Thursday Mashup (3/21/13)

March 21, 2013
  • Last Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainright in which the High Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires the states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves (this was the basis for the great TV movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet” starring Henry Fonda – here).

    As noted here, though…

    The issue is by no means settled. In his recent New York Times editorial “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” Lincoln Caplan contends that “After 50 years, the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright is mocked more of than fulfilled,” at times because of the lack of funding for public defender offices, in other cases due to incompetent counsel. He concludes, “There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will.”

    Indeed – as noted here, Georgia shifted the burden of providing counsel to its 159 counties; this was an issue in particular for capital murder cases involving the death penalty (don’t know if it was an issue here or not) – apparently Georgia is responsible for more executions than any state except Texas (I think that’s what the author meant to say instead of “Houston”). And it’s not much better in the “Sunshine State” (here); New York State has issues also as noted here (lest anyone think I intend to pick on “red” states only).

    And from here

    The Supreme Court has carved out other exceptions to the right to counsel after an arrest. It has allowed law enforcement officials to have ex parte contacts with defendants to determine whether the defendant is in fact represented by counsel (sic). It has also allowed ex parte communications that are made with the consent of defendant’s counsel; those made pursuant to discovery procedures, such as subpoenas; communications in the course of a criminal investigation; communications necessary to protect the life or safety of another person; and those made by a represented person, so long as the person has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived the right to have counsel present. These exceptions apply to all persons, regardless of whether they can afford their own attorney.

    And as noted here

    No one wants to pay for more public defenders. Or, better put, few people in political power care enough about the gross injustices being done to poor people to spend more money trying to ensure they receive adequate representation. “Inadequate funding is the primary source of the systemic failure in indigent defense programs nationwide,” concluded Harvard Law School student David A. Simon in a thoughtful law review piece published a few years ago. “Of the more than $146.5 billion spent annually on criminal justice, over half is allocated to support the police officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases, while only about two to three percent goes toward indigent defense.”

    (Criminal justice experts Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh) don’t just blame lawmakers. “Many judges tolerate or welcome inadequate representation because it allows them to process many cases in a short time,” they write. And the problem is made worse, they contend, because the “Supreme Court has refused to require competent representation, instead adopting a standard of ‘effective counsel’ that hides and perpetuates deficient representation.” Not only that, Simon adds, but the justices have “neglected to specify which level of government — federal, state or local — must serve as the guarantor” of the right to counsel nor the “method by which states should administer their public defender programs.” No one is responsible, in other words, because everyone is in charge.

    Let us hope that this HBO documentary, due to air this summer, helps to shed some more light on this travesty.

  • Further, I give you the latest from the fake outrage factory here (ZOMG! There goes that Marxist preh-zee-dint of ours again)…

    Yesterday during the White House daily press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by “just a blogger” if President Obama planned to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel at a time when the country is hurting economically. Carney’s answer wasn’t “no,” but rather a long drawn out “Obama is focused on jobs.”

    This question came just one week after it was revealed the Obama’s are living at a cost of $1.4 billion per year.

    This is an attempt to re-spin the finding here from last year that the Obama White House spent $1.4 billion on vacations, which was totally ridiculous when it was first pronounced for the reasons noted here (actually, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs did an even better job of dispensing with this nonsense here).

    Memo to clownhall.com…the purse strings of the federal government rest with the House of Representatives. Neither you nor your wingnut brethren have any right whatsoever to complain about the effects of the sequester, particularly when Obama and the Senate Democrats have been proposing alternatives that don’t totally screw over many more people than necessary in this country and leave the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch untouched as usual.

    Meanwhile, Man Tan Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv and the rest of the Repug “young guns” (with Mikey the Beloved pledging his supine acceptance) are bound and determined to shove austerity down our throats whether we like it or not, all to make Congressional Democrats and Number 44 look as bad as they can.

  • Next, BoBo of the New York Times is back, as noted from here

    There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

    Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

    For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

    Oh yes, how dare those baaad, dastardly Dems try to hire more “government workers” (police, fire, teachers – you know, those lazy, gold-bricking swine…snark). And of course, David Brooks won’t tell us that the U.S. House Repugs and their economic warfare on said workers (as part of the austerity I noted earlier) is one of the biggest drags against our economic recovery (here).

    Oh, and BoBo also tells us the following about taxes (Brooks is responding to Back to Work, the plan of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which would indeed raise the top-end rate to 49 percent – for anyone making $1 billion or more – I’ll acknowledge that there could be a “bite” when you calculate state and local taxes with it, but I’m sorry, I don’t see that as a “game changer”; maybe try to factor in a tax credit for these folks when we return to prosperity? Just a thought…)…

    Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

    And high earners aren’t avoiding taxes now? Really?

