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Archives for February, 2013


Law and Disorder February 25, 2013


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Private Prison Corporation To Have Its Name on Florida Atlantic Football Stadium

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Priests of Our Democracy, The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge

Priests of Our Democracy, The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge is the title of the recently published book by attorney Marjorie Heins. The book examines a very dark period in academic freedom within New York City’s municipal colleges. In the early 1940s, faculty, students and staff were the target of massive investigations into their political beliefs and associations. They hauled before tribunals of the New York State legislature, dozens were stripped of their careers.

Author Marjorie Heinz shows historically, that academic freedom is nothing to take for granted and is always on shaky ground despite being protected by the First Amendment. The  backlash of controversy against Students for Justice in Palestine sponsoring a Boycott Divest Sanction event at Brooklyn College is recent example. This is a book for anyone working in education to understand the court battles that tried to preserve a right protected by the Constitution.

Attorney Marjorie Heins:

  • Boards of Trustees which are dominated by corporate executives don’t like these new scholars in the field of social science who are also activists.
  • It’s really an attempt of political purge of this national figure.
  • The burgeoning forces of academic freedom rally round him, they see the danger.
  • In those early days the main attacks on the activist professors really were on activities outside the classroom in support of labor organizing.
  • A bunch of professors get together from around the country and form the AAUP, American Association of University Professors. They for the first time issue a declaration of principles on academic freedom.
  • The first is freedom in the classroom. The second is freedom is your research and scholarship to pursue learning where it may lead, which means overturning conventional wisdom.
  • The third is what they call extramural speech, outside the walls. That was the main target of repression in that period.
  • We have to get all these leftists out of the school system because they’re going to indoctrinate the tender minds of our youth with Marxist ideas.
  • Harry Keyishian starts the book, he’s one of the wonderful characters I discovered as I was working on it. The Keyishian v. Board of Regents case, 1967 Supreme Court case is famous among First Amendment lawyers because it reversed prior not so good decisions, strikes down the so called Feinberg law which had been passed in 1949 and upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • Feinberg law creates a very sweeping program of loyalty investigations for teachers in the public schools.
  • 1952 is the height of the witch-hunt at Queens College in New York City when the Senate Internal Security Sub-committee comes to town.
  • The Senate Internal Security Sub-committee starts summoning teachers at city colleges.
  • “Would you tell Pablo Picasso that he wasn’t qualified to teach art?”
  • It’s obscene to see college administrators running around scared like keystone cops he said.
  • Some of these investigations were very broad. What books they read, what magazines they subscribed to, did you have Paul Robeson records in your home?
  • It’s not until the Keyishian case in 1967 that the Supreme Court says this whole system of loyalty investigations violates the First Amendment and the due process provisions of the Constitution.
  • Marjorie Heins Book Events:  
    •  Revolution Books March 5 is sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union – 7PM
    • Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA, Friday March 15, 3 pm.
    • Talking Leaves Bookstore, Buffalo, NY, Sat. March 23, 5 pm.
    • Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC, Sat. June 15, 1 pm.

Guest – Marjorie Heins, a civil liberties lawyer, writer, and teacher, and the founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project. Her previous book, Not in Front of the Children, won the American Library Association’s 2002 Eli Oboler Award for best published work in the field of intellectual freedom. Other books include Sex, Sin, and Blasphemy: A Guide to America’s Censorship Wars; Cutting the Mustard: Affirmative Action and the Nature of Excellence; and Strictly Ghetto Property: The Story of Los Siete de la Raza. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

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Encore Interview: New Vatican Rules On Handling Priest Sexual Abuse Cases

Earlier this year, the Vatican had revised its laws making it easier to discipline sex abuser priests. The new internal of the Vatican will use faster judicial procedures instead of full ecclesiastical trials. Critics of the revisions, say the Vatican merely tweaked the process and the new rules don’t hold bishops accountable for abuse by priests on their watch or require that they report the sexual abuse to the authorities. In the same report was the inclusion that attempting to ordain women as priests was comparable to heresy, apostasy and pedophilia. To many it was a comparison meant to resist any suggestion that pedophilia can be addressed by ending the requirement of celibacy.

