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Liberal Outrage

Naughty Newt

Lightning strikes twice.

By fnord12 | September 30, 2009, 11:19 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Link


Rush Holt (from newsletter):

Energy Efficiency for Electronics

Not too long ago, appliances - refrigerators, air conditioners - consumed the most energy in our homes. In 1990, the United States established efficiency standards for appliances, resulting in significant energy savings. Setting standards is an especially effective way for government to achieve results. New refrigerators on average use 45 percent less energy than they did in 1990, while new washers use 70 percent less energy than a new washer in 1990. Additionally, the creation of the Energy Star program gives consumers the information to purchase appliances with even more efficiency than current standards.

Yet, in contrast to greater energy efficiency for home appliances, home electronics - televisions, video games - are taking up more and more energy. The International Energy Agency recently found that consumer electronics represent 15 percent of household power demand, a level that could triple in 20 years. This increase means greater energy costs, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and a greater burden on the electrical grid. To combat rising electronic energy use, many energy experts have proposed new efficiency requirements that determine how much power consumer electronics may use. There is no legislation in Congress to establish such rules, however states like California and Massachusetts are considering new standards for television efficiency.

I often ask students to do a so-called back-of-the-envelope calculation. Estimate the number of homes in the U.S. (say, 100 million). Estimate the number of remote control appliances in an average home (say, five, including a couple of TVs, a stereo, a garage door opener, etc.). Estimate the number of watts for each appliance as it sits waiting for the user to push the remote (say, 2 watts, less than a night light's amount of power as its circuits stay warm all the time). How much power does the U.S. use to have the convenience of instant-on-appliances? As much power as a small city uses (100 million x 5 x 2, which is 1 billion watts, not counting the power the appliances use when they are on). So an entire city-sized power plant is running to meet that usage. (Of course, this exercise is intended not to get a precise answer, but to develop in the students a sense of scale and an ability to estimate).

By fnord12 | September 30, 2009, 5:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

I guess i'm glad someone's happy

Some asshole:

Yes, being unemployed is bad.

But...there's a bigger and better supply of talent available, right? And this was made possible by the lousy economy. There are unemployed certified engineers. Trained sales people. Experienced administrators. Skilled managers.

There are good, bright, educated people available today that a small business owner could have never afforded a few years ago. And they're willing--no, let's admit it--grateful to work for less money and longer hours. Some of these people would never have considered working for a company the size of mine a few years ago. Now they appreciate the benefits of working for smaller companies, the challenges they could never get elsewhere, and the job security they can create for themselves by helping their bosses create value in their organizations.
And what about the people who still have their jobs? They're not laughing. Most of them are nervous. Anxious. Scared. And you know what? That's good.
The upside to the high unemployment rate is that it has helped us control our payroll costs. No one's asking for raises. No one's demanding more benefits.
...it's now easier and more politically correct to hire part-timers, subcontractors, and other outsourced help to fill the gaps. That's because when people are out of work, they'll do whatever they've got to do to bring in cash.

Some reactions to this:

Here's a prediction. In a year or two, if wages stay low, we will be reading about the lack of incentive by employees to work hard. With hotel cleaning staff being paid minimum wage (without benefits) and similar treatment up to, but below, the executive level, who is going to want to bust their ass at their place of work?


I understand that Gene Marks is not targeting his commentary at me. He is a small business owner (he sells customer relationship management tools), who is attempting to speak to other small business owners, all of whom, presumably, are also delighted that the potential hiring pool is so chock full of talent desperate to be exploited right now.

But one wonders who exactly is supposed to purchase all those products and services from the small businesses of the world, if unemployment creeps up to the 10 percent mark or higher? High unemployment means low consumer demand. Which usually means small businesses end up going out of business, or at the very least, laying off more employees, who push the unemployment rate even higher. And so on. Low employment might mean it would be harder to find qualified employees, but it also means more customers with money burning a hole in their pockets. Which scenario, do you think, is better for society in general?

