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Liberal Outrage

Witness #40

I don't know what happened at Ferguson and i didn't see all the evidence the grand jury saw, so i'm keeping mum on their decision. But the written testimony of Witness #40 is bizarre.

By fnord12 | November 26, 2014, 9:00 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Abolish Term Limits

Kevin Drum touches on something that's increasingly been a bugaboo of mine: term limits.

The key point for me is the first sentence in this quote from Jim Newton writing in the LA Times.

Power has shifted from those we elect to those we don't, to the permanent bureaucracy and to lobbyists. Problems get kicked down the road in favor of attention-grabbing short-term initiatives that may have long-term consequences.

I'm absolutely not in favor of term limits at the Congressional level, and i am in favor of repealing them for the president. It's worth remembering that they were only imposed after FDR. As the quote says, lobbyists and bureaucrats don't have term limits, so every time we get a new president they have to fight against the entrenched interests that have always been there and will remain there long after they are gone. If a president wants to, for example, reform the CIA, the career officials at the CIA can basically slow pedal any reforms and hope the next president will think differently. And the same would be true for other elected officials if term limits were established.

(It's also worth observing that based on approval ratings, i'm not sure that either George W. Bush or Barack Obama would have been elected to a third term in any event. If we have a democracy, then we shouldn't need artificial ways to prevent "dictatorship". We can vote people out of office if we don't want them anymore. I should note that i also support a better primary process and campaign finance reform, so that it's easier for an incumbent to be challenged. But we need those things anyway.)

By fnord12 | November 25, 2014, 10:27 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Can't keep a good conspiracy down

On Friday afternoon, the Republican-controlled House Select Intelligence Committee quietly released their findings from investigating the various Benghazi related conspiracy theories. As Kevin Drum writes:

It's hard to exaggerate just how remarkable this document is. It's not that the committee found nothing to criticize...

But those are routine after-action critiques, ones that were fully acknowledged by the very first investigations. Beyond that, every single conspiracy theory--without exception--was conclusively debunked. There was no stand down order. The tactical response was both reasonable and effective under the circumstances. The CIA was not shipping arms from Libya to Syria. Both CIA and State received all military support that was available. The talking points after the attack were fashioned by the intelligence community, not the White House. Susan Rice followed these talking points in her Sunday show appearances, and where she was wrong, it was only because the intelligence community had made incorrect assessments. Nobody was punitively reassigned or polygraphed or otherwise intimidated to prevent them from testifying to Congress.

As designed by the Friday afternoon news dump, the media has largely not covered this report. But on one of the Sunday cable talk shows, Gloria Borger asked Lindsey Graham about it, and he's not letting facts get in the way of a good conspiracy saying, "I think the report is full of crap" and "That's a bunch of garbage... That's a complete bunch of garbage." I suppose he thinks the Obama administration has infiltrated the Republican-controlled House Select Intelligence Committee, perhaps mind-controlling the Republican Chairperson, Mike Rogers.

By fnord12 | November 24, 2014, 9:49 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Nation of immigrants

Lots of angles to the immigration debate, but TPM has an interesting guest writer explaining that the US mainly had open borders until relatively recently so the question of whether or not earlier immigrants came here "legally" is more complicated than it sounds. Especially in contrast to the likes of Bill O'Reilly telling people you don't deserve to be here.

For a more economic argument, i point you to the final three points in Mathew Yglesias' explainer, and on the legal angle (i.e., is Obama overstepping his bounds) here's an explainer from Kevin Drum.

By fnord12 | November 21, 2014, 11:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Rand Paul and the Filibuster

In some of my darker moments while contemplating a Hillary Clinton presidential candidate, my mind has turned to Rand Paul. I know that Paul is largely a fraud, and that's on the issues where i agree with him like the surveillance state and military invention and things like marijuana legalization. On the topics not related to his supposed civil libertarian views, i know he's no better than any other Republican. But even so, i've felt like a Paul candidacy could wind up being transformative to the Republican party or at least create a much needed debate that we wouldn't get between Clinton and any other Republican.

But - and speaking of debate - my already faint hopes in that direction took another blow yesterday when Rand Paul failed to vote "for" the NSA reform bill. If Rand Paul had voted "for" it and convinced just one friend to vote with him, the bill would have "passed". Instead the bill "failed" by "only" getting 58 people to vote for it. Paul claims to have not voted for the bill because it did not go far enough.

