Monday, August 21, 2017

Woolworth's Lunch Counter Sit-In

from NPR
On Feb. 1, 1960, four students from all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into a Woolworth five-and-dime with the intention of ordering lunch.

But the manager of the Greensboro Woolworth had intentions of his own — to maintain the lunch counter's strict whites-only policy.

Franklin McCain was one of the four young men who shoved history forward by refusing to budge.

McCain remembers the anxiety he felt when he went to the store that Monday afternoon, the plan he and his friends had devised to launch their protest and how he felt when he sat down on that stool.

"Fifteen seconds after ... I had the most wonderful feeling. I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood. I had a natural high. And I truly felt almost invincible. Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet," McCain says.

"It's a feeling that I don't think that I'll ever be able to have again. It's the kind of thing that people pray for ... and wish for all their lives and never experience it. And I felt as though I wouldn't have been cheated out of life had that been the end of my life at that second or that moment."

McCain shares his recollection of the exchanges the four African-American men had with the lunch-counter staff, the store manager and a policeman who arrived on the scene — and also a lesson he learned that day.

An older white woman sat at the lunch counter a few stools down from McCain and his friends.

"And if you think Greensboro, N.C., 1960, a little old white lady who eyes you with that suspicious look ... she's not having very good thoughts about you nor what you're doing," McCain says.

Eventually, she finished her doughnut and coffee. And she walked behind McNeil and McCain — and put her hands on their shoulders.

"She said in a very calm voice, 'Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn't do this 10 years ago.'" McCain recalls.

"What I learned from that little incident was ... don't you ever, ever stereotype anybody in this life until you at least experience them and have the opportunity to talk to them. I'm even more cognizant of that today — situations like that — and I'm always open to people who speak differently, who look differently, and who come from different places," he says.

On that first day, Feb. 1, the four men stayed at the lunch counter until closing. The next day, they came back with 15 other students. By the third day, 300 joined in; later, 1,000.

The sit-ins spread to lunch counters across the country — and changed history.
Flash forward 57 years... what have we learned?
We've learned that if we don't leave, Trump supporters will be called NAZI's, Racists, White Supremicists, and get punched in the face.

The New Jim Crow... it's not "written down" and in the "law" books. It's a "legacy" of 43 years of "Affirmative Action," where any and all lack of "affirmation" (ie - criticism) has become proof positive of racist discrimination.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Day Free Speech Died in America

Boston Common, August 19, 2017

Meanwhile, the media (and Boston's free speech counter-protesters) insist that President Trump is continuing his un-civil behavior and his moral authority has been compromised... perhaps he should shout a few people down and re-establish it!

Later that same afternoon...


Whilst organizations committed to the violent overthrow of the current American Government like "Its Going Down" and "Refuse Fascism," supported by notorious terrorist and former Weathermen Biil Ayers, go unreported by the so-called "mainstream" media. Focus on Nazi's and the Klan, sheeple. Even the venerable Washington Post assures us that the Left has renounced violence....

Can Someone Please Tell Me Which Speakers at this Event were NAZI's, White Supremicists, or Racists?

Who were they? Find out here...

Tear Down This Monument to Northern Aggression!

Cleveland Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

It's Demeaning and Eulogizes the Destruction of State's Rights, Southern Culture, and Murder of 258,000 Southern Americans by the Tyrant, Abraham Lincoln

Note - Attributing Motives to Others can be a Tricky Business.

...but You Can Leave This One Up as a Testament to Northern Atrocities

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hogan Wastes His Political Capital to Placate the Unplacatable

from the Baltimore Sun
Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to remove a controversial Confederate-era statue from the State House grounds has prompted a backlash within some facets of his Republican base.

The Facebook comments on the social-media-savvy governor’s page came fast and furious this week, as one-time supporters turned his posts about job gains and ribbon cuttings into hundred-person-long chains calling the Republican governor names.

Even some of his most ardent supporters have spoken out against him, baffled that their “common sense” champion reversed course.

In a blog post bluntly titled “Governor Hogan is wrong on this,” conservative blogger Greg Kline of RedMaryland wrote, “I am, and remain, a proud and unabashed apologist for Governor Hogan … But this. I don’t get this.”

Hours after the Hogan administration presided over the pre-dawn removal of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney’s 145-year-old statue on Friday, Kline said he can’t explain away Hogan’s shift. The governor called the removal of historical statues in 2015 “political correctness run amok” but said this week “it was the right thing to do.”

