03 Dec 2013
in Boston, craziness, wealth
Tags: affordable housing, Boston, craziness
I’m on the BRA’s affordable housing email list. Here’s the latest:
Unit Size: Three studios, three one-bedrooms.
Price: $1,724/month for studios, $2,008 per month for one bedrooms.
Maximum Household Income: One person HH: 120% at $79,300; two person HH, 120% at $90,600; three person HH, 120% at $101,950.
That’s right, a studio that costs $1724 is listed as ‘affordable’. I guess I won’t be living in Boston in the near future.
23 Nov 2013
in craziness, wealth
Tags: charity, John Stossel, poverty, wealth
Just in time for Thanksgiving, that time of year when we think of what we’re thankful for and the less fortunate, John Stossel has for the third year running a show saying not to give to the homeless. This year he didn’t even try begging again, he used footage from last year–he’s quite the lazy guy. What makes it even better is that when asked to name a charity to give to, he didn’t name any that helped the homeless so I guess he doesn’t think they should get any help. In fact, if you look at this interview he basically says that the rich shouldn’t give any money to charity (he specifically says that Bill Gates did more good at Microsoft than with his charity and twice says that Michael Milken did more to help people in his junk bond phase, when he committed fraud, than Mother Theresa–I wonder if he would claim the same about Jonas Salk who gave away the patent for the Polio vaccine).
I hope that most people will not follow the lead of this pathetic human being and actually help other people over the holidays by giving to charity.
18 Nov 2013
in craziness, economy, Free Markets, politics
Tags: craziness, economy, Free Markets, jobs, politics
This article with bits like this:
How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
has led to an interesting series of articles. First there was the basic replies such as this:
This, of course, is just the diamond-water “paradox”–why are diamonds, mere baubles, so expensive while water, a necessity of life, is so cheap?–the paradox was solved over a hundred years ago by…wait for it…can you guess?….the marginal revolution. Water is cheap and its value low because the supply of water is so large that the marginal value of water is driven down close to zero. Diamonds are expensive because the limited market supply keeps the price and marginal value high. Not much of a paradox. Note that, contra Graeber, there is nothing special about labor in this regard or “our society.”
Moreover, it’s good that prices are determined on the margin. We would be very much the poorer, if all useful goods were expensive and only useless goods were cheap.
which lead to replies to the replies such as this:
The impressive thing is just how much misdirection and willful obtuseness Tabarrok manages to pack into a few sentences. The argument crumbles at whatever level one chooses to engage it.
To begin with, the chosen example is an amusing one, since it in no way exemplifies what it purports to demonstrate. Diamonds may be scarcer than water, but that is not what dictates their price. The price of diamonds has been maintained over the decades by the powerful DeBeers cartel, which has kept up prices through a combination of marketing and buying up excess supply. I suppose Tabarrok could counter that the phrase “market supply” doesn’t imply that the availability of a commodity is a function of physical scarcity. But I hardly think he would subscribe to the notion that supply in capitalist markets is or should be primarily determined by the actions of powerful monopolists.
And then to another way of saying the original point:
I’d like to look at a specific question raised by the discussion of private returns and social value, namely: can Wall Street, in its present form, be justified? That is, does the share of income flowing to corporations and professional workers in the financial sector reflect their marginal contribution to the total value of social output, so that, if their work ceased to be done and their skills were allocated elsewhere, we would all be worse off?
I argue that society as a whole would be better off if the financial sector were smaller, and received much smaller returns. A political strategy based on cutting the financial sector down to size has more promise for the Left than any alternative approach now on offer, and is a necessary precondition for a broader attempt to make the distribution of wealth and power more equal.
Which, of course, has replies:
The point is that other people ought to drone on a bit more about which rules, exactly, they want to see put in place and why the objections to those rules are wrong. The general argument that the backstopped segment of the banking system should be ringfenced from the speculative bit is so persuasive that the U.S. Congress already passed a law purporting to do it. Yet obviously finance has hardly been dethroned from its commanding place in American political economy, and guaranteed banks haven’t stopped engaging in big speculative trades.
The replies all miss the point of the original argument and the follow-up:
- the point is that people who are doing something essential to society should be paid enough to live comfortably. If they’re not, then the society is messed up. This doesn’t mean that the person collecting the garbage should make as much as Lebron James, but they shouldn’t have to be on food stamps to survive. On the other hand , it should be that nurses do make as much as people in the financial industry–it is just as difficult to become a nurse as a financial analyst, there is a shortage of nurses (which implies they are underpaid), and they are much more important to society.
