Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conservative Opposition to Obama, in a Nutshell

So much that deserves real opposition, naturally conservatives focus on the dumbest shit imaginable

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

There's a Special Place in Hell for Antonin Scalia

From the Supreme Court Voting Rights case today:
WASHINGTON, DC — There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

The comment came as part of a larger riff on a comment Scalia made the last time the landmark voting law was before the justices. Noting the fact that the Voting Rights Act reauthorization passed 98-0 when it was before the Senate in 2006, Scalia claimed four years ago that this unopposed vote actually undermines the law: “The Israeli supreme court, the Sanhedrin, used to have a rule that if the death penalty was pronounced unanimously, it was invalid, because there must be something wrong there.”
Seriously one of the worst human beings on the face of the earth.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The NFL's Anti-Union Tactics Backfired, So They Punished the Only Owners That Didn't Play Along

If anyone hasn't been following this story, this summarizes it well, and it drives me a bit nuts that people either aren't giving it enough attention or covering it in the right way. Thankfully, ESPN's Dan Graziano has had this thing nailed from the beginning and has been willing to call a spade a spade with respect to the league's behavior. Here's his summary:
The league's owners agreed on a collusive plan to restrict spending in a season that had no salary cap, knowing they were going to lock out the players the following offseason in an effort to break their union and grab a larger share of league revenues for themselves, and then in retrospect they decided they didn't like the way two teams deviated from the backroom deal. It's big-money corporate scheming at its worst, and the Redskins are right to be angry about the way they were treated. Common sense would dictate that they could get some of the cap money back. 
When the NFL negotiated their last CBA, the uncapped year was a "get" for the players in negotiations. The players wanted this because they were betting that an uncapped year in the final year of the deal would drive up salaries, which would be enough of a deterrent for the owners to start bargaining in good faith rather than locking them out.

What happened in reality is that all the two owners decided to play by the rules and treat it as an uncapped year. What happened with the rest of the league? Well, they colluded to pretend that the uncapped year didn't exist. This is not legal. We have a word for it. I think it's called "collusion". When the lockout ended, and the owners had had their asses handed to them in every way possible, they decided that they would extract revenge from the two owners who refused to join in their illegal activities. Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones were also apparently two of the owners most opposed the lockout, which I'm sure is a huge coincidence. (Another coincidence is that the person giving out these penalties, John Mara, is the owner of the Giants, and  a division rival of both the Cowboys and Redskins.)

If you're asking why the players union didn't fight more on this, it's because the NFL told them that if they didn't sign off on these penalties, the salary cap wouldn't go up next year. I don't know how that's legal either, but that's never seemed to bother Roger Goodell before, so why would it now?

Anyhow the skins are making noises about suing the league, and I hope they do. This would freak everyone the fuck out, because I can't look at a scenario where the NFL isn't at least guilty of colluding during the uncapped year. And then that could screw with the NFL's anti-trust exemption  which is the one thing they really care about. If for no other reason, they should sue to further humiliate Roger Goodell, because getting rid of him would be a huge black eye for all the asshole owners who led the lockout last time, and would maybe force them to think twice about doing it again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Louis CK On Privilege and Historical Context

This is so fucking good. I love how he just ignores Jay's stupid questions and finishes his rant.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Global Warming Could End Life As We Know It, In Our Lifetime.

This is goddam horrifying. (via Digby)

The science pope blog:

Your brain will fight it, even with the numbers on the page staring back at you, because the collapse of civilization is simply beyond human comprehension. To really internalize this information means you would need to accept things like:

- You are among the last people that will ever walk the Earth
- Your children won’t survive to middle age
- All of the beauty, culture, and scientific discoveries we’ve unlocked will return to the ether from whence they came.

Forgive my French, but that is some heavy shit. Yet our ability to understand and feel threatened by this information is hindered by the fact that things don’t seem that bad right now. Sure things feel a little “off”, but how can we be so close to oblivion when life is (generally speaking) so good, modern and happy?

