Tag Archives: zero tolerance

Ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley enters race for Democratic presidential nomination

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley entered the Democratic presidential race on Saturday in a longshot challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the 2016 nomination, casting himself as a new generation leader who would rebuild the economy and reform Wall Street.

“I’m running for you,” he told a crowd of about 1,000 people in a populist message at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, where he served as mayor before two terms as governor. O’Malley said was drawn into the campaign “to rebuild the truth of the American dream for all Americans.”

O’Malley has made frequent visits in recent months to early-voting Iowa, where he was headed later Saturday, and New Hampshire, his destination Sunday. Still, he remains largely unknown in a field dominated by Clinton.

Already in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who could be O’Malley’s main rival for the support of the Democratic left.

An ally of former President Bill Clinton, O’Malley was the second governor to endorse Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007. But he made clear that he thinks Democrats deserve a choice in the 2016 primary.

“The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth … between two royal families,” O’Malley said. “It is a sacred trust to be earned from the people of the United States, and exercised on behalf of the people of the United States.”

He pointed to recent news reports that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would be “fine” with either Clinton or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading Republican contender and the son and brother of presidents, in the White House.

It was a forceful message that O’Malley will focus on overhauling the financial system, a priority for liberals opposed to the bailouts of Wall Street banks.

“Tell me how it is, that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown? Not a single one,” O’Malley said. “Tell me how it is, that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable?”

Aides said O’Malley called Hillary Clinton on Friday to tell her he was running.

The 52-year-old O’Malley has spoken often about the economic challenges facing the nation and said he would bring new leadership, progressive values and the ability to accomplish things.

“We are allowing our land of opportunity to be turned into a land of inequality,” he told the crowd.

O’Malley has presented himself to voters as a next-generation figure in the party, pointing to his record as governor on issues such as gay marriage, immigration, economic issues and the death penalty.

His tenure was marked by financial challenges posed by the recession, but O’Malley pushed through an increase in the state’s minimum wage while keeping record amounts of money flowing into the state’s education system. He backed a bill to allow same-sex marriage, which lawmakers passed and voters approved in 2012. He oversaw a sweeping gun-control measure and a repeal of the death penalty.

He also raised taxes on multiple occasions — on higher earners, sales of goods, vehicle titles, gasoline, cigarettes, sewer services and more. Republican critics branded him as a tax-and-spend liberal and the GOP defeated O’Malley’s hand-picked successor in 2014.

But his record on criminal justice has been scrutinized in recent weeks after riots in Baltimore broke out following the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died in police custody following his arrest last month.

O’Malley was known for his tough-on-crime, “zero tolerance” policies that led to large numbers of arrests for minor offenses. Critics say it sowed distrust between police and the black community.

Supporters note the overall decrease in violent crime during his tenure. O’Malley has defended his work to curb crime, saying he helped address rampant violence and drug abuse.

A few demonstrators gathered near the park to protest O’Malley’s criminal justice policies as mayor, an office he held from 1999 until his election as governor in 2006. During O’Malley’s speech, there was sporadic shouting from protesters, including one who blew a whistle.

O’Malley called the unrest “heartbreaking” but said “there is something to be learned from that night, and there is something to be offered to our country from those flames. For what took place here was not only about race, not only about policing in America. It’s about everything it is supposed to mean to be an American.”

Megan Kenny, 38, of Baltimore, who held a sign that said “stop killer cops” and yelled “black lives matter,” said she thought O’Malley’s decision to run was “a strange choice,” especially because of the recent rioting. She attributed the unrest to his “ineffective zero-tolerance policy.”

O’Malley could soon be joined in the Democratic field by former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who plans to make an announcement next week, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is exploring a potential campaign.

Sanders has raised more than $4 million since opening his campaign in late April and sought to build support among liberals in the party who are disillusioned with Clinton.

In a sign of his daunting task, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, his former boss and mentor, is supporting Clinton. She said in a statement that O’Malley “should follow his dreams. And while I’ve already announced my support for Hillary Clinton, I know that competition is good for democracy.”

One of O’Malley’s first tasks as a candidate would be to consolidate support among Democrats who are reluctant to back Clinton and eyeing Sanders.

“It’s not going to be a free pass for anybody running for president,” said Jereme Leazier, an O’Malley supporter who traveled to the rally from Hagerstown, Maryland. “He’s going to ask the hard questions.”

Associated Press writer Brian Witte contributed to this report.


President orders military to review sexual assault

President Barack Obama gave the military a one-year deadline to better prevent and respond to a wave of sexual assault in the ranks and warned that if progress isn’t made, he will consider tougher reforms than those approved by Congress.

The ultimatum from their commander in chief and pressure from lawmakers puts the onus on the Pentagon to live up to its vows of zero tolerance for sexual assault, or face the potential of losing authority to prosecute offenders in its own courts.

“So long as our women and men in uniform face the insider threat of sexual assault, we have an urgent obligation to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, as appropriate under the military justice system,” Obama said in a statement issued hours after the Senate sent a bill for his signature that would crack down on the crime.

The president said he wants Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to report back to him by Dec. 1, 2014, on improvements they’ve made preventing and responding to sexual assault.

