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Only the good Don Young

Eve Peyser has an interesting piece on the growing bipartisan consensus to legalize marijuana, and the most surprising part is that the very rightwing Don Young is on board.

But when I meet Don Young, the 83-year-old Republican congressman from Alaska, he gets more personal. "I, very frankly, I don't use [marijuana]. I have not used it. A lot of my in-laws use it. So far it's been good. In a sense, it's less violent than alcohol," he tells me. "A lot of people forget that. Alcohol can cause real mental problems."

...As soon as Young begins talking about weed--or rather "cannabis," as he corrects me--as it relates to his family and alcohol, we're on the same page, a feeling I certainly did not anticipate.

...I never binge-drank because I loved alcohol--I did so because I really wanted to get fucked up, and it was the substance most available to me. When I finally decided to quit doing something I had indulged in every single day for years, the addict inside me didn't suddenly wither away. I didn't suddenly start hating drugs. I just realized there was an alternative, a way outside of the anxiety of sobriety that wasn't going to absolutely annihilate me. And that alternative was weed.

I understand this is not everyone's experience with the drug, but this narrative is not uncommon, and I share this view with Don Young, of all people. "You have to understand that I live with American Indians. That's my home. That's my wife," the Alaska congressman tells me. "Marijuana is a lot better than alcohol. I want to stress that because alcohol creates violence, and I've seen great people cut somebody's head off drunk. You don't see that with marijuana. I'm not condoning it. I'm saying that was the effect upon them, and now they smoke."

By fnord12 | April 21, 2017, 3:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Hard to argue with doing away with slideshows, but...

Just starting to learn about Google AMP. The idea seems to be to encourage good website design:

AMP, which will display pages four times faster, according to Google, has launched because interactive features became too burdensome across widely travelled websites. Too many ads, too many slideshows, too much dynamically embedded content without much value to the user...

The lite-loading HTML creates a preferred language across content manufacturers. No more poorly formatted local news sites, purposely-scaled and vaguely branded content farms...

Social networks and search engines want to deliver content to users without losing them, bouncing around pages without gimmicky Outbrain related links that lead you straight to nowhere. AMP pages help Google browsers feel like they aren't just being propelled into a web of nothingness.

I'm 100% on board with that. The downside seems to be that Google is making AMP available to "premium content farms" before everyone else, creating a two-tiered system of websites: "big box" sites that get top priority in search results and then sites by random people (like this one and a lot of the sites i read). The issue there ultimately stems from the fact that Google has (deservedly) won the search engine game and is effectively a monopoly, so the way that they prioritize their search results has a huge impact.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2017, 10:11 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Court rules that fan-created subtitles are illegal

Movie piracy is no small thing in the Netherlands, and an industry group called BREIN exists to combat pirates there. But going after torrenters themselves is difficult, so BREIN has also focused on periphery targets, like advertisers on torrent sites and, now, sites that host fan-created subtitles. And a Netherlands court ruling agreed with BREIN and said that unauthorized subtitles are an infringement.

This is BS on a number of levels, including the fact that subtitles have value for people well beyond pirated movies. But what i hate most about the case is that BREIN's argument in part is that fansubbers provide "unfair competition for emerging business models involving movies and TV shows". In other words, how can we monetize this if people are doing it for free? By that same argument, Encyclopedia Britannica should sue Wikipedia. The best thing about the internet is that millions of people are willing to provide content - in the form of Wikipedia articles or movie subtitles or comic book reviews - for free because it's their hobby or passion. Making a portion of that illegal because it's "unfair competition" for someone who wants to charge for it could be very damaging.

By fnord12 | April 21, 2017, 8:42 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale

I watched the 1990 version with Natasha Richardson ages ago having never read the book or even heard of Margaret Atwood. For years after, i was so enraged and disturbed by the rape scenes that i instinctively hated the sight of Robert Duvall and couldn't stomach seeing him in any other movies.

A couple of my friends were very excited when Hulu announced they were making a new adaptation. With politicians chipping away at Roe v Wade and an internet that threatens women with rape and then acts like the threat-makers are the victims, it seemed like the right time to revisit Atwood's dystopian society.

Set in the very near future, Hulu's new adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale subtly updates Atwood's dystopia. The execution of a gay woman in episode three seems inspired by a real Iranian execution. Played by Elisabeth Moss, Offred is more relatable than she's ever been, with a motto ("I intend to survive") destined for a thousand Etsy products. In the show, as in our moment, it is not just men, but crucially some women, too, who fervently wish for a society where women are no longer free or equal. Women known as Aunts initiate the Handmaids into their new roles; Wives terrorize Handmaids with little restraint. These women midwife Gilead into the world, though it's not clear what they stand to gain from any of it.

