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Archives for October, 2017


Law and Disorder October 30, 2017


 

 

Cuban US Embassy Sonic Weapons Scare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact the Center for Cuban Studies at 212.242.0559.

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Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law and Disorder October 23, 2017


Updates:

  • Co-host Attorney Heidi Boghosian Discusses Robert “Sugar Bear” Lark Case
  • Government Targeting Black Resistance Groups

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Victory In Al Shimari v CACI

President Trump told us during the campaign that he was in favor of torture because “it works.“ The Center for Constitutional Rights recently won a significant round in a case against a private military contractor, CACI who had tortured three of its clients at the infamous Abu Graib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

When he was president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner maintained that if the torturers were not  prosecuted, the practice of torture would be repeated. In fact none of the architects were held accountable in court. That is why the this recent procedural victory by CCR, in the case of Al Shimari is so important.

Guest – Attorney Katherine Gallagher is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She works on universal jurisdiction and international criminal law cases involving U.S. and foreign officials and torture and other war crimes, and cases involving private military corporations and torture at Abu Ghraib. Her major cases include Al Shimari v. CACI, the international U.S. torture accountability cases, and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) v. Vatican, seeking accountability for the crimes against humanity of sexual violence by clergy and cover-up.

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International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms: North Korea

Not since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, 55 years ago, has the prospect of nuclear war seemed so frightening. President Donald Trump, who alone can commence a nuclear attack, has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury.“ North Korea has a population of 25 million people.

Gabriel Sherman writing recently in the magazine Vanity Fair said that the situation with Trump has gotten so out of control that Trump’s Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, and his Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, have discussed ways to stop Trump should he order a nuclear attack.

Obviously, the solution to winding down the escalating confrontation needs to be one of diplomacy. But when Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the chief diplomat in America, attempted to do just that President Trump said publicly that “you are wasting your time.“

Guest – Peter Weiss, distinguished international lawyer and President Emeritus of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and its US affiliate, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy. He helped draft their October 10th, 2017 statement North Korea: Solution or Disaster. Peter Weiss was a founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights and its former Vice President.

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Law and Disorder October 16, 2017


Free Speech on College Campuses

Last week an invited lawmaker was shut down form addressing Texas Southern University after protesters stormed the room calling him a racist. House Representative Briscoe Cain was asked to speak to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law by the Federalist Society about the recent legislative special session. But as he uttered a few words, he was shut down by students and then the University’s President claimed it was an unapproved event. It’s ironic that the school is named for the Supreme Court justice known for his exemplary record of protecting First Amendment rights.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also recently spoke–uninterrupted–at Georgetown University about free speech on American college campuses. He said, “The right of free speech does not exist only to protect the ideas upon which most of us agree at a given moment in time,” and encouraged students to: “make your voices heard, [and] to defend the rights of others to do the same.” Sessions joins a bipartisan chorus of public officials expressing support for free speech in academic institutions.

This summer, Senators Bernie Sanders and Mitch McConnell condemned efforts to shut down different viewpoints at schools. And in 2015, Barack Obama more than once defended the importance of free speech on campus. “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” he said at a September 2015 town hall.

The recent Sessions talk comes amid an uptick (1) in efforts to dis-invite controversial speakers of all ideological persuasions, (2) use of bias response teams to monitor unpopular speech, and (3) in unprecedented violence aimed at silencing off-campus speakers.

These are some of the findings from a recent study produced by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The comprehensive survey on students’ attitudes about free speech measured responses to questions about hate speech, guest speakers on campus, self-expression and reactions to expression of other students.

Guest –Will Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

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Tech Freedom on USA Liberty Act of 2017

Americans whose data is inadvertently swept up while the government monitors foreign intelligence, risk having their information used for non-national-security related purposes.

Two weeks ago draft legislation was introduced to address this, but a broad coalition of civil liberties organizations say it doesn’t go far enough. They are calling on the House to close the so-called “back-door search” loophole by requiring a warrant based on probable cause for any search of information about U.S. citizens and residents.

