The other day we talked about a meeting being called by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to discuss the skyrocketing murder rate and gang violence problem in Baltimore. That discussion focused on the fact that a panel of judges invited to the meeting had declined to attend. The meeting went forward without them as planned and produced some proposals to address the city’s problems, at least one of which is definitely worth a closer look.
What Governor Hogan is focusing on is the relatively light sentences that persons convicted of gun crimes receive, many of whom do no time in jail at all. And those who are sentenced to prison frequently wind up doing only a small fraction of the time. The Governor is asking for some “truth in sentencing” which will ensure that criminals know that the city is serious and that they will pay a steep price for their crimes. (Baltimore Sun)
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
from the San Francisco Chronicle
In the aftermath of a right-wing rally Sunday that ended with anarchists chasing attendees from a downtown park, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin urged UC Berkeley on Monday to cancel conservatives’ plans for a Free Speech Week next month to avoid making the city the center of more violent unrest. (Why? Is the Klan or are Nazi's coming?)
“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin, whose city has been the site of several showdowns this year between, on the one hand, the left and its fringe anarchist wing, and on the other, supporters of President Trump who at times have included white nationalists.
“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem,” Arreguin said. “It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.”
The mayor wants UC Berkeley to halt plans by a conservative campus group, the Berkeley Patriot, to host right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. Berkeley’s right-vs.-left cage matches began with an appearance that Yiannopoulos was to have made in February at a campus hall, an event that was aborted when black-clad anarchists like those who broke up Sunday’s downtown rally stormed into Sproul Plaza, smashed windows and set bonfires. (That gay British right wing guy must be REALLY scary!)
Trump himself denounced UC Berkeley in a tweet the next day, and his supporters have since made a point of bringing their fight to the famously liberal college town.
There have been reports that the Berkeley Patriot is also trying to lure ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and right-wing commentator Ann Coulter to appear on campus during its Free Speech Week. Bryce Kasamoto, a spokesman for the group, said Monday, “We are still working out the logistics of this event with the university and law enforcement. Once we have worked out final specifics, we will be able to confirm speakers for Free Speech Week.”
Arreguin is wary of the whole idea.
“I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street,” Arreguin said, referring to militants who have also been called anti-fascists or antifa. (So the REAL problem is his own pampered constituents)
The anti-Yiannopoulos protesters inflicted $100,000 worth of damage to the school’s student union in February before taking to the streets of Berkeley, where several businesses’ windows were smashed. Arreguin said inviting the former Breitbart News editor and other right-wing speakers was setting up a possible repeat of that destruction.
“I obviously believe in freedom of speech, but there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety,” the mayor said. “That is where we have to really be very careful — that while protecting people’s free-speech rights, we are not putting our citizens in a potentially dangerous situation and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses.”
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university is working with the Berkeley Patriot to come up with a time and location for Yiannopoulos’ appearance. He emphasized that UC Berkeley wasn’t the one extending the invitation, but that “we have neither the legal right nor ability to interfere with or cancel (students groups’) invitations based on the perspectives and beliefs of the speakers.”
“Where we do have discretion is around everything that has to do with the safety of our communities, and the well-being of those who may feel threatened or harmed by what some of these speakers may espouse,” Mogulof said. “We can assure you that those priorities, along with our commitment to free speech, remain at the center of our planning and priorities.”
Also on tap for next month is a campus appearance by Ben Shapiro, another former Breitbart News editor, who is scheduled to speak Sept. 14 at the 1,900-capacity Zellerbach Hall. His appearance is sponsored by Berkeley College Republicans.
Shapiro told The Chronicle last week that he would welcome anyone who wanted to protest his appearance, but that “I’m actively telling people not to show up to defend my free speech. That’s the police’s job.”
UC Berkeley is charging the organizers of Shapiro’s appearance $15,000 for the campus’ security costs.
