Posted: January 21, 2023 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: cat art, Cats, caturday | Tags: Brett Kavanaugh, Covid-19, Davos, debt limit, Doug Letter, Janet Yellen, January 6, John Roberts, leaked draft, medicare, Roe v. Wade, Social Security, Supreme Court |
Goddess, Hunter, Consort, Thief, by Peter Paul Rubens, 16th Century
The Supreme Court is in the news and not in a good way. You know about John Roberts’ failed “investigation” into the leak of the draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but did you know about the secret documentary on Brett Kavanaugh? Here’s the latest:
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Supreme Court’s Inquiry Into Leak Included Interviews With Justices.
The Supreme Court’s internal investigation into who leaked a draft of the opinion last year overturning the landmark decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion included talking to all nine justices, the marshal of the court said on Friday.
But the justices — unlike dozens of law clerks and permanent employees of the court — were not made to sign sworn affidavits attesting that they had not been involved in the leak of the draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade and that they knew nothing about it.
The clarification by the marshal, Gail A. Curley, who oversaw the inquiry, followed widespread speculation over its scope and limitations. In a 20-page report on Thursday, Ms. Curley disclosed that the investigation had not turned up the source of the leak while leaving ambiguous whether it had extended to interviewing the justices themselves.
“During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the justices, several on multiple occasions,” Ms. Curley said on Friday. “The justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine.”
She added: “I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the justices to sign sworn affidavits.”
Ms. Curley did not indicate whether she searched the justices’ court-issued electronic devices and asked them to turn over personal devices and cellphone records, as she did with other personnel. She also did not address whether she had interviewed any of the justices’ spouses, another question that arose after her report was made public.
It wasn’t much of an investigation if even Gini Thomas was not questioned, and the most likely suspects–the right wing justices– weren’t required to sign affidavits. But no one really expected Roberts to do a serious investigation when he won’t even deal with the justices’ political activities and conflicts of interest. What a weakling he is.
On to the Kavanagh documentary.
The Guardian: ‘I hope this triggers outrage’: surprise Brett Kavanaugh documentary premieres at Sundance.
A secretly made documentary expanding on allegations of sexual assault against supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh has premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival.
Four year old girl with cat, by Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, 1647
Justice, a last-minute addition to the schedule, aims to shine a light not only on the women who have accused Kavanaugh, a Donald Trump nominee, but also the failed FBI investigation into the allegations.
“I do hope this triggers outrage,” said producer Amy Herdy in a Q&A after the premiere in Park City, Utah. “I do hope that this triggers action, I do hope that this triggers additional investigation with real subpoena powers.”
The film provides a timeline of the allegations, initially that Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault when she was 15 and he 17. She alleged that he held her down on a bed and groped her, and tried to rip her clothes off before she got away. Kavanaugh was also accused of sexual misconduct by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that he exposed himself and thrust his penis at her face without her consent at a college party.
About the film:
The first scene features Ford, half off-camera, interviewed by the film’s director Doug Liman, whose credits include Mr and Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Justice features a number of interviews with journalists, lawyers, psychologists and those who knew Ford and Ramirez.
“This was the kind of movie where people are terrified,” Liman said. “The people that chose to participate in the movie are heroes.”
In the film, Ramirez, who previously told her story to Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, also shares her story on-camera. Ramirez is referred to as someone “they worked hard for people not to know”, her story never given the space it deserved until long after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court in October 2018….
The film then details how the circles around Ramirez and Kavanaugh responded, showing text messages of a discussion when Ramirez’s allegations were about to go public, of a mutual friend being asked by Kavanaugh to go on record to defend him. Another friend refers to it as “a cover-up”.
The New Yorker included a statement from a group of students at the time in support of Kavanaugh. A year later, the film shows that two of them emailed the New Yorker to remove their names from the statement.
Ramirez’s lawyers claim they contacted Republican senator Jeff Flake, who was involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, to explain what happened to her. The next day Flake called to delay the confirmation and insist on a week-long FBI investigation.
But the film details how the FBI failed to call on the many witnesses recommended by Ramirez’s lawyers. Footage is shown of the film-makers meeting with a confidential source who plays tape of Kavanaugh’s classmate Max Stier, now a prominent figure in Washington running a non-profit, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh involved in a similar act of alleged drunken exposure with a female student at a dorm party at Yale. The woman has chosen to remain anonymous and this is the first time this recording has been heard.
Read more details at the link. You can also check out this piece at The Hollywood Reporter: How Doug Liman Directed a Brett Kavanaugh FBI Investigation Doc in Secret.
Some January 6 investigation news:
Politico: The House’s legal lieutenant in its Trump wars speaks out — about Jan. 6 and more.
While Congress’ biggest Donald Trump antagonists are household names to political junkies — think Liz Cheney, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin — there’s a lesser-known Trump adversary who may have been more effective than the others: Doug Letter.
Portrait of Cleopea Krieg von Bellikon, 1499-1671, by Hans Asper
The former House general counsel was involved in every political brawl between House Democrats and Trump that has defined Washington politics for the past four years. Letter helped guide the work of the Jan. 6 select committee, played a critical role in both Trump impeachments and strategized the certification of Joe Biden’s win — before violent rioters upended those plans on Jan. 6, 2021….
In a wide-ranging interview with POLITICO, the House’s former top attorney described his tenure battling a former president who tested the limits of executive power at every turn, resisting efforts at accountability in ways that previous chief executives had not. But he has faith that his work helped to stem future presidential attempts to push constitutional boundaries, lending more power to lawmakers.
“I just feel like the Biden administration and future administrations are not going to act like the Trump administration,” Letter said. “They’re not going to show such ignorance of our system and think that the executive branch can ignore the legislative branch. That’s not the way it works.”
Doug Letter on January 6:
Letter was returning to the House floor from some basement vending machines when he ran into Speaker Nancy Pelosi being whisked from the Capitol under heavy guard. Don’t go back up there, one official told him. An angry mob had breached the building.
