Day: August 6, 2011

Facing Backlash For Disenfranchising Voters, Gov. Walker Reverses Course On Plan To Close Several DMV Offices

In a sharp reversal, the state of Wisconsin announced yesterday it will expand Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) services to accommodate the increased demand for photo identification in the wake of a controversial new Voter ID law. As ThinkProgress reported last week, after signing a Voter ID law earlier this year that disenfranchises tens of thousands of Wisconsin voters, Gov. Scott Walker (R) then called for closing as many as 16 DMV offices across the state, making it even more difficult for residents to obtain the ID they needed to regain their electoral voice.

Walker’s undemocratic plan prompted widespread criticism and has apparently compelled the administration to completely change its position:

Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said the expansion leaves all current offices open, increases the total number of offices across the state from 88 to 92 and drastically expands the hours of operation for some 40 counties.

The change, expected to cost about $6 million the first year and $4 million every year going forward, was called for by Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 budget and was meant to address an increase in demand for photo IDs in the wake of the state’s new law requiring voters to show ID at the polls.[...]

The plan announced Thursday differed markedly from the one first unveiled last month, which called for closing as many as 16 offices while expanding office hours elsewhere. That proposal was immediately panned by some as unfairly targeting Democratic areas.

State Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D) is still angry that Walker even considered closing down DMV offices, including one in his district, and accused the governor’s administration of playing politics with necessary services.

Although the new plan infringes less on voters’ rights, it also confirms that these new,completely unnecessary Voter ID laws being signed by conservative governors across the country are costing states millions of dollars at a time they can least afford it.

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Five Cops Guilty in Post-Katrina Shootings

Time Magazine

A federal jury on Friday convicted five current or former police officers in the deadly shootings on a New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Katrina.

All five officers were convicted of charges stemming from the cover-up of the shootings. The four who had been charged with civil rights violations in the shootings were convicted on all counts.

However, the jury didn’t find that Brisette or Faulcon’s shootings amounted to murder.     (See pictures of New Orleans.)

Prosecutors contended during the five-week federal trial that officers shot unarmed people without justification and without warning, killing two and wounding four others on Sept. 4, 2005, then embarked on a cover-up involving made-up witnesses, falsified reports and a planted gun.

Defense attorneys countered that the officers were returning fire and reasonably believed their lives were in danger as they rushed to respond to another officer’s distress call less than a week after Katrina struck.

Convicted were former officer Robert Faulcon, Sgts. Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen, Officer Anthony Villavaso and retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman. Faulcon, Gisevius, Bowen and Villavaso were convicted in the shootings and with taking part in the alleged cover-up. Kaufman, who investigated the shootings, was charged only in the alleged cover-up.    (See pictures of America’s gun culture.)

The trial was a high-profile test of the Justice Department’s effort to clean up a police department marred by a reputation for corruption and brutality. A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged last year in a series of federal probes. Most of the cases center on actions during the aftermath of the Aug. 29, 2005, storm, which plunged the flooded city into a state of lawlessness and desperation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter said in closing arguments Tuesday that police had no justification for shooting unarmed, defenseless people trying to cross the bridge in search of food and help mere days after Katrina struck.

“It was unreasonable for these officers to fire even one shot, let alone dozens,” he had said.

Defense attorneys argued, however, that police were shot at on the bridge before they returned fire.

“None of these people intentionally decided to go out there and cause people harm,” said Timothy Meche, Villavaso’s lawyer. He said they did their best, operating under “terrible, horrible circumstances” after Katrina.(See pictures of a New Orleans neighborhood.)

Faulcon, the only defendant to testify, said he was “paralyzed with fear” when he shot and killed a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, Ronald Madison, as he chased him and his brother, Lance Madison. Faulcon didn’t dispute that he shot an unarmed man in the back, but he testified that he had believed Ronald Madison was armed and posed a threat.

Prosecutors contended at trial that Kaufman retrieved a gun from his home weeks after the shootings and turned it in as evidence, trying to pass it off as a gun belonging to Lance Madison. He also is accused of fabricating two nonexistent witnesses to the shootings.

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West Wing Week: 8/5/11 or “Disaster Averted”

The White House

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, President Obama announced a bi-partisan compromise to reduce the deficit and avoid default (infographic), announced a historic fuel efficiency standard that will save American families money, welcomed the crews of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station expedition 26, held acabinet meeting, and celebrated his 50th birthday. That’s July 29th to August 5th, or West Wing Week.

The week in one-liners: T-Paw, Michelle, Cleaver

The top political quotes this week …

“I’m going to defeat it.”— GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on what he’s going to do to Washington.

“I just feel bad the president has to stay there.” — Outgoing White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee on leaving D.C.

“…he’s earning every last one of those gray hairs.” — First lady Michelle Obama writing about the president’s birthday.

“Obama’s hip-hop bbq didn’t create jobs.” — A Fox News headline about the president’s birthday bash.

“I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie getting frustrated.

“He’s below the dignity of anybody.” —Republican 2012 hopeful Rick Santorum’s feelings about Dan Savage.

“A sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver describing the debt deal.

The Dow’s ‘scary’ collapse: 6 theories

The Week

Stocks took their sharpest drop in more than two years on Thursday. What caused the panic?

