Later On

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

Archive for June 1st, 2013

Looking at the Florida science student being punished for an experiment

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William Boardman at AlterNet:

It’s not as though a bunch of people in central Florida have been consciously conspiring about the best way to trash a 16-year-old girl’s life, but the effect of their collective personal and institutional stupidity may well produce the same effect. At first there was no sign that any of them much cared, but now there’s a ray of hope for a just outcome. Read on.

This cultural stupidity in Florida isn’t an all-American sort of thing that could happen anywhere—and probably has in a variety of forms similar to the recent mindlessness that led school officials to call the police who called the prosecutor who decided, over the phone, to have a 16-year-old girl arrested as an adult and charged with two felonies under state law because she did an outdoors experiment that blew up an 8 oz. water bottle with the force of a small firecracker, doing no damage and harming no one.

This is the case of 11th grader Kiera Wilmot, a Bartow High School honor student with straight A’s and a perfect behavior record, according to school officials. Sometime around 7 a.m. on Monday, April 22, she tried an experiment with a friend watching: she mixed hydrochloric acid (in a toilet bowl cleaner) with a bit of aluminum foil inside a plastic water bottle—a trick known familiarly as a “Drano bomb” or “works bomb.” As predicted (and shown in video), shortly after Kiera Wilmot mixed the ingredients and put the cap on the bottle, hydrogen gas was produced, with enough pressure to pop the top off the bottle with the sound of a small firecracker.

Arguably, that was a stupid thing to do, at least on school grounds.

So the Question Quickly Arises, Are There Any Grown-Ups Here?

Then the adults got involved and took the stupidity to higher levels, quickly producing a stupidity tsumani of an all too familiar American kind.

The first adult on the scene is Dan Durham the assistant principal in charge of discipline at Bartow High. He hears the bottle pop outside the building before the school day starts. He goes to investigate. He finds Kiera Wilmot and she tells him the whole story.

She tells him it’s an experiment she was doing in anticipation of the science fair. Apparently not believing her, perhaps fearing an international terror conspiracy, Durham calls the science teacher (who remains anonymous). The science teacher says that Kiera Wilmot’s bottle pop has nothing to do with science class, so his skirts are clean. Of course what she does for science class is different from the science fair, but apparently no one figures that part out.

Continuing his enforcement, Dan Durham calls in the cops, which is easy enough since there’s a “resource officer” on the premises.

At some point principal Ron Pritchard avoids involvement and allows the situation to continue to spin out of control. Faced with a bright young 16-year-old honor student with a perfect behavior record, who admits she just did an experiment that was louder than she’d expected, principal Pritchard doesn’t act to put Kiera Wilmot’s harmless behavior in perspective.

An Educator With a Passive-Aggressive Vicious Streak

Instead, with a kind of passive-aggressive viciousness, he ignores the best interests of a child under his care, he doesn’t exercise leadership or good judgment, he stays out of the way. Maybe he thinks he’s defending the institution, or himself, but whatever he was thinking, he lets law enforcement help make things worse.

And the principal knew all along what was real. Playing the kindly old duff on TV later, he said of Kiera Wilmot: “She just wanted to see what would happen and I think it shocked her that – because she was very honest with us when we were out there talking and I think, I think it kind of shocked her that it did that.”

That was a few days later, when he knew full well how his own inaction had contributed to Kiera Wilmot getting arrested and charged as an adult with felony charges alleging she “discharged a weapon” and “discharged a destructive device.”

Kiera Wilmot’s weapon/device was an 8 oz. water bottle with toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum that hurt no one and destroyed nothing.

But principal Pritchard told a TV reporter: “She’s a good kid and, you know, she made a bad choice and stuff and, uh – I don’t think that – she was not trying to be malicious to harm anybody or destroy something at school or anything else.”

In Florida educational circles, apparently, the offense of “a bad choice and stuff” is more than enough to put a child at risk of spending 5 years in jail and having a felony on her record for the rest of her life. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Education, Law

The US continues to torture—under Obama’s orders

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Joe Nocera writes in the NY Times:

Nearly four months into a hunger strike that has now spread to some two-thirds of the detainees at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the question in this headline can no longer be avoided.

Fundamentally, hunger strikes are a form of speech for prisoners who have no other way to communicate their concerns. Hunger strikes give them the means to protest their confinement and to send a message about that confinement. During the “troubles” in Ireland, for instance, Irish Republican Army prisoners went on hunger strikes to protest their detention by the British — and some ended up being force-fed.