But Letter, in a panic, said he had to retrieve several giant binders that were full of sensitive strategy and scripts for the day’s proceedings. He opted to forgo evacuating with Pelosi and instead raced back to the chamber.
“I was the last person in before they locked the doors,” Letter recalled.
The attack on the Capitol led to the Jan. 6 select committee, where the House’s then-top attorney charted a legal strategy that Letter now describes as one of the hallmarks of his tenure.
Through his work on that panel, Letter secured at least two streams of information that became a core element of the committee’s voluminous findings: Trump’s confidential White House records and the Chapman University emails of attorney John Eastman, an architect of the then-president’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.
Letter also won court fights to obtain telephone records from Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, who took part in Trump world’s plan to send false electors to Congress. And he helped direct the House’s strategy to hold certain Trump advisers in contempt of Congress, which resulted in prosecutions of Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon.
“We had a whole enormous number of people that, as we now know, were putting together this massive, not just a conspiracy, but a whole bunch of conspiracies, to attack our democracy,” Letter said.
Read the rest at Politico.
Joseph Goodhue Chandler, American folk art
As you know, I went to a meeting in my over-60 apartment building awhile back. Most of the people there weren’t wearing masks. I came down with something a few days later, and it dragged on for weeks. I thought others here in the building were being careful too, but I was wrong. We haven’t talked much about Covid-19 on the blog lately, but yesterday I read this article that really angered me, and I want to share it with you.
Slate: Billionaires at Davos Don’t Think COVID Is a Cold.
In photos of 2023’s World Economic Forum—or Davos as it is commonly called, after the Swiss resort town where it annually occurs—you might not notice the HEPA filters. They’re in the background, unobtrusive and unremarked upon, quietly cleansing the air of viruses and bacteria. You wouldn’t know—not unless you asked—that every attendee was PCR tested before entering the forum, or that in the case of a positive test, access was automatically, electronically, revoked. The folks on stage aren’t sporting masks (mostly), so unless you looked at the official Davos Health & Safety protocol, you wouldn’t be aware that their on-site drivers are required to wear them. You also might be surprised to learn that if, at any point, you start to feel ill at Davos, you can go collect a free rapid test, or even call their dedicated COVID hotline.
It’s hard to square this information with the public narrative about COVID, isn’t it? President Joe Biden has called the pandemic “over.” The New York Timesrecently claimed that “the risk of Covid is similar to that of the flu” in an article about “hold outs” that are annoyingly refusing to accept continual reinfection as their “new normal.” Yet, this week the richest people in the world are taking common sense, easy—but strict—precautions to ensure they don’t catch COVID-19 at Davos.
In addition to high-quality ventilation, masks, hotlines and PCR testing, some have noted the signature blue glow of Far-UVC lighting, demonstrated to kill pathogens in the air, although this is unconfirmed. We can be certain, however, that the testing, high-quality ventilation, and filtration protocol is effective at preventing the kind of super-spreader events most of us are now accustomed to attending.
t seems unlikely to me that a New York Times reporter will follow the super-rich around like David Attenborough on safari, the way one of their employees did when they profiled middle-class maskers last month. I doubt they will write “family members and friends can get a little exasperated by the hyper-concern” about the assembled prime ministers, presidents, and CEOs in Switzerland. After all, these are important people. The kind of people who merit high-quality ventilation. The kind of people who deserve accurate tests.
Why is the media so hellbent on portraying simple, scientifically proven measures like masking—in environments absent of high-quality ventilation, full of people who do not have easy and consistent access to tests—as ridiculous and unnecessary as hundreds of people continue to die daily here in the U.S.?
Why is the public accepting a “new normal” where we are expected to get infected over and over and over again, at work events with zero precautions, on airplanes with no masks, and at social dinners trying to approximate our 2019 normal?
Very good questions. I guess the rich are entitled to protection, but the rest of us can just get sick and die for all they care. I hope you’ll go read the whole article at Slate.
Finally, a couple of articles about the upcoming fight over the debt limit:
CNN: Yellen warns of ‘global financial crisis’ if US debt limit agreement isn’t reached.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday warned of the widespread global effects that could be felt if the federal government exhausts extraordinary measures and fails to raise the debt ceiling, telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the ways everyday Americans could face stark consequences.
Yellen’s warning comes after the United States on Thursday hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit set by Congress, forcing the Treasury Department to start taking extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills.
Still Life with Fighting Cats, by Frans Snyders (1579-1657), Flemish painter
While those newly deployed extraordinary measures are largely behind-the-scenes accounting maneuvers, Yellen told Amanpour that “the actual date at which we would no longer be able to use these measures is quite uncertain, but it could conceivably come as early as early June.”
Speaking exclusively to CNN from Senegal, Yellen said that after the measures are exhausted, the US could experience at a minimum downgrading of its debt as a result of Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling. The effects of the federal government failing to make payments, she argued, could be as broad as a “global financial crisis.”
“If that happened, our borrowing costs would increase and every American would see that their borrowing costs would increase as well,” Yellen said. “On top of that, a failure to make payments that are due, whether it’s the bondholders or to Social Security recipients or to our military, would undoubtedly cause a recession in the US economy and could cause a global financial crisis.”
“It would certainly undermine the role of the dollar as a reserve currency that is used in transactions all over the world. And Americans – many people would lose their jobs and certainly their borrowing costs would rise,” she continued.
Read more at CNN.
The Washington Post: Biden aides want to force GOP to abandon debt limit threats.
Shortly after last year’s midterm elections, a senior congressional Democrat called White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and asked how the administration planned to prevent the new Republican House majority from using the debt ceiling — and the threat of a default that could wreck the economy — to force spending cuts.
Klain said the White House’s plan was straightforward, according to the lawmaker: Refuse to entertain any concessions, and launch a barrage of attacks highlighting the GOP position that would force Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to fold.
“This debate is simple: We want to do the responsible thing, and they want to take the entire American economy hostage to cut Social Security and Medicare,” said the member of Congress, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. Klain told the lawmaker that the fight could result in substantial political benefits for the Democratic Party. “The point he was making was clear: You can’t negotiate with people who take hostages.”
