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WATCH: 'I Can't Breathe'—Congressman's Incredible Tribute to Eric Garner on House Floor

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

If Rep. Hank Johnson's performance does not move you, you may be made of stone.


Wednesday night, a grand jury in New York City refused to indict police officers in the killing of Eric Garner, a man who died after officers used a prohibited chokehold on him. The decision set off protests across the country.

Some in Congress have already expressed their solidarity with Garner and other victims of police brutality. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), the sponsor of legislation to curb police militarization, made a moving tribute to Garner, speaking about police militarization and including the phrase, “I can't breathe” between each statement—the phrase Garner said as his life was choked away, and which has since become a rallying cry for protesters.

Watch it:

Here's the full text of Johnson's tribute:

“Black men and boys killed by police.

I can't breathe.

Impunity for the killers—no justice, no peace.

I can't breathe.

Militarized police met peaceful protesters on their knees.

I can't breathe.

Weapons of war—a show of force on our streets.

I can't breathe.

Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech.

I can't breathe.

Cynical media think this makes great TV.

I can't breathe.

This cowardly Congress afraid of losing our seats.

I can't breathe.

Half-hearted reform when there's more that we need.

I can't breathe.

Just thinking about the despair that this breeds.

I can't breathe.

Black lives matter. Hear my pleas.

I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

I yield.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Secession, State, and Liberty

December 4, 2014 in Economics

By Chad

Secession, State, and Liberty edited by David Gordon

BooksJune 30, 1998Political TheoryPrivate Property

Secession, State, and Liberty

The essays in Secession, State & Liberty argue that the political impulse to secede—to attempt to separate from central government control—is a vital part of the Lockean classical-liberal tradition, one that emerges when national governments become too big and too ambitious. Unlike…

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Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Set a Higher Standard for Police Use of Force

December 4, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Eric Garner died a senseless death. In the wake of this tragedy, two reforms should be considered. First, states should pass laws holding police officers who use lethal force to a higher standard. Second, in many cases, particularly in high-profile cases like Garner’s, special prosecutors should replace district attorneys so as to remedy a system that is overly biased toward the police officer.

With the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, people are becoming aware of the epidemic of police violence that is creeping across the nation. Unfortunately, officers involved in these incidents are rarely disciplined. Most states and municipalities merely require that an officer “reasonably believes” that force is needed to make an arrest or to prevent a felon from escaping.

Not only should special prosecutors replace district attorneys in prominent cases, but officers should have to prove there was an imminent threat.”

Moreover, in-house investigations of claims of police violence are notoriously cop-friendly, and some district attorneys have such strong ties to police departments that they are essentially an in-house investigator.

As public servants, police officers should be held to a higher standard. An officer should only be allowed to use lethal force if there is compelling evidence that force is needed to stop an imminent threat to himself or public safety and reasonable alternatives are unavailable. Of course they must be given freedom to protect themselves and others in dangerous situations. While officers’ snap judgments in those situations should be considered, they shouldn’t always be validated.

Police are tasked with protecting and serving the community, and sometimes that means practicing restraint and verifying whether the alleged perpetrator actually poses a threat. This will mean that sometimes an officer’s safety will be compromised, but protecting police officers is not the only goal of law enforcement. Protecting the lives and liberties of citizens is equally important.

Given the infrequency with which police are charged with excessive force, a special prosecutor should investigate such cases. At the very least, this will give the process more perceived legitimacy. Perceived legitimacy is important, particularly in communities that feel they’ve been systematically harassed by police.

When a community perceives a justice system as illegitimate, it can be harder for police to solve crimes because witnesses are unwilling to come forward. Citizens can also become more confrontational, thus leading to escalating tension and violence.

Special prosecutors could help mitigate these problems and restore legitimacy to the process and, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Chris Rock's Inequality Bombshell: Why Aren't Poor People Rioting?

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Elias Esquith, Salon

“If they knew how rich, rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.”


