Monday Reads

ladiesworld_golf_mediumGood Morning!

I spent Mother’s Day napping on dad’s sofa mostly.  I am such an exciting person!!  I have no idea why I am so cold and so worn out but it is what it is.

Meanwhile,  all hell broke loose in New Orleans.  The gun violence that hit a Mother’s Day parade there was pretty much the kind of urban violence we see all too often with such easy access to guns. I wish I could say that gun violence was rare in the 7th ward.  But it is not.  Here’s a word from my congressman Cedric Richmond:

According to FBI data, 1,464 people were killed by firearms in New Orleans between 2008-2011. That’s 1,464 families who will never see their loved ones again. If we were to have passed the entirety of President Obama’s proposed reforms, sadly, many of those victims would probably have still been killed because violence is a pervasive and complex problem with a diverse set of causes. Economic insecurity, poor mental health treatment options, inferior education options and the scarcity of positive opportunities are all contributors, which one regulation alone cannot eliminate. That being said, if we only acted on just a few of the president’s proposals, we could decrease the supply of guns used in the homicides by reducing the supply of illegally purchased guns via universal background checks. This would decrease the use of guns in violent crime and keep a few more families from having to bury a loved one.

While I was serving as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, I introduced an assault weapons ban bill on numerous occasions. I took on the National Rifle Association in these battles not because I have a grudge against gun owners, but because I could find no reasonable defense of having these weapons of mass destruction on our streets. As a resident of Sportsman’s Paradise, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. However, I do not ascribe to the belief that Congress has no role in responding to the gun violence epidemic plaguing communities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.

It seems that 19 people were injured with no fatalities.

A Mother’s Day second-line shooting on Frenchmen Street in the 7th Ward, on Sunday about 1:45 p.m., left 19 people injured, according to the latest NOPD numbers. Earlier Sunday afternoon, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that about 12 people had been injured, but the toll later grew to 19, with the NOPD explaining that some victims initially hadn’t reported being injured and more people continue to come forward.

Police said 10 adult men, seven adult women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were struck by bullets.  Both of the 10-year-old victims had graze wounds to the body and were in good condition. A man and a woman were reported to be in surgery Sunday evening.

The shooting occurred in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street at the intersection of North Villere Street. Immediately after the shooting police reported seeing three suspects running from the scene. One suspect was seen running on Frenchman toward North Claiborne, police said.

NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said many of the victims were grazed, some by bullets that ricocheted. “At this point, there are no fatalities, and most of the wounds are not life-threatening,” she said in an email.

“But all medical conditions are not known at this time as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals,” Braden continued. “Detectives are conducting interviews, retrieving any surveillance video in the area and, of course, collecting all evidence. This is an extremely unusual occurrence, and we’re confident that we will make swift arrests.”

Kevin Allman, editor of Gambit Weekly, said one of the publication’s writers, Deborah Cotton, also known as the blogger Big Red Cotton, was shot and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

Shannon Roberts, 32, was in the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon and early evening alongside reams of other crying and fear-ridden – and at times, angry –  family members whose loved ones were injured in the shooting. Roberts said she was waiting on a 21-year-old nephew who was shot in the arm and stomach, a 37-year-old niece shot in the arm, and a 39-year-old cousin shot in the back.

“All innocent bystanders got hit,” Roberts said. “When I got the call saying they were shot, I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just shivering and crying… just hoping they be all right.

Hatred evidently has a basis in geography in this country.  This is an interesting twist on studying information from Twitters, locations, and Printdisplays of racism, homophobia, and basic hate speech.

Twitter, even more than many other social media tools, can feel disconnected from the real world. But a group of students and professors at research site Floating Sheep have built a comprehensive map of some of Twitter’s most distasteful content: the racist, homophobic, or ableist slurs that can proliferate online. Called Geography of Hate, the interactive map charts ten relatively common slurs across the continental US, either by general category or individually. Looking at the whole country, you’ll often see a mass of red or what the map’s creators call a “blue smog of hate.” Zooming in, however, patches appear over individual regions or cities; some may be predictable, while others are not.

The map builds on an earlier Floating Sheep project that showed where President Obama was referenced with racial slurs, but it’s far more comprehensive and well-constructed. Unlike many other studies, for example, the tweets weren’t collected and analyzed algorithmically — a method that could accidentally collect non-derogatory uses of these terms. Instead, the team first searched through a year’s worth of geotagged tweets for words, then had a group of students at Humboldt State University look at each one. Only tweets they found explicitly negative went on the map: a derogatory use of the word “dyke” would be added, for example, but one reclaiming the term for a gay pride parade would not. In total, the map charts about 150,000 negative, slur-filled tweets.