Most contradictory and recognizable of all these female collaborators is Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), the wife of Offred's commander. Before Gilead, she graced American television screens as a preternaturally blond evangelist. (Serena Joy was her stage name, a nom de guerre for the culture wars.) Even though she occupies the highest rank for a woman in this new world, she is now legally inferior to her sad-sack husband and, finding herself childless, has to employ Offred as a surrogate. Rage roils the edges of her ice-princess restraint. "She doesn't make speeches anymore," Offred notes in the book. "She stays in her home, but it doesn't seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she's been taken at her word."


And in a time when Madeleine "I think the death of 500,000 children was worth it" Albright feels she's allowed to scold young women for not supporting Hillary Clinton, it seemed like the right time to re-examine the definition of "feminism".

But The Handmaid's Tale does more than present a possible future: It asks us to consider how we'd end up there. A form of feminism that celebrates power for power's sake, instead of interrogating how it is concentrated and distributed, will usher us into fascism. Feminism means something. Some choices oppress the women who make them, and some beliefs, if enforced, would oppress everyone else, too. Allow an antichoice woman to call herself a feminist, and you have ceded political territory that you cannot afford to lose. Stripped of political meaning, "feminist" becomes an entirely subjective term that anyone with any agenda can use.

Because it's not just the Kellyanne Conways/Serena Joys we should be wary of. It's the "reasonable" women who want us to help boost them up to positions of power because "feminism", and not only never lend other women a hand up once we've helped them gain that power, but instead work hard to keep women down. Yes, feminism means something.

By min | April 20, 2017, 6:26 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage & TeeVee | Link

Fuck Work


Work no longer works. "You need to acquire more skills," we tell young job seekers whose résumés at 22 are already longer than their parents' were at 32. "Work will give you meaning," we encourage people to tell themselves, so that they put in 60 hours or more per week on the job, removing them from other sources of meaning, such as daydreaming or social life. "Work will give you satisfaction," we insist, even though it requires abiding by employers' rules, and the unwritten rules of the market, for most of our waking hours. At the very least, work is supposed to be a means to earning an income. But if it's possible to work full time and still live in poverty, what's the point?
Against this bleak landscape, a growing body of scholarship aims to overturn our culture's deepest assumptions about how work confers wealth, meaning, and care throughout society. In Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It), Elizabeth Anderson, a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, explores how the discipline of work has itself become a form of tyranny, documenting the expansive power that firms now wield over their employees in everything from how they dress to what they tweet. James Livingston, a historian at Rutgers, goes one step further in No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea. Instead of insisting on jobs for all or proposing that we hold employers to higher standards, Livingston argues, we should just scrap work altogether.
We can try to convince ourselves that we are free, but as long as we must submit to the increasing authority of our employers and the labor market, we are not. We therefore fancy that we want to work, that work grounds our character, that markets encompass the possible. We are unable to imagine what a full life could be, much less to live one. Even more radically, both books highlight the dramatic and alarming changes that work has undergone over the past century--insisting that, in often unseen ways, the changing nature of work threatens the fundamental ideals of democracy: equality and freedom.

The idea that your life only has meaning because of your job is repugnant to me. My life has meaning because i say it does, not because of what i'm employed to do. Sure, some people derive enjoyment from their work, but that should be extra. It shouldn't be the end all, be all of your self-worth.

I know someone who has two full time jobs and another with one full time job and two part time jobs - all just to make ends meet. If their lives had any more "satisfaction" or "meaning", i think they'd die from exhaustion.

And for those who think you must work because without work, "what would you do with your time?" - If you can't imagine having a full life without work to eat up the hours of the day, i'm sad for you. Start picking up some hobbies.

By min | April 20, 2017, 3:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Explaining New Feminism to Boomers

Responding to the same author as Sara Jones, Katie Halper has a long detailed takedown of the article blaming Millennial feminists for Clinton's loss.

By fnord12 | April 18, 2017, 12:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Keep the pressure on

Despite having bribed all the local Democratic parties to get anointed frontrunner status in the primary, Phil Murphy is feeling the pressure from John Wisniewski (and others), especially about his Wall Street ties. And therefore Murphy has come out with a very good proposal, a public bank in NJ. Campaign promises are of course fleeting things, but just introducing this idea into the public consciousness is a good thing, and now this is something that activists can use to hold Murphy's feet to the fire (assuming that Wiz doesn't win).

