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Law and Disorder October 13, 2014


Updates:

  • Mumia Spurs Bill To Block Publicity-Seeking Criminals (Son of Sam Law)
  • Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Files Historic Lawsuit Against Obama Over Force-Feeding

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Lawyers You’ll Like – Charlie Abourezk

As part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series, we talk with attorney Charles Abourezk about his work with the Native American community in South Dakota. Charles is a trial attorney, author and film maker. His documentary A Tattoo On My Heart: The Warriors of Wounded Knee 1973 is a gripping documentation of those American Indian men and women involved in the siege. Charles is the Chief Justice of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Supreme Court, he’s also member of South Dakota Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He’s the son of James George Abourezk, former Democratic United States Representative and United States Senator where he was generally viewed as critical of US foreign policy in Israel and Palestinian.

Attorney Charlie Abourezk:

  • The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is the second largest tribe in South Dakota. There are nine total tribal governments in the state. It’s where I grew up.
  • I spent most of my adult life on the Pine Ridge Reservation which has been the poorest county in the United States.
  • I went to law school, long after I worked for a number of Indian organizations including a Native American NGO that worked at the UN in Category 2 status.
  • The Pine Ridge Reservation is the second largest reservation in the United States, located in south western South Dakota. It’s a huge land mass, takes about an hour and a half to drive diagonally across the reservation. There’s very little economy. The geography is very poor, it lends itself to cattle grazing but not much in terms of raising crops.
  • Wounded Knee was the site of the 1890 massacre in which almost 300 American Indians from several different tribes were killed by the U.S. Army. They were surrounded and essentially murdered on that spot.
  • So, in 1973, there had been a lot of racial discrimination and racially motivated killings of Indian people, the American Indian Movement returned and joined forces with the traditional people who had long been neglected on the reservation.
  • As a result they decided to engage in a protest. They chose the site of the massacre at Wounded Knee, to stage that protest.
  • They set up sort of a line there, with the government and US Marshalls, along with Dick Wilson’s followers who were armed and were called the goon squad and formed the other side of that line. The siege lasted 71 days.
  • It finally dismantled and number of people were prosecuted as a result of that.
  • At Wounded Knee, two Indian people killed and one Marshall wounded.
  • We set up a recording studio right at the Wounded Knee school, and just took people’s stories. I did the interviews, they were really powerful. There were some stories that didn’t fit with the arc of the film but were incredible. I’m glad I documented it then, because I think of the people in the documentary, 7 or 8 have now passed away.
  • I continue to be a strong advocate for tribal sovereignty, self determination and the rights of individuals especially within the dynamic of racial discrimination which at times in South Dakota have been as bad as the south is toward African Americans.
  • I helped affirm and preserve the boundaries of the Yankton Sioux Reservation, that went up to the Supreme Court twice. I was the lead council when it finally concluded, we were able to win that one.
  • I was a former Supreme Court Justice on the Pine Ridge Reservation for their Supreme Court and I retired from that position.
  • Except for limited jurisdiction the Federal Government had on criminal matters, the civil jurisdiction for incidents which occur within the reservation lie with the tribal court as do criminal misdemeanors for tribal members and non tribal members meaning Indians from other tribes that happen to be living on the reservation.
  • In the Native American view you can’t really have winners and losers, you have to try to restore the harmony or the balance within the tribe.
  • The American government adopted the British style of colonialism as did the Israelis when they began to colonize parts of Palestine. It kind of goes in 4 steps.
  • A disruption of traditional agriculture and food gathering, which out here was done in two ways, killing off the buffalo and secondly constraining them from moving around in a wide arc for hunting and gathering – by putting them on the reservation they stopped that.
  • Transfer commonly owned land into private ownership, to turn land into a commodity that can be bought and sold. They did that through what’s called the Daws Act or the Allotment Act in the late 1800s.
  • Theodore Roosevelt called that act a “might pulverizing machine” with which to break up the tribal mass.
  • The third step was to develop a native ruling elite. In this case they first developed “paper chiefs” then in the 1930s developed modern tribal government.
  • Last step, develop an educated elite. Of course any colonizer anywhere, that’s the step that always back fires.
  • The American Indian Movement was born from the children of the parents who were relocated into cities trained as workers.
  • They were the ones who came back home and joined forces with the traditional people and stood up against racism and in favor of tribal sovereignty and tribal self determination.
  • You see many parallels with that and what’s happening to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  Dr William Julius Wilson

Guest – Charlie Abourezk, from Rapid City, South Dakota and is a trial attorney, longtime activist and community organizer in the native American community in South Dakota.   He is also a documentary film maker, his most recent is the feature length documentary “A Tattoo On My Heart: The Warriors of Wounded Knee 1973” which played on public television stations around the United States. He is the current Chief Justice of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Supreme Court and a member of the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights. His client base is made up largely of Native Americans, tribal schools and Indian tribal governments, but he also represents plaintiffs in civil rights litigation. He will have a book coming out this next year entitled “A Mighty Pulverizing Machine: The Continuing Colonization of American Indians.”

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 From Guantanamo to Wikileaks: Taking on the State In a Post 9/11 World.

Our own Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), past president, National Lawyers Guild; Chair, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights delivered a talk last week titled ‘From Guantanamo to Wikileaks: Taking on the State In a Post 9/11 World.’  Michael was honored with a PathMaker to Peace Award by the Brooklyn For Peace Organization for his consistent work in litigation against government spying and surveillance of activists including the targeting of Muslims particularly after 9/11.

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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Law and Disorder September 29, 2014


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An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

In the United States today, there are more than 500 federally recognized indigenous communities and nations comprising nearly three million people. These are the descendants of the 15 million people who once inhabited this land and are the subject of the latest book by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the indigenous peoples was genocidal and imperialist—designed to crush the original inhabitants. Spanning more than 300 years, this classic bottom-up history significantly reframes how we view our past. Told from the viewpoint of the indigenous, it reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the U.S. empire.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