- there have been changes to the government that have led to the status quo. There used to be stronger rules on banks and finance. As those rules have been weakened or eliminated, the pay for workers in the financial industry have gone way up compared to the rest of society (which is why the financial industry is now a bigger part of the economy). If it seems that these rule changes have not helped society then maybe it makes sense to reinstate the old rules (notice that is saying specifically what rules should be put in place).
16 Nov 2013
in craziness, Crime
Tags: craziness, crime, guns, race
This is good to see:
A suburban Detroit homeowner was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the death of a 19-year-old woman who was shot in the face while on his front porch nearly two weeks ago.
Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, also faces a manslaughter charge in the death of Renisha McBride, who was killed on Nov. 2, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
Police say McBride was shot a couple of hours after being involved in a nearby car accident. Family members say she likely approached Wafer’s home for help.
I wonder if this is one of those times when having a gun prevented a crime, in this case knocking on someone’s door. This, though, is obviously wrong:
The shooting has drawn attention from civil rights groups that called for an investigation and believe race was a factor in the shooting — McBride was black; prosecutors said Wafer is white.
because race is never a factor.
07 Nov 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, Crime
Tags: civil liberties, craziness, crime
Wow, this is wow (via here):
While there, Eckert was subjected to repeated and humiliating forced medical procedures. A review of Eckert’s medical records, which he released to KOB, and details in the lawsuit show the following happened:
1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
Throughout this ordeal, Eckert protested and never gave doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center consent to perform any of these medical procedures.
This guy must have done something really bad:
The incident began January 2, 2013 after David Eckert finished shopping at the Wal-Mart in Deming. According to a federal lawsuit, Eckert didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign coming out of the parking lot and was immediately stopped by law enforcement.
What the hell? It can’t get worse can it?
107. Defendant Gila Regional has billed Plaintiff for the ‘services’ it provided at the request of law enforcement.
108. Plaintiff still receives medical bills for thousands of dollars for these illegal, invasive and painful medical procedures.
Umm, yeah. At least this is an isolated incident.
Police reports state deputies stopped Timothy Young because he turned without putting his blinker on.
Again, Leo the K-9 alerts on Young’s seat.
Young is taken to the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, and just like Eckert, he’s subjected to medical procedures including x-rays of his stomach and an anal exam.
Again, police found nothing, and again the procedures were done without consent, and in a county not covered by the search warrant.
Ok, this has got to be from the Onion, right? Right?
02 Nov 2013
in craziness, healthcare, politics, religion
Tags: contraception, craziness, healthcare, politics, religion
An appeals court has ruled that the contraception mandate in Obamacare does not apply to companies with a few religious owners:
Writing for the majority, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote that the mandate ‘‘trammels the right of free exercise — a right that lies at the core of our constitutional liberties — as protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.’’
Brown, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said that the mandate presented the Gilardis with a ‘‘Hobson’s choice: They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong.’’
I’m going to farm out my response to Judge Edwards in his dissent:
There are three reasons why the Mandate does not substantially burden the Gilardis’ “exercise of religion.” First, the Mandate does not require the Gilardis to use or purchase contraception themselves. Second, the Mandate does not
require the Gilardis to encourage Freshway’s employees to use contraceptives any more directly than they do by authorizing Freshway to pay wages. Finally, the Gilardis remain free to express publicly their disapproval of contraceptive products.
Because the Mandate does not require the Gilardis to personally engage in conduct prohibited by their religious beliefs, this case differs from every case in which the Court has found a substantial burden on religious exercise. In
O Centro and Yoder, for instance, there was no dispute as to whether the regulations substantially burdened the plaintiffs’ religious exercise. The disputed Government policies in those cases very plainly prevented the plaintiffs, personally, from engaging in their religious practices (using hoasca and homeschooling one’s children), and the only question was whether the burdens were justified.
In contrast, the Gilardis cannot claim that they are being forced to use contraceptives, which would directly conflict with their religious beliefs. Rather, they complain that because their companies are required to purchase insurance
that includes coverage for contraception, they as owners are enabling third parties to engage in conduct that they oppose. This is a specious claim. The Gilardis can find no support for their position in the controlling case precedents. No Free Exercise decision issued by the Supreme Court has recognized a substantial burden on a plaintiff’s religious exercise where the plaintiff is not himself required to take or forgo action that violates his religious beliefs, but is merely required to take action that might enable other people to do things that are at odds with the plaintiff’s religious beliefs.
Furthermore, the Mandate does not require the Gilardis to directly facilitate employees’ use of contraception. The Gilardis do not contend that their religious exercise is violated when Freshway pays wages that employees might use to
purchase contraception, and the Mandate does not require the Gilardis to facilitate the use of contraception any more directly than they already do by authorizing Freshway to pay wages. Amici supporting the Gilardis’ position attempt in vain to distinguish between the Mandate and paying wages. First, they argue that the Mandate requires the Gilardis to become an “essential cause” of increasing the number of employees who use contraception. But the Gilardis are no more of an “essential cause” of increasing the use of contraception when they authorize Freshway to pay for a benefits plan that employees might use to get contraception than they are when they authorize wages that an employee might use to purchase contraception she would not otherwise be able to afford.
