Thursday, April 12, 2007

Law and Disorder, Marjorie Cohn

Thursday, one day to the weekend and I just want to crawl in bed. When it's cold, I think that's my thing to do and I've been cold all day. Even when everyone else wasn't!

But it's time to talk about WBAI's Law and Disorder (on WBAI Monday, it also airs on other stations as well). Remember that they are moving the website and if you go WBAI archives looking for the program it's under "OUT FM" on Mondays.

Michael Ratner and Michael Smith discussed the Supreme Court's decision to refuse to hear the case regarding the Guantanamo prisoners. Instead we have "an alternative system of justice" that "tomorrow it could be for any of us." They talked about enemy combatants and how Bully Boy can designate anyone that (even US citizens) and could torture you, "use hearsay evidence against you," and basically anything at all. "You don't have a lawyer, you don't have a right to go to court" you just get a military committee.

This episode wasn't the Michaels only. Their first guest was Howard Bass who is an ACLU member and attorney and he was one of the ones handling the Minnesota "photo cop ordinance." These are the cameras that photograph people going through a red light. The registered owner is the one who gets the ticket sent to them. It is then the responsibility of the owner to pay or provide the name of the driver of the car. This raised the issue that our court systems are built on: innocent until proven guilty. The red light photo system presumes guilt and the burden of proof is on the guilty. Heidi Boghosian was on this segment and she had several strong questions and points, including who was targeted and how this impacts insurance.

The next segment's guest was NYU law professor Paul Chevigny to discuss the Handschu Consent Decree "the police couldn't surveil" pure political activity. If they suspected criminal activity they needed two civilians and a police's approval per the Handschu Consent Decree. The case was on police abuses and spying. Barbara Handschu, of the National Lawyers Guild, was one of the lead attorneys and Chevigny was also an attorney on this case. In the mid-80s, the decision was reached. In 2002, NYC police claimed Handschu was too restrictive and harming their investigations. So now they only need approval from the NYC Director of Intelligence. That's how they get to film and photograph protests. Heidi pointed out that they are keeping the film and not destroying it. It was supposed to be heard, the case, yesterday but
I'm not finding any news article on it.

I need to correct two things. Margaret Ratner Kunstler was a guest last year and I said she was Michael Ratner's sister. C.I. thought that was funny in real time and corrected me that she wasn't Michael's sister, she was Michael's ex-wife. C.I. said not to worry about it and it was an innocent mistake. But I said the next time I had something, I'd note it. I quoted C.I. a few weeks back on Stanley Abramowitz and pulled something out of the quote. C.I. was here last Friday and Rebecca was joking about that. I had pulled out a thing about Stanley Abramowitz's wife. I didn't realize it was known that C.I. knew her. Rebecca was laughing about that and I was going, "Who was his wife?" It was Ellen Willis and C.I. did write an obit on her so I could have used C.I.'s full quote if I'd known that at the time.

Oh, Heidi also got the ending commentary about how the Justice Department is using 'agreements' and not 'decrees' because they're less binding and they're participating with the local police in the breakdown of our rights to privacy. So that was this week's episode.

Now I mentioned the National Lawyers Guild above (Heidi, the Michaels and Dalia Hashad are all members) and I'll offer a bit of this from an article by the National Lawyers Guild's president, Marjorie Cohn. This is called "U.S. Attorneys and Voting Rights:"

The Bush administration is shocked, shocked, that the firing of a few U.S. attorneys has caused such a stir in Washington. After all, the Oval Office says, the President can choose whomever he wants to prosecute federal cases. But the Supreme Court declared in Berger v. United States that a prosecutor's job is to see that justice is done, not to politicize justice. The mass ouster of the top prosecutors had more to do with keeping a grip on power - by manipulating voting rights - than with doing justice. And like the Watergate scandal, the evidence points to a cover-up.
This cover-up revolves around efforts by the Bush administration to disenfranchise African-American voters in communities where the vote would likely be close. George W. Bush came to power in 2000 by a razor-thin margin awarded him by the Supreme Court. During the 2004 election, there were allegations of attempts to disenfranchise African-American voters, especially in Ohio. Yet no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African-American or Native American voters from 2001 to 2006.
Instead, the administration instigated efforts that would further disenfranchise these voters. U.S. attorneys were instructed to prosecute "voter fraud" cases. "Voter fraud" has "become almost synonymous with 'voting while black,'" the New York Times' Paul Krugman observed. Also, Republican lawmakers enacted voter ID laws which established new hurdles for voters to jump.
Former staffers in the Justice Department's civil rights division said they were "repeatedly overruled when they objected to Republican actions, ranging from Georgia's voter ID law to Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting, that they believed would effectively disenfranchise African-American voters," Krugman added.
The administration's effort to prosecute voter fraud is a sham. The New York Times reports that voter experts have found "widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud." However, the Election Assistance Commission, a federal panel charged with election research, skewed the findings of the voter experts.