How are language and violence connected? In his “Critique of Violence,” Walter Benjamin raises the question: “Is any nonviolent resolution of conflict possible?” His answer is that such a nonviolent resolution of conflict is possible in “relationships among private persons,” in courtesy, sympathy, and trust: “there is a sphere of human agreement that is nonviolent to the extent that it is wholly inaccessible to violence: the proper sphere of ‘understanding,’ language.” This thesis belongs to the mainstream tradition in which the prevalent idea of language and the symbolic order is that of the medium of reconciliation and mediation, of peaceful coexistence, as opposed to a violent medium of immediate and raw confrontation. In language, instead of exerting direct violence on each other, we are meant to debate, to exchange words — and such an exchange, even when it is aggressive, presupposes a minimum recognition of the other.- Slavoj Zizek, "The Poetic Torture-House of Language"
Monday, August 28, 2017
from CBSLocal in San Francisco
BERKELEY (CBS/AP) — Several thousand people converged in Berkeley Sunday for a “Rally Against Hate” in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of violence and triggered a massive police presence. Several people were arrested for violating rules against covering their faces or carrying items banned by authorities.
Tense but brief skirmishes erupted when several dozen left-wing protesters surrounded and shouted at a handful of right-wing demonstrators. Three of those targeted sought safety by rushing toward officers sand were escorted out of the park. They were put in van that was kicked by yelling left-wing protesters as it drove away.
The left-wing protesters far outnumbered those who showed up for the largely peaceful rally, which police tried to keep safe by setting up barricades around it and checking people who entered to make sure they did not have prohibited items like baseball bats, dogs, skateboards and scarves or bandanas they could use to cover their faces.
Anti-rally protesters chanted slogans “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA” and carried signs that said: “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate.”
Berkeley is the city that gave birth to the 1960s Free Speech Movement but authorities refused to issue a permit allowing Sunday’s event. The city and the University of California, Berkeley campus have been the site of political clashes and violence over the past year.
At one point Sunday, an anti-rally protester denounced a Latino man holding a “God Bless Donald Trump” sign.
“You are an immigrant,” said Karla Fonseca. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Several other people also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border.
Police pulled one supporter of President Donald Trump out of the park over a wall by his shirt as a crowd of about two dozen counter demonstrators surrounded him and chanted “Nazi go home” and pushed him toward the edge of the park. At least two people were detained by officers for wearing bandannas covering their faces.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin issued a statement early Sunday evening praising the majority of protesters who remained peaceful during Sunday’s events.
“I applaud the more than 7,000 people who came out today to peacefully oppose bigotry, hatred and racism that we saw on display in Charlottesville. They gave impassioned speeches, they played music and they showed that Berkeley and the Bay Area will always stand for tolerance, diversity and justice,” the statement read.
“Faced by extremists who were intent to fight, the Berkeley Police Department made the right call to deescalate the situation,” the statement continued. “In the end, 13 people were arrested and two taken to the hospital. I regret that people were injured, but am glad that serious violence was averted.”
In the aftermath, Berkeley police defended how they handled security at the rally.
Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood says police made a strategic decision to let a group of more than 100 black-clad anarchists enter the park Sunday once it became clear there would not be dueling protests between right and left.
He said “the potential use of force became very problematic” because thousands of mostly peaceful left-wing protesters were already inside the park.
Greenwood said he decided to let the black-clad protesters demonstrate in the park because there was “no need for a confrontation over a grass patch.”
Earlier Sunday, a separate counter protest took place on the nearby Berkeley university campus despite calls by university police for demonstrators to stay away. From the campus, the crowd marched to Civic Center Park and merged with the anti-rally protesters who had already gathered there.
The Berkeley rallies happened a day after a rally planned by a right-wing group fizzled amid throngs of counter-protesters in San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declared victory over a group he branded as inviting hate.
The organizer of Sunday’s right-wing event was Amber Cummings, a transgender woman and Trump supporter who has repeatedly denounced racism. Cummings said that demonization by mayors in both cities and left-wing extremists made it impossible for people with other views to speak out.
Cummings has said on social media and in media interviews that Marxism is the real evil and that members of the anti-fascist movement are terrorists.
“I’m not safe to walk down the road with an American flag in this country,” she told reporters last week.
Saturday’s event was organized by a group known as Patriot Prayer. Its leader Joey Gibson has also repeatedly disavowed racism.
Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.
However, the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists led San Francisco police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Friday, August 25, 2017
A federal district court rejected a claim Thursday by seven Maryland Republicans that the state’s 2011 redistricting violated their First Amendment rights, setting up another Supreme Court fight over the heavily litigated maps.
