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Archives for September, 2010


Law and Disorder September 27, 2010


Updates:

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MichaelR_Sam Census_Bureau_seal

Census Bureau Case: Johnson v. Locke

Earlier this year, thousands of people of color who applied with the 2010 Census were deemed ineligible or deterred from the application process. The Center for Constitutional Rights co-counsel Outten & Golden and others filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the Census Bureau for race and national origin discrimination in the hiring of temporary workers. In Johnson et al. v. Locke, CCR says that the U.S. Census Bureau’s practice of running job applicants’ names through the FBI criminal records database-a notoriously inaccurate and incomplete database-disproportionally excludes applicants of color and deters them from completing the application process. Basically, anyone with an arrest will not be eligible, including those arrested and not charged in a demonstration for example.

This practice directly undermines the Census Bureau’s self-avowed commitment to hiring temporary workers from within historically under counted communities, such as low-income people of color and immigrants.

African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are subject to exceedingly disproportionate rates of contact with the criminal justice system, from disparate rates of stops-and-frisks and arrests, to higher conviction rates and harsher criminal penalties.  Lawsuit Website.

Sam Miller:

  • I’m one of the litigators of a class action lawsuit against the Census Bureau based on its hiring practices for those who would be doing the counting process.
  • The Census Bureau eliminates virtually anyone who has ever been arrested.
  • I was arrested for civil-disobedience and if I were to go to the Census and apply for a job and I were to get a letter that your name popped up on the FBI database, you have to get an official court record of your arrest and if you can’t do it. You’re out.
  • You get a form letter that says you’re flagged for having some criminal record. Roughly one quarter of the adult US population has a record in the FBI database. The FBI database is flawed with an enormous amount of errors in it.  It includes things like an arrest without a prosecution, juvenile records, expungments.
  • Tens and even hundreds of thousands of people effected by hiring policy.
  • This is what we call a disparate impact lawsuit. The challenge to the policy is, here you have a policy that is checking people’s criminal background and excluding them on the basis of that background.  The discrimination occurs because of the enormous disparity that’s in the criminal justice process.
  • I believe this is the largest employment discrimination case for many years. We’re talking about 700 thousand were excluded from these jobs, just on the basis of this form letter that went out.
  • This information came to us in the Spring 2010 and we got the litigation underway as fast as we could.
  • What were looking for now is to change their policy and practice. They can’t deny people employment based on arrest records where there’s never been a prosecution, there’s never been a conviction.
  • We’re also asking for damages. We have a class of over 100 thousand people who should be compensated for the jobs they should have gotten. My concern is it’s the tip of the iceberg, that there is a broader problem within the federal government.  We learned that the Census Bureau did it the same way 10 years ago.
  • The standard question employers should is has there ever been a conviction, it should not be has there ever been an arrest because that’s irrelevant.
  • My hope is that word of how completely outrageous the policy in the Census Bureau is gets up high into the government, whether its the Secretary of Commerce, the White House. Credit history is also a very significant issue that’s related.
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – furthering the under caste.

Guest – Attorney Sam Miller, with co-counsel Outten & Golden. For more than two decades, he has represented plaintiffs in individual and class action civil rights cases.Prior to joining O&G in July 2009, Sam was the Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he directed a twenty-person legal staff in domestic impact litigation (including a recent victory against the New York City Fire Department based on class-wide race discrimination), international human rights litigation (including a recent multi-million dollar settlement against Shell Oil for human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Nigeria), and the Guantànamo Global Justice Initiative.

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rooftopsurveillance undercover

FBI Inappropriately Tracked Domestic Advocacy Groups

In the last year we’ve reported on the FBI’s over-reaching authority in cases that profile Muslims and the use of informants to entrap people on terrorism charges. Now, in a report released by the Justice Department the FBI is exposed for inappropriately targeting left leaning groups after 9/11.  Among those groups surveilled are PETA, Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker.  In the case of The Catholic Worker, the OIG report concluded that the FBI inappropriately characterized” certain “nonviolent civil disobedience” as terrorism-related. The Catholic Worker is a group committed to “nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer and hospitality for the homeless.