By fnord12 | April 18, 2017, 9:32 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Then... Korea

Noam Chomsky recently was interviewed by Democracy Now and gave a good context for our "conflict" with Korea that is lacking in most mainstream coverage (for example, this NYT piece that says "the roots of the Korean crisis go back a quarter-century" which is only off by four decades or so). Relatedly, the Nation has an article looking at North Korea from the perspective of South Korea, and it's really interesting.

First, here's Chomsky:

Well, it's kind of interesting to look at the record. The claim is "Well, we've tried everything. Nothing works. Therefore, we have to use force." Is it true that nothing's worked? I mean, there is a record, after all. And if you look at the record, it's interesting.

1994, Clinton made--established what was called the Framework Agreement with North Korea. North Korea would terminate its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. would reduce hostile acts. It more or less worked, and neither side lived up to it totally, but, by 2000, North Korea had not proceeded with its nuclear weapons programs. George W. Bush came in and immediately launched an assault on North Korea--you know, "axis of evil," sanctions and so on. North Korea turned to producing nuclear weapons. In 2005, there was an agreement between North Korea and the United States, a pretty sensible agreement. North Korea agreed to terminate its development of nuclear weapons. In return, it called for a nonaggression pact. So, stop making hostile threats, relief from harsh sanctions, and provision of a system to provide North Korea with low-enriched uranium for medical and other purposes--that was the proposal. George Bush instantly tore it to shreds. Within days, the U.S. was imposing--trying to disrupt North Korean financial transactions with other countries through Macau and elsewhere. North Korea backed off, started building nuclear weapons again. I mean, maybe you can say it's the worst regime in history, whatever you like, but they have been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy.

And why are they developing nuclear weapons altogether? I mean, the economy is in bad shape. They could certainly use the resources. Everyone understands that it's a deterrent. And they have a proposal, actually. There's a proposal on the table. China and North Korea proposed that North Korea should terminate its further development of nuclear weapons. In return, the United States should stop carrying out threatening military maneuvers with South Korea right on its border. Not an unreasonable proposal. It's simply dismissed. Actually, Obama dismissed it, too. There are possible steps that could be taken to alleviate which could be an extremely serious crisis. I mean, if the U.S. did decide to use force against North Korea, one immediate reaction, according to the military sources available to us, is that Seoul, the city of Seoul, would simply be wiped out by mass North Korean artillery aimed at it. And who knows where we'd go from there? But the opportunity to produce--to move towards a negotiated diplomatic settlement does not seem outlandish. I mean, this Chinese-North Korean proposal is certainly worth serious consideration, I would think.

After labeling Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an "Axis of Evil" and then invading Iraq, it shouldn't be a surprise that the other two countries want nuclear weapons.

Chomsky also looks at the older history (the one that goes back more than the NYT's quarter century):

And it's worth bearing in mind that North Korea has some memories. They were practically destroyed by some of the most intensive bombing in history. The bombing--you should--it's worth reading. Maybe you should read, people, the official Air Force history of the bombing of North Korea. It's shattering. I mean, they had flattened the country. There were no targets left. So, therefore, they decided, well, we'll attack the dams--which is a war crime, of course. And the description of the attack on the dams is--without the exact wording, I hate to paraphrase it. You should really read the--they were simply exalting, in the official histories, Air Force Quarterly and others, about the--how magnificent it will be to see this massive flood of water coursing through North Korea, wiping out crops. For Asians, the rice crops is their life. This will destroy them. It will be magnificent. The North Koreans lived through that. And having nuclear-capable B-52s flying on their border is not a joke.

And now for the Nation's review of South Korea's perspective (i recommend reading the whole thing and also clicking through to the article by Bruce Cumings which expands on what Chomskey said above, but here are some excerpts):

With the exception of a tiny minority of fanatical anti-communists, South Koreans have largely been unfazed by the headlines. "I'm much more worried about anything President Trump might do than the threats of war and retaliation from North Korea," a friend of mine who teaches engineering at a local university in Gwangju told me over dinner one night.
South Korea will choose its next president on May 9. The two leading candidates, the liberal Moon Jae-in and the more centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, have wide leads over the likely conservative candidate, Hong Jun-pyo. The United States has been closely following the election with growing trepidation. As I reported last year before Park was deposed, US military officials and analysts have expressed alarm that the left opposition could win this year.
Moon has staked out a position very different from Trump's: He has called for direct dialogue and negotiations with North Korea and a reopening of the economic cooperation with the North championed by Roh and Kim Dae-jung, the beloved opposition leader who was president in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