In a case closely watched by state political leaders, the court found the plaintiffs failed to meet the standard required to order an immediate redrawing of the boundaries. In a 2-1 decision, the court said it wanted to see the outcome of a separate gerrymandering claim from Wisconsin pending before the Supreme Court before deciding the Maryland lawsuit.
“The time and resources necessary to implement a new map would surely have the effect of scuttling other legislative priorities in advance of the 2018 [legislative] session,” the court wrote. “The remedy would be highly consequential.”
Michael B. Kimberly, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said he intends to appeal — a move that will automatically put the Maryland congressional maps before the Supreme Court for the second time in as many years. Describing the state’s congressional district map as a "crazy quilt," a unanimous Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed in late 2015.
But the decision Thursday meant that, for the time being, Maryland’s current congressional map is likely to remain in place for the 2018 midterm elections.
Brought by a group of Republican voters, the case is one of several pending in the federal court system that rely on new legal arguments to challenge the constitutionality of political gerrymandering. The lawsuit, filed in 2013, drew particular interest in Maryland after lawyers sharply questioned former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and leaders of the General Assembly about the motivations behind the congressional districts.
In his deposition, O’Malley acknowledged what was already widely understood: that Maryland Democrats used the 2011 redistricting to flip the 6th Congressional District from a reliably Republican seat to one far more competitive for their party. A year later, Democratic Rep. John Delaney unseated 10-term incumbent Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the district.
O’Malley, who has continued to weigh in on national politics since losing a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, has since called for nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
The federal litigation has refocused attention on the state's squirrelly congressional districts — among the least compact in the nation, according to some studies — at a time when the issue has gained new attention in Annapolis. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has also called for a nonpartisan redistricting commission, an idea Democrats in the state have rejected.
If Hogan wins a second term in next year's election, it would set the stage for a showdown with Democrats in Annapolis over the maps following the 2020 Census.
Democrats control seven of eight House seats in the state, though 41 percent of voters backed a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in 2014. Any tinkering with the current system — either through an independent commission or a negotiation with a Republican governor — could potentially loosen Democrats’ grip on the delegation.
State Democrats point out that the maps were approved not only by the General Assembly but also by voters, 64 percent of whom backed the districts in a 2012 referendum. They note that Republican-controlled governments in other states draw maps to their benefit and say that unilaterally moving away from a partisan system in Maryland would give the GOP an unfair advantage.
Maryland argues Republicans not harmed in redistricting case
The decision Thursday came from a three-judge panel. Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, appointed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President George H.W. Bush, dissented.
“I believe that the record could not be clearer that the mapmakers specifically intended to dilute the effectiveness of Republican voters in the Sixth Congressional District and that the actual dilution that they accomplished was caused by their intent,” Niemeyer wrote.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat, said that the state expected the plaintiffs to appeal and that “we will respond in the appropriate time frame.”
The Supreme Court has often lamented partisan mapmaking, but the justices have failed to agree on a legal standard to decide when an effort to draw political advantage into a district crosses the line. The Wisconsin and Maryland cases are proposing different standards for how to determine whether a map is unconstitutional.
The court is set to hear arguments in that case in October.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
This Saturday, San Franciscans can gather to celebrate their own virtue, while venting some more of their rage – and, for the violence-prone subset, maybe kick some "right wing" butt. Last Saturday, Bostonian Warriors of Virtue got their chance for a lovely day of self-congratulation in the sun, so now it is the Bay Area's turn.Of course, the real "rumble" is NOT going to be in San Francisco. It will be in Berkeley the following day. Berkeley's event will be a "permit-less" protest where there's been much "bad-blood" spilled in the recent past (April 15, 2017 Battle for Berkeley). BTW - note to Nancy Pelosi, "I suppose this proves that you can (and do) yell, 'Wolf!' in a crowded theatre."
The National Park Service has issued a permit for a rally that is proclaimed to be on the subject of free speech but is universally being portrayed as "right wing," racist, and worse. This despite the fact that nobody involved in speaking or organizing any links to anything of the sort. The site is Crissy Field, a former airstrip, quite accessible, and featuring iconic scenery.
The city is mobilizing its entire police force for the event and probably realizes that like their Boston counterparts last weekend, they may have to evacuate a handful of protesters through a mob intent on bodily harm, that may attack the police with bottles of urine, soda cans full of cement, or maybe something new. So I expect them to be well prepared and, like Boston, put to shame the incompetence or worse of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.
