotel, Elod Toazo, a Hungarian, and Mario Tadik, a Bolivian, seem to have surrendered without a fight.

"What happened was the killing of three people who were sleeping, which means murder," said Óscar Ortiz, president of Bolivia's Senate and a top opponent of Mr. Morales.

Alfredo Rada, a senior minister, made things worse when he went on television with images of men in Santa Cruz clasping weapons, claiming they were linked to those killed. But the men in the photos, lifted from a Facebook page, debunked the claim by explaining that they practiced "airsoft," a game in which participants fire at one another with pellet guns.

So, is Morales the great leader of the indigenous tribes who will bring equality to Bolivia or is he a paranoid crackpot out to grab power? Either Morales and his administration staged this whole "plot" to strengthen his claims that there are those plotting against him - which means he's a dangerous nutcase, or it's truly a major clusterfuck in management (Facebook photos? really?) - which makes me lose any confidence that he will be able to do anything constructive while in government.

By min | April 28, 2009, 11:02 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Don't get Bartonbaffled!

This is a few days old but I haven't seen as much made of it as I was expecting, so here it is for you all. You'll thank me for it, if you're not too baffled to speak.

This video is stored on Rep. Barton's YouTube channel and is entitled "Energy Secretary puzzled by simple question". Barton also sent this message on Twitter: "I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?"

Attaturk says: "Today Joe Barton will outwit the Surgeon General by asking "Where do babies come from?"

By fnord12 | April 24, 2009, 9:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Imagine a Nuclear-Armed Taliban

It might be the new reality in the near future.

The Taliban have moved to within a few hours' drive of Islamabad, the capital of nuclear-armed Pakistan, and the neighboring garrison city of Rawalpindi.


By min | April 23, 2009, 2:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

What's wrong with this?


Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other Senate Democrats have spent the last several weeks negotiating with major banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, hoping to come to a compromise on bankruptcy legislation that moved with great fanfare through the House in early March.

I forgot that the banks were a part of our legislative process that we have to compromise with. I await with great anticipation the second half of the negotiations where the Senate tries to come to a compromise with homeowners.

By fnord12 | April 23, 2009, 12:05 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Evil and inept

They couldn't even make their prisoners say the things they wanted them to say under torture.

By fnord12 | April 22, 2009, 10:33 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

It's ok because they're Muslims

Former Bush speechwriter, now a regular columnist at the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen:

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

The most disgusting thing i've read in a while...

By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 4:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

On Obama's blatant dismissal of campaign promises


By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 4:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link

Just kidding


Did Dick Cheney really "formally" ask the CIA to release reams of intelligence allegedly showing that the torture program worked, as Cheney claimed last night on Fox News?

An intelligence source familiar with the situation says the answer is No.

"The agency has received no request from the former Vice President to release this information," the source told me a few moments ago.

Last night, Cheney said he'd asked the CIA to release memos he had read containing all the intelligence that had been collected via torture. "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions," Cheney said.

According to the source, there are several ways this could happen: Cheney could lodge a Freedom of Information Request (which is hard to imagine a former Veep doing); he could contact CIA officials; or he could submit the request via the White House. Cheney said he'd made the request to the CIA.

The source, however, tells me that the CIA didn't get any such request from Cheney. So barring the unlikely possibility that Cheney submitted his request to the Obama White House, it seems fair to assume for now that the only target of this request was the Fox News television audience.

Update: A Cheney spokesperson is refusing to say what he meant when he claimed to have made a "formal" request for this info.

Update again: It was through the National Archives.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 4:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

NSA Wiretapping a "gross abuse of power"

Says the representative who argued in favor of it all 2004. Of course, that was before she knew they were wiretapping her.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 2:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Now We Control Your Names, Too

In a quest to control and standardize ever more aspects of their citizens' lives, the Chinese government is trying to limit the choices in names parents can give their children. Why? Because "being unique is not good" and "inconveniences everyone".

Cheng, which means galloping steeds, looks just like the character for horse, except that it is condensed and written three times in a row.

