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Archive for the 'chrony capitalism' Category


Law and Disorder July 7, 2014


Updates

  • Chilean Court Finds American Journalist Charles Horman Was Murdered With Help of US Government – CCR Case
  • Appeals Court Rules Victims of Torture at Abu Ghraib May Sue Private Military Contractor CACI  Al-Shimari v. CACI
  • Happy Birthday To Julian Assange From Law and Disorder Hosts
  • Hobby Lobby: Continued Attack On Women’s Reproductive Rights
  • The Meaning of the Fourth of July For the Negro By Frederick Douglas

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Federal Court Dismisses All Charges Against Dr. Sami al-Arian

In very good news last week the US Department of Justice dropped all of its criminal charges prosecutions etc of activist and Palestinian professor Sami Al Arian. They’ve been trying to persecute, charge him etc. for over 11 years. The case began in 2003 as a criminal case. Although he was charged with some 14 counts he was convicted of none. Rather than face trial again Al-Arian pled guilty to one count served some time and most of us thought it was over by then. He had an agreement that he couldn’t be further prosecuted, that they wouldn’t go after him any longer but that he could be deported. Unfortunately the Department of Justice had a what you would have to call an Islamophobic vendetta against Sami Al Arian. They went after him again, first with the civil contempt of a grand jury he did time for that and in then something utterly unusual they charged him with criminal contempt. The criminal contempt case was pending for five years finally, last week the Department of Justice, the prosecutors dismissed that case.

 Laila Al-Arian:

  • We’re feeling a sense of relief that this nightmare appears to be coming to an end.
  • We’re happy to hear about the government dismissing the charges against my father.
  • In a way it’s vindication for my father, we said in the very beginning. It’s been 11 years. We said all along this is a political case.
  • If my father truly were a criminal, they would try their utmost to keep him in prison. Not to say political prisoners aren’t often arrested unjustly, tried and imprisoned but we’re hoping that this finally means this saga will end and my father can live as a free man.
  • What preceded it (2003 indictment) was really a decade of harassment. The FBI basically tapping our phone calls, not just my father’s but siblings and I as well. When you think of the Snowden disclosures and the NSA spying on people, for us this is a reality.
  • We had no sense of privacy growing up. Simply because my father was a Palestinian activist who dared to challenged the common narrative that you normally hear in the United States.
  • Because he really dared to offer a different perspective and to try to help people being subjugated and occupied, so because of that he became a target, not only of the FBI but really powerful pro-Israel voices and forces here in the U.S who tried to smear his name for many many years, accused him of being a terrorist.
  • That was part of it, because he was an advocate on Palestinian human rights but also because he was a person who really thought to involve American Muslims politically.
  • A lot of these forces I mentioned after 9-11, they really exploited the atmosphere with fear and hysteria and tried to paint my father as this menacing figure, as a terrorist, and at time when the Bush Administration should have been working with American Muslim leaders and try to build a bridge between east and west. Instead the targeted my father and tried to make an example out of him, to say that if you dare to speak out this is what will happen to you.
  • He ended up being arrested in 2003 and placed in some of the most atrocious and inhumane conditions that even Amnesty International condemned and was held basically for 2 and a half years before he was basically put on trial.
  • The trial lasted for six months, the government spent millions and millions of dollars on the case. They even flew in witnesses from Israel to testify about things my father had nothing to do with.
  • After months of negotiations my father signed a plea agreement to end his case once and for all.  The government ended up violating the key agreement and basically a prosecutor here in Virginia on ended up at bringing him here and trying to basically retry the Florida case despite the agreement and tried to get him to testify in another case against a Muslim think tank in Virginia and when he refused to testify for the violation of the pre-agreement he was held first on civil contempt and then charged criminal contempt.
  • It was very clear that the true intent of this Islamophobic and pro-Israel prosecutor Gordon Kromberg is to retry the Florida case in Virginia, basically pretending it was another case when all of the questions had to do with the Florida case.
  • Then the judge received a couple of motions from my father’s attorneys asking to fully dismiss the case and there were no rulings in the past few years by the judge and finally the government decided to drop the charges.
  • Luckily in the fall of 2008, my father was released on bail. He was released on house arrest.
  • It’s really a testament that there is no case. The think tank that was investigated by Kromberg wasn’t charged for a single crime. They convened one grand jury after another and there were never any charges, any indictment.
  • My father was a professor at the University of South Florida, a professor of computer engineering when he was arrested. It’s a very complicated case, as we mentioned stretches over a decade. It’s a case that actually outlasted the Iraq War.
  • The next step is in the plea agreement my father unfortunately at the time his back was against the wall, he did end up agreeing to deportation, so now we expect that he will be deported. But as a stateless Palestinian, we don’t know where he’ll be deported.
  • My father’s trial attorneys were Bill Moffet and Linda Moreno.

Guest – Laila Al-Arian,  a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English. She helped produce the network’s Palestine Papers special in January 2011, a four-day program on the largest diplomatic leak in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She is the co-author of Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians She is the daughter of Professor Sami Al-Arian.

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Supreme Court Delivers Blow to Organized Labor

Last week the United States Supreme Court decided on the case Harris v. Quinn ruling that some government employees didn’t have to pay any fees to the unions representing them. The case was brought by 8 Illinois workers who provided home care to Medicaid recipients. Some of the plaintiffs were mothers who were personal assistants to their disabled children and opposed joining the union.  In a 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito Jr.concluded there was type of government employee called a partial public employee who can opt out of joining a union and not be required to pay union fees.

Labor Attorney Bill Herbert:

