Thursday Reads: Rainbows, Wildfires, Gangsters, Spies, and SuperheroesPosted: June 13, 2013 Filed under: corruption, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, Boston Bruins, Brian Kelley, Chicago Blackhawks, CIA, double rainbow in Boston, FBI, James "Whitey" Bulger, Jay Carney, John Martorano, Kevin Weeks, Stephen Flemmi, trials 29 Comments
Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? There was a double rainbow over Boston last night, and quite a few people took photos and videos of it. Here’s another shot of it over the harbor and seaport.
You can see more views of it here.
Some people said the rainbow must be a positive sign for the Boston Bruins, who are in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t work out that way though. The Blackhawks ended up winning game one, after what seemed like an endless triple-overtime hockey game.
In other local news, yesterday was the first day of the trial of 83-year-old Irish gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Opening statements were apparently riveting. It’s a shame the federal courts won’t allow TV cameras, because this trial is going to be an incredible show. Yesterday both sides gave their opening statements. From The Washington Post:
BOSTON — The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the Irish mob boss who allegedly helped scratch out 19 lives and ran this city’s underworld aided by corrupt FBI agents, got underway Wednesday morning almost 20 years after he fled the city on the eve of his indictment.
Now 83 and with just a bit of white hair left, Bulger wore a long-sleeve green shirt and jeans and listened without displaying any reaction as prosecutors laid out their 32 charges against him in a packed South Boston federal courtroom near the gangster’s old hangouts.
“It’s a case about organized crime, public corruption and all types of illegal activities,” federal prosecutor Brian Kelly said during opening statements. “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”
Kelly told the story of one of Bulger’s alleged murder victims, Arthur “Bucky” Barrett, who prayed for his life before he was led to a cellar stairwell. “Barrett’s going downstairs to lie down for a while,” Bulger told an accomplice. Barrett walked down the stairs, and Bulger shot him the back, Kelly said.
Bulger’s rise as the city’s brutal organized crime leader was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents, who brushed off Bulger’s racketeering and violence in exchange for his help as an informant to bring down the local mafia, according to a lengthy ruling by a federal judge and other investigations.
On the defense side, (Hartford Courant)
Bulger lawyer Jay Carney made it clear in his remarks to the jury that much of the crime boss’s defense will be spent trying to discredit the government’s three chief witnesses. They are close former Bulger associates who agreed to turn on him for leniency or other considerations.
Carney argued to the jury that the three — John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks — will say whatever they think the government wants in order to protect their cooperation agreements. Among other things, he said, they are accusing Bulger of their crimes.
Martorano was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 20 murders. Weeks, once a Bulger protégé, got a shorter sentence for less serious offenses. Flemmi, Bulger’s long-time partner, got a life sentence, but was not exposed to possible death sentences for crimes in Florida and Oklahoma related to the gang’s attempt to takeover World Jai Alai, once one of the country’s largest pari-mutuel businesses.
Carney compared the federal prosecutors to chefs and the three witnesses to elaborately prepared meals.
‘What [we] are going to try to do is show you what happens in the prosecutors’ kitchen before the witness comes out,” Carney said.
I guess I’ve bored you with enough Boston news for today. Let’s see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday ReadsPosted: September 1, 2011 Filed under: Economy, jobs, morning reads, Team Obama, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, unemployment | Tags: Barack Obama, baseball, Chris Christie, Congress, Eric Cantor, FEMA, Herbert Hoover, Jay Carney, John Boehner, Jon Huntsman, New Jersey, Red Sox, speeches, Tropical Storm Katia, Vermont flooding, Yankees 35 Comments
Good Morning! So President Obama has set off another big battle in Washington by asking to give his highly touted jobs speech before a joint session of Congress next Wednesday–at the same time as the next Republican debate. For a guy who keeps harping on “bipartisanship,” you have to wonder why he did that. Maybe he’s trying to distract everyone from the fact that he has no new ideas about jobs? From Politico:
A presidential address to a joint session of Congress is usually one of Washington’s more dignified and predictable events — but President Barack Obama’s request to deliver a Sept. 7 speech quickly devolved into just another partisan pie fight.
Oval Office requests for a prime-time slot in the well of the House — whatever the motivation, topic or tenor of the times — are traditionally approved on a more or less pro forma basis. In fact, the official historian for the House of Representatives told reporters Wednesday that no such request has ever been publicly rejected.
