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Law and Disorder July 11, 2016


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Non-indictment of Hillary Clinton

FBI Director James Comey announced at a press conference last week that the FBI had concluded its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of her personal email account for State Department business and that he would recommend no criminal charges against her. Comey said that Clinton’s use of a private email address and server while she was  Secretary of State was “extremely careless.” The investigation found that she had sent eight top secret documents through a hackable email account and that it was possible hostile foreign governments could’ve gained access. Since the announcment the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairperson Jason Chaffetz has called for an investigation to whether Clinton lied to Congress. In order to warrant a criminal indictment there had to be evidence that Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information.

Guest – Attorney Carey Shenkman, who primarily represent journalists, publishers, and filmmakers at risk of censorship or political persecution. He focuses on First Amendment, international law (particularly freedom of expression and right to protest), journalist and source protection, extradition. Carey had worked for Michael Ratner and now represents Julian Assange.

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Chelsea Manning Alleged Suicide Attempt Update

Lawyers acting for imprisoned Chelsea Manning, the Army soldier who as a truth teller passed evidence of US war crimes on to Wikileaks have expressed fury at the military authorities handling of her medical status amid a swirl of media speculation that she had attempted suicide. Manning who is serving a 35 year sentence for leaking secret diplomatic cables and other official documents has been cut off from contact with her lawyers and all other outside connections for more than 36 hours causing alarm among those closest to her. The sudden severing of contact follows a rash of media reports based on unconfirmed rumors about her medical condition. The Army is refusing to give details about what has happened. Persistent inquiries by the Guardian has produced only a statement from the Dept of Defense that stated the soldier was taken to the hospital in the early hours of Tuesday last week and now he’s been returned to Levenworth Prison.

Guest – Alexa O’Brien researches and writes about national security and capital crimes. Her work has been published in VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian UK, Salon, The Daily Beast, and featured on the BBC, PBS Frontline, On The Media, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. In 2013, she was shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the UK and listed in The Verge 50. ChelseaManning.org

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Federal Circuit Court: Criminal Defendants No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy On Personal Home Computers

Most of us assume that what we write on our own computers, in our own homes, is completely private. But a recent federal court decision held that criminal defendants have no reasonable expectation of privacy on their personal, home computers. And the government doesn’t need a warrant to hack into an individual’s computer.

In 2014, the FBI hacked–taking over and operating– a child pornography website called Playpen, for two weeks after a Virginia court issued a warrant to do so. Agents used software that bypassed Playpen users’ anonymity, enabling them to be tracked digitally. More than 135 people faced charges.

As courts are grappling to apply traditional rules of criminal procedure and constitutional law in these cases, several bad decisions are being made. At the forefront of educating the public about our digital rights is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who filed an amicus brief in this case.

Guest – Sophia Cope, Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Previously, she worked at the Newspaper Association of America on freedom of the press and digital media issues, with a focus on protecting journalists’  confidential sources.

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Law and Disorder July 4, 2016


Updates:

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Economic and Political Fallout From British Exit

A domino effect has begun as banks and investment firms lose billions in the wake of Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The value of the British pound has dropped more than 9 percent and global financial markets are in free fall. In a recent Truthdig article, 2008 All Over Again, by Chris Hedges, economist Michael Hudson blames the Brexit vote on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He says this a response to the US war policy in the Middle East and Ukraine that destroyed Libya, and turned over weapons to al-Qaida. Those weapons ended up in their war in Syria. The mass exodus of refugees into Europe fueled nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Meanwhile, countries such as France, Austria and the Netherlands are positioning to do the same as the UK. Many suspect the banks will again turn to governments for bail outs as they did in 2008. The question is: how will the American public respond to the effects of ever increasing inequality, destruction of the environment and trade deals that benefit the one percent?

Guest – Chris Hedges, author and journalist, who publishes weekly on Truthdig. He’s written 11 books, including New York Times best seller “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. Other books include “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). He’s a former war correspondent, specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.

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Lawyers You’ll Like – Attorney Margaret Kunstler

For our Lawyers You’ll Like series we’re joined today by civil rights attorney Margaret Kunstler. Throughout her career she has provided support and protected the rights of activists. She’s been a consultant to the Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous protesters. Her book Hell No: Your Right To Dissent in 21st Century America was co-authored with Michael Ratner and it remains a leading handbook for activists. Attorney Margaret Kunstler has advised Wikileaks, Bradley Manning supporters in connection with grand jury subpoenas.

