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Law and Disorder October 30, 2017


 

 

Cuban US Embassy Sonic Weapons Scare

The Trump administration is considering closing the recently reopened US Embassy in Havana after several unexplained incidents that allegedly hurt American diplomats in Cuba. Some lawmakers are calling for the ouster of all Cuban diplomats from the US in addition to the 15 they’ve kicked out of the country. Its a move that would have significant diplomatic implications.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made these suggestions recently. His comments were the strongest indication yet that the US might mount a major diplomatic response, potentially jeopardizing the historic restart of relations between the Cuba and US governments. The two reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after roughly a half-century of estrangement.

Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions while others have suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are having problems with concentration or common word recall.

Some victims felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, leading investigators to consider the possibility of a sonic attack. Others heard nothing but later developed symptoms.

The US State Department has emphasized that the US still does not know what has occurred. Cuba has denied any involvement and has said that it wants to help the US resolve the matter.

Investigators have explored the possibility of an electromagnetic weapon, or an advanced spying operation gone awry. The US has not ruled out that a third country or even a rogue faction of Cuba’s national security services may be involved.

Guest – Sandra Levinson, President and Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies. She was one of the Center’s founders in 1972. In 1991 Levinson spearheaded a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department which resulted in legalizing the importation of original Cuban art.  She is currently directing works at the Cuban Art Space, which she founded in 1999, to properly house and archive the thousands of posters, photographs and artworks which the Center has collected in the past 42 years.

Contact the Center for Cuban Studies at 212.242.0559.

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Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce

The great issues of our times are the return of fascism to the United States and Europe, climate change, and the stagnation of the world capitalist economy. These great issues are pressing and interconnected.

We used to think that the experience of World War II guaranteed that no politician would ever advocate the ideas of fascism.

But the election of Donald Trump a year ago has caused a serious reconsideration of fascism and it’s relationship to capitalism and to democracy.

The neoliberals paved the way for Trump. Now he and the forces aligned with him have put our democratic institutions under attack in order to protect the rule of the wealthy. The attacks include the right to vote, labor unions, public education, an independent news media, independent public universities, the privatization of much of traditional governmental functions and making it almost impossible to launch a new political party.

The election of Trump is a political development that for concrete sociological reasons allows us to see it for what it is, as a type of neo-fascism. Only by identifying the phenomena correctly can we effectively fight it.

Jack London wrote a century ago in his famous book The Iron Heel that “There is a shadow of something colossal and menacing that even now is beginning to fall across the land. Call it the shadow of an oligarchy, if you will; it is the nearest I dare approximate it. What is nature may be I refuse to imagine. But what I want to say was this: You are in a perilous position.”

Guest – John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review and professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He has written widely on political economy and has established a reputation as a major environmental sociologist. He is the author of Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000), The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (with Fred Magdoff, 2009), The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (with Brett Clark and Richard York, 2010), and The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy (New Edition, 2014), among many others.

Law and Disorder October 2, 2017


Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery, The Jones Act And Federal Aid

The devastation to Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria has been likened to the impact of an atomic bomb, destroying the U.S. territory, and leaving nearly 3.5 million U.S citizens without power, limited access to food and water, and a collapsed infrastructure. Donald Trump was quick to blame the island nation for its problems, even highlighting its financial debt to Wall Street.

Puerto Rico has a history of struggling for federal aid for natural disasters contrasted with those on the mainland. The White House response to much-needed funding post-Maria is to wait for a “full assessment” and “fact-finding” process. Early reinforcements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are appalling, if nonexistent: Diesel fuel for generators is scarce. Towns outside metro areas are unreachable. Hospitals can’t treat patients. Streets are flooded, looting is rampant, highways destroyed. The National Guard, FEMA, Red Cross or federal vehicle have yet to be spotted on the island. None of this is new.

In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the USVI, the elder President Bush was criticized for not responding quickly enough. More relief for the Caribbean was added to a bill initially designed to address earthquake damage in California. And when Hurricane Georges pounded Puerto Rico in 1998, it took half a year for the federal government to act on a long-term plan for the island.

A central reason for this is the Jones Act, a century-old shipping law often accused of stifling the Puerto Rican economy. Among other things, the Act requires that domestic shipping be conducted by U.S.-owned, U.S.-made ships staffed by American crews. That means, for example, that all food from the mainland—and Puerto Rico imports 85 percent of what it consumes—must be brought in U.S. ships.

Nydia Velázquez, the Puerto Rico–born congresswoman who represents parts of New York City, says she will ask Congress for a one-year waiver to Jones Act requirements for the territory. That might test Washington’s willingness to change its approach to Puerto Rico and to see if Puerto Ricans’ status as citizens without full rights is really working.

Guest – Carlito Rivera, co-editor of the Old and New website, active with the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, and a Former member of the Young Lords. CONTACT: El Maestro – Community Center and Boxing Gym in the Bronx, Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Headquarters 646-299-6507.

