Province, Justice Edwards clarification on ruling regarding indigenous child with cancer allows family to “proceed with peace of mind”
BRANTFORD – A joint submission from the Attorney General in Brantford today seeking clarification on Justice Edwards decision regarding a Six Nations family’s right to utilize Ongwehonwe Onongwatri:yo (indigenous medicines) was heard this afternoon. Justice Edwards had the following clarifications: -that Aboriginal right to indigenous medicines must be respected and considered when analyzing the […]
Jeb Bush is rapidly losing weight, and the New York Times is on it. The former Florida governor has lost 30 pounds since December on the Paleo diet, the fad du jour where you eat only things cavemen ate, like rocks and dirt and the flesh and brains of your vanquished foes from the nearby heathen tribe. Also: salad.Bush was never really fat-fat, but he apparently thought he was, and he definitely was by the stringent standards of New York Times reporters. Now, thanks to a diet of relative self-starvation and regular exercise, Jeb Bush has burned back the excess flab to carve out the more respectable figure of a famished ghoul. “Mr. Bush has started buying a new wardrobe to replace oversize shirts,” the Times writes, “and having wide pants that no longer fit his diminished figure taken in.” (Yes, and may we add that he needs to iron out the creases of those new shirts. Jeb!)
The Times can’t simply write a lifestyle story about Jeb’s diet and exercise and leave it at that, though. It has to throw in the political dimension, and it does so in spectacular fashion:
The rigid abstemiousness runs the risk of putting him at a dietary distance from an American electorate that still binges on carbohydrates and, after eight years of a tea-sipping president, craves a relatable eater-in-chief.
It is a proud tradition for campaign reporters based in New York or Washington to worry on behalf of the candidates about how the fat, vulgar slobs of middle America will receive them. It is the conventional wisdom among top reporters that a full 100% of the electorate in Iowa, in addition to being functionally illiterate and hypnotized by some obscure mystical persuasion called “religion,” eats nine pounds of cheeseburger-flavored pancake pies soaked in butter per day. The traditional Heartland nightcap is a 64-ounce cup of uncut trans fats, and sodium.And if the candidate doesn’t eat the same things that these disgusting, gluttonous cretins eat, they will chase the candidate down with pitchforks and AR-15s and other makeshift family-heirloom death weapons and kill him for being “fancy.” Or perhaps they will just eat you — how Paleo! – so insatiable and primitive are their appetites. (The other side to this conventional wisdom, of course, is that you can’t be too fat. Ideally you want to be 22, 23 pounds overweight if you wish to become President of the United States.)
The idea that Jeb’s elitist diet-and-exercise regimen may thwart his ability to “relate” to the drooling, carb-hoovering, bedridden trolls of Real America brings to mind stories from two election cycles ago, when the “tea-sipping president” was running his first presidential campaign.
“Too Fit To Be President? Facing an Overweight Electorate, Barack Obama Might Find Low Body Fat a Drawback.” This was an August 1, 2008 story from the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Chozick, now the New York Times’ Hillary Clinton reporter.
“Listen, I’m skinny but I’m tough,” Sen. Obama said.
But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.
The candidate has been criticized by opponents for appearing elitist or out of touch with average Americans. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July shows Sen. Obama still lags behind Republican John McCain among white men and suburban women who say they can’t relate to his background or perceived values.
It was damaging enough that Barack Obama was physically fit. On top of that, the few things he did eat were offensively fancy. See, out there in god-fearing Iowa, they don’t take kindly to vegetables, the thinking went. But if you’re going to eat something green, it had better be good old iceberg lettuce – not “ay-roo-gulla,” whatever Devil’s green that is. We refer you back to the original 2007 New York Times story that launched a thousand right-wing culture war memes:
One line that landed a little flat, though, was when Mr. Obama sympathetically noted that farmers have not seen an increase in prices for their crops, despite a rise in prices at the supermarket.
“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” the senator said. “I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.”
The state of Iowa, for all of its vast food production, does not have a Whole Foods, a leading natural and organic foods market. The closest? Omaha, Minneapolis or Kansas City.
Skinny, physically fit Barack Obama, eating his rich man’s lettuce, purchased at a supermarket unknown to immobile Iowans without the means to venture more than a mile or two from their hometowns over the course of a lifetime. So damaging was this gaffe and the smug, cosmopolitan lifestyle it represented that Barack Obama went on to win the Iowa caucuses decisively. He would also win Iowa in both the 2008 and 2012 general elections.
All of which is to say that when the New York Times writes, “after eight years of a tea-sipping president,” the electorate “craves a relatable eater-in-chief,” it is quite possibly making an unfounded assertion.
Liberland: Hundreds of Thousands Apply to Live in the World's Newest—Very Tiny—Libertarian 'Country'
Accessible only by car via miles of winding, dusty Croatian roads, Gornja Siga – current population zero – is an unlikely testing ground for a plan to shape the world’s political future. It is a secluded area where verdant forest meets white sand on a western bank of the river Danube. The only signs of life are a single dilapidated building with a curious flag flying outside, pheasants, deer, the occasional wild boar, and eagles and falcons overhead.Yet last Monday the Eurosceptic Czech politician Vit Jedlicka and two other libertarians declared this 7 sq km (2.7 sq miles) of Serbo-Croat no-man’s-land the world’s newest sovereign state, naming it Liberland. Despite abstaining in Liberland’s first presidential election, Jedlicka emerged victorious, thanks to votes from his fellow founding father and Liberland’s founding mother (also his girlfriend, and now the nation’s first lady). Then things began to get weird.
In the week since Liberland announced its creation and invited prospective residents to join the project, they have received about 200,000 citizenship applications – one every three seconds – from almost every country in the world.
Prospective citizens are also offering Liberland their expertise in areas from solar power and telecoms to town planning and coin minting. “There is a spontaneous ordering taking place,” Jedlicka says. “People have planned the whole city in three days and others really want to move in and invest … what seemed like a dream now really looks possible.”
Liberland’s only stipulations are that applicants respect individual rights, opinions and private property, and have no criminal record or Nazi or Communist party background.
Jedlicka says: “The model citizen of Liberland would be [American founding father] Thomas Jefferson, which is why we established the country on his birthday. Citizens will be able to pursue happiness and this is the place where we can make this happen.”Crucial to this flourishing, he believes, is fiscal policy. Liberland is the dream of a man whose earlier membership of the Czech Civic Democratic party and current loyalty to the Free Citizens party puts him firmly on the right. Staunchly anti-EU, Jedlicka says he has “pretty close relations” with the Swiss People’s party and “will meet with British politicians to discuss Nigel Farage’s plans to leave the EU”.
“Taxation will be optional and people will only finance specific development projects,” says Jedlicka. “We have to see how the foreign ministries react and we need to explain to them the kind of prosperity we can bring to the region. It will bring in money from all over the world: not only to Liberland, which would be a tax haven, but to the whole area. We could turn this area into a Monaco, Liechtenstein or Hong Kong.
“We have decided to start from scratch and show how little state is needed to make society work. The media calls us rightwing but we are not: we are not here for the rich; we are not here for the poor; we are here for everybody. This project has something for everybody and that’s the fantastic thing about it.
“We are a nation of people who are not happy with the recent status quo, with state interference and high taxation. And what really makes a nation if not a common feeling and approach to something?”
Jaromir Miskovsky is one of the small team processing the flood of applications at Liberland’s temporary “embassy” in Prague’s second district. “The variety of people showing interest in Liberland is amazing,” he says. “A French policeman has volunteered; a Montenegrin lawyer has said he will help us with the constitution and serve as a judge. We have an Egyptian plumber and a German data management professional.
“We don’t ask any unnecessary questions regarding sexuality or personal matters: we are an open society for everyone. So many diverse people are being brought together by the idea of liberty.”
Liberland is located in an area between Croatia and Serbia over which neither country has ever held full sovereignty. A bilateral dispute first arose in 1947, but was less pressing due to their status as members of the Yugoslavian super-state. Gornja Siga is now the largest of the disputed areas flanking the Danube to which neither country has staked a claim.
“The crucial issue will be relations with Croatia and Serbia,” Jedlicka says. “We really want to help them solve their problems. We will invite both presidents to discuss border relations because Croatia has formally closed its borders with Liberland, which is reasonable from them as they are in the Schengen zone, although with this move we could also say they have recognised us.”