Together with her late husband William Kunstler, the subject of the documentary Disturbing the Universe, Margaret worked on high profile cases including the Virgin Island Five, Attica and Wounded Knee. She is the founder of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice that works to combat racism in the criminal justice system. Margaret was a founding member of the National Lawyers Guild NYC Mass Defense Committee that provides legals observers at demonstrations and represents those arrrested. At the Center for Constitutional Rights, she worked as an attorney and educational director and authored the well known pamphlet “If An Agent Knocks.”
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Law and Disorder June 27, 2016


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NYPD Seizes Millions In Civil Forfeiture

Antiquated civil forfeiture procedures in NYC are causing many, including the city’s poorest, to have assets seized by the NYPD to fill the City’s coffers.

Elected officials are finally calling for the city to reexamine the mechanism that fills the city’s coffers with millions of dollars annually. In what many call a gross violation of civil liberties,the  Office of Management and Budget report revealed that the NYPD seized over $5 million dollars through an opaque but common process of civil forfeiture in 2013. That doesn’t even count more than $8 million in cash and property that’s considered “unclaimed.”

Since the administrative code governing forfeiture was written in 1881, several court rulings have modified the procedure. In 1972, the civil rights case of McClendon v. Rosetti established that the city had not been providing due process to predominantly poor and minority New Yorkers when pursuing civil forfeiture. The ruling called the 1881 admin code “unconstitutional” and asked for a lower court to lay out new procedures for the NYPD property clerk. In 1974, the lower court laid out those procedures, making clear that the property clerk must prove that the property was somehow connected to the alleged criminal activity.

Yet forty years later, property clerks still enforce the law arbitrarily. The federal monitor designated by the court’s decision in 1974 has expired, leaving no independent body with oversight over how the NYPD pursues civil forfeiture.

Guest – Attorney Molly Kovel, Legal Director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders. Her practice includes a wide variety of direct legal services and affirmative impact litigation—including representing plaintiffs in Ligon v. City of New York, one of three federal class actions against the NYPD challenging unconstitutional stop and frisk practices. She has represented clients in a wide variety of civil venues in matters related to the collateral consequences of arrests and prosecutions. She has also advised hundreds of clients about the employment and licensing consequences of their criminal records, as well as assisting them in applying for Certificates of Rehabilitation and correcting criminal record errors. She trains criminal defense attorneys, social service providers and community members in these matters.
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Anti-BDS Legislation In New York State

We recently discussed how Israel advocacy groups and state law makers who support them have introduced anti-BDS legislation in up to 21 across the United States of America, including the US Congress. Today we look closely at New York State.

The New York legislature has tried in the past year, without success, to pass laws protecting Israel against the boycotts, divestment and sanctions movement–or BDS–for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

In an unconstitutional move, given that the government may not penalize individuals or entities on the basis of free expression, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently issued an executive order directing all agencies under his jurisdiction to cease in dealing with companies and organizations that support BDS. The order calls for Cuomo’s commissioner to compile a list of institutions and companies that support a boycott of Israel. The list will be publicly posted.

Several organizations, including the National Lawyers Guild, Palestine Legal and CCR wrote in a legal memorandum critical of the anti-BDS bills pending in the New York legislature. More than 100 churches, human rights groups and legal organizations signed a letter to the New York legislature opposing the legislation, saying “it would chill and deter constitutionally protected speech by intimidating people from engaging in political actions for fear of being blacklisted.”

Guest – Dima Khalidi, founder and Director of Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Her work includes providing legal advice to activists, engaging in advocacy to protect their rights to speak out for Palestinian rights, and educating activists and the public about the repression of Palestine advocates.

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Rasmea Odeh Case Update

Over 100 people gathered in Detroit to support Rasmea Odeh as she, her attorneys, and the prosecution appeared before Judge Gershwin Drain for a status conference last week.
Lead attorney Michael Deutsch announced that a tentative date for a new trial has been set for January 10, 2017.

Rasmea was convicted in 2014 of a politically-motivated immigration charge, and sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation last year. In February of this year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Judge Drain, saying he had wrongfully barred the testimony of a torture expert that was critical to Rasmea’s defense. At the trial, Rasmea was not allowed to tell the entire story of Israel forcing her to falsely confess to alleged bombings in 1969, when she endured over three weeks of sexual, physical and psychological torture by the Israeli military.

Last week, the government called for a “Daubert Hearing,” to challenge the validity and admissibility of expert testimony (in this case, Fabri’s), and also requested to examine Rasmea with its own expert. If the hearing is granted by Judge Drain, it will happen on November 29 of this year, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Two other positive developments occurred. Deutsch asked to have Rasmea’s “burdensome reporting requirements” to probation authorities reduced from once a week to once a month. Judge Drain did not object, commenting that his earlier concerns about her being a flight risk “have been alleviated.” He also suggested he would be willing to ease travel restrictions and allow Rasmea to occasionally travel within the U.S. The government wants to speak to the probationary authorities before agreeing to the end of the travel ban.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch, 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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Why Does The IRS Need Guns?

