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Liberal Outrage

Thomas Friedman: worst writer in the world

Friedman writes:

Announce that every Friday from today forward will be "Peace Day," and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things -- an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: "Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders -- with mutually agreed adjustments -- including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs."

Digby says:

Maybe they can write it in really, really small letters.

See here for some previous examples of his incredible writing style.

By fnord12 | May 25, 2011, 2:41 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Where our debt comes from

This chart has been making the rounds for the past few weeks (latest is from TPM). Figure i should reprint it here.

By fnord12 | May 25, 2011, 1:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

What's a Rear Admiral Exactly?

Is that better than a regular admiral? Are there Front Admirals? All i can tell you is Rear Admirals apparently like to talk sense and use things like "logic" and "strategy". I know. Nutters. Link

Nato's military campaign in Libya "defies strategic logic" and needs to be completely rethought before the country descends into anarchy, a former Royal Navy admiral has warned.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry said the conflict was becoming all too reminiscent of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a "classic example of how to act in haste and repent at leisure".

Writing in the Guardian, Parry says Nato must accept that the UN resolution which allowed coalition forces to protect Libyan civilians will not bring an end to the fighting, and that diplomats should now consider seeking a new mandate.

"What might a decent strategy look like? The Libyan people should, with international assistance, establish and articulate the political ends they require for themselves and their country.

"The UK and its Nato allies could then conduct a campaign that is built around an explicit political purpose, expressed in a single, unambiguous aim (the 'master principle of war').

"That would focus and prioritise military activities. This would also enable a more sensible assessment of whether further authorisation from the UN might be required."


"As in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy, with overwhelming force and superior organisation, to gain control in a conventional conflict," he says. "The real skill is to achieve a successful, enduring peace and political settlement. In its concentration on getting rid of Gaddafi, as an end in itself, too little attention has been paid to what happens afterwards." He fears that the campaign is being run on the cheap and by committee.

"There is no clear statement of ends. The ill-defined outcomes and parsimony about resources limit the ways in which the campaign can be conducted."

By min | May 24, 2011, 12:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Oh boy

OK, ready? How does this paragraph end?

President Obama plans to outline an ambitious economic recovery plan...

Sounds good so far, right? Well, here's the rest of it...

President Obama plans to outline an ambitious economic recovery plan for the Middle East and Northern Africa designed to spur economic growth and build on democratic reforms that began in Egypt and Tunisia and have swept to countries across the region this Spring.

Let me be very clear: this is a good thing. And it's an incredibly brave thing for Obama to do, because you know how this is going to play. The truth is that he's already got budget to do this and doesn't have to go back to Congress, so that's why he can do something overseas that he can't do at home. But just wait for the pettifogging on this one.

By fnord12 | May 19, 2011, 9:59 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Pakistan vs NATO

Why are Pakistan and NATO firing on each other?

A Nato helicopter based in Afghanistan intruded into Pakistan's North Waziristan region on Tuesday, wounding two troops, local intelligence officials said, adding to tensions between Islamabad and the west.

"It happened early morning," a Pakistani intelligence official in the region, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. "The helicopter hit a Pakistani checkpost on the border in the Datta Khel area."


[Pakistan's Express 24/7 television channel] quoted officials as saying that the helicopters were just about to intrude into Pakistani territory when aerial gunshots were fired. They subsequently moved back but fired a retaliatory shot which released rubble from the nearby mountains and wounded the security personnel.


NYT's article says Pakistan closed down NATO's land route through Pakistan last September. Now it seems they're closing the air route, as well. Sadly, neither article gives much info as to why Pakistan is so hostile to NATO when they've been singing the "We're totally behind helping fight al Qaeda" song all this time. (I'm sure if I'd been paying more attention, I'd know the answer to this. I'm waiting for one of you to explain it to me in the comments.)

The articles rather bring up the tangentially related drama of the post-bin Laden raid US/Pakistani strained relations (I think they saw the word "Pakistan" and grabbed their opening to talk about it some more). However, according to this article, the US had a deal in place with Pakistan for the last 10 years that permits just this kind of military action.

The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.

Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.

