Thursday ReadsPosted: November 4, 2021 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: academic freedom, Charlottesville rally, Deborah Lipstadt, Donald Trump, Federal Reserve, Igor Danchenko, inflation, January 6 Committee, John Durham, Neo-Nazis, Steele Dossier, voter suppression, Voting Rights Act, witch hunt 18 Comments
The mainstream media, led by The New York Times, is writing the Democrat’s obituary after Terry McAuliffe’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race, but I don’t feel like writing about that. I have no idea whether the loss will affect the 2022 midterms. I don’t really want to think about it, except that I hope the Democrats will finally do something about the filibuster. There has been some talk of changing Senate rules for voting rights legislation, after Republicans once again blocked debate on the Voting Rights Act.
The New York Times: Republicans Block a Second Voting Rights Bill in the Senate.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation to restore parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by Supreme Court rulings, making it the second major voting bill to be derailed by a G.O.P. filibuster in the past two weeks.
Despite receiving majority support, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the civil rights activist and congressman who died last year, fell nine votes short of the 60 required to advance over Republican opposition.
In the aftermath of the defeat, Senate Democrats said they would intensify internal discussions about altering filibuster rules or making other changes to allow them to move forward on voting rights legislation despite deep resistance by Republicans, who have now thwarted four efforts to take up such measures.
“Just because Republicans will not join us doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, after the vote. “We will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward.”
Yesterday the Federal Reserve announced plans to deal with inflation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been affected by the rising food prices. Even though we’re getting the biggest Social Security increase in a very long time, it isn’t going to be enough. The New York Times: Fed Takes First Step Toward End of Pandemic Measures.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took its first step toward withdrawing support for the American economy, saying that it would begin to wind down a stimulus program that’s been in place since early in the pandemic as the economy heals and prices climb at an uncomfortably rapid pace.
Central bank policymakers struck a slightly more wary tone about inflation, which has jumped this year amid booming consumer demand for goods and supply snarls. While officials still expect quick cost increases to fade, how quickly that will happen is unclear.
Fed officials want to be prepared for any outcome at a time when the economy’s trajectory is marked by grave uncertainty. They are not sure when prices will begin to calm down, to what extent the labor market will recover the millions of jobs still missing after last year’s economic slump, or when they will begin to raise interest rates — which remain at rock-bottom to keep borrowing and spending cheap and easy.
So the central bank’s decision to dial back its other policy tool, large-scale bond purchases that keep money flowing through financial markets, was meant to give the Fed flexibility it might need to react to a shifting situation. Officials on Wednesday laid out a plan to slow their $120 billion in monthly Treasury bond and mortgage-backed security purchases by $15 billion a month starting in November. The purchases can lower long term interest rates and prod investors into investments that would spur growth.
Assuming that pace holds, the bond buying would stop altogether around the time of the central bank’s meeting next June — potentially putting the Fed in a position to lift interest rates by the middle of next year.
John Durham’s “investigation” into the origins of the FBI/DOJ investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia is beginning to look like a real witch hunt. The New York Times: Authorities Arrest Analyst Who Contributed to Steele Dossier.
Federal authorities on Thursday arrested an analyst who in 2016 gathered leads about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia for what turned out to be Democratic-funded opposition research, according to people familiar with the matter.
The arrest of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, is part of the special counsel inquiry led by John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, the people said.
Mr. Danchenko, was the primary researcher of the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium of rumors and unproven assertions suggesting that Mr. Trump and his 2016 campaign were compromised by and conspiring with Russian intelligence officials in Moscow’s covert operation to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.
The people familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment of Mr. Danchenko had yet to be unsealed. A spokesman for Mr. Durham did not respond to a request for comment.
So this information was leaked without any indication of what the basis of the arrest was. What laws did Danchenko break? The last Durham arrest was hinky too.
The charges against Mr. Danchenko follow Mr. Durham’s indictment in September of a cybersecurity lawyer, Michael Sussmann, which accused him of lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for when he brought concerns about possible Trump-Russia links to the bureau in September 2016.