Amici also attempt to distinguish between the Mandate and paying wages by arguing that covering contraceptive products is akin to the difference between giving an underage person a “gift certificate” to buy beer, and giving him money that he might spend on beer. But this analogy fails. Health coverage under the Mandate is not like giving a gift certificate to buy beer specifically, but more like a gift certificate to a supermarket where the recipient may purchase whatever is available, including beer. Just as the Government does not directly encourage religion when it provides vouchers that recipients may choose to spend on religious schools, the Gilardis do not directly encourage the use of contraception when they provide insurance coverage that recipients may choose to spend on contraceptives. Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 652 (2002) (“The incidental advancement of a religious mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the individual recipient, not to the [party granting the benefits], whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits.”).
Finally, the Gilardis suggest that because Freshway is required to offer health insurance that includes contraception, they as owners are being pressed to effectively endorse the use of contraception. This claim fails because the Supreme Court has held that a party’s First Amendment rights are not violated when he must comply with a Government policy that sends a message contrary to his beliefs. Hence, an institute of higher education may be required to host military recruiters on campus, even if it strongly opposes military policy. See Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic & Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47 (2006). Parties who comply with a regulation contrary to their beliefs “remain free to disassociate [themselves] from those views.” Id. at 65 (citation omitted). The Gilardis likewise remain free to “disassociate” themselves from any message that might suggest that they endorse contraception. They may denounce publicly the use of contraception, for instance, by issuing a statement to Freshway’s employees expressing their disapproval of the Mandate and contraception; and they are free to continue authorizing Freshway to display slogans on company delivery trucks expressing their views about the sanctity of human life. There are countless ways the Gilardis can make clear that their involuntary compliance with federal law does not signify that they endorse the use of contraception. See Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 77 Fed. Reg. 8725, 8729 (Feb. 15, 2012) (“Nothing in these final regulations precludes employers or others from expressing their opposition, if any, to the use of contraceptives, requires anyone to use contraceptives, or requires health care providers to prescribe contraceptives if doing so is against their religious beliefs.”).
See here for more about Judge Brown who authored the decision.
31 Oct 2013
in Boston, craziness, Free Markets, politics, wealth
Tags: Boston, craziness, Free Markets, redistribution, wealth
In some ways this is refreshing:
Rosenthal said he has also approached Governor Deval Patrick’s office of housing and economic development to ask for help with his $7.8 million shortage but has not received a reply. Greg Bialecki, Patrick’s secretary of economic development, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Rosenthal said the money would fill a gap in funding needed to satisfy his primary financial backer, Bentall Kennedy Group, a major real estate investment firm that wants a 6 percent return on the project.
But by the time the deal was finalized, the project’s construction costs had risen by $48 million. Rosenthal said that increase threw off the expected return of Bentall Kennedy, requiring tax assistance to get the firm to commit money for construction.
This is always true, but usually the actors aren’t quite so direct in saying that they want a tax break so they can get bigger profits. This isn’t much better:
Participating in the event was Jeffrey Simon, the head of real estate for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which owns the 4.5-acre property on which Rosenthal is seeking to build, and which stands to collect $226 million in rent from the development.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation approved revised lease terms with Rosenthal, who has committed to pay rent to the state for 99 years.
The state built the highway through the middle of neighborhoods against the wish of the neighborhoods, left it open and ugly because that was cheaper, all to benefit commuters. Now they want to make lots of money off of it which is why this project is so big and so complex. Thanks state of Massachusetts.
28 Oct 2013
in craziness, healthcare, politics
Tags: craziness, Obamacare, politics
Via here, I think this is a good argument for the expansion of Medicaid in Republican states:
At present, 24 States (and DC) have decided to move ahead with the Medicaid expansion provided for in Obamacare, and 21 have rejected expansion, while 6 are still considering their options. If the current decisions hold, it will result in a self-imposed redistribution of money from poorer (and typically Red states), to richer (and typically Blue ones).
According to an analysis I have done using Kaiser Family Foundation data–in 2016 alone–the 24 expanding states will receive $30.3 Billion additional federal dollars, while those not expanding will forego an additional $35.0 Billion they could have had (the fence sitters have an aggregate $15.2 Billion at stake in 2016). This represents a huge redistribution of federal money from non-expanding to expanding states.
