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Clever concept for this week's Boise Weekly to get the jump on the Governor for assessing conditions in Idaho. Since no one's expecting anything fresh or candid at the start of Otter's 3rd term, they asked "a slice of Idaho's citizenry," "an activist, artist, caregiver, environmentalist, newcomer, political freshman, political veteran, small business owner, student and teacher" to weigh in on the true state of the state.
Sue Latta would like to hear Otter say, 'We're going to help the people at the bottom instead of just helping the people at the top' but isn't expecting it. Former representative from district 25, Wendy Jacquet (the poltical veteran) has a fairly comprehensive minority report, starting with:
"Although the economy appears to be improving a little with increased housing starts, decreases in foreclosures, less unemployment, and six or seven new businesses qualifying for the new tax incentives to locate here, I believe that Idaho is still not healthy after the Great Recession.
"We are near the bottom in education funding; we have decreased university and college funding, which is an economic growth engine; we have too many children on free, hot lunches; we need to invest in infrastructure; and we aren't attracting the jobs needed jobs to create healthy growth. We also have issues surrounding cronyism and ethical challenges, which decrease trust in our government."
She also provides a convenient top 10 checklist of items the governor might (but almost certainly won't) announce out of concern for the legacy he'll be leaving. Her list is worth quoting in full:
Not the penultimate wave of tardy oak leaves, now nestled under a new inch or two of snow, but the reconstituted leaves of papers piled upon my desk, just in time for a fresh start in 2015. And to keep me entertained and hands off the keyboard, I looked up some recent episodes of one of my favorite radio shows, Fresh Air. Terry Gross' tribute and sendoff to Stephen Colbert is a nice way to go out, complete with special holiday song performances sprinkled in.
Paul Krugman provides Tidings of Comfort for Christmas, things aren't so bad as you see on the news. We don't have an Ebola epidemic in this country, unemployment is down, GDP growth last quarter revised up from 3.9 to 5% annual (after 4.6% in the 2nd quarter), "and stock prices, which hit a low point in March 2009, accompanied by declarations from prominent Republican economists that Mr. Obama was killing the market economy, have tripled since then." (Maybe those prominent Republican economists were coolly singing Obama's praises: "he's killin' it, man!") Ten million fewer people without health insurance.
But as a testament to the power of marketing, the Republicans won the Senate and extended their lead in the House and have doubled their power of backseat driving for kicking off their Magical Mystery Tour, as Robert Reich puts it, next week. He predicts that Doug Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, will be given his walking papers for failure to use "dynamic scoring" in the CBO's economic projections.
Not that the rebadging of trickle-down as "supply-side" economics hasn't been comprehensively repudiated by experience since it was "new" 40 years ago, but here we go again.
In 2011, when briefly leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich called the CBO “a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that has not been internally generated.”
The CBO's overview of itself is that it's "strictly nonpartisan," and "conducts objective, impartial analysis; and hires its employees solely on the basis of professional competence without regard to political affiliation. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate summarizes the methodology underlying the analysis." And interestingly enough, it got its start in the mid-70's, just like the "supply side" brand. They produce several "baseline budget and economic projections" a year, an annual long-term budget projection, 500 to 700 formal cost estimates for legislation each year, analytic reports, analysis of the President's budgets, compilations of unauthorized appropriations, expiring appropriations, and so on, all with "objective, impartial, and nonpartisan analytical judgment," and disclosure of the methods they use.
Sounds about as dry as stale bread, doesn't it? No policy recommendations. Extensive review by people inside and outside the organization. Strict rules to prevent financial conflicts of interest and limits on employees' political activities.
In a twist that would give Charles Dodgson a chuckle six feet under, vice-presidential aspirant and incoming House Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan calls the rubber ruler "reality-based scoring." It's that alternate reality where any tax rate greater than zero is too high, so lowering tax rates can never increase deficits. Ryan says that right now, "we don't get any answer—you're just flying blind."
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Professor Crabb graduated from the Business Insider to the Sunday opinion section, combining with local surgeon (and member of the YourHealthIdaho board) Dr. John Livingston for a remarkably dismal guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman, extolling the virtues of "incentives" to solve the problems of access to health care.
Idaho's Republican legislators will no doubt appreciate the cover as they deny attempts to expand Medicaid for another session. There's nothing like authoritative jargon to make the medicine of "less regulation, less government, free market will take care of everything" eaiser to swallow.
Crabb and Livingstone open with tepid palaver to show how human they are. "When it comes to our health, everyone cares." That reminds me of the old saw: when everyone is responsible, no one is to blame. "No one wants to deny access to health care services."
But that's exactly what we're talking about: denying access to those in the political canyon between Medicaid coverage and the insurance subsidy of the Affordable Care Act. The design of the Act, imperfect as it may have been, included the expansion of Medicaid to bridge the gap in insurance coverage between the desperately poor and the working poor. Republicans' attempts to repeal, defeat or destroy the Act have been only partially successful, and Idaho and eighteen or twenty-two other states have "succeeded" in rationing access to health care for more than a hundred thousand uninsured men, women and children in Idaho, and millions across the country.
Economics doesn't have to be this bleak, nor does it have to be this confused, and confusing. We can stipulate the obvious point that "incentives matter" without going off into the weeds of the Crabb-Livingstone arguments.
Based on "recent economic studies" showing that food stamp recipients "used food stamp money to supplement their incomes," because they "increased their food purchases by more than what they received in subsidies," the duo conclude that:
"We should expect the same result if eligibility for Medicaid is expanded. Households will increase their consumption of health services, and perhaps other consumer goods, without any necessary change in health outcomes."
There's no point in giving people Medicaid coverage, they'll just use it to supplement their incomes and waste it? There's "evidence" (they hint) that "Medicaid coverage doesn't result in better health outcomes."
That makes their first policy recommendation inexplicable: "Idaho needs more insurance companies." And then "incentivize competition among health care providers" ... by privatizing the state-run exchange, which will magically "open the market to more providers and increase pricing incentives."
A year-ago post in the HealthAffairs blog provides considerably more information, links to source material (from the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association), and starkly different conclusions about the health and financial impacts of opting out of Medicaid expansion.
"Recent studies suggest that Medicaid expansion will result in health and financial gains. Older studies also found salutary health effects of expanded or improved insurance coverage, particularly for lower income adults. These studies also document an increase in utilization of most health care services. Most recently, the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment (OHIE) found a striking increase in emergency department use as well as other outpatient care."
