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Benny

Dave Dayen

Republicans Attempt to Invalidate Democratic Policy Because It’s Democratic

When the Biden administration introduced a mass student debt relief program, the main argument from the conservative attorneys general opposing it was that it was novel. No administration had used the HEROES Act to cancel student debt, though the legislation explicitly enables the education secretary to “waive or modify” student loan payments in the statute. That element of newness forms the backbone of the so-called “major questions” doctrine, which alleges that applications of statute that have large effects need to be more directly defined and authorized.

Last week, many of the same conservative attorneys general filed another suit against another Biden administration student loan plan. But this one is not new; it’s the administration’s version of a program that has been in place for over 30 years, and was initiated by a Republican president. If the Supreme Court agrees to throw out this Biden program, they’ll have made the subtext text: Democratic regulations of any kind, whether new interpretations or variations on long-settled public policy, are presumptively illegal.

The lawsuit, pursued by 11 red states led by notorious Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, asserts that Joe Biden is attempting to “avoid Congress and pass an illegal student debt forgiveness” for a second time. The target here is called Saving on a Valuable Education, or SAVE. This is the administration’s revision of income-driven repayment (IDR), something that five previous presidents have used. IDR’s intellectual foundations date back to 1955 and none other than a conservative hero, the economist Milton Friedman. The first IDR program was a pilot in 1992, under President George H.W. Bush; it was put into statute with amendments to the Higher Education Act in 1993.

Under this program, student loan repayments are based on a percentage of the income of the borrower. Those making low wages would pay a small amount, and those with a high salary would pay much more. After a set period of time (in prior programs, it has been 20 or 25 years), any remaining balance would be forgiven. In the actual statute, it’s called “income contingent repayment,” authorizing the education secretary to gather student debtors’ income information, and establishing rules to collect a percentage of that income monthly, notify borrowers of this opportunity, and forgive remaining balances at the end of the payment period.

Again, this basic structure has endured for 30 years and five presidents. It has changed substantially over time, with changes to the percentages of income used for repayment, or different time periods to become eligible for forgiveness. Neither the conservative legal establishment nor any of these 11 states had any serious complaints about it, until now.

The Biden administration’s revision of IDR is definitely pretty generous, as the Prospect has explained. SAVE cuts the percentage of income that goes to monthly payments from 10 to 5 percent, and raises the threshold of exempted income to 225 percent of the poverty line, setting the payment for someone making around $30,000 a year at $0. Forgiveness on a small loan of under $12,000 kicks in at ten years, rising gradually to 20 years for larger loans.

Income-driven repayment has over three decades of history behind it, and a crystal-clear statutory mandate.

Incidentally, SAVE was not, as some gullible media outlets have reported, a “response” from the White House to losing the mass debt cancellation case. The program was announced in January 2023, nearly six months before the Supreme Court’s ruling. There is an actual response to the Supreme Court, a negotiated rulemaking that would enable some debt relief. That’s not what the Republicans are going after in this case; they’re attacking a rule proposed 15 months ago that’s just a revision of a broad statutory mandate enshrined 31 years ago.

Since SAVE launched last August, about 7.5 million borrowers have enrolled. The Biden administration has allowed borrowers who enrolled and had already made ten years of payments for loans of $12,000 and less to immediately qualify upon enrollment for debt forgiveness, affecting about 153,000 people and $1.2 billion in relief.

The Republican AGs’ argument against SAVE is confusing. It first says that the rule and cost estimate for debt relief under SAVE was incorrect because it assumed that the previous mass debt forgiveness under the HEROES Act would have taken effect. This seems like a strange reason to invalidate an IDR program; it suggests that the Biden administration was at fault for not having a time machine to go back and rewrite the rule based on the Supreme Court’s order. (The Congressional Budget Office provided the cost estimate in the event that the mass debt forgiveness was invalidated, so that information was available.) There need not be any linkage between a mass student debt cancellation program and revised rules for an existing IDR program; that is invented by the Republican AGs.