  • Harris versus Quinn I what the ramifications of it while the court held that the majority held that a statute in in Illinois that provided for requiring employees in a bargaining unit to pay agency fee to union was unconstitutional and therefore struck down a provision of a contract that require those employees to pay a fee for being represented by the union.
  • These are domestic workers who work for people who are ill and who but also that their salaries and the benefits are paid for by the state.
  • These are public employees defined by state law as public employees but it is a background in the National Labor Relations Act which is the Wagner act which was past in 1935 specifically exempts domestic workers in farmworkers from representational rights. These employees if they were just hired by someone to come to their home would not have any rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
  • In 1947 Taft-Hartley was passed, Taft-Hartley allows for states to pass laws which are called right to work laws or referred to as right to work laws.
  • A state can prohibit a contract to provide that people who decide not to join the union still have to pay a fee related to the representation.
  • For public employees there was a case decided in 1977 called Abood which came out of Detroit. In 1977 case public employees it was found  constitutional to establish a procedure where people were not members of the public sector union still have to pay a fee for the representational rights that’s negotiations etc. but don’t have to pay for what is sometimes is ideological work which would be in a political activity such as supporting candidates etc. 
  • There was a procedure created where people can object and they can go in and raise issues and seek to have only monies relevant to collective-bargaining be a part of their fee, so that was Abood.
  • The heart of wages and benefits are something that are set by the state. It’s called joint employer relationship.
  • The court in the Harris v. Quinn case ruled that its unconstitutional for these employees to be required to pay a fee for the benefits they received based on the representation provided by the union.
  • It’s interesting to compare this to Citizens United. In Citizens United, shareholders who are opposed to what a corporation may spend in terms of money for political action in terms of supporting candidates, had no say.
  • The Supreme Court found that in Citizens United the First Amendment gives corporations First Amendment rights and the share holders have no say.
  • In this case the Supreme Court held that these employees don’t have to pay anything for being represented by the union in collective bargaining for the state.
  • Domestic workers are usually low wage employees, very high turn over, people who are generally receiving the low end of the pay scale.
  • What we’re looking at is constitutionalizing this concept which was previously statutory in the private sector and making it such that other statues around the country where states have intervened in providing for representational rights for people excluded from the National Labor Relations Act.
  • These other statutes may now be challenged based on this ground and in the future it’s based on language of the decision. It’s conceivable that this case could at least the verbiage in the majority decision which Justice Kagan referred to is good to as gratuitous dicta about Abood decision and why was wrongfully decided is something then they come back to be utilized in future cases in future challenges against the requiring union members of bargaining you do not union members to pay a fee.
  • In Illinois and in other states domestic workers have been working in the doing a lot of work towards organizing to provide the collective bargaining but for example in New York they don’t have the right to collectively bargain nor farmworkers in other states both farmworkers and domestic workers have rights to unionize.
  • These kind of this decision where depending on the structure that the state’s designs could be subject to build the other statues they subject to challenge legally.
  • One of the ironies in this case is that one of the reasons why these agency fee arrangements have been states have put them into place is to create stability within bargaining is not having multiple unions trying to come in and and try to organize employees or having conflicts between members who are paying for the services against people who are not paying so the legislatures when they pass in Illinois for example they when they passed the statute were seeking to provide stability  in the workplace.  Most “Right to Work” states are in the South.
  • The current time is being described as the new Gilded Age and new Gilded Age is about wage disparity but is also other things including job security and issues involving the pensions.
  • Tenure is under attack pensions are under attack and now there’s an attack upon the idea of having to pay representative to provide you with with representation. A lot of the initiatives that have been enacted in the 20th century are being stripped away and it’s being tied with basically the new Gilded Age.
  • The good news of the decision was that Abood was not overturned.

Guest – William A. Herbert is a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College, City University of New York and a former Deputy Chair and Counsel to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).  Prior to his tenure at PERB, Bill practiced labor and employment law in federal and state courts, administrative agencies and in arbitration. Bill is one of the editors of the treatise Public Sector Labor and Employment Law, Third Edition and he has written and spoken extensively on public sector labor law and history.

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Law and Disorder February 24, 2014


Updates:

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The Drug War: Policing and U.S. Militarism at Home and Abroad

Last week the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted an event titled The Drug War: Policing and U.S. Militarism at Home and Abroad. We’re joined by one of the panelists David Vivar, he’s an author and scholar at National Autonomous University of Honduras at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the University of Calabria. His work focuses on the U.S. cooperation in the Honduran military coup of 2009 and the centrality of drug trafficking to state power in Honduras. What you will hear in this interview is that the U.S. Drug War has not only fueled mass incarceration and discriminatory policing practices here in the U.S. but also supports violence and militarization throughout Latin America. We get the details of that and David’s strategies to resist the racist, and devastating war.

David Vivar:

  • It’s been constant that Congress asks to stop human rights violations.
  • This goes all the way back to the simulation of the rule of law, to a democratic state.
  • We have the highest murder rate in the whole world, and we have no war, not a consistent war declared except the war on drugs.
  • We’re fighting a war that has turned the current conditions into a civil war.
  • When you start having conflicts between drug lords, Mexican cartels and Colombian cartels – what do they do? They go to the space right in the middle, which is Central America and the northern triangle.
  • Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have seen the consequences. We are the collateral damage.
  • 79 percent of the cocaine that travels to the United States goes via Honduras. Basically what the Department of State is doing is investing money on kingpins and drug lords in the Honduran institutions.
  • After the coup the military took back power and the U.S constantly supported this new democratic military civil alliance, which in the hand is what happened in Mexico.
  • The (Honduran) military has drug lords of its own.
  • Miguel Facusse is the most powerful man in Honduras. He’s got the Dinan Corporation which has African Palm plantations throughout the whole drug path.
  • Basically the conflict around land is a failed agrarian reform.
  • You have indigenous populations that lost their land. Their land was given to this man. The most powerful person, he gets the African Palm plantations which is the best place, as we know from wikileaks to establish small airports for aircraft to land there and deal with the drugs.
  • The resistance is still in the streets against a lot of laws – the opening for business of the country – model cities and charter cities are something we’re fighting back in keeping our resources ours.

Laura Raymond:

  • The U.S. did cut off military aid for a short amount of time directly after the coup but instead of backing the movement from the Honduran civil society for reinstatement of President Zelaya – throughout that summer and fall there was a huge movement, the streets were filled with people calling for the reinstatement of their president – the United States instead pushed for new elections that fall which was what ended up happening.
  • The elections were heavily boycotted by civil society yet the U.S. was the primary force in the region for supporting those elections.
  • After those elections took place and Pepe Lobo is elected as president, the U.S. reinstated their support for the Honduran military and police, despite massive human rights violations that were taking place on an almost daily basis.
  • You really have a very close relationship between the Honduran military and police and the U.S. government and military.
  • There have known to be drug planes that have landed on his property (Miguel Facusse) We know that the U.S.State Department knows about that because of wikileaks and the U.S. goes on to have this cozy relationship with him and the political arm of Honduras that he runs in.
  • The World Bank continues to fund him and give him subsidies for the African Palm plantations. Where is the interest in stopping the drugs if you’re working with this person who there are drug planes landing on his property.
  • He has a private army basically. He has all these private security contractors that implicated in murders. The Center for Constitutional Rights has laid those out in a report to the International Criminal Court, naming Miguel Facusse as a criminal that needs to be prosecuted.
  • The U.S. depends on the Honduran government to have a very friendly government in the region. We have a lot of military presence there, we have a lot of bases. It’s a relationship that depends on the repression of civil society throughout Honduras.
  • There’s a massive resistance movement that has taken a lot of repression in the last four years. What’s going on with the drug wars, its very dark and scary but the other side is this movement that David is part of.

Guest – David Vivar, is a sociologist, currently a scholarship holder from the National Autonomous University of Honduras at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the University of Calabria, where he studies dependence, international asymmetry and the division between center and periphery nations.  His articles and essays analyze media discourse and public opinion; the representative intermediations of Honduran democracy, the influence of U.S. cooperation in the military coup of 2009 and the centrality of drug trafficking to state power in Honduras and its inextricable relation with the neoliberal impoverishment and the ongoing usurpation of democracy.

Guest – Laura Raymond, has over fourteen years of experience organizing, writing, and advocating on social justice and human rights issues in the U.S. and internationally.  Much of Laura’s work focuses on the impact of U.S. actors, corporations and government policies and practices abroad.

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Imagine: Living In A Socialist U.S.A – Kazembe Balagune

In the past weeks we’ve featured contributors to the book Imagine: Living In A Socialist U.S.A. This book as many know was conceived and edited by Frances Goldin and our own Michael Smith with his wife Debby. We continue to discuss the essays in this ground breaking anthology. Today we speak with Kazembe Balagun, who wrote We Be Reading Marx Where We From: Socialism and the Black Freedom Struggle.

