Political MoJo

A Majority of Cop Killers Have Been White

| Sun Dec. 21, 2014 8:59 PM EST
Investigators work at the scene where two NYPD officers were shot in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on Saturday.

As officials continue to investigate Saturday's tragic killing of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, details have surfaced about the suspect, 28 year old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who allegedly shot a woman in Baltimore before traveling to New York. Anti-police posts he appears to have published on social media sites prior to the killings have lead many to connect his crime to protests that occurred in previous weeks, and some commenters have cast blame on officials including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Obama, all of whom have condemned the violence. (Read my colleague Kevin Drum's response to that.) 

But, while every killing of an officer is a tragedy, it is worth noting, as my colleague Shane Bauer reported in the context of another story, assaults and felony killings of police officers in the US are down sharply over the past two decades. Attention has also been focused on Brinsley's race, but FBI data shows that, though African Americans are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, the majority of assailants who feloniously killed police officers in the past year were white. 

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Here Is President Obama's Statement on Today's Tragedy In New York

| Sun Dec. 21, 2014 1:17 AM EST

Two NYPD officers were murdered in cold blood Saturday by a gunman who then killed himself before being apprehended. Details are still sketchy, but New York is at fever pitch right now. Some people are trying to blame this horrendous tragedy on Bill de Blasio, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, and the thousands of protestors who have taken to the streets over the last few weeks to protest the decisions of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown grand juries.

Here's President Obama's statement from tonight making clear that he "unconditionally condemns today's murder of two police officers." The fact that he has to make that clear at all—as though there was a chance he may have been undecided on the issue—is surreal.

 

Watch President Obama Call on Female Reporters for Every Single Question During Friday's Presser

| Fri Dec. 19, 2014 4:12 PM EST

For his final press conference of 2014, President Obama exclusively called on female reporters. The White House had planned it that way:

By the eighth and final question, Obama even appeared to ignore a male reporter's attempt to participate. The result was amazing. Watch below:

Elizabeth Warren: Wall Street Just Got Another Giveaway

| Fri Dec. 19, 2014 3:54 PM EST

Last week, Congress did Wall Street a solid. When lawmakers passed a giant spending bill that funds the government through September, they included a provision written by Citigroup lobbyists that allows banks to make more risky trades with taxpayer-insured money. Then, on Thursday, bankers got another giveaway: The Federal Reserve announced it would delay for up to two years implementation of a crucial section of the Volcker rule—one of the most important regulations to come out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The rule generally forbids the high-risk trading by commercial banks that helped cause the financial crisis. The move by the Fed pushes the deadline for banks to comply past the next presidential election and gives Wall Street lobbyists more time to weaken it.

"Less than a week after Wall Street slipped a bailout provision written by Citigroup into the government spending bill, the Fed has given the big banks another victory," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a statement Friday.

"It's really hard to see an excuse for this," says Marcus Stanley, the financial policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group.

The Volcker rule ensures that financial institutions don't engage in something called proprietary trading, which is when a bank trades for its own benefit as opposed to for the benefit of its customers. Banks were supposed to comply with the Volcker rule by July 21, 2014. Last year, when banking watchdogs finalized the rule, the Fed granted banks a year-long extension. The Fed's Thursday announcement gives banks another year to get rid of certain investments—including those in private equity firms and hedge funds. The central bank also noted Thursday that it plans to push out the deadline again next year, by another 12 months. That brings the new compliance deadline to July 2017, far past the 2016 election. If the new president is a Republican, he could fill his administration with Wall Street insiders opposed to the rule, making it even easier for lobbyists to gut it.

Before the Volcker rule was finalized last year, the financial industry fought like mad to weaken it. The regulation could slash the total annual profits of the eight largest US banks by up to $10 billion, according to an estimate by Standard & Poor's. Banking reform advocates were fairly happy with way the final reg turned out. But now the financial industry has extra time to take a few more whacks at rule before banks actually have to obey it. "Wall Street’s loophole lawyers and other hired guns will… continue to hit at the rule as if it were a piñata," Dennis Kelleher, the president of the financial reform advocacy group Better Markets, said when regulators completed the rule in 2013.