Since the recording of this interview, President Trump agreed to waive the Jones Act, which will temporarily lift shipping restrictions and allow the people of Puerto Rico to receive necessary aid.

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Burns and Novick: Masters of False Balancing

Ken Burns and Lisa Novick have made an influential documentary called “The Vietnam War” whose 10 episodes have been running on PBS.  Burns said that his film “will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely different way.” Novak said that “we are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy.”

The United States took over the war in 1954 from the defeated French who failed despite massive American support to recolonize Vietnam after World War II. The United States left Vietnam 1975 when they were forced to withdraw troops in the teeth of massive Vietnamese resistance, a huge antiwar movement at home, and the refusal of GIs in Vietnam to continue to fight.

At least 3 million Vietnamese were murdered. 58,200 American soldiers were killed. 19 million gallons of toxic defoliants, 7.5 million tons of bombs, including 400,000 tons of napalm were dropped on the Vietnamese. Without a Navy or Air Force, the Vietnamese resistance lived in tunnels or hid in the jungle.

The CIA’s infamous operative in Vietnam, Colonel Edward Lansdale, who helped install the US supported dictator Diem, quoted Robert Tabors The War of the Flea saying “there is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbors resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.”

The Burns-Novik film’s opening sentence says that the war was started “in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and cold war misunderstandings.” Noam Chomsky, who came to prominence in 1967 as a critic of the war, and who was not interviewed in the film, wrote that the US “went to war in Vietnam for a very good reason. They were afraid Vietnam would be a successful model of independent development and that it would have a virus effect – if that others who may try to follow the same course.”

Guest – Jerry Lembcke, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Holy Cross College.
Professor Lempke is recognized for work on post-Vietnam War American culture, studies of how we continue to process the war through film, literature, folklore, and of course television documentaries. He is the author and editor of many books, most notably his 1998 book “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam”. He served as a chaplain’s assistant in Vietnam and is a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

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Law and Disorder September 18, 2017


 

Anthropomorphic Climate Disruption

Devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma have provided ample opportunity for Democrats to press Republicans on climate change — with the catastrophic storms and wild fire giving tens of millions of Americans an up-front glimpse of the types of devastation we are facing.

Oddly, there’s been little talk in the nation’s capital. Aside from a handful of outliers like Hawaiian Sen. Brian Schatz, leading Democratic politicians have been slow to use the tropical storms to denounce President Donald Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax.”

That’s a contrast from past storms like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, when Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the disaster a sign that “climate change is a reality.” Even then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, cited the storm and climate change at the time among his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama’s reelection as president.

Democrats appear to be heeding the warnings of Trump appointees like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who said last week that it’s “very, very insensitive to the people in Florida” to talk about climate change now.

Guest – Eleanor Stein, teaches a course called the Law of Climate Change: Domestic and Transnational at Albany Law School and SUNY Albany, in conjunction with the Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences Department at SUNY. Eleanor Stein is teaching transnational environmental law with a focus on catastrophic climate change. For ten years she served as an Administrative Law Judge at the New York State Public Service Commission in Albany, New York, where she presided over and mediated New York’s Renewable Portfolio Standard proceeding, a collaboration and litigation of over 150 parties, authoring in June 2004 a comprehensive decision recommending a landmark state environmental initiative to combat global warming with incentives for renewable resource-fueled power generation.

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John Brennan Named Distinguished Fellow for Global Security At Fordham Univerity’s Law School

Labor Day brought an unwelcome surprise to students and alumni of what the Jesuits proudly call The Jesuit University in the City of New York. Fordham University’s Law School announced that it had named former CIA Director John Brennan Distinguished Fellow for Global Security.

Brennan was a senior official in the CIA during the Bush -Cheney administration. The official record shows he was knee-deep into their programs of secret offshore prisons, torture, and kidnapping.

In fact, in late November 2008, when President-elect Obama was about to appoint Brennan director of the CIA, a category-five hurricane of protest made that politically impossible. For example, the American Psychological Association publicly appealed to Obama not to appoint Brennan because of his role in torture.

So, instead, Brennan played the role of national security adviser – a role in which Obama and he worked together, meeting every Tuesday to draw up lists of who would be killed the following week by missiles from drones.

By 2008, Congress had become so inured to such things that Brennan sailed through confirmation and became CIA director for Obama’s second term.

That Fordham has succumbed to what Jesuits like Dan Berrigan call the “celebrity virus” is abundantly clear in Brennan’s appointment. Fordham is proud to claim him as a college alumnus. And without a hint of shame, its law school is also proud to give him a prestigious appointment.

