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!


  • Wednesday Mashup (2/17/10)

    February 17, 2010

    (Trying to clear out a bit of a backlog here, I know…)

  • 1) In the Sunday New York Times, N. Gregory Mankiw wrote the following here…

    The president seems to understand that the fiscal plan presented in his budget is not sustainable and, as such, is not really a plan at all. That is why the budget prominently calls for a fiscal commission that will be charged with “identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation.” The goal, the budget says, is “to stabilize the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio at an acceptable level once the economy recovers.”

    In other words, President Obama’s long-term fiscal strategy is to appoint a commission to figure out a long-term fiscal strategy.

    Yep, kind of like the commission Mankiw’s former boss formed to come up with his Social Security privatization scam (here). And it’s funny to hear Mankiw’s criticism of Obama’s budget commission idea (which I don’t agree with either for now, truth be told) when this tells us how generally unserious conservatives are on this issue (how can you propose to balance a budget over time without discussing tax increases or other revenue enhancement)?

  • 2) Also last Sunday in the Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg engaged in the following bit of wankery (here, criticizing President Obama for balancing his work schedule with that of his family)…

    So far at least, Washington does not seem to have raised any eyebrows. When Mr. Obama told lawmakers why he was leaving the health talks, “We all said, ‘Absolutely, get out of here, go,’ ” said Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, who was there.

    Yet even in today’s father-friendly world, Mr. Obama’s balancing act is not risk-free — especially in an economy where so many ordinary Americans are struggling. Critics could accuse him of slacking off when the country is in need.

    And of course for emphasis, Stolberg includes a quote favorable to that notion from Republican political strategist John Feehery.

    Meanwhile, this tells us that Obama’s predecessor absolutely shattered the vacation record set by The Sainted Ronnie R (still awaiting comment on that from Feehery).

    For the first time in a long time, we have a president helping to raise one or more kids (the two Bush daughters were already grown), and that makes family time particularly important.

    Besides, the one legitimate vacation Obama got was last summer, and right in the middle of it, Ted Kennedy died. So I think it’s particularly crappy to begrudge the man of the precious family time he is able to enjoy.

  • 3) And finally, the Times Sunday Magazine carried a story titled “How Christian Were The Founders,” in which our corporate media remains preoccupied with trying to find some proof that the individuals who truly risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor during our country’s genesis (oops) intended this country to be a Christian nation.

    We could come up with anecdotes forever to argue one way or the other as to how tolerant these people really were on this subject, but I would merely like to put out the following from the Nobel Prize-winning book “John Adams” by David McCullough, pg. 222, in which McCullough describes how Adams addressed the subject in the first Constitution of Massachusetts…

    …While it did not guarantee freedom of religion, it affirmed the “duty” of all people to worship “The Supreme Being, the great creator and preserver of the universe,” and that no one was to be “hurt, molested or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshipping God in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience,” provided he did not disturb the public peace.

    If “live and let live” was good enough for John Adams, then it’s good enough for me too.


  • Wednesday Mashup (10/7/09)

    October 7, 2009

  • This tells us the following…

    Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) — At least 47 school-age children in Chicago have been killed in homicides, mostly by guns, since the month President Barack Obama took office.

    The latest youth homicide in his adopted hometown was different only in that the attackers used splintered railroad ties and were captured on video broadcast globally.

    The Sept. 24 attack prompted Obama to send his attorney general and education secretary to Chicago today after the killing tarnished the city’s drive to win the 2016 Olympics.

    Oh, so NOW we’re being told that Chicago lost the 2016 Olympics because of gun violence? What a joke (not the violence, which is all too terrible – just this ridiculous attempt at an explanation).

    And get a load of this…

    Chicago’s violence has long burdened Obama’s political career, including the embarrassment of a missed vote as a state senator that hurt his 2000 bid for Congress.

    You’ve got to be fracking kidding me! What can that POSSIBLY have to do with what this story is supposed to be about?

