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Law and Disorder April 27, 2015


Updates:

  • U.S. Continues To Not Officially Recognize Armenian Genocide On 100th Anniversary
  • Michael Ratner: Constitution and Freedom of Speech Threatened In Wake Of Anti-Boycott (BDS) Legislation In US and Israel
  • University of Southampton Cancels Conference After Government, Israel Lobby Pressure
  • Michael Ratner Exposes NY Times Article – Student Coalition at Stanford Confronts Allegations of Antisemitism
  • Michael Ratner – “Antisemitism has nothing to do with whether I’m against the practices of the Israeli state.”

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Emmett, Down in My Heart

The prize-winning play Emmett, Down in My Heart is the true story of two female characters, Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley and a white teacher, Roanne Taylor, who frame the 1955 kidnap, torture, murder of 14-year old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta. Roanne is haunted by her silence and confronts her need to take responsibility and speak. Mamie Till-Mobley, through outrage and grief, is transformed from a private citizen to a social-justice activist. Many consider her insistence on an open casket to be the start of the modern Civil Rights Movement. And tree months later in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks said Emmett Till was the catalyst that motivated her when she refused to move to the back of the bus.

Guest – Clare Coss, activist, writer and psychotherapist. Her publications include Lillian D.Wald: Progressive Activist which features the play and a selection of Wald’s correspondence and speeches. Her anthology of lesbian love poems, The Arc of Love (Scribner), was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Coss was for many years the Poetry Editor for Affilia, a journal of women and social work. She has taught at Hunter College, SUNY at Stony Brook, and is collaborating on her libretto Emmett Till, the Opera with composer Mary Watkins.

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The United States, Saudi Arabia And The War In Yemen 2015

Today we’re going to untangle the war in Yemen. You read a lot about it. There’s Iran helping the Houthis. Why is Saudi Arabia stopping the bombing? What’s the role of the United States? How did this war come about? What happened to civil society? There are no easy answers, at least if you read American newspapers. But there actually are answers.

Guest – Dr. Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, a contributing editor of Tikkun, and co-chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

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Law and Disorder April 13, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Edward Snowden Bust On Brooklyn War Memorial Replaced By Hologram

 

 mumia1_0416 mumia_2

Mumia Abu-Jamal Health Crisis Update

Journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal continues to be in serious medical condition at SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, Pennsylvania. He has lost over 50 pounds and his body is covered with a hard, painful layer of jet-black skin that is both bloody and itchy. Last week his blood sugar registered in the mid 200s and continues to fluctuate, with doctors injecting a double shot of insulin right before he was brought out in a wheelchair to see visitors. As of that visit he had not been seen by a diabetes specialist, and there is concern that the insulin injections may result in an overdose or cause organ damage.

Mumia is so weak that when he tried to go to the infirmary’s bathroom, he could not sustain himself on his feet. He slid down to the floor and waited there, helplessly and unable to call for assistance, for 45 minutes until he was found by a doctor and another prisoner.

Support and demands for medical attention and an improved diet continue to pour in from around the globe. Two teachers delivered letters that their students had written to Mumia; one batch from a third grade class taught by Ms. Marylin Zuniga in Orange, New Jersey; the other from a group of high school students in the Philadelphia Student Union, which fights for school reform and is led by Mr. Hiram Rivera.

ACTION: Please call Secretary of Pennsylvania Corrections John E. Wetzel – 717-728-4109. Demand is that Mumia be allowed to see a team of specialist chosen by his family and supporters to assess and evaluate his condition.

Article: A Slow Death for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Thousands of Prisoners in America by Johanna Fernandez and Heidi Boghosian

Guest – Johanna Fernandez, assistant professor of history at Baruch College and an active member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. She received a PhD in History from Columbia University and a BA in Literature and American Civilization from Brown University. Professor Fernández teaches 20th Century U.S. History, the history of social movements, the political economy of American cities, and African-American history.

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Palestinian Refugees in Syria

In a situation the United Nations has described as “beyond inhumane,” last week an estimated 300 ISIS extremists converged on Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus after three days of fighting. Humanitarian aid has failed to reach starving residents there, even as ISIS members, many of whom appear to be Syrian, portrayed the attack as a liberation of the camp’s residents. In fact the residents –3,500 of whom are children—have been under siege and starvation tactics for two years.

Syrian forces control all entrances to the north and east of Yarmouk and have largely resisted pleas by UNRWA for parcels of food and water to be allowed in. Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main Islamist opposition groups fighting against Isis in the camp, reported to the Guardian that 80 ISIS militants had been killed in a period of two days and some of its positions had been seized. Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian camp in Syria, has been a frequent battle zone, pitting regime forces against mainstream and Islamist rebels. Approximately 16,000 residents remain in the settlement, a decrease from 200,000 prior to the war.

Most inhabitants fled to Lebanon where they now live in overcrowded refugee camps. Many are refugees for the second time, having fled what is now Israel in 1967 or 1948. Some have attempted to flee on migrant boats to Europe and Egypt.

Guest – Salim Salamah, the head of the Palestinian League for Human Rights-Syria, and a former Yarmouk resident who fled in October 2012. He’s exiled in Sweden since February 2013 – spokesperson of the Palestinian League for Human Rights/Syria, a grassroots refugee and youth-led human rights collective.

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Law and Disorder March 30, 2015


Updates:

  • FBI: If You Give Us Assata Shakur, We’ll Free The Cuban Five
  • Michael Ratner: Massive CIW March St. Petersburg, Florida 2015
  • Alliance For Fair Food

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War Tax Resistance

As April 15 draws near, some Americans engage in the practice of war tax resistance, refusing to pay some or all of their federal income tax. It’s an act of civil disobedience with a proud history in this country. Notable war tax resisters included Henry David Thoreau who refused to pay his poll tax during the Mexican-American war. In the 1960s and 70s, many Vietnam war protesters engaged in the practice, including Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, James Baldwin and Joan Baez. While individuals refusing to pay war taxes cite the refusal as a moral imperative-even citing international law to bolster this assertion—it’s not surprising that the Internal Revenue Service considers the refusal to pay such taxes as illegal.

