Category Archives: Law

California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again

Nothing better illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Democratic Party—for all progressive intents and purposes—than California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he was going to put a “hold” on the single-payer health care bill (SB 562) for the state, effectively killing its passage for at least the year.

The Democratic Party finds itself in a bind in California. They hold the governorship and a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so they can pass any bill they want. SB 562 had passed the Senate 23-14.

There was enormous enthusiasm among California progressive activists, who, with organizations like Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC,) and  the National Nurses United (NNU,) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) were working tirelessly, and hopeful of success.  After all, Bernie’s people were taking over the California party from the bottom since the election. I recall a night of drinking last year with an old friend who has been spearheading that effort, as he rebuffed my skepticism, and insisted that this time there would be a really progressive takeover of the California party, and single-payer would prove it. After all, once enough progressive pressure was been put on the legislators, the bill would be going to super-progressive Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, who had made advocacy of single-payer a centerpiece of his run for President in 1992, saying: “We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born.” Bernie foretold.

Unfortunately, today that Governor is, according to Paul Song, co-chair of the CHC, “doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk.” And it won’t. Unfortunately, all the Democrats like Rendon, who “claims to be a personal supporter of single-payer,” will make sure that their most progressive governor is not put in the embarrassing position of having to reject what he’s been ostensibly arguing for for twenty-five years, of demonstrating so blatantly what a fraud his, and his party’s, progressive pretensions are.

Thus unfolds the typical Democratic strategy: Make all kinds of progressive noises and cast all kinds of progressive votes, while carefully managing the process so that the legislation the putatively progressives putatively support never gets enacted. Usually, they blame Republican obstructionism, and there certainly is enough of that, and where there is, it provides a convenient way for Democrat legislator to “support” legislation they know will be blocked and wouldn’t really enact themselves if they could.

In the California case, the dissembling is obvious. The Republicans can’t be blamed. The only thing standing in the way of single-payer in California is the Democratic Party. As it was on the national level in 2009, when Obama and the Democrats could have passed any healthcare bill they wanted, just as they passed the Republican-inspired, gift to the for-profit health insurance industry, the ACA—without a single Republican vote. It was true-believing capitalist Democrats like Max Baucus, led by Obama and his sidekick Rahm Emanuel (who called leftists “fucking retarded”) who arrested single-payer activists (including doctors) in order to prevent single-payer from even being considered. It was they who strong-armed reluctant Democratic legislators, who had signed an oath not to do so, into passing a bill that leaves 28 million Americans without health insurance, and forces the rest into plans whose premiums rise and networks of coverage shrink every year.

In fact, the perfectly reasonable discontent with that plan probably had more to do with helping Trump win than did any actions of bad-old (as opposed to good-new) James Comey. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, in a analysis that’s contested but should certainly not be ignored, Hillary’s fatal slide in the polls began before Comey’s notorious letter of October 28th, and coincided with the announcement, four days before, of steep Obamacare premium increases. You decide whether you think Anthony Weiner’s sexting emails, part three, had more effect on voters than anger over being hit with stiff premium increases (22% average, 25% in 20 states, 60% in some) on increasingly crappy policies:

So the Democrats create the ground for Trump by passing a lousy healthcare law that’s sure to piss people off rather quickly, then use the even worse plan that the Republicans come up with to do nothing but trash Trump, while blocking real progressives’ attempts to get the only plan that would actually cover all Americans and save money. In Colorado last November, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper refused to support a single-payer referendum because he “didn’t want to disrupt” the “strides [made] under Obamacare.” The Democrats’ ACA marched the nation straight into the shoals of Trump and the Republicans’ ACHA, and now the Democrats are blocking the only plan that solves the problems of both.

As Deborah Burger, Co-President of the California Nurses Association put it, Assembly Speaker Rendon, “Acting in secret in the interests of the profiteering insurance companies late Friday afternoon abandons all those people already threatened by Congress and the Trump administration.”

