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Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Testing and Corporate Control of Human Genes May 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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The BRCA tests the actress had may be unavailable to thousands because they are held under patents

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement on Tuesday that she underwent a double mastectomy following genetic testing underscores the broad implications of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether corporations can own human genes.

Foreign Secretary William Hague with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in London, 11 April 2013. (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Jolie announced that she had a double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed she carried “a ‘faulty’ gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases [the] risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.”   The mother of six, whose own mother died after a nearly 10-year battle with cancer at 56, made the decision to have the surgery “to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much [she] could.”

In an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, Jolie writes:

Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.

That testing is done only by Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics because they own the patents for those genes, patents the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) say are unconstitutional and invalid because “genes are the foundation of life” and should not be under corporate control.  The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in on that fight.

As we reported,

The defendant in the case Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. is claiming to “own” two genes related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Myriad Genetics argues that the genes become their “invention” once they are “isolated,” or removed from the cell and therefore they have the right to stop anyone from using these genes, whether for clinical or research purposes.

“The Patent Office’s policy of granting companies complete control over portions of our bodies is both morally offensive and a clear violation of the law,” said the suit’s co-counsel Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT). “Genes are the foundation of life, they are created by nature, not by man, and that is why we were here today at the Supreme Court to make sure they are not controlled by corporations through the patent system.”

Thomas Hedges added that Myriad’s ownership of the genes “guarantees monopoly control over research into cancer. It discourages many other researchers from exploring treatment, something that could ultimately stunt our capacity for medical advances.”  The monopoly also provides insured profits for Myriad.

Jolie references the high cost of the testing, and Ellen Matloff, director of cancer genetic counseling at the Yale Cancer Center, has said:

I think that this patent, which has jacked up the prices and made testing more difficult in many circumstances, may be preventing hundreds and maybe thousands and thousands of people from learning that they are at high risk for these terrible disease.

Yale Alumni Magazine adds:

 “The patenting of genes is probably the one issue that affects every human being in the entire world,” Ellen Matloff says. “Male, female; black, white, Hispanic; sick, healthy—we all have genes. What this will do to the future of medicine is so grave that a few people have to step forward and put their necks out.”

A decision in the lawsuit in expected this summer.

Obama Admininstration Backs Shell in Supreme Court Case August 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Human Rights, Labor, Nigeria.
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Roger’s note: Vote Obama!  “Plus ca change …” you can believe in.

Published on Saturday, August 25, 2012 by CorpWatch Blog

 

The Obama administration is backing Shell Oil after abruptly changing sides in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that could make it even more difficult for survivors of human rights abuses overseas to sue multinational corporations in federal courts. The case will be heard on October 1.

Lawyers at EarthRights International, a Washington-based human rights law nonprofit, say they suspect that a new legal submission – which was signed only by the U.S. Justice Department – reflects tensions inside the government on how to deal with multinational corporations do business in the U.S. Significantly, neither the State nor the Commerce Department signed on to the brief, despite their key roles in the case.

“It was shocking,” Jonathan Kaufman EarthRights legal policy coordinator commented to Reuters. “The brief was largely unexpected, based on what they had filed previously, and pretty breathtaking.”

At issue is the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) – an 18th century U.S. law originally designed to combat piracy on the high seas – that has been used during the last 30 years as a vehicle to bring international law violations cases to U.S. federal courts.

Lawyers began using ATCA as a tool in human rights litigation in 1979, when the family of 17-year-old Joel Filartiga, who was tortured and killed in Paraguay, sued the Paraguayan police chief responsible. Filartiga v. Peña-Irala set a precedent for U.S. federal courts to punish non-U.S. citizens for acts committed outside the U.S. that violate international law or treaties to which the U.S. is a party. ATCA has brought almost 100 cases of international (often state-sanctioned) torture, rape and murder to U.S. federal courts to date.

In recent years, a number of ATCA lawsuits have also been filed against multinationals which has angered the business lobby. “Expansion of this problem into the international arena via ATCA promises nothing but trouble for U.S. economic and foreign policy interests worldwide,” wrote John Howard, vice president of international policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “U.S. national interests require that we not allow the continuing misapplication of this 18th century statute to 21st century problems by the latter day pirates of the plaintiffs’ bar.”

No plaintiff against a corporation has won on ATCA grounds, although some have settled or plea bargained. In 1996 Doe v. Unocal, a lawsuit filed by ethnic Karen farmers against Unocal (now owned by Chevron) set a new precedent when a U.S. federal court ruled that corporations and their executive officers could be held legally responsible for crimes against humanity. Unocal contracted with the Burmese military dictatorship to provide security for a natural gas pipeline project on the border of Thailand and Burma. The suit accused Unocal of complicity in murder, rape and forcing locals to work for Unocal for free. Shortly before the jury trial was set to begin in 2005, Unocal settled with the plaintiffs by paying an undisclosed sum, marking the first time a corporation settled in any way a case based on the ATCA.

Another such case was filed against Chiquita, the global banana producer, by surviving victims of brutal massacres waged by right-wing paramilitary squads in Colombia. The paramilitary, who killed thousands of civilians during Colombia’s dirty war of the 1980s and 1990s, were on Chiquita’s payroll in the 1990s. Now-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended Chiquita in the case and won a plea bargain for them of $25 million and five years of probation.