For decades, the international community, including the International Red Cross, the World Medical Association and the United Nations, have recognized the right of prisoners of sound mind to go on a hunger strike. Force-feeding has been labeled a violation on the ban of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.The World Medical Association holds that it is unethical for a doctor to participate in force-feeding. Put simply, force-feeding violates international law.

Whatever triggered the hunger strike at Guantánamo — the detainees say that the military had begun searching their Korans and instituted a series of harsh new measures, which the military denies — the underlying issue is that the detainees are in despair of ever getting out. Many of them, including 56 men from Yemen, have been cleared to leave the prison by a committee of top national security officials. But thanks to a combination of Congressional actions takenduring the past few years, and the timidity of President Obama, they remain in Guantánamo with no end in sight. The hunger strike has been their way of reminding the world of their continued imprisonment, and it has worked brilliantly. One wonders whether President Obama would have even mentioned Guantánamo in his big national security speech last week if not for the hunger strikers.

The military claims that it is force-feeding the detainees in order to keep them safe and alive. According to The Miami Herald, about one-third of the detainees on strike — at least 35 men, though possibly more — are being force-fed. A handful are in the hospital.

But not long ago, Al Jazeera got ahold of a 30-page document that detailed the standard operating procedures used by the military to force-feed a detainee. The document makes for gruesome reading: the detainee shackled to a special chair (which looks like the electric chair); the head restraints if he resists; the tube pushed painfully down his nose; the half-hour or so of ingestion of nutritional supplements; the transfer of the detainee to a “dry cell,” where, if he vomits, he is strapped back into the chair until the food is digested.

Detainees are also apparently given an anti-nausea drug called Reglan, which has a horrible potential side effect if given for more than three months: a disease called tardive dyskinesia, which causes twitching and other uncontrollable movements. “This drug is very scary,” said Cori Crider, the legal director of Reprieve, a London-based group that represents more than a dozen detainees. “My fear is that it is being administered without their consent,” she added. Although the military refuses to discuss the use of Reglan — or any aspect of force-feeding — that’s a pretty safe bet.

The lawyers representing the detainees would like to file a motion in federal court to stop the force-feeding, but there is a Catch-22. They can’t go to court without the consent of their clients — and thanks to another set of harsh, new protocols, including the genital and anal searches I wrote about last week, most clients are now refusing to talk to their lawyers. . .

Continue reading. Obama—and the US—are doing a shameful thing.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 2:00 pm

The Greatest Vendetta on Earth

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Amazing, the lengths to which some of the wealthy will go—somehow this brings the Koch brothers to mind. In Salon Jeff Stein offers a long and sordid story of revenge:

On a gloomy Veterans Day in 1998, Janice Pottker answered an unexpected knock on the door of her home in Potomac, Md., a woodsy, upscale suburb of Washington. Standing there was a man she’d never seen before, a private detective who introduced himself as Tim Tieff. He told Pottker, a freelance writer married to a senior government official, that he had a discreet message from Charles F. Smith, a former top executive with Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circuses, Disney Shows on Ice, and other subsidiaries that make it the largest live entertainment company in the world.

Smith wanted to see her, he said.

It had to have been startling news for Pottker, who had written a controversial, 11,000-word piece on the circus and its colorful owners, Washington’s Feld family, for a local business magazine in 1990. Her piece had recounted the Feld family’s Horatio Alger-like story, but it had also exposed some unpleasant secrets about the famously tight-lipped Felds — such as a bitter feud that had broken out between the two chief heirs, and the bisexuality of the family’s patriarch, Irvin Feld. The circus had refused to talk to her ever since.

Ever since, Pottker had been trying, and failing, to get a book off the ground about the circus. But nothing had ever seemed to jell. Promising magazine assignments about the circus’s questionable treatment of its performing children and the care of its animals had been derailed. Congressional and Labor Department interest in the subjects, which she’d spurred, evaporated. Now, out of the blue, a former top Feld official had sent a message saying he would like to meet with her. Would she agree?

In a New York minute. For years, Smith had been the right-hand man of Ken Feld, who had inherited the circus when his entrepreneurial father died in 1984. But Smith had been fired 18 months earlier. Now he was apparently ready to spill the beans.