Mr. Sussmann, who then also worked for Perkins Coie, was relaying concerns developed by data scientists about odd internet logs they said suggested the possibility of a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked financial institution. He has denied lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for.
Today is the hearing about whether Trump has any right to claim executive privilege over documents related to the January 6 insurrection. CNN: High-stakes hearing Thursday in Trump effort to block release of presidential documents.
The power Donald Trump holds as a former president will be put to the test on Thursday, as a federal judge is set to hear arguments on whether Trump can keep secret records from his White House about his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump has asked the DC District Court to block the National Archives from giving more than 700 pages of documents to the House Select Committee investigating January 6. He’s claimed the House’s investigation is illegitimate, and that his role as a former President should give him control over reviewing and deciding upon access to the records.
The hearing may be the pivotal moment in a potentially historic legal fight about the authority of a former president, the House’s investigative power and the reach of executive privilege….
In the short term, the case also may have huge implications for the bipartisan House investigation, which is pushing for records and witnesses before the midterm elections take place next year. Without access to the documents, the House could be hampered significantly in its fact-finding.
In court, the House has cast its investigation as one of its most critical tasks in history. “In 2021, for the first time since the Civil War, the Nation did not experience a peaceful transfer of power,” lawyers for the House wrote over the weekend. “A peaceful transfer of power from one President to another is crucial to the continuation of our democratic government. It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome that pressing legislative need.
This happened yesterday in the trial of the Charlottesville rally organizers. Buzzfeed News: A Renowned Holocaust Historian Testified That Charlottesville Rally Organizers’ Messages Were A “Call To Arms”
Neo-Nazis Christopher Cantwell and Matthew Heimbach on Wednesday seemed almost to forget for a moment that they were in a court of law and defendants in a civil case that could potentially bankrupt them and take down the white nationalist groups with which they’re associated.
“What’s your favorite Holocaust joke?” Cantwell, who is representing himself in court, asked Heimbach, who was called to the stand by the plaintiffs as a witness, during cross-examination….
The strategy behind Cantwell’s line of questioning wasn’t immediately clear, and attorneys for the plaintiffs interjected before any jokes were uttered. But Cantwell, who had previously gone on bizarre courtroom tangents, and Heimbach spent nearly an hour talking about their adoration for Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, the dictator’s book Mein Kampf, and their belief that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Hitler, Heimbach testified, “did nothing wrong” in murdering some 6 million Jews.
The exchange between the two neo-Nazis contrasted sharply with the testimony by Deborah Lipstadt, an acclaimed Holocaust scholar and professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University.
Friday ReadsPosted: October 17, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Amber Vinson, Angela Merkel, austerity, Belize, Bill Clinton, Carnival Cruise Lines, ebola, Ebola hearing, El Nino, Euopean Union, Federal Reserve, Hillary Clinton, Janet Yellen, Martha Coakley, Mary Landrieu, NOAA, Polar Vortex, Rand Paul, U.S. House of Representatives, winter weather 24 Comments
I’m going to begin with some good news today.
It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.
Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).
Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.
While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.
I hope they’re right!
Now for the latest Ebola news . . .
Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.
A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.
The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”
The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.
“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”
Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.
In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”
Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.
Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.
The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.
Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.
The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.
According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.
After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”
Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).
Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.
“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.
“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”
In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.
Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….
“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.
He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.
A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.
His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.
Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….
“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”
World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.
In other news . . .
Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.
Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.
Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.
The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.
I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.
WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.
Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.
“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”
Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.
“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.
Now we just need Hillary to show up.
How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:
Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.
But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.
In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.
“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.
“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.
He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.
According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.
The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.
In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.
“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.
The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”
Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.
With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.
“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.
“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.
“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”
Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!
Thursday Reads: Guns and American Culture (and other news)Posted: February 27, 2014 Filed under: Congress, Crime, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: "stand your ground" laws, Affordable Care Act, Crimea, FDA, Federal Reserve, gun control, Hillary Clinton, nutrition labels, Russia, self defense, shooting deaths, Ukraine 44 Comments
I live in a state that has very strict gun control laws. A recent study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that states with the toughest gun laws have the lowest rates of gun deaths. And Boston tends to average between one shooting victim every other day to one victim per day. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days since I read this article at WBUR: When Mass. Criminals Want A Gun, They Often Head North
Massachusetts gun laws are widely considered some of the toughest in the country. But with a rash of shooting deaths in Boston this year, some law enforcement officials say it’s obvious that there are ways around the rules. And when Massachusetts criminals want to get their hands on a gun, they frequently head north.