“If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks and protect our brave service members who stand guard for us every day at home and around the world,” Obama said in the statement, his first comments in response to sexual assault legislation that has been furiously debated on Capitol Hill in recent months.

The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 military members were victims last year.

The sexual assault measures were part of a sweeping, $632.8 billion bill the Senate passed on an 84-15 vote late Thursday that also covers combat pay and other benefits, new ships and aircraft and military bases. The legislation also:

-Provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget and $80.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations, a reflection of deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in a conflict lasting more than a decade.

-Gives the administration additional flexibility to move detainees out of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to foreign countries. It stops well short of the president’s goal of closing the detention facility and bans detainee transfers to the United States.

-Authorizes funds for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria

-Provides money to study the feasibility of establishing a missile defense site on the East Coast.

The legislation would strip military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and require that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal. The bill also would provide victims with legal counsel, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases, and criminalize retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault. The legislation also would change the military’s Article 32 proceedings to limit intrusive questioning of victims, making it more similar to a grand jury.

Obama didn’t specify what other reforms he would consider to address sexual assault if the military review doesn’t meet his standards. The Senate is still debating a proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would take away authority for prosecuting accused attackers from military commanders. The White House says Obama hasn’t taken a position on the bill, which has been vigorously opposed by the Pentagon, creating a split within the administration.

Hagel said in a statement shortly after Obama announced his orders that “we share his commitment to doing whatever it takes to solve this problem.” Hagel said he is pleased with the changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that were made by Congress and said he’s already been making some of the changes required.

“Sexual assault is a stain on the honor of millions of military men and women, a threat to the discipline and the cohesion of our force, and we will not allow this to stand,” Hagel said.

The White House said the president remains open to all ideas for reform but that he supports the thrust of the reforms passed by the Senate in Thursday and wants to give them time to work.

Gillibrand said she spoke with Obama about the matter but that she remains committed to earning enough support to pass her legislation, which could come up for a vote as early as next month.

“I do not want to wait another year to enact the one reform survivors have asked for in removing commanders with no legal training and conflicts of interest from the decision of whether or not to prosecute a rape or sexual assault,” she said in a statement. “We have the best fighting force in the world and they deserve a first class justice system. Nowhere in America do we allow a boss to decide if an employee was sexually assaulted or not, except the United States military.”

Presidential aides said the White House will be working with the Pentagon to develop a set of benchmarks so that the military’s review will be rigorous enough to bring about change. They said the review will include all the efforts underway to address the problem, including training and prevention programs and the way the justice system deters the problem and supports victims.

The Pentagon has ordered a host of reviews and studies across the department and military services. In March, Hagel ordered a review of the military’s justice system in connection with sexual assaults. And a month later he laid out a department-wide sexual assault plan to better coordinate the initiatives being launched across the services.

Hagel has been meeting weekly with senior service officers to track the progress of the beefed up training, prevention and treatment programs that the services have put in place over the year. And service members are already taking updated surveys that put increased accountability on commanders to enforce better command climates in their units, including their response to any sexual assault cases.

New anti-discrimination policy debuts at MLB’s All-Star game festivities

Major League Baseball says it will bolster its policies against harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a new agreement provided to The Associated Press.

The league announced its new policy during its All-Star game festivities on July 16 with the players’ union and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who helped draft the agreement.

Under the new policy, the league will create a workplace code of conduct and distribute it to every major league and minor league player. It also will provide new training sessions and create a centralized complaint system to report any harassment and discrimination.

“Just making people aware,” Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura said on July 15, while the American League took batting practice. “I think that’s part of the reason, if they’re going to do that, that’s why they would do it. Just put it out there and kind of be ahead of it instead of behind it.”

“I think it’s already out there. I think what’s happened in basketball and all this stuff, it’s better just to get out there and be ready for it,” he said.

The announcement follows Schneiderman’s agreement this year with the National Football League to strengthen its policies. Some NFL prospects complained about questions they said were posed to them during the evaluation and hiring system called the NFL combine. The case prompted a look at harassment and discrimination policies in other sports.

It also comes after basketball player Jason Collins said in April that he’s gay. The veteran center is a free agent.

Few professional male athletes are openly gay, and gay rights groups have blamed the policies and atmosphere in sports for forcing gay athletes to hide their sexual orientations.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, called the new policy actions a “clear stand against discrimination.”

“Our national pastime is showing national leadership in the fight to promote equal justice for all,” he said.

Major League Baseball already has an anti-discrimination policy, but the new one specifically will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Commissioner Bud Selig said baseball won’t allow any discrimination.

“We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins,” Selig said. “Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Said Ventura: “I mean, I think he’s right.”

“I think it’s just better to put it out there and clean it up and make everybody more conscious about it. I would expect that from our team, too,” he said.

The Major League Baseball Players Association said it supports the policy so that players can pursue their careers regardless of their sexual orientations.

“MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation,” said the union’s executive director, Michael Weiner.

Union official Tony Clark, who played in the 2001 All-Star game, echoed those remarks.

“Any time you can put pen to paper, to formally acknowledge that certain things won’t be tolerated and post it in every clubhouse, that’s a good thing,” Clark said as the AL players loosened up.