The next day, Pottker sped off to meet Smith in nearby Chevy Chase. But if she had expectations that the former executive wanted to talk about child acrobats and performing elephants, she was in for an intensely personal shock. Smith was there to talk about what Feld Entertainment had done to her.

Over lunch, Smith recounted a campaign of surveillance and dirty tricks Feld had unleashed on her in the wake of her 1990 magazine piece in the now-defunct Regardie’s magazine. Feld, he said, had hired people to manipulate her whole life over the past eight years. Feld had spent a lot of money on it, he said. He may have even tried to destroy her marriage. In fact, Pottker would eventually learn of a massive dirty tricks operation, involving former CIA officials and operatives, that would target Ringling enemies such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups, not just Pottker.

For proof, he told her to go to federal court in Alexandria, Va., and look at a suit he had filed against Ken Feld. In that suit, she would find an affidavit from a man named Clair George with attachments. Those, he told her, are all about you.

And then Smith left.

The next day, Jan Pottker and her husband went to the Colonial-style courthouse in Alexandria and asked for Smith vs. Feld, civil action case number 98-357-A. They opened the files and found the affidavit Smith had described. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A Case to Make Prosecutors Personally Accountable

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Joe Sexton writes at ProPublica:

It wasn’t much of a case: Queens prosecutors wanted to prosecute a woman for having falsely reported her car stolen in a bid to collect on theft insurance. A non-violent crime. Small-time really.

But the prosecutors went to unusual lengths in 2008 to try and make the case. They tracked down a person they thought had information about the alleged fraud, told her she was under arrest, and over the course of two days interrogated her in a room in the Queens District Attorney’s office. The woman, Alexina Simon, was not a suspect. She was, in truth, nothing more than a potential witness.

Today, Simon is the named plaintiff in a federal case that has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The case is noteworthy for two reasons:

It shines a light on the issue of what are known as material witness orders, a poorly understood aspect of New York’s criminal justice system in which people who are potential witnesses to crimes can be detained, evaluated and perhaps compelled to disclose what they know.

The case is also seeking a remedy that those concerned about misconduct by the country’s district attorneys have long sought, namely that individual prosecutors be held personally liable for their misdeeds.

Lawyers for Simon have argued that the prosecutors in the case failed to do what is required when such material witness orders are granted by a judge — bring the witness before that judge and make sure that witness has a lawyer. Simon, they say, had no meaningful information about the alleged fraud. That might have been sorted out had proper procedures been followed, they say. In all likelihood, they suggest, prosecutors not only would have figured out that she had no information, but also that she, owing to a mix up in names, was not the person they were actually looking for.

Instead, Simon says she was detained twice — arrested first at work and then at home the following day — and questioned for hours without a lawyer.

Lawyers for the Queens prosecutors have insisted Simon willingly cooperated and thus the warrant they had obtained, and the requirements that came with it, didn’t apply. They argue further that, even had the prosecutors erred, they were, under the law, immune from being held personally liable for their misconduct.

A district court judge ruled for the prosecutors, holding that the broad protections given to law enforcement officials as they pursue cases applied in this instance. But the case was appealed, and since then, a brief has been filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in support of the district court’s ruling and another has been submitted by defense lawyers in opposition. A decision is expected soon.

The issue of the use and misuse of material witness orders came under scrutiny after 9/11. Federal authorities used the warrants to lock up any number of people they suspected might have information about terror investigations. A subsequent lawsuit that sought to hold former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft personally liable for the abuse of material witness orders made it to the Supreme Court, which held that Ashcroft was immune.

The use of material witness warrants in state cases has garnered far less attention and the Simon case has to date been a relatively obscure one. But a lawsuit brought by a man who says he was wrongly prosecuted for murder could give the use of material witness warrants in state prosecutions an explosive airing.

Lawyers for Jabbar Collins, who spent 16 years in prison before prevailing in a rare federal petition for his freedom, have accused Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes of running what amounts to his own civil jail system. Collins’s lawyer, Joel Rudin, has charged in court papers that he has evidence Hynes’s office routinely and illegally detained witnesses to compel and sometimes coerce testimony.

Hynes’s office has denied the assertion.