Holder isn’t the only Justice Department staffer who defended a corporation in an ATCA case. Sri Srinivasan, recently nominated for the second highest position in the Justice Department, represented Exxon Mobil in a case brought against them by Indonesian villagers who survived alleged attacks, torture and murder by Indonesian military units hired by Exxon to provide security. Lower courts disagreed on Exxon’s liability under ATCA, and in 2011 an appeals court sent the case back to trial.

Which brings us to the case currently before the Supreme Court – Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Shell) – brought by relatives of nine Nigerian Ogoni activists who were executed in 1995 by a military dictatorship allegedly working in collaboration with Shell. For the last ten years, the widow of executed Dr. Barinem Kiobel and other Nigerian refugees have been trying to prove in court that the British-Dutch multinational oil company Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., or Shell Oil, conspired with the Nigerian military to illegally detain, torture and kill critics of Shell’s environmentally destructive practices in the Niger Delta.

In February the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to determine whether or not corporations – as opposed to private parties – could be sued under the ATCA. At that time the Justice Department, submitted a “friend of the court” brief that said they could.

Lawyers say that if the Supreme Court accepts that the case can be heard in U.S. courts, it will mark a significant step forward for human rights activists. It will also send a powerful signal to business that any violations overseas can be prosecuted if they do business in the U.S.

Then in June, the Obama administration, suddenly changed its opinion. The new brief from the Justice Department “read like a roadmap for getting rid of cases Srinivasan and Holder had worked on previously” EarthRights attorney Kaufman told Reuters.

In its submission filed in response to a Supreme Court order to re-argue whether or not ATCA applied to territories outside the U.S., the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit against Shell. The brief’s authors stated that the ATCA was not appropriate for Kiobel or other lawsuits involving foreign corporations accused of collaborating in human rights abuses with a foreign government outside U.S. territory.

U.S. courts “should not create a cause of action that challenges the actions of a foreign sovereign in its own territory, where the [sued party] is a foreign corporation of a third country that allegedly aided and abetted the foreign sovereign’s conduct,” the Justice Department wrote.

However, the Justice Department stopped short of categorically barring all similar cases that occur outside the U.S. from ATCA eligibility, and it left ambiguous whether the current recommendation would prevent future ATCA lawsuits against U.S. citizens or corporations, or in cases where abuses take place on the high seas.

EarthRights International filed three Freedom of Information Act requests in July to look for evidence showing whether or not corporate interests and lobbying influenced the government’s decision to back Shell.

“If disclosed, this information will help reveal whether or not the business interests of Attorney General Eric Holder or Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan influenced the government’s position in Kiobel,” said Kaufman.

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Puck Lo

Puck Lo is a freelance writer, researcher and multimedia producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. www.pucklo.com

 
COMMENTS
 
Avatar

gardenernorcal2 hours ago

“U.S. courts “should not create a cause of action that challenges the actions of a foreign sovereign in its own territory, where the [sued party] is a foreign corporation of a third country that allegedly aided and abetted the foreign sovereign’s conduct,” the Justice Department wrote.”

Yet we can get involved in regime change in foreign sovereign countries like Libya and Syria?

 
itsthethird42 minutes ago

Multinational corporations make law and justice with the
power of money and provide a safe haven to social predators while promoting the
rape of the planet for profit. The world
has no or few laws and little to no enforcement of justice to limit or abolish
multi National corporate abuse but in fact what laws exist or are enforced
promote abuse and injustice in the name of profit to shareholders. However the shareholders are for the most
part other corporations not people but a few greedy power hungry social predators. It’s time the world limits the criminal abuse
of multinational corporations and the few who control them for gain and or
power.

 

US Shortchanged Native American Tribes by Millions, Supreme Court Rules June 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations.
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Published on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 by Common Dreams

Native Americans to get millions after ‘big victory’

- Common Dreams staff

In a Supreme Court decision announced on Monday, justices ruled that the United States government has shortchanged the Ramah Navajo Chapter among several other Native American tribes by millions of dollars in public service contracts.

Navajo fire fighters head out for the night shift to put out a fire in 2011 (AFP/Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian) The justices sided 5-4 with the tribes in a class action suit claiming unfair treatment by the department of the interior.

Under the Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975 Native American tribes were given contracts from the federal government to run public services such as police, schools, hospitals, environmental services and more. According to the ruling, the government began to shortchange payments for these services by implementing a payment ‘ceiling’, which capped the amount of money allotted to the tribes for their services, no longer paying for each contract in full.

“Consistent with longstanding principles of government contracting law, we hold that the government must pay each tribe’s contract support costs in full,” wrote justice Sonya Sotomayor, delivering the court’s opinion.

“The government was trying to treat tribal contractors differently from all other contractors. If you were talking about a defense contractor, I don’t think this case would have reached the supreme court – the government would have paid up long ago,” said the tribe’s lawyer Jonathan Cohn.

Rodger Martinez, president of the Ramah Navajo Chapter in New Mexico stated, “This gets us back to the principle that the government must pay us what we are entitled to.”

* * *

The Guardian/UK: Native American tribes owed millions from government, supreme court rules

Native American tribes are celebrating a major victory in their battle for equal treatment after the US supreme court ruled that the government could no longer short-change them over contracts for public services.