He then lists some of the states–for example Florida is losing $6.7 billion while California is gaining $7 billion, in effect Florida is sending all its Medicaid money to California (of course, states such as California are net payers to the federal government, but ignore that for now).
26 Oct 2013
in craziness, healthcare, politics
Tags: craziness, healthcare, Maine, Obamacare, politics
Governor LePage of Maine is a Tea Party politician. This is what the Tea Party wants to happen with Obamacare
Shields is one of a handful of counselors in rural Washington County charged with finding people who will benefit from the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act and helping them sign up. There are many. Eighteen percent of people here, more than in any other county in New England, lacked health insurance in 2011, according to the most recent census analysis. Yet, the rollout of the federal program here has been slow.
Outreach workers have a lot of ground to cover in a county of about 32,500 people that is more than two times the size of Rhode Island and where some families have limited Internet access. For weeks, they have been holding community meetings in libraries and at health centers, sometimes drawing just one or two people.
Even among the few who have come to her Eastport Health Center office for one-on-one help, Shields has not signed up a single person. She has been thwarted by the near-failure of the federal insurance website. On Tuesday morning, she and a client tried five times to log in to the site before giving up.
Maine was one of 34 states that chose not to create a state-run insurance program under the law. (Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, also vetoed a bill to expand the state’s Medicaid program with federal funding.) Residents who qualify for the new subsidized plans must purchase them through the federal program.
Without state coordination, a network of social service agencies, health centers, and statewide nonprofits are using federal grants to lead the outreach campaign. Enroll207.com, created by Maine Health Access Foundation, serves as a clearinghouse for information on how to get help.
Denbow said later that she passed information to her daughter, who is uninsured. Before she spoke with Shields, Denbow said, she knew that the law required people to buy health insurance but she didn’t know it offered subsidies for those who couldn’t afford it.
“I don’t think there was enough education onto it,” she said.
LePage doesn’t like Obamacare and so does everything he can to block it: Maine didn’t create its own insurance program; it didn’t expand Medicaid; it doesn’t work to get information out to the people of Maine. That’s why you get people in Maine who don’t even know that Obamacare has subsidies for the poor. I would think that a governor of a state would want to help his citizens, but I guess that’s not true for LePage.
20 Oct 2013
in craziness, healthcare, history, politics
Tags: craziness, healthcare, history, Jeff Jacoby, John F Kennedy, Medicare, politics
Less than a week ago Republicans shut down the government to try to get rid of Obamacare. Let’s look at Jeff Jacoby’s column today:
But Kennedy was no liberal. By any reasonable definition, he was a conservative — and not just by the standards of our era, but by those of his era as well.
Nearly 30 years ago, an essay in Mother Jones magazine asked: “Would JFK Be a Hero Now?” If the answer wasn’t obvious then, it certainly is now. In today’s political environment, a candidate like JFK — a conservative champion of economic growth, tax cuts, limited government, peace through strength — plainly would be a hero. Whether he would be a Democrat is a different matter altogether.
Gee, now what was one of the programs that JFK was pushing? Why Medicare. He wasn’t able to get it passed because conservatives worked so hard to defeat it:
The main course of Operation Coffeecup, however, was an LP record, kept secret until the event and prohibited from being broadcast. The record was called “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.” In his 20-minute polemic, the host of television’s “Death Valley Days” excoriated what he called “the foot-in-the-door” leftist technique that, he noted, was “one of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people … by way of medicine.”
With a know-your-enemy approach, Reagan quoted the American socialist icon, Norman Thomas, who decades earlier had said that while Americans would never knowingly vote socialist, “in the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.” Reagan concluded his oration with an ominous warning that unless “big gubament” – a pronunciation that would become a political trademark – was stopped, “you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”
Does that sound familiar? But Jacoby things Kennedy might be a hero to conservatives (and that ignores the rest of the New Frontier). Thanks for the laugh Jeff.
19 Oct 2013
in craziness, healthcare, politics
So, the government shutdown is over and it made Tea Party Republicans quite unpopular–according to Pew Research it is viewed favorably by 30% of the population and unfavorably by 49% (they break down the population by gender, race, age, and education and more people find them unfavorable than favorable in every group). This, of course, means they think they should do it again:
“This fight is not over. It has really only just begun,” Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Tea Party Republican, vowed in the hours before the Senate passed a deal to raise the debt ceiling. “Now, Obamacare is going to start hurting real people, in real ways. And when it does, there is going to be a mad scramble in this town to fix it or get rid of it.”
While Cruz and Rubio did not explicitly threaten to shutter the government again in January in order to dismantle the health law, that was the stated threat of some hard-core holdouts who support them.
