Latest News

Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law Files Amicus Brief In SCOTUS Case

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 12:23
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law this week filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief in the United States Supreme Court in the cases challenging President Trump’s executive orders, which bar most nationals of Iran and five other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.  The brief was filed in coordination with pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP (APKS), Iranian-American civil rights lawyer Cyrus Mehri, and his Washington, D.C.-based firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, on behalf of four prominent Iranian American organizations:

Categories: Latest News

Civil and Human Rights Coalition to Testify on Voting Rights Before the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Hearing

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 12:17
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee hearing titled, “Voting Rights Under Fire: Democratic Ideas to Protect and Strengthen Americans’ Constitutional Right to Vote.”

Categories: Latest News

Nurses Condemn Latest Bill to Decimate Care ‘Graham-Cassidy Targets the Most Vulnerable in Our Society’

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:12
National Nurses United

National Nurses United today condemned the renewed effort by Republicans in the United States Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and deny healthcare to millions of low and middle-income Americans.

“This last ditch attempt to repeal the ACA poses a mortal threat to the health and wellbeing of patients across the United States,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.

Categories: Latest News

Statement from CREDO, MoveOn, and Win Without War on Donald Trump’s Latest Comments about North Korea

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 09:10
Credo Action

Donald Trump’s first speech to the United Nations General Assembly today – and in particular, his remarks about North Korea – was nothing short of a complete failure of American leadership. Instead of focusing on efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis surrounding its nuclear program, Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.”

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Department of the Interio Draft Report Leaves Giant Sequoia and Other National Monuments at Risk

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 09:07
Defenders of Wildlife

Late Sunday, a leaked copy of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Zinke’s recommendations on national monuments was obtained by The Washington Post and revealed his plan to vastly reduce the boundaries o

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Senate Passes Defense Bill That Would Bolster Nuclear Weapons Programs

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 08:48

The US Senate just passed a $700 billion defense policy bill that experts fear could provoke another destructive arms race. The bill exceeds Trump's military funding request by several billions and authorizes new spending for nuclear weapons programs, including $65 million for a cruise missile that could derail the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Activists wearing masks to look like President Trump and North Korean Kim Jong-Un pose next to a Styrofoam effigy of a nuclear bomb while protesting in front of the Brandenburg Gate near the American Embassy on September 13, 2017, in Berlin, Germany. The Senate has approved a massive defense bill authorizing increased spending on the US nuclear arsenal. (Photo: Omer Messinger / Getty Images)

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The Senate approved a massive defense policy bill by a vote of 89 to 9 on Monday that is raising concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation amid rising tensions between the United States and countries such as North Korea and Russia.

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual piece of "must-pass" legislation that shapes dozens of policies at the Pentagon, would authorize $640 billion in discretionary defense spending and an additional $60 billion for overseas military operations, such as the ongoing war efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

The numbers put forth in the defense authorization bill set the bar for future defense spending legislation and policy determinations. As an authorization bill, this legislation does not actually permit the expenditure of those funds; an appropriations bill is needed for that.

What's the value of $700 billion? It's more than twice the size of Denmark's entire economy, and the same amount of money that the government spent bailing out banks during the financial collapse in 2008. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill name amounts that exceed President Trump's request for military funding by tens of billions of dollars.

The bill authorizes billions of dollars for nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs, including $65 million for developing a cruise missile that nonproliferation groups fear could derail the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark nuclear treaty between the US and Russia.

Critics say increasing spending on the US nuclear arsenal could trigger other countries to invest in their own capabilities and add to the number of highly destructive weapons on the planet.

"We [are] already investing in nuclear weapons to a tune of about $20 million a year, so we really have to ask ourselves what the point of an increased investment would be, considering these are weapons that should never be used," said Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project, a group that tracks military spending, in an interview with Truthout.

The US has accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty by developing and fielding a land-based cruise missile with nuclear capabilities, a charge Russia has denied. The Senate's version of NDAA authorizes research and development of a mid-range, road-mobile cruise missile system that could carry a nuclear warhead, similar to the missile Russia allegedly developed.

The Senate Armed Services Committee claims that the money could only be used for research and development of the missile, not testing and deployment, so it would not violate the treaty in the way that Russia allegedly has. Rather, the committee says, it would close a "capability" gap opened by Russia.

However, developing such a weapon would suck money away from nonproliferation programs while sowing divisions within NATO and giving Russia an excuse to reject the treaty and deploy large numbers of noncompliant missiles without constraint, according to the Arms Control Association.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) added an amendment to the bill that requires the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress on the rationale and strategic implications for developing such a weapon before the $65 million can be spent. Warren also included an amendment asking the Department of Defense to consider existing treaty obligations in an upcoming Nuclear Posture Review. The House rejected similar measures offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon).

The House version of the bill provides $25 million to develop conventional (non-nuclear) land-based cruise missiles and requires the president to submit a report on Russian compliance with the INF treaty within 15 months. If Russia is determined to be out of compliance, the treaty would no longer bind the US, effectively dissolving a decades-old nonproliferation agreement between the two countries that control about 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

The House bill would also block funding for extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a nuclear nonproliferation agreement considered a bright spot in US-Russia relations, unless Russia returns to compliance with the INF Treaty.