But there is a cadre of a few hundred Bay Area violent left-wingers who show up at every opportunity to inflict mayhem. You saw them most recently smashing windows and starting fires at U.C. Berkeley, as they attempted to lynch Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley. But I have seen roughly the same group of people showing up for years every time a chance arises to protest something or other and smash a few store windows in Berkeley or Oakland. Black Bloc is the latest name being used. I have no idea what they are planning, but I am sure the SFPD is forecasting and training for a number of scenarios. I wonder if they are cooperating with Homeland Security.
What troubles me the most, outside the possibility of serious violence, is the extent to which the media and the politicians are demonizing a rather innocent, even idealistic venture, using reprehensible techniques. First of all, there is the universality of the label "right wing" ("far right" in the S.F. Chronicle) when the organizers of the rally and the rally itself are mentioned. That is an expression that triggers anger among a substantial portion of San Franciscans right there.
For instance, the Mercury News starts its article with this:With permits now issued for five events this weekend in San Francisco's Crissy Field, one of them organized by a right-wing group and the other four reportedly groups out to protest the right-wingers, the stage is being set for a possible showdown between white nationalists and a city that has come out roundly against them.There are only "right-wing" groups, and no "left-wing" groups, and certainly no mention of Antifa.
In the minds of most San Franciscans, "right-wing" equals "hate." Mayor Ed Lee spoke on camera about the city's preparations for the demonstrations, and 1 minute and 40 seconds into the clip found, here, he states:The most tumultuous thing that can happen is that people act on their very deep passions on hate, and that's at least some that we would be espousing against.This is both incoherent and rather ambiguous, while still implying to all right-thinking viewers that the mayor worries that those right-wingers might get violent. Conceivably, the mayor is warning against Antifa when he cautions "some that we would be espousing against" acting "on their very deep passions on hate," but that is unlikely. I think he is just bloviating while refusing to name names.
The Mercury News, to its credit, did dig into the organizer of Patriot Prayer and presents information that portrays a sincere, somewhat naïve activist, whose "open to all" rallies have been invaded by kooks like the KKK, and this discredited him in the eyes of the media. The familiar passive slur that "violence broke out" then becomes part of the labeling that makes a group led by a nonwhite (he is of mixed parentage and calls himself Japanese) and featuring mostly nonwhite speakers into fearsome "white nationalists."Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer and the organizer of the rally, said he denounced racism and wouldn't allow any extremists into his event. The permit approval, Gibson said Tuesday, was a sign that "the First Amendment will be respected."Yep, a racist hater.
Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups does not list Patriot Prayer as such, nor is Gibson considered an extremist by the advocacy center;
In fact, the Law Center reported that at the most recent Patriot Prayer event, Gibson shouted from the stage "F*** white supremacists! F*** neo-Nazis!" ...
On its Facebook page, Patriot Prayer says its group "is about using the power of love and prayer to fight the corruption both in the government and citizen levels that seek to gain power through division and deception." ...
Described as a "conservative-libertarian" in an article by The Columbian, Gibson got his start in politics last summer in the streets outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland; "There, the leader of the Patriot Prayer online community-slash-movement, whose organizing and activism has garnered national headlines after recent clashes on college campuses and the streets of Portland, was caught on camera tearing up a demonstrator's anti-police cardboard sign. "Why would you destroy my property?' asked the man, who was wearing a T-shirt that read "F*** the police.' Because Gibson, 33, was fired up. But then he felt bad for ripping up the sign. He handed the guy a $20 bill, and the interaction ended with a handshake."
Gibson counts the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of his political heroes and on Facebook he preaches "Hatred is a disease." The article says Gibson once "invited a transgender person to speak at one of his rallies because he said it's time all people were accepted."
If the mayor and media had any decency (I know, I know), they would be saying to the world that there is no reason to be afraid of a small group of people standing up for free speech. They might even note that the organizer is not white, and that San Franciscans are grown-ups who have always celebrated diversity, including political diversity. Milton Friedman spent years living there late in his life.