Felis Syriacus Ulisse Aldrovani (1522-1605), by Vintage Lavoie
But the question remains what the administration will do if Republicans won’t raise the debt limit without negotiations.
House Republicans have increasingly signaled that they will force a showdown with the administration over the nation’s debt ceiling, which sets a statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow….
Many GOP lawmakers have said that they will not approve a debt ceiling increase without cuts to spending programs that the Biden administration has vowed to protect, creating an impasse with no clear resolution.
…[A]dministration officials [have] conclude[d], at least for now, that the only viable path is to press Republicans to abandon their demands to extract policy concessions over the debt limit — a position they have publicly reaffirmed in recent weeks. The Biden administration is focused on pressing the GOP to unveil a debt limit plan that includes spending cuts, with the hope that such a proposal will prove so divisive among Republicans that they are forced to abandon brinkmanship. This strategy stems in part from the belief among White House officials that it would be enormously risky either to negotiate policy with the GOP on the debt limit or try to solve it via executive order — and they appear willing to put that premise to the test.
How about having Biden and surrogates travel around the country educating voters about the consequences of either letting Republican crash the economy or letting them destroy Social Security and Medicare? Just a thought.
What are your thoughts about all this? What other stories do you recommend?
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Posted: October 18, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: abortion rights, both-sidesing media, debt limit, Democracy in peril, Elon Musk, Fiona Hill, House Republicans, Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy, medicare, New York Times, Russia, Social Security, Starlink, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin |
Vincent Van Gogh, Grapes
We are fast approaching the day of decision: November 8, 2022 is only 3 weeks away. Democracy is on the ballot, but according to the New York Times’ interpretation of a new poll, voters aren’t that concerned about a fascist takeover by Republicans.
The New York Times: Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority.
Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.
In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.
The doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.
Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.
Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.
The entire article is trademark both-sidesing, of course–it’s The New York Times! The authors dug up a Democrat who is worried about “divisiveness” on “both sides.”
“I do agree that the biggest threat is survival of our democracy, but it’s the divisiveness that is creating this threat,” said Ben Johnson, 33, a filmmaker from New Orleans and a Democrat. “It feels like on both sides, people aren’t agreeing on facts anymore. We can’t meet in the middle if we can’t agree on simple facts. You’re not going to be able to move forward and continue as a country if you can’t agree on facts.”
The poll showed that voters filtered their faith in democracy through a deeply partisan lens. A majority of voters in both parties identified the opposing party as a “major threat to democracy.”
Most Republicans said the dangers included President Biden, the mainstream media, the federal government and voting by mail. Most Democrats named Donald J. Trump, while large shares of the party’s voters also said the Supreme Court and the Electoral College were threats to democracy.
Seventy-one percent of all voters said democracy was at risk — but just 7 percent identified that as the most important problem facing the country.
But why don’t we agree on “facts?” The poll suggests the media has something to do with that, but the NYT doesn’t include that in their analysis.
The NYT also doesn’t emphasize that it’s mostly Republicans who don’t care about saving democracy.
The polls have been so untrustworthy in the past few elections that I don’t know how much to trust them; but I do know I can’t trust the NYT to analyze the results honestly.
Meanwhile, Republicans seem so confident about taking over the House, that they are showing their cards ahead of the election.
The Washington Post: GOP to use debt limit to force spending cuts, McCarthy says.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that if Republicans win control of the House the GOP will use raising the debt limit as leverage to force spending cuts — which could include cuts to Medicare and Social Security — and limit additional funding to Ukraine.
“You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” the California Republican told Punchbowl News in a recent interview. “And if people want to make a debt ceiling [for a longer period of time], just like anything else, there comes a point in time where, okay, we’ll provide you more money, but you got to change your current behavior.”
Danish painter Peder Mørk Mønsted – An Autumn Landscape. Date: 1889.
“We’re not just going to keep lifting your credit card limit, right,” he added. “And we should seriously sit together and [figure out] where can we eliminate some waste? Where can we make the economy grow stronger?”
Pressed on whether changes to the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security were part of the debt ceiling discussions, McCarthy said he would not “predetermine” anything.
The debt limit — the country’s borrowing cap — will need to be lifted next year to protect the country’s credit score and to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt. But McCarthy suggested that his party would be willing to hold the debt limit up for policy changes
The debt limit is the total amount of money that the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salari.es, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments. The debt limit is not new spending but rather allows the government to finance existing legal obligations.
Republicans are getting ready to do Putin’s bidding if they take over the House.
The Daily Beast: Ukraine Aid Could Be on the Chopping Block in a GOP-Controlled House.
Democrats and Republicans have both been backing Ukraine aid for months now. But there’s a growing sense of unease on Capitol Hill that something could soon happen to disrupt that financial support: Republicans could win the House in November.
“I’m absolutely not supporting any further funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Daily Beast last week….
Throughout Congress, Republican support for providing Ukraine aid has swung in multiple directions since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war earlier this year. Several GOP lawmakers have told The Daily Beast they think President Joe Biden is being far too “weak” on Russia and not sending enough weapons to help Ukrainians fight back.
But there’s also been a strong and steady resistance to sending billions of dollars to Ukraine, even as Putin wages war. Some Republicans have tried to blame the war on Biden and have said they would rather focus on domestic priorities—from inflation to the southern border—and want to condition Ukraine aid on other issues, whatever the consequences may be in withholding aid from Ukraine.
Dozens of Republican members of the House have already sought to throw up roadblocks to Ukraine aid packages. Fifty-seven Republicans tried blocking $40 billion in aid to Ukraine earlier this year, in addition to 11 Republican Senators. Not a single Democrat tried to stand in the way.
Amherst Campus (MA) no.1 (1969) Fairfield Porter. Parrish Art Museum, New York.
In other Ukraine aid news, Elon Musk’s has threatened to stop supporting Starlink in the country. Starlink is the Musk-owned satellite system that supports internet communication in the Ukraine. He has wavered on this decision, but the Biden administration doesn’t trust him. Politico: Pentagon eyes locking in Starlink funding for Ukraine.
The Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network — which has been a lifeline for Ukraine — from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.
The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is designed to provide enduring support for the Ukrainian military by financing contracts with American firms for weapons and equipment that would be delivered in months or even years….
The discussion comes after CNN reported that SpaceX warned the Pentagon last month that it would no longer be able to finance the satellite terminals and communications services, which has already cost it over $80 million and could cost hundreds of millions more over the next year….
The company donated the use of Starlink terminals after Russia invaded Ukraine in February amid fears that the country would be cut off from the outside world. SpaceX’s philanthropic efforts drew widespread plaudits.
The Defense Department said on Friday that it was continuing discussions with SpaceX about a way forward. But it also said it is considering other alternatives for commercial satellite communications.
Elon Musk has shown his cards recently, offering a suggestion for negotiated peace in Ukraine that would favor Russia’s interests. Insider: Elon Musk’s pro-Russian peace deal is ‘classic Putin,’ and there’s a clue of the Russian leader’s role, Fiona Hill argues.
Elon Musk’s recent efforts to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine have almost certainly been puppeteered by Vladimir Putin, according to top Russia expert Fiona Hill.
“Putin plays the egos of big men — gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill told Politico this week, noting that the Tesla billionaire has tipped his hand in an obvious display of Putin’s influence.
Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a proposed peace plan he suggested could end the war in Ukraine that parroted Russian demands and echoed Kremlin talking points.
Autumn Leaves, Lake George (1924) Georgia O’Keeffe. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.
Ian Bremmer, a prominent political analyst, later reported that Musk spoke privately with Putin before drafting his proposition — an allegation that Musk denied.…
While it was his October 3 tweets that garnered buzz around the globe, Musk was publicly evoking Putin’s desires even earlier.
Hill cited Musk’s September appearance at a conference in Aspen, during which he suggested a similar path forward through the war, encouraging Ukraine to “seek peace” by allowing Crimea — a territory which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — to be recognized as Russian.
Musk also reportedly told attendees that the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine ought to be up for grabs. Russia annexed four occupied Ukrainian territories just days later, including the two mentioned by Musk.
You can also check out an interesting interview with Fiona Hill at Politico: Fiona Hill: ‘Elon Musk Is Transmitting a Message for Putin.’’
Some Democrats have been getting wishy-washy about promoting abortion as a top tier issue in the upcoming elections, but Joe Biden still seems to think it’s important. Politico: Biden to pledge legalizing abortion on Roe anniversary if Dems expand majorities.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday will promise that the first bill he’ll send to the next Congress will be legislation to reinstate the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade, according to a Democratic official previewing the president’s remarks.
In a speech at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, Biden will also pledge to sign that bill into law around the anniversary of the original Roe ruling in late January.
Biden’s plans are contingent on Democrats holding the House and increasing their majority in the Senate, a factor acknowledged by the official previewing the remarks. As such, it is a vow that appears aimed at energizing Democrats to turn out in force in the upcoming midterm elections where the party is struggling to keep its slim majorities, as polls show early outrage over the fall of Roe v. Wade this June has been outstripped by economic concerns.
Biden has increasingly escalated his attacks on Republicans over abortion rights since the high court’s ruling this summer overturning Roe. He’s repeatedly predicted that there will be a massive surge of voter activity in the midterms pushing back against the decision — particularly from women voters. Biden also has argued that abortion will be just the start of GOP attempts to dial back rights, warning that protections for contraception and same-sex marriage could be next.
“Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women,” he told a gathering of Democrats recently. “Let me tell you something: They’re about to find out.”
Golden Autumn, 1888, by Ivan Shishkin, Russian painter
Meanwhile, women in red states are still dealing with the GOP’s efforts to take control of their bodies. Caroline Kitchener at The Washington Post: Desperate pleas and smuggled pills: A covert abortion network rises after Roe.
Monica had never used Reddit before. But sitting at her desk one afternoon in July — at least 10 weeks into an unwanted pregnancy in a state that had banned abortion — she didn’t know where else to turn.
“I need advice I am not prepared to have a child,” the 25-year-old wrote from her office, once everyone else had left for the day. She titled her post, “PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!”
Within hours, she got a private message from an anonymous Reddit user. If Monica sent her address, the person promised, they would mail abortion pills “asap for free.
Monica didn’t know it at the time, but her Reddit post connected her to a new facet of the battle for abortion access: the rise of a covert, international network delivering tens of thousands of abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down Roe v. Wade.
The emerging network — fueled by the widespread availability of medication abortion — has made the illegal abortions of today simpler and safer than those of the pre-Roe era, remembered for its back alleys and coat hangers. Distinct from services that sell pills to patients on the internet, a growing army of community-based distributors is reaching pregnant women through word of mouth or social media to supply pills for free — though typically without the safeguards of medical oversight.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind? What stories are you following?
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Posted: October 9, 2021 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Chuck Schumer, debt limit, Donald Trump, executive privilege, January 6 Committee, Michael Flynn, Mitch McConnell, QAnon, Senate Judiciary Committee report |
Lightning Cloud, by Chiakiro
Politico “Playbook” has a good brief summary of where things stand right now with the January 6 Committee investigation: The Jan. 6 committee drama gets serious. (I’ve added a few links to longer articles.)
JAN. 6 INVESTIGATION STEAMROLLS FORWARD — Over the last 24 hours, we’ve seen major developments in the ongoing investigation into the pro-Trump Jan. 6 riots that sought to overthrow democracy in America.
1) Executive privilege waived: “President JOE BIDEN will not invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of records from DONALD TRUMP’s White House that’s being sought by congressional investigators probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack,” report Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Meridith McGraw.
— What comes next: Trump has 30 days to challenge the decision in court, after which time, the National Archives will release the documents to the Jan. 6 panel. The former president is already asserting privilege over 45 specific documents requested from the committee, and indicated in a letter that he wants to bar the release of additional documents “potentially numbering in the millions.”