  • It’s absolutely necessary to know this history of settler colonialism and how it effects consciousness today of U.S. people and in the world because everyone is convinced of this myth of the United States and somehow its always going off the path of this destiny that has never been true in the first place.
  • It’s like a fairy tale except its extremely deadly and dangerous.
  • Other countries have romantic myths as their form of nationalism but they don’t control the world with this ideology.
  • The myth is that it was a birth of settler democracy but we know from apartheid South Africa, we know from colonialism, particularly settler colonialism such as Israel.
  • There are so many parallels with Israel because the Puritans and this became embedded in all settlers, had this idea of the new Jerusalem of Zion. They used that terminology.
  • That God had given them this land to settle, it wasn’t just a right it was a responsibility to destiny, to the world.
  • This made the native farmer and fisherman, ordinary people like other people in the world into savages and monsters, sort of like the Israelis to do the Palestinians today.
  • Throughout the book I have a theme of the militarism and the counterinsurgency that attacks civilians and a food fight they call it, burns the food, supplies, the crops, burns the houses of the people in their towns, creates refugees. This then becomes the pattern.
  • Every generation there is this Indian war. Vietnam looked like an Indian war, even the language they use – indian country for enemy territory, all of the weapons they name after native people.
  • This is not how we think of the United States, supposedly a civilian country, the military is always under control of civilians but that civilian president is commander and chief of the armed forces.
  • There’s also a theory, the Bering Strait the one entrance to the whole continent, which is absurd because all of the people on the coast were great seafaring people.
  • A part of European imperialism say as the beginning of everything that it connected people up. Actually what it did was separate people each other and their tradition.
  • My specialization is the southwest and central Mexico, Central America. I knew there were complex trade routes and roads all over the place, irrigation canals, how they developed agriculture.
  • The first chapter, Follow the Corn, I did just that. I followed out of Mexico, the dispersion of corn agriculture all the way to Tierra Del Fuego to the sub Arctic and coast to coast.
  • What you find in the Americas is when they get to the point of abusing the environment and become dictatorial, there tends to be revolts to overthrow, that was happening when Cortez came to Mexico.
  • The Quetzalcoatl cult that took over the Aztec government became abusive and was doing slave raiding. Had done a wonderful job of dispersing trade routes. Cortez simply allied with the rebels and overthrew the central government.
  • Course they couldn’t know his intentions of simply wiping out their civilization.
  • When British colonialism came to North America with these peculiar characteristics of the puritan ideology settling in. With 2 centuries of settler colonialism they developed this idea of ownership.
  • It went from owning human beings to the idea of owning the land.
  • George Washington was a surveyor and you have to ask why was such a super wealthy – a lowly surveyor?
  • Surveyors got to choose the best land, and got to mark it up. They had already developed this idea of a Platte, creating territories that would then become states once they had a majority settler population.
  • That’s why it took so long for Oklahoma, Oklahoma was the 47th state, New Mexico, Arizona, these places that had a majority native population.
  • It was rough being native in the United States, it still is. I grew up in Canadian county Oklahoma, my dad sharecropped, and was a tenant farmer throughout that area until the depression wiped it out.
  • The people went to California as refugees.
  • I’m cautious about the identity because native nationalism Cherokee or Onondaga or Shawnee or Creek Muskogee
  • There was an instance in 1917, I think its one of the most important moments in US history and hardly anyone knows about it. Jack Womack and I had written about it Monthly Review, it was called the Green Corn Rebellion.
  • That is the main demand, land base, nationhood, the ability to prosper and exist as people, not just as individuals being assimilated out, that’s another form of genocide.

Guest – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,  grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a farmer and half-Indian mother. She has been active in the American Indian Movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University and helped found the departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indians in the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. She is the author or editor of seven books.

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Academic Freedom Case: Professor Steven Salaita

Last Thursday the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees rejected Professor Steven Salaita’s candidacy for a tenured faculty appointment to the American Indian studies program.  Initially we reported here on Law and Disorder that Professor Salaita was essentially dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. Emails within the University revealed under Freedom of Information Act Requests show that it was outside pressure from donors that influenced the University of Illinois Chancellor’s decision to dehire Salaita.

Professor Steven Salaita:

  • I received the job offer at the end of September 2013, the first offer was for me to begin on June 2014 but because of my obligations to Virgina Tech and short time for moving we pushed it back to mid August.
  • Everything was good to go, we set up movers, my classes were ready to teach they had been assigned to me. I ordered my textbooks, on August 2, I received a letter from the chancellor Phyllis Wise, telling me the termination was going to be withdrawn, so it left me scrambling for what to do, because I already resigned my position at Virginia Tech.
  • So all of a sudden I didn’t have a job, at Illinois or Virginia Tech.
  • Publicly released documents indicate that donor pressure played a large role in it.
  • There’s been some consternation about my tweets about Operation Protective Edge, that’s Israel’s recent invasion of the Gaza Strip and I think that had a lot to do with the donor pressure.
  • I think the university is pressing this idea of incivility in social media.
  • I think one of the saddest parts of the whole affair is that I hadn’t had the opportunity to join them and become their colleague and work with them (Professors at the American Indian Studies Department) and they’ve been terrific throughout this entire affair.
  • Academic hiring happens at the level of faculty, it happens at the level of department and search committees within departments will choose the hire, sometimes the entire department has to sign off on it.
  • Then it gets kicked up the dean, then it will get kicked up to the provost or chancellor for their approval, that’s what we call democratic governance on campus.
  • It’s kind of an allegory of the position of American Indian nations in the United States and Canada. They’re seen as not being able to make their own autonomous decisions. They’re not allowed to articulate their own practices of sovereignty without the oversight of authorities above them.
  • The discourse they used in firing me is remarkable. To describe somebody who has been hired by an American Indian Studies Department as uncivil draws on hundreds of years of colonial discourse that I find shocking.
  • It’s an allegory of history and politics that exist in microcosmic form within the framework of the University of Illinois.
  • In this case civility means acquiescence to power, and incivility equates to dissent.
  • In lots of ways my case has become something of an avatar, a flashpoint for people’s grievances.
  • I could really easily be identified with BDS and I think within the past year, 2 things have happened that have caused Zionists to step up their game around this issue. One is the string of boycott resolutions that have been ratified by scholarly organizations by labor unions, by civil rights groups, by churches.
  • I think the response to it is not engage on the issues, not to have conversations or debates about the issues but to shut down our side altogether. They don’t want to have debates, they want a silence.
  • They don’t want to engage in conversation they want the discussion to be unilateral.
  • Support Steven Salaita

 Guest – Professor Steven Salaita,  former associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of six books and writes frequently about Arab Americans, Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and decolonization. His current book project is entitled Images of Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Obama.Steven grew up in Bluefield, Virginia, to a mother from Nicaragua (by way of Palestine) and a father from Madaba, Jordan.  Books by Salaita

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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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Law and Disorder September 8, 2014


Updates:

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University of Illinois Chancellor Wise Going Forward With Salaita Appointment To Board of Trustees Vote

Last month, the University of Illinois rescinded the job offer of Professor Steven Salaita who wrote controversial social media posts about the war in Gaza. This raised serious concerns under established principles of academic freedom. Professor Salaita was basically dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. We reported weeks ago on Law and Disorder that scholars from law schools around the country came out with a very strong letter condemning the decision of the University of Illinois to dehire Professor Salaita.  FOIA Email Link