Ruth Benn:

  • In war tax resistance we tend to use the War Resisters League chart where your income tax money really goes and the calculations from the War Resisters League over the years have been around 50 percent.
  • About 27 percent is current military so that’s paying for the wars and its buying the weapons for the next wars and all of those things that the Pentagon does.
  • The “past military” is mainly for the debt and then the money that’s set aside for veterans.
  • The nuclear weapons program which they are increasing over the coming 10 years, modernizing weapons and modernizing delivery systems. Obama is increasing that money for the nuclear weapons. That’s in the Department of Energy.
  • We have the Department of Homeland Security. That is a lot of armed people also. The TSA, the militarization of the border. Homeland Security is giving those grants to local communities in the U.S. that are getting these military weapons.
  • We have 500 billion this year for veterans and past military. That’s only going to add up.
  • Basically, (war tax resistance) is similar to conscientious objection in terms of people who refuse to go into the military or refused the draft. So this is a refusal to have my tax dollars drafted. A refusal to pay income taxes that go into this pie of the military budget.
  • There was a particular tax put on people in WW2. A stamp that people had to buy that was on their cars that supported war.
  • (Famous tax resisters) We tend to go back to Henry David Thoreau of course with his one dollar that resulted in on the duty of civil disobedience.
  • I always say going throughout history taxes first tend to be put on people because somebody wants to fight somebody. A government wants to go to war, that’s centuries back.
  • The Vietnam War of course was the biggest time for tax resistance when it really was a strong part of the peace movement.
  • The campaign during Vietnam to resist the telephone tax. A tax that was put on and raised during Vietnam. It was put on to 10 percent just to pay for the wars.
  • People would owe 7.00 dollars in phone tax and some of them had their houses seized, some had their bicycles and cars seized.
  • Within the network of war tax resisters and I hesitate to call it a movement these days, there are people who do a whole range of things. There are people who live on a very low income which is a legal way to do it. The cut off for filing and owing taxes is around 10 thousand dollars for a single person.
  • There are people who are more adept at using credits and deductions to lower their taxable income.
  • I think in ’87 I started very consistently filing and refusing to pay. You get a lot of letters. I have files and files of collection letters, of course they add up interest and penalties.
  • Now I’m self-employed, the IRS can do things like garnish salaries. Over the years I figured out how to live in a way that makes it harder for them to collect. Not that they couldn’t make my life difficult.
  • Mostly the IRS would like to get the money than prosecute people.
  • I got active in the peace movement with the American Friends Service Committee. I’m not a Quaker myself but war tax resistance tends to known pretty well in the Quaker community.
  • Usually you’ve been active (in peace movement) for a while and then you go . . oh, I’m paying for this. I’m paying for what I’m fighting against.
  • nwtrcc.org
  • War Tax Resisters Guide – The Book.

Guest – Ruth Benn, Coordinator of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Along with Ed Hedemann, she co-edited the fourth and fifth editions of the book “War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, published by the War Resisters League.”

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Life After Guantanamo: A Father And Son’s Story

In the weeks after September 11, 2001, the United States gave bundles of cash to Afghan war lords and the Pakistan government to assist in capturing suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. Hundreds of men were turned over to U.S. custody often without evidence. This was an unfortunate starting point of how human lives were destroyed to as some suggest, justify an illegal war launched by the Bush Administration. Center for Constitutional Rights, senior staff attorney Pardiss Kebriaei’s Harper’s Magazine article titled Life After Guantanamo: A Father and Son’s Story traces the human toll of how her clients were wrongly imprisoned. After being picked up in Pakistan, sent back to Afghanistan, detained in Kandahar, Abdul Nasser Khantumani and his son Muhammed were interrogated by the United States and sent to Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba.

Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei:

  • I started in 2007 and it took me year to be able to go down to the base. I went to down in mid 2008, that was the first time I met Muhammad.
  • Muhammed was the son, he was a teenager and he was taken into U.S. custody. By the time I met him, he had been at Guantanamo for 6 years. 6 years without charge.
  • What I say in the piece is he started breaking down, really kind of cracking in 2005.
  • He was saying things like – I don’t care if I’m here another 5 years, another 10 years, I’m never getting out.
  • He’d been held in solitary confinement for 2 years at that point, and there was this additional aspect of the way his relationship with his father was used to traumatize him.
  • They were captured together, transferred to Guantanamo together but then, pretty much held apart in prison.
  • In November of 2008 we met then in December he cut his wrists.
  • He doesn’t call it suicide because he didn’t want to die. He just didn’t know what to do.
  • We filed an emergency motion with the court, asking the court to move him out of solitary to get him close to his father, to do something.
  • The latest hunger strike in 2013, they denied it was happening.
  • Muhammed was young and he was really vocal and loud about his torture. I remember hearing him yell and scream.
  • Abdul Nasser, his pain was quieter. There was a different kind of pain that left a wife behind or children behind. Abdul Nassar thought a lot about the rest of his family.
  • We know that the CIA was paying millions of the dollars to the Pakistani government and Afghani war lords to profile and turn people over, basically sell them into U.S. custody.
  • They came into U.S. hands because they profiled and unilaterally deemed by President Bush and Rumsfeld to be enemy combatants without any real evidence of wrongdoing.
  • We know that happened and its not just groups like CCR saying that.
  • The way that decisions are made and people are transferred (from Guantanamo Bay Prison) is such a lottery.
  • I think Abdul Nassar appeared to be more of a burden frankly to them, because he was older and in ill health. They didn’t take him. They wanted a younger guy who they thought would be easier to resettle.
  • Part of the point of the story was to shed light on just what life is like after Guantanamo.
  • Abdul Nassar has not seen his wife since 2001. He hasn’t seen his other children since 2001. He hasn’t seen Muhammed since that day in 2009.
  • http://ccrjustice.org/reunificationafterguantanamo

Guest – Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which she joined in 2007.  Her work focuses on challenging government abuses post-9/11, including in the areas of “targeted killing“ and unjust detentions at Guantanamo and in the federal system.  She is lead counsel for CCR in Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, which seeks accountability for the killing of three American citizens in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, and was counsel in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, which challenged the authorization for the targeting of an American citizen placed on government “kill lists.”  She represents men currently and formerly detained at Guantanamo in their efforts for release and reintegration, and represented the families of two men who died at the base in their lawsuit for accountability, Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld.  She also represents Fahad Hashmi, who pled to material support for terrorism after years in pre-trial solitary confinement and Special Administrative Measures, in his efforts to challenge his continuing solitary confinement in a federal “supermax” prison.

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Law and Disorder March 16, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner Updates On Julian Assange Case: You Can’t Just Keep A Case Going In Custody Essentially In The Embassy
  • Julian Assange’s Case Could Go To European Court of Human Rights – Assange Is Being Arbitrarily Detained And Investigation Not Proceeding
  • Eight Million Documents On Wikileaks In Highly Searchable Format
  • Google Turns Over Wikileak Attorney Client Emails to U.S. Government.
  • Federal Judge Denies EPIC’s FOIA Request On Government Surveillance Of Wikileaks Reporters – Denied Under Continuing Investigation Exemption

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Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare

Nearly half a century ago a majority of Americans were concerned whether their country would go to war. It was a time when national debates and public discussions engaged America’s political consciousness. That’s not the case so much these days says our guest author and attorney Scott Horton. His recently published book Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare examines how secrecy within the United States government has corrupted fundamental systems of democracy. Scott Horton also surveys the legal authority that the current national security elite have based decisions to torture, wage war and subcontract private soldiers. When operating in secret, mistakes, excesses and crimes committed in the process are often kept quiet.