The excuse, of course, from California Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown is that they don’t know how they are going to pay for it, especially on the state level. That would be the same Jerry Brown who explained in 1992 exactly how single-payer would cut costs:

You cut out all the private health insurance. You have one single payer either at the national level or through the 50 states. And that one single payer will be the one that negotiates with the doctors, the hospitals, and the other providers. And since you have only one source of income in the whole medical establishment, you can drive down the cost.

Leaving aside the indispensable point that healthcare, like education and clean water, should be considered a non-discretionary expense, one of the main advantages of single-payer is precisely that it’s the only plan that can cut costs significantly. Not having single-payer will not mean healthcare will cost less; it will cost more every year, for every person and in the aggregate. It just means the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies won’t care. The real problem with single-payer isn’t about costs to the people or to the state; it’s about profits for those companies.

Besides, an economy the size of California has immense power. We’re not talking about Utah. All the hospitals and doctors and pharmaceutical companies are not going to stop selling their goods and services in California. And once single-payer becomes a reality in California, it will catalyze a movement in every other state and on the national level. That—the fact that it will start a wildfire of imitation—and not the fact that it’s too expensive, is what the California Democratic Party is desperate to avoid, and what its donors and lobbyists are ordering it to block.

This is the Democratic Party. Lying losers who will do anything to avoid taking an effective stance for a healthcare policy that would immediately solve one of the worst horrors American families face every day, that would be immediately and concretely helpful to everyone, and, to top it all off, would be immensely popular. The dissembling Democrats are throwing away just about the most popular policy anyone could imagine—something people are literally dying for. As Charles Idelson, spokesman for the NNU, says: “There is broad support for single-payer not only in California, but nationally, even among registered Republicans and Republican and conservative business leaders.”

Passing single-payer in California and fighting for it everywhere else would guarantee the Democrats electoral victories. But they will not do it—they’ll say they will, but they will not—because they are fervent supporters of the capitalist market system in healthcare (and everything else), and they are corrupt agents of the health insurance and pharma industries.

Because it captures and cages the energies of so many well-meaning progressives, the Democratic Party is the most effective obstacle to, and enemy of, single-payer, and it has to be fought. People in wheelchairs and cancer patients and all their healthy friends should be sitting in and obstructing Democrat Rendon’s, as well as any Republican’s, office, until he lets the bill through. Then they should move on to the Democratic governor’s office. And thence to Pelosi’s and Schumer’s offices as well as Graham’s and Ryan’s. This is not a Trump problem, and not a Republican problem, it’s a bipartisan capitalist elite problem.

We have to engage in this kind of fight against all of these politicians. Anyone who thinks such a fight can be avoided in order to play the Democrats’ game of defending the for-profit insurance plan called Obamacare while obsessing about Trump being a Russian spy, is helping to perpetuate this rotten healthcare system. Twenty-eight million people are now without healthcare, and, if the Republicans’ edited version of Obamacare passes (which it probably won’t, because even many Republicans know they can’t get away with making things worse than they are), there’ll be twenty-four million more. There is no time for either of these contemptuous parties and their contemptuous bullshit.

by JIM KAVANAGH/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

So far, so good: President Trump signed more bills into law than his four predecessors: report

Republican-led House also deemed most productive in the “modern era’

House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have issued a very promising report about President Trump so far in his presidency. Compared to his immediate predecessors, Mr. Trump is forging ahead in his bid to better the nation and move forward.

“To date, President Trump has signed 37 bills into law, placing him ahead of the last four administrations,” the two Republican leaders noted in a report issued Thursday.

At this point in his presidency, President Obama had signed off on 24 bills. President George W. Bush signed 15, President Clinton 33 bills and President George H.W. Bush 35.

The two leaders had other news of interest to voters weary of a do-nothing Capitol Hill.

“The Republican-led House has passed 158 bills, making it the most productive in the modern-era,” the pair said in their report, noting that during the equivalent passage of time in the Obama administration, the House passed 131 bills.

The lawmakers had passed 67 bills at this point during the George W. Bush era, 60 during Mr. Clinton’s time in office and 41 during the George H.W. Bush administration. Mr. McCarthy says it’s “record Congressional productivity to date.”