In 2012, more than half of the guns that law enforcement seized in Massachusetts and managed to trace to their origins came from other states, according to federal statistics. The biggest suppliers by far were New Hampshire and Maine, as is the case most years.
According to the article, ATF agents discovered that gun traffickers in Massachusetts were legally buying large numbers of guns from New Hampshire and Maine, where they are much easier and cheaper to buy, and reselling them to people in Massachusetts.
The flow of guns from northern New England to Massachusetts is propelled by key differences among state gun laws. It’s all about private handgun sales, in particular. In Massachusetts every private handgun sale must be recorded and reported to the state within seven days. And the buyer must have a license to carry from local police, which in turn requires a background check. The Massachusetts rules are tight.
Up north, not so much. Buyers at federally licensed gun shops in Maine and New Hampshire are subjected to a federal background check for prior felonies, or a history of severe mental illness. But when it comes to private gun sales — at a gun show, or even a commuter parking lot — no documentation is required — no background check, no record of the transaction.
Darcie McElwee, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maine, says that in her state a private seller doesn’t even have to ask the buyer for a driver’s license.
Now it’s still illegal to sell guns to a convicted felon or for a felon to buy a gun, so if someone is caught doing this, they’ll go to jail for two years minimum. And the rates of gun deaths and injuries are still lower in Massachusetts than in states with less strict gun laws.
Clearly strict state laws are not enough to prevent gun violence. We need federal laws to control gun sales and to encourage gun safety–like the Massachusetts law that requires guns to be unloaded and locked up when not in use. But how can we make that happen? According to the WBUR article, Congress has even made it difficult to keep track of guns that are used in crimes and for academic researchers to access federal government data on gun trafficking.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has introduced a bill to require all guns to be personalized so they can only be fired by the owner or another authorized person. These so-called “smart guns” already exist.
One of California’s largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.
The watch’s primary purpose is not to provide accurate time, though it does. The watch makes the gun think. Electronic chips inside the gun and watch communicate with each other. If the watch is within close reach of the gun, a light on the grip turns green. Fire away. No watch means no green light. The gun becomes a paperweight.
A dream of gun control advocates for decades, the Armatix iP1 is the country’s first smart gun. Its introduction is seen as a landmark event in efforts to reduce gun violence, suicides, and accidental shootings….
Of course the NRA will fight this tooth and nail, and it’s not going to get through the Senate, much less the House, in the current environment.
Now check this out. According to a piece at Venture Beat, you can quickly and easily buy guns on Facebook!
That’s all it takes for children, felons, and people without IDs to buy illegal weapons on Facebook pages dedicated to the sale and celebration of guns.
A VentureBeat investigation has uncovered dozens of pages on Facebook where guns are for sale, including semi-automatic weapons, handguns, and silencers. While the transactions don’t actually happen on Facebook, the social network is a remarkably easy way to find shady people willing to sell you a weapon — no questions asked. The illegal transactions then take place in diners, dark parking lots, and isolated country roads — away from the prying eyes of the feds and local police.
In Kentucky, Greenup County Sheriff Keith Cooper remembers when a call came into dispatch last October saying a 15-year-old student had been arrested on the Greenup County High School campus for carrying an unlicensed and loaded 9mm handgun to school. The boy was arrested and brought to Cooper’s office for an interview.
When Cooper, a former Kentucky State Trooper with a heavy Southern drawl, asked the kid where he got the gun, his reply was shocking: Facebook.
Read it and weep. Oh, and Facebook claims they don’t allow people to sell guns or explosives on their pages, but clearly they’re not enforcing these rules very well.
