Posts Tagged: Commit

Dec 10

Jon Gruden won’t commit to Miami Hurricanes, keeps NFL options open –
Jon Gruden won't commit to Miami Hurricanes, keeps NFL options open
It appears Jon Gruden isn't as interested in the University of Miami as the school's fans and boosters are in him. UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt met with Gruden in Tampa early Wednesday morning.
ESPN's Norby Williamson expected Jon Gruden to stayESPN
ESPN executive expects Jon Gruden won't coachWashington Post
Source: Gruden won't take Miami
Yahoo! Sports –Orlando Sentinel –
all 272 news articles »

Sports – Google News

Nov 10

Did Stalin Commit Genocide?

Ilya Somin reviews a recent book that takes up the question:

Many Ukrainians and some Western scholars argue that this was a case of genocide because Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin specifically targeted Ukrainian peasants for extermination. By contrast, the Russian government claims that Stalin was an equal opportunity mass murderer. The distinction matters because international law defines mass murder as genocide only if it was the result of an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.” It also matters because of the ongoing debate over whether communist mass murders deserve as much opprobrium as those of the Nazis.

Anne Applebaum has the most judicious take on this question I've read in a must-read in the NYRB. Her core point: the very definition of genocide was created by Stalin to exempt himself:

Soviet diplomats had demanded the exclusion of any reference to social, economic, and political groups. Had they left these categories in, prosecution of the USSR for the murder of aristocrats (a social group), kulaks (an economic group), or Trotskyites (a political group) would have been possible.

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Nov 10

Did Joseph Stalin Commit Genocide?

(Ilya Somin)

In his excellent recent book Stalin’s Genocides, Stanford historian Norman Naimark argues that Joseph Stalin committed genocide and not merely mass murder. Few any longer deny that Stalin’s regime slaughtered millions of innocent people. But the Russian government and some Western writers continue to argue that these murders were not genocidal, and that Stalin therefore cannot be classed in a category with Adolf Hitler and others who slaughtered entire racial, ethnic, or religious groups.

Back in 2008, I blogged about the debate over the question of whether the Soviet terror famine of the early 1930s (in which some 6 to 10 million people died) was a case of genocide or mass murder (see here and here). Many Ukrainians and some Western scholars argue that this was a case of genocide because Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin specifically targeted Ukrainian peasants for extermination. By contrast, the Russian government claims that Stalin was an equal opportunity mass murderer. The distinction matters because international law defines mass murder as genocide only if it was the result of an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.” It also matters because of the ongoing debate over whether communist mass murders deserve as much opprobrium as those of the Nazis.

Naimark concludes that both the terror famine and various other Stalinist atrocities qualify as genocide. His book is the most thorough and compelling study of the subject so far. In the end, however, I am not so much persuaded that Stalin committed genocide as reaffirmed in my view that the genocide-mass murder distinction isn’t a morally meaningful one. Moreover, Naimark overstates Stalin’s personal role in the mass murders committed by his regime and understates the impact of the communist system.

I. Was it Genocide and Should it Matter if it Was?

There is no doubt that at least some of Stalin’s crimes were genocides. The deportation and partial extermination of ethnic groups such as the Crimean Tatars surely qualifies. These indisputably genocidal crimes, however, accounted for only a small fraction of Stalin’s victims. Naimark’s main objective is to prove that Stalin’s much greater mass murders — the terror famine, the killing of millions in Gulag slave labor camps, and the “Great Terror” of 1937–38 — should also be considered genocidal.

Here, Naimark runs into the problem that most of the people killed in these mass murders were targeted not on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity, but because of economic class or political background — or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As he points out, the Soviet Union and its allies successfully worked to exclude “political” murder from the international law definition of genocide; they did so to insulate their own crimes from potential condemnation. This is one of the most blatant examples of the extent to which international human rights law has been perverted by the influence of nondemocratic and totalitarian governments . In effect, Naimark argues that the international law definition of genocide should be read to cover precisely the kinds of crimes that it was deliberately crafted to exclude. In legal terms, the text, original meaning, and legislative history of the international law definition are all against Naimark.