Attorney Scott Horton:

  • Dick Cheney one of the longest serving secretaries of defense, because he had a peculiar atitude about secrecy. He manipulated the news secrecy all the time to give cover to claims and statements he made that turned out not to be true. These claims very frequently matters of the highest consequence.
  • The entire case to go to war in Iraq which was in fact led by Dick Cheney rested on claims that they had weapons of mass destruction and that they had aligned themselves and were operating with Al-Qaeda that’s how we got the connection to 911. Those claims were very aggressively put forward by Dick Cheney. They turned out to be completely false. He parried any attempts to challenge them by saying all the intelligence we have on that is . . . secret, so I can’t share it with you.
  • Of course, in good time we learned there wasn’t any intelligence or information that supported these claims.
  • The lords of secrecy consist of the higher echelon officers of the national intelligence and security bureaucracy and they’re the people who have under American law, the power to create secrets using the classification authority.
  • I make the case that they use that power very aggressively, very effectively to make themselves the ultimate decision makers on key national security issues and to remove those matters from the democratic, political process.
  • It’s on the lords of secrecy who really influence the final decision when its made by the executive.
  • The lords of secrecy, the people who wield the classification power also are part of a revolving door in Washington. They’re in government service, they leave that, they go to work as directors and senior officers of major contractors.
  • Those contractors hold a half trillion dollars in contract business every year paid for by tax payers and they also make enormous campaign donations.
  • Washington D.C. has emerged as the wealthiest standard metropolitan statistical area in the United States and that’s on the strength of the position of contractors and their ability to suck our treasury dry.
  • What the American people don’t know about, they don’t form opinions about. They don’t conjutate about, they don’t become engaged with. That shows how secrecy and this other stuff are a very potent narcotic against democracy effectively, causing democracy to fade away while the national security elites are at the driver’s wheel making all the key decisions.
  • I think it allows us to make war without going through the constitutional process.
  • It’s really vague on how this go-to-war decision is supposed to be made. There’s the appropriation authority of Congress, there’s the Commander in Chief power of the executive, there’s the power to declare war, and exactly how those rights and powers play out in any given situation really isn’t clear.
  • The bottom line is the US waging war overseas without the people of the United States having taken a decision to do so.
  • My book has gotten much stronger attention in Europe than it has in the United States.
  • A big part of the problem we have is the way national security and particularly intelligence community matters are reported in the United States.
  • One thing I looked at the coverage of the drone war in Pakistan and I found very clearly Americans are actually the most poorly informed community globally on this issue.
  • The media can’t really act without the whistleblower. It really comes down to the whistleblower being the last and best hope.
  • The problem is national security whistleblowers don’t get a fair trial. They wind up being abused, mistreated.
  • Let the Justice Department explain why they decided that Petraeus a slap on the fingers, nothing too serious, while they want to throw the book at Snowden.
  • Let them give the rationale for the distinction between these cases. They’ve never done that.

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. His new book Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy.

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Venezuela-Elections_ A woman walks past graffiti in Caracas

US Sanctions Against Maduro Government Officials

In its continuation of a decades long overthrow of the Venezuelan government, the United States issued new sanctions against Venezuelan government officials who the United States claims are involved in violating human rights guarantees. President Barack Obama issued an order declaring a national emergency with respect to Venezuela. The order lists certain key Venezuelan officials and said that any financial transactions with those officials are barred. This is typical of what the United States does to officials of government it doesn’t like, whether it was Nicaragua in the ’80s or Cuba since 1959 or 1960. These sanctions must also be seen the light of short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela in which the United States was deeply involved. Today we want to talk about the broader context of these actions and why the U.S. is continually trying to destabilize Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot:

  • It is pretty crazy that they have to declare Venezuela as an extraordinary threat.
  • You don’t see any of the reporters asking the Whitehouse . . . what are you talking about?
  • If you look at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States for example, that is the alternative to the OAS, that was created a few years ago in response to US unpleasant actions in the hemisphere.
  • Between 2000-2010 the Columbian military over 5700 innocent civilians, murdered them, and the United States just gave them more military aid.
  • I was there during the protest a year ago, and of course it was very different from what I saw . . I was actually kinda shocked. I walked all over and took the metro all over Caracas and the only demonstration you saw were little uprisings in the richest neighborhoods.
  • The people most affected the shortages, the ones that go and have to wait in line, can’t afford to buy anything in the black market.
  • The poor and the working people, they haven’t protest because they mostly support the government.
  • That’s a little bit of a disconnect from what you see in the press.
  • This idea that the protests are related to the shortages doesn’t hold up when you see who’s actually protesting. These people have servants who do their shopping, wait in the lines.
  • Upper middle class, they have servants, they have storage space.
  • These sanctions are probably illegal under International Law.
  • Again, there are things that are questionable, things that I wouldn’t try to defend but to create this picture, a very exaggerated picture that’s created here in the media because the U.S. wants to overthrow the government there I think is very unfortunate.
  • Venezuela has been a target by the United States for a regime change for at least 13 years.
  • A lot of people know if the opposition gets power, its just going to get worse for them.
  • Venezuela is not facing a real balance of payment crisis, where they can’t pay for their import. They just have a dysfunctional exchange rate system and they have a fair amount of sabotage too.

Guest – Mark Weisbrot co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. to give us an update. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian Unlimited (U.K.), and a regular column on economic and policy issues that is distributed to over 550 newspapers by the Tribune Content Agency.

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Law and Disorder March 9, 2015


Updates:

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iran2 Medea Benjamin

ISIS and The Anti-War Movement

Last June, the United States sent more military soldiers to Iraq and carried out airstrikes to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant known as ISIS. The US, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which is also the goal of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. ISIS’s membership may be close to 15 thousand members, half of what the CIA estimates. ISIS is led by a core of people who fought the U.S. in Iraq, fought the Iraq Army back in 2003 and then in 2011 fought in Syria. Last week our own Michael Ratner reported how the U.S. could be given leave to make war everywhere if President Obama’s request for AUMF is granted by a US Congress. What are the demands of the US peace movement?

Attorney Jim Lafferty:

  • It was U.S. military strategy in the Middle East to begin with and past U.S. military action in that part of the world, especially in Iraq that provided the primary catalyst for the growth of ISIS.
  • We destroyed the secular governments in Iraq and Libya that created the political space for ISIS and other right wing forces to grow.
  • ISIS filled the governing vacuum took advantage of these ethnic divisions angered at the U.S. and steadily gained strength thereafter.
  • If you think about it, we spent the last 40 or 50 years destroying leftist and secular, anti-imperialist movements all over that region of the world.
  • Two weeks ago the Pentagon announced their sending 4000 troops with very heavy weaponry to Kuwait.
  • The U.S. Army has already set up a division headquarters in Iraq. A division consists of 20 thousand troops.
  • The people that are having the most success in fighting a Syrian government right now is ISIS.
  • The question is not should they be stopped. The question is what will be effective in stopping them.
  • There is great unity in the anti-war movement. They’ve got unified actions planned for later this month in Washington DC.
  • The anti-war movement is going to be tough for the anti-war movement because the propaganda machine, the mainstream media in this country has done its job in pandering by showing despicable pictures.
  • What we don’t see is Saudi Arabia our staunchest ally, executes 20-25 people by beheading every month.
  • Cindy Sheehan, is setting up a Camp Casey at the Capitol. All the anti-war groups are holding a mass teach in on this very issue we’re talking about now.
  • First of all a nuclear power like Israel getting all exorcised about the fact that somewhere down the road a neighboring country might have the same weapons it has.
  • Pardon me if I can’t get terribly excited about that. We shouldn’t have any country in the world with nuclear weapons.
  • In addition to everything else (Netanyahu) is lying about the threat if it were a threat. To come to the U.S. Congress to give that bloviating speech where he offers nothing new.
  • He offers no alternative to what the administration is trying to do and is apparently making some progress in doing and is hailed as a hero by one side of the aisle is really quite appalling.
  • Answer.org

Guest- Attorney Jim Lafferty, Executive director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles and host of The Lawyers Guild Show on Pacifica’s KPFK 90. 7 FM.

