Category Archives: Law

Headline of the day: Finally, some really good news


At least until Trump takes office, that is.

From the London Daily Mail:

Victory! Dakota Access protesters WIN as the feds block oil pipeline that was to be built next to Native American land – kicking off wild celebrations in Standing Rock

  • Dakota Access Pipeline protesters cheered as the news emerged and cried ‘Mni Wiconi’, or ‘water is life’
  • Corps of Engineers said they would not be granting an easement for the DAPL to cross Lake Oahe
  • Federal agency said on Sunday afternoon that they would explore alternate routes for the pipeline
  • Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Chairman Harold Frazier told DailyMail.com that he was ‘shocked’
  • Thousands of veterans arrived this weekend to support the protests as temperatures hovered around 30F
  • Clashes were thought to intensify after evacuation was ordered and area was to be shut down on Dec 5

Trump appointee ensures a Citizens United regime


No surprise here.

American politics has become a plaything of plutocrats, and the latest Trump appointment ensures that things will only get worse as one citizen, one vote is fully transformed into one dollar, one vote.

From the Intercept:

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

From 2008 to 2013, McGahn was one of the six members of the Federal Election Commission, the government agency in charge of civil enforcement of campaign finance laws. While there, he led a GOP campaign that essentially ground enforcement of election laws to a halt.

“I’ve always thought of McGahn’s appointment as an FEC commissioner as analogous to appointing an anarchist to be chief of police,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president at Common Cause. “He’s largely responsible for destroying the FEC as a functioning law enforcement agency, and seemingly takes great pride in this fact. McGahn has demonstrated a much stronger interest in expanding the money-in-politics swamp than draining it.”

Elaine Weintraub, a current FEC commissioner, overlapped with McGahn’s entire tenure. McGahn and his two fellow GOP appointees, she recalled, possessed a “very strong ideological opposition to campaign finance laws in general.”

This ideology — that essentially all limits on campaign contributions and spending are unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment — was developed by a loose affiliation of conservative lawyers including McGahn, beginning in the late 1990s. It started bearing fruit a decade later with a series of court decisions, including the Citizens United ruling in 2010. McGahn’s page on his law firm’s website describes him as one of the “architects of the campaign finance revolution.”

How many innocents killed by Mexican army?


The answer, it seems, is a state secret.

From teleSUR English:

Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in Mexico, the army has stopped reporting on the number of civilian deaths at the hands of the military, according to an investigation by local media outlet Animal Politico.

“They don’t mention dead civilians anymore, they’ve disappeared from official speech and there’s simply no way of exactly knowing those figures,” report Animal Politico. Since the beginning of Peña Nieto’s administration, which began in December 2012, the military has refrained from informing the public about these figures, it claims.

The latest official statistic provided by the military states that between 2006 when Mexico’s drug war began up until August 2012, 3,000 people were killed by the military including 56 civilians who were not involved in drug trafficking.

When asked about compensation provided to the families of victims, the army acknowledged it had provided compensation to the families of 12 victims between 2008 and 2011, but left out figures for the current administration.

From the Peña Nieto administration, the military does however recognize 32 payments between 2013 and 2014 amounting to US$7.8 million, according to Animal Politico.

But this figure fails to take into account a a raft of abuses, such as the 22 people who were killed on June 30, 2014, in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico, 15 of whom were executed. The military personnel involved in the incident were not charged with any crime.

Israeli shapes a U.S. law enabling campus purges


How would Americans like it if, say, North Korea dictated a law barring criticism of that country on U.S. campuses.

We imagine lots of folks would get righteously upset.

But an Israeli propagandist and former Deputy Prime Minister has done just that.

From the Intercept:

After Donald Trump’s election emboldened white supremacists and inspired a wave of anti-Semitic hate incidents across the country, the Senate on Thursday took action by passing a bill aimed at limiting the free-speech rights of college students who express support for Palestinians.

By unanimous consent, the Senate quietly passed the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, only two days after it was introduced by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.

A draft of the bill obtained by The Intercept encourages the Department of Education to use the State Department’s broad, widely criticized definition of anti-Semitism when investigating schools. That definition, from a 2010 memo, includes as examples of anti-Semitism “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel, “applying double standards” to Israel, and “focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations.”

Critics have pointed out that those are political — not racist — positions, shared by a significant number of Jews, and qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

According to the draft, the bill does not adopt the definition as a formal legal standard, it only directs the State Department to “take into consideration” the definition when investigating schools for anti-Semitic discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Now why do we say that the law is the creation of an Israeli propagandist?

That’s because those key words — demonizing, delegitimizing, demonizing — are the formula created by Israeli political propagandist, Natan Sharansky, a former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and a good friend of Sheldon Adelson, the zealous Ziocon and Las Vegas casino magnate, and newspaper publisher who poured $25 million into a Trump-supporting PAC and sits on Trump’s inauguration committee.

Sharanksy,’s formulation is a brilliant semantic coup, employing words of such vagueness that they can be applied to virtually any critic of Israeli policies.

