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Liberal Outrage

And just a reminder

By fnord12 | March 28, 2011, 12:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

You already knew it in your heart

Ezra Klein:

Back in February, Paul Ryan unveiled what was supposed to be the opening bid from the House Republicans: $32 billion in cuts for the rest of 2011. But the Tea Party demanded more and House leadership quickly caved, doubling their proposed cuts to more than $60 billion -- or almost $100 billion less than Barack Obama's 2011 budget request... Now Democrats are offering as a compromise measure $30 billion in total cuts, or exactly what Ryan's original proposal had called for. Pretty neat, huh?

And that's not the Democrats' final offer, either. Odds are good that the eventual compromise will see cuts somewhere between the $30 billion Republican leadership called for and the almost $70 billion the conservative wing of the House GOP demanded...

But the irony is that it's entirely possible the press will report that Democrats "won" the negotiations, as Republican leadership is likely to have to lose a lot of conservative votes in the House to get any compromise, no matter how radical, through the chamber. That will make them look bad, and in the weird logic of Washington, make the Democrats look good. But if you just keep your eye on the policy, Republicans are moving towards a win far beyond anything the House leadership had initially imagined.

By fnord12 | March 28, 2011, 12:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

OK, so this *is* a post about Libya

Since my initial post describing my conflict, all of my posts on this subject have been on the "against" side. But here is Juan Cole, a foreign policy analyst that i respect, making the "for" case.

By fnord12 | March 28, 2011, 10:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

This is not a post about Libya

Despite the set-up:

ThinkProgress has a post up today that shows Newt Gingrich unequivocally supporting a no-fly zone over Libya two weeks ago and then equally unequivocally opposing it today. The only thing that's changed in the meantime is that two weeks ago President Obama opposed a no-fly zone and today he supports it.

With that said, Kevin Drum writes:

But I always kind of wonder what these guys are thinking when they do such an obvious and public U-turn. Do they think no one is going to catch them? Or do they not really care because they don't think the public really cares?

I think it used to be the former, but has lately become mostly the latter. Back in the day, I remember a lot of people saying that it was getting harder for politicians to shade their positions -- either over time or for different audiences -- because everything was now on video and the internet made it so easy to catch inconsistencies. But that's turned out not to really be true. Unless you're in the middle of a high-profile political campaign, it turns out you just need to be really brazen about your flip-flops. Sure, sites like ThinkProgress or Politifact with catch you, and the first few times that happens maybe you're a little worried about what's going to happen. But then it dawns on you: nothing is going to happen. Your base doesn't read ThinkProgress. The media doesn't really care and is happy to accept whatever obvious nonsense you offer up in explanation. The morning chat shows will continue to book you. It just doesn't matter.

And that's got to be pretty damn liberating. You can literally say anything you want! And no one cares! That's quite a discovery.

I'd say this has been obvious for some time.

By fnord12 | March 24, 2011, 12:52 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

OK one more and then i'll stop blogging about this for my own sanity

Yglesias, after noting that mostly liberal New York Rep Anthony Weiner supports the Libya action by citing what we didn't do in Rwanda:

I think it's telling that enthusiasts for this kind of war typically have to make the case with reference to hypothetical success stories about military operations we didn't undertake. These are useful cases to deploy in arguments, because since the intervention didn't happen one doesn't need to wrestle with the potentially problematic consequences and downside risks. The key actual case is Kosovo, where American intervention was highly successful at helping the Kosovo Liberation Army achieve its political goal of independence from Serbia, but considerably less effective at actually preventing violence against civilians. What's more, though Kosovo independence is very nice for the Kosovar Albanians, it's hardly been a humanitarian boon to Kosovar Serbs and further afield it wound up creating problems for the good people of Georgia when Russia decided to use them as the target of retaliation for western recognition of Kosovo independence. We also have in Iraq and Afghanistan examples of military undertakings where the welfare of the inhabitants of the soon-to-be-bombed country was cited as a pro-bombing argument, and yet the actual results have been pretty mixed.

By fnord12 | March 23, 2011, 10:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Gay Cure App

Apple shoulda just stuck with Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. No need to feature apps that "cure" anything. Please.

Apple appears to have pulled an iPhone and iPad app promising "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus" after coming under fire from gay rights activists.

More than 146,000 people signed a petition calling on Apple to remove the so-called "gay cure" app backed by Exodus International, a Christian group that describes itself as "the world's largest worldwide ministry to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction".


