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Law and Disorder February 19, 2018


Update:

  • Attorney Heidi Boghosian and Professor Johanna Fernandez Discuss Potential New Trial For Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

In her engaging new book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz chronicles the history of American gun culture and its casualties. From Andrew Jackson, the slave trade, the extermination of indigenous populations, domestic terrorist organizations such as the KKK to serial killings, U.S. history is rife with violence. What is the underpinning for such violence?

Dunbar-Ortiz argues that it is the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the resulting gun culture that it spawned. She lays out an array of historical facts and figures that will be new information for many readers. In doing so she provokes questions about the American ethos to help inform pressing issues confronting the nation, from mass shootings in schools to police killings with impunity.

In her meticulously researched book, Dunbar-Ortiz investigates the dynamics of armed struggle within the U.S., their motivations and their contemporary relevance.

Publishers Weekly writes: “In her trenchant analysis of the Second Amendment, Dunbar-Ortiz avoids a legalistic approach and eschews the traditional view that links the amendment to citizens” need to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. Instead, she argues that the Second Amendment was passed to facilitate the genocide of Native Americans in order to steal their land and to provide a means for slaveholders to control their human property.”

Guest – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian, author, memoirist, and speaker who researches Western Hemisphere history and international human rights. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the First United Nations Conference on Indians in the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. Her other books include Outlaw Woman, and the acclaimed An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Her newest book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, is published by City Lights.

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Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color

Catholic affiliated hospitals set strict guidelines that prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients wishes or their doctors’ medical judgment or the standard of care in the medical profession.

A just released report titled Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color by the Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project in partnership with Public Health Solutions shows that in many states women of color are far more likely than white women to give birth at Catholic hospitals. These women are at greater risk of having their health needs undermined because these health needs have been determined by the religious beliefs of male bishops rather than the medical judgment of their doctors.

This religious overreach undermines fundamental rights to equality and liberty and violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment which seeks to separate church from state.

Guest – Attorney Elizabeth Reiner Platt.  Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia, she was a Staff Attorney at MFY Legal Services Mental Health Law Project.

Guest – Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia Law School she was the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute (TBI), an action think tank that leads advocacy work in the areas of immigration, education, the environment, and economic justice.

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Law and Disorder February 5, 2018


 

Attorney Prevails Against CFAA Charges In Click Fraud Trial 

In a trial that was closely watched by cybersecurity experts, Italian citizen Fabio Gasperini was charged for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA. Computer experts claimed it was the first so-called “click fraud” trial and would test the U.S. government’s ability to link individuals to complex cybercrimes.

As covered before on Law and Disorder, the CFAA is an antiquated law passed in 1986 before personal computers and smart devices were omnipresent in all aspects of our lives. It affords law enforcement extremely wide latitude to prosecute virtually any computer-related activity, including violations of Terms of Service agreements. Each offense can bring up to 20 years in prison, and when multiple counts are charged individuals can face decades behind bars.

In 2017 Simone Bertollini became the first known attorney to prevail against CFAA charges. His 34-year-old client, Mr. Gasperini, was found not guilty on several felony counts of wire fraud, computer intrusion and money laundering for which he faced 70 years in prison; he was convicted on only one count of computer intrusion, a misdemeanor, which is current being appealed. Mr. Bertollini disputed prosecutors’ version of events and noted that none of the expert witnesses had ever seen the botnet that Gasperini allegedly used. He also questioned how he could be charged with conspiracy when no conspirators were named or charged. Cross Examination Transcript

Guest – Attorney Simone Bertollini – After graduating from law school in Rome, Italy, Simone moved to the United States where he graduated with a Juris Doctor degree, becoming one of the very few Italian lawyers in New York with full academic qualifications in both Italy and the United States. Simone first came to the United States with an F-1 student Visa to attend law school. After, he started his own legal practice, and obtained E-2 Treaty Investor Visa status. Later, Simone became a Lawful Permanent Resident, and now he is a proud American citizen. In the course of his career, Simone handled hundreds of immigration cases, including removal proceedings and federal appellate matters. Simone has also substantial criminal jury trial experience.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation on NSA Spying Extension

A few weeks ago the U.S. Congress voted to pass a bill extending, for another six years, the NSA’s practice of Internet surveillance. Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called this “a significant blow against the basic human right to read, write, learn, and associate free of government’s prying eyes.” The vote happened without public debate on a matter of great public concern.