In the case of the early 1930s terror famine, Naimark also argues that Stalin intended to target the Ukrainians as an ethnic group. If so, then this counts as genocide even under the traditional view of international law. Naimark notes that the impact of the famine was greater in Ukraine than in most other parts of the USSR, and that the region was treated with special harshness. On the other hand, it is also true that the main goal of the famine was to exterminate the independent peasantry regardless of ethnicity and carry out the forced collectivization of agriculture. Ukraine may have been targeted as much because it was the USSR’s most important agricultural region as because it was populated by Ukrainians. Moreover Ukraine had large minority populations, including millions of ethnic Russians (my own grandmother, was one of the many non-Ukrainians living in the region during the famine). Many of these people also died in the famine. Stalin’s motives were probably mixed. His main goal was to crush the peasants and collectivize agriculture. But he was also happy to deal a preemptive blow to Ukrainian nationalist aspirations (which he feared because they were the USSR’s largest minority group).

Ultimately, the distinction between genocide and “mere” mass murder should not matter. For reasons I explained here and here, it doesn’t make any difference whether the Soviet regime killed millions of innocent people because they were “kulaks” and “class enemies,” because they were Ukrainian, or for some combination of both reasons. In all three scenarios, innocent people were slaughtered for no good reason, in most cases on the basis of immutable characteristics that they could not change (“kulak” status was determined primarily by family background).

II. The Role of Stalin.

Naimark’s book is also interesting in so far as he blames Stalin personally for most of the crimes committed by the Soviet government during his rule. Absent Stalin’s malign influence, Naimark contends, the regime probably would not have committed mass murder or genocide on such a large scale. There is little doubt that Stalin’s paranoia and sadism influenced Soviet policy. Nonetheless, I think Naimark overstates the importance of Stalin’s personal role. Most of the major repressive policies and institutions — including the secret police and the Gulag slave labor camps — of the Soviet state were begun by Lenin, not Stalin. As historians such as Richard Pipes have shown, even the terror famine was a reprise of the first Soviet effort to collectivize agriculture in 1918–21 (which also led to a famine in which millions died). Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s main rival for power after Lenin’s death, attacked Stalin on the grounds that his policies were too generous to “bourgeois” elements and otherwise not repressive enough. Had Trotsky defeated Stalin, life for most Soviet citizens might have been just as bad or even slightly worse. One of the very few ways in which Stalin was harsher than Trotsky was in his much greater willingness to kill and imprison members of the Communist Party elite. Here, Stalin’s extreme paranoia about possible rivals for power really did make a big difference. Under Trotsky, the party comrades would have suffered a lot less; the rest of the population would not have been so fortunate.

More generally, Stalin’s policies were far from unique in the communist world. Almost every other communist regime engaged in very similar mass murders, including in countries like China and Cuba where the rulers had a high degree of autonomy from Soviet control.

In sum, evidence from both the Soviet Union and elsewhere suggests that Stalin’s deranged personality was probably only a secondary factor in explaining the crimes of his regime. “Without Stalin,” Naimark writes, “it is hard to imagine the genocidal [Soviet] actions of the 1930s.” By contrast, I find it all too easy to imagine communist mass murder even with a less maniacal leader at the helm. In fact, not a lot of imagination is necessary, since the same policies were promoted by Lenin, Trotsky, and other communist leaders with very different personalities.

Despite these reservations, Naimark’s book is a great analysis of both Stalin’s crimes and the debate over the meaning of genocide under international law. Anyone interested in the subject should definitely check it out.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Nov 10

“When People Commit Errors of ‘Internal Structure of Logic or Order’”

(Eugene Volokh)

A commenter on the “Internal Structure of Logic or Order” thread writes,

Education is fundamentally elitist, and it ought to be. When people commit errors of “internal structure of logic or order” it’s perfectly okay for those who know better to define those as mistakes, and, within the bounds of social propriety, correct them. Social propriety ought, at a minimum, extend to endorsing adults helping children and teachers helping students. Those helped are empowered to think more clearly as a result. Why anyone would criticize that is mysterious to me.

The notion of “rival structures” legitimizing error is one that ought to be resisted. For example, it is commonplace for observers of criminal verdicts to say the defendant has been “found innocent.” That rival structure was popularized by publishers, who noted a liability risk in writing “not guilty.” An editing error which omitted the “not” could lead to a libel suit. Generations of journalism students were trained to use “found innocent” instead, and as a result the rival structure has taken over and confused millions. That’s a real loss, and there is no reason to approve of it just because it’s what most people do.

I actually agree that teachers ought to teach their students more effective usage. But, as I argued here, we teachers ought to do this without ourselves making errors — including by erroneously faulting something as grammatically or linguistically “incorrect” when the objection is something else.

Let’s consider “found innocent” and “found not guilty.” Recall that one well-established definition of “innocent” is “not guilty.” (See the OED, “Free from specific wrong or guilt; that has not committed the particular offence charged or in question; not deserving of the punishment or suffering inflicted; not guilty, guiltless, unoffending.”)

