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Archive for the 'Criminalizing Dissent' Category


Law and Disorder July 24, 2017


 

Trump Election Fraud Investigation

Donald Trump lost last November’s election by some 3 million of the popular vote. Subsequently, he falsely asserted that between 3 and 5 million votes were cast illegally. Then in May of this year, by executive order, Trump established The Election Integrity Commission. The nominal head of the commission is Vice President Mike Pence, but the functioning head is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who has a long history of successful voter suppression. He is running for governor on this record. Kobach was recently fined by a federal magistrate for “making patently misleading representations to the court” and “abusing the judicial process” when he lied to the judge about the content of certain papers that he shared with Trump concerning voter suppression.

Kobach is helping Trump lay the groundwork for a national voter suppression effort. His commission wrote to the 50 Secretaries of State in the U.S. asking for private information on the voters in their states. Forty-four of the 50 Secretaries of State have told Kobach that they will give him a little or no information. A leading resister, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said “at best this committee was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large scale voter suppression.”

Guest – Eliza Carney  is the senior editor at The American Prospect.  She wrote an article about Kris Kobach titled The Limits of Lying and Cheating in the June 29 issue.

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Offense Strategy For Left

The election of Donald Trump has greatly emboldened the forces on the right. We have seen lynchings, stabbings and even murder. The acquittal of murderous cops is almost routine. Deportations number in the tens of thousands. A number of left-wing professors have been suppressed. Right wing provocateurs and racist speakers have appeared on campuses. Fascists have a attempted to organize rallies in major cities.

Hard core groups such as the Klan, racist skinheads and outright fascist organizations like Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute have been growing and so have militia organizations. The Republican Party, the congressional freedom caucus, fundamentalist, FOXNews aficionados, and neocons have also seen their strength and numbers and influence increase.

How do we fight this? Should we ask the government for help? Should we confront the right? Do we need a mass movement? Do we have to present a political alternative to provide real answers to real problems?

Guest – Jon Kurinsky is a Chicago activist, he recently gave a speech on the topic of fighting the right at the Socialism 2017 conference in Chicago which had a record attendance of more than 2000 people.

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Law and Disorder July 17, 2017


 

This is Not Populism : John Bellamy Foster

Is Trump a neofascist? Thoughtful analysts on the left like Cornell West, Noam Chomsky, and Judith Butler think he is. But mainstream liberal commentators refuse to associate the Trump phenomena with fascism. They call him a right wing populist. What is neofascism? Right wing Populism? Does it really matter what Trump is called? The great German playwright and political thinker who lived in Germany during Hitler’s reign, Berthold Brecht, asked in 1935: “How can anyone tell the truth about fascism, unless he’s willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it fourth?” We speak today with John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the venerable magazine “Monthly Review”. He wrote the lead article in the current June 2017 issue titled “This Is Not Populism.”

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.

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Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand ms-1.JPG Benjamin Hett

Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand

Author Benjamin Hett outlines the fascinating and tragic story of a young lawyer Hans Litten in his recent book Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand. Before the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s, they incited calculated violence among the working class in German taverns. Four Nazi stormtroopers were charged with firing randomly into a dance hall where a communist hiking club were holding a party. Three young men were wounded. Hans Litton was the advocate for the 3 men.

Hans Litten called Hitler to the witness stand to show that the Nazi party was a violent party, and by cross examining Hitler he tried to prove that. Litten forced Hitler to contradict himself, reducing him to humiliating rage that revealed his true intention. At that time, Hitler wanted to be a legal party in Germany and of course you couldn’t be a party that was extra-constitutional and legal but at the same time he didn’t want to disappoint the base of his party which was this violent working class aspect. Two years later, the Nazi Party rose to power.

What came after the Reichstag Fire was the arrest of about 5 thousand people across Germany who the Nazis have identified as opponents or potential opponents. Hans Litten was among them and sent to a concentration camp. Author Benjamin Hett describes a powerful narrative of Hans facing torture yet still telling stories and teaching art to other prisoners.