I’ve already written a bit about Chris Rock’s must-read interview with Frank Rich and, as much as I enjoy the comedian’s work, I didn’t expect to be returning to it quite so soon. But although Rock’s comments on racism initially drew the most attention, a recent studyfrom Gregory Clark, a researcher at University of California, Davis, has got me thinking that the comedian’s most insightful (and potentially radical) statement came earlier in the interview, during a brief digression about inequality. “Oh, people don’t even know,” he said, responding to Rich’s claim that class was still “the elephant in the room” of American politics. “If poor people knew how rich rich people are,” he continued, “there would be riots in the streets.”

At first blush, this may not sound like such a profound statement; it could be easily mistaken for a comment about the politics of envy or simply the awesome scale of inequality today. But I don’t think that’s what Rock was getting at, really. Rather than speaking to the reality of inequality itself or the combustible resentment of the underclass, Rock was talking about our perception of American society, and how that perception influences politics. That’s why, in his next remark, he expanded beyond the poor to “the average person.” They too, he said, would also be outraged and bewildered by the lifestyle of the 1 percent. “If the average person could see the Virgin Airlines first-class lounge,” Rock said, “they’d go, ‘What? What? This is food, and it’s free, and they … what? Massage? Are you kidding me?’”On strictly empirical grounds, Rock’s assertion is incontestable. Multiple studies have shown that Americans seriously underestimate the degree of inequality in the U.S. economy. As Slate’s  Jordan Weissman noted in September, subjects in one test “estimated that the top 20 percent of U.S. households owned about 59 percent of the country’s net worth,” when in truth the number is closer to 84 percent. Moreover, the same study shows that even if the wealth of the U.S. economy was distributed like they’d believed, most Americans …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Eric Garner Case Shows Body Cams Don't Mean Much

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

You'd have to actually believe in police abuse for cameras to be effective.


It's official: body cameras don't work.

After a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who was captured on camera choking Eric Garner to death, the argument that cops would be more cautious in their dealings with civilians went down the toilet. Even after the coroner ruled Garner's death a homicide, it wasn't enough to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Though Ramsey Orta, the man who recorded Officer Pantaleo, was indicted on weapon's charges back in August. 

As the Marshall Project reports, President Barack Obama plans on purchasing 50,000 body cameras for police officers nationwide in an effort to quell longstanding mistrust between black communities and the police. There are more than 630,000 police officers in the United States but only 70,000 of them wear body cameras.

In the aftermath of the police shooting deaths of Michael Brown, and most recently, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, in Cleveland, Ohio, there have been calls for officers to wear body cams. 

The president's pledge will cost $75 million of the $273 million he has pledged to community policing initiatives. Once implemented, it will nearly double the use of body cams worn by cops. Since 2011, the Justice Department has been exploring how best to document police misconduct and recently released a set of “recommendations and lessons learned.”  

As promising as body cameras are, wide-ranging use of them has been elusive. One reason is cost; Each camera costs between $800 to $1,200. 

While body cameras may help capture more interactions between citizens and police, some critics are suspicious of them. The ACLU, for example, has recently supported the use of cops wearing body cams, but formerly regarded them as “another broad surveillance tool.” 

Here is more insight on the complications of using body cameras from the Marshall Project:

“In Seattle, for example, Courts have wrestled with the question of what consent is required to initiate camera recording. In Denver, policymakers are anticipating a range of thorny issues. What happens to an officer who intentionally turns the camera off? When will footage be made available? Where? To whom?