But that would require breaking the approved narrative, and no matter how phony it is, all must hew to the Party Line.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Well, that was a bit embarrassing. Antifascist liberals mounted thousand-strong counter-rallies all weekend against a Nazi threat that proved nonexistent or thin on the ground. Leftists imagined themselves to be modern-day versions of the Czech resistance or the Warsaw uprising, but it turns out they were the majoritarian mob shouting down a handful of losers who’ve been an execrable but small part of the American pageant for as long as most of us can remember.More on the non-racist nature of the SCAREY White- Supremacy Rally
We don’t know what speakers at Saturday’s “free speech” rally in Boston might have said. It was organized, according to the local papers, by libertarians protesting campus speech codes, though they opened their platform to anybody, left and right. The meeting ended early; the speakers were all drowned out. Nazis and white supremacists, if any were present, were shown to be vastly outnumbered by Americans who reject such doctrines.
To state another obvious point, our civil liberties are meaningless if they don’t protect unpopular views. It’s not the mob but the mob’s targets that need protection.
For the record, of the 20th century’s malign ideologies, Nazi ideas of who should be murdered and why strike me as slightly more odious and frightful than Maoist or Stalinist ideas of who should be murdered and why. The applicability to current U.S. events is slender, though.
More relevant is the principle that large mobs are more dangerous than small mobs, and likely to harbor more psychopaths. Apparently running out of Nazis to resist, Boston protesters threw rocks and urine-filled bottles at police. Any shortage of white supremacists can always be corrected by expanding the definition. Opponents of a $15 minimum wage are racist. Skeptics about a pending climate crisis are racist. Anyone questioning the utility of pulling down old statues is racist.
The slippery slope of civil-rights erosion is manifest every time certain members of the vituperative left open their mouths.
Hard to escape is a lesson about incentives: Majoritarian violence is the predominant risk even when its targets are people otherwise impossible to sympathize with.
Which brings us back to Charlottesville. Serious professionals in every field know first reports are unreliable. We aren’t counting certain modern-day news sites, of course. Their job is manipulating passing, news-related symbols in ways that pleasure their target audiences. Bandwagons are their profession.
For the record, however, Donald Trump’s press conference, in its entirety, is available online and takes 23 minutes to watch. He did not fail to denounce Nazis and racists.
An account of events in Charlottesville is also taking shape. Mr. Trump feels he has been treated unfairly. Guess what? That’s politics. Your opponents aren’t required to give you a break. Outsmart them. President Obama would have spoken carefully, starting with: Though we don’t have all the facts, one thing Americans can agree about is that Nazi ideology and racial hatred are offensive to American ideals.
Even an Obama Justice Department, though, would be open to the possibility that Americans holding a legally permitted rally were beset by a mob while police failed to keep order, if that’s what the facts eventually showed. From the Washington Post comes an interesting social characterization of today’s young white nationalist idiots—but also a description of how their van was attacked with flying bottles and other objects.
According to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, there were two armed militias, one representing a pro-Constitution group, the other a left-wing group. No shots were fired. They worked together to break up fights. Neither supported the Nazis, and both promptly withdrew when the governor declared an “unlawful assembly.”
In a tweet she has been made to regret, the New York Times ’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported: “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.”
For its part, the FBI has put out a call for witnesses and video of James Alex Fields Jr. before he got in his car.
Messrs. Trump and Obama may have different ideological bents, but no president wants to be consumed by passing political furies. Every president over a longer horizon, we also semi-confidently presume, would have a chief magistrate’s willingness to let the true facts emerge and fill in public perception of events.
Many reputations are now tied to a false version of what Donald Trump said, and a version of events in Charlottesville that may or may not survive careful documentation. Do not expect moral courage or any apologies. Mobs are mobs. Nazis whose every thought is reprehensible will still quail in the face of a lawless crowd. CEOs of publicly traded companies are not in the business of being brave. And yet the natural order is holding. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists may be a continuing American embarrassment and eyesore, but they are not today’s most pressing threat to our civil liberties.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Suppose BLM and Antifa Are Just Democratic 'Muscle' like the Old KKK
Steve Bannon is saying that the real Trump administration, of populist nationalism, is over. And I suppose it is, given that Bannon is no longer on the inside bashing heads.
Bannon said, as he walked out the door, that he commends the Democrats for starting a race war, because economic nationalism will beat a race war every time.
Bannon’s remarks, made to the NeverTrumpers at Weekly Standard, reminded me why Trump won the Republican nomination and the general election in 2016.