But this is 2012 Washington, where the comforting little courtesies and old-shoe rituals that once kept bickering Democrats and Republicans from immobilizing the republic have been chucked in the constant quest for news-cycle leverage.
So Speaker Boehner told the President to move his speech to Thursday, and even on this, Obama caved. The speech will now be on Thursday. But why does the speech need to be given before a joint session of Congress anyway? Why does there even need to be a speech? Just DO something for Pete’s sake! All I can say is the White House gang had better come up with some startling ideas, or Obama is going to look incredibly lame. More talk about free trade agreements, patent reform, and extending the payroll tax holiday simply won’t cut it.
Chris Cilizza at the WaPo, discusses the likelihood that the WH scheduling was just a coincidence, as press secretary Jay Carney initially claimed.
when the White House announced today that President Obama would deliver his much-anticipated jobs speech on Sept. 7 at 8 pm— the exact same day and time that the 2012 Republican candidates are scheduled to debate in California — the idea that the timing was purely coincidental was, well, far-fetched.
Opinions varied on whether this was a good idea or not.
Some applauded the move as a sign of much-needed aggression from the White House “Whether intentional or not it sends a signal that the president and White House are coming out of their corner between rounds fists up, on their toes and ready to fight,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane.
But there were others within the party who worried that the White House’s scheduling gambit might backfire.
“It’s a bad idea [and] seems a little small,” said one Democratic consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly. “And it suggests perhaps his jobs plan wont be that appealing because now the coverage will be about the strategy and not the substance.”
Another senior Democratic operative suggested that scheduling the speech simultaneously with the GOP debate actually would muddy rather than clarify the contrast the White House is hoping for heading into 2012.
But none of this really matters now that Obama has caved to the Republicans, as usual; and now he has to compete with the opening of the NFL season.
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has released his economic plan, and it’s a doozy. He want to reduce the marginal tax rate to 23 percent, giving the richest Americans the lowest tax rate since the Hoover administration. And how does he propose to pay for this? Here’s how.
Huntsman says he will pay for this supply-side bonanza by eliminating all so-called “tax expenditures.”…. Huntsman either hasn’t thought through — or doesn’t want people to know — what eliminating all tax expenditures would actually mean. So let’s take a look at the official tax expenditure list and see what would happen if we got rid of all of them:
– All Social Security benefits would become taxable. Senior citizens that currently receive the average Social Security benefit as their primary income source (as is the case for most seniors) currently pay no income taxes on those benefits, but would under Huntsman’s plan.
– Many middle-class parents would lose child tax credits and tax benefits for education and child care that are more valuable to them than a tax rate cut.
– Huntsman’s tax plan would also eliminate the employer health insurance exclusion, which helps enable some 160 million Americans get coverage through their jobs.
– One of the most successful pro-work, anti-poverty initiatives, the Earned Income Tax Credit, would be abolished.
– Veterans pensions and disability benefits would become subject to tax, as would all military combat pay, military housing allowances and meals, workers compensation payments, public assistance benefits, and state foster care payments.
This is just a partial list of the harsh and/or bizarre consequences that would occur if all tax expenditures were eliminated to fund a huge giveaway to the very rich.
In line with this latest Republican proposal to screw the poor and the elderly, on Tuesday, the New York Times editorial page took note of “the new resentment of the poor.”
In a decade of frenzied tax-cutting for the rich, the Republican Party just happened to lower tax rates for the poor, as well. Now several of the party’s most prominent presidential candidates and lawmakers want to correct that oversight and raise taxes on the poor and the working class, while protecting the rich, of course.
These Republican leaders, who think nothing of widening tax loopholes for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates, are offended by the idea that people making less than $40,000 might benefit from the progressive tax code. They are infuriated by the earned income tax credit (the pride of Ronald Reagan), which has become the biggest and most effective antipoverty program by giving working families thousands of dollars a year in tax refunds. They scoff at continuing President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which is tilted toward low- and middle-income workers and expires in December.
Until fairly recently, Republicans, at least, have been fairly consistent in their position that tax cuts should benefit everyone. Though the Bush tax cuts were primarily for the rich, they did lower rates for almost all taxpayers, providing a veneer of egalitarianism. Then the recession pushed down incomes severely, many below the minimum income tax level, and the stimulus act lowered that level further with new tax cuts. The number of families not paying income tax has risen from about 30 percent before the recession to about half, and, suddenly, Republicans have a new tool to stoke class resentment.
