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Civil Rights / Liberties
In all of this work, you’ve helped people in crisis and in need. And, as you have stood by your clients, you have also stood up for, and honored, a basic principle that defines who we are as a nation of laws. As you all know, advancing the cause of justice sometimes means working for the sake of the fairness and integrity of our system of justice. This is why lawyers who accept our professional responsibility to protect the rule of law, the right to counsel, and access to our courts – even when this requires defending unpopular positions or clients – deserve the praise and gratitude of all Americans. They also deserve respect. Those who reaffirm our nation’s most essential and enduring values do not deserve to have their own values questioned. Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be treated as what they are: patriots.
The principle of equal justice under law inspires this service. And it guides the work of today’s Justice Department. In fact, the Department recently made an historic and permanent commitment to expanding and ensuring access to legal services. As many of you know, on March 1, we launched a landmark Access to Justice Initiative, led by the eminent Harvard Law Professor, Larry Tribe. The idea for this office was simple. Just as you have pro bono initiatives at your firms and corporations, I wanted to be sure that in our house, too, there is a permanent effort to provide access to justice and to continuously enhance the fairness and integrity of our legal system.
President Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus under the painting of President Abraham Lincoln.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. (Excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation.)
We decided that a good place to begin with unified action was to oppose the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited contributions to political candidates.
MICHAEL MOORE: A LOVE STORY
By Joan Wile
If you know the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you know there are probably more progressives per square inch here than in all the 50 states. So, it's no surprise that a big bunch of people showed up this evening at my small one-bedroom apartment in this highly liberal neighborhood to see Michael Moore's masterpiece, "Capitalism: A Love Story."
My event was one of MoveOn's 700 parties nationwide tonight to show the film in an effort to generate grass roots action against some of the evil excesses of capitalism rampant in the United States. These evils are powerfully exposed in Moore's movie -- the foreclosures on people's homes; the cancellation of jobs in order to make way for profits; the practice of taking out insurance on employees unbeknownst to them and then collecting large payments when they die (of which not one cent is shared with the family survivors), and all manner of other immoral practices so harmful to decent working Americans.
Did a White Sheriff and District Attorney Orchestrate a Race-Based Coup in a Northern Louisiana Town?
In the small northeast Louisiana town of Waterproof, the African-American mayor and police chief assert that they have been forced from office and arrested as part of an illegal coup carried out by the region's white political power structure. In a lawsuit filed last week, Police Chief Miles Jenkins describes a wide-ranging conspiracy led by the area’s district attorney and parish sheriff. These charges come at a time of widespread and high-profile racist attacks against the US President and Black members of Congress nationwide, and in a state where white political corruption and violence have been and continue to be used as tools to suppress Black political representation.
About 800 people live in Waterproof, a rural community in Tensas Parish that is 88% African American. Tensas has just over 6,000 residents, making it both the smallest parish in the state, and the parish with the state’s fastest declining population. The area schools remain mostly segregated, with nearly all the Black students attending public schools, and nearly all the white students attending private schools. With a median household income of $10,250, Waterproof is also one of the poorest communities in the US. The only jobs for Black people in town involve working for white farmers, according to Chief Jenkins. “Unless you go out of town to work,” he says, “You’re going to ride the white man’s tractor. That's it.”
Bobby Higginbotham was elected mayor of Waterproof in September of 2006. The next year, he appointed Miles Jenkins as chief of police. Jenkins, who served in the US military for 30 years and earned a master’s degree in public administration from Troy University in Alabama, immediately began the work of professionalizing a small town police department that had previously been mostly inactive. “You called the Waterproof police for help before,” says Chief Jenkins, “He would say, wait ‘til tomorrow, it’s too hot to come out today.” The new mayor also sought to reform the town’s financial practices, which Chief Jenkins says were in disorder and consumed by debt. Read more.
The F Word: Step Toward Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones
By Laura Flanders | Smirking Chimp
Score one for Senator Al Franken.
Thanks to him, Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who alleges she was gang raped by her coworkers will get her day in court.
I think we call that equal protection.
In Jones' case, it took an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill. That's right, freshman Franken had to get up and suggest that government shouldn't be in the business of giving rewards -- or government contracts -- to companies that strip their workers of basic Constitutional rights, like the right to a jury trial.