Of course, the phrase “found innocent,” if taken literally, may inaccurately convey the message that the jury actually concluded that the person didn’t commit the crime. But “found not guilty,” if taken literally, may inaccurately convey the same message that the jury actually concluded that the person was not guilty.

I take it the commenter’s objection is that the jury actually found only that the prosecution hadn’t proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the jury might have thought the defendant probably was guilty, but just thought the probability hadn’t been shown to be high enough to justify a conviction. (Obligatory citation to the Scotch verdict, which our system doesn’t provide for.) But a literal interpretation of “found not guilty” doesn’t convey that — literally, “found not guilty” means something like “found not to be guilty,” not “not found to be guilty.”

So what we have is a legal locution — a verdict of “not guilty” — that is potentially confusing, if understood literally. Replacing “found not guilty” with “found innocent” might slightly exacerbate that confusion, but I doubt it.

The question is: What should a writer do to minimize this risk of confusion? One possibility is avoiding “found innocent” for “found not guilty,” but I doubt this will do much to diminish the risk of confusion, since (again) “found not guilty” could be misunderstood as “the jury decided the person actually wasn’t guilty,” which is to say didn’t commit the crime. Another possibility is to say “acquitted,” though there’s the danger that some readers might not as quickly grasp that.

Another possibility is to say “was not found to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” but in many situations the benefit of extra precision might be outweighed by the cost of extra length and grammatical complexity. (In other situations, though, the extra precision and the extra stress on the possibility of substantial but not overwhelming evidence of guilt might justify using this longer phrase.) Another possibility is to say “not found guilty,” which may in the abstract be more logically correct (the jury did not find him guilty, which isn’t the same thing as literally finding him not guilty), but which is highly unidiomatic, and may be confusing because it leaves open the possibility of other outcomes — no trial was held, the case was dismissed before a finding, the jury hung, and so on.

But, in any case, choosing “found not guilty” instead of “found innocent” is not much of a matter of following the language’s “internal structure of logic or order,” or avoiding linguistic error. Both phrases are logically very similar, if read literally. It’s true that “found not guilty” is just quoting the legal verdict (though without quotation marks), and “found innocent” is paraphrasing it, but I don’t think there’s an internal structure of logic or order that bars such a paraphrase, if I’m right that “found innocent” is likely to actually be perceived much the same way as “found not guilty.”

The question is which message most effectively conveys a complicated concept to actual readers or listeners, in light of the likely perceptions created in their minds by those messages (which in turn are shaped by actual usage).

So if you want to tell students that “found not guilty” is less likely than “found innocent” to erroneously make readers think that the defendant was actually found not to be guilty, that’s fine. I’m not sure how accurate you’d be in this estimation, but perhaps you might argue that the phrase “found not guilty” has an idiomatic meaning in readers’ minds that “found innocent” does not possess. But if you tell them that “found innocent” somehow violates internal structures of logic or order that “found not guilty” preserves, I don’t see the foundation for such a statement.

As to “The notion of ‘rival structures’ legitimizing error is one that ought to be resisted,” my point is that you can’t tell that something is an error simply by pointing to one “internal structure of logic or order” that makes it an error. Saying “I was” isn’t an error just because it violates the observed regularity that “I” generally takes a form that is used with plural nouns rather than singular nouns (e.g., “I eat” rather than “I eats”). Rather, it is correct because there is an exception to the structure, an exception that is evident from usage — and it is usage that legitimizes what (if the usage had been contrary) would have been error.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Nov 10

Someone please take pity on Ted Rall and commit him to a mental institution

Calls for violent socialist revolution.
American Thinker Blog

Nov 10

Rick Scott: Dem Allies Have ‘Shown Willingness’ To Commit Voter Fraud

Allies of the Democratic Party “have shown a willingness to commit fraud across the country, in both this election cycle and recent years,” the campaign of Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott said Monday in announcing his campaign’s “Honest Voter Hotline.” Voters are encouraged to “report any instances of irregularities at the polls, including voter fraud, intimidation, violence and electioneering.”

Rob Jakubik, a Scott spokesman, said in the statement that, given the tightness of the polls, “all examples of fraud must be addressed to preserve the integrity of the election.” But a spokesman for the campaign told TPMMuckraker they haven’t had any indications of voter fraud so far.

The press release said that in 2008, “multiple forms of voter fraud occurred, including voter intimidation, fraudulent registrations, multiple ballots cast and votes bought for money.”