Hans Litten was born in 1903 in Halle in Central Germany, his father was a law professor and Jewish but converted to German evangelical (Lutheran).

Guest – Benjamin Hett, author of Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand. Hett is a former trial lawyer, and now Associate Professor of History at Hunter College.

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Law and Disorder June 26, 2017


 

This is Not Populism : John Bellamy Foster

Is Trump a neofascist? Thoughtful analysts on the left like Cornell West, Noam Chomsky, and Judith Butler think he is. But mainstream liberal commentators refuse to associate the Trump phenomena with fascism. They call him a right wing populist. What is neofascism? Right wing Populism? Does it really matter what Trump is called? The great German playwright and political thinker who lived in Germany during Hitler’s reign, Berthold Brecht, asked in 1935: “How can anyone tell the truth about fascism, unless he’s willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it fourth?” We speak today with John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the venerable magazine “Monthly Review”. He wrote the lead article in the current June 2017 issue titled “This Is Not Populism.”

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.

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US Normalization of Relations With Cuba Reversed

On June 15th President Donald Trump traveled to Miami to condemn Cuba for gross human rights violations while he signed an executive order aimed at reversing the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States that has been going on since December 2014.

Trump spoke to a dwindling base of hardened reactionaries in Miami. He accused Cuba of “spreading violence and instability “as justification to increase restrictions on the travel of Americans to Cuba and to double down on the blockade by eliminating any business dealings with Cuban state run enterprises administered by the Cuban military.

Now, for an American citizen to go to the small island 90 miles from Florida they must go in a group with a minder and report everywhere they travel and with whom they meet.

Since the success in 1959 of the Cuban revolution the United States government has been trying to reverse it and restore capitalist property relations on the island of 11 million people.

The Cuban revolution truly was a revolution and not in the Madison Avenue sense. It was not superficial but profoundly fundamental. The 99%; poor peasants, city workers, and intellectuals overthrew the 1%; the super rich, the large landowners, the owners of the utilities in mines, and their American partners – the United States and trained and supplied army and the police. The 99% took back their own country and the 1% largely move to Miami. 50,000 Cubans died in their struggle.

From then until now the policy and practice of the United States government has been to take Cuba back, change the regime, and re-introduce capitalist property relations by any means necessary.

At first, US backed terrorist torched sugar crops because land was taken from the rich and redistributed to the peasants. The US supported the assassination of teachers during the hugely successful literacy drive. The CIA introduced dengue fever and swine flu killing children and livestock awake. They supported a full-scale military invasion in 1962 known as the Bay of Pigs. It failed. The US initially succeeded and isolating Cuba politically, diplomatically, and economically.

Latin American and Caribbean governments were overthrown by the CIA if they didn’t go along with this policy. Only Mexico held out. But this tactic didn’t work. Cuba overcame the isolation. The US itself became isolated for its hostility. Then in 2014 the organization of American states told the United States that unless it allowed Cuba to re-join the United States itself was unwelcome.

So the USA, led by President Obama, changed tactics, but not its goal to restore capitalism to Cuba. In July 2015 Cuba was recognized. Embassies were opened in Havana in Washington. Trade and travel restrictions were eased.

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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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 June 5, 2017


Reginald Dwayne Betts: Bastards of the Reagan Era

Toni Morrison said, “All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS. Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”

Guest – Reginald Dwayne Betts, an award-winning poet. An honors student and class treasurer in high school, at age 16  he and a friend carjacked a man who had fallen asleep in his car. Betts was charged as an adult and spent more than eight years in prison, where he completed high school and began reading and writing poetry.  Betts’s first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm won the Beatrice Hawley Award, and his memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, received the 2010 NAACP Image Award.  He’s had a Soros Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship. In addition to attending Yale Law school, Betts was appointed by President Obama to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Jewish Voice For Peace: Deadly Exchange:  Ending US–Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety

Like the United States, where it’s colonists settled upon, displaced, and controlled the Native American population Israel is also a settler colonialism state. It drove 750,000 Palestinians out when it was just established in 1948 and seized control of the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza  in 1967 and has militarily occupied and controlled the Palestinian population of nearly 2,000,000 there since. Israel’s settler colonialism experience has provided it with valuable lessons and skills ripe for export to other state powers confronted with challenges of control. Despite the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel it has continued it’s illegal defiant and hostile commitment to expansion.

