I live in a state that has very strict gun control laws. A recent study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that states with the toughest gun laws have the lowest rates of gun deaths. And Boston tends to average between one shooting victim every other day to one victim per day. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days since I read this article at WBUR: When Mass. Criminals Want A Gun, They Often Head North
Massachusetts gun laws are widely considered some of the toughest in the country. But with a rash of shooting deaths in Boston this year, some law enforcement officials say it’s obvious that there are ways around the rules. And when Massachusetts criminals want to get their hands on a gun, they frequently head north.
In 2012, more than half of the guns that law enforcement seized in Massachusetts and managed to trace to their origins came from other states, according to federal statistics. The biggest suppliers by far were New Hampshire and Maine, as is the case most years.
According to the article, ATF agents discovered that gun traffickers in Massachusetts were legally buying large numbers of guns from New Hampshire and Maine, where they are much easier and cheaper to buy, and reselling them to people in Massachusetts.
The flow of guns from northern New England to Massachusetts is propelled by key differences among state gun laws. It’s all about private handgun sales, in particular. In Massachusetts every private handgun sale must be recorded and reported to the state within seven days. And the buyer must have a license to carry from local police, which in turn requires a background check. The Massachusetts rules are tight.
Up north, not so much. Buyers at federally licensed gun shops in Maine and New Hampshire are subjected to a federal background check for prior felonies, or a history of severe mental illness. But when it comes to private gun sales — at a gun show, or even a commuter parking lot — no documentation is required — no background check, no record of the transaction.
Darcie McElwee, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maine, says that in her state a private seller doesn’t even have to ask the buyer for a driver’s license.
Now it’s still illegal to sell guns to a convicted felon or for a felon to buy a gun, so if someone is caught doing this, they’ll go to jail for two years minimum. And the rates of gun deaths and injuries are still lower in Massachusetts than in states with less strict gun laws.
Clearly strict state laws are not enough to prevent gun violence. We need federal laws to control gun sales and to encourage gun safety–like the Massachusetts law that requires guns to be unloaded and locked up when not in use. But how can we make that happen? According to the WBUR article, Congress has even made it difficult to keep track of guns that are used in crimes and for academic researchers to access federal government data on gun trafficking.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has introduced a bill to require all guns to be personalized so they can only be fired by the owner or another authorized person. These so-called “smart guns” already exist.
One of California’s largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.
The watch’s primary purpose is not to provide accurate time, though it does. The watch makes the gun think. Electronic chips inside the gun and watch communicate with each other. If the watch is within close reach of the gun, a light on the grip turns green. Fire away. No watch means no green light. The gun becomes a paperweight.
A dream of gun control advocates for decades, the Armatix iP1 is the country’s first smart gun. Its introduction is seen as a landmark event in efforts to reduce gun violence, suicides, and accidental shootings….
Of course the NRA will fight this tooth and nail, and it’s not going to get through the Senate, much less the House, in the current environment.
Now check this out. According to a piece at Venture Beat, you can quickly and easily buy guns on Facebook!
That’s all it takes for children, felons, and people without IDs to buy illegal weapons on Facebook pages dedicated to the sale and celebration of guns.
A VentureBeat investigation has uncovered dozens of pages on Facebook where guns are for sale, including semi-automatic weapons, handguns, and silencers. While the transactions don’t actually happen on Facebook, the social network is a remarkably easy way to find shady people willing to sell you a weapon — no questions asked. The illegal transactions then take place in diners, dark parking lots, and isolated country roads — away from the prying eyes of the feds and local police.
In Kentucky, Greenup County Sheriff Keith Cooper remembers when a call came into dispatch last October saying a 15-year-old student had been arrested on the Greenup County High School campus for carrying an unlicensed and loaded 9mm handgun to school. The boy was arrested and brought to Cooper’s office for an interview.
When Cooper, a former Kentucky State Trooper with a heavy Southern drawl, asked the kid where he got the gun, his reply was shocking: Facebook.
Read it and weep. Oh, and Facebook claims they don’t allow people to sell guns or explosives on their pages, but clearly they’re not enforcing these rules very well.
