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Liberal Outrage

Right country, anyway

I was off by 172 miles.

Find Damascus on a map.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2013, 2:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

Even the last time we had a slam dunk, it wasn't a slam dunk


The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed at least 100 people is no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.

President Barack Obama declared unequivocally Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible, while laying the groundwork for an expected U.S. military strike.

"We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out," Obama said in an interview with "NewsHour" on PBS. "And if that's so, then there need to be international consequences."

However, multiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture -- a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet's insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" -- intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

Don't worry, though:

Administration officials said Wednesday that neither the U.N. Security Council, which is deciding whether to weigh in, or allies' concerns would affect their plans.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2013, 8:30 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link


A follow up on the Syria post below, especially the link to Kevin Drum. Here's a quote from the LA Times. Bear in mind it's an anonymous official, but it does seem to reflect the thinking behind this stuff.

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity "just muscular enough not to get mocked" but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

"They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic," he said.

By fnord12 | August 28, 2013, 12:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Just wanted to put up some links regarding Syria.

Kevin Drum points to an LA Times article showing that the "middle" or compromise path of just shooting some missiles at Syria, is the worst possible thing we could do. If we really think there's something happening that is worth investing in militarily (and don't want to just make things worse), we will have to commit to it fully.

Matthew Yglesias points out that if we really have money to save the lives of "foreigners", we would get much better ROI by giving money to malaria prevention. Jonathan Chait, who supports bombing Syria, doesn't like Yglesias' argument, and i understand how it feels like a non-sequitur, but it's always interesting how there's money for certain types of crises, especially when there seems to be a military solution, and not others. Yglesias also points to a study showing that military interventions in support of rebels typically leads to more civilian deaths.

I also want to acknowledge the bravery of the UN experts who traveled to the site of the alleged chemical attack in Syria to see if they could confirm it. Everyone else seems to be taking it as a given that the Syrian government used chemicals weapons, but if this is indeed our "red line", it will be good to confirm that it really happened. It also reinforces my wish that we had a functioning world government so that it wasn't up to individual countries to decide what the "red line" is. The UN is clearly valuable even in its limited capacity today. But imagine if we had an authority that was able to establish and act upon guidelines for what to do in cases like Libya, Egypt, Syria, etc., instead of what happens now, which always feels like we are winging it.

By fnord12 | August 28, 2013, 10:13 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Scotch and a cigar

Steve Lonegan is an out-of-touch doofus.

By fnord12 | August 28, 2013, 10:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The thing that never happens


National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency's enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests, U.S. officials said.

Note that "love interests" doesn't have to mean partners or even ex-partners, but could simply be "that girl you think is hot". The article doesn't say who was spied on.

Yes, it's "very rare", but that's because they're only "finding out" about it when it's "self-reported".

Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

As Crooked Timber says:

In other words, while NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time, it relies on witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by its own employees. I guess we'll just have to hope that NSA staff are too busy snooping on our emails to read any of the 194 000 Google hits on "how to cheat a polygraph".

To be perfectly accurate, i would change Crooked Timber's "NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time" to "NSA has the capability to monitor everything..." but you get the point.

By fnord12 | August 26, 2013, 10:01 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

It's not over


Japan's nuclear crisis escalated to its worst level since a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant more than two years ago, with the country's nuclear watchdog saying it feared more storage tanks were leaking contaminated water.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Wednesday it viewed the situation at Fukushima "seriously" and was ready to help if called upon, while nearby China said it was "shocked" to hear contaminated water was still leaking from the plant, and urged Japan to provide information "in a timely, thorough and accurate way".


The NRA said it was worried about leakage from other similar tanks that were built hastily to store water washed over melted reactors at the station to keep them cool. Water in the latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers.

A spokesman for the NRA said the agency plans to upgrade the severity of the crisis from a Level 1 "anomaly" to a Level 3 "serious incident" on an international scale for radiological releases.