Pronounced "sty LOM uh tree," I suppose, the study of linguistic style and seen in the Nicole Perlroth's NYT Bits blog entry, New Study May Add to Skepticism Among Security Experts That North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack.
"On Wednesday, one alternate theory emerged. Computational linguists at Taia Global, a cybersecurity consultancy, performed a linguistic analysis of the hackers’ online messages—which were all written in imperfect English—and concluded that based on translation errors and phrasing, the attackers are more likely to be Russian speakers than Korean speakers.
"Such linguistic analysis is hardly foolproof. But the practice, known as stylometry, has been used to contest the authors behind some of history’s most disputed documents, from Shakespearean sonnets to the Federalist Papers. ..."
The unraveling of the details behind the Sony hack will doubtless be more interesting than the movie that stumbled into the fray, possibly after the fact, and because the Great Successor Comrade Kim did not get the joke. So far, the strongest review I've seen for The Interview is that it was "better than expected." But there are too many genuinely good movies to choose from in the theaters right now.
The Flicks in Boise has three of them, and we were in the Christmas queue when they opened yesterday afternoon, happily waiting for The Imitation Game at 5:00 rather than Wild at 4:20, which was announced "sold out" while we were in line. The Theory of Everything is on as well.
The Imitation Game has ample depiction of intrigue, computational linguistics, stylometry, cybersecurity drama and enough dark humor (but alas, no slapstick if you were looking for that). Cumberbatch is brilliant and deserves all the accolades he's getting and will get for a moving performance and bringing Alan Turing's story (and some dramatic embellishments) to life.
NPR's Science Friday deconstructed the space between movie and history, a week ago, with Janna Levin and Simon Singh. L.V. Anderson has a rundown of inaccuracies for Slate, as well. Don't watch it as a documentary, but definitely recommended.
Robert Ehlert, the Idaho Statesman's editorial page editor, offered his opinion of the season of generosity with Peter Schwartz' defense of selfishness as a foil. I do hope Ehlert's obeisance to Schwartz as "esteemed author" (never mind the Ayn Rand Institute's calling him a "distinguished fellow") and referring to Ayn Rand as "a superb novelist, author and philosopher" was intended as irony, but his self-professed "mushy, gushy" sappiness makes me think it was more likely intended as a gift.
Which carries its own sack full of irony. Schwartz declares that "as an Objectivist, I’ve adopted an ethics [sic] not of altruism but of rational self-interest" and repudiates the "set of commandments" that tells us what to do to help others. We are not the boss of him, he wants us to know.
Schwartz likes the commercial Christmas, the holiday lights others put up for his enjoyment, parties people invite him to, and so on. He loves his wife, he tells us, "because she personifies the things I treasure most." She must be very special. To him. His owl-motif gift that will surprise and delight her is "a form of spiritual payment in acknowledgment of the value her life has to me."
Such a romantic!
He claims to give to others, but wants us to know it's on his terms; he's not obligated, not paying a debt of any sort. "I donate to certain charities when the recipients, as judged by my standards, are worthy of help," he tells us. "You have no obligation to make yourself suffer so that someone else might benefit."
We might rest easy were it not for the thin ice of accepting unasked-for moral guidance and lessons in spiritual economics from Ayn Rand and her disciple. Oh, and Schwartz has a book forthcoming, did he mention? "In Defense of Selfishness," it's titled, and in that spirit, I'll make sure I don't buy a copy.
As an avowed atheist, Schwartz must recognize that his self-interest, no matter how logically enlightened he may imagine it to be, is ultimately (and literally) a dead end. The existential paradox of rationality requires us all (yes, you too will be obligated, Peter) to recognize that rationality has its limits. Even without considering our mortality, there are the limits to knowledge and—as Schwartz demonstrates so well, if so unwittingly—understanding. The selfish rationalist recognizes the limits to his ability to assess his own self-interest.
Environmentalism (for example), doesn't make any sense to the objectivist interested in nothing more than his own three score and ten. Why bother? It's obvious (to him) that environmentalists don't care about evidence, science or logic, they're just trying to tell him what to do, and they are not the boss of him. Why care about the future when you won't be in it? Sure, the earth was habitable for him, but why should he care about its post-Schwartzian future?
As morally bankrupt as the objectivist dogma may be, its attractions are undeniable and account for no small popularity these days. Whatever church they do or don't attend, the Koch brothers are even more distinguished fellows of objectivism, capitalism, libertarianism and most especially laissez faire capitalism than Schwartz can hope to be. They're willing to put their considerably greater money where their mouths are, for philanthropy that suits them (which they're happy to account for), political action (not so much), and just good old thinking about the glorious free market that serves them so well.
We approach the apotheosis of this (a)moral philosophy of objectivism as the rich exploit the poor in a globalized system of trade that offers a panoply of middle class goods and services (after Christmas sales!) even as it mines the shrinking middle class to advance the fortunes of our captains of industry. From the public, free common schools you can find in a Constitution near you, to for-profit higher education funded through student loans with interest rates (and bankruptcy provisions) generous to the same banks that our elites deemed too big to fail, after they'd nearly blown up the global financial system.
We accept a large helping of moral hazard to grease the wheels of commerce, and count the usury of payday lending as a "good" in the Gross Domestic Product. With an equally large helping of hubris, we can declare all of that virtuous, and set the scene for tragedy in the final act.
I didn't read T.M. Luhrmann's Christmas essay, Religion Without God, until after we came home from the Christmas Eve service at our Unitarian Universalist church last night, but she strikes notes that resonanted with me, between singing for and with a jolly congregation that took the trouble to come out of their cozy homes on a snowy winter's night. Gratitude and generosity serve our own self-interests, it turns out, for mental and physical health, and for the strength and health of our communities. You have a free choice to endorse, accept, or resent the pull of generosity upon you, whether it's through the coercion of taxes or charity of your own choosing.
On the internet, no one knows you're a tout, even though that would seem the default assumption for "word of mouth" endorsements these days. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. That's what Italy said, when it whacked TripAdvisor €500,000 for failing to prevent fake reviews. The company "rejected the decision" and plans to appeal, saying, “We fight fraud aggressively and are very confident in the systems and processes we have in place.”