“I would have sworn on Monday, if you asked me, that this governor would have never done this," Kline said Friday. "I woke up today feeling a bit confused."

Compared to the online vitriol aimed at Hogan’s Facebook page, Kline’s criticism is muted.

“He sided with the liberals,” wrote one critic. “I lost a lot of respect of you,” wrote another. “One term Larry, what a disgrace,” said a third.

A fourth, writing in all caps, demanded Hogan’s immediate resignation in the comments section of every item the governor has posted this week, including photos of First Lady Yumi Hogan celebrating a new boutique that employs people with autism.

Hogan joined a national groundswell reconsidering Confederate monuments that have become a rallying point for white nationalists. The violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend started as a rally against the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Taney statue on the east lawn of the State House has been controversial since it was installed in 1872. Taney, Maryland’s only chief justice and former attorney general, is best remembered for writing the infamous Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and argued blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Efforts to take down the statue, however, have been opposed by many in both political parties who see the State House as a living museum and the statue as a sign of how far the state has come.

Hogan dismissed calls to remove Taney after the 2015 mass shooting in a black Charleston, S.C., church, questioning when efforts to replace monuments would stop.

But after Charlottesville, Hogan backed calls to remove it.

“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan wrote in a statement Tuesday.

That shift, though welcomed by many Democrats and some Republicans, was not universally well received by his supporters.

Some posted on Facebook to tell Hogan they removed bumper stickers bearing his name. Another person commented on a photo of Hogan reclining on an Ocean City bench, quipping “maybe I’ll sit on that bench during the next election.”

Hogan’s spokesman Doug Mayer acknowledged the onslaught of criticism but declined to comment on it specifically.

"If the events of the last several weeks have taught us anything, it is that we want to focus on what unites us and not what divides us,” Mayer said.

While some GOP leaders declined to comment on Hogan's position, House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga said she was "proud" of the governor. Szeliga said when she read the Dred Scott decision at the urging of a constituent, she was appalled that it compared slaves to merchandise and described black Americans as unworthy of human rights.

"We just need people to read that decision," said Szeliga, a Baltimore County Republican.

Hogan’s support among Republicans has been near unanimous since his upset win in 2014. Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said Hogan’s approval rating among Republicans in her last poll was 91 percent.

She called the recent displeasure with Hogan a “flash in the pan,” and said Republicans would likely still come out to support him in the 2018 election. What, she asked, were their alternatives?

“Are they ready to vote for Ben Jealous?” she said, referring to one of the governor’s more progressive Democratic challengers.

“It seems clear that it upsets his base,” Kromer said of the Taney statue removal. But she said voters will always care more about the economy and education than statues.

Hogan’s support is so broad among Republicans, she said, “He has very, very, very far to fall.”

The governor is not the only public official facing heat for his position on Taney’s statue.

Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller abstained from a vote by the State House Trust on whether to take it down. He said later in a letter to the governor that the four-member panel should have voted after a public hearing, rather than by email.

When Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway heard her presiding officer sat out the vote, she was “taken aback.”

“What does that mean, Mike didn't vote?” said Conway, a Democrat. Conway, a committee chair, has also held leadership posts in the Legislative Black Caucus, which has long advocated for Taney’s statue to be removed.

She said she’s gone many rounds over the years with Miller about the propriety of a variety of Confederate statues on public grounds in Maryland.

“We're not saying take them down and break them into pieces and give every neo-Nazi a relic,” Conway said. “We're just saying put them someplace else. They don't belong on public property.

“He has a lot of conservatives in his district,” Conway said of Miller’s Southern Maryland home. “Maybe he's placating his constituents?”

Miller, who through a spokesman declined to be interviewed about the statue, also outlined several arguments in his letter for why Taney should stay.

He defended what he called Taney’s "complex history.” Miller noted that Taney freed slaves during his lifetime, comparing him favorably to George Washington, who freed them only after his death.

"We all know that the inflammatory and derogatory language and holding of the Dred Scott decision created great and lasting wounds in our Country and incited rather than avoided a Civil War," Miller wrote. "And yet, many do not know that Roger Brooke Taney also served with distinction in many State and National Offices."

Sen. William C. Smith, Jr., a first-term lawmaker from Montgomery County and member of the Black Caucus, said Miller’s position does not resonate with him.

“I can understand where he's coming from, I just don't agree with it,” Smith said. “Taney's legacy has been litigated for over a hundred years now.”