It’s not news to anyone that America has a love affair with guns. Guns and hunting are part of American culture, going hand-in-hand with the cult of rugged individualism. I’ve always thought it came from the frontier tradition. Most of the country was settled by pioneering who set out from the East coast to begin new lives in the Midwest and West before the arrival of the accoutrements of civilization–like law enforcement, banks, and insurance companies. In my generation at least, kids saw endless movies and TV shows about “cowboys and Indians;” and we played with toy guns–even us girls. And of course, since we were born shortly after World War II, many of us watch movies that glorified war.
Still I’ve never wanted a real gun. It seems to me that the gun culture is much stronger in some ways than in those innocent days of the 1950s and ’60s. But why? The obvious answer is the lobbying and propaganda efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). And what about the recent work of ALEC and the Koch Brothers to get state “stand your ground” laws passed around the country? Dahlia Lithwick has posted a fine piece about this at Slate.
Last week, Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, an unarmed man, got into a fight with Cyle Wayne Quadlin at a Walmart in suburban Arizona. Quadlin opened fire midargument and killed Chee. Officers decided not to charge Quadlin because, they concluded, the killing was in self-defense. According to the police spokesman, “Mr. Quadlin was losing the fight and indicated he ‘was in fear for his life.’” Just a week earlier, a jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found Michael Dunn guilty on four counts of attempted murder but did not convict him on the most serious charge of first-degree murder, in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn shot and killed Davis, also unarmed, because the music coming from his car was too loud. Dunn claimed he saw something like a gun in the vehicle, and that was apparently enough for some members of the jury to conclude that Dunn hadn’t committed first-degree murder.
Given all this, it’s not unreasonable to argue that, in America, you can be shot and killed, without consequences for the shooter, for playing loud music, wearing a hoodie, or shopping at a Walmart. The question is whether the wave of “stand your ground” legislation is to blame.
Is it true? Lithwick quotes doubters who say that neither George Zimmerman invoked “stand your ground,” However juries were told about the “stand your ground” principle, and could have been confused by the growing consensus in Florida that people [at least white males] have the right to shoot an unarmed person if they “feel threatened.” Lithwick writes:
It’s clear that at least some of the jurors in both cases took the principle of “stand your ground” into account to some degree during deliberations. We now know that at leastone juror, and possibly two, in Dunn’s trial took to heart the specific instruction that Dunn “had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Whether or not jurors in Florida are technically instructed to apply the “stand your ground” component of self-defense law, it’s increasingly clear that they are, at minimum, confused about it (understandably) and may even be starting to apply it reflexively. Yes, Dunn’s attorney argued traditional self-defense. But, as former assistant U.S. attorney David Weinstein told the Associated Press, “I think people will say that because some of the language from the stand your ground statute gets embedded into the jury instructions, that stand your ground has an effect.”
I might go further. I might say that whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.
Please go read the whole thing. It’s frightening but important. Lithwick argues that the new laws are changing the culture itself–and not just in the states with “stand your ground” laws.
Now I’ve gone and written another single-subject post. I just have room for a few headlines before I turn the floor over to you.
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton makes case for ‘full participation’ and equality
Talking Points Memo: Hillary Clinton Defends Obamacare While Backing Changes
The Daily Beast: The Spoiled Rotten Kids of the DC Elite
Dana Millbank: Republicans flip-flop on ‘judicial activism’
I hope Dak will weigh in on this one. Matthew O’Brien: How the Fed Let the World Blow Up in 2008
What stories have caught your interest today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!
Well, another storm is hitting here in Banjoville. The weather people are saying we should get a total of 6 to 12 inches of snow when it is all said and done.
Down south things are a lot worse…if you have not seen the big headlines over at Huffington Post or Drudge, take a look at this:
HISTORIC ICE STORM UNFOLDS IN SOUTH...
GEORGIA WARNED: 'CATASTROPHIC'...
SEEN FROM SPACE...
Hundreds of flights cancelled...
Panicked Shoppers Fight Over Food...
Nor'easter Could Be 'Biggest Of Season'...
'Snow Rage' Afflicts Storm-Weary Locals...
Conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with up to an inch of ice predicted in parts of Georgia and central South Carolina.
Two to 6 inches of snow fell in north Georgia on Tuesday, with another 5 to 9 inches expected by Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Darbe.
But Darbe said ice was the bigger worry, with a quarter to three-quarters of an inch expected in the area that includes metropolitan Atlanta.
Officials were quick to make plans for dealing with the weather after being criticized for inadequate preparation before a storm two weeks ago. That storm paralyzed Atlanta area roads and forced more than 11,000 students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.
