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5 Drug War Cops Who Outraged Us This Week: Jail Guards Gone Wild Edition

May 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, AlterNet

Another week's worth of drug war-related law enforcement corruption.


Jail and prison guards getting popped trying to smuggle drugs for prisoners is a regular occurence. This week we have three:

In Texarkana, Texas, a Bowie county jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after getting caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail inside a bag of Cheetos Puffs. The unnamed 19-year-old guard went for a break and was searched upon returning to the jail. He has been charged with possession of prohibited substances inside a correctional facility.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Pulaski County jail deputy was arrested last Thursday after jailers intercepted a call saying contraband would be left in his vehicle in the jail parking lot, then caught him trying to bring it into the jail. Deputy Kyle Guyer, 24, got caught with one package in hand containing money, candy, and tobacco. A second package containing meth and marijuana was recovered from his car. He is charged with using a communication device to facilitate crimes, criminal attempt to furnish prohibited articles that include marijuana and methamphetamines, furnishing prohibited articles, and unauthorized use of another's property.

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Chester County Prison guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he smuggled drugs to inmates. Guard Douglas Keck, 45, now faces three to six years in prison on introducing contraband charges. Oh, he has been fired, too.

But the guards aren't the only law enforcement msicreants this week. We've also got:

In Wilburton, Oklahoma, a former Latimer County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Bobby Joe Eubanks went down after the sheriff asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into missing drug evidence. Eubanks had been in charge of the evidence room before he was fired earlier this year, and the sheriff said he had found drugs in Eubanks' official vehicle while cleaning it. Eubanks admitted to twice stealing meth evidence and said he used it to cope with PTSD from his service in Afghanistan.

In San Jose, California, a San Jose police officer was arrested last Friday on felony marijuana charges nearly a year …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Hebdo's Dubious PEN-Pals: Privileged Conservative Pundits

May 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Jim Sleeper, AlterNet

Freedom of speech means little if one side has megaphones while the other has laryngitis from straining to be heard.


Explaining last week in The New York Times why the Poets, Essayists, and Novelists American Center is honoring Charlie Hebdo today at a gala ceremony, PEN officers wrote, “The question for us is not whether the cartoons deserve an award for literary merit but whether they disqualify Charlie Hebdo from a hard-earned award for courage.” In PEN’s view, the cartoonists’ valor lay “in their dauntless fortitude patrolling the outer precincts of free speech.” 

But two weeks earlier, another cartoonist ,Garry Trudeau, accepting a George Polk award for his own work as creator of the Doonesbury strip, saidthat Hebdo’s patrol had crossed the border beyond which “ free-expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious” and is “its own kind of fanaticism.” “ By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons,” Trudeau contended, “Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that.” Trudeau wasn’t excusing the murders of Hebdo staff. He certainly wasn’t “lecturing his murdered peers” that they’d had it coming, as the conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat claimed in an ideologically obsessive, morally confused column that ended with Douthat himself lecturing the slain cartoonists about “progressivism’s present confidence (even in the face of murder) in its prescribed hierarchies of power and victimhood…” But when Trudeau noted an undeniably causal connection between the cartoons and the consequences, he revivified a hard truth that Douthat ducked and that PEN overlooked: Courage without merit doesn’t always justify the cause or message it claims to be promoting, and the blood that is shed in its struggles  – even its own blood — doesn’t automatically, retroactively sanctify its noble-sounding claims. When Trudeau added that “ Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean,” he really got under the skins of conservatives such as Douthat and the former George W. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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5 Great Things That Have Happened for Bernie Sanders Since He Announced

May 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Michael Arria, AlterNet

The Vermont Senator has a lot to be happy about.


Since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he was running for President, he's had a lot of things go his way. Here are the 5 best things that have happened to Bernie since he announced.

1.) He has 175,000 pledge volunteers already:  Sanders told Rachel Maddow, “I think the main thing is Rachel, is that we have a message that is resonating all across this country. And that is, the income and wealth inequality in this country is grotesque. Ninety-nine percent of all new income goes to the top one percent. The top one-tenth of one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent, and meanwhile, the middle-class in this country continues to disappear. I think people want a candidate who is prepared to take on the billionaire class and say you know what, this country belongs to all of us, and not to a handful of billionaire families.”

2.) He raised $1.5 million dollars during the first day of his campaign: According to the Sanders campaign, 35,000 donors gave an average of $43.54 a piece. Even the Washington Post had to admit, “It is a surprisingly heavy haul for a candidate whom some in the Democratic chattering class have cast off as a gadfly and viewed as unable to wrest the nomination from the overwhelming favorite, Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

3.) He just schooled Rand Paul on economics during a Senate hearing: While debating the state of senior nutrition, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul complained about the costs associated with the Older Americans Act. “It's curious that only in Washington can you spend 2 billion dollars and claim you are saving money.” Sanders wasted no time shooting back, “Senator Paul is suggesting that only in Washington do people believe that spending money actually saves money. And I think that is the kind of philosophy that has us spending twice as much per person on healthcare as any other country on earth!”