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Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

As president of the Burkino Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries, Thomas Sankara was often called the African Che Guevara. In 1987, he was assassinated during a military coup that took down his government. However, Sankara’s economic and social policies left an important mark not only on his country but across Africa. Sankara was a Marxist and openly sought independence from France and at the same time he was building a pan-African unity.

Professor Ernest Harsch:

  • He was the president of Burkino Faso from 1983 to 1987, a very short period of time.
  • He was a revolutionary. Everybody acknowledged that at the time especially the French who greatly disliked him.
  • The U.S. wasn’t too happy with him. He wanted to stop in Atlanta to meet with Andrew Young during his visit to the UN General Assembly. They didn’t allow him to make that stop. So he spoke in Harlem instead.
  • It’s a small west African country, not even that many experts on Africa know that much about it. He was in power for about 4 years and he was overthrown by a military coup.
  • I think for people that are interested in progressive change its always useful in seeing how others elsewhere in the world are fighting against oppression, are fighting for their rights and occasionally actually able to make some change.
  • It’s also useful to learn about what kind of leadership can help people do that.
  • He wasn’t a grassroots activist. He came out of the military. He was a captain. He got radicalized in the military and because of the context of his country which was extremely poor and under-developed, backward and subservient to the French who been their formal colonial power, very corrupt both military and civilian politicians over the decades.
  • He’s representing a newer generation where that initial idealism about independence will bring all sorts of changes. He’s speaking to the ills of formally independent countries that are still subservient to their colonial masters and still haven’t found a way to break out of the trap of underdevelopment and external economic domination.
  • He’s speaking to a new generation that still resonates today which is young people who are fed up with the way things are.
  • They’re fed up with the corruption of their leaders whether they’re elected or not elected.
  • You travel through west Africa you see Sankara t-shirts.
  • The first time I met him was in New York. The guy was direct. He listened to what you had to say. He thought about it. I’ve never met anybody who was so quick. I mean he was witty.
  • The other times I met him in Burkina. The first time was a long interview. The other times he didn’t want to be interviewed, he just wanted to talk about politics.
  • Up to that time, nobody hand promoted or named so many women to cabinet position. One of them now is the current minister of justice.
  • They tried to tackle some restrictions on women at the local level. It’s hard they made a small dent in it. They fought against female genital mutilation, the right to divorce by mutual consent.
  • It (the country) was called Upper Volta which was a colonial name. They wanted something African and Burkina Faso, the words are from two local African languages basically means the land of the upright, or the uncorruptible people. The people are known as Burkinabe and Burkinabe comes from a third African language.
  • Before he became president he was briefly a prime minister in a coalition government. His first trip was to Libya.
  • Then he went to the non-alliance summit in New Delhi and gave this very fiery speech basically solidarizing with the Cuban revolution, with the Nicaraguans, with the Western Saharans, with the new Calidonians. He clearly aligned himself with the anti-imperialist, pro-third world, pro-development wing, within the non-alliance movement.
  • The French didn’t like that. So, they told some their people locally, look let’s get rid of this guy.
  • They had an internal coup. He was arrested. He was in prison for a while but they couldn’t sustain that. He was too popular. He became president.
  • He was only 33 when he became president, so this was a youthful leadership.

Guest – Professor Ernest Harsch has taught courses on African development and political instability in the Sahel and is a research scholar affiliated with the University’s Institute of African Studies. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the New School for Social Research in New York. Throughout a professional career as a journalist, he wrote mainly on international events, with reporting on Asia, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, but most extensively on Africa.

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Law and Disorder March 2, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Jury Awards $218.5 Million in Terrorism Case Against Palestinian Groups

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The Campaign For A Commercial Free Childhood

The National Football League, Mattel’s Girl Scout Barbie Doll, and even McDonald’s all have something in common. They’ve engaged in highly sophisticated corporate marketing aimed at enticing young children into becoming life-long consumers and brand loyalists. They’re the subjects of the efforts of The Campaign For A Commercial Free Childhood to cease clever marketing that sends the message that purchasing will make children happy. The campaign has a proven track record of educating families and the public about how industry partnerships with schools, nonprofits and trusted institutions such as the Girl Scouts expose young people to inappropriate content with potentially negative consequences.

Josh Golin:

  • Very unfortunately, the Girl Scouts which has been traditionally a wonderful organization providing role models for girls launched a partnership last year with Barbie.
  • This partnership includes a website where girls can play a Barbie game about choosing careers but really all they’re doing is looking at different Barbie outfits and seeing other Barbie dolls that they can buy in the store.
  • There’s even a Barbie patch that Girl Scouts can earn.
  • We thought that this was such a harmful campaign to young girls that the Girls Scouts have traditionally been a refuge from the commercialism that is aimed at kids everywhere and clearly Barbie represents a problematic body type and focus on appearance and fashion and is in some ways the antithesis of what the Girl Scouts have traditionally represented.
  • They get 2 million dollars from Mattel from this partnership.
  • The message to young girls that you have to look like a fashion doll when you’re going out on a hike is unbelievable.
  • On the envelope that the report card came in was ad from McDonald’s saying bring your report card to McDonald’s if you had good grades or had good attendance or even good behavior and you get a free happy meal.
  • We do a lot of work on the area of advertising in schools. It’s really an unfortunate trend. There’s been an increase in it since 2008 when we had the economic downturn and schools are understandably looking for revenue any way they can get it.
  • There has been this increase in marketing to kids in schools and we think that’s particularly harmful to children. Anything advertised in the school comes with the school’s endorsement.
  • One of the things that’s most concerning about what the NFL does is they market Fantasy Football extensively to kids. They even have a curriculum in school to teach kids about Fantasy Football where they could then go online to the kid NFL website and compete for cash prizes.

Guest – Josh Golin, is Associate Director of CCFC and organizes CCFC’s advocacy campaigns and develops its communications strategy. His writings about the commercialization of childhood have appeared in a wide range of publications.

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Greece Debt Crisis Postponed, Creditors Back Reform Plans

Earlier this year, we reported on the historic election voting in the Greek anti-austerity party of Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipiras. Syriza’s platform is to take back power within the Greek government, to effectuate a program that will call for cancellation of debt, nationalization of the banks, and expropriating closed factories. Greece is a member of the Eurozone, the nations that have joined with a common currency in 1999. Now, after barely a month in office, the Syriza Party led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipiras has been forced to make compromises on major issues such as labor reforms and agreeing not to undo privatization plans, to name a few. The crisis began when the European Central Bank said it would reject Greek sovereign bonds as collateral which made Greek banks dependent on Emergency Liquidity Assistance. Last week, Syriza entered negotiations with the EU and ECB and secured a four month extension of its financial rescue.