And mine: Go fuck yourself.

By fnord12 | September 30, 2009, 1:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Public Options in the Finance Committee

Two Public Options were up for vote as amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's version of the Health Care reform bill today (All of the other Committees - 1 in the Senate and 3 in the House - have a public option).

Senator Rockefeller had a version of the Public Option that was tied to the (new and improved) Medicare rates.

Senator Schumer had a version that forced the government to negotiate rates.

Each failed. In a committee with 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans, Rockefeller's amendment failed 15-8 (five dems against). Schumer's failed 13-10 (three dems agains).

In each case, the committee chair, Senator Baucus, a Democrat, voted against his Democratic colleague's amendments. The other consistent nays were Senator Conrad and Senator Lincoln. Baucus and Conrad both voted against it using the twisted logic that there weren't enough votes for the Public Option on the floor. (Lincoln didn't even bother to show up for the second vote; she voted by proxy.)

The next logical step for these two is to vote against the final bill using the reasoning that they don't think it has the votes.

By fnord12 | September 29, 2009, 4:46 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Torture defense continues under Obama


US District Judge Colleen Kottar-Kelly just ordered the release (don't get excited, it's not going to happen unless the Justice Department decides not to appeal) of Fouad al-Rubiah, one of the prisoners at Guantanamo. Read the opinion -- there are a lot of redactions, so you can't get the details, but we took a middleaged aircraft engineer who flew to Afghanistan for charitable purposes a short while before 9/11, cobbled together some insane story out of interrogations from unreliable informants, and tortured him into confessing to it. If I follow the course of events correctly through all the redactions, we then continued to torture him because the story we told him to confess to didn't make any sense. And now we've asked a judge to keep him imprisoned on the basis of the confessions that the US interrogators found unbelievable.

Particularly grotesque was this quote from al-Rubiah, explaining one of the arguments interrogators used to convince him to confess:

In about August 2004, shortly before my CSRT hearing [an administrative review of Al Rabiah's detention], my interrogators told me the CSRT was just a show that would allow the United States to 'save face.' My interrogators told me no one leaves Guantanamo innocent, and told me I would be sent home to Kuwait if I 'admitted' some of the false things I had said in my interrogations. The interrogators also told me that I would never go home if I denied these things, because the United States government would never admit I had been wrongly held.

In case anyone was wondering, the hearing that Judge Kottar-Kelly is referring to in the opinion, in which the Justice Department took those irresponsible and indefensible positions, took place in August '09. On Obama's watch. This has to change somehow.

Afterthought: Remember, the fact that this case made it to a habeas hearing means that it's one of the US Government's strongest cases - they've let some people go, and are dragging their feet even harder on other cases. This evidentiary pile of garbage was pretty close to the best we've got against any of the detainees. Who've been imprisoned and tortured for better than seven years now.

By fnord12 | September 29, 2009, 3:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Think we might win this one

Congress Daily:

In a bid to wrangle concessions from the Blue Dog Coalition on healthcare reform, House leaders Thursday released CBO estimates for liberals' preferred version of the public option that show $85 billion more in savings than for the version the Blue Dogs prefer.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., a Blue Dog co-chair, said any possible new momentum toward a public option tethered to Medicare rates is, in part, "because of the cost issue" and the updated CBO score.

The original House bill required the public plan to pay providers 5 percent more than Medicare reimbursement rates. But as part of a package of concessions to Blue Dogs, the House Energy and Commerce Committee accepted an amendment that requires the HHS Secretary to negotiate rates with providers. That version of the plan will save only $25 billion.

In total, a public plan based on Medicare rates would save $110 billion over 10 years. That is $20 billion more than earlier estimates, a spokesman for House Speaker Pelosi said.

Ezra Klein:

Moreover, the CBO is estimating savings to the government. That is to say, the $85 billion reflects reduced federal spending on subsidies because premiums in the public plan will be lower. Savings to individuals and businesses paying lower premiums will be much larger than $85 billion, and politically, much more important.