For Rudin and other defense lawyers, the misuse of such warrants — locking people up until they tell a story the prosecutors need told to make a case — could be a central cause of the kinds of wrongful convictions that, again and again, have been uncovered across the country in the last decade or so. And they argue that the problem is not likely to be corrected unless prosecutors can be held personally responsible. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Government, Law

A health beverage that does not include a ton of caffeine

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Thanks to The Niece for pointing out Rumble, discussed in this article by Colin Hynes:

You probably haven’t heard of the new drink, Rumble, yet, but it’s creating quite the buzz around town among many athletes and foodies. So, what is Rumble? Well, it’s branded as a nourishing drink by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (more on that later), but really, it’s many different types of drink. Part smoothie, part energy drink and part health concoction, Rumble is made with off-the-shelf ingredients like kale, agave nectar, pomegranate, walnut oil, just to name a few. One of the great things about Rumble is that it isn’t made with powders or things-made-to-taste-like-other-things (surprise!), it is made with all raw, natural ingredients.

Rumble, the drink, is only one half of the story. The other half resides with its founder, Paul Underhill. Paul had manageable Cystic Fibrosis for most of his life when, about 6 years ago, he got very sick. He had to leave his job with the BC government (Ministry of Agriculture), where he was researching whether GMO foods were harmful to people and if they should be regulated. His illness made his hunger levels drop substantially, which in turn increased his need for good nutrition from the foods he ate. In response Paul created a drink in his kitchen that was a blend of organic, nutritious fruits and vegetables, to give him the nourishment he needed during the battle with his illness. After about a year of refining his drink, Paul teamed up with Kim McQueen (Naturopathic Doctor), James McQueen, and Steve Hughes to turn his creation into a product for the mass market. There really isn’t anything like Rumble currently on the Canadian market. When they took Rumble to Canadian Food Inspection Agency, they did not get the designation of “meal replacement” or “sports drink.” An entirely new category was created and Rumble was designated a “nourishing drink”.

As Paul Underhill insisted on the use of all natural products, he spent years looking for somewhere to manufacture his drink. The plant had to be able to combine all the different things he wanted, no small task in itself, and Paul wanted a screw top aluminum bottle. The idea behind the bottle is that you can reuse it and it’s better for the environment (glass is heavy and means more CO2). Some imaginative users have already used the bottle to make a travel camp stove, and also a kite string holder. Paul finally found a manufacturing plant in the States, while not as good as producing it locally (Canada), he feels it is still better than offshore.

Today, Rumble is very close to the first drink Paul started with in his kitchen. Rumble comes in two different flavours: Dutch Cocoa — which is 99.9% allergen and lactose free, and Vanilla Maple. Both drinks are vegetarian, though not vegan, and both are delicious. The Dutch Cocoa flavour tastes as it sounds, with a slight malty flavour as it finishes. The Vanilla Maple is, again, as it sounds, but with a nutty flavour — coming from the walnut oil. Neither drink is chunky or thick, Rumble is actually surprisingly light in consistency. It is so light that many people who drink it are able to do rigorous activity right after downing a whole bottle. Paul still drinks them daily, although now it’s because of how they make him feel, not because he has to— about a year ago, Paul had a double lung transplant. The operation was a success, not even 6 months after the surgery, Paul rode the 140km Ryder Hesjedal Tour De Victoria bike ride. You can bet he had a Rumble tucked into his water bottle holder.

Rumble is available at many healthy grocers around British Columbia and mid-Eastern Canada. Available locally (for Rumble) in Victoria at the Trek Bicycle StoreFront Runners and Catalyst Gym as well as most health food grocers. Rumble is planning on an expansion into the states hopefully for sometime in 2013.


Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Health

Did Public Television Commit Self-Censorship to Appease Billionaire Funder David Koch?

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I would guess that the answer is an obvious “Yes,” just based on the fact that PBS has very little in the way of editorial/producer spine. Democracy Now! has a post discussing the documentay Citizen Koch including a video. The blurb and transcript:

Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal say plans for their new documentary to air on public television have been quashed after billionaire Republican David Koch complained about the PBSbroadcast of another film critical of him, “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream,” by acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney. Lessin and Deal were in talks to broadcast their film, “Citizen Koch,” on PBS until their agreement with the Independent Television Service fell through. The New Yorker reports the dropping of “Citizen Koch” may have been influenced by Koch’s response to Gibney’s film, which aired on PBSstations, including WNET in New York late last year. “Citizen Koch” tells the story of the landmark Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations. It focuses on the role of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity in backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has pushed to slash union rights while at the same time supporting tax breaks for large corporations. The controversy over Koch’s influence on PBS comes as rallies were held in 12 cities Wednesday to protest the possible sale of the Tribune newspaper chain, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, to Koch Industries, run by David Koch and his brother Charles.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Rallies were held in 12 cities Wednesday to protest the possible sale of the Tribune newspaper chain to the Koch brothers, the billionaire backers of the tea party and other right-wing causes. The Koch brothers are reportedly considering making a bid for the newspaper chain, which would give them control of two of the 10 largest newspapers in the country, theLos Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, and two key papers in the battleground state of Florida, the Orlando Sentineland the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. Others papers includeThe Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant. A deal could also include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper. According to The New York Times, the Koch brothers have quietly discussed purchasing media outlets as part of a long-term strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.

This is Justin Molito with the Writers Guild of America East at Wednesday’s protest in New York City.

JUSTIN MOLITO: Today we’re out here calling on the equity firm that has stakes within the Tribune Company to not sell to the Koch brothers and not have the L.A. TimesThe Baltimore Sun, theOrlando Sentinel and other publications go the way so much of the rest of our media is going, which is under corporate control. And to see that what’s happened recently with the Citizen Koch film should be a warning to everybody in this country that consolidation of corporate power and a free press do not mix in what should be a democracy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, what happened to the Citizen Kochdocumentary he refers to is what we’ll look at today. The film tells the story of the landmark Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations. It focuses on the role the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity played in backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was pushed to slash—who pushed to slash union rights while at the same time supporting tax breaks for large corporations. Citizen Koch was set to air on PBS next fall until its agreement with the Independent Television Service fell through.

AMY GOODMAN: The story of how this happened is detailed in a piece published last week in The New Yorker magazine. Written by Jane Mayer, it’s headlined “A Word from Our Sponsor: Public Television’s Attempts to Placate David Koch.” It begins by describing another film critical of the Koch Brothers that did air on PBS, Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney’s documentary,Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, which contrasted the lives of residents who live in one of the most expensive apartment buildings in Manhattan, 740 Park Avenue, with those of poor people living at the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx. This is a clip from that film.

NARRATOR: This stretch of Park Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is the wealthiest neighborhood in New York City. This is where the people at the top with the ladder live, the upper crust, the ultra-rich. But this street is about a lot more than money. It’s about political power. The rich here haven’t just used their money to buy fancy cars, private jets and mansions; they have also used it to rig the game in their favor. Over the last 30 years, they’ve enjoyed unprecedented prosperity from a system that they increasingly control.

AMY GOODMAN: In Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article, she details how Neil Shapiro, president ofPBS station WNET here in New York City, called David Koch, a resident of 740 Park Avenue, to warn him that the Alex Gibney film was, quote, “going to be controversial.” Koch was a WNETboard trustee at the time. Over the years, he has given $23 million to public television. Jane Mayer writes that Shapiro offered to show him the trailer and include him in an on-air discussion that would air immediately after the film. The station ultimately took the unusual step of airing a disclaimer from Koch after the film that called it “disappointing and divisive.” Jane Mayer reports this exchange influenced what then happened to Citizen Koch, which was set to be aired on the same PBS series called Independent Lens. The film’s funder and distributor, ITVS, has now said it, quote, “decided not to move forward with the project.”

To pick up the rest of this story, we’re joined by the film Citizen Koch‘s two directors, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Their 2008 documentary Trouble the Water was nominated for an Academy Award. It was about Hurricane Katrina. They also worked on Michael Moore’s films Bowling for Columbineand Fahrenheit 9/11. We reached out to WNET and ITVS, but they declined to join us on the show. We’ll read the statements they sent and play clips from the film Citizen Koch.

But first, we welcome you, Tia and Carl, to Democracy Now!

TIA LESSIN: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t you tell us about what’s happened to your film? We saw you at the Sundance Film Festival. We always cover the documentary track, and your film, Citizen Koch, was one of those that was premiering at Sundance. Tia, what happened next? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Business, Media, Video

Interesting discussion of the book Fear Itself

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Wonkblog is talking abut an intriguing book.

The book we’re reading is Ira Katznelson’s, “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.” The back cover says it’s all about how, “during the 1930s and 1940s, American democracy was rescued yet distorted by a unified band of southern lawmakers who safeguarded racial segregation as they built a new national state to manage capitalism and assert global power.” (Here’s one great review from Rich Yeselson.)