By fnord12 | August 21, 2013, 9:50 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Not that who is stopping immigration reform is a great mystery

Josh Marshall gets a little more activist-y than i've ever seen him. After talking about the fact that the Immigration Reform bill is likely dead, he notes that supporters of the bill (in Congress) aren't coming right out and saying so, and then he says:

There's a curious elite belief that going into 'campaign mode' is somehow dirty or tawdry or that it makes it harder to come up with the compromises necessary for legislation. But that is nonsense.


So stop pretending that this bill is going to pass and get about the business of explaining to voters who is stopping it from passing or in fact stopping it from even getting a vote. This tends to be something center-left reformers never get. The bill is dead or near dying. Letting this drag on only demoralizes people who think that government can act in the common good because it makes it seem as though the bill is dying of natural causes or some hopeless terminal illness -- something tied to the nature of the Congress or the 'process' itself.

But that's deeply misleading and damaging to the prospects of reform ever succeeding. The bill didn't die. It was killed. So forget the heroic measures to revive it and get about telling the public who killed it and holding them accountable for their actions.

Update from Marshall here.

By fnord12 | August 21, 2013, 9:19 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

"Basically paid to do nothing" - except busy doing it all the time

I thought this was an interesting premise even if i didn't buy the hypothesis ("The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the '60s)").


In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There's every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn't happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes' promised utopia - still being eagerly awaited in the '60s - never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn't figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we've collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment's reflection shows it can't really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the '20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.

By fnord12 | August 20, 2013, 1:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Imagine That! Plants Passing Genes to Each Other!

Oh, if only somebody could have foreseen such a thing happening. Somebody call Mendel. Link

A genetic-modification technique used widely to make crops herbicide resistant has been shown to confer advantages on a weedy form of rice, even in the absence of the herbicide. The finding suggests that the effects of such modification have the potential to extend beyond farms and into the wild.
The researchers also found that the transgenic hybrids had higher rates of photosynthesis, grew more shoots and flowers and produced 48-125% more seeds per plant than non-transgenic hybrids -- in the absence of glyphosate.

Making weedy rice more competitive could exacerbate the problems it causes for farmers around the world whose plots are invaded by the pest, Lu says.

Certainly, no environmental groups were warning against just such an occurrence. Asshats.

By min | August 20, 2013, 10:40 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Link

First they came for the steelworkers...

Personally i don't know that Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post is any more interesting than, say, AOL-Time Warner or MSNBC, but one thing's for sure: we're going to hear a lot more about changes in (or, if you prefer, "death of") the news industry than we have for other industries, since it affects the people who write the news (or, if you prefer, "news"), and the coverage is going to be a lot more sympathetic to those affected. I think Jonathan Chait's calling up the things Robert Samuelson wrote about the steel industry is proof of that.

By fnord12 | August 15, 2013, 2:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

So whatchoo gonna do about it, huuuuuuuh?

David Atkins at Digby's place writes something that sounds familiar to me:

I was late to make a choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential campaign. I liked Dodd's stance on the FISA court, but I knew he couldn't win and that he was corruptible in other ways. Kucinich was a hopeless lightweight with serious problems on women's issues. I never trusted John Edwards or his newfound conversion to progressivism after he left office. Barack Obama had dissed the netroots and was far too interested in compromise to be the fighter we needed in the White House.

But Hillary Clinton? Not a chance. Hillary Clinton had been at Bill Clinton's side during all the deregulatory and free trade policies of the 1990s. She was forceful in the ludicrous attempt to regulate video games with no evidence whatsoever. Her handling of healthcare reform was politically hamhanded. One could say that she was only serving as Bill Clinton wished. But then as a Senator from New York she only continued to serve the interests of neoliberals on Wall Street. Then came the Presidential campaign, in which she hired the worst possible consultants and advisers, then ran a campaign of arrogant inevitability as a moderate who would attempt to bring back the 90s magic. She refused to apologize for her vote for the Iraq War. All her economic advisers reeked of the Rubin and Summers clan.

When I finally settled on Barack Obama, it was a gamble. He had opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. He had spoken highly of single-payer healthcare, and railed against economic inequality. I was hoping that he would be at least the shadow of a transformational figure, someone who could achieve massive popularity and then scare legislators into bowing to his personal popularity and charisma to pass legislation. I was hoping that he would be the progressive-in-disguise that the right so feared he would be, and that his campaign painted him as more moderate than he really was in order to make white America comfortable with voting for a black man with an unfortunate middle name.