4.) He's been able to definitively associate himself with a raise in the minimum wage: “Anyone who works 40 hours in a week in America …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A 5-Step Guide to the Police Repression of Protest From Ferguson to Baltimore and Beyond

May 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Michael Gould-Wartofsky, TomDispatch

It's now predictable for peacefully protesting citizens to face military-grade weaponry and paramilitary-style tactics.


To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com  here.

Last week, as Baltimore braced for renewed protests over the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) prepared for battle. With state-of-the-art surveillance of local teenagers’ Twitter feeds, law enforcement had learned that a group of high school students was planning to march on the Mondawmin Mall. In response, the BPD did what any self-respecting police department in post-9/11 America would do: it declared war on the protesters.

Over the course of 24 hours, which would see economically devastated parts of Baltimore erupt in open rebellion, city and state police would deploy everything from a drone and a “military counter attack vehicle” known as a Bearcat to SWAT teams armed with assault rifles, shotguns loaded with lead pellets, barricade projectiles filled with tear gas, and military-style smoke grenades. The BPD also came equipped with “Hailstorm” or “Stingray” technology, developed in America’s distant war zones to conduct wireless surveillance of enemy communications.  This would allow officers to force cell phones to connect to it, to collect mobile data, and to jam cell signals within a one-mile radius.

“Up and down the East Coast since 9/11, our region has armed itself for that type of emergency,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  She was defending her police department’s acquisition of this type of military technology under the Department of Defense’s now infamous 1033 Program.  It sends used weaponry and other equipment from the battlefields of the country’s global war on terror directly to local police departments across the country. “But it’s very unusual,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake added, “that it would be used against your own citizens.”

It is, in fact, no longer unusual but predictable for peacefully protesting citizens to face military-grade weaponry and paramilitary-style tactics, as the counterinsurgency school of protest policing has become the new normal in our homeland security state. Its techniques and technologies have …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Welfare State Needs Abolition, Not "Reform"

May 5, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The United States is effectively bankrupt. Economist Laurence Kotlikoff figures the government faces unfunded liabilities in excess of $200 trillion. Making the programs run more efficiently would be helpful. But only transforming or eliminating such programs will save the republic.

The left likes to paint conservatives as radical destroyers of the welfare state. If only.

Instead, some on the right have made peace with expansive government. Particularly notable is the movement of “reform conservatism.” The so-called “reformicons,” notes Reason’s Shikha Dalmia, “have ended up with a mix of old and new liberal ideas that thoroughly scale back the right’s long-running commitment to free markets and limited government.”

The point is not that attempts to improve the functioning of bloated, inefficient programs are bad. But they are inadequate.

Yes, government costs too much. Government also does too much. And that cannot be remedied by lowering administrative costs, eliminating waste, improving delivery, or even reducing perverse incentives.

The worst “reform conservatism” idea is to manipulate the state to support a particular “conservative” vision. Dalmia points out that many reformicons want to use the welfare state to strengthen institutions which they favor.

Conservatives should fight to repeal, not streamline, the bloated welfare state.”

For instance, “just as George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism proffered a series of special tax incentives to prop up religious institutions, reformicons want targeted tax breaks to strengthen middle-class families. Some want to restrict immigration and trade, just like unions of yore.”

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, for instance, criticizes conservatives who “have abandoned words like ‘together,’ ‘compassion,’ and ‘community’.” Although he warned against overreliance on the state, he still wants to use it for his own ends, proposing greater flexibility in allowing workers to choose between comp time and overtime — by imposing such a provision on private collective bargaining agreements.

Reformicon intellectuals and politicians argue for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for singles and increased deductions for dependents and tax credits for parents who stay at home. Some want more taxes on the wealthy, new employee-oriented public transportation, a preference for borrowing over deficit reduction, subsidies for hiring the unemployed, and punishment for colleges whose students welsh on their educational loans.

Senators Lee and Marco Rubio and Lee have introduced the “Economic Growth and Family Fairness Tax Reform Plan.” It offers some corporate and individual tax reductions but raises the rates on most everyone by lowering tax thresholds. The bill …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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New Defense Guidelines with Japan Threaten U.S. Confrontation with China

May 5, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Japan has always been Washington’s number one Asian ally. That was demonstrated with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Washington, highlighted by a speech to Congress. Unfortunately, the relationship increases the likelihood of a confrontation between the U.S. and China.

World War II ended 70 years ago, but Tokyo’s international role remains stunted. The U.S. occupation authorities imposed the “peace constitution” with Article Nine, which forbids possession of a military. Although Japanese governments conveniently interpreted that provision to allow “Self-Defense Forces,” Tokyo sharply limited their role and budgets.

Public sentiment has shifted toward greater foreign involvement out of concern with both North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Nevertheless, a recent Pew Research survey indicated that two-thirds of Japanese do not want a more active military. Public opposition has forced the Abe government to temper its plans.

During Prime Minister Abe’s visit the two governments released new “Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.” The document clearly sets America against China.