How does it get away with this? Jeff Halpern in his book “War Against the People” has written that “of the 157 countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations virtually all the agreements and protocols Israel has signed with them contain military and security components.”  The government of the United States and Israel have exchange programs that bring together American police, including the New York City police, ICE, the Border Patrol, and the FBI on the US side and soldiers, police and border agents from Israel.  We talk with Ari Wohlfeiler one of the leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace.  JVP has recently launched a campaign called “Deadly Exchange:  Ending US – Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety.”  JVP has over 200 online supporters and over 60 chapters.

Guest – Ari Wohlfeiler, Deputy Director of JVP. He’s from Oakland, CA and before coming to JVP, he was the Development Director at Critical Resistance, and has worked extensively with grassroots organizations fighting the prison industrial complex.

 

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Law and Disorder May 15, 2017


Silk Road, Kingpin Charge and Ross Ulbricht

In 2015 a jury found that then 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht had created and run an anonymous digital black market for drugs called Silk Road. The case was a high profile one, and Ulbricht had come to be known by some as the face of the Dark Web. He was convicted on seven charges—including a “kingpin” charge—and Judge Katherine Forrest  imposed two life sentences and 40 years without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had not even sought such a long sentence.

In a 2016 appeal, defense attorneys outlined a litany of improprieties and abuses in the investigation and trial. Perhaps most serious was that the court procluded information about two corrupt federal agents investigating Silk Road who are now both serving prison sentences for corruption.

The defense team maintains that the convictions for Ulbricht should be vacated and that a new trial should be ordered or that he receive re-sentencing before a different judge.

A new book by Nick Bilton called  “American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind Silk Road” has received glowing reviews but presents what the Ulbricht family, his legal team, and supporters describe as a fictionalized version of the government’s narrative of the case, It is said that in many instances the author relied on claims that were not charged in trial.

Guest – Ross’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht. Lyn is working to help her son and directs those who want to learn more about her son’s case to the site Free Ross Ulbricht.

 

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Williams v. Pennsylvania: Mumia Abu-Jamal

In  2016 the Supreme Court in Williams v. Pennsylvania held that a prosecutor involved in seeking the death penalty should recuse himself if asked to judge an appeal in the capital case. Two months later, Mumia Abu-Jamal filed an appeal based on that decision, calling into direct question the validity of his criminal conviction, and the denial of his appeals. Ronald Castille, the same prosecutor in the Williams case, was a senior district attorney while Mumia’s case was being tried. He was also the District Attorney of Philadelphia during Mumia’s direct appeals. While serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Castille rejected a recusal motion filed by Mumia’s defense.

On April 24, Mumia’s 63rd birthday, his lawyers were back in court arguing that a Motion for Discovery should be granted to determine the particulars of Castille’s personal involvement in Mumia’s prosecution and appeals.

Judge Leon Tucker ruled in favor of Mumia’s demand for discover and for the DA’s files. The records must be turned over to Mumia’s attorneys by May 30, 2017.

Guest – Attorney Judy Ritter, Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Widener’s Delaware campus. She argued in 2011 before the Third Circuit that the instructions given to the sentencing jurors were unconstitutional. The so-called Mills claim argument succeeded and Mumia, as our listeners know, no longer faces a sentence of death.

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Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Capital punishment has made news headlines over the past few months, as the state of Arkansas rushed to execute six men in a span of several days. For many years, the issue of state sanctioned killings has not received much attention. News of exonerations of innocent men and women are rare.