Here is some “Terrible News About Carbon and Climate Change”.

This past Thursday, the daily average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, as measured by the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, passed four hundred parts per million. In some way it was a meaningless milestone. We know that CO2 is increasing; we knew this moment would come; we know that four hundred is no more different from three hundred and ninety-nine than it is from four hundred and one.

Still, the number should shake us, if not shock us. We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. Three-fifty was the old target; four-fifty is the new one. But what indication is there that we’ll stop at five hundred, six hundred, or even more?

We’ve failed collectively. As Ryan Lizza explained in miserable detail in 2010, the United States government couldn’t pass a tepid, eviscerated law. Activists have failed. We’ve all failed morally: a problem created by the world’s rich will now crush the world’s poor. In a grand sense it’s also a failure of the creators, and deniers, of climate change: the Exxon-Mobils, say, or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. A victory isn’t worth much if your children and grandchildren will one day think of you with anger and shame.

How do we get out of this mess? The political system seems hopeless. Yes, government regulation has done much to relieve us of acid rain and smog. But global warming combines two intractable problems. Reducing emissions mainly benefits people who aren’t born and don’t vote. And it requires international coördination, which is hopeless, and international law, which is toothless. We should do things like build more public transportation, which helps people here and now. We should design our cities for a future with terrible weather. But solving the problem of climate change through the U.N. is like a small man with olive oil on his hands trying to pull a whale from the water.

Man's-Life-Vintage-Magazine-Covers-12I’ve become somewhat fascinated with charter schools given their presence in New Orleans and their supposed success.  Who makes money from these things and why is that important?  It has a lot to do with Real Estate Developers and Hedge Fund Managers.  This is worth reading.

Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. So one must wonder, what exactly is motivating these school “reformers”? And why have they pushed for more and more closure — and new charter schools — at such an unprecedented rate in recent years?

Pro-charter supporters will tell you that it’s time for public institutions like our schools to start competing more like for-profit institutions. Test scores and high enrollment, then, define success. Unsuccessful schools, they say, should close just as unsuccessful businesses do. For neoliberal school reformers from today’s Arne Duncan-led Department of Education to scandal-ridden movement leader Michelle Rhee to billionaire Bill Gates, it is taken on faith that market principles are desirable in education.

But since it’s not clear that market principles are benefiting students on a large scale, it seems likely that something else is at stake. And reformers may be more than a little disingenuous in publicly ignoring that other, less high-minded thing: Profit. Critics of charter schools and school closings point out that proponents may not really be motivated by idealism, but by self-gain.

But who precisely is profiting? And how? Untangling answers to these questions is a more daunting task. Compared to public schools, charters schools are an extremely unregulated business. They contract with private companies to provide all kinds of services, from curriculum development to landscaping. Most of the regulations that bind charter schools are implemented at the state level. And unlike public institutions, the finances of charter schools are managed on a school-by-school basis. Because they are not consistently held accountable to the public for how they distribute funds, charter schools are often able to keep their business practices under wraps, and thus avoid too much scrutiny.

Here’s economist Joseph Stiglitz warning us about the crushing student debt in the U.S.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default rates exceeded 13 percent.

America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities. Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.

Compare this more-than-doubling in tuition with the stagnation in median family income, which is now about $50,000, compared to $46,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation).

Like much else, the problem of student debt worsened during the Great Recession: tuition costs at public universities increased by 27 percent in the past five years — partly because of cutbacks — while median income shrank. In California, inflation-adjusted tuition more than doubled in public two-year community colleges (which for poorer Americans are often the key to upward mobility), and by more than 70 percent in four-year public schools, from 2007-8 to 2012-13.

With costs soaring, incomes stagnating and little help from government, it was not surprising that total student debt, around $1 trillion, surpassed total credit-card debt last year. Responsible Americans have learned how to curb their credit-card debt — many have forsaken them for debit cards, or educated themselves about usurious interest rates, fees and penalties charged by card issuers — but the challenge of controlling student debt is even more unsettling.

Curbing student debt is tantamount to curbing social and economic opportunity. College graduates earn $12,000 more per year than those without college degrees; the gap has almost tripled just since 1980. Our economy is increasingly reliant on knowledge-related industries. No matter what happens with currency wars and trade balances, the United States is not going to return to making textiles. Unemployment rates among college graduates are much lower than among those with only a high school diploma.

Who is the one person in the beltway looking for answers?  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is looking at handing the loans over the Fed.  The problem is that no one seems to be taking the bill seriously.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has just introduced a new bill, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, to offer student loans at the same rates that the Federal Reserve charges big banks through its discount window lending program. At the moment, that rate is about 0.75%. The rates on federally guaranteed student loans, meanwhile, is set to double to 6.8% this summer.