The four year internal investigation “found no evidence that the FBI had any information at the time of the event that any terrorism suspect would be present at the event.” There are many other examples. The report concluded, that FBI Director Robert Mueller “unintentionally provided inaccurate testimony to Congress” in 2006 about an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh four years earlier.  Download PDF Copy of Report

Thomas Cincotta:

  • This report was prompted by media reports of FBI surveillance of domestic political organizations.
  • These reports came to light through several FOIA requests. The report illustrates a really broad scope of authority that the FBI has right now.
  • This report covers from 2001-2006. Sheds a lot of light on what the FBI is doing and what they’re characterizing these days as terrorism.  There seems to be some disconnect with reality here because of who the FBI is choosing to investigate.
  • Half of the report focused on the investigation of a pacifist group in Pittsburgh called the Thomas Merton Center.
  • Why did the FBI focus on an anti war group?  These terms forceful and violent spelled out in FBI policy, so there’s a lot of discretion to slap this terrorism label on their investigations which can be extraordinarily prejudicial to their targets.
  • An example of the broad definition of terrorism, the FBI made a determination in the case of the Catholic Worker,  that spilling human blood on the walls and an American flag were forceful acts and damage to government property.  They are immediately put on the VGTOF. The VGTOF list is used by all of the screening centers and by TSA, Customs Bureau. . .
  • There’s a complete disconnect here in what the common notion of what terror is is.  Michael Ratner: This verifies what we been thinking about for 10 or 11 years.
  • There’s an emphasis on ideology, which is a very sloppy way to do criminal law enforcement work. It has a very predictive quality. Meaning, organization X has said this, espouses this in its philosophy that means we can expect that intends to do Y.  This report demonstrates we can’t trust the FBI to police themselves.
  • We need mechanisms in place so when people are targeted unfairly by the government they can be held to account.  Minnesota blog on RNC arrests.

Guest – Thomas Cincotta, Project director with the Political Research Associates. A criminal defense lawyer, he led the Denver chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in support of peace groups and others during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and connected progressive lawyers with other community efforts around sentencing reform, immigrant rights, and police misconduct. He also represented migrant farm workers and served on the board of El Centro Humanitario, Denver’s first day laborer center. He currently serves on the NLG’s national board and international committee. Before becoming a lawyer, Cincotta worked as a labor representative for UNITE HERE Local 217 in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Law and Disorder September 20, 2010


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The United States and Yemen: Destroying Lives in the Name of National Security

We hear the voices of leading Yemeni activists and a Center For Constitutional Rights attorney speak on state violence, targeted killings, and human rights abuses enabled by the so-called “War on Terror” from the Brecht Forum event titled The United States and Yemen: Destroying Lives in the Name of National Security. The event was co-sponsored by the International Federation for Human Rights and the Brecht Forum.  We hear first from Pardiss Kebriaei staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  Pardiss is working on a lawsuit to challenge a U.S. government kill-list and the targeting of a U.S. citizen now in Yemen and far from any armed conflict with the United States.

We hear from Tawakkol Karman chairwoman of the Yemeni non-government organization Women Journalists Without Chains, which campaigns for freedom of the press in Yemen and against human rights violations. She is a very prominent young activist, and Reporters Without Borders chose her in 2009 as one of the top seven women who have led change in the world. Karman is among the activists who in 2007 launched the “Phase of Protests and Sit-ins” in Yemen, holding regular sit-ins in the capital’s Freedom Square to demand democratic reforms and an end to human rights violations—including the harassment and imprisonment of journalists and dissidents, closure of critical newspapers, and censorship of news articles.  A special thanks to Leili Kashani Education and Outreach Associate for the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Also on the panel, to be heard soon, Ezz-Adeen Al-Asbahi,  president of Human Rights Information & Training Center (HRITC), a non-governmental organization which seeks to enhance human rights in Yemen and the Arab World, focusing on the Gulf States in particular. HRITC has consultative status with the United Nations, offers training courses and forums on human rights, publishes a quarterly human rights magazine called Our Rights, and has published 30 books on law and human rights. Al-Asbahi is also the coordinator of a large regional network of human rights activists in the Gulf States and the Peninsula, and the president of a Yemeni network of human rights organizations which includes six Yemeni NGOs. A journalist and researcher, he has published eight books on literature and human rights. He is also the head of the civil society sector of the Supreme National Authority to Combat Corruption.

