Matt O'Brien writes at Wonkblog that Friday brought some dingy news: "... Any momentum disappeared on Friday."
The Employment Cost Index rose at its slowest pace since records began in 1982, just 0.2 percent. In the past year, the ECI is only up an anemic 2 percent, down from the 2.6 percent it was three months ago. And it's the same story no matter what wage measures you look at. Average hourly earnings are also up 2 percent the past 12 months, after zigging and zagging around that level for basically six years now. There's just no wage pressure at all, even though unemployment is a relatively healthy 5.3 percent. ...WaPo
So interest rates are probably going to stay where they are, at least for now... MarketWatch reports:
The Fed said Wednesday it won’t start lifting rates until there is “some” more improvement in the labor market and it’s “reasonably confident” that inflation will move back to the Fed’s 2% target over the medium term.
Some economists expect wage gains to rise later this year. There is momentum building in some parts of the country for a $15 minimum wage.
So Hillary really is in trouble. Maureen Dowd writes in the Times about "problems of style and substance are starting to scuff her sheen of inevitability. There are tensions in her campaign that echo the failed 2008 campaign."
Today a report, also in the Times, focuses on Joe Biden's worried response.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say. ...NYT
Biden, a long term senator and someone with seriously good creds among colleagues of both parties, has been an unusually useful vice president, albeit in the background. He has been a respected critic of the destructive Republicans who, since the Gingrich era, have dominated Congress. He has been described as indispensable to the President in role as go-between.
“The president has said that the best political decision he’s ever made in his career has been to ask Joe Biden to run as his vice president,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said last week. ...NYT
But does he want to upset his relationship with Hillary Clinton, once a valued colleague?
Friends described Mr. Biden’s relationship with Mrs. Clinton in the Senate as cordial and warm. But in his long career in Democratic politics, Mr. Biden has clashed with former President Bill Clinton, and his relationship with Mrs. Clinton has not been without awkwardness. One close Biden confidant, Ron Klain, has been in contact with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign about helping her prepare for the Democratic debates, a sign some people interpreted as evidence that Mr. Biden would decide against a run. ...NYT
Maybe. But Clinton's poll numbers are getting iffy.
Mr. Biden is by no means a virtuoso campaigner. But his entry into the race would add an unbridled, often unscripted passion for the presidency that some Democrats say the ever-cautious Mrs. Clinton at times lacks.
One Democratic donor with direct knowledge of the overtures from the Biden camp said Mr. Biden had already thought about how he would position himself in the race, delivering an economic message to the left of Mrs. Clinton’s while embracing Obama administration policies, like health care reform, that are widely popular among Democrats. ...NYT
Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz report in the Post that a Biden run is a real possibility.
Biden’s top advisers have taken account of all the important upcoming deadlines he must meet if, for instance, he decides to get on the ballot for the early nominating contests. The Democratic National Committee is also keeping Biden’s team in the loop on key decisions, such as the schedule of debates that begin this fall, and have made it clear that he would be welcome to join those onstage if he decides to run. ...WaPo
There's an op-ed piece in today's Times about two deaths and how we respond to them. Are we more concerned about Cecil the lion than we are about Samuel Dubose? Samuel who? Wait, give me a moment to remember who Dubose is...
Let's be honest here. For most of us, it is easier to mourn and be outraged at the killing of Cecil the lion, because thankfully, most of us not only have no interest in shooting lions, we also don't draw any benefit from the callous disregard that the Minnesota dentist shows for biodiversity. On the other hand, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we white Americans continue to benefit from the color of our skin, so while most of us disapprove of police brutality, we are not blameless. Not until we insist that we want our middle class white children treated the same way as black kids in inner city neighborhoods will our hands be clean. And since we are not quite prepared to do that, laying part of the blame on the victims -" he should not have argued with the officer, she should have cooperated", eases our conscience a bit.
