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Law and Disorder July 31, 2017


Update:

  • Rev Billy And The Stop Shopping Choir: Radical Ritual At Trump Tower

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Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

The spectacle of President Donald Trump and the palace intrigue in the White House has served daily to distract people from the political strategy and accomplishments of the radical right, which is taking over the Republican Party.

Over time, the GOP has been transformed into operation conducting a concerted effort to curb democratic rule in favor of capitalist interests in every branch of government, whatever the consequences. It is marching ever closer to the ultimate goal of reshaping the Constitution to protect monied interests. This gradual take over of a major political party happened steadily, over several decades, and often in plain sight.

Duke University Professor Nancy MacLean exposes the architecture of this change and it’s ultimate aim. She has written that “both my research and my observations as a citizen lead me to believe American democracy is in peril”.

Guest – Professor Nancy MacLean, whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.” The author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994, MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy.

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Tuskegee Syphilis Study Aftermath

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was a biomedical clinical study conducted by the US Public Health Service for four decades between 1932 and 1972. Its purpose was to observe the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama under the guise of receiving free health care from the government.

It collaborated with the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama. Investigators enrolled a total of 600 impoverished African American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama. Of these men, 399 had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 did not have the disease. They were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance for participating in the study. After a cure for syphilis was discovered in penicillin, the study still continued without informing the men they would never be treated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term for various illnesses that include syphilis, anemia, and fatigue.

Guest – Professor Susan Reverby is Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas and Professor of Women’s Studies at Wellesley College. She is editor of Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

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Law and Disorder July 17, 2017


 

This is Not Populism : John Bellamy Foster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Law and Disorder July 10, 2017


Law and Disorder Outtakes: Disorderly Bloopers

We first began recording Law and Disorder in 2004, the same year the Republican National Convention—and large protests—were held in New York City. When we started, we had four hosts—Dalia Hashad and Michael Ratner along with Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian.

After a few years, Dalia moved to California, leaving us with three hosts. In late spring 2016 we lost Michael Ratner to cancer. Now there are just two of us.

It is our special pleasure to share with listeners our first segment of The Disorderly Bloopers, behind-the-scenes audio outtakes from the first years we were on the air.

Law and Disorder was created during the George W. Bush administration to cover what we thought would be some of the darkest days in the nation’s history. As part of our special summer episode we thought these studio snippets might provide a few minutes of much-needed levity.

It’s important to take a few minutes to laugh at ourselves, and to look back at the hundreds of fun days that we here at Law and Disorder have had over the years.This has also been a trip down memory lane for Heidi and Michael as we hear hilarious interchanges with Dalia and Michael Ratner.

As we covered some of the most serious topics in the news, and amidst the enormous respect we had for all of our guests, the four of us wholeheartedly enjoyed a special relationship, along with our longstanding producer Geoff Brady. It’s a relationship that comes from working closely together and respecting each other as colleagues and friends.

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Hosts Read Some of the Best Courtroom Transcripts

Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?
A: No.
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
A: It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

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The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession

Hosts alternate in reading part of a chapter on Attorney Charles Garry in the book The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession by Paul A. Haskins. Haskins is senior counsel in the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility and lead counsel for the Standing Committee on Professionalism.

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Law and Disorder July 3, 2017


 

Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party Victory

One of the bright and hopeful developments in world politics was the wide support that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labor Party got in that country’s recent elections. Corbyn ran on an unabashedly left platform. His party recruited tens of thousands of young people before and after the election. Although the conservative Government of Prime Minister Teresa May is still in power this is not likely to last long. To speak with us today about these developments in Great Britain and their relevance to the United States where we saw a similar phenomenon with the rise of Bernie Sanders, is Colin Robinson.

Guest – Colin Robinson is from Liverpool England and he lives in New York City. He’s the publisher of OR Books. Colin Robinson worked as a senior editor at Scribner and was previously managing director of Verso Books and publisher of The New Press. Among the authors he has published are Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Mike Davis, Norman Finkelstein, Eduardo Galeano, Eric Hobsbawm, Lewis Lapham, Mike Marqusee, Rigoberta Menchú, Matt Taibbi and Jann Wenner.

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Raymond Nat Turner

Poem: Low Regard

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SCOTUS on CCR CASE

Just a few weeks ago the Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that former high-level Bush administration officials may be sued for their roles in the post-9/11 profiling and abuse of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men.

After the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of non-citizens were rounded up solely on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status. They were held in extremely restrictive confinement and physically and psychologically abused. The Court held that high-level government officials who implement and create clearly unconstitutional policies alleged to be based on national security are nonetheless shielded from liability.