By Jennifer Harper/TheWashingtonTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Taking on the Alt-Reich

Hitler’s American Model: the United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, by James Q. Whitman, brings into full view the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924’s place in the context of Nazi theory and practice, writes Scott McLemee.

Finding himself in prison following the beer-hall fiasco in Munich in 1923, Adolf Hitler had time to put his thoughts about politics and destiny into order, at least as much as that was possible. The United States was part of his grand vision, and not as someplace to conquer.

“The racially pure and still unmixed German has risen to become master of the American continent,” he wrote in Mein Kampf, “and he will remain the master, as long as he does not fall victim to racial pollution.” He was encouraged on the latter score by what he had learned of American immigration policy. With its stated preference for Northern Europeans, its restrictions on those from Southern and Eastern Europe, and its outright exclusion of everyone else, the Immigration Act of 1924 impressed Hitler as exemplary. It manifested, “at least in tentative first steps,” what he and his associates saw as “the characteristic völkisch conception of the state,” as defined in some detail by the Nazi Party Program of 1920.

Revulsion is an understandable response to this little traipse through the ideological sewer, but it is wholly inadequate for assessing the full measure of the facts or their implications. The admiration for American immigration policy expressed in Mein Kampf was not a passing thought on the day’s news (Hitler had been in prison for about two months when Calvin Coolidge signed the act into law) nor a one-off remark. Its place in the full context of Nazi theory and practice comes into view in Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton University Press) by James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School.

Many people will take the very title as an affront. But it’s the historical reality the book discloses that proves much harder to digest. The author does not seem prone to sensationalism. The argument is made in two succinct, cogent and copiously documented chapters, prefaced and followed with remarks that remain within the cooler temperatures of expressed opinion (e.g.: “American contract law, for example, is, in my opinion, exemplary in its innovativeness”).

Hitler’s American Model is scholarship and not an editorial traveling incognito. Its pages contain many really offensive statements about American history and its social legacy. But those statements are all from primary sources — statements about America, made by Nazis, usually in the form of compliments.

“The most important event in the history of the states of the Second Millennium — up until the [First World] War — was the founding of the United States of America,” wrote a Nazi historian in 1934. “The struggle of the Aryans for world domination thereby received its strongest prop.” Another German author developed the point two years later, saying that “a conscious unity of the white race would never have emerged” without American leadership on the global stage following the war.

Examples could be multiplied. The idea of the United States as a sort of alt-Reich was a Nazi commonplace, at least in the regime’s early years. But it was not just a matter of following Hitler’s lead. The white-supremacist and eugenicist writings of Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard — among the best-selling American authors of a 100 years ago — circulated in translation in the milieu that spawned Hitler. (I don’t recall Hannah Arendt mentioning Grant or Stoddard in Origins of Totalitarianism, oddly enough.) A popular Nazi magazine praised lynching as “the natural resistance of the Volk to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand.” European visitors noted the similarity between the Ku Klux Klan and fascist paramilitary groups like the Brownshirts, and they compared the post-Reconstruction order in the South to the Nazi system.

But the journalistic analogies and propaganda talking points of the day, while blatant enough, don’t convey the depth of American influence on Nazi race law. The claim of influence runs against the current of much recent scholarship arguing that Nazi references to the Jim Crow system were “few and fleeting” and that American segregation laws had little or no impact on the Nuremberg Laws. (At the Nuremberg rally of 1935, the Nazis proclaimed citizenship limited to those “of German blood, or racially related blood” and outlawed marriage or sexual relations between Jews and German citizens.)

While the Nazis did call attention to segregation in the United States — so the argument goes — it was to deflect criticism of German policy. The error here, as Whitman sees it, comes from treating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson as the primary or quintessential legal component of racial oppression in the United States, and presumably the one Nazi jurists would have looked to in reshaping German policy. But, according to Whitman, “American race law” in the 19th and much of the 20th century:

sprawled over a wide range of technically distinct legal areas … [including] Indian law, anti-Chinese and -Japanese legislation, and disabilities in civil procedure and election law …. Anti-miscegenation laws on the state level featured especially prominently … [as] did immigration and naturalization law on the federal level ….