Oh you bet your ass they were ready this time…
Ending three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.
The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.
I guess you could say hell froze over?
Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions.
“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”
The NYT article goes on to say it was a victory for the President and the Dems…but considering the shit we have dealt with the last few years, and those poor people who will be dealing with lower food stamp funds, how can that be a victory?
Meanwhile in West Virginia, another spill is causing the citizens grief: ‘Significant’ slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek
More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a “significant spill” from a Patriot Coal processing facility.
Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.
“This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill.”
“When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.”
That is disgusting. I don’t think the people of West Virginia will ever be able to drink the water again.
For a little laugh, here is my favorite actor of today…I know the reason for the video is not funny, it is disgusting, but of all the other “black actors doing commercials” it is good to see Sammy call the asshole out:
Local TV stations have a reputation for goofy unprofessionalism and quirky hiccups. This segment at KTLA in Los Angeles is something so much worse. Veteran entertainment reporter Sam Rubin begins his interview by asking about Jackson’s Super Bowl commercial, and things get real ugly real quick.
“What Super Bowl commercial?” responds a flabbergasted Jackson. ”See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” (Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in “The Matrix” for a Kia spot.) “We don’t all look alike!”
He then goes on to list other black actors in commercials, who he is not.
Just as uncomfortable as Rubin’s attempts to brush off the blunder by saying, “Really my big mistake … let’t talk about ‘Robocop,’” are the hoots and howls coming from Rubin’s peers who clearly don’t get how terribly offensive this “mistake” is. Rubin later apologized and claimed he was referring to a commercial for Jackson’s upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Regardless, the incident (and Jackson’s blunt response) is a reminder of Hollywood’s serious race problem that was starkly evident at the Golden Globes.
You can see the look on Jackson’s face at the end, it really does show how tired he is of all the shit.
I noticed yesterday y’all were talking in the comments about books you were reading, I just started to read this one about cuss words as discussed in this link here: Here’s the first recorded instance of the F-word in English
And it’s a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.
Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit.”
But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:
It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.
So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.
Did you all see the big joint news out of New York and Italy? I’ve got a few articles on this mass arrest from both Italian and US sources:
‘Ndrangheta ‘snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade’ – GazzettaDelSud
Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra’s historic five families in New York, investigators said after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday. “This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the ‘Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra”, Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from Guyana to Europe via the ‘Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.
According to the Gazzetta Del Sud, this ‘Ndrangheta Mafia even used Mexican cartels in a joint venture in their set-up to traffic cocaine.
As for the US side of the take down: Arrests in New York and Italy Thwart Mob Drug Scheme, Authorities Say – NYTimes.com
“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Franco Lupoi said, according to prosecutors who say the conversation was recorded by investigators.
On Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrests of Mr. Lupoi, the owner of a Brooklyn bakery, and six other people in New York on charges that included narcotics trafficking and money laundering and that were the culmination of a two-year undercover F.B.I. investigation. In Italy, the police announced the arrests of 17 people in connection with the investigation.
What made the case remarkable were not the charges but the defendants’ links to the ’Ndrangheta, the organized crime group based in Calabria that is notorious for kidnappings and for its success importing cocaine into Europe.
More from the LA Times: Italian-U.S. Mafia drug trafficking ring busted, FBI and police say
The FBI and Italian police said they had broken up a global heroin and cocaine trafficking ring Tuesday after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabrian Mafia group and associates of New York’s notorious
Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States after a two-year operation that relied on both wiretaps and an American undercover agent named by investigators as “Jimmy,” who is said to have infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. Seventeen of the arrests were made in Italy and seven in the United States.
Those arrested in the U.S. were arraigned before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn. The men, some of them suspected of being members of the Gambino and Bonanno “families,” were listed as using various street aliases such as “Lello,” “Freddy,” and “Charlie Pepsi.”
I am sure more information will be coming forward, but…
The coordinated sting halted the planned shipment of more than a ton of cocaine from Latin America to Italy in liquid form, smuggled with help from Mexican cartels in coconut and pineapple cans, law enforcement officials said. They put the street value at $1 billion.