We know that, because they have been applied to us, repeatedly, first when reporting on the actions of a campaign launched against the Berkeley Daily Planet, a paper that came under fire from a motley crew of militant Ziocons angry because the paper published letters critical of Israeli government policies toward its Palestinian population.

Hillary Clinton lead the way

Attesting to the brilliance of Sharansky’s word-spinning is the fact that it was adopted as the adoption of that very definition of antisemitism by the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Surely it’s legitimate to criticize the actions of a government which clearly applies double standards by seizing land and homes of non-Jewish citizens while not taking the same actions toward the property of its Jewish citizens.

Similarly, one could question’s Israel’s legitimacy, given that the state was created as the result of an accord between by the British and French governments without the consent of those who lived their, the majority of them not Jewish.

As for demonizing, what word could be more vague?

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime


We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Trump picks yet another virulent Islamophobe


This time the choice to play a key role in the handover of the Department of Homeland Security, and agency certain to play a key role in Trump’s own promised targeting of the nation’s Islamic citizens,  immigrants, and refugees.

From the Intercept:

Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst who specializes in discussing the threat posed by Muslims to the United States, has complained bitterly that the Department of Homeland Security trains its agents — falsely, in her opinion — that Islam is a “religion of peace.”

Now, Gorka will have a chance to help Donald Trump remake the department. On Tuesday, she was selected by Trump to be part of the DHS “landing team” that will meet with Obama’s DHS officials to manage the handoff to new leadership.

Gorka, the president of a think tank called the Council on Global Security and the president of Threat Knowledge Group, a consulting firm, is a well-known figure among anti-Muslim campaigners.

Gorka argues that defeating terrorism depends “upon our being able to call the enemy by its proper name: Global Jihadism.” She has pushed legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group and impose sanctions on its “affiliates, associated groups, or agents.”

The affiliated groups mentioned in the legislation include mainstream civil rights organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America.

Trump and his allies want to kill organized labor


And given their impending control of all three branches of the federal government, they just might accomplish it, warns Raymond Hogler. Professor of Management at Colorado State University, in an essay for the open source academic journal The Conversation:

I’ve written before on how the decline of organized labor beginning in the late 1970s gave birth to the backlash that fueled Donald Trump’s election.

Labor’s deterioration weakened worker protections, kept wages stagnant and caused income inequality to soar to the highest levels in over eight decades. It also made workers feel they needed a savior like Trump.

In other words, his unlikely victory follows a straight line from the defeat of the Labor Reform Act of 1978 to the election of 2016. That bill would have modernized and empowered unions through more effective recognition procedures accompanied by enhanced power in negotiations. Instead, its death by filibuster became the beginning of their end.

It’s a sad twist of irony that Trump’s election and Republican dominance across the country may finally destroy once and for all the institution most responsible for working- and middle-class prosperity. It will likely be a three-punch fight, ending with a fatal blow: the expansion of right-to-work laws across the country that would permanently empty the pockets of labor unions, eroding them of virtually all their collective solidarity.

How we got here

In 1980, union membership density stood at 23 percent of the work force; some 40 years later, just over 11 percent of American workers belong to unions. During the same period, wealth inequality in the U.S. continued to accelerate largely on a social class basis.

White males without college degrees reacted to their ongoing misery in 2016 with a political transformation unrivaled since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s electoral victory in 1932. The election’s postmortem pundits offered differing explanations for Trump’s victory, including racism, sexism and the ennui of Hillary Clinton supporters.

A popular narrative argues that deteriorating economic conditions provided the fuel for the Trump conflagration as it swept through the former union strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Three blows for labor

Despite the enthusiasm of his working-class supporters, Trump’s economic policies would bring them a raw deal, not a New Deal. Three key areas will play a crucial role in union diminution and workers’ bargaining power during Trump’s administration, with further declines in real hourly earnings.

The first is regulatory. On his inauguration, Trump has the opportunity to appoint two new members to the National Labor Relations Board now controlled by Obama appointees with administrative discretion to implement pro-labor decisions. With their new majority, Republican appointees will have a smorgasbord of past cases and regulations to repeal and replace. Trump’s future replacements undoubtedly will promote a business-friendly agenda, and the board’s shift in emphasis will be immediately apparent.

The second is the Supreme Court. If Trump fills the vacant seat with someone in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, the new court will likely uphold what in my view is the rickety constitutional theory of union dues put forth by Samuel Alito in Knox v. SEIU. Alito’s rule holds that public sector union members have a constitutional right to decline dues payments unless they consent to do so. Or, in Alito’s words, dues payers will be deemed to “opt out” of dues unless they “opt in.”

In early 2016, the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which would have mandated a constitutional right-to-work rule, stalled out with Scalia’s demise, but a similar case is moving through the lower federal court system that raises the matter once more. The litigation will eventually work its way back to the Supreme Court, and the new Trump justice can affirm the undoing of public sector union dues.

The third and most lethal blow against unions, along with board and court hostility, is the expansion of right-to-work laws as a by-product of Trump’s victory.

Trump ran on a platform of making America great again by restoring incomes through innovation and deregulation.

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