Jones, lest we forget, has testified that she was raped and battered so badly by a group of her co-workers in Iraq that she required reconstructive surgery. Her assailants locked her in a shipping container for 24 hours without food, water, and she has testified before Congress that the company “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job." Read more.
By David Swanson
If you haven't read "A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments," by H.P. Albarelli Jr., I recommend doing so right away. Read every word, cover to cover. You will initially conclude that I, and Albarelli, are crazy. This is the story of one simple murder that asks who done it and doesn't answer the question for over 700 pages, because every time a new character enters the story the author introduces him with background that includes how his grandparents were conceived and where his field of work originated. But there is method to the madness, trust me. Bear with it.
To see the world through Greg Taylor's eyes, imagine being stuck in a time machine for 16 years and delivered to 2010.
Facebook, flat screens and DVDs are all new to him. Relationships that used to come with natural ease seem awkward.
Since 1993, Taylor, now 47, had been locked away in North Carolina's prison system for the murder of a prostitute. Last month, he was exonerated and freed....
Taylor is the first man to be exonerated by a state innocence commission, which makes his case stand out from those of the more than 500 people across the country who have been exonerated by the work of private attorneys, according to the Life After Exoneration program.
The group that freed Taylor, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, was created in 2006 after a succession of wrongful convictions were revealed. It's a one-of-a-kind program with a state-mandated panel that re-examines questionable cases, including those that don't involve DNA evidence like Taylor's.
Other jurisdictions are following North Carolina's lead, looking at creating government agencies to prevent and reverse wrongful convictions. Read more.
Question: Professor, Yoo, I’m going to give you an opportunity to weigh in on some other attorneys’ work.
Yoo: Oh boy.
Q: There was an Op-Ed in last Monday’s Wall St Journal entitled Gitmo’s Indefensible Lawyers co-authored by Debrah Burlingame who is the sister of the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 which was crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. The op-ed details certain highly unusual behavior by several attorneys representing Gitmo detainees, and now I’ll get to my leading question: Do you believe that some of these defense attorneys rather than representing the finest tradition of the legal profession have crossed over the line from vigorous defense of an odious client, to willful or perhaps naive aiding and abetting of a movement bent on the destruction of Western Civilization?
I cannot claim to be an expert on Stewart Udall, the Arizona Congressman, conservationist, supporter of environmentalist casandra Rachel Carson, and interior secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson who died this week at the age of 90.
I can say, from personal experience, though, that he was a breed apart from the money-grubbing, corporate ass-kissing, Washington cocktail circuit, elitist pigs who have headed up federal government departments in the days and years since Richard Nixon, in 1969, inaugurated the "Imperial Presidency."
Here's a good blog at FireDogLake. But there are additional concerns here:
The executive order here becomes not just another way, like an OLC memo, to unconstitutionally make laws without the legislature, but also now a new form of signing statement, a way to get the legislature to make exactly the law the emperor wants even if the legislature won't do it.
Police in New Jersey arrested a teenager in connection with a public-address-system announcement telling "all blacks" to leave a Wal-Mart store, a police spokesman said.
The 16-year-old boy is from Atlantic County, New Jersey, said deputy police chief John Dalesandro of the Washington Township Police Department. The suspect was arrested Friday in Atlantic County on bias intimidation and harassment charges, police said in a statement Saturday. He is in custody of his parents, police said.
Gloucester County prosecutors say that shortly before 5 p.m. on March 14, an unidentified male accessed the public address system at the Turnersville, New Jersey, Wal-Mart Supercenter Store. "All blacks need to leave the store," the voice announced. Store management contacted the Washington Township Police Department, which opened an investigation in conjunction with the county prosecutor's office, Dalesandro said. Read more.
The American Political Tradition
By Ray McGovern
Text of Ray McGovern’s prepared remarks at rally before John Yoo speaks this afternoon at the University of Virginia:
This morning I was reading the 11th grade AP American History textbook used in my granddaughter here in Charlottesville.
The textbook is titled: "The American Political Tradition and the Men who Made It." The author is Richard Hofstadter; the book has been around since 1948....almost as long as I have been around. It discusses the basics--the assumptions behind American ideals and American politics. It is what I was taught.
What the author is most clear about is the influence of Mr. Jefferson on other distinguished statesmen....including those not privileged to be Virginians — like Abraham Lincoln, who was a real Republican.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the federal government Tuesday to learn the use of unmanned drones for targeted killings by the military and CIA.