One more link…on the additional discovery of ’Ndrangheta connections with the Far East heroin trade: Gambino, Bonanno family members held in joint US-Italy anti-mafia raid – CNN.com
Raffaele Grassi, head of the Criminal Unit of the Italian State Police, told reporters that the operation demonstrated that the “‘Ndrangheta is one of the strongest organizations in the world in illegal drug trade.”
He cited its sophisticated network of contacts and its ability to adapt and find new markets, including “expanding beyond Italian borders.”
Grassi said that historically, the Gambino family had had ties with the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. But their involvement in the illegal traffic of heroin, known as the “Pizza Connection,” was dismantled or severely curtailed in the 1980s, he said, and they are now trading mainly cocaine.
The latest operation, according to Grassi and FBI officials, shows that the mafia families of the “new continent” are still seeking and relying on “old country” connections — which is why investigators dubbed the operation “New Bridge.”
According to Grassi, the Italian-American mafia families “need this new bridge to connect and support the traffic of cocaine.”
While the existence of a connection between the Calabrian mafia and U.S. mafia families has been well known, Tuesday’s operation shows its great strength and reach, investigators said.
One of the more alarming discoveries to emerge from the operation was evidence that ‘Ndrangheta has also reached out to the Far East in the heroin trade, another investigator said.
While on the subject of the Mafia, 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Characters In The Godfather – Listverse
It’s one of the immutable laws of nature: You’re channel surfing, and there, between some cooking show and an infomercial, you come upon The Godfather. Even though you own the deluxe Blu-Ray DVD box set with three weeks’ worth of special features, you are glued to that station until the credits roll. And if it’s the first in a Godfather marathon, your day is shot. You’re not moving, except to warm up some frozen lasagna between Godfather 2 and Godfather 3.
The Godfather is a classic of American cinema, and Godfather Part 2 is considered by some an even better movie. This story of the patriarch of a New York crime family, and his son who takes over the “family business,” is largely based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, with director Francis Ford Coppola and Puzo producing new material for the films.
Puzo based many of the characters on the real underworld players he heard about growing up and working in New York City.
That thing about getting stuck watching the trilogy on TV, it is so true…it just happened to my mom and me last week, and it was on one of those channels with the commercials. (So you know how annoying that can be, and how “glued” we were to stick it out for the three full movies.)
In wrapping this post up, I will end with this tune…a perfect finale to a mob focused post. I know that I have used this song before, but what can I say…
If you gonna be a square
You ain’t a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Have a wonderful day, and if you are in the storm’s wake, please stay safe and warm.
And be sure to share with us, what is on your reading list today?
Okay, so the storm is not called “Levon” but “Leon.”
It’s just that I had substituted the name Leon in that Elton John song as it “played” in my head, all day long yesterday…
Uh, Good morning!
Find the latest on the weather system the weather channel is calling Leon:
This storm is kicking the South’s ass…But this is no laughing matter: State troopers headed to schools where students, teachers are… | www.ajc.com
Shortly before midnight, about 50 students were still aboard Atlanta Public School buses, a spokeswoman for the district said. In DeKalb County, at least 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on U.S. 78 eastbound, past Hugh Howell Road. All lanes were blocked around 1 a.m. Wednesday.
These kids are stuck in buses, some are stuck overnight in schools: State troopers to help with security at schools where stranded kids are spending the night | AccessNorthGa
Gov. Nathan Deal says state troopers are being sent to schools where students are stranded because they could not make it home on clogged roads caused by Tuesday’s snowstorm.
The governor spoke at a news conference at he State Capitol late Tuesday night.
Deal also said that state and local officials will try to rescue those stranded along highways that are at a standstill. Normal 30-minute commutes have turned into hourslong odysseys for thousands.
A winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralyzed the Deep South, bringing snow, ice and teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the teens in some places.
The winter storm has mostly moved into the Carolinas, but metro Atlanta traffic remained gridlocked at 4 a.m. Wednesday as Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour from hell stretched into hour 16.
Traffic was still bumper-to-bumper and barely moving on several Atlanta interstates, including on I-75 north of downtown, on I-20 west of downtown and on the top-end Perimeter.
Imagine those people stuck on the road without medicine…and running out of gas.
There were warnings…I don’t understand why the schools did not close or plan for a delayed opening. My kids almost did not make it home from the bus themselves, the snow hit so fast and hard. We could not believe how close the school board cut it this time. It really amazes me how many people got caught up in this mess.