A new book, Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted, presents the true stories of 15 exonerees who were wrongfully convicted and thrown into the complex criminal justice system before being among the few to be exonerated.

Edited by Leslie Klinger and Laura Caldwell, the book is unusual in that each exoneree is paired with a high-profile mystery and thriller writer (including Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Laurie King, Brad Parks and others) to present their narratives. Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project and author Scott Turow also provide commentary.

The book also includes a letter from playwright Arthur Miller, believed to be the first and only unpublished piece since his death. Kirkus Reviews called the compilation “a unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith in the American criminal justice system.”

Guest – Attorney and author Leslie Klinger, co-editor of Anatomy of Innocence and widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, H. P. Lovecraft, and 19th-century genre fiction.

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Law and Disorder April 17, 2017


Update:

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US Bombs Syria

Donald Trump made two important promises during his presidential campaign: he vowed to not get involved in the Syrian Civil War where jihadist groups have been trying to overthrow the government of Assad for six years and the second promise he made during his campaign was to better relations with Russia which is a supporter of Assad and a strategic ally. Syria borders Russia to the south and has a warm water Mediterranean port.

Both these promises were broken on April 4, 2017 when President Trump illegally ordered the bombing by 54 Tomahawk missiles of the Shayrat Air Base in eastern Syria. The missile strike violated the United Nations charter, the convention against the use of chemical warfare, and United States law called the War Powers Act, not to mention Article 2 of the US Constitution. In support of his unilateral decision to bomb a sovereign nation with whom the United States is not at war,  President Trump claimed that he was motivated by learning of the horrible death of several children in the farm village of Khan Shaykhun.  The children died of an alleged poison gas attack which Trump claimed was carried out by the Assad government, which denies the charge. Without an impartial objective investigation required by The Chemical Weapons Convention,without going to the United Nations Security Council, and without any evidence, President Trump claimed that sarin, a poisonous nerve gas, was used by the Assad government.

Trump’s former critics who sprung to his defense included Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer, and Republican leaders John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the entire mass media including the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN.  Television reporter Brian Wilson use the word “beautiful” three times to describe the tomahawk missile explosions. Why did Trump reversed his position of not getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Why did he all the sudden take on Russia, to whom he had pledged better relations?

Guest – Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist and analyst on Middle East and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She works with many anti-war organizations, and writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. She has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

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A Chicago Cop is Accused of Framing 51 People For Murder

Fifty years ago the great comedian Lenny Bruce used to crack that “Chicago is so corrupt it’s thrilling.” It has become known as “the conviction capital of the USA.” Today retired Chicago detective is accused of framing at least 51 people for murder, most of them from Humboldt Park in Chicago, a working class predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood. He was on the force from the 1980s through the early 2000’s. Guevara’s alleged misconduct sent 48 men and one woman to be sentenced to a total of more than 2300 years in prison. Three were acquitted. Five received life sentences. Three were sentenced to death, but spared when in 2003 Governor George Ryan, disturbed by a rash of wrongful convictions, commuted all of the death sentences to life in prison or less. Two men died behind bars.The initial work in uncovering Guevara’s misconduct fell by default to a group of women, mostly working class mothers, aunts, and sisters with limited English and limited familiarity with the law.

As investigative reporter Melissa Segura has written in BuzzFeed, “armed with nothing more than dining room tables full of transcripts, police  reports, and post it notes, marking the cracks in cases against their love ones, together they identified patterns running through Guevara’s cases.” They achieved some victories.  They gave information to civil rights attorneys at the Loevy and Loevy Chicago law firm which helped free Juan Johnson who later went on to receive a record $21 million and a judgment against the city of Chicago because of Guevara’s misconduct. So far six men have had their convictions overturned, 12 others have been released, 29 say they were framed remade in prison. Detective Guevara’s Witnesses by Melissa Segura

Guest – Attorney Tara Thompson is the founder of the Exoneration Project at Loevy and Loevy. Following law school Tara worked as an associate in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office, where she represented clients in a variety of litigation matters, including a significant commitment to pro bono representation. She left Mayer Brown in 2006 to clerk for Judge Elaine Bucklo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After completing her clerkship, she joined Loevy & Loevy in 2007.