“Already during the 2010 election cycle, Florida law enforcement is investigating instances of absentee fraud, and people who may have double voted in the August primary,” the press release stated.

Scott spokesman Trey Stapleton told TPMMuckraker that the hotline was just a precaution.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily concerned about voter fraud, it’s just more of a precaution just in case,” Stapleton said. “It’s always better to have those numbers as a sort of back up just in case somebody sees something.”

Stapleton said they haven’t seen any voter fraud complaints, as far as he knew.

Voter fraud is “always a concern,” Jennifer Davis, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of State, told TPMMuckraker. “This year we have had 36 elections fraud complaints, but a lot of them were not legally sufficient,” and the others were referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

FDLE spokesman Keith Kemeg told TPMMuckraker that headquarters was not aware of any voter fraud complaints.

“At this point, we at FDLE headquarters are not aware of any open investigations regarding voter fraud,” Kemeg said. “We are reviewing one complaint regarding questionable ballots in the Lake City, Florida City Commission race. We’re asking that if anybody has any complaints about voter irregularity or voter fraud that they refer them to the Department of State, Division of Elections.”

A spokeswoman for Scott’s opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, said that voter protection is “incredibly important” and that the campaign had locations set up to make sure that voters were aware of their rights.

“Voter protection is never something you want to underestimate,” Sink spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff told TPMMuckraker.

The Republican Party of Florida did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Nov 10

GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis Says Return Of Estate Tax Is Leading Her Constituents To Commit Suicide

The federal estate tax is currently “in limbo,” as congressional negotiations have left the future of the tax in limbo and created a situation in which the tax isn’t in effect at all this year. If no action is taken, it will return next year at a rate of 55 percent (up from 45 percent) and exempt no more than $ 1 million of a person’s estate (congressional negotiators are trying to devise a different arrangement).

Capitalizing on this current state of this estate tax, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) wildly claimed during a news conference Friday that some of her “constituents are so worried about the reinstatement” of the tax that they are actually planning to discontinue “life-extending medical treatments” so that they die before the tax is reinstate on January 1, 2011. “If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision,” she told reporters:

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis said Friday that some of her Wyoming constituents are so worried about the reinstatement of federal estate taxes that they plan to discontinue dialysis and other life-extending medical treatments so they can die before Dec. 31.

Speaking at a news conference she called to discuss the creation of new jobs in Wyoming, Lummis declined to name any of the people who have made the comments about preferring death to a tax increase. The Republican is running for a second term as the state’s lone voice in the U.S. House.

Lummis said many ranchers and farmers in the state would rather pass along their businesses — “their life’s work” — to their children and grandchildren than see the federal government take a large chunk.

“If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision,” Lummis told reporters.

While Lummis is irresponsibly warning of the estate tax spawning mass suicides, it’s important to remember how few Americans the tax actually even applies to. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes, “only the largest 1 in 500 hundred estates pay any tax; that is, 99.8 percent of estates are passed on completely tax-free.” Given that “In 2006-8 the Wyoming the inflation adjusted per capita income was just over $ 27,873,” it is unlikely that many of Lummis’s constituents at all are likely to ever have to pay the estate tax. Citizens for Tax Justice “estimated that under the 2004 rules (when the exemption was only $ 1.5 million) only 62 Wyoming estates of any kind owed tax.”

But if Lummis is really concerned that working-class Wyomians who spent their lives building ranches are threatened by the estate tax, she could champion the proposal by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that would enact a special “billionaires’ surtax” on the estates of the super-rich and exempt estate values below $ 3.5 million from the tax altogether. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo writes, the proposal would be “a good way to raise revenue with exceedingly minimal impact on the wider economy.”


Oct 10

Chutzpah Alert: Driehaus Won’t Commit To Pelosi

In a move that pits him against the liberal Democratic base just weeks after asking it for money, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) became the latest member to say he won’t commit to voting for Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be Speaker again.

In a chat with readers, Driehaus, who is facing former Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in a rematch this year, was asked if he would back Pelosi if Democrats retain the majority next Tuesday.

“I expect Speaker Pelosi will have a challenge within the caucus,” Driehaus responded. “And I will hold my vote until I know who’s running for Speaker.”

With the remark, Driehaus became the 18th House Democrat who has either said that they won’t back Pelosi again or would consider voting for someone else.

Driehaus’ remarks are striking because they show him snubbing his nose at the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that Pelosi represents just two weeks after making a direct plea to it for money. After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee canceled its air reservations in Driehaus’ district — a sign that they viewed his chances as long — Driehaus made a direct plea for money on, a liberal fundraising site.

