Daily Archive: 09/09/2014

Sep 09 2014

Third World Law Enforcement

How Cops Seize Billions of Dollars from Ordinary People Who Haven’t Even Been Charged With a Crime

By Allegra Kirkland, Alternet

September 9, 2014

Like many other aspects of policing in America, civil asset forfeiture morphed into an entirely new beast in the paranoid aftermath of 9/11. The program, which allows law enforcement to seize cash or property without charging people with a crime, has existed in the U.S. for hundreds of years, but picked up steam with the start of the war on drugs in the Reagan era. Yet as AlterNet and other outlets have reported, the program is rarely used to confiscate stacks of cash from suspected drug lords or money launderers. Instead, it has become a boon for local police departments, who have seized hundreds of millions of dollars from regular people, particularly motorists, who then have to fight prolonged legal battles with the federal government to get their property back. This week, the Washington Post published a thorough investigation into the rise of civil asset forfeiture, exposing the troubling flaws in this widespread practice.

After combing through hundreds of thousands of Justice Department seizure records and hundreds of federal court cases, and interviewing police officers and victims of asset forfeiture, the Post reporters found that police have seized an incredible $2.5 billion since 2001, all from people who were not charged with a crime. Most seizures follow a familiar script: police pull drivers over for minor violations like improper signaling, check the driver for signs of nervousness and the vehicle for signs of criminal activity, and act on thin pretenses to seize the individual’s assets after finding money in the car. People have had thousands of dollars taken from them en route to purchase homes and cars, pay off gambling debts or pay dental bills. Once the money is gone, it can take over a year and many thousands of dollars to prove in court that it legally belongs to its owners, many of whom do not have the resources to fight back.



Here are four of the most disturbing facts from the Post’s investigation:

  1. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of the $2.5 billion in cash seizures made since 2001.
  2. Only one sixth of the seizures were challenged in court, thanks in part to the exorbitant costs of taking legal action against the government.
  3. The program is a critical source of revenue for hundreds of state and local departments. Since 2008, 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized what amounts to 20% or more of their annual budgets.
  4. Despite the fact that law enforcement officials in states like Kansas refuse to participate in the “highway interdiction” program because they worry it may not be legal, Justice and Homeland Security officials continue to use it.

Dept. Of Law Enforcement Investigates Notorious ‘Speed Trap’ Town Whose Seven Officers Wrote Up More Than 11,000 Tickets Last Year

by Tim Cushing, TechDirt

Wed, Sep 10th 2014

Law enforcement should not be viewed as a revenue generator. If a local police force is naturally self-sustaining, great. But if anyone starts thinking money first, all sorts of problems develop and the public becomes nothing more than wealth in search of extraction. Asset forfeiture is the most common abuse. People with too much cash in their possession will find it removed. If a cop (or a dog) thinks he smells drugs, vehicles are seized, bank accounts are frozen and homes go on the auction block.



AAA itself has called out the town for its ridiculous speed limit changes and has even posted a billboard outside the town limits to warn drivers. Now, the state has stepped in to take control of Waldo’s traffic enforcement.



The town appears to be finally righting years of wrongs, but only because the state is now involved. During the last several years when the police were contributing nearly half of the city’s $1 million budget through traffic enforcement, no one seemed to be making much noise. And the amount of tickets issued to keep the city half-afloat borders on inconceivable.



That’s not law enforcement. That’s just a scam wearing a uniform. Six speed limit changes in two miles is ridiculous under any circumstances, but even more so when the fluctuations are clearly there to trap anyone who misses a single sign. The state Dept. of Transportation actually sets speed limits but notes that those responsible considered input from Waldo’s PD when putting these into force. According to a somewhat defensive statement from the Florida DOT, foot traffic to schools and a popular flea market justified the speed limit fluctuations. “But it’s up to [Waldo] to enforce the speed limits” lobs the ball back into the Waldo PD’s court, but it’s barely enough to clear the net. Yes, Waldo could issue more warnings or turn the run through town to a straight 35 mph, but it’s had no reason to do so until now, after years and years and hundreds of thousands of tickets.

It’s not clear how the town will make up this revenue “shortfall” in the future, but judging from the brief glimpses and curt “no comments” issued, it’s none too happy. Whatever pain this causes for it in the future, it’s earned. The city was perfectly fine with turning drivers into compelled donors for years. Now, it’s going to need to get by on half the budget and let its police officers return to being police officers rather than a revenue stream.