... Body camera advocates and skeptics alike say they do not know how much that reflects a real decline in police misconduct, and how much was a drop in spurious civilian complaints; it may be that both groups behave better when they are on camera. ...NYT
We're learning much, much more about the behaviors of the police, about their "collars," and -- maybe most notably and shockingly -- the extent to which past accounts of cruelty and injustice towards minority groups and particularly blacks have been true, not "exaggerations."
The New York Times report emphasizes that the videos only show police violence now. Looking back beyond the existence of videos, in times when there were no moving images to back up our impression of, say, Bull Connors' behaviors, we can understand how easy it's been for supporters of Southern "justice" to maintain a system of wanton cruelty right into the new millennium.
Even now, the Times reports today, "there is, however, no precise accounting of the number of people killed by police officers each year."
The behaviors of our law officers are now coming to light in random recordings not only in a park in Cleveland or along the waterfront on Staten Island, but in day-to-day traffic stops in Anywhere, America. And a reminder: we have yet to confront -- to record and show -- the treatment of prospective immigrants by officials along our southern border.
Behind all this is the reminder that "bad apples" remain in our system in large part thanks to elected officials -- people we have elected. So it's as well to point out that, through all this, we've maintained a relatively sunny, laissez-faire view of Americans voting even as we continue to find evidence that there are irregularities in every step of the way in our voting procedures and vote counting. If we only had the equivalent of video vigilantes monitoring every aspect of our elections -- from whose money and how much to whose access to voters' lists and with what precise results -- "equality" in America might yet be revealed as another shocking "suicide" at the hands of "the authorities" and our "elected" officials.
We found out only the other day that Afghan/Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, died about two year ago. We may take a good deal more time admitting to ourselves (if we ever really do) that -- in Afghanistan -- we have lost yet another war. The Taliban have won.
The international conflict that Mullah Omar helped to start in 2001 is still going on, having cost, thus far, the lives of an estimated ninety-one thousand Afghans, twenty-six thousand of them civilians. Three thousand three hundred and ninety-three soldiers from twenty-nine different countries died, too, the majority of them—two thousand three hundred and sixteen—Americans. The financial cost to U.S. taxpayers alone has been around a trillion dollars, with billions more to come, in the years ahead, in medical bills and other long-term costs for Afghan-war veterans. Although the American combat role in the Afghan war officially ended last December, about ten thousand troops have stayed on as advisers and as a counterterrorism quick-reaction force within a reconstituted NATO mission, and will remain at least through the end of 2016.
Mullah Omar’s Taliban survived NATO’s extended presence in Afghanistan. In some ways, it can be argued that it defeated it. After being dislodged from power by the initial U.S. military assault launched in 2001, the Taliban eventually revived and now has an increasingly robust presence in many parts of the country, leaving Afghanistan in a chronically precarious state. ...JonLeeAnderson,NewYorker
Sometimes someone on the right pops up -- Lindsey Graham among others, at least this time, along with "bomb,bomb, bomb" McCain -- advocating for a whole new war.
This time it may well be Iran. We begin to understand that Republicans (who also love war for its ability to generate even more campaign support from the defense establishment) want each successive war to somehow erase or justify or drown out our memorites of the most recent debacle.
Both Iraq and Afghanistan are have been clear and costly failures and both have been the exclusive property of the American right and its donors -- with the American people, as fall guys, paying heavily for both wars. An Iraq war was a gift from Bush#2 and meant (somehow) to make President Bush#1 feel better after a snub. Action in Afghanistan would re-erect the World Trade Center as well as some Republican leaders who had been feeling impotent. As the truth of all this trickles down to the rest of us -- we pay the bills -- Republicans will try to find another war to fight that we'll pay for later. In the meantime, they'd like us to forget that the Taliban have won and ISIS is close behind. We're stuck with the consequences: Taliban and ISIS damage, photos of the family members we lost, and our post-war financial situations.
Not to mention the kind of "security" we have given the people of Afghanistan.
Here is the enemy we didn't defeat -- remember? Before Bush and Cheney rushed in to, um, get rid of the bad guys?