Here’s how this will work: We’re all planning to read the book (Ezra, Sarah, Dylan, Neil, and me), and every other week, we’ll put up a post with some thoughts on the section we’re reading and then have a discussion in comments. We may try to invite a few special guests to join us, too.

To make reading easier, we’ll split the book up into four sections:

Friday, May 10. Part 1, “Fight Against Fear.” pp. 1-130.

Friday, May 31. Part 2, “Southern Cage.” pp. 131-224.

Friday, June 14. Part 3, “Emergency.” pp. 225-364.

Friday, June 28. Part 4, “Democracy’s Price” and Epilogue. 365-486.

We’ll plan to put up a discussion post on each of those Fridays. If this schedule turns out to be too quick or too slow for people, we can adjust for future book clubs. But let’s stick with this for now.

Here’s the post on “Fight Against Fear”, and obviously the comments are where the discussion happens:

It’s time to start our book club. With any luck, everyone’s read the Introduction and Part I of Ira Katznelson’s, “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time” by now.

So let’s discuss in comments. A few quick points to kick things off:

1) The early chapters are slow-going, but I do like that Katznelson takes time to establish the enormity of the crisis during the Depression and to remind everyone of just how fragile the political situation really was. Prior to the New Deal, the prospects for democracy around the world looked incredibly dim. (Although, as Katznelson concedes, there were never majorities of Americans in favor of dictatorship, and U.S. democracy itself was likely never in serious danger.)

Even to some in Congress! “If this country ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now,” Pennysylvania Republican senator David Reed said in 1932. “Leave it to Congress, we will fiddle around here all summer trying to satisfy every lobbyist, and we will get nowhere.”

2) Obviously the United States didn’t get a Mussolini. But in Chapter 3 of Part I, Katznelson has a nice discussion of just how radical Franklin D. Roosevelt’s early New Deal policies were from a legislative-process standpoint:

In all, the emergency legislation that Congress enacted in the administration’s Hundred Days was marked by three unprecedented features. First, it was almost entirely drafted, in detail, by the executive branch. … Second, while the form of lawmaking was preserved, and no formal institutional rules were violated, the legislative process was pushed forward in a highly abbreviated way.

Third, these measures were characterized by immense powers delegated from the legislature to the executive branch that dramatically expanded the powers of federal agencies, many of which were new.

Perhaps the most surprising thing here, though, is that this didn’t degenerate into dictatorship. Congress managed to reassert itself in remarkably short order and “developed enhanced means to control the growing administrative system of the federal government, at least in domestic affairs.” That seems to be just as important a part of this story as the early New Deal push itself.

3) We get a pretty concise statement of Katznelson’s main thesis early on: . . .

Continue reading.

And here’s the post on “Southern Cage”:

So let’s discuss in comments. A few highlights from the book to kick things off:

1) Katznelson takes time to set the scene in the South in the 1920s and 1930s. There’s Jim Crow, there’s segregation… And there’s also the Southern economy — which was much, much poorer than the rest of the United States, “with depleted land, a quasi-feudal tenure system based on debt and fear, and many bankruptcies and foreclosures.”

Part II describes just how much of the New Deal was focused on modernizing the region and bringing its economy up to par with the rest of the country’s. As economist Penelope Hartley has detailed, these were essentially giant fiscal transfers from North to South. (Note that when experts say that the euro zone needs to become a fiscal union to survive, this is basically the sort of thing they’re talking about.)

2) Partly because of that wealth gap, economic progressivism was quite rampant in the South during the 1920s. A number of Southern Democrats were big supporters of public works projects and collective bargaining for railroad unions. They also “sustained much more ‘progressive’ voting records than their Republican colleagues from New England.”

A major theme of Part II is how that progressivism eventually came into tension with racism in the region. Early in the 1930s, many southern Democrats in Congress thought they could embrace both by explicitly tailoring New Deal policies to benefit only whites — say, by excluding maids and farm workers (who made up two-thirds of southern black workers). Institutions like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority were “directed by explicit racists who limited black participation.”

But eventually, this strategy proved unworkable — particularly as black voters entered the Democratic coalition. The tension was particularly visible with regards to unions, which grew from 500,000 members in the South to more than 1 million between 1938 and 1945. Many unions were signing up more and more black workers, and many Southern politicians shifted from supporting the Wagner Act in 1935 to outright hostility toward organized labor by the 1940s.