In a ruling announced on Monday, the justices sided 5-4 with the tribes, who had taken out a class action suit complaining that they were being treated unfairly by the department of the interior.

The suit claimed that the government had over many years withheld millions of dollars owed to the tribes by imposing a cap on the contracts it had taken out with them.

Native American leaders hailed the ruling as an important victory. Rodger Martinez, president of the Ramah Navajo Chapter in New Mexico that was a plaintiff in the case, said they had been saddened that they had to go all the way to the supreme court to find redress. [...]

Jonathan Cohn of the Washington-based law firm Sidley Austin, who jointly represented the tribes, said the judgment was a “big victory for the tribes. The government must fulfill its commitments and ensure the tribes get paid.”

Cohn said that it was rare for Native American issues to reach the supreme court, and even rarer for the court to side with the tribes. At the heart of the case, he added, was the principle of equal treatment.

* * *

MSNBC: Native Americans to get millions after ‘big victory’ in Supreme Court

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion for Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito dissented.

“We stressed that the government’s obligation to pay contract support costs should be treated as an ordinary contract promise,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority ruling which confirmed a Colorado appeals court decision.

“The government was obligated to pay the tribes’ contract support costs in full.”

Congress allocated $1.6 billion to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for “the operations of Indian programs” in 2000, according to news agency AFP, but only $120.2 million was paid out.

“Between FY [financial year] 1994 and 2001, appropriations covered only between 77% and 92% of tribes’ aggregate contract support costs,” the judgment read.

B.C. Supreme Court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted suicide June 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Human Rights.
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Published On Fri Jun 15 2012

www.thestar.com

 

The stunning decision Friday gives Gloria Taylor, a 64-year-old woman with late-stage ALS, a constitutional exemption to proceed with physician-assisted suicide. </p><br />
<p>” /><em>The stunning decision Friday gives Gloria Taylor, a 64-year-old woman with late-stage ALS, a constitutional exemption to proceed with physician-assisted suicide.</em>JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS</p>
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By Petti FongWestern Bureau
 
 
 VANCOUVER—A terminally-ill woman has the right to have a doctor-assisted suicide following a landmark ruling Friday by a B.C. Supreme Court judge who found current right-to-die laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Justice Lynn Smith granted Gloria Taylor, who has late-stage ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a constitutional exemption to proceed with physician-assisted suicide.

The ruling does not immediately open the door for assisted suicide for anyone who wants one. Smith placed a 12-month suspension on her ruling to give Parliament time to write new legislation, or for the anticipated appeals that will be brought forward by the provincial and federal governments that argued against changing the current laws.

For now, Taylor remains the only Canadian with a legal exemption to have the option of a doctor-assisted suicide, a decision that her lawyer said the woman has not yet made.

“It’s obviously a very profound decision she has to make and whether she makes it or when she makes it is entirely her decision,” said Joe Arvay. “This has been a very difficult time for her.”

Arvay said he knew as soon as he read the first paragraph of Smith’s ruling that Taylor would get the right to have a doctor-assisted suicide.

“I describe the evidence and the legal arguments that have led me to conclude that the plaintiffs succeed in their challenge,” Smith wrote at the beginning of her 395-page ruling. “They succeed because the provisions unjustifiably infringe on the equality rights of Gloria Taylor and the rights of life, liberty and security of the person.”

The ruling Friday, following a hearing that began last November in B.C. Supreme Court, has long been sought by right-to-die organizations in Canada and long fought against by anti-euthanasia groups.

Dr. Will Johnston, a family doctor in Vancouver with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said an appeal will most certainly be launched.

“The breadth of this case means anyone with an identifiable illness could have the means of suicide provided or be directly killed by anyone acting under the general supervision of a doctor,” said Johnston. “There is no requirement specified for a doctor to be present at the time of death.”

Johnston said there is no law that can be crafted that addresses the problems that have been raised by the B.C. Supreme Court judgment such as the potential for elder abuse.

The Friday ruling found that the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1993 that absolutely prohibits doctor-assisted suicide in order to prevent vulnerable people from being induced to commit suicide at times of weakness, is not demonstrably justified under the Charter of Rights.

In Taylor’s case, the judge found that not allowing her to have a doctor-assisted suicide violates her Charter rights in Section 7, which gives her the right to life, liberty and security and in Section 15, which guarantees her equality.

While it is not illegal to commit suicide, the ruling concluded that the assisted-suicide law discriminates against people with disabilities because they need assistance.

Taylor, a divorced mother of two grown sons and a grandmother to an 11-year-old girl, was one of five plaintiffs in the suit seeking to overturn the current legislation.

Of the plaintiffs, Taylor became the lead because her condition is the most dire. Her lawyers, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, specifically sought for an exemption from the courts that would allow Taylor to proceed with an assisted suicide.

She will be allowed to have a doctor-assisted suicide if she meets a number of conditions set out by the judge, which include an assessment from a psychiatrist and confirmation from her physician that the woman has been fully informed about her prognosis and the ability of drugs and palliative care to alleviate her suffering.