These ideas are very attractive to Koreans tired of the years-long dispute between Pyongyang and Washington. "We in South Korea can do this on our own initiative," one of my colleagues at the Gwangju City Archives told me over lunch on Monday, referring to Kim's "Sunshine" policies toward the North. A professor of European industrial history at a nearby university told me many Koreans are convinced that the United States wants to maintain the North as an enemy to "help your military industry."

Meanwhile, at their first group debate on April 13, both Moon and Ahn expressed strong opposition to a unilateral US pre-emptive strike and emphasized that South Korea must play a lead role in any dealings with North Korea or China. The candidates are now running neck and neck, and either one could win the presidency.

That will likely force a change in Trump's policy, away from confrontation and back to the combination of sanctions and military strength emphasized by the Obama administration.

It seems to me it's more that if Ahn wins, the policy might go back to Obama's, but if Moon wins it might be something even better: a real start to de-escalation and possibly (eventually) even reunification. In fact, reading between the lines, it almost seems like the Trump administration's recent escalation is an attempt to swing the election, to get South Koreans to be afraid of North Korea again and vote more conservatively. But hopefully it won't work.

In a stinging editorial on Easter Sunday, the Hankyoreh newspaper, which was founded by journalists purged during the authoritarian 1970s and '80s, blamed both sides for aggravating tensions.

"A military clash on the Korean Peninsula would have disastrous consequences not only for North and South Korea but also for all neighboring countries," the newspaper said. "That is why we will never agree with hardliners who are willing to go to war and who see war as inevitable. The brinkmanship of the U.S. and North Korea, which appear to be engaged in a battle of nerves, is tantamount to taking hostage the entire populations of North and South Korea."

I think it would be really amazing and positive if Moon won the election and began to defuse the situation between North and South Korea, leaving the US on the sidelines.

(Title for this post, in an attempt to lighten the mood, is from Mike Sterling.)

By fnord12 | April 18, 2017, 8:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Wake up and smell the 90s

Nothing says The Nineties like Swedish death metal.

From Wikipedia:

One version of Wolverine Blues was released with Marvel Comics' character Wolverine on the cover, despite Entombed never wanting their album to be associated with the superhero... The Marvel edition was also heavily edited...

By fnord12 | April 17, 2017, 12:21 PM | Comics & Music | Link

Desert Candy Is A Lie

In 1849, hungry gold miners crossing the Nevada desert noticed some glistening balls of a candy-like substance on a cliff, licked or ate the balls, and discovered them to be sweet-tasting, but then they developed nausea. Eventually it was realized that the balls were hardened deposits made by small rodents, called packrats, that protect themselves by building nests of sticks, plant fragments, and mammal dung gathered in the vicinity, plus food remains, discarded bones, and their own feces. Not being toilet-trained, the rats urinate in their nests, and sugar and other substances crystallize from their urine as it dries out, cementing the midden to a brick-like consistency. In effect, the hungry gold miners were eating dried rat urine laced with rat feces and rat garbage.

From Collapse by Jared Diamond, which is a very interesting book and mostly not about Rat Piss Gobstoppers (the packrat deposits are a way that archaeologists are able to determine what the climate and vegetation was like at various points during the Anasazi civilization).

By fnord12 | April 17, 2017, 9:32 AM | Boooooks | Link

Not an Onion article

These people are serious. Well, and/or they think we are stupid.

"Enviros celebrate by planting trees but they never celebrate the trucks that deliver the trees, or the gas that powers that truck, or the plastic handles of the shovels they use," an email from the organization reads. "Shouldn't Mother Earth be thanked for making Earth Day events possible?"

Budding artists are encouraged to send their original works in by April 21 with the main requirement that it "should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels."

Cooke told ThinkProgress that the organization's fossil fuels art contest is rooted in inclusivity. "Fossil fuels seem to get left out of the Earth Day celebration," she said via email. "As an energy feminist  --  pro-choice in energy sources  --  I feel it's important to have hydrocarbons equally represented."

By fnord12 | April 12, 2017, 11:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Doubly admirable

It's one thing that she's 86 years old, but you have to be really committed to spraypaint graffiti in German.