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Troops out of Iraq, Permanent Bases and Privatizing the Occupation.

While many reports claim most US troops are leaving Iraq, there will still be 50 thousand troops remaining, 4 thousand will be replaced by 7 thousand security contractors. These are armed private contractors, former military with specialized skills in weaponry, radar and explosives. They will have less accountability in war zones. Meanwhile, massive permanent US bases remain including the world’s largest US Embassy in Bagdhad, Iraq. As the occupation in Iraq is privatized, veterans return back to the US. We’re joined today by conscientious objecter and Executive Director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jose Vasquez. Jose joined IVAW in June 2005 and co-founded the NYC chapter serving as the president. He also served on the interim board of directors and was elected to the first official board in 2006. He helped organize numerous actions and events including the Veterans’ and Survivors’ March to New Orleans, Operation First Casualty in NYC, and Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jose Vasquez:

  • IVAW is a membership based organization, we are all folks who’ve served since September 11th.
  • We call for the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq. We also have the same resolution for Afghanistan.  We also want reparations for the Iraqis and full benefits for returning service members.
  • I signed up right out of high school, graduated in ’92. I went straight in to active duty, I served 4 years as a Calvary Scout.  Got out went to school and the Army Reserves as a medic.
  • I had been in the military for a while before September 11th. I had a pretty good understanding of what our relationship was to Iraq.  It was confusing to me, I was facing deployment. I stumbled across Democracy Now and I just started listening to that show religiously.
  • By 2004, I was so upset about the Iraq War, I didn’t care what happened, I was not going to this.
  • I started researching conscientious objection, six months later I filed for CO status. It took 27 months to get an answer.
  • The Obama Administration has a finger on the pulse in terms of marketing hope. What they’re skimming over is how contractors are on the ground (in Iraq)
  • From the perspective of an Iraqi, Americans running around with guns has not diminished that much.
  • I think we owe the people of Iraq a lot. This mostly has to do with the US positioning itself to access the resources that they have.
  • Stop the deployment of PTSD troops

Guest – Jose Vasquez, Jose was born in Bronx, NY and grew up in Southern California from the age of nine. After graduating high school in 1992, he enlisted in the U.S. Army serving over four years of active duty as a cavalry scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 24th Infantry Division at Fort Benning, GA, and the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, HI. He was honorably discharged in December 1996 at the rank of specialist (E-4).

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Law and Disorder September 13, 2010


Updates:

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Bonnclimatetalks Boliviaclimatechangeconference

People’s Council on Climate Justice

From climate change to man made disasters such as the BP oil catastrophe, the People’s Council on Climate Justice are pushing for a structure of accountability. In April, the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia brought hundreds of activists and indigenous people together. Our guests today attended that conference, we’re joined by activist Jeff Jones, Mychal Johnson and Monique Harden. Mychal, a Bronx activist led the US delegation in Bolivia and delivered reports to Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. Monique Hardin joins us by phone, she is the Co-Director & Attorney for Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans. She began defending the rights of those most impacted by the Gulf disaster and now the BP disaster.  Monique co-founded Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, headquartered in New Orleans in 2003.

Jeff Jones:

  • The developed world did not agree to any definitive cuts to carbon emissions. People from the global south that are being impacted by climate change, led by President Evo Morales, called us together in April to talk about what we could do.
  • Cochabamba is at an altitude of 8200 feet. Where does Cochabamba get its water, mainly from melting glaciers, there wasn’t a melting glacier in sight, they were all gone.  There is going to be a water crisis, and the Bolivians know that. They’re reaching out for some solidarity and help before these intractable problems overwhelm the people of Bolivia.
  • How do we build a movement that will force our government in the US to take meaningful action, in terms of addressing the problems of climate. What kinds of policy and investments can we make that result in transforming the way we live our lives and the way we do business?
  • We take the subways for granted, one third of all public transit trips daily in the country take place in New York City. The cut backs in the public transit will lead to climate pollution.
  • The philosophy of living in harmony with the Earth, respecting the Earth, that the purpose of our lives is not to use up every resource we can.
  • We would like to live our lives in such a way, that we have what we need be happy. We can breathe our air and drink our water, that’s something we have a right to, but we don’t need more than that.
  • The People’s World Conference on Climate Change

