Category Archives: Law

Quote of the day: A case of genocide in California


From a Los Angeles Times op-ed by UCLA historian and genocide scholar Benjamin Madley, author of the just-published An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873:

California’s Legislature first convened in 1850, and one of its initial orders of business was banning all Indians from voting, barring those with “one-half of Indian blood” or more from giving evidence for or against whites in criminal cases, and denying Indians the right to serve as jurors. California legislators later banned Indians from serving as attorneys. In combination, these laws largely shut Indians out of participation in and protection by the state legal system. This amounted to a virtual grant of impunity to those who attacked them.

That same year, state legislators endorsed unfree Indian labor by legalizing white custody of Indian minors and Indian prisoner leasing. In 1860, they extended the 1850 act to legalize “indenture” of “any Indian.” These laws triggered a boom in violent kidnappings while separating men and women during peak reproductive years, both of which accelerated the decline of the California Indian population. Some Indians were treated as disposable laborers. One lawyer recalled: “Los Angeles had its slave mart [and] thousands of honest, useful people were absolutely destroyed in this way.” Between 1850 and 1870, L.A.’s Indian population fell from 3,693 to 219.

The U.S. Army and their auxiliaries also killed at least 1,680 California Indians between 1846 and 1873. Meanwhile, in 1852, state politicians and U.S. senators stopped the establishment of permanent federal reservations in California, thus denying California Indians land while exposing them to danger.

State endorsement of genocide was only thinly veiled. In 1851, California Gov. Peter Burnett declared that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged … until the Indian race becomes extinct.” In 1852, U.S. Sen. John Weller — who became California’s governor in 1858 — went further. He told his colleagues in the Senate that California Indians “will be exterminated before the onward march of the white man,” arguing that “the interest of the white man demands their extinction.”

Whistleblower retaliation claim backs Snowden


While both Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton insists whistleblowers have nothing to fear in they take their allegation of official abuse through official channels, new revelations back up Edward Snowden’s contention that he acted out of fear of retaliation if he followed the official doctrine.

From the Guardian:

Edward Snowden has called for a complete overhaul of US whistleblower protections after a new source from deep inside the Pentagon came forward with a startling account of how the system became a “trap” for those seeking to expose wrongdoing.

The account of John Crane, a former senior Pentagon investigator, appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other major establishment figures who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media.

Crane, a longtime assistant inspector general at the Pentagon, has accused his old office of retaliating against a major surveillance whistleblower, Thomas Drake, in an episode that helps explain Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency disclosures. Not only did Pentagon officials provide Drake’s name to criminal investigators, Crane told the Guardian, they destroyed documents relevant to his defence.

Snowden, responding to Crane’s revelations, said he had tried to raise his concerns with colleagues, supervisors and lawyers and been told by all of them: “You’re playing with fire.”

Whistleblowers, including Drake, had exposed the secret NSA programs implemented after 9./11 intercepting, without legally mandated warrants, the communications of American citizens.

There was strong pressure for prosecution of the others even after Drake had plead guilty and received no jail time.

From Der Spiegel, an account of what happened next, during the Obama administration:

John Crane remembers his boss, in an internal meeting, presenting the idea of passing the names of the whistleblowers on to the Justice Department officials investigating the case. Crane says he objected at the time and noted that this would be in violation of the legally guaranteed protection of anonymity for whistleblowers. The dispute continued outside the meeting room and he finally even pulled out his pamphlet with the law written on it. Crane says his boss answered by saying that he was in charge of relations with the Justice Department and that he would deal with it as he saw fit.

Those affected, the Pentagon and the Office of the Inspector General declined to respond in detail to SPIEGEL inquiries about the events. Crane’s former boss cited his oath of confidentiality. He said he was confident that an investigation into the events would show he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Crane’s suspicions continued to grow, especially after important documents pertaining to the Drake case disappeared from the inspector general’s office. Drake’s lawyer Jesselyn Raddack asked the court to demand the documents, saying they would prove that Drake was only in possession of the NSA documents on his private computer because he wanted to provide them to the inspector general. This would have granted Drake source protection and prevented him from prosecution.