By fnord12 | April 11, 2017, 10:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Dems promise to start losing again as soon as they get back in power

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) pledged Monday that Democrats will restore a 60-vote filibuster threshold for Supreme Court nominees if they regain the majority in the upper chamber.

By fnord12 | April 11, 2017, 10:18 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

The moderate solution

Matt Bruenig summarizes a study looking at kids (now adults) with disabilities who were pushed off of welfare by Bill Clinton.

What this research tells us is that welfare reform did not just blow a hole into the US poor relief system that subsequent generations of women and children have fallen into. It also screwed the contemporary generation of poor disabled children for the rest of their lives, condemning them to scrape together scant earnings in order to lead lives of crushing poverty.

By fnord12 | April 11, 2017, 10:10 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Why airlines can treat you like garbage.

By fnord12 | April 11, 2017, 10:09 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

War again (still)

Trump's missile attack on Syria has left me seething with rage on multiple levels at multiple targets, but Glenn Greenwald have saved me from writing an all-caps rant.

If you really want to be sick, click on the video of Brian Williams talking about how "beautiful" our missiles are while they were raining death down on at least seven people.

By fnord12 | April 7, 2017, 11:08 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Corporate concentration is lowering your wages

Matt Stoller has an article up reviewing a study showing how the increasing size of corporations has resulted in lower wages for workers. The article also talks about, contra my post below about self driving trucks*, the increased corporate concentration is also resulting in less investment, which means that our robot future (and, with it, productivity gains) is actually slowing (but not in a way that is a reprieve for workers).

*I am told that the joke in that article was too obscure: UBI stands for Universal Basic Income, people! It's how we can all benefit from increased productivity and automation. And click on the Knight Rider image for a rebuttal to some objections to the idea.

By fnord12 | April 6, 2017, 9:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Why is Nancy Pelosi's name on this list?

All But 38 House Democrats Co-Sponsored a New Bill to Expand Social Security.

By fnord12 | April 6, 2017, 7:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Yes we're apparently still doing this

There is a book coming out blaming Hillary Clinton's loss largely on Millenials too stupid to understand how wonderful she was, in part because they were hoodwinked by right wing smears.

Sarah Jones has a nice response.

Bordo's objection seems to be that anyone opposed Clinton at all, even from the left. What she does not grasp--and is seemingly not interested in grasping--is that Clinton's critics from the left were not opposing a caricature of her as some kind of right-wing political operator. We opposed Clinton-the-hawk and Clinton-the-means-tester. Our objection was about politics, not personality. Similarly, we do not reject the feminism of Bordo and Clinton because of its ideological rigidity, as Bordo suggests. We reject it because it is insufficient. America was not "already great." Our lives are proof.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2017, 3:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Good read on Trump

The problem with eating your own dog food.

I do want to call out one portion:

Here's the real, non-ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats:

Democrats by and large are convinced that no one actually supports their agenda, and they devote a not insignificant amount of time and political capital to explaining to their own constituents why they cannot pursue goals that a majority of them support. ("I supported single payer since before you were born," says Nancy Pelosi, who has the legislative and leadership record of someone who may support single payer but clearly doesn't actually expect it to happen in our lifetimes.)

Conservatives, especially those who came up during the Obama era, have, more or less, the opposite problem: They've convinced themselves that their agenda is hugely popular and that everyone supports them.

There's actually been some research on this: Politicians--both liberal ones and conservative ones--believe that the electorate is more conservative than it actually is.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2017, 1:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link


Ok, for some reason in the TV show they never did merge KARR with Golaith to make a self-driving truck (which would be named Goliath Automated Roving Robot, obviously), but that was only due to the limitations of continuity in 1980s television. It's clearly what they should have done, and it was my head canon for years until i tried to rewatch the show.

But in any event, they're doing it now, for real. So we're gonna need to update KIT's arsenal.

Of course, in a perfect world, we've have both Turbo Boost *and* UBI.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2017, 9:16 AM | Liberal Outrage & TeeVee | Link

Pretty much

I mean, i don't write poems. But my stories!

By fnord12 | April 1, 2017, 1:25 PM | D&D | Link

Alternate strategy

Leftist: We should primary conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp. I have secret proof that they are Russian agents.

Centrist: I'm all in!

By fnord12 | March 30, 2017, 6:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

What is the point of them?

Leftist: We should primary conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp. They vote like Republicans.

Centrist: No, you can't do that. Don't you know how conservative West Virginia and North Dakota are?