Taylor, of Westbank, B.C., was diagnosed with ALS, a motor neurologically degenerative disease in 2009. In January 2010, she was told by her doctors she would likely be paralyzed in six months and die within the year. She has fared better than predicted and her condition plateaued over the last year. But over the last few weeks, her condition has again deteriorated; she must often use a wheelchair and requires a feeding tube.

Taylor’s case is similar to the landmark case brought to the courts by Sue Rodriguez, a Victoria woman who also had ALS and wanted to get a doctor-assisted suicide. Rodriguez’ case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada led to the 1993 narrow 5-4 decision which ruled assisted suicide was a criminal offence.

The Lawless Roads: America’s Ever-Expanding Torture Matrix April 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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, www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012

In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion  of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the  American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out —  enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current  president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of  the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration,  Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006,  Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order  “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread  use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war  crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow memo did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined  itself to the so-called “torture lite” methods (many of which are still  in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war  crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed  official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that  war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the  intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:

“In order for a prosecution to succeed, a  prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he  was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which  government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other  things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of  prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law  requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have  known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of  participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and  persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or  should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements — it makes clear that the  techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American  constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be  introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.”

Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture  memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than  is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the  Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the  possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department  appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who  found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:

“Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings,  did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the  legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?”‘I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,’ Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department  special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. ‘I’m not  impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never  published any details about either the factual analysis or legal  analysis that led to those conclusions.'”

To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican  Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White  House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive  Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be  prosecuted.
Then again, why should Barack Obama want to prosecute torture — when he is successfully arguing for it to be applied not  only to the American population at large? In another post, Horton writes of Obama’s great success at the Supreme Court: the ruling that allows all Americans to be strip-searched when taken into custody  for even the most minor infractions. The purpose of this, as Horton  points out, is clearly to humiliate and “break” the citizen — who is,  you might recall, entirely innocent in the eyes of the law at that  point. In fact, as Horton notes, the U.S. military itself recognizes the strip search as a torture technique that American pilots might face if  captured by heinous rogue states. Horton:

“…the Supreme Court has decided on the  claim of Albert Florence, a man apprehended for the well-known offense  of traveling in an automobile while being black. Florence was hustled  off to jail over a couple of bench warrants involving minor fines that  had in fact been paid — evidence of which he produced to unimpressed  police officers. He was then twice subjected to humiliating strip  searches involving the inspection of body cavities. Florence sued,  arguing that this process violated his rights.
“There is very  little doubt under the law about the right of prison authorities to  subject a person convicted or suspected of a serious crime to conduct a  strip search before introducing someone to the general prison  population. But does the right to conduct a strip search outweigh the  right to dignity and bodily integrity of a person who committed no crime whatsoever, who is apprehended based on a false suspicion that he  hadn’t discharged a petty fine — for walking a dog without a leash, say,  or turning a car from the wrong lane? Yes. In a 5-4 decision, the Court  backed the position advocated by President Obama’s Justice Department,  upholding the power of jailers against the interests of innocent  citizens. As Justice Anthony Kennedy reasons in his majority opinion (in terms that would be familiar to anyone who has lived in a police  state), who is to say that innocent citizens are really innocent? ‘[P]eople detained for minor offenses,’ he writes, ‘can turn out to be  the most devious and dangerous criminals.’ ….
“The decision  reflects the elevation of the prison industry’s interest in maintaining  order in its facilities above the interests of individuals. And it does  so by systematically misunderstanding the reasons behind strip searches. Kennedy insists that they are all done for the aim of fostering order,  and he backs up this position with exemplary bits of pretzel logic. For  instance, he suggests that a person stopped for failing to yield at an  intersection may well have heroin taped to his scrotum, and may attempt  to bring it into the prison to which he is taken. In advancing such  rationales, the Court ignores the darker truth about strip searches:  they are employed for the conscious humiliation and psychological  preparation of prisoners, as part of a practice designed to break them  down and render them submissive.
“Just as the Florence decision  was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously  classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for  resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral  techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the  precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are  performed, it explains, to make the prisoner ‘feel uncomfortable and  degraded.’ Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with  psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential  step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence,  well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has  been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now,  thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse  repertoire in the United States.”

To reiterate: the Obama Administration vigorously defended the  introduction of this authoritarian practice into every place of  incarceration in the United States. The fact that this draconian  stricture will fall most heavily on African-Americans cut no ice with  the historic, epoch-shaking first minority president in American  history. (But why should it? By almost every measure — employment,  housing, wealth, poverty programs, community support, voting rights,  civil rights, etc. — African-Americans have been sent reeling backwards by the policies of the Obama Administration.)
Obama has  adamantly refused to prosecute clear, credible and copious allegations  of war crimes by his predecessor. He is now applying acknowledged  torture techniques to the general American population. And as William  Blum reminds us in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” Obama is still  carrying out torture on a massive, systematic scale in the gulag he  commands — despite the pervasive progressive myth that he has formally  ended “torture” in the American system. Blum:

“…the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — ‘Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations’ — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only ‘in any armed conflict.’ Thus, torture by Americans outside  environments of ‘armed conflict,’ which is where much torture in the  world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a ‘counter-terrorism’ environment?
“One of Mr. Obama’s orders  required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a  revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a  guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary  confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the  induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental  manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress  positions and sensory overload. …

“Just as no one in the Bush  and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war  against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added,  no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in  the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is  America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley  Manning. …
“I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of  the words of the ‘Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,’ which was drafted by the United  Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United  States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: ‘No  exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency,  may be invoked as a justification of torture.’
Such marvelously  clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard  for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud  of humanity. We cannot slide back.”