However, the Court did allow plaintiffs the chance to prove their case against Warden Dennis Hasty, finding that complaint’s allegations, “plausibly show the warden’s deliberate indifference” to the abuse plaintiffs suffered while they were held at the MDC. The claims against the Warden will be sent back to the lower courts for an opportunity to show that prison administrators are not entitled to the same immunity given to high-level officials in this case.

Guest – Senior Managing Attorney Shane Kadilal from the Center for Constitutional Rights. His cases there include challenges to the indefinite detention of men at Guantánamo and domestic immigration sweeps. He has been counsel in major CCR cases challenging the material support statute, the low rate of African-American firefighter hiring in New York City, and the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program.

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Law and Disorder June 26, 2017


 

This is Not Populism : John Bellamy Foster

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

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

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US Normalization of Relations With Cuba Reversed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact the Center for Cuban Studies at 212.242.0559.

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Law and Disorder June 5, 2017


Reginald Dwayne Betts: Bastards of the Reagan Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Law and Disorder May 8, 2017


Aging Prisoners and the Law Of Parole

The United States of America imprisons a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the world. Today America holds 2.3 million people behind bars. This has been called “mass incarceration.”  Part of the reason for mass incarceration is the system of parole, which many consider to be broken, especially in New York State. The purpose of incarceration is punishment. It is also rehabilitation. And third, it is an opportunity for a person to come to terms with what she did, and gain skills. This is why prisons are called “correctional facilities.” When a person has repaid society for her crime, has been rehabilitated, and does not pose a threat to the community they are supposed to be paroled.  But it actuality, this is not the way it works. In many cases, especially when the applicant for parole had committed a violent crime the sole criteria that the parole board examines is the nature of the crime that was committed. Something that convict cannot change. The latest example is the denial last month of parole to 67 year-old New York Prisoner Judy Clark who has been behind bars for 35 years for her role and driving the getaway car in the bungled 1961 Brinks armored car robbery which left to Nyack New York police officers and then I’m a truck driver dead. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in granting Judy Clark clemency so she would be eligible for parole, said “It was a hard political decision.”

I could hear Jimmy Breslin’s voice saying “she made a mistake – we all do. She learned, she paid the price, she spent her life in a cage, and she is now different. Jesus would pardon her. Who the hell made you better than Jesus? ”  A prominent local police chief Joseph Sinagara commented that “I don’t care what kind of model prisoner she was.”  Ms. Clark’s daughter, Harriet, said she understood the seriousness of the crime but believed the decision by the board was an injustice. “My mother did not kill anyone, and it’s hard for me to understand who is served by making her die in prison, which is what decisions like this eventually amount to.”

Guest – Professor Steven Zeidman is the Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at CUNY School of Law.  A graduate of Duke University School of Law, he is a former staff attorney and supervisor at the Legal Aid Society. Professor Zeidman is a member of American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section Council, and serves on the Board of Directors of Prisoners’ Legal Services and an Advisory Council created to help implement the remedial order in the Floyd v. City of New York stop-and-frisk litigation. He has served on several statewide commissions, including the Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services.

Guest – Laura Whitehorn , a former political prisoner who served 14 years for the distruction  of government property in connection with a 1983 bombing at the US Capitol where no one was injured. She was released in 1999. Laura Whitehorn is a leader in the Release Aging People in Prison Organization and has been active in challenging the New York state parole board’s intransigence.

Check the RAPP Events Page

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Lynne Stewart’s Memorial

Many attended Lynne Stewart’s memorial including Glen Ford, Hon. Charles Barron, Jeff Mackler, Pam Africa, Father Lawrence Lucas, Ralph Schoenman, Jess Sundin, Rev. Allison, Lamis Deek, Sara Flounders, Bob Lederer, Janine Otis Ensemble, Nat Turner – Poet, Atiba Wilson – Drummer, Dr. Patrice Turner and many more. We hear an impassioned speech by Chris Hedges.

Lynne Stewart: A Revolutionary Life Well-Lived – A Biographical Glimpse

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Law and Disorder April 17, 2017


Update:

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US Bombs Syria

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

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

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

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

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A Chicago Cop is Accused of Framing 51 People For Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Law and Disorder April 10, 2017


 

The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Partisan Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

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

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

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Law and Disorder April 3, 2017


Trial Judge Rules Against 69 Year Old Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh

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

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

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New York City Titanpointe National Security Agency Protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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