I call bullshit on that (you don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and all that, especially when you're not going to get another shot at this), but more to the point, you'll notice the abundance of quotation marks in the paragraph above. That's because the vote that happened wasn't actually the vote for the bill; it was the vote to open debate on voting for the bill. So basically, the bill's supporters failed to overcome the nowadays automatic filibuster. And in that context, Rand's refusal to vote in favor of it makes no sense. The bill didn't go far enough so he thinks we shouldn't even debate it? He didn't want to, maybe, submit an amendment to make it go further? It's just not consistent and it makes Paul look like more of a phony than ever.

On a more general note, we have got to get rid of the filibuster. It just doesn't make any sense. You have to get 60 votes just to allow the vote on the bill, which itself only needs 50 votes. It's madness; the Senate has effectively re-written the Constitution without an amendment. And yes, i'm fine with the 60 vote requirement getting eliminated even though the Republicans are taking over the Senate. But it will never happen if Democrats don't force the issue, and with Democrats like Joe Manchin and Claire McCaskill vowing not to filibuster now that they're in the minority, it's never going to happen. So we'll only have the 60 vote requirement when Republicans are in the minority. Brilliant, guys.

By fnord12 | November 20, 2014, 1:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Wrought and Wrong

I wish i could find the full transcript of US ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers' words, but as far as i can tell the source is this article. I'd like to find the full text because i really hope she's got some good supporting clauses hidden in those ellipses. Otherwise, i have to wonder what planet she's coming from.

"I think there is too much of, 'Oh, look, this is what intervention has wrought' ... one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons," Power said Wednesday during the Defense One Summit. At the same time, she said, "we are asking an awful lot right now of our forces."

Sure, everywhere i look i see politicians being overly cautious about military intervention. They're always too busy worrying about how the last intervention went wrong.

By fnord12 | November 20, 2014, 9:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The extraordinary stupidity of Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier, the guy who until 2010 was the head political reporter for the Associated Press, wrote this today:

On health care, we needed a market-driven plan that decreases the percentage of uninsured Americans without convoluting the U.S. health care system. Just such a plan sprang out of conservative think tanks and was tested by a GOP governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Instead of a bipartisan agreement to bring that plan to scale, we got more partisan warfare. The GOP resisted, Obama surrendered his mantle of bipartisanship, and Democrats muscled through a one-sided law that has never been popular with a majority of the public.

Seriously, he wrote that. The guy who covered politics for AP all through the period where Obamacare was being drafted and voted upon doesn't know that the law is essentially a direct copy of the Massachusetts law. Fournier must have also slept through the 2012 elections, since that point was brought up repeatedly when Obama was running against Romney.

Fournier has been writing endlessly since his AP days about how sad it is that there's no more bipartisanship. But what do you when one sides resists a law that they were responsible for in the first place? Well, you automatically forfeit your Mantle of Bipartisanship (+1 on saves vs. getting anything done) and then Ron Fournier gets to cry about how "both sides do it".

The sad thing is that the Democrats could have just as easily "muscled through" a non-convoluted Single Payer system or at least a Public Option, but they wanted to please guys like Fournier. It sure worked out!

By fnord12 | November 17, 2014, 3:23 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Seems unnecessarily complicated

I guess it's Obamacare renewal time, and Kevin Drum has some tips that no ordinary non-political blogging people will ever know about. Also as you probably know, the Supreme Court is getting ready to cripple the law based on a technicality (and for partisan reasons). Couldn't we just give everyone Medicare instead?

By fnord12 | November 15, 2014, 12:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Planes Mimicking Cell Towers to Spy on Us

Surprise surprise. Link

The allegations, reported in the Wall Street Journal late on Thursday, suggest that the US Marshals Service has for seven years flown Cessna aircraft outfitted with "dirtbox" devices that mimic cellular towers, permitting the collection of thousands of unique IDs and location data from users.

According to the Journal the planes operate from at least five metropolitan airports, permitting a "flying range covering most of the US population".

The reportedly indiscriminate collection would permit the marshals and potentially other justice department agencies to avoid having to seek records from the phone companies themselves, especially in criminal investigations where a court order may be required.


In official testimony US officials have routinely denied that the NSA collects phone location information in bulk, but they frequently add the caveat "under this program", leading to widespread suspicion that other government programs perform that function, and prompting freedom of information requests seeking the truth.