No exceptions whatsoever — not even an eternal “War on  Terror.” This is indeed clear language — and it is indisputably the law of the land, as the constitutional law professor in the White House  well knows. But this no longer means anything. As we noted here a couple of years ago, in an excerpt from a “conversation during Civil War”:

“But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems ” ridiculous now, doesn’t it? An  orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to  advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that  system, that civil cosmos — to which I was so passionately committed —  embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful  in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step — at every step — sang hosannas to  itself as some kind of divinity. The ‘Law’ — oh, what a hush of  reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect  penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen — in intense, concentrated, microscopic view —  the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow  unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power:  power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to  establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power … acquiesces to law — sometimes — but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice — for the  powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob  when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power  shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see  that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to  power’s aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war  have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I  held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood  and sh*t.”

Or, pertaining more directly to the case at hand, and under-girding some of Blum’s points, including his insights on rendition, is a piece I wrote in 2011:

“There is of course a myth that Barack  Obama has ‘ended’ the practice of torture. This is not even remotely  true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual  that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many  practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually  being used by the government’s innumerable ‘security’ and intelligence  agencies, by the covert units of the military — and by other entities  whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost  entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on  themselves to the toothless Congressional ‘oversight’ committees; we  simply have to take these organizations — whose entire raison d’etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge — at their word. And  of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture  chambers of foreign lands where the United States often ‘outsources’ its captives, including American citizens.
“Finally, even if the  comforting bedtime story of Obama’s ban of torture techniques in  interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the  right to seize anyone on earth — without a warrant, without producing  any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing — and hold them indefinitely,  often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights  whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical ‘hearings’ and tribunals the captors deign  to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an  horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the  captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has  gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the  use of this torture …

“….Murder, cowardice, torture,  dishonor: these are fruits — and the distinguishing characteristics —  of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to  Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely  to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of  wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper,  headlong, all the time.”

The Obama DOJ and strip searches April 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
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Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012 3:51 PM 12:04:34 EST, www.salon.com

Progressive commentators rightly lambast the Supreme Court’s horrible ruling, but omit the DOJ’s support for it

By Glenn Greenwald

Albert Florence, the plaintiff in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders

Albert Florence, the plaintiff in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders

Numerous progressive commentators are lambasting the Supreme Court for its 5-4 ruling yesterday in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, and rightfully so. The 5-judge conservative faction held that prison officials may strip-search anyone arrested even for the most minor offenses before admitting them to the general population of a jail or prison, even in the absence of a shred of suspicion that they are carrying weapons or contraband. The plaintiff in this case had been erroneously arrested for outstanding bench warrants for an unpaid fine that he had actually paid, and was twice subjected to forced strip searches; he sued, claiming a violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In essence, the Florence ruling grants prison officials license to subject every single arrested individual entering the general prison population to humiliating and highly invasive strip searches (that’s 13 million people every year, with hugely disproportionately minority representation), based on the definitive police state mentality — one that has been applied over and over — that isolated risks justify the most sweeping security measures. This policy has been applied to those arrested for offenses such as dog leash laws, peaceful protests, and driving with an expired license.

What virtually none of this anti-Florence commentary mentioned, though, was that the Obama DOJ formally urged the Court to reach the conclusion it reached. While the Obama administration and court conservatives have been at odds in a handful of high-profile cases (most notably Citizens United and the health care law), this is yet another case, in a long line, where the Obama administration was able to have its preferred policies judicially endorsed by getting right-wing judges to embrace them:

In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.

But in recent years, some courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees.

The Obama administration is siding with the prisons in the case and urging the court to allow a blanket policy for all inmates set to enter the general prison population.

“When you have a rule that treats everyone the same,” Justice Department lawyer Nicole A. Saharsky argued, “you don’t have folks that are singled out. You don’t have any security gaps.”

As The Guardian said yesterday: “The decision was a victory for the jails and for the Obama administration, which argued for an across-the-board rule allowing strip-searches of all those entering the general jail population, even those arrested on minor offenses.” Civil rights lawyer Stephen Bergstein added:

This evidence suggesting that minor offenders are not smuggling contraband into jails was not good enough for the Obama administration, which is asking the Supreme Court to endorse the restrictive strip search policy in Florence. At oral argument, a lawyer for the Obama Justice Department told the Supreme Court that “[p]rotesters…who decide deliberately to get arrested… might be stopped by the police, they see the squad car behind them. They might have a gun or contraband in their car and think hey, I’m going to put that on my person, I just need to get it somewhere that is not going to be found during a patdown search, and then potentially they have the contraband with them.” This position would probably be identical to that advanced by a Republican presidential administration.

What makes the Obama DOJ’s position in favor of this broad strip-search authority particularly remarkable is that federal prisons do not even have this policy. As The New York Times‘ Adam Liptak explained, “the procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures.”