In one of their very first acts in Kabul, Taliban fighters stormed the United Nations compound in Kabul and seized the former Afghan President, Mohammad Najibullah, who had taken refuge there since his overthrow, in 1992. The Taliban beat him, castrated him, dragged him behind a jeep, shot him, and then hanged him. This act set the tone for the Taliban’s subsequent rule: they massacred members of the Hazara minority for being Shiites, banned women from working in hospitals or any public offices, and kept girls out of schools; they banned public music, the sale of CDs, and kite flying. Kabul’s sports stadium became an execution ground. In March, 2001, Mullah Omar’s men blew up the two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan, archaeological treasures that were fifteen hundred years old. ...JonLeeAnderson,NewYorker
Well, Bush and Cheney didn't succeed in making them go away. They're still there.
It's beginning to look like Hillary thinks she should be president because, well, she's Hillary. Also looks like it ain't workin'.
"... She dodged a question on Tuesday over whether she supports or opposes building the Keystone XL Pipeline," according to a front page report in The Hill today. “'If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question,'” she said during a New Hampshire campaign stop.
So it's all those peanut butter sandwiches at midnight she's after when she's campaigning? Addressing actual issues tends to get iffy and gets you into trouble. Hillary is in a tight spot. As Tad Devine, an adviser to Bernie Sanders, concedes:
Clinton faced a unique dilemma as a former secretary of State who served in that office during some of the time the pipeline was being evaluated. Complicating matters further for Clinton, the president she served remains in office. President Obama’s rhetoric on Keystone has been negative in recent months, even as he has avoided sounding a definitive death knell for the project.
But, referring to the Clinton campaign, Devine asserted, “I don’t think they have really figured out the formulation about how to stay close to the president while separating herself at the same time.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. But if she is going to be unwilling to answer a fundamental question about the environment, which Keystone XL is, she’s going to have to explain that in a way that is much more understandable to voters.” ...TheHill
Her numbers don't look great.
Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Coloradans asserting by an almost 2-1 margin that Clinton was not honest or trustworthy: 62 percent said she was not, whereas only 34 percent she was. Respondents in Iowa distrusted Clinton 59 percent to 33 percent, and those in Virginia distrusted her 55 percent to 39 percent.
Keystone is far from the only issue on which Clinton has bobbed and weaved. ...TheHill
... A rough-edged opening, about twenty inches square, had been cut into the floor. According to Mexico’s national-security commissioner, Guzmán climbed into the hole and down a ladder, entering a 4,921-foot-long tunnel. Fluorescent lights hung from a ceiling-mounted PVC pipe, which also brought fresh air into the passageway. Metal tracks had been bolted to the ground, allowing an ad-hoc vehicle—a railcar rigged to the frame of a small motorcycle—to be driven from one end of the tunnel to the other. The gray stone walls, about thirty inches apart, were scored with jagged marks made by electric spades; Guzmán’s shoulders probably brushed the walls as he passed.
The tunnel ended beneath a small cinder-block house in an open field. As Guzmán climbed a wooden ladder toward ground level, he passed the evidence of what seemed to be a months-long engineering project: a generator, which had powered the tools that workmen used to build the tunnel; a heavy-duty electric winch, to lower machinery into the pit; gallons of hydraulic fluid; coils of steel mesh.
Guzmán’s method of escape should have surprised no one. Last year, in Culiacán, he evaded Mexican marines by disappearing into a network of subterranean passageways connecting seven houses. He did not invent smuggling tunnels—bank robbers, rumrunners, and guerrillas had used them for decades—but his criminal enterprise, the Sinaloa drug cartel, built the first cross-border narcotúnel, in 1989. Since then, Sinaloa has refined the art of underground construction and has used tunnels more effectively than any criminal group in history. ...MonteReel,NewYorker
Or perhaps you just want your stuff? Everything but the most costly service from LLBean or Amazon takes about ten days. Sheesh! You can get your drogas pretty much overnight from Sinaloa, thanks to the demand on this side of the border.
Whether it's coke or Koch, the US robber barons can make both part of your life --by tunnel and by vote.