Professor Katherine Franke:

  • Professor Steven Salaita until recently was a tenured professor at Virgina Tech and was well known in English departments across the country and also among scholars who worked in colonialism and post colonialism studies. He developed a really rich body of work thinking about Native American rights, native people’s rights in the United States and connecting them to Palestinian rights in particular internationally.
  • Read Professor Katherine Franke’s second letter here.
  • He was a well sought after scholar and was hired by the University of Illinois in their American Indian Studies program in a process that started last fall.
  • The department unanimously voted him an offer and this summer the university started to get pressure from outside donors, some of their alums and advocacy groups to not finalize the offer because of some tweets Professor Salaita sent out over the summer related to the Israeli attacks in Gaza.
  • The emails to the chancellor were released showing that large six figure donors had seen those tweets or learned of them and said you cannot hire this guy or I will withdraw my future giving to the universities.
  • So, the chancellor let Steven know that she was not going to finalize his offer even though they already negotiated his teaching schedule, he’s already rented an apartment, they had already negotiated his moving expenses.
  • Right now he has no job, no income, no where to live.
  • It’s the most recent iteration of what has been a rather well organized, well financed campaign in the United States in particular to purge the academy of scholars and even graduate students who are doing work that is either sympathetic to the idea of Palestinian sovereignty or rights or critical of Israeli state policy particularly the occupation.
  • It was so obviously a violation of the fundamental right of academic freedom.
  • I’ve only learned of his scholarship as a result of this campaign and his termination from the University of Illinois.
  • I explain to Chancellor Wise in the letter that I sent, that not only will I not come to the university to speak in an official capacity but I will come to Urbana-Champaign and meet off campus with faculty and students, and members of the communities about these issues of academic freedom.
  • Their strategy has been to portray any criticism of Israeli state policy or any criticism of political Zionism as uncivil or as a form of hate speech, but more importantly to appeal to a civility norm. That its not nice. That it creates an unwelcome learning environment for students, particularly jewish students.
  • To see her parroting that language (Chancellor Wise) and for Chris Kennedy to parrot that language says to me that they’ve been reached by these organized operatives from the outside about how to message this termination.
  • I don’t believe there is a civility norm at stake here and I think we actually shouldn’t have one in a university setting. We ought to take on uncivil ideas, ideas that are troubling, that are uncomfortable and unpack them in thoughtful scholarly ways.
  • As these emails are coming out under the Freedom of Information Act Requests over the last few days its quite clear that civility is not what underwrote the decision to terminate him. It was really outside pressure from donors.

Guest – Katherine Franke,  Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is among the nation’s leading scholars in the area of feminism, sexuality and race. In addition to her scholarly writing on sexual harassment, gender equality, sexual rights, and racial history, she writes regularly for a more popular audience in the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog. Franke is also on the Executive Committee for Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Center for Palestine Studies and teaches at a medium security women’s prison in Manhattan. Her legal career began as a civil rights lawyer, first specializing in HIV discrimination cases and then race and sex cases more generally. In the last 25 years she has authored briefs in cases addressing HIV discrimination, forced sterilization, same-sex sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and transgender discrimination in the Supreme Court and other lower courts.
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The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

In June of this year, the United States sent more troops to Iraq and carried out airstrikes to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS into the Kurdish capitol Erbil. However, a more complicated situation has developed in Syria. The U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is also the goal of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. ISIS’s membership is between 10 and 17 thousand.  We talk today with veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn about his new book The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, about the origins of ISIS. We’ll also talk about the role of Saudi Arabia in the larger picture and in funding part of the Sunni terrorist groups, which was exposed by Wikileaks.

Patrick Cockburn:

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has turned into the new caliphate in western-northern Iraq and western Syria. It has come out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
  • This organization that was linked to Al-Qaeda but not formed by Al-Qaeda after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is very anti-Shia, Sunni fundamentalist is extremely violent.
  • What makes it so effective is its a mixture of religious fanaticism and military efficiency.
  • Some of the senior people of ISIS are former security officers and special republican guard officers from Saddam Hussein’s time.
  • ISIS is led by a core of people who fought the U.S. in Iraq, fought the Iraqi Army, this is after 2003 and then after 2011 fought in Syria.
  • So, it’s quite an experienced group.
  • It had been growing stronger in Iraq over the last 3 years. It launched a series of campaigns, one of which to break its members out of prison.
  • It had taken over quite big territory in Iraq then it had moved into Syria.
  • It’s present in both countries, but its main effort was in Iraq this year.
  • It always had strength in Mosul City, even though the Iraqi Army was in theoretically in charge but it would still levy protection money on people.
  • Maybe 8 million dollars a month. I know contract men there paying half a million dollars a month.
  • It’s final take over was swift and devastating. I can’t think of an example in history when 350 thousand men in the Iraqi Army,  650 thousand police simply disintegrated under an attack from under 3000 ISIS fighters.
  • What really changed in 2011 when you had the uprising in Syria, primarily the Sunni Arabs of Syria, Iraq politicians said it would spill over into Iraq.
  • The U.S. and its allies to a substantial degree were responsible for this. They backed the uprising against Assad. Even when it was apparent in the last 2 years that Assad wasn’t going to go.
  • Wahhabism is the Islamic variant practiced in Saudi Arabia.
  • There’s always been an alliance over the last 300 years between the preachers of this very puritanical, fanatical, violent and bigoted variant of Islam and the House of Saud.
  • What they believe is not that much different from what ISIS believes. It’s very anti-Shia, the Shia seen as heretics worthy of death. It’s anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and deeply intolerant.
  • Without the policies of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there wouldn’t have been a 911.
  • Bin Laden was part of the a Saudi elite.
  • Rather amazingly, the Saudis were let off scott-free.
  • Kuwait has been a major financial supporter of the Jihadis, so has UAE, so has Qatar, the gulf monarchies as a whole if you like and so has Turkey.
  • The problem with Obama and the U.S. is they have to decide what side they’re on.  In Iraq, they’re supporting the government against ISIS, they’re supporting the Kurds against ISIS.
  • But in Syria, the main opponent of ISIS is the Assad government but the U.S. policy is to weaken and displace that government.
  • In a way, (the U.S. policy actually assists ISIS)

Guest – Patrick Cockburn is currently Middle East correspondent for The Independent and worked previously for the Financial Times. He has written three books on Iraq’s recent history as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009.