The monument's removal “is something that we've got to applaud, and I appreciate that I will no longer have to walk past the statue on my way to the chamber,” he said.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The State of Maryland Willfully Commits an Act of Objective Symbolic Violence on Southern Conservatives

Is this an Act of Attempting to Perform *Divine Violence (alter myths of sovereignty/Drive a nail into the coffin of a principle that States have rights?)?

A Democrat who "get's it"
*Divine Violence looks at the question of political theology and its connection to sovereignty. It argues that the practice of sovereignty reflects a Christian eschatology, one that proves very hard to overcome even by left thinkers, such as Arendt and Derrida, who are very critical of it. These authors fall into a trap described by Carl Schmitt whereby one is given a (false) choice between anarchy and sovereignty, both of which are bound within―and return us to―the same eschatological envelope. In Divine Violence, the author argues that Benjamin supplies the correct political theology to help these thinkers. He shows how to avoid trying to get rid of sovereignty (the "anarchist move" that Schmitt tells us forces us to "decide against the decision") and instead to seek to de-center and dislocate sovereignty so that it’s mythological function is disturbed. He does this with the aid of divine violence, a messianic force that comes into the world to undo its own mythology, leaving nothing in its wake. Such a move clears the myths of sovereignty away, turning us to our own responsibility in the process. In that way, the author argues,Benjamin succeeds in producing an anarchism that is not bound by Schmitt’s trap but which is sustained even while we remain dazzled by the myths of sovereignty that structure our world.

Divine Violence will be of interest to students of political theory, to those with an interest in political theology, philosophy and deconstruction, and to those who are interested in thinking about some of the dilemmas that the ‘left’ finds itself in today.
- James R. Martel, "Divine Violence"

For how much longer will we be able to sing the State Song?
Maryland, My Maryland

I
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

II
Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
Maryland!
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

III
Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland!
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

IV
Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array,
Maryland!
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

V
Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Maryland!
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VI
Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain,
Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Maryland!
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VII
I see the blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
Maryland!
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VIII
Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Maryland!
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Maryland!
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

IX
I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!
The Angel of History (flies looking backwards)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Baltimore Whitewashes Its' History in the Dead of Night...

from CBS Baltimore
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore city crews took down confederate monuments across the city overnight.

All four — the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell — have been removed.

On Monday night, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution calling for the immediate deconstruction of these monuments, days after a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that drew white nationalists and counter-protesters turned violent.

“Unite the Right” organizers said one of the reasons behind the event was the city’s plan to remove a Robert E. Lee monument from a park there.

One woman died and several were injured when a car was plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.

Hogan Colludes with Fake News to Whitewash Maryland History

from the Baltimore Sun
Gov. Larry Hogan joined a groundswell of opposition to Confederate-linked monuments on Tuesday, calling for the removal of a statue of the Supreme Court chief justice who wrote an 1857 decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to black Americans.

The statue of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, a Calvert County native and author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, has stood on the front lawn of the State House in Annapolis since 1872, withstanding multiple efforts to remove it.

Hogan’s announcement probably ensures that the bronze likeness of Taney will be removed from its prominent perch in the state capital. Hogan acknowledged the statue may send an inappropriate message in a country that continues to struggle over civil rights and equality.

“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “With that in mind, I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney Statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do, and we will ask the State House trust to take that action immediately.”

Hogan previously supported keeping Taney in his spot at the State House, and in 2015 called removing monuments to the Confederacy “political correctness run amok.” Hogan did recall more than 100 Sons of Confederate Veterans commemorative license plates that year.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the governor was moved to change his mind following the weekend events in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists held demonstrations and one woman was killed and others injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.

“The governor was disgusted by the events in Charlottesville and rightly concluded that these memorials had become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said. “Their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”

Following the violent and disturbing events in Charlottesville, officials around the country have re-examined their statues and memorials to Confederate figures.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has pledged to take down four Confederate-inspired monuments in the city, possibly moving them to Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in the state. The memorials include the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell and a Taney monument on Mount Vernon Place.

Under former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a commission recommended getting rid of the Taney and Lee-Jackson statues, while adding signs with more historic context to the others.

In Frederick, city officials removed a bust of Taney and another of Thomas Johnson, the state’s first governor and a slaveowner, in March. The busts had flanked the entrance of Frederick’s City Hall.