Guest – Attorney Anand Swaminathan, is litigating the civil damage cases arising from the work of Guevara’s frame ups and which have demonstrated a pattern and practice of police misconduct. Since joining the firm, Anand has worked on a broad range of constitutional and civil rights cases, including wrongful convictions, the denial of medical care to inmates and detainees in jails and prisons, and retaliation for exercising free speech rights. Anand also works extensively on False Claims Act litigation, in which he represents whistle-blowers alleging military and other government contractor fraud, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, construction/contractor (MBE/DBE) fraud, bid-rigging, and tax fraud. Anand also represents whistleblowers in financial fraud cases under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and in complex fraud cases under other federal and state statutes.

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Carl Messineo Consent Decrees and Policing in the U.S.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department has sought to reform police practices considered discriminatory by using a statutory tool little known by the public and even less well understood. So-called “consent decrees” were established after the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, and allow the Department’s Civil Rights Division to sue local police forces that have been found to have “a pattern and practice” of using excessive force or violating individuals’ rights.

The DOJ launches an investigation into a police department’s operations, frequently after a high-profile incident – such as the 2014 shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. If the feds find that the departments operate with an ongoing pattern of abuse, they sue, in essence forcing the law enforcement groups to settle the cases and undergo a change to their culture to a degree deemed sufficient by the court and the DOJ.

Some of the more recent agreements, like those with the Baltimore and Ferguson Police Departments, are better known to the public, but others are not and many haven’t yet seen a resolution. Out of 19 investigations carried out since 2010, six are considered “ongoing.”

Jeff Sessions said in 2008 that “One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees. Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process.” The new Attorney General has threatened to do away with them.

Guest – Attorney Carl Messineo, co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit progressive legal organization based in Washington DC. The organization focuses on cases regarding free speech and dissent, domestic spying and surveillance, police misconduct, government transparency, and educating the public about their rights. In the “Founders Message,” the organization states, “As we look to the future, the Partnership will continue to be at the forefront of legal struggle, using the law to defend and create room for the peoples’ movement for progressive social change.”

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Law and Disorder April 10, 2017


 

The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey

April 24 marks the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Until recently, most Americans never heard of the genocide and rarely hear the individual stories of those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Journalist Dawn Mackeen came to learn the personal account of her grandfather Stepan Miskjian after reading notebooks that he had kept a century ago chronicling his story. She then embarked on a multi-year journey, using her research skills to scour newspapers and archives around the globe to recreate, and then actually retrace, his steps taken 100 years earlier through Turkey and Syria.

She has written an eye-opening book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey. It recounts not only her grandfather’s experience, but those of the approximately 1.5 million Armenians who were tortured and killed in the genocide that began in 1915. As many Armenian genocide survivors did, Dawn’s grandfather escaped just before the members of his caravan with were massacred by disguising himself as an Arab.

Guest – Dawn Mackeen is an award-winning journalist who spent nearly a decade researching and writing her grandfather’s story. Previously, she covered health and social issues for Salon, SmartMoney, and Newsday, where her investigative series on assisted living facilities’ poor care helped prompt legislative reform. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Sunday Times Magazine (London), the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California.

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International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility

At the request of its member states, the United Nations economic and social commission for Western Asia commissioned a report on Israeli practices towards the Palestinian people and the question of apartheid. Apartheid is a crime against humanity under international law. The report found Israel in violation of three international laws. One of them, the  1998 Rome statute of the international criminal court states that “the crime of apartheid means inhumane acts committed in the context of AN institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The commission report concluded that Israel operates in an Apartheid regime against Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees and exiles.The commission made recommendations to dismantle the apartheid regime. In response, Israel and its ally the United States of America had to report rejected and caused the resignation of the head of the commission.