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Law and Disorder June 9, 2014


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Exchange
  • Five Taliban In Exchange For A U.S. Prisoner Held In Afghanistan
  • 149 Detainees Left In Guantanamo Prison – 88 Cleared For Release
  • Michael Smith Reports Back On Highlights At the 2014 Left Forum

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9/11 Memorial Museum Protests

There were many protests during the official opening of the 911 Memorial Museum. Muslim communities and other groups have voiced concern about the film in the musuem titled  “The Rise of Al-Qaeda” and how it fails to adequately discern between Al-Qaeda and those of the Islamic faith. Meanwhile, the museum’s official response is that the film is objectively telling the story of what happened.

Donna Nevel:

  • We came together because of a concern about a video they were showing called The Rise of al-Qaeda. It’s a 7 minute documentary and the concern is about the problematic language that its using. It makes it seem as if the acts of 9-11 are equated with Islam.
  • Our feeling is that the film needs to be edited and could exacerbate an already anti-Muslim climate.
  • Quoting criticism – The film in its current state presented risks that visitors would assign collective responsibility for September 11th to Islam and all Muslims.
  • There’s a historian Todd Fine who says its an inconsistent array of terminology that gets carelessly thrown around with little concern for the harmful impact it can have on people.
  • The video didn’t do enough to separate al-Qaeda from Islam and from mainstream Islam. It’s reckless.
  • Despite the fact that the own museum’s own advisory board was instantly concerned when they saw the film and said it should be reviewed and edited – despite the fact that 400 scholars wrote letters saying it contains problematic and contested terminology that conflates terrorism with Islam – and despite the fact that leaders from so many different inter-faith communities have spoken out about this – that the museum continues to stand by its decision not to edit the video – is astonishing.
  • I was doing a little research on her (Debra Burlingame-on 911 Memorial Museum Board of Directors) and there’s a high number of racist quotes she’s said. “Islam’s a transnational threat.”
  • Millions and millions of people will be going to this museum and museums can have a big impact.
  • We have to remember that this is in the context not of a society that welcomes and embraces the Muslim community but one that’s surveilling the Muslim community.
  • It’s feeding into this notion that all Muslims are responsible for the acts of a few individuals.
  • This video also feeds into police surveillance because what do they say? After 911 we have to be more vigilant and that means surveilling an entire community.
  • Communities are coming together and speaking out, including about this video.
  • We have to change the structures that enable this to happen. The Islamophobes are really problematic and have connections to some of the institutions.
  • We have to make sure our institutions are fomenting Islamophobia.
  • Book – Islamophobia and Israel by Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel
  • We wanted to analyze the intersection of Islamophobia and Israeli politics and to look at the way the “war on terror” impacts both. Also to raise an issue that’s basically taboo in the Jewish community as well as outside the Jewish community.
  • We have 4 different areas that we look at. Our lengthiest area is “follow the money” where you basically see how connected the Islamophobes are with right-wing Israel crowd, the settlement movement and others as well.
  • Jews Against Islamophobia / Jews Say No / Jewish Voices For Peace / Jews For Racial and Economic Justice
  • Contact Donna Nevel – denevel(at)gmail(dot).com

Guest – Donna Nevel, a community psychologist, educator, and writer whose work is rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR) and popular education. Co-author with Elly Bulkin of Islamophobia and Israel.  She has been involved with a wide range of organizing efforts to challenge segregation and inequality and further equity and racial justice in public education. She has also been a long-time organizer for Palestinian-Israeli peace and justice and works with groups to challenge Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.

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Free Flow of Information Act (Journalist Shield Law)

Current shield laws for journalists in the United States have broad exceptions for national security. This means that a prosecutor can override the law by showing how the information sought would “materially assist” the government in “preventing” or “mitigating” an act of terrorism. Initially, the shield law is set up to provide a confidentiality privilege for journalists so a police officer or FBI agent can’t get that information even with a court order unless there is an unusually strong justification for it. The latest version of the shield law as of September 2013 has a clause telling judges that it only covers legitimate news gathering. This of course makes very easy to declare any kind of news gathering you don’t like as illegitimate, and therefore the sources are not protected. Last month, the House of Representatives voted to approve an amendment to an appropriations bill barring the Justice Department from compelling reporters to testify about confidential sources.

Carey Shenkman:

  • We are going to get a shield law but its going to be one that doesn’t protect any journalists or sources.
  • It’s a lot easier for the FBI and the DOJ to just skip the investigation and go straight to the reporters. Why do they have to any work when they have the journalist getting all the sources for them.
  • They subpoenaed records from the Associated Press last summer, they subpoenaed the source for James Risen who wrote a book and that actually appeared before the 4th Circuit of Appeals and was turned down by the Supreme Court for review.
  • There’s been a push to try and pass a shield law before but Obama back in 2009 said he wouldn’t let any shield law pass that didn’t have a big national security exemption.
  • What happened back in September is that there was a massive compromise with 2 Senators, Diane Feinstein from California and Dick Durbin from Illinois. They wouldn’t let this law go through unless it contained a big national security exception. Meaning any reporter covering national security would have to disclose their sources, and second it had a big exclusion for wikileaks and other organizations that published leaks.
  • There’s actually a balancing test as part of this law that tells judges to consider if a journalist is engaged in legitimate news gathering. This is problematic because anyone can be a journalist, this has been the case since the founding of this country.
  • They’re trying to put into law the fact that some journalists are legitimate and some are illegitimate.
  • The internet has brought this country back to the time of its founding in terms of journalism because when the “press clause” in the First Amendment were passed, anyone could be a journalist.
  • The “press clause” was defined as the right to publish.
  • I believe we do need shield laws, but not this shield law.
  • I think there is a big push by the institutional media to keep journalism as a profession, but that’s not what journalism is. Now with the internet, anyone can publish. As long as anyone as the intention to disseminate information, they should be protected as a journalist.
  • When it helps the government the definition of the media is very broad.
  • It’s going to be political suicide if Holder or anyone from the Obama administration pushes to send James Risen to jail.
  • The DOJ argued in an affidavit that James Rosen was aiding and abetting his source.
  • More and more, we’re seeing this administration trying to frame the news gatherer and the source, not as a journalist and a source but as criminals in a conspiracy.
  • I was a radio journalist for 3 years. I used to work at the Center for Constitutional Rights where I met Michael Ratner and was involved with Chelsea Manning’s trial.

Guest – Carey Shenkman, has worked with several legal teams including Chelsea Manning’s defense, and legal research defining  the protection of new media under the Bill of Rights and The U.S. Constitution.  

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Law and Disorder May 12, 2014


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The Muslims Are Coming

Since the so called war on terror, thousands of innocent Muslims have been entrapped, surveilled, and their communities infiltrated while spending untold resources in search for the radicalized terrorist. In Arun Kundnani’s recent book titled the Muslims Are Coming, he carefully looks at the ideologies and strategies of law enforcement used to create the domestic war on terror. He unveils the disturbing processes of radicalization theories and racial profiling followed by law enforcement.