Daily Kos:

Those who oppose the public option -- Republicans and a diminishing group of Democrats -- really are on the wrong side of this debate. The public option isn't about creating an expensive new government program that would give Ronald Reagan nightmares -- it's about making health care insurance cheaper and better for more people.

The public option is a simple idea, it's a good idea, and it's popular. There is no reason it shouldn't happen.

By fnord12 | September 25, 2009, 4:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Guess they listened

When i saw that Lautenberg and Menendez were among the Senators who voted to defund ACORN due to the stupid actions of a couple of low-level employees, i wrote them and asked if they were also going to cancel the contracts of all the other companies that have broken the law... which would be like all of them.

Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

By fnord12 | September 22, 2009, 4:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

This is America, and our only lanaguage is English

Respect are country!

By fnord12 | September 10, 2009, 4:53 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Link

I like that reasoning!

Despite (or maybe because of) the insane and dishonest reaction to Judge Sotomayor during her nomination process, i really wasn't really able to get a sense of how she would be as a Supreme Court Justice. I don't mean her competence; she was clearly qualified. But what kind of Justice would she be?

This statement, part of a question on the case that the Court is currently hearing, gives me a lot of hope:


Because what you are suggesting is that the courts who created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons, and there could be an argument made that that was the Court's error to start with, not Austin or McConnell, but the fact that the Court imbued a creature of State law with human characteristics.

The idea that corporations are 'persons' under the law and have all the protections that people have is just ridiculous, and there's no real basis for it. To hear a Supreme Court Justice come out and say that is really heartening.

But before you get too excited, it's expected that on this particular case, the right-wing Justices will be ruling in favor of allowing corporations to spend as much money as people in elections. Sotomayor replaced another liberal, so we still don't have enough power in the Court to act on Sotomayor's comment.

By fnord12 | September 10, 2009, 12:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Not saying it's indicative of how good a Senator he is or anything...

...but that's pretty cool.

By fnord12 | September 8, 2009, 4:30 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Comments (1)| Link

Christ, Christie!

OK, so former US attorney and GOP NJ governor candidate Chris Christie weirdly gave a $46,000 loan to one of his attractive female subordinates. And then failed to report the loan on his tax returns.

Then we find out that he is suspected of being one of the US attorneys that succumbed to the political pressure that Rove and his ilk were putting on attorneys to bring politically charged cases to trial prior to election - in Christie's case, it was releasing info on an investigation of Senator Menendez prior to his 2006 election (the charges were later determined to be unfounded). Other attorneys were fired for not acting on Rove's demands, but Christie seems to have complied.

Then we find out that Christie got pulled over in his car for speeding and it turned out he had no insurance or registration (and, weirdly, his subordinate was in the car with him along with his family). He got off virtually scott free, even though the police officer issuing the ticket wrote NO DEAL on it, which is what cops do when a person is particularly belligerent or was doing something particularly egregious.

Now we hear that he also hit a motorcyclist while driving the wrong way down a one way street. And that time, he didn't even get a ticket.

When asked if he wasn't charged because he flouted his position, Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove said:

"I don't think I want to make that kind of deduction, but I think the facts speak for themselves."

This is a guy running on an anti-corruption platform.

By fnord12 | September 4, 2009, 10:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Time to research Future Tech I

When you're done reeling from the severity of the current recession, take a look at the possible trend you can see for the current and past few recessions. Earlier recessions seemed to reach a point and then employment would shoot back up. Later recessions stagger on for a while before slowly recovering (More "U" shaped than "V" shaped). It's like we're a boxer that takes longer and longer to get back up after every knock down.

It's worth noting (and this is correlation, not causation!) that beginning in the late 70s and accelerating in the 80s and even more so after NAFTA, we've been losing the manufacturing base that provided the bulk of our good paying but accessible jobs (and you can correlate that to the strength of unions in this country). So after a recession, who is there to begin hiring enough to reduce the unemployment rate? Remember that the US needs to add about 127,000 jobs every month just to keep up with population growth. In the 90s we had a tech/.com boom, but those jobs are now going overseas too. In the 2000s we had the construction boom but that turned out to be a bubble that isn't likely to return.