Speaking of cold-hearted Republicans, you’ve probably heard about Eric Cantor’s demand that any Federal help given to those hit by Hurricane Irene must be offset by cuts in other areas. Unfortunately for Cantor, he was singing another tune in 2004 when his state, Virginia, needed help.
Not only that but suddenly one of the new Republican stars is in need of help and doesn’t want to worry about debt and deficits and cutting government. He wants help for his state right now.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reacted angrily to a fight brewing in Washington over whether Hurricane Irene disaster aid may need to be offset by federal spending cuts.
“Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later,” the Republican governor told a crowd in the flood-ravaged North Jersey town of Lincoln Park.
Christie said no such discussion was held when help went to Joplin, Mo., where a deadly May tornado damaged 7,500 homes.
“We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Christie said, according to NorthJersey.com
Another hurricane could be on the way. Tropical Storm Katia may be a Hurricane soon. It looks like this one may hit the Gulf coast, and quite a few oil workers are already being evacuated.
The Miami-based center said Katia was forecast to become a “major” hurricane with winds over 111 mph (178 kph) on Sunday, but it was still too early to tell whether it would threaten land.
At 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), Katia was about 1,285 miles (2.070 km) east of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. It was moving rapidly west-northwest and was forecast to turn northwest in a couple of days on a course that would keep it away from the Caribbean islands.
Of course it’s too soon to know for sure what will happen, but maybe Mayor Bloomberg should get busy preparing another evacuation plan.
Meanwhile, things are still really bad in Vermont.
Federal and state environmental teams on Wednesday investigated the extent of health risks related to damaged sewage and water treatment plants in more than a dozen Vermont towns where flash flooding has left thousands of people without electricity or potable water since Sunday.
Engineers from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation visited several areas that had been cut off to assess the hazards, officials said. The teams were trying to determine the extent of damage to sewage and water plants in at least 13 towns, including chemical and other hazardous material spills and leaks, said Justin Johnson, deputy commissioner of the environmental department….
The Vermont National Guard continued to airlift supplies to residents in 13 towns stranded by washed out roadways, damaged bridges, fallen trees and mud. A helicopter from the Illinois National Guard joined the relief effort on Wednesday, helping distribute supplies, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.
By Wednesday night, crews had completed makeshift roads into all of the isolated towns, state officials said. They reached the last, Wardsboro, population 850, in south central Vermont, just before 6 p.m.
In a bit of good news, the Red Sox beat the Yankees last night, 9-5, and the Sox are now in first place by 1-1/2 games.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
All Talk, No Action on JobsPosted: August 4, 2011 Filed under: jobs, Stock Market, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, unemployment, voodoo economics | Tags: Barack Obama, confidence fairy, Dylan Ratigan, free trade agreements, homework, Jake Tapper, Jay Carney, jobs, Newt Gingrich, patent reform, pharmaceutical companies, Tim Geithner, Wall Street 17 Comments
A couple of days ago Newt Gingrich made the bizarre claim that
President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House “is a Paul Krugman presidency.”
Of course we know that Obama cannot stand Paul Krugman, because Krugman has been criticizing Obama since the back in 2008. No, Obama’s is not “a Krugman presidency.” It’s “a ‘the dog ate my homework'” presidency. It’s a “smoke and mirrors” presidency. Or maybe a “confidence fairy” presidency.
In the morning post today, I quoted both White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Treasury Secretary Tim Geither holding forth on what Digby calls “the confidence fairy.”
Spokesman Jay Carney says there is no question that economic growth and job creation have slowed over the past half year.
But, Carney told a White House briefing, “We do not believe that there is a threat of a double-dip recession.”
Really? And how do you know this, Jay?
He blamed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, higher energy prices, default worries in Europe and recently resolved uncertainty over raising America’s borrowing limit. Carney said, “We believe the economy will continue to grow.”
Uh huh. But what’s that based on? Where is your evidence? Carney never produced any.
Now here’s Tim Geithner on the dramatic spending cuts included in the debt ceiling bill:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So this won’t cost us jobs?
TIM GEITHNER: No, it will not. Now … if we put this behind us then we can turn back to the important challenge of trying to find ways to make sure that we do everything we can to get more people back to work, strengthen our growth. And we’ll have more ability to do that now with people more confident and we can start to get our arms around the long-term problems.