Tricky business and a potentially an interesting case. In order for a reviewe to be deemed valid, it has to be attributable to an actual customer, and just like casinos watching for card-counting blackjack players, the contest might go both ways:
"In a twist, a number of hotels, including one in Britain, have threatened to fine guests who wrote bad reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor or Yelp, a rival site. Last month, for example, a British couple faced a $160 charge after they left an unflattering review on a local hotel, though the owners eventually refunded their money, though not the cost of their room."
The couple appreciated the low, low cost, but the Mrs. told the BBC reporter "you expect it to be clean and you expect it to be habitable - and it wasn't." (Maybe it was the Mr. being quoted in the subhead who described it as a "rotten, stinking hovel.") The attempted "policy" of charging "a maximum £100" for "every bad review left on any website" has been cancelled, and might eventually work wonders as the now infamous Broadway Hotel in Blackpool has "vowed to improve the facilities."
Quote from a Bernie Sanders quickmeme, over the punchline "Let's get our priorities right":
"Congress provides some $600 billion for defense spending - almost as much of the rest of the world combined. Yet, we are the only major country on earth that deosn't guarantee health care for all, and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country."
Ever so slightly disingenuously, the New York Times editorial board says "one would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability," but one would not. One would expect continuing and ridiculous partisan rancor to continue in this and all things, if we are to go by the record of the last 6 years.
Nevertheless, the larger point stands: our moral standing depends on prosecuting the torturers and their bosses.
"Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions."
Our Christmas card missives seem to be a little smaller every year, but the photo collection is bigger than ever. See here: Photos of our year. Not quite so many as in last year's, but at 1200px wide (mostly), bigger bytes.
With no need to factor in General Relativity, we know that time is relative; once a year in the life was all there was for me, and now it's a scant Babylonian fraction. My days, likewise, spin ever faster, even as the earth spins—mostly— slower. You don't have to get under the hood of a computer to know that date arithmetic is difficult, but until somebody started the meme rolling that today's northern hemisphere night would be the longest ever on earth, and then stood corrected, did I pay attention to see just how substantial, and irregular is the gap between our ability to measure time in atomic behavior versus time on our planet. From Wikipedia's treatise on the leap second to Steve Allen's time dilemma (starting with an invitation to see also six other pages "while viewing this page").
"[T]he earth sometimes spins slower, and sometimes spins faster. The variations are basically due to weather in the atmosphere, oceans, and core of the earth. This is why there cannot be a leap second schedule, for issuing a schedule of leap seconds would be like making a schedule of the weather."
Considering just the span of my life (conveniently), Allen's graph of "Time scales since the cesium atomic frequency standard" (the second of the three figures in the page linked above, or by itself, as a PDF) shows how dodgy our spinning about has become these days.
No sooner had we come up with "early atomic time" than we could start measuring the deviation between that and Universal Time measured according to the sun. For quite a few years, the radio broadcast of time kept up (down?) with the sliding scale, until the keepers of Coordinated Universal Time (not CUT, and also not TUC for Temps Universal Coordonné, but the linguistically compromised UCT) started adding leap seconds, at the irregular schedule of our irregular planet. Since our last one, added June 30, 2012 (when 23:59:60 came after 23:59:59, instead of the usual 00:00:00 midnight of the new day), the total offset is 35 seconds. When's the next one? We don't know. Ask the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service if you like, but they won't say with more than 6 months' notice.
Wikimedia also has the plot of daily deviation of day length from 86,400 seconds plotted for half a century (excerpted here), combining the daily noise with a 365-day moving average and the cumulative deviation of more than 6 milliseconds per day. There have been some days that run shorter than 86,400 of late, and the moving average approached the zero line ten years ago, but didn't quite get there.
Just the luck of the draw put English instructor and waitress Brittany Bronson's NYT op-ed and NPR's Twelve Weeks to a Six-Figure Job in adjacent browser tabs this afternoon. I'd read the intro and teaser for "Your Waitress, Your Professor" on Bill Moyers' site, When the Well Educated Middle Class Joins the Working Poor and barely had time to digest regional airline pilots making what fry cooks do, and the remarkable statistic that three-quarters of all US college professors are classified as “contingent faculty” now. The tenure-busting "adjunct" classification still had that new-car smell when Jeanette found herself eased off the tenure track courtesy of a "financial exigency" at the start of the 1980s, and higher education has been in pretty much one exigency after another since then.
The "comparing costs" chart down in the NPR piece juxtaposes the $quarter million to see your way through Carnegie Mellon (a "top-tier private university") with $76k for the average in-state public university, 2/3rds of that at a for-profit tech school, a mere $12,200 for a coder boot camp, or free! for "self-taught." As if... any one of those could land you that software developer, db admin, programmer, web dev or graphic designer job?
The "job descriptions" sidebar was interesting to me because, yeah, "several computing-related fields overlap with web development," as they say, and on any given day in code, I'll be doing something of all those jobs. Given the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook sorting, I shall refer myself as the all-purpose and highest paid "software developer" from now on. The "job outlook" chart says there are more sw dev jobs and job growth than all the other categories put together, so why not?
At the same time, it's hard to imagine the "six-figure" opportunity going on for much longer. Developing software takes a specialized set of skills, but there are plenty of people with the aptitude for hacking away at it, and plenty who live where labor is much, much cheaper, and with internet connections just as good as (or better than) they are in my neighborhood.
Recognized Jon Stewart, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bryan Cranston, Mandy Patinkin, Yo Yo Ma, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sam Waterston, Big Bird, Keith Olbermann, Ken Burns, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, James Franco, Cookie Monster, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dean Kamen's Segway, Christiane Amanpour, Sir Patrick Stewart, Ray Odierno (although his name didn't spring to mind), Barry Manilow, Arianna Huffington, Alan Alda, Cory Booker, George Lucas, Alexi Lalas, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger (WTF?), Bob Costas, Terry Gross, Thom Friedman, Paul Krugman, about in that order.
Make what you will of that, and who all I didn't recognize as you enjoy every cameo in the epic finale of The Colbert Report in stills, and the video again.
Props to Lt. Levity even though his (?) Christmas in Blunderland post is not so jolly, or perhaps as his illustration suggests, jolly to a fault. It's a familiar seasonal tale by now, poor housing, needy waifs, manger-like conditions, and a nine-digit upside, even before you tote up how many lives could be saved. Where's some of that pro-life feeling when you need it?