Barbara Blaine:

  • SNAP is now a worldwide movement of survivors. We invite supporters join us, we have approximately 10 thousand survivors.  Some are spouses and family members but most are survivors; survivors of sexual abuse by priests or other clergy members.  Sometimes by religious brothers, by nuns, deacons even bishops.
  • We grew in 2002 and 2003 as the headlines were exploding of abuse by priests.
  • We have support group meetings in the United States in about 65 different cities. We were extremely naive, not to mention wounded trying to figure out how to make it from day to day. Its empowering for us if we can protect someone who is 12 or 13 from being abused.
  • Some documents was released in 2009 in Ireland. Those were the result of government investigations into the allegations of priests and other religious figures sexually abusing children.  Victims across Europe, in Germany and Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, England began speaking out and reporting their abuse. In Ireland at the end of 2009, four bishops were resigning their positions.
  • From our perspective, what comes out of the Vatican is a lot of lofty words and empty promises. If you look for concrete action, you’ll see very little if any.  We as victims are devout Catholics and its really incredible for us to comprehend that someone in the position of authority in the church would not want us to be protected.
  • It was heartbreaking and devastating to learn the policy of the church officials is to protect the predators and their assets and their reputations, not the children.
  • They’re accountable to no one and its okay for them to continue and commit these crimes.
  • The vast majority of victims still do not report. More than 5 thousand priests have been identified are sexual offenders who have abused children between 1950 and 2008.
  • 5 percent of priests abusing children. When someone rapes a child they get fired, in the church they get promoted. SNAPnetwork.org / bishopaccountability.org


Attorney Pam Spees:

  • We joined a conversation with SNAP looking for ways to insure accountability for what’s going on.
  • Is there a legal framework that gets at the widespread nature of this. There’s one book out that discusses the 2000 year old paper trail of sexual abuse in the church.
  • You’ll hear things like a cardinal or a pope attempt to make an apology. They’re sorry for what happened to these folks. It didn’t just happen.
  • It shows the lack of attention and lack of awareness of the gravity of what’s going on and a prioritization of the church protecting itself and its power, rather than insuring the protection of the kids in the church and others who are vulnerable to abuse by priests.
  • It also looks like an attempt to decentralize the responsibility. There are key legal experts who have discussed this as crimes against humanity.
  • These are acts that are committed as a widespread or systematic assault or attack on the civilian population.
  • When you’re talking about the massive sustained harm that is being caused here and the lack of awareness and acknowledgment. . it’s really astonishing.
  • The International Criminal Court is a possible venue that has jurisdiction on crimes against humanity.
  • The Church can’t be trusted to police itself.

Guest – Pam Spees, senior staff attorney in the international human rights program at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She has a background in international criminal and human rights law with a gender focus, as well as criminal trial practice

Guest –  Barbara Blaine,  founder of  SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation’s oldest and largest self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

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Law and Disorder February 18, 2013


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Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

In the past 2 years, we’ve discussed in many interviews and updates, the attacks on whistle-blowers and hackers. The emerging movement of programmers, hackers, open source software, online communities has challenged and exposed corporate and government control and surveillance, making them targets of prosecution.  As many may know, our own Michael Ratner has represented whistle-blower Julian Assange, computer activist Jeremy Hammond, and has been a legal adviser to many others including the late Aaron Swartz.  Today we talk with author Gabriella Coleman about her recently published book Encoding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking.  It’s a good place to start for those learning about the political significance of free software, intellectual property and the morality of computer hacking.

Gabriella Coleman:

  • When you utter the word hacker, usually the image that pops into people’s minds is nefarious criminal. That can be the case but really hackers are composed of an extremely lively group of individuals who tend to be computer programmers and network administrators, who actually are committed to a range of civil liberties such as free speech and privacy. Especially in the last decade they’ve been involved in political activities as well.
  • They’re quite a bit of diversity among hackers, technically.
  • Hackers – are keenly aware of the issues such as censorship, which impact the present and the future of the internet. Some hackers are committed to insuring internet freedoms for their own productive autonomy.
  • Beyond productive autonomy they’re really starting to care about the broader issues relating to internet freedoms and how they relate to democracy at large.
  • In order for software to be made, it must be written in a programming language such as C++, Python and Pearl and its written in source code. These are the underlying directions of software.
  • A very prominent group of hackers who are committed to always having access to source code have actually reinvented the law to make sure that that source code is eternally available. They’re very much against copyrights and patents and have created something called a copyleft to make sure the source code that powers software is always accessible to them.
  • Proprietary software such as the Microsoft Operating System is behind lock and key. We don’t have access to the underlying directions.
  • There’s a contingent within the hacker world who believe that access is not only good for the sake of improving technology but is the morally right thing to do.
  • That its a collaborative process, that everyone should have access to it. There are other hackers that are a little less concerned about the ethics of access and they’re more concerned about the pragmatics.
  • I originally thought that these free software developers who were part of these large projects such as Debion, were raging Leftists. The project itself had collected people from all political orientations.
  • Anonymous is a digital phenomena somewhat composed of hackers but not exclusively so, who has engaged in an enormous amount of political activities. They are innovating in the realm of direct action related to digital protest.
  • Some will engage in hacking to get information about corporate corruption to leak to the world at large. They also engage in distributed denial of service attacks where a website is so overloaded with requests it comes off line.
  • Free software, in order for it to be free speech is also like free beer, you have to make the source code available. But that doesn’t stop people from charging money for support or services.
  • In the case of SOPA being passed, there was massive outcry, and massive organization to do something about it to stop it in its tracks. It came from different quarters of society, it came from corporate giants such as google, it came from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and there was a huge black out where people took down their websites. It had a massive effect and stopped it in its tracks.
  • I’m currently working on a book on Anonymous. That should be definitely done by 2013.

Guest – Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University. Trained as an anthropologist, she researches, writes, and teaches on hackers and digital activism. Her first book on Free Software, “Coding Freedom: The Aesthetics and the Ethics of Hacking” has been published with Princeton University Press. It is available for purchase and you can download a copy on here.

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Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal

The new documentary, “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal,” is premiering across the country.  The film includes interviews from Cornel West, Alice Walker, Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, Amy Goodman, Michael Parenti, writers Tariq Ali, and Michelle Alexander. This film beautifully captures the importance of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life as an American journalist, and radical. He published seven books in prison including the best selling “Live From Death Row.”

In Chris Hedges’ review he points out what Cornel West says in the film: “The state is very clever in terms of keeping track, especially [of] the courageous and visionary ones, the ones that are long-distance runners. You can keep track of them, absorb ’em, dilute ’em, or outright kill ’em—you don’t have to worry about opposition to ’em.”

Steve Vittoria:

  • The arc of Mumia’s life and the body of his work which is remarkable under harsh and draconian conditions is much more than December 9, 1981. I’ve always seen his life as more than one moment.
  • I wanted to tap into what I found was clearly a unique story. Here’s a young man who early on realized he was a revolutionary by the time he was 15 years old.
  • He’s writing remarkable work for the Black Panther Party and their newspaper. By 26, he’s a vibrant radio broadcaster and journalist in Philadelphia, reaches NPR and All Things Considered.
  • After incarceration, he publishes 7 or 8 books.
  • I did from a creative standpoint and a very practical standpoint.
  • I wanted to tell a really good story. Any filmmaker, that’s job number one. Mumia, you just have to turn the camera on and you can tell a great story.
  • If the film starts to win awards and get fawned over then something’s wrong.
  • My favorite interview in the film is Mumia’s sister Lydia Barashango who unfortunately passed away a few months after we interviewed her from her bout with cancer. She went to great lengths to secure her baby brother’s legacy.
  • Trying to find what it was like as a young African-American kid growing up in one of the great racist northern cities of Philadelphia, what it was like
  • I didn’t realize how funny he could be. He’s kind of a science fiction nerd. He calls himself a nerd.
  • Mumia has a very strict schedule for work.

Guest – Steve Vittoria, the writer, director, producer and editor of Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal. The film premiered in theaters in New York City earlier this month.

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Law and Disorder February 11, 2013


Updates:

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Senate Votes To Extend Warrantless Wiretaps For Five More Years: No Oversight, No Transparency

Days before 2012 drew to a close, the U.S. Senate voted 73-23 to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for five more years. This is the unconstitutional spying bill that violates the Fourth Amendment and gives vast unmonitored authority to the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of American’s’ international emails and phone calls.