“In particular, the lawsuit asks for information on when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, the number and rate of civilian casualties and other basic information essential for assessing the wisdom and legality of using armed drones to conduct targeted killings,” the ACLU said in a statement, announcing its action.
The nonprofit civil liberties group filed initial Freedom of Information Act requests with the Defense, Justice and State departments and with the Central Intelligence Agency on Jan. 13. Only the CIA responded, and the ACLU is pursuing that request with an appeal to the agency.
The military and intelligence communities have increasingly relied on Predator and Reaper unmanned drones to capture video imagery and launch deadly missile strikes, particularly lately in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. The Pentagon, especially, continues to purchase more and more drones each year. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — All clinical trials have guidelines that clearly state who can and cannot participate, but according to the National Institutes of Health these guidelines are typically based on age, gender, previous treatment history, the type and stage of a disease, and other medically relevant factors. However, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center have gathered evidence indicating that some trials explicitly exclude individuals based on their sexual orientation. Their findings are published in a research letter appearing in the March 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Please click below to hear democratic consultant Bob Fertik discuss how American democracy is at stake due to the Supreme Court decision to allow unfettered corporate spending, including foreign corporate dollars, on U.S. elections: Listen to Bob Fertik on the Bill Press Show
1. Binding pledges from corporations not to buy or sell election ads
2. Strict laws against election spending by corporations with foreign owners, and by recipients of Federal contracts, bailouts, and subsidies. For other U.S. corporations, shareholders must approve election ads
3. Clean elections through publicly-funded Federal and state campaigns
4. A Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling so Congress and states can outlaw all corporate election spending
By David Swanson
Sunshine Week, according to its website, is "a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know."
The University of Virginia here in Charlottesville is doing its part by hosting book tour stops for the chief author of the worst secret laws ever established. John Yoo will be speaking at the Miller Center and at an event hosted by the Federalist Society. Yoo will be speaking in support of unlimited presidential power, including the power to create secret laws.
One day after being sworn into office, President Barack Obama instructed federal agencies to ensure government transparency by complying with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act law....
One year later, Obama's requests for transparency have apparently gone unheeded. In fact a provision in the Freedom of Information Act law that allows the government to hide records that detail its internal decision-making has been invoked by Obama agencies more often in the past year than during the final year of President George W. Bush.
Major agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies. Read more.
The Sunlight Foundation, and its Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman, today announced the introduction of POIA — the Public Online Information Act. The Act is proposed Federal legislation that would require government to provide meaningful access to its information online. In the words of its organizational sign-on letter:
The Public Online Information Act requires government information that is public to be made available in the broadest, most accessible manner — online. Our vital public information can enhance accountability, spur commerce, and empower citizenship, but only if we create and require meaningful digital access to it. POIA creates this meaningful access through two mechanisms.
First, POIA mandates that the Executive Branch make public records permanently available on the Internet, with a few exceptions. To coordinate this new mandate, POIA creates new authority within existing structures to strengthen responsibility for transparency.
Second, POIA creates an advisory body of government officials and private citizens to ensure that all three branches of government work together to establish best practices for making this information available online. This special federal advisory committee will coordinate the development of government-wide Internet disclosure policies. Read more.
20 March Peace Demonstrations still on Despite Pre-Protest Suppression of Dissent
By Robert L. Hanafin | Veterans Today
The government and national and local law enforcement agencies are now engaged in a nationally coordinated effort to stamp out the exercise of classic grassroots organizing and dissent against the continued occupation of Iraq and war for Defense Industry profits in Afghanistan.
Protest organizers such as those speaking out below vow to never surrender to this Police State campaign that aims to intimidate and bankrupt the progressive movement. They are fighting back. Most importantly, they continue to mobilize despite police harassment.
They ask for our support by coming to the March 20 demonstrations and by bringing our friends, families, co-workers and fellow students. The voice of dissent will not be silenced.
Last Sunday night, March 6, volunteers in LA were arrested for allegedly putting up three posters announcing the March 20th Peace demonstrations to be held on that area. Peace activists were charged with felony vandalism and kept in jail on $20,000 bail for each of them. Thanks to volunteers coming together, they were able to raise bail money....