"For two years the Idaho Legislature has rejected an expansion of Medicaid. The expansion would provide health coverage for up to 100,000 Idahoans who can’t afford health insurance but don’t qualify under current Medicaid rules. Here’s the kicker – the feds would pick up 90 percent of the cost. Put plainly, it would save lives and money."
The downside being that you can't trust the blasted federal government (let alone the state's!), and they might take away their funding and leave us to... I don't know, whatever it is we're doing now. With the Republicans poised to take over Congress, they could make good on promises of the government's brokeness. Oklahoma's Senator Tom Coburn is about done with tilting at windmills in that body, but his Preventing an Unrealistic Future Medicaid Augmentation Plans [sic] Act of 2013 will likely show up in some form next year, carried by co-author Richard Burr (R-NC), or some other GOP Senator.
As for why Parish Miller is "reporting" the Coburn-Burr bill from May, 2013 as if it were current events, let's just say the IFF seems to have dropped the "Reporter" pretense and is offering up its thinly disguised anti-government opinions plainly under its "Restoring Liberty / Improving Lives / Donate to IFF" banner. Which is not to say that the 114th Congress won't be replete with all of the bad ideas contained in legislation understood to be merely "symbolic" from the last four years, the parade of DOA position papers out of the House and the occasional Senate press release returning in zombie fashion to beat down the doors of the unsuspecting populace and dine on their brains.
"Self-fulfilling prophecy" is rather too kind an assessment of what the new year might bring. I'm expecting more like failure by design.
A Spokane Co. (Washington) Sheriff's deputy made the mistake of speaking candidly about the need he feels for getting a leg up in the local law enforcement arms race. "We've got a lot of constitutionalists," he said, "and a lot of people that stockpile weapons, a lot of ammunition." Said people are planning to prove his point in spades on Saturday:
"Scott Maclay, president of the Rattlesnakes Motorcycle Club, has invited other constitutionalists to join him Saturday at 2 p.m. for a protest at the 'occupied' Spokane Valley Police Department on East Sprague Avenue."
Rachel Alexander's account for the Spokesman-Review leads with the complaint that the sheriff is "targeting law-abiding gun owners," but your average mine-resistant armored vehicle seems rather more defensive to me.
"Protesters will barbecue food in the parking lot, openly carry firearms and erect a Christmas tree to leave letters of complaint directed at the Sheriff’s Office in its branches."
There's nothing quite like open carry to protect those toys and goodies in your sleigh while expressing one's love for God and country. I'm not really sheriff (or sheriff advisory) material, but it would be in ye olde Christmas tradition for the constables to have a bonfire with the Tree of Particulars afterwards, would it not?
The president of the Rattlesnakes "said he didn’t condone threats against law enforcement but wanted [Spokane Co. Sheriff Ozzie] Knezovich to respond to his critics seriously and take responsibility," by giving back the MRAP, at least. The story does not say whether they want Ozzie to give back the utility vehicles, bomb disposal robot, night-vision goggles for helicopter pilots and modified assault rifles. (Do they have helicopter pilots? Helicopters?)
First it's "we're just regular guys parading our god-given right to bare arms and camo" and then it's "we want to be taken seriously." Confusing. "Militantly anti-law enforcement comments" (in the reporter's characterization of the Sheriff's view) on Alex Jones' InfoWars.com weren't helping either, "some of which called for the deputy to be shot." Sampling... "mark" wonders
"by the way are any mainline Republicans going to pick up on this story? Hannity, Orielly, Limbaugh, Beck.. Where are you guys? The cops are saying constitutionalists are the new enemies of the police state!"
From that distant hill where Hannity, "Orielly," Limbaugh, and Beck are "mainline Republicans." "commiebasher" is a bit more direct:
"'Constitutionalists' are not the problem...Its cops that are Leftists (Third Reich inspired, yes, the Nazis were Leftists) as well as the legislators. The people WILL take care of business if we are pushed."
It's safe to assume comment threads on infowars don't really warm up until Godwin's law is demonstrated. And talk about your triangulation! "John Gault" reminds us to
"Bear in mind that these comment boards are controlled by anti constitutionalist forces within the federal goverment who subscribe to neomarxist ideology. You must 'put on the glasses' to see through the shills and trolls."
(Wait, where did you get those glasses?)
Here we thought the Sheriff was the highest law enforcement official of the land, but Washington State Rep. Matt "Anger Management" Shea has seen fit to weigh in, as gleefully reported on InfoWars, not to drive ad views for X-2 Survival Shield and Oxy-Powder ("the best rated, scientifically formulated, all natural oxygen colon cleanser") or anything.
“I don’t even know a context or a situation where such a statement would ever be justified,” said Shea, adding that “a lot of people are up in arms right now” about what kind of policy would lead the deputy to be comfortable in making such statements.
I don't know, would a lot of people—literally—up in arms be a context or situation?
"headshot2u" says "This is frightening !" and could have been talking about the comment thread, but was in fact talking about the original report.
"This cop so much as said that he will kill gun owners if Osambo tells him to. They (cops) need to know that we will resist, we will not comply, and if that means fighting to the death, then so be it. Remember too that 'we' just may get the keys to his toy before he does! I hope and pray that enough cops 'just say no' to tyranny that this SHTF never happens."
I wish the Sheriff and his deputies the best of luck in de-escalating the crazy up there, because in spite of headshot2u's expressed hope and prayer, it's hard not to picture a strong contingent up there rooting more for SHTF than domestic tranquility.
As Red Green likes to say, "we're all in this together." So while it may be real nice to go fill up for $2.469 a gallon (or perhaps less, where you are today?), a plunging oil price is not going to lift all boats. Well, to be literal about it, cheap oil and gas may lift all boats, as it's more likely to speed global warming than international negotiations are to limit the generation of greenhouse gas.
Long before that or a resurgence in large vehicle sales and automaker profits play out, oil-dependent economies are likely to suffer more immediate damage, and Russia is first in line. The desperate attempt to stop the bleeding by its central bank spiking their interest rate to 17% failed to arrest the plummeting ruble, which reached a record low of 74 to the dollar today.
That's one third the value the "new" ruble had when we visited 15 years ago, and you could buy two subway rides or two loaves of bread for the equivalent of two-bits U.S. (The new ruble was new on New Year's Day, 1998, replacing 1,000 old rubles and momentarily worth one-sixth of a dollar. It's had its ups and downs, but traded 25 to 30-ish to the dollar until the dust-up in Ukraine and now the price of oil tanking.)