The legislation in question allowing warrantless surveillance is Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The Act is intended to target foreigners abroad. In practice it puts a great deal of our internet activities to government scrutiny, as they pass through key internet checkpoints, and as they are stored by providers like Google and Facebook. The NSA is thus able to gather and store private communications of countless non-suspect Americans.

Guest – Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From 2000-2015 she served as EFF’s Legal Director as well as its General Counsel.  Ms. Cohn first became involved with EFF in 1993, when EFF asked her to serve as the outside lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography.

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Law and Disorder January 29, 2018


 

The End Of Policing

The recent book The End of Policing by New York professor Alex Vitale feels especially timely right now. Burgeoning grassroots movements responding to police violence in Ferguson, Missouri have drawn attention to the increased militarization of law enforcement in the treatment of civilians, and helped to raise public awareness of failed policies. Yet, no amount of media exposure seemed to result in any workable solutions to systemic violence.

Vitale has written an immensely readable and thorough chronology of the origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. He reveals how increased policy authority is incompatible with social justice and community empowerment. Kirkus Reviews calls the book a “tightly constructed monograph filled with reform suggestions” that is “a clearly argued, sure-to-be-controversial book.”

He cites research internationally to show how law enforcement, rather than help an array of social problems, is actually making things worse.

Guest – Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior adviser to the Police reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Right Commission.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: Attorney Michelle Lewin 

In response to requests from people at Otisville Correctional Facility in upstate New York, nearly five years ago the National Lawyers Guild held a training for volunteers interested in participating in a Parole Preparation Project. The Project’s goals were to pair volunteers (law students, social workers, family and friends of incarcerated persons among others) with individuals who face long prison sentences and have been repeatedly denied parole.

Today the Parole Preparation Project is a flourishing nonprofit organization, in large part to the efforts of its executive director Michelle Lewin. Volunteers collaborate with parole applicants in New York State to gather necessary documentation for upcoming parole hearings, and work with them on practicing for the actual interview. Volunteers also support volunteers in soliciting meaningful letters of support from friends, family, co-workers, and the Project writes letters of support as well.

Guest – Attorney Michelle Lewin. Prior to co-founding and heading the Parole Preparation Project, Michelle was a Court Advocate at the Fortune Society; she also co-directed the “Right to Write” Program at the Westchester County Correctional Center.

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Poet Raymond Nat Turner 

We welcome back to Law and Disorder political poet to start the new year. Turner is the poet in residence of the internet site and radio show Black Agenda Report.

Guest – Raymond Nat Turner, currently Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report, Turner has been the opening act for such people as James Baldwin, Cynthia McKinney, radical sportswriter Dave Zirin and Congresswoman Barbara Lee after her lone vote against attacking Afghanistan.

Law and Disorder January 8, 2017


 

Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st-Century Revolutions 

The Black Panther Party was formed by community college students in Oakland California in 1966, the year after Malcolm X was murdered in New York City. It’s original name was the Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

The Black Panther Party set an example by its community programs and courage in declaring that it would defend itself against police brutality. The Black Panther Party spread westward from California to New York where chapters were organized in Brooklyn and Harlem, where Malcolm X was from. The Panthers frightened America’s elite. J Edgar Hoover and the FBI set out to destroy them and eventually succeeded. A great courtroom battle took place place in New York City shortly after the establishment of the chapters. Twenty one Black Panthers were framed up on baseless conspiracy charges.

They spent two years in prison including one year on trial. The jury was out for only one hour and acquitted them totally of all the baseless charges. The collective story of the New York City black panthers and their trial is told in the newly re-issued book Look For Me In The Whirlwind. The book is edited by Dequi Kioni-sadiki and Matt Meyer. It has a forward by Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown), the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee now in prison for life in Georgia and it contains an afterword by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Guest – Matt Meyer is a New York City–based educator, organizer, and author who serves as War Resisters International Africa Support Network Coordinator, and who represents the International Peace Research Association at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. A former draft registration resister, Meyer’s extensive human rights work has included support for all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, solidarity with Puerto Rico and the Black Liberation Movement, and board membership on the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute.