Then the AGs have a problem with the 153,000 people getting their loans forgiven under SAVE for time served. If this is indeed a problem, the solution would presumably be to roll back the debt forgiveness for those 153,000, not invalidate the entire rule. But of course, the latter is what the AGs are seeking.

Then there’s a bit of umbrage-taking at the administration’s defiant rhetoric over using the existing statutes to confer debt relief. “The Supreme Court blocked it. They blocked it. But that didn’t stop me,” Biden said at a press event. Do Republican AGs really want to use rhetorical flourish as evidence in a court case, given their presumptive nominee for president?

Finally, we get to the substance, with the AGs claiming that there is no “substantive limit” to modifying IDR. This is the part where Republicans try to use the law to set up fake boundaries for regulations that are clearly spelled out in statute. Congress said specifically, nearly 60 years ago, that the Education Department must present a program “with varying annual repayment amounts based on the income of the borrower, paid over an extended period of time prescribed by the Secretary, not to exceed 25 years.” Congress did not say that the secretary can’t get too generous with it, or forgive too much debt. The language is plain and clear. Indeed, the only limitation is that the repayment period can’t be too long. Republicans just want to give friendly judges the chance to rewrite that.

Then there is the question of standing. How do these Republican AGs say their states are harmed by the new IDR program, and hence eligible to file this lawsuit? Incredibly, they say that their offices will be unable to “recruit and retain talent,” because they will no longer have the advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allows student borrowers who work in the public sector to have their loans canceled within ten years. This is maddening if you think for two seconds about the parameters of the program. Only people with $12,000 in debt get forgiveness after ten years under SAVE. Lawyers and paralegals in state attorney general offices don’t necessarily fit that paradigm, and if they’re saying they pay their workers $30,000 or less, then we have a much bigger scandal than the Biden administration’s debt forgiveness program.

Not to mention the fact that these AGs are attempting to stop a loan forgiveness program by pointing to a different loan forgiveness program, one which the Biden administration has managed to make minimally functional.

But fundamentally, the idea that state attorneys general are harmed when federal debt forgiveness is expanded beyond their own employees is nuts. They could just as easily claim standing to sue when someone sets up a scholarship for low-income law students. After all, those students won’t have tremendous debt burdens!

You may remember that the Supreme Court gave standing to those attempting to invalidate the mass student debt cancellation program on the basis of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA), a student loan servicer with tangential-at-best ties to the state, which definitively wanted no part of the lawsuit. The state of Missouri is not currently a party to this lawsuit, but Missouri’s attorney general Andrew Bailey says his state’s lawsuit is coming. So the same dragooning of a servicer into the case will likely ensue, something the Court lawlessly assented to last time.

But agreeing with the Republican AGs in this case would be quite a step further. Income-driven repayment has over three decades of history behind it, and a crystal-clear statutory mandate. It was enacted through the normal notice-and-comment administrative procedures (one of the complaints in the lawsuit is that the Education Department didn’t give commenters an extension to the public comment period, as if that’s a legal requirement). If the Supreme Court (which is where this will eventually end up) finds this to be an overstep of executive branch rulemaking, there will in reality be only one reason: A Democrat tried to do it.

This has major implications for governing more generally, if only one party’s rules are allowable. It’s an example of the runaway power of the judiciary over American life, and what will continue if nothing is done.

orlbucfan

Getting really tired of the fascist stupidity of these GOPuke morons, and I vote! 💩

wi65

No kidding the GQP loves fascism and is way ok with it. Mentioning dem. socialism for all Americans the GQP screams Socialism and thier heads explode 🤯

Paul ADK

It’s a knee jerk conditioned response, which is exactly what the oligarchy wants. When my sister was haranguing on homeless people, I told her that people have the right to exist, regardless of the economic system imposed on them. All people have the right to housing, and to have their basic needs met. She immediately started howling about Marxism, and how much that made her sick. No thought whatsoever behind what she was saying, all conditioned response. And it’s everywhere. All media is corporate, and it’s all manipulation, to one extent or the other. And what it’s all producing is a pack of unthinking, inhuman drones. Fascists.

