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Liberal Outrage

That's really how it works, guys

As readers may have observed, i am very much on the liberal side of the spectrum and i'm not against increasing taxes on the wealthy in the long term. But as i've argued many times on this blog, reducing the deficit is a long term problem that is at odds with the short term goal of having an economy with 8% unemployment and crappy growth. So i was pleased that TPM put together a post warning about the short term economic problems of increasing taxes on the rich (even quoting Dean Baker) and other deficit-reducing items. We're in an economic depression where people aren't spending and businesses aren't spending, so in order to balance that out, the government has to spend. Tax cuts are the worst type of stimulus (it's much better to build infrastructure; somewhat better to give money to state governments so they won't lay off their teachers), but at least it's spending, so now is not the time to let tax cuts expire.

"If you get all three and no offsetting stimulative measures you knock around 1.2 [percentage points] from growth and add perhaps 0.6 [percentage points] to the unemployment rate," says Dean Baker, cofounder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "In a baseline, with no bad news from the government we might have expected to see 3.0 percent growth next year (housing comeback is the good news here) and perhaps a 0.4 [percentage points] drop in the unemployment rate. These three together get us down around 2.0 percent growth and basically no progress on unemployment."

That's based on what economists call Okun's law -- a rule of thumb that allows them to estimate how changes in GDP will impact employment. The estimates don't take into account that certain budget cuts hit the economy harder than others.

(The "three" refers to the payroll tax expiration, a "targeted" sequestration, and the expiration or partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts.)

So good article, raising an important point and helpfully clarifying the difference between deficit reduction and our short term (but lingering) economic problems, right?

Well, not according to the commenters, who denounce the article as a "GOP talking point" and say things like "Why should we pay any attention to 'economists' who claim that making the rich pay something closer to their fair share would hurt the economy?". Yeah, Dean Baker isn't a real economist, so go ahead and use scare quotes, and he's clearly a right wing hack. But even if you don't know who he is, how about taking the argument on the merits.

One commenter does make the point that the super-rich keep their money in offshore accounts and don't actually spend it, so it's "safe" to tax, and that may have some truth to it (although i'd argue that the tax increase will affect more than just that group) but even so you're basically saying there's no harm but also no gain. We need to be spending right now!

I was originally going to say this was a partisan Dem vs. actual liberal thing (like opposition to drone assassinations only when Bush is in office), but i'm not even sure that's what it is this time. I think the whole "reducing the deficit hurts the economy" thing is just counter-intuitive to a lot of people, which explains why Dem politicians who probably know better don't even try to explain it.

By fnord12 | October 26, 2012, 11:12 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Texas vs. the UN

The anti-UN sentiment in some parts of this country is bewildering to me. But here's the latest. The Texas Attorney General is making a stand on the UN's election observers. The UN has appealed to the State Department, but the Texas AG's also wrote a letter to State saying that the OSCE is "under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code."

By fnord12 | October 26, 2012, 10:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Jailed for flatulance. The ACLU explains the trend.

By fnord12 | October 26, 2012, 10:49 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Belief in Science No Guarantee Your Brain Works

Because if it was, all of these science-believers wouldn't think the winning counter-argument to a woman talking about sexism could in any way possible involve the word "cunt" and threats of rape.

When I first got involved with the skeptics, I thought I had found my people--a community that enjoyed educating the public about science and critical thinking.
Then women started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn't able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. But after a few years of blogging, podcasting, and speaking at skeptics' conferences, I began to get emails from strangers who detailed their sexual fantasies about me. I was occasionally grabbed and groped without consent at events. And then I made the grave mistake of responding to a fellow skeptic's YouTube video in which he stated that male circumcision was just as harmful as female genital mutilation (FGM). I replied to say that while I personally am opposed to any non-medical genital mutilation, FGM is often much, much more damaging than male circumcision.

The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:

     "honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could"

I don't know who these skeptics are or why they get their own category. They could be total kooks or fantastic geniuses. I don't really care. No matter what this woman or any other woman has said, there is never any excuse for saying they "deserve to be raped". That automatically catapults you into a category where you should no longer be allowed to express opinions because there's something wrong with you.

And i thought Republicans were bad.

The skeptics should join forces with the female gamers who have long been experiencing harassment and form their own community. One where calling out misogyny doesn't get turned around to be the woman's fault for "overreacting". Afterall, getting groped at a convention and called an "ugly cunt" is all in good fun, ha ha.