The Dodd-Frank law already contains a provision allowing banks that will have difficulty getting rid of particular investments before the initial compliance deadline to request an extension from banking regulators. The Fed's announcement yesterday amounts to an unnecessary "blanket" extension, Stanley says. "It's hogwash."

Obama: Sony "Made a Mistake" Stopping the Release of "The Interview"

| Fri Dec. 19, 2014 2:40 PM EST

On Friday, President Barack Obama called Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview" a "mistake."

"We cannot have a society in which a dictator in some place can start imposing censorship in the United States," he told reporters at his final press conference of the year. "Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone who’s sensibilities probably need to be offended."

"I wish they'd spoken to me first," he added. "I would have told them: Do not get into the pattern in which you are intimidated."

Earlier on Friday, the FBI officially linked the North Korean government to the cyber attack on Sony. In the press conference, Obama indicated the US government was considering how to respond.

When asked for specifics, he said, "We've been working up a range of options. They will be presented to me and I will make a decision based on what I think is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime."

Americans Are More Concerned About Racism Than at Anytime Since Rodney King

| Fri Dec. 19, 2014 1:35 PM EST
Gallup

A new poll conducted by Gallup found that 13 percent of Americans believe racism is the country's most important problem, up from just 1 percent in November. It's the highest that number has been since the Rodney King verdict in 1992.

The sharp rise follows national outrage and a wave of protests that swept the nation in response to the failure by two separate grand juries to indict two white officers who killed two black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

According to the data published Friday, nonwhites are more than twice as likely as whites to call race relations/racism the country's most important problem:

Gallup

The latest poll echoes recent studies revealing similar sentiments, including worsening race relations and a growing distrust of law enforcement officers among Americans. As for the latter, however, Gallup found in a poll published earlier this week that while trust in police by nonwhites has plummeted by 22 percent, whites' views on the issue have barely changed.

Gallup

As for the most important problem facing the nation, that's still the government, which leads racism by 2 points.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the last time so many Americans viewed racism as the nation's biggest problem; it was after the Rodney King verdict, not his death.

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8 Weird Things You Can Buy for the Republican or Democrat In Your Life This Holiday Season

| Fri Dec. 19, 2014 6:00 AM EST

With five shopping days left until Christmas—and four for Hanukkah, slacker—you might be feeling pressure to come through with some great gifts for friends and family. Not to worry: the Republican and Democratic parties are here to help! From decorative lapel-wear to straight-talkin' tees, the parties' respective online stores are offering a festive array of gift selections this holiday season. Here are some real winners, sure to please the partisan in your life. In no particular order:

1. Limited Edition American Eagle Brooch

National Republican Congressional Committee

From the National Republican Congressional Committee comes this "exquisite piece." For the low price of $72—or $200 for three!—you can show off your American pride while helping "preserve our Conservative House Majority."
 

2. ACTION Mugs

Organizing for Action

Take an executive action and order these mugs. Delicious-looking hot cocoa, shortbread cookies, and cozy blanket do not appear to be included.
 

3. George W. Bush Quote Mousepad

National Republican Congressional Committee

For that someone who could use a bit of W. wisdom with each click they make. At $15, it's a steal from the NRCC—and it could appreciate in value with any additional Bush presidencies.
 

4. I Am Organizing For Action, Long-Sleeve-T Edition

Democrats.org

There's no better way to communicate that you're organizing for action than this handsome, olive long-sleeve tee that says, "I am organizing for action." For $20, it's a solid choice for that community organizer you know with a flair for subtlety.
 

5. George H.W. Bush Autograph Socks

Republican National Committee

From the color combo to the presidential signature, these socks are just beautiful. They were supposedly designed for H.W. himself—widely known to be a sock man—and for $41 (get it?!), this is the ideal gift for the boat-shoe-wearing College Republican in your life.
 

6. Very Blue Shirt

Democrats.org

Great gift! Unless you have trouble distinguishing between identical shades of blue, or if you have issues with the Democrats' logo rebrand. But it's $30, and the DNC says it can "withstand sports," so it's still an OK buy. It'll really complement that sweet arm tat.
 