My sister thinks I’m Satan. And, considering where she’s coming from, I have to take it as a compliment.

wi65

My inlaws that have fell into the cult-45 rabbit hole dont really dont mention politics around me anymore. I’ve backed them into a corner to many times and they just stopped with the proverbial huff in defeat. One of them was hospitalized with covid for two weeks and still bought into the anti vax crap.

orlbucfan

PA and wi, my baby sis is a math genius (got it from my father), and retiring HS math teacher. She’s a bit more conservative than me, but is a rock solid Democrat. You mention any FRight nonsense around her, you better duck. LOL. Don’t even get her started about DeSh1tface and the garbage in Tallahassee.

wi65

Were not alone !!! but their are days i feel like it

Benny

Israeli Newspaper Details IDF’s Creation of ‘Kill Zones’ in Gaza

Israel’s military says it has killed around 9,000 militants in Gaza since October 7—and adamantly denies targeting civilians.

But new reporting published Sunday by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz casts serious doubt on the IDF’s estimate and details how the U.S.-armed military has established combat zones that have become death traps for ordinary Gazans.

The boundaries of such “kill zones” are not clearly marked, making it almost impossible for Palestinian civilians to know whether they are entering one. An Israeli reserve officer told Haaretz that “as soon as people enter” a kill zone, “orders are to shoot and kill, even if that person is unarmed.”

“To a large extent, the tragedy in which three hostages were killed by the IDF is such a story,” the newspaper reported, “since in fleeing from their captors the three entered a kill zone in the middle of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City.”

Significant discretion is given to Israeli commanders to decide whether to open fire on people near a kill zone. Unnamed Israeli soldiers told Haaretz that “there are commanders who will shoot at a building with a suspect in it even if there are civilians in the vicinity, while other commanders will act differently.”

“For our commanders, if we identified someone in our area of operation who was not part of our forces, we were told to shoot to kill,” said one soldier. “We were explicitly told that even if a suspect runs into a building with people in it, we should fire at the building and kill the terrorist, even if other people are hurt.”

One Israeli commander described to Haaretz “incidents in which civilians tried to reach areas they thought the army had left, possibly in the hope of finding food left behind.”

“When they went to such places, they were shot, perceived as people who could harm our forces,” the commander said.

“One reason why the Israeli government, media, the Biden administration, et al. have been trying to undermine the credibility of Gazan casualty figures is to deflect from the fact that the IDF’s own figures are almost certainly bullshit.”

The new reporting points to a recent example documented by Al Jazeera in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it attacked “a terrorist” who was allegedly behind a rocket attack on southern Israel.

“Ostensibly, this was another statistic in the roster of dead Hamas militants,” Haaretz reported. “However, over a week ago, other documentation of the incident surfaced on Al Jazeera. It showed four men, not one, walking together on a wide path, in civilian clothing. There is no one nearby, only the ruins of houses where people once lived. This apocalyptic silence in the Khan Younis area was shattered by a loud explosion. Two of the men were killed instantly. Two others were wounded and tried to continue walking. Perhaps they thought they had been saved, but seconds later, a bomb was dropped on one of them. You can then see the other one falling to his knees and then, a boom, fire, and smoke.”

A senior IDF officer told the Israeli newspaper that the individuals who unwittingly entered a kill zone “were unarmed” and “didn’t endanger our forces in the area in which they were walking.” It was also not clear they were involved in the rocket attack.

“It’s quite possible that Palestinians who never held a gun in their lives were elevated to the rank of ‘terrorist’ posthumously, at least by the IDF,” Haaretz noted. As one officer who served in Gaza told the newspaper, “In practice, a terrorist is anyone the IDF has killed in the areas in which its forces operate.”

