The federal government is investigating how detailed information about migrant children being held at two American military bases wound up in the hands of con artists who are using it to lure unsuspecting relatives into paying hefty sums to reunite their families, preying on people who have been separated for years, according to the F.B.I. ...NYT
Bienvenidos ¡angelitos! Welcome to the land of opportunity! So you kids from Central America (wow! long walky!) won't mind if we Americans make a couple of bucks off your situation, will you?
The leak of information is the latest setback in a saga that hascompromised the Obama administration’s broader aspirations for an immigration overhaul. Investigators are trying to determine whether a federal database on the children was hacked, or if a contractor or government employee with access to information on the minors sold it to con artists, a government official familiar with the case said. ...NYT
Conor Friedersdorf points, this morning, to a pretty scary exposition at The Intercept of the US government's "watch list" -- the black list any one of us could find our names on right now.
A feature of the Patriot Act (which, as most of us know, should have been repealed long since), the watch list has "new guidelines" that "allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place 'entire categories' of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists."
Get that? You don't know if you're on it; they don't need evidence to put you on it; if you are on it, you have no way of getting off. Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux describe what they call a "convoluted system":
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.” ...FirstLook
In other words, this isn't about the government admitting to the failures of the intelligence agencies that played a role in 9/11. Instead, the Bush administration continued an elaborate coverup of long term problems. Instead of improving our intelligence gathering and analysis overseas and at home, the government opted for tearing holes in the Constitution and create a data-gathering system that includes all of every American's personal data, data that can be mined from unlimited angles at any time.
So it didn't end with the previous administration and a bygone session of Congress. President Obama has also permitted the abrogation of the Constitution in a way that doesn't defend our liberties but instead challenges them. Friedersdorf writes:
The Obama administration should be condemned for its policy. There is no defense for its avowed belief that a system as opaque and unchallengeable as what it propagates and defends can protect the civil rights and civil liberties of those subject to it. The Congress should also be criticized for permitting two successive presidents to transgress against core American norms and values in this realm. The former Constitutional law lecturer in the Oval Office knows that this system transgresses against basic rule-of-law norms, but has evidently persuaded himself that normal safeguards aren't needed so long as he is in charge. Obama defenders should recalibrate their esteem for the president accordingly. ...Friedersdorf,The Atlantic
... The very existence of this case, Halbig v. Burwell, illustrates basic aspects of the U.S. political system about which progressives are in deep denial: Specifically, the Constitution is designed to inhibit comprehensive national legislation like Obamacare.
Why did the Framers create a federal government of limited and enumerated powers — leaving everything else to the states and “the people”? Why did they provide for so many veto points and counter-majoritarian institutions — frequent House elections, the Senate, federal courts?
These were checks against the rise of what James Madison called “an unjust and interested majority” that might enact its “rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.” ...CharlesLane,WaPo
You gotta admit, fellow progressives, that we have gone overboard. I guess it started with marching in where we weren't wanted and freeing the slaves. And that awful, unsingable national anthem, badly performed from sea to shining sea! Absolutely uniformly greasy quarter-pounders and popcorn chicken in every settlement of any size from Boring, Oregon to Hell, Michigan to Uncertain, Texas, and Cheesequake, New Jersey. Talk about wicked projects!
If that doesn't stop America's barbaric executions, I don't know what will. Certainly the Supreme Court is pushing to enter the hall of shame.
At 1:52 p.m. Wednesday, one day after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution granted by a federal appeals court last Saturday, the execution of Joseph R. Wood III commenced.
But what would normally be a 10- to 15-minute procedure dragged on for nearly two hours, as Mr. Wood appeared repeatedly to gasp, according to witnesses... ...NYT
Witnesses reported the long horror even as the state of Arizona claims the victim did not suffer. During the first hour of Wood's long death, his lawyers phoned the federal district court and Justice Kennedy at the Supreme Court to tell them the victim was still alive. The courts didn't respond before Wood finally died. The state of Arizona's officials said he wasn't gasping, just "snoring."