Guest – Ray McGovern, an alumnus of Fordham and was a high-ranking CIA analyst for 27 years. His expertise was Russia and he had one on one briefings daily with President George Bush. He broke with the government under George W. Bush over the cooked intelligence used to rationalize America’s illegal war of aggression against Iraq and helped form the organization Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  His group issued a memorandum to President Obama which demonstrated that the Russians did not hack into the computers of the Democratic Party or Hillary Clinton and did not therefore influence the American election.  http://raymcgovern.com/

Law and Disorder June 19, 2017


Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Against Philadelphia Motel

Prosecutors have dubbed a Northeast Philadelphia motel the city’s “epicenter of human trafficking.” Recently, a lawsuit was brought against the Roosevelt Motel for the pimping of a teenage girl in one of its rooms for a period of two years. It’s the first lawsuit under a 2014 state law permitting victims of sex traffickers to sue hotels and motels where abuse occurs. The suit was filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl known as M.B., who was sold into sexual slavery at the Northeast Philadelphia motel at age 14. The lawsuit alleges that she was prohibited from leaving and was forced to commit sex acts with approximately 1,000 men. The hotel is known by the District Attorney as the site of most trafficking investigation. The National Human Trafficking Hotline says that 7.5 thousand human trafficking cases were reported in 2016, including 151 in Pennsylvania and 193 in New Jersey. Almost three-quarters of those involve sex trafficking and nearly a third of sex-trafficking cases occurred in hotels and motels.

Guest – Attorney Nadeem Bezar of the law firm Kline & Specter in Philadelphia. His practice concentrates on medical negligence, catastrophic personal injury, and cases involving child abuse and human trafficking, sexual assault and Title IX violations on college and university campuses.

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Whistle-blower Protections: FBI Director James Comey

Nearly 20 million television viewers tuned in to hear former FBI Director James Comey testify before Congress on June 8, and explain that he recorded his conversations with President Trump because he did not trust him. Despite the Trump administration’s assertions to the contrary, most legal experts say that former FBI Director James Comey’s sharing the memos about his interactions with Donald Trump is perfectly legal. Several whistleblower attorneys are among those asserting that Comey’s handing over memos to a friend to be leaked to the press violated no laws. The information, they say, was neither classified nor secret as a matter of a federal law. And Comey revealed a matter of public interest and had a right to expose these facts anonymously.

Guest – Louis Clark, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Government Accountability Project in Washington, DC. The G.A.P. is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. It litigates whistleblower cases, helps expose wrongdoing to the public, and promotes government and corporate accountability. For four decades, GAP has assisted more than 6,000 whistleblowers.

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Politics, Influence And Journalism: Attorney Dave Saldana

For many, the word Watergate is synonymous with political corruption. The scandal was revealed when five burglars were caught by Washington police in the Democratic National Committee’s office on Jun 17, 1972, and ended with the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Richard Nixon was the first American president who felt compelled to resign because of the severity of the situation. The role of the press was critical in the episode, beginning with the Washington Post’s front page reporting. At first, the role of the television—with the notable exception of CBS, was scant.

The credit of responsible reporting goes largely to Washington Post editor Katherine Graham, and the Co-editor, Ben Bradlee as well as reporters Woodward and Bernstein. They covered the story at great threat to their lives and their families. The president and his staff in the White House made every possible effort to resist and downgrade the true news stories of the reporters. The Nixon staff had threatened the journalists with verbal attacks. It also created the Washington Star to counter the Washington Post and anti-government reporting. Nixon also sought the help of Federal Communication Commission to ban two TV channels in Florida. The presidential administration had devised such plans that the government officials began to avoid meeting Woodward and Bernstein.

Guest – Attorney Dave Saldana is an award-winning journalist and attorney, and longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild.

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Law and Disorder January 30, 2017


Attorney Jim Lafferty, Los Angeles Protests

Last week president trump the reception of the Dakota Area Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, which will bring dirty tar sand oil from Canada through the USA to the Gulf of Mexico for export. According to James Hansen, the former climate expert for NASA, if this happens it will be “game over for the planet. ” We just learned that Trump is about to sign a package of executive orders threatening Muslims, Arabs, refugees, and immigrants. The women’s march last week after Trump had been in office for two days brought out some for million people across the country voted one half million in Washington DC and 750,000 in Los Angeles. We speak with Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild leader Jim Lafferty, who helped organize the demonstration.

Guest – Jim Lafferty is the former Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild and a leader of the chapter.  His radio show on KPFK inspired Law and Disorder.   Attorney Jim Lafferty has been active since the civil rights movement in the south in the 60s and was a leader of the  movement against the war in Vietnam. In 2015, Jim Lafferty concluded 25-years as the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles, and is now that organization’s Executive Director Emeritus. For the past 26-years he has hosted a weekly public affairs radio show on Pacifica Radio, The Lawyers Guild Show. He is the Chair of the Board of the Office of the Americas; an elected fellow in the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Southern California; was the co-founder and director of the National Peace Action Coalition during the U.S. war in Vietnam, the group that organized the largest antiwar protests during that war; was the founder and Chair of the Oakland County Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oakland County, Michigan; has been featured in several documentary films, including The Corporation; was the national director of the National Lawyers Guild from 1963-1967; is the author of the afterword in Lawyers You’ll Like; and is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the National Lawyers Guild’s “Law for the People Award”, the Southern California ACLU’s “Defender of Civil Liberties Award”, and the first award from the Los Angeles Coalition to Stop LAPD Spying. As a founding partner of Lafferty, Reosti, Jabara, Papakian, James, Stickgold, Soble and Smith, Mr. Lafferty practiced civil rights, civil liberties, criminal defense, workers’ rights, and military law in Detroit, Michigan.