Sep 09 2014

The Last of the 2014 Primaries Today

Today is Primary Day in five states, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. As with all primaries voter turn out is expected to be low, if not, abysmal. But these elections are even more important than the general election since it gives the members of the individual parties to voice their opinions to the party heads who, for the most part, are out of touch with the general electorate or just willfully ignoring them. This is the vote that makes the bigger difference in the direction the country takes. So, if you are eligible to vote in any of today’s primaries, get your butt to the polls and make your opinion known.

Here is the who’s who for today:

New York: The race for the Democratic nomination for governor and lieutenant governor, a separate line on the ballot in NY, has attracted nationwide attention. It pits incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and his choice for lieutenant governor, former Representative Kathy Hochul against Fordham law professor, Zephyr Teachout and her running mate, Columbia law professor Tim Wu.

Gov. Cuomo’s refusal to debate Prof. Teachout and his obvious public snubbing her at Saturday’s NYC Labor Day parade then denying he even saw her despite evidence to the contrary, has made this race a news media delight.

What’s one way for a powerful incumbent to deal with an unwelcome primary challenger?

Act like she doesn’t exist.

That’s the model Andrew Cuomo’s campaign has deployed in fending off Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, who has been running to the Democratic governor’s left.

The strategy was on its most vivid display Saturday when Teachout attempted to greet Cuomo at a New York City parade but was repeatedly boxed out by one of the governor’s aides as Cuomo appeared determined to ignore his opponent.

Teachout’s candidacy is built on the premise that the incumbent is too close to Wall Street and Republican lawmakers — a perhaps difficult tack given Cuomo’s progressive bona fides highlighted by the same-sex marriage law and tough new gun control legislation he pushed through in Albany.

Cuomo is expected to cruise to victory on Tuesday, but Teachout’s candidacy has been a nuisance to the first-term governor.

Cuomo began only this past weekend to campaign actively for re-election, and he suggested to the Washington Post that he could simultaneously be a “liberal Democrat” and a “moderate Democrat.”

Gov, Cuomo’s biggest problems are the federal investigation of his dissolution of his Moreland Commission that was investigating NY state election finance corruption and the fact that he isn’t a Democrat at all. He will likely win.

His running mate, Kathy Hochul, however, may not, which could have some interesting results for November if the governor doesn’t dump Hochul.

Such an action could be needed because a Wu victory would result in a Cuomo/Wu ticket on the Democratic line in the November election but potentially disastrous Cuomo/Hochul tickets on the Working Families, Independence, and Women’s Equality lines, where no primaries are slated.

Under the state Election Law, votes for a Cuomo/Hochul ticket in November would not be added to the tally for the Cuomo/Wu ticket, potentially costing Cuomo hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cuomo would have until Sept. 16 under the election law to swap Wu for Hochul, using a technique that would allow the former Buffalo-area congresswoman and lawyer to be nominated instead for a judgeship, according to an expert on legislative election law.

I love New York.

Massachusetts: Incumbent Governor Deval Patrick (D) decided not the run for a third term. Vying for the Democratic nod are:

Martha Coakley, current MA Attorney General who lost her bid in the 2010 special election for the senate seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy to Republican Scott Brown;

Donald Berwick, a former Obama administration health care official;

Steve Grossman, the MA state treasurer, who was endorsed by the state party, as well as the Boston Globe.

On the Republican side:

Charlie Baker, who won the Republican nomination in 2010, is the former state Secretary of Finance and Administration and the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care;

Mark Fisher, a businessman aligned with the tea party.

The winners will face three independent candidates in November.

New Hampshire: The Republicans who hope to unseat Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen are:

Scott Brown, former MA senator who lost his bid for a full term to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and moved across the border to NH to try again;

Bob Smith, former US senator;

Jim Rubens, a former state senator.

Hoping to challenge Democratic incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan are:

Andrew Hemingway, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and presidential campaign veteran;

Walt Havenstein, businessman and the frontrunner on the GOP side.

Sep 09 2014

Turnout for Teachout and Wu

Unlike some I still have a thin shred of hope in the power of the ballot because I don’t think people are stupid as a whole, just slow to learn and easily influenced.

We’ve had 40 years at least to prove that neo-liberal, trickle-down, perfect market economics do not work.  They have demonstrated failure in tangible ways that show up at your dinner table every day as you CCPI substitute pet food for people food and wear out your cheap off shored rags in weeks and not years.  Your quality of life is declining and it’s harder to disguise.

This is not the inevitable increase of entropy, it’s the result of management decisions made by our government to enrich our elites at the expense of everyone else.