“You have to use every opportunity,” said Adam Brandon, executive vice president at FreedomWorks, a Tea Party movement group. “Frankly, this is the new normal. It’s embarrassing that that’s where the government is now, that we have to use these extreme measures to force people to the bargaining table.”
Ya know Adam, it could be that you need to use these extreme measures because your views just aren’t popular. Senator Cruz agrees that he messed up. Ha ha, I’m kidding:
Cruz in late September staged a 21-plus hour quasi-filibuster on the Senate floor, helping spark a budget fight in the Republican-led House that partially shuttered the government in an attempt to sever funding for the White House’s signature health care law.
Then, with the country facing a debt default, leaders in the Democratic-led Senate brokered a deal to end the standoff — which Cruz dismissed as ‘‘selling the American people down the river.’’
‘‘You don’t win a fight when your own team is firing cannons at the people who are standing up and leading, which are the House Republicans,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s what happened, and that’s what led directly to this lousy deal, is when Senate Republicans declined to unify and declined to support House Republicans.’’
You and the House Republicans have made the Republican party extremely unpopular by your actions, but the problem is that other Republicans didn’t want to follow you over the cliff. I can see why even moderate Republicans view you unfavorably.
17 Oct 2013
in civil liberties, craziness, security
Tags: civil liberties, security, State Secrets
This is how state secrecy has traditionally worked:
In February, the Supreme Court dismissed a case challenging its constitutionality because the plaintiffs, led by Amnesty International, could not prove they had been wiretapped. Mr. Verrilli had told the justices that someone else would have legal standing to trigger review of the program because prosecutors would notify people facing evidence derived from surveillance under the 2008 law.
But it turned out that Mr. Verrilli’s assurances clashed with the practices of national security prosecutors, who had not been alerting such defendants that evidence in their cases had stemmed from wiretapping their conversations without a warrant.
In other words, it is almost impossible to try this in court and so there is no real oversight. That might be changing:
Five years after Congress authorized a sweeping warrantless surveillance program, the Justice Department is setting up a potential Supreme Court test of whether it is constitutional by notifying a criminal defendant — for the first time — that evidence against him derived from the eavesdropping, according to officials.
Prosecutors plan to inform the defendant about the monitoring in the next two weeks, a law enforcement official said. The move comes after an internal Justice Department debate in which Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that there was no legal basis for a previous practice of not disclosing links to such surveillance, several Obama administration officials familiar with the deliberations said.
Of course, it won’t be easy:
The department’s practices came under scrutiny after a December 2012 speech by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee. During debate over extending the 2008 law, she warned that terrorism remained a threat. Listing several terrorism-related arrests, she added, “so this has worked.”
Lawyers in two of the cases Ms. Feinstein mentioned — one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Chicago — asked prosecutors this spring to confirm that surveillance under the 2008 law had played a role in the investigations of their clients so they could challenge it.
But prosecutors said they did not have to make such a disclosure. On June 7, The New York Times published an article citing Ms. Feinstein’s speech and the stance the prosecutors had taken.
As a result, Mr. Verrilli sought an explanation from national security lawyers about why they had not flagged the issue when vetting his Supreme Court briefs and helping him practice for the arguments, according to officials.
The national security lawyers explained that it was a misunderstanding, the officials said. Because the rules on wiretapping warrants in foreign intelligence cases are different from the rules in ordinary criminal investigations, they said, the division has long used a narrow understanding of what “derived from” means in terms of when it must disclose specifics to defendants.
Yes, it was a misunderstanding. Expect to see lots of this in the future.
But in a twist, in the Chicago and Fort Lauderdale cases that Ms. Feinstein had mentioned, prosecutors made new court filings saying they did not intend to use any evidence derived from surveillance of the defendants under the 2008 law.
When defense lawyers asked about Ms. Feinstein’s remarks, a Senate lawyer responded in a letter that she “did not state, and did not mean to state” that those cases were linked to the warrantless surveillance program. Rather, the lawyer wrote, her point was that terrorism remained a problem.
Expect to also see this a lot–information is found using such surveillance and they use this information to find evidence while denying they used surveillance initially (of course it will be almost impossible to know in which cases this happens).
16 Oct 2013
in craziness, economy, politics
Tags: Default, economy, Government shutdown, Jeff Jacoby, politics, US deficit
Jeff Jacoby, as usual, ignores anything that doesn’t help his argument:
Whether or not a debt-ceiling deal is finalized this week, the government of the United States isn’t going to default on its debt. For all the scaremongering, the stock market doesn’t seem to be panicking: The Dow rose smartly last week, and closed up again on Monday. An Associated Press story was headlined: “As US default nears, investors shrug off threat.” Maybe that’s because investors — or for that matter anyone with a Mastercard or a home-equity line of credit — know perfectly well that the Treasury is not going to welsh on its debt obligations.