The current relationship with Japan increases the likelihood of a confrontation between the U.S. and China.”

First, the guidelines’ rewrite targets China. Japan’s greatest security concern is the ongoing Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute and Tokyo had pushed hard for an explicit U.S. guarantee for the unpopulated rocks. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the idea that navigation and overflight freedom were “privileges granted by big states to small ones,” leaving no doubt what he meant. Questions and answers at the Abe-Obama press conference reflected great concern with Beijing. Noted Geoff Dyer in the Financial Times: “the threat that ties together [various allied] initiatives is the growing anxiety across Asia about a more powerful China.”

Second, Japan’s promise to do more is merely a wish; the document stated that it created no “legal rights or obligations.” President Obama admitted: “it’s important to recognize we do not expect some instant and major transformation in terms of how Japan projects military power.” Tokyo will remain reluctant to act outside of core Japanese interests.

Third, though the new document removes geographical limits from Japanese operations, most of Japan’s new international responsibilities appeared to be essentially social work (what Prime Minister Abe called “human security”). In his speech to Congress the prime minister said his nation would “take yet more responsibility for the peace and stability in the world,” but cited humanitarian and peace-keeping operations as examples.

Moreover, the guidelines indicate that the SDF’s military involvement will be “from …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Obscene Amounts of Money the 10 Highest-Paid Hedge Fund Managers Just Made

May 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Michael Arria, AlterNet

Cry us a river.


Alpha Magazine has released its “Rich List,” the annual rundown of the Unites States' highest-earning hedge fund managers and there's an interesting development. The top earners underwent a 45% drop in earnings during 2014, which prompted the magazine to invoke, “harsh memories of the global financial crisis [that] pervaded Wall Street.”

Yes, the top hedge fund managers only pulled down a “paltry” $11.62 billion combined in 2014, around the same amount they were able to bag in 2008 and only a little more than half of what they generated in 2013. Head of Appaloosa Management David Tepper fell from Number 1 to 11th, taking in a “mere” $400 million. “In total, it was a rough year for hedge fund industry honchos,” Jeff Cox wrote at CNBC.

Yes, rough. Here's the Top 10:

Ken Griffin, Citadel: $1.3 billion

James Simons, Renaissance: $1.2 billion

Ray Dalio, Bridgewater: $1.1 billion

Bill Ackman, Pershing Square: $950 million

Izzy Englander: Millenium: $900 million

Michael Platt, Bluecrest: $800 million

Larry Robbins, Glenview: $570 million

David Shaw, DE Shaw: $530 million

O. Andreas Halvorsen, Viking Global: $450 million

Charles Coleman, Tiger Global: $425 million

Related Stories

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Debunking the Myth of Economic Austerity in Europe

May 5, 2015 in Economics

By Alan Reynolds

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Alan Reynolds

My colleague Dan Mitchell and I have long been baffled by the Quixotic efforts of such prominent economists Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz to blame economic stagnation in the eurozone on insufficient government spending.

Government spending in the euro countries rose from 45.3% of GDP in 2007 to 49.5% in 2013, according to Eurostat, with particularly huge increases in Greece, France, Italy and Portugal. The table below shows how little austerity there has been in euro public sectors.

Stiglitz writes: “Austerity had failed repeatedly, from its early use under U.S. President Herbert Hoover, which turned the stock-market crash into the Great Depression, to the IMF ‘programs’ imposed on East Asia and Latin America in recent decades. And yet when Greece got into trouble, it was tried again.”

In reality, those are all examples of the failure of higher tax rates, not government spending restraint.

In 1931, Herbert Hoover increased federal spending by 43% in a single year — to $4.3 billion from $3 billion in 1930. In June 1932, however, Hoover greatly increased all income-tax rates, with the top rate rising from 25% to 63%. Federal revenues fell from 4.4% of GDP in 1930 to 3.0% in 1933, but the private economy fell even more.

Similarly, the austerity of “IMF programs imposed on East Asia and Latin America” invariably meant higher income and/or value-added tax rates, and sometimes higher tariffs.

For instance, the IMF required suicidal tax hikes as a condition of loans to South Korea in 1980, Thailand in 1997, Argentina 1998-2001 and Russia 1998-2000.

Europe is suffering under Herbert Hoover/IMF tax policy. Since 2007, the top tax on personal income was increased by six to 15 percentage points in the most troubled economies of Europe — from 40% to 46% in Greece, from 41% to 48% in Ireland, from 43% to 52% in Spain and from 42% to 56.5% in Portugal (to name just a few). Meanwhile, VAT rates also rose from 19% to 23% in Greece, 16% to 21% in Spain, 20% to 22% in Italy and 20 to 23% in Portugal.

Why have mainstream Keynesian economists been so strangely silent about the infliction of punitive tax rates on depressed European economies? What accounts for this blind spot?

One explanation, articulated by former Obama economist Christina Romer, may be that “supply-based theories of the effects of tax changes imply that the output effects depend mainly on the impact of the changes on marginal rates, …read more

Source: OP-EDS