Michelle Richardson:

  • The Senate took up the FISA Reauthorization Bill right at the end of the year and they did consider a handful of very moderate amendments that wouldn’t have actually interfered with the collection of information but would make it more transparent to Congress.
  • In an open and free democracy there should be no secret law.
  • The original FISA was much more targeted. It required a more traditional probable cause, finding an individualized warrant before you could go up and tap a phone.
  • After 911 Congress started systematically lowering the standard for obtaining this information.
  • They made it easier so you could go around the court, and do it administratively.
  • They lowered the standard so there’s no longer a probable cause. The FISA Amendment Act is probably the biggest change in the last decade.
  • You no longer have to name who you’re going to tap, the phone number or stated facility.
  • Instead we’re going to do these programmatic orders so the court is no longer involved in deciding who will be tapped.
  • I’m not going to tap a specific American, but I want information about Yemen.
  • Theoretically this isn’t turned into the United States at any specific person. We think its being used for bulk collection.
  • The way the internet works now, sometimes your communication will travel around the world before landing next door.
  • A lot of times the equipment is intentionally built so the government can tap directly into the system.
  • FISA – Foreign intelligence which includes the undefined national defense of the United States.
  • I think there is reason to believe this is a self correcting situation and that people will start looking at this technology and understand more about what’s out there.

Guest – Michelle Richardson is a Legislative Counsel with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office where she focuses on national security and government transparency issues such as the Patriot Act, FISA, cybersecurity, state secrets and the Freedom of Information Act. Before coming to the ACLU in 2006, Richardson served as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee where she specialized in national security, civil rights and constitutional issues for Democratic Ranking Member John Conyers.

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Boycott Divestment Sanction Controversy At Brooklyn College

Last month, a backlash of controversy erupted after the announcement of a student group at CUNY’s Brooklyn College, Students for Justice in Palestine will host two speakers who will discuss their views on the BDS movement. The BDS movement as many listeners may know calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in protest of the government’s oppressive policies toward the Palestinian people. The speakers are Palestinian BDS advocate Omar Barghouti and University of California Berkeley philosopher and BDS supporter Judith Butler. The event was  co-sponsored by numerous student and community groups, as well as Brooklyn College’s political science department.

The backlash included a threat by New York City Council members and Congressman Jerry Nadler to defund Brooklyn College and opinion pieces by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz who called the event a “propaganda hate orgy,” another daily newspaper labeled it “Israel-bashing.

Omar Barghouti:

  • Specifically the BDS call said that Israel and institutions and corporations that are complicit in Israel’s violations of International Law should be boycotted, divested from and eventually sanctioned in order to achieve the 3 basic rights of the Palestinian people under International Law.
  • Ending the occupation of 1967, which include the illegal colonies, the wall, ending the system of discrimination within Israel itself which meets the UN definition of apartheid, the third is the right of return for refugees which is their basic inalienable right under international law.
  • In order to achieve these 3 basic rights, we absolutely need international solidarity as was done in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, we can’t do it alone.
  • Your tax money is funding Israel occupation and apartheid. You have an obligation to question where your money is going to and how its being used to oppress us.
  • I think that the New York Times editorial supported having a debate at Brooklyn College says it all. We could have never imagined such a thing, a year ago.
  • The government of South Africa’s ruling party the ANC endorsed BDS this last December.
  • Many Jewish groups have joined BDS campaigns and are leading BDS campaigns.
  • Bullying is one thing and response from critics is another. We’re very open to debate but no one would debate us.
  • They’re running scared of debate.
  • Not every event, every talk has to be balanced.
  • The balance is overall. Those accusing this panel of being imbalanced themselves like Dershowitz, always speak solo, unopposed, espousing the most extreme ideas like torture, a war crime.
  • They’re twisting the very definition of academic freedom.
  • Human rights are difficult. If you have a master slave relationship and the slave insists on freedom and nothing less than freedom that upsets the order.
  • Did equality in Alabama delegitamize whites? It delegitamized apartheid in the South.
  • We’re delegitamizing the Israel’s occupation, apartheid and denial of Palestinian rights. We’re insisting on our rights. We’re not delegitamizing any people.
  • We’re delegitamizing an order that’s illegal by definition. Apartheid is illegal. Occupation is illegal. Building colonies on occupied territories is illegal. Ethnic cleansing is illegal.
  • It’s not a blanket boycott against every company that’s complicit because that wouldn’t work.
  • BDS is about context sensitivity, graduality and sustainability.
  • You’ve got to address the most sinister companies as it were. The most seriously involved in human rights violations and move toward others, to teach others a lesson.
  • There’s a big campaign against soda stream led by an Interfaith coalition because Soda Stream is manufactured in an illegal settlement in the occupied territories.
  • We need coresistance, not coexistance until we end oppression.
  • www.BDSMovement.net  / www.PACBI.org 
  • www.WhoProfits.org
  • Dissent and any argument against Israeli policies is almost becoming illegitimate in this country. It’s a new McCarthyism that the Israeli lobby is leading.