Liberland already has a motto – “Live and let live” – and its own flag. “The yellow in the flag represents liberty, blue the Danube and black represents our resistance against the system. The tree stands for abundance, the bird for freedom and the sun energy,” Jedlicka says. A national anthem is currently being composed by a straight-edge Czech rapper.
“The legal system will incorporate good habits from other countries: Switzerland, Britain, Estonia, some parts of the US constitution,” he adds. Liberland will have a government of “10 to 20 members and a police force, but will not have an army, operating an open-border policy”. An official cryptocurrency along the lines of bitcoin is planned and state debt will be banned under the constitution.
Jedlicka says a key formative experience that led to Liberland was seeing his father’s company go bankrupt when the Czech Republic’s central bank arbitrarily raised its interest rates by 25%. “I was pretty young at the time and they were troubled times for my family, so I wanted to find out what was really behind this, so I went to study at the CEVRO Institut, Central Europe’s only libertarian university.”
Last year he stood in the European parliament elections for the rightwing Free Citizens but missed out after being placed fourth on the party’s list, which then gained only one seat.
Jedlicka opposes the “corporatism” of the European Union. “It is simply not true that we have to be in the EU to trade with Europe. We could just be part of EFTA [European Free Trade Association] and a member of the Schengen zone. With [the possibility of] Great Britain leaving the EU and Greece going bankrupt, this is a little bigger than just this piece of land. We are setting a model for other countries to find a new way to structure societies,” he says, revealing that “we have already had one [southern European] country approach us officially”.
Jedlicka argues that “every state was originally set up on terra nullius and just as the human mind has no limits, there is no end to how many people could live here: it only depends how high we can build.”
This week, four vacationing Swedish police officers, Samuel Kvarzell, Markus Asberg, Eric Jansberger and Erik Naslund, happened to be on a New York City subway train when a fight broke out among two apparently homeless men.
Despite the fact that the four officers were obviously not on duty and far out of their own jurisdiction, they intervened and nonviolently subdued both men, taking extreme care to not harm either of them. The officers repeatedly asked the men if they were injured, and told them everything would be okay and they needed to calm down.
Watch video of the incident filmed through a cell phone camera:
It seems the New York Police Department and other police officers around the nation could learn a thing or two from these Swedish police officers.
Rockstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson revealed how, not only has it become officially cool to be a science geek, but some of the coolest pop culture figures—Jon Stewart anyway—started out as geeks.
Stewart was a chemistry major and even had a favorite element: Carbon! Why? Because it combines easily with all the other elements. "It is," Stewart has quipped, "the slut of the periodic table."
Other important geeky questions for deGrasse Tyson? Who wins, Superman or Batman? It should probably come as no surprise that the famed astrophysicist has indeed thought about this, as well as why we're not going to be living on Mars any time soon, or really, ever.
Paul Krugman has a little fun in his Friday column, using an extended zombie metaphor to express a rather serious point. The question the columnist seeks an answer to: why is it that Republicans and the right refuse to recognize the reality, evidence and facts that discredit their ideas? Must be something supernatural. Or more likely Koch and Adelson money. But more on that in a sec.
"Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination," Krugman begins. "Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it’s pretty much the same thing."
Christie gave a speech in New Hampshire once again positioning himself as a roll-up-your-shirtsleeves, tough fiscal conservative. But his ideas are largley, well, zombies. Things that are dead, but somehow refuse to acknowledge they are dead. Christie thought he was being so smart when he proposed that the minimum age for Social Secutiry and Medicare be raised to 69. Here is Krugman's explanation of the problem with that oh-so-brave idea.
This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.
And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.
But did this evidence of it being a bad idea prevent other zombies, like Jeb Bush, from offering up the same thing? No it did not. "The zombie ideas have eaten his brain," Krugman explains.
There are other zombie ideas running around, like one of Krugman's favorites, the hysteria over the Affordable Care Act and how it was supposed to destroy the economy.
But as with movie zombies, no amount of arrows, bullets, or other deathblows makes the slightest dent in the discourse on the right. Voodoo economics is even back, says Krugman. That is the whole "supply-side" trickle down nonsense that tax cuts on the rich lifts all boats.
In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure. Despite confident right-wing predictions of doom, neither the Clinton tax increase of 1993 nor the Obama tax increase of 2013 killed the economy (far from it), while the “Bush boom” that followed the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 was unimpressive even before it ended in financial crisis. Kansas, whose governor promised a “real live experiment” that would prove supply-side doctrine right, has failed even to match the growth of neighboring states.
In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo’s grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. Tax proposals like Marco Rubio’s would create a giant hole in the budget, then claim that this hole would be filled by a miraculous economic upsurge. Supply-side economics, it’s now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.
Time for an explanation for this apparent zombie apocalypse in the Republican Party. Reason number one, Krugman suggests, is that Republicans represent states where the threat from the right is more real than any threat from the left, so it costs them nothing to move to the right. And then there's the fact that Koch money and Sheldon Adelson money only go to those who perpetuate outright untruths about taxes, Obamacare, the environment, and on and on.
While Hillary Was Secretary of State, Foreign Corporations in Favor of TPP Paid Bill over a Million Dollars
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has divided the Democratic Party, with most Democrats in Congress and activists in the country opposing the agreement as party elites such as Barack Obama are supporting it.
One major Democrat who has refused to outright support or oppose the agreement in its current form is Hillary Clinton. “Well, any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,” she told the New Hampshire local media. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.”
However, as Secretary of State, she was part of the negotiating team for the deal, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. In a statement she gave in the summer of 2012, she said the agreement would “benefit” the United States. Watch it:
These actions stood in sharp contrast to Clinton's rhetoric during her 2008 bid for the presidency, where she sharply criticized free trade agreements.
There are likely a number of factors for why Clinton went from a critic of these corporate-written trade agreements to a supporter while in the Obama administration to more or less neutral today. But one very important factor for voters to know about is the role her own personal wealth might have played in the matter.
Because spousal income is shared, cabinet officials are required to report not only their own personal financial data but also incoming income their spouse receives. While Clinton was Secretary of State, her husband continued his lucrative corporate speaking tour, receiving millions of dollars from both foreign and domestic corporations.
Many of these corporations were themselves enthusiastic supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We have listed them below:
· COPARMEX: COPARMEX is the Mexican Employers' Association, representing 36,000 different companies in Mexico. In October 2009, it gave a $235,000 honorarium to Bill Clinton. It has in Mexico been a voice for promoting the TPP.
· The Mexico Business Summit: Clinton spoke at the Mexico Cumbre De Negocios Business Summit in October 2010, getting two payments totaling $400,000. The summit brings together a who's who of Mexican business elite every year; it has used past conferences to put on panels and presentations in support of the TPP.
· The Mexican Banking Association (MBA): In April 2010, the MBA hosted Bill Clinton for $340,000. One of the MBA's banker center chiefs is Manuel Zuzueta Villavicencio, who is a director at HSBC in Mexico. HSBC, which famously was treated with kid gloves after being caught laundering drug money for Mexican cartels, has put outreports boosting the TPP and other trade agreements as beneficial for the economy.
· Yum! Restaurants International: Yum gave $160,000 to Bill Clinton in a May 2011 speaking arrangement. Its executive Ann Grapin has been given access to the TPP even while ordinary Americans and others around the world have been denied access to the text.
· The Ontario Chamber Of Commerce (OCC): In November of 2011, Clinton gave a speech at the OCC that netted Clinton $175,000. The very same month, the OCC put out a statement supporting the Canadian government's move to join the TPP.
· Oracle Corporation (In Mexico): For a speech to Oracle Corporation in Mexico, Clinton nabbed $200,000 in October 2012. Oracle has joined many other corporations in lobbying in favor of TPP.
Altogether, these payments total $1,510,000. These are only the foreign corporations that supported TPP and gave to the Clintons – it is important to highlight their wealth transfers to the Clintons because they are prohibited from donating directly to American political campaigns (absent the ones who have branches in the United States). There is, however, no prohibition on them giving personal financial benefits to American ex-presidents.
A whole host of American corporations also have feted the Clintons since they left the White House in 2000, particularly those on Wall Street, giving them over $100 million in wealth generated entirely from paid speaking engagements for the benefit of primarily corporate audiences. Many of these domestic corporations, it goes without saying, are enthusiastic backers of the TPP.
None of this is to say that Clinton's ever-changing positions on trade are solely due to money flowing into her joint bank account – but it does raise the question of some very serious conflicts of interest.