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Israel And The Palestinian State 2017

The colonial settler state of Israel was formed in 1948 pursuant to a declaration of the United Nations. The declaration  also envisioned a Palestinian state which has so far been prevented by Israel with the support of the United States.  In 1967 the Israeli Army captured the West Bank territory meant to be part of the Palestinian state and has in the last 50 years illegally ruled over a half million settlers who have been placed on the territory. Is it still possible to have a two state solution in the Middle East?  Is it too late?  Have the number of settlers reached a critical mass so that the two state solution is dead? Can the settlers be evacuated? If not, how can there be a Palestinian state?

Guest – Phil Weiss, founder of Mondoweiss, the well read and influential blog. In the past Weiss worked as a mainstream journalist for the Minneapolis Star and the New York Observer, the newspaper owned by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law who when told that Phil Weiss was not a Zionist, fired him.

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U.S. Drug Policy 2017

With the election of Donald Trump and his selection of  the deeply reactionary former prosecutor and Senator from Alabama Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions as the new Attorney General and chief law-enforcement officer in America the progress in drug policy reform we have had over the last several decades is likely to be reversed. 28 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana and  a number states including Washington, Colorado, and most recently California and Massachusetts have legalized it’s recreational use. But an aggressive attorney general could reverse this.  “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” said Sessions last year.  He also said that he thought that the KKK was “OK until I found out that they smoke pot.”  Federal law puts marijuana in the same schedule one category as heroin. At his Senate confirmation hearing Sessions would not promise to defer to the states the decision to prosecute people using medical marijuana sanctioned by state law.  He also supports mandatory minimum sentences which fuels mass incarceration and disproportionately targets people of color.

Guest – Ethan Nadelmann the founder and Executive Director of the drug policy alliance joins us today. It is a national advocacy organization for drug law reform that is grounded in science, compassion, and health and human rights.

Ethan was described by Rolling Stone as “the point man” for drug policy reform efforts and “the real drug czar,” Ethan Nadelmann is widely regarded as the outstanding proponent of drug policy reform both in the United States and abroad.Ethan is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs.

Law and Disorder December 5, 2016


Update:

  • Hosts Remember Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro

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Remembering Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

When the American supported military dictator of Cuba Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in January 1959 and the revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro marched into Havana they passed three laws.  The first lowered the age so that Fidel could be prime minister. He was 33 years old.  The second made Che Guevara a citizen of Cuba, he was Argentinian.  And the third was the great agrarian reform law. It took land from the large plantations, owned mostly by American corporations, and distributed it to the people who worked it. The Cuban government had a right to do this under international law. They offered compensation.

The Cuban government said they would reimburse the mostly American corporate land owners the amount that they listed as the value of the land for tax purposes. The corporations would not agree. Instead the American owned oil refinery refused to refine oil.  This would have shut down the Cuban economy. The Cubans responded by nationalizing the oil refinery. Then they nationalized the telephone company, the nickel mines, the automobile assembly plant and so on. The Cuban state took control of their own economy. This became what is known as the historic Cuban socialist revolution. United States policy from that day till now has been to overthrow this revolution and reinstall capitalism.  For 47 years Fidel Castro led the Cuban government in its resistance to American counterrevolutionary activity.

Guest – James Cockcroft, a retired professor and lifelong supporter of the Cuban revolution. A bilingual award-winning author of more than 50 books on Latin America, US hidden history, culture, migration, and human rights,  including most recently “Cuba In My Blood. ”  He has traveled to Cuba many times, has been active in Cuba solidarity work, and has called Fidel Castro a personal friend.  A bilingual poet, three-time Fulbright Scholar, and Honorary Editor of Latin American Perspectives, he serves on the Coordinadora Internacional de Redes en Defensa de la Humanidad, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, and civil society’s Benito Juárez Tribunal (vice-president, 2005) that judged U.S. terrorism against Cuba and International Tribunal of Trade Union Freedom (2009-10) that judged Mexico for its violations of labor and human rights. A Canadian immigrant, he is a member of the UNESCO-sponsored World Council of the José Martí World Solidarity Project, la Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba, la Société Bolivarienne du Québec, la Base de Paix Montréal, le Comité Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5, and the Canada-Cuba Literary Alliance.

Guest – Ike Nahem – A longtime anti-war, socialist, and labor activist Ike Nahem is the coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York and a founder of the July 26 Coalition. Nahem is an Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. He participated in a panel on Latin American politics at the 2011 Left Forum.

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Dakota Access Pipeline: Dispatch #8: UPDATE-Army Will Not Grant Easement For DAPL Crossing

At the time of our weekly dispatch from Standing Rock North Dakota, at least two major developments were unfolding: (1) Governor Jack Dalrymple had recently enacted an emergency evacuation order, citing public safety due to the frigid weather and (2) as many as 2,000 veterans are planning to gather there next week to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the pipeline construction.