By min | October 25, 2012, 2:42 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"Kill List" is now inoperative. Please use "disposition matrix"

A good clearing house for the latest in awful is here. Some call-outs from various quoted pieces:

The United States' conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

"We can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us," a senior administration official said. "It's a necessary part of what we do... We're not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, 'We love America.' "

The article also notes that the CIA is seeking to expand its own fleet of armed drones, a development which I find kind of odd and potentially troubling. Do we really want an intelligence agency to have access to its own fleet of armed drones? Shouldn't that kind of thing be consolidated with the military, where weapons like this ordinary belong, with the CIA providing logistical and intelligence support on an as-needed basis? If nothing else, a development like this suggests that the CIA is going to continue its transformation from an agency primarily dedicated to the gathering of intelligence to a paramilitary organization
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight.
You can't bomb terror out of existence, you can't capture it on the battlefield, and you can't negotiate peace with it. On some level, fighting a "War On Terror" makes as much sense as calling World War One a "War On Tanks." By characterizing the conflict in this way, though, our government has essentially made it inevitable that we would be fighting a never-ending war that would continue to provide us with excuses to intervene throughout the world, either with ground troops or drone strikes. That's because you can never really say that you've defeated "terror."
Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that's his legacy.

By fnord12 | October 25, 2012, 2:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Does Selling Your Used Good Violate Copyright?

The Supreme Court will be hearing this case on Monday.

The Supreme Court case concerns something called the "first-sale doctrine" in copyright law. Simply put, the doctrine means that you can buy and sell the stuff you purchase. Even if someone has copyright over some piece of your stuff, you can sell it without permission from the copyright holder because the copyright holder can only control the "first-sale." The Supreme Court has recognized this doctrine since 1908.
The companies that have gone to court and sued over selling their "copyrights" include a watchmaker and shampoo producer. They have gone to court arguing that one part of the Copyright Act -- which gives them a right against unauthorized imports -- invalidates the first-sale doctrine.
Continuing a long string of similar cases, the Supreme Court will review a New York federal court decision that decided, in short, that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to any copyrighted product manufactured abroad. That case concerns textbooks.

John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher, sells expensive versions of the textbooks here and less expensive versions abroad. Supap Kirtsaeng, a foreign graduate student at University of Southern California, decided to help pay for his schooling by having relatives buy him copies of the foreign versions abroad, send them to him, whereupon he'd sell those books on eBay to willing students. He'd make money, the students would save money, but Wiley might have fewer sales of its pricey American versions. The case is styled Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons.

Both the District and Second Circuit courts held that any product manufactured abroad is not subject to the first-sale doctrine. For instance, that iPad you sold. You noticed this statement: "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China." Same for the iPods you've owned, the iPhones, and the MacBooks. Because those products were manufactured abroad, according to the Second Circuit, the first-sale doctrine doesn't apply to them. You need the permission of every copyright holder to sell the iPad.

That means, you need to ask Apple for permission, and probably Google, whose Maps software comes bundled with the iPad, and includes Google copyrights. Under this rule, when you sell some of your stuff on eBay or Craigslist (a couch, some books, electronics, posters, an old television, a toaster), you have to look up whether it has a copyrighted logo anywhere and find out whether the product was manufactured in the U.S. or abroad.

The idea that a company gets to tell me whether or not i have a right to sell the shit i bought and should now own is outrageous to me. Think about it. Where were the parts of your car manufactured? Should buying and selling your used car require first getting permission from the car manufacturer? What about all that stuff people put out for garage sales.

And stores where the entire business model hinges on resale of used items - think Princeton Record Exchange. Want to trade in your cds for credit towards that reinforced record bag sized pile of used CDs? Not if you don't have documentation showing you've got permission from the copyright holders, my friend.

Which brings me to my bitterness on e-books and Amazon in particular. You might have paid for that e-book, but you don't own it. Amazon and the publishers can dictate what you do with that e-book, and if they so choose, just delete it from your files. That's bullshit. Is there anyone who doesn't think that's bullshit? It's the same as Amazon showing up at your door, walking over to your bookcase, and taking your copy of Pride & Prejudice cause they found out you lent it to more than 1 person and for more than 2 weeks.


This is the shit all those wacky "keep government out of my home" types ought to be coming out against in force. Sadly, they're too busy fighting against their own interests by opposing social service expenditures.

Demand Progress has a web-generated letter you can send to the White House and Congress plus links to post to your Facebook or Twitter accounts if you're into that sort of thing.

By min | October 25, 2012, 10:28 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Put your liberty where your mouth is

Putting scientists in jail for failing to predict an earthquake, or failing to contradict a false prediction, is, of course, ridiculous, but on the other hand i would be tempted to vote Yes on a referendum putting the same stakes in play for our economic and political pundits.

