aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Ellen calls Sally Kern
Decision in Troy Anthony Davis case expected tomorrow
Condemned cop killer Troy Anthony Davis, whose case has gained international attention because of his claims of innocence, will learn Monday whether he will get another chance to win a new trial or remain on death row.
The Georgia Supreme Court posted on its Web site Friday that it will publish its opinion on the case Monday.
Davis was sentenced to death in Chatham County for the 1989 murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. But since Davis’ trial, seven prosecution witnesses have recanted their trial testimony in sworn affidavits and signed statements.
In November, during arguments before the state Supreme Court, Davis’ lawyers argued that he should either be granted a new trial or be given a court hearing in which a judge weighs the recantation evidence.
Banks stop people from speaking their truth
So I just finished telling the tale of cops going bonkers over the possibility that ordinary citizens would have the opportunity to rate their performance on the job.
Which reminds me of a similar story about congress caving to the banking industry at a hearing of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions last Thursday. Elizabeth Warren was a panelist:
The first panel was four regular people who wanted to give first-hand information about their experiences with their credit cards. While the reps from Cap One, Chase and Bank of America went on for hours about their customer friendly policies and how much value they provided free to consumers, the people who had different stories were never allowed to utter a single word.
The people who had been invited to testify had flown in from around the country with their credit card bills in hand, only to learn that they couldn’t talk unless they would sign a waiver that would permit the credit card companies to make public anything they wanted to tell about their financial records, their credit histories, their purchases, and so on. The Republicans and Democrats had worked out a deal “to be fair to the credit card lenders.” These people couldn’t say anything unless they were willing to let the credit card companies strip them naked in public.
Via Kevin Drum, who observes:
Hmmm. That’s pretty much how we used to treat rape victims in court, isn’t it? Why the Democratic majority felt like it had to agree to this “compromise” is a little hard to fathom.
In any case, Warren has a good question: does this policy apply to credit card companies too? “I asked if the credit card companies were going to testify to such factual statements, would they be required to produce the data to back up the claims so that we could all see it and evaluate it....I never quite understood the Congressman’s reply.” Actually, I have a feeling she understood it perfectly. It’s only got two letters, after all.
Later on Friday Steve Autrey, one of the people who had been invited to testify before the House subcommittee, made his testimony available as a post on Credit Slips. I’ve excerpted some choice phrases here:
My relationship with Capital One goes back to 1999, when I was solicited with an offer for a Visa card with a “fixed” 9.9% rate card. [In July, 2007] Capital One advised me in a billing insert that my “fixed” rate of 9.9% was being raised to 16.9%. No reason or explanation was given â€“ I was not late on payment, and had not utilized the entire credit limit. This was a unilateral change to the terms of our agreement.
In August, of 2007, I wrote a letter to Mr. Richard D. Fairbank, Chairman, President, and CEO of Capital One, at their McLean, Virginia home office. My written statement will contain a copy of Capital One’s response which includes the line, “Unfortunately, changes in the interest-rate environment or other business circumstances may require us to increase rates, even for fixed-rate accounts in good standing.”
Other issues should be of concern to this committee as well. My wife holds a Capital One-issued MasterCard credit card. Last October, she experienced a medical emergency and had to leave work to spend hours at a medical facility to receive tests and treatment. Arriving home later that evening, she immediately logged on to the CapitalOne.com website to pay her bill online. It was approx. 9:00pm on the due date. Although she made the payment on the due date, it was 6 hours past the 3:00pm cutoff time.
For being six hours late on her payment, she was hit with a $39.00 punitive fine labeled as a “late fee.” That late fee, when added to her account, pushed her balance over the limit by $16.00. It was at this point that Capital One added a second $39.00 fine in the form of an “Over the limit fee” to her account.
Last March Professor Warren discussed the abusive lending practices of credit card companies with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. It’s worthwhile listening. I excerpt some of it here.