2) Committee subpoenas hit deadlines: The first wave of high-profile subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee have been served, and not all of the subjects are cooperating, as Nicholas, Kyle, Betsy and Meridith detail:
- STEVE BANNON claims that Trump’s invocation of executive privilege means that he doesn’t have to participate. (That strikes legal experts as dubious, seeing as at the time of the 2020 election, Bannon hadn’t worked in the White House for several years.)
- MARK MEADOWS is “engaging with the Select Committee,” per a statement from the panel.
- KASH PATEL issued a statement Friday confirming that he “responded to the subpoena in a timely manner” and is engaging with the committee.
- DAN SCAVINO was officially served with his subpoena on Friday.
— What comes next: In a statement from Jan. 6 Committee Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), the panel said it “will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.” If they’re serious, a criminal referral would require a full floor vote in the House.More from NYT’s Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater
— Something to watch:“Congress’ Jan. 6 investigators face an inevitable reckoning with their GOP colleagues,”by Kyle Cheney and Olivia Beavers
By Ophelia Redpath, 1965
Also from Politico: Capitol Police whistleblower delivers scathing rebuke to two of its senior leaders on Jan. 6, by Daniel Lippman and Betsy Woodruff Swan.
A former high-ranking Capitol Police official with knowledge of the department’s response to the Jan. 6 attack has sent congressional leaders a scathing letter accusing two of its senior leaders of mishandling intelligence and failing to respond properly during the riot.
The whistleblower, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons and left the force months after the attack, sent the 16-page letter late last month to the top members of both parties in the House and Senate. His missive makes scorching allegations against Sean Gallagher, the Capitol Police’s acting chief of uniformed operations, and Yogananda Pittman, its assistant chief of police for protective and intelligence operations — who also served as its former acting chief.
The whistleblower accuses Gallagher and Pittman of deliberately choosing not to help officers under attack on Jan. 6 and alleges that Pittman lied to Congress about an intelligence report Capitol Police received before that day’s riot. After a lengthy career in the department, the whistleblower was a senior official on duty on Jan. 6.
The whistleblower’s criticism went beyond Capitol Police leaders to Congress. Without naming specific lawmakers, his letter accuses congressional leaders of having “purposefully failed” to tell the truth about the department’s failures.
POLITICO obtained the letter detailing the allegations, which is circulating among Capitol Police officers, and is publishing portions of it here. To protect the whistleblower’s identity, POLITICO is not publishing the letter in full.
Click the Politico link to read the rest.
By Evelina Oliveira
This morning the Washington Post Editorial Board posted this in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s report on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election at a meeting three days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol: Opinion: Without these changes, U.S. democracy will remain vulnerable to Trump and other bad actors.
The Senate report details how Mr. Trump tried persistently to enlist the Justice Department in his scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. His pressure campaign, after Attorney General William P. Barr resigned in December, featured calls and meetings with Mr. Rosen and other top Justice Department staff. It continued as Mr. Trump sent them a preposterous petition he wanted them to file with the Supreme Court asking the justices to void Joe Biden’s victory. It reached its zenith in a cockamamie plot to force Mr. Rosen to pressure state governments to cook the results or be replaced by Jeffrey Clark, a lower-ranking Justice official who would go along with the scheme.
Mr. Trump failed because Mr. Rosen and other officials in key positions refused to cooperate and threatened to resign. But they could not stop Mr. Trump from forcing the resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and replacing him with a lawyer the then-president thought would pursue the fraud investigations he wanted to see.
The editors argue:
The seriousness of Mr. Trump’s effort to nullify an election, his continuing lies about the results and the willingness of so many Republicans to indulge those lies call for several responses.
The investigations must continue. The House’s Jan. 6 committee should compel Mr. Clark, who did not cooperate with the Senate Judiciary panel, to testify. The House and the Justice Department must enforce the committee’s subpoenas, which several Trump confidantes appear prepared to flout on the former president’s say-so. The National Archives should turn over documents immediately. If courts are involved, judges must act with urgency….
Most urgently, Congress must reinforce elements of the nation’s democratic infrastructure vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors such as Mr. Trump. It should revamp the ancient Electoral Count Act to limit partisan interference in presidential vote tallying, and it should impose federal election standards that insulate state election officials from political pressure.
The Committee needs to get right to work on enforcing the subpoenas and Steve Bannon should immediately be arrested and jailed. I hope they do something quickly, but I’m not holding my breath.
After he backed down and allowed a vote to avert a U.S. default and a global financial crisis, Mitch McConnell is now threatening to let it happen in December. His excuse is that Chuck Schumer made an
“inappropriate” speech after the vote. Here’s the speech:
Behind Schumer, you can also see Joe Manchin having a hissy fit over the speech. He agrees with his pal McConnell, apparently.
The Guardian: Schumer ‘poisoned well’ over debt limit, McConnell says in insult-laden letter.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, sought to fight his way out of a corner on Friday by releasing an angry letter in which he blamed Democrats for the impasse over the debt ceiling he broke by ending a refusal to co-operate he had said was absolute.
In the letter to Joe Biden, McConnell complained about a speech in which the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, attacked Republicans for their behaviour.
Lamenting Schumer’s lack of civility – which prompted angry scenes in the Senate – McConnell levelled a string of insults at his opposite number.
Paradise Cat, by Hans Ruettimann
“Last night,” the minority leader wrote, late on Friday, “in a bizarre spectacle, Senator Schumer exploded in a rant that was so partisan, angry and corrosive that even Democratic senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him.
“This tantrum encapsulated and escalated a pattern of angry incompetence from Senator Schumer … this childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch. It has poisoned the well even further.”
Democrats argue it was McConnell who poisoned the well by refusing to co-operate with raising the debt limit, a step they took repeatedly with Donald Trump in power. Experts say a US default would be catastrophic for the global economy.
McConnell insisted: “In light of Senator Schumer’s hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement.”
Suddenly being partisan is a bad thing because a Democrat did it? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
Finally, a little comic relief: it appears that the Q-Anon nuts have turned on Michael Flynn. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Michael Flynn to QAnon Believers: I’m Not a Satanist!
Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been on a relentless media tour since his pardon last year, sitting for interviews with even the most obscure right-wing media outlets to promote the MAGA agenda.