Kazembe Balagun:

  • The chapter starts out with a short story on Paul Robeson at the Carnegie Hall in 1957. He sang a song called I Dreamed of Joe Hill last night.
  • When we talk about Wall Street, the first commodity were Black slaves. The reason they called it Wall Street is to keep the Native Americans out.
  • There’s always been an interweaving of Black freedom struggles in the socialist experience.
  • One of the first socialist experiments happens in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia where General Butler issuing Article 15 calling for all land held in common for negros.
  • Then you have John Brown issuing an alternative constitution of the United States which calls for all land to be held in common between blacks and whites.
  • Martin Luther King Jr (in a speech said) there has to be some form of socialism in the United States in order to achieve economic democracy.
  • The Poor People’s march going forward in 1968 in his fight for Memphis, these are all parallels for economic democracy.
  • What we find today is that these socialist ideas are prevalent in the African-American community.
  • I think there’s a way we can excavate this history for our own social movement.
  • This capitalist society really has little to offer people, particularly young people of color.
  • I always take into account is that there’s always been a tradition of African-American prophetic tradition which always looks beyond what’s been given to us and looks at the condition of possibility.

Guest – Kazembe Balagun, an activist and cultural organizer from the Bronx and former program director at the Brecht Forum. He is currently the project manager at the Rosa Luxemburg New York Foundation.

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Law and Disorder July 15, 2013


Updates:

  • Prisoner’s Hunger Strike: Pelican Bay Prison, Guantanamo Bay Prison, Palestinians In Israeli Prisons
  • CCR Lawsuit – Pelican Bay Prisoner Class Action
  • 20 Plus Palestinians On Hunger Strike In Israeli Prisons Demand Better Conditions For Pelican Bay Prisoners
  • Federal Judge Gladys Kessler Says the President Is The One To Stop Force Feeding and Release Cleared Guantanamo Bay Detainees
  • Bradley Manning Trial: Important Proceedings During Defense Case At Ft Meade, Maryland

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Secret Federal FISA Court Advocate of National Security State

Here on Law and Disorder we’ve discussed the process of the US government expanding its power to get wiretapping permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or FISA court. This is under a provision called section 215 of the Patriot Act which if listeners might recall was set to expire in 2009. It did not.  We discussed how the FISA court will be accessed by what’s called Lone Wolf Authority or National Security Letter Authority whereby the FBI can write a letter to the court without suspicion of terrorism and get bank, telephone and internet records.

The 11-member FISA Court has been central to allowing a massive surveillance state to exist by granting US agencies such as the NSA access to private telecommunication data. Today, the FISA court essentially operates as an advocate for the national security state. It’s judicial oversight now parallels the Supreme Court. But more troubling,  these FISA Court Justices operate in complete secrecy and base their decisions from hearing only one side the argument, the US government’s.

Attorney Scott Horton:

  • The Nixon Administration attempted to use “intelligence gathering” as a justification. Congress reacted to that by saying we’re not going to agree that the government has the right to wiretap people in the United States on the grounds of intelligence gathering. We’re going to require this judicial check, so Congress created this special court the FISA court.
  • The court has been around for a long time, but its become a far more significant entity doing much more work after 9/11.
  • It has 11 judges. The judges are selected by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.
  • The judges are picked from courts all around the country.
  • It’s not a secret court in that we know that it exists. It IS a secret court in that it operates in secret.
  • Literally, the public doesn’t know what papers are filed with it and doesn’t know about its decision.
  • That’s a highly controversial matter because decisions by federal courts constitute law.
  • This means that this court is manufacturing secret law that the people don’t know about.
  • We don’t know the jurisprudence of this court, we don’t know its decisions, we don’t know the full rationale for all its decisions because most of them have been secret.
  • It is very aggressively expanding the power and authority of the NSA in surveillance areas.
  • This is a court picked by Roberts who share his attitude. Out of 11 judges we have 10 Republican appointees. It’s very well known that Roberts in making appointments here looks very closely to select only judges who reflect his attitudes about the national security state.
  • It is a cherry picked court. A movement conservative perspective which is quite hostile to civil liberties.
  • The court has become an advocate for national intelligence services.
  • It really puts the whole institution of the court under a cloud right now.
  • If you want to disperse that cloud you would make sure those judges are representatives of the country.
  • The legal reasoning and interpretation of statutes that should be there for people to see and know and understand and criticize.
  • Telecoms: Here they are service providers dealing with consumers, lying to their clients and allowing the government free access to all this information.
  • That is a criminal act under various statutes of states including New Jersey and Maine. That have rules that say they may not allow governments, investigators access to this information other than pursuant to a government subpoena or court order.
  • This court is sweeping away core rights and making a joke out of the 4th Amendment.
  • Whistle-blower damage control strategy: A program to deflect attention from the disclosures themselves.
  • There is a move afoot to take this out on the American service providers who cooperate with the NSA, Verizon, AT&T. . .Google and so forth.

Guest – Scott Horton, human rights lawyer and contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. Scott’s column – No Comment. He graduated Texas Law School in Austin with a JD and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.

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Left Forum 2013: Ron Reosti

Capitalists are not necessary to run firms, nor to run macro-economies and investment says Ron Reosti in his presentation at the Left Forum Panel titled Imagine Living In A Socialist USA, Part 2: Making The American Socialist Revolution.

Speaker – Ron Reosti, his Italian parents imparted to him a working-class identity, a sense of social justice, a belief in the possibility of social change, a commitment to democracy, and a hatred of the undemocratic ruling class. He embraced socialism in his early teens, during the McCarthy era, and has remained committed to that vision. He practices law and is part of the radical community in Detroit.

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Law and Disorder September 5, 2011


Updates:

Workers Win Large Settlement at Supplier to Chinese Restaurants After Hard Fought Campaign

A bitterly contested campaign against Pur Pac, a food distribution warehouse giant reached a settlement of 470 thousand dollars for workers who had their wages illegally withheld and more. The workers organized with Focus on the Food chain, Brandworkers and International Workers of the World to challenge sweatshop conditions, wage theft, retaliation and discrimination in the sprawling industrial corridor of food processing and distribution that service New York City markets and restaurants.  Daniel Gross, the executive director of Brandworkers said – quote – The conditions in the sector are deplorable and systemic but, as the Pur Pac workers have shown, positive workplace change can and will be won.”