In a news conference at Trump Tower in New York, President Donald J. Trump defended the cause of those who gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue there honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy. He suggested that removing such monuments could lead to others coming down, too.

“Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington lose his status?” Trump said. “What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? ... You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

In Maryland, it’s up to the State House Trust to officially decide the fate of the Taney statue in Annapolis. It wasn’t clear Tuesday when the group would next meet or how long it could take to move the statue.

The Trust oversees the historic building and its grounds and has four members: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who is Hogan’s appointee; House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch; Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and Charles L. Edson, who is chairman of the Maryland Historical Trust’s board of trustees.

Busch offered his support on Monday for getting rid of the Taney statue, while Miller said he preferred to keep the statue but would not block its removal if that was the governor’s wish.

Busch and Miller previously supported keeping Taney in his place, and pointed to the installation of a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, in a visible and heavily trafficked spot on Lawyers Mall on the other side of the State House, as a counter to the Taney statue.

Busch, Miller and Hogan have also offered support for installing statues of abolitionist leaders Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass inside the State House.

Edson could not be reached for comment.

Busch said once the statue is removed, Hogan should set up a group to figure out what to do with it, such as destroy it or display it elsewhere.

“I’m not an expert on where the statue should go, but I don’t believe when you have a State House as historic as ours, you have Taney on the front grounds,” said Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Even when lawmakers considered spending money on the Taney statue in 1867, there was disagreement. Some preferred the statue, sculpted by artist William Henry Rinehart, to be put in Frederick, where Taney was buried, instead of Annapolis.

Various lawmakers over the years have sponsored legislation that would have required the statue to be moved or destroyed, but the bills have never advanced in the General Assembly. The state’s Department of Legislative Services estimated last year that it would cost $77,000 to remove the statue and another $5,000 per year to store it.

Hogan’s office said the administration would find the money necessary for the statue’s removal.

An online petition asking the state to remove the Taney statue gathered nearly 850 signatures by the time Hogan announced his support for the removal.

Patrick Murray, a spokesman for the group Our Maryland, which launched the petition on Sunday, said Hogan was slow to act.

“Speaker Busch was out front on this issue, while Governor Hogan led from behind,” said Murray, who used to be director of the Maryland Democratic Party. “The governor should be embarrassed that it took two days and collective action by 848 Marylanders to get him to do the right thing.”

The likelihood that the Taney statue would be moved spurred mixed emotions in Kate Taney Billingsley, a New York woman who is descended from the chief justice.

Billingsley and her family have worked over the years to understand their ancestor’s actions and connected with Dred Scott’s descendants in an effort toward reconciliation.

Representatives from both families visited the Taney statue at the State House together in March to promote a plan to place a statue of Scott next to Taney. Over the weekend, as demonstrations took place in Charlottesville, Billingsley took part in a panel discussion in St. Louis with Scott’s descendants.

Billingsley said she wasn’t surprised by the momentum to remove the Taney statue and said she understood the reasons behind it. She said she won’t oppose the statue’s removal.

“If the community wants it gone, then it should be gone,” Billingsley said.

Still, she worries the focus on statues may distract from the broader work that Americans need to do to improve race relations and justice. Besides statues, there are roads, bridges, schools and even towns named for Taney and other figures from the Civil War era. It may be politically expedient to remove statues and symbols, Billingsley said, but much more difficult work needs to be done.

“You can tear down every single statue, but at the end of the day, the system is still broken,” she said.
Meanwhile, President Trump speaks the truth and the media fakers melt down.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Maryland Uniparty State too Corrupt for Medical Marijuana?

from the WaPo
MARYLAND’S MEDICAL marijuana program has been so sluggish to take flight, so dazed in setting rules for applicants and so muddled in evaluating them that one might fairly wonder if the entire undertaking were conducted under the influence.

Three years after it was approved, the state’s legal pot program is still earthbound. While licenses are scheduled at last to be awarded to grow, process and dispense cannabis this month, few of the nearly 30 states that have legalized the drug for medical purposes have been so slow to get their programs up and running.

It is not only the listless pace but also the signs of self-dealing and shady connections that have given the project a scent of mismanagement and corruption. The problems began with a lawmaker, Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), who pressed for changes in the legislation legalizing marijuana but never publicly disclosed that he was also a paid consultant for a concern that was a prospective dispensary.