Guest – déqui kioni-sadiki is the chair of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee and was a leader of the Sekou Odinga Defense Committee, which waged a successful campaign for the release of her husband. A tireless coalition-builder and organizer, déqui is a radio producer of the weekly show “Where We Live” on WBAI-Radio, Pacifica; an educator with the NYC Department of Education; and a member of the Jericho Movement to Free All Political Prisoners.

Guest – Sekou Odinga was a member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, a founding member of the New York chapter of the Black Panther Party as well as the Black Panther International Section, and was a member of the NY Panther 21. A citizen of the Republic of New Afrika and combatant of the Black Liberation Army, Sekou was captured in October 1981, mercilessly tortured, and spent the following thirty-three years behind bars—a prisoner of war and political prisoner of the U.S. empire. Since his release in November 2014, he has remained a stalwart fighter for justice and for the release of all political prisoners.

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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.

Law and Disorder January 1, 2018


 

Will the 911 Case Finally Go To Trial?

Sixteen years have passed since the 911 attacks. The truth of who was behind the attacks has come out in a class action lawsuit brought by more than 6500 victims and survivors. The lawsuit alleges that it was elements of the Saudi Arabian government that attacked us on 9/11. The Defendant in the lawsuit is Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian government hired 15 public relations firms to help them deny responsibility. They hired several Washington white shoe high powered connected law firms. They hid behind the law of sovereign immunity, which had to be overturned by an act of Congress in order for the lawsuit to proceed. They were helped by the US government in the cover-up by the Bush and Obama administrations. But after 16 years the case is now proceeding rapidly through the Federal courts and will either be settled or tried. The object of the lawsuit is to obtain money explained Sharon Pemboli, one of the plaintiffs and leaders of a group of women from New Jersey known as “the Jersey girls” who lobbied to win passage of the law which made the lawsuit possible. She believes that if the Saudi Arabian government is deprived of funds it will not be able to fund Al Qaeda and the extremist Wahhabi clergy responsible for supporting the terrorism of Al Qaeda.

The American public has been led to believe mistakenly that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were behind 911. The attack on Iraq was a war of aggression. At the end of World War II the United States set up the Nuremberg trials to try Nazi war criminals. They wanted to set forth principles that were not merely victor’s justice. At the Nuremberg trials the Germans were found guilty of starting a war of aggression, which was called the greatest of all crimes because it has contained within it all other crimes.

Guest – Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine. He has written an extremely important article in the October issue titled Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 Case Finally Go To Trial? about the class-action law suit brought by the victims of 9/11 against the government of Saudi Arabia.

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U.S. Magdalene Laundries and the Indiana Women’s Prison Researchers

From the 18th to early 20th centuries Catholic institutions known as the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland effectively enslaved unmarried mothers, where infants and mothers were subjected to brutal conditions and died in the hundreds. In 1993, a mass grave containing 155 corpses was uncovered in the convent grounds of one of the laundries. This led to media revelations about the operations of the secretive institutions Investigations into these homes have brought apologies and official compensation by the state of Ireland.

Few realize, however, that these homes also existed in the United States. Reports of the inhumane conditions in these homes has encouraged survivors of U.S. Magdalene Laundries to share their own their experiences. Surprisingly, few religious leaders, journalists and historians have yet to address and speak out about this chapter in our history.

That is, until scholars at the Indiana Women’s Prison began to research Magdalene Laundries, and their impact on girls and young women of all faiths across the United States for over 100 years. They believe that these homes were in effect the first prisons for women in the nation. And their work is being published and helping to spark a national discussion.

In a law review article that they published in the Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, the researchers note that their discovery of the laundries and their role in confining women is ‘stark evidence of historical amnesia.They say that the laundries played an important role in shaping attitudes toward female sexuality, identity, and societal reintegration.

Guest – Kelsey Kauffman, in 2012 she and two friends started a small college program at the Indiana Women’s Prison that has grown to 14 teachers and 80 students. She has worked as a prison officer and has taught in three prisons. Her research, which has taken her to more than 80 prisons on four continents, focuses primarily on the impact prison employment has on officers.

