Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 16th, 2010

The lunatics are taking over

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Steve Benen gives a perfect example.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

The Wife catches Defoe

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Robinson Crusoe got much from the wreck—canvas sails, ropes a-plenty, hatchets, an ax, a couple of guns with powder and shot a-plenty, and so on. But he lamented that he had no easy way to dig and transport dirt: no wheelbarrow, no bucket, no shovel, no pick.

He was able to make do with a crowbar for a pick, and he fashioned a shovel of sorts from ironwood at a great cost in labor, but still: once you break up and dig up the earth, how do you move it about? Moving it by hand is terribly tedious. He eventually fashioned a sort of hod, but The Wife pointed out that he had the canvas, and it would be easy to pile dirt on a piece of that and then drag or lift and carry it wherever. And I think the idea would have immediately occurred to Crusoe. So we catch Defoe nodding.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Books

The US budget

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Budgets reflect national priorities. Ours are clear:

Via ThinkProgress.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 3:09 pm

The growing authoritarianism of the US state

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Radley Balko:

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a SWAT raid on New Haven nightclub. The raid was for suspected underage drinking. In addition to the obvious overkill show of force, police also threatened and allegedly arrested a Quinnipiac University student for attempting to record the raid with their cell phones (the police say the student was arrested for assaulting officers and disrupting the raid). This was a big story in New Haven, and it prompted a statement from both the mayor and the chief of police affirming that it is perfectly legal to record on-duty cops in New Haven.

At about the same time, another man was arrested in New Haven for recording the cops. On September 25, Luis Luna was arrested for filming an arrest outside of a New Haven bar with his cell phone. Officially, Luna was charged with interfering with police, but the police report itself specifically says that Luna was arrested for “filming”, and makes no mention of him interfering with the arrest in any other way. (You can read the report here [PDF].)

The report also says that Luna’s arrest was ordered not by a rank-and-file cop, but by Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, as in the assistant chief of the New Haven Police Department. According to the New Haven Independent, when Luna got his phone back, the arrest video had been deleted. His phone did, however, include the photo at right, which looks to be an image mistakenly captured while the cops were fiddling with Luna’s phone.

After nightclub incidents made headlines, New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon assured the local media that he told his officers, “Assume you’re being videotaped all the time when you’re out there.” And here’s what New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said on October 4 in response to the nightclub raid:

This is America. Anyone can film anytime they want, including you, me and the PD while on duty. It is not my understanding that this is why the QU student was arrested.

Perhaps not. But it is why Luis Luna was arrested. And on October 8, four days after DeStefano unequivocally affirmed the legality of recording on-duty cops, Luna appeared in court to answer the charge. Here’s what happened next:

“I approached the prosecutor and he said they would drop my charges and that I would have to pay a fine for creating a public disturbance,” Luna said. Luna said he thought to himself that he shouldn’t have to pay anything, that he hadn’t done anything wrong. But the prosecutor told him he probably wouldn’t qualify for a public defender, Luna said. He said when he asked where he might find a lawyer, he was referred to the yellow pages.

Without the time or money to fight the case, Luna decided to agree to the deal. He was charged with the lesser crime of creating a public disturbance.

When the judge asked if he was guilty, he said no, Luna recalled. “The judge explained I have to plead guilty,” he said. “At that moment when I said I’m guilty, I felt like I was going against myself.”

If, according to DeStefano, “[a]nyone can film anytime they want, including you, me and the PD while on duty,” why was Luna arrested, charged, and convicted for doing precisely that?

If the law in New Haven is as clear as DeStefano makes it out to be, not only should Luna have never been arrested, but in ordering the arrest, Assistant Chief Melendez clearly violated Luna’s civil rights—and he, of all people, should have known as much. New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington (or whatever subordinate handled the case) also should have known that carrying out the prosecution of Luna was also a violation of Luna’s rights. Finally, the cop or cops who deleted the video on Luna’s phone destroyed evidence, of both the arrest Luna was filming and of the illegal arrest of Luis Luna himself.

So who will be punished? Will the cops who deleted the video face criminal charges, as any citizen who destroys evidence of unlawful activity likely would? Will they be charged for destroying Melendez’s property? Will Melendez be disciplined for ordering an arrest that was, very clearly, a violation of New Haven law and Luis Luna’s civil rights?

Here’s the thing: It’s all well and good for Mayor DeStefano to state that it is perfectly legal for citizens to record on-duty cops in New Haven. But if New Haven police are permitted to arrest and jail—and if prosecutors are permitted to charge and convict—citizens for doing precisely that, it pretty clearly isn’t legal, by any definition of the word.