It’s rather strange to so vehemently condemn the ruling in this case as a warped, sadistic police state excess, and not even mention that the Obama DOJ vigorously advocated for this very result. The position taken by the DOJ is not dispositive: the Court is free, of course, to rule the opposite way. But the U.S. Government’s position before a federal court is definitely influential in general (which is why I wrote earlier today that the Obama DOJ deserves credit for refusing to defend the constitutionality of DOMA), and in a case like this specifically, it matters a great deal that the U.S. government is insisting that this broad strip-search authority is necessary for prison security. Yes, the five-judge conservative majority is to blame for this outcome, but so, too, is the Obama administration, which advocated and urged it.

When I first started reading liberal blogs and then when I began participating in their conversations, they were principally devoted to two types of critiques: (1) the establishment media was far too deferential to Bush/Cheney policies and political leaders in general; and (2) the Democratic Party was far too accommodating of GOP policies, either out of misguided conviction or political fear. Even as it remained faithful to the notion of still supporting the Democrats in general elections, that activist template offered a vital push-back against the Democratic Party from the left. By contrast, the right-wing blogosphere back then was typically mocked as irrelevant — even by GOP politicians — because it was nothing more than a subservient cog in the RNC and right-wing noise machine, with no purpose other than to faithfully disseminate the Bush administration’s message of the day.

This is why it’s been so disappointing, and I think destructive, to watch that push-back model, with some exceptions, basically evaporate during the Obama presidency. In a speech to the Associated Press today, President Obama boasted that his signature domestic policies were basically conservative (he labeled them “centrist”): his individual mandate, he said, was pioneered by conservatives and the Heritage Foundation; his cap-and-trade policy was first proposed by Bush 41; federal spending is lower now than it was during any year of the Reagan administration, etc. Even the successes most touted by his supporters — the Detroit bailout, TARP, the withdrawal from Iraq — were started by Bush 43. Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties assaults also, of course, were largely shared by his predecessor and are frequently praised by the Right.

What is needed most — a strong countervailing force to these policies coming from a place other than the neoconservative Right and corporatist oligarchs — is exactly what is missing. That there is such vehement condemnation over this strip-search ruling, almost all of which ignores the fact that the Obama administration was fully on board with it and helped to bring it about, is — as this VastLeft cartoon suggests — a microcosm for how and why that has happened.

If the Supreme Court Goes Rogue April 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Health.
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ROGER’S COMMENT: HOW IRONIC!  NOW IT COMES FROM THE LIBERAL LEFT, ACCUSING THE JUDICIARY OF LEGISLATING.  THIS HAS BEEN THE PROVINCE OF THE RIGHT, MOST NOTABLY IS THE WARREN COURT’S DESEGREGATION  DECISION, BROWN VS. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA, KANSAS.  WHAT THE AUTHOR OF THE POSTED ARTICLE FAILS TO RECOGNIZE IS THAT CONSTITUTIONS AND SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ASIDE, LAWS ARE MADE AND INTERPRETED BY HUMAN BEINGS AND THERE IS NO FAIL SAFE APART FROM GENUINE DEMOCRACY, WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE IN A CAPITALIST WORLD.  I ONCE HEARD A TALK GIVEN BY LEGENDARY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER, WILLIAM KUNTSLER, WHO POINTED OUT THAT ALL MAJOR STATE CRIMES IN HISTORY, FROM THE DEATHS OF SOCRATES AND JESUS TO THE NAZI HOLOCAUST, WERE CARRIED OUT “LEGALLY.”  FOR MORE ON THIS SEE MY ESSAY: THE CONSTITUTION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL (http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/)
AN ADDITIONAL IRONY: SINCE THE OBAMA HEALTH CARE PLAN IS ESSENTIALLY A REPUBLICAN ORIENTED PROJECT IN THAT IT IS A HUGE GIFT TO THE PRIVATE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY, THE SUPREME COURT REPUBLICANS NEEDS TO DECIDE IF IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO GIVE OBAMA A HUGE POLITICAL DEFEAT RATHER THAN SUSTAIN WHAT THEY IDEOLOGICALLY WOULD OTHERWISE NORMALLY ACCEPT.
Published on Sunday, April 1, 2012 by Consortium News

by  Sam Parry

What happens to a Republic under a written Constitution if a majority of the Supreme Court, which is empowered to interpret that Constitution, goes rogue? What if the court’s majority simply ignores the wording of the founding document and makes up the law to serve some partisan end? Does that, in effect, turn the country into a lawless state where raw power can muscle aside the democratic process?

Chief Justice John Roberts

Something very much like that could be happening if the Supreme Court’s five Republicans continue on their apparent path to strike down the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, they will be rewriting the Constitution’s key Commerce Clause and thus reshaping America’s system of government by fiat, rather than by the prescribed method of making such changes through the amendment process.

And the word “regulate” means today what it meant then, as was noted in a Nov. 8, 2011, ruling written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a conservative appointee of President Ronald Reagan.The plain text of the Commerce Clause – Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 – is so straightforward that a middle-school child should be able to understand it. Here it is: “Congress shall have Power… to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

In upholding the individual mandate as constitutional, Silberman wrote: “At the time the Constitution was fashioned, to ‘regulate’ meant, as it does now, ‘[t]o adjust by rule or method,’ as well as ‘[t]o direct.’ To ‘direct,’ in turn, included ‘[t]o prescribe certain measure[s]; to mark out a certain course,’ and ‘[t]o order; to command.’ In other words, to ‘regulate’ can mean to require action.”