Last week, Al Jazeera published video footage showing Israeli forces gunning down two unarmed Palestinians in northern Gaza, one of whom was waving a piece of white fabric. They are believed to have entered an Israeli “kill zone.”

Israeli forces have killed more than 32,600 people in Gaza since October 7, according to Gaza health officials. One human rights monitor recently estimated that 90% of those killed were civilians, contradicting the Israeli military’s estimate of the civilian-to-militant death ratio.

“One reason why the Israeli government, media, the Biden administration, et al. have been trying to undermine the credibility of Gazan casualty figures is to deflect from the fact that the IDF’s own figures are almost certainly bullshit,” foreign policy analyst Derek Davison wrote Sunday in response to the Haaretz story.

Brianna Rosen, a senior fellow at Just Security, argued that the “kind of indiscriminate killing” detailed in Haaretz’s reporting “is illegal and falls far short of any gold standard for civilian harm.”

Benny

Yesterday, Mr. Benny and I went to see the movie One Life and it easily stirred my emotions, bringing me to tears as plot was about getting Jewish refugee children out of Prague at the beginning of WWII.

While the film concludes on a more uplifting note, it left me pondering the fate of countless children in Gaza who are unable to escape the horrors of bombs and gunfire.

I hold onto the hope that many have found safety, but I can’t help but fear for those who may not have.

orlbucfan

What more can I say except the same angry outrage over and over?🤬

Benny

orlbucfan

Hideous and sad.

Benny

Does no one think Bibi is the 21st century fascist? He and his cabinet members are definitely an abuser; one of the symptoms of an abuser is isolation.

Benny

AIPAC Says We’re Not Starving In Gaza. How Dare They?

bout three weeks ago, my parents, my two-and-a-half-year-old son, and I were diagnosed with malnutrition. Like so many other people in the north of Gaza, we have had to deal with extreme levels of exhaustion, dehydration, anxiety, and weight loss. Every day is a fight against starvation and disease. I have had the most severe symptoms, including kidney problems. But the emotional trauma that comes from seeing my child and parents in need of food and essential nutrients like dairy and protein supplements and being unable to provide anything for them is just as bad.

Every day starts with the same challenge: make it to the next day. We stumble through the destroyed city desperately trying to find food and wood to burn so we can cook what we get. Gas, electricity, and other basic supplies aren’t available.

No matter how much we try, we don’t have enough to keep us healthy. In the morning, I queue for hours to get our gallons filled with water. After midday, I attempt to find my family medication and food. Most of the time, I fail to get any of it. Finding clean drinking water is an extra burden, and usually an impossibility. We are forced to drink tainted water and to accept a trap we have no way out of: The same thing that is helping us stave off dehydration is also infecting our bodies and hurting our stomachs.

As the world knows, Israel has choked off most of the aid that could reach us. The little that does make it to the north can’t possibly meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of starving people living here. Besides, it can be a fatal risk to try and get aid. The horrific “flour massacre,” in which Israeli soldiers fired on hundreds of people trying to get flour for their families, is evidence of that. (I had thought about going to that aid convoy, but luckily decided against it.)

But it is not just Israeli aggression that endangers us. People have been killed by mishandled air-dropped aid packages. They have drowned in the sea trying to recover aid that was dropped in the water. Even the things that are supposedly there to save our lives are killing us.

Every day, I look at my son’s face and wonder if I will ever be able to get him enough food, or even milk. Will there ever be a night where he doesn’t cry himself to sleep with hunger? Will there ever be a day when he has had enough to eat? I try to keep him cheerful even as he goes hungry. I try to put a smile on his face even when there are no reasons for any of us to be smiling. I try to keep him, and my family, safe from everything that’s happening, even though there is no way for us to be truly safe right now. I feel weak, and helpless, and naïve, over and over again. And the world is watching all of this happen—watching us slowly die. The only conclusion we can reach is that our lives don’t matter all that much.