    And Brooks also trots out the “higher taxes will cause me to work less” argument, supported by former Bushie Greg Mankiw among others – I think it is important to consider this in response, mainly that such thinking is counter-intuitive to human nature (wouldn’t you want to work more to make up lost earnings?) – also, deferring taxation this way might end up putting more of a burden on your kids if you’re a parent.

    As noted here, though, BoBo has been wrong about income inequality for years (and as noted here, Brooks once blamed women for it – nice). And for good measure, he once defended the “one percent” here (Matt Yglesias responds also here – h/t Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton).

    In conclusion, I just wanted to note that I did a search for “unemployed” or any variation thereof in Brooks’s column, and I came up empty, which isn’t surprising I know (love to see how Brooks would do having to work one or two “McJobs” in an effort to make up for his cushy pundit paycheck and related perks).

  • And never to be outdone when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the Murdoch Street Journal whines as follows here (about Medicare Advantage, which, quite rightly, is being targeted for a budget cut)…

    The tragedy is that Medicare Advantage architecture is far from perfect and HHS could save money if it wanted to, in particular by targeting the private fee-for-service plans that mimic all of traditional Medicare’s dysfunctions except with an element of private profit. But that approach conflicts with the Administration’s political goal of strangling Medicare Advantage in the crib.

    (Conservatives just love to punctuate their literary flourishes with violent imagery, don’t they?)

    As noted here

    Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

    And as noted here

    Private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage are often able to attract healthier Medicare beneficiaries by offering cheap — but bare-bones — health plans. When those healthier seniors encounter a medical problem that’s too extensive for their private coverage, they switch over to the more generous traditional Medicare program in order to take advantage of its more expansive benefits. That in turn, raises spending in the traditional Medicare pool

    And just go ahead and call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but based on this poll from last December, I would say that most of those people polled want traditional Medicare to be left alone (despite all of its “dysfunctions,” something the Repugs would do well to get through their thick heads in light of this).

  • Finally, Irrational Spew Online bloviates as follows here

    Elizabeth Warren was slated to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans stopped her confirmation, so now she is leading the charge to confirm Richard Cordray to that office.

    But nobody should be the head of this monstrous Dodd-Frankenstein by-product. The structure and powers of the CFPB, as created by Congress, put it outside our constitutional system. Most significantly, Congress allotted the bureau an independent source of revenue, guaranteed its insulation from legislative or executive oversight, and gave it the power to define and punish “abusive” practices.

    Actually, this tells us that the CFPB can have its rules vetoed by something called the FSOC, and no other regulator is subject to this kind of a check (so much for operating “outside our constitutional system”). Also, this tells us how Warren has called out the Repugs on their BS over Cordray in particular and the CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general.

    And as noted here (in the matter of supposed “insulation from legislative or executive oversight”)…

    “Since his first confirmation hearing in September 2011, Director Cordray has appeared before this Committee more than any other financial regulator,” said (South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senator Tim) Johnson. “During that time, he has proved to be a strong leader of the CFPB. He has completed many of the rules required by Wall Street Reform, including a well-received final [Qualified Mortgage] rule. He listens, and has crafted strong rules that take into account all sides of an issue. He has laid the groundwork for nonbank regulation. He has brought to light the financial challenges faced by students, elderly Americans, servicemembers and their families. He has taken important enforcement actions against banks that took advantage of customers. So I ask my colleagues, what more can Richard Cordray do to deserve an up-or-down vote? I hope we can finally put aside politics and move forward with Richard Cordray’s confirmation.” – Consumerist, 3/19/13

    The Daily Kos post tells us that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote was 12-10 along party lines. Every Democrat supported him. Every Republican opposed him.

    As mad as I get at the Dems at times, I get even madder at people who say they’re the same as Republicans. The latter bunch just wants to keep fleecing us, fighting unending wars for little or no purpose, fouling the environment at will, sitting on their collective hands while austerity tries to wreck our fledgling recovery, allowing weapons of death to continue flooding every school, movie theater, and gathering place of any kind in this country, and continually trying to demonize the opposition party instead of working with them on behalf of the best interests of the majority of the people of this nation (oh, but they’re “pro-life,” aren’t they? Not if you’re actually born, they’re not).

    And unless you’re rich, if you know all this and still support these fools, frauds and charlatans (at least on the national level anyway – I’ve encountered precious few good Republicans on the local level, though not recently), then I have no tolerance for your point of view.