Now we learn, thanks to reporting by The Post’s Fenit Nirappil and Aaron Gregg, that a web of opaque connections bound some bidders for potentially lucrative cannabis licenses with the evaluators who were hired to assess their applications. Somehow, no one picked up on those apparent conflicts of interest in the bidding process — neither the Maryland Medical Cannibis Commission nor the outfit at Towson University with which it contracted to judge bidders, the Regional Economic Studies Institute.

That’s a conspicuous oversight. Whether it is justified to suspect that cozy connections may have had a hand in determining winners and losers, the failure to ferret out evaluators with business or personal connections to license applicants naturally gives rise to such suspicions, thereby subverting faith in the process and the program.

The problems include an evaluator, Julia Germaine, whose husband and business partner, Nial DeMena, submitted applications to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana in Maryland in 2015, along with a business partner named Ted Rebholz. The firm was given preliminary approval last year. Mr. DeMena now tells The Post he is no longer involved in the business, and husband and wife both insist they weren’t aware of the other’s role in Maryland. If true, that bespeaks obliviousness to the spirit of disclosure rules.

On top of incomplete disclosures by several evaluators, the selection process has been marred by lawsuits alleging a failure to take into account racial diversity in awarding licenses and alleging that favoritism granted some bidders on the basis of geographical diversity even as higher-ranked applicants were shown the door.

In anointing successful bidders, states may in effect be bestowing considerable riches; medical marijuana has been highly profitable in a number of states. Any hint that the selection is somehow unfair, or tainted by personal connections, subverts faith in the process and in government.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) stepped in to clean house at the state Cannabis Commission, appointing 10 new members in response to concerns about shoddy oversight. Any further revelations could derail the whole procedure; here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Americans now have the highest credit-card debt in U.S. history

from Market Watch
American consumers just hit a scary milestone.

They now collectively have the most outstanding revolving debt — often summarized as credit card debt — in U.S. history
, according to a report Monday released by the Federal Reserve. Americans had $1.021 trillion in outstanding revolving credit in June 2017. This beats the previous record in April 2008, when consumers had a collective $1.02 trillion in outstanding credit revolving credit.

“This record should serve as a wake-up call to Americans to focus on their credit card debt,” said Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, a credit card website. “Even if you feel your debt is manageable right now, know that you could be one unexpected emergency away from real trouble.”

Revolving credit had been growing at an annual growth rate of 4.9%. One reason: More consumers are getting access to credit cards backed by major banks and issuers in recent months. More than 171 million consumers had access to those cards in the first quarter of 2017, the highest number that has had access since 2005, when about $162.5 million people had access.

For the first time since the Great Recession, lenders have given more consumers with sub-prime, or below average, credit scores, access to credit cards, but they are giving them lower spending limits, according to the credit reporting agency TransUnion TRU, +0.22% .

The New York Federal Reserve released a new report Wednesday that showed U.S. collective household debt balances totaled $12.73 trillion in March 2017, surpassing the 2008 peak of $12.68 trillion.

This isn’t the first debt milestone Americans have hit recently. The Federal Reserve announced in April that the U.S. had $1 trillion in credit-card debt. (Consumers hit that number previously in the fourth quarter of 2016, but had eased on their use of revolving credit during January 2017. The Fed announcement showed revolving consumer credit hit more than $1 trillion once again in February 2017 and has continued to climb.)

This year, total household debt — including housing, auto loans and student-loan debt — in the U.S. also surpassed the 2008 peak. While the debt level is similar to 2008, the things Americans are buying on credit have changed, as household incomes have increased in recent years, and housing prices and stock prices have improved.

Compared with 2008, fewer borrowers have housing-related debt and, instead, more have taken on auto and student loans.This is backed up by previous research: Student loans have made it harder for younger consumers to buy homes; plus, lower housing prices are also tied to higher student loan default rates.)

The New York Federal Reserve’s report also showed debt delinquencies of 90 days or more have mostly improved since 2008, except for student loans. About 10% of student loan balances are 90 days or more delinquent, according to the New York Federal Reserve’s analysis.

Here’s how the numbers stack up for indebted Americans in 2017: Housing-related debt is down nearly $1 trillion since the 2008 peak, but auto loan balances are $367 billion higher, and student loans are a whopping $671 billion higher, according to the Federal Reserve.

Although housing debt has decreased since 2008, mortgages still make up the bulk of the debt total, at 67%, as of 2016.