Hitting a credit-card limit doesn’t mean a borrower has become a deadbeat; it means he has to pay down some of the principal before making new charges on that card. The more of his debt he pays off, the more his credit score improves. In similar fashion, the federal government will not be forced to stiff its bondholders if Congress doesn’t raise the statutory debt limit this week. Granted, it will only be able to spend what it collects in taxes. But the IRS takes in around $2.3 trillion per year, or about 10 times the amount needed to service the nation’s nearly $17 trillion national debt.
No wonder Moody’s hasn’t been spooked by Washington’s debt-ceiling soap opera. “We believe the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debt even in the event that the debt limit is not raised, leaving its creditworthiness intact,” the credit-rating agency serenely forecast last week. “The debt limit restricts government expenditures to the amount of its incoming revenues; it does not prohibit the government from servicing its debt. There is no direct connection between the debt limit . . . and a default.”
The real threat to America’s national interest isn’t a debt ceiling that won’t go up. It’s a national debt that won’t stop going up.
Let’s look at his ‘arguments’:
- the market isn’t spooked. The markets went up at the end of last week and Monday because it seemed a deal was imminent. What happened yesterday?
Stocks were flat or down all day, but the size of the losses waxed and waned. The market closed with its first loss in a week. Short-term government debt yields rose sharply as investors worried about default. After the markets closed, Fitch Ratings said it might downgrade the government’s AAA bond rating. It sees a higher risk for default. The day’s losses were broad. All 10 S&P 500 industry groups fell, and three stocks fell for every one that rose on the NYSE.
I guess we’ll see in the next day or two how this works.
- there will be no default. There are two problems with this: the government sends out bills automatically so there is a question if the government can completely decide on what to pay; the govenment rolls over its bonds all the time and short-term rates have spiked (see above and here) so what happens if the debt limit isn’t increased for a while?
- the problem is the debt. There’s a new report out that shows that the economy is worse off because of the austerity. Paul Krugman puts it together:
They say that combined effects of uncertainty in the bond market and cuts in discretionary spending have subtracted 1% from GDP growth. That’s not 1% off GDP — it’s the annualized rate of growth, so that we’re talking about almost 3% of GDP at this point; cumulatively, the losses come to around $700 billion of wasted economic potential. This is in the same ballpark as my own estimates.
And they also estimate that the current unemployment rate is 1.4 points higher than it would have been without those policies (a number consistent with almost 3% lower GDP); so, we’d have unemployment below 6% if not for these people.
Now go here to see the best case scenario with not raising the debt limit:
the amount of debt we need to issue to pay for everything in the budget, which means that if the debt limit isn’t raised, we need to immediately cut spending by $560 billion, or $46 billion per month.
9. So those are our choices if Congress fails to raise the debt limit: Either we suddenly stop paying for critical programs that people depend on, or we default on US treasury bonds—or both.
10. The former would immiserate millions of people and probably produce a second Great Recession, while the latter would likely devastate the global economy.
15 Oct 2013
in craziness, politics
Tags: craziness, obama, politics, Republicans
I understand that newspapers need to seem apolitical, but really?
Washington is as poisonous — and, to use Obama’s words, petty and immature — as ever. Obama has not turned the United States into 50 purple states, where compromise is desired and citizens agree there are two sides to each coin. It is indisputable, longtime observers says, that the red states are redder, and the blue states are bluer.
Obama may not be principally to blame for this baleful trend. But he is also not a bystander. In the story of why Washington is more broken than Obama found it, analysts said that while Republicans bear considerable responsibility, so, in his own way, does the president. His leadership style has inspired millions of supporters but also has angered countless conservatives, who have coalesced into a fiercely uncompromising opposition. It is all a long way from the vision presented by Obama when he entered the national spotlight.
What’s amazing is that they even note things like:
A week after his inauguration, Obama was planning to head up to Capitol Hill, where Democrats held both the House and the Senate, to meet with House Republicans about his first major bill: the federal stimulus, which would inject $787 billion into the economy in an effort to soften the recession.
Just before Obama’s motorcade left, he was handed a report: Boehner would oppose the stimulus plan that Obama was about to discuss with them.
The US was at the height of its worst recession since the Great Depression and Boehner rejects it out of hand–how do you negotiate with that (and since this was one week into his Presidency and he was on his way to meet Republicans, the whole “he didn’t meet with Republicans enough” idiocy later certainly had nothing to do with this). And then there’s:
Obama’s relationship with the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is worse. In December 2010, during a White House ceremony where he thanked Republicans and Democrats for helping pass a childhood nutrition bill, Obama referred to McConnell as “Mike.” McConnell, for his part, said his top goal was ensuring the president didn’t win a second term.