Video Contradicts Police Claims About Black Man Who Died in Jail Cell After Arrest For Sagging Pants
A newly released video – which contradicts police reports – shows a black Louisiana man lying facedown and unresponsive in a jail cell where he died after officers shocked him with a stun gun.
Sheriff’s deputies were called Nov. 26, 2013, to a Port Allen gas station, where 38-year-old Ervin Leon Edwards and his girlfriend were arguing, reported The Advocate.
The couple had calmed down by the time deputies arrived, but they questioned Edwards about his “sagging” pants – which are banned in the city – and then arrested him.
Police said Edwards was combative after he was placed in handcuffs and threatened to kill officers, and an officer threatened to use a stun gun to subdue him.
Edwards’ girlfriend begged officers not to use a stun gun, telling them Edwards suffered from high blood pressure, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed last year by the man’s family.
Family members also said Edwards was partially deaf and mentally disabled.
Officers did not use the stun gun against Edwards at the gas station, but a Port Allen police officer eventually shocked him inside the West Baton Rouge Jail cell.
Officer Dustin McMullan, of Port Arthur police, said he used the stun gun for its full five-second cycle but re-holstered the weapon because it did not appear to have any effect on Edwards, the newspaper reported.
McMullan claimed in an incident report that he helped other officers use “empty hand control techniques” to remove the restraints from Edwards’ ankles and hands before leaving the cell.
The incident report also claims a deputy checked on Edwards after he was left alone in the cell and found him breathing and moving his arms.
However, the video directly contradicts the officer’s claims.
The grainy video footage does not clearly show how many times Edwards was shocked, but it shows McMullan kept the stun gun pressed against the inmate’s buttocks in “stun drive” mode for more than a minute.
Edwards stopped moving a short time later and never budged afterward, and the video shows officers left him alone in the cell for about 10 minutes without examining him.
Officers occasionally peeked through a window in the cell door but did not render any medical assistance to Edwards as he lay unconscious on the floor – which law enforcement experts said violated corrections standards.
An internal review of the incident found no criminal wrongdoing, but the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office has turned over its findings to the U.S. Department of Justice for examination.
Edwards’ cause of death was classified as “undetermined” and officially a result of “acute cocaine and phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication in association with restraint by law enforcement,” according to the autopsy report.
Law enforcement experts said Edwards – who was described in the autopsy report as morbidly obese – likely died as a result of “excited delirium,” a controversial diagnosis to describe in-custody deaths involving drug intoxication, struggles with police, and the suspect’s health.
“The drugs didn’t kill him,” said his mother, Viney Edwards. “The police killed him.”
Watch the video posted online by The Advocate:Related Stories
David Petraeus Gets 2 Years Probation for Sharing Classified Info With Mistress -- Why Don't Whistleblowers Get Off So Easy?
Washington (AFP) - Former CIA chief David Petraeus was given two years' probation and fined $100,000 on Thursday for providing classified secrets to his mistress, capping a dramatic fall from grace for the man feted for changing the course of the Iraq war.
Petraeus, a decorated four-star general and the most revered commander of his generation, pleaded guilty in a North Carolina court, avoiding a trial that would have cast an embarrassing light on details of his affair and his flouting of secrecy laws.
The Justice Department had previously said that Petraeus had acknowledged giving eight "black books" -- logs he kept as the US commander in Afghanistan -- to his lover and biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Petraeus "admitted to the unauthorized removal and retention of classified information and lying to the FBI and CIA about his possession and handling of classified information," acting US Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said, in a statement following sentencing.
"Petraeus was sentenced to a two-year probationary term and was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine."
He had been expected to admit his guilt after signing a plea deal.
The five-by-eight inch notebooks were meant to serve as source material for Broadwell's book about the general, "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."
The notebooks included his daily schedule, classified notes, the identities of covert officers, details about US intelligence capabilities, code words, summaries of National Security Council sessions, and accounts of his meetings with President Barack Obama, according to court documents.
The black books contained "Top Secret" and "national defense information," it said.
An official Defense Department historian gathered up classified papers that Petraeus had collected while in uniform but the general never provided the notebooks to the historian as required.
Instead, Petraeus kept the notebooks in a rucksack, he told Broadwell in a conversation that she recorded.
"They are highly classified, some of them... I mean there's code word stuff in there," the general told her.
Petraeus later emailed Broadwell promising to give her the notebooks and personally delivered them to a residence where she was staying in Washington DC. He retrieved the black books a few days later and kept them at his home.
In October 2012, FBI agents questioned Petraeus at CIA headquarters while he was still director. The retired general told them he had never provided any secret information to Broadwell -- a lie that he acknowledged in his plea deal.
Passing the sensitive information to Broadwell and then keeping the notebooks at his home clearly violated his legal obligation to safeguard classified information, authorities said.
None of the classified information appeared in Broadwell's book, which was published by Penguin in 2012.
Civil liberties advocates said the treatment of Petraeus reveals a double standard by government prosecutors, as more junior personnel who tried to blow the whistle on wrongdoing had faced much tougher treatment.Related Stories
California’s report said $440 million. New Jersey’s said $600 million. In Pennsylvania, the tally is $700 million. Those Wall Street fees paid by public workers’ pension systems have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.
“Less than one‐half of the very substantial [private equity] costs incurred by U.S. pension funds are currently being disclosed,” says the report from CEM, whose website says the financial analysis firm "serve(s) over 350 blue-chip corporate and government clients worldwide."
Currently, about 9 percent -- or $270 billion -- of America’s $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. With the financial industry’s standard 2 percent management fee, that quarter-trillion dollars generates roughly $5.4 billion in annual management fees for the private equity industry -- and that’s not including additional “performance” fees paid on investment returns. If CEM’s calculations are applied uniformly, it could mean taxpayers and retirees may actually be paying double -- more than $10 billion a year.
Public officials are overseeing this massive payout to Wall Street at the very moment many of those same officials are demanding big cuts to retirees' promised pension benefits.
“With billions of public worker and taxpayer dollars put at risk in the highest-cost, most opaque investment schemes ever devised by Wall Street for a decade now, investigations that hold Wall Street profiteers accountable are long, long overdue,” said former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Ted Siedle.
Private equity firms have argued that their fees are worth the expense, because they supposedly deliver returns for investors that beat low-fee index funds which track the broader stock market. But those private equity returns are typically self-reported by the firms over the life of those longer-term investments, meaning there are few ways to verify whether the returns are real. Indeed, a recent study from George Washington University argued that private equity firms are using their self-reporting authority to mislead investors into believing their returns are smoother and more consistent than they actually are.
In a 2014 speech, the SEC’s top examiner, Andrew Bowden, sounded the alarm about undisclosed fees in the private equity industry, saying the agency had discovered “violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time” at firms it had evaluated.
To date, however, the SEC has taken few actions to crack down on the practices, but some states are starting to step up their oversight.
In New Jersey, for instance, pension trustees announced a formal investigation of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration after evidence surfaced suggesting that the Republican administration has not been disclosing all state pension fees paid to financial firms.
In Rhode Island, the new state treasurer, Seth Magaziner, a Democrat, recently published a review of all the fees that state’s beleaguered pension fund has paid. The analysis revealed that the former financial firm of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is charging the state’s pension fund the highest fee rate of any firm in its asset class.
In Pennsylvania, the new Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf used his first budget address to call for the state “to stop excessive fees to Wall Street managers.”
These moves are shining a spotlight on one of the most lucrative yet little-noticed Wall Street schemes. With so much money at issue – and with pensioners retirement income on the line -- that scrutiny is long overdue.
David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." Email him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website atwww.davidsirota.com.
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Dade City, FL– In body camera footage that was released on Wednesday, a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy is seen shooting and killing a woman’s dog, because of a burglar alarm going off.
The deputy arrived at Carla Gloger’s home after a silent alarm was tripped. The officer barely attempted to open the gate to her long driveway, and instead hopped a fence to get onto the property, ignoring warning signs about the woman owning dogs. Gloger maintains that the situation may have been very different had the officer opened the gate and drove up the driveway.
As he approached the home, the deputy saw Gloger’s two Rottweilers running towards him. As they did, the officer pulled out his service weapon and shot one of the animals.
Fox13 decided to withhold the full footage, apparently favoring sheltering people from very real dangers of police being called to your home, even if you have done nothing wrong. In the withheld footage, the dog reportedly yelps in pain as Gloger runs out of her home yelling “You shot my dog!”