Fortunately conditions like this do not persist.  Whenever there are too many of us and not enough of them there is a revolution.  The propaganda becomes repetitive and unbelievable, the cognitive dissonance too much to overcome.

You are not alone.  Millions of people see the same things you do, think the same things you think.  Including the elites, that’s why they are worried and are investing so heavily in more propaganda and more coercive tools for the suppression of mass sentiment.  Submit to the charms of illusion or the iron boot of oppression, it matters not as long as you submit.

But ultimately they are dependent on your voluntary submission.  They make the calculation that they can distract you with bright and shiny objects or so disillusion you that apathy seems rebellion.

My cynicism is dark and deep, but not that deep.  Nope, I’m actually an optimistic sort of guy- not that it does any good.

I think that politicians, who remain at least nominally subject to a process of public approval, and pundits/media news people, who are more directly and immediately dependent on their audience, are open to influence from the populace and ignore it at their peril.

Ways to show that are by showing up at the polls and voting Third Party, changing your registration to a Third Party, or by voting for Third Party candidates like Teachout and Wu in major party primaries.  If nothing else you can make Chuck Todd’s head explode which is always fun.

I approach this incrementally and pragmatically.  If we continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, it is still evil.  If the current conditions persist more radical solutions than mine will gain urgency.

If I seem like a centrist, I AM!  My beliefs are rooted in the core of New Deal Democracy and Keynesian Economics.  It is Andrew Cuomo and his corrupt crony capitalism and double dealing ‘bi-partisanship’ that prop up the corpse of the New York Republican Party as a Boogieman too scary to dare deserting a Democratic Party that has abandoned every principle and promise.

I am not afraid.

I’d prefer that it not come to pitchforks and torches because I’m more comfortable not being poked and fire has a disturbing tendency to spread beyond your magical circle of intent, but you use the tools you have and if you doubt their efficacy in a modern environment I invite a closer study of recent developments where overwhelming power has not produced the desired results.  Humans are a recalcitrant and obstinate lot.

Should you live and vote in New York as a registered Democrat I invite you today to take positive action and indicate your disapproval of Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.

Vote for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.

It is really the very least you can do.

Sep 09 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Lawrence Lessig: What New Yorkers Can Do About Money in Politics

There’s a meme spreading fast through the tubes of the Internets about what explains Governor Cuomo’s refusal to debate Zephyr Teachout. Here’s one tweet:

It’s a fun way to be angry about the outrage of the governor refusing to debate. But I don’t think this is really about sexism. It’s about money-ism: Zephyr is not entitled to debate the governor not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a woman without money. (Of course that’s not unrelated.) And in this democracy, not to have money is not to be qualified.

Dean Baker: The Inflation Fighters Want to Increase the Debt Burden on Our Children

Are you worried about the government running deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars and a debt in the trillions? If so, then you should be really angry at people calling for the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates. If the rate hikers get their way, they will add trillions of dollars to the debt burden borne by our children and grandchildren.

Okay, I’ll stop with the deficit hawk garbage, but there is a simple point here. If the Fed slows the economy and keeps people from getting jobs, we will face larger budget deficits.

This is about as straightforward as it gets. When the unemployment rate falls, more people have jobs and are paying taxes to the government. Also when people are working, they are less likely to be getting benefits like unemployment insurance and food stamps. Therefore as we get to lower levels of unemployment, the deficit gets smaller.

Tim Wu: Why I’m Suing the New York State Democratic Party for Interfering in Its Own Primary

Under the direction of Andrew Cuomo, the party has spent a small fortune supporting my opponent’s campaign.

I’m a Democrat, and this year I decided to run in the primary for lieutenant governor. My opponent, former Representative Kathy Hochul, is also a Democrat, but we differ on policy, particularly in areas like immigration policy, environmental protection and gun rights.

So far so good, but here’s the crazy part. The state Democratic Party that is running the primary (ostensibly to select the best candidate) is spending money-millions, by our estimates-to try to ensure that my opponent wins. Under the admitted direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democratic Party has spent a small fortune supporting my opponent’s campaign, including spending on literature for voters, phonebanking, television ads and, most recently, robocalls performed by Hillary Clinton.

It is an obvious conflict of interest for the party to both run a primary and then provide aid to one side. That’s why, back in 1911, the New York legislature made it illegal for political parties to spend money to influence the outcomes of their own primaries. Yet despite the illegality and ethical question, the Democratic Party in New York State keeps at it.