    Yes, the vote in question was detrimental to Obama at the time, but I think the following should be noted from here (about the vote McCormick goes out of his way to mention)…

    …Obama didn’t help his record in Springfield when he failed to come home from a Hawaiian vacation to vote on the Safe Neighborhoods Act. His vote wouldn’t have made a difference, but Obama’s been a strident supporter of gun control, so a lot of voters thought he’d disappeared when his voice was needed most. Obama takes his family to Hawaii once a year to visit his 80-year-old grandmother, Toot. Both his parents are dead, and Toot is the only living relative he knew growing up. This year he almost canceled the trip because the fight over the Safe Neighborhoods Act went on until December 22. The Obamas managed to get out of town on Thursday, December 23, and planned to fly back the following Tuesday, so Barack could be in Springfield when the legislature reconvened the next day. But on the day of the flight, Obama’s 18-month-old daughter came down with the flu. He decided to stay in Hawaii one more day. If Malia seemed to be recovering, the Obamas would go home together. If not, Barack would fly out alone. On Wednesday Malia was well enough to fly, and the family returned to Illinois.

    “I made an assessment based on the fact that I didn’t want to leave my wife and daughter alone without knowing how serious her condition was, and my assessment was based on the fact that this was a largely political vote, in the sense that either Pate Philip was going to agree to a compromise, in which case the bill was going to pass, or there were going to be negotiations taking place,” he says. “We put our families through so many sacrifices in this process anyway that every once in a while you have to make a decision in terms of what you think is best for your family, and I think that this was one of these decisions. Politically, I took a big hit.”

    And by the way, since John McCormick has no interest in balance here, I believe that it’s incumbent upon yours truly to provide the following information, showing how Obama has balanced supporting common sense gun measures with the legitimate rights of gun enthusiasts and sportsmen (and women).

  • It seems like the latest attempt to kill any semblance of a public option that could still yet emerge in the battle for a health care reform bill is the notion from Republican-lite senators such as Tom Carper and Ben Nelson that states could provide their own “public option” instead of one federally mandated.

    However, as Think Progress tells us here…

    Large progressive states like New York and California will likely embrace this proposal; more conservative states may wait to see if these public plans save money.

    And it’s not clear that they will. State-based public options would enter concentrated markets (already dominated by one or two private insurers) and lack the market clout to negotiate significantly cheaper rates or institute reforms that change the way care is paid for. Existing state-run employer plans (and Medicaid in many states) have already given up on the ‘public’ aspect of their plans and outsourced the work to private insurers. As a result, they have failed to significantly lower health care costs or bring any real change to the market place. In other words, like Carper’s proposal, they are ‘public plans’ in name only.

    And by the way, as noted here…

    The (report by the Commonwealth fund, a health policy research organization) analyzed the rate of growth of U.S. health care spending between 2010 and 2020 under three possible reform scenarios. One plan would include a public option with healthcare providers paid at Medicare rates; another includes a public option with providers paid at rates midway between Medicare and private insurance plans; and the final plan would have no public option, instead relying exclusively on private insurers.

    The researchers found that, compared to cost projections if the nation’s health system remains unchanged, reform would “bend the cost curve” — that is, health care spending will still rise, but at a slower rate. They found that reform that includes a public plan tied to Medicare rates would save nearly $3 trillion through 2020, a public plan with higher reimbursement rates would save $1.97 trillion and an insurance exchange with only private plans would save $1.2 trillion.

    By the way, Keith Olbermann will present an hour-long “Special Comment” tonight on health care on “Countdown.” I’ll either watch on the teevee or online, but I’ll catch it somehow, and I think we all should.

  • And finally here’s some crackpot history from The Old Gray Lady and columnist David Leonhardt (here)…

    Democrats dominated the middle part of the 20th century, thanks in part to their vigorous response to the Great Depression. They used the government to soften the effects of the Depression and to build the modern safety net. But they failed to see the limits of the government’s ability to manage the economy and helped usher in the stagflation of the 1970s.

    In response, I give you Paul Krugman (here)…

    Stagflation was a term coined by Paul Samuelson to describe the combination of high inflation and high unemployment. The era of stagflation in America began in 1974 and ended in the early 80s. Why did it happen?

    Well, the textbooks basically invoke two factors. One was a series of “adverse supply shocks”, mainly the huge runup in the price of oil. The other was excessively expansionary monetary policy, especially in 1972-3, which allowed expectations of inflation to become entrenched.

    But where is the Great Society in all this? Nowhere. The claim that stagflation proved the badness of liberal ideas is pure propaganda, which not even conservative economists believe.

    What a shame that David Leonhardt doesn’t even read his own newspaper.


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