But on Tuesday, Flynn appeared on a little-known YouTube channel called Truth Unveiled TV for a very different reason: rebutting the idea that he led a church congregation in a Satanic ritual borrowed from a nuclear doomsday cult.
In a video entitled “Some Have Said That General Flynn Prayed to Satan in a Recent Prayer,” host Paul Oebel gave Flynn a chance to rebut the growing right-wing controversy alleging he’s signed on with Lucifer.
Steampunk cat lady, by Jeff Haynie
“I even saw a show the other day saying ‘Michael’s flipped on the side of the devil,’” Oebel said. “Can you please explain what happened there?”
“All of these people that talk about turning to whatever…” Flynn said. “People need to stop overthinking what everybody is saying.”
The bizarre YouTube interview marked Flynn’s latest attempt in a weeks-long campaign to convince his one-time fans in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement that he isn’t a Satanist.
Prior to the unusual controversy, Flynn had embraced his position as a hero to supporters of QAnon, taking a QAnon oath, raising money from QAnon believers, and selling QAnon T-shirts. In May, Flynn even appeared at a QAnon conference and endorsed the idea of a military coup.
But QAnon fame is a fickle thing. After promoting QAnon for more than a year, Flynn now finds himself on the business end of the conspiracy theory. Like QAnon targets before him, Flynn is now struggling to persuade angry QAnon believers that he isn’t a secret Satan-worshipper.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a great weekend!
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Posted: December 15, 2012 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: children, Crime, Gun Control, Hillary Clinton, hunger, misogyny, morning reads, Rush Limbaugh, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Dylan, debt limit, Diane Brame, gun violence, Jacintha Saldanha, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mick Jagger, school shootings |
Bob Dylan reading Disc Magazine with Mick Jagger on the cover, 1966
Good Morning. It’s such a very sad day that I hardly know what to post. I’m still in shock about yesterday’s terrible shooting in Connecticut. How many more of these nightmarish events have to happen before our “leaders” in Washington finally decide to do something about controlling guns? How about completely banning all ammunition?
I’m just going to post a few reactions to the horror. I’m sure we’ll be learning much more about Adam Lanza and his possible motivations in the coming days. We’ll also learn if there are any courageous politicians left in the White House and Congress who will stand up the the National Rampage Association (NRA).
Raw Story: Gun control advocates gather near White House.
Gun control advocates gathered near the White House, many holding white candles, in a demonstration calling for a renewed discussion of gun control policy after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left almost three dozen children and adults dead, reported the Associated Press. Multiple signs read “#TodayISTheDay,” a response to Press Secretary Jay Carney’s assertion that “today is not the day” to discuss gun control in the United States. However, the demonstrators made no specific appeals, reported Talking Points Memo.
“We can change the worst conditions of our country. Together we can change the pain into joy. Together we can change the sorrow into gladness,” said one demonstrator.
The speaker then called on everyone to hold their candles high so that everyone can see that “today is the day.”
Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker: Newtown and the madness of guns.
After the mass gun murders at Virginia Tech, I wrote about the unfathomable image of cell phones ringing in the pockets of the dead kids, and of the parents trying desperately to reach them. And I said (as did many others), This will go on, if no one stops it, in this manner and to this degree in this country alone—alone among all the industrialized, wealthy, and so-called civilized countries in the world. There would be another, for certain.
Then there were—many more, in fact—and when the latest and worst one happened, in Aurora, I (and many others) said, this time in a tone of despair, that nothing had changed. And I (and many others) predicted that it would happen again, soon. And that once again, the same twisted voices would say, Oh, this had nothing to do with gun laws or the misuse of the Second Amendment or anything except some singular madman, of whom America for some reason seems to have a particularly dense sample.
And now it has happened again, bang, like clockwork, one might say: Twenty dead children—babies, really—in a kindergarten in a prosperous town in Connecticut. And a mother screaming. And twenty families told that their grade-schooler had died. After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend. (That they are often the same people who pretend outrage at the loss of a single embryo only makes the craziness still crazier.)
So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.
Politicker: Message to President Obama from Mayors Against Gun Violence, “Offering condolences is not enough.” Statements of Co-Chairs Michael Bloomberg of NYC, and Thomas Menino of Boston:
Statement of Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:
“With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.”
Statement of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino:
“As a parent and grandparent, I am overcome with both grief and outrage by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This unspeakable act of violence will forever imprint this day in our hearts and minds. My heart goes out to the families impacted by this senseless tragedy and the many others we have recently witnessed across the United States. As a Mayor who has witnessed too many lives forever altered by gun violence, it is my responsibility to fight for action. Today’s tragedy reminds us that now is the time for action. Innocent children will now never attend a prom, never play in a big game, never step foot on a college campus. Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighborhoods and the tragedies like today out of our future.”
I’m glad I live in a state that at least tries to control guns. In Massachusetts you have to apply for a license from your local police before you can apply to purchase a firearm. All firearms must have trigger locks and must be stored unloaded in locked containers. If you are caught with an unlicensed gun, you go directly to jail for a mandatory two-year sentence. See the links above for more.
Now a few more reads on other subjects.
School cafeteria worker fired for feeding needy student.
For two years, Dianne Brame worked as a cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves, keeping kids’ bellies full for their all-important task of learning.
The lunch lady loved her job: “I knew kids by their names, I knew their likes and dislikes, so it was just fun.”
But recently, she came across a fourth grader who consistently came without money. She says he used to be on the free lunch program, but language barriers got in the way of reapplying: “I sent them paperwork so that they could get back in contact with me, but it didn’t happen,” she says.
For days, Brame snuck the boy lunches. She explains, “I let his account get over $45 which I’m only supposed to let it get over $10, and I started letting him come through my lunch line without putting his number in, and they look at that as stealing. I thought it was just taking care of a kid.”
There’s an update to the story: “Dianne Brame has been rehired by Hudson Elementary following the huge response from this story.”