The character is so rare that once people see it, Miss Ma [Cheng] said, they tend to remember both her and her name. That is one reason she likes it so much.

That is also why the government wants her to change it.

For Ma Cheng and millions of others, Chinese parents' desire to give their children a spark of individuality is colliding head-on with the Chinese bureaucracy's desire for order. Seeking to modernize its vast database on China's 1.3 billion citizens, the government's Public Security Bureau has been replacing the handwritten identity card that every Chinese must carry with a computer-readable one, complete with color photos and embedded microchips. The new cards are harder to forge and can be scanned at places like airports where security is a priority.

The bureau's computers, however, are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters, according to a 2006 government report. The result is that Miss Ma and at least some of the 60 million other Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new cards -- unless they change their names to something more common.

Moreover, the situation is about to get worse or, in the government's view, better. Since at least 2003, China has been working on a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children.


Government officials suggest that names have gotten out of hand, with too many parents picking the most obscure characters they can find or even making up characters, like linguistic fashion accessories. But many Chinese couples take pride in searching the rich archives of classical Chinese to find a distinctive, pleasing name, partly to help their children stand out in a society with strikingly few surnames.

By some estimates, 100 surnames cover 85 percent of China's citizens. Laobaixing, or "old hundred names," is a colloquial term for the masses. By contrast, 70,000 surnames cover 90 percent of Americans.

Yeah, all that unique naming business has gotten out of hand. The government has decided that each citizen will be issued a number instead of a name. That way, you will not be inconveniencing anyone with your troublesome name.

Mebbe they could spend more time figuring out how to prevent builders from using substandard materials in schools or keep food and toy manufacturers from using toxins in their products and less time dictating.

By min | April 21, 2009, 12:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link

Botulist sympathizers

John Cole, quoting the NYTimes:

"Rhetorically, Republicans are having a very hard time finding something that raises the consciousness of the average voter," said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who recently lost a bid to became national party chairman.

Workaday labels like "big spender" and "liberal" have lost their punch, and last fall, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska gained little traction during the presidential campaign by linking Mr. Obama's agenda to socialism.

So Mr. Anuzis has turned to provocation with a purpose. He calls the president's domestic agenda "economic fascism."

"We've so overused the word 'socialism' that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago," Mr. Anuzis said. "Fascism -- everybody still thinks that's a bad thing."

I suppose after fascism loses its luster, you could move on to botulism. Or cubism.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 10:27 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

He knows he's not in charge anymore, right?

Dick Cheney:

One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort," Cheney said.

Cheney said he's asked that the documents be declassified because he has remained silent on the confidential information, but he knows how successful the interrogation process was and wants the rest of the country to understand.

"I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country," Cheney said. "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."

This must be the first time ever that Cheney has asked for something to be declassified. Of course, it's a little too late, considering he is out of office.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2009, 8:50 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

NSA/Harman Summary of the bullet points

You've probably heard about Congressional Quarterly's article regarding the NSA wiretapping and Representative Jane Harman. But it's a 4 page article and there's been lots of additional analysis and speculation surrounding it. So here's a nice summary from Attaturk for those who don't want to delve into the details:

1. Congressman Jane Harman (D - CA) told a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

2. This is known because of an NSA Wiretap.

3. The suspected Israeli agent then promised to lobby Nancy Pelosi to make Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections (she wasn't).

4. There were some reports of this influence peddling in 2006, but it was dropped for a "lack of evidence" by Alberto R. Gonzales, who intervened to stop the investigation.

5. Gonzales intervened because he wanted Harman to defend the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times.

6. And she promptly went out and defended it.

So as you can see the circle is complete. Caught on an NSA wiretap, Congressperson is saved, so as to defend illegal NSA wiretapping.

By fnord12 | April 20, 2009, 11:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Clarence Thomas: Bill of rights?!? What about Bill of responsibilities!

The guy sounds cranky and depressed.