On the other hand, Pelosi is closely tied to the DCCC. So both his plea and his ambivalence toward Pelosi could both be a result of his disappointment that the committee pulled out of his Cincinnati-area district.

“The DCCC recently pulled millions of dollars in advertising from members who stood for our Democratic principles and are re-investing that money in the races of Democrats who didn’t have the guts to take the tough votes,” Driehaus’ ActBlue page says. “Send a message to the DCCC that you support members who stand up for the American people.”

After the jump is a full breakdown of Democrats who have said they either won’t support Pelosi or would consider someone else.

Hotline On Call

Oct 10

Dick Armey: Many Dems Are Voting Early To Commit Voter Fraud (VIDEO)

After CBS News reported today that Democrats are showing strong numbers at early voting polls, FreedomWorks CEO Dick Armey offered his theory as to why: Those Dems are committing voter fraud.

Appearing on Fox News this afternoon, he told Neil Cavuto that Democrats vote early because there’s “less ballot security,” creating a “great opportunity” for fraud. He also claimed that such fraudulent early voting is “pinpointed to the major urban areas. The inner city.”

Republicans and others on the right, as we’ve reported extensively, often make high-pitched claims of Democrat-operated voter fraud, arguing that Dems focus on minority areas. Such claims rarely bare out, but the fear of voter fraud can lead to voter suppression.

Here’s the video:


Oct 10

Did Servicers Commit Fraud So Banksters Could Get Big Bonuses?

When I asked yesterday about the relationship between the stress tests and the servicers’ foreclosure fraud, I had a hunch that the banksters might have been committing that fraud so as to be able to show financial viability so as to be able to repay TARP funds so as to escape the oversight of the government. I wondered whether the stress tests were not just a means by which the government should have exercised some control over the servicers that they already knew to be having problems, but were also one reason the servicers were pushing for the most profitable outcomes (including choosing to foreclose rather than modify loans).

Rortybomb, who knows a lot more about how this stuff worked than me, provides these damning details:

For what it is worth, I’m sure those conducting the stress test knew that this conflict existed and knew that it was very profitable to the banks. Servicing is considered a “hedge”, because as the origination business dries up foreclosures will increase and servicing income would go up, something Countrywide and others loved to talk about.

Let’s go to a Countrywide Earnings call from Q3 2007:

Now, we are frequently asked what the impact on our servicing costs and earnings will be from increased delinquencies and lost mitigation efforts, and what happens to costs. And what we point out is, as I will now, is that increased operating expenses in times like this tend to be fully offset by increases in ancillary income in our servicing operation, greater fee income from items like late charges, and importantly from in-sourced vendor functions that represent part of our diversification strategy, a counter-cyclical diversification strategy such as our businesses involved in foreclosure trustee and default title services and property inspection services.

The servicing operation will “fully offset” lost income from increased delinquencies and lack of origination business. This is by design. It’s tough to find good counter-cyclical strategies, but this appears to be one. If you were both TBTF and really in need of cash, could you squeeze this a bit further, say by violating the rule of law?


Someone enterprising on the hill could ask how the servicing income was incorporated into the stress test and how predictive it was in the adverse scenario case. Things like this make it even more important that the government takes a strong hand in rooting out foreclosure fraud.  We cannot allow an impression to form that we collectively looked the other way at issues of foreclosure abuse, issues well documented since before the stress test, because this business line is one of the few profitable things available to TBTF firms.  TBTF firms that needed cash, were (and are) backstopped by taxpayers and wanted to get out of TARP to issue bonuses.   Nobody gets to be above the law, regardless of how systemically important they are or whatever numbers needed to be hit on the stress test.

In other words, going back to 2007, mortgage companies were upfront in claiming that their servicer-related profits served to offset their loan losses. That’s not to say they would have argued that in their stress test results (again, I’m not expert on this, but I’m not even sure that the stress tests looked at the servicer income). But it does say that to prove viability-to make a half-credible claim they weren’t insolvent and to evade restrictions on bonuses and political giving-they had an incentive to suggest their servicer income was enough to offset a significant chunk of their loan losses. That not only gave them a huge incentive to keep servicer costs low (by doing things like hiring WalMart greeters and hair stylists to serve as robo-signers), but it also increased the incentive to increase profits as a servicer by refusing to modify loans.