In addition to turmoil with Russia, observers are also concerned about the rising nuclear tensions with North Korea, which has recently drawn fiery statements from President Trump after bucking the international community and running tests of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems. On Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that he had discussed the possibility of reintroducing tactical US nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula with his South Korean counterpart, but he did not say whether the two reached a decision, according to reports.

"NDAA buys into renewed investment from the US on nuclear weapons, and that is something that is particularly concerning right now given that there is also this uncertainty around what our North Korea policy looks like," Koshgarian said.

The bill also includes $8.5 billion to expand missile defense capabilities at home and even in outer space, despite concerns that the military's existing technology is no sure shot for knocking North Korean missiles carrying nuclear warheads out of the air.

Koshgarian noted that North Korea's nuclear provocations may make the nuclear spending more appealing to voters, but she said it's important that security investments are strategic and support programs that actually make us safer.

"I think there's always a temptation to believe that throwing more money at the Pentagon is going to make us safer," Koshgarian said. "It would be nice if things were that easy, but it doesn't actually work that way."

Koshgarian pointed out that the government has already spent $2 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but violence and political chaos still consume that region of the world.

The NDAA builds on an effort launched by President Obama to update and refurbish nuclear weapons systems, including warheads delivered by submarines, international ballistic missiles and bomber planes.

Supporters say this investment is needed to maintain existing stockpiles and ensure the US has a strong nuclear deterrent, but Koshgarian and other critics fear it could inspire a new nuclear arms race internationally and undermine the embattled Iran nuclear deal. Koshgarian said policy makers and the public must consider how the decisions they make today will impact nuclear policy for the rest of the 21st Century.

"Once the US buys in, we are not going to easily buy back out of a nuclear program," Koshgarian said, adding that powerful military contractors have a strong interest in maintaining nuclear programs once they have been initiated.

The Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this year that the US will spend $400 billion on nuclear weapons over the next decade, and the Arms Control Association estimates that it could climb to $1.5 trillion by 2050 when adjusted to inflation.

The Senate version of the NDAA does include an amendment requiring the Pentagon to improve efficiency and management of its nuclear programs in order to lower costs.

The US defense budget easily dwarfs that of any other country on the planet, and the NDAA would authorize an annual budget for the Pentagon that is even larger than the ones it received during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon already receives more than half of federal discretionary spending, but if Congress were to honor the White House's requests for domestic cuts, the portion of the discretionary budget that is earmarked for defense could top 68 percent.

However, since the bill does not actually appropriate any money, Congress faces difficult budget negotiations going forward. Democrats typically use defense spending as leverage to maintain or increase funding for domestic programs. If the funding levels specified in the NDAA were to be approved, a 2011 law that placed limits on military spending would need to be lifted or otherwise circumvented, because the bill outlines spending that would easily exceeds those limits.

Categories: Latest News

Report: One-Third of California’s High-Risk Kids Not Tested for Lead Poisoning

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 08:34
Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Lead is a major threat to children’s health, and an EWG analysis of California’s most recent lead testing data shows the state has fallen far short of its responsibility to test children at the highest risk of exposure.

Categories: Latest News

Report: Gas Pipeline Construction Leading to Massive Risks to Utility Ratepayers

Commondreams - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 08:26
Oil Change International

On the eve of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s first meeting in seven months, and as states from Virginia to New Jersey to North Carolina weigh new gas pipelines facing imminent rulings from Trump-appointed regulators, a report released today exposes an impending crisis of risk to utility ratepayers.

Categories: Latest News

Teamsters Resolve to Become "Sanctuary Union" to Fight Deportation of Members

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 07:47

Immigrant and labor rights are tied together and you cannot have one without the other, says George Miranda, president of New York's Teamsters Joint Council 16. Following the expedited deportation of a union leader with a 26-year work history and no criminal record, Teamsters resolved to refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities and to proactively protect undocumented workers in the union.

Teamsters rally outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to free Eber Garcia Vasquez. (Credit: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same. Today's interview is the 74th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with George Miranda, the president of the 120,000-member Teamsters Joint Council 16, which is an umbrella group made up of 27 different local unions in New York City.

Sarah Jaffe: Let's start at the beginning. One of your members was deported last week, right?

George Miranda: Correct, Eber Garcia Vasquez was deported basically because his asylum case had been turned down ... (I believe) in 2012. He has been a Teamster for 26 years and has been working in this country and raising his family on that. He has been reporting in routinely as he is required to. He has had no felony convictions, no arrests, no nothing. Clean, clean, clean record. He just reports in once a year, routinely, a few questions are asked, and they know exactly where he is.

Eber Garcia Vasquez holds his newborn granddaughter. (Credit: Courtesy of the family of Eber Garcia Vasquez)This time, he went in and they kept him and scheduled him for deportation. He left behind his family, three kids. He married an American citizen, and his three kids are US citizens. He was on his way to a green card -- about a year off, I guess. But he is on application for a green card and eligible for it, obviously, until this incident. Now he is in Guatemala. That is the story. If it happens to him, it could happen to anybody. Clean, clean record. Absolutely nothing wrong.