The evacuation order was issued to the hundreds of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ land near the Missouri River. It was given as a winter storm left least a half foot of snow throughout the central part of the state. It followed an order by the corps that the land will be closed to the public earlier this week. Law enforcement officials have said they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp.

The order means that emergency services will not be made available to people at the camp except on a case-by-case basis. The order will remain until he rescinds it.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II called the order “a menacing action meant to cause fear and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority.” The Veterans effort is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend demonstrators from what the group calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”

Water Protectors Legal Collective – NLG

Guest – National Lawyers Guild Attorney Jeff Haas, recently returned from living at the North Dakota encampment with thousands of Native Americans and climate change activists who gathered in solidarity with the Standing Rock Indian tribe in North Dakota to protest the pipeline construction. Jeff Haas was a founding partner of the Peoples Law Office in Chicago. He victoriously represented the family of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party and proved that Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police Department. He’s also author of the book The Assassination of Fred Hampton.

Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense – Lawyers wanting to support the Sacred Stone Camp, contact Attorney Robin Martinez –  robin.martinez@martinezlaw.net

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Law and Disorder September 19, 2016


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Attorney Jeff Haas: Bakken Pipeline Construction Temporarily Halted

Last week the US government announced that the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River in North Dakota near Sioux Indian lands had been voluntarily suspended. In a joint statement the Department of the Interior, which interacts with Native Americans, the Department of Justice,and the Army Corps of Engineers, which had granted the permit for construction, announced that a reconsideration of the process whereby the US government receives input from  Native Americans was under examination.  So, the fight about water and human rights continues.

Guest – National Lawyers Guild Attorney Jeff Haas, has just returned from living at the North Dakota encampment with thousands of Native Americans and climate change activists who gathered in solidarity with the Standing Rock Indian tribe in North Dakota to protest the pipeline construction. Jeff Haas was a founding partner of the Peoples Law Office in Chicago. He victoriously represented the family of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party and proved that Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police Department. He’s also author of the book The Assassination of Fred Hampton.

Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense – Lawyers wanting to support the Sacred Stone Camp, contact Attorney Robin Martinez –  robin.martinez@martinezlaw.net

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U. S. Commission on Civil Rights: Peaceful Coexistence

Recently the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report called “Peaceful Coexistence:  Reconciling Non-discrimination Principles With Civil Rights  “.
The report discusses how religion is used to deny others’ equality.  The commission’s chairman Martin Castro wrote that the phrases “religious liberty”  and “religious freedom ” are code words hypocritically employed to support discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, and Christian supremacy.

Guest – Columbia Law Professor Attorney Katherine Franke about the commission’s findings and recommendations and the objections to the reports conclusions. Katherine Franke is the chair of the board of the Center for Constitutional  Rights.  She is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and also the Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, a think tank that brings legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights are in tension with other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. Her book is titled “Wedlocked:  The Perils of Marriage Equality”.

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Ray McGovern: Surveillance, Terrorism, CIA, Manufactured War

Fifteen years have passed since the criminal attack on September 11, 2001.  Today we’ll take a look at some critical changes this country has undergone since. Believing he was doing God’s will, President George W. Bush ordered airstrikes against Afghanistan and then, with intelligence cooked up to fit the plan, brought shock and awe to the people of Iraq,  killing and and displacing more than 1 million people.  The authorization to use military force that he procured from a frightened Congress is still used as a rationale for overseas war. Obama is the only president in American history that has fought  wars for the entire eight years of his presidency. Currently the United States is at war in seven different countries.  At home, draconian legislation such as Patriot Act was quickly passed even though it wasn’t read by most members of Congress. The surveillance budget of the CIA and the NSA tripled. Every keystroke we make on our computers and every phone call we make, are spied on by our own government. We live in a culture of manufactured fear of terrorism, even though more people were killed by toddlers with pistols then terrorists.

Guest – Ray MacGovern, former senior CIA analyst, who was for 27 years an analyst with the CIA giving the first President George Bush his daily intelligence briefing.  He is the cofounder of Veteran Intelligent Professionals for Sanity.  Ray McGovern works for Tell the World, the publishing an arm of the Ecumenical Church of the Savior in the Inner City of Washington DC.

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Law and Disorder June 20, 2016


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¡Michael Ratner Presente!

We hear excerpts from Michael Ratner’s public memorial held in the Great Hall at Cooper Union in Manhattan, New York.  It would have been Michael’s 73rd birthday on June 13, 2016.

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¡Michael Ratner Presente! was co-sponsored by Cooper Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Democracy Now!, National Lawyers Guild, The Nation Institute, Nation Magazine, Haymarket Books, and Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

Michael Ratner’s Politics – By Michael Smith

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Law and Disorder January 19, 2015


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U.S. Cuban Foreign Policy Changes Strategy: Normalizing Relations

Last year, in a sudden reversal of policy, the United States released the remaining three of the Cuban Five who were imprisoned for arrested in the United States while investigating Cuban exile groups accused of terrorism. The release was part of a prisoner exchange announced on when President Barack Obama ordered the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, that has been isolated by a trade embargo for 54 years.