It’s not news to anyone that America has a love affair with guns. Guns and hunting are part of American culture, going hand-in-hand with the cult of rugged individualism. I’ve always thought it came from the frontier tradition. Most of the country was settled by pioneering who set out from the East coast to begin new lives in the Midwest and West before the arrival of the accoutrements of civilization–like law enforcement, banks, and insurance companies. In my generation at least, kids saw endless movies and TV shows about “cowboys and Indians;” and we played with toy guns–even us girls. And of course, since we were born shortly after World War II, many of us watch movies that glorified war.
Still I’ve never wanted a real gun. It seems to me that the gun culture is much stronger in some ways than in those innocent days of the 1950s and ’60s. But why? The obvious answer is the lobbying and propaganda efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). And what about the recent work of ALEC and the Koch Brothers to get state “stand your ground” laws passed around the country? Dahlia Lithwick has posted a fine piece about this at Slate.
“Stand Your Ground” Nation: America used to value the concept of retreat. Now we just shoot.
Last week, Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, an unarmed man, got into a fight with Cyle Wayne Quadlin at a Walmart in suburban Arizona. Quadlin opened fire midargument and killed Chee. Officers decided not to charge Quadlin because, they concluded, the killing was in self-defense. According to the police spokesman, “Mr. Quadlin was losing the fight and indicated he ‘was in fear for his life.’” Just a week earlier, a jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found Michael Dunn guilty on four counts of attempted murder but did not convict him on the most serious charge of first-degree murder, in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn shot and killed Davis, also unarmed, because the music coming from his car was too loud. Dunn claimed he saw something like a gun in the vehicle, and that was apparently enough for some members of the jury to conclude that Dunn hadn’t committed first-degree murder.
Given all this, it’s not unreasonable to argue that, in America, you can be shot and killed, without consequences for the shooter, for playing loud music, wearing a hoodie, or shopping at a Walmart. The question is whether the wave of “stand your ground” legislation is to blame.
Is it true? Lithwick quotes doubters who say that neither George Zimmerman invoked “stand your ground,” However juries were told about the “stand your ground” principle, and could have been confused by the growing consensus in Florida that people [at least white males] have the right to shoot an unarmed person if they “feel threatened.” Lithwick writes:
It’s clear that at least some of the jurors in both cases took the principle of “stand your ground” into account to some degree during deliberations. We now know that at leastone juror, and possibly two, in Dunn’s trial took to heart the specific instruction that Dunn “had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Whether or not jurors in Florida are technically instructed to apply the “stand your ground” component of self-defense law, it’s increasingly clear that they are, at minimum, confused about it (understandably) and may even be starting to apply it reflexively. Yes, Dunn’s attorney argued traditional self-defense. But, as former assistant U.S. attorney David Weinstein told the Associated Press, “I think people will say that because some of the language from the stand your ground statute gets embedded into the jury instructions, that stand your ground has an effect.”
I might go further. I might say that whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.
Please go read the whole thing. It’s frightening but important. Lithwick argues that the new laws are changing the culture itself–and not just in the states with “stand your ground” laws.
Now I’ve gone and written another single-subject post. I just have room for a few headlines before I turn the floor over to you.
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton makes case for ‘full participation’ and equality
Talking Points Memo: Hillary Clinton Defends Obamacare While Backing Changes
BBC News: Ukraine warns Russia against ‘aggression’ in Crimea
NPR: Crimea: 3 Things To Know About Ukraine’s Latest Hot Spot
The Daily Beast: The Spoiled Rotten Kids of the DC Elite
NYT: New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings
Dana Millbank: Republicans flip-flop on ‘judicial activism’
I hope Dak will weigh in on this one. Matthew O’Brien: How the Fed Let the World Blow Up in 2008
USA Today: NASA – 715 new planets found, 4 might support life
What stories have caught your interest today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!
Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of StoriesPosted: November 14, 2013 Filed under: Affordable Care Act (ACA), Barack Obama, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Global Financial Crisis, Health care reform, Media, Medicaid, morning reads, The Media SUCKS, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve, Ignacio Zamora Jr., Janet Yellen, Obamacare, Ryan Ferguson, Secret Service, Stock Market, Tacloban the Philippines, Timothy Barraclough, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford 48 Comments
Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.