In Atlanta, the gridlock was so bad, a baby girl was delivered alongside Interstate 285, said Capt. Steve Rose, a spokesman for Sandy Springs police in suburban north Atlanta. He said an officer made it to the mother and her husband in time to help with the delivery, which he described as “flawless.” There were no complications and the family was taken to a hospital.
That is something, eh?
Yesterday was the SOTU: Full text: State of the Union | Al Jazeera America
President Obama’s 2014 address was his fifth in office. Read the entire transcript here, all 6,777 words
What does it mean if I did not watch the speech live, nor did I watch a taped version, I haven’t read any commentary or summaries, and the thought of reading all those 6,777 words makes me want to throw up everything I ate this evening. Even the possibility of nodding off during the speech was nothing to look forward to…
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama’s address. Win McNamee, Getty Images
• Did Justice Ginsberg fall asleep? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, was trending during Obama’s speech, with viewers speculating that she had fallen asleep, or at least was in full head-bob mode. We may never know for sure if it was a slump or a nap.
It would not be the first time she nodded off…But WTF is this all about?
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president’s speech. Charles Dharapak, AP
You know, that is pretty close to the sign for vagina (when I took ASL in college…from what I remember) could it be code for an anti-woman PLUB agenda? Or is it some little “I heart pussy” thing? Perhaps they were making reference to this:
To whet your State of the Union pallate, I give you: “The State of the Uterus.”
The State of the Uterus is a fun new video – it literally just went live – about a serious issue, women’s rights in America.
Here’s a portion of their press release:
We all know the State of the Union is strong, but what about the State of the Uterus? On this most ceremonial of days in the nation’s capital, a uterus is taking up that question and will deliver a live address moments after President Obama’s Speech and the Republican Party responds.
“Madam Uterus” (UTOUS) for so she shall be addressed — will talk at length about the state of the uterus, and the vagina, in a country where state legislatures have variously deemed that women are pregnant before they are pregnant, have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm, and must be forced to carry stillborn babies to term.
“The state of our uterus is in the hands of so many,” Madam Uterus will say, according to the text of her prepared remarks. “As the old saying goes, behind every successful uterus is a man calling her a whore while cutting her pay.”
So here are a few links on the SOTU speech:
After the speech there was this: Rep. Grimm Threatens NY1 Reporter Following State of the Union – NY1
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm physically threatened NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto at the conclusion of an interview in the Capitol Rotunda following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
Grimm’s threats came at the end of a brief interview in which he discussed the president’s speech, calling the address “divisive.”
Scotto then tried to ask the congressman about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising:
Grimm told the reporter:
Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”
Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”
Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”
Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”
Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
Hmmm…taking some pointers from Christie? Or did he watch that movie A Few Good Men? Or perhaps he was listening Divine on his iPod during the speech: You Think You’re A Man Lyrics – Divine
You will notice in the video…there are a lot of boys being tossed over balconies.
Digby had this nugget of news at her site: Hullabaloo
Iceland’s big problem: bringing 4% unemployment down to 2%
At one time there was a big debate about whether or not Iceland came out on top during our current depression, largely due to it’s hard core treatment of its banks. It was always pretty obvious that they made the smarter decision. It looks even more obvious today:
Iceland let its banks fail in 2008 because they proved too big to save.
Now, the island is finding crisis-management decisions made half a decade ago have put it on a trajectory that’s turned 2 percent unemployment into a realistic goal.
While the euro area grapples with record joblessness, led by more than 25 percent in Greece and Spain, only about 4 percent of Iceland’s labor force is without work. Prime MinisterSigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson says even that’s too high.
“Politicians always have something to worry about,” the 38-year-old said in an interview last week. “We’d like to see unemployment going from where it’s now — around 4 percent — to under 2 percent, which may sound strange to most other western countries, but Icelanders aren’t accustomed to unemployment.”
It doesn’t sound strange to me, it sounds fucking awesome!
The island’s sudden economic meltdown in October 2008 made international headlines as a debt-fueled banking boom ended in a matter of weeks when funding markets froze. Policy makers overseeing the $14 billion economy refused to back the banks, which subsequently defaulted on $85 billion. The government’s decision to protect state finances left it with the means to continue social support programs that shielded Icelanders from penury during the worst financial crisis in six decades.
We, on the other hand are making nearly 7% official unemployment (along with many millions not even being counted) the new normal. And we’re slashing our meager safety net, even food assistance. But our megabanks are doing very well which is what matters.