Arun Kundnani:

  • There wasn’t any reflection of what the political causes might be of 9/11 or the political context that might give rise to Al-Qaeda.
  • That discussion was basically censored at least in the United States.
  • The war on terror has basically failed.
  • Radicalization is the chief lens that security officials in Western government lock up Muslim populations.
  • The idea of radicalization is that there’s this kind of ideology out there that turns ordinary Muslims into terrorists.
  • The FBI and the police department both have the same model of radicalization which they claim tells you the process that someone goes through from being an ordinary member of the public to becoming a terrorist.
  • Within that there are various indicators such as behavior or things that people might say or believe that are supposed to be signs that someone is traveling on this path to becoming a terrorist.
  • This provides the basis for the very aggressive practice of surveillance that we’ve seen from both of those law enforcement agencies.
  • It enables them to have a frame of reference to intervene within Muslim populations within the United States, to tackle the ideology that they see is the root driver for this.
  • There are 4 stages in this model. Growing a beard, wearing Islamic clothing, changing the mosque that you attend, being active in a pro-Muslim in a social or political group.
  • They often correspond to expression of political opinion.
  • The FBI as of 2008 had 15,000 paid informants on its books. That’s a huge number given that half of the FBI’s budget is given to counter-terrorism. The sting operations using informants are the key method of dealing with this.
  • The Stasi in Germany had one spy for every 66 East German citizens. It’s that kind of ratio that you can talk about a totalitarian system of surveillance.
  • Muslims in America are probably experiencing the same level of surveillance that East Germans faced under the Stasi.
  • The liberal take on the war on terror is not the same as the neoconservative take.
  • As a Muslim you’re potentially bad and you need to prove that you’re not by the kind of ideology you express. That’s characterized the Obama period in the war on terror.
  • The way that the word terrorism or the word extremism or radicalization works is that is serves to criminalize and demonize people who have radical political opinion, irrespective if they’re involved in any kind of violence.
  • The structures of surveillance that have been set up in the war on terror, get recycled for all kinds of other purposes.

Guest – Arun Kundnani writes about race, Islamophobia, political violence, and surveillance. His latest book The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror was published by Verso Books in March 2014. Born and bred in London, he moved to New York in 2010 on a fellowship with the Open Society Foundations and now lives in Harlem. He is the author of The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain, which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year in 2007. A former editor of the journal Race & Class, he was miseducated at Cambridge University, holds a PhD from London Metropolitan University, and teaches at New York University

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Ukraine’s Neo Nazis

We look at Ukraine’s neo-Nazis and Stepan Bandera and the legacy of World War II. Every important ministry in the Ukraine is now held by ultra-nationalists. The Ministry of Education, social policy, policing, prosecution and national defense are all headed up by people whose party is a direct descendant of the Stepan Bandera movement in the Ukraine during World War II. Bandera and his movement were responsible for the genocide of more than 500 thousand including Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. This fact is played down by the U.S. government, the mainstream media in the United States, the state of Israel and its defenders amongst the Jewish establishment including Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.

Joel Kovel:

  • I think its important to recognize this utterly illegitimate US puppet government I think in large part because it doesn’t have any standing for the Ukrainian people as a whole – has to be defended by neo-Nazi elements which aren’t enormously plentiful, but plentiful enough and they will do the bidding of their masters.
  • It started (Odessa, Ukraine) as a quarrel in a soccer stadium, and moved to Odessa. Odessa is an extremely important town it was one of the centers of world Jewish culture for a long time, still has 30 thousand Jews in it.
  • The Ukrainian loyalists overwhelmed the other people and drove them into this building, they set fires within the building which led to a hideous massacre.
  • One on one violence but also people jumping out of the windows, smoke inhalation.
  • Watching it on youtube you saw the total savagery and unspeakable brutality of these thugs, they were laughing, having the time of their lives.
  • There were police around, military around, they did nothing to stop this.
  • Utterly mystified and denied by the mainstream media, including the main springs thereof, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times.
  • My parents were both born in the Ukraine. In the early years of the last century, one third of the Jews in the world lived in the Ukraine.
  • You have a blood strewn, contentious history marked by an enormous amount of hatred and vindictiveness. I think all nationalisms are pathological frankly.
  • Ukrainian nationalism was particularly virulent. We’re dealing with another brand of ultra-nationalism with the state of Israel, and they’re not unconnected with all this.
  • Fascism being a right wing alliance between large bourgeois and nationalist forces using some kind of mythic or racist ideology to legitimate itself.
  • Ukraine: there’s never been a solid national identity there’s a tremendous complex mixture of things.
  • There’s a book called Organized Antisemitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology.
  • Of course the US thinks they’re manipulating the puppets so they can control them. You go down that road, there’s going to be a lot of tragedies as the puppet turns on the master.
  • The number of Rabbis quoted as saying we’re getting ready to evacuate, we have plans. We’re ready to go in a half an hour. We’re afraid its going to happen again. Meanwhile, this Foxman is saying, don’t worry.
  • New York Times had a headline about 3 or 4 weeks ago how this was all overblown Ukraine’s Jews say that Putin not antisemitism is the problem.
  • That’s the headline in the New York Times. How could they do that?
  • We need a massive onslaught against the program of lies and deception that is being waged by our national media in total lockstep with the imperial interest of the United States. I’ve never in my life seen journalism sink to such an abyss as it has and in the very least this is a front that we can occupy.
  • It means a lot because the American don’t want this to be happening. This is something that our power system. One front is the ruthless critique of the media and the lies that our government is putting out.

Guest- Joel Kovel, scholar and an activist. In the former capacity he has published nine books and over a hundred articles and reviews. His books include White Racism, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972; A Complete Guide to Therapy; The Age of Desire (in which his work in the psychiatric-psychoanalytic system is detailed); Against the State of Nuclear Terror; In Nicaragua; The Radical Spirit; History and Spirit(1991) – Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism

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Law and Disorder March 10, 2014


Updates:

 

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NJ Federal Court Dismisses NYPD Spying On Muslims Case

We take a look into the failed lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s broad surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. As listeners may know the case Hassan v City of New York brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates was dismissed last month. Since 2002, the NYPD spied outside its jurisdiction on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. The monitoring included using racial and ethnic profiling systems, video surveillance, photographing, community mapping and infiltration.

