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Liberal Outrage

If someone needs a political advisor, i am available

Reasonable Conservative™ David Frum looks at a David Brooks column critiquing Obama's lack of leadership, and follows up with:

Yet Brooks has laid out the most useful and effective critique of Barack Obama for Republicans in 2012: The job has overwhelmed the man. He's not an alien, he's not a radical. He's just not the person the country needs. He's not tough enough, he's not imaginative enough, and he's not determined enough.

In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the president ran out of ideas sometime back in 2009.

In the face of opposition, Obama goes passive. The mean Republicans refused votes on his Federal Reserve nominees and Obama ... did nothing. Would Ronald Reagan have done nothing? FDR? Lyndon Johnson?

With unemployment at 10% and interest rates at 1%, the president got persuaded that it was debt and interest that trumped growth and jobs as Public Issue #1.

Frankly, i agree with it. And while i should know better, i could imagine myself voting for a Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman who makes that argument. You start to think to yourself that a moderate (or "moderate") Republican would basically have the same agenda as Obama and wouldn't have to deal with Republican obstructionism. And while i'll probably come around in the end (i'd never vote for a Republican, just a question of whether i can bring myself to vote for Obama or go third party), i bet a lot of people won't. That leads Brad DeLong to say:

As a result, for the first time I think it is more likely than not that Obama will lose the 2012 election. Never mind that as a reality-based leader he will be vastly superior to whatever wingnut or hypocrite the Republicans serve up--if the elite press adopts Frum's critique, then we have sixteen months to listen to the media speak with one voice about how Obama is not tough and decisive enough to be a good president.

Matthew Yglesias, one of Obama's biggest defenders (see here), also finds Frum's argument persuasive.

I just don't understand this president's strategy.

By fnord12 | June 28, 2011, 10:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Russia Catches Up to the 1980s on the "War on Drugs"

Drug dealers are to be "treated like serial killers" and could be sent to forced labour camps under harsh laws being drawn up by Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament.

Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the state duma, the lower house, said a "total war on drugs" was needed to stem a soaring abuse rate driven by the flow of Afghan heroin through central Asia to Europe.


The plans follow an admission by Medvedev in April that Russia's fight against drug addiction had failed. He called for radical measures such as mandatory drug tests in schools.

Possession of small quantities of psychotropic substances in Russia carries an administrative fine of up to 15,000 roubles (£330), but Gryzlov indicated it would now result in a jail term. The state should offer narkomany (addicts) a stark choice, he said: "Prison or forced treatment."

That could be a bleak prospect. Some of Russia's detox clinics still use "coding", a controversial therapy in which patients are scared into thinking terrible consequences (such as their testicles falling off) will result if they mix drugs with medicines which are actually placebos.


I leave you with this educational video from Johnny Dangerously.

By min | June 28, 2011, 12:45 PM | Liberal Outrage & Movies | Link

I mean, it's my blog, isn't it?

Sometimes i use this blog to link to something i want to read but don't have the time for. That's why i link to Paul O'Brien's Marvel comics sales analysis articles even though i know no one else has any interest in them.

And that's why i'm linking to Paul Krugman's review of this Age of Greed book.

By fnord12 | June 24, 2011, 9:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Government incapable of governing

Congress has finally gotten around to weighing in on Obama's actions in Libya. Sort of.

The House attempted to vote to authorize the attack. It failed 295 to 123.

Then they attempted to defund the war effort. That failed too. 238 to 180.

Libya in Limbo.

By fnord12 | June 24, 2011, 8:49 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Medicare saves money

Krugman makes the point in his column today that we should expand Medicare if we want to save money.

And here's the data for that, which he put on his blog last week.

Here's a chart showing the rising costs of Medicare. As Krugman says, looks bad in isolation.

Then we compare it to private insurance.

Now that's bending the cost curve. And it's better than it looks. While private insurance includes everyone who gets insurance through their employers, and therefore includes a large subset of healthy people, Medicare is focused entirely on the elderly, who are more likely to have more costly medical needs. So if you expand the eligibility for Medicare to, say, everyone 55 and up instead of 65 (or hell, to everybody!), you're actually increasing the base of healthy people in the program, reducing the cost per beneficiary.

The larger point is we don't have a Medicare problem. We have a rising health care costs problem. And Medicare actually does better than private insurance in reigning in those costs.

By fnord12 | June 17, 2011, 9:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Juan Cole targeted by CIA during Bush Administration

Juan Cole is a Middle Eastern affairs expert and he's a blogger that i often read. Among other things, he was instrumental in debunking a lot of the lies coming from the Bush Administration in the run-up to the Iraq War. And apparently the Bush Admin ordered the CIA to dig up embarrassing dirt on Cole's personal life to discredit him (they didn't find anything).

Here is the NYTimes article. And here's Cole's take.

If the standard pattern holds, the Obama Administration will now arrest Glenn Carle for revealing this information.

By fnord12 | June 16, 2011, 12:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Salt for Radiation, Garlic for Lead

In March, China reported having a run on salt due to fear of radiation from Japan's melting nuclear reactors.

In May, they had exploding watermelons.