Above all, I figured that whoever President Obama brought in as economic advisers would have to be different from the old Clinton crew. I knew that Hillary Clinton would certainly bring in the same people. I didn't know what Obama would do, but I knew it couldn't be worse.

Ha, ha! Then Obama appointed every former Clintonite possible (except Robert Reich, of course), including Hillary!

Atkins goes on from there to talk about the Summers/Yellen debate. A little impotently (understandably). If you appoint Summres over Yellen, why then we'll be really upset!

But the longer term issue is around 2016. Hillary Clinton is already presumed to be in the running and the inevitable winner of the Dem primary. The good news is that i think she might be more of a fighter and less of a pre-emptive compromiser than Obama. But i agree with all the reasons Atkins used to choose Obama over Clinton in the 2008 primaries and i think at best her policies would be more of the same compared to Obama's (note that "more of the same" plus "fights better" might result in better policy outcomes). So the question is, is there anyone that the left wing of the Democratic party wants to get behind? Feingold? Wyden? Udall? They/we should be recruiting, organizing, and raising money for it now.

By fnord12 | August 15, 2013, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

I can't tie this one back to comic books

This is Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, arguing that Texas' gerrymandering efforts are not racist:

DOJ's accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates... The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary.

Better not let the anti-tanning bed tax people know that a policy that only incidentally targets a specific ethnicity is racist. But i love the defense slash admission. We're not racist, just hyper-partisan. Ok, whatever you want to call it. But why not just pass a law that says Democrats can't vote?

By fnord12 | August 12, 2013, 4:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Zeitgeist movement alert

Digby (quoting Marcy Wheeler) says terrorism is out, hackers are in. Maybe after Infinity, the next Marvel event should be reinventing the Lethal Legion as an Anonymous style hacker group? Although i think Marvel might have a hard time identifying the good guys and the bad guys in the story. Certainly "twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years" sounds like a familiar stereotype. And the guy that Wheeler is quoting sounds like he is baiting these guys to attack, self-fulfilling prophecy style.

By fnord12 | August 12, 2013, 4:15 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

Unleaded gas: the greatest super-hero of all

TPM's post today, which pivots off of Eric Holder's mostly symbolic announcement regarding drug sentencing reform (symbolic because the Federal government isn't doing the majority of drug prosecutions), reminded me of a topic related to my (surprise!) post below about Marvel comics. Whenever we're faced with these year-long uber plotlines in comics, one of us will say, only half-jokingly, "How come super-villains don't just rob banks anymore?". And the answer is in this chart:

And yes, yes: how come Batman doesn't dance anymore?

That's the murder rate, but you'll find it's the same for most kinds of violent and semi-violent (e.g. burglary) crime. Josh Marshall kind of brushes past it, but the one theory that really holds up in terms of why this is happening is the removal of lead from gasoline and paint. But regardless of why, the fact is that crime-fighting super-heroes seem a lot less necessary than they used to. Certainly since the height of the Frank Miller 80s. But rising and then high crime rates track pretty well to the explosion of Silver Age super-heroes. And since the 90s it's become less and less of a thing, and it's really plummeting, even in the face of some pretty bad economic downturns. So what's a crime-fighting genre to do?

Well the X-books specifically have gotten a lot of mileage from civil rights, but (while i certainly don't want to declare victory!) we've had some improvements on that front and we're at a point where it's a lot harder to imagine a future of minority-hunting killer robots. And with Civil War and Dark Reign, Marvel wrung a lot out of the post-911 world, which i think was a good move thematically even if it wasn't executed well. And the Avengers movie (and also the Iron Man movies, even more directly) got a lot out of 911/terrorism itself. But with all these things we're moving away from the core raison d'etre (to type a phrase i would never use in real life) for super-heroes. So there's a lot less of Spider-Man mostly fighting criminals and then getting pulled into Secret Wars on occasion. It's got to be mostly Secret Wars and villains with world-threatening schemes or at least personal vendetta schemes. And that leads to event fatigue and just this sense that Marvel has strayed from that classic comics feel. And there may be nothing that Marvel can do about it, except lurch from event to event hoping to glom on to the latest zeitgeist.