In the petition letter addressed to Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive, and posted last week on the Change.org site, objectors said: "Apple doesn't allow racist or anti-semitic apps in its app store, yet it gives the green light to an app targeting vulnerable LGBT youth with the message that their sexual orientation is a 'sin that will make your heart sick' and a 'counterfeit'.

"This is a double standard that has the potential for devastating consequences. Apple needs to be told, loud and clear, that this is unacceptable."


By min | March 23, 2011, 2:17 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Link

Really? That's your example?

I know John McCain is a doddering old fool at this point, but he is still an actual Senator. So this can't be ignored:

And asked [about] siding with Libyan rebels with unknown agendas:

"[I]t does take time -- it did during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan -- but we were able to provide them with some weapons and wherewithal to cause the Russians to leave Afghanistan. So we can do it."

He does know that those nice fellows we armed in Afghanistan turned out to be Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, right?

By fnord12 | March 23, 2011, 1:14 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

His own reading of history

Quoting the entire post from Greg Sargent:

Whatever you think of Obama's decision to authorize military action in Libya without the approval of Congress, it needs to be stated that in so doing, Obama ignored the lessons of history as he himself has defined them.

A number of people have pointed to Obama's quote from 2007 in which he told the Boston Globe that he doesn't believe the President should have the power "to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." But in a sense this is the wrong part of Obama's 2007 quote to focus on, because as everyone knows, a president can easily get around this legal problem by labeling a foreign crisis a threat to American national security, as Obama has now done in the case of Libya.

Rather, the more important part of Obama's 2007 quote is this one:

In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Putting aside the legal questions here, Obama is acting in violation of the lessons he once took from history. Along these lines, Dem Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, who added his voice to the criticism of Obama's decision, made an important point today. Larson noted that even if Obama technically is in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, he is violating its spirit: "To insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities."

Obama very well may have had his reasons for not consulting Congress as extensively as he might have -- time was of the essence; the president expects this to be wrapped up quickly; he doesn't envision this as a full-scale war; etc. But it's very obvious that Obama's approach is at odds with his own instincts and his own reading of history, at least as it stood when he was the reader and other presidents were the lead actors.

I'll just add there's nothing "self-defense" or "imminent threat to the nation" about this, whatever you think of it.

By fnord12 | March 22, 2011, 4:32 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


A CBS Poll shows 50% approval for Obama's actions in Libya.

That seems a little low to me. Usually a president gets an immediate bump for a war action and then it starts to drop if it goes on too long or things go bad. But maybe it's different for "little" actions; not sure how Panama or Grenada were received at the time, for example (and not sure if those are fair comparisons).

But what i thought was odd about the poll was this:

Two-thirds of Democrats surveyed backed the president in the CBS poll, while 43% of Republicans and Independents said the same.

Seems kinda odd, to me. 66% of Democrats supporting a war effort but only 43% of Republicans. Or am i over-analyzing it?

By fnord12 | March 22, 2011, 3:18 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Too late

Then why did they abstain from the vote?

"The resolution is defective and flawed," said Russia's Putin, whose country did not use its power to veto the resolution at the United Nations. "It allows everything. It resembles mediaeval calls for crusades," Putin added.

China's official newspapers on Monday stepped up Beijing's opposition to air attacks on Libya, accusing nations backing the strikes of breaking international rules and courting new turmoil in the Middle East. China also did not veto the U.N. resolution.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2011, 12:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Conflicting thoughts on Libya


  • I sure felt bad/frustrated/angered when the protests in Libya weren't going the way they were going in Egypt and Tunisia. I didn't want to see people slaughtered by a dictator and it's nice to think that we can help them.
  • We actually went to the UN and got approval for this. We're not "going it alone" or with a select group of allies. From an international law perspective, this is legal.