We speak with two anti- apartheid activists. Both have just returned from an important conference on Israel held at the University of Cork, in Cork Ireland.  The conference had twice been prevented by pro Israeli forces.

Guest – Richard Falk is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Guest – Author Joel Kovel, politician, academic, and eco-socialist. He has lectured in psychiatry, anthropology, political science and communication studies. He has published many books including the controversial Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.

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Partisan Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

In a backlash to the 2008 Obama election victory, two years later, in 2010, the Republican Party of Wisconsin won both houses of the legislature and the governorships. The Republicans then redrew the legislative map making it impossible for the Democratic Party to capture a majority of the legislative seats at any time in the decade,  no matter how many votes they get.  This is called partisan gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy.  Now, in Wisconsin, instead of voters choosing their legislatures, the legislatures choose the voters. As a consequence people in Wisconsin have had their great university system harmed, right to work laws have been enacted wrecking their unions, and there has been substantial environmental damage.

Guest – Professor William “Bill” Whitford who recently retired as a Law Professor at the University of Wisconsin. He is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against partisan gerrymandering. His cases is likely to be heard in the Supreme Court. In the case Whitford v Gill 12, Wisconsin voters are challenging the constitutionality of the states Republican drawn legislative maps. Heretofore, the Supreme Court has been unwilling to get involved.  This case may change that and restore a measure of democracy to a broken system  in Wisconsin, and later elsewhere.

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Law and Disorder April 3, 2017


Trial Judge Rules Against 69 Year Old Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh

In 1969, when she was a 21 year old college student in Ramallah in the Israeli occupied territories on the West Bank,  Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman, was arrested for killing two Israeli University students with a bomb placed in a supermarket.  She confessed to the crime and served 10 years in prison, getting out in a prisoner swap. She came to United States 20 years ago, obtained citizenship, and settled in Chicago as a community organizer of immigrant Arab women.  Odeh was criminally charged two years ago by the federal government with “unlawful procurement of naturalization.” In her application, she omitted mention of the crime for which she was convicted in Israel. In her defense, she said that she could not remember, that she had post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being tortured in jail for 25 days and forced to sign a false confession. Her expert witness was not allowed to testify as to the PSTD and the torture.  The trial judge’s ruling on this was overturned by a Federal Court of Appeals. Last week she agreed to a plea arrangement where she would be stripped of her citizenship and deported rather than face a 5 to 7 year prison sentence and indefinite detention by ICE. She is 69 years old and does not know where she will be sent inasmuch as she cannot go home.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch  had represented Rasmea Odeh. He is a partner at the Peoples Law Office in Chicago and a former legal director at the  Center for Constitutional Rights. After clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining People’s Law Office in 1970 where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.

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New York City Titanpointe National Security Agency Protest

There is a massive 550 foot tall gray granite and cement NSA spying hub hidden in plain sight in a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. At noon on April 15 an action is planned by a group called the Quiet American. It is an arts and politics journal based in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. They will perform a rite of exorcism on the building in order to, as their press release states, “to metaphysically purge the edifice of the data it hoards and to invoke a less maniacal version of citizen-government relations.”

The building is located at 33 Thomas Street where the action will take place. It is a windowless monolith that people say is “creepy as hell” and “a monument to the bottomless fear that locks us in permanent war”. The building was designed to withstand a nuclear assault and sustain its employees working there for two weeks.

Guest –  Eli Smith, a musician and activist from Brooklyn, who has helped organize the event. Eli Smith is also a folklorist and music producer who organizes the annual “Brooklyn Folk Festival”, a huge weekend music gathering now in its ninth year, and coming up at the end of April.

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Lawsuit Forces EPA Head To Release More Emails Exposing Fossil Fuel Ties

Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was recently sued by the Center for Media and Democracy to force the release of emails exposing ties with fossil fuel backers and the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), seeks an emergency injunction to prevent Pruitt from destroying any documents relevant to the group’s open records requests before his confirmation hearing. Since 2015, CMD filed seven records requests with Pruitt’s office seeking communications with Koch Industries and other coal, oil, and gas corporations as well as the corporate-funded Republican Attorney General’s Association.