By fnord12 | October 23, 2012, 1:54 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1)| Link

Two unrelated positive developments

1. Moviegoers are wising up to 3-D movies.

2. FTC offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who can figure out how to block robocalls.

By fnord12 | October 19, 2012, 2:17 PM | Liberal Outrage & Movies | Link

*Sputter* Moyers isn't even funded by PBS

One of the greatest tactics Republicans have is falsely accusing Democrats of not doing bad things. It happened in the most recent debate: Romney accused Obama of kicking oil and gas companies out of national parks. It isn't true - all the Obama administration did was revoke permits for companies that weren't using them - but in my opinion it *should* be true. So you're left in this weird position that, win or lose, pushes the conversation further to the right.

I'm not quite sure if this falls in that category, but i wanted to put it out there as a warning before i get into this nonsense. Two weeks back, we downloaded a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly, and one thing that surprised me was O'Reilly's awareness of and apparent hatred of kindly old Bill Moyers. The topic was about our deficit and how we shouldn't be wasting money on things like PBS because Bill Moyers! Moyers is a more obvious target for the right than Big Bird, but i didn't realize he was on their radar screen.

Anyway, it was bewildering and while Stewart took on the obvious "PBS funding is insignificant in the face of the deficit" angle, he didn't come to a defense of Moyers. He might not even be aware of him. But now it turns out that Bill Moyers' show is entirely funded by supporters and not relevant to the budget discussion anyway.

By fnord12 | October 18, 2012, 3:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Go with the system you've got

I love this from Atrios:

I've long been puzzled why we can't steer ourselves towards a better future by overpaying oil companies to build solar and windmills and overpaying war contractors to build SUPERTRAINS. Hell, they can put front mounted missiles on them if they want.

Existing stakeholders have immense political power and we obviously can't wish them away, but can't we bribe them to do good instead of evil?

By fnord12 | October 18, 2012, 3:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

That'll Teach 'Em

Romney: 'On day one I will label China a currency manipulator.'

By min | October 16, 2012, 10:44 PM | Cute Things & Liberal Outrage | Link

Happy voting!

Jonathan Chait has a very detailed (6 pages!) summary of the stakes in the upcoming presidential election. I guess the key points are:

  • Romney and Ryan plan to push the Ryan budget through Congress if they win the election, assuming they get at least 50 Republicans in the Senate. They'll use reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. The Ryan budget will essentially destroy any pretense of a social safety net in this country ("It would repeal Obamacare, cut income-tax rates, turn Medicare for people under 55 years old into subsidized private insurance, increase defense spending, and cut domestic spending, with especially large cuts for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs targeted to the very poor.").
  • If Obama wins, on the other hand, he'll still have to deal with a Republican House and he won't be able to push much through Congress.
  • However, if Obama does absolutely nothing and/or vetoes any bills that come his way, the erroneously titled "Fiscal Cliff" will arrive. This means that the Bush tax cuts will expire, and the "Sequestration" that was part of the previous Debt Ceiling agreement will come into effect, causing automatic cuts in domestic and defense spending. The way sequestration is structured, a large number of defense cuts are automatic but Obama will have discretion in how the domestic cuts are implemented.
  • Therefore, by doing nothing, the deficit would be reduced by $5 trillion.
  • Since Republicans don't want the tax cuts to expire or the defense cuts to happen, Obama potentially has leverage to negotiate. It comes down to how credibly Obama is willing to say that he'll allow the automatic cuts happen.
  • Chait thinks that Obama has finally learned to stop trying to reach a bipartisan compromise but later speculates that Obama might cave anyway during the lame duck session.
  • Most of the above focuses on long term deficit problems. In terms of the short term unemployment problems, if Romney wins, his secret Keynesian side will be revealed (and i actually believe Chait here) and he'll engage in some stimulus, albeit in the form of more tax cuts. Obama, on the other hand, seems (per Chait) to have given up on fixing unemployment and is hoping the economy will recover on its own. I'll add that if the automatic cuts happen, that will certainly crush the fragile recovery (any kind of deficit reduction, even of the type that liberals wouldn't object to, like defense cuts or tax increases, are the antithesis of stimulus).

Oh and then there's the return of the debt ceiling issue, coming up again in February/March.

Chait frames this as a choice with no turning back: "the great stalemate between socialism and social Darwinism will break open and likely turn decisively in one direction or the other." I'm not so sure. I see it more like we're left with the ugly choice of Romney wins and we get the benefit of reducing our tragic unemployment numbers at the expense of true suffering for the poor and elderly vs. Obama wins and, if all the cards are played right, a break-even approach to our long term problems, at the expense of ongoing hardship for the unemployed. I'm not sure why Chait thinks either direction is irreversible. Whatever Republicans pass through reconciliation could theoretically be undone if the Democrats ever got a majority and some backbone, and even if Obama fends off the latest social spending cuts disguised as deficit reduction, it's not like it won't come back again (see Clinton's surplus and the Bush tax cuts). But either way it seems we're looking at an ugly four years ahead.

By fnord12 | October 15, 2012, 3:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

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