Rick Perlstein: Watergate’s most lasting sin: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and the pardon that made us all cynics

Ford let Nixon off 40 years ago today. That launched Iran-Contra, “too big to fail” — and proved power trumps law

When you’ve published a book about Watergate, your phone rings off the hook in the days leading up to Aug. 9, 2014, the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation. But my phone’s been quiet this week – even though the event that took place almost exactly one month later, on Sept. 8, 1974, is the one that really changed the world. It’s still changing the world 40 years later. [..]

It was an enormously unpopular act. Ford’s approval rating declined from 71 to 49 percent, the most precipitous in history. This pardon was proof, the people said, that the system didn’t work – America was still crooked. Suspicions were widespread that it was the fruit of a dirty deal between Nixon and Ford: the presidency in exchange for the pardon. “The son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch,” was how Carl Bernstein broke the news Bob Woodward on the phone.

Since then, judgment on the pardon has reversed 180 degrees. First Woodward, then Bernstein, came to conclude there had been no deal, and that this was instead an extraordinarily noble act: Ford “realized intuitively that the country had to get beyond Nixon.” After Ford died in 2006, Peggy Noonan went even further. She said Ford “threw himself on a grenade to protect the country from shame.”

They’re wrong. For political elites took away a dangerous lesson from the Ford pardon – our true shame: All it takes is the incantation of magic words like “stability” and “confidence” and “consensus” in order to inure yourself from accountability for just about any malfeasance.

Thomas Frank: Finally, Wall Street gets put on trial: We can still hold the 0.1 percent responsible for tanking the economy

Too Big To Fail bailouts let them get away with it. The amazing result of California fraud trial could change that

The Tea Party regards Barack Obama as a kind of devil figure, but when it comes to hunting down the fraudsters responsible for the economic disaster of the last six years, his administration has stuck pretty close to the Tea Party script. The initial conservative reaction to the disaster, you will recall, was to blame the crisis on the people at the bottom, on minorities and proletarians lost in an orgy of financial misbehavior. Sure enough, when taking on ordinary people who got loans during the real-estate bubble, the president’s Department of Justice has shown admirable devotion to duty, filing hundreds of mortgage-fraud cases against small-timers. [..]

“Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent,” reported a now-famous 2010 story in the Huffington Post. “But convincing a jury that executives intended to make fraudulent loans, and thus should be held criminally responsible, may be too difficult of a hurdle for prosecutors. ‘It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,’ Wagner said.”

So forget those thousands of hours of Congressional investigation and those thousands of pages of journalism on the crisis. It doesn’t make any sense to the man in charge. No jury would be convinced. Case closed.

As it happens, a trial just ended in Sacramento in which a jury was convinced that “executives intended to make fraudulent loans.” Here’s the thing, though: It wasn’t the government that made the case against the financiers; it was the defendants.

Sep 09 2014

TBC: Morning Musing 9.9.14

Well, finally, albeit with their backs against the wall thanks to TMZ posting the video today, Ray Rice has finally been really sanctioned by the NFL and dumped completely by the Ravens. And several players are speaking out against domestic violence as well.

A Punch Is Seen, and a Player Is Out

The National Football League’s handling of a domestic violence case is under renewed scrutiny after a graphic video emerged Monday, leading to the termination of the Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice’s contract and his suspension from the league.

The video shows Rice punching his fiancée, who is now his wife, in the face, leaving her motionless on the floor of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.

(snip)

Previously published video of the altercation was taken from a camera outside the elevator and showed only the moments after Rice hit Palmer. But the emergence of the new video, published by the website TMZ, raised questions about what the N.F.L. knew, and when. A league spokesman said “no one in our office has seen it until today,” but he did not respond to inquiries about whether any of the league’s investigators who do not work in the office had previously seen the video.

Jump!

Sep 09 2014

On This Day In History September 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 9 is the 252nd day of the year (253rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 113 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Congress renames the nation “United States of America”.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.

In the Congressional declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. First proposed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention and its President, Edmund Pendleton  (in fact Lee used, almost verbatim, the language from the instructions in his resolution). Voting on the resolution was delayed for several weeks while support for independence was consolidated. On June 11, a Committee of Five  was appointed to prepare a document to explain the reasons for independence. The resolution was finally approved on July 2, 1776, and news of its adoption was published that evening in the Pennsylvania Evening Post and the next day in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4.

Sep 09 2014

TDS/TCR (Damn John Whorfin)

TDS TCR

Trojan Horse?!  Inconceivable!

Curried Qaeda

The real news, as well as this week’s guests below.