With all these showier, more exciting ways to be poisoned, you might have forgotten about an old favorite - lead.

Chinese authorities are blocking access to tests and treatment for children at risk of lead poisoning, according to a damning report issued on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.

The US-based group said some local government officials affected by the widening pollution scandal are also withholding and falsifying test results to reduce health costs and main the economic vitality of factories.

Since 2008, China has been wracked by more than a dozen lead poisoning incidents, affecting thousands of people and often prompting violent attacks against the smelting plants and battery factories that are responsible for the contamination.


In many cases, local people have long complained of health problems and unusual behaviour by their children, but the authorities have ignored them because the factories are an important source of jobs, taxes and - sometimes - bribes.

"Children with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood are being refused treatment and returned home to contaminated houses in polluted villages," said Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

"The doctor told us all the children in this village have lead poisoning. Then they told us a few months later that all the children are healthy. They wouldn't let us see the results from the tests though," the group quotes a mother from Yunnan as saying.

Another parent told the group: "The government doesn't want to have to give us anything so they make up the results."

Not to worry, though. There's an easy peasy way to cure lead poisoning.

Currently, some parents have been told that drinking milk or eating garlic and eggs is an effective way to counter lead poisoning, the group said.

Just make sure you check that milk for melamine first...

By min | June 15, 2011, 11:33 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Lest You Were Concerned the Yakuza Was Getting "Soft"

In the aftermath of the devastating March tsunami, Japan's underworld made a rare display of philanthropy, handing out emergency supplies to survivors, sometimes days before aid agencies arrived.

Three months later, however, the yakuza appears to have dispensed with largesse and is instead hoping to cash in on the daunting clean-up effort in dozens of ruined towns and villages.

The government and police fear they are losing the battle to prevent crime syndicates from winning lucrative contracts to remove millions of tonnes of debris left in the tsunami's wake, including contaminated rubble near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that many firms are reluctant to handle.


Not to be left out, the Chinese mob is trying to get in on the action, too.

The magazine recounts the story of a leading Chinese gangster who, accompanied by a national politician, visited the mayor of Minamisoma - a town near Fukushima Daiichi, where a partial evacuation order is in place - hoping to win contracts to remove radioactive waste that, according to police, could have ended up at disposal sites in China.

Really? He has to bring the waste with him back to China? Couldn't he dispose of it in someone else's country? Mebbe one of those poor island nations? Or just dump it in the ocean along with all that radioactive water Japan's throwing in there now?

By min | June 15, 2011, 11:22 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

A rising tide doesn't mean a bigger piece of the pie

This chart was worth mixing some metaphors for:

A trend sort of begins with the Reagan Revolution, but note that the cliff dive begins with the 2001 recession, not the current one. Employee wages didn't recover even when the economy did.

By fnord12 | June 13, 2011, 7:29 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The Big Leagues Political Blogs Nerd Out on X-Men Movie

Ta-Nehisi Coates gets a guest post in the New York Times, and uses the X-Men First Class movie as the starting point for a conversation on race.

And here's a follow-up on his own blog. Spoilers, i guess, but i haven't seen the movie yet and they didn't bother me.

Aaand let's just put it all in this post (even though it was really supposed to be about "Hey cool, Coates is being published in the Times, good for him!"). In the second link above, Coates links to Susana Polo's post that addresses both race and gender angles. And here's a response to that from Matthew Yglesias, who basically cautions that we shouldn't look at Magneto as a pure bad guy.

Update II: More from Yglesias.

Update III: And here's Ezra Klein.

By fnord12 | June 9, 2011, 10:40 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

I think we're gonna need a bigger box

By fnord12 | June 3, 2011, 3:53 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Is IMF a new form of colonialism?

Joseph Stiglitz says "Yes".

Probably isn't a shock to anyone reading this blog, but i did think it was interesting how an unstaged photo became such a symbol.

By fnord12 | June 2, 2011, 11:41 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Peak oil is good for the environment

And makes it easier to open stuff. (Link - warning NYT article, so it'll count against your 20 if you're not a subscriber).

But the maddening -- and nearly impenetrable -- plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes.
Target has removed the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts, has redesigned packages for some light bulbs to eliminate plastic, and is selling socks held together by paper bands rather than in plastic bags.

Wal-Mart Stores, which has pledged to reduce its packaging by 5 percent between 2008 and 2013, has pushed suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers, and has made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones to cut down on plastic use.

At Home Depot, Husky tools are going from clamshell to paperboard packaging, and EcoSmart LED bulbs are about to be sold in a corrugated box, rather than a larger plastic case.

By fnord12 | June 2, 2011, 11:35 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

War on drugs declared failure


The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes several former heads of state and UN officials, has released a report calling the global war on drugs a failure.

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world," the report reads. "Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."

The report calls for an end to the "criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others," and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.

"Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime," the report says. "Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights - and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation."

The Obama administration, however, is having none of it.

...White House drug tsar Gil Kerlikowske disagreed with the report's conclusions.

"Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available - as this report suggests - will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," the spokesman said.

By fnord12 | June 2, 2011, 11:19 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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