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Archive for December, 2012

Apparently yesterday we got a shiny new re-authorization of warrant-less wiretapping. I agree with Drum’s take:

Glenn [Greenwald] thinks that liberals have largely given up criticizing this stuff because we now have a Democratic president in the White House rather than George W. Bush, and I suppose that’s part of it. But a bigger part, I think, is simply that it’s all become so institutionalized. Back in 2004 and 2006, we were outraged because this was all so new. Today, after fighting and losing, it’s just part of our brave new world, along with 3-ounce bottles on airplanes, unreviewable no-fly lists, and cops who demand to know what you’re up to if you start taking pictures in public places.

As a country, we’re now divided into two parts: those who aggressively support things like warrantless wiretapping because they’re consumed with fear, and those who don’t but have given up trying to fight about it. There’s hardly anyone left still willing to tilt at this particular windmill. It’s sad as hell.

Yep, that sounds about right to me. A lot of people cry “hypocrisy!” over this because, in their view, liberals only ever cared about this issue insofar as it was politically expedient to use it as a cudgel against Bush but now that our guy is in the West Wing it is politically expedient to ignore it. Maybe that’s at least partially right but I entirely agree that the bigger issue is that it’s just the new normal. 

My reasoning for thinking this is simple: liberals just plain suck at the whole “rally ’round the flag” thing that conservatives are so good at. Anyone who paid even passing attention to political commentary in 2012 should have noted this. As an example, take Barack Obama’s performance in the first presidential debate. It was widely regarded as horrible, and the left wing pundits were tripping all over themselves to scream their heads off about what a disaster it was and how terribly Obama performed and ITS GAME OVER, MAN! I’m pretty sure Andrew Sullivan was on suicide watch. 

But can you imagine the conservative response had the tables been turned, and it was Mitt Romney who performed poorly? They would have been lining up to explain why actually he did wonderfully and Barack Obama is a pushy, un-presidential asshole for treating the kindly, good-hearted Mitt the way he did and anyone who says otherwise is all just part of the liberal media Chicago establishment anyway so who cares. Every. Single. Pundit. These guys get their marching orders and off they go. Kevin Drum calls it the hack gap because liberals, for better or worse, just suck at it. They just can’t pull off that kind of united front. 

So the idea that we’ve all just decided to drop an issue that was once so important out of political expediency just isn’t a good enough explanation. I do think its an important issue and liberals really should keep fighting on it, and I’m sure the Greenwald cynicism is a part of it, but a much, much smaller part. Liberals are by no means blameless here, but I just don’t buy it, not completely. 

And on that note, that’ll do it for 2012. Happy new year, everyone! Posting should resume sometime next week, provided we survive the fiscalcliffpocalypsemageddon. 

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A week ago I wrote this post about weapons used in violent crimes and it has since become the most popular post on the blog. A lot of folks seem to be referencing it, if my incoming links stats are to be believed. In one case, the argument in which I was referenced was taking place on an open forum so I took a look. Someone provided my numbers which the person they were arguing with immediately ignored because “you’re going to trust some random WordPress site?” Fair enough. I would be skeptical too. That’s only one case but I imagine its a common response. But that is exactly why I use, whenever possible, publicly available data from a reputable source and I cite it directly. In fact, I try not to use any data here that I wouldn’t use in a peer reviewed journal. So, random internet arguer, you don’t need to trust me, because you can check my work if you’re so inclined.

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Fix Foobooz!

If you don’t live in Philly or care about food, restaurants, and people writing about those things, you probably won’t care about this post. 

Foobooz is a blog about food and booze (get it?) in Philly. Or at least, it used to be. Now, its a blog about insider restaurant gossip. It’s the water-cooler talk of your servers. Or, as Ashley Primis put it in this interesting bit of self reflection, it  “cover[s] the city’s food scene like ESPN covers sports”.

When I first moved to Philly, Foobooz was a great blog. It kept me up to date on what bar had what awesome specials, which restaurants were serving interesting or innovative new dishes, what was worth the price, and what wasn’t. It was like having that friend thats lived here forever and knows all the best places and what to avoid. It was a great way to learn about interesting new restaurants that were off the beaten path, great little neighborhood places that inevitably had the best food.

But not any more. Now the majority of their content is about staffers getting into fights with each other, people quitting to open their own places and getting sabotaged, etc. It’s all inside baseball, all industry gossip.

All this goes by way of saying that the food editor of Philly Magazine, ie the person in charge of Foobooz, wrote an interesting piece lamenting this change. It’s a problem I’ve written about before, in fact. Here’s hoping she intends to fix things.

Also, I figured something not involving guns or the fiscal cliff was in order.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, a festivus for the rest of us, or whatever, enjoy!

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On his show this week, CNN host Piers Morgan was interviewing a gun advocate,and called him an “unbelievably stupid man”.

There is now a petition on the White House website calling for Morgan to be deported for his “hostile assault on the 2nd Amendment”.

Unless I’m misreading something, nothing in the 2nd Amendment precludes anyone from calling anyone else an idiot. The 1st Amendment, on the other hand, makes it very clear that the government may not deport someone for expressing their opinion.

You may file this under perfectly obvious points that shouldn’t have to be made.

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No Deal

The house GOP’s very own personalized crazy bill, plan B, if you like, wasn’t able to pass the… house GOP. Josh Marshall comments:

The likely truth is that John Boehner never had the votes to cut a deal with President Obama. Any deal. Not a grand bargain of deficit reduction. Not a piecemeal deal that might have lessened the blow of all the Bush tax cuts expiring on Jan. 1. Nothing.

Yep. You’re just now getting this?

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Lots of good stuff floating around the tubes today and I’m lazy and have a bottle of wine to finish so I’ll let everyone else speak for themselves.

Yglesias kicks off with the myth of the bond vigilantes!

You can imagine a kind of cult in the ancient Middle East in which the villagers are expected to make regular sacrifices to the gods in order to stave off their wrath. Well one year the proper sacrifices aren’t made and yet no suffering seems to be imminent. The priestly caste now has a problem, since their livelihoods depend on the perpetuation of the cult. So they sneak out of the temple at night, burn a bunch of crops, and the next morning warn that even worse is to come if the sacrifices aren’t renewed. Not because the priests are bad people, mind you, they very sincerely believe that the gods are just lying in wait to destroy the village so they’re actually doing everyone a favor.

Next, Paul Campos exposes Antonin Scalia’s entirely unprincipled hackery. I love it.

Scalia’s theory of constitutional precedent could be summarized as, “Supreme Court decisions should be followed in future cases, except when they shouldn’t be.” Indeed in recent years Scalia’s opinions have come to reflect no discernible legal theory, unless “outcomes that Antonin Scalia likes” counts as a legal theory.

And finally, Atrios perfectly encapsulates the last two years of media narrative surrounding fiscal / budget issues.

After telling us for years that what we need is Austerity Now, austerity is somehow a bad thing, except it’s also good because unicorns.

What’d I miss?

 

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