Nantina Vgontzas:

  • Let’s start with December 2009 when the Greek government declared in had sovereign debt of 109 percent, which is something they’ve been covering up the past few years.
  • Goldman Sachs was also involved with helping them to cover up those figures.
  • We should look at the political economy of the Eurozone constructed in the early 2000s. At the same time in Germany you had wage depression, meaning Germans were getting lower wages so that German exports would become more competitive and the European periphery was used as a dumping post. So they were getting more lending from German banks and that’s how you started getting more debts in Greece.
  • The European Union, The European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund which has played its hand since the 70s in imposing discipline on the countries throughout the developing world and Greece was the first so called advanced country that was starting to enter into this regimen of so called structural reforms that were attached to these bailouts that Greece was recieving to deal with the debt issue.
  • Attached to these structural reforms was the termination of collective bargaining agreements, the reduction of minimum wage . . . so you have massive social degradation and at the same time the debt continues to rise.
  • So the debt went from 109 percent of the GDP to 175 percent of the GDP.
  • So Greece is basically getting loans so it can pay interest on interest starting in the early 2020s and Syriza rightfully identified this as an extended pretend strategy.
  • They were the opposition government between 2012 and the end of 2014 and in 2015 they got 35 percent of the vote which wasn’t enough to form a government on its own which is why it had to form a coalition government.
  • Everybody knows that Greece can’t pay off its debt til the early 2020s.
  • I’ve written a piece in the Jacobin saying that I don’t think Eurozone would take any chances on letting Greece leave the Eurozone because of how helpful it has been to German capital. They’re not willing to take the long term risk, they’re not will to take the short term risk of speculative attacks that would occur on the Eurozone.
  • A Greek exit could have produced a domino effect, perhaps Portugal would have left, Italy, you start having big economies like Spain leaving. That kind of domino effect would be unsustainable for the Eurozone to exist.
  • There are ways of dealing with this (Greece leaving the Eurozone) You would have to impose capital controls, you would have to nationalize the banks, which is something that the Syriza leadership said that they wouldn’t do prior to elections. They’re going to have to revisit that strategy. Then you would have to figure out how you would ration food, fuel, pharmaceuticals in order to deal with immediate problems. Then you would have to talk about long term policies that would promote growth.
  • They (Syriza) cannot move to a technocratic approach because then they would lose thier fundamental element as a left party.
  • Half of the police corp (in Greece) support the Golden Dawn. This is something that Syriza has to neutralize while they’re in power.
  • They need to be neutralized by promoting a strategy that’s actually going to reverse austerity.
  • Jacobin Magazine -Nantina Vgontzas /Financial Times – Wolfgang Munchou

Guest – Nantina Vgontzas, a Greek-American PhD student in sociology at NYU focusing on political economy and social movements. She is a member of the UAW Graduate Student Organizing Committee and is involved in the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union reform movement.

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Law and Disorder February 23, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Palestine Not Recognized As State By U.S. Thus Allowed To Be Sued In Federal Court For Attacks on Israel
  • Michael Ratner: Why Is Obama Trying To Get An AUMF When The U.S. Is Already At War With ISIS? If Passed, The U.S. Under This Act Can Make War Everywhere
  • ICC En Vogue? – Hosts Talk About NBC Drama “Crossing Lines.”

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Pelican Bay Solitary Confinement Case Update

We bring you an update on the Pelican Bay Prison Solitary Confinement Case. As you may recall Pelican Bay Prison had more than 1000 prisoners in long term solitary confinement at 10-20 years or more. The Center for Constitutional Rights and its lead attorney Jules Lobel have been challenging this practice for a number of years since 2012. Recently, the state of California in an effort to blunt the lawsuit has transferred some of the named plaintiffs to other prisons. Their theory, once we’re rid of the plaintiffs maybe we’re rid of the lawsuit.  CCR and Jules Lobel went out to California to argue that this is not a Constitutional practice. That transferring a person from Pelican Bay to another prison in California should not blunt the lawsuit and in fact CCR we should be able to challenge solitary confinement in those prisons as well. The judge agreed and now the CCR case will not just challenge Pelican Bay Prison solitary confinement practices but those in other prisons throughout California.

Attorney Jules Lobel:

  • Because of 3 hunger strikes and our litigation the California prison officials are now instituting reforms. They realize they have to do something.
  • There are over 1000 people in solitary. When we started the case 500 people were there for over 10 years.
  • Because of the reforms they’ve made under pressure from our litigation there are now only 230. Still 230 people for over 10 years is a huge amount.
  • They’re also moving people out not only to general population prisons, but to other solitary units in other prisons. Other SHOES, its called Special Housing Unit.
  • Four of our ten plaintiffs are moving to another SHOE to a place called Tahachapi and the defendants say, they’re no longer part of your case.
  • That’s what the argument was about. The argument was about whether or not you can expand the case beyond Pelican Bay.
  • If you were at Pelican Bay and transferred to another prison, still in solitary, you’re still part of our class.
  • The judge accepted that we can expand the case, rejecting the state’s argument.
  • We bifurcated the trial so we could have a relatively quick trial on Pelican Bay. The fundamental question for Pelican Bay trial is whether keeping people for a prolonged period of time in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay is cruel and unusual punishment.
  • We also have a claim in that way that they are placed there. It violates due process.
  • These guys only get reviews every six years. So, you stay in your cell for six years and then after six years somebody comes and reviews whether you should be kept in solitary.
  • No state in the country has six years. Usually its 30 days, 90 days, six months, maybe at most a year.
  • California unlike most states puts people into solitary simply because they’re a member of a gang or associated with a gang.

Guest – Attorney Jules Lobel, has litigated important issues regarding the application of international law in the U.S. courts. In the late 1980’s, he advised the Nicaraguan government on the development of its first democratic constitution, and has also advised the Burundi government on constitutional law issues.  Professor Lobel is editor of a text on civil rights litigation and of a collection of essays on the U.S. Constitution, A Less Than Perfect Union (Monthly Review Press, 1988). He is author of numerous articles on international law, foreign affairs, and the U.S. Constitution in publications including Yale Law Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, and Virginia Law Review. He is a member of the American Society of International Law.

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Architect’s Human Rights Code of Ethics Petition

In our coverage of psychologists involved with torture continuing to hold their professional licenses to practice we look at a similar concern with licensed architects who design prisons, solitary confinement cells and death chambers. Research has show that the design of a prison can influence many aspects of prisoners lives including recidivism rates. Recently, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary confinement cells and death chambers.