Gloger yelled at the officer to “shoot him all the way,” as her pet limped around injured. The officer eventually complied, shooting the dog in the head, killing him.
The deputy insists the dog came right at him and that he was “defending himself” for her dog running at him, on her property, which he trespassed on.
“I haven’t slept for days. I haven’t eaten. It’s hard for me to even come out,” Gloger told Fox13. “I freaked out. I was like, ‘oh my God, of all people, I would never think a sheriff would trespass, come over the gate, not unlatch it, and come in and just shoot my dog.'”
The department is fully defending the officer’s actions, and even going as far as saying that the dogs attacked the deputy. The sheriff clearly must have watched a different video.
“We’re negligent if we don’t go to that house and God forbid something happens to her. It’s our duty to go out there and do everything we can to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Sheriff Chris Nocco told FOX 13. “It’s an unfortunate situation that these dogs attacked our deputy.”
According to an unofficial count done by Ozymandias Media, an independent research group, a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes.
In January, we reported on an Australian postman, armed only with a DriftHD 1080P Camera and some dog treats, who showed just how easy it is to traverse a neighborhood full of dogs without shooting them. It should be required viewing for police departments nationwide.
Watch the video here.
What do Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal all have in common? They’re all sitting governors who’d like to be president, sure. But what else?
How about being embarrassingly bad at job creation? That’s right. From January 2011 through January 2015, Louisiana under Jindal ranked 32nd in job creation with 5.4 percent growth over four years. Wisconsin under Walker ranked 35th, with 4.85 percent growth. New Jersey under Christie ranked 40th, with 4.15 percent growth. This compares with a national average of 8.21 percent.
Even Ohio’s John Kasich, who’s worked more with Democrats—most notably by agreeing to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare—and thus tarnished his brand with conservative purists while puffing himself up with Beltway pundits — only ranked 23rd. He’s still under the national average, with Ohio’s 6.23 percent growth. Ohio has yet to get back to 2007 employment levels, “The nation and the majority of other states reached this benchmark in 2014,” said researcher Hannah Halbert, in a statement from Policy Matters Ohio.
And then there’s Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, once a 2016 hopeful cheered on by Grover Norquist and supported by supply-side icon Arthur Laffer in his crusade to slash (and eventually abolish) Kansas state income tax—a sure-fired job-creation move, according to the promises of all concerned. Justly dubbed a “failed experiment” for the massive deficits it has generated, the experiment also produced only lackluster job growth of 5.95 percent, ranking 28th in the nation—better than Walker and Christie, sure, but lower than its neighbors in Nebraska (25th) and Oklahoma (14th).
After years on end of House Speaker John Boehner whining, “Where are the jobs?” this is a singularly unimpressive lot of contenders, wannabes and dropouts. But it’s not an anomaly, as we’ll soon see. Nor is it an anomaly that the national press, so far, routinely ignores this abysmal record. But can they continue to ignore it going forward—particularly in the age of social media?
Historically, state governors have been the most credible candidates for president. Eight sitting governors have been elected to the White House, compared to just three sitting senators, and four vice presidents (compared to eight who took office after a president died). As chief executive of a state, governors can claim an experience most similar to that of president (though without the foreign policy part), and the potential diversity of that experience purportedly allows for an influx of proven practical state-level solutions to be ushered onto the national stage.
At least that’s how the political folklore goes. Now, however, it’s something of the opposite. With the off-year Tea Party wave of 2010 sweeping a large number of ideologically extreme politicians into office, decades of right-wing state-level institution-building reached fruition, and helped establish a high degree of uniformly mistaken economic practices—cutting taxes, public investment and much-needed services, all in accordance with a playbook that’s a proven loser. While individual presidential candidates can be expected to blow their own horns, the fact that their basic playbooks are all so similar opens them up to a broader attack: the entire framework of how they think about economic policy simply doesn’t work.
Of course, the GOP’s problem is much bigger than just its current crop of governors, but the pattern of their failures open it up to a new line of attack—provided those failures are seen for what they are. The GOP field can be thought of in terms of three main factions: The governors, all reelected, hence “proven”—with former governors Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee thrown in; the first-term (hence “green” and résumé-thin) senators (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio), and the assorted wild cards (Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, etc.) The senators enjoy the prominence of acting on a national stage, but doing so as part of a particularly dysfunctional Congress hardly sets them up to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, JFK or even Barack Obama. Moreover, their relentless attacks on Obama seem custom made to be turned back on them: Was he too young, in need of seasoning? Lacking in executive experience? A glib, superficial media star? Really, Tea Party children of Sarah Palin? Really?
Every cheap shot the freshman GOP senators have taken, endorsed or profited from directed at Obama is now a heat-seaking missile ready to turn back on them. The wild cards are there to make the senators look … well, senatorial, if not presidential. They are a sign of normal politics’ failure. The governors are supposed to be the remedy to all this—normal politics getting back on track, recalling the promise of George W. Bush, after the GOP’s Clinton impeachment fiasco (never mind the details of how that turned out….). That’s why this crop of governors’ not-ready-for-prime-time economic records are particularly devastating: this is supposed to be their strong suit, both as governors and as Republicans. Instead, it is neither.
It’s not just the embarrassing job-creation numbers, though that alone should be enough to disqualify the whole lot of them. New Jersey has just experienced its ninth bond downgrade under Christie, who may end up looking for a bridge to hide under. In Wisconsin, Walker, facing a two-year deficit that could go as high as $2 billion, has responded with $300 million in cuts for higher education, on top of billions in previous education cuts. Still, job creation was supposed to be Walker’s big thing—he promised to create 250,000 jobs in four years when he first ran in 2010, but came up short by more than 100,000 jobs. Making matters worse are the neighborhood comparisons. Wisconsin ranked between 29th and 41st in job growth over the last four years, the worst in the Midwest three of those years, and second worst the other. In fact, the state performed poorly on a whole host of indicators used by Bloomberg News, and suffers markedly in contrast with neighboring Minnesota, where progressive policies have that state’s economy recovering nicely.
Perhaps the pundits are still dazzled by these guys, but folks at home, not so much. Neither Christie nor Walker has any traction in beating Hillary Clinton in head-to-head home state matchups, probably the only kind of polls this early with any potential long-term 2016 value, since they involve figures well-known to the public being polled. Then again, Walker’s job approval fell to 41 percent in the latest Marquette Law poll (56 percent disapprove), which has plenty of other bad news for him as well.
In contrast, Kasich does show signs of life, but the modest dose of political pragmatism he’s shown is hardly what the GOP base is looking for, nor is he actually doing that well. Other ambitious GOP governors should really be thinking about reality TV. Bobby Jindal? (Budget cuts to higher education that “would set us back generations,” according to GOP House Speaker Chuck Kleckley?) Mike Pence? Sam Brownback?
To really appreciate how bad this field is, we need a bit more context. First, let’s be clear, the GOP’s perceived advantage on the economy is entirely a matter of illusion. In his book, “They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,” investigative historian Erik Zuesse shows that “Democratic economic superiority extends not only to the performance of the stock markets, but also to employment, wages, economic equality, and all other major economic variables,” as he explained in a 2012 column for Business Insider.
The GOP stock market record is particularly noteworthy, since it’s the epitome of what they’re supposed to do best at. However, Zuesse notes, “each one of the nine separate studies (all of the studies that have been done) of the performance of U.S. stock markets under Republican versus under Democratic presidents and congresses, has shown consistent and overwhelming superiority of economic performance with Democrats in the White House, and also with Democrats in Congress, as compared to Republicans.”
There’s also a considerable gap between polarized economic policy debates in Washington and a relatively cohesive consensus among most econmists, as pointed out by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, writing for Bloomberg in 2012 (“The U.S. Economic Policy Debate Is a Sham”). They reference an ongoing survey of leading economists conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, including economists of both parties as well as independents. They note that “92 percent agreed that the stimulus succeeded in reducing the jobless rate,” a point that Republican politicians routinely ridicule. (When repeated in 2014, 97 percent agreed.) “On the harder question of whether the benefit exceeded the cost, more than half thought it did, one in three was uncertain, and fewer than one in six disagreed,” they add. (By 2014, just 6 percent disagreed.) As for the “Laffer Curve,” and the GOP claim that tax cuts will pay for themselves by the growth they produce, Stevenson and Wolfers reported, “The Booth poll couldn’t find a single economist who believed that cutting taxes today will lead to higher government revenue — even if we lower only the top tax rate.”