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Mychal Johnson :

  • We just recently fought to stop a major highway, Highway 87 from being expanded, the Major Deagan which would probably increased poor air quality and asthma rates. We have to inform the public about what we’re headed for and what it means to go up 1 degree Celsius.
  • I went to Cochabamba to learn and was nominated and became president of the Harmony With Nature Working Group. There were 17 working groups.
  • We put together a document of conscious thought of how we could move forward in harmony with nature.
  • I was asked by the ambassador of Bolivia to present with the Harmony With Nature Working Group and 4 other working groups our conclusive documents to President Morales, President Chavez and 17 other heads of state. We don’t own our planet, our planet sustains our life.
  • It’s takes a steady outcry for change to do anything differently in the community.

mr-jeff

Monique Hardin :

  • I live in New Orleans Louisiana. We were part of a US delegation to the Worlds People’s Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba.  I heard about the BP oil drilling disaster in Bolivia, when I got to New Orleans I found out 11 people were killed. The rest has been this real odyssey around the treatment of folks who have been put out of work, the posturing and positions taken by some of our elected officials who want to syphon money and not restore and recover.
  • This need for documentation in the relief effort is blocking people’s ability to fully recover. It’s an ongoing problem even though it’s no longer on national TV.
  • Galvanizing around the point of what we can do as people to change this. What is it that we can do to insure that our dependence on fossil fuels is changed and our ideas and habits around consumption is changed because it’s killing us.
  • It’s killing people, it’s killing our environment. It’s creating a bleak future for us if we continue down this path. So, looking at crystal clear steps in holding governments accountable but also holding ourselves accountable.
  • One of things we at Advocates for Environmental Human Rights would like to do is build connections with New Yorkers around the advocacy of rights based recovery, whether its environmental injustice or racism or a BP disaster. There has to be an obligation to remedy the damage caused.
  • With climate change it means that children can get separated from parents, that families can no longer take care of themselves like they used to.  Whatever your sense of normalcy was is ripped from under you.
  • What we have here is five years with five major disasters, hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Icke and the BP oil drilling disaster. So, people get the point there is no plan. There is no process for you. You get the runaround, you get tied up on bureaucracy that’s poorly funded.
  • We can’t continue to live like this. This is dangerous.

Guest – Monique Hardin,  Co-Director & Attorney for Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans. She began defending the rights of those most impacted by the Gulf disaster and now the BP disaster.  Monique co-founded Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, headquartered in New Orleans in 2003.

Guest – Mychal Johnson, member of US delegation to the People’s Council on Climate Justice. Bronx activist and member of the Bronx Community Board 1. Mychal is also a Bronx Real Estate Broker.

Guest – Jeff JonesHe was a communications director for ten years at Environmental Advocates of New York. He now heads up his own consulting firm called Jeff Jones Strategies that specializes in media expertise, writing and campaign strategies that help grassroots and progressive groups to achieve their goals.

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Law and Disorder September 6, 2010


brechtnolajordan1 floodlines1

Community and Resistance on the Gulf Coast: Five Years After Hurricane Katrina, Four Months After the BP Drilling Disaster. Speakers: Rosa Clemente, Jordan Flaherty, Damon Hewitt, and Shantrelle Lewis. Moderated by attorney Eric Poulos. This week we hear from Jordan Flaherty and Rosa Clemente.

Jordan Flaherty. Jordan is the author of the book Floodlines. He’s a journalist and community organizer based in New Orleans.  He was the first journalist with a national audience to write about the Jena Six case, and played an important role in bringing the story to worldwide attention. His post-Katrina writing in ColorLines Magazine shared a journalism award from New America Media for best Katrina-related coverage in the Ethnic press, his reporting has been featured in the New York Times, and audiences around the world have seen the news segments he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now.  Safe Streets

brechtnolarosa2 by Danny Bourque, Times-Picayune

Rosa Clemente, community organizer, independent journalist and hip-hop activist. She was the vice presidential running mate of 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. Clemente was born and raised in South Bronx, New York. She is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University.  Clemente has been delivering workshops, presentations and commentary for over ten years.