Raphael Sperry:

  • In 2013 when the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture announced that spending more than 15 days in solitary confinement was a human rights violation and we’re aware that people in the United States are routinely held in solitary for years if not decades, and that there had been dozens of supermax prisons that housed thousands of people in those conditions, specially designed for that purpose, that really tipped the scales.
  • That was really shocking to realize the same tools that architects use everyday trying to make the world a better place for people can be used to torture and kill people.
  • The question of what constitutes a torture chamber is complicated. There are many buildings that have been used to house prisoners in solitary confinement that were never designed for that purpose.
  • There are a subset of prisons that are designed for solitary confinement. They’re usually called administrated segregation units.
  • Supermax prisons are the most egregious. There’s no space for people to eat together. There are no tables with seats clustered around them even.
  • The recreation spaces that prisoners have a right to go into for an hour a day, are shrunk down to size that they’re for just one person.
  • You guys are probably familiar with ADX Prison in Florence, the Federal Supermax which is supposed to be the most secure supermax in the United States.
  • In that facility they actually have showers in every cell. The prisoners then actually don’t have to get into the hallway. They might walk by somebody elses’ cell or walk by somebody elses’ cell to get to a shower.
  • The AIA has a code of ethics for members and it already had a statement saying members should uphold human rights in all their professional responsibilities.
  • It’s not directly enforceable. If members set out to design a space intended to kill somebody or to torture them or degrade them which is a human rights violation. AIA is not prepared to take any disciplinary action to someone who does that.
  • We were asking them to simply add a rule that clarified if a member designed a space that is intended for human rights violations specifically execution and prolonged solitary confinement that it would be clear they’re in violation of the code of ethics and then AIA could take disciplinary action that include censure and expelling them from the institute.
  • The National Board of Directors gets to set the ethics code for the whole organization including all the chapters. They took in our petition. They took in all the letters of support we sent in.
  • Then they didn’t communicate with us . . they referred it to an internal group. They never let us know who was on that panel. They sent a brief letter back to me head of the ADPSR saying that they weren’t going to make the change and they were concerned about potential anti-trust violations and how hard it would to enforce.
  • Lastly, they don’t want to restrict their members from designing any particular building type. I just found that to be the worst.
  • To me if you’re going to be a professional and take on the responsibility of protecting public health, safety and welfare every time you put your pencil down then there should be limits to what you do with that specialized knowledge.
  • To us its not a political issue, its a human rights issue and they said they’re an organization that’s for human rights. It didn’t seem right to us that they should pick and choose which human rights they’re ok with and which ones they would restrict.

Guest – Raphael Sperry, president of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), a 32-year old independent non-profit organization. He researches the intersection of architecture and planning with human rights with a special focus on prisons and jails, and advocates for design professionals to play a larger role in supporting human rights in the built environment. He directs ADPSR’s human rights advocacy, including ADPSR’s petition urging the AIA to amend their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to address buildings that violate human rights. He was the first architect to receive a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations, hosted jointly by the University of California at Berkeley College of Environmental Design and Berkeley Law School, in 2012. He is an active member of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice and a leader of its subcommittee on sustainability.He holds an M.Arch. from the Yale School of Architecture and a BA summa cum Laude from Harvard University.

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Law and Disorder February 16, 2015


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City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan

In early December of 2014, the Supreme court agreed to hear the case City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The case involves San Francisco police officers who reported to a group home to transport Teresa Sheehan, who was known to be mentally ill, to mental health facility. The situation ended with police firing six shots on Sheehan. She survived and filed a lawsuit arguing that officers had a responsibility under federal law to consider her mental disability. The case is not about police criminal liability, this one is about whether police are obligated to take special precautions in using deadly force, and also in entering an individual’s home without a warrant or permission. Read Michael Avery’s observation about details of case.

Attorney Michael Avery:

  • Teresa Sheehan is a woman in her mid-fifties who was living in a group home in San Francisco, a home for people with mental disabilities.
  • Officers came to the house and ended up shooting her five times at point blank range.
  • The case raises some issues for the federal courts in which the lower courts are in disagreement, and the court (Supreme Court) took the case hoping to resolve those disagreements.
  • The police came because the social worker had become concerned with Ms Sheehan, and wanted to send her to a hospital for 72 hours of evaluation and requested the assistance of the police in transporting her to the hospital.
  • Ms. Sheehan on the other hand didn’t want to be taken to the hospital, didn’t want the social worker in her room, did not want the police in her room, she just wanted to be left alone.
  • In the course of asserting her right to be left alone, she threatened the police and the social worker with a knife.
  • The police then ended up breaking through her door. Forcing open her door and when she was standing there with the knife, they tried to pepper spray her. That didn’t seem to have much effect on her and so they shot her five times.
  • Miraculously she survived but now she’s permanently disabled and disfigured. One of the bullets entered the left side of her temple, shattered her eye socket and then exited through her mouth causing serious injuries to her jaw.
  • Officers encounter people with mental disabilities extremely frequently. In large cities and towns in the United States its estimated 1 out every 15 people that the police interact with has some form of mental illness.
  • Officers are trained to try to diffuse the incident, not to threaten the person, to ask open ended questions, to listen to what the person has to say, try to establish some rapport with the person, respect the person’s space and not crowd the person, and at the same allow the incident to go on as long as it has to in order to have a peaceful resolution.
  • Several years ago I wrote an article called Unreasonable Seizures of Unreasonable People making the point that officers ought to be held to standard that requires them to follow their own training.
  • When I saw this case was in the courts, I volunteered to provide some assistance to the lawyers in connection with the brief they were writing.
  • There are two claims in the case. One is a claim under the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which is the part that says government cannot make unreasonable searches of our home or seizures of our person and the other is a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • In effect they discriminated against her on the basis of her disability by not following their training and not making the accommodations that they were trained to make for a mentally ill person.
  • Secondly, the argument is, when they forced open the door to her apartment and entered and used deadly force against her, they were not behaving reasonably and that again is based on the same idea it would have been reasonable to follow their training. Frankly, they just threw their training out the window.
  • Oral argument is scheduled for March 23, 2015.

Guest – Civil rights lawyer Michael Avery,  professor at Suffolk University Law School and former president of the National Lawyers Guild from 2003 to 2006. He’s also worked with the National Police Accountability Project.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: David Kairys

David Kairy began his career at the Philadelphia public defender’s office in the late 1960s. Since then, he’s been a leader in effort to fight discrimination and protect individual rights, now he’s regarded as one of the nation’s preeminent civil rights attorneys. David is a professor at the University of Temple Law School, where he teaches civil rights and constitutional law. He has written several books, including Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer, which was published last year.

David Kairys:

  • We were of a number of young firms dedicated to civil rights and representation of progressive groups.
  • The Camden 28, caught in the act of breaking into a Camden, New Jersey draft board and destroying all of the files. This was a Catholic Left action.
  • FBI had informant in the group, who the FBI was paying on an hourly rate. The informant supplied the means to make the action happen.
  • One hundred FBI agents sat around and waited til they destroyed all the files in the office.  Many of the 28 were priests. There were more than 300 draft board raids during Vietnam.
  • Father Michael Doyle said when your government is napalming children, the place you should be is in jail.
  • Father Doyle and I strategized a way to start talking to the FBI informant Bob Hardy and eventually got an affidavit saying that the FBI manufactured this crime.
  • I filed the affidavit and it was on the front page of the New York Times.