In Washington, D.C., Peace activists have also been hit with another wave of fines for March 20th political posters. These thousands of dollars of new fines are on top of an unprecedented $70,000 fines from the two most recent Peace mobilizations....
Those in the federal government, local law enforcement or pro-war movements in general who deprive others of their constitutional and civil rights must be held accountable and liable for their constitutional wrongs. This is necessary so that our government and law enforcement figures, and others who might follow in their footsteps, are deterred from the constitutional violations that have grown far too frequent, during the Bush and Obama administrations, from ever recurring again. No remedy is comprehensive unless it works to prevent recurrence and protects the rights of all. Read more.
Lyndeborough, NH Passes Warrant Article Prohibiting Concealed Vote Counting By Computers Or Any Other Method
Any citizen in New Hampshire can bring a petition article to their Town Warrant by securing the signatures of at least 25 registered voters. The article is then added to the Town Warrant to be voted on in Town meeting. Today, the citizens of Lyndeborough resoundingly approved enacting into the town's laws the following warrant article regarding the counting of votes. I hope that NH citizens all around the state will enact the same law in their town at next year's Town Meetings.
Here is the petition citizens signed to add the article below regarding the counting of votes to the Town Warrant:
WASHINGTON, DC — With numerous states facing significant budget shortages, legislators and voters across the country this month have been giving overwhelming support to measures that would reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil fine.
Yesterday in New Hampshire, the state House voted 214-137 to pass H.B. 1653, a bill that would reduce the penalty for possession of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $200.
In Hawaii, the state Senate voted 22 to 3 on March 2 to pass SB 2450, a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $300 for a first offense and $500 for a subsequent offense.
From Anderson Cooper 360: Tonight we look at the battle over what public schools should be teaching your kids. In Texas today the state's board of education approved a new social studies curriculum that conservatives say is meant to correct for a liberal bias among the teachers who initially drafted the standards. The vote came after days of charged debate.
Tom Foreman is following the debate. He's got a look at what may be and out of textbooks. Out: calling the U.S. government "Democratic". In: Calling it a "Constitutional Republic." Also out: too much talk about Thomas Jefferson and the enlightenment, which stressed reasoning and science over blind faith. Also In: More recognition of the contributions of religious leaders, like Moses.
All of this matters, because with almost five million students in Texas, the state buys a lot of textbooks that could determine what publishers put out for America's other school children. Though, in this digital age, that is not as big of a concern as in past years. Read more.
Don't know who wrote this, as I got it through a forwarded Email:
Remember the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it?
Did you know his trial is over?
Did you know he was sentenced?
Did you see/hear any of the judge's comments on TV or Radio?
Didn't think so.!!!
Everyone should hear what the judge had to say.
Prior to sentencing, the Judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say.. His response: After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his 'allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah,' defiantly stating, 'I think I will not apologize for my actions,' and told the court 'I am at war with your country.'
Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below:
January 30, 2003, United States vs. Reid.
Judge Young: 'Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.
Department Of Justice Determines That ES&S Purchase Of Diebold Voting Machine Division Is Illegal Monopoly, Orders Divestiture
VelvetRevolution has been critical of the Department of Justice on many fronts. Yet now we can report a bit of good news for a change from DOJ. On Monday, the Antitrust Division announced a settlement of an antitrust action against ES&S for its purchase last year of Diebold/Premier Voting Systems.
Since that merger was announced, we have been actively opposing it as part of our Diebold Return our Money Campaign, with press releases, letters to DOJ and Congress, and collaboration with our election reform colleagues. Had the sale been allowed, ES&S would control more than 70% of the votes cast in the country, a virtual monopoly as we had argued and as the DOJ has now agreed.
“The acquisition had been opposed by election integrity organizations, Hart Intercivic (a much smaller Austin-based competitor), the New York Times' editorial board, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, and was being investigated by 14 different states along with the DOJ's antitrust division,” wrote VR co-founder Brad Friedman, who has been covering this story extensively at The BRAD BLOG.
However, we are concerned about how long it took for the DOJ to act because, over the past six months, ES&S has totally dismantled Diebold/Premier leaving all of Diebold's old customers in 22 states either without a vendor or forced to contract with ES&S in order to hold elections this year.
We will keep you posted about our efforts to ensure that the voters and the integrity of our elections do not suffer further from this corporate mess -- one of the dangers of relying on private companies to run public elections -- that we have been warning about for so long.