The answer is exponentials. Climate change does not follow a linear path (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc…), it follow an exponential path (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc…). Global temperature is increasing exponentially, fueled by humanity’s exponential rise in energy use, population, and economic growth. As you can see from the chart, exponential functions look like a hockey stick: they stay low for a long time, and then rise very suddenly and rapidly once they turn the corner. Everyone has some experience with exponential growth in their daily lives…any bank account with compounded interest will follow this curve, and exponentials are the reason that sickness spreads so rapidly through your child’s school.
Well, crap.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


“We don't have any troops in that area,” he said. “So that's where Al-Qaeda and terrorists groups like the Akani Network and Al-Shabaab are residing, very remote regions. These drones can stay in the air for up to 24 hours and we can monitor people's movement on the grounds.”

He said the idea of judicial oversight of drone strikes and targets is “crazy to me.”

“I can't imagine in World War II for Roosevelt to have gone to a bunch of judges and said, 'I need your permission before we can attack the enemy,'” Graham said.

He said the drone program “has been very effective.”

“We've killed 4,700,” Graham said. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we're at war, and we've taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

He spoke of Anwar Al-awlaki.

“He's a guy that was born in the United States, he radicalized Major Hasan, the guy at Fort Hood,” Graham said. “He helped plan the underwear bomber attack that failed. He's been actively involved in recruiting and prosecuting the war for Al-Qaeda He was found in Yemen and we blew him up with a drone. Good.

“I didn't want him to have a trial,” he continued. “We're not fighting a crime, we're fighting a war. I support the president's ability to make a determination as to who an enemy combatant is. It's never been done by judges before. I support the drone program.”
This would be less depressing if it was just Lindsay Graham, rather than most of congress, President Obama and most of the our political media that feels this way.

Our choices are war via massive land invasion or war via drone strike. Anyone who believes there is another choice is unserious.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Obama Considering Pro Fracking Dept of Energy Head

Not exciting.

Feb 6 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is considering naming nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, who is one of his science and energy advisers, as the next energy secretary, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Moniz, who was undersecretary at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration, is a familiar figure on Capitol Hill, where he has often talked to lawmakers about how abundant supplies of U.S. natural gas will gradually replace coal as a source of electricity.
Fighting climate change by polluting our groundwater and tripling down on something that may have even worse environmental effects that we have no clue about. Awesome!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Blackstar

At this point, I'll be in New York (ooohhh magic future posting!), so this seems appropriate. Forgot young Hi-tek is in this video, and about the awesome break at the end.

Have a great weekend.

This is the Elizabeth Warren We Elected

You know how you elect people with promise and then often watch them fade into nothingness? Well, looks like that won't be happening with Elizabeth Warren at least! From her hearing with bank regulators today:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Joe Scarborough is Everything Wrong With America

Let's have a contest for dumbest tweet of the year. This may have already won.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two Major State of the Union Highlights

There were some major lowlights too (embracing TPP, Bowles Simpson "helping" Yemen) but there were also two absolutely fantastic policy ideas. I know it's too much to ask, but I would give anything to watch congressional Democrats wield these two ideas as a club and bludgeon house republicans with them. The ideas:

Rasing/Indexing the Minimum wage
Long, long overdue, and considering we just indexed tax breaks for rich people to inflation with the fiscal cliff deal, I'm pretty sure we can do the same with the minimum wage. Would help those who make the least money, and bring help the rest of the economy by giving people who will spend money... money to spend.

Universal Pre K
Parents at the lower end of the income spectrum have to work endless hours for pennies to provide food and shelter for their kids. Let's help them and the kids by giving them a place to learn and grow before the reach elementary school. Amazing idea.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Union Open Thread

For live updates follow my twitter feed here... Trying to figure out a way to included all train friends in one box, but this seems to be more difficult than I would have guessed. I'll probably have more thoughts tomorrow.