    Your willful ignorance continues to be the ruin of this country. Heckuva job!

  • Advertisements

    Is Daschle Doing The “Health Care Hustle”?

    September 1, 2009

    large_daschle
    Deborah Solomon of the New York Times conducted the following interview with the one-time Obama HHS Secretary nominee in the Sunday magazine, in which we learned the following…

    DS: It has been reported that you’re a paid adviser to the insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, which opposes your belief that health care reform needs to have a public option. Why do you work with them?

    TD: On the left there are those who say that you should never talk to people who differ with you on a high-profile issue. My question to the left would be, whom would they advise these insurance companies talk to? Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? That’s the alternative. They can talk to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, or they can talk to me.

    Well, given that UnitedHealth Group has pretty much decided to do anything they possibly can to defeat the public option by claiming it will cost too much money (here), when in reality it will do the opposite (here, according to Daschle himself)…yeah, I think they should be talking to Limbaugh, Beck and Palin instead (to undermine their basically untenable positions, that is).

    And this kind of “hedging his bets” mentality is what bugs me about most Dem “centrists” such as Daschle generally and on this issue in particular (though I guess the instruction “from the top down” was for no “drama” on this issue, and that seems to be the way both Daschle and Kathleen Sebelius – the eventual HHS Secretary – have gone about it).

    The problem, of course, is that there was bound to be “drama” on this issue, a fight that has been simmering at varying degrees in this country for over 70 years. And I’d like to see Daschle drawing the same confrontational line that he takes against “the left” against some of his other “shareholders” on this issue (every time I see Democrats/progressives/liberals/whatever referred to as “the left,” by the way, I feel that we should all be harvesting grain in a field somewhere wearing red bandanas to capture the sweat of our brow and happily singing songs about the workers’ control of the means of production).

    But I digress…

    Meanwhile, Alison Kilkenny of HuffPo tells us the following from here…

    …it was Daschle who first introduced the idea of nonprofit insurance cooperatives as an alternative to the public option. Daschle and his good buddy, Blue Dog Kent Conrad, came up with the idea of insurance co-ops which included the concept of “triggers” that landed Rahm Emanuel in hot water with progressive groups like Firedoglake when he first floated the idea past the public. Basically, the trigger idea meant that the public option would only become a reality if state co-ops or other programs failed to meet certain cost and coverage goals within five years. The idea sank almost immediately thanks in large part to progressive watchdog groups. Now, Henry Waxman told Roll Call, “[Emanuel] doesn’t stand by the trigger…He said the president and his administration and he are for a public plan as one of the options.”

    Privately, Daschle tells his health care industry buddies that the public option is far from finalized. In order to calm the nerves of drug company executives, Daschle told them that “there is no consensus on whether there ought to be a public option.” As recent as last week, he told the hospital executives, “There is virtually no support among Republican members for a public option, and that remains an unresolved element of this debate.” Of course, Daschle is only concerned with support in Congress. Meanwhile, the newest polls indicated that Americans overwhelming(ly) support the idea of including a public option in health care reform.

    Given that, Daschle should remain as adamant about the public option (and its cost benefit) as he first was in the linked post above.

    I understand, though, that Daschle is a strategist, as Jed L. recounts in this Daily Kos post over what would eventually become the fiasco of Medicare Part D. However, I think health care reform calls for the “fire in the belly” approach of the late Sen. Kennedy (probably impossible to calculate the impact of his loss on this issue and so many others), as opposed to the calculated strategy of Daschle who, as Jed notes, wanted to pass the bill to help fellow South Dakota senator Tim Johnson in a campaign against John Thune in 2002, who of course would defeat Daschle two years later.

    (And by the way – and this goes for all Dems – I more or less came to accept that “single payer” wasn’t going to fly, but I never received an explanation to that effect from the party that has tried to pull off health care reform. That would have been a nice courtesy, if nothing else).

    I suppose part of what has spurred me on to say something is a recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he criticized the Dems for not selling this issue as forcefully as the Repugs would for one of their pet causes. And though I realize that there’s a big difference between marketing something as complicated as health care reform as opposed to a war of choice in Iraq, I’m not sure that Daschle or the Dems generally have any idea of how to do the former (again, in a way befitting the Bush crowd, which was never shy about what it wanted).

    In closing, I should note that Solomon tells us that Daschle “felt liberated” when he left the Senate to the point where he decided to wear red glasses.

    Given that Tom Daschle has decided to bring the metaphorical knife to the health care gun fight on the matter of the public option (and doesn’t seem to understand those who came properly armed), I believe those glasses have somewhat of a rose-colored tint to them also.