Even before the outbreak of World War I, German scholars were fascinated by this teeming mass of American racist law — with a particular interest in what one of them identified as a new category of “subjects without citizenship rights” (or second-class citizens, to put it another way) defined by race or country of ancestry. By the 1930s, the anti-miscegenation laws in most American states were another topic of great concern. While many countries regarded interracial marriage as undesirable, Nazi jurists “had a hard time uncovering non-American examples” of statutes prohibiting it.

A stenographic transcript from 1934 provides Whitman’s most impressive evidence of how closely Nazi lawyers and functionaries had studied American racial jurisprudence. A meeting of the Commission on Criminal Law Reform “involved repeated and detailed discussion of the American example, from its very opening moments,” Whitman writes, including debate between Nazi radicals and what we’d have to call, by default, Nazi moderates.

The moderates argued that legal tradition required consistency. Any new statute forbidding mixed-race marriages had to be constructed in accord with the one existing precedent for treating a marriage as criminal: the law against bigamy. This would have been a bit of a stretch, and the moderates preferred letting the propaganda experts discourage interracial romance rather than making it a police matter.

The radicals were working from a different conceptual tool kit. Juristic tradition counted for less than what Hitler had called the “völkisch conception of the state,” which demanded Aryan supremacy and racial purity. It made more sense to them to follow an example that had been tried and tested. One of the hard-core Nazis on the commission knew where to turn:

Now as far as the delineation of the race concept goes, it is interesting to take a look at the list of American states. Thirty of the states of the union have race legislation, which, it seems clear to me, is crafted from the point of view of race protection. … I believe that apart from the desire to exclude if possible a foreign political influence that is becoming too powerful, which I can imagine is the case with regard to the Japanese, this is all from the point of race protection.

The lawyers whom Whitman identifies as Nazi radicals seemed to appreciate how indifferent the American states were to German standards of rigor. True, the U.S. laws showed a lamentable indifference to Jews and Gentiles marrying. But otherwise they were as racist as anything the führer could want. “The image of America as seen through Nazi eyes in the early 1930s is not the image we cherish,” Whitman writes, “but it is hardly unrecognizable.”

By Scott McLemee/InsideHigherED

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Racial Bias, Perceptions of Law Enforcement, Legal Standards Make Police Convictions Nearly Impossible

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In the three years since fatal police shootings of unarmed Black people launched the Black Lives Matter movement, few officers have been charged and none has been convicted by juries in those deaths.

Experts cite a confluence of factors, including racial bias, attitudes toward law enforcement and the challenge of showing precisely what an officer was thinking in a high-pressure situation. In the end, many jurors are simply reluctant to reject the accounts provided by police.

“They just don’t want to second-guess officers in those life-or-death decisions,” said Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “They think, ‘What if that was me? What if that was my child who was the police officer?’”

A jury last week acquitted the Minnesota officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, whose girlfriend live streamed the moments after the shooting on Facebook. Then on Wednesday, jurors acquitted a Black police officer of first-degree reckless homicide in the killing of a Black Milwaukee man who threw away the gun he was carrying during a brief foot chase after a traffic stop.

Meanwhile, a jury in Cincinnati is scheduled to deliberate for a fourth day Thursday in the second trial of Ray Tensing, a white former University of Cincinnati officer charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. He shot Sam DuBose, an unarmed Black driver, during a 2015 traffic stop. The first trial in November ended with a hung jury.

A closer look at some factors that work against the prosecution or conviction of officers:

RACIAL BIAS

Studies have shown conscious and unconscious fear of African-American men plays out in numerous ways, including in exchanges between police and Blacks.

“People think that Black men are violent and dangerous,” said Georgetown University professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler. “What the law does is respond to that fear by trying to contain the threat. The issue is always, ‘Did the police act reasonably?’”

When the question is put before a jury, jurors must decide whether it was reasonable for an officer to think his or her life was in danger.

“That bias makes it much more reasonable to think that the Black man posed a threat,” Butler said.