Attorney Daniel Gross:

  • Pur Pac is typical of an industrial corridor of food processing and distribution warehouses that service a tremendous amount of food to restaurants and supermarkets in New York. Much of what we eat in restaurants is processed in sweatshops.
  • Pur Pac is a distributor of restaurant and food supplies to Chinese Restaurants, cafes and bakeries. They distribute huge quanitities of rice, cooking oil, chopsticks.
  • Sweatshop, tremendous amount of wage theft, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Vicious retaliation for workers who stand up for their rights, exhausting long shifts, very heavy work.
  • We facilitate worker led, comprehensive campaigns. The company used several tactics to avoid accountability here, the main approach that they used is they engaged in sham sales.
  • They would fraudulently transfer assets, rebrand the company. The company was originally called Easy Supply. Easy Supply escaped accountability by purporting to go out of business, now same factory, same trucks, same products was called Sunrise Plus. We caught up with Sunrise Plus and they engaged in another sham sale and that created Pur Pac.
  • We were also able to win a binding code of conduct, which creates very powerful protective mechanisms for collective activity, going forward.
  • We were able to win recognition for the IWW, as exclusive bargaining agent for Pur Pac workers. It was really the biggest victory for Focus On The Food Chain.
  • I was a low wage worker mostly in retail and fast food. I was working at Borders Books and Music and really felt the sting of a multi-national employer which at the time was highly profitable. It didn’t pay a fair wage, offered an insecure and unpredictable schedule.
  • It employed a management force that really showed tremendous disrespect for rank and file workers.
  • We had 44 Starbucks stores that were infested with rats and insects. We did worker-citizen journalism and we got photos and video of these rats and roaches, we inflated a huge, inflatable rat in front of the stores and shared our video and photographic evidence.
  • Starbucks is still engaged in really a scorched Earth effort, complete disrespect for the right to organize and free association.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the administrative agency charged under federal with administering union management affairs. They have jurisdiction over cases under the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Mezonos Maven Bakery is a food production sweatshop. Mezonos Maven was cheating workers out of their wages, disrespecting workers, and the workers came together, they didn’t join a union but they came together with community groups, etc.  Mezonos Maven, started illegally firing workers.
  • When the workers stood up to the most basic worker’s rights, they were subjected to fierce immediate retaliation.

Guest – Attorney Daniel Gross, Executive Director of Brandworkers, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees.

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Federal Judge Rules Former Mayor Daley Can Be Sued For Alleged Torture Cover Up

We continue to bring updates on the ongoing police torture and abuse scandal revolving around former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. Recently, a federal judge has now ruled that former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley can be allowed to be kept in the lawsuit where he is charged with conspiracy to cover up police abuse and torture. As many listeners may know,  Burge has been sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison for obstruction of justice and lying about torturing prisoners to obtain coerced confessions. The People’s Law Office brought the case in 2005 and the city of Chicago refused to settle while pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the case.

In the beginning of September, attorney Flint Taylor will depose former mayor Richard Daley which will force him to answer questions about the abuse of African Americans under Burge’s command. This case has already cost Chicago taxpayers more than 43 million dollars in settlements and legal fees.  Past shows with Attorney Flint Taylor

Attorney Flint Taylor:

  • Daley was the state’s attorney for Cook County for eight years in the 80s during that time he was specifically informed of police torture.
  • Instead of doing anything about it and dealing with the torturers, Jon Burge and company, he continued to encourage it by prosecuting men who had been falsely arrested and charged based on tortured confessions sending as many of them to death row.
  • When he became mayor, he continued to have an active role in the cover up of the torture practice.
  • He had at various times as chief of law enforcement and chief executive of the city of Chicago, the power and obligation to act and if he did, we wouldn’t have had all these men on death row, and in the penitentiary and we wouldn’t have had all these men tortured.
  • We brought it several times in lawsuits starting in 2003. Judges had consistently turned their backs on that claim.
  • The new Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel who has successfully tip toed past this both in his campaign and now as the first 100 days of being mayor had to respond to it.
  • They’ve paid over 13 million dollars to defend these civil cases that we’re in.  We take the mayor at his word, and we hope this leads to settlements and compensation for the men who’ve been tortured.
  • There are six men who have lawsuits in court. Unfortunately because of statute of limitations most torture survivors don’t have lawsuits.
  • There are still 15 men behind bars in Illinois, based on tortured confessions that Jon Burge and the Area 2 torturers coerced from them.  We’re fighting to have them all get new hearings.
  • I don’t know if a Daley denial in some of the actions in this case would tantamount to perjury that Fitzgerald would be interested in.
  • There is a major memoranda that was sent from the police superintendent at that time to Daley, a kind of CYA saying “I’ve been giving this powerful evidence of torture from a doctor over at the county hospital.

Guest – Attorney Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern University School of Law and a founding partner of the Peoples Law Office. More bio

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Law and Disorder August 1, 2011


Updates:

  • Tim DeChristopher Sentencing - Bidder # 70
  • Aaron Schwartz, Anonymous Activists and Paypal
  • Australian Government  Seize Profits from David Hicks’ new book – Guantanamo, My Journey

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From Economic to Social Crisis: Deficits, Debt and a Little Class History

We welcome returning guest Rick Wolff, Professor of Economics. We talk with him about his latest article, From Economic to Social Crisis: Deficits, Debt and a Little Class History. Earlier this year Rick pointed out how the Democrats and Republicans debate over spending cuts at around 40 to 60 billion. Rick says the debate is inconsequential,  when the federal budget’s projected deficit of $1.5 trillion will carry an annual interest cost of $40-60 billion.  Now, as both parties are committed to a broken, corrupt system, Rick points out that historically transitioning to another economic system is not in the public discussion.  He says, the tools used to recover from the 1930s economic collapse can’t be used today mainly because of the last 75 years of rising national debt and budget deficit.

Professor Rick Wolff:

  • This is mostly theater, the people I talked to in the business of finance and government are quite clear that the United States will work this out.
  • It is a sign of the political dysfunction that they can’t do it in a reasonable way.
  • It is a normal procedure to periodically ask for the debt ceiling to be raised, so that they can borrow the amount of money stipulated by the budgets they have passed.  The sitting president asks for the debt ceiling to be raised, Bush did it eight times. It’s normal.
  • The only thing the Democrats have left, to not look defeated, is to make a big deal out of the cuts they’re willing to accept are smaller than the “draconian” version that the Republicans want.
  • The Republicans don’t know, the Democrats don’t know (what will happen). They fundamentally don’t care, because they have long ago decided that their political needs and strategies are unhooked from the underlying economic situation.
  • We’re spending 3.5 trillion dollars this year as a Federal Government. We’re raising 2 trillion. That means 1.5 trillion has to be borrowed otherwise its not going to happen.
  • That’s money that will be used to help old people’s needs, help fight wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, to help cities and states that need support, etc.
  • The actual creditors in the immediate situation have nothing to fear.
  • For the rest of the world you have a double whammy, which is what we should be thinking about.
  • We have the driver of the world’s economy collapse in 2007/2008 and having been unable to recover since.
  • The bottom line is this economy isn’t working well and isn’t solving its crisis. This is now a deeper, longer crisis than any since the Great Depression.
  • That means every other player in the world, from a Chinese official, to a Spanish bank to an investor in Brazil has to rethink what he or she thought.
  • A thousand small decisions are going to be made a little differently from now on.
  • There is no proposal working its way through Congress to provide employment to the tens of millions of people who have no work.
  • The president’s statement (is a bipartisan commitment to ignore the problem of unemployment.)
  • The most extreme proposal is to cut 4 trillion dollars in the next ten years. This year alone the US deficit will run one thousand five hundred billion. 1.5 trillion.
  • The debtors know that at a certain point there’s going to be trouble.
  • You can’t continue to cut the masses’ standard of living to make money for big bankers, that’s not a political sustainable program. Not here, not in Greece, not anywhere else.
  • The silence of the press here is stunning. There have been multiple general strikes across Europe.
  • The greed of the corporations, they’ve had their way for 30 years. Republicans and Democrats alike, have basically gone in the direction they want. Corporate taxes have been cut, regulations relieved, money is everything, wealth is everything, consumption is where you are.
  • The smaller business (corporations, etc) are late to party. They still want to get theirs. Those who already got theirs don’t want them to mess up the game. I believe you will see big splits emerging among the Right in America because these are different attitudes.
  • They want a stable United States so that they can grow in the rest of the world, because that’s where they think growth is coming.
  • They don’t need to maintain the roads like they did, they don’t need to maintain the education in this country.
  • You can appeal to them, you need these workers, you need these consumers. No we don’t. We don’t need them as workers, and we don’t expect them to be much in the way of consumers, because they would have to borrow and we’re not going to lend to them.
  • They would have to have higher wages, and we’re not going to give that to them. We have no reason to, we have cheaper better workers elsewhere.
  • You are subjecting your working class to a major sustained attack on its standard of living. To believe this is all going to happen and they’re quietly going to sink some resignation with no consequence is nutty.
  • The attempt to isolate, to freeze, to inoculate the population so they don’t fear what’s coming. It’s falling apart in Europe, but it will fall apart here too.