Kill Lists and Economic Non-Recovery

A really amazing episode of Up with Chris Hayes this weekend. You should basically be carving out time to catch as much of it every weekend as possible, it really is that good.

It should auto play to the rest of the show, but if it doesn't, you can pull up all the segments here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Potential Quote of the Year Alert

ABC analyst Nicole Wallace on Marco Rubio:
"He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He is on social media”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Images of the Israeli Occupation

From Andrew Sullivan's blog:
Members of a Palestinian family react after Israeli bulldozers demolished their family house in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina on February 5, 2013. 

 A Palestinian man reacts near Israeli security forces after Israeli bulldozers demolished his family house in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina on February 5, 2013

These monstrous acts are taking place in our name, with our money.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Winning the Hearts and Minds

This is the problem with our ever expanding use of drones, in a nutshell: (via Glenn Greenwald)
SANA, Yemen — Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen.

It was a brave gesture by a father of seven who commanded great respect in the community, and it did not go unnoticed. Two days later, three members of Al Qaeda came to the mosque in the tiny village of Khashamir after 9 p.m., saying they merely wanted to talk. Mr. Jaber agreed to meet them, bringing his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection.

As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby.

The killing of Mr. Jaber, just the kind of leader most crucial to American efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, was a reminder of the inherent hazards of the quasi-secret campaign of targeted killings that the United States is waging against suspected militants not just in Yemen but also in Pakistan and Somalia. Individual strikes by the Predator and Reaper drones are almost never discussed publicly by Obama administration officials. But the clandestine war will receive a rare moment of public scrutiny on Thursday, when its chief architect, John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, faces a Senate confirmation hearing as President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director.
While I appreciate people who tell me this is a way to avoid full scale invasions like Iraq, if our only choices are drone war and land war, we've basically already lost.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Obama Memo Claims Right To Assassinate US Citizens

Absolutely terrifying stuff. Shameful.

Glenn Greenwald:
The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice. In September 2011, it killed US citizen Anwar Awlaki in a drone strike inYemen, along with US citizen Samir Khan, and then, in circumstances that are still unexplained, two weeks later killed Awlaki's 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman with a separate drone strike in Yemen.

Since then, senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama's top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, have explicitly argued that the president is and should be vested with this power. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article from October reported that the administration is formally institutionalizing this president's power to decide who dies under the Orwellian title "disposition matrix".

When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama's hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: "It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing." The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying "he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president". When the existence of Obama's hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, she wrote that the "list includes three Americans".

What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch - with no checks or oversight of any kind - but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president's underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president - at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as "Terror Tuesday" - then chooses from "baseball cards" and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.

In fact, The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has been so fixated on secrecy that they have refused even to disclose the legal memoranda prepared by Obama lawyers setting forth their legal rationale for why the president has this power. During the Bush years, when Bush refused to disclose the memoranda from his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that legally authorized torture, rendition, warrantless eavesdropping and the like, leading Democratic lawyers such as Dawn Johnsen (Obama's first choice to lead the OLC) vehemently denounced this practice as a grave threat, warning that "the Bush Administration's excessive reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government."

But when it comes to Obama's assassination power, this is exactly what his administration has done. It has repeatedly refused to disclose the principal legal memoranda prepared by Obama OLC lawyers that justified his kill list. It is, right now, vigorously resisting lawsuits from the New York Times and the ACLU to obtain that OLC memorandum. In sum, Obama not only claims he has the power to order US citizens killed with no transparency, but that even the documents explaining the legal rationale for this power are to be concealed. He's maintaining secret law on the most extremist power he can assert.
There won't be an uproar (at least a meaningfully sized one) because it was Barack Obama that did this and not George W. Bush. That alone is so, so, so depressing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why Not Expand Policies That Already Work?

Atrios makes the case that increasing Social Security benefits should be a major progressive cause in the future/now. I couldn't agree more.