Israel and some of its supporters are working hard to pretend that none of this is happening. Benjamin Netanyahu says there is no starvation in Gaza. Palestinian Israeli politician Ayman Odeh was forcibly stopped from speaking in the Knesset after he referenced the hunger crisis. And, in the United States, the lobby group AIPAC has been pushing talking points saying that “reports that people are starving in Gaza are false.”

How dare they? At least 23 children have died from malnutrition in northern Gaza. Even the US State Department says that famine could be setting in. It is a hideous lie to say otherwise.

But you don’t need statistics or outside experts to know the truth. You just need to look at us. I want to tell these people to come to Gaza and try to spread these lies to our faces. They will see what we know: Starvation is widespread here. You can see it in our faces as you walk down the street. Nobody looks the same anymore. The toll that lack of food has taken could not be clearer.

When people deny that we are starving and dying, they are denying our very humanity—our right to the universal values of freedom, equality, and peace. We are being erased from history and existence. If that fact isn’t enough to end this nightmare—if we can’t even have our suffering acknowledged—then we should all stop pretending that we are humans who care for each other equally.

We who are left here in Gaza yearn for the day when we have the chance to live fully normal lives in our own homes and lands. Right now, our lives are pure agony. But we are determined to resist the drive to exterminate us, and to attain our basic human rights. It sometimes feels as though there is nothing to hope for right now. But in the moments that hope creeps through, it is the hope that we can one day be free, equal, and at peace—not better than anyone else, but just like people everywhere.

Benny

Benny

wi65

What did the whole population do in Gaza? start Jenny Craig at the same time? So many out of touch people.

wi65

when you add Cult-45 and Bibi you have the most dangerous people in the so called “Free World” IMOP

Paul ADK

It’s a closed system. And we can’t have anything like the truth showing its ugly head, now can we?

Paul ADK

Wow, I haven’t thought about this in years, but George Harrison wrote a verse to Hurdy Gurdy Man, a song that Donovan Leitch was working on while they were together at an ashram in India.

When the truth gets buried deep
Beneath a thousand years of sleep
Time demands a turn around
And once again the truth is found

Absolutely. That verse didn’t make the final edit but it sure fit and it still fits.

Enlightenment will find a way. It always does.

orlbucfan

Stanley Kubrick was seriously considering approaching the Beatles about doing some music for 2001: A Space Odyssey. My hubster is a yuge film nut, and Kubrick is one of his heroes. Macca probably would have leaped at something like this, but Mr. Lennon? Ahh, no way. Ole John would have been too intimidated, believe it or not. 🙂

wi65

I likedboth of the odyssey’s.

orlbucfan

T and R x 5, and thanks jcb!! ☮️🙂👍 Happy April Fool’s Day right back at ya!😂💙

Benny

orlbucfan

SloMoJoe really has some major rocks where his brains are supposed to be! 💩

Benny

Grim has been watching carefully from the sidelines but also going to the State Dept’s daily pressers and asking the hard questions.

orlbucfan

People really need to get one fact straight: Bibi Netanyaboob $$supported$$ Hamas to keep the PLO moderates from gaining too much power i.e. two-state solution, etc. So, every time I hear/read that anti-yaboob = anti-semitic BS, I silently bristle.

Benny

I got this from FB. It’s hard to imagine that anyone thinks this, but unfortunately, they live in Fox Propaganda land.

My response was that I didn’t know FDR created all of these Nazi loving Dems.

FDR would be not have spent money on Gaza like Biden has. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a quasi-Zionist, would be appalled and would tell Biden and anyone who read her books and columns this was not what the UN planned at all and would be aghast by cutting off funding to UNRWA. She was the one who led the way for US declaration of human rights.

Nazi vs Dem awful Screenshot 2024-04-02 103007.jpg
Benny

But having said that, I’m appalled most of our Democrats are supporting a fascist regime.

orlbucfan

Not me, I’m just angry and disgusted by all the stupidity. So, I do a lot of political volunteering cos it helps my BP. 🙂