 

Guest -  Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

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Law and Disorder July 11, 2011


Updates:

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Natural Gas Drilling Moratorium To Be Lifted in New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to lift the moratorium on natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing in New York State.  Hydro-fracking as its called is in many opinions an environmentally wreck-less technique to extract natural gas from shale.  While the lifting of the moratorium is still months away, it comes despite the massive efforts from environmental and community groups in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have protected the Marcellus Shale watershed.

In a statement released by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, there will be environmental restrictions placed on the natural gas drilling permits in New York State, such as no drilling within 2000 feet of a public reservoir.

However, ninety percent of the New York City’s drinking water comes from ground zero of where various oil companies want to drill into the Marcelle Shale for natural gas. Every time a well is drilled, the companies use an estimate of 5 to 9 million gallons of water. Each time a well is fractured, it’s another 5-9 million gallons of water, a well can be fractured multiple times.  Up to 275 different toxic chemicals are used in the process and after the well is drilled, there are millions of gallons of industrial waste, it’s essentially radioactive water.  40-70 percent of this water stays underground.

The watershed is 13 thousand square miles and includes four and those that want to mine this resource say it will reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost the economy.   However, many have shown this statement to be false as the natural gas from the United States is being sold to foreign countries such as Norway and France.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit is pending against several federal agencies affiliated with the Delaware River Basin Commission to block final regulations on hydro-fracking until a full environmental review can be conducted. Past shows on hydro-fracking: Law and Disorder March 21, 2011 / Law and Disorder March 29, 2010

Attorney Jordan Yeager:

  • Hydro-fracking is part of a broader industrial practice. Basically what we’re doing is allowing companies to drill down a mile deep through our aquifers, which we all depend on for our drinking water.
  • Once they get down there, they start to drill horizontally, they’re aiming for the shale formations underground.
  • In order to release the gas from the shale, they blast it with this nasty stuff, chemicals that they don’t want to disclose.
  • They’re also developing and industrializing large swaths of land. When they do that they’re polluting the waters of New York and Pennsylvania and every place where this is happening.
  • Generally what is proposed is to allow around 85 percent of New York State that has Marcellus Shale to be open to drilling that they would not allow drilling to take place in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. And they would not allow it to take place within what they primary aquifers and state owned game land.
  • But all other places and private land, they would allow it to happen.
  • Those people who live in New York City, and in Syracuse, those people would be protected from this activity, but the people in the rest of the state would be subjected to it.
  • For every 17 or 18 gas wells that you drill, you can expect to see water contamination from that.
  • But then we’d ask why would we allow the rest of New York to be exposed to it?
  • In Pennsylvania, its completely ruining the roads in the northern half of the state, its tearing up communities. In Bradford County we had a blowout, not too long ago, which caused damage not only to streams but to drinking water in that area.
  • We are going to see continued failures wherever this happens.  The question is . . . are we going to allow it to happen? Are we going to force this practice to follow the science and only allow it to happen if the science says it can be done safely? We’re simply not there.
  • In Pennsylvania, what we’re seeing is most of those jobs they’re talking about are going to folks outside the state. They’re bringing in people from the western states, who have experience in drilling. You to also look at the broader economic impact. When a community loses its water supply, that is bigger impact than a handful of jobs.
  • If we don’t have clean water in order to live and for other businesses to operate, we’re going to see much greater economic damage.
  • We’ve been dealing with the Delaware Water Basin Commission to make sure they don’t allow the Delaware River to be poisoned by these activities.
  • When the people of Pennsylvania, the people of New York and New Jersey, are fully awakened to the dangers of this activity, we’ll be able to build a movement and reign it in.
  • There are dangers associated with these industrial activities, and we have to look at the dangers in the broadest sense.
  • Natural gas has been identified by some as a clean fuel, but that’s when they compare it to how it burns and how coal burns.  That’s one part of the natural gas story.
  • You have to also look at the dangers in the process of extraction. When we drill down a mile deep, we’re finding naturally occurring radioactive material and as part of the drilling process, we’re then bringing that up to the surface.
  • Look, we need energy. We need to decide what level of risk we’re comfortable with. In my opinion, we need to be looking at renewable energy, like solar, like wind, get investments, and get them to a larger scale.
  • With this new direction from New York, we need to make sure there’s adequate time public participation and what was announced last week, is they would only allow a 60 day public comment period. That’s simply not enough. They haven’t looked at the research that’s been established since they closed the record in 2009.
  • The public needs more than 60 days to educate the folks at the state level about what we’ve been learning since December 2009. We ought to be looking at a 6 month period on what was proposed for New York State.

Guest – Attorney Jordan Yeager, a National Lawyers Guild member, a cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and member of Damascus Citizens. Curtin & Heefner LLP recently elected leading public interest attorney Jordan B. Yeager to its partnership. Mr. Yeager is a member of the firm’s Employment and Public Sector Section. Formerly in private practice as the named partner in a public interest law firm, Mr. Yeager served successfully as counsel in several groundbreaking cases, including matters involving constitutional rights issues; claims of reasonable accommodation against a municipal defendant; and the right to a jury trial in a whistle-blower retaliation case.