By fnord12 | April 13, 2009, 9:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (4)| Link

Powerlines are Totally Safe

And clearly super efficient conductors of energy with hardly any excess waste bleeding off.

You are looking at 1301 fluorescent bulbs planted in an English farm, powered entirely by electrical fields generated by the power lines that float in curves over the top of this field.

They should be harnessing the power generated by these electrical fields. Or figure out a better way to insulate the power lines so they act like they have zero voltage and don't create an electrical field.

Wonder what this constant buzz of electricity does to your brain or your heart.

By min | April 13, 2009, 11:51 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Link

I personally vote for the Age of Naps

Eric Hobsbawm is a historian that i like. He's got a series of books that divides modern history into 4 "ages":

The Age of Revolution 1789-1848
The Age of Capital 1848-1875
The Age of Empire 1875-1914
The Age of Extremes 1914-1991

Now he wonders, with the failure of socialism (my previous post and the protests of some of his commentators notwithstanding) and the impending failure of capitalism, what comes next?

By fnord12 | April 10, 2009, 4:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The Socialist Comeback

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40% say capitalism is better while 25% prefer socialism.

See Naked Capitalism for more details and analysis.

By fnord12 | April 10, 2009, 4:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

This show is being put on for your benefit. Are you even watching?

Yves from Naked Capitalism, commenting on a NYTimes article:

For the last eight weeks, nearly 200 federal examiners have labored inside some of the nation's biggest banks to determine how those institutions would hold up if the recession deepened.

What they are discovering may come as a relief to both the financial industry and the public: the banking industry, broadly speaking, seems to be in better shape than many people think, officials involved in the examinations say.

That is the good news. The bad news is that many of the largest American lenders, despite all those bailouts, probably need to be bailed out again, either by private investors or, more likely, the federal government. After receiving many millions, and in some cases, many billions of taxpayer dollars, banks still need more capital, these officials say.

The whole point of this charade exercise was to show the big banks weren't terminal but still needed dough, and I am sure it will prove to be lots of dough before we are done. But they now have the Good Housekeeping seal, so the chump taxpayer can breathe easy that the authorities are taking prudent measures to make sure his money is being shepherded wisely.

If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

We said from the beginning the stress tests were a complete sham. Just look at the numbers. 200 examiners for 19 banks? When Citi nearly went under in the early 1990s, it took 160 examiners to go over its US commercial real estate portfolio (and even then then the bodies were deployed against dodgy deals in Texas and the Southwest). This is a garbage in, garbage out exercise. The banks used their own risk models to make the assessment, for instance, the very same risk models that caused this mess. And there was no examination of the underlying loan files.

The Times story does slip in some shreds of doubt, but a casual reader is likely to read past them. Consider these statements:

Regulators say all 19 banks undergoing the exams will pass them. Indeed, they say this is a test that a bank simply will not fail: if the examiners determine that a bank needs "exceptional assistance," the government, that is, taxpayers, will provide it...

Regulators recognize that for the tests to be credible, not all of the banks can be winners. And it is becoming increasingly clear, industry insiders say, that the government will use its findings to press certain banks to sell troubled assets. The hope is that by cleansing their balance sheets, banks will be able to lure private capital, stabilizing the entire industry.

Yves here. So did you get that? They all will be declared to pass in some form, no matter how dreadful they really are (if the remedy is putting in more Federal dollars, rather than a receivership, then the fiction that the money is not being wasted must be preserved). But so as to look sufficiently tough, some banks will be treated harshly. If it winds up being, say, Fifth Third (which I am told by John Hempton is a very well run bank, publishes much more honest financials than its peers, but is in simply terrible geographies, Michigan, Ohio. Florida) and not Citi, then we know the process is not just hopelessly politicized, but shamelessly so.

Naked Capitalism tempers its dour economic news with Antidote du jour pictures of cute animals. I will supply some recent picks since most of my imaginary audience won't click over to his site and i wouldn't want you getting depressed.

As always when i post cute animal pictures, you should feel somewhat responsible for what you've done to me, letting it come to this.