“Ethical and legal questions overlap with more …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sen. Paul Comments on Confirmation of David Hale and Greg Stivers as U.S. District Judges

December 4, 2014 in Politics & Elections

The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm David Hale and Greg Stivers as United States District Judges for the Western District of Kentucky. David Hale was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 3. ‘I am pleased that the Senate has confirmed David Hale as United States Judge for Western Kentucky,’ said Sen. Rand Paul. ‘David is fully qualified for this role and I believe his experience and skill set will help make him an excellent judge.’ Greg Stivers was confirmed unanimously by the Senate today. ‘I congratulate Greg Stivers on his confirmation as United States Judge for Western Kentucky,’ said Sen. Paul. ‘Greg has an outstanding reputation in the legal field. He has the right experience and temperament to help him be an exceptional judge.’

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Source: RAND PAUL

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4 Truly Bizarre Right-wing Reactions to the Eric Garner Decision

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Gretchen Carlson is very very worried. And Rand Paul puts forward a truly off-the-wall theory.


1. Fox's Gretchen Carlson

On Wednesday night, Stepford Fox News woman, Gretchen Carlson, was very concerned about the grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death in Staten Island. She was concerned that it might “cause problems” and that anger about it might possibly even affect the previously scheduled annual “tree lighting ceremony” at Rockefeller Center. She hoped “nothing's going to happen in New York City today.” That really would be terrible. At least she has it all in perspective. Sadly, her fears came true. Something did happen. Hundreds of black and white New Yorkers marched and peacefully demonstrated. 83 were arrested. The Feds opened a civil right inquiry.  Mayor Bill De Blasio canceled his appearance at the tree lighting ceremony.

2. Rep. Peter King

Republican congressman Peter King of New York is not a doctor, and doesn't play one on TV, but he does think Eric Garner was responsible for his own death. After the grand jury decision not to indict the officer who choked Garner to death was announced, King said if Garner had been healthier, he would not have died. 

“If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this,” King told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview. And despite the fact that Garner is clearly heard on the video of the incident repeately saying he couldn't breathe, King added that, “police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition.”

According to King, people being arrested are always complaining about something: “'You're breaking my arm, you're choking me, you're doing this,' police hear this all the time,” King, who is not a cop, (or a doctor) said.

Lest there were any doubts about where King's sympathies lie, he tweeted his praise for the grand jury's decision not to indict.

3. Rand Paul 

Rand Paul had a strange take on what caused the death of Eric Garner. But then again, Rand Paul is a really strange …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jeb Bush's Damning Secret History

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Joe Conason, AlterNet

This shady dealer is the one Republicans are pinning their hopes on?


Whenever the deep thinkers of the Republican establishment glance at their bulging clown car of presidential hopefuls — with out-there Dr. Ben Carson, exorcist Bobby Jindal, loudmouth Chris Christie and bankruptcy expert Donald Trump jammed against Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, to name a few — they inevitably start chattering about “Jeb Bush.”

Never mind that his father was a one-term wonder of no great distinction or that his brother is already a serious contender, in the eyes of historians, for worst president of the past 100 years. And never mind that on the issues most controversial among party activists — immigration and Common Core educational standards — he is an accursed “moderate.”

Lacking any especially attractive alternative, powerful Republicans are pushing Bush to run in 2016. And he seems to be on the cusp of a decision. Besides, more than a few Democrats agree that Bush, however damaged his family brand, would be the most formidable candidate available to the GOP. They, too, whisper about him as “the only one who could beat Hillary Clinton.”

Perhaps he could, although nearly all the polling data so far suggest Clinton would trounce Bush. But it is far too early to tell — in part because Bush, a politician who has been around for more than 20 years, is so little-known to the American public. Most voters are ignorant about Bush's record in Florida, where he was an exceptionally right-wing governor. They either don't know or don't remember, for example, how he signed a statute enabling him to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state, despite her husband's wishes. Florida's highest court later voided that law as unconstitutional — and the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court likewise rejected an appeal.

If Bush runs, extremism and corruption in the Sunshine State during his tenure will provide ample fodder for investigative reporters and primary opponents, as will many episodes in his long business career.