You guys had a campaign trying to stop his deportation, right? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes, we had a campaign and we still have a campaign to stop his deportation. Unfortunately, events and time overtook us, but we had a lot of organizations come to our aid. We had a protest and rally, and we still have a campaign petition going around to stop the deportation, but unfortunately, like I said, he was on the fast track for some reason. Still don't know why. Nobody is telling us why. From the time they picked him up, [to] the time he was in Guatemala, was 13 days.

Again, there was absolutely nothing whatsoever that he did wrong. In fact, the only reason they picked him up was because he was adhering to his release, that he had to report in once a year and routinely, he does.

I think a lot of people don't understand that. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, the fact that a lot of people like him are checking in with authorities...?

It is a condition that they have to remain here, that they are not a threat or anything. You have to report in to immigration folks to let them know -- they ask the same questions.... "Where are you? Are you working?" Your address, and so on and so forth. Obviously, there are no red flags, there is no criminal record on them or anything, then all they have got to do is just report in so they know exactly where they are. That is it. And he did. Routinely. 

Eber's family with flier asking supporters to call ICE. (Credit: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

After this, your union passed a resolution to become a sanctuary union. Tell us what that means and how that decision came to be.

Immigrant rights and labor rights are explicitly tied together. You can't have one without the other. If you lose on one issue, whether it is immigrants or the labor, you lose the other. It is obvious that we are tied together, and there is no way that we could say that we are not a union of immigrants.

It seems to us that we need to protect our members. We are all immigrants, but we need to protect our members more than ever now since this administration has taken the position that they have taken on immigrants. So, we have decided to be a sanctuary union, meaning that we protect our members. They are working, they are earning their living, they are supporting their families, and they are not doing anything that is criminal or whatever. We are not going to cooperate with the immigration service whatsoever in going after our members.

We are going to ... help them with attorneys and whatever other expertise they need in order to protect them and their families and, hopefully, get them out of the mess that they may find themselves in. That is what sanctuary unions mean. We are going to indoctrinate all of our members, all our stewards, as to exactly what that means.

George Miranda speaks at press conference to free Eber. (Credit: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

George Miranda with Eber's family. (Credit: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

You mentioned that you will try to bargain for protections for undocumented workers in labor contracts, as well.

Yes, we put language in to try to protect them so that if they have to go to court or whatever it may be so that they don't end up losing their jobs or their rights on the job just because ICE came up and is trying to deport them. So, they maintain their rights and their benefits.

These days, the labor movement is pretty invested in the rights of immigrant workers, but that wasn't always so. People like Trump still try to play off immigrant workers against US-born workers saying, "Oh, they are coming for your jobs." Talk about why it is important for unions to fight on this front.

Again, the labor movement was made up of immigrants [going] back [to] the early days of this country. You cannot separate us from the immigration situation in this country. They are explicitly tied together. These people earn a living, they are in building trades, they are mechanics, they are in every walk of life that we have, that we represent members of. They are part of the fiber of the labor movement, the immigrant movement. We are tied at the hip.

Transform Don't Trash NYC coalition at Teamsters press conference to free Eber. (Credit: Courtesy of Teamsters Joint Council 16)

Your union also has been involved in other protests and actions that have gone on about the Muslim ban, the border wall, things like that. Talk about what that organizing in the community looks like for your union.

They are awakening a giant right now. Little by little, people are seeing that we are all tied together and we all have the same issues, whether it is putting a wall up or whatever it may be. All of it is designed to weaken unions and weaken the unity of immigrants and send them back. Over time, people are now seeing that we are more alike than we have ever been before and we have got to start waking up and fighting back. That is what this is all about.

Do you know of other unions that have passed similar resolutions?

I do not off the top of my head. I am sure that there probably will be some that have taken the position. I am sure that unions have taken positions to protect their members who are immigrants. I am not sure whether they have taken the position of being a sanctuary union to the extent that the Teamsters have.

Do you see this as a model that should spread and could spread to different places?

I would hope so. They can call it whatever they want, but I would hope that they are taking the same action that the Teamsters have taken with our resolution and our different local unions.

Anything else people should know about this?

I think it is going to start developing over time more and more. It is going to start having legs and growing as this immigration situation continues to fester and fester in this country.

How can people keep up with you and with the union?

They can contact me at the Teamsters Joint Council 16 and follow us on Facebook.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.

The current political climate is hostile to real accountability. Help us keep lawmakers and corporations in check -- support the independent journalism at Truthout today!
Categories: Latest News

Occupied Detroit Home Is Threatened by Demolition: House on Junction II

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 07:06

In our ongoing saga of Detroit's property tax foreclosure crisis as it relates to the historic Junction district, we see how a perfect storm of bad housing policies gave one homeowner serious cause for concern: the demolition of his foreclosed home while people were still inside.

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Our continuing graphic series on the barriers that keep folks from accessing water, housing and land in Detroit has been investigating, in recent strips, a slew of concerns that face homeowners. These include a lack of information about financial assistance programs, a confusing foreclosure procedure, predatory real-estate developers, and a long history of segregated housing policies. Yet, while these all affect residents' abilities to access safe and affordable housing, they do not, at least, destroy peoples' homes. Our current strip looks at how quickly and easily a foreclosed home can go up for demolition -- sometimes while people are still inside them.