Guest – Omar Barghouti, the founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the Palestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Listen to Law and Disorder May 2011 Show with Guest Omar Barghouti

 

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Law and Disorder February 4, 2013


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Central Park Five Civil Suit

On April 19, 1989 a group of five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and convicted for the brutal rape of a white female jogger in Central Park, New York City. It was one of the highest profile criminal cases in the city. A New York court overturned the convictions of the five teenagers after a serial rapist confessed to the crimes. By this time of this confession, the five defendants had already served sentences of 7and 13 years. Now, the city of New York is refusing to settle a $250 million decade-long federal civil rights suit brought by the defendants.  Attorney Roger Wareham talks more about the case and the Ken Burns documentary on the Central Park Five that could provide footage for the federal civil lawsuit.

Attorney Roger Wareham:

  • I’m part of a team of lawyers among five firms that represent the five defendants.
  • She almost died. She lost 75 percent of the blood in her body that night.
  • The police at some point arrested 30 youths who had allegedly been in the park earlier that night. Some of them were charged with attacking people jogging in the park.
  • Most of them had been released, these five were in custody.
  • Maybe four or five hours after they were arrested the police received word of this woman who was near death.
  • So they held these five children for questioning which basically became and interrogation, which basically became a coerced false confession where each one of them implicated the other ones in the rape and attack of this woman.
  • Even though none of them knew each other or what actually happened because they didn’t do it, they just wanted to go home.
  • By the time the parents became part of the process, the false statements had already been elicited.
  • Especially when a black man is a accused of touching, raping a white woman, logic, justice, objectivity, evidence goes out the window and there’s a presumption of guilt.
  • They went to trial and were convicted even though there was no forensic evidence.
  • Once they were released from prison they had to register as sexual predators.
  • Thirteen years after their conviction, the person who actually committed the crime came forward and admitted he’d done it.
  • He was arrested after a failed attempt at a rape. There was an m.o. that he employed with the rapes that he conducted.
  • I’m part of a political organization called the December 12 Movement.
  • Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office had done a very thorough investigation and this is the same office that had prosecuted them.
  • They put forth a really damning affirmation in support of our motion basically admitting they had prosecuted the wrong people, errors had been made. It was clear that the one and only perpetrator was Mateas Raes and they were not going to retry the case.
  • Their convictions were overturned 10 years ago, in December 2002.
  • Why hasn’t it been settled? You look to Police Commissioner Kelly who endorsed the report.
  • Subpoenaing the outtakes is a reflection of their desperation. See, they know the truth. They’re floundering around looking for different straws to grab at.
  • Contact the December 12th Movement directly at 718-398-1766.

Guest – Attorney Roger Wareham is a lawyer and political activist of over four decades. He is a member of the December 12th Movement, an organization of African people which organizes in the Black and Latino community around human rights violations, particularly police terror. Wareham is also the International Secretary-General of the International Association Against Torture (AICT), a non-governmental organization that has consultative status before the United Nations.

Since 1989, he has annually presented evidence of human rights violations facing people of color in the United States and other parts of the world at assemblies of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (formerly the Commission on Human Rights) and its other bodies that meet in Geneva, Switzerland. His work was instrumental in having Mr. Maurice Glele, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; conduct the first U.N. investigation of the United States in history. Roger Wareham was an active organizer of and participant in the United Nations’ World Conference against Racism held from August 30 – September 7, 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

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