Similar to the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which ended the practice of bulk surveillance of American citizens under Section 215 of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, the current USA Liberty Act of 2017 would overhaul surveillance that is supposed to be limited to targets outside the U.S. but actually affects Americans. Section 702 expires at the end of December, which is why Congress is reassessing the program.

Currently, FISA surveillance is conducted under a warrant issued annually by the FISA court for a list of foreign intelligence targets. But law enforcement can access, and can use, Americans’ communications swept up in FISA surveillance with no warrant at all. This is even though U.S. persons’ communications require constitutional protections not afforded to foreigners.

The USA Liberty Act adds a warrant-like ‘probable cause’ requirement before law enforcement can search the database, but also includes a sweeping, vague exception for “foreign intelligence information” and does not stop law enforcement from using that information for criminal prosecutions. This is a glaring violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Guest – Austin Carson, Executive Director of TechFreedom joins us to talk about this legislation, and the state of surveillance generally. Tech Freedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology think tank launched in 2011 that focuses on issues of Internet freedom and technological progress.

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Law and Disorder October 9, 2017


The Rape Of Recy Taylor: A Film By Nancy Buirski

The number of women raped in the Jim Crow south we’re staggering. Because of the danger to their lives and the futility of getting justice most women didn’t report the crimes and their stories when unknown.

Recy Taylor’s story was not part of this hidden history. As a 24 year old she was gang raped by six white man in 1944 in a small rural Alabama town. Mrs. Taylor spoke up and bravely identified her rapists.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, sent Rosa Parks, later of the 1955 Montgomery Alabama bus boycott fame, down to investigate and build a movement to shine a public spotlight on the crime.

She rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice. It ultimately was a failed effort. Despite widespread publicity in the black press including newspapers in New York City, Detroit, and Philadelphia plus a massive letter writing campaign which put pressure on the Alabama Governor, two grand juries failed to indict the rapists and an Alabama assistant attorney general issued a report exonerating the criminals.

This is the focal point of a new film titled The Rape of Recy Taylor, written, directed and produced by Nancy Buirski. It recently had its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival.

Guest – Nancy Buirski joins us in the studio. The film won an award at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. Nancy has directed, written, and produced a number of award-winning films and is a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. First look at Nancy Buirski’s documentary. Nancy’s Facebook page. Here is the Facebook documentary link

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Puerto Rico Hurricane Aftermath – Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan

Puerto Rico is the only remaining U S. colony in the western hemisphere. 3.5 million people live on the island. They lack representatives in Congress and the population is barred from voting in the US presidential elections. Although it is $73 billion in debt to American banks,by law it is unable to declare bankruptcy and restructure its debt. President Donald Trump said that the impact of Maria was partly the fault of Puerto Rico falling into a giant amount of debt that it has not repaid. With an already stressed out infrastructure the island in the past three weeks was hit by two extremely powerful hurricanes. Electricity and cell service are down, people are drinking water out of creeks, they have little fuel, little food, and the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz is sleeping on a cot. The mounting death toll is presently at 34.

President Trump accused the San Juan mayor of “poor leadership“ after she criticize the American government for not helping Puerto Rico enough after Hurricane Maria. He said she was “a politically motivated ingrate.” Then he barred her from participating in a group phone call to talk about relief, telling her she could listen but not speak. He accused the Puerto Rican people of being lazy, saying that “they want everything done for them.”

Guest – Attorney Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Puerto Rican President of the National Lawyers Guild. She has recently returned from Cuba, which also suffered severely from hurricane Maria, but responded in a much more effective way. Support Puerto Rico to drive donations to the Hurricane Maria Relief and Recovery Fund at www.mariafund.org, set up by Puerto Rican attorney, Xiomara Caro.

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Law and Disorder October 2, 2017


Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery, The Jones Act And Federal Aid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Burns and Novick: Masters of False Balancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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