3) We also see how Franklin Roosevelt explicitly ignored the South’s racial problems in order to keep southern Democrats voting for the New Deal. A key moment came in 1934, after Colorado’s Edward Costigan and New York’s Robert Wagner (both Democrats) introduced an anti-lynching bill in response to a renewed wave of lynchings in the South.

FDR refused to support it:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Books, Government

Paul Krugman & Tony Atkinson in Conversation: Inequality and Economic Growth

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Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Video

Even smart conservatives don’t under Obamacare

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I think simple inability to understand is more charitable than “fraudulent,” which Krugman uses, but it’s a difficult question: Which is worse, stupidity? or dishonesty? Paul Kruman:

I fairly often receive mail pleading with me to take a more even tone, to have a respectful discussion with people on the other side rather than calling them fools and knaves. And you know, I do when I can. But the truth is that on most of the big issues confronting us, there just isn’t anyone to have a serious discussion with. Ezra Klein offers a nice illustration of this point today, in his takedown of Avik Roy on Obamacare in California.

The thing you want to bear in mind is that Roy is widely considered a good example of a reformist conservative, not to mention a health policy wonk. So what does this reform-minded wonk have to say about Obamacare?

Klein tries really hard to keep his temper even; too hard, I think, because I wonder how many readers will stay with him all the way through. But to cut to the chase, Roy claims that Obamacare will cause soaring insurance rates, using a comparison that is completely fraudulent — and I say fraudulent, not wrong, because he is indeed enough of a policy wonk here to know that he is pulling a fast one.

So here’s the comparison Roy uses: he points out that the insurance premiums that will apparently be charged on the California exchange will be higher than the lowest rates being offered by some insurers in California right now.

As Klein says, this isn’t just comparing apples and oranges; it’s comparing apples with oranges you can’t even buy.

Right now, California has a basically unregulated individual market, in which insurers are free to reject whoever they choose, and charge whatever rates they choose. This means that a few young, healthy people with no record of prior medical problems can get cheap plans; these are, of course, precisely the people who need insurance least, and these plans are cheap not just because they’re only available to the very healthy but because they don’t provide much insurance. If you’re not healthy or wealthy enough to get by with this kind of insurance, too bad.

So looking at these rates tells you nothing at all about the success of a program that offers insurance to everyone, regardless of medical history, and sets fairly high minimum standards for the quality of that insurance.

What’s more, this isn’t some obscure issue. When people try to explain the logic of ObamaRomneyCare — certainly when I try to explain it — they often start from precisely this point, pointing out that unregulated insurance markets give the healthy and wealthy a pretty good deal but leave everyone else out in the cold, then work from that point toward the “three-legged stool” of community rating, mandates,and subsidies that supports reform. So Roy has to know that he’s making an essentially fraudulent argument — and does it anyway.

And Roy is about as good as you get in this stuff: his tone is even, he actually knows something. Nonetheless, he goes for the cheap, misleading shot.

I know that a lot of people wish we lived in a country where debates about things like health care policy were serious, honest discussions of debatable points. I like to hope that by the time I retire I’ll actually live in a country like that. But right now, and surely for years to come, it’s basically facts versus fraud.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 12:13 pm

Another open-comb: the RazoRock “Jaws”

with 4 comments

SOTD 1 June 2013

A very nice shave. The brush is the Baroness (which does indeed have a certain quality of Baronness—not really: just wanted to use both words in the same sentence) by Wet Shaving Products. They offer it as a “first badger brush” at $45, but I find it extremely good—WSP really make fine brushes—and I do like the handle.

I got a terrific lather from Celestial Seasonings Woods for the first two passes, but it faded in the third, so I reloaded with some Barrister & Mann I had at hand. I like the fragrance of Celestial Seasonings Woods and I’ll try it soon with another brush. This is the first use of the Baroness, so that might be a factor.

My RazoRock Jaws Open Comb gave a very good shave with a Astra Keramik Platinum blade. It’s more comfortable than the R41 from yesterday, but of course yesterday was my first use of the R41, so I need to allow time to learn it.

A good splash of Woods aftershave, and I start the weekend with a BBS face.

UPDATE: Good laugh had, corrections made. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2013 at 11:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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