Leftist: Bernie Sanders won those states in blowouts. He won West Virginia by 15 points. He won North Dakota by 39 points.

Centrist: Yeah, but that's just the primary. Progressive Democrats would never win in the general.

Leftist: I wanna see that proven out. I think a populist progressive can win in those states where mealy-mouthed centrism won't. Best case scenario, we'll get real progressives. Worst case scenario, they'll just be replaced by Republicans that will vote the same way they do.

Centrist: Those Democrats may not vote the way we want 100% of the time, but they're with us for the important votes.

Leftist: Manchin and Heitkamp will back Gorsuch

By fnord12 | March 30, 2017, 5:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Thanks Bernie

Speaking of pressuring our politicians, Jeff Stein has a nice article up about how pressure from their base has caused more Democrats than ever before to get behind Single Payer.

By fnord12 | March 30, 2017, 9:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Well, now we're killing people

Because it wasn't bad enough that our entire economy is based on slave labor from people in other countries, it now turns out that we're killing them, too.

I do take slight issue with blaming this on "consumer demand". Min and i try, but it's basically impossible to buy most things in an "ethically sourced" way. I mean, i'll accept that we should try harder. But this is a systematic problem that needs to be dealt with in a systematic way, and that mainly has to do with our trade deals and other government policies. Blaming consumers is like how Al Gore told us we could stop global warming by turning off the lights when we leave a room. There's only so much individuals can do. (To be clear, again, this is a minor point. It's good that the report came out and hopefully it will be used to pressure our politicians.)

By fnord12 | March 30, 2017, 9:01 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link


The New York Times editorial board scolds congress for not authorizing the war on ISIS, which of course is already happening.

But as the American military is doing its job, Congress is refusing to do its duty. Nearly three years into the war against ISIS, lawmakers have ducked their constitutional responsibility for making war by not passing legislation authorizing the anti-ISIS fight. This is not merely a bureaucratic issue. While the president has the power to order troops into battle, the founders were adamant about ensuring that only Congress could commit the nation to protracted overseas military actions.

Shouldn't they be scolding (or worse) Presidents Obama and Trump for going forward with these wars without authorization from Congress? That's the way it's actually supposed to work. Congress isn't supposed to rubber stamp the president's actions after the fact; they're supposed to declare war in the first place. I even question the NYT's use of "protracted" in the above quote.

By fnord12 | March 27, 2017, 10:14 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

He's horrible no matter how you look at it

Our Senator Menendez refuses to bow out despite the corruption charges that he's facing. His defense is basically a Trump level conspiracy theory. He claims that the charges against him are vengeance from Barack Obama for the times that he spoke out against him. And the reasons he spoke out against Obama are nothing to be proud of, either. He attacked Obama from the right on the Iran deal and the normalization of relations with Cuba. I'm not saying he should be persecuted by the Justice department for that (if that was the case it would be an outrage) but it shouldn't exactly get Democrats rallying to defend him, either.

By fnord12 | March 27, 2017, 10:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Considering (not) retiring?

Keep working, asshole.

Getting varicose veins and swollen feet while getting yelled at by shitty people trying to return half-used containers of spackle = adventure! And the secret to retiring!

By fnord12 | March 24, 2017, 9:35 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

You own nothing

This is insane (but increasingly common).

By fnord12 | March 22, 2017, 8:10 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

'Just When I Thought I Was Out' Horde

I am nearing the end of my Bones horde and i have enough miniatures for a lifetime, so i thought i was almost done painting. But then friend Wanyas gave me a bunch of miniatures from a game.

The game is based on Magic: The Gathering, which i'm not familiar with. But they'll work well in any fantasy setting. The set came with a few pre-painted miniatures (not shown) and a ton of unpainted ones. So now i once again have way too many minis to paint. Luckily friend Andy was willing to help. We managed to tackle about half the set.

Some nice generic undead:

Every campaign can use some tentacled horrors:

And ogres (or whatever; they were supposed to be more undead):

These guys are supposed to be vampires:

Some of the miniatures were made in translucent colored plastic, which is cool, and i deliberately painted sparingly to preserve the translucent effect. These guys are supposed to be illusionary duplicates of one of the pre-painted figures. But they can also be used as generic ghosts:

Some more ectoplasmic monsters:

And now the ones Andy painted. Some awesome Rhino men:

And some mostly-faceless swamp creatures:

By fnord12 | March 21, 2017, 12:26 PM | D&D | Link

Recap 77

Living In The Past

Yes, this is a potato with an axe.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2017, 12:00 PM | D&D | Link

Speaking of provocative

Matt Bruenig:

If you favor Obamacare over single-payer or dismiss single-payer as relatively unimportant, then you are a moral monster at least on par with the AHCA [Ryancare] proponents you condemn.