Two other more recent results are worth mentioning. Democrats have long favored infrastructure spending as a way to stimulate the economy and raise average incomes. Before Obama took office, Republicans agreed, but no longer. In May 2013, 89 percent of economists agreed, just 5 percent disagreed. Later that same year, 91 percent agreed that a U.S. debt default would mean that “U.S. families and businesses are likely to suffer severe economic harm,” even as some Republicans said it would be a good thing to default. Just 3 percent disagreed.
The Booth expert polling results aren’t monolithic, nor are they necessarily infallible—orthodox economists were blindsided by the financial collapse in 2008, after all. But the degree to which key articles of GOP economic faith clash with overwhelming expert judgment is staggering—and there’s nary a hint of it in most of the media. It’s a disconnect reminiscent of global warming, but much less widely recognized.
Indeed, pundits as a class have internalized the notion of the GOP as the “daddy party,” the one that does best at all manner of male-stereotyped roles: fighting wars, running the economy, understanding how things work. The Democrats are supposedly the “mommy party,” the one that takes care of you when you hurt.
It’s utter balderdash, but voters tend to buy into it. In the same column mentioned earlier, Zuesse cited a Gallup poll headline “Obama Still Wins on Likability; Romney on the Economy.” The figures were telling: “By 54 percent to 31 percent Obama is the more likable candidate, but by 52 percent to 43 percent Romney would ‘better handle … the economy,’ and by 54 percent to 39 percent Romney would ‘better handle … the federal budget deficit.’”
The majority was wrong about Romney’s economic acumen. He promised to reduce unemployment to 6 percent by the end of 2016, a target Obama hit by October 2014. But it wasn’t just about top-line economic targets—it was his entire economic approach.
All the way back in January, 2012, Jim Tankersley wrote a piece for the National Journal, “The Romney Conundrum,” taking note of the disconnect between Romney’s economic plan and the recommendations of his top advisors—a disconnect paralleling the one noted by Stevenson and Wolfers: “Romney issued a 59-point economic plan with fanfare last September. The platform contradicts landmark findings on monetary and housing policies published in 2011 by his top two economic advisers: Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia University’s business school; and N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard University professor and the author of the nation’s most widely used college economics textbook.” So Romney was to be trusted because he knew so much, had such smart advisers—who he completely ignored. Yet, somehow, Romney managed to muddle through the whole campaign without this glaring contradiction ever becoming a significant story in the media.
This is not a luxury that the current crop of GOP governors should take for granted. Sure, the press will continue to shill for them, repeating some version of “daddy party” nonsense, and repeating failed Clinton scandals ad nauseam, assuming Clinton wins the nomination this time. But outside groups and social media activists could mix things up a lot more this time around. And Clinton’s “listening tour” approach is custom-made for gaining ground-level traction, homing in on GOP failures of governance, and blowing up the prefab narratives on which the wannabes’ hopes are pinned. She’s already touched on a few highly popular proposals—supporting (however nebulously) a livable minimum wage and free community college, for example—and will obviously build on these over time. There are individual-level appeals to be made here, with significant public support.
But there’s also a wonk side to this unfolding story, which GOP governors are particularly vulnerable to. Not only are Democrats better for the national economy as a whole, they’re better for state-level economies, too. As far back as 2004, it’s been noted online that red states as a whole are takers of federal tax revenues, blue states are donors. Analyzing annual data from 2008 through 2014, red states consistently got more money than blue states, by anywhere from 36 percent to 73 percent. One result of this, naturally, is that red states can better afford to cut taxes, since they’re mooching off all the rest of us. And yet, blue states continue to do better, year after year, decade after decades.
One rough measure of this broad pattern was produced by David Wise, reported on the London School of Economics blog. Wise compared red, blue and purple states, based on presidential election votes since 1988, with special weighting for the two most recent elections. This ignores statehouse and state legislative control, which sometimes diverge, so it’s not perfect, but it does reflect dominant voter values and priorities. Wise combined rankings of dozens of indicators to produce two composite measures. First, he explains, “An Overall Economic Strength Index was based on each state’s performance for positive economic outputs in areas such as the following: per capita income, median household income, household net worth, the poverty rate, economic growth and jobs added over recent years, labor force participation, the human capital index, entrepreneurial activity, patents generated and manufacturing value-added.” Next, “A Social Cohesion/Dysfunction Index was designed to measure the quality of life and social cohesion in each of the states. This index included: life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, the human development index, and the rates of drunken driving deaths, violent crime, teen pregnancy, divorce, incarceration, child abuse, domestic violence deaths and drug deaths.”
The differences he found were dramatic. Comparing the average ranks in economic strength, compared to the midpoint, he found that blue states averaged 3.23 above average, purple states averaged 1.19 above average, and red states averaged 3.67 below average. Looking at the top and bottom, he wrote, “Out of the top ten ranked states for economic strength there were four blue states, three red and three purple. Out of the bottom ten ranked states there were one blue, eight red and one purple.”
The average ranks in social cohesion and dysfunction showed an even stronger difference: of blue states averaged 6.16 above the midpoint, purple states 0.52 above the midpoint, and red states averaged 5.03 below the midpoint. “Against this index, six blue states ranked in the top ten along with two red states and two purple states. No blue state scored in the bottom 10 on this index although two purple states and eight red states did.”
I’ve already noted one potential source of “noise” in this data—the fact that it uses presidential elections to sort states into categories. But another source of “noise” is that economic policies vary over time and only represent part of what contributes to states’ economic performance—as well as their social cohesion. A more focused way of examining how well certain policies work would be to look at policy rankings, and see how well they correlate with economic behavior. This won’t eliminate the non-policy factors, but it tell us about the role of policy factors and the impact—good or bad—that they have.
A November 2012 study, jointly produced by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project, “Selling Snake Oil To The States,” does just that. It looks at the rankings and recommendations produced by rightwing economist Arthur Laffer (yes, that Laffer) for ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) a once-shadowing, but now well-known group which helps drive the conservative agenda at the state level.
Laffer and others have created an ideologically-driven “State Economic Competitiveness Index” in a report titled “Rich States, Poor States,” starting in 2007. “Selling Snake Oil” found that ALEC’s report was actually a guide to what not to do.
As explained in the executive summary “Rich States, Poor Statesembodies the policy agenda that ALEC pushes to state legislators: reduction or abolition of progressive taxes, fewer investments in education and other public services, a smaller social safety net, and weaker or non-existent unions. These are the policies, ALEC claims, that promote economic growth.” Although the claim that these are good policies is an ideological one, the claim that they work to promote economic growth is not—it’s an empirical claim, and it can be tested, to find out if its true or false. As the report found “the ALEC-Laffer recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies—the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks.”
Specifically states that ALEC ranked higher, based on a set of 15 “fiscal and regulatory policy variables,” actually did worse over the period of years studied, while those that ranked lower on ALEC’s scale did better. “Selling Snakeoil” looked at all 50 states, so there could be no concerns about “cherry picking.”
First they examined change in state GDP, over five years, and found almost no correlation: 0.02, which was not statistically significant. Next, they examined growth in non-farm employment, and found a somewhat stronger correlation—but in the “wrong” direction: -0.09, meaning that “the higher a state was ranked on the A-L Index in 2007 the worse its job creation record over the next five years.” Things were similar, but even worse when measuring state per capita income: The negative correlation of -.27 was statistically significant. Finally, ALEC/Laffer claimed that states following their policy prescriptions would experience more growth and higher incomes, translating into greater government revenue. But again, the correlation was negative, the opposite of what was promised: -.16.
There was actually one measure which turned out as ALEC/Laffer predicted: population growth. But that’s not a measure of economic performance!
The study then went on to test the ALEC/Laffer ranking scale against two other obvious measures of state economic well-being: the median family income and the poverty rate. They examined the results on a year-by-year basis, median income first. “The relationship is not only negative each year, it also became worse over time: the better a state did on the ALEC Outlook Ranking, the more family income declined from 2007 to 2011. The correlation, -.30, is statistically significant.” The same pattern held, but the correlation was weaker (.21), though still “marginally statistically significant.”