Center for American Progress: The ‘Debt Limit’: Time to End 95 Years of False Labeling
Congress and the White House have struggled over what has wrongly been called the “debt limit” since 1917, when a cap on the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority was inserted into legislation permitting “Liberty Bonds” to be sold to support U.S. military operations in Europe during World War I. A country that wants to maintain a reputation of paying its bills must recognize that debts are incurred when goods and services are purchased, not on the basis of whether or not the country wants to borrow the money needed to pay for those purchases.
The vote on what we have wrongly referred to for these many years as the “debt limit” is not a vote on how much we will spend or how much revenue we will raise to cover that spending: Those decisions are generally made by Congress months, and in many instances, even years before the extra borrowing authority is needed.
Each spring Congress deals with a budget resolution—setting targets for spending, revenues, and indebtedness. That legislation caps the amount of money that can be appropriated and prescribes what changes are needed in permanent spending legislation such as entitlements and whether we should raise or lower taxes to pay for those spending decisions. That resolution contains specific language stating what those decisions will mean in terms of the annual budget deficit and the change that will take place in the public debt.
Congress then considers the specific appropriation bills, entitlement changes, and tax legislation to implement the plan and determine the size of the debt. The vote on the so-called debt ceiling occurs long after those decisions are made. It is not a vote on how much we will spend or whether we will raise the money to pay for it but rather a vote on whether we will pay our bills. Voting against raising the debt limit is sort of like being the guy who turns down opportunities to work overtime so that he can spend more time at the movies, only to decide when his credit card bill arrives that he needs to correct his profligate ways by refusing to pay it.
Much more at the link.
Here’s a must read from Andrew Sullivan: The Unreason of Antonin Scalia. I’m not going to excerpt from it–you need to read the whole thing.
A few more reads, link dump-style.
The Independent: Jacintha Saldanha: Suicide note criticising senior hospital staff found among possessions of nurse at centre of Duchess of Cambridge phone call hoax
The Guardian: Hospital defends treatment of Jacintha Saldanha
Media Matters: Limbaugh Delivers Sexist Remark About Making A “Real Woman” Out Of Hillary Clinton
Last but not least, from Rolling Stone: How Mick Jagger Learned to Dance – By His Brother, Chris Jagger
I’m heading back to the Boston area today, so I’ll be on the road the next couple of days. I’ll check in when I can. I hope everyone has a peaceful, restful weekend.
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Posted: July 4, 2011 | Author: dakinikat | Filed under: Bailout Blues, Domestic Policy, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Global Financial Crisis, Greece, investment banking, morning reads | Tags: Bill Clinton, Budget Deficit, debt limit, Fukushima, Greek Debt Crisis, John McCain, nuclear crisis, shadow banking industry, SIVs, taxes |
Happy Independence Day!
We have a republic and a lot of people have sacrificed a lot over the last several centuries to keep it. Too bad most of our politicians aren’t in that number. They can’t see past their next elections.
It seems that two senators– McCain and Corynyn–say they’re open to tax increases as a way to solve the budget stand off. Guess there are a few of them left that would prefer not to tank our economy. Let’s hope this starts some real negotiations instead of the usual Republican hostage taking and Democratic cave-in that’s been politics as usual the last dozen years or so.
One of the senators, John Cornyn of Texas, said he would consider eliminating some tax breaks and corporate subsidies in the context of changes in the tax code, provided there was not an overall increase in taxes.
“I think it’s clear that the Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes, particularly during a fragile economic recovery,” Mr. Cornyn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Now, do we believe tax reform is necessary? I would say absolutely.”
But he insisted that any changes in taxes be “revenue neutral,” meaning that the government would not take in any more money from individuals or businesses than it does now.
The other senator, John McCain of Arizona, said he would be willing to consider some “revenue raisers” as part of a broad deal, but he refused to name specific measures.
Mr. Cornyn, a member of the Senate leadership, also said that Republicans would be open to a short-term deal on the debt ceiling to provide more time for a comprehensive agreement.
Let’s also hope that more reasonable and less ideological heads prevail on the right and that the left stands up for what’s right for a change. Former President Clinton had a words of policy advice over the weekend. His advice to President Obama is “not to blink”.
Former President Bill Clinton Saturday night urged President Obama not to “blink” at Republican demands to exclude revenue increases from any agreement to extend the government’s debt ceiling.
If Republicans maintain their opposition to revenue increases, Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term deal to extend the debt ceiling based on spending cuts both sides have already accepted in the negotiations between the administration and Congressional leaders from both parties.
“I hope they will make a mini-deal,” Clinton said in an interview conducted with him at the Aspen Ideas Festival here.
The White House and Congressional negotiators from both parties are attempting to assemble a deficit reduction package that could win support in Congress for legislation to extend the nation’s debt ceiling, which the Treasury says the government will reach on August 2. The talks have foundered amid demands from Congressional Republicans to exclude any revenue increases from that prospective deficit reduction package.
Asked what the administration could do if GOP leaders hold to that posture, Clinton replied: “First the White House could blink. I hope that won’t happen. I don’t think they should blink.”
If Republicans will not accept revenues in a package to lift the debt ceiling by August 2, Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term agreement based on the spending reductions both sides have already accepted.
“There are some spending cuts they agree on …and he can take those and [get] an extension of the debt ceiling for six or eight months,” Clinton said.
Clinton also called on a package of reforms to US tax policy that includes a corporate tax cut if special interest tax loops are closed. This is something Obama has also supported.
“It made sense when I did it. It doesn’t make sense anymore – we’ve got an uncompetitive rate. We tax at 35 percent of income, although we only take about 23 percent. So, we SHOULD cut the rate to 25 percent, or whatever’s competitive, and eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a FAIR amount, and there’s not so much variance in what the corporations pay. But how can they do that by Aug. 2?”
Clinton also said Grover Norquist, who as president of Americans for Tax Reform is the GOP’s unofficial enforcer of no-new-taxes pledges, has a “chilling” hold on the nation’s lawmaking.
The former president said it has seemed like Republicans need any revenue concessions need to be “approved in advance by Grover Norquist.”