By fnord12 | March 18, 2017, 2:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Two-tiered socialism

This op-ed in Forbes is clearly designed to be as provocative as possible and will definitely rile people up and probably win over nobody. But i agree with the general sentiment.

Like most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is "earned" and we perceive no need for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and insulated by the nasty, deceptive notion that we have earned our benefits by our own hand.

By fnord12 | March 18, 2017, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Your work here is done


Soon after Charla McComic's son lost his job, his health-insurance premium dropped from $567 per month to just $88, a "blessing from God" that she believes was made possible by President Trump.

"I think it was just because of the tax credit," said McComic, 52, a former first-grade teacher who traveled to Trump's Wednesday night rally in Nashville from Lexington, Tenn., with her daughter, mother, aunt and cousin.

The price change was actually thanks to a subsidy made possible by former president Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, which is still in place, not by the tax credits proposed by Republicans as part of the health-care bill still being considered by Congress.

Ok, make fun of the lady all you want. But realize that this is the problem with super-complicated schemes like Obamacare compared to universal programs. And hey, maybe we can use this to convince Trump that his work is already done. See Trump, you already solved the problem. Nice work. (Unless you want to listen to your friend and implement Medicaid for all.)

By fnord12 | March 17, 2017, 11:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Meet in whose middle?

Reacting to the Vox article i linked to below, Ryan Cooper outlines Obama's bad history of seeking a middle ground with Republicans at the expense of his own party's agenda and common sense.

Relatedly, Democrats are apparently fretting that the Bernie Sanders wing will apply "purity tests" to candidates in the South through groups like Our Revolution (the article reads like an open letter pleading with them). And you're goddamn right we will. For one thing, Democrats like Joe Manchin have proven that there's really no benefit in having a guy with a D next to his name if he's going to vote and make statements like a Republican all the time. So we might as well go for someone better. More importantly, we just watched a townhall with Bernie Sanders connecting with a room full of Trump voters. Bernie proves that it is possible to find common ground with Republican - voters anyway, not politicians - and you can do it without being "moderate" as centrist Dems define it (Bernie can't gut a deer, but he's the most popular politician). Whereas Obama was trying to get Republicans to agree to tax cuts in return for cutting Social Security and Medicare, Sanders had a room full of Trump voters cheering the idea of universal health care.

By fnord12 | March 16, 2017, 11:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Plus/Minus 500 Million Years


Research published this week in PLoS Biology suggests this collection of ancient, newly analyzed fossils--unearthed a few years back--are in all likelihood red algae. If that proves true, it would imply that complex, multicellular life evolved a lot earlier than previously thought--and that the evolutionary family tree of life on Earth might need a major pruning.

Earth's first traces of life probably showed up around 3.5 billion years ago, a billion years or so after our planet formed. Just when these simple, single-celled organisms--classified as "prokaryotes" due to their lack of a nucleus--evolved into multicellular, nucleated forms called "eukaryotes" is a matter of debate. Alga, a eukaryote, is thought to be one of the oldest forms of complex life. And given that previous fossil finds had dated red algae back just 1.2 billion years, the new discovery could reset the evolutionary time line by nearly half a billion years.

I just like saying "eukaryote".

The authors used a technique called synchrotron-based x-ray tomographic microscopy to construct a three-dimensional model of the fossils, and to identify internal cellular structures that the organisms probably used for energy production. Radioactive dating was used to confirm the fossils' age. "The new fossils provide tangible evidence that advanced multicellularity, at least in plants, appeared much earlier than previously thought," says Stefan Bengtson, senior author of the new paper and professor emeritus of paleozoology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. "They suggest that the timing of early eukaryotes may have to be drastically revised."

Without the presence of DNA--which does not hang around in samples so staggeringly old--it is impossible to confirm the new fossils are bygone red algae. Bengtson admits as much. But he also believes the fossils' structures bear a strong resemblance to that of red alga.