Guest – David Kairys, Professor of Law, the first James E. Beasley Chair (2001-07), and one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers. He authored Philadelphia Freedom, Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer and With Liberty and Justice for Some and co-authored the bestselling progressive critique of the law, The Politics of Law, and authored With Liberty and Justice for Some and over 35 articles and book chapters. His columns have appeared in major periodicals, and he has been profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, and Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. Kairys’s Public Nuisance Theory.

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Please help support Law and Disorder by clicking on Fractured Atlas graphic. This radio show is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Law and Disorder must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. You can donate as little as 5.00 a month.

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Law and Disorder February 9, 2015


Coming Up Next Week Police Shooting Reaches Supreme Court Exclusive Michael Avery Interview

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1971

On March 8th 1971, a group of anonymous individuals calling themselves the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI, broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania. They stole thousands of government documents. Among the documents was proof that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, was spying on law abiding citizens. The program is known as COINTELPRO and it was used to monitor, manipulate and disrupt social and political movements in the United States. The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI has been documented recently in a highly acclaimed film titled 1971, directed by Johanna Hamilton.

Johanna Hamilton:

  • I consider myself to have the good fortune to have known Betty Medsger, the author of the Burglary, for many years.
  • She and I had a personal relationship that long predated our professional collaboration.
  • Over time she came to share the outlines of the story with me and it sounded completely remarkable.
  • She introduced me to a few members of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI. The 40th anniversary was approaching.
  • They wanted the story, which was so little known, to have a larger life.
  • To be clear, Betty worked many years on the book. She’s done remarkable and profound research and I joined much later and was the net beneficiary of so much of her research.
  • There were four years where we worked in tandem.
  • When I showed the film to the Citizens Commission, while the credits rolled, Keith (Keith Forsyth – the lock picker) especially, he got up and said, good job.
  • It’s a period of history I’ve been fascinated with since I was a teenager. It was the story of these extraordinary ordinary individuals who had put everything on the line and taken such great personal risk to benefit democracy.
  • They trained themselves for one night of crime. They steal all the documents in the office, leak them to the press. They send them to major newspapers, and to a couple politicians. In the end, the Washington Post is the only newspaper that decides to publish the first stories.
  • Those first stories reveal with out question illegal government spying on citizens who are going about their daily lives and exercising their First Amendment rights.
  • Betty wrote the first stories in the Washington Post and the story fades a little from the headlines. The Pentagon Papers explode 3 or 4 months later. Daniel Ellsberg is on the scene.
  • Then our story picks up again.
  • It seems inconceivable now but Hoover had been director for over 50 years, and that’s no longer possible.
  • Some people who seen the film before say they were really moved by the Church Committee hearings.
  • Attorney David Kairys is a huge figure in Philadelphia and yes back in the day he was contacted by two members of the Citizens Commission. He didn’t know what they had done, but if they got caught, they could call him day or night.
  • We were reaching the tail end, or we thought we were reaching the tail end of the film when the Snowden revelations happened.
  • The Snowden revelations were one thing, absolute bombshell, but prior to that we had a couple of other instances. Back in 2011, September, there were raids all across the country, animal rights activists, environmental groups. One night Brian Williams introduced the news and described these raids and said you know its reminiscent of Hoover back in the 1970s.
  • We had whole scenes cut together with that footage and debated and deliberated on that. In the end erred on the side of excluding it.
  • It’s opening here in New York City and will start rolling out across the country. If you check our website we update the cities that it will show at. It will be on PBS, Independent Lens at the end of May. 1971Film.com

Guest – Johanna Hamilton, director of the film 1971. She also co-produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which won Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008 and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Johanna has produced nonfiction programs for PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic, A&E, Discovery Channel, and The Washington Post/Newsweek Productions, including September’s Children, a documentary for PBS exploring how children around the world are affected by terrorism and war.

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Nyle Every-28-hours

Inspiring, and Awakening Political Activism in Youth

Young people across the nation have played a critical role in taking to the streets to protest social inequities, from Ferguson, Missouri to New York City. In a recent article in the journal Socialism and Democracy, “The Roots of Mass Incarceration: Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor,” writer, activist and youth pastor Nyle Fort describes how he became politically active and who inspired him. We talk with Nyle about the status of protest in this country, the forces of oppression, how young people are involved and how he helps inspire them.

Nyle Fort:

  • I graduated from Morehouse College and ended up going to seminary. I was already a licensed and ordained preacher but I wasn’t politicized yet.
  • I had already been involved in the community via the church doing speaking engagements with youth and things like that.
  • It wasn’t until I got into Princeton Theological Seminary that I began to get politicized.
  • The way that it happened was I was taking an introductory seminary class called Systematic Theology with a professor Mark Taylor. In that class he actually had Mumia Abu-Jamal call in live from death row.
  • When I heard him speak, I stopped in my seat. This man who I knew nothing of was speaking to me that was moving, not only me but I could tell the entire classroom and doing so by a 6 foot, by 10 foot cell. A cell that he had been in for 30 years, longer than I had been alive.
  • Two weeks later I found myself through Mark Taylor at my first rally December 9, 2011. Two days after Mumia had been released from death row.
  • I read the New Jim Crow very quickly, then Angela Davis’ works. That was really the beginning for me.
  • I entered activism through a prison abolitionist lens, through Mumia.
  • The rally for me was an embodiment of the things Mumia was talking about.
  • I preach. I was at First Baptist Church in Lincoln Gardens. It’s one of the largest black churches in New Jersey. My style of ministry was evolving as I was being radicalized and politicized.
  • I tried to do a lot of social justice work. We were writing letters to our incarcerated brothers and sisters as forms of religious activism.
  • I discovered a prophetic religious tradition that comes from a black liberation theological perspective.
  • When I was on the bus ride back from Ferguson I was really mad. Mad as hell because I felt there was a relative silence from the church, particularly the black church.
  • I believe in love not as a word but as a work.
  • When I engage with youth, I try to practice a love that is material. I tell young people, I love you more than they hate you.
  • We have to deal the trauma and the pain that we inherit as black people living in the western world and all around the world.
  • Love for me is a critical, not a politic that we can talk about, but a practice we can embody and engage in everyday. That has material life.
  • We’re going to take Cornell West’s worlds seriously that justice is what love looks like in public, then we have to have a love that’s expansive enough to be material and to be felt.
  • Black Lives Matter particularly as a network has articulated a feminist politic, a black feminist politic, a queer politic that is forcing us to live out our intersectionality.
  • What we’re not talking about enough is that’s messy, and its not romantic.
  • I think of oppression as institutionalized lovelessness. Let’s love each other in ways that causes each other to act.
  • Twitter – @nylefort

Guest – Nyle Fort – Nyle is a Master’s of Divinity candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary, a youth pastor, freelance writer, and grassroots community organizer based in Newark, New Jersey. He was very active during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.