7. Anti-Tea Party Travel Mug

Democrats.org

There's nothing quite like a good travel mug with a strong opinion. At $30, this is a certified "great gift." The mug has even pissed off the Daily Caller—a priceless value-add.
 

8. "Official" Cheney GOP Cowboy Hat

Republican National Committee

The clear winner this holiday season: this limited-edition hat from the RNC, engraved with Dick's signature, and lined with a gold Republican Party seal. For a cool $72, you can "help elect our next Republican president" while channeling America's favorite Republican vice president. It'll be sure to add that stylish touch to your enhanced cattle-rustlin' techniques.

Disclaimer: Obviously, you should not buy any of these things. Nobody wants to talk politics at Christmas. Don't make Mom get into this.

Nebraska and Oklahoma Sue to Overturn Legal Weed in Colorado

| Thu Dec. 18, 2014 8:23 PM EST
Nebraska is mad that Colorado pot is crossing its border

The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma petitioned the US Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn pot legalization in Colorado, arguing that its legal weed has been spilling across their borders and fueling crime.

"The state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system," the suit alleges. "Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff states' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems."

The Department of Justice pledged last year not to interfere with pot legalization in Colorado and Washington, but only if the states met a list of conditions, including preventing legally purchased marijuana from being diverted to states where it's illegal. Nebraska and Oklahoma are now arguing that the Supreme Court should compel the DOJ to act.

Evidence has been mounting that Colorado can't contain all of its weed. In June, USA Today highlighted the flow of its marijuana into small towns across Nebraska. Since 2011, the paper reported, felony drug arrests in Chappell, Nebraska, a town just seven miles north of the Colorado border, have jumped 400 percent.

But marijuana reformers argue that governments can't contain illegally purchased weed either, and that a few growing pains on the path to a more sensible drug policy are inevitable. "These guys are on the wrong side of history," Mason Tvert, communications director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. "They will be remembered similarly to how we think of state officials who fought to maintain alcohol prohibition years after other states ended it."

Nebraska attorney general Jon Brunning has actually become too eager to support the alcohol industry, Tvert adds. Between 2008 and 2012, beer, wine, and alcohol interests donated $86,000 to Brunning. In 2012, he advocated for a lower tax rate for sweetened malt beverages such as hard lemonade. "It appears he is fighting to protect their turf," Tvert says. "He should explain why he thinks Colorado adults should not be able to use marijuana instead."
 

The First Person Jeb Bush Followed on Twitter Was Karl Rove

| Thu Dec. 18, 2014 11:23 AM EST

Former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush is running for president. (Maybe.) But just how much does he have in common with his brother, George W.? His Twitter page might offer a clue. The first human Jeb followed on Twitter was none other than his brother's former deputy chief of staff—Fox News analyst Karl Rove. So is the Oracle of Ohio going to be back in the fold come 2016? We can only hold our breath. Or perhaps Jeb just likes Rove's engaging Twitter personality. (Full disclosure: the first person I followed on Twitter was Chuck Grassley.)

Young Fidel Castro Wrote FDR to Ask for 10 Bucks

| Wed Dec. 17, 2014 12:04 PM EST

In November 1940, a young Cuban student named Fidel Castro sent a handwritten letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Writing in English, Castro congratulated the president on his reelection and requested "a ten dollars bill green american…because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them." Thinking strategically, the future Cuban dictator also offered access to his country's iron to build American ships.

He signed off with a flourish:

National Archives

The letter from the now 88-year-old Castro (who was 14 when he wrote it, not 12 as he said) now resides in the National Archives. FDR probably never saw the letter. Castro did receive a response—but no cash—from the US Embassy in Havana. The polite snub officially marks the first exchange between Castro and the United States—and the beginning of a long, acrimonious relationship that may be about to thaw

Text of the letter (errors and all):

Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States.

My good friend Roosvelt I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you.
I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo).
I am twelve years old.
I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States.
If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.

[…]

I don't know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.
(Thank you very much) Good by. Your friend,

Fidel Castro

If you want iron to make your ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.

 

National Archives