09/18/2015 archive

GM Settlement: Another DOJ Failure to Prosecute Executives

Once again the Department of Justice has failed to hold executives of a large corporation criminally accountable. This week General Motors agreed to pay $900 million and entered a deferred prosecution agreement to end a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into its handling of defective ignition switches in many of its vehicles. They have agreed to independent monitoring of their safety systems. If they adhere and their are no further violations, GM could have its record wiped clean. That’s hardly a satisfying agreement for the families of the 124 people who died in GM vehicles that the company knew were unsafe.

And even though General Motors will pay a $900 million penalty, it was 25 percent less than the record $1.2 billion Toyota agreed to pay last year.

“I don’t understand how they can basically buy their way out of it,” said Margie Beskau, whose daughter Amy Rademaker was killed in an October 2006 crash in Wisconsin. She added, “They knew what they were doing and they kept doing it.”

During the press conference US Attorney Preet Bharara defended the settlement and his satisfaction with the internal investigation that was conducted by a law firm with close ties to General Motors.

The two law firms hired for that inquiry, King & Spalding and Jenner & Block, had previously done legal work for G.M. And court papers show that Anton R. Valukas, the chairman of Jenner & Block, who headed the G.M. investigation, helped represent the automaker in its talks with the Justice Department.

Mr. Valukas declined to be interviewed, and several corporate lawyers said such arrangements are not unusual because an outside law firm that conducts an investigation knows the facts of a case. But Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the public’s interest may suffer when a law firm wears so many different hats.

“It would be nice to know that the law firm doing the internal investigation was truly disinterested and didn’t have an interest in subsequent representation” of the same company, Ms. Rhode said.

Needless to say the agreement has not satified the critics of the investigation. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called it “extremely disappointing.” However, congress holds some responsibility in the inability to prosecute the auto makers:

As Danielle Ivory and Ben Protess reported at The Times in July, federal law sets a very high standard for pursuing a criminal case against people who knowingly withhold information about the risks products pose to human life. In auto cases, prosecutors have to prove corporate officers intended to defraud someone, something they do not have to do in food and pharmaceutical cases.

If it was not clear to Congress already that the law needs to change, this case should certainly make it clear. Serious safety problems in cars can be as deadly as contamination in food or drugs, and the law should treat them similarly.

G.M. used the defective switch in numerous cars and it has been linked to 124 deaths, according to compensation claims evaluated by a G.M. fund for victims administered by the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. The fund has determined that another 275 people deserve compensation for injuries.

This is just one more failure of the Obama Justice Department who are suppose to prosecute criminals.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Fantasies and Fictions at G.O.P. Debate

I’ve been going over what was said at Wednesday’s Republican debate, and I’m terrified. You should be, too. After all, given the vagaries of elections, there’s a pretty good chance that one of these people will end up in the White House.

Why is that scary? I would argue that all of the G.O.P. candidates are calling for policies that would be deeply destructive at home, abroad, or both. But even if you like the broad thrust of modern Republican policies, it should worry you that the men and woman on that stage are clearly living in a world of fantasies and fictions. And some seem willing to advance their ambitions with outright lies.

Let’s start at the shallow end, with the fantasy economics of the establishment candidates.

New York Times Editorial Board: The Fed Gives Growth a Chance

The Federal Reserve did the right thing on Thursday when it opted not to begin raising interest rates. By holding steady, the Fed is acknowledging, correctly, that the economy shows no signs of overheating. Price inflation, for example, has been below the Fed’s 2 percent target for years and shows no signs of accelerating.

The Fed also acknowledged the dampening effect global economic weakness and financial-market volatility may have on the American economy. In the past, the Fed played down those dangers, assuming they would be transitory or bearable. In the statement released after its policy-making committee meeting, it shifted, saying international and financial conditions could slow the domestic economy, making an interest-rate increase to restrain the economy unnecessary, at least for now.

In one important respect, however, the Fed appears to be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Joshua Kopstein: The poisonous paranoia of ‘see something, say something’

The best way to help kids like Ahmed Mohamed is to reject the suspicious mindset that has gripped Americans since 9/11

Fourteen years after 9/11, the United States remains in an artificially sustained state of emergency best encapsulated by the oft-repeated Orwellian catchphrase: “If You See Something, Say Something™.”  This ubiquitous edict and its variants still appear in transportation hubs and public buildings across the country, nudging us to never take anything at face value, treating every perceived oddity and fleeting discomfort as a potential threat.

It was this poisonous mentality that was at work Monday, when school administrators in Irving, Texas, had a Muslim teenager arrested for bringing a homemade digital clock to school after a teacher said it looked like a bomb. Ahmed Mohamed, a talented 14-year-old with a well-known aptitude for electronic tinkering, told the Dallas Morning News that he built the clock in 20 minutes the previous night to impress his engineering instructor. By 3 p.m., Ahmed was suspended from school and being escorted out of McArthur High School in handcuffs.