  • This may seem like a technicality to some, but Congress did not authorize this military action. From a US Constitution point of view, this is not legal. Even Bush had authorization for the Iraq invasion. And what is really bewildering is i don't think there's any doubt that Congress would have approved this if Obama had called an emergency session. Whatever you think about the current situation, this makes it a lot easier for a President to unilaterally declare war in the future.
  • We're supposed to be "broke" to the point where we're cutting people's pensions and talking about cutting off unemployment support and reducing social security benefits. How can we afford this war? (I know the answer - we're not really broke - but the obvious hypocrisy is frustrating.)
  • By getting involved, we provide ammunition to radical groups who'd like to turn this into a US vs. Islam thing. Bush's endorsement of the Iranian revolution provided the "proof" the Iranian government needed to say that the protests were just a front for a US takeover.
  • We've already bombed civilians; the further this goes on, the worse it will be. And most analysts seem to think that we're going to have to get involved in a ground war if we're going to accomplish anything.
  • Why Libya and not Yemen or Bahrain where we've also seen brutality from the authorities against the protesters? Why not in the Ivory Coast which isn't related to this wave of Middle-Eastern protests but where there's a much larger humanitarian crisis going on?

Don't think that because i listed the Cons second that i give them more weight. That first bullet under Pros is a big one, and possibly outweighs all of the others put together. But there's a lot not to like about this.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2011, 9:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Not that we'd actually want them to act on this

Steve Bennen:

Late Friday, shortly before the Senate recessed and its members left town, a group of 64 senators sent a letter to President Obama, seeking some help on fiscal issues.

The group was organized by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and was deliberately perfect in its bipartisan qualities -- it was co-signed by 32 Democrats and 32 Republicans, all of whom want the White House to back a "comprehensive" package to tackle the "critical" issue of deficit reduction. (One can apparently only dream of such an interest in job creation.)

Keep in mind, the Gang of 64 didn't make any kind of policy recommendations. The letter seemed provocative by virtue of its endorsees, but the request of the president was itself bland and generic. The bipartisan senators want "a broad approach," which helps reach "consensus," and believes a White House endorsement of such an effort would send a "strong signal."

Ezra Klein (via Bennen):

In this letter, 64 senators manage to sound like an interest group begging the White House for support rather than a supermajority of the United States Senate -- which is to say, a coalition of men and women who could, on their own, draft and pass the very legislation they're talking about. Which raises the question: Why are they writing this letter rather than the legislation this letter claims to want?

I think for now on every Friday night, min, Wanyas and i will write a letter to Bob demanding that he decide what we should order for dinner. But we won't tell him what we want. And we'll complain about it when it arrives.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2011, 9:52 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Have to admit we're getting better all the time

Except critics of our education system, including seemingly well meaning people like Bill Gates, don't admit it.

Kudos to the Washington Post for publishing that rebuttal.

By fnord12 | March 18, 2011, 4:12 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Quick, back to Denny's!


We've just gotten breaking news that a judge in Wisconsin has issued a temporary restraining order halting implementation of Gov. Walker's union-busting bill. The ruling is not on the merits of the bill but based on the Republicans cutting corners getting it to a vote.

It would appear they can still go through the motions again and pass the bill without cutting the corners.

By fnord12 | March 18, 2011, 11:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Donating to Japan

Felix Salmon says don't do it. Here and here.

People in the comments disagree, to put it mildly.

By fnord12 | March 17, 2011, 4:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Gee, Nobody Could Have Foreseen a Problem With the Spent Fuel Rods

Fnord12 tells me it's too late to invest in iodine tablets.

Some countries have tried to limit the number of spent fuel rods that accumulate at nuclear power plants -- Germany stores them in costly casks, for example, while Chinese nuclear reactors send them to a desert storage compound in western China's Gansu province. But Japan, like the United States, has kept ever larger numbers of spent fuel rods in temporary storage pools at the power plants, where they can be guarded with the same security provided for the power plant.

Figures provided by Tokyo Electric Power on Thursday show that most of the dangerous uranium at the power plant is actually in the spent fuel rods, not the reactor cores themselves. The electric utility said that a total of 11,195 spent fuel rod assemblies were stored at the site.


While spent fuel rods generate significantly less heat than newer ones, there are strong indications that the fuel rods have begun to melt and release extremely high levels of radiation.

Tokyo Electric said this week that there was a chance of "recriticality" in the storage ponds -- that is to say, the uranium in the fuel rods could become critical in nuclear terms and resume the fission that previously took place inside the reactor, spewing out radioactive byproducts.

If recriticality takes place, the uranium starts to warm. If a lot of fission occurs, which may only happen in an extreme case, the uranium would melt through anything underneath it. If it encounters water as it descends, a steam explosion may then scatter the molten uranium.

One big worry for Japanese officials is that reactor No. 3, the main target of the helicopters and water cannons on Thursday, uses a new and different fuel. It uses mixed oxides, or mox, which contains a mixture of uranium and plutonium, and can produce a more dangerous radioactive plume if scattered by fire or explosions.