Previous Fed studies have shown Americans struggle with their auto debt, which often has high interest rates. The number of subprime auto loans that have fallen into delinquency hit their highest level since 2010 during December 2016. At that time, nearly 6 million people were at least 90 days late on their payments. That is similar consumer behavior to what was seen just before the 2007 - 2009 recession, experts said.

Nearly a quarter of the adults the Fed surveyed in 2016 said they or their spouse purchased or leased a new or used car or truck in the last year. About two-thirds of them took out a loan to do so. And 12% of those who used loans had a longer repayment period than the amount of time they even planned to own the vehicle.

Another trend: Older Americans are taking on a greater share of debt than in years past. Those ages 60 and older held 22.5% of total household debt in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 15.9% in 2008 and 12.6% in 2003. Although much of that debt is likely due to mortgages, it’s also possible they are shouldering more student loan debt than in the past, for their children and grandchildren. There were nearly 2 million borrowers between the ages of 50 and 64 who took on “Parent PLUS” loans, the loans the government offers parents, in 2015, up from about 1 million in 2005. Another 200,000 borrowers over the age of 65 also have them.

Credit card debt and auto loan debt balances for people ages 60 and older have also risen since 2008, whereas credit card debt for those 59 and younger has fallen. The Fed, when describing that phenomenon, said lending standards have tightened since the recession, and those who are older may also be more creditworthy.

Although that may make young Americans breathe a sigh of relief, it’s still potentially dangerous, as high levels of debt could mean older Americans don’t have enough money saved for retirement. Indeed, the average American couple has only $5,000 saved for retirement, and only a third of working Americans are saving money in an employer-sponsored or tax-deferred retirement account.

The Fed did find some good news, though. Largely because of tougher underwriting standards for mortgages, the Americans holding debt have higher credit scores than in the past. As of 2016, 41.3% of Americans’ total debt is held by people with high credit scores, above 760. That’s compared with 33.9% in 2008 and 23.7% in 2003. And a smaller share is held by those with lower scores, below 620. Some 13.2% of debt in the fourth quarter of 2016 was held by those with scores below 620, compared with 19% in 2008 and 16.6% in 2003. (Auto loans still have “looser standards,” the Fed found.)

Lending to people who are unlikely to pay debts back can have disastrous effects, from keeping families in debt for years to ruining their credit scores, which makes it more difficult for them to borrow responsibly in the future.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Fund Your Own Sanctuary City, Baltimore!

from the Baltimore Sun
Six members of Baltimore’s delegation to Congress on Friday questioned the Justice Department’s decision to withhold federal crime fighting assistance unless the city cooperates with the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts.

Calling the Justice Department’s announcement “unconscionable,” the six lawmakers — all Democrats — noted that the State of Maryland sets immigration policy at Baltimore’s jail, not City Hall. The lawmakers also argued that immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not a local matter.

“We find it unconscionable that the Justice Department would threaten Baltimore and other cities, and not expeditiously bring to bear all of the federal government’s resources to reduce violent crime,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, John Sarbanes and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

At issue is whether the state will honor voluntary requests from the federal government to hold immigrants in jail beyond their scheduled release date so that federal agents can pick those people up for deportation, if they choose.

The Maryland Attorney General has advised jurisdictions in the state not to honor those requests without a warrant.

In its letter Thursday, the Justice Department demanded that Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration explain its position on the detainer requests. But it is actually Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration that sets the policy for the Baltimore city jail.

Hogan’s policy has been inconsistent, unclear and unwritten for the better part of a year. At first, the administration said it would not honor detainers absent a judicially signed warrant. Then Hogan himself indicated the jail would hold immigrations for up to 48 hours, breaking with the earlier position taken by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the public safety department said the agency would consider the requests on a “case-by-case” basis — but offered no clarity on what factors would go into that decision. The agency said in its statement that it had not received a request to hold an immigrant beyond their release since 2015.

What the state — and others — have ostensibly not been willing to do is hold an immigrant in a cell without a pending criminal charge. But Maryland’s policy at the Baltimore jail does allow officials to alert Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents when they are about to release an immigrant.

All federal agents have to do is be at the jail when that person is released in order to pick them up.

Aside from the immigration issue, the Justice Department told Baltimore it would otherwise be a candidate for its new Public Safety Partnership program, because the city has a level of violence that exceeds the national average.

It’s not clear if Baltimore has asked to join the new partnership program, or what benefits that program would provide the city. The Justice Department has not fully explained how Public Safety Partnership is different from the federal-local cooperation that has been taking place in Baltimore for years.