There is a growing arsenal at paper pushing federal agencies with firearm and arrest authority that have expanded their arsenal since 2006, including the Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, NOAA, the Education Department, the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Smithsonian Institute.

Special agents at the IRS, for example, have AR-15 military style rifles and nearly 4,000 Dept. of Veterans Affairs personnel are armed.

Recently, the group American Transparency released an oversight report on the federal government’s purchase of guns, ammunition, and military-type equipment. More than $335 million was spent by agencies we traditionally think of as administrative or regulatory, such as the U.S. Mint or the Smithsonian Institution.

Guest – Adam Andrzejewski, in 2007, he founded For The Good of Illinois to educate, engage and empower citizens to demand transparency and accountability. He also founded the transparency website, www.openthebooks.com, and launched it by posting the salaries and pensions of all 1 million Illinois public employees (2011). Today, OpenTheBooks.com is the world’s largest private repository of public spending with 2.6 billion individually captured transactions from the federal government, 48/50 states and 36,000 local units of government across America. Read – Why Does The IRS Need Guns?

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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 June 13, 2016


Update:

  • Norman Seabrook, NYC Corrections Officer’s Union Head Arrested On Federal Corruption Charges.

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Native American Activist Leonard Peltier Clemency

As most listeners know, Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist convicted of killing two FBI special agents –Jack Coler and Ronald Williams—during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. He has spent over four decades in prison, despite the fact that prosecutors and federal agents manufactured evidence against him, suppressed evidence that would establish his innocence, presented false testimony obtained through harsh interrogation, defied court orders and perjured themselves to the jury. Numerous constitutional violations plagued Pelteri’s case, and many dignitaries, governments and international human rights organizations continue to call for his release. The Bush administration denied clemency to Peltier, and efforts are under way to urge President Obama to grant executive clemency before he leaves office.

Guest – Cynthia K. Dunne, is a former federal prosecutor who now directs a nonprofit that works with youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Cindy calls on United States President Barack Obama to grant clemency to AIM activist Leonard Peltier.

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Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence, and Identity

More and more it seems we hear of stories of wrongfully convicted persons being released after years, even decades, behind bars in the United States. Helping to secure their freedom are Innocence Projects across the nation, dedicated lawyers and years of painstaking work to uncover prosecutorial misconduct, false eyewitness identifications, or forensic mishaps. What we don’t hear, however, is how exonerated individuals piece their lives together after lengthy periods of incarceration. Award-winning journalist Alison Flowers has humanized four such persons in her book “Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence, and Identity.” Alison is a Social Justice News Nexus fellow and works at the invisible Institute in Chicago.

Guest – Alison Flowers is an award-winning investigative journalist who focuses on social justice and criminal justice. She is the author of “Exoneree Diaries: The Fight for Innocence, Independence and Identity” (Haymarket Books, 2016), and she contributed to the anthology “Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect?: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States.” In 2013, she produced a multimedia series about exonerees for Chicago Public Media and NPR affiliate WBEZ. The yearlong project was a finalist for a national Online Journalism Award.

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Law and Disorder June 6, 2016


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Lawyers You’ll Like : Attorney Jim Lafferty

Periodically we feature a segment on Law and Disorder called Lawyers You’ll Like. Our guest today is attorney Jim Lafferty.  Jim has been a lawyer and movement activist in Detroit, New York City, and Los Angeles since the 1960s when he served as executive director of the National Lawyers Guild and carried out civil rights work in the deep South. He was one of the national leaders of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.  He also headed up the very successful National Lawyers Guild chapter in Los Angeles for 25 years.

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

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American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes

World War II started on September 1, 1939 when fascist Germany attacked its neighbor Czechoslovakia.  By the end of the war six years later some 80 million people had died and the continent lay devastated. The first trials of 22 Nazi leaders, general’s and bankers wer organized by the victorious allies, America, Britain, Russia, France and took place in Nuremberg Germany.  19 were found guilty and executed.  Robert H Jackson, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court and Chief Prosecutor for United States and Nuremberg wrote then that “we must not forget that the record on which we judge the defendants today is a record in which we will be judged tomorrow.” A recent article –  Crimes of the War on Terror Should George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Others Be Jailed? 