Tell me again why nuclear power's better.

By min | March 17, 2011, 3:36 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1)| Link

Apparently, Emperor Palpatine runs Michigan

Reported by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly:

Recent developments in Michigan and its new Republican administration are so astounding, I literally didn't believe the reports when they first came out. And yet, shocking though they may be, those reports are true and represent a genuine assault on a credible system of government.
Newly elected Republican governor, Rick Snyder, is set to pass one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country -- and almost no one is talking about it.

Snyder's law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed "Emergency Managers" in their stead. But that's not all -- whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn't get much more anti-Democratic than that.

Except it does. The governor simply has to declare a financial emergency to invoke these powers -- or he can hire a private company to declare financial emergency and take over oversight of the city. That's right, a private corporation can declare your city in a state of financial emergency and send in its Emergency Manager, fire your elected officials, and reap the benefits of the ensuing state contracts.

You might be thinking, "C'mon, that can't be right." I'm afraid it is. Michigan's new Republican governor is cutting funding to municipalities, and if they struggle financially as a consequence, he will have the power to simply takeover those municipalities if he believes he should.

Note that this bill hasn't actually passed yet and is now generating some controversy. Here's a somewhat more measured review of the bill. Even by that review, it looks draconian.

Governor Tarkin: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word from Coruscant that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away forever.
General Tagge: But that's impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?
Governor Tarkin: The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

By fnord12 | March 15, 2011, 11:20 AM | Liberal Outrage & Star Wars | Link

Better than Chernobyl!

Not exactly a high bar, but that's what they're saying about the nuclear reactor mess in Japan.

Japan scrambled to avert a meltdown at a stricken nuclear plant on Monday after a hydrogen explosion at one reactor and exposure of fuel rods at another...
The big fear at the Fukushima nuclear complex, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, is of a major radiation leak. The complex has already seen explosions at two of its reactors on Saturday and on Monday, which sent a huge plume of smoke billowing above the plant.

The nuclear accident, the worst since the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in 1986, sparked criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and the threat that could pose to the country's nuclear power industry.

Jiji news agency said fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor had been entirely exposed and a fuel rod meltdown could not be ruled out. The plant operator confirmed there was little water left in the reactor. The explosion happened at the No. 3 reactor, two days after a blast at the No. 1 reactor.

In light of the fact that our government seems incapable of addressing Peak Oil or Global Warming, i'd been kind of coming around to the use of nuclear energy. The science magazines that Wanyas lends me often include articles chiding environmentalists for not embracing nuclear energy. I still had concerns about what we're supposed to do with the nuclear waste, but i'd been somewhat convinced that safety wasn't as much of an issue any more. I should have been more skeptical considering the fact that the same type of safety assurances were given regarding offshore drilling just prior to the disaster in the Gulf.

Granted an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami is a hopefully unique circumstance, but with all the extreme weather we're expecting to see in the coming decades, maybe we ought to be looking at alternatives.

By fnord12 | March 14, 2011, 9:38 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Crossing the line

I haven't been blogging about this because it's just too sputter-inducing outrageous, but in case you didn't know, the soldier who turned over some of the State Department material to Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning, is being kept in a Marine brig in Virginia. He's essentially being tortured: prolonged periods of forced nudity, sleep deprivation, isolation.

Of this, Obama has said:

With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well.

Pentagon says it's ok, so i guess it's ok. The whole 'safety' thing is bullshit. They've put him on a fake suicide watch, which means they can wake him up every time he falls asleep to 'make sure' he's still alive, etc. Everyone knows this. It's the same things they've done to all of the Guantanamo prisoners.

Well, on Friday, State Department spokeperson P.J. Crowley said this in response to a question:

Charlie deTar: There's an elephant in the room during this discussion: Wikileaks. The US government is torturing a whistleblower in prison right now. How do we resolve a conversation about the future of new media in diplomacy with the government's actions regarding Wikileaks?

Crowley: I spent 26 years in the air force. What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don't know why the DoD is doing it.

I was impressed with that. I thought maybe there was disagreement between State and Defense and there was going to be some internal pressure to treat Manning like a human being, despite Obama's statement.

Turns out i was being too hopeful again, however:

P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.

Sources close to the matter said the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning...