I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.
According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.
How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.
But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,
because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.
Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?
At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.
A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.
The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….
The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.
In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.
The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but
According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.
The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.
The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.
Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.
US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”
USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”
If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.
On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.
U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.
European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….
Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.
“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.
Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.
From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.
“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”
Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”
In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”
The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.
TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.
For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….
The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.
There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.
Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:
It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.
City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.
He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.
Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..
“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”
It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman Anthony Perruzza.
I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.
Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.
“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”
A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.
Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.
Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.
So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.
Thursday ReadsPosted: August 2, 2012 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, unemployment | Tags: Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, Brookings Institution, Bush tax cuts, Federal Reserve, foreign policy, George Zimmerman, Haaretz, israel, Jared Diamond, Judge Kenneth Lester, Lori Montgomery, Mitt Romney, Romney's tax plan, Syria, Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute 20 Comments
Last night, Reuters reported that President Obama has authorized “secret support for Syrian rebels.”
President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, sources familiar with the matter said.
Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence “finding,” broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.
This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad’s armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month’s failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.
The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
There’s much more at the link.
Yesterday, the House responded to the Senate’s passage of a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes of $250,000 or less by passing their own bill to extend all of the cuts, including those for the super-rich.
The Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for another year, a pre-election statement of the GOP’s unyielding opposition to raising taxes for any taxpayer.
Th 256 to 171 vote to preserve tax cuts first enacted during the Bush administration and renewed in 2010 since then fell largely along party lines, though 19 Democrats voted with Republicans to extend the tax cuts. One Republican was opposed.
It came after the House rejected a Democratic alternative, also largely on a partisan 170 to 257 vote, that would have preserve tax cuts for income up to $250,000 but allowed them to expire for the wealthy.
You probably heard that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke once again has refused to do anything new to stimulate employment.
According to its statement, the Fed won’t take any additional steps at the moment to boost the economy. No quantitative easing. No bold nwe statements. No trying to reduce mortgage rates further. The central bank’s forecast of “exceptionally low” interest rates through 2014 remains unchanged from its last report in June….
On the other hand, the committee’s statement does note that Fed officials are still poring over recent (and troubling) economic data. Growth has “decelerated” of late, with the U.S. economy expanding at a mere 1.5 percent pace in the second quarter of 2012. And the unemployment rate remains stuck at 8.2 percent. Meanwhile, inflation is expected to remain “at or below” the Fed’s target over the medium term. So is that enough to warrant more stimulus? The FOMC statement says, basically, ask us when we meet again in September:
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.
There’s an interesting article at Bloomberg Businessweek about Bernanke and the Fed: Bernanke, the Reluctant Revolutionary. The article makes a point that Dakinikat has often expressed:
Because of its demonstrated competence in crisis management, Bernanke’s Fed is being pulled into solving problems that the White House and Congress should be dealing with but aren’t. Housing? Under Bernanke the Fed has bought mortgage-backed securities to make loans cheaper and boost home sales. The fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes that threatens the economy at the start of 2013? The Fed’s loose money policies, by stimulating growth, are compensating at least partially for the chilling effect on hiring and investment that fears of the cliff are already causing.
It’s a lot, and Bernanke argues that too much is being put on the Fed’s shoulders. “Monetary policy is not a panacea,” he told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on June 7. “It would be much better to have a broad-based policy effort addressing a whole variety of issues. I leave the details to Congress, which has considered many of these issues. I’d feel much more comfortable if Congress would take some of this burden from us and address those issues.”
It’s a lengthy piece, so if you’re interested do read the whole thing.
Early yesterday, the judge in the George Zimmerman case, Kenneth Lester, denied the defense motion that he “disqualify” himself “because of alleged bias.”
In the motion asking George Zimmerman’s judge to step down, Florida’s rules required Judge Lester to “determine only the legal sufficiency of the motion.” Zimmerman’s motion failed that test, Judge Lester wrote in his ruling.
But the judge did not further explain why he found the motion insufficient. That’s likely because Florida’s rules explicitly state: “No other reason for denial shall be stated, and an order of denial shall not take issue with the motion.”