If we get out of this, it's going to be either because of another bubble or a new innovation that leads to a sustainable industry that can't go overseas. A bubble will be faster but it just delays the problem. And we don't seem to have the willpower to invest in new industries. There was a lot of talk during the 2008 campaign about creating green jobs. But because of the compromises in the stimulus bill (with Republicans who ended up not voting for the bill anyway), and a weak and stalled Cap & Trade bill, we're not really devoting enough to that for it to go anywhere. A re-shuffling of the health & insurance industries might also help.

Without innovations, we will eventually recover, but it'll be via jobs in the Service industry, which are low paying and insecure. That's not where we want to go.

By fnord12 | September 4, 2009, 9:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Credit where credit is due

I've complained about our failure to cut off funding to Honduras, and i've even suggested that it might have something to do with the Lanny Davis/Hillary Clinton connection. So now i need to eat crow:

The United States said on Thursday it was formally cutting more than $30 million in aid to Honduras but sidestepped the question of whether the Central American country's de facto leaders took power in a military coup.

The State Department also suggested it would not regard Honduras' November elections as legitimate unless ousted President Manuel Zelaya, arrested by the military on June 28 and flown into exile in his pajamas, was first restored.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said more than $30 million in aid was being cut to increase pressure on the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti to restore Zelaya before the scheduled elections.

The State Department also moved to revoke the visas of some of Micheletti's supporters but declined to give their names.

The one thing i'm not pleased about is the splitting of hairs over whether it can officially be called a coup:

However, the State Department was silent on whether it believed Zelaya was ousted by the military and said the circumstances around his ouster were "complicated" despite the fact that he was flown out of the country in a military plane.

"The Department of State recognizes the complicated nature of the actions which led to June 28 coup d'etat in which Honduras' democratically elected leader, President Zelaya, was removed from office," it said.

"These events involve complex factual and legal questions and the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military," it added.

Asked why Clinton decided against formally declaring Zelaya's ouster a military coup, Crowley said: "Let's focus on what we're trying to do here. We are trying to see democratic constitutional rule restored in Honduras. That is our purpose."

He noted President Barack Obama had declared it a coup and Clinton had declared it a coup, but it was "not your garden variety military coup" because of the involvement of other branches of government.

If Republicans controlled congress and told the military to escort Obama out of the country and they complied, i don't think we'd have a problem calling that unconstitutional (unless they first impeached him and he refused to step down). But we're treating it like a coup, and i suppose that's what matters. A huge step beyond where we were on June 30th.

By fnord12 | September 3, 2009, 11:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Ridge recants


On Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night, Ridge continued to contradict himself. "At no time, at no time, at no time did politics enter, in my judgment, anybody's equation," Ridge said.

Ridge went on to say that "politics was not involved" and that "I was not pressured."

Maddow then read to Ridge directly from his book's jacket: "'He recounts episodes such as the pressure that the DHS received to raise the security alert on the eve of of the '04 presidential election.' That's wrong?"

"Those aren't my words," Ridge said. "Read the book." But not the book's jacket. That stuff just can't be trusted.

Someone must have a gun pointed at his pet goldfish or something.

By fnord12 | September 2, 2009, 11:01 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Reconciliation forces a better Public Option

Interesting post by TPM: In order for health care reform to be sufficiently related to budgetary matters to qualify to be passed via reconciliation, it will have to be more 'liberal', i.e., it will need to contain a much stronger Public Option than has been considered so far, because a strong Public Option is what saves the government money. But the more 'liberal' the bill is, the more likely you'll have conservative Dems defect (for reasons that are incoherent). The good news is that the bar is much lower: you'll only need 50 votes instead of 60.

By fnord12 | September 1, 2009, 1:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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