Geez, I really want to move to Iceland…to hell with this country’s right-wing assholes who have taken over everything. I mean, how can we even be at the point where the dicks are actually debating this shit…
Submitted without comment other than to notice how several of the candidates refer to evolution in schools as being part of a “politically correct” conspiracy.
From left: Sen. Dan Patrick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson
Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class
Oh…can someone get me outta here? I can’t take it anymore!
This is all I can bring myself to write, y’all go ahead and give it up in the comments below.
Enjoy your day…
Don’t blame Dakinikat for the lateness of this post. I volunteered to fill in for her today and then I ended up oversleeping.
I stayed up too late watching the New England Patriots come from behind to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. I had pretty much given up on the Pats at halftime when they were down 24-0. But once again Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team and once again showed Peyton Manning who’s boss.
Cindy Boren sums up what happened at The Washington Post:
For most of the country, Sunday night was cold. It’s the gateway to a big holiday week and, with the Denver Broncos blowing out the hapless New England Patriots on Sunday night, why not just turn in early?
Here’s the abbreviated version of what happened while you were sleeping: Trailing 24-0 at halftime, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half, the Broncos scored to tie it and, with Bill Belichick making another of his unusual coaching decisions, the Patriots won 34-31 on a field goal that came off a turnover on a muffed punt with time running out in overtime. But it was a decision by Belichick that set up the Patriots. After winning the OT coin toss, he chose to take the wind — a stiff, brutally cutting wind — in a move that even his captains questioned.
There was a fierce wind blowing in the Boston area all day yesterday. It was coach Bill Belichick’s decision to give the ball to the Broncos, forcing Manning to either throw into the wind or and the ball off. It worked, and the Pats ended up winning on a field goal. It was incredible–only the fifth time in history a team has come back from 24 down at the half to win a game.
So, that’s my excuse for being late with the morning post. I know you’re probably not impressed . . .
Of course the weather here in New England is just a minor annoyance compared to much of the rest of the country. CNN reports: Nasty weather wallops much of U.S. just before Thanksgiving.
The wicked wintry weather that pummeled the West Coast is now barreling across the country, threatening to wreck millions of holiday travel plans just before Thanksgiving.
The storm has already contributed to at least 10 traffic fatalities.
Nearly 400 flights have been canceled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — not exactly a bastion for snowstorms. Sleet and freezing rain will keep blanketing parts of the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies on Monday.
New Mexico may be hit with 8 inches of snow!
And it’s headed our way next:
And after the storm deluges parts of the South with rain Monday evening, it’ll start zeroing in on the Northeast, the National Weather Service said. And that could spell more travel nightmares….
An Arctic air mass will probably keep temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal along the East Coast through Thursday. But even if the system fails to deliver heavy snow, fierce winds could still hamper air travel, forecasters said….
Heavy rain is expected to fall from Texas to Georgia on Monday and over the Carolinas on Monday night, with some sleet and snow mixed in for northern parts of that swath. The heaviest rain is expected across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
So be careful out there–especially you Sky Dancers in the southern half of the country.
In political news, the big story is the deal that the Obama administration has struck with Iran. Israel doesn’t like it one bit, and that means there will be objections in Congress. From Bloomberg via the SF Chronicle:
Israel’s rejection of the accord reached in Geneva by Iran and six leading nations over the weekend was swift. The agreement is a “historic mistake” that leaves the world “a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon,” Netanyahu said.
The first accord since the Iranian nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003 eases sanctions on Iran in return for concessions on its atomic work. Its six-month timetable is meant to give negotiators time to seek a comprehensive deal to halt Iranian nuclear work that they, like Israel, think is a cover to build weapons.
Israel will now focus on influencing the final deal as much as they possibly can.
“What Israel can do during this period is push the international community toward making the final deal as tough as it can, though it should do so far more quietly than it has in the past,” said Eilam, a retired brigadier-general.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News in Geneva that the agreement doesn’t take the threat of force off the table and rejected Israel’s position, articulated yesterday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, that the U.S. capitulated to Iranian deceit.
The agreement is “not based on trust. It’s based on verification,” with mechanisms in place to confirm whether Iran is in compliance, he said.