Cops go bonkers over RateMyCop.com
Let’s begin with Radley Balko’s telling of the saga:
So even as police departments across the country are setting up sex offender registries, drug offender registries, and posting the mugs and names of suspected johns online, they also took a great deal umbrage early this month when Gino Sesto set up a site called RateMyCop.com. The premise is simple: Sesto wrote to police departments across the country, and obtained a list of the names and badge numbers of their officers. He then posted the names online in a format broken down by state and city, and encouraged users to rate their experiences with individual officers. All of the information he posted was already open to the public. He didn’t post the identities of any undercover officers.
Police groups went nuts, making the dubious argument that posting the publicly-available names and badge numbers of police officers on the Internet somehow jeopardized the safety of individual officers. Sesto said he had even planned on adding a feature that would allow individual officers to write responses to complaints made against them. But police groups persisted.
Jerry Dyer, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, told Wired the site could give citizens the opportunity to "unfairly malign" individual officers, and said he’d be asking the legislature to pass a law making sites like RateMyCop.com illegal.
On Monday TechDirt noted Arizona police were complaining about it:
The site doesn’t have pictures, addresses, or other personal information on the site. It only lists officers’ names and the department they work for. But this is still too much for the Tempe police department. “If everybody went home everyday and you had the whole world ranking your job, we do make mistakes, but other days we do great things,” said one Tempe police officer. I’ve have a lot more sympathy for the guy if this wasn’t true of a ton of other professions. When I do a stupid blog post, you guys all leave comments saying so. Most restaurants and retail business have complaint cards so customers can complain about bad service. There are a ton of sites where consumers rate hotels, bands, restaurants, books, and a ton of other stuff—such as rating teachers (although some people do want to make that illegal too). The big difference is that police officers have the force of law behind them, so they need to be held to a higher standard than other professions...When a police officer screws up, the result can be innocent people being harrassed, humiliated, arrested, injured or killed.
On Wednesday, Wired’s Threat Level reported that GoDaddy pulled the site:
RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he’d been shut down for “suspicious activity.”
When Sesto got a supervisor on the phone, the company changed its story and claimed the site had surpassed its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit, a claim that Sesto says is nonsense. “How can it be overloaded when it only had 80,00 page views today, and 400,000 yesterday?”
GoDaddy’s is a checkered past:
Unfortunately for the startup, the company it chose for hosting is known to be quick to censor its customers. In January of last year, GoDaddy took down entire computer security website—delisting it from DNS—to get a single, archived mailing list post off the web.
On that occasion, at least, it gave the site’s owner 60 seconds notice. GoDaddy notified Seto by posting its “Oops!” message to his public website.
“You put on my website for me to call you, when you have my phone number?,” says Sesto.
Gideon says the irony’s coming in buckets:
Curiously, police agencies have no problem with Cops Writing Cops, which is a site for cops to trash other cops for not showing them “professional courtesy”.
So a website where cops can complain about, essentially, getting ticketed, arrested and charged for breaking the law is okay, but a website where the public they serve does that is unacceptable.
I conclude in agreement with Radley:
The good news is, the site’s back up, now, though it isn’t clear who’s hosting it.
Me, I think police departments should be required to post all citizen complaints against individual officers online in a searchable database. Individual officers, their union reps, or their departments could post responses or explanations to frivolous claims. Police officers are public servants. Not only that, they’re public servants with the power to arrest, detain, and use lethal force. If certain officers are the subject of repeated complaints and aren’t being properly investigated internally, the public ought to be informed of that. This culture of secrecy—and of intimidating anyone who dares question it—isn’t healthy.
And further agreement with Threat Level’s Kevin Poulsen’s prediction that:
A year from now RateMyCop.com will have won public service awards. Good cops, and clean departments, will have come to think of the site as a friend, and its founders will be sought-after speakers at police gatherings. Hosting companies that reject them on “health and safety” grounds will look like fools and cowards.
If they want to waste their time with legislation, bring it on. Such legislation, says Poulsen, “wouldn’t pass constitutional muster in any court in America.”