Glenn Greenwald reminds us of this quote from Obama:

I don't want to have people who just agree with me. I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Not this time, apparently.

By fnord12 | March 14, 2011, 9:04 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The difference

Ofc, last night the Republican State Senators pushed through the union-busting measure that everyone's been protesting about. Originally it was part of the budget bill, and you need a quorum to vote on a financial bill in Wisconsin, so the Democrats hiding out-of-state was working. By stripping it out and putting in a stand-alone bill, the Republicans felt that they could vote on it without a quorum.

Remember that previously Republicans were saying they needed to strip unions of their rights in order to balance the budget, which would in theory mean that this separate bill should also require a quorum. But whatever.

About all this Steve Bennen at Washington Monthly writes:

The road ahead is uncertain. The measure will become state law fairly soon, but there's likely to be a court challenge -- last night's stunt, among other things, may have violated Wisconsin's open meetings requirements -- and there's been a fair amount of talk of a general strike.

But while those plans are considered, it's worth appreciating the larger context. The political environment in and around Madison was already noxious as the debate over the governor's plan intensified. Last night's gambit only served to make the air significantly more toxic, enraging working families and their Democratic allies. Indeed, if the GOP were sweating over Democratic recall efforts before, Republicans have to realize they just put their majority in serious jeopardy.

If pushing the union-busting bill was the equivalent of poking the hornets' nest, ramming it through this way was the equivalent of beating the hornets' nest with a tire-iron and then daring the hornets to do something about it.

That may all be so, but please take note that Republicans did it anyway. No compromises. No hemming and hawing. No talk of bipartisanship. They had the votes, they figured out how to jump any procedural hurdles, and they did what their base wanted them to do. And now they'll suffer the consequences, betting that they'll be far less than pundits warn and that at least some portion of their ploy will remain in place when all the dust settles.

Imagine the national Democrats doing that when they had a majority in both houses of Congress plus the White House. Imagine all the progress they could have made.

By fnord12 | March 10, 2011, 2:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

So obvious

It's always said that racism is a way to keep the masses at each other's throats instead of wondering why the top 1% of the population has 90% of the wealth. So here we are with 9% unemployment and Congress is... holding "Muslim: Threat or Menace?" hearings.

By fnord12 | March 10, 2011, 2:32 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Tom Vilsack: Farm subsidies because farmers are "good and decent people". Not like you.

Ezra Klein interviews Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and i'm just stunned at how tone-deaf his comments are and how fact free his reasoning seems to be.

EK: You keep saying that rural Americans are good and decent people, that they work hard and participate in their communities. But no one is questioning that. The issue is that people who live in cities are also good people. People who live in exurbs work hard and mow their lawns. So what does the character of rural America have to do with subsidies for rural America?

TV: It is an argument. There is a value system that's important to support. If there's not economic opportunity, we can't utilize the resources of rural America. I think it's a complicated discussion and it does start with the fact that these are good, hardworking people who feel underappreciated. When you spend 6 or 7 percent of your paycheck for groceries and people in other countries spend 20 percent, that's partly because of these farmers.

EK: My understanding of why I pay 6 or 7 percent of my paycheck for food and people in other countries pay more is that I'm richer than people in other countries, my paycheck is bigger. Further, my understanding is that a lot of these subsidies don't make my food cheaper so much as they increase the amount of it that comes from America. If we didn't have a tariff on Brazilian sugar cane, for instance, my food would be less expensive. If we didn't subsidize our corn, we'd import it from somewhere else.

TV: Corn and ethanol subsidies are one small piece of this. I admit and acknowledge that over a period of time, those subsidies need to be phased out. But it doesn't make sense for us to have a continued reliance on a supply of oil where whenever there is unrest in another part of the world, gasoline prices jump up. We need a renewable fuel industry that's more than corn-based, of course, and there are a whole series of great opportunities here. But as soon as we reduced subsidizes for biodiesel, we lost 12,000 jobs there. So if you create a cliff, you're going to create significant disruption and end, for a while, our ability to move beyond oil. And keep in mind that the Department of Agriculture has moved, for years, to reduce our spending. We cut $4 billion in crop insurance and put that to deficit reduction. So we are making proposals to get these things in line. But a lot of our money goes to conservation, and goes to some of those 600,000 farmers who are barely making it.

EK: Let me go back to this question of character. You said again that this is a value system that's important to support, that this conversation begins with the fact that these people are good and hardworking. But I come from a suburb. The people I knew had good values. My mother and father are good and hardworking people. But they don't get subsidized because they're good and hardworking people.