Now I'm not adding anything to that. How come? If you don't know, Rebecca's been covering this for weeks now. When we all went to Texas, she rode (in Treva's RV) and didn't take a plane because she's still nervous about the pregnancy (or was up to that point) and so she ended up diving into this and pretty much covers it every night. She's going to highlight this tonight and discuss it and other Gonzales stuff so check out Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 12, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, war resisters continue standing even when little jerks attack, the puppet pushes the privatization of Iraq's oil, and Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

Starting with war resisters, it must have been a full moon. You had the overgrown "girl" going after war resisters and then you got Little Priss (at the most laughable student newspaper of any college in the US) doing the same. It takes a special kind of voice to 'sing' so passionately about the tough life when Daddy's a big league coach but we're not supposed to talk about that, I'm guessing. Just like we're all supposed to pretend Junior's slug line is in anyway authentic (Little Boys from Suburbia have nasty cases of Big City Envy that force them to lie -- something that was frowned upon in the private, religious school they attended to avoid mixing with other races). Maybe Little Priss can join the overgrown "girl" and assist her in basket-weaving her home-made maxi-pads. What has them up in arms? A nasty case of toxic shock syndrome?

No, a hatred of war resisters such as Camilo Mejia whose new book,
Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia, will be published by The New Press next month (May 1st). Kirkus Reviews found it, "Timely, courageous and cautionary." Mejia, as noted in Amy Goodman and David Goodman's Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back, served six months in Iraq and, after returning to the US, applied for c.o. status and self-checked out of the military. Mejia was convicted of desertion and sentenced to a year at Fort Still. Upon release, Mejia declared, "Peace does not come easily, so I tell all members of the military that whenever faced with an order, and everything in their mind and soul, and each and every cell in their bodies scream at them to refuse and resist, then by God do so. Jail will mean nothing when brekaing the law became their duty to humanity." Another quote Camilo Mejia is known for, noted by Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker), is "Behind these bars, I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience."

Mejia's book follows Joshua Key's successful
The Deserter's Tale and joins other books exploring the resistance in the military today including Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. Mejia is also featured in the documentary To Disobey.
As Monica Benderman, wife of Iraq war resister
Kevin Benderman, has noted, there has been little on resistance in many bookstores. Monica and Kevin Benderman intend to do their part to change that by writing their own book.

Mejia and Benderman are a part of a movement resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In Iraq today the violence continued. So badly that US Secretary of State Condi Rice felt the need to issue a laughable statement: "
We know that there is a security problem in Baghdad." "We know"? Speaking for the rest of the world, "we hope so." We hope you know there is a problem in Baghdad. Still, it is an improvement over her usual "no one could have guessed" statements.

The most shocking incident of violence today for the US administration may have been the bombing inside the Green Zone.
NPR's Tom Bullock notes that the explosion took place "inside the Iraqi parliament building" in the heavily fortified section of Baghdad known as the Green Zone and that it was "a major security breach." BBC offers that the cafeteria where the bombing took place "is for MPs and their staff, some of whom were having lunch there."
AFP, noting that the Green Zone is "the country's most heavily guarded site," observes that the bombing took place "despite a massive US-Iraqi security crackdown". Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes that the bombing was caputed by "news video camera" revealing "the blast: a flash and an orange ball of fire causing a startled parliament member who was being interviewed to duck, and then the smoky, dust-filled aftermath of confusion and shouting." The news team was from Al-Hurrah, the US based and US tax funded propoganda outlet. Abdul-Zahra also notes that two legs, apparently belonging to the person who detonated the bomb, can be seen on the videotape. There is dispute as to whether a person carried the bomb in and it exploded on his/her person or whether the bomb was planted somewhere in the cafeteria. Dean Yates and Ross Colvin (Reuters) sketch out the basic procedures of entry: "the confrence centre is restricted to accredited parliamentary staff, deputies, security guards and journalists. Only MPs, police and kitchen staff can access the cafeteria. Two Shi'ite lawmakers said the metal detector used at the VIP entrance was working, but a Sunni legislator said when he arrived there was a power cut and bags were being manually searched. A Reuters cameraman said the scanner at a second entrance used by staff and journalists was operating." Those steps are to access the cafeteria. AFP notes gaining entry to the Green Zone "is restricted to visitors carrying picture identity cards and required to pass through multiple checkpoints and metal detectors."