A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The original Justice Department letter was sent to officials in Baltimore, Albuquerque, N.M., and San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Senate Goes on Vacation - Leave Government Rudderless

Half of Trump’s major federal agencies still only have one Senate-confirmed appointee and the Senate is preventing President Trump from making any recess appointments while they go on summer break.

from the Washington Post
President Trump has a major staffing problem. He has been president for five months, and yet his agencies are severely understaffed at the highest levels. And, no, it's not all Senate Democrats' fault.

In the all-important State Department, the Senate has confirmed only one-third of positions that President Barack Obama had at the same point in his presidency. And that's not because, as Trump claims, Senate Democrats are blocking his nominees. (Democrats can slow-walk committee hearings, but they can't actually block votes.) Trump is way behind other recent presidents in nominating people for the Senate to vote on.
The State Department is more settled than other major federal agencies. In more than half of Trump’s 15 primary executive departments, only one Trump appointee has been confirmed: the secretary who heads the agency.

This comes from new data compiled by the Partnership for Public Service for The Post, which reveals that other transitions were much further along at this point. And maybe that's how Trump wants it.
The numbers, gathered as of Friday, show Trump has taken action on about 120 Senate confirmable positions at the major departments. His three immediate predecessors had all nominated around 200 or more by this point.

For all this tweeting about Democratic obstructionists, Trump may be trying to play catch-up now. As of June, he's started nominating 20 high-level positions every week. There's actually a law that says Trump must act within a certain amount of time or risk having to leave the positions empty — without a temporary official filling in — giving even more duties to the heads of the agencies.
While most of the positions are not sitting vacant — civil servants or holdovers from the previous administration stay on temporarily — the backlog is leaving a cloud hanging over the federal government and making it difficult to accomplish other administration priorities, say some experts.

Max Stier, the head of the organization that is collecting the data, warned that a lack of permanent appointees to head the agencies can hamper the efficiency of government.

“It creates a great deal of uncertainty and, ultimately, it diminishes the ability of government to do its job as well as it could,” he said. Stier said vacancies at national security-related agencies (State, Defense, Homeland Security) are especially troubling because those agencies are charged with keeping Americans safe.
Speaking of why his group is collecting vacancy data, he said “this is not about big or small government. This is about making government run more effectively, and everyone has that in their interest, no matter what your political persuasion.”

The inaction on appointments has prompted outcry from both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans asking for open positions to be filled more quickly. Post reporters Lisa Rein and Abby Phillip chronicled this example in a story last week:
Republicans have become so alarmed by the personnel shortfall that in the past week a coalition of conservatives complained to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. “We remain very concerned over the lack of secondary and tertiary executive-level appointments,” they said in a letter signed by 25 prominent conservatives called the Coalitions for America, describing their concern that the leadership vacuum will create “mischief and malfeasance” by civil servants loyal to Obama.
There are a few reasons Trump is so behind in staffing his government.

For starters, in an April Fox News interview, Trump indicated that he may not want to fill all the open positions, in anticipation of restructuring or cutting them altogether. Paul Light, a professor of public service at NYU and expert on government bureaucracy, said vacancies might not be the worst thing from the administration’s point of view.

“It doesn’t hurt Trump to have agencies that cannot move. They can’t regulate. They can’t implement,” he said. “They’re completely decapitated.” Light said having temporary officials instead of permanent appointees could make it easier for the administration to eliminate positions.

[Slow pace of Trump nominations leaves Cabinet agencies ‘stuck’ in staffing limbo]

Another factor at play is that the administration’s slow start allowed competing priorities to take precedence in the Senate. And yes, a more combative partisan opposition has played a role, with Democrats delivering Trump’s nominees more “no” votes than any other Cabinet within its first few months.
But Trump is nominating people with less government experience and complex financial backgrounds to untangle and has avoided anyone who voiced opposition to his candidacy during the campaign. These factors have led to difficulty finding candidates that can pass government ethics requirements that they separate themselves financially from what they’ll be overseeing. Several of Trump's nominees have had to withdraw from consideration before they got confirmed because they failed to demonstrate they would do this.

Cabinet secretaries have also butted heads with the White House over whom to hire.

Here’s a full rundown of how many positions have been acted upon at each of the 15 major Cabinet agencies, compared with previous administrations. The Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking the status of more than 550 key positions here.