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Second Austerity Measure Imposed On Greece

Protests and demonstrations continue to erupt in Greece as demonstrators rise up in the streets against deep cuts in services and jobs from austerity.  Austerity is the name of the government’s response to the demand of its creditors.  Austerity imposes on society a severe regimen of rising taxes, or cut government spending to please and satisfy creditors. Greece as predicted by Economics professor Rick Wolff a year ago has been hit the hardest by the global economic disaster. Why? For many reasons, it has a strong working class, socialist roots and a public sector made primarily of union jobs. The austerity has cut into the working class jobs as the country privatizes the post office, gas, water works and railway. Meanwhile, the wealthy continue to evade taxes in Greece and in the United States. Past shows on Greece: Law and Disorder

Professor Costas Panayotakis:

  • I was in Athens that last few days, what you have in the European Union is imbalances that resulted partly from the introduction of the Euro, but also, by the general phenomena in the division of the world of some countries more technologically advanced and others that are not.
  • Right now you have a crisis, partly a European crisis, its not that the Greek culture is a pathological culture, as the mainstream media sometimes presents. Each crisis has its specifics, Ireland, Portugal, in Greece, the specificity is that the wealthy are not paying taxes.
  • There are tax evasion problems, the problem in Greece is of primarily of revenues rather than spending.
  • The mainstream media talks about the “bloated” public sector of Greece. The public sector is aligned with other public sectors in other countries. Now what they’re trying to do of course, traffic out jobs from the public sector to make Greece a public sector a small part of the economy  as it is in developing countries in Africa.
  • Because its debt has become so unmanageable, there was an austerity pack that was adopted last year that 110 billion dollars. Drastic cuts in public spending, welfare state,
  • Now what’s happened as is often the case, with IMF problems, the program didn’t work the way they said it was going to. Now Greece needs another loan to keep servicing its debt. One of the conditions is that Greece has this huge fire sale of all its public assets. The hope is that its going to raise 50 billion Euros.
  • Because values in all the public companies have shrunk rapidly, whoever buys them will buy at a really low price.  Many Greeks are up in arms about that. Now they see the banks wanting to follow up with more of the same, that’s why 80 percent of the Greeks oppose this policy.
  • We had a 2 day general strike last week, a 48 hour general strike had not happened in Greece for decades.
  • You also have a demand for real democracy, direct democracy. One of the demands was not to pass the austerity package.
  • Every 3 months there are news measures that have to be adopted in order for Greece to get the next installment of the loan. If Greece defaulted on their loan, it would effect the Eurozone in a very direct way, it would effect European banks.
  • I think the lesson to take away from this is fighting back is necessary.

Guest – Costas Panayotakis, a professor at the New York City College of Technology.

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Law and Disorder July 4, 2011


Updates:

  • Food Not Bombs Plans To Sue  Orlando Mayor
  • Pelican Bay Hunger Strike

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Supreme Court Decision On Climate Change

Last month the Supreme Court, reaffirmed that it is the job of the Environmental Protection Agency to curb carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. This was decided in the Connecticut v. American Electric Power case which doesn’t allow states to directly bring a lawsuit against five of the largest power companies to regulate their emissions as a public nuisance. As many listeners may know, power plants are the nation’s biggest climate polluters.  They can pump more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Other polluters include automobile emissions and housing stock.  Some of the world’s top scientists report that pollution has been linked to climate change.

Law Professor Eleanor Stein:

  • In the 2004 case, the court decided the EPA had to assess any air pollutant and decide whether it endangered public health and welfare and if it found that it did, it would have to set limits on that pollutant.
  • The EPA had refused to do that, this is the Bush era EPA and said we don’t have the authority under the Clean Air Act to do it, and even if we did, this is essentially a problem for the president to solve, and he’s doing a great job.
  • The court found that unsatisfactory and held that the EPA had an obligation to regulate if it found endangerment.
  • This case 2011, reaffirmed the central core of the Massachusetts decision, which is the EPA has the authority and the responsibility to regulate green house gases.
  • The 2nd Circuit in a ringing militant statement on climate, reversed the district court and squarely held that states could bring this lawsuit which is against the five biggest CO2 emitters in the country, under a common law theory of public nuisance.
  • The heart of the petitioners camp were a group of attorneys generals from several states, the fundamental authority of an attorney general is to bring lawsuits in a state against public nuisances of all kinds.
  • So they had this idea to elevated this authority into a federal common law claim.
  • The court endorses no particular view of the complicated issues related to carbon dioxide emissions.
  • For this they cite an article in the New York Times 2 years from Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson who said a lot of climate denier stuff and is kind of a gadfly, who is not a climate scientist.
  • In New York City for example, we burn a great deal of natural gas to heat our houses. #6 heating oil both heavy emitter of CO2
  • We’re creating a layer that is preventing reflection of solar rays back out into space.
  • Much more of it is being trapped into the atmosphere than pre-industrial times.
  • There’s uncertainty about how fast and what kind of changes, but there are some things that are confidently predicted. We’re already seeing tremendously fast melting of ice in Greenland and the polar cap.
  • There’s no question that this is a product of both rapid industrial development, of uncontrolled growth policies, without any consideration of the impacts of growth, especially when you talk about the disparity of impact.
  • www.350.org

Guest – Law Professor and Attorney Eleanor Stein teaches the Law of Climate Change: Domestic and Transnational at Albany Law School and SUNY Albany, jointly with the Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences Department at SUNY.

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Michigan Citizens File Suit Challenging Unconstitutional  Emergency Manager Law

Twenty-eight citizens of Michigan have filed a lawsuit in an effort to bring down the recently signed Emergency Manager Law, claiming it will give Governor Rick Snyder and his appointees vast, unlawful power over financially struggling cities and school districts.  Bill Goodman, an attorney with the Sugar Law Center of Detroit, the firm that filed the lawsuit called it a power grab by Lansing politicians. Goodman also said the law violates the state constitution by giving Snyder powers over cities normally granted to the state Legislature. Those powers include replacing elected officials, nullifying collective bargaining agreements, privatizing public services and dissolving cities. Earlier this year we interviewed Zainab Akbar,  Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Michigan about the same law being used the mostly black community of Benton Harbor.  Democracy Emergency

Attorney John Philo:

  • We think this is an important issue, not just for Michigan but nationally. We think this is so viable to our notion of fundamental constitutional rights that we could not let this pass without a legal challenge.
  • The first constitutional law violation that we see is that it attacks what is known as the democratic form of government. We all believe we have a right to a democratic form of government, that we can elect our officials at the local, state and federal level. This lawsuit is testing, where is that in the Constitution, where is it recognized?
  • We think that people would find it in absurdity that they don’t have that right to vote for their local officials.
  • We have a provision in our constitution that says that can’t pass unfunded mandates. They can’t put costs on a local government without providing some revenue stream or providing some mandatory adjustment.
  • This legislation puts all the costs on the local government that already find to be in distress.
  • In Benton Harbor alone, the salary of the “emergency manager” is running 11 thousand a month.
  • That’s before we even get to the consultants and the financial review people that they bring in, the staff.
  • There are a number of states looking to pass the emergency managers law.
  • This is a nationwide problem that everyone recognizes to regulate banks, and Wall St., and national economic policies that have hit the Midwest hardest and we would say below the belt.
  • What will the law do to pensions? Contract rights and pension funds.
  • There is a provision that says the state treasurer can request the communities to sort of enter into a consent agreement, before they’ve even been found in financial distress.
  • There are citizens, conservation folks, in various places who’ve request the state appoint an emergency manager in their community. This sends the mayor and the city council reeling because they don’t feel they have to.
  • They’re acting to prevent this because of the broad discretion given to treasurer and the governor, whether there is a financial situation where they could appoint a manager.
  • We’re asking for an order of the court that declares the provisions of Public Act 4 unconstitutional and then an injunction that prevents any further implementation.
  • I think people would be shocked if they realize people don’t have a right to elected government.