But the files could allegedly no longer be found in the Office of the Inspector General — it was claimed that they had been shredded. Staff had accidently “fucked up,” Crane remembers one of his superiors telling him before adding that Crane needed to be a “team player.” Crane’s superior told the judge that the disappearance of the files had resulted from an error made during the routine elimination of files. Crane didn’t believe a word of it. He was convinced that that files had been deliberately destroyed. “Lying to a judge during criminal proceedings is a punishable offense,” he says.

Crane decided against being a “team player.” He stopped toeing the line, he countered and complained. He also sent the message that he would not keep silent. As had been the case with Drake, this would result in painful personal consequences for Crane. In 2013, the then-inspector general ordered him into her office and slid his termination papers across the table. In front of the office, a security guard stripped him of his ID card.

Chart of the day: Criminalized speech in Europe


BLOG Speech

From the International Press Institute, which reports:

Germany towers over its European Union neighbours when it comes to the number of instances in which criminal defamation laws are applied, the surprising results of an International Press Institute (IPI) special investigation released today show.

The year 2013 saw nearly 22,000 criminal convictions for insult, defamation or slander in Germany, according to official statistics, more than 29 times as many as in the country with the second-highest number, Portugal. Germany’s place atop the rankings holds firm even when adjusted for population: Germany’s tally of 27.11 convictions per 100,000 residents is nearly four times as great as Portugal, which again holds the second position with an average of 7.15.

IPI has analysed official data on criminal justice for 18 EU countries to provide an unprecedented, detailed picture of the use of criminal defamation laws in Europe. Data collected refer to the use of such laws generally, not specifically against the media; in most cases statistics do not differentiate by the profession of the defendant. The investigation confirms that criminal defamation and insult laws continue to be actively applied in Europe. In 2013, the primary year for which data were collected for comparative purposes, there were criminal convictions for defamation and insult in all but two of the 18 countries surveyed. The exceptions were Denmark and Latvia.

The Empire Files: Turning troops into lab rats


In the latest episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin turns her critical gaze to aother national shame: The exploitation of America’s military as experimental subjects of testing on everything from nerve gasses and biological warfare agents to mind-altering drugs and nuclear weapons.

Not only does America’s military brass treat soldiers as experimental animals; they also deny what they’ve done and refuse to pay the medical treatments needed to alleviate the miseries they’ve induced.

And they’ve been doing it for more than a century, as she searingly documents.

What marks this episode as particularly notable is the dramatic change of format, evidence of Martin’s skills as a visual artist [you can see some of her painting and photography here]. The result is a new fusion, and, we hope, a measure of things to come.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Used & Betrayed – 100 Years of US Troops as Lab Rats

Program notes:

On Memorial Day, politicians will speak at ceremonies all over the country and repeat their favorite mantra: “Support the troops.”

This pledge is hammered into the American psyche at every turn. But there is a hidden, dark history that shows that the politicians are in fact no friend to service members–but their greatest enemy.

An easy way to prove this truth is to look at how they so quickly betray and abandon their soldiers after purposely ruining their lives, and even after using them as literal lab rats.

In this disturbing chapter of The Empire Files, Abby Martin documents decades of experimentation on US troops—from nuclear tests to psychotropic drugs—as well as knowingly exposing them to deadly poisons, from sarin gas to Agent Orange.

Most damning is that the hundreds of thousands of veterans seeking help from the government for the side-effects are always met with lies and denial.

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Original music by Anahedron

Brazil’s acting president hews to neoliberal line


Michel Temer, Brazil’s acting president and chief neoliberal, is setting about the most ruthless privatization of the nation’s commons since the Portuguese colonialist first arrived.

And just as with the Portuguese, the nation’s indigenous peoples are shapping up to be the first victims of the relentless drive to turn everything public into a center of private profit.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Brazil’s interim government is moving ahead with plans for a constitutional amendment that would weaken indigenous land rights and pave the way for new plantations and dams to encroach on lands inhabited by native peoples, a United Nations official said.