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Law and Disorder December 18, 2017


 

Columbia University Protesters Charged For Disrupting Controversial Speaker

On October 10, 2017 the notorious British anti-Semite and Islamophobe Tony Robinson appeared by Skype on the Columbia university campus. He was invited by the College Republican Club.

Many Columbia University students registered for the event and protested the things he said. The protesters did not disrupt the event but rather engaged the speaker’s comments.

17 students were investigated and interrogated and charged with Columbia University rules violations for “briefly interrupting a university function“ or “ disrupting a university function or rendering it’s continuation impossible.“

Guest – Columbia Law Professor Attorney Katherine Franke about the commission’s findings and recommendations and the objections to the reports conclusions. Katherine Franke is a former executive director of the National Lawyers Guildthe and chair of the board of the Center for Constitutional  Rights.  She is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and also the Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, a think tank that brings legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights are in tension with other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. Her book is titled “Wedlocked:  The Perils of Marriage Equality”.

Guest – Kayum Ahmed is a Doctoral Fellow in International and Comparative Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia, Kayum served as Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission from 2010 to 2015. During this period, he led a team of 178 colleagues to monitor, protect and promote human rights in South Africa, and oversaw the management of nearly 45,000 human rights cases.

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Immigration Defense Project: ICE Arrests Increase

Although they have yet to hunt down undocumented people in churches, hospitals, and schools, ICE is now arresting people inside of our state courthouses. Making people afraid to enter court houses is another indication of the further disintegration of democracy which has rapidly accelerated under the Trump administration.
There have been 900 incidences of ICE arresting people inside of a courthouse in America this year, 70 in New York City. Just two weeks ago in Brooklyn a rebellion of legal aid attorney’s occurred when ICE tried to arrest a client of Brooklyn Attorney Rebecca Kavanaugh‘s who was there appearing on an order of protection matter.

The persons arrested in court houses are people that are free to leave, not in jail, not held on any charges – in all kinds of court houses including where people are coming to seek protective orders in domestic violence situations, special human trafficking courts, and family courts. There has been a 900% increase in court house arrests in New York City alone this year. In response to this, there has been much organizing going on to get ICE out of the courthouses.

Guest – Andrew Wachtenheim Supervising Attorney at IDP. He works with IDP’s non-profit and pro bono partners on litigation before the federal courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, and provides technical assistance, litigation support, and training to immigration and criminal law practitioners on the immigration-criminal law intersection. Andrew came to IDP from the immigration practice at The Bronx Defenders, where he represented noncitizens in immigration-related proceedings primarily at the agency level, and consulted with noncitizen defendants and criminal and family defense attorneys about the potential immigration consequences of contacts with the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Andrew is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Fordham Law School.

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Law and Disorder December 4, 2017


Law and Disorder Editorials:

  • Jared Kushner Middle East Policy Advisor

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Free Press: New FCC Rules On Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission recently released a plan to do away with landmark regulations ensuring equal access to the Internet. They pave the way for Internet service companies to charge the public higher rates to see certain content and to even deny access to some websites.

The proposal was made by the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, an opponent to regulation in general. Pai is the former Associate General Counsel for Verizon Communications, Inc.

The proposal is expected to be approved in mid-December. In his first year Pai, who was appointed by Donald Trump, has already eliminated numerous regulations. The agency has stripped down rules governing TV broadcasters, newspapers and telecom companies designed to protect the public interest. In addition to the net neutrality rollback, the chairman announced a plan to eliminate a rule limiting any corporation from controlling broadcasts that can reach more than 39 percent of American homes.

In a broad brushstroke, the new proposal repeals rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from slowing down or even stopping the delivery of websites. The Obama rules prevent companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services. These former rules were drafted to preserve the principle commonly known as “net neutrality” and to prevent practices that would created tiers of access to the Internet.

The plan to repeal existing rules that were passed in 2015 would reverse a hallmark decision by the agency to consider broadband a public utility, as essential to modern lives as phones and electricity. The earlier decision created the legal foundation for the current rules and underscored the importance of high-speed internet service.

Guest – Attorney Gaurav Laroia, Policy Counsel at Free Press. Before joining Free Press, he worked at the Government Accountability Project protecting the rights of national security whistleblowers.