Intentional war is the greatest of all crimes because it contains with it all the rest of horrible crimes. The United States of America’s intentional war against Iraq, which was motivated to the public with lies about weapons of mass destruction, and which has since spread to six other countries in the Middle East, has resulted in over 1 million deaths, driven millions more from their homes, and destroyed ancient peoples and their cultures.

The United States helped establish the international principles that guided the prosecution of war crimes when Nazi officials were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. But the American government and its legal system have consistently refused to apply the same principles to our own officials. In her book American Nuremberg, Rebecca Gordon indicts the officials who, in a just society, whould be put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  She acknowledges that the U.S. government is unlikely to do this and proposes an alternative based on the Russell Tribunals held in 1967 exposing American criminality in the war against Vietnam.

Guest – Rebecca Gordon received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.Div. and Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from Graduate Theological Union. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco and for the university’s Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People . Prior to her academic career, Gordon spent a few decades working in a variety of national and international movements for peace and justice. These include the movements for women’s liberation and LGBT rights; movements in solidarity with the struggles of poor people in Central America; the anti-apartheid movement in the United States and South Africa; and movements opposing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Law and Disorder May 30, 2016


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Remembering Michael Ratner

Hosts Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith remember Michael Ratner as cohost, activist, radical attorney, author and close friend. In this show, hosts reflect on Michael’s work and listen back to several monologue updates. They include his work as co-counsel for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the Dahiya Doctrine, SNAP- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, NSA survelliance in the Bahamas and Guantanamo Bay prisoner exchange.

Michael Ratner (1943-2016) was president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of Guantanamo: What the World Should Know. Michael worked for decades, as a crusader for human rights both at home and abroad litigating many cases against international human rights violators resulting in millions of dollars in judgments for abuse victims and expanding the possibilities of international law. He acted as a principal counsel in the successful suit to close the camp for HIV-positive Haitian refugees on Guantanamo Base, Cuba. Michael Ratner has litigated a dozen cases challenging a President’s authority to go to war, without congressional approval. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Center has focused its efforts on the constitutionality of indefinite detention and the restrictions on civil liberties as defined by the unfolding terms of a permanent war. Among his many honors were: Trial Lawyer of the Year from the Trial lawyers for Public Justice, The Columbia Law School Public Interest Law Foundation Award, and the North Star Community Frederick Douglass Award.

 

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Law and Disorder May 23, 2016


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A Full Life: James Connolly, The Irish Rebel

Executed by a British firing squad on May 12, 1916 for his role in organizing the Easter Rising, James Connolly was one of the most prominent radical organizers and agitators of his day. Born in Scotland in 1868 to Irish immigrant parents Connolly spent most of adult life organizing for labor unions and Socialist organizations in Ireland, Scotland and the United States. Despite attending school for only a few years, Connolly became a leading Socialist writer and theoretician, founding and editing newspapers including The Socialist Scotland, The Harp in the United States, and the Worker’s Republic in Ireland. As a labor organizer, Connolly stressed the importance of direct action, broad working class unity and a commitment to ending labor’s exploitation. As a Socialist agitator, Connolly saw economic and political independence as inextricably intertwined. The pamphlet, A Full Life: James Connolly, The Irish Rebel is the first graphic treatment on Connolly’s life. Its been issued on the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Guest – Paul Buhle, formerly a senior lecturer at Brown University, produces radical comics. He founded the SDS Journal Radical America and the archive Oral History of the American Left and, with Mari Jo Buhle, is coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Madison.
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Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band

Songs of Freedom is the name of the songbook initially edited by James Connolly and reedited by Mat Calahan and republished by PM Press. Connolly’s introduction is better known than the collection for which it was written contained in his oft quoted maxim “Until the movement is marked the joyous defiant singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement. It is the dogma of a few and not the faith of the multitude. Songs of Freedom is the celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary Socialist martyred by the British government for his role in the Eastern Rising of 1916. Songs of Freedom the CD, makes contemporary music out of old revolutionary songs. The band turns the timeless lyrics of James Connolly into timeless manifestos of today.

Guest – Mat Calahan is a musician and author originally from San Francisco, where he founded Komotion International. He is the author of three books, Sex, Death & the Angry Young Man, Testimony, and The Trouble With Music. He currently resides in Bern, Switzerland. http://www.matcallahan.com

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Law and Disorder May 9, 2016


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We at Law and Disorder mourn the passing of our friend, co-host and co-producer Michael Ratner on May 11, 2016. Michael’s radical legal and political analysis, and his enormous compassion, was a rarity in the field of legal affairs broadcasting.

We shall miss him dearly.

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Updates:

  • Co-host Michael Steven Smith Remembers Kent State Shootings May 4, 1970 and Jackson State University Shootings May 15, 1970.

