Category Archives: Law

Trump is [partly] right: The game really is rigged

But contrary to what The Donald declares, the game is rigged in his favor, as a Pulitzer-winning journalist explains to fellow Pulitzer-winner Chris Hedges in the latest edition of the latter’s series for RT America:

On Contact: A Tax System Rigged for the Rich with David Cay Johnston

Program notes:

On this week’s episode of On Contact, Chris Hedges sits down with David Cay Johnson, author of “The Making of Donald Trump” to examine how the Republican presidential nominee and the rich are benefiting from a rigged tax system. RT Correspondent Anya Parampil further explores how the U.S. tax code has been rewritten to benefit the wealthy.

U.K. spooks waged spy campaign on own citizens

Who do they think they are?

The NSA?

From the Guardian:

The UK’s security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on British citizens for more than a decade, top judges have ruled.

The investigatory powers tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, has ruled that the security services operated secret regimes to collect vast amounts of personal communications data tracking individual phone and web use and large datasets of confidential personal information without adequate safeguards or supervision for more than 10 years.

The IPT ruling includes the disclosure from an unpublished 2010 MI5 policy statement that the “bulk personal datasets” include material on the nation’s personal financial activities. “The fact that the service holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised, data is assessed to be a high corporate risk, since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate,” it says.

The ruling comes as the House of Lords debates the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put mass digital surveillance activities on a clear legal footing for the first time since the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the extent of state surveillance in 2013.

Chart of the day II: Drug arrest rate disparities

From Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States, a joint report from Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union:


Chart of the day: The law enforcement divide

From Gallup:


CPJ chair: Trump threatens freedom of the press

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organization headquartered in New York is so alarmed at the implicit and sometimes explicit threats to journalism coming from the Republican president candidate that they have issued a formal alarm.

From the statement:

New York, October 13, 2016–In an unprecedented step, the Committee to Protect Journalists today released a statement recognizing that a Donald Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom. In response to Trump’s threats and vilification of the media during his campaign, the chairman of CPJ’s board, Sandra Mims Rowe, issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

Guaranteeing the free flow of information to citizens through a robust, independent press is essential to American democracy. For more than 200 years this founding principle has protected journalists in the United States and inspired those around the world, including brave journalists facing violence, censorship, and government repression.

Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values. On October 6, CPJ’s board of directors passed a resolution declaring Trump an unprecedented threat to the rights of journalists and to CPJ’s ability to advocate for press freedom around the world.

Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as “dishonest” and “scum” and singled out individual news organizations and journalists.

He has mocked a disabled New York Times journalist and called an ABC News reporter a “sleaze” in a press conference. He expelled Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference because he asked an “impertinent” question, and has publicly demeaned other journalists.

Trump has refused to condemn attacks on journalists by his supporters. His campaign has also systematically denied press credentials to outlets that have covered him critically, including The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Univision, and The Des Moines Register.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” In September, Trump tweeted, “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”

While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.

A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious. Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own countries. This appears to be of no concern to Trump, who indicated that he has no inclination to challenge governments on press freedom and the treatment of journalists.

France ends mandatory transgender sterilization

Goof lord.

Mandatory sterilization?

Although it wasn’t all that long ago, many states in the U.S. mandated sterilization for the “feeble minded,” part of the the same eugenics movement that gave inspiration to Hitler.

From the  Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rights activists celebrated a major victory in France on Thursday after the country passed legislation allowing transgender people to legally change their gender without undergoing sterilization.

The move comes after a handful of European nations strengthened the rights of transgender people by scrapping requirements such as undergoing medical procedures in order to have their desired gender legally recognized.

Since 2014, Denmark, Malta and Ireland have allowed people to legally change their gender by simply informing authorities, without any medical or state intervention.

The practice of involuntary sterilization has been widely condemned as a human rights violation, including by the United Nations.

Charts of the day II: Monsanto’s lobbying outlay

From Monsanto Lobbying: an attack on us, our planet and democracy, an important new report from Corporate Europe Observatory, two revealing charts, first of Big Agra/GMO giant’s lobbying and election spending in the U.S. [including, in small print, the $8.1 million spent to fight a GMO labeling referendum in California]:


And the corporation’s outlays in the European Union, including company-sponsored front groups:


As CEO reports:

Corporations like Monsanto have limitless resources to buy political power through lobbying. Not only are they represented by numerous lobbying associations at every level from local to global, they also have an army of hired-gun lobbyists, fund scientists to act as their mouthpiece, and participate in ‘greenwashing’ projects.

EU institutions and the US government often actively solicit corporations to lobby them, giving corporations privileged access to decision-making. This perverse symbiosis allows corporations to capture decision-making, but leads to hollowed out democracy, environmental disaster, and grave social injustice.

There are roughly three fields of industry lobbying: directly targeting decision-makers; PR and propaganda; and undermining science. Broadly three types of actors exist: those giving the orders, those following them, and those who are accomplices to these attempts.