Governor Jan Brewer expressed some concern. But not much. And standing behind all this was the highest court of the land.
Mr. Wood’s lawyers won a short-lived victory on Saturday, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said his execution must be delayed until the state revealed the source of the drugs and specific details about the training of those carrying out the execution.
The barbarities are not limited to the state of Arizona. New Mexico is suffering from the same symptoms. This time it's teenagers brutally beating the homeless.
The assailants kicked and beat them, Mr. Eskeets said, using their hands and whatever else they could find — a metal pipe, wooden sticks, cinder blocks. Mr. Eskeets eventually broke free and ran away. His cousin, whose name he said was Al Gorman, and another homeless man he knew only as Cowboy, ended up dead. The police said they had both been disfigured beyond recognition by the thrashing, which included having their heads smashed repeatedly with the cinder blocks.
Someone directed the officers to a stucco house on the other end of the lot, where a 15-year-old boy came to the door wearing shorts splattered in blood. Later, the boy told detectives that he, his 16-year-old half brother and their friend Alex Rios, 18, had taken turns assaulting the men. According to a criminal complaint, the teenagers had been “randomly attacking homeless people for over a year” and, by the 15-year-old’s estimates, they had beat up more than 50 since moving to the stucco house some months ago, as if it were a distraction, or a sport. ...NYT
Vox has more on the problem of bungled executions.
This isn't the first time an execution recently went wrong
Arizona's case is far from unique. A staggering 7 percent of lethal injections are botched, often resulting in grisly incidents like that on Wednesday afternoon.
As stockpiles of sodium thiopental have thinned or expired, executions have decreased, but at the same time states have become more reliant on ad hoc cocktails and little-regulated compounding pharmacies to provide injections for the executions that do go ahead. Episodes like Wednesday night's are now just a feature of our continued use of capital punishment. ...Vox
"Now I don't assert where he was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't beat the same for him."
-- Rep. Steve King (R-IA), quoted by BuzzFeed, on President Obama.
It's as though Congress has locked all the doors of the Court with the justices inside ... and thrown away the key.
It’s a question that’s roiled the liberal universe for years: Why won’t 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg resign from the Supreme Court and give President Obama the chance to pick her successor, in case the Senate turns Republican after the mid-terms?
Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, one of the left’s jurisprudential heroes, had a ready answer to that question when it was posed to him at the University of California Santa Barbara late last month. There is, he said, not a chance in hell that this Senate would confirm her successor, no matter who he or she might be—not the way the process works today. And therein lies a tale about just how drastically the “advise and consent” process has changed, and why the smart bet would be on a paralyzed process, and perhaps even a Court with fewer than nine Justices, no matter what happens in November. ...JeffGreenfield,DailyBeast
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down a major part of the federal health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the insurance subsidies that help millions of Americans pay for coverage are illegal in three dozen states. ...WaPo
Charles Gaba makes an interesting point about today's Halbig decision: if upheld, it would amount to a tax increase. Everyone who buys insurance through a federal exchange would lose the tax credits they're currently entitled to, and losing tax credits is the same as a tax increase. This in turn means that if Democrats introduce a bill to fix the language in Obamacare to keep the tax credits in place, it will basically be a tax cut. ...KevinDrum
In the run-up to the midterms, this could get interesting.
The jury is being chosen in Detroit for what some think of as a repeat of the Trayvon Martin case. This time it's about a 19-year-old woman -- Renisha McBride -- who, after a car accident likely caused by drinking, knocked on the door of a 55-year-old white man and was shot as a prospective "burglar." In Detroit, you understand, burglars commonly knock first.
[Theodore] Wafer shot McBride on his front porch in Dearborn Heights, a mostly white town bordering Detroit, in the early hours of Nov. 2, a few hours after she crashed her car into a parked vehicle a mile away.