There’s a lot more in the “Snake Oil” report. It looks at individual components of the ALEC/Laffer scale, and finds them equally unhelpful for their advertised purpose. It examines a number of key claims in greater detail, such as the arguments for lower taxes, fighting against unions and the minimum wage, and the claim that “state tax rates in many instances approach ‘Laffer Curve’ territory, where tax cuts would actually increase tax revenue.” Of course that claim is nonsense, as already indicated above.
The report also spends time discussing factors that do impact state economies, which ALEC/Laffer simply ignore, despite a substantial research literature. One of the most basic things they point out is that “[I]nstead of ALEC’s extreme policy recommendations, we find that the composition of a state’s economy—whether it has large or small shares of the nation’s fastest-growing industries—is a far better predictor of job and income growth.” More broadly, they state:
Overall, we find that Rich States, Poor Statesconsistently ignores decades of published research, making broad, unsubstantiated claims and often using anecdotes or spurious two-factor correlations that fail to control for obviously relevant factors. Indeed, our analysis finds that the report repeatedly engages in methodologically primitive analysis that any college student taking Statistics 101 would be taught to avoid.
Because the “Snake Oil” report came out in late 2012, I reached out to one of the authors, Peter Fisher, research director of the Iowa Policy Project, to find out about any more recent developments. There has been some pushback from ALEC allies, but no signs of learning. “There have been two editions of RSPS since then, the latest coming out about 10 days ago,” Fisher told me. “They have not changed the methodology at all, so the criticisms still apply.”
In short, ALEC is treating it as a political battle—the exact sort of thing Stephenson and Wolfers were criticizing. And what about Laffer himself? Back in 2012, when Brownback gave Laffer a $75,000 contract to help sell his tax cut proposal, he was supremely confident:
Laffer told more than 200 people at a small-business forum at Johnson County Community College that there is a war among states over tax policy and that nowhere is that revolution more powerful than in Kansas. He said Kansas’ tax cuts and political shifts will produce “enormous prosperity” for the state.
“It’s not a left-wing, right-wing thing,” Laffer said. “It’s economics.”
He was wrong about the “enormous prosperity,” of course. But his second statement was spot on. The more that reporters look past the spin, and focus on the economic records of GOP governors running for president, the more informative the coming election will be. What better time to put the information back in the information age?Related Stories
Baltimore has entered its fifth day of protests amid the death of Freddie Gray. The 27-year-old African-American man died Sunday from spinal injuries, one week after Baltimore police arrested him. His family and attorney say his voice box was crushed and his spine was "80 percent severed at his neck." A preliminary autopsy report showed Gray died of a spinal injury. Video shot by a bystander shows Gray screaming in apparent agony as police drag him to a van. Another witness said the police bent Gray like a pretzel. While the police union has described the protesters as a lynch mob, former Black Panther Eddie Conway says Gray is the one who was lynched. "There was a lynch mob. There is a body. There was a death without a trial, without a jury, without a sentence. There was an execution. That’s lynching," Conway says. "They’re blaming the victims. They’re blaming people that suffered the lynching for protesting."
Joining on Democracy Now! with Conway was Dominique Stevenson, a Baltimore-based prison activist and program director for the American Friends Service Committee’s Friend of a Friend Program. She was recently arrested during a protest over Gray's death. "I think that we really need to take a look at how policing is done in Baltimore," she said. "It cannot be disconnected from our high incarceration rate. Black folks make up almost 80 percent of the total population in the Maryland prison system, yet we comprise about 28 percent of the population in the state." Also on the program was Lawrence Bell, former Baltimore City Council president. He represented West Baltimore, which is the area where Freddie Gray was arrested. Bell spoke about the need for change. "We need civilian review," he said. "We need a different attitude within the police department. We need a better attitude in the whole city."
Below is an interview with Conway, Stevenson and Bell, followed by a transcript:
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show in Baltimore, where protests over the death of Freddie Gray have entered their fifth day. The 27-year-old African-American man died Sunday from spinal injuries, one week after Baltimore police arrested him. His family and attorney say his voice box was crushed and his spine was, quote, "80 percent severed at his neck." A preliminary autopsy report showed Gray died of a spinal injury. Video shot by a bystander shows Gray screaming in apparent agony as police drag him to a van. You can hear a bystander’s voice.
BYSTANDER: His leg looks broke! Look at his f—ing leg! Look at his f—ing leg! That boy’s leg looks broke! His leg’s broken! Y’all dragging him like that!
AMY GOODMAN: Another witness said the police bent Freddie Gray like a pretzel. Gray was then held inside a police van for 30 minutes. Police said, quote, "During transport to Western District via wagon transport the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic."
The Department of Justice is now investigating Gray’s death for possible civil rights violations. Since 2011, Baltimore has paid roughly $6.3 million to settle police misconduct claims. Baltimore authorities say five of the six officers involved in the arrest of Gray have now given statements to the Baltimore police. One has not. They remain suspended with pay. Baltimore police union attorney Michael Davey told reporters the officers were right to chase Gray after he ran away when a lieutenant "made eye contact" with him.
MICHAEL DAVEY: They pursued Mr. Gray. They detained him for an investigative stop. Had he not had a knife or an illegal weapon on him, he would have been released. They know what role they played in the arrest of Mr. Gray. What we don’t know and what we’re hoping the investigation will tell us is what happened inside the back of the van. He was placed in the transport van. Whether he was seat-belted in, I don’t believe he was. Our position is: Something happened in that van; we just don’t know what.
REPORTER: Do you think any of the six officers committed a crime that day?
MICHAEL DAVEY: No.
REPORTER: Unequivocally. And what makes you say that?
MICHAEL DAVEY: Based on the information that I know, no.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, on Wednesday, our next guest spoke with residents of the Gilmor Homes housing project in West Baltimore, where Freddie Gray was arrested, including one woman who says she witnessed officers loading him into the back of a police van. In a minute, we’ll be joined by our guest, Eddie Conway of The Real News Network, but first, this is a clip of his interview.
EDDIE CONWAY: How are you doing? I’m Eddie Conway.
TAMIKA: Hi, I’m Tamika.
EDDIE CONWAY: OK.
JACQUELINE JACKSON: And I’m Jacqueline Jackson. I seen it.
EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah.
JACQUELINE JACKSON: I live 1628 Mountmor Court. My kitchen faces Mount Street.
EDDIE CONWAY: OK.
JACQUELINE JACKSON: The paddy wagon was right there. They took the young man out, beat him some more. The man wasn’t responding. They took him by his pants, and he was dragged. And I asked them to call an ambulance. They told me to mind my business. I told them it is my business. And they just threw him up in there. They boy wasn’t hollering or nothing. And he wasn’t hollering or nothing. How can you holler if you ain’t saying nothing? They killed that young man. They killed him.
AMY GOODMAN: Eddie Conway of The Real News Network interviewing residents of the Gilmor Homes housing project where Freddie Gray was arrested. He was there last night when protesters [calling] for justice in his case marched again. And he joins us now in Baltimore. Eddie Conway is executive producer of The Real News Network, also a former Black Panther leader in Baltimore, Maryland, who was released from prison last year after serving 44 years for a murder he denies committing. We spoke to him last March, just 24 hours after he was released.
We’re also joined by Dominique Stevenson, who was arrested at last night’s protest in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray. She is program director for the American Friends Service Committee’s Friend of a Friend Program, which fosters the peaceful resolution of conflict and promotes reconciliation and healing inside Maryland’s criminal justice system. She’s also co-author of Eddie Conway’s memoir, Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther.
Dominique, let’s begin with you. Can you explain why you were protesting yesterday and how you got arrested?
DOMINIQUE STEVENSON: Well, I was protesting because this is—there’s a history in Baltimore of not so much police shootings, but people being beaten to death by the police. There is a long history. I feel that I needed to be there with the community. We have for some time been doing work in Gilmor Homes housing project, and I wanted to, you know, be there to stand in solidarity with the community. I was arrested because at some point a young woman, Michaela Price, decided to commit civil disobedience. She’s 17 years old. I, one, did not want, or even trust, her being in police custody alone, and so I came over the barrier to accompany her.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Dominique, the state of Maryland also has the highest—sorry, Baltimore has the highest rate of incarceration in the state of Maryland. Could you connect that to the action that you took and to what happened to Freddie Gray?