I wonder how many more methods of secret mass surveillance we'll discover over time. These agencies - the NSA, CIA, and FBI - are out of control with no one really governing them. They exist forever, independent of who's in office, loyal to no one but themselves. Their agendas can span decades because they have no term limits. If they have a president or Congress that seems unfavorable to their operations, all they need do is wait it out until the next election. Or wave around the "fear" card.

Michael German, a former FBI agent now with New York University Law School, said: "The government's attitude seems to be if it can, it should, without regard to the violation of Americans' rights, so long as nobody knows. The overriding problem is the excessive secrecy that hides the government's ever-expanding surveillance programs from public accountability."

"This isn't about tipping off criminals. Every criminal or terrorist I ever worked undercover against knew they were criminals and terrorists, and therefore that there was probable cause to believe they were criminals and terrorists, so the government could get warrants to listen to their calls or search their homes."

"So long as nobody knows" - and if someone does find out and makes it public, the spy agencies aren't repentant or embarrassed. They're outraged that you exposed their dirty dealings. How can you think of rights in the face of all this peril? Don't you know that the only way to protect your freedom is to take it away?

There's a vote in the Senate on a bill to curb the NSA. Start contacting your senators plus any senators currently opposed to the bill and especially those jerks on the Intelligence Committee who only got upset about spying when they were the ones being spied on.

By min | November 14, 2014, 8:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Wealth Inequality Back to 1920s Levels

Thanks, Reagan.

Wealth inequality in the US is at near record levels according to a new study by academics. Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth.


Having just read Piketty, i'm not surprised by this. His book says the same thing. It's just depressing how little will be done to fix it. The rich will get richer and everybody else can go fuck themselves.

By min | November 13, 2014, 12:29 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

They Will Not Explode

A group campaigning against male violence on the Metro in Paris came up with this sticker:

I just love that it says "Testicles are not made of crystal and will not explode." I think many men will be relieved to hear that.

By min | November 13, 2014, 11:35 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Better headline

Obama's call for an open Internet puts him at odds with person he nominated to head the FCC, because the person he nominated to head the FCC was a telecom lobbyist.

By fnord12 | November 13, 2014, 10:02 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link

Democracy Day

Good old Senator Bernie Sanders is soliciting supporters to make Election Day a national holiday.

By fnord12 | November 8, 2014, 12:19 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

All politics is national part two

Most of these assholes lost last night and the rest are into runoffs and/or legal challenges and may ultimately have lost as well.

Ed Kilgore at TPM has a postmortem which after finding the right nugget of data seems to miss the point. His key paragraph:

So despite talk of millennial "disappointment" with Obama, the best evidence is that their enthusiasm for him as manifested in 2008 and 2012 is not transferable to other Democrats -- or is not exhibited in the mix of millennials willing to vote in a midterm. And the same may be true of the minority voters discussed above.

But Kilgore doesn't note that most of the Democrats who lost actively ran against Obama. You can't have the votes of people who support Obama when you are running commercials showing yourself shooting Obamacare with a gun.

Since that resulted in utter failure, let's try it my way next time. I bet that you could get those votes if you ran a campaign explaining to people that they had to vote in the midterms to defend the president. Turn it into a national election. People don't vote in midterms because they don't think they matter, or because they're turned off looking at two candidates tripping over each other to attack the president. But those who supported the president in the presidential election years are likely to turn out if they understand that the president they voted for is going to lose something if they don't vote now. And here's the thing: even if you still lose, at least you didn't spend literally billions of dollars attacking your own party's policies. A full-throated defense of those policies might actually help turn the political climate around for next time.

It's true that you might lose the mythical independent moderate vote with this strategy, but it seems clear that independents broke for Republicans in this election anyway. If those people truly are independent, perhaps a strong argument in favor of your party's policies might persuade them. If not, the idea is that the young and minority voters that won you your office in the presidential years would come out and counterbalance the independents that you're not winning (and wouldn't win anyway). We've been trying it the other way as long as i've been watching politics and it's not working, so why not give this a shot next time?

One more recrimination: this can't just be an election strategy. You should really govern this way, too. If "moderate" Dems hadn't stymied Obama on the stimulus, acceded to the 60-vote filibuster, demanded that he hold off on his executive order on immigration (hey, that worked out really well, huh? Bye, Senator Udall. You were one of the better ones...), and generally shot themselves in the feet for the past six years, maybe they'd have more to show for it now.

By fnord12 | November 5, 2014, 10:21 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link

NAFTA all over again

The one thing Democratic presidents and a Republican congress can agree on is something no one else wants.

By fnord12 | November 2, 2014, 3:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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