In House on Junction II, we talk to born-and-bred Detroiter Joseph Bates. (Don't miss House on Junction I, where we meet Joe's great-grandmother, Dorothea, or any of the other strips in the series so far, all listed here.) Reader be warned: Joe's story is not typical. In fact, it may represent a perfect storm, given the bad housing policies currently at work in Southeastern Michigan. 

ENDNOTES:

1.      "Why Detroit Erupted," Jake Blumgart, Slate, August 14, 2017. Accessed September 18, 2017: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/metropolis/2017/08/tom_sugrue_on_what_the_movie_detroit_gets_right_and_wrong.html

2.      Ibid.

3.      Thomas Sugrue lecture, Wayne State University, July 24, 2017.

4.      Shirley Davis Interview, June 12, 2015; Interviewer: Noah Levinson; "Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward" (2017, Detroit Historical Museum). Accessed September 18, 2017:  https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/42

5.      "A Half-Century Later: Understanding the 1967 Riot," Detroit Jewish News, April 20, 2016. Accessed September 18, 2017: https://thejewishnews.com/2016/04/20/half-century-later-understanding-1967-riot/

6.      Joe Bates's address at St. Matthews & St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, a part of a press conference held on July 8, 2017, by the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures. Further details were provided in a personal interview with Bates that afternoon.

7.      "Auto Plant vs. Neighborhood: The Poletown Battle," Jenny Nolan, Detroit News, January 26, 2000. Accessed September 18, 2017: http://blogs.detroitnews.com/history/2000/01/26/auto-plant-vs-neighborhood-the-poletown-battle/

8.      Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit, Docket No. 66294, March 13, 1981.

Categories: Latest News

This Year's Poverty Data Looks a Lot Different When You Break It Down by Race

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 06:09

Last week's Census release of data on income, poverty, and health insurance demonstrated two things: There are policies that work for people who are struggling, and there is still a lot of work left to do -- especially for people of color in America.

It is encouraging that the people who saw the worst losses in the years since the Great Recession -- specifically African Americans and Hispanics -- saw the biggest earnings gains for the second consecutive year. Real median incomes increased 5.7 percent to $39,490 among African Americans and 4.3 percent to $47,675 among Hispanics. But the racial income gap is still stark -- the median income among non-Hispanic whites stands at $65,041.

Source: Economic Policy Institute.

The racial wage gap also persists as black men earned 71 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2016, and Hispanic men earn 66 cents on the dollar. Among women, it has actually grown worse since 2007: Black women now earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by white women, and Hispanic women earn 69 cents on the dollar.

It is therefore not surprising that although poverty rates for all groups were down, they remain highest among African Americans (22 percent) and Hispanics (19.4 percent), compared with whites (8.8 percent). African American and Hispanic children continue to face the highest poverty rates at nearly 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively. African American children are three times more likely to be in poverty than white children.

Source: Economic Policy Institute.

While the Census releases new data every September, it is notable that the solutions remain the same every year: People need investments in quality training and good jobs in their communities; they need a safety net that protects our basic living standards for food, housing, health care, retirement (Social Security); they need access to good schools and higher education; they need child care that doesn't cost more than a year of college tuition; and they need a minimum wage that isn't a poverty wage.

Many of the key policies that helped people in poverty achieve some gains are at stake in upcoming congressional debates on the budget. Conservatives will continue to go after the investments that cut poverty in half year-in and year-out, such as Medicaid and affordable health care. They will call for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, even though the wealthiest 5 percent already captured 22.5 percent of all income last year. Nowhere on the agenda is there discussion of a just minimum wage and a real jobs plan that would target those who continue to struggle at the economic margins -- disproportionately people of color -- doing low-wage or unpaid work.

Recent gains need to be protected in the current political environment, but we also need to stay focused on a vision of how every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to fully participate in our economy and thrive.

Categories: Latest News

Can Trump Pardon Himself and His Children?

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 06:09

Was it legal for Ronald Reagan to pardon George Steinbrenner? Was it legal for Richard Nixon to pardon Jimmy Hoffa? Was it legal for Bill Clinton to pardon Patty Hearst? Yes, yes and yes.

Yet presidential pardon power is vast, but not limitless. As the Department of Justice makes crystal clear, the presidential pardon power does not extend to crimes that violate the laws of any of the fifty states.

According to the US Constitution, "The president… shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." Like so much of the Constitution, the framers were sparing in the language that courts must now interpret.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

One of the few Supreme Court cases on pardons is Burdick v. United States. In Burdick, the court considered the case of an editor of the New York Tribune newspaper (Burdick) who would not name his source for a story about fraud at the city's US Custom House. In 1914, Burdick was offered a pardon by President Woodrow Wilson. He refused to accept the pardon and was sent to prison for contempt.

The question in the Burdick case was the effect of the unaccepted presidential pardon. The US Supreme Court in Burdick indicated that presidential pardons can be rejected: "A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him."  The court ultimately concluded: "it was Burdick's right to refuse [the pardon]…" 

Burdick also clarifies that to accept a pardon is to accept guilt for the crime for which one is being pardoned. As the high court said, "a pardon… carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it." The end result of the case was the US Supreme Court ordered the lower court "to dismiss the proceedings in contempt, and discharge Burdick from custody."