While this settlement is a good step toward reigning in unbridled corporate power and monopoly, it certainly does not put an end to the larger problem: the obscuring of democracy via secret software from We the People. The counting of our votes should be done in a transparent, verifiable and overseeable manner, not by computers that often fail, can be rigged and hacked, and do not produce verifiable, transparent election results.
When means, motive, and opportunity exist for election manipulation, it would be naive to presume it will not and has not occurred. Our own investigations, such as Rove Cybergate, make a strong case that intentional manipulation of recent U.S. elections has occurred and that voting machine companies have helped facilitate the undermining of transparent, accurate, verifiable democracy.
We at Velvet Revolution want to give a shout out to our election reform colleagues at Black Box Voting and Voter Action for their terrific work in helping to oppose the dangerous ES&S merger with Diebold/Premier.
We must continue the fight. We rely on you, our members, for support. As one of our fans on Facebook posted, "VR is one of the most effective advocacy groups dollar for dollar anywhere."
Please make a donation if you are able so the fight continues to ensure democracy can be restored to the United States of America.
AL Ex-Governor Don Siegelman: Obama's DOJ Argued Americans Don't Have Constitutional Right Not To Be Framed
The U.S Department of Justice announced last month a new program to help poor people accused of crimes obtain a lawyer. Great Idea! But what difference will that make as long as the DOJ approves of their prosecutors framing innocent people?
In January, lawyers for President Obama argued before the U.S.Supreme Court that we don't have a constitutional right not to be framed. Check it out: On January 5th, The LA Times reported in the case of Pottawattamie County v. McGhee and Harrington, "President Obama's lawyers asserted there is no constitutional 'right not to be framed.'" In this case two men spent more than 25 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit.
On my 62nd birthday, February 24th, 2008, while I was in federal prison in the swamps of Louisiana, for something that The New York Times and 91 former state Attorneys General say is not a crime, CBS' 60 Minutes did a 12 minute piece showing how prosecutors bargained with a "crook" to get him to write and rewrite his testimony until he got it the way the government wanted. Then government prosecutors (Karl Rove's best friend's wife who was and still is the U.S. Attorney in my case) presented false evidence to get a conviction."
Please watch this CBS 60 Minutes piece as a birthday present to me this year.
Jesse Ventura on CNN Larry King Live: Stop Voting for Democrats & Republicans, Hawaii Has State-Run Health Care - It Works!
I just read this in an article about Michael Connell's suspicious death:
"Ohio’s secretary of state in 2004 was a fiercely partisan Christian named Ken Blackwell. Blackwell had hired a company called GDC Limited to run the IT systems, which had subcontracted the job to Michael Connell’s company, GovTech. Connell had in turn sub-contracted SMARTech, an IT firm based in Chattanooga, to act, it was claimed, as a backup server.
“By looking at the URLs on the Web site, we discovered that there were three points on election night when SMARTech’s computers took over from the secretary of state,” says Arnebeck. “It is during that period that we believe votes were manipulated.”
In computer jargon it is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. Read more.
It can be argued that when Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol accused nine lawyers in Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department of being the "al-Qaida Seven," working in the "Department of Jihad," they were simply exercising their First Amendment right to say anything that would get them on a talk show.
This is, after all, America.
The right to cynically accuse someone of being a terrorist is protected under the Constitution.
Torture Suit Naming Rumsfeld Clears Hurdle | CBS News
Judge Allows Hearing for Lawsuit Accusing Former Defense Secretary of Responsibility in Alleged Torture of Americans in Iraq
While in custody, they were subjected to sleep deprivation, long hours of interrogation, blasting music, threats, hunger and a practice known as "walling" in which subjects are blindfolded and walked into walls, according to the suit.
The suit describes such practices as forms of torture and alleges Rumsfeld personally took part in determining such methods were acceptable for use by the military in Iraq.
A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for the alleged torture by U.S. forces of two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen's ruling did not say the two contractors had proven any of their claims. But it did say they had alleged enough specific mistreatment to warrant hearing evidence of exactly what happened.
Andersen said his decision "represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting."
Andersen did throw out two of the lawsuit's three counts but gave former contractors Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel the green light to go forward with a third count alleging they were unconstitutionally tortured under procedures personally approved by Rumsfeld. Read more.