We Need Our Police to Be Better Than This – Nick Gillespie 12.31.14

Yes, cops are under stress. But they’re trained to rise above emotional responses. It’s part of having the badge and the right to use force.

Lucas Jackson/ Reuters

In 1951, Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglass MacArthur during the Korean War. The two never got along, but that wasn’t why Truman canned him. “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was,” explained Truman after the fact. “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President.” You expect soldiers of all ranks to understand the need to respect the chain of command, regardless of personal feelings.

Soldiers—and cops, too.

Which is one big reason the display by members of the New York Police Department at the funeral of slain patrolman Rafael Ramos is particularly disturbing. At Ramos’ funeral service on Saturday, NYPD rank-and-file—along with members of police forces attending from around the country—turned their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his eulogy. This was a very public fuck you to a politician widely perceived by conservatives and law-and-order types as weak on crime and in the pocket of social justice warriors. Yet the cops’ protest illustrates exactly what drives so much fear of the police: the worry that cops react emotionally and impulsively in situations that call for cool rationality and a reliance on training and strategic restraint. “It wasn’t planned,” said one of the protesters. “Everyone just started doing it.”

“I certainly don’t support that action,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. “I think it was very inappropriate at that event.” Bratton—whom de Blasio appointed and who first served as commissioner under tough-guy Rudy Giuliani—is very much in the tradition of “Give ‘em Hell” Harry Truman. Which is to say that he at times lets his emotions get the best of him, as when he spuriously implicated President Obama for strained relations between police and citizens, saying that cops feel as if they “are under attack from the federal government at the highest levels.”

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Waiting For A Break: Obama on ‘Strategic Patience’ In Foreign Policy – Steve Inskeep DECEMBER 31, 2014 5:00 AM ET

President Obama has two more years in office to match his grand ambitions to the grim realities in foreign policy.

He spoke of his plans in a year-end interview with NPR, shortly before leaving Washington for the holidays. Obama defended his strategy and vision, despite continued chaos in the Middle East and Russia’s defiance of the West regarding Ukraine.

The president’s challenge is to make good on goals he has pursued for years. When we spoke, he had just restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, bypassing critics who said he was rewarding a despotic regime.

This made me curious about a still more provocative step: normalization with Iran.

Administration officials speak optimistically about reaching a final nuclear deal with Iran, though a negotiating deadline has twice been extended.

The President said that if Iran only would seize its chance to make a deal, the Islamic republic could emerge as a “very successful regional power” — an outcome that, the President knows, would dismay most of our Middle Eastern allies and many of his critics in the U.S.

Iran talks are part of Obama’s long-running effort to approach the Middle East in a fresh way. His strategy is radically different from that of his predecessor, President Bush, but their efforts have had something in common: unintended consequences.

Obama came into office criticizing the invasion of Iraq, but his more limited interventions in Libya and Syria have failed to prevent chaos. Shouldn’t the U.S. have done more?

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These are the 10 cities where the job market improved the most in the last year – Updated by Danielle Kurtzleben on December 30, 2014, 5:20 p.m. ET

It looks like the job market finally got on track at the end of this year. The last jobs report showed the fastest job growth in nearly three years. Of course, that growth isn’t evenly spread — some areas of the country are rebounding fast while others are getting worse.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department released the latest figures for metro areas, giving a better picture of the geography of the labor market’s improvement.

Cities fast job markets

Clearly, Illinois dominates this list, claiming four the top five spots, led by Decatur, whose unemployment rate fell by 4.3 percentage points, to 7.9 percent. An improving economy of course plays into that — the Decatur Herald-Review reports that employment in a range of industries, like healthcare and transportation, has grown lately, and the latest Fed Beige Book shows that the Chicago Fed District has seen a boost in manufacturing and construction.

But it might not all be good news — as that Herald-Review news story points out, people have also been leaving the labor force, which can push the unemployment rate down even when the job market isn’t really improving. And some cities simply have a lot of room for improvement — unemployment in Yuma, Arizona, dropped by 4.2 percentage points, but is still at 23.1 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, these were the cities whose job markets worsened the most this year.

Metro area unemployment rates

As in the top chart, one state dominates this list: Louisiana, claiming the eight fastest-worsening unemployment rates among US metro areas. That may in part be because payroll growth has stalled in many industries, but it could also be that people are entering the labor force — an encouraging sign — faster than they can find jobs. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune,local economists think this may be happening — just the opposite of what may be going on in Decatur, where the rate is plummeting.

The unemployment rate is the number of number of people looking for a job divided by the total size of the labor force. This means that the unemployment rate often misses a lot of discouraged people who have stopped looking for work but would love a job if they could find one.