The Department of Justice keeps a running tally of presidential pardons going back to 1900. The US president who granted the most pardons (2,819) was Franklin D. Roosevelt, which makes sense as he was the longest serving president from his inaugural on March 4, 1933, to the day he died in office on April 12, 1945. One of the more interesting uses of the power was Jimmy Carter's blanket pardon for draft dodgers of the Vietnam War, issued the day after he was sworn in.

So far, President Trump has issued just one controversial pardon: that of the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, for his criminal contempt of court conviction. Arpaio continued to racially profile Latinos after a federal judge ordered him to stop.

One of the ways the Arpaio pardon violates established norms is that typically a person must wait for at least five years after conviction before filing a pardon application. There was no five-year period for Arpaio; he hasn't even been sentenced yet. The judge in the case still wants to hear from federal prosecutors on October 4 about whether to grant Arpaio's request to overturn her finding of guilt. This would be inconsistent with the Burdick case, which makes accepting a pardon tantamount to admitting guilt of the underlying crime.

President Trump has inquired about his power to pardon his family, his business associates and even himself. Most legal scholars think the president cannot pardon himself -- in essence because a pardon is like a marriage: it takes two people. Just as one cannot marry oneself, neither can one pardon oneself -- although there are outliers like former federal judge Richard Posner, who claim a president can.

memo by the Office of Legal Counsel informed President Nixon that he could not pardon himself because he could not be a judge in his own case. If this question is ever litigated to the Roberts Supreme Court, the court might look to the more recent Caperton v. Massey case, where the Supreme Court reiterated once again, "no man can be a judge in his own case…" Caperton dealt with actual judges and not pardons, but it is a basic tenet of the rule of law that no one is above the law, even the president.

Other than an impeachment case or a self-pardon, the power of a president to pardon is extremely broad. There is nothing in the constitution, for example, that would prevent a pardon of all the Trump children for federal crimes. (Not that we think Barron and Tiffany have any liability at present. The other three -- Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka -- potentially are another story.) After all, Bill Clinton pardoned his brother Roger.

Special counsel Robert Mueller surely knows that Donald Trump may try to pardon lots of his associates, individuals Mueller may be investigating for possible crimes during the 2016 election or other misdeeds. Which is why it is so significant that there are press reports that Mueller is coordinating with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Again, the president's pardoning power is limited to "offences against the United States." In other words, President Trump can only pardon federal crimes. He has no power to pardon state crimes.

Frequently, criminal activity will run afoul of both state and federal law. For example, if a tax return is fraudulent and is filed with both the IRS and a state taxing authority, it could violate both federal and state law. A presidential pardon would only apply to the federal crimes. The state crimes are the purview of the relevant governor.

State attorneys general have enormous overlapping jurisdiction with federal prosecutors. Recall when New York AG Eliot Spitzer earned the nickname "the sheriff of Wall Street?" AG Spitzer wasn't using the federal banking laws. Rather he was using a New York State law known as the Martin Act to prosecute alleged violations by banks located in New York.

What's more, prosecuting state and federal crimes does not raise double jeopardy concerns because of another Supreme Court case known as Bartkus v. Illinois (1959). The Bartkus case indicates -- under the "dual sovereignty" doctrine -- that the double jeopardy clause of the US Constitution does not prohibit successive federal and state prosecutions for the same conduct. And the highest New York State court agreed in 2007 in Polito v. Walsh that the prohibition against double jeopardy for bringing a New York state criminal case does not apply when a federal prosecution has been terminated.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has jurisdiction over violations of any state laws that happened in Trump Tower. He also has jurisdiction over whatever was happening at the Trump SoHo hotel in downtown Manhattan, including the alleged legally problematic actions of one Felix Sater. If Schneiderman successfully prosecutes Trump family members or members of the Trump campaign or Trump business partners, President Trump can tweet and fume all he wants. He won't have the power to pardon them for violations of state laws.

Categories: Latest News

The Right Wing Has a Vast, Secret Plot to Destroy Unions for Good. Here's How to Fight Back

Truthout - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 06:09

The vast right-wing network of Koch brother-funded "think tanks" is now plotting to finish off the public sector labor movement once and for all.

In a series of fundraising documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy of Madison, Wis., and published in the Guardian, the CEO of a cartel of 66 well-funded arch-conservative state capitol lobbying outfits promises funders a "once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse the failed policies of the American left."

Tracie Sharp, the leader of the States Policy Network (SPN), goes on to explain that the pathway to permanent right-wing victory is to "defund and defang" unions that rely on the legal protections of state labor law.

Though less well-known, the SPN is something of a sister organization to the American Legislative and Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes cookie cutter "model legislation" for right-wing state legislators.

SPN affiliates, like Michigan's Mackinac Center and Ohio's Buckeye Institute, promote ALEC's agenda in the public sphere and attack organizations that are opposed to it. Both networks have effectively nationalized the conservative agenda in state legislatures.

The One Percent Solution

What's fueling this drive is a combination of the vast sums of money that flow into elections in the Citizens United-era along with the gerrymandering that has helped rig elections in favor of Republicans. The result has frequently been "triple crown" GOP-led state governments that hold little accountability to voters but tremendous debts to their corporate masters.