    Update: In a related vein, as they say, I present this (hat tip to Atrios – I should link to John Cole more often).


    A Growth Industry We Could Do Without

    April 29, 2009

    gambler-copyright4I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued by the following Letter to the Editor in the Murdoch Street Journal (from here)…

    Michael Calhoun, the head of the Center for Responsible Lending, asserts (Letters, April 18) that payday loans should be capped at 36% APR and endorses H.R. 1214, The Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009, for imposing limits.

    At that rate, a loan of $200 for one month would generate $6 in interest. If Mr. Calhoun and the bill’s sponsors really think one can run a payday business by charging such a rate, they should set up shop. It is not hard to do. Clients will flock to their outlets instead of the “predatory” lenders they criticize.

    The payday loan market is highly competitive and provides a needed service primarily for low-income people. Just let those folks try getting an instant loan from Citibank for $200 for one month. If H.R. 1214 is enacted, it will be back to thugs serving the low-income borrower market. That’s a “reform”?

    Prof. Roger Meiners
    University of Texas-Arlington
    Arlington, Texas

    I read the original letter from Calhoun on H.R. 1214 referenced by Meiners (embedded in Meiners’ letter), which states the following…

    While (H.R. 1214) includes provisions that sound good, experience in numerous states shows such steps do nothing to stop predatory payday practices. Nineteen states have tried to ban payday loan rollovers, to no effect. Payday lenders simply close out the loan and re-open it immediately, with the same cost to the borrower.

    We support the 36% rate cap proposed in the Senate (S500) and the House (H.R. 1608), because it restores a common-sense protection and encourages responsible installment loans which provide true financial flexibility. More than 70% of Americans support an interest-rate cap of 36%, a generous rate by any calculation.

    Besides, Meiners’ example above of the $200 loan only paying $6 in interest is ridiculous; as Calhoun explains in his letter…

    Payday loans ensnare customers in a cycle of debt that on average results in a borrower paying $800 in interest and principal for a $300 loan.

    Payday loans are secured with a customer’s check postdated to his or her next pay day. Payday lenders charge a hefty fee to hold the check until then, when the loan is due in full. But most customers in this bind can’t afford to repay the loan completely, so the lender cheerfully collects another fee and extends the loan to the next payday, over and over. The payday folks earn more than 90% of their fees from borrowers who take out five or more loans a year.

    And as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! points out (here)…

    In the early ’90s, there were fewer than 200 payday lending stores in the country. Today it’s a $40 billion industry with more than 22,000 stores. There are more payday lending stores than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. As more Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, the demand for payday loans is increasing.

    And as far as H.R. 1214 goes, don’t expect it to provide the needed consumer relief, because, as noted here…

    H.R. 1214 provides Congressional approval to payday loans at rates of 390 percent APR for two weeks or 780 percent APR for one week. The loan cap of fifteen cents per dollar loaned in HR 1214 authorizes lenders to charge $60 for a typical $400 loan, which is due in one pay cycle. This means that, for the typical borrower with nine loans per year, H.R. 1214 authorizes lenders to collect $540 in finance charges for a $400 loan taken out over an 18-week period.

    The Associated Press recently put out a story about how the payday load industry has “deployed well-connected lobbyists and hefty sums of campaign cash to key lawmakers to save themselves.” The article says that the industry opposes the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009, but this is probably just a convoluted ploy to align public opinion, which is against predatory lending, in favor of this weak bill.

    And H.R. 1214 has been opposed by groups such as Consumers Union, ACORN, Americans for Fairness in Lending, etc.

    The Open Congress post also tells us…

    The Online Lenders Alliance, formed in 2005, nearly quintupled, to $480,000, its lobbying expenditures from 2007 and 2008. It contributed $108,400 to candidates in advance of the 2008 elections compared to about $2,000 in the 2006 contests. (Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Dem of Illinois, who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit) was among the top House recipients, getting $4,600, while the top Senate recipient was Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., a Banking Committee member who got $6,900.

    An embedded article in the Open Congress post from Mike Lillis of The Washington Independent tells us that Gutierrez was once a vocal opponent of the payday loan industry. Too bad he and the other individuals involved with this bill have apparently been bought off in order not to “kill the golden goose,” thus perpetuating a business that does nothing but take advantage of those who can least afford it.

    Oh, and by the way, I came across this on Roger Meiners, the author of today’s Journal letter (sounds like a smorgasbord of the typical right-wing policy groups – would I have expected any less from the Journal?).


  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Advertisements