So I’d go further than Rortybomb in calling for some enterprising Hill person to look into this. Given that we know Timmeh Geither, campaigner against injustice, was officially warned and knew about this conflict, I’d like to know how much he knew about this hedge. The Administration now says it was helpless to stop this kind of fraud, yet it chose not to use at least two sources of leverage (cramdown and stress tests) to control it. Is that because they knew the servicer fraud was an important part of extend anad pretend?

Related posts:

  1. Remember the Stress Tests?
  2. Remember Cramdown?
  3. Timmeh Geithner, Campaigner against Injustice


Oct 10

Scott Murphy Won’t Commit To Pelosi For Speaker

Rep. Scott Murphy, a Democrat from a swing district in upstate New York, is the third House Democrat to say he won’t commit to supporting Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for Speaker next year if the Democrats hold on to the House.

Murphy’s remarks, reported in the Albany Times Union, are significant because they are the first from a Democrat not from a deeply conservative district to break ranks with Pelosi. They are yet another sign of the difficult landscape Democrats are facing; if Murphy feels he has to break with Pelosi in his district that gave Pres. Obama 51% in ’08, expect others in tight races to do the same.

“We’ll see,” Murphy told the newspaper. “We’ll see what happens when the election’s over and we’ll look at the leadership. I have not been involved in a leadership election or that process…I think that I haven’t spent any time working on that issue. I’m really focused on getting through this election season and figuring out where we go from there.”

Murphy has benefited from Pelosi’s support. After he won the special election for the seat in ’09, Murphy attended a New York City fundraiser hosted by Pelosi and Pres. Obama.

Rep. Bobby Bright (D-AL) was the first Democrat to say he wouldn’t back Pelosi for Speaker in remarks last week. That statement wasn’t as surprising, however, as Bright’s district is extremely conservative and Bright has done everything he can to distance himself from the Democratic leadership.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has also indicated that he would be open to considering other members for Speaker next year.

Hotline On Call

Oct 10

Strong concerns that jihad teams in Europe have selected targets and are ready to commit mass-murder

There are some indications that this is true in America as well. I was in a train station in a major city a few days ago, and the place was being patrolled by large numbers of uniformed military personnel. As I’ve had occasion to be in that station several times in the last few weeks, I can say with certainty that the military patrols a few days ago were not just routine, even in this post-9/11 world.

Ironic, isn’t it, that ABC publishes this “exclusive” on the same morning that they’re preparing to run yet another large-scale whitewash of the ideology that gives rise to these mass-murder plots.

“Exclusive: Concern That Terror Teams Have Selected Targets, Ready to Strike
U.S. Weighs Travel Alert For Europe Because of Threat of Terror Attacks,” by Richard Esposito, Rhonda Schwartz and Kirit Radia for ABC News, October 2:

Strong concerns that terrorist teams in Europe have selected their targets, completed their surveillance, eluded capture and are now ready to strike at airports and tourist attractions have prompted the State Department to ready a highly unusual travel advisory for Europe, multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources tell ABC News.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials have information that the teams could at any time launch a “Mumbai style” terror attack that targets civilians for death or hostage taking. The 2008 Mumbai attack used small arms and explosives to kill 175 people and paralyze the Indian city for days.

The current concerns are for scenarios that include opening fire at airports in Europe as well as executing similar attacks at “soft” targets like tourist attractions or hotels.

According to ABC News sources, the terror plotters have moved through the surveillance stage, checked back in with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and have received the go-ahead to strike.

Officials said earlier that Osama bin Laden had approved or blessed the attack plan.

The suspects reportedly include British and German citizens, who may be of Pakistani or Afghan ethnicity….

Jihad Watch

Oct 10

As More Bullying Victims Commit Suicide, Right-Wing Groups Decry Anti-Bullying Policies As ‘Gay Agenda’ Ploy

clementiLast week, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after two classmates secretly recorded his sexual relationship with a man and broadcasted it over the internet. Tragically, Clementi marks the fourth gay student to commit suicide in three weeks because of anti-gay harassment from fellow students. Seth Walsh, 13, Asher Brown, 13, and Billy Lucas, 15, also took their own lives last month because fellow students bullied them in school.

The growing number of suicides reveal the “unique set of safety concerns” that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students face both in secondary school and college. According to a National Education Policy Center study released yesterday, “over 85% report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity, and over 20% report being physically attacked.” The “highly troubling pattern of mistreatment, negative consequences” and “the dramatic failure” of educational institutions to “adequately address” LGBT students’ concerns has contributed to a suicide rate among LGBT students that is “3-4 times higher than that of their straight counterparts.”