University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer has documented the rise of the corporate legislative agenda in all 50 states in his new book, The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time.

Lafer found that state bills pushed by ALEC and the SPN, along with more traditional business lobbyists like the Chamber of Commerce, generally fall into four broad categories.

The first, and most obvious, are efforts to constrain or destroy institutions that empower working people to fight back, such as labor unions.

Second are efforts to privatize public services. Lafer found these efforts were primarily intended to diffuse the responsibility of providing these services. "If no public authority is responsible," he writes, "demands become customer-service issues rather than policy problems that must be addressed by democratically accountable officials."

Third are efforts to block -- or preempt -- rebel cities from passing living wage or fair scheduling laws, thereby foreclosing on the ability for localities to defend and advance progressive goals.

Finally, through tax cuts for the wealthy and austerity-driven cuts to vital public services, Lafer found that this corporate agenda seeks a downward shift in what people come to expect for a basic standard of living.

In other words, the One Percent's solution is to convince the rest of us, as the Dead Kennedys song goes, that soup is good food; that each new indignity is simply our new standard of living and that we shouldn't expect more.

"Give Yourself a Raise"

If the States Policy Network does really strive for this One Percent goal outlined by Lafer, then it's no wonder that the group has been most dogged in pursuing its union-busting agenda. SPN and ALEC have long understood what many Democratic politicians are only just beginning to realize: strong unions help keep right-wing politicians out of office while protecting the social safety net.

SPN and ALEC have aggressively pursued so-called "right-to-work" legislation as a means of bankrupting unions and knocking out a key component of their opponents' get-out-the-vote operation. Twenty-eight states now have these anti-union laws on the books. Five of them -- all former bedrocks of union power -- were passed this decade as a part of the anti-union drive described in the documents released by the Center for Media and Democracy.

That's hardly the extent of the role of these "think tanks" in busting unions. Flush with cash, they've begun volunteering their efforts as union avoidance consultants where no one has asked for their services.

In 2013, I was part of a drive to organize the workers at Chicago's United Neighborhood Organization Charter School Network, under the terms of a neutrality agreement. The employer was getting rocked by a financial and insider dealing scandal that was a daily cover story in the local media. The schools' employees joining the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ACTS) was the only positive headline they had to look forward to when we launched the card drive.

That didn't stop an SPN affiliate, the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), from harvesting teachers' email addresses and spamming UNO's e-mail lists with condescending admonitions to "not sign any union petition or authorization card unless you are certain that you want union representation."

These union busters seemed to assume that the "launch" of our card drive meant a bunch of beefy goons were about to descend on the schools to strong-arm teachers. In fact, the public launch of the card drive was the union organizing equivalent of a touchdown dance. The representative, democratic organizing committee we had spent weeks training, educating and empowering signed up over 90 percent of their colleagues in time for a May Day card count certification.

The Illinois Policy Institute is better prepared for the upcoming Supreme Court case, Janus vs. AFSCME. Originating from Illinois, the case is a blatant do-over of the craven attempt to turn the entire public sector labor movement "right-to-work," previously pushed in the Friedrichs case.

Should the Supreme Court vote to make union fees voluntary, the IPI and its sister organizations are prepared to run the mother of all "open shop" drives. They will likely FOIA the names and as much contact information as possible of every union-represented public sector worker and inundate them with glossy materials encouraging them to "give yourself a raise" by quitting the union. 

How to Fight Back

The revelation of the SPN's nakedly partisan agenda should open every one of its affiliates to challenges over their status as tax-deductible educational charities. These challenges are worth pursuing, if only to delegitimize their role in public debates. But this won't really affect their bottom line -- their funders have so much money they hardly need the tax breaks for donating to their favorite political causes.

In preparation for the post-Janus attacks, public sector unions should behave more like Chicago ACTS and confound the SPN's moldy old assumptions about the source of union power. To do this, we need to greatly increase members' democratic involvement in their unions. The slick "give yourself a raise" pamphlets will do the most damage in places where members think of the union as simply a headquarters building downtown. If that's the extent of their interaction, workers could fall for the cheap trick of blaming the union for the stagnant wages and reduction in benefits that are actually the direct result of the GOP's corporate agenda.

But where members are involved in formulating demands and participating in protest actions, they find the true value and power of being in a union. That power -- the power of an active and involved membership -- is what the right-wing most fears, and is doing everything in its power to stop.