Apart from the collateral damage to the economic well-being of the populace in a panic, there's that old cold-war military of theirs, with the nuclear warheads and all. A wounded bear could be mighty dangerous.
Dick Cheney is out on the hustings running for a legacy in an ever-less convincing fashion. “I would do it again in a minute,” he said, as if doing it all again could improve the judgment of history. His grab-bag of justifications, dodges and excuses seems bottomless.
Scott Shane, writing for the New York Times, says with understatement that Cheney "may be running some political risk," bringing up those memories of how catastrophically wrong he has been about so many things, and how badly his concept of the "unitary executive" has served the country. How strange that approving torture could be a matter of which party you belong to, or that Senator John McCain's principled stand could leave him in a "lonely position" in the party that nominated him for President just a few years ago.
“What we need to do is come clean, we move forward and we vow never to do it again,” McCain said. “I urge everyone to just read the report.” Mr. Cheney's not taking advice from anyone; said he had read “parts” of the report. No need to augment his certainty; you can't be more sure than sure.
Timothy Egan's not subtle about the moral comparison at issue: The War Hero and the Chicken Hawk. But then I don't suppose Cheney is reading Egan's column either.
He's had more than six years to catch up on Jane Mayer's version of his story, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, in which we'd already learned that "the CIA’s treatment of prisoners categorically constituted torture and could make Bush administration officials who approved the torture methods guilty of war crimes. Mayer also reveals that the Bush administration ignored warnings from the CIA six years ago that up to a third of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake." (From the Democracy Now introduction to Amy Goodman's interview with Mayer in July, 2008.)
Cheney's never shown much public impulse for conventional religion, and he's a member of the United Methodist Church, not Catholic, but Mark Shea's piece for Patheos would also go on my list of daily reading for our ex-vice president: What Torture Broke Was Us: An Examination of Conscience for American Catholic Torture Defenders. You don't need an anti-abortion bent to partake of the moral hazard that fear, rage and desire for retribution can bring, "becoming the thing we hate." The detailed list of what we tacitly (and Cheney explicitly) defended is horrific.
Robert Pear called them "highlights" in his rundown of what's in the $1.1T FY2015 spending bill, but that word can't do them justice.
Relaxing restrictions on big banks' risky trading mixes rather handily with relaxing campaign finance limits to let those who benefit the most make their appreciation known. Still more "pension reform" to permit trustees to reduce payouts. Cuts for the EPA, of course, so we can keep lead in our shot and tackle. And the "miscellaneous" grab-bag including white potatoes, Joe Biden's salary, marijuana legalization in D.C. (so much for letting the voters have "local control") and this hip shot:
Prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse as an endangered species.
By Congressional decree, the sage grouse shall not be endangered. That was easy.
After letting the Canon SX40 sit three days sans battery to have the storage caps' voltage bleed into the ether, I gingerly squirted some air in the annulus between the case and the lens tube, put the battery back in and... the power up was "cold start" duration, telling me I'd waited long enough, but very shortly it was back to the Black Screen of Death. Damn.
After its dying beeps and power-down, I tried again, and again (what else?) and on one try, the lens exerted and retracted a bit, with its regular smooth sound, although only back to the not-fully-retracted point where it got stuck, or slipped out to, or whatever happened before I first found it non-operative.
Still wasn't good, but it gave me enough dim hope to keep trying. Sometimes nought but the BSOD, but once, an active screen with settings icons arrayed around the edge... and then back to BSOD and power-down. I gave it a bit more air, felt for transverse play between the lens assembly and case, then applied a little more force in the one axis where it has a bit, and on the next try... it came up live!
I excitedly waved it around the office and took images #3791 and 3792 and was about to take a selfie for #3793 but hit the power button instead of the shutter, upon which it shut down cleanly. Fantastic!
As for the pictures, there aren't many views inside our house that won't include books, but call it special good fortune to land on a Bible for this back-from-the-dead camera's subject. Also, Charles Leslie's Anthropology of Folk Religion and some Zora Neale Hurston to cover all bases.
Now each time I go to press the power button, I can anticipate a Schrödingerlich moment. Today, this cat is alive.
Update: A few pictures later, I remembered I should go back and set the date and time... and saw that it had retained its memory of the date and time, in spite of being debatteried for 3 days. Of course, it had the 3791 sequence number as well, and the -1/3 stop exposure tweak last used. Just something that goes bad every couple thousand power cycles?
Thanks to the NYT's "latest news" rundown for alerting me to the big date tomorrow, last American style sequential date of the century, and our lifetime, most of us: 12/13/14. (Eurostyle's last hurrah came and went last December 11th. I did write it down whether or not I realized how momentous it was.) Come January 2, 2103 (or 1.Feb.2103) who knows whether anyone will notice and reflect on the 89 (or 90) year lull?
Lost in the holiday hubbub over torture, emporer Obama and stores open on Thanksgiving Day, this item about Idaho's Interim Federal Lands Committee coming to its inevitable conclusion, that "for us to make a demand ... is meaningless," as State Senator Chuck Winder put it. Some of us knew that a long time ago, but nice to see the remedial class is catching up, too.
Don't know if it was the final straw or not, but the timing of the news—Tuesday—that the University of Idaho's Policy Analysis Group studied the question and estimated federal lands transfer could cost Idaho $millions had a lot to do with it. Still, when I heard that the study (catchy title: Would a transfer of federal lands to the State of Idaho make or lose money?) showed losses in eight of nine scenarios, my first thought was that the land grabber committee would seize on that ninth scenario, and say "see here!"
Increase timber harvest by a billion board feet a year, and sell the timber for 25 cents a board foot, and we're golden! There is the minor detail that the timber harvests from Forest Service managed land in Idaho in the last 70 years have reached a BBF in only a couple peak years of the 1960s.
The UI PAG's nine scenarios were "low, medium, high" harvest of additional 500, 750, 1,000 MMBF, and "low, medium, high" stumpage value of $150, 200, 250 per MBF. Net net, only the highest harvest and highest price fetched a break-even result once the cost of timberland management, highway maintenance, payments to counties, and cost of BLM lands were factored in.