PERCEPTIONS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

Race also plays a role in how people view the role of police. A recent Pew survey found that fewer than half of Blacks surveyed felt the police did an excellent or good job of protecting people from crime compared with nearly 80 percent of whites.

The same poll found that 75 percent of whites believed police used the right amount of force for each situation compared with 33 percent of Blacks, and that 70 percent of whites believed the law holds officers accountable when misconduct occurs compared with 31 percent of Blacks.

“Policing is structured in a way that favors the officer over the civilian,” said Sam Sinyangwe, co-founder of Campaign Zero, which seeks to reduce police killings. “In many ways, the laws and institutions that have been created in this country have been in the context of those beliefs. It’s not a coincidence that those two things align.”

A conviction on charges of homicide or murder often requires prosecutors to establish the suspect’s intent, which can be difficult in the split-second exchanges between police and civilians.

Many police shooting trials center on a self-defense strategy. Stinson found that almost 40 percent of cases in which officers were charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005 ended in mistrials or acquittals when officers testified they feared for their lives.

“It’s about your character, about what you meant to do,” said Phil Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity. “These are not officers who got up that day looking to shoot Black people.”

In Tensing’s trials, both sides called use-of-force experts and other witnesses to testify about police training. The prosecution said Tensing could have de-escalated the situation and did not need to shoot. Defense witnesses said officers are trained to “stop the threat” if they believe they are in danger.

Tensing, 27, testified in both trials, tearfully saying that he feared he could be dragged or run over as DuBose tried to drive away from what began as a stop for missing a front license plate.

“I meant to stop the threat,” he told jurors Friday. “I didn’t shoot to kill him. I didn’t shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions.”

A video-analysis expert hired by prosecutors said his frame-by-frame review of the former officer’s body camera video showed Tensing was not being dragged by the car.

In her closing argument Monday, prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid said Tensing repeatedly used “stop the threat” and “feared for my life” in his testimony as “buzzwords” he learned in training to justify the shooting.

Donyetta Bailey, president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, said she understands how jurors could have difficulty convicting in some cases. But in others, she added, juries seem to disregard the facts, such as in the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina as he was running away from officers, and in the Castile slaying.

“We don’t view police officers the same in our community,” she said Wednesday. “I think [white jurors] view them as not being capable of any wrong even when the facts … show the other side.”

Some activists and criminal justice reform advocates say there are legal and systemic factors that can predetermine the outcome.

“Law enforcement is one of the most protected groups in our country,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. “We don’t have a judicial system that is set up to hold them accountable.”

From Associated Press

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Truth-free, Fact-free Foreign Policy

Lies, distortions and self-serving obfuscations are to be expected when political and business leaders discuss far away places.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rick Salutin observed that “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”

Salutin vividly captures an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Afghanistan or Haiti? Most of us have never been to those countries and don’t know anyone living there, from there or even who’ve been there. We are heavily dependent on media and politicians’ portrayals. But, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, international correspondents generally take their cue from the foreign policy establishment or diplomats in the field.

Journalists are prepared to criticize governments and corporations to a certain extent on “domestic” issues, but the spirit of “challenging power” largely disappears regarding foreign policy. One reason is that nationalism remains an important media frame and the dominant media often promotes an “our team” worldview.

Another explanation is the web of state and corporate generated ideas institutes, which I review in A Propaganda System, that shape the international discussion. In a forthcoming second volume I look at the Canadian Left’s contribution to confusing the public about international policies.

The state/corporate nexus operates largely unchallenged in the Global South because there is little in terms of a countervailing force. Instead of criticizing the geo-strategic and corporate interests overwhelmingly driving foreign policy decisions, the social democratic NDP has often supported them and contributed to Canadians’ confusion about this country’s international affairs. The NDP endorsed bombing Serbia and Libya and in recent years they’ve supported military spending, Western policy in the Ukraine and the dispossession of Palestinians. The NDP has largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs.

Closely tied to the NDP, labour unions’ relative indifference to challenging foreign policy is another reason why politicians can “blather freely” on international affairs. On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. While dwarfed by corporate Canada, unions have significant capacities. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual dues and fund or participate in a wide range of socially progressive