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The Sentencing Project

The United States of America imprisons more of its citizens both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population than any other country in the world. Only China comes close. On any given day 2,300,000 Americans are in jail or prison, 70% of them are non-white.

Former Alabama senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions wants these numbers to rise. He has instructed federal prosecutors to prosecute people for the most serious possible crime and to demand the longest possible sentence.

In the last 30 years the number of people in jail and in prison have skyrocketed by factor of five. Prosecutors are increasingly demanding life sentences without the possibility of parole. Judges have lost their discretion with the implementation of maximum minimum sentencing. The long-term impact of mass incarceration has been devastating, especially to black communities.

Attorney General Sessions has stated that there is “a dangerous permanent rise”
in violent crime, despite FBI data showing a sharp decline in the last 20 years. He has falsely charged that crime increases have been caused by immigrants and that prosecutorial policy under Obama caused crime to increase.

Guest – Marc Mauer, the Executive Director of the Sentencing Project and a central figure in the justice reform movement. The Sentencing Project is a Washington DC based research and advocacy group working to reduce the use of incarceration in the United States and to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system.


Follow Heidi Boghosian on Twitter – @HeidiBoghosian

Law and Disorder November 27, 2017


Defend J20: First Protestors

Last January, at Donald Trump’s Inauguration, over 230 people—some protesters, some not—were trapped and arrested by police. Federal prosecutors charged them with a crime that actually doesn’t exist in DC: “felony rioting.” Armed with secret warrants, prosecutors then probed deeply into the defendants’ personal lives.

Charges were dropped for some arrestees, including journalists and legal observers. Over 200, however, saw their charges increased to felony rioting, felony incitement to riot, conspiracy to riot, and property-damage crimes related to broken windows. Each defendant is facing over 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors obtained warrants focused on anti-Trump organizers. Warrants sought a list of visitors to a protest-related website and the Facebook friends and related communications of two organizers, the host of a coalition Facebook page, and those who had “liked” that page.

This prosecution follows a change in local law enforcement’s response to protest that we covered years ago on Law and Disorder. The mass arrests and harsh charges are precisely what new DC policies were designed to avoid. A 2002 mass-arrest and subsequent lawsuit by the Partnership for Civil Justice resulted in the District paying over $10 million in settlements and changing its crowd control policies.

Trials for the inauguration protesters begin mid-November and are expected to continue for a year.

Guest – Yael Bromberg,  Yael is a supervising attorney and teaching fellow with the Institute for Public Representation at the Civil Rights Clinic of Georgetown University Law Center. defendj20resistance.org

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October Song: Bolshevik Triump, Communist Tragedy 1917-1924

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of October, 1917. The revolution changed the course of history and determined world politics internationally and in the United States of America for most of the 20th century, until finally, under the unrelenting onslaught of the west and principally the USA, the revolution was overthrown in 1991 when capitalism was restored to that country.

Before the revolution, Russian was a feudal monarchy, headed up by a czar in a country where most of the population were peasants working the land under near slave-like conditions.

World War I started in 1914 and Russia allied with France and Great Britain against Germany and other countries. It was a war for foreign markets, resources, and colonies. By 1917, 30 million people have been killed. In one week alone 250,000 soldiers died.

The Russian revolution was nearly bloodless and nonviolent. The first thing the revolutionary government did was to end their country’s participation in the war, which ultimately ended the war.

The second thing they did was to redistribute the land to the peasants who worked it. Then they nationalized industry under control of the workers in the plants. Thus, the 1% of the Russian elite were dispossessed and the 99% took control of the institutions of their country and ran them through councils of workers and peasants and soldiers, which had been organized prior to the revolution and which were led by socialists.

The Russian revolution inspired the hopes of humankind throughout the industrial and under-developed colonial world. The peasants were given land, women gained equal rights and the right to vote and to get an abortion. Homosexualty was made legal. Minority rights were guaranteed. Education, the arts, and culture received government support. For a period Russia was the most democratic country on the planet.

We speak today with history professor Paul LeBlanc about the Russian revolution and the lessons it teaches for social change activists in America today.