Kerry actually used many Congresspeople’s opposition to loosening sanctions on Iran to push the Iranians to make a deal. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
When Secretary of State John Kerry joined the nuclear negotiations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva last Saturday, he employed the oldest negotiating trick in the book, evoking Congress as the bad cop to the Obama administration’s good cop. Kerry told Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that if they failed to reach an agreement that day, the Obama administration would be unable to prevent Congress from passing additional sanctions against Iran. Less than 24 hours later, Kerry and Zarif walked into the hotel lobby to announce that they had struck a deal to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program.
In the face of criticism from members of Congress and the U.S.’s allies in the Middle East, Administration officials have insisted that the Geneva agreement is just the first step toward a more far-reaching disarmament deal. But such a deal will require that the Obama administration promise not just to forestall the imposition of new sanctions, but to dramatically reduce the sanctions already in place. And that depends on the cooperation of a Congress that has been singularly uninterested in assuming the role of good cop in the showdown with Iran.
The White House has some discretion to rescind the Iran sanctions without Congress’s approval. The method for removing any given set of sanctions depends on how those sanctions were passed in the first place. If they’re the product of an executive order, as many of the existing sanctions against Iran are, removing them requires only that the White House decide to stop enforcing them. That’s exactly how Obama will be making good on its promise to Iran, as part of last week’s interim agreement, to restore access to $7 billion held in foreign bank accounts….Removing sanctions that have been passed into law by Congress, however, is a much more difficult challenge. Despite the partisan gridlock in gridlock in Washington over the last several years, bipartisan majorities have managed to cooperate on three separate rounds of sanctions since 2010, including measures targeting Iran’s central bank, which Iran will undoubtedly want rescinded. Removing those laws from the books will force the White House to go through Congress all over again. That will require overcoming the partisanship and procedural hurdles that have consumed Congress in recent years.
I have to say, Obama is once again showing he has guts. If only he would use some of that to stand firm on domestic policies. The BBC reports that the Obama administration has been working toward this agreement for months through secret negotiations that SOS John Kerry was involved in while he was still chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I’m really curious to know what role Hillary Clinton played in these negotiations and whether she supports the deal, but I can’t find any information about that so far. Meanwhile, here’s a positive review from Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for strategic studies (IISS): The surprisingly good Geneva deal.
The deal reached in the early hours of the morning in Geneva on 24 November was better than I had expected, and better than would have been the case without France’s last-day intervention at the previous round two weeks earlier. I spent much of Sunday making the rounds of TV studios and fielding print-media interviews, explaining why opponents in Israel, the Gulf and US Congress should overcome their scepticism. The more I studied the deal, the more apparent it became to me that those who knock it probably did not want any agreement at all – at least not any deal that was within the realm of possibility.
The Geneva agreement is a good deal because Iran’s capabilities in every part of the nuclear programme of concern are capped, with strong verification measures. The terms require that for the next six months, no more centrifuges can be added, none of the advanced models that were previously installed can be turned on, the stockpiles of enriched uranium cannot increase, and work cannot progress on the research reactor at Arak, which is of concern because of the weapons-grade plutonium that would be produced there. Going well beyond normal verification rules, inspectors will be able to visit the key facilities on a daily basis and even have access to centrifuge production and assembly sites.
Moreover, the most worrisome part of the programme is being rolled back. Iran is suspending 20% enrichment, which is on the cusp of being weapons-usable, and neutralising the existing stockpile of 20% product, half through conversion to oxide form and half through blending down. Although the P5+1 had earlier asked for the stockpile to be exported, these measures will virtually accomplish the same purpose by eliminating the stockpile. Reversing these measures would take time.
Time is the essential variable of this deal. The net effect of the limits Iran has accepted is to double the time it would take for it to make a dash to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Without a deal, the break-out time might instead soon be halved.
Read the rest at the link.
Paul Krugman has a column up about some positives on the rollout of Obamacare and California as a “test case” for the program.
Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on HealthCare.gov are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.
California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.
Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.
Krugman says that about 10,000 people are signing up per day, and the enrollment numbers show a balance between younger, healthier enrollees and those who are older and more likely to need health care.
So . . . it’s a somewhat slow news day as we head into the holiday season, but the Iran deal will give us something to talk about while the folks in Washington take their extra long vacations. I don’t even want to think about what will happen when they get back and start clashing over the debt ceiling again.
What interesting stories are you finding out there today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a good day despite the weather!