Several Republicans, from as early as January 2009, said the same thing as McConnell–their top goal was to make Obama a one term President. Their top goal, in a huge recession, wasn’t jobs or, after they had just crashed the world economy, regulate the financial industry, it was to work against Obama. Again, how do you deal with that?
The point is that Obama has bent over backwards to try to work with Republicans. In fact, he seemed to care more about them than liberals as I note here.
This, I find especially funny:
Gingrich, for example, said he had “a fair number” of private meetings with President Clinton, even though they clashed bitterly at times.
“If Obama had bipartisan breakfasts every week, you couldn’t have the current split,” Gingrich said. “You’d celebrate birthdays, you’d know about children. You’d have a relationship fundamentally different than the one it is today.”
Yes, we would have the collegiality of Newt’s time when the government was shut down twice (once for 21 days) and they impeached Clinton.
Here’s the way this should really be presented:
President Obama was easily elected on a platform centered on national healthcare, near the beginning of the worst recession in 70 years brought on be reckless and illegal actions. Still, Republicans were not willing to negotiate with him at all on national healthcare, regulating the banks, or helping end the recession (to be fair, Republicans believed that austerity would help, they were wrong).
11 Oct 2013
in craziness, politics, wealth
Tags: craziness, Food aid, politics, poverty
Republicans have been pushing to cut food stamps (SNAP), here’s why:
A temporary increase in food stamps expires Oct. 31, meaning for millions of Americans, the benefits that help put food on the table will not stretch as far as they have for the past four years.
But the stimulus was never intended to be a permanent source of money, former US senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire said. He opposed the stimulus, calling it at the time ‘‘a great deal of money not well spent.’’
‘‘All stimulus funding was to be temporary,’’ Gregg, now the chief executive of a banking industry group, said Wednesday.
John Cochrane, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, also opposed the stimulus, saying it advanced the false assumption that ‘‘completely wasted federal spending helps the economy.’’
He said worries about people who need help were a legitimate concern but that food stamps create a disincentive to move to find a better job because recipients are worried they’ll lose the benefit.
‘‘At some point,’’ he said, ‘‘you have to be a little bit heartless.’’
Think about this. Gregg is saying that helping people to buy food is “money not well spent” and Cochrane thinks it is completely wasted. Cochrane goes on to say that ‘‘you have to be a little bit heartless.’’ Well, he’s got that part down perfectly.
11 Oct 2013
in craziness, healthcare, politics
Tags: craziness, Obamacare, politics
Obamacare is a conservative (as in, originally designed by conservatives) way to get tens of millions of people health insurance. And that’s bad:
Dr. Ben Carson, a rising star in conservative circles, on Friday compared President Obama’s health-care law to slavery.
“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson, who is African American, said Friday in remarks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
That’s why Obamacare mandates we get chips implanted in us, right (just in case anyone doesn’t get the snark)? Think about this comment: Obamacare is worse than Jim Crow and segregation, worse than the Great Depression, worse than WWI and WWII. This man is insane and he’s a “rising star in conservative circles”. That says a lot about conservative circles.
09 Oct 2013
in craziness, unions, wealth
Tags: class warfare, craziness, unions, wealth
Via here, this is … um, interesting:
The University has ended a controversial policy that barred uniformed service staff access to the Administration Building elevators from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. President Robert Zimmer sent an e-mail to Facilities Service staff explicitly rebuking the policy yesterday, four months after a University locksmith filed a formal grievance against the University.
“In the event maintenance or repair work is required during high-use periods, the University expects that it be performed in such a way as to minimize the disruptive impact on the operations of the University. To this end, the University has requested that maintenance and repair workers should normally use the public stairway in the Administration Building rather than the two public elevators,” Saxton wrote.
The issue came to a head when two locksmiths with medical conditions were told to repair locks on the fourth floor of the Administration Building during the day. Stephen Clarke, the locksmith who originally responded to the emergency repair, has had two hip replacement surgeries during his 23 years as an employee of the University. According to Clarke, when he asked Kevin Ahn, his immediate supervisor, if he could use the elevator due to his medical condition, Ahn said no. Clarke was unable to perform the work, and Elliot Lounsbury, a second locksmith who has asthma, was called to perform the repairs.
Lounsbury also asked Ahn if he could use the elevator to access the fourth floor, was denied, and ended up climbing the stairs to the fourth floor.
Prior to the reversal of the policy, SEIU Local 73 had planned to host a rally Wednesday demanding that the University reverse the policy. Fliers had been posted since late September. Since Zimmer’s decision, Hobbs said the rally has been cancelled.
A few things to think about:
- This was an administration building, I’m hoping that the faculty wouldn’t allow this. I might be too optimistic.