So, for the individual mandate to clear the Commerce Clause hurdle it must be a regulation of commerce among the states. Everyone agrees that health care and health insurance are interstate markets. Check. Everyone also agrees that health care and health insurance are commerce. Check. There’s also no dispute that the individual mandate is a form of regulation. Check.

Judge Silberman went through the same check list and concluded that there was “no textual support” in the Constitution for striking down the individual mandate because the word “regulate” has always included the power to compel people to act.

But the law’s opponents insist that the individual mandate is a unique and improper form of regulation because it forces an American to do something that the person might not want to do it, i.e. go into the private market and buy health insurance.

Yet, in other enumerated powers, this idea of Congress having the power to compel people to act is widely accepted. Take, for example, the draft. While there is not currently a draft, there has been at many points in U.S. history and even now every male citizen, when he turns 18, is required to register for selective service. And, should the draft come back and should you get drafted, you would be legally compelled to serve.

If compelling individuals to risk their lives in war is an accepted use of congressional authority, it is hard to see the logic in striking down the power of Congress to compel individuals to get health insurance.

Washington and Madison

And, despite what the Affordable Care Act’s critics have said repeatedly, this is not the first time the federal government has ordered Americans to buy a private product.

Indeed, just four years after the Constitution’s ratification, the second U.S. Congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792, which were signed into law by President George Washington. The militia law ordered white men of fighting age to arm themselves with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets and a knapsack so they could participate in militias.

If one wants to gauge whether a mandate to buy a private product violates the original intent of the Framers, one probably can’t do better than applying the thinking of George Washington, who presided at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and James Madison, the Constitution’s architect who served in the Second Congress and argued for the militia law. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Madison: Father of the Commerce Clause.”]

So, it would seem to be a rather clear-cut constitutional case. Whether one likes the Affordable Care Act or not, it appears to fall well within the Constitution and historical precedents. By the way, that’s also the view of Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried who said this in a March 28 interview:

“Now, is it within the power of Congress? Well, the power of Congress is to regulate interstate commerce. Is health care commerce among the states? Nobody except maybe Clarence Thomas doubts that. So health care is interstate commerce. Is this a regulation of it? Yes. End of story.”

However, if Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court’s four other Republicans go in the direction they signaled during oral arguments and strike down the individual mandate, they will not merely be making minor clarifications to the noun “commerce” and the adjective “interstate” — as the Court has done previously — but they will be revising the definition of the verb “regulate” and thus substantially editing the Constitution.

Amendment Process

When it comes to editing the Constitution, there is a detailed process spelled out for how you do that. It’s in Article 5 of the Constitution and it’s called the amendment process – something in which the Judicial Branch plays absolutely no role. The process for revising the founding document requires votes by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate and the approval of three-quarters of the states.

Besides representing an affront to the nation’s constitutional system, an end-run by a narrow majority of the Supreme Court taking upon itself to rewrite an important section of the Constitution would drastically alter the balance among the three branches of government.

Such an action would fly in the face of the longstanding principle in constitutional cases that the Supreme Court should give deference to legislation passed by the government’s Legislative Branch and signed into law by the President as chief of the Executive Branch. Under that tradition, the Judicial Branch starts with the assumption that the other two branches have acted constitutionally.

The burden of proof, therefore, should not be on the government to prove that the Constitution permits a law – but rather on the plaintiffs to demonstrate how a law is unconstitutional.

Yet, during oral arguments this week, Republican justices pressed the government to prove that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional and even demanded that Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. put forward a limiting principle to the Commerce Clause – to speculate about what couldn’t be done under that power.

Justice Anthony Kennedy several times raised the point that the individual mandate changes the relationship between citizens and the federal government in, as he put it, “fundamental ways” and thus the government needed to offer a powerful justification. In his questions, however, it was not entirely clear why Kennedy thought this, given the fact that Congress has previously enacted many mandates, including requirements to contribute money to Social Security and Medicare.

In the March 28 interview, former Solicitor General Fried took issue with Kennedy’s question about this “fundamental” change, calling the line “an appalling piece of phony rhetoric” and dismissing it as “Kennedy’s Tea Party-like argument.”

Fried noted that Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s indeed were major changes in the relationship between the government and the citizenry, “but this? This is simply a rounding out in a particular area of a relation between the citizen and the government that’s been around for 70 years.”

On policy substance as well as on constitutional principle, Fried was baffled by the Republican justices’ opposition to the law, saying: “I’ve never understood why regulating by making people go buy something is somehow more intrusive than regulating by making them pay taxes and then giving it to them. I don’t get it.”

A Noble Rationale

But Kennedy seemed to be fishing for some noble-sounding rationale for striking down the individual mandate. He was backed up by Justice Antonin Scalia who proffered the peculiar argument that if Congress could mandate the purchase of health care, why couldn’t it require people to buy broccoli – as if any outlandish hypothetical regarding congressional use of the Commerce Clause disqualifies all uses of the Commerce Clause.