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Tova Perlmutter:

  • We see this litigation as one tool in a broader people’s movement. Here in Detroit we have some phenomenal leaders. The first day we filed was the biggest day in my career.
  • We with a lot of help with allies and friends held seven press conferences in cities across the state.
  • We blanketed the airways and the press, that’s how we got national coverage as well.
  • The Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice
  • We’ve been around for 20 years, based in Detroit but we do serve folks nationally, our mission is to use legal and other public advocacy to advance the rights of working people and their communities.
  • One of the cities that has had the most extreme emergency managers is Pontiac.
  • There’s no coincidence here, this is a very clear effort to exert a paternalistic and corporate friendly control over communities that might otherwise be speaking out and exerting autonomy.
  • www.democracyemergency.org

Guest – Attorney John Philo -Sugar Law’s Legal Director, is responsible for litigation, legal research, delivery of training, and supervision of all staff and interns working on legal tasks. John is an attorney with over 18 years of experience representing and advocating for workers and other disenfranchised people.

Guest - Tova Perlmutter – Executive Director, has over 20 years experience in administration, communications, fund raising and public education for nonprofit organizations. She obtained professional certification as a Senior Human Resources Professional while working to promote fair employment practices at a major corporation.

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Law and Disorder May 2, 2011



Updates:

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Largest Human Trafficking Case In The US?  Workers Lured To U.S. After Hurricane Katrina And Subjected To Abusive Conditions Seek Class Certification

In what may be the largest human trafficking case in US history, Indian guest workers are suing Signal International for human trafficking ad racketeering. Several law firms filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven plaintiffs representing 500 formers guest workers lured into the US after Hurricane Katrina. The guest workers were subjected to racial discrimination, forced labor and other abuse.

Signal is a multi million dollar marine fabrication company with shipyards in Mississippi, Texas and Alabama. They repair and build oil rigs and ships and subcontract with the Dept of Defense and multinational companies. After Hurricane Katrina, Signal’s workforce scattered and they used the government’s guest worker program to import employees as welders and pipe fitters. Between 2004 and 2006 hundreds of Indian men were paid up to 20 thousand dollars each for travel, visa and other fees after being told it would lead to good jobs and permanent US residency.

When the men arrived at Signal they discovered they would not receive green cards, but instead were given 10-month guest worker visas. Signal forced the men to pay $1,050 a month to live in overcrowded, unsanitary and racially segregated labor camps with no visitors allowed.  To talk more about this case, we’re joined by Chandra Bhatnagar is a Staff Attorney with the Human Rights Program and Sabulal Vijayan, a former guest worker involved in the lawsuit.

Chandra Bhatnagar:

  • Signal used the opportunity of the storm to seek out new labor pools. Signal in partnership with an American labor broker, an American Immigration lawyer and an Indian recruiter, conspired to bring in a group of 500 men from India as H2B guest workers.
  • The workers were promised green cards, permanent residency, and the opportunity for long term jobs.
  • Sabulal Vijayan: I was working in the middle east, the United Arab Emirates, I saw the ad by Signal that said we would get permanent residency in America. I paid about 18 thousand dollars, I cut my wrists in fear, I tried to kill myself because I spent a bunch of dollars. I was in the hospital for 3 days. I couldn’t go back to my family in India with bare hands, because I spent all the money on this job. Not only me but 500 workers, sold all their land and houses for this job.
  • The EEOC, brought a separate lawsuit against Signal, alleging racial and national origin discrimination and hostile work environment.
  • Because Sabulal was one of the workers seeking his rights under the law,  he was particularly targeted by Signal and rounded up in an early morning raid.  The camp was built on a lead contaminated waste site.
  • It’s not OSCHA compliant to have 24 guys jammed together in a temporary trailer.
  • These are in the United States and in debt. The average income in India is 3000 dollars a year for a ship worker. To pay 20 thousand dollars, you have to sell your property, borrow money from loan sharks.  You have to mortgage your whole life for the opportunity to come here.  Signal also said if you file a lawsuit, we’ll send all of you back.
  • Signal is a marine fabrication company, a multi-million dollar company. They repair and build oil rigs and ships. They have yards in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. They provide services to the Department of Defense and major corporations.
  • It was a conspiracy between the Immigration lawyer, the Indian recruiter, the labor broker and Signal.
  • Signal got this vulnerable pool of workers who they could throw away whenever they wanted to.
  • You don’t have freedom of contract as a guest worker, you’re the disposable property of the employer.

Guest - Chandra Bhatnagar, ACLU  Staff Attorney with the Human Rights Program. He leads the domestic and international advocacy around racial profiling, affirmative action, and juvenile justice issues, and is engaged in federal court litigation and litigation in international tribunals involving the rights of low-wage immigrant workers, undocumented workers, and guest-workers.

Guest – Sabulal Vijayan, guest worker from India, who is involved in the case. Sabulal, a pipefitter, paid nearly 20 thousand dollars to work in the United States as a guest worker. He worked with others in slave labor-like conditions for Signal International.

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Professor John Ehrenberg: Class Warfare Update and Analysis

Returning guest, professor and author John Ehrenberg joins us in the discussion of where the last 3 years the Obama Administration has led the country.  The United States is pouring trillions into multiple war theaters, unemployment continues to rise, CEOs of banks and corporations have been rewarded with taxpayer bonuses and bailouts, and a massive unequal distribution of wealth has polarize the country. Meanwhile, the very rights that protect organized labor and the benefits of workers are attacked and disassembled during one of the worst economic downturns to hit the United States.  Corporations and the far right wing of the Republican Party are behind some of the union busting yet even President Obama turned his back on supporting union labor demonstrations.  Most recent show with John Ehrenberg


Professor John Ehrenberg:

  • The elephant in the room that nobody talks about is the role of the state and the role of the government.
  • Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class
  • What you had since the 1980s is a policy pushed by the Republicans and acquiesced by the Democrats of undoing the Great Society. We’ve seen this in the union busting and refusing to tax the rich. It’s been happening because the Republican party is getting more radical.
  • The villan in the room is governmental and fiscal policy.
  • The top 1 percent of the population received more than a third of all the wealth created in the country from 1979 to the beginning of the recession.  The top 1/10 of one percent, that’s one out of every thousand households, received over 20 percent of all the after tax gains between 1979 and 2005.
  • It was a conscious policy. It began in the late 70s by business. If you look at the neo-conservatives of that period, their target is the Great Society.
  • Basically in the late 60s and the early 70s, the traditional stimulus programs of the Democrats failed.
  • Along comes Reagan and he takes on a radical restructuring of the economy.
  • Which began this process of shoveling huge amounts of wealth to the rich, hoping that it would trickle down and you’d have sustained growth.
  • Consider that Obama is going to raise a billion dollars for his reelection campaign. Where is he going to get it from?
  • Look, anybody at this stage of the game who continues to trust the Democratic party to lead the country out of this mess, is a fool.
  • The Democratic Party by itself is incapable of democratic initiative and progressive change unless forced to respond from pressure from outside.
  • When do they have enough? The answer in 1100 pages of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy is it’s never enough.  That the logic of capital is to reduce everybody to starvation and take everything they have.
  • This is the motor of the system, this has nothing to do with the Koch Brothers.
  • Hopefully people are tired of being pushed around. American exceptionalism, meant that Americans were more tolerant of inequality, than were people from a stronger labor tradition.
  • That American’s didn’t care so much if other people got rich as long as they got rich too.
  • If you have a situation where Americans are misinformed about the distribution of wealth and are open to appeals to redistribute wealth in the name of fairness and equity, then this is the time for a redistributus Democratic party to step forward.
  • If the Democratic Party is even a modicum of sanity in America, it’s because its going to have be pushed again.  Pushed and pushed and pushed from outside.
  • 55 percent of Republicans want higher taxes on the rich.
  • There are local manifestations of outrage and rebellion, in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ft Lauderdale, around different aspects of the mal-distribution of wealth. – but nothing has been coordinated on the national level.
  • There are as yet, no forces talking about the system as a whole, as a state.
  • There are a lot of indications across the board that people have had enough.
  • Go out there and join something and get involved.
  • UNICEF publication. The Children Left Behind. Indices: Health, Education, Material Well Being.  The United States is last of the 24 countries.
  • If you look at the fall of any of the world’s empires, it was a combination of the over reach and the refusal of the rich to pay their share of taxes.