It's Congressional D-Day, the final session of the year in their grueling 102-day calendar and in order to keep the lights on, they have to finally approve something, which seems to be the preferred modus operandi anymore. "We're not doing anything until we absolutely have to do something."
Which means said "something" will be an egg-laying woolly milk pig of a legislation, with something for everyone. Richard Viguerie is hopping mad (which really should be a perennial favorite cartoon for the holidays, shouldn't it?) and christended this "bloated Continuing Resolution – Omnibus spending bill that’s full of earmarks and funding for Obama's executive amnesty and other liberal policies" the "CRomnibus." Whoa betide any "GOP boneless wonder" who would cast a vote for it, and let's primary them! In, ah, another year and a half.
But Viguerie has a long memory, all the way back to his glory days of the 1960s and '70s when he says he was called the "Funding Father of the conservative movement" for pioneering direct mail to bypass the mainstream media. Now of course, there's the Fox News bypass.
Plenty of apoplexy from the left as well, thanks to the pig in a poke unleashing banks to gamble in derivatives with bailouts to cover losing hands (feeling like replaying the 2008 crash, anyone?), and what the hell, why don't we cripple the IRS while we're at it? Nobody likes them, after all, and hey, we can effectively gut the Affordable Care Act for good measure. Because, who wants health insurance, anyway?
Defunding Homeland Security ASAP sounds a little crazy, but that's part of the deal, too, because of Obama's audacious executive order to do something about millions of illegal immigrants in limbo. Better no security than amnesty, right?
And pulling the few remaining teeth out of campaign finance law, so that donors can legally chip in $1.6 million per election cycle to parties and campaign committees and get their free speech on.
We're only quibbling over a trillion dollars or so of funding we're fussing about. And 1,600 pages, which all members have carefully read, right? And if they can't come together this afternoon, maybe we could have another short-term Continuing Resolution, completing the 113th Congress' historical impotence with one final flaccidity from John Boehner.
It's almost poetic.
The responses to the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report roll in. Just as for the committee, the partisan split between "Oh my god" and "It worked, shut up" redound. Idaho's Senator Jim Risch joined with Marco Rubio to call the release names, such as "unconsionable," "reckless and irresponsible." Risch and Rubio said the report "does not qualify as serious or constructive." John McCain memorably begged to differ with that point of view.
"I commend Chairman Feinstein and her staff for their diligence in seeking a truthful accounting of policies I hope we will never resort to again. I thank them for persevering against persistent opposition from many members of the intelligence community, from officials in two administrations, and from some of our colleagues."
Unlike the statement from Risch and Rubio, McCain's is well worth careful reading in its entirety. So is soldier, police officer, professor and interrogator Eric Fair's chilling op-ed: I Can’t Be Forgiven for Abu Ghraib.
"Today, the Senate released its torture report. Many people were surprised by what it contained: accounts of waterboardings far more frequent than what had previously been reported, weeklong sleep deprivation, a horrific and humiliating procedure called “rectal rehydration.” I’m not surprised. I assure you there is more; much remains redacted."
In the spirit of Christmas, perhaps, the Idaho Statesman's headline writer put this atop Michael Gerson's commentary: "Feinstein plays Pontius Pilate in CIA report." Jesus! But Gerson's own angle was that the Senator "put on her Guy Fawkes mask" to hide guilt, hypocrisy and betrayal in her treasonous complicity, after his opening suggestion to let's change the subject and talk about the drone program instead. (Or does he mean to suggest Feinstein should be tortured too, as Fawkes was?)
We've got time actually; we can talk about both things in turn.
We could talk about Alberto Gonzales and Condoleeza Rice shielding then president George W. Bush from guilty knowledge, or Bush bestowing the Medal of Freedom on CIA director George Tenet. We could talk some more about Dick Cheney's role, too, and highlights of his 41 named appearances in the released executive summary, and the rest of the cast of characters in the report.
And some time before Easter, if not Christmas, we could talk about Jesus Christ, and the Romans' preferred methods of torture. Let's just be clear when we do that we're talking about what we don't want to do again, rather than providing an instruction manual for obtaining false confessions.
At any rate, if you want the high level view of the "executive summary" that was released, one web page rather than 500-some pages of the Intel report, Joshua Holland's What you need to know might suffice. It was torture. It didn't work. The CIA lied to everyone. The CIA was incompetent in significant respects. A lot of the "work" was outsourced.
Update: Shawn Vestal details the nexus between outsourcing and incompetence for the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, where Mitchell, Jessen & Associates is based.
The report reveals that deep concerns about Mitchell and Jessen’s involvement were debated from the start of their involvement, in 2002. The men, who had no firsthand interrogation experience, were considered by some on the front lines to be ill-equipped for the job. One email from a CIA staff psychologist said “no professional in the field would credit” their judgments. Another said their “arrogance and narcissism” led to unnecessary conflicts in the field. The director of interrogations for the CIA called their program a “train wreck” and complained that they were blending the roles of doctor and interrogator inappropriately.
A medical officer painted a stark picture of a grotesque conflict-of-interest inherent in their roles, saying “the same individuals applied an (enhanced interrogation technique) which only they were approved to employ, judged both its effectiveness and detainee resilience, and implicitly proposed continued use of the technique – at a daily compensation reported to be $1,800/day.”
Anthony Romero has come around on the idea that he and the American Civil Liberties Union found "repugnant" when it was first floated: a pardon for George W. Bush and those who tortured.
Bush was arguing the case on his behalf on the eve of the Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program being released. Let's unite in a journey toward truth and reconciliation.
[L]et’s face it: Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions—no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures—because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country’s most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security. If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted.
"Mr. Obama could pardon George J. Tenet for authorizing torture at the C.I.A.’s black sites overseas, Donald H. Rumsfeld for authorizing the use of torture at the Guantánamo Bay prison, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee for crafting the legal cover for torture, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for overseeing it all."
Gentleman, start your list engines! Today's offering came in semi-spam from LinkedIn, the "top 14 influencer posts of 2014," complete with influencers' number of followers, the number of eyeballs, thumbs-ups and comments.
Dr. Travis Bradberry was the big winner, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and president of TalentSmart ("the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies"), with over 100,000 followers and 3 million eyeballs for his advice on "How Successful People Stay Calm."
The headline doesn't mention it, but there are ten things, and the good news is, you may be doing some of them already. "They sleep," and "they breathe." You can also see how performance vs. stress (severity and duration) forms a perfect bell curve through the lens of made-up infographics (bracketed by mention of "the Yale study" and "research from the University of California, Berkeley").
Bradberry gets a thumbs-up from The Dalai Lama, no less, in the form of an inside the flap blurb for his and Jean Greaves' book: "Emotional Intelligence 2.0 succinctly explains how to deal with emotions creatively and employ our intelligence in a beneficial way." The #1 article is presumably an even more succinct explanation, and nothing if not well-recommended!
There are other possible made-up pictures, of course. Performance vs. stress might be parabolic rather than normal. Dr. Rajiv Desai's post on his "educational blog," The Stress has some conceptual datagraphics that caught my eye, even before the pre-prologue unattributed stock (?) image of "Woman in stress-". I liked curious shape of "the human function curve," with its "comfort zone" before fatigue sets in, right at the "the hump." Gives "hump day" a new twist. (The "paradigm for our times" was described by PG Nixon in 1982, but all I can find 32 years later is the abstract. Or perhaps we need to step back further, to 1908, and the Yerkes-Dodson "law", with its more subtle differentiation between "simple" and "difficult" task performance.)
Google's HR Chief, Laszlo Bock, is #2 of LinkedIn's top fourteen, with "The Biggest Mistakes I See on Resumes, and How to Correct Them," which, that could be a best-selling book too, eh? Then marching down the aisle:
Richard Greene's exhortation to say "Merry Christmas" with lots of gusto came my way in Sunday's Idaho Statesman some time after listening to Rev. Dana Worsnop's homily, "Saving Christmas" and being reminded of a variety of the points made by Stephen Nissenbaum in his 1996 book, The Battle for Christmas, none of which would seem to concern Mr. Greene very much. He piqued my interest by claiming that "the only prominent religious holiday left to celebrate this year is Christmas," and the implied ranking of religious holidays. Personally, I'm big on the winter solstice and its undeniably prominent place in our annual calendar.
That was likely one of the primary reasons for plopping Christmas down in late December (on a date which was the solstice, in the calendar of the day). In spite of Greene's closing insistence that "it's not a winter festival," that's exactly what it is, at least up here in the northern temperate zone. But warring over celestial waypoints is not the worst of it.
"I've never understood," he writes, "the more than 2 billion Christians around the world - nearly a third of the global population - should have to moderate their annual celebration of faith."
Because... Ben Franklin or somebody recommended all things in moderation? Not that the annual paroxysms lack for unmoderated glee, in night lights, parties, tree decoration and all-hours religious services. Greene wants to know,
"Why do we get tied up in the debate every December over the question of whether or not it's OK to say 'Merry Christmas'?"
Let's ask the people who are tied up about it. Go head, I'll wait.
Idaho's namby-pamby legislature set up a task force (no, not this old thing, the Federal Lands Interim Committee, with its House co-chair now ascended to Secretary of State, and a seat on the Land Board, along with Sherri "You have got to be kidding me" Ybarra) to study the takeover of Federal land within our border, following Utah's lead with somewhat mincing steps. Dan Weber's piece for Wonkette describes what happens next (at least in the Utah solons' dream): Utah Plans To Just Take Federal Land, Anticipates No Real Problem With That.
We are not sure we’ve ever seen a more succinct summary of what “negotiation” means to a conservative than the one offered by Rep. Ivory here. Utah wants this land, the federal government says no, and Utah says, “Screw you, we’re taking it anyway.” What could go wrong?
As Utah H.B. 148 put it, the United States is required to extinguish title to public lands and transfer title to those public lands to the state on or before December 31, 2014, ipso facto, hocus pocus, Q.E.D. and when they then sell off the now-state land, they'll pay the federal government 95% of what they get and pocket the change for the State School Fund.
Utah's that place where conservative extremism is no vice, and most definitely not to be confused with conservation. Bob Bennett wasn't extreme enough to keep representing them in the Senate, thanks to stating the obvious that you can't "take back" what you never had. But "there's hydrocarbons in them thar hills," so giddyup.
Make no nevermind over the cigar in the punchbowl the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel left there at the bottom of the bill:
Congress has the absolute right to prescribe the times, the conditions, and the mode of transferring this property, or any part of it, and to designate the persons to whom the transfer shall be made. No State legislation can interfere with this right or embarrass its exercise; and to prevent the possibility of any attempted interference with it, a provision has been usually inserted in the compacts by which new States have been admitted to the Union, that such interference with the primary disposal of the soil of the United States shall never be made." Gibson v. Chouteau, 80 U.S. 92 .
The Transfer of Public Lands Act requires that the United States extinguish title to public lands and transfer title to those public lands to Utah by a date certain. Under the Gibson case, that requirement would interfere with Congress' power to dispose of public lands. Thus, that requirement, and any attempt by Utah in the future to enforce the requirement, have a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.
Clayton Cramer's Reader's Opinion in the Idaho Statesman yesterday complains about one element of Obama's executive order on immigration, "dramatically expand[ing] the number of high-tech workers allowed" in.
"In some respects this is a microcosm of the entire program, driving down the wages of American workers for the benefit of a wealthy set of billionaires."
People crossing the border hoping for work, whether they're hiking across the desert from Mexico or flying in from China with an H-1B visa are probably in it for themselves and not intending to benefit billionaires, but the point stands. Would careers such as Cramer's be safe within our borders if we don't let immigrants in? That's not quite the way things have been working out. The billionaire set has been seeking out cheap labor wherever it can be found, Communist China, India, southeast Asia, you name it. Thanks to some of that high-speed telecommunications software he wrote, billionaires can find cheaper technology workers without having to care about immigration policy or visas.
Cesar Chavez was on Cramer's side he figures, "oppos[ing] the immigration of Hispanics, fearing it would break his [United Farmworkers] union." He tops it off his essay with a non sequitur identifying who's to blame for all this:
"Progressives, in their desire to bring Third World wages to the U.S., are destroying our middle class."
What the what? The movement that sought to eradicate corruption, tax the wealthy, expand suffrage, improve public education and middle class working conditions is now bent on destruction? Say it ain't so! The construction of "progressive" strawmen for purposes of exercise with verbal pitchforks is a popular conservative pursuit these days. They're still miffed at Teddy Roosevelt, it seems. And Woodrow Wilson. The U.N.! Idaho's Republican fringe has succeeded in rolling back the mischief of open primaries, the initiative and referendum, and still has repeal of the 17th Amendment and direct election of Senators on its to-do list. (Having Jim Risch coast to another six-years of on-the-job retirement does make you wonder what difference it would have made to have our legislature reappoint him.)
Cramer's experience gives him an interesting point of view, but it's rather curious what all he's concluded from it. He's been "over 40" for quite some time, and "unemployable in the private sector" for all that? It's certainly not easy finding professional work in middle age and in the post-Great Recession economy, but I know a few people who've managed to do it over 50, and even over 60. His bio line mentions his work at a state agency, which probably means PERSI will help him through his dotage, whether or not he manages to obtain disability payments from Social Security.
He does seem able to keep his blog going in spite of his ailments, at least, and sounds rather pleased to note that "as you might expect the left is furious" for his "calling them out" on Obama's immigration action.
Teaching antebellum history at the College of Western Idaho won't go obsolete, at least. He might reflect that the union (and tenure) busting category of adjunct faculty he enjoys has hurt the middle class also, but I'm not standing by for that epiphany to land.
Some of his students may get to wondering how his instruction in history will further their own careers enough to justify the expense. What career would he encourage a young person to pursue, we wonder.
The Idaho Statesman ran David G. Savage's "analysis" on the Tuesday front page, over a sub-byline "Statesman Washington Bureau," but here, the L.A. Times says its their Washington bureau, and he's been doing this for almost three decades, including the confirmation hearings for all nine of the justices sitting on the Supreme Court. His observations and inferences are no doubt better-informed than any I can make, even if I have to wonder how much of what he supposes is inside John Roberts' mind is speculative fiction. Anyway, the L.A. Times piece, delivered complete with catchy "sharelines" if you don't like the chosen headline is about how President Obama's use of executive action may cost him another conservative: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
The local headline had "key ally" in it, as if! Two years ago, Roberts didn't join the right-right wing and throw out the whole Affordable Care Act, so there's that. But now in the context of the widely acclaimed need for action in regard to immigration, and the utter incapacity Congress has shown for doing anything, Obama's declaration risks souring Roberts' mood, such that his petulance may spill over into a different result for an unrelated question?
That grand staircase, the big columns, the black robes and the TV blackout made it seem like a grander institution than that, but the occupants in the leather swivel chairs are all too-human. It could be the way Savage imagines.
"Experts say that legally the healthcare case is a close call. If so, the outcome may turn on whether the justices are inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt, or whether they believe it's time to rein him in."
Previous bridges too far include Truman's seizure of steel mills during the Korean war, the fight over the Watergate tapes, Bill Clinton's pecadillos, hearing-free detention at Gitmo, and... healthcare insurance reform? It's an odd list, to the say the least, and an odd battle for the Republicans to fight so tirelessly. The ACA was gravely wounded by the "states-rights" decision over Medicaid expansion, aided and abetted by anti-federal and anti-Obama state legislatures such as Idaho's, even if Roberts did save the balance of the law, perhaps temporarily. The attack on subsidies based on an arguably semantic point of the text Congress passed is another attempt to cripple the act to full disability, and win support for the "repeal and start over," which would be indistinguishable from "repeal and do nothing." Millions would lose insurance for the principle of the thing.
We've seen some remix of it, but not the original, putting us in a techno-minority. With 7 or 8 billion people on the planet (and a billion mobile phones in Africa, I hear), brace yourselves for more instances of 32-bit integers running out of gas. TechHive explains how Gangnam Style broke YouTube, which was then fixed.
Just one leetle beety problem embedded in our "Congressional Delegation," as The Book Bear reported on the Daily Kos:
Congressman Raúl Labrador's "news" link actually points to his "labrador4idaho.com" campaign website, its family-friendly landing page containing a big old "DONATE TODAY" button should you be so moved. Not that that's an astounding error and breaking the law or anything.
Let's see if a tweet to @Raul_Labrador gets any sort of response. (I looked at the Contact link on the page, but there's too much interference.)
Update: BB noted that Dan Popkey is on top of it, got 'er fixed just about the time I tweeted, which was a couple hours after the DK post.
Update #2: Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise blog post has more about how (quickly) the link was fixed once it came to the Access Idaho manager's attention. Kevin Wilson's comment below it describes how long the illegal and erroneous link was offered to the browsing public: an astounding 2 years and 2 months.
Noah Feldman writes about Ferguson's Grand Jury Problem, after ye olde medieval English practice was enshrined in our constitution and repurposed to provide political cover for a prosecutor who didn't much want to prosecute, apparently. As Ben Casselman observes on FiveThirtyEight, grand juries nearly always decide to indict."
“If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”
But prosecutors aren't so keen to get an indictment in police shootings.
The New York Times rundown of the grand jury process (with a link to its released documents) doesn't mention what Lawrence O'Donnell did for MSNBC, about the prosecution providing grand jurors with a statute that had been ruled unconstitutional, just before Darren Wilson's testimony, and then three months later sort of correcting that error without being at all specific about what the error was. There is Andrew Branca's derisive rebuttal that never mind O'Donnell's "reasoning, such as it is," Wilson "relied explicitly and entirely" on a different statute, as if... he was on trial? But of course he wasn't. A grand jury is about whether enough evidence that a crime was committed exists to proceed with a prosecution.
Branca may be right about the law, but his conceit that providing false (and persuasive) information to a grand jury just doesn't matter seems close to nonsense. The jurors act in the context of the law, not following its letters. They don't know the minutiae of the law for one thing, and certainly not if the experts they have to rely on mislead them.
Another question from last week: Why exactly did the police lie for 108 days about how far Mike Brown ran from Darren Wilson? (Just a coincidence that the grand jurors were holding a repudiated Missouri statute about shooting fleeing suspects about the same duration.)
Among the discrepancies discussed after the grand jury adjourned were a variety of "unorthodox" procedures, or more like "violated protocols for handling a crime scene and securing evidence, according to experts in policing procedures and Justice Department documents."
In any event, the most relevant question is, what next? Michelle Alexander's telling of telling her son about Ferguson is a powerful statement of how far we have yet to go.
Update: It was certainly on my mind, and one of the more thoughtful exchanges on this subject and its cultural context, but I neglected to mention Frank Rich's interview with Chris Rock. Must read.
Tom von Alten