Paul Strother, a Boston College biologist who studies the evolution of algae and plants, and who was not involved in the new research, is not sold. "If these are real...they still do not show any sort of cell differentiation. All the cells are basically the same, and these forms do not represent complex multicellularity," he says.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire biology chair, Wilson Taylor, who was also uninvolved in the work, points out that even if the new samples are really algae, the search for the origins of complex life still has a long way to go. "If a red alga really had evolved by this time...this implies a prior period of eukaryotic evolution of some length," he says. "How long before the 1.6-billion-year horizon eukaryotes arose, based on that early occurrence, is anyone's guess." Taylor explains that eukaryotes--which comprise virtually all nonmicroscopic life on Earth--likely arose when one prokaryote engulfed another and found some symbiotic benefit that kept the relationship going. But how long it took this vital communion to take hold in the evolutionary process is unknown.

Goddamned prokaryotes eating their friends and neighbors. Jerks.

By min | March 16, 2017, 9:19 AM | Science | Link

The Horrible People Show

Fnord12 and i recently started watching Billions. It was of interest to us because it's created by the 2 guys who wrote Ocean's Thirteen and the author of Too Big to Fail.

Turns out, the show is basically full of characters who are just awful, awful people. But while that's true, they're not one dimensional caricatures. The douchebag hedge fund guy actually loves his wife and has a real sense of loyalty to friends. The douchebag U.S. Attorney has good intentions when it comes to making rich guys serve time and not just get off with a fine, and despite a tendency to manipulate everybody around him, has a healthy relationship with his wife. It even portrays BDSM in a healthy way (i'm looking at you, Fifty Shades).

So the characters are multi-dimensional. The dialogue is quick and complex. And with Andrew Ross Sorkin's input, i'm assuming it's at least accurate in the portrayal of the investment business even if the plot is soap opera-esque.

We're enjoying it, but i gotta tell you, i can't understand half of what the hedge fund characters are saying. At one point, we had to pause the show and get Wall Street by Doug Henwood to try to understand what illegal shenanigans were going on. Even after reading Henwood's definition and example, i still wasn't quite sure what the hell was happening.

Despite this, it's pretty obvious that these people live in a world completely removed from the rest of us. Everything hinges on the result of a gamble on a gamble on a gamble. Transactions are in millions of dollars. But some of the time they're gambling with a pension fund! It's one thing if they're playing roulette with some rich guy's money, but to gamble with someone's pension and all because they can offer you the chance that they might win big? Yeah, but what happens if you lose big? No big deal to someone with millions of dollars of disposable income. Totally different story to a 70yr old retiree who's counting on that $2000/month check to pay for housing and food.

Now, while i'm enjoying the show and it does pass the Bechdel test and there are a few minorities with actual speaking roles, i am a little peeved that although the one character is based on New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, they cast a white guy. Were they afraid the audience couldn't empathize with a non-white main character? Was there a dearth of Indian actors to fulfill the role?

By min | March 15, 2017, 8:17 AM | TeeVee | Link

Oh, Obama

Vox on his post-presidency plans:

Critics to his left and right say this theory is riddled with contradictions. They note that it has left Obama largely silent as Trump hacks away at his signature achievements, while simultaneously working behind the scenes to thwart a branch of activists in his own party.

What may be even more perplexing, critics say, is that Obama is still chasing the mirage of a nonpartisan solution to America's political crisis, after eight years of failing to find it in the White House.

The bolded passage in the first paragraph refers to his strong-arming for Perez against Ellison as the DNC head.

On at least one political front, Obama has stayed deeply engaged: He worked the phones to help tip the race for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) had sewn up the endorsements of dozens of state Democratic Party chairs in his campaign against Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Ellison had won most of the congressional endorsements, including those of the party's senior leadership. He had the strong support of Bernie Sanders and his progressive fans.

Obama helped Perez overcome all that...

Observers have been mystified by the Obama White House's decision to spark a Democratic Party civil war over the DNC chair race so soon after its clobbering in November...

Obama aides say the intervention was related to the former president's reluctance to openly criticize Trump. By helping ensure a close ally like Perez is running the DNC, they said, Obama felt like he was liberating himself from having to personally respond to Trump over the next several years.

Obama, in other words, was trying to extricate himself from the partisan fray -- but by taking action in the DNC race that risked antagonizing his own party's base.

It's not clear it worked.

"Going out of his way to find a challenger to Keith Ellison, who was the consensus candidate and a hero of the progressive grassroots, was selfish and counterproductive," says Adam Green, co-founder of the left-wing organization the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

By fnord12 | March 13, 2017, 4:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Never thought to blame cats, though

I've had this conversation with players many times.

By fnord12 | March 12, 2017, 3:30 PM | Comics & D&D | Link

No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.