“Some may say we can’t afford this proposal,” said Senator Warren as she introduced the bill. “I would remind them that the Federal Government currently makes 36 cents in profit for every dollar it lends to students . . . meanwhile, the banks pay interest that is one-ninth of the amount that students will be asked to pay. That’s just wrong. It doesn’t reflect our values.”

“Now some explain that the banks get exceptionally low interest rates because the economy is still shaky and banks need access to cheap credit to continue the recovery.” She sighed loudly. “But our students are just as important to the economic recovery as our banks, and the debt they carry poses a serious risk to that recovery.”

It’s probably true that some say banks need low interest rates to keep the economy growing. But no one except possibly a lunatic has told Elizabeth Warren that banks are getting 0.75% at the discount window as a thank you for all the hard work they’re doing helping the economy. Discount window loans are cheap for three reasons: the borrowers have assets and income that are easy to seize, the loans are quite short term, and the banks are required to put up collateral.

As you’ll have discovered with your own mortgage or car loan, the shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate. You will also have discovered that loans secured by collateral, like your car loan or mortgage, carry lower interest rates than loans such as credit card expenditures, which are secured by nothing more than your heartfelt promises to pay. You may even have noticed that the more durable the collateral, the more attractive a rate your banker will extend on it.

So it is with loans to other people, and businesses. Banks get a very low rate because they’re borrowing for very short periods of time–often overnight, always less than a year. The Fed correctly figures that the bank is unlikely to go out of business by next month–and anyway, they’re putting up collateral, which is unlikely to lose all its value in such a short period of time.

Students, on the other hand, are borrowing for a decade, and the only thing they’re putting up as a guarantee is their character. How good a collateral is their character? In 2011, 9.1% of borrowers had defaulted on their student loan within the first two years of the payment period.

The interest paid by the folks who don’t default is the only thing keeping this program from hemorrhaging money. Elizabeth Warren proposes to cut that interest rate to less than the rate of inflation.

So, those are my suggestions this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

34 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I’m a little confused by the Twitter study. It seems there is very little homophobia in the west according to the study–none in Arizona? That makes no sense. Does that mean people in the west don’t use Twitter?

    I don’t allow them to tag my tweets by location. I wonder how many people do? I couldn’t find a map of racist usage, but I guess they didn’t find any specific geographic results.

    Even when normalized, many of the slurs included in our analysis display little meaningful spatial distribution. For example, tweets referencing ‘nigger’ are not concentrated in any single place or region in the United States; instead, quite depressingly, there are a number of pockets of concentration that demonstrate heavy usage of the word. In addition to looking at the density of hateful words, we also examined how many unique users were tweeting these words. For example in the Quad Cities (East Iowa) 31 unique Twitter users tweeted the word “nigger” in a hateful way 41 times. There are two likely reasons for higher proportion of such slurs in rural areas: demographic differences and differing social practices with regard to the use of Twitter. We will be testing the clusters of hate speech against the demographic composition of an area in a later phase of this project.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m not sure how widespread twitter use is among certain groups. I would think this study would have a certain amount of bias given certain age groups and types are unlikely to use twitter but I have no idea

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Michael Tomasky on “The coming attempt to impeach Obama.” Ugh. It’s like Clinton redux. Will they really try to impeach him over Benghazi? Or the IRS looking at nonprofits?

    • dakinikat says:

      They are pretty whacked over Benghazi … my guess is that will be it. Fox has spent months whipping up the masses with outright lies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Believe me, they are freaking out over the IRS thing too, and the media is helping.

        • dakinikat says:

          From what you’ve pointed to, I would say that’s a nonissue. However, I think a bunch of churches are up to no good and should be worried about losing their tax exempt status.

        • Fannie says:

          And they are connecting it dot by dot to Obamacare.

        • bostonboomer says:

          IRS is at the top of twitter trending topics.

      • RalphB says:

        TPM: Script Needs a Rewrite

        Marco Rubio just called on President Obama to fire the Commissioner of the IRS. Small problem: the Commissioner in place when all this happened was Bush appointee Douglas H. Shulman. He left just after the November election and there’s an acting Commissioner currently in place.

        Somehow I doubt the Republicans will go after Bush or his IRS Commissioner. Democrats should though.

    • RalphB says:

      TPM: Robert Gates Calls Benghazi Critics ‘Cartoonish’ (VIDEO)

      Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday defended the Obama administration over its handling of the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya against a growing chorus of critics.

      Gates, a Republican who was originally nominated to head the Pentagon by former President George W. Bush before being retained by President Barack Obama, backed the administration’s response to the attack that left four Americans dead.

