‘Hard-nosed negotiator’

Paul Krugman on new Treasury director Jack Lew:

Krugman took questions from commenters here.

In the meantime, the president of Public Citizen lists seven reasons to be unhappy about Jack Lew’s nomination:

1. The Obama administration demanded no meaningful quid pro quo from the Wall Street giants it bailed out in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

2. The Obama administration has chosen not to prosecute criminally any of the leading Wall Street firms in connection with the rampant abuses that led to the 2008 financial collapse and the Great Recession.

3. The Obama administration has pursued no meaningful action to moderate, let alone end, the foreclosure crisis.

4. The Obama administration has not supported – and at crucial moments has opposed – measures to break up the goliath Wall Street banks and firms.

5. The Obama administration has opposed a financial speculation tax on Wall Street.

6. Found to have facilitated money laundering by drug traffickers, HSBC was given the opportunity to avoid pleading guilty to a crime. Instead– and emblematically–HSBC was given the kid-glove treatment of a deferred prosecution agreement.

7. Regarding the above, the last thing the Obama administration needs is to continue having Wall Street insiders and fellow travelers shaping its economic policy. Unfortunately, Lew has deep Wall Street connections. Before joining the administration he worked for both Citi Global Wealth Management and Citi Alternative Investments.

Lew’s Citi stint was relatively short – though it involved management positions at a unit involved in aggressive, speculative betting – but there’s good reason to worry that it has helped shape his views, or, in any case, that he reflects a Wall Street perspective on key economic and policy issues. At a 2010 confirmation hearing, he told the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, that he did not believe deregulation was a proximate cause of the financial crisis.

It is imperative that the administration finally break from Wall Street on economic and regulatory policy. Jacob Lew’s nomination suggests we’re in for more of the same.

One of those days

So I spent several hours trying to figure out what’s up with the embeds. Then I got to meet the wildlife guy who’s going to trap the squirrels (the ones I thought were raccoons) nesting in my crawl space. So the little bastards remain my longtime nemesis!

Then I went out to one of the local bars with a friend. We ordered crabs. When we were finished, we noticed weird black spots on the shell of my friend’s crabs. “Where are these from?” I asked the waitress.

“Mexico or Florida,” she said.

“You mean the Gulf of Mexico. Swell.”

So I just had a heaping helping of Corexit. Ugh.

Three ways gun control would have stopped Aurora shooting

Ever since the most recent shooting massacres, we’ve been subjected to wingnut pundits of every degree preaching how there were no gun laws that could have avoided them. Now The Nation’s George Zornick looks at testimony from the trial of Auroro shooter James Holmes, and describes three very sensible, common-sense ways he could have been stopped:

Tracking large-scale ammunition purchases. Steve Beggs, an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, testified that Holmes went on a buying spree starting May 10, 2012. By July 14, he had bought 6,300 rounds of ammunition, two pistols, a .223 caliber Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault weapon, a shotgun, body armor, bomb-making materials and handcuffs.

The large-scale bullet purchases are the big red flag here. Nobody is monitoring bulk ammunition purchases: Some states, like Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, have limits on the amount you can buy and ask that dealers track their sales for law enforcement, but Colorado has no such rules. And the ones that do exist can easily be evaded by buying ammunition online anyhow, which is what Holmes did.

The federal government should be able to track bulk ammunition sales—there is clearly a controlling public interest when somebody is assembling an arsenal that could support a small militia. If authorities had even briefly question Holmes about why he was stockpiling so many weapons, it’s almost a certainty they would have noticed his extremely bizarre behavior: He was reportedly almost incoherent in the weeks leading up to the attack. The White House is said to be considering a national database to track the sale and movement of weapons, and it should absolutely include ammunition, too.

Online sales of ammunition should also be banned or highly regulated, since they create an easy way for people to stockpile dangerous weapons without ever showing their face. A 1999 bill in Congress to regulate the online sale of ammunition was never adopted, but should be now.

Better mental health screenings for weapons purchases. Holmes was not only stockpiling weapons but, as noted, exhibiting excessively strange behavior. He left a voicemail at a local gun range asking if he could join, but the message was reportedly incomprehensible. “It was this very guttural, very heavy bass, deep voice that was rambling incoherently,” the owner of the range told The New York Times. “It was bizarre on a good day, freakish on others.” Only weeks before his rampage, Holmes’ psychiatrist was alerting police at his university about his behavior—a drastic step for any mental health professional to take.
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