Pruitt has yet to turn over a single document, despite acknowledging that his office has 3,000 emails and other documents relevant to CMD’s initial request. The Oklahoma Open Records Act provides that “the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government . . . so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

The act also mandates that a public body “must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” With Pruitt seeking confirmation to become EPA administrator, these public records are essential for the U.S. Senate to do its job.

“There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt’s confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD. “There are hundreds of emails between the AG’s office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that Senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Guest – Arn Pearson, General Counsel and Policy Advisor from the Center for Media and Democracy. He previously served as the Vice President for Policy and Litigation at Common Cause. Arn has worked for more than 20 years developing federal and state policy and legal strategies around campaign finance reform, government ethics, corporate accountability, and tax reform.

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Law and Disorder March 20, 2017


Update:

  • Michael Smith Attends Lynne Stewart’s Wake In New York City

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Law and Disorder co-hosts look at the seeds of fascism within the Trump Administration and Attorney Michael Smith references excerpts of the recent article A Short History of the Trump Family by Simon Blumenthal, including the below paragraph.

“Reckoning with Trump means descending into the place that made him. What he represents, above all, is the triumph of an underworld of predators, hustlers, mobsters, clubhouse politicians and tabloid sleaze that festered in a corner of New York City, a vindication of his mentor, the Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn, a figure unknown to the vast majority of enthusiasts who jammed Trump’s rallies and hailed him as the authentic voice of the people.”

October 2006: If It’s Not Facism, What Is It? Who Benefits & Why Now?

There appears to be a major transformation in progress. Bourgeois democracy, however limited and constricted it has been, is being revamped. The separation of powers, first enunciated by the founders, hardly exists any more. The Executive branch has overpowered Congress and the Judiciary. Neither the corporate media, the two party system, nor the unions provide much of a countervailing force. With the defeat of the Soviet Union and the “Socialist Block” imperialism has launched wars to consolidate capitalism and oil control in Yugoslavia, Afganistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Panelists: Mark Crispin Miller, Heidi Boghosian, Bertell Ollman, Moderated by Michael Steven Smith.
The standard of living for the American working class and middle class is being rolled back quickly; only profit margins of the large corporations and the top one per cent are expanding. Democracy is not an abstraction, but a tool and an aspect of the class struggle. Thus we are experiencing a consolidational of wealth and power that is historically qualitatively transformative. Understanding what is going on is the first step in fighting it. We hear an excerpt from Bertel Ollman , professor of politics at NYU, and has written and edited over a dozen books, including Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, Social and Sexual Revolution: Essays on Marx and Reich, Dialectical Investigations, How to Take an Exam and Remake the World, and most recently Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method.

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Why The Rise Of Fascism Is Again The Issue

Fascism has taken on many forms through the rise and fall of empires. One aspect of modern day fascism can seen as propaganda, lies and deceit used as political leverage to eventually absorb sovereign states. Our guest John Pilger lays out the swath carved by fascism in the last 70 years in his recent article Why The Rise Of Fascism Is Again The Issue. Using the word carefully, Pilger describes a new kind of fascism, centered in America but based on the big lie of war and aggression. Pilger documents key events from the Holocaust to Libya to Serbia, to Yugoslavia, to Afghanistan in the 1970s, to Vietnam and up to the current revival of fascism in the heart of Europe. We get a historic perspective from John Pilger, going all the way back to the second world war. If you think the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya and now the Ukraine occur by happenstance, you are mistaken says Pilger, an Australian-British journalist based in London. These are part of the American effort to become the global power.

Guest – John Pilger, an Australian-British journalist based in London. John has worked in many facets of journalism, including a correspondent in the Vietnam War, the Middle East Desk for Reuters in London, a documentary film maker, and a producer for the Independent Television Network in London. Pilger is known for his conscience, bravery and acute historical insight.   His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times.

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