The flipside of the unemployment rate is the employment rate, the ratio of people with jobs to the total size of the labor force. It is rare to hear anything about the employment rate. Instead, a more commonly discussed statistic is the employment-population ratio-the ratio of people with jobs to all people, including children, retirees, homemakers and others who aren’t in the labor force.

The unemployment rate rose sharply in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and has been falling since 2010. Currently it stands at 5.9 percent.

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How Financial Companies Get Around The Law That Protects Military Families by Alan Pyke Posted on December 30, 2014 at 12:55 pm Updated: December 30, 2014 at 2:37 pm



Predatory lenders are exploiting America’s armed forces families despite a nearly decade-old law that’s supposed to protect servicemembers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said this week, and the Pentagon should quickly finalize and implement a new slate of rules for lenders who do business with military families.

Holly Petraeus, the CFPB’s top official for armed services issues, sent the Department of Defense a letter just after Christmas recommending that the agency put the new rules into effect swiftly. On Monday, the agency backed up that letter with a report detailing exactly how and how often servicemembers fall prey to lending abuses that seem like they should be covered under the 2006 Military Lending Act (MLA).

The report found that military families are significantly more likely to use one or another form of deposit advance services than the overall American population. While fewer than 16 percent of the country as a whole uses such loans, according to previous CFPB research, more than 22 percent of military families take advantage of those loans. At an estimated $50 million in annual borrowing, those families are paying a combined $5 million a year in fees, according to Monday’s report.

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The Year in Uber – By Alison Griswold DEC. 30 2014 10:30 PM

The world’s brashest startup spent 2014 expanding aggressively and infuriating just about everyone.

Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images; Eric Piermont / AFP / Getty Images

In June, as protests against Uber caused traffic to snarl roads in major cities across Europe, I wrote in Slate that there had “never been a better moment to describe Uber as ‘disruptive.’ ” In the months that followed, Uber has repeatedly attempted to prove that statement wrong.

When was Uber the most disruptive this year? Maybe when the employees of the on-demand car service ordered and canceled thousands of rides from its main competitor, Lyft, as part of a plan codenamed “Operation SLOG.” Or when a senior executive suggested conducting opposition research on journalists. Or when, around the same time, it came out that certain Uber employees had access to a “God View” tool that let them track the real-time location and movements of Uber riders without their permission. Or when the Central Business District of Sydney found itself waiting out a hostage crisis, and Uber chose to quadruple its fares there.

By now, you might be sick of Uber stories. I wouldn’t fault you for that. But as much as tech and business reporters have given their readers Uber fatigue this year, the company matters. Uber and its peers—Lyft, Gett, Sidecar, and others—are attempting to fundamentally change transportation by replacing taxis and maybe even car ownership. The vision of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s colorful and often audacious CEO, goes even further. He sees Uber as the forerunner of a comprehensive on-demand economy, one in which the push of a smartphone button triggers the almost instantaneous arrival of any physical thing. “If we can get you a car in five minutes,” he has said, “we can get you anything in five minutes.” In 2014, Uber didn’t inch so much as leap and bound toward that goal.

GOP closes ranks around Scalise – By Ben Kamisar – 12/30/14 07:14 PM EST

House GOP leaders are closing ranks around Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), defending him from calls for his resignation after he admitted speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both released near simultaneous statements on Tuesday, supporting Scalise and praising his character. Boehner even went on to say that he has “my full confidence as our Whip.”

Scalise, the No. 3 GOP leader, on Tuesday released a new statement acknowledging a speech he gave to a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

He called the speech a “mistake I regret” and strongly condemned the group’s message.

Even though they’re coalescing around Scalise, the story is still an unwelcome headache for Republican leadership. Ahead of the 114th Congress’s arrival next week, they wanted the narrative to focus on the largest House GOP majority since World War II partnering with a new Senate majority to craft a unified agenda to buck President Obama.

Boehner and McCarthy’s statements also leave room for a change of heart. If the story dies down, Scalise will most likely survive. But if more damaging stories start to trickle out the GOP leader could be back on the hot seat — just like former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (La.), who resigned from leadership in 2002 under pressure over racially-charged comments.

Because the comments touch on race, they have the potential to do damage to the GOP brand at a time when the party is gearing up to attract more supporters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

House Republicans are hoping to showcase a more diverse membership when the 114th Congress gavels in next week. The GOP will welcome the first black female GOP lawmaker in party history, Mia Love (R-Utah). Fellow freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) will join her as the only two black Republican lawmakers in the House.

After the midterm elections, Scalise touted the incoming GOP freshmen as “a great new diverse group of members.”

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