Clemente’s academic work has focused on research of national liberation struggles within the United States, with a specific focus on the Young Lords Party and the Black Liberation Army. While a student at SUNY Albany, she was President of the Albany State University Black Alliance (ASUBA) and Director of Multicultural Affairs for the Student Association. At Cornell she was a founding member of La Voz Boriken, a social/political organization dedicated to supporting Puerto Rican political prisoners and the independence of Puerto Rico.

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Author, professor Jack Rasmus joins hosts during fund raising in an interview about his recent book, Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression. Rasmus says another bank failure in the world could plunge economies into a depression. Who are the banks lending to?  Rasmus says banks  haven’t lent to small, medium businesses in the US, they lending collapse has gone on for 15 months. The banks have lent to hedge funds, private equity firms and speculators who have invested in foreign markets, Chinese commodities, oil and gold. Meanwhile, private investors and non-bank businesses continue to invest trillions into derivatives and speculative markets away from solid investments and production.  Review

Jack Rasmus:

  • I think its necessary to explain what’s really going on. How we got here, how it’s different. Why is it so difficult to extracate from it?  The first 3 chapters are theoretical, the next few are historical.
  • 1907-1914 - You bail out the banks, and there’s no fiscal stimulus and what you get is an extended period of stagnation. It didn’t end until the massive fiscal spending of WWI.
  • A type II Epic Recession, the banks aren’t bailed out, and there isn’t sufficient fiscal stimulus. We had two banking crisis, then followed by another one in 1932 and 1933.
  • Jump forward, there’s a possibility of another banking crisis somewhere in the world, if so, then a global depression. Banks have been engaged in this speculative shift, where they built up this huge level of debt.
  • There are about 25 million without jobs. The government number is 14 million, the U3 unemployment.
  • 7 million homes foreclosed. 3 million over 90 days delinquent.
  • The first thing you got to do is create a massive 10 million job program. You got to finance 10 million jobs and that will cost a trillion dollars.
  • The banks are sitting on a trillion dollar cash horde. Private businesses, non bank businesses are sitting on a 1.84 trillion dollar cash horde.
  • That’s not counting the 750 billion. The money is there, it’s not being spent after they’ve been bailed out.
  • Obama was only trying to put a floor on the consumption collapse. Unemployment benefits, give some states money, retirees, but that’s played out.
  • What we need in this country is what I call utility banking.  Create a 401K pool that the government matches by individual contributions and invest in alternative energies.
  • The Global Money Parade: There is 10 to 20 trillion dollars of speculative banking sloshing around the world now causing all these bubbles. In the hands of shadow banking institutions, wealthy investors who are tied into the major commercial banks. They’re creating financial fragility as more and more non bank businesses participate in derivatives trading.

Guest – Author and Professor, Jack Rasmus teaches in the Department of Economics and Politics at St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California.

Solutions list from our March 2009 interview with Professor Jack Rasmus.

Solutions:

  • No way out of housing crisis without nationalizing housing market.
  • Create a new government agency and properly fund it, – 900 billion dollars – it would create a small residential and business loan agency.  Go in there and reduce long term principle and interest to long term averages that existed before 2002’s run up of huge speculation.
  • That would be for all loans, not just the ones in foreclosure. Which would stimulate consumption not just shore up housing industry.  Similar to the Homeowners Loan Corporation of the 1930s.
  • Auto Companies – You can’t just have 3 US Auto Companies surviving. They have to be nationalized if they’re going to put that much government money into them.  We don’t give them a penny unless they stop their investment and expansions overseas.
  • Ford is building big plants in Petersburg Russia. GM is building big plants in Shang Hai, China. Immediately they should be required to build cars with proper mileage.  Bring back 2 trillion of the 6 trillion that’s been stuff away in offshore tax havens in the last 20 years.

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