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Meet Dulce Garcia: Dreamer and Immigration Lawyer Who Is Suing Trump for Ending DACA

Truthout - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 21:00

On Monday, six recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program sued the Trump administration in a San Francisco federal court over its plans to rescind the program. The lawsuit argues the Trump administration failed to follow proper administrative procedures in rescinding DACA and that revoking the program violates due process laws. DACA was instituted by the Obama administration in 2012 after years of sustained grassroots organizing by young undocumented students. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have also sued the Trump administration over its plans to end DACA. We speak with one of the six plaintiffs, Dulce Garcia, an immigration lawyer who regularly defends other immigrants in court in California. She's been living in the United States since her family immigrated from Mexico when she was four years old.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Rep. Luis Gutiérrez on Why He's Protesting Trump's Racist Policies, Like Ending DACA

Truthout - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 21:00

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration plans to rescind the DACA program -- the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. DACA gives nearly 800,000 young people the legal right to live and work in the United States. President Trump and Democratic Party leaders are now attempting to strike a deal to protect DREAMers. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met with President Trump at the White House for a meeting aimed at enshrining the protections of DACA into law. After the meeting, Trump said any potential deal would rely on also approving "massive border security." On Monday morning, dozens of undocumented activists and their allies shouted down Congressmember Pelosi during her news conference, accusing her of using DREAMers as "bargaining chips" in her meeting with Trump. The protesters demanded protections not only for DREAMers, but for all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. We speak with Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee and the co-chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Democratic Ownership and the Pluralist Commonwealth: The Creation of an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Truthout - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 21:00

Slowly, like an image emerging in a photographer's darkroom, the basis of a different economy is beginning to appear. It might be called a "Pluralist Commonwealth" in its bringing together of different forms of democratic ownership, from neighborhood to community to region and beyond.

An abandoned facility of the defunct Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company. (Photo: stu_spivack / Wikimedia)

Charles Derber offers a guide to the new era of organizing in Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times. With guest contributions from Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky and more, this book makes a compelling argument about how movements must come together. Order your copy today with a donation to Truthout!

The following piece by Gar Alperovitz forms one of the guest "interludes" in Welcome to the Revolution.

On September 19, 1977 -- a day remembered locally as "Black Monday" -- the corporate owners of the Campbell Works in Youngstown, Ohio, abruptly shuttered the giant steel mill's doors. Instantly, 5,000 workers lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their futures. The mill's closing was national news, one of the first major blows in the era of deindustrialization, offshoring, and "free trade" that has since made mass layoffs commonplace.

What was not commonplace was the response of the steelworkers and the local community. "You feel the whole area is doomed somehow," Donna Slaven, the wife of a laid-off worker, told reporters at the time. "If this can happen to us, there is not a secure union job in the country." Rather than leave the fate of their community in the hands of corporate executives in New York, New Orleans, and Washington DC, the workers began to organize and resist. And they joined with a new coalition of priests, ministers, and rabbis -- headed by a Catholic and an Episcopal bishop -- to build support for a new way forward. I was called in to head up an economic team to help.

Working together, the steelworkers, the ecumenical coalition, and our team put forward a bold proposal to re-open the mill under worker–community ownership. With support from a creative Carter Administration official, a study was financed that demonstrated the feasibility of a plan to put the old mill back into operation with the latest modern technology. A worker–community-owned facility could operate efficiently, re-employ 4,000 people, and generate a profit.

Peace activist, civil rights advocate, and labor lawyer Staughton Lynd worked with me and the coalition to develop the transition effort. Lynd subsequently wrote:

What was new in the Youngstown venture was the notion that workers and community residents could own and operate a steel mill. ... Employee–community ownership of the Campbell Works would have challenged the capitalist system on the terrain of the large-scale enterprises in basic industries. ... This was the ownership model the workers themselves chose.

The coalition knew that their only chance against big steel was to build a popular political base around the state of Ohio and even around the nation. They understood it was important to universalize the idea, to make it clear that the problem of Youngstown was a problem many communities would face. One of their themes was: "Save Youngstown, Save the Nation."

They also had to overcome the opposition of the national leadership of the United Steelworkers union which, in 1977, had no interest in the idea of workers owning a mill (or young activists getting ideas about organizing power!). A major victory of Youngstown's local, state, and national campaign was the 1978 decision by the Carter Administration to support the plan with millions of dollars in federal loan guarantees.

Perhaps not surprisingly -- given how innovative the plan was in the 1970s -- the coalition did not win the battle of Youngstown. After the mid-term elections of 1978, the Carter Administration withdrew its loan guarantees amidst pressure from industry lobbyists and antagonistic government officials. Without the loan guarantees, the effort collapsed.

The story, however, does not end there. The steelworkers and the ecumenical coalition knew they were up against some of the most powerful players in the country. They were fully aware they might well lose the battle. They also knew, however, that they were on to a very important idea, one whose time would come.

A centerpiece of the strategy was an all-out effort to help educate the public, the press, and the politicians in the state and around the country. And, in fact, the inspiring example of the Youngstown workers and ecumenical coalition has had ongoing and profound impact. There are now many worker-owned businesses in the state of Ohio, and the simple idea that workers can and should own their workplace is commonplace not only among workers, but also among businesspeople, many of whom (aided by certain tax benefits) now sell their successful businesses to former employees when they retire. Also in Ohio, the late John Logue, a Kent State professor inspired by the Youngstown effort, established the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University, a support system for worker ownership in the state that is one of the best in the nation.

It is not just Ohio. The concept of worker ownership has become commonplace across the country and the world. A 2004 film, The Take, by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, documented the struggle of Argentinian workers to turn their factory into a worker cooperative, and it inspired many people to develop worker cooperatives. Also in 2004, the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) was established. Starting with just $7,000 in the bank, the USFWC has grown to represent and support more than 160 democratic workplaces and organizations, representing more than 4,000 workers, and has been instrumental in pushing state and local governments to support worker cooperatives as part of their economic development strategies.