Guest – John Ehrenberg,  author of Servants of Wealth, The Rights Assault on Economic Justice, he’s also professor of political science at Long Island University.

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Law and Disorder April 25, 2011


Updates:

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Court Vindicates Prisoners in Right to Challenge Federal Experimental Isolation Units Restricting Communication

Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights won the right for prisoners to challenge a violation of their constitutional rights. Prisoners in 2 experimental federal prison units called “Communications Management Units” or CMUs, will have their claims heard in court.  About 70 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim men.  Judge Urbina agreed that the prisoners raised serious constitutional questions about CMUs.  The Center for Constitutional Rights filed Aref v. Holder in the D.C. District Court on behalf of current and former prisoners of the units in Terre Haute, IN and Marion, IL; two other plaintiffs are the spouses of those prisoners.

As many listeners may know, these CMUs were secretly opened under the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007. They were designed to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and to isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.  The five plaintiffs in Aref were designated to the two CMUs despite having relatively or totally clean disciplinary histories, and none of the plaintiffs have received any communications-related disciplinary infractions in the last decade.

In addition to heavily restricted telephone and visitation access, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members and are forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits.

Attorney Alexis Agathocleous:

  • We’re very troubled about policies and conditions at these units. A number of the restrictions imposed at the CMUs are severe. They are truly cutting people off from their loved ones, they’re community and the outside world
  • Blanket ban on physical contact, unparalleled to any other single unit anywhere, including Supermax.
  • We feel this needlessly impinges on their right to family integrity and their need to maintain these ties to the outside world.
  • What we’re challenging is that there is no due process attached to designation to these (CMU) units.
  • Without a disclosure of factual allegations that were used to designate them, without a demonstration of past abuse of communication devices, without a hearing, without an appeal. Once you’re there, no one is told how to earn their transfer to get out. Our clients have benign or in some cases perfectly clean histories.
  • What is happening is that Muslim prisoners are being designated there, based on the discriminatory belief that as Muslims they inherently pose a great danger to institutional security, than do other prisoners.
  • We’re very concerned also about a pattern of designation of political prisoners and specifically includes environmental and animal rights activists.
  • We do believe these are acts of retaliation for protected First Amendment activity, such as speaking out on social justice issues.
  • What we’ve asked for in the case is a thorough review of polices and practices in the CMUs.
  • What’s next is we’re going into discovery, which is our opportunity to learn a lot more about the CMUs, about their inception, who was involved in designing them and why and about how designations are made.
  • CMUs were opened quietly.

Guest – Alexis Agathocleous, staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and works on CCR’s Government Misconduct and Racial Justice docket.  He is lead counsel in Aref v. Holder, challenging policies and conditions at the federal Bureau of Prisons’ Communications Management Units, and Doe v. Jindal, challenging a Louisiana law that requires individuals convicted of Crime Against Nature to register as sex offenders.

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Financial Regulators Failed: Crooks Go Unpunished

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday charged Goldman Sachs & Co. and one of its executives with fraud in a risky offshore deal backed by subprime mortgages that cost investors more than $1 billion. The SEC also contends that Goldman allowed a client, Wall Street hedge fund Paulson & Co., to help select the securities to be sold. Paulson in turn bought insurance against the deal and when the securities sank, losing nearly all value, Paulson then made a $1 billion profit.

While these are not criminal charges, the recently released 650-page report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Wall Street and the Financial Crisis (PDF) had exposed the deceptive and risky practices within major financial institutions, that deceived clients and the public.  New Economics Perspective Blog

Professor William K. Black:

  • Many people still call it the subprime crisis, it would be far better to call it, the liar’s loan crisis.
  • Roughly half of all subprime loans by 2006.
  • Somewhere between a quarter and 49 percent of new home loans, were in the form of liar’s loans.
  • The incidence of fraud when there have been independent studies has ranged from 90 to 100 percent.
  • A liar’s loan is when there is no underwriting, no verification of what’s put into the loan application.
  • Overwhelmingly, it was the lenders who put the lie is liar’s loans.
  • You can sell these loans in the secondary market if they appeared to have 2 characteristics that finance has told us you can’t have simultaneously.
  • A premium interest rate and low risk. You could have the best of both worlds. The way to do that was to gimmick two ratios. Debt to income ratio and loan to value ratio.
  • Inflating the value of homes, covered up by industry. An honest secure lender would never inflate value.
  • It makes perfect sense for a fraudulent company to inflate the value of the house so they can sell the loan on the secondary market for a higher profit.
  • Then Attorney General Cuomo, now governor found this as a common practice at Washington Mutual, the biggest bank failure.  WAMU had a blacklist of appraisers, you were blacklisted if you refused to inflate value of property. None of these people are being prosecuted.
  • In 2004, the FBI testified there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud and predicted that it would cause a financial crisis.
  • The Savings and Loans debacle cost 150 billion, the current crisis is costing over 10 trillion.
  • The Office of Thrift Supervision, Chainsaw James Gilleran
  • Instead of being embarrassed that they were working hand in glove with the lobbyists, they were proud of this and put this in their annual report.
  • Geithner and Cuomo urged there not be investigations much less prosecutions of the elite financial frauds because he thought the financial system was too fragile.
  • The Justice Department ruined an FBI initiative to try and investigate the elite frauds.
  • If you are powerful enough, if you have enough ties, after citizens united, and make enough political contributions, you will not be prosecuted.
  • You can’t have crony-capitalism and democracy either.
  • Big finance is only supposed to be a middle man, it’s supposed to help the real economy, by simply allocating most efficiently capital to the most productive uses.
  • Like any middle man you want absolutely minimal profits going to the middle man.
  • Under some measures, finance has 40 percent of the total profits of all American businesses.
  • This is the worst group of people you can possibly imagine having power.
  • We’ve turned too many of our schools into fraud factories, where we train people how to gimmick accounting.
  • Citizen’s United is a fragile case, it doesn’t make much sense in terms of the law.
  • What these people are, engines for destroying wealth
  • They only get 10 billion, they destroy 10 trillion dollars in wealth. They cost 10 million Americans their jobs.

Guest -  William K. Black, a professor of law at University of Missouri, Kansas City who has criticized the absence of any criminal referrals or national task force to effectively punish the elite fraudsters.  Professor Black teaches White-Collar Crime, Public Finance, Antitrust, Law & Economics.

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