Guest – Professor Paul LeBlanc is the author of the just published book October Song: Bolshevik Triumph, Communist Tragedy, 1917-1924. He is the author of a number of widely read studies including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience. He teaches at Laroche college in Pittsburgh.


Follow Heidi Boghosian on Twitter – @HeidiBoghosian

Law and Disorder November 20, 2017


Law and Disorder Editorials:

  • FDA Approves Digital Pill by Heidi Boghosian

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Release Aging People in Prison Campaign

The number of persons 50 years and older in New York State has risen more than 98% since 2000; it now exceeds 10,000—nearly 20% of the total incarcerated population. This reflects a national crisis in the prison system and the extension of a culture of revenge and punishment into all areas of our society.

The organization Release Aging People in Prison, or RAPP, works to end mass incarceration and promote racial justice by getting elderly and infirm people out of prison.

Led by Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow who was incarcerated for 33 years in New York before his release in 2011, RAPP focuses on aging people in prison, many of whom are long-termers convicted of serious crimes. Many of these human beings have transformed their lives and developed skills and abilities they lacked before incarceration. They could be released from prison with little or no threat to public safety. Yet many are denied release, often for political reasons, and they needlessly remain imprisoned into old age. These elders could return to their communities if current mechanisms such as parole and compassionate release were correctly utilized. We also support legislation in New York to correct the parole system and increase the number of releases.

Guest – Mujahid Farid co-founded the Prisoners AIDS Counseling and Education program and helped design prison-based sociology and theology courses that allowed others to earn college-credited in prison. He also earned four college degrees and other certifications while incarcerated, including his paralegal certificate, NYS Department of Labor Certificate in Human Development Counseling, and NYC Department of Health Certificate in HIV/AIDS Counseling.

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Guest – David George, Associate Director of RAPP. In the last few years Dave has organized with and on behalf of currently and formerly incarcerated people, including at the Osborne Association and Correctional Association of New York.

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Perpetual Line Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition In America

The presence of surveillance cameras across the United States has enabled targeted facial recognition surveillance at essentially any place and any time. Each day law enforcement puts in place more and more cameras, including CCTV cameras, police body cameras, and cameras on drones and other aircraft. The FBI’s Next Generation Biometric Identification Database and its facial recognition unit, FACE Services, can search for and identify nearly 64 million Americans, either from its own databases or through access to state DMV databases of driving license photos.

It’s likely that government agencies will soon be able to pinpoint your location and even with whom you’ve been, just by typing your name into a computer.

The release of Apple’s IPhone X has drawn scrutiny to this technology. Despite civil liberties and privacy concerns, there are few limits on facial recognition technology. In March 2017 Congress held a hearing to discuss the risks of facial recognition surveillance. There is concern that facial recognition can be used to get around existing legal protections against location tracking, opening the door to unprecedented government monitoring an logging of personal associations, including protected First Amendment-related activities. Knowledge of individual’s political, religious and associational activities could lead the way to bias, persecution and abuse.

As with many technological advances, there are benefits, too. Facial recognition can assist in locating missing persons or for other public safety purposes.

Guest – Clare Garvie, Clare is a Law Fellow at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology. Her research with the Center is on face recognition use by law enforcement and the disparate impact of payday lending on vulnerable communities. She worked on the Center’s 2016 report on facial recognition technology.

Law and Disorder November 13, 2017


Law and Disorder Editorials:

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Lessons From The Greensboro Massacre

Thirty eight years ago, on November 3, 1979, 35 heavily armed members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party drove nine vehicles through the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, and opened fire on a multi-racial group of demonstrators who were gathering at a black housing project in preparation for an anti-Klan march.

Using semi automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols the Nazis and Kukluxers fired 1000 projectiles in 88 seconds killing five march leaders and wounding seven other demonstrators.

Most of the victims were associated with the Communist Workers Party, a multi racial group which had been organizing in the south for workers rights in the cotton mills and against the Ku Klux Klan.

The Greensboro police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were all aware of the planned attack. Four TV stations captured the massacre on video. A reluctant local district Attorney obtained six indictments under pressure from the Greensboro Justice Fund which had been organized by the windows of the victims, and the public outcry. A six-month trial resulted in the acquittal of all six defendants.