So, the anger and posturing about invading Pakistan without warning is all an act. I'm still left with my first question - why are Pakistan and NATO firing at each other?

By min | May 17, 2011, 3:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Watermelon Landmines

Oh, China.

The flying pips, shattered shells and wet shrapnel still haunt farmer Liu Mingsuo after an effort to chemically boost his fruit crop went spectacularly wrong.

Fields of watermelons exploded when he and other agricultural workers in eastern China mistakenly applied forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator. The incident has become a focus of a Chinese media drive to expose the lax farming practices, shortcuts and excessive use of fertiliser behind a rash of food safety scandals.

It follows discoveries of the heavy metal cadmium in rice, toxic melamine in milk, arsenic in soy sauce, bleach in mushrooms, and the detergent borax in pork, added to make it resemble beef.


"In general we don't suggest chemicals with plant hormones be used on watermelons, as they are very sensitive. They might end up looking very strange and people will not want to buy them," said Cui Jian, director of the vegetable research institute at Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science. [no shit. --min]

Many farmers grow their own food separately from the chemically-raised crops they sell. "I feel there is nothing safe I can eat now because people are in too much of a hurry to make money," said Huang Zhanliang, a farmer in Hebei.


Now, the bit about the birth control in the cucumbers....I could get behind that.

By min | May 17, 2011, 3:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

A policy wonk is a liberal who has been mugged twice.

Poor Matthew Yglesias was assaulted over the weekend.

But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off. Once, years ago, in Amsterdam a guy threatened me with a knife and took my money. These guys took nothing, and just inflicted a bit of pain. All things considered the threaten/rob model of crime seems a lot more beneficial to both parties than the punch-and-run model. But I guess it takes all kinds.

Being Matthew Yglesias, he immediately launches into a policy discussion.

To offer a policy observation, higher density helps reduce street crime in an urban environment in two ways. One is that in a higher density city, any given street is less likely to be empty of passersby at any given time. The other is that if a given patch of land has more citizens, that means it can also support a larger base of police officers. And for policing efficacy both the ratio of cops to citizens and of cops to land matters. Therefore, all else being equal a denser city will be a better policed city.

That said, as a matter of personal ethics you really shouldn't run around punching random dudes in the back of the head irrespective of the prevailing level of population density or policing.

By fnord12 | May 16, 2011, 12:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

If you think Obama's got it bad...

...well, he's never been accused of sorcery.

Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been arrested and charged with being "magicians," as part of a continuing feud between the president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several dozen people close to Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei have been arrested in the past few days and charged with sorcery and "invoking djinns (spirits)," The Guardian reports. Another man arrested, Abbas Ghaffari, was described by a news site in Iran as "a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds."

(Actually, i take that back.)

By fnord12 | May 10, 2011, 10:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Hiding the ladies

Ultra Orthodox Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung has hidden the ladies from the now famous White House Situation Room picture.

The original:

Der Tzitung's:

I'm still waiting for this to turn out to be a hoax, it's so ridiculous. But here's the link (via Digby via Krugman).

Ultra Orthodox Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung is telling its readers like it isn't- by editing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [and counterterrorism analyst Audrey Thomason] from the now-iconic Bin Laden raid Situation Room photo. Oy vey.

The religious paper never publishes pictures of women, as they could be considered "sexually suggestive." Apparently the presence of a woman, any woman, being all womanly and sexy all over the United States' counterterrorism efforts was too much for the editors of Der Tzitung to handle.

By fnord12 | May 9, 2011, 3:23 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Link

After my month long moratorium on covering politics, i'm apparently going on such a binge that i'm covering British politics now


British voters punished the Liberal Democrats for their role in a deficit-cutting government on Friday, rejecting the party's efforts to reform the electoral system and deserting it in local elections.

The outcome points to a rockier future for Britain's Conservative-led coalition government, with analysts predicting a more combative stance from the Lib Dems, the junior partners.

The article doesn't say how it knows that the Lib Dems are being punished for the austerity program, as opposed to just being opposed to election reforms. While one might enjoy the idea of Lib Dems getting their just desserts, it's really a net negative as the voting reforms would have been a good thing.