Erika Yamada, a member of the U.N’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a human rights advisory body, said the proposed constitutional change would result in Brazil moving backwards on indigenous land rights.

The procedures used to identify and indigenous territories could be altered to give lawmakers more power to decide which territories belong to native peoples, she said.

>snip<

“They (lawmakers) will try and move forward with changes to the constitution that would make it much harder to defend indigenous rights,” Yamada told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview this week.

“I think they will also weaken the process of authorization for large development projects with great social and environmental impact for traditional communities.”

And it’s not just the land and water of the indigenous that are marked for the auction block

From Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer is studying the sale of state assets to shore up public accounts, as well as an audit of the country’s largest savings bank, said a government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

A government task force will consider selling stakes in companies such as power utility Furnas Centrais Eletricas SA and BR Distribuidora, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer known as Petrobras, said the official, who asked not to be named because the plans haven’t been made public. The intention is to help plug a near-record budget deficit and improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises.

Petrobras’s preferred shares rallied as much as 1.6 per cent on the report, after posting losses during most of the morning.

The plans are the clearest sign yet of a policy shift since the Senate’s suspension last week of President Dilma Rousseff, who had increased the role of the government and state companies in the economy.

Temer has also take the first steps to privatizing the national public broadcaster, reports teleSUR English:

Michel Temer, head of the coup government in Brazil, fired the head of the Brazil Communications Company, the public firm that manages the country’s public media outlets.

The action was rejected by the firm’s board of directors on the grounds that the law that regulates the company prohibits political interference.

“The notion that the president-director of the company should have fixed term, that does not coincide with a presidential mandates, was enshrined precisely to ensure the independence, impartiality and guiding principles of public outlets,” read a statement by the board of the Brazil Communications Company.

“The aim is to ensure autonomy from the federal government and protect the right of Brazilian society to free and public communications, which ensures the expression of diversity and plurality — foundations of a modern and democratic society,” added the statement.

The head of the company, Ricardo Melo, was appointed by democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff for a four year term earlier this month.

The coup government, however, ignored the concerns of the board.

Melo was replaced by Laerte Rimoli, who served as spokesperson for Aecio Neves, the right-wing candidate defeated by Rousseff in the 2014 presidential election. He also previously served as press officer for Eduardo Cunha, the embattled former head of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently suspended by the Supreme Court.

There’s much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day II: A matter of perspective


From the Guardian:

‘Corrupt in its roots’: as Oakland police scandals pile up, residents not surprised

Donald Trump may have called the city one of the ‘most dangerous’ in the world but community members say the real danger is its police officers

Chart of the day II: Sittin’ on a mountain of cash


BLOG Cash

The chart and the explanation from USA Today [emphasis added]:

The rising cash holdings of U.S. corporations are increasingly in the hands of a few U.S. companies, with just five tech firms having grabbed a third of it. And nearly three-quarters of cash held by non-financial U.S. companies is stashed overseas, outside the long arm of Uncle Sam.

Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet [Google], Cisco Systems and Oracle are sitting on $504 billion, or 30%, of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015, according to an analysis released Friday by ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service.  That’s even more cash concentration than in previous years, as these five companies held 27% of cash in 2014 and 25% in 2013. Apple alone is holding more cash and investments than eight of the 10 entire industry sectors.

Corporate America’s rising pile of cash is becoming increasingly important to investors as profit growth and the stock market stalls. The amount of cash held by U.S. companies rose 1.8% in 2015. Unfortunately for U.S. investors, 72% of total cash held by all non-financial U.S. companies is stockpiled outside the U.S., up from 64% in 2014 and 58% in 2013, as companies try to avoid paying U.S. tax rates.

Investors are eyeing companies’ growing cash piles as potential sources of dividend increases to maintain fat returns even if stock prices continue to go nowhere. Dividends rose 4% last year to a record high of $404 billion, while companies cut back on capital spending by 3% to $885 billion. Capital spending is the cash companies put into new plants and equipment with the hopes of driving higher profits in the future.