There is a weird fetish in "liberal" policy circles that wants to create new awesome solutions rather than expand on the extremely successful polices we already have. Obamacare was a perfect example of this. Rather than focusing on measures to reduce all health care costs and a medicare buy in, all the liberal groups got together and created this Rube Goldberg device of policy making that will be almost assuredly less efficient even if it manages overcomes seemingly endless hurdles that stand in the way of it's full implementation. We created something called a "public option" when we had one of the most popular government programs that people know and love (medicare), already in existence, just waiting to be used. Madness.

We can't afford to make the same mistake with social security. People's retirements are less secure than ever, and we should be looking to expand social security benefits to higher levels. It's the most popular program in the history of the US government. Maybe we should use that to our advantage.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Medicaid is Safe. Medicare? Not so much.

So this is so perverse in so many ways, but it appears Medicaid won't face cuts because it has become such an integral part of Obamacare. Which is good, but is also awful because it "being part of Obamacare" is clearly the larger factor at work in the administration's thinking rather than "how many people would cuts to this policy kill". Jon Walker:
The one upside to the Supreme Court making the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act optional is that it has stopped the Obama administration from trying to cut it. Senior economic adviser Gene Sperling confirmed that the administration sees taking Medicaid completely of the table as necessary to make Obamacare function; but since President Obama is still obsessed with deficit reduction, he will instead focusing on cutting Medicare. The Hill:
“We have come to believe that it is not the time to make even those savings,” Sperling said, referring to the cuts the White House had proposed. “Not when this is the critical moment in implementing the Affordable Care Act.” [...]

But the administration has decided to accept a fight over Medicare in order to protect Medicaid, Sperling said.

“It means we’re going to have to look harder for Medicare savings, and those savings may be more difficult politically because of he choices we’ve made,” Sperling said. “If you decide you are going to protect Medicaid more, it means you’re going to have to make some tough choices in other places.”
Given that our health care system is bloated, it would be possible to cut Medicare spending without hurting beneficiaries, but there seems to be little interest in Washington for doing that. Instead, everyone seems to be only focused on “tough choices,” i.e. looking tough by making older people poorer regardless of how little it would change overall spending.
The Obama administration is clearly going to be floating benefit cuts to medicare every chance they get. They've done it quite consistently so far during his presidency, and there's no reason to believe he'd stop trying now. All we can do is be prepared to take him on next time he puts the idea out there.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Train of Thought Lounge: Scarface

Recently discovered this video for one of my all time favorite songs.

While Hagel's Confirmation Hangs In The Balance

It's worth talking about the main reason he's controversial: Not being blindly supportive of Israel's foreign policy decisions. Anything in the news recently?

GENEVA -- The United Nations' first report on Israel's overall settlement policy describes it as a "creeping annexation" of territory that clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians, and calls for Israel to immediately stop further such construction.

The report's conclusions, revealed Thursday, are not legally binding, but they further inflame tensions between the U.N. Human Rights Council and Israel, and between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli officials immediately denounced the report, while Palestinians pointed to it as "proof of Israel's policy of ethnic cleansing" and its desire to undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians also hinted that they could use the report as a basis for legal action toward a war crimes prosecution.

In its report to the 47-nation council, a panel of investigators said Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the treaties that establish the ground rules for what is considered humane during wartime.

This was the first thematic report on Israel's settlements with an historical look at the government's policy since 1967, U.N. officials said. Previous U.N. reports have taken a look at Israeli settlement policy only through the lens of a specific event, such as the 2009 war in the Gaza Strip, when Israel launched an offensive in response to months of rocket fire by the ruling Hamas militant group.

The Israeli government persists in building settlements in occupied territories claimed by Palestinians for a future state, including east Jerusalem and the West Bank, "despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation," the report said.

The settlements are "a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," the report concludes.

More than 500,000 Israelis already live in settlements that dot the West Bank and ring east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, with its Palestinian population, immediately after capturing the territory from Jordan in 1967 and has built housing developments for Jews there, but the annexation has not been recognized internationally.
Ah, ok. Down with Hagel! That guy's clearly the problem.