Many states across the country are taking laudable steps to enact measures that bolster administrators’ ability to protect students who face such harassment. However, despite the evidence supporting the need, right-wing lawmakers and activists insist that anti-bullying measures are nothing more than insidious tools of the “homosexual agenda”:

– The American Family Association of Michigan has spent years decrying a proposed anti-bullying measure as “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists’] special rights agenda into law” and to “legitimize homosexual behavior” which is “a practice scientifically proven to result in a dramatically higher incidence of domestic violence, mental illness, illegal drug use, promiscuity, life-threatening disease, and premature death.” The bill “died in 2008 in the state Senate because senators could not agree” on whether to address bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the measure.

– In Minnesota, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said he would not sign the anti-bullying Safe Schools For All bill because “I don’t want the government” instead of parents to be on “the front line of defense of our children.” Indeed, Emmer voted against and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) vetoed the same bill in 2009 after the right-wing Minnesota Family Council pushed legislators to reject the bill in 2009 because it would “promote acceptance of homosexuality.”

– The right-wing Christian media ministry Focus on the Family is attacking an anti-bullying standard on the federal level. Insisting that bullying prevention is being “hijacked by activists” who are “politicizing or sexualizing the issue,” Focus on the Family’s Candi Cushman claims that the anti-bullying bill currently before Congress “cater[s] to a narrow political agenda” that “becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in school.” In their current back-to-school guide “equipping” parents with tools against the “sneaky” gay agenda, Cushman told parents to look out for bullying seminars, diversity lessons, and “cute little pictures of furry animals” as “red flags” signaling the “gay agenda.”

Currently, only eight of the 44 states that have laws to address bullying specifically reference bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited conduct. Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) introduced a bill in August, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, that would require any public schools receiving federal funding to develop race, sex, and gender-specific anti-bullying policies and teach harassment prevention strategies.

“These tragedies underscore the need for a federal law that comprehensively addresses bullying and harassment in schools,” Casey’s spokeswoman told ThinkProgress. In response to Focus on the Family’s charges, she noted that, along with educators, administrations, and civil rights groups, the legislation has been endorsed by the National PTA. When announcing the bill in August, Casey asserted that the harassment of a student “to the point of suicide or where he can’t function or is subject to violence” is “just wrong.” Failure to address “the horror so many kids go through every single day” amounts to “one word: betrayal.”

Think Progress

Sep 10

When Innocent People Confess To Crimes They Didn’t Commit

Today’s New York Times covers a topic that we’ve only started to face recently thanks to the advent of DNA technology, why would an innocent person confess to a crime that they clearly didn’t commit:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eddie Lowery lost 10 years of his life for a crime he did not commit. There was no physical evidence at his trial for rape, but one overwhelming factor put him away: he confessed.

At trial, the jury heard details that prosecutors insisted only the rapist could have known, including the fact that the rapist hit the 75-year-old victim in the head with the handle of a silver table knife he found in the house. DNA evidence would later show that another man committed the crime. But that vindication would come only years after Mr. Lowery had served his sentence and was paroled in 1991.

“I beat myself up a lot” about having confessed, Mr. Lowery said in a recent interview. “I thought I was the only dummy who did that.”

But more than 40 others have given confessions since 1976 that DNA evidence later showed were false, according to records compiled by Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. Experts have long known that some kinds of people — including the mentally impaired, the mentally ill, the young and the easily led — are the likeliest to be induced to confess. There are also people like Mr. Lowery, who says he was just pressed beyond endurance by persistent interrogators.


An article by Professor Garrett draws on trial transcripts, recorded confessions and other background materials to show how incriminating facts got into those confessions — by police introducing important facts about the case, whether intentionally or unintentionally, during the interrogation.

To defense lawyers, the new research is eye opening. “In the past, if somebody confessed, that was the end,” said Peter J. Neufeld, a founder of the Innocence Project, an organization based in Manhattan. “You couldn’t imagine going forward.”

The notion that such detailed confessions might be deemed voluntary because the defendants were not beaten or coerced suggests that courts should not simply look at whether confessions are voluntary, Mr. Neufeld said. “They should look at whether they are reliable.”

Professor Garrett said he was surprised by the complexity of the confessions he studied. “I expected, and think people intuitively think, that a false confession would look flimsy,” like someone saying simply, “I did it,” he said.

Instead, he said, “almost all of these confessions looked uncannily reliable,” rich in telling detail that almost inevitably had to come from the police. “I had known that in a couple of these cases, contamination could have occurred,” he said, using a term in police circles for introducing facts into the interrogation process. “I didn’t expect to see that almost all of them had been contaminated.”