TV: I think the military service piece of this is important. It's a value system that instilled in them. But look: I grew up in a city. My parents would think there was something wrong with America if they knew I was secretary of agriculture. So I've seen both sides of this. And small-town folks in rural America don't feel appreciated. They feel they do a great service for America. They send their children to the military not just because it's an opportunity, but because they have a value system from the farm: They have to give something back to the land that sustains them.

EK: But the way we show various professions respect in this country is to increase pay. It sounds to me like the policy you're suggesting here is to subsidize the military by subsidizing rural America. Why not just increase military pay? Do you believe that if there was a substantial shift in geography over the next 15 years, that we wouldn't be able to furnish a military?

TV: I think we would have fewer people. There's a value system there. Service is important for rural folks. Country is important, patriotism is important. And people grow up with that. I wish I could give you all the examples over the last two years as secretary of agriculture, where I hear people in rural America constantly being criticized, without any expression of appreciation for what they do do. When's the last time we thanked a farmer for the fact that only 6 or 7 percent of our paycheck goes to food? We talk about innovation and these guys have been extraordinarily innovative. We talk about trade deficits and agriculture has a surplus.

Ethanol as a fuel source is a pipe dream. Costs more energy to grow and process the stuff than you get from it. I don't know why Vilsack doesn't know that. The rest of it just sounds like we have to subsidize people so they feel appreciated. The thing about military service is just bizarre.

By fnord12 | March 10, 2011, 11:08 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Starving the beast

Media Matters digs up an old Washington Post article:

The first thing Christine Todd Whitman did upon taking office as governor of New Jersey in January was to cut the state's income tax. Then in July, as she signed into law her first state budget, the Republican cut taxes again while simultaneously closing the huge deficit left by her predecessor.

This is what her supporters call the Whitman miracle, the fiscal accomplishment that has sent her stock soaring among New Jersey's voters and transformed her on the national scene from a political unknown into one of the Republican Party's newest stars.


But the key to the Whitman miracle lies neither in her political philosophy nor in her spending cuts, but rather in the fine print of her budget. Contained there is a series of arcane fiscal changes that some experts say amount to this: Christine Todd Whitman has balanced New Jersey's books and paid for her tax cut by quietly diverting more than $1 billion from the state's pension fund.

Whitman calls what she did a "reform" of the pension system that puts it on a more "sound actuarial footing." Others are less charitable. The one thing that even the actuarial consultants hired by the Whitman administration agree on, however, is that the chief effect of the changes will be to shift billions of dollars in pension obligations onto New Jersey taxpayers 15 to 20 years from now.

At best, this represents a gamble that the state's economy in the early part of the next century will be stronger than it is today and better able to shoulder pension responsibilities. At worst, according to fiscal experts, Whitman's move represents politics at its most cynical.

By fnord12 | March 7, 2011, 6:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The New Normal

The Obama administration notoriously predicted an 8% unemployment rate if we did nothing (despite cries from lefty economists that it would be higher). And of course, we now have 9% unemployment with the stimulus. Ezra Klein interviews one of the economists that the Obama administration based their predictions on, and asked why he got it wrong:

"In late 2008," he told me, "the economy was falling apart, but no one knew to what degree. We didn't yet know we were losing three-quarters of a million jobs a month. We just didn't have that data yet." So far, you'll recognize his response as fairly standard: Good forecasting requires good data, and good data about the economy was hard to come by in November of 2008. But what Zandi said next chilled me a little, as it's a stark reminder of not only how far we've fallen, but how complacent we've become.

"Nowadays," he continued, "nine or 10 percent unemployment sounds normal. But we'd had so many years of around five percent unemployment that we just couldn't believe it would go that high." In other words, the unemployment we're experiencing now was so hard to imagine in 2008 that most forecasters didn't even consider it as a serious possibility until they actually saw it happening to the economy. But three years later, we don't like nine percent unemployment, but fairly few people have their hair on fire about it. The Obama administration is talking about winning the future; John Boehner is saying that if his policies cause further job loss, then "so be it." We've acclimated. We're moving onto other issues. And that's a bad thing.

By fnord12 | March 2, 2011, 2:59 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

That's our Rep!

Rush Holt beats Watson at Jeopardy.

By fnord12 | March 1, 2011, 6:22 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Link

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