Professor Deepa Kumar:

  • It was very troubling for me too Michael. At Rutgers where I teach, we found out that the NYPD had a safe house just off of our New Brunswick campus.
  • It’s really troubling that student groups on my campus not to mention grade schools and Muslim book stores and community centers have been invaded.
  • It’s created a chilling sentiment among the Muslim community. People self-censor, they’re afraid that what they say will be used against them in entrapment cases.
  • This decision by this judge is completely stunning. The logic that he puts forward and I’m reading from his ten page report. He says “the police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. The motive for the program was not solely apparently to discriminate against Muslims but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary law abiding Muslims.”
  • If you examine what he says, the notion that there are terrorists in the Muslim community, therefore its alright to go out and spy on them.
  • It’s based on the notion that somehow Islam serves to radicalize Muslim Americans into performing political violence.
  • This program has been active since 2002, but there hasn’t been one terrorism related lead, let alone any kind of conviction.
  • Since the events of 9/11 there have been all sorts of pseudo-scientific attempts to show that somehow the religion Islam creates political violence.
  • If you look at Hamas, the group in Palestine, they’ve gone to the Quran to justify violence as well as to justify cease fire.
  • It’s politics really as the key reason why people turn to violence and so to somehow blame Islam, this is a form of cultural racism.
  • What this means is that the NYPD can go around with impunity and spy on religion minorities, not just in New York City, but in New Jersey, in Connecticut.
  • It sends a green light to other police departments across the country as well as the FBI which has similar programs.
  • He (Judge Martini) justified his ruling referring to a case in the Supreme Court. I think we have a lot of work to do ahead of us in pushing back against this racist logic.
  • Some people claim that there isn’t racism against Muslims because Muslims aren’t a race.
  • There’s tremendous variation between human to human in terms of our genetic make up and 85 percent of this variation occurs within a so called race.
  • Why are we calling it racism? Because its a form of cultural racism, because its based on the premise that Islam somehow creates an ideology, it creates a culture that programs people to act in violent ways.
  • The reason why people turn to violence often is because peaceful movements failed.
  • I’m currently working on a book on the cultural logic of the national security state.
  • If you look the campaigns If You See Something, Say Something. What’s being asked of you is to become an agent of state surveillance.

Guest – Deepa Kumar, an Associate Professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. Her work is driven by an active engagement with the key issues that characterize our era–neoliberalism and imperialism. Her latest book is Islamophobia and The Politics of Empire by Haymarket Books and is in response to the events of 9/11, the Bush administration launched a “war on terror,” ushering in an era of anti-Muslim racism, or Islamophobia.  Her first book, Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike (University of Illinois Press, 2007), is about the power of collective struggle in effectively challenging the priorities of neoliberalism.

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Net Neutrality – Time Warner/Comcast Merger

A merger of media cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable threatens net neutrality. Comcast intends to take over Time Warner for more than 44 billion dollars in stock. This proposed merger would unite the nation’s largest cable TV and internet service provider with the second largest cable company. If combined, these companies would offer service to two thirds of U.S. households. The deal must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department and the FCC.

Attorney Matt Wood:

  • What we would have here is a 45 billion dollar deal combining the nation’s largest and second largest cable company.
  • They face some competition especially from video from satellite providers.
  • The place where they don’t face competition at all is on the broadband platform.
  • This deal would strengthen them both in their cable TV programming dominance and on the broadband side too.
  • You’d have one company that reaches two thirds of the country and its the only option some people have for advanced communications services, putting video and broadband together.
  • That would give tremendous power of everything we see on both TV and online. Comcast is already a must have for any independent programmer.
  • For even web providers such as Netflix.
  • Even without that horizontal competition today between Comcast and Time Warner cable this is not good news for the American people, for free expression, for lower prices, for anything we care about.
  • Net-neutrality means preventing unreasonable discrimination against content.
  • Verizon went to court and had these net neutrality rules struck down that the FCC put forward.
  • They (Verizon) said they internet is really like a newspaper than it is like a phone system and what that means is that we at Verizon should have editorial discretion over the internet content we transmit.
  • An internet service provider used to be somebody you went to who rode over the top of an open phone system. Right? Back in the dial up days there were a number of internet service providers and you could switch from one to the other.
  • Internet content should not be regulated by the Federal Communications Commission full stop yet the communications network that we all use to get online is something where have to have a public oversight role and a certain degree of universality, affordable and openness.
  • Susan Crawford talks about these issues as well. She said “What the companies want to do is confuse the conversation for the sidewalk.”
  • We need these rules to keep open the sidewalks, to keep open the public spaces and this concept of public communications network that serves everybody.
  • The twin review by the FCC and the Department of Justice might seem cumbersome but they have different mandates.
  • DOJ and the FTC are looking to prevent a decrease in existing competition.
  • The FCC has a broader mandate to make the sure the deal is actually in the public interest.
  • Comcast bought up NBC only 3 years ago. Since then, AT&T tried to acquire T-mobile.
  • Verizon has almost 50 percent of the entire (wireless) industry’s profits.

Guest – Attorney Matt Wood helps shape the policy team’s efforts to protect the open Internet, prevent media concentration, promote affordable broadband deployment and prioritize a revitalized public media. Before joining Free Press, he worked at the public interest law firm Media Access Project and in the communications practice groups of two private law firms in Washington, D.C. Before that, he served as editor-in-chief for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, worked for PBS, and spent time at several professional and college radio and television stations. Matt earned his B.A. in film studies from Columbia University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

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Law and Disorder January 22, 2014


Updates:

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Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA-Frances Goldin, Michael and Debby Smith

Our own co-host Michael Smith, his wife Debby and Frances Goldin have assembled and edited an anthology of powerful essays titled Imagine Living In A Socialist USA. Prominent thinkers, activists and artists have given their perspective of what the United States would look like through the lens of a socialist society. This new work is an important contribution to what we hope will be a broader movement. It includes an indictment of capitalism, an alternative U.S.A. and how to get there.