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Discrediting the Red Scare: The Cold War Trials of James Kutcher, The Legless Veteran

Historian Robert Goldstein has just come out with the book “Discrediting the Red Scare: The Cold War Trials of James Kutcher, The Legless Veteran”. James Kutcher exposed some of the worst abuses of the red scare. His cases got massive publicity and contributed to the red scare’s demise and the discrediting of The Federal Employee Loyalty Program. Kutcher was a socialist in the 1930s and joined a small socialist organization. He was drafted shortly before American entry into World War II. He fought in north Africa and then Italy, where both of his legs were blown to pieces by a German mortar shell in 1943. After having both legs amputated and learning to walk with artificial limbs and two canes. In 1946,  Kutcher was hired in a menial position at the veterans administration as a file clerk with no access to national security information.

However, as a result of President Truman’s March 1947 Federal Employee Loyalty Program, and more specifically due to  the listing of Kutcher’s organization, the Socialist workers party, and the attorney generals list of subversive organizations mischaracterizing it as seeking to violently overthrow the government Kutcher was fired from his VA position. The government then sought to take away his World War II disability pension and then to evict him and his aged parents from there public housing project in Newark, New Jersey.

Goldstein’s book tells a dramatic story about a shy and timid person with true fortitude who fought for 10 years to establish his and all Americans’ constitutional rights to due process,freedom of speech and association.  Robert Goldstein tells the story of a true American hero.

Guest – Robert Justin Goldstein is emeritus professor of political science at Oakland University. His many books include Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson and American Blacklist: The Attorney Generals List of Subversive Organizations, both from Kansas.
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Saudi Arabia Threatens To Dump US Assets If Blamed For 911

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC and has written several books on the Middle East. She joins us to to talk about the alleged Saudi Arabian connection to 911 and Obama’s impending meeting with the Saudi Arabian king. The United States Congress is presently considering a bill to lift the sovereign immunity Saudi Arabia enjoys which protects their government from the pending wrongful death lawsuits brought by the families of the September 11, 2001 attack victims . Legislation to do this is backed by both Republicans and Democrats and opposed by the Obama administration.

The Saudi Arabian government has threatened, some have called it black mail, to dispose of the $750 billion in American assets, including treasury bonds, that it owns to protect itself if it’s sovereign immunity is lifted. Saudi Arabia along with Israel is America’s key ally in the Middle East.

Guest – Phyllis Bennis, directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She has been a writer, analyst, and activist on Middle East and UN issues for many years. In 2001 she helped found and remains on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. She works closely with the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, co-chairs the UN-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine, and since 2002 has played an active role in the growing global peace movement. She continues to serve as an adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

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Law and Disorder April 25, 2016


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Speaking In Turkish: Denying the Armenian Genocide

To commemorate this, the first genocide of the 20th century, Law and Disorder co-host Heidi Boghosian presents a 60-minute documentary special titled “Speaking In Turkish: Denying the Armenian Genocide.”

Around the world, April 24 marks the observance of the Armenian Genocide. On that day in 1915 the Interior Minister of the Ottoman Empire ordered the arrest and hangings of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. It was the beginning of a systematic and well-documented plan to eliminate the Armenians, who were Christian, and who had been under Ottoman rule and treated as second class citizens since the 15th century.

The unspeakable and gruesome nature of the killings—beheadings of groups of babies, dismemberments, mass burnings, mass drownings, use of toxic gas, lethal injections of morphine or injections with the blood of typhoid fever patients—render oral histories particularly difficult for survivors of the victims.

Why did this happen? Despite being deemed inferior to Turkish Muslims, the Armenian community had attained a prestigious position in the Ottoman Empire and the central authorities there grew apprehensive of their power and longing for a homeland. The concerted plan of deportation and extermination was effected, in large part, because World War I demanded the involvement and concern of potential allied countries. As the writer Grigoris Balakian wrote, the war provided the Turkish government “their sole opportunity, one unprecedented” to exploit the chaos of war in order to carry out their extermination plan.

As Armenians escaped to several countries, including the United States, a number came to New Britain, Connecticut in 1892 to work in the factories of what was then known as the hardware capital of the world. By 1940 nearly 3,000 Armenians lived there in a tight-knit community.

Pope Frances calls it a duty not to forget “the senseless slaughter” of an estimated one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it,” the Pope said just two weeks before the 100th anniversary of the systematic implementation of a plan to exterminate the Armenian race.

Special thanks to Jennie Garabedian, Arthur Sheverdian, Ruth Swisher, Harry Mazadoorian, and Roxie Maljanian. Produced and written by Heidi Boghosian and Geoff Brady.

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