The Scottish National Party (SNP) scored a bumper haul, winning an outright majority in Scotland's assembly -- which has limited powers devolved from London -- and opening the door for a referendum on secession from the rest of Britain.

A fully independent Scotland could change the handling of profits from North Sea oil fields, a crucial source of tax revenue for cash-strapped Britain.

It might also have implications for the Royal Bank of Scotland, bailed out during the global financial crisis and now 83-percent owned by the state.

It's been the Irish who fought for their independence for so long while the Scotts sat around like loyal wankers, so this is an interesting twist.

By fnord12 | May 7, 2011, 11:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Bank of America makes tough financial times worse


In the past, BofA would charge 90 days worth of interest for early withdrawals from a CD good for 12 months or less. In other words, a $10,000, 12-month CD with an annual yield of 0.3% would entail an early withdrawal penalty of about $7 if you took out the entire amount.

Now BofA is charging a flat $25 plus 1% of the amount withdrawn for CDs with terms under 12 months and 3% for longer terms.

That means the early withdrawal penalty for that same $10,000, 12-month CD now runs $125 -- a nearly 1,700% increase. The penalty for a five-year, $10,000 CD is $325 -- a roughly 1,600% increase.

As Kevin Drum notes:

This is yet another example of a fee that (a) most people don't really know much about, (b) most people don't think they'll ever incur, and (c) generally gets paid by people in some kind of distress.

To be fair, the tradeoff of a CD is supposed to be that the bank is guaranteed the use of your money for a defined period of time in return for that higher interest rate. On the other hand, interest rates on CDs have been awful since the 2001 recession.

By fnord12 | May 7, 2011, 11:16 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Drilling won't lower gas prices

I don't have a tag for "Things i would send to my father if i thought it would make a difference, but it wouldn't, so i might as well let him rant", but if i did, this would be a good use of it.


Republicans used the politically potent argument about the cost of gas Thursday to pass a bill expanding offshore oil and gas exploration. But analysts say there's a major flaw in their case: More drilling will barely budge prices.

The Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, which passed 266 to 144 with 33 Democrats buying into the scheme, orders the Department of the Interior to move quickly to offer three leases to drill in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of Virginia. The bill demands that the leases be executed by next year.

But the legislation won't reduce the price at the pump, experts said. Nor would a vastly more ambitious effort have much impact.

"It's not going to change the price of oil overnight, and it's probably not going to have a huge impact on the price of oil ever," said Mike Lynch of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc. referring not just to those four leases, but to expanding all U.S. drilling.

But people who study oil markets for a living say they are wrong.

"I would really doubt that that [2008 price drop] would have been because we committed to more drilling," said Phyllis Martin, an analyst with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which just released its detailed, annual outlook on energy supply and prices.

"It was most likely the recession," Martin explained. "When demand cuts back, the production cuts back and the prices fall."

As for opening four new drilling leases, that's not even a drop in the bucket.

Analyst Lynch said that, if the nation took an extremely vigorous stance on oil exploitation -- and relaxed restrictions on the Gulf and drilled in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and off the coast of California, where America's most easily accessible offshore oil is located -- it still would not have much of an impact.

"With the exception of the deep Gulf, where there are restrictions, people are drilling as fast as they can," said Lynch, who regards himself as a moderate Republican. He is bearish on oil prices and believes the cost of crude will drop soon, regardless of an government policies.

"You might, under really optimistic scenarios, over five or six years, add 2 million barrels a day of production," said Lynch, who favors more drilling, even if he rejects the politicians' arguments. "On a global scale, it's significant. But we would still be big importers -- we would still be dependent on foreign oil."

And prices would not move much because of it, the analysts explained. Oil is traded on a world market, and the United States does not have enough petroleum to increase the global supply, which would reduce demand -- and thus the price -- for fuel.

"In 2009, the U.S. produced about 7 percent of what was produced in the entire world, so increasing the oil production in the U.S. is not going to make much of a difference in world markets and world prices," said the EIA's Martin. "It just gets lost. It's not that much."

And boosting drilling in the outer continental shelf?