In New York City, a coalition of grassroots community organizers and cooperative advocates -- including the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, an affiliate of the USFWC, and The Working World (an organization founded by a young New Yorker who was motivated by The Take) -- recently secured $1.2 million from the city's budget to support worker-owned businesses in low-income communities. One of the driving forces behind the New York City legislation is Cooperative Home Care Associates, the largest worker cooperative in the United States with more than 2,000 workers, most of whom are women of color, who enjoy above-average pay and benefits.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a measure has passed the city council earmarking $5 million over 5 years to support cooperative development. In Jackson, Mississippi, before his tragic death, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba was preparing an ambitious strategy to combat economic inequality in the heart of the Black Belt by building a "solidarity economy" -- one that connected community and cooperative enterprises to municipal procurement and remains underway.

In 2008, the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative was launched in Cleveland, Ohio -- where the population has fallen from more than 900,000 in 1950 to below 400,000 today. Here, a number of cooperatives are linked together with a community-building non-profit corporation and a revolving fund designed to create more such connected, community-building businesses. The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry operates out of a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Gold-certified building, uses around one-fifth the amount of water that conventional laundries use, and has an advanced water heating system that saves energy. Evergreen Energy Solutions recently installed one of the larger urban solar fields in the country. And Green City Growers Cooperative -- a 3.25-acre hydroponic greenhouse -- can produce roughly 3 million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs per year. An important new strategy in Cleveland uses anchor institutions -- hospitals and universities in the area that purchase more than $3 billion a year in goods and services -- to provide a long-term market for the worker-owned cooperatives.

The United Steelworkers, whose national leadership once opposed the Youngstown effort, has also evolved. The union has adopted a major strategy to help build "union co-op" worker-owned companies around the nation. Efforts are underway, in particular, in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

This is not, however, simply a story about worker coops. It is much more about how change can happen -- and about how an idea whose time has come actually "comes." The spirit of Youngstown lives on. At this time of writing, a major new initiative -- "50 by 50" -- aims to organize 50 million workers in worker-owned enterprises in the United States by 2050. And in many communities, other new initiatives have been building momentum. Philadelphia and Santa Fe, for instance, are actively considering new public banks to develop much more broadly democratized local economies. Activists in Boulder, Colorado, have won two major referenda to take over the local electric utility and convert it to less climate-destroying approaches.

Beyond this, the Bernie Sanders revolution gave millions of people a sense that things might move faster than the steadily developing worker coop revolution. So, too, Black Lives Matter activists have turned their attention to new community-building economic strategies. At another level, the Next System Project, backed by some of the nation's leading scholars and activists, along with 10,000 engaged citizens, is considering developmental trajectories that begin, like Youngstown, in the here and now, but look forward even to such major changes as turning the big Wall Street banks into public utilities, and nationalizing oil companies and other firms in the interests of dealing with climate change, on the one hand, and corporate power, on the other.

Slowly, like an image emerging in a photographer's darkroom, the basis of a different economy is beginning to appear, first in outline form, then perhaps with increasing pace over time, with more and more elements at all levels -- community, region, nation. It might be called a "Pluralist Commonwealth" in its bringing together of different forms of democratic ownership, from neighborhood to community to region and beyond. At its core is a vision of community, one made real by the forms of economic life it nourishes.

The late Margaret Thatcher, conservative Prime Minister of the UK, famously declared that "There Is No Alternative" to capitalism, and the acronym "TINA" became a way to stifle new thought and action. What Youngstown, the myriad new experiments, the climate change and Black Lives Matter movements, and the Sanders revolution all suggest is precisely the opposite: there is an alternative -- or rather, there is a powerful and fast-developing process underway that offers promise, though surely not inevitability, of a new way forward. And the Youngstown idea of linking both workers and community in a much broader universalizing model is fast developing, not only in Cleveland, but in cities like Rochester, New York State, and Richmond, Virginia.

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NAACP Files Lawsuit in Defense of DACA Eligible People of Color

Commondreams - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:48
NAACP

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the country’s original civil rights organization, today filed a lawsuit against President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, in defense of people of color eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

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Veteran Group Reacts To First Episode Of Burns/Novick Vietnam Series

Commondreams - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:41
Veterans for Peace

Veterans For Peace (VFP)  members in every U.S. time zone and beyond tuned in to watch the first episode of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS documentary, “The Vietnam War” to see how well it squares with what they know about what the Vietnamese call “the American War in Vietnam.”
 
The opening scenes and the program as a whole showed that the U.S. has not come very far, in terms of learning from it’s mistakes. 

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UN: Myanmar Rohingya Exodus Exposes Abject Failure of World Leaders To Deliver Solution To Refugee Crisis

Commondreams - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:21
Amnesty International
  • More Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in the space of three weeks than the total number of refugees who fled by sea to Europe in 2016
  • Worldwide situation goes from bad to worse as rich countries fail to do their part in addressing the refugee crisis, leaving poorer countries to pick up the pieces 

As almost 400,000 refugees flee ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, world leaders meeting at the UN General Assembly should hang their heads in shame that they have not only failed to make good on their promises to take in more refu

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