- It took 5 months and the threat of a student protest to get this obviously stupid and perhaps illegal rule changed. Obviously unions have too much power.
- The higher administration at universities are starting to get paid more In line with the top levels of other companies. Perhaps this type of behavior goes with it?
08 Oct 2013
in craziness, Pakistan, religion
Tags: craziness, education, Pakistan, religion
Malala Yousafzai has a book coming out about her experience being shot by the Taliban. This, of course, means that the Taliban says it will continue to target her:
“If Malala stops the spread of negative propaganda against the Taliban and also stops following secular ideology, the Taliban will not harm her,” said Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman. “And if Malala keeps following secular ideology and continues her propaganda against Taliban and Islam, then [Taliban] fighters will wait for a suitable opportunity to target Malala.”
This quote and the quote here:
The Taliban would target her again if given the chance, just as it would target anyone who opposes the group, Shahid told CNN.“She accepted that she attacked Islam so we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud,” he was quoted as saying by Sky News.“Islam prohibits killing women…except those that support the infidels in their war against our religion.”
And this one:
Having spread a message of “education for all” across the globe, the 16-year-old is now among the favourites for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded on Friday.
But Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the main Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella group, slammed Malala and said they would try again to kill her.
“She is not a brave girl and has no courage. We will target her again and attack whenever we have a chance,” Shahid told AFP.
“She even used a fake name of Gul Makai to write a diary. We attacked Malala because she was used to speak against Taliban and Islam and not because she was going to school,” Shahid said.
imply that they’re going against her because she speaking against their religion but the way she is speaking against their Islam was going to school and talking about it–in their idiotic interpretation of their religion, girls should not go to school.
06 Oct 2013
in craziness, economy, politics
Tags: craziness, Default, Government shutdown, politics
This is the way Republicans compromise:
Lew said Obama has not changed his opposition to coupling a bill to re-open the government and raise the borrowing authority with Republican demands for changes in the 3-year-old health care law and spending cuts.
Boehner insisted that Obama must negotiate if the president wants to end the shutdown and avert a default that could trigger a financial crisis and recession that would echo the events of 2008 or worse. The 2008 financial crisis pushed the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
‘‘We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,’’ the Ohio Republican said in a television interview. ‘‘I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit, and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.’’
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a force in pushing Republicans to link changes to the health care law in exchange for keeping the government running, spelled out his conditions for raising the borrowing authority.
‘‘We should look for three things. No. 1, we should look for some significant structural plan to reduce government spending. No. 2, we should avoid new taxes. And No. 3, we should look for ways to mitigate the harms from ‘Obamacare,’’’ Cruz said, describing the debt ceiling issue as one of the ‘‘best leverage the Congress has to rein in the executive.’’
Yes, President Obama should negotiate with people like this–the CR is mostly a Republican budget, but they want more. If he agrees to delay Obamacare, they’ll ask for more cuts. There is no negotiating with these guys.
05 Oct 2013
in craziness, politics
Tags: craziness, Debt Limit, Government shutdown, immigration
Remember how the Republican Party was going to stop being the stupid party and the party of no. It seems the Republican Party has. The government shutdown has now lasted 5 days where they won’t pass a Continuing Resolution that mainly follows their budget numbers, they want more or they’re going to keep the government shut down. Some in the Party are trying to blame this on Obama or the Senate, but others love it:
Yoho has felt little pressure to change his mind, either from inside the Capitol or outside it. His leaders are still weak and uneasy. His constituents — or at least the small slice that bothers to write or call him — are mostly supportive. And his defiance has made him far more powerful than a freshman congressman has any right to expect.
So he’s already planning for a bigger act of defiance.
“You’re seeing the tremor before the tsunami here,” Yoho said. “I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling.”
Now, Yoho is ready for a bigger fight. He doesn’t want to raise the debt ceiling — ever again. The experts, and Republican leaders, say that would trigger a financial catastrophe.
But Yoho didn’t listen to them about the shutdown. And look how that turned out.
“I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke,” Yoho said. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, that will sure as heck be a moment. “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets,” since they would be assured that the United States had moved decisively to curb its debt.
Not paying your bills and playing games with the world economy Is the Tea Party way.
Republicans had a problem with minorities in the last election and they were going to fix that. Hmm, when was the last time they brought up an immigration bill in the House? Here’s a reminder that immigrants are passionate about a new bill:
She helped lead a contingent of Williams College students to a rally for immigration policy reform orchestrated by the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition. The event, which saw about 750 demonstrators march from Copley Square to Boston Common, was one of more than 100 similar demonstrations nationwide today.
I’m sure they won’t remember that Republicans were the ones blocking it.