This line of reasoning by the Republican justices also ignored the point that the Court’s role is not to conjure up reasons to strike down a law, but rather to make a straightforward assessment of whether the individual mandate represents a regulation of interstate commerce and is thus constitutional.

In searching for a rationale to strike down the law, the Court’s Republicans also ignored the true limiting principle of any act of Congress – the ballot box. If any congressional majority were crazy enough to mandate the purchase of broccoli, the voters could throw that bunch out and vote in representatives who could then reverse the law.

In the case of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats won Election 2008, in part, because they promised the voters to tackle the crisis in U.S. health care. If the voters don’t like what was done, they can vote the Democrats out of office in November. The pendulum of democracy can always undo or modify any law through legislative action.

However, what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court seems to be angling toward is a radical change in the longstanding principles behind the Constitution’s checks and balances. The five justices would bestow upon themselves the power to not only undo legislation, which has been lawfully enacted by Congress and signed by the President, but to rewrite the founding document itself.

© 2012 Consortium News

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Sam Parry

Sam Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. He has worked in the environmental movement, including as a grassroots organizer, communications associate, and on the Sierra Club’s and Amnesty International’s joint Human Rights and the Environment campaign. He currently works for Environmental Defense Fund.

Senate Approves Indefinite Military Detention of US Citizens In America December 2, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights.
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Roger’s note: this frightening news did not make the top of the headlines even in the alternative blogosphere; the notion that the United States is at war in every square inch of the globe, including the “sacred” homeland, gives the Army and its Commander-in-Chief unconditional power to detain, torture and kill anyone, including US citizens, with absolutely Zero accountability.  It was, in fact, against such arbitrary and unchecked state power, that the very War for Independence, better and more appropriately known at the Revolutionary War, was fought.

Efforts rejected to restrict military detention to overseas.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday crossed a major constitutional line and authorized the American military to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens within the United States in the war on terror.

The 97-3 vote came after days of bitter debate, where hawkish proponents said the United States was part of a global battlefield where the military should be able to seize any citizen if they were part of a terrorist group attacking America. But opponents, who lost a series of attempts to limit the detention to overseas, said it would be a grave mistake of historic proportions to allow the military to arrest and hold American citizens on US soil without the right to a trial or access to civilian courts.

President Obama has pledged to veto the bill, which next goes to the House. Whether he will do so will come into focus as the 2012 defense spending bill works its way to his desk. The White House issued no statement Thursday.

Senate supporters of domestic military detention said the White House had agreed to the bill’s language. But critics, such as Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, whose amendments lost on Thursday, said her proposal to limit the detentions to overseas were the bill’s original text on the matter. The bill emerged from the Senate Armed services Committee without a hearing on the military detention provisions.

The Supreme Court, in a recent Guantanamo case, said the military could arrest anyone, anywhere, in the war on terror. But a handful of Democrats and Republicans said the high court’s opinion was excessive and unconstitutional.They urged their colleagues to put the Bill of Rights — which gives every citizen the right to a trial in American courts — above the urge to expand military arrest powers within the 50 states. They said the country did not do that in two World Wars in the 20th century, and that the nation’s current defense and intelligence community did not seek the change in law.

                                                    By Steven Rosenfeld                                      |                                     Sourced from                                                                                 AlterNet

Posted at December 1, 2011, 11:02 pm

Clarence Thomas Should Be Investigated For Nondisclosure, Democratic Lawmakers Say September 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice.
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jan.bendery@huggingtonpost.com, Sept. 29, 2011

WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called for a federal investigation into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars on annual financial disclosure forms.

Led by House Rules Committee ranking member Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), 20 House Democrats sent a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States — the entity that frames guidelines for the administration of federal courts — requesting that the conference refer the matter of Thomas’ non-compliance with the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to the Department of Justice.

The letter outlines how, throughout his 20-year tenure on the Supreme Court, Thomas routinely checked a box titled “none” on his annual financial disclosure forms, indicating that his wife had received no income. But in reality, the letter states, she earned nearly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation from 2003 to 2007 alone.

Slaughter called it “absurd” to suggest that Thomas may not have known how to fill out the forms.

“It is reasonable, in every sense of the word, to believe that a member of the highest court in the land should know how to properly disclose almost $700,000 worth of income,” Slaughter said in a statement. “To not be able to do so is suspicious, and according to law, requires further investigation. To accept Justice Thomas’s explanation without doing the required due diligence would be irresponsible.”

The letter also cites a June report in The New York Times indicating Thomas may have regularly benefited from the use of a private yacht and airplane owned by real estate magnate Harlan Crowe and failed to disclose the travel as a gift or travel reimbursement.

Current law requires the Judicial Conference to refer to the Attorney General any judge the conference “has reasonable cause to believe has willfully failed to file a report or has willfully falsified or willfully failed to file information required to be reported.”

Slaughter’s press statement also notes that the Heritage Foundation was a prominent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, an issue the Supreme Court is expected to rule on by next summer.

“The Attorney General would be the appropriate person to investigate the issue of non-disclosure, and that is why my colleagues and I are making this request today,” Slaughter said. “I cannot determine guilt or innocence, but I can request that the government do our due diligence in investigating a situation that strikes me, and many other members of Congress, as suspicious.”

Other members of Congress on the letter include Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), John Olver (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.).

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I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one September 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Democracy, Humor.
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