Frances Goldin:

  • It was my brainchild because I wanted to accomplish 3 things before I joined by ancestors. One is everyone who lived in Cooper Square who had been fighting Robert Moses and saving their old tenements since 1959 its been a tremendous long struggle.
  • This is the only community land trust in the Northeast. The only one.
  • The next one is that I was really distressed at the direction our country was moving. Here I am 89 years old and all of a sudden North Carolina says that we’re going back to the old days where you had to bring in your right arm and read the Constitution without missing a word in order to vote. That plus spying on every American and continuing the wars.
  • It was just breaking my heart. I was very distressed that everybody thought that socialism was a dirty word, it was an undemocratic terrible way of life and they just didn’t have a clue as to what it really meant.
  • I thought it would be a great idea to pull together some of the greatest minds in the country and let them talk about health, education, welfare, homosexuality, every subject that effects American’s lives and explain how it would be different under socialism if it were democratically done, which is the only way it should be done.
  • Within one year, 31 leading brains in the United States for no charge, they did it free, wrote their essays on each one of these subjects. The book is in my hand, its finished and its beautiful and it makes me so happy. That’s my second accomplishment.
  • The third one is to see one of the leading intellectuals in the world free, forever free. Mumia Abu-Jamal.
  • I couldn’t do it alone, it was a great plan and so I leaned on to dear friends, Debby and Michael Smith.
  • I had to force Harper Collins into this, they really didn’t want to do it.
  • We were very lucky to hire an incredibly good editor, whose livelihood was editing for magazines and newspapers. If a sentence was too long, he cut it into 2 or 3 sentences.
  • Right now, the word socialism, people think of dictatorship, they think terrible things, they think undemocratic.
  • This is a simple instruction about how it would effect us with regard to health, education, housing, welfare, all of those subjects which make it so difficult for all of us to live.
  • It can’t be a dirty word, it happens to be the most democratic way of governing possible.
  • Get the workers to run the company. It’s happening in Spain, with dozens of corporations that have become worker owned.
  • It’s going to be the workers dividing the profits among themselves.
  • It will only happen when the workers are angry enough and informed enough to know that they can run the show.
  • Every penny of the royalties will go to free Mumia Abu-Jamal
  • We are not earning one dime from this book. It was a labor of love. It was a labor of activism.
  • It was a labor to change the world and make it a better place.

Guest – Frances Goldin is the President & Principal of Frances Goldin Literary Agency.  Frances has worked in publishing for 63 years, as an agent and as editor-in-chief of a children’s publishing company; she founded the Frances Goldin Literary Agency and sold her first book in 1977. Authored by Black anthropologist Betty Lou Valentine and titled Hustling and Other Hard Work, the book continued to receive royalties for 32 years. One of the agency’s strengths is that many of its books continue to earn royalties long after publication. Reflecting Goldin’s radical politics, the Agency concentrates on literary fiction and serious, controversial, progressive non-fiction.
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Attorney Michael Smith:

  • I don’t think its a dirty word, because people see what’s going on under capitalism and they don’t like it. The economic situation in this country ain’t gonna change, its only going to get worse.
  • Frances is quite an influential literary agent in this country.
  • What’s your definition of socialism? I said a democratic economy and political system, both where people from the bottom up control how we make a living, and how we live.
  • We’re having a book launch on January 27. It’s at 126 Crosby Street in SOHO at the book store called Housing Works.
  • In order to achieve the kind of socialism we’re talking about and that’s socialism from the bottom up you need a broad democratic movement of people.
  • All the left wing parties, all the movement groups, we gotta get together around a common program.
  • One of the chapters that I really like, and this isn’t to flatter you Michael Ratner, but you wrote a chapter on what I would do if I was US Attorney General.
  • Paul LeBlanc writes his chapter about the 3rd American revolution. Diane Feeley writes about that in her chapter. She’s an auto worker retired from Detroit.
  • Michael Zweig, the great sociologist, we reprint his speech from Occupy Wall Street where he talks about the 1 percent, the ruling class.
  • He says actually its 1/10 of 1 percent. Those are the people who are the top of the economy and different organizations in this country. He said, you gotta be very careful, because these people will kill ya.
  • In the second part of the book, we emphasize use your imagination. How do we organize the economy democratically?
  • How do you organize a corporation democratically? Rick Wolff wrote that chapter.
  • There are 31 chapters in the book. The last chapter suggests itself. How do we do it?
  • We’re not against leadership, we’re against undemocratic leadership but you need people who’ve had some experience and who can draw the lessons of the past.

Guest – Attorney Michael Smith is co-host of Law and Disorder, and a New York  City attorney and author.  His most recent book, written with Michael Ratner , is Who Killed Che? How The CIA Got Away With Murder. He is on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Brecht Forum. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s, where he learned social history from the great teacher Harvey Goldberg. He has testified on Palestinian rights before committees of the US Congress and the United Nations.

Guest – Debby Smith is a long time socialist since going to college in Boston during the radical sixties. Debby worked full-time for the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Kent State Legal Defense Fund and in the feminist, union and socialist movements. She is also the wife of Michael Smith and participates in the anti-capitalist and pro-democracy movements that are growing rapidly in the United States and worldwide.

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Law and Disorder January 6, 2014


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They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars

What are the true costs of war in Afghanistan? Our guest, author Ann Jones has written an impactful book titled They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, it chronicles a world mostly hidden from the public. Ann Jones has spent nearly a decade working with Afghan civilians and writing about the effects of war on their lives but in the last couple years, she focused on the human toll on and off the battle field as U.S. soldiers return back from war zones with permanent mental damage, missing limbs or as quadruple amputees.

Ann Jones:

  • I live in Norway where peace is taken for granted as it is in Europe.
  • The United States looks crazed, the way we send our forces out all over the world, are always looking for a fight.
  • Any unit of any size has a special unit within it that does mortuary affairs because all combat units are losing soldiers all the time and even soldiers who never leave base may be victims of this war. Suicides for example.
  • The job of the soldiers assigned to mortuary affairs is to protect the other soldiers from knowledge of those deaths.
  • Their job is to go out and retrieve the pieces of soldiers who very often in Afghanistan have literally been blown to pieces and bring those body parts and remains back to the base, to thier little secret part of the base and try to match up and put them in “transfer cases.” – to transfer them home to Dover, Delaware where they are repackaged, gussied up to be put in coffins and sent on for families for burial.
  • Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is very close to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. There are special air ambulance services that go out from there to Africa, to Asia to pick even individual casualties. The individuals are often members of the CIA or private contractors or military special ops people.
  • The suicides have been increasing year by year. Many of those suicides take place in the field. There have been a number that have been documented as a result of hazing and sexual assaults.
  • A great many more take place here at home when soldiers return and find that they can’t live with themselves.
  • I think what’s really troubling now is the number of soldiers and ex soldiers who aren’t really counted in this statistic who are taking their lives under the influence of opiad-pain killers, that have been pushed upon them by big-pharma.
  • They’re shown to be highly addictive, particularly in young people and to be heavily implicated in suicide.
  • The rate at which soldiers under treatment in the V.A. are taking their lives is what should be a national scandal.
  • It’s estimated that 1 in 3 women soldiers have been the victim of sexual assault.
  • Though in fact the number of male soldiers victimized is even greater. The percentage is less but the number is greater because men still represent 85 percent of the personnel in the military.
  • Congress is supposed to vote on military appropriations for 2014 very shortly. Kirsten Gillebrand, the senator from New York is leading the campaign to attach an amendment to that budgetary appropriation that would remove the prosecution, the reporting and the decision about the prosecution and the prosecution itself from the chain of command and place it in the hands of specially trained military and civilian legal units.
  • Who joins? It’s kids, from poor families, from dysfunctional families. Mainly from in the  South and the “rust belt” and urban centers who see very little if any, opportunity for their ambitions and their idealism in their home communities.