James Hider (Times of London) explains the bombing, in "practical terms," means "the incident also whosed that the bombers can get straight into the heart of what was meant to be the most protected place in Baghdad. Therefore, in effect, it serves to send out the message that nobody is safe and that the insurgents can get suicide bombers in anywhere. The reality is that, despite its reputation as a heavily fortified and protected area, the Green Zone isn't actually that impenetrable. Within the zone itself live 15,000 Iraqis who go in and out every day." CNN states that 14 MPs were wounded (reported number is currently as high as 20). AP notes three members of parliament dead -- Taha al-Liheibi (Sunni), Mohammed Awad (Sunni) and Niamah al-Mayahi (Shi'ite) -- and that they are part of the total eight reported dead. Martin Seemungal (CBS News) spoke with a parlimentarian in the cafeteria who stated that 6 MPs may have been killed in the bombing.

The Green Zone is where Iraq's puppet government offices are, where the stadium-size US embassy is, where many journalists are. As a result, that bombing has cast a lengthy shadow over an earlier one today.
BBC reports that a truck bomb took out the Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad during rush hour traffic and that it "sent several cars toppling into the River Tigris below." CBS and AP report: "Cement pilings that support the bridge's stell structure were left crumbling. At the base of one laid a charred vehicle enigne, believed to be that of the truck bomb." CNN notes 10 dead, 26 wounded and that "two large sections in the middle of al-Sarafiya bridge collapsed into the river." AFP reports that "River police raced to the scene on patrol boats and divers donned oxygen cylinders to search the murky waters for survivors after officials said four cars tumbled off the bridge." Reuters reminds that, "The Tigris River cuts Baghdad in half and the Sarafiya bridge is a key artery in the northern part of the city."

James Hider (Times of London) offers his opinion of the message sent with the bridge bombing, "the attack on the al-Sarafiya bridge is also believed to be extremely symoblic. The east of Baghdad is mainly Shia while the west is mainly Sunni, and the Parliamentary speaker today said that the insurgents are conspiring to divide Baghdad in two. The particular bombing -- destorying one of the main access points uniting the city -- illustrates this well. . . . There are, of course, other ways to get across the city apart from this particular bridge. But the fewer there are, the greater the chance of those who use them getting caught up in the bombing." BBC News' Jim Muir observes that both "attacks are major blows to the much-trumpeted security surge now in its third month".

The puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, is in Seol and, from miles away, issued a statement on the bombings. It was apparently more important that he be present in South Korea for the big push that Iraq will raise producting of oil to 3 million barrels per day. In doing so, he was also selling the privatization of Iraq's oil (something the US Congress is on board with). Reuters notes: "The world's top oil comapnies have been maneuvering for years to win a stake in Iraq's prized oilfields such as Bin Umar, Majnoon, Nassiriyah, West Qurna and Ratawi, all located in the south of the country." In Baghdad, however, it was all smilles as Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs) met with Hassan Kazimi Qumi (Iran's ambassador to Iraq) where they discussed the upcoming meeting in Egypt and Iraq's help in obtaining the release of one Iranian diplomat. Strangely, considering Little Willie's big press conference yesterday, bombings and weapons weren't a topic of the meeting.

Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) observes, the US government has their eyes on Iran and US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are 100% all options for war (all repeating the "no option" off the table mantra). Despite this, Solomon notes, is pushing the myth that "Hillary Clinton has provided some much needed leadership on" the issue of war with Iran -- apparently Hillary cried, "To the barricades!" Solomon concludes: "To praise Hillary Clinton for providing 'much needed leadership' on Iran -- and to mislead millions of e-mail recipients counted as MoveOn members in the process -- is a notable choice to make. It speaks volumes. It winks at Clinton's stance that 'no option can be taken off the table.' It serves an enabling function. It is very dangerous. The stakes are much too high to make excuses or look the other way."

Meanwhile, in the ruins of Iraq, another anniversary passed yesterday but it wasn't as crowd pleasing as the staged take-down of a Saddam statue.
Haydar Baderqghan (Azzaman) reminds that it is four years of "the looting of Iraq Museum," that the Ministry of Archaeology and Terrorism issued a statement condeming "the barbarism of wars and their destructive outcome," and that only 4,000 of the 15,000 stolen artifacts have been recovered (four years later).

In other violence today . . .


Reuters reports 2 roadside bombing in Kirkuk killed 6 and injured 21, a Baghdad mortar attack that left one person dead and one wounded.

Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baquba bombing that killed 4 police officers and injured two more and another Baquba bombing that wounded two people;


Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot dead in south Baghdad and another shot and injured and one person shot dead in east Baghdad. Reuters reports a police officer "guarding civil servants on a bush" in Mosul was shot dead.


Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a breakdown of the areas of Baghdad that 12 corpses were discovered in today.

Finally, in the United States, a passing deserves noting,
from Democracy Now!:

And finally, the author Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was eighty-four years old. Vonnegut authored at least nineteen novels including "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle." In recent years, Vonnegut was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and a columnist for the magazine In These Times.

Transcript, audio and video of Vonnegut can be found
here at Democracy Now!