McBride’s family said they believe she was approaching Wafer’s house for help. Wafer’s attorneys say the woman was aggressively banging on the door and that he believed she was there to burglarize his home. Among the key points of dispute, Wafer’s side asserts his door screen was dislodged by McBride in an example of her out-of-control rage. Prosecutors say it was pushed off the hinge when Wafer shot her through the screen. ...AlJazeera
The difficulty in choosing a jury has to do with race, they say. But honestly: I don't think this is as much about race as it is about the sheer inhumanity of a man with a gun when he's dealing with a post-accident, mildly hysterical young woman who knocked on his door and asked for help. This is about America, not about black and white. I'd be interested in knowing what TV program was on and why he was so tetchy when he went to the door.
The Republican primary was about a long-term candidate against an unlikely new guy, a businessman, but the son of a former governor of Georgia. The Democrat running against him is the daughter of a former, long-term Democratic Senator, Sam Nunn. Michelle Nunn vs. David Perdue will be running an interesting race, one a Democrat could win.
Republicans rallied behind Mr. Perdue on Tuesday night, though in the lead-up to the election many said they thought either man would have proved a formidable opponent to Ms. Nunn. There had been concerns in the crowded primary, however, that one of the far-right candidates — Representatives Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey, for instance — would emerge as the nominee and be unable to handle the challenges of a general-election fight, in which candidates are typically forced to move toward the middle to attract independent voters.
Both Mr. Perdue and Ms. Nunn plan to cast themselves as political outsiders, despite their deep blood ties in Georgia politics. ...NYT
At the moment the money strongly favors Michelle Nunn who has millions compared to Perdue's thousands. Perdue is backing his own campaign, at least so far. And he is associated -- in style and substance -- with Mitt Romney. "Democrats," the Times reports, "are likely to use Mr. Perdue’s business background, as well as his penchant for inartful comments, to liken him to Mr. Romney, who during his 2012 presidential bid earned a reputation for being an out-of-touch 'vulture capitalist.'" Uh-oh.
For example, Mr. Perdue was a chief executive of Pillowtex, a textile manufacturer that went bankrupt and ultimately closed in 2003, leaving 7,500 people unemployed, after Mr. Perdue had left the post. ...NYT
The Washington Post reports that the tea party didn't have a dog in this fight. But the US Chamber Commerce did. They supported Perdue's opponent -- and they lost.
Republicans need to gain six seats to win the Senate majority. Democrats, defending many more competitive seats, view Georgia as one of their two best pickup opportunities, along with Kentucky.
With nearly all of the vote tallied, Perdue led Kingston 51 percent to 49 percent.
The outcome is a blow to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which made a sizable investment on behalf of Kingston. The nation’s largest business organization had been on a hot streak. It supported Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who each defeated challengers backed by national tea party groups earlier this year.
Tea party groups stayed on the sidelines in the Kingston-Perdue showdown. Neither candidate pitched himself as a tea party hero. ...WaPo
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government could not subsidize premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange, a ruling that could upend President Obama’s health care law. ...NYT
Then, of course, the "maybe nots":
The decision is the not the last word, however, as other courts are weighing the same issue. And the ruling could be reviewed by the full appeals court here. ...NYT
Let's not get too "regionalist" here, but people who brought the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act were from Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Their backing came from "conservative and libertarian organizations."
Washington Post's Wonkblog looks at the possible outcome of this ACA-trashing ruling which, the appeals court judges say, they reached "with reluctance."
The Halbig case hinged on whether the federal government actually has authority to offer the federal subsidies in these federal exchange states. Opponents of the law said the statute clearly said only an exchange established by the state could offer the payments — further, that was an intentional design of the law's drafters to encourage states to set up their own insurance marketplaces. The administration argued an entire reading of the law proves that the Affordable Care Act makes subsidies available in every state, and that's what Congress always intended. ...
... There's no guarantee, though, that today's court ruling holds up. The administration could request the entire appeals court to review the case. Another federal appeals court, thought to be more friendly to the administration's side, is still expected to rule on a similar challenge. Two district courts are also weighing subsidy challenges.
The ruling won't actually go into effect until the court fully considers the administration's request for an entire court review. Today's decision, though, is sure to be making those supporting and overseeing the law pretty nervous. ...Wonkblog,WaPo