DOMINIQUE STEVENSON: Yes. One, if you look at statistics, that particular neighborhood—Sandtown-Winchester is the neighborhood in Baltimore—has actually the highest incarceration rate in the state. And you cannot disconnect that rate of incarceration from the style of aggressive policing that takes place. We’ve talked to many young men. OK, of course, there’s crime in that community. There are no jobs in that community. There is no economic development happening in that community. But the other issue is the harassment of police, the unnecessary detainment of police. People don’t know what Freddie Gray’s history may have been with those folks that he saw and why making eye contact simply made him run. And so I think that we really need to take a look at how policing is done in Baltimore. It cannot be disconnected from our high incarceration rate. Black folks make up almost 80 percent of the total population in the Maryland prison system, yet we comprise about 28 percent of the population in the state.
AMY GOODMAN: Eddie Conway, you were interviewing people in the area. We just saw you talking to a witness. This issue of there being video of Freddie Gray in the takedown, when they are dragging him over to the—or trying to carry him over to the police van, it looks like he cannot move. Yesterday, the police union spokesperson—attorney, said, "Oh, you know, that’s what these perps do. They have to be dragged because they won’t walk." Can you respond to this, based on what you heard from witnesses?
EDDIE CONWAY: Yes, and I interviewed perhaps 30 people from that community that was in that area or either heard the incident or witnessed the incident. The incident actually occurred under one of the police cameras that has been operating for years in that community, and they have been using that camera to make numerous drug arrests over the years. And for some reason, that day, that camera did not work. It would have been directly over Freddie Gray’s head. It would have recorded everything that took place.
One of the things that people say, that one of the police dropped down on his back, on his neck with his knee, and from that point on, he was incapacitated. And later, they even took him back out of the van and shackled his legs and did something else to him and threw him back in the van. So, as far as all the witnesses can tell and all of them report, that he was already fatally injured when they put him in, in the first place. That video that we saw with them dragging him to the van, he was already incapacitated.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And has anyone, Eddie Conway, given an exclamation for why that camera didn’t work that day?
EDDIE CONWAY: No one knows why that camera didn’t work. Everybody in the community says that that camera has been used consistently over the years to lock people up, and used for evidence in drug arrests and other arrests. One of the things is, and I guess I want to raise this issue, when is it a crime for a man to run somewhere? People run throughout the city all the time. People are constantly running. So, you get executed because you run?
AMY GOODMAN: Now, can you clarify, for people who haven’t been following this case? The police union attorney yesterday said, in a high crime area, yes, you can arrest someone if they simply run. And no one alleges anything other than that Freddie Gray ran. What about this?
EDDIE CONWAY: Well, it’s not a high-crime area. It is a "broken windows" police area in which people and residents in that area are arrested for sitting on their own steps. They are loitering in their own community, on their own steps, and they’re harassed constantly. And this had been the reports that I have received. The Real News and myself and Friend of a Friend, we have been going down in that area trying to establish a relationship with the people in that area. And one of the things that they said is that they’re not even allowed to sit out in the area on their steps, even though they live there. The police will come and harass them. That level of harassment causes verbal responses. It causes physical contact. It causes people to be arrested. And before you know it, they have an arrest record, even as—I’m talking 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old juveniles. And they end up in the prison system. And that’s why that becomes the high-crime system—the high-crime area.
AMY GOODMAN: A statement—
EDDIE CONWAY: Go ahead. I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: A statement from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, Baltimore’s police union, compared the protesters calling for justice in the death of Freddie Gray to a "lynch mob." During a news conference Wednesday, reporters questioned the union’s president about the comparison.
REPORTER 1: I just was reading the statement you all just handed out to us just now. And just reading it, the tone, I mean, it says that the images on TV look and sound much like a lynch mob. Are you—I mean, what do you—how do you expect that to be received?
MICHAEL DAVEY: I haven’t seen that. I haven’t—
GENE RYAN: I put that, because they’ve already tried and convicted the officers, and that’s just unfair. They still get their day in court. They did not give up their constitutional rights when they became a law enforcement officer. That’s what I was getting at with that. Some of the protesters and some of the stuff I’ve been watching on the news, they want them put in prison. Well, they haven’t been charged, number one. Number two, they still get their day in court. So how can they request that they be put in jail? We haven’t even got to that process yet. The investigation has to be completed before we move forward.
REPORTER 1: Right, but are you concerned with the tone of the statement at all?
GENE RYAN: No, because I was quite offended by some of the things that were being said yesterday. Me, personally. That’s coming from me. That didn’t come from Mike and the law firm. That’s coming—that’s—
REPORTER 2: But it says—this says it comes from the Fraternal Order of Police.
GENE RYAN: Yes. That’s—I’m the president.
REPORTER 2: So are you likening these citizens protesting in this rally to a lynch mob, specifically?
GENE RYAN: Well, let’s put it this way: If they’re tried, convicted, and they would have put them in jail, where’s the due process with that?
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Gene Ryan, the police union president. Dominique Stevenson, this likening to a lynch mob. Yesterday, you did get arrested. You went over the barrier. What is your reaction to the police union president?
DOMINIQUE STEVENSON: Well, actually, if you take a look at what happened to Freddie Gray, he was tried, convicted and executed. And so, I resent likening people who are simply protesting and demonstrating and responding to a situation that was extremely unjust in their community to a lynch mob. As a person of African descent and understanding the history of lynching in this country, I find that statement offensive. I think that people are very frustrated because this is not the first time that this situation has occurred in Baltimore. I think that people have spent years of seeing these situations occur. People have experienced police brutality on so many levels, whether it’s witnessing the mistreatment of loved ones or community members or experiencing it firsthand. There were so many people in the community yesterday who were willing to come up and talk about their experiences with the police, that this is something that has been so harmful to black communities across the country, but particularly here in Baltimore. So I think that it is—basically, it’s a statement designed to garner attention and to garner a response. I think that people have a right to protest. They should continue to do that. But along with that, we need to really begin to organize. We need to take control of how policing is done in our communities. And that will begin to resolve some of the problems.
AMY GOODMAN: Dominique Stevenson, we want to thank you for being with us.
EDDIE CONWAY: And—
AMY GOODMAN: Eddie, I’d like to ask you to wait for one moment, because you’ll be staying with us.
EDDIE CONWAY: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: Eddie Conway with the Baltimore-based Real News Network. We are also going to be joined by the former president of the Baltimore City Council. This is Democracy Now! Major protests planned for today in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray. He was taken down by police on April 12th. He died on April 19th. His family and lawyers say 80 percent of his—that 80 percent of his spine was severed. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guests are—well, Eddie Conway is continuing with us right now. Eddie Conway is an executive producer for The Real News Network, former prisoner. He was in prison for more than 40 years. Lawrence Bell is also with us now, former president of the Baltimore City Council. He represents West Baltimore, which is the area where Freddie Gray was arrested.
So we’re going through the facts as we know them. On April 12th, Freddie Gray was arrested by police. It is not clear why. His family, his attorney said he was arrested for running while black. No one contends anything other than he was running and they arrested him. They then drag him into the police van. The police union attorney said that could be because he was resisting. What the witnesses around him are saying is that he looked like he could not move. He could not use his legs, and he was yelling. He is put into this van. At least 30—or was it 40?—minutes before any kind of medical or medics were called. He would be in the hospital for a week. He died on April 19th, last Sunday. Five of the six police who were involved have given statements; one has refused to. They’ve all been put on leave with pay.
Lawrence Bell, how typical is this? What are you most concerned about right now as the former president of the Baltimore City Council?
LAWRENCE BELL: Well, first of all, I want to say it’s good to be here, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this subject. Unfortunately, Baltimore has had a long history, a very long history, of these kinds of incidents going on. And I think, really, what’s changed here in Baltimore, as well as around the country, is that we live in an age where there’s technology and people have cellphone smartphones, where they have cameras. Years ago, I remember, over 20 years ago, I was one of the people that led the struggle to try to get civilian review, strong civilian review, here in a city of Baltimore. And that’s something that has been resisted for many, many years. And I think it’s because there has been a camaraderie within the police department, kind of a "stop snitching" mentality among police.
AMY GOODMAN: Misconduct settlements involving Baltimore police officers have cost the city more than $6 million since 2011. One victim, Barbara Floyd, told The Baltimore Sun that a detective ground her face into the concrete in 2009.
BARBARA FLOYD: I stood by the tree outside of my door with my back facing the street. All of a sudden, I feel arms around my neck. So I was struggling, because I didn’t know who it was. Yeah, I was screaming, when I could, "Get off of me! Leave me alone! Why are you all doing this?" They never answered my questions. They don’t answer your questions. All they do is tell you to shut the hell up.