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Law and Disorder February 2, 2015


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Special on Mass Incarceration : Socialism and Democracy – Lessons from Attica: From Prisoner Rebellion to Mass Incarceration and Back

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s observed that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Our guest Dr. Heather Ann Thompson reports in her recent article Lessons from Attica: From Prisoner Rebellion to Mass Incarceration and Back, that according to the Prison Policy Initiative, by 2011 the United States was confining “more than 2.4 million people in 1719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson:

  • Its important to really examine the broader history of prisons and criminal justice because trying to explain how we became the world’s outlier with so many incarcerated and such a hugely disproportionate number being persons of color, we have a lot to explain.
  • Something very clearly happened after the 1960s to our criminal justice system, even more specifically after 1971. Clearly it had a lot to do with the rebellions of that period.
  • Sorting all that out is what I’ve been doing for the last decade.
  • Just like had happened after the civil war, sort of the first great moment of civil rights unrest in this country when we had 4 million newly freed African Americans demanding a real voice in our society, and meaningful equality.
  • The response of that society, in that case, in the South, was to change all the laws. To all of a sudden criminalize black spaces in new ways and almost overnight southern prison institutions not only exploded in population but they went from being all white to all black.
  • You fast forward to the 1960s and I think something similar happened.
  • Many northern politicians begin to conflate urban protest and unrest, the slow pace of the equality and gains with crime, and began a war on crime in 1964 with Lyndon Johnson before there was immediately impressive rise in crime.
  • We need to know much more about the people that were inside the prison walls.
  • What happened in the American prison system that we see today, what seems to be the ultimate control, the ultimate punitive penal state.
  • One of the long standing lawyers in this case Elizabeth Fink fought this battle on behalf of the Attica brothers for decades and decades. These are the people who are the real repository of that history.
  • My role as a scholar, what I tried to do was rescue for the American public, some of those hidden histories. You had a 4 day congregating thousands, 1300 men inside of a penal institution that were willing to stand together and black, Puerto Rican, white and say to the state, we’re willing to negotiate with you logically and in good faith to try to improve the conditions under which we live.
  • What made it so really remarkable was the world’s attention was focused on it. Everybody was watching Attica.
  • But ultimately, New York state was unwilling to give in on the most important demand which was amnesty.
  • Amnesty for which once they surrendered, they would not be charged for any riot-related crimes that the state would alleged they’d committed and an assurance that they would not have reprisals.
  • They – state troopers- retook the prison in an utter brutal fashion. They mowed down people first with tear gas then guns, handguns, deer slugs, shot guns, killing scores of people, wounding scores of people.
  • Then, realizing the blood bath, officials stood outside and told the world, that the prisoners are the ones that killed the hostages, and from then on tried to control the story, cover up what really happened, that began the 40 year saga of trying to tell the truth of what happened at Attica.
  • Had I not met people like Elizabeth Fink who could help me understand this story and had I not spent ten years digging in every knook and cranny to try to uncover the story, this would have been a difficult story to tell because the state has gone to enormous lengths to keep a lid on it.

Guest – Dr. Heather Ann Thompson, is a native Detroiter currently  on faculty in the Departments of African American Studies and History at Temple University. In 2015 she will be joining the faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Thompson has just completed the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books.

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salaita__large salaita2

Professor Sues University of Illinois Over Firing for “Uncivil” Gaza Tweets

We bring you to a press conference held in New York City last week at the Center for Constitutional Rights. The Center is representing Professor Steven Salaita along with the Chicago civil rights law firm of Loevy & Loevy. Salaita was hired and then discharged before he could even start his job last summer at the University of Illinois. He was hired by the American Indian Studies program after a thorough vetting. After Israel attacked Gaza where some 2000 people were killed including 500 children. Salaita tweeted several what were termed “uncivil” messages on his twitter account. This was brought to the attention of Zionist donors to the University of Illinois who then pressured Chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind the hiring. Professor Salaita’s case is probable the most important case in 50 years, not since the 60s when the Supreme Court overturned the non-communist loyalty oath has an issue of this importance arisen. Some 6000 professors have vowed to boycott the University of Illinois.

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361634_Greece-Election.JPEG-0a85e 000a1258-642

Greece’s Left-Wing Coalition Wins Majority

Last week in a historic election, the Greek people voted in the anti-austerity party of Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipiras winning a 149 seats of the 300 seat Parliament. In the previous 8 years, the Greek people have demonstrated massively, occupied government buildings and have gone on more than 30 general strikes. Now they’ve formed a party to take back power in government to effectuate a program that will call for cancellation of debt, nationalization of the banks, and expropriating closed factories. Will their attempt to alleviate much of the misery of the Greek population succeed? We’ll see.

Dan Georgakas:

  • Austerity in Greece means 26 percent unemployment for at least 3 years, 60 percent unemployment for people under 30 which has caused 200 thousand college graduates to leave the country in the last 2 years.
  • Greece had the lowest pensions in the EU.
  • Wages which were the lowest in Europe were cut about a third.
  • Prices in Greece are about the same in the EU elsewhere.
  • 300 thousand businesses failed as of 2013.
  • What austerity does, having taken away people’s money is raise the property tax and raise the gas and electric taxes.
  • It’s a pretty desperate situation, food lines, there’s been a mass movement from the bottom.
  • There are a lot of small left wing parties in Greece.
  • What Syriza did was put together a coalition of left parties. That was very difficult to do because within the coalition there are Trotskyists, there are Euro-communists, environmentalists, anarcho-syndicalists and so getting to all those people into one room and agreeing on a program is not a very easy thing to do.
  • But Syriza itself isn’t there for a traditional party. It is a coalition of parties that probably will transform in time perhaps into a coherent party.
  • I would say that if anything characterizes the profile of Syriza its very anti-Stalinist. It wants to go from the base up and talks a lot about horizontalism.
  • It’s quite a weak economy and say it will take decades to repair.
  • In the minds of the leadership is capitalism and prosperity are incompatible.
  • The steps they want to take are very modest, beginning with changing some of the cuts they made in the past, and beginning to deal with the corruption and tremendous waste of money.
  • Same day he was inaugurated, he (Alexis Tsipras) went to Kaisariani where 300 Greeks were massacred by the Nazis as they were departing Athens. Most of the people massacred were communists or resistance fighters. Going there after being sworn as prime minister and laying a rose on the graves, he really served notice on the Germans that the days of us kowtowing and being bullied by you are really over and don’t you dare call us pigs anymore.
  • People who contact me say that people are euphoric in Athens.
  • We realize that the loans to Greece are really self serving. For instance, Goldman Sachs, arranged for Greece to enter the Eurozone in the first place by totally fraudulent cash arrangement.
  • They loaned Greece money at a special rate so Greece could pay off its debt to look like it was solvent and then issued new bonds at even higher rates.
  • pressproject.gr

Guest – Dan Georgakas, regular columnist for the National Herald, the leading Greek American weekly newspapero co-author of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying and coeditor of Solidarity Forever: An Oral History of the IWW.  He was a frequent contributor to now defunct Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora and the Journal of Modern Hellenism. Dan has taught at NYU, CUNY, Van Arsdale Labor College, Columbia University and University of Oklahoma.

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