The reason that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination was that he stood up for ordinary Republican voters that liberals routinely name and shame as racists, sexists, and homophobes. That’s why he beat out Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the GOP squishes.
Ordinary middle-class Republicans know that, at any moment, they could be accused of racism by some SJW at work and lose their job. They are afraid; they want a president who will stand up for them.
The reason Donald Trump won the election was that his economic nationalism appealed to the white working class that is dying of despair, abandoned by the Democrats forty years ago. They want a president who will Make America Great Again.
Then came Charlottesville, and Donald Trump showed that he had our back. The problem, he said, is both sides. If President Trump does nothing more in his presidency, he has at least declared left and right extremists equivalent.
But is he right? Is the problem really “both sides?” Or is one side more to blame? When you lay Black Lives Matter and Antifa against Stormfront and the modern KKK, which is the bigger threat to democracy?
I think that the answer depends on which groups deliver “muscle” for their side.
Let’s go back to Reconstruction and the decade of 1865 to 1876. In that era the KKK, according to lefty Eric Foner in his Reconstruction, operated as a guerrilla force making the occupation of the South an expensive proposition for the Union Army and its associated scalawags and carpetbaggers. In 1876 the Republicans gave up on the South; they had bigger fish to fry up north, and so they abandoned the black freedmen to the tender mercies of the Democrats.
In the Jim Crow South, the KKK guerrillas now became the “muscle” for the Democratic Party. And the KKK role, apparently, was not so much to lynch blacks as to intimidate whites who might have a soft spot for the freedmen.
Now, ask yourself: are Stormfront and today’s KKK anyone’s political “muscle” today? Certainly not. For just about anyone on the right they are an embarrassment. We wish they would go away.
Now let us turn to Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Are they marginalized groups that liberals and Democrats are ashamed of? Certainly not. All over my liberal neighborhood in liberal Seattle there are We Believe yard-signs that proudly announce that Black Lives Matter. And just this weekend the New York Times and the Washington Post have written pieces saying there is nothing to see here on leftist violence.
The conclusion is obvious. Black Lives Matter and Antifa are “muscle” groups that perform the same function for today’s Democrats that the KKK performed for the Jim Crow South. They intimidate from Berkeley to Middlebury to Charlottesville, and the ruling class gives them a pass, just as the police and the judges did for the KKK back in the days of the Solid South.
Is their job to “muscle” ordinary middle-class Republicans, or rank-and-file Democrats?
I don’t know. I suspect that the job of the liberal “muscle” groups is to make the utterly marginalized Stormfront and KKK and associated groups into a menace, to justify the escalation of the liberal war on the ordinary Americans that SJWs call racists, sexists, and homophobes.
Otherwise people might get the idea that the job was done 50 years ago when the Civil Rights Acts made it illegal in these United States to discriminate on the basis of race or sex. People might ask: are there no police? Are there no FBIs? Are there no Civil Rights Divisions?
Otherwise people might get the idea that America under the liberal ruling class is a country designed by, for, and on behalf of liberals. Just this week Richard Florida, he of the “creative class” and yeasty “ideopolises,” has a book out admitting that the creative class cities are just places that cater for the well-to-do and banish ordinary people to the margins. They “created economic growth only for the already rich, displacing the poor and working classes.”
On this view you might think that the Trump voters are not racist sexist homophobes, but genuinely suffering under the unjust rule of the liberal “creative classes” and their BLM/Antifa enforcers, and that they elected Donald Trump to redress their grievances.
But I couldn’t possibly comment.
Monday, August 21, 2017
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.Flash forward 57 years... what have we learned?
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.
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.
Right here in Annex white people gettin real bold we don't stand w trump pic.twitter.com/zoit7UpC2h— Brit (@britnianise) August 19, 2017
We will take any action necessary to ensure that HU students feel safe& comfortable in our dining spaces. This group is no longer on campus.— HUDining (@HUdining) August 19, 2017
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
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....
Who were they? Find out here...
Note - Attributing Motives to Others can be a Tricky Business.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
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
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.- James R. Martel, "Divine Violence"
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.
For how much longer will we be able to sing the State Song?
Maryland, My Maryland
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!
I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!
I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
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!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
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.
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.Meanwhile, President Trump speaks the truth and the media fakers melt down.
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.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
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
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
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
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.