"What comes out of the OCS is about 1 percent of the world total, and that's not enough to affect world prices," Martin said, even noting that she believes there are even more untapped reserves than officials can estimate at the moment.

There is this:

Republicans are right about some things, the experts agreed. More drilling would mean more jobs and more tax revenue, if the industry's subsidies and tax breaks were revoked. It could also reduce oil imports -- even if gas prices wouldn't drop.

More offshore drilling, in fact, would be a huge boon for the oil and gas companies that could do it.

"It would be a lot of money for a lot people, but it's not going to make us energy independent," said Lynch, the analyst.

But we could also create jobs by having people dig holes and then fill them up again. Or by hiring all the out-of-work construction workers to install solar panels on the roofs of every government building, which would probably have a greater effect on energy prices than drilling.

By fnord12 | May 7, 2011, 11:08 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Because it pushes the conversation to the right

Matt Yglesias says:

The big news of the day is Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA) conceding the obvious point that Medicare won't be privatized as part of a bipartisan budget deal....

This all kind of raises the question, however, of why the Republican leadership pushed Paul Ryan's Medicare privatization plan in the first place. Obviously the fact that they favor privatizing Medicare played some role in that. But conventional wisdom is that the smart time to push a major piece of politically controversial legislation is when you can pass it into law... But right now anything the House passes still needs to go through a Democratic-controlled Senate and then Barack Obama's desk. So what's the point in asking vulnerable members of congress to vote for taking away seniors' health care benefits?

The answer is that Barack Obama responded to Ryan's plan by endorsing the Simpson-Bowles plan. Caveats to that endorsement apply, but before the Ryan plan, Simpson-Bowles was the most right-wing plan that was being taken seriously. After the Ryan plan, it's the sensible center.

Or to put it in Chocobo-speak: "Fight fight fight! And never give up!". Something the Democrats would do well to learn.

By fnord12 | May 5, 2011, 12:59 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Ezra Klein:

Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do -- and, more to the point, what he thought he could do -- was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he'd done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before. And though it didn't quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit.

Bin Laden's transition from scion of a wealthy family to terrorist mastermind came in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was trying to conquer Afghanistan. Bin Laden was part of the resistance, and the resistance was successful -- not only in repelling the Soviet invasion, but in contributing to the communist super-state's collapse a few years later. "We, alongside the mujaheddin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt," he later explained.

The campaign taught bin Laden a lot. For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they're beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they'll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden's plan for the United States, too.

"He has compared the United States to the Soviet Union on numerous occasions -- and these comparisons have been explicitly economic," Gartenstein-Ross argues in a Foreign Policy article. "For example, in October 2004 bin Laden said that just as the Arab fighters and Afghan mujaheddin had destroyed Russia economically, al Qaeda was now doing the same to the United States, 'continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.' "

For bin Laden, in other words, success was not to be measured in body counts. It was to be measured in deficits, in borrowing costs, in investments we weren't able to make in our country's continued economic strength. And by those measures, bin Laden landed a lot of blows.

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the price tag on the Iraq War alone will surpass $3 trillion. Afghanistan likely amounts to another trillion or two. Add in the build-up in homeland security spending since 9/11 and you're looking at yet another trillion. And don't forget the indirect costs of all this turmoil: The Federal Reserve, worried about a fear-induced recession, slashed interest rates after the attack on the World Trade Center, and then kept them low to combat skyrocketing oil prices, a byproduct of the war in Iraq. That decade of loose monetary policy may well have contributed to the credit bubble that crashed the economy in 2007 and 2008.

Then there's the post-9/11 slowdown in the economy, the time wasted in airports, the foregone returns on investments we didn't make, the rise in oil prices as a result of the Iraq War, the cost of rebuilding Ground Zero, health care for the first responders and much, much more.

In addition to the economic aspect, it always seemed obvious to me that the other angle was exposing our values as hypocrisy. After the attack, we give up on habeas corpus, start torturing, invade other countries without provocation, etc.

Regardless, here's hoping we use this occasion as a reason to finally bring all the troops home.

By fnord12 | May 3, 2011, 12:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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