Sandra Levinson:

  • When you’ve lived through 10 or 11 presidents and you’ve seen how bad our policy can be, and also the disappointment that people like me felt, since Obama had been elected, that almost nothing had been done for improving travel for Cuban Americans.
  • The point at which I cried was when he said he was going to open an embassy in Havana, because once you got over the fact, the 3 political prisoners were coming home, that was sheer joy to realize along with the Cubans, they were crying too. They said we’ve finally been recognized as a government.
  • I think it will be great for the Cuban artists.
  • By the second day the people were saying we have to make sure we keep our culture.
  • We have to be sure we keep our country.
  • Cuba needs help with its infrastructure, it doesn’t need McDonald’s
  • We still have the Helms-Burton law. We still have the embargo. I think our next fight is to get rid of the Helms-Burton law because that has done so much to strengthen the embargo.
  • I think the Cubans will attempt to slow the flow of people from the United States to what they can manage.
  • As we all know the infrastructure for tourism is not sufficient to take care of everyone. I’m surprised they didn’t recognize sooner.
  • Clearly its because of US interest that we are doing this. We are not doing this to finally be nice to the Cuban revolution.
  • cubaupdate.org / cubanartspace.net

Guest – Sandra Levinson, President and Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies. She was one of the Center’s founders in 1972. In 1991 Levinson spearheaded a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department which resulted in legalizing the importation of original Cuban art.  She is currently directing works at the Cuban Art Space, which she founded in 1999, to properly house and archive the thousands of posters, photographs and artworks which the Center has collected in the past 42 years

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Electronic Communications Surveillance

In the recent Monthly Review, there’s an article titled Electronics Communications Surveillance written by attorney Lauren Regan. The article enumerates the various laws, acts and court cases that have led up to collecting information on millions of citizens such as phone, internet, and email habits, credit card and bank records. Nearly all of our on line activity is subject to being surveilled by the state. Lauren breaks it down from Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, an extension of the 1968 Federal Wiretap Act, the FISA Act and on to the USA Patriot Act in 2001. The article is grouped into 3 areas,  wiretaps and “electronic eavesdropping,” stored messages, and pen registers and trap-and-trace devices.

Attorney Lauren Regan:

  • The corporations that are engaged in gray intelligence use the term threat assessment.
  • They look at activist communities even individuals and determine what level of threat they pose to the profit making components of their enterprise.
  • I think its important that activists engage in their own threat assessment as well.
  • In the documents (FOIA requests) we learned that the corporations themselves want to maintain clean hands. They don’t want to get caught spying on Mom and Pop holding a banner on a street corner.
  • They devised this scheme where there is this security firm and public relations firm that kind of open up their own shop next door.
  • They’re often former FBI agents for some of these big corporations and industries. They will collect the intelligence and its up to these PR firms to put it into these “terrorist bulletins.”
  • For a long time we knew that corporations often hired by the government itself but also hired by big industry has been going through open source intelligence. So they’ve been monitoring our websites and social media and email lists and press releases and any other public documents they can get their hands on in their 8 hour paid day.
  • They compile all this information into reports and then they sell it to police or other corporations or the government.
  • They call them issue monitoring or trend analysis. In essence it is attempting to both legitimize and make profit of spying on political groups and political activists.
  • In my experience its less important to focus on the name of the corporation because they’re so slippery and constantly changing their names.
  • The animal rights movement has definitely been a significant target for this type of spying.
  • We were working with a number of different organizations who were afraid. Who were thinking of stopping their campaigns, because they were concerned they were going to be put in prison, that they were going to be labeled terrorists.
  • One of the campaigns out of Pennsylvania, consisted of teachers, doctors, people who were once a week going out on street corners and holding a banner opposing fracking and they found themselves in a terrorist bulletin.
  • Especially when you’re talking about giant coal industries, and tar sands industries. These are gazillion dollar corporations. They’re multinational in scope. They’re working together within their industries which means they have more money and resources to put road blocks in front of regular public interest citizens.
  • There are things that you can do to make life more difficult for those that wish to spy upon you.
  • Thor and VPN are ways to use the internet with less ability to be tracked or surveyed.
  • We represent activists for free and we coordinate legal teams around the country to insure that activists have high quality representation, when they choose to risk their liberty for a cause.

GuestLauren Regan, the founder and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), where she serves as our staff attorney as well. Ms. Regan operates a public interest law firm, The Justice Law Group, specializing in constitutional law, civil rights, and criminal defense. She is a founding board member and past president of the Cascadia Wildlands. She also serves as a Lane County Teen Court judge, Oregon State Bar Leadership Fellow, National Lawyers Guild, Eugene co-chair, and volunteers hundreds of hours a year to various progressive causes.