Robert Sheer: Fools, Fascists and Cold Warriors: Take Your Pick

Are they fools or fascists? Probably the former, but there was a disturbing cast to the second GOP debate, a vituperative jingoism reminiscent of the xenophobia that periodically scars western capitalist societies in moments of disarray.

While the entire world is riveted by the sight of millions of refugees in terrifying exodus attempting to save drowning and starving children, we were treated to the darkly peculiar spectacle of scorn for the children of undocumented immigrants and celebration of the sanctity of the unborn fetus.

Marching to the beat of that mad drummer Donald Trump, the GOP candidates have taken to scapegoating undocumented immigrants, particular the young, blaming them for all that ails us. Most of the GOP contenders appeared as a shrill echo of the neo-fascist European movements of late, adopting the traditional tactic of blaming the most vulnerable for economic problems the most powerful have caused.

Robert Creamer: Why the Republicans Secretly Hate the Assimilation of Legal Immigrants

Well the debate is over and, if the Trump spectacle were not so dangerous, watching the Republicans devour each other in the shark tank would be fun. But America is more than a reality show, and the stakes are too high for pure enjoyment.

Wednesday night, in the “children’s table” warm up debate, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal joined the anti-immigrant fray with the memorable statement that “immigration without assimilation is an invasion.”

In fact, of course, the immigrant rights community has been organizing to make legal immigrants citizens for a long time. [..]

You’d think the “immigration without assimilation is an invasion” crowd would just love the push for legal permanent residents to become full fledged American citizens, but don’t bet on it.

That’s because citizens can vote.

And there is a growing movement brewing out there that is worth watching, enjoying, and actively supporting. That is the work being done in the immigrant communities through naturalization and voter registration that may teach the Republicans a lesson.

Dave Johnson: Still No Democratic Debates. What’s Going On?

The second Republican Presidential candidate debate is tonight. The ratings for the first one were through the roof and tonight’s is also expected to be a ratings blockbuster. People are interested and tuning in to the campaign and the Republicans are getting all the “eyeballs.”

Meanwhile there hasn’t been even a hint of a Democratic candidate debate. What’s going on? Why are the Democrats letting Republicans have the attention? Do they feel the party has nothing to offer – or something to hide?

“Just spell my name right.” It is basic marketing that any publicity is good publicity. [..]

Overall the entire Democratic Party would benefit from having many, many more televised debates. This time the Democrats have a strong message that resonates with the majority of the public. (Click here to see for yourself.) This time they have strong candidates. This timethey have the moral high ground.

And this time they aren’t letting the public know these things.

Why is the Democratic Party being so undemocratic? Why are they limiting the number of debates? Why are they trying to keep their candidates hidden from the public and letting the Republicans set the narrative?

The Breakfast Club (Real World)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

A pivotal battle in the American Revolution; President James Garfield dies; Bruno Hauptmann arrested in the Lindbergh baby case; Unabomber’s manifesto published; ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ premieres.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

Albert Einstein

On This Day In History September 18

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 18 is the 261st day of the year (262nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 104 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.

The Daily Late Nightly Show (Racist)

Full show, supposedly from Trevor himself (YouTube doesn’t do much checking).

You know, in times when you’ve just seen 15 Republicans (two of whom were brown and that definitely puts them two up on Democrats) spend 5 hours talking about the scary brown (probably Mooslim you know, as if their mere brownness was not threatening enough) people to know that there is a huge problem with racism in this country.

Welcome Trevor Noah.

In truth I don’t expect a radical change.  He’s barely revamping the set, all the production people Stephen didn’t scoop up are safe in their jobs and even John Hodgeman is showing up in the promos so how radical could it be?.

I expect Stephen will puff as much wind as he can in the sail.  Jon Stewart is still the executive producer of his show and what’s not to love?  Trevor, Trevor, Trevor, if he’s smart and I see nothing to indicate otherwise, will sit back and serve popcorn without the Trump bias (yes, I know he’s fundamentally a horrible human being, are you listening the the destruction he’s bringing on the Republicans?  Classic Moby and some jerk in New Hampshire is not making me change my mind.  You don’t pick your friends or family, you pick your enemies).

I want Trevor to succeed just as much as Stephen and Larry and Samantha (forget about her new show?  Shame.) and I’m willing to give him some time to work out the kinks.  It’s a big job and somebody needs to do it.

Stephen’s other guests are far less interesting- Ban Ki-Moon, and Chris Stapleton.

Tomorrow it’s Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.  If Rachel’s interview tonight is any indication bring your checkbooks and dialing fingers.

Did I mention Bernie?

The New Continuity

Tonightly we talk debate (what else) and our panel is Rory Albanese, Joy-Ann Reid, and Tom Papa.