Of the exonerated defendants in the Garrett study, 26 — more than half — were “mentally disabled,” under 18 at the time or both. Most were subjected to lengthy, high-pressure interrogations, and none had a lawyer present. Thirteen of them were taken to the crime scene.

Mr. Lowery’s case shows how contamination occurs. He had come under suspicion, he now believes, because he had been partying and ran his car into a parked car the night of the rape, generating a police report. Officers grilled him for more than seven hours, insisting from the start that he had committed the crime.

Mr. Lowery took a lie detector test to prove he was innocent, but the officers told him that he had failed it.

“I didn’t know any way out of that, except to tell them what they wanted to hear,” he recalled. “And then get a lawyer to prove my innocence.”

It sounds incredibly naive to you and me, for sure, but the truth of the matter is that in many of these cases you’re dealing with people who are naive, sometimes mentally ill, and, most importantly, not represented by an attorney when they’re being questioned by police.

The police, on the other hand, have the primary incentive of closing the case and have been authorized by Supreme Court precedent to engage in lying and trickery in order to obtain information from a suspect. They can tell a suspect that someone has already implicated them in a crime even if that never happened. They can tell a suspect that there are eyewitnesses who don’t exist. They can say that there is evidence implicating the suspect that doesn’t exist.

The presumption behind allowing the police to lie to suspects is that an innocent person would never confess to a crime that they didn’t commit. As we’ve seen, however, that clearly isn’t the case. Innocent people have confessed to crimes, and their attorneys, most likely court appointed, don’t bother to check into the veracity of the confessions. Fortunately, in cases with DNA evidence we’ve got a virtually foolproof method for determining someone’s guilt or innocence. Not every case involves DNA evidence, though, and in those cases there could be countless numbers of people sitting in jails for crimes they didn’t commit.

Outside the Beltway

Sep 10

What Drove Rick Scott’s Hospitals To Commit Billions In Medicare Fraud?

Rick Scott

Rick Scott

Maggie Mahar — whose book Money-Driven Medicine is a bible for those of us trying to figure out why Rick Scott’s Columbia/HCA paid $ 1.7 billion in fines to the federal government — has published a new more detailed analysis of what drove the company to acquire so many hospitals and commit such shameless Medicaid fraud during the period Scott was its CEO.

Mahar captures a company who was driven not by a desire to improve patient care or outcomes, but the need to constantly expand and acquire new properties. It focused on the price of its stock rather than the quality of its service and it was this mindset that forced Columbia/HCA to cut corners, price gauge and place the safety and health of its patients at risk:

Their goal was growth, and they believed speed was essential. Sometimes they bought a hospital just to close it down, so that it wouldn’t compete with a nearby Columbia property. Scott cared little about the needs of the communities where he bought. “His arrogance and disdain for the concern for communities, was appalling,” said Paul Torrens, MD, MPH, professor of health services management at the UCLA School of Public Health. […]

In Ohio “Attorney General Betty Montgomery was so outraged by what she characterized as the ‘peremptory, bullying’ tactics that Columbia employed in its failed attempts to acquire Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ohio and Massillon Community Hospital that she took the company’s Ohio chief aside and delivered a blunt threat,” Business Week reported. “Says Montgomery: I told him that if you want to do business in Ohio, just play it straight from now on. Otherwise, I will fight you in court any time, anywhere.’”

In 1997, when Lawrence Hospital, a community-owned facility in Lawrence, Kan., refused three buyout offers from Columbia, the company took an option on property nearby and sought to build a competing hospital. “‘We like to say here that they approached us in a very aggressive manner to marry them,’ Ray Davis, chairman of the hospital board, told the New York Times. ‘And when we said no, they decided they were going to kill us.’”


Ultimately, Scott epitomized those CEOs of the 1990s (Enron’s Ken Lay, et. al.) who saw their company, not as an organization that produced a product that they could be proud of-but as a stock. Share price was all. Questions about whether the company was delivering value to its customers were moot. This explains why Scott would be happy to slash nursing staff, bribe doctors to “put heads on beds” (whether or not those patients needed to be hospitalized), and lie to Medicare.

All this correlates well with today’s article about one Columbia/HCA acquisition deal gone bad and contrasts sharply with Scott’s strong defense of his tenure, all the while providing a glimpse into some of the so-called “mistakes” that he has ostensibly taken responsibility for. This isn’t just a few accounting errors or regulatory oversights, it’s an entire business mindset that’s based on short term success but and inch deep commitment.

Wonk Room