Zimmerman’s motion had accused Judge Lester of making opinionated remarks about evidence and “advocat[ing] for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes” in his July 5 order setting bail.
There’s quite a bit of news about Mitt Romney, but for some reason I’m resistant to writing about him at the moment. Amazing, huh? So I’m just going to quickly list some articles that you may want to take a look at.
You probably heard about the Brookings report that gives the kiss of death to Romney’s tax plan. The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery (who leans right) covered it yesterday, and even she couldn’t sugarcoat it. Study: Romney tax plan would result in cuts for rich, higher burden for others
The study was conducted by researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, who seem to bend over backward to be fair to the Republican presidential candidate. To cover the cost of his plan — which would reduce tax rates by 20 percent, repeal the estate tax and eliminate taxes on investment income for middle-class taxpayers — the researchers assume that Romney would go after breaks for the richest taxpayers first.
They even look at what would happen if Republicans’ dreams for tax reform came true and the proposal generated significant revenue through economic growth.
None of it helped Romney. His rate-cutting plan for individuals would reduce tax collections by about $360 billion in 2015, the study says. To avoid increasing deficits — as Romney has pledged — the plan would have to generate an equivalent amount of revenue by slashing tax breaks for mortgage interest, employer-provided health care, education, medical expenses, state and local taxes, and child care — all breaks that benefit the middle class.
“It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers,” the study concludes.
That should be the end of it, but of course many Americans don’t care about facts. Naturally, the Romney campaign says the study is “biased.”
There’s a very harsh assessment of Team Romney at Foreign Policy. Too Much Baggage: Mitt Romney needs to fire his foreign-policy team. Yesterday. I’m not going to excerpt from the piece, because it’s important to read the whole thing. I highly recommend it!
Michael Kinsley has a very good piece on Romney’s endless complaints about the supposed lack of respect President Obama (and by extension other liberals) for his supposed “success.”
Jared Diamond, the author of one of the books Romney referenced in his speech in Israel, says he was misquoted: Romney Hasn’t Done His Homework.
MITT ROMNEY’S latest controversial remark, about the role of culture in explaining why some countries are rich and powerful while others are poor and weak, has attracted much comment. I was especially interested in his remark because he misrepresented my views and, in contrasting them with another scholar’s arguments, oversimplified the issue.
It is not true that my book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, “basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.”
That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it. My focus was mostly on biological features, like plant and animal species, and among physical characteristics, the ones I mentioned were continents’ sizes and shapes and relative isolation. I said nothing about iron ore, which is so widespread that its distribution has had little effect on the different successes of different peoples. (As I learned this week, Mr. Romney also mischaracterized my book in his memoir, “No Apology: Believe in America.”)
And here’s the closing paragraph:
Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history.
Please go read it. There’s much much more excoriation of Willard’s lies. Bwaaaaaahahahahahahaha!
Michael Kinsley has a great piece on Romney’s endless complaints about Americans who supposedly don’t respect his supposed “success.”
Romney’s ‘success’ problem: Is getting ahead in the U.S. simply a matter of brainpower and hard work, as the GOP candidate says? And if so, is everyone else stupid and lazy? Here’s just a bit of it:
Romney worries that Americans are losing their appreciation of success, as evidenced by President Obama’s desire to reduce the rewards of success by raising taxes on high incomes. He sees in this not just a bigger tax bill for successful people but an insult as well. An alternative perspective is that any successful person who feels personally insulted by a request from the president to share a bit of it is, in the immortal words of Liberace, crying “all the way to the bank” (or, to quote someone else, “a master of the fancied slight”).
You might also ask yourself: If Obama is insulting successful people by suggesting that their success doesn’t necessarily result entirely from their own hard work and brainpower, doesn’t that mean that Romney is insulting the vast majority of folks who are unsuccessful (by Romney’s exalted standard) by implying that they are lazy and stupid? If your success is entirely your own achievement, then your lack of success is entirely your own fault.
Finally, Haaretz is basically saying that Romney is Netanyahu’s puppet. Most of the article is for subscribers only, but here’s a screenshot of the page.