Leaving aside the fact that no one I know is “more confident,” and Wall Street sure doesn’t seem “confident,” how will “confidence” translate into jobs? Especially now that there are caps on domestic spending that will prevent the government from helping create jobs?
Finally. Obama Breaks Silence on Libya but Doesn’t Say MuchPosted: February 23, 2011 Filed under: A My Pet Goat Moment, Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Libya, Team Obama, U.S. Politics | Tags: "strongly worded statement", Barack Obama, Jay Carney, Libya uprising, Muammar Gaddafi 44 Comments
Earlier today, Politico’s Glenn Thrush told us that President Obama would not be speaking about Libya. Period. That was apparently the word from press secretary Jay Carney this morning. That article has now been rewritten as an explanation for Obama’s slow response.
This evening, Carney announced that Obama would speak after all; and couple of hours ago, the President made what Al Jazeera termed “a strongly worded statement” (see video above) about the intense violence that has been unleashed on the Libyan people for the past few days and the resulting bloody carnage in the streets of Libyan cities.
I’m not sure why the President changed his mind about speaking. Perhaps it’s because they have managed to get American citizens out. Perhaps Obama finally realized he was be criticized all over the world for his lack of action.
So far the response to the statement hasn’t been that enthusiastic. The Washington Post wants to know why Obama was the last to speak about the situation in Libya.
By late Wednesday only one major Western leader had failed to speak up on Libya: Barack Obama. Before then, the president’s only comment during five days of mounting atrocities was a statement issued in his name by his press secretary late last Friday, which deplored violence that day in three countries: Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. For four subsequent days, the administration’s response to the rapidly escalating bloodshed in Libya was measured and relatively mild statements by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Administration officials explained this weak stance by saying they were worried about U.S. citizens, hundreds of whom were being extracted by ferry Wednesday afternoon. There were fears that the desperate Mr. Gaddafi might attack the Americans or seek to take them hostage. But the presence of thousands of European citizens in Libya did not prevent their government’s leaders from forcefully speaking out and agreeing on sanctions.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Obama finally appeared at a White House podium. He said “we strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” but he did not mention Mr. Gaddafi or call for his removal. He said the administration was preparing a “full range of options” to respond but didn’t say what those might be; he made no mention of the no-fly zone that Libya’s delegation at the United Nations has called for. He stressed that the United States would work through international forums – and said Ms. Clinton would travel to Geneva for a meeting of the notoriously ineffectual U.N. Human Rights Council, which counts Libya as a member.
Shouldn’t the president of the United States be first to oppose the depravities of a tyrant such as Mr. Gaddafi? Apparently this one doesn’t think so.
The New York Times also noted that Obama did not “castigate” Gaddafi, but they meekly explained that the President was worried about getting Americans out of Tripoli.
Mr. Obama made no mention of the Libyan strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, reflecting the administration’s worry about the safety of American diplomats and their families in Tripoli, where a ferry meant to evacuate Americans was still stuck at the port, penned in by high winds in the Mediterranean. Mr. Obama has been coming under fire from critics who said he has not been tough enough against Colonel Qaddafi in the wake of the violent crackdown by pro-Qaddafi forces against demonstrators.
Chris Matthews apparently didn’t feel a tingle in his leg this time.
“This statement could have been put out by the first President Bush. It has the aspect of an Arabist statement. I shouldn’t be too strong here, but it doesn’t have any dignity. I mean – Ronald Reagan – to his credit, said ‘evil empire’ before the fall of the wall.”
Huh? Oh well, it doesn’t make sense, but he didn’t like the statement anyway.
At Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver is losing patience with the President. Based on Jay Carney’s lead-up to the statement, Feaver wrote:
I can think of only two plausible explanations for the weak White House response thus far:
Perhaps the Gaddafi regime is blocking the evacuation of U.S. citizens so as to intimidate the White House into making only muted statements — and this intimidation is working (note to President Obama, this is closer to what real hostage-taking feels like).
Or perhaps the administration is paralyzed with indecision because of debates between internal factions, some wanting a stronger Bush-like response and others wanting to stick with the Obama 2009 approach that guided the weak response to the Iranian post-election protests in June 2009.
What did you think of the “strongly worded statement?” Will we see any action in the near future?