By fnord12 | April 9, 2009, 12:39 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Enough already with your multiple names.


The Houston Chronicle reports that during a committee hearing on a voter-identification bill, a representative from the Organization of Chinese Americans complained that there can be confusion because many Asian-Americans will have their legal, transliterated names as well as common English names that can appear on driver's licenses and school registrations.

"Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers," said Brown, "if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?"

Um, the difficulty as it was explained here is that many Asian-Americans do just exactly that -- and that's the problem when it comes to Voter ID.

From the article:

"Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese - I understand it's a rather difficult language - do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?" Brown said


By fnord12 | April 9, 2009, 12:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Obama ain't taking away Grandma's guns

Found on Kos:

NPR: When did you first notice this ammunition shortage?

[Gun dealer Johnny] DURY: Well, it started the day that Obama got elected.
Everything just really went crazy in the gun business. There were a few speculators the week before the election, but most of the people just waited till the day the election was over with and they knew. From that day on it's been crazy at just about every gun shop in the United States.

NPR: Wait a minute. Help me understand what's going on. On November 5th, the day after the election, people headed to the gun store and started to stock up?

DURY: Like you wouldn't believe.

NPR: There have been stories about this in newspapers across the country and many of the gun dealers are quoted as saying this is fueled in part by people who are worried about restrictive gun laws. They're buying more guns and they're buying more ammunition. Is that what you're seeing?

DURY: They're buying more guns, and then with the purchases of the guns the ammunition goes right along with that. It's not just an ammunition shortage, it's a gun and ammunition shortage. Just that... the sheer volume of it, right after the election, everyone was scared that they was going to take this ammo, or that he was going to tax it out of sight on the prices, so people started stocking up, buying half a lifetime to a lifetime supply of ammo, all at one time.

NPR: A lifetime supply?

DURY: Mm Hmm. I had a 69 year old woman the other day call me and say I'm going to give you my credit card for a case of ammunition for my AK-47. She said, I'll be damned if I'm gonna have anybody tell me I can't have any ammo.

Let's just point out, just for fun, that no one is telling anyone that they can't have any ammo.

By fnord12 | April 8, 2009, 1:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Might as well actually do it.

I've said this before, but... Obama and Defense Secretary Gates have come out with a new budget proposal for the Pentagon. The budget moves money around, taking funding away from obsolete programs and re-prioritizing others, but it actually increases the overall defense budget from $513 billion to $534 billion.

Nevertheless this is being reported in the media as "Obama cuts defense spending". And the Republicans are happy to play it that way as well. Here Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma:

While President Obama's short changing of America's Armed Forces is deeply disappointing, it is - unfortunately - not a surprise. Throughout his campaign and during his short tenure as President, he has made it clear that he believes his charm and eloquence are adequate substitutes for a strong military. That will not work. Whether President Obama knows it or not, President Bush's foreign enemies were also America's enemies. He cannot charm them out of their opposition to our country. The cuts announced today, however, take that naivete to a dangerous new level. I intend to do everything I can to make sure they do not actually occur.

As i've said previously, if you're going to get bashed for doing something anyway, you might as well actually do it. We've got an extremely bloated defense budget any way you look at it. It needs to be cut. You're not giving yourself any political cover by increasing the budget. These idiots are going to attack you no matter what the reality is. So you might as well do what needs to be done.

By fnord12 | April 8, 2009, 11:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Game over

NY Times:

Chinese leaders have adopted a plan aimed at turning the country into one of the leading producers of hybrid and all-electric vehicles within three years, and making it the world leader in electric cars and buses after that.

The goal, which radiates from the very top of the Chinese government, suggests that Detroit's Big Three, already struggling to stay alive, will face even stiffer foreign competition on the next field of automotive technology than they do today....

To some extent, China is making a virtue of a liability. It is behind the United States, Japan and other countries when it comes to making gas-powered vehicles, but by skipping the current technology, China hopes to get a jump on the next.

By fnord12 | April 2, 2009, 12:39 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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