Daley Weekly: Libero Temporarily in the Hot Seat

This might be the Daley Weekly, but I’m no Bill Daley.

I am Libero Della Piana, filling in temporarily on the Daley Weekly.

As Bill pointed out in last week’s entry, I am in the hot seat for the next few weeks as Bill goes for a much-deserved vacation. While I can hardly fill his seat, I hope to keep it warm for him while he’s gone.

I’ll try to identify important (or at least interesting to me) political and economic trends in the country and the world with a wry sense of humor and a skeptic’s eye. Well, maybe not as wry or skeptical, but I can try.

Also, as I am not deep in the swamps of the District of Columbia as Bill is, I will report on Washington from afar and add a little Gotham to my weekly musings. As far as I know there is not as of yet a complaint department here at the Daley Weekly, so please hold your grievances, at least ‘til Bill returns.

–       Libero Della Piana

Benjamin Bradlee, 1921-2014

Ben Bradlee, the seminal editor of the Washington Post, who published the Pentagon Papers, passed away this week at the age of 93. Bradlee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year from President Obama.

In the face of White House threats, Bradlee encouraged Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s daring reporting on the Watergate scandal. Bradlee and those two reporters almost certainly helped change the course of U.S. history by at least hastening the exit of President Richard Nixon.

Bradlee’s passing was noted not just for his journalistic work, but also for what he represents. He was an archetypal newsman and editor, the kind seemingly rare in today’s news biz. To the veteran anchors and newsmakers, the principled, hard-nosed newsroom editor, ready to buck the powers-that-be and back his reporters, is going the way of the dodo bird. It is with deep respect and perhaps more than a bit of nostalgia that reporters and pundits bid Bradlee adieu.

Police and Prisons

October 22 was the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. The annual day of protest took on special importance this year just two months after the high-profile killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Energized and enraged from the #FergusonOctober weekend of action a few weeks ago, activists from Atlanta, to Los Angeles, to Oakland to St. Louis took to the streets to call for justice in Brown’s killing and to say, simply, “Black Lives Matter.”

Dramatic actions to block freeways and city streets drew more press than the Day of Action has probably ever received and generated some dramatic photos.

This is on the heels of the leaking of information from the Grand Jury empanelled in the shooting of Michael Brown. For the first time we learned of police office Darren Wilson’s account of events when his testimony was leaked and reported by the New York Times. Then the autopsy was leaked. Both incidents hinted at an eventual non-indictment for Wilson, an eventuality that heightened tensions in the St. Louis are over last weekend.

Protestors and community residents continue calls for indictment of Wilson or a special prosecutor in the case, and for Department of Justice civil rights charges. The announcement that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will create an independent commission to look into the case. Tempers remain high.

Giving ICE the cold shoulder

Meanwhile around the country the “detainer” policies of the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) are being rebuffed. ICE has been in the habit of forcing local police to hold immigrant suspects to await deportation by immigration officials – even if they would not otherwise be detained.

But following some high-profile court cases that decided detainer holds were either unconstitutional or not mandatory, more and more municipalities and counties are pulling the plug on the cozy relationship between local cops and ICE.

Riker’s Island, New York City’s main jail, had an infamous ICE office where immigrants awaiting trial could be rerouted straight to deportation. But as of this week, thanks to AJS affiliate Make the Road New York, and other groups, the ICE office at Riker’s Island is closed and hardly a single county in New York still participates in cooperation with the unnecessary and patently unfair practice that was ripping families apart.

Ebola

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragedy leaning towards disaster at this point. But after listening to some of the fear mongers in the U.S., I find myself laughing, not crying or cowering in my closet.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq will infect themselves with Ebola and make their way to the U.S. to destroy Western Civilization. Never mind that intelligence and scientific experts say the idea is ridiculous, the good Senator has just exposed our Achilles’ heel to the wrongdoers. Sounds like he’s playing for the other team.

Then there is Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) who have sounded a false alarm about Mexican and Central American immigrants bringing Ebola over the Southern Border. I have to give Bill Daley credit on this one. Your very own Daley Weekly scooped this story a few weeks ago, predicting that anti-immigrant demagogues would attack refugee children at the border as Ebola spreaders. Of course, influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 in the U.S. each year, but we have priorities, right?

While the anti-scientific nonsense is flying on cable news and the halls of Washington, U.S. authorities have essentially contained Ebola after early mistakes and delays plagued Ebola response. As of this writing, one of the two nurses who contracted the disease in Dallas has been ruled Ebola-free, and a small number of others who might have been exposed to Ebola in Dallas have all been given a clean bill of health after 21 days of quarantine.

Now the first case has surfaced in New York, a doctor who recently returned from Africa has been diagnosed with Ebola. Medical officials say they have had the benefit of learning from mistakes in Dallas and are urging residents not to panic.

Airport screenings have begun in U.S. airports as well, and the CDC and White House have so far resisted the pressure to ban flights from West Africa.

Voting Rights

The Supreme Court has had a number of cases this term about laws that threaten voting rights. Ever since their 2013 ruling that gutted the enforcement of the1965 Voting Rights Act, it has been open season on voters in some parts of the country. No Tea Party-controlled legislature worth its salt missed the opportunity to pass a voter ID law, bar student voting, or otherwise try to limit the democratic franchise.

Some of those laws have made their way back to SCOTUS in the last weeks before the midterm elections. In an apparently contradictory flurry of rulings, the Supremes blocked voter-ID law in Wisconsin, blocked early voting in Ohio, and restored same-day voter registration in North Carolina.

Then there was Texas. The Roberts Court upheld the appellate court’s decision that restrictive voting laws in Texas were constitutional despite the fact they had been ruled intentionally discriminatory at trial, called an “unconstitutional poll tax” by the judge, and will disenfranchise an estimated 600,000 voters, largely blacks and Latinos.

The Nov 4, 2014 midterm elections should perhaps get an asterisk next to it:

*Millions barred from voting.

Elections

Which reminds us that the midterm election is just a little over a week away and speculation and spin has reached a fever pitch.

A few weeks ago it looked like there might be a chance the Democrats would buck all predictions and trends and hold the Senate. Mr. Daley himself even posited that an Independent Caucus might lead the Senate if neither the Dems nor the GOP can get to a majority on their own.

But the much-lauded FiveThirtyEight blog of Nate Silver gives the Republicans a 63.9 percent chance to win a majority in the Senate.

It might all come down to turn out, but more on that next week.