By fnord12 | August 12, 2013, 3:10 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

I guess Washington DC is a idyllic city with the lowest crime rate in the nation

As Atrios says, you have to wonder who thought infiltrating student protest groups to protect shop owners from receiving letters was a good use of time and resources.

By fnord12 | August 7, 2013, 2:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


An actual person elected to the (Federal!) government:

I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, 'Have you ever been to a tanning booth?' and he goes, 'No, no need.' So therefore it's a racist tax...

By fnord12 | August 7, 2013, 8:38 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

What's the sweet spot?

It really is a marvelous accomplishment to be able to argue that making $250,000 a year is not rich when we're talking about taxes but say that people are greedy for wanting to increase minimum wage when that's the topic.

Click on that second link if you want to see how Neil Cavuto doesn't understand that the $2/hour he made when he was 16 was more than what minimum wage is today after inflation (let alone the fact that the median fast food worker today is an adult with families to feed, not 16 year old kids looking for spending money).

Cavuto's job is to confuse and anger old people, and i don't know if he really believes what he's saying or he's just doing what he was hired to do, but either way it really is impressive how they are able to just push out any message they want regardless of logical inconsistencies.

By fnord12 | August 2, 2013, 2:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Caution, caution

Update: This turned out to basically be a non-story. What happened was a company noticed that an employee that they had just let go was searching for phrases like "pressure cooker bombs" from his work computer, which is something the company was able to see, and they notified the police (which i think was probably a good idea!). What's disappointing is how many liberal blogs (Digby, Daily Kos, even Kevin Drum to a lesser degree) jumped on this and immediately assumed it was an NSA issue.

Original post below...

Articles referencing this story are making the rounds. Here's the Atlantic.

Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How'd the government know what they were Googling?

If true, holy crap. But it's all a little weird. First, it seems like things have progressed way beyond what even Snowden's leaks have revealed. Second, the Atlantic wasn't able to get confirmation from any law enforcement agency that they were responsible (again, if true, that's part of the story). Third, take a look at the original poster's website. She's a professional writer and her site is full of strange stories told in the first person.

I would be very careful about assuming this is true until it's better confirmed.

By fnord12 | August 1, 2013, 7:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Time to Stop Accepting Online Misogyny

I've been pretty certain all my life that's it's not ok to tell someone you hope they get cancer and die. I've also been pretty sure my entire adult life that it's not ok to walk up to someone and threaten to rape them because they held an opinion contrary to your own. That if such a thing should occur, that person would be reported to the police for making a threat.

I apparently never got the memo that if you do it on the internet, it's ok. It's ok to threaten a woman with rape for wanting Jane Austen's picture to be on currency, or making a video about female stereotypes in video games, or doing well at a Magic tournament. You ladies should quit being so sensitive. Women!

It's so prevalent that women who receive these threats accept it as a normal course of events and don't bother reporting it. Just ignore the trolls.

Freeman, whose latest column How to use the internet without being a total loser addressed the issue of misogynistic online abuse, said: "I get loads of abuse on Twitter. That I should just 'go back to the kitchen', or someone saying they can't wait until women lose the vote.

"Because of the bomb threat this time I called the police. There was that guy arrested for threatening to blow up an airport. If it's illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it's illegal to threaten to bomb me."

Despite having received rape threats in the past, she only felt the need to report the bomb threat. The problem with that is it creates an atmosphere of tacit approval. So the douchebag misogynists feel no qualms about continuing with their behavior, becoming bolder, threatening to blow women up for supporting a campaign to put a woman on the pound note. I can't emphasize enough how insane that is.

Well, hopefully, they've finally gone too far with this bomb threat. Hopefully, more and more women will feel they are justified in reporting death threats, rape threats, general harassment, etc., and the online community will continue to be less and less tolerant of it.

Having occasionally been stupid enough to read the comments section of articles, i doubt it. But i still hope it.

By min | August 1, 2013, 11:01 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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