Five months after he left the governor's mansion in 2007, he …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'We Can't Breathe',—Protesters Chant Eric Garner's Last Words

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Oliver Laughland, Jessica Glenza, Lauren Gambino, Steven W Thrasher, Paul Lewis, The Guardian

83 arrested in New York City in wake of grand jury refusal to indict police officer who killed unarmed black man by chokehold.


The last words of Eric Garner became the rallying cry for protests that swirled in New York after a grand jury refused to indict a police officer who placed the unarmed black man in a chokehold, reigniting racial tensions that have been simmering for months in the US.

“I can’t breathe,” protesters chanted, in mostly peaceful demonstrations that brought longstanding strains over race to the heart of America’s most populous city. Eighty-three arrests were made during the protests overnight, an NYPD spokesman confirmed to the Guardian. 

Earlier in the day, prosecutors announced the jury’s decision not to charge Daniel Pantaleo, one of the New York police department officers who had confronted Garner for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island in July.

The protesters’ anger echoed the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of violence and rioting after another grand jury declined to bring charges against a white police office in the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager suspected of robbing a convenience store. His death sparked hundreds of protests across the country and snapped into focus seething race issues.

Garner, who was black, died in July after being put in a chokehold by Pantaleo. Police had stopped the heavy-set father of six on suspicion of selling untaxed “loose” cigarettes. Garner had been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, marijuana possession and false impersonation.

A video shot by a bystander shows Garner resisting arrest as a plainclothes officer attempts to handcuff him. Backing away from the officer, Garner tells him: “This stops today,” which has become a rallying cry for protesters in New York. After a struggle during which Garner is wrestled to the ground by several officers, he gasps “I can’t breathe” until his 350lb body goes limp.

Barack Obama, criticised for his response to unrest in Ferguson, suggested the Garner case had reaffirmed his determination to ensure all Americans …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Fact-Checking the Sun-Sentinel on School Choice

December 4, 2014 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Florida’s Sun-Sentinel editorialized in favor of the Florida teachers union’s lawsuit against the Sunshine State’s most popular school choice law. Regrettably, the editorial is rife with misunderstandings, misleading comparisons, and outright errors that leave uninformed readers with a false impression about the law. The Sun-Sentinel owes its readers a detailed retraction.

The Phantom Menace

The errors begin in the first sentence:

Florida’s courts must review the state’s school voucher program after this year’s massive expansion by the Legislature.

First, a point of clarification: Florida has a scholarship tax credit (STC) law, not a voucher program. The latter is a government-administered program that allocates government revenues to students to cover private school tuition. By contrast, STC laws are privately administered programs that rely on the voluntary contributions of corporate taxpayers who receive tax credits in return. As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, these funds never become public funds because they do not “come into the tax collector’s hands.”

The Sun-Sentinel owes its readers a detailed retraction.”

The Sun-Sentinel also has a peculiar definition of “massive” — the word it used to describe an “expansion” that included not a single additional dollar in available tax credits. In reality, the legislation merely raised the income eligibility cap for first-time recipients starting in 2016 from 185 percent of the federal poverty line to 260 percent, with priority given to lower-income students.

Later in the editorial, the Sun-Sentinel correctly notes that the amount of tax credits automatically increases over time, but that provision was added years ago. Nothing in this year’s legislation changed the tax credit cap or the rate of growth. Additionally, the editorial failed to accurately describe the rate of increase:

The program began in 2002-03 with a limit of $50 million, targeting poor students. This year, the limit is $358 million. Because the limit increases by 25 percent each year, the program could spend $904 million by 2018-19, according to a Florida House analysis.

The “Florida House analysis” that the editorial cites concerns a bill that did not pass. That bill would have raised the tax credit cap, but it did not become law. Assuming maximum growth, the credit cap will be $874 million in 2018-19, not the $904 million mentioned on page 7 of the moot report.

And while that figure may sound large without any context, it’s less than 3.5 percent of the roughly $25 billion that the state of Florida currently …read more

Source: OP-EDS