“You’re laughing,” he told the crowd of 800. “But he was quoted in the paper the other day saying he gave Republican senators PERMISSION … on getting rid of the ethanol subsidies. I thought, ‘My GOD, what has this country come to when one person has to give you permission to do what’s best for the country.’ It was chilling.
There’s an extremely interesting piece at The Atlantic Wire on “What Really Happened at Fukushima”. It includes interviews with workers that have been inside the crippled nuclear plant.
Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: “The earthquake knocked out the plant’s electric power, halting cooling to its reactors,” as the government spokesman Yukio Edano said at a March 15 press conference in Tokyo. The story, which has been repeated again and again, boils down to this: “after the earthquake, the tsunami – a unique, unforeseeable [the Japanese word is soteigai] event – then washed out the plant’s back-up generators, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world’s first triple meltdown to occur.”
But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes, burst, snapped, leaked, and broke completely after the earthquake — long before the tidal wave reached the facilities, long before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old Unit 1, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan.
The authors have spoken to several workers at the plant who recite the same story: Serious damage to piping and at least one of the reactors before the tsunami hit. All have requested anonymity because they are still working at the plant or are connected with TEPCO. One worker, a 27-year-old maintenance engineer who was at the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking pipes. “I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant,” he said. “There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t know which pipes – that has to be investigated. I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor.”
The reactor walls of the reactor are quite fragile, he notes. “If the walls are too rigid, they can crack under the slightest pressure from inside so they have to be breakable because if the pressure is kept inside and there is a buildup of pressure, it can damage the equipment inside the walls so it needs to be allowed to escape. It’s designed to give during a crisis, if not it could be worse – that might be shocking to others, but to us it’s common sense.”
Here’s some frightening news on the disaster in Japan. Radioactive Cesium has been found in Tokyo’s water supply.
Radioactive cesium-137 was found in Tokyo’s tap water for the first time since April as Japan grapples with the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.
Cesium-137 concentration registered at 0.14 becquerels per kilogram in the city’s Shinjuku ward on July 2, compared with 0.21 becquerels on April 22, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health. No cesium-134 or iodine-131 was detected, the agency said on its website.
The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan sets a safety limit of 200 becquerels per kilogram for cesium-134 and cesium-137. The limit for iodine-131 consumption is 300 becquerels per kilogram.
Japan is battling radiation leaks into the air, soil and water after an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai- Ichi nuclear station, resulting in the meltdown of three of the six reactors at the plant.
The UK Guardian lists an interesting set of Greek public assets for sale. Many have no buyers. Bobby Jindal is putting up a lot of Louisiana assets for sale too. I wonder if this is going to be the new way to raise money. The Kochs already rent a big chunk of Yellowstone. Let’s hope we don’t have to put our national treasures on the chopping block.
Up for sale are 39 airports, 850 ports, railways, motorways, sewage works, a couple of energy companies, banks, defence groups, thousands of acres of land for development, casinos and Greece’s national lottery. George Christodoulakis, Greece’s special secretary for asset restructuring and privatisations, said the sell-off would raise €50bn (£44bn) to help pay back the country’s €110bn bailout debt.
The private equity bosses gathered in the hotel’s ballroom for the parade of Greece’s national treasures showed little interest in buying anything.
Nikos Stathopoulous, managing partner of BC Partners, which has invested more than €3.5bn in Greece, said investors are put off by bureaucracy, strong unions, corruption and a lack of transparency. “Even in the good times Greece is not a country that attracts investment. Foreign investors don’t want to invest in a country where there is no flexibility in hiring and firing people,” he said. “You don’t want to invest in a country in which you wake up and a new law has been passed which totally undermines and destroys the value of the investment you’ve just made.”
Stathopoulous said investors were finding it very hard to assess the risk of investing into Greece, which means assets “will be priced at lower than they are worth, lower than the Greek government, and even the European Union, expects”.
Here’s a compelling argument for getting the shadow banking sector into a more regulated, transparent, and standardized order. It’s written by Henry Tabe who is a Founding Partner of Sequoia Investment Management Company Ltd. It particularly addresses the use of the Structured Investment Vehicle (SIV). Complex, nonstandard, and unregulated markets make pricing assets difficult and introduce unnecessary risk and volatility.
Risk management requires identification, measurement, aggregation, and effective management of risks. It should help businesses allocate sufficient capital for survival and growth. The SIV’s extinction highlights risk management failures by the vehicles, their sponsors, rating agencies, policymakers, and regulators.
Financial regulators permitted bank, insurance company, pension, and hedge-fund sponsors to establish SIV “mini-banks” without ensuring that they maintain sufficient capital or back-stop liquidity in the event of a run. Policymakers also seemed unaware of the knock-on effects of the SIV’s demise on the securitisation and global credit markets. The Financial Security Authority’s call for regulators to incorporate sectoral analytical capabilities in their micro-prudential policies should help close the knowledge gap and ensure that timely solutions can be implemented to avert collapses that engender significantly more stress on the financial system (FSA 2009).
Lessons learned include the tightening of regulation governing the sponsorship of off-balance-sheet structures and the sizing of their capital and liquidity needs. These require that regulators adopt a more proactive, dampening role in the wild swings from exuberance to despair that are so characteristic of the financial markets. Discussions around contingent capital and similar products suggest regulators have embraced that dampening role and moved away from the prevailing pre-crisis philosophy of minimal regulation.
Lessons learned also include closer supervision of shadow banks, more skin-in-the-game for their sponsors, in-house retention of risk-analytics capabilities by investors, and less reliance on credit-rating agencies. The agencies themselves are more tightly supervised in order to reduce ratings shopping by issuers and inherent conflicts of interest in the business model (CESR 2009). Tighter regulation will also help to ensure that the agencies improve the monitoring of analyst performance, qualifications, and experience (Dodd-Frank 2010).
These measures should help restore confidence in rating agencies and the global financial system, an outcome more urgently required given on-going turmoil in the sovereign debt market.
So, there’s some wonky goodness to keep you entertained if you’re inside today. Be sure to let us know what you’re reading and blogging! Hope your Fourth of July is a happy one!
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