Then a reluctant Reagan administration Department of Justice tried nine of the Klansmen and Nazis on civil rights conspiracy charges. After a three-month trial all nine were acquitted.

A year after the massacre a civil rights suit was brought on behalf of the 16 victims. It expose d the depth and contours of official involvement.

After an extraordinary dramatic 10 weeks civil trial a southern jury finally convicted a good number of the actors in the massacre. The verdict was national news.

Guest – Attorney G.Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern Law School, is a  founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, an office which has been dedicated to litigating civil rights, police violence, government misconduct, and death penalty cases for more than 40 years.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: Anne O’Berry

As part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series we’re joined by attorney Anne O’Berry, she’s the Vice President of the Southern Region of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of The Law Only As An Enemy:  The Legitimization of Racial Powerlessness Through the Colonial and Antebellum Criminal Laws of Virginia. While in law school, she served as Director of the Women in Prison Project at Rikers Island, where she taught incarcerated women how to prevent termination of their parental rights.

Anne clerked for federal judges in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, with whom she co-authored an article on the law as a tool of oppression against slaves and free blacks in pre-Civil War Virginia and taught civil rights and South African apartheid law at the University of Pennsylvania.  She later taught Race and the Law at St. Thomas University Law School in Miami, Florida.

In the last 12 years, Anne has served as counsel at a Florida law firm that specializes in class action litigation, particularly in the areas of securities, consumer and economic fraud, as well as some environmental and privacy rights litigation.

Attorney Anne O’Berry:

  • We did a lot of historical research in terms of racism and the law back in pre-civil war Virginia.
  • We focused on Virginia because it was a paradigm for slavery basically in the slave laws that were in place.
  • We wrote an article for publication, it was published in the University of North Carolina law review. The Law Only As An Enemy:’ The Legitimization of Racial Powerlessness Through the Colonial and Antebellum Criminal Laws of Virginia.
  • Depending on your status, if you were a free white person or a slave, you were treated differently by the law.
  • As an overall theme, depending on the race of the victim was that would effect what your sentence would be.
  • For example, if a black woman was raped, that was not considered a crime.  If you were a black person and you stole something, you would be put to death.
  • It was ironic for the slave owner because if their slave was put to death, they would have to be compensated by the state.
  • If the victim was black, the crime was treated less seriously than if the victim was white.
  • I started out working at a firm in New York, a large prominent, Wall Street type.
  • Among some people I was known as the pro-bono queen.
  • I was there for 2 and a half years and the first pro-bono case was a death penalty case.
  • The court ruled back then (1990s) that it was ok to execute the mentally retarded.
  • I was so moved by that experience that I gave up my cushy job in New York and go do death penalty work full time.
  • I ended up at the Federal Resource Center doing death penalty work in Tallahassee Florida.
  • I worked for the Battered Women’s Clemency Project in Florida.
  • More recently the Supreme Court did rule that it is unconstitutional to execute people who were juveniles at the time of the offense and unconstitutional to execute people who are mentally retarded.
  • I believe in my lifetime we will see the end of the death penalty in this country.
  • It’s just an amazing system that we have where the courts will say – yes you’ve got compelling evidence of innocence but we’re not going to hear your case.
  • I would say what got me through was the victories.
  • Presently,  I’m working with an attorney Jim Green, who’s a prominent civil rights attorney in West Palm Beach,  kind of a legend down here.
  • I also some volunteer work with El Sol. It’s a day laborer center in Jupiter, Florida.

Guest – Anne O’Berry, National Lawyers Guild’s Regional Vice President for the Southern Region and a member of the Guild’s South Florida chapter.  She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and her law degree from New York University Law School in 1986.  While in law school, she served as Director of the Women in Prison Project at Rikers Island, where she taught incarcerated women how to prevent termination of their parental rights.  She was a member of the law school’s civil rights clinic and an editor on one of the law school’s journals, and authored a law review article on prisoners’ rights.  During and after law school, she clerked for federal judges in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, with whom she co-authored an article on the law as a tool of oppression against slaves and free blacks in pre-Civil War Virginia and taught civil rights and South African apartheid law at the University of Pennsylvania.  She later taught Race and the Law at St. Thomas University Law School in Miami, Florida.

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