Guest – Ann Jones, a journalist, photographer, and the author of ten books of nonfiction. She has written extensively about violence against women. Since 2001, she has worked intermittently as a humanitarian volunteer in conflict and post-conflict countries in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and central and south Asia. From Afghanistan and the Middle East, she has reported on the impact of war upon civilians; and she has embedded with American forces in Afghanistan to report on war’s impact on soldiers. Her articles on these and other matters appear most often in The Nation and online at www.TomDispatch.com. Her work has received generous support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she held the Mildred Londa Weisman Fellowship in 2010-11, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2011-12), and the Fulbright Foundation (2012). She lives in Oslo, Norway, with two conversational cats.

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The Black Misleadership Class Versus the Movement and its Legacy

We go now to hear Glen Ford speaking at the Black Agenda Report 7th anniversary gathering at Harlem’s Riverside Church. The theme of the event was ““The Black Misleadership Class Versus the Movement and its Legacy.”  Ford gives strong criticism of newly elected New Jersey Senator Cory Booker as the essence of Black misleadership, showing the many ties of the current Newark mayor to corporate America.

Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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Law and Disorder August 5, 2013


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Michael Ratner: Bradley Manning Verdict Update

  • I’ve been doing a lot of media on this lately, doing a lot of debates. I take a firm position. He should never have been tried in the first place.
  • He’s a hero, he’s a whistle-blower. He publicly exposed the truths about the nature of this country particularly its human rights violations, its criminality and its corruption.
  • That constitutes whistle-blowing and whistle-blowing is a legal defense to whatever kinds of crimes the United States wanted to try him. He shouldn’t have prosecuted at all.
  • First we’ve all seen the collateral murder video. The killing of 2 Reuters journalists and I believe 10 civilians shot with a gung-ho blood lust.
  • Those crimes were never really investigated, no one was prosecuted for them and yet it was cold-blooded murder taking place from an Apache helicopter on the streets of Baghdad.
  • Think about what the Iraq war logs revealed. 20 thousand more civilians killed in Iraq then the U.S. said were killed.
  • That fact alone caused the government of Iraq to not sign another Status of Forces agreement with the United States, because it would have given immunity to U.S. troops. Because there was no immunity for U.S. troops, the U.S. said we’re not staying in Iraq. Think about how important that is.
  • Then there was a story last year taken from Wikileaks and Iraq war logs of torture centers run in Iraq in 2003-2004.
  • The only reason we knew about that was because of Bradley Manning.
  • That is a little example of what Bradley Manning has revealed to all of us of the criminality of our own country and information we ought to know and debate.
  • The only reason we consider anything to be positive in this verdict is because Bradley Manning was so overcharged to begin with a ridiculous charge of aiding the enemy that was sustained by a judge with a motion to dismiss and let go til the end until she finally acquitted him of it – that we’re relieved that he wasn’t convicted of it.
  • He was convicted of 20 charges. Six of them were espionage charges each of them carrying 10 years.
  • Six of them were theft of government documents, each of them carrying 10 years.
  • This is the first ever conviction of anyone in the United States who is a whistle-blower, who is a quote leaker for espionage. There is great fear being sown by Obama, Holder and others both in regard to whistle-blowers and to journalists.

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael RatnerPresident 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 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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Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Strike

Last month, prisoners at Pelican Bay Prison went on another hunger strike to protest solitary confinement and security unit conditions. What does solitary confinement mean at Pelican Bay Prison? Well, prisoners spend 22 to 24 hours a day in a cramped, concrete windowless cell. The food is often rotten. Temperatures are extremely hot or cold. Within 15 days, these conditions can cause psychological damage.

Jules Lobel, who represents the prisoners at Pelican Bay in a lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement in California prisons says prisoners land in solitary confinement not for crimes they were convicted of, not for any rule violation or violent act while in prison, but based on the slimmest pretext of “affiliation” with a gang.

Attorney Jules Lobel:

  • At any one time around the country there are about 80 thousand people that are in some form of solitary confinement.
  • In California alone there are 4000. What makes California somewhat unusual is there are a large number of prisoners who’ve been in solitary confinement for over a decade and many over 20 years.
  • In Pelican Bay Prison there are over 400 hundred who have been in solitary confinement for over ten years and about 80 for two decades.
  • The conditions they’re place under are draconian.
  • The cells my clients are in, there are no windows. People spend 20 years without seeing trees, birds, the grass.
  • That’s unusual to have a whole prison without any windows.
  • They put in thousands of people in solitary simply for gang affiliation. You don’t have to have committed any crime (disclipinary infraction) in prison.
  • You get a birthday card from a member of a gang.
  • There are things society will look back on, and say how could this have been done in a civilized society. We look back at slavery and segregation now and say that.
  • They say that they will force feed only when the prisoner loses consciousness.
  • These folks are on a no solid food hunger strike and they’ve been willing to take salt tablets, vitamins.
  • We looked at the situation in California as I described and we also knew that 2 years ago hundreds of thousands of prisoners went on hunger strikes in California protesting this and were promised reforms that were never delivered.
  • We decided that the time was right for a class action lawsuit.
  • We brought the lawsuit in May 2012.
  • We claim 2 things. To keep people in these conditions for over a decade is cruel and unusual punishment. It’s a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
  • To keep someone in these conditions because they think they’re gang affiliated is disproportionate.
  • The case only deals with one, and that’s the most notorious, and that’s Pelican Bay Prison.
  • There are a thousand prisoners in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.
  • They deliberately place this prison where its 7 hours from any nearest major metropolitan area by car.
  • It’s like a gulag there in that they don’t want any media exposure or attention being placed on them.
  • It’s way more costly to put someone in solitary confinement. It’s a waste of tax payer resources.

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

2013 Left Forum Presentation by Michael Zweig is Professor of Economics at Stony Brook University and director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life. His most recent books are What’s Class Got to Do with It: American Society in the Twenty-first Century (Cornell University Press, 2004), and The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (Cornell University Press, 2000 – 2nd edition due December, 2011). In 2005-2006, he served as executive producer of Meeting Face to Face: the Iraq – U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour. He wrote, produced, and directed the DVD Why Are We in Afghanistan? in 2009.

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