Financial markets sank around the world early Friday after U.S. stocks went into a “scary” nosedive on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 513 points. It was the biggest percentage drop — the Dow was down 4.3 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 4.8 percent, and the Nasdaq 5.1 percent — since the dark days of the 2008 financial crisis. What caused the collapse? Here are six possible culprits:

1. Wall Street hates the debt deal
The plunge Thursday capped a 10-day slump, says Stephen Gandel atTIME, that started when it became clear that Washington was close to a debt deal. That’s because the deal cuts spending precisely when the economy needs government to spend more. And the savings comes largely from gutting programs that help the poor, increasing income inequality. Struggling families spend every dime they get, boosting the economy. The rich have so much already that they put any “extra wealth” into savings, where it does little to stimulate the economy.

2. European debt is frightening investors
The European Central Bank is trying to reassure markets, says Graham Bowley at The New York Times, but it “ended up spooking investors.” The bank bought up bonds from small European countries as a show of support, but it left out Italy and Spain, “whose mounting troubles have come into the spotlight.” Investors took this “as a sign that the recent rescue packages by Europe could soon be overwhelmed by the huge debt burdens in those two countries” — and they panicked.

3. Investors are freaked out about a double-dip recession
There’s no great mystery — the markets are pricing in “the growing risk of a double dip” recession, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. We’ve just been slammed by a string of devastating economic reports showing that, among other things, the economy has essentially stopped growing, unemployment isn’t improving, and manufacturing orders are down. The Obama administration isn’t creating jobs, but it’s scaring investors with the threat of new taxes and regulations. Add it all up and you get “total fear.”

4. Republicans are blocking attempts to help the economy
President Obama has no shortage of ideas to put Americans back to work,says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. But the GOP has been overcome with “madness,” and it’s blocking every proposal that might actually help. “This is partly due to their radical ideology, partly due to their reflexive opposition to anything the president wants, and perhaps motivated by the belief that economic suffering should be encouraged in the hopes that it will make President Obama easier to defeat next November.”

5. It’s finally dawning on people just how bleak things are
“Whatever weak recovery we might have hoped for,” says Ezra Klein atThe Washington Post, “is being hindered by global commodity prices, consumer deleveraging, fears of flagging demand in emerging markets, earthquakes in Asia, and much more.” So where will the recovery come from? “As one hopeful hypothesis after another is dashed, the markets are beginning to panic.”

6. The media is fueling market panic
Financial analysts chalked up the sell-off, which wiped out Wall Street’s 2011 gains, to investor fear, says Dylan Stableford at Yahoo! Finance. But it’s also possible that wall-to-wall coverage of the “historic drop” on broadcast networks and cable news could have fueled the panic. Still, some experts doubt the TV chatter had much impact. “A huge chunk of volume — and hence momentum — is now driven by machines, computers and algorithmic trading,” says Dan Gross, economics editor at Yahoo! Finance. “And the computers definitely aren’t watching cable news.”

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Poll: Tea party support shrinks by half since 2010 elections

Good!  I suspect it’s because people have come to see what kind of right-wing mutants these crazies really are!

Raw Story

CBS/New York Times poll released Friday (PDF) shows that support for the tea party, the arch-conservative wing of the Republican party, has been cut virtually in half since the 2010 elections, even as their elected representatives seem to be growing in clout.

The survey’s historical data shows that tea party support peaked at 31 percent around the time of the 2010 elections, but has since declined to just 18 percent.

The steepest drop-off in people identifying themselves as members of the tea party came in just the last two months, as tea party Republicans in Congress held hostage an effort to raise the nation’s debt limit until Democrats agreed to severe budget cuts.

As a consequence of that debate, the percentage of respondents who said the tea party had too much influence spiked, going from 27 percent in April to 43 percent in August.

Overall opinions of the tea party also sank dramatically during the same period, with 29 percent saying in April that they had an unfavorable view of the tea party, and 40 percent in August.

The survey also found that 63 percent of respondents wanted to see higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans: a sticking point for the tea party and other Republicans, who’ve risked their political futures on keeping taxes for the very rich at historic lows.

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S&P Downgrades U.S. AAA Bond Rating To AA+, Outlook Negative

I suppose we have the Tea Party Caucus in Congress to thank for this development.  Of course they’ll deny they did anything to cause this downgrade, but hell, they deny climate change, evolution, parts of The Constitution, slavery, etc. so we already know how they will spin this as all Obama’s fault…

TPMDC

As threatened, the ratings agency Standard & Poors has downgraded the country’s AAA bond rating, despite acknowledging, according to multiple reports, that their initial calculations included a $2 trillion error projecting U.S.’s debt-to-GDP ratio over time.

You can read the entire explanation below the fold. But the key is that the use of the debt limit as a legislative bargaining chip, combined with gridlock in Congress, led S&P to publicly conclude that the country will have a hard time restoring gravity to its debt trajectory.

However, while they parcel blame across Congress — implying Democrats are rigidly opposed to cutting entitlement spending — they hint that Republican intransigence to raising tax revenues is more troubling.

From the agency’s press release:

“We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process,” reads a statement from S&P. “We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.”

Continue here… 

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