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The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy and Presidential Power

The surveillance and torture programs conducted by agents and contractors of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has a long sordid past. One of the first revelations of the CIA’s illegal activities released to the public was released in December 1974 by the New York Times. Details of surveillance, eavesdropping, detention and interrogation shocked readers. It was also became the foundation for deeper research by our next guest John Prados,  a senior fellow of the National Security Archive in Washington, DC. He’s the author of the book The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy and Presidential Power, where Prados recounts secret operations and how Vice President Richard Cheney played a leading role in intelligence abuses. He joins us today to talk about the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Torture Report and the deeper connections based on his research.

John Prados:

  • A semi-notorious document that was known as the family jewels – this was a record of CIA abuses of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, when they were spying on American citizens. In fact the revelation was so explosive at that time it lead to multiple investigations of the CIA by the Church Committee, the Pike Committee.
  • I think that the CIA has a preoccupation with image. The episode of the “family jewels” is typical because at the time the intelligence agency’s director was Michael Hayden. Hayden, simultaneous with the release of the document gave a speech taking credit for thinking of releasing the “family jewels” themselves.
  • In my book The Family Jewels I have a couple of chapters that documents this kind of activity.
  • We have been waiting 2 years for the appearance of this report.
  • If you look at the website that’s maintained by former director Hayden, and former director Porter Goss and former director George Tenant, you will see that they posted on their website declassified CIA documents, much more lightly redacted that were released as long ago as last summer.
  • These are the first documents I have seen containing direct Whitehouse action and activity on the torture issue.
  • The best piece of this relates to early 2004, where there was the United Nations international day of support for victims of torture. Tenant sends a memo to Condi Rice and requests that the Whitehouse reconfirm Bush Administration support for the torture program.
  • When that was not immediately forthcoming, they did this again.
  • CIASavesLives.com
  • These things were released as part of the argument that was made by former intelligence officials that torture was approved and legal.
  • Not just damage control but the perpetrators, the agency officials responsible for this program,they know its not legal, they know its morally reprehensible. They’re operating under the fig leaf of this presidential authority and this mumbo jumbo Department of Justice legal memo network.
  • If there’s a breath of questioning it all of a sudden, they’re not covered anymore. That’s the reason for the sensitivity and the reason why the CIA suddenly erupted in this effort to reconfirm these authorities.
  • If you delete material from the documents in such a way that the public can’t tell that the material the CIA got was useful, or misleading everybody.
  • The Senate report is so important because it shows on all of these cases, they took the ones twenty ones, the CIA most claims they got information for them. The report shows that in every one of those cases in fact they were getting information without resorting to the torture.
  • I think we have a challenge. I think we need to work to make a wedge for accountability in this country. I do think Americans are shamed and embarrassed by this behavior. This is not what the United States is about.

Guest- John Prados is an author and analyst of national security based in Washington, DC. He is the author of more than twenty books and many articles on topics of current importance, presidential studies, international security; and diplomatic, intelligence, or military history. His current book is The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power (University of Texas Press)Newly appearing in paperback are Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun. In addition Prados is author of titles on national security, the American presidency, and other subjects including Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and World War II. He is also a noted designer of boardgames on military strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy.

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Law and Disorder September 22, 2014


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The Legality of War Powers: Michael Ratner

Law and Disorder co-host Michael Ratner explains war powers in the United States and questions the legality of President Barack Obama decision to launch attacks against the Islamic State using the 2001 Authorization To Use Military Force. Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel with the Center for Constitutional Rights have brought a number of cases challenging the decision to go to war including Vietnam, El Salvador and Grenada

Attorney Michael Ratner:

  • I’ve spent as a number of us had a lot of our lives trying to restrain U.S. war powers. The U.S. particularly the president or the Congress together going to war around the world.
  • It’s been a task that has been singularly unsuccessful, starting with Vietnam where we brought case after case. Only at the very end of the war really did Congress finally act to restrict the president after there were secret wars carried out in Cambodia, in Laos, not just Vietnam.
  • Right now the president hasn’t asked for any authority from Congress to either bomb targets in Iraq that he claims are Islamic state targets or presumable if they begun it bombing in Syria, again targets he claims that are Islamic state targets. He’s not asked for any authority.
  • He has of course had to use some funding that Congress I think will approve if he asks for more. That is not considered giving authority by Congress, just because they fund a war.
  • Coming out of Vietnam, Congress did sort of a mea culpa. They said well, the president dragged us into this war, we passed this Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was this open ended resolution that said the president could do what ever he wanted in Vietnam. He kept fighting the war based on this broad authorization that Congress gave him over a false incident. . .
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution you could liken to the authority Congress gave the president to go to war in Afghanistan called the Authorization to Use Military Force.
  • (Still back to Vietnam) So Congress passes what’s called The War Powers Resolution. Congress said to itself, we don’t want to be in the situation like Vietnam again.
  • The president, yes is required to go to Congress before he can go to war with any country. The framers were very clear, we don’t want a president making war on his own.
  • You get to Vietnam and Congress says we’re going to make a special statute. You still need a declaration of war or a special passage by Congress of a statute authorizing war before you can make war. But in just in case the president goes in to a country without getting a declaration from us or a statute allowing it we’re going to say he can only stay in that country for 60 days.
  • After 60 days he’s required to pull out all troops from that country.
  • There’s never been any compliance with the War Powers Resolution in the history of our country – where after the 60 day clock, the president has pulled out the troops.
  • I’ve litigated that with El Salvador when the U.S. sent in “advisors” into El Salvador, we’ve litigated it in Grenada and other places.
  • We litigate these on 3 bases. Non compliance of the War Powers Resolution, Secondly non-compliance with the U.S. Constitution which is the Congress has to declare war not the president, and third non-compliance with the U.N. Charter which says there can be no use of force by any member state, unless its self defense or the UN Security Council approves it.
  • The problem here isn’t really a problem of law. The problem here is the problem of having a hegemonic imperialist country that dominates the world through force.
  • So that turns us back to where we are right now.
  • Obama has two justifications – one is the original grant of authority to bomb and go and use force and U.S. troops in Afghanistan called the Authorization to Use Military Force passed shortly after 911 in 2001 which basically said the president could use force to go after the perpetrators of 911, those who harbored them or those who aided and abetted them.
  • In the case of the Islamic State they’re at war with has been denounced by al-Qaeda, so they’re certainly not part of a 911 conspiracy at all.
  • There’s no question that he’s illegally bombing the Islamic State in Iraq, illegally bombing them to the extent he is in Syria.

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael Ratner,  President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.

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The People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit

We hear the voices from the climate march held in New York City, a large-scale activist event to advocate global action against climate change. The march winded through the streets of New York Sunday, September 21, 2014. Initially called by 350.org, the environmental organization founded by writer/activist Bill McKibben, the march has been endorsed by nearly 400 organizations, including many international and national unions, churches, schools and community and environmental justice organizations. The action is intended to coincide with the UN Climate Summit this week as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited leaders of government, the private sector and civil society to arrive at a long term solution for climate change.

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 National Immigration Project

Last month the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and several other groups sued the federal government to challenge its new and unlawful “fast-track” expedited removal policies that are being used against mothers and children detained in Artesia, New Mexico. Artesia is a remote detention center hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Lawyers with the NIP have collected evidence showing the government disregarding and pushing mothers and children through a deportation process making it nearly impossible for them to consult attorneys, prepare claims for asylum or any defenses to deportation. A class action lawsuit was brought by the Northwest Immigration Rights Project challenging the treatment of unaccompanied children in California with the average of 10 years old.

Paromita Shah:

  • Starting in early April the government began to see a surge in arrivals of families – of mothers and children and sometimes children who came by themselves.
  • Predominantly these children and families come from countries Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • They fled their home countries for a variety of reasons, mostly to escape what was horrific atrocities they experienced.
  • They went to other countries as well, since other countries have seen a 700 percent increase in asylum claims. Costa Rica and Bolivia.
  • The surge is not new. The surge actually began about 5 years ago when people were reporting an exponential increase of children coming across the border and no one knew what to do about it.
  • From the stories we’ve heard from many of our members they are fleeing horrific atrocities and came to the United States to seek refuge here.
  • The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU and a number of organizations sued the federal government to challenge its policies that denied a fair deportation process to the families and the children who fled this extreme violence.
  • The primary focus of our argument is that these people weren’t given a chance to apply for asylum.
  • We are violating our laws that relate to asylum, that relate to the convention against torture. These are laws not only in the United States but also international treaties that we’ve signed onto.
  • If you fled a country that abused you and injured you, you would come to the United States border. At that point our laws set up a process called expedited removal. It’s a two stage process.
  • The first step includes an interview with asylum officer to evaluate if you have a credible fear. When I say border that’s at any point of entry in the United States.
  • Anywhere within 100 miles of the border (U.S.) because that’s how we define the border.
  • Two thirds of the population of the United States lives within 100 miles of the border.
  • Artesia New Mexico is a federal holding cell for the 672 people who are now detained there.
  • If you’re a child that doesn’t have an adult with them you’re supposed to be treated differently under this process. They are not as a practice supposed to be put into expedited removal because of their age. You will have a chance to apply for asylum ( which is incredibly difficult) because you apply without an attorney.
  • There are children in New Jersey, Washington state, Texas, L.A., and Florida.
  • Children can’t always talk if they were raped or recruited into a gang or brutalized by a gang.
  • J.E.F.M. v. Holder
  • The irony of this whole process is that Artesia is in New Mexico. The immigration court that’s holding these hearings around Artesia is in Arlington, Virginia.
  • They’re conducting these hearings by video.

Guest – Paromita Shah, associate Director of the National Immigration Project. She specializes in immigration detention and enforcement. She is the contributing author and co-presenter of the Deportation 101 curriculum.

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