NARRATION: In March 2009, Barbara Floyd was watching a disturbance outside her home when, she said, a police officer grabbed her.
BARBARA FLOYD: He put another leg in the small of my back. He was grinding my face into the pavement. He kept telling me to lay down. I was already down.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Barbara Floyd. She received a settlement for $30,000. So you’re the former president of the Baltimore City Council, Lawrence Bell.
LAWRENCE BELL: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: More than $6 million for police misconduct over the last few years. Now, you weren’t president during that time, but can you talk about this?
LAWRENCE BELL: Yeah, I mean, this has been going on for a number of years. And what’s interesting is that the problem in Baltimore, I believe, became exacerbated in the early 2000s, when former Mayor Martin O’Malley began the zero-tolerance policy. And what happened is that basically, you know, they’d been arresting people for petty nuisance crimes, petty things, more arrests, more arrests, and there’s been a devaluation of black life. And so, these things have happened. Now, one thing to note is that many of the settlements back over the several years occurred outside of the public meeting setting in the—at the Board of Estimates in Baltimore, so you didn’t have a great groundswell of talk about it, because a lot of it wasn’t really out in the public view as it is today. But this has been going on for a while.
And I think that it just speaks to the need for change. We need civilian review. We need a different attitude within the police department. We need a better attitude in the whole city. And I think, as I said earlier, we need to have jobs in these communities. You know, something that’s concerned me is that, not only in Baltimore, but around the country, even among a lot of the black leaders, we’ve heard them talk about the issue of police misconduct, but we haven’t talked about the ways that black lives are minimized when we are economically depressed and more money is going into prisons, building prisons, than has gone into jobs in places like Sandtown in Baltimore.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Lawrence Bell, what is your response to the way that the mayor has responded to what’s happened? Both the mayor and the police commissioner in Baltimore are African-American, and some have pointed out that this means their response has been much better than what it was, for example, in Ferguson after what happened with Michael Brown.
LAWRENCE BELL: Well, I think the mayor is sincere. I think that there’s still a problem with a lot of leadership, even black leadership, being out of touch with the people on the ground. You know, there’s an emotion that people feel, and that has to be recognized. And I think the mayor and the commissioner, number one, they need to move a lot faster. I mean, we know that there was a certain number of people on the scene when this incident occurred. It shouldn’t be—take rocket science to determine something went wrong. And we need answers a lot faster, a lot quicker. And the length of time that this is taking is the thing that’s really inflaming the passions of the people in the community. So I think that the mayor should do a lot more, a lot faster.
I think that—again, as I said earlier, some years ago there was a video in Baltimore called Stop Snitchin’, and it talked about people in the drug arena snitching on one another. But here’s the thing. Police, apparently, have a mentality of "stop snitching" among themselves, not only in Baltimore, but around the country. And that’s what people are upset about, the whole idea that there’s cover-up and that we know these kinds of things have happened for years, years. And I think if you interview some police officers who are honest, maybe people who are retired, they’ll tell you that this goes on all the time. So, we need to have a whole change. We also need to recruit more African Americans on the police force, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Billy Murphy, the attorney for the Gray family, says police brutality is a pervasive problem in Baltimore.
LAWRENCE BELL: Absolutely.
BILLY MURPHY: And Baltimore has a sorry history of police brutality and an even sorrier history in terms of a governmental response to police brutality. Typically, the police deny, deny, deny, no matter what the facts are. And it is not unusual for them to promote the police officer, even after he’s been found guilty of brutality. We had one case—I handled this—where we got a $44 million verdict against a police officer who rammed my client into the brick wall at the back of his holding cell and paralyzed him from the neck down.
CNN HOST: Oh, my goodness.
BILLY MURPHY: That police officer was promoted to sergeant, after the verdict against him. And the city refused to pay and made us appeal at every level. So we had to go to the Court of Special Appeals, the Court of Appeals.
CNN HOST: Yeah.
BILLY MURPHY: We won in all of the appellate courts. And still they wouldn’t pay the verdict. So, it’s a sorry, sorry situation.
AMY GOODMAN: Family attorney Billy Murphy speaking on CNN. On Tuesday, Michigan Democratic Congressmember John Conyers reintroduced a bill to curb racial profiling and provide relief to profiling victims. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland introduced a companion bill in the Senate. During a news conference, Congressman Conyers cited the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: All lives matter. All lives matter. And I’m thinking now of Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and now, sadly, Freddie Gray. And so, all of these African-American young men were killed at the hands of local police officers. Ultimately, they are tragic examples of the risk of racial profiling and the use of excessive force.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Congressmember John Conyers after reintroducing a bill against racial profiling. Lawrence Bell, would you call stopping a man while he’s running is racial profiling? Again, the police union attorney said yesterday in the news conference that if they’re running in a high-crime area, that’s cause enough. Now, I was just watching on television Leonard Hamm, the former police chief of Baltimore, being interviewed, and he said, "No"—he was the former police chief. He said, "No, running is not enough." Lawrence Bell, your thoughts?
LAWRENCE BELL: Well, I think these people need to study the law, because there is a concept of probable cause that exists. And I think it’s absurd to say that somebody simply running, after they make eye contact with a police officer, is probable cause. So it makes you wonder, really, you know, where are these people being trained, and where do they get this mentality. And I’ll tell you something. Quite honestly, there is a question of how they perceive black men. The perception of black men and the value of black men is on display right now, when we see these kinds of incidents go on. So, I think that that’s something we need to deal with right away.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Eddie Conway, we’d like to get your comments on the clip that we played earlier of the police union president, Gene Ryan, likening the protesters to a lynch mob. Could you comment on that?
EDDIE CONWAY: You know, as a journalist and a reporter, I have to question the language. I mean, a lynching did occur: Freddie Gray was lynched. There was a lynch mob. There is a body. There was a death without a trial, without a jury, without a sentence. There was an execution. That’s lynching. So, for anybody to say that people that exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand justice, to demand an investigation, is a lynch mob, it’s 1984. It’s doublespeak. They are blaming the victims. They’re blaming people that suffered the lynching, for protesting about the lynching, about their behavior. And I think that is—I mean, they do not serve and protect the citizens of the community, the people that pay them, when they kill those citizens and then, in turn, accuse those citizens of acting out of order, and arresting those citizens for protesting the violence that they inflict upon the citizens. That’s absurd.
AMY GOODMAN: There is a big difference in the way North Charleston, South Carolina, dealt with the killing of Walter Scott and what’s happening today. A police officer was arrested. The mayor and the police chief went to see the family of the Scotts to give their condolences. Now, I understand the Baltimore mayor did call the family to visit them, and they said it wasn’t the time to do that. But on the issue—and I wanted to put this question to Lawrence Bell—of these six police officers, they have all been suspended with pay. Five have given statements; one has not. There’s been very little information released. There’s an internal investigation. There’s a Justice Department investigation. There are a few others, apparently. What do you feel—and I’ll put this question to both of you—needs to be done now? Apparently, the state will be releasing Freddie Gray’s body soon.
LAWRENCE BELL: Well, there needs to be some finality in terms of the investigation. It has to happen a lot faster. We do—you know, we even have—doctors here at Johns Hopkins University have already said that the kind of injury that Mr. Gray suffered had to occur from—well, it had to be a very strong contact that he had with somebody, it seems to say. And so, you know, we don’t—we’re not rocket scientists. We don’t need to study this forever to come up with certain conclusions. We need to have the statements that were made by the police officers released. We need to know everything that happened right away. We need to—we need speed here. We need to know what has happened. And we need to have some people charged. And I’ll tell you, when you have people who are suspended but are still getting paid, that’s the kind of thing that really inflames the passions of the people. And they feel that there’s a two-tiered justice system: There’s one for police; there’s a different one for just regular citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally—
EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah, and I would add that if any other citizen or any other six citizens had been involved in the death of another citizen, they would all be in central booking. They would all be up for bail hearings. They would all be at least investigated in that kind of manner. They wouldn’t be receiving paid vacation. So there’s a double standard here in terms of the lives of citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us. Of course, we’ll continue to follow this. More than a thousand people are expected in protests today in Baltimore. Eddie Conway, executive producer of The Real News Network, a former prisoner for more than 40 years. Lawrence Bell, former Baltimore City Council president, represented West Baltimore, which is an area where Freddie Gray was arrested.Related Stories