      Bob Gates isn’t a hack after all. Good for him.

  3. Fannie says:

    Oh, according to Chuck Todd, democrats should be on the same page as the republicans about the IRS. Amazing I should worry more about IRS looking over non profits, more so than gun violence and the economy, and education, and women’s reproductive health in this country. What the fuck have the wingnuts done for our country since Obama has been in office? Where are the fucking jobs, and women’s rights? I am glad the IRS is looking over records, I mean what do they have to hide anyways?

  4. HT says:

    The student debt load is very disturbing. How on earth is a so called civilized nation going to remain civilized without bright, educated, industrious people conducting research, creating new enterprises, innovating breakthroughs in technology, medicine……….

  5. Fannie says:

    Les we forget…….the HR3 bill included a requirement for the IRS to audit and make sure that not one penny was used from tax funds of any sort, for any abortions………. How many are requiring audits of insurance companies that cover abortions? Plenty new laws by the GOP are written up every day…………and they have included the right of IRS to audit women who have been raped, and rewrite the definition of rape, and tell survivors they have a right to investigate your rape.

    And didn’t the GOP require the auditing of Planned Parenthood and abortions………..yet when we see a need to investigate these churches (be it mega or Westboro) who stand up in the pulpit and tell who to vote for and how to vote on issues, is not a problem? It is, we have laws of sepration of church and state. And why haven’t the criminal aspect of IRS gone after the Catholic churches who have been abusing our children for decades…………..and all other churches that seem to think it’s okay to use abuse, and tell women to stay in marriage with the abuser…………

    There is more to the story here, and clear violations all over the IRS Codes.

    • HT says:

      What a group of caring Christians eh. Back in the day (and I know I’ve recounted this before) I knew something was wrong. I wanted to find out. I was young and back then ultrasound was in it’s infancy. As time went by I wanted an abortion. the Doctor who was the head of the gynecology unit patted me on my tiny little head containing my tiny little brain and assured me everything was okay. Nine months of distress – three hours of surgery – two conjoined twins born live but could not live – several families and my marriage destroyed. The MEN coming forward with these initiatives are ……. not sure what I should call them, but I will hope with all my being that they get pregnant.

      • Fannie says:

        That was a terrible ordeal HT, like a bomb was dropped on you……….Professionals and families should be supportive, and not judgemental, but accepting of you and your feelings. There is so much discord coming from them. And they seem to be getting away targeting women.

  6. Fannie says:

    Listen to them, they want an apology from our President…………. where was the apology from Pres. Bush when he called for audit of NAACP in 2004? It’s not enough that he made a statement in regards to investigations of employees, they want HIS blood. They now demand the head of IRS step down. They really want to have Benghazie and IRS be the main issues that they think will help them win the White House, and they want to seriously take down this country.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It would help if Democrats would speak up, but of course they’re afraid to.

      • Fannie says:

        Yes it would, as they are “doing nothing”. I guess that’s a disease up on the hill. Here take this, take that bullschitt, and they are laying down and letting them walk the hell over them………….let me beg, please democrats, please can’t you please do something?

  7. Fannie says:


    Newt Gingrich this morning on Obamacare and IRS

    • Fannie says:

      Ooops let me try this:

      • Fannie says:

        Fucking birdbrains, who was it “profiling” hispanics as having lower IQ’s than white………yeah the Heritage Foundation representing the GOP, and beloved white nationalist……….Looky over there Newt and Joe, there, there.

        • Fannie says:

          Birdbrains said there was a culture of lies in Obama’s Admnistration…….Leroy better jump on the bus, and bring Mark Sanford along with him.

  8. bostonboomer says:


    I’m waiting for the IRS to “target” rich people and corporations.

  9. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce: Mayhem In New Orleans

    We keep telling ourselves we are a good people, but we are an armed people, and we are killing and wounding ourselves at an alarming rate, and we keep looking outside ourselves for answers, because we are a good people and this should not be happening to us the way that it is. Maybe we are not a good people. Maybe we are a scared and angry people. Maybe we are not a good people. Maybe we are a scared and angry people and we have armed ourselves because we are scared and angry. Maybe we are a scared and angry people and we have armed ourselves and now we are shooting each other because we are scared and angry and we can get our hands on some guns.

    A Mother’s Day Parade?

    Maybe we are not a good people. Maybe we should think on that for a while.

    There seems to be a darkness in the American character now. We can’t be trusted as civilized people anymore.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    New Orleans shooting: Video shows gunman opening fire on parade-goers,0,3175676.story

  11. Fannie says:

    Amb. Thomas Pickering and Issa on Face the Nation