It’s also about damned time that cops who delete citizen-shot video that may incriminate them or their colleagues get the same punishment a citizen would get for doing the same thing. They can’t play dumb with the “Gosh, if the videos aren’t there, you must have never taken them” excuse this time. The police report clearly states that Luna was arrested for “taking pictures” and “filming”. The bumbling cops then inadvertently provided photo evidence of their tampering with Luna’s phone. Luna should take the phone in to see if the videos can be recovered, and if it can be discerned when they were deleted.

As it stands, the only person to suffer any consequences in Luna’s case is Luna, the one party who, according to the mayor and chief of police, didn’t do anything wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

"I want it for me, but I want to deny it to others"

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The attitude shown by this Republican should shock the conscience, but I’m beginning to believe that organ is absent in modern Republicans. Steve Benen:

It’s perfectly reasonable for Andy Harris, like all Americans, to want health care coverage. He’s a husband and father of five, and I’m sure he worries about his family losing their health insurance, just like everyone else.

The difference, in this case, is that Andy Harris is a newly-elected far-right congressman from Maryland. Yesterday, at an orientation session, he and his colleagues were told that their health coverage would take effect on Feb. 1, and Harris, an anesthesiologist who railed against the Affordable Care Act to get elected, suggested that’s not soon enough.

He wants his government-subsidized health care — and he wants it now.

"He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care," said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. […]

"Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap," added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, "This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed," his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Harris spent months condemning the idea of Americans being entitled to taxpayer-subsidized health care coverage. Now that the election’s over, Harris suddenly feels entitled to taxpayer-subsidized health care coverage — and wants it immediately. (For the record, Harris and his family will probably rely on COBRA to stay insured until his coverage kicks in. COBRA, of course, is another government program that the right opposed.)

That Harris apparently sought a public option for him and his family just makes the whole story that much more hilarious.

Just to clarify, I don’t actually blame the far-right congressman-elect. He wants coverage for him and his family, and doesn’t want to have to worry about a 28-day gap in which he, his wife, and his kids would have no protections if they get sick.

I do, however, blame the far-right congressman-elect for failing to realize that millions of American families want the same peace of mind he’s seeking.

Harris wants to know "what he would do without 28 days of health care"? I don’t know, Andy, what have tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, done without access to quality health care for years? Why are you entitled to government-subsidized health care, but they’re not? What will those families do after you repeal the Affordable Care Act? Wait for tort reform to magically cover everyone?

What an embarrassment.

This is the sort of person for whom "contempt" was invented.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 2:55 pm

The untruth era

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Steve Benen:

It’s never been easier for Americans to keep up on current events and public affairs, but the persistent propensity for large swaths of the electorate to believe demonstrable falsehoods remains astounding.

I’m well aware of the structural problems that generated Republican gains in the midterms — high unemployment means huge losses for the incumbent majority. But I’m also inclined to believe that our stunted discourse contributes to an environment in which facts are swiftly rejected.

Much, if not most, of the country believes President Obama raised taxes. And that he signed TARP into law. And that TARP money isn’t being repaid. And that the economy contracted in 2010. And that the stimulus was wasteful and counter-productive. And that this current Congress did less than most. And that the Affordable Care Act constitutes "socialized medicine" and a "government takeover." And let’s not even get started on the president’s birthplace.

In a historical sense, it’s not at all unusual for propagandists and provocateurs to spread lies, but we live in an era in which it’s almost effortless for ignorance to spread like a cancer — leading more people to believe more nonsense, faster and easier.

Andrew Sullivan had an item on this last week that bears repeating.

It seems to me that the last year or so in America’s political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama’s presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse – the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus – were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran’s regime – and destruction of its legitimacy from within – was portrayed as a function of Obama’s weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform — almost identical to Romney’s, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies — was turned into a socialist government take-over.

Every one of these moves could be criticized in many ways. What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of them to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion. But since this seems to be the only shred of thinking left on the right (exacerbated by the justified flight of the educated classes from a party that is now openly contemptuous of learning), it became a familiar refrain — pummeled into our heads day and night by talk radio and Fox. If you think I’m exaggerating, try the following thought experiment.

If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.

This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies — "death panels," "out-of-control" spending, "apologies for America" etc. — designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people’s minds in the midst of a brutal recession.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, this dynamic encourages more of what we’ve seen of late — when dishonesty is rewarded, we’ll hear more lies, not fewer.

The post-truth era can be disheartening.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Contrasting visions of the two Senate leaders

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Steve Benen:

Compare and contrast.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, two weeks ago:

"[O]ur top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office."

Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader, two hours ago:

"Despite the changes, our charge remains the same. Our number-one priority is still getting people back to work. And the most important change we can make is in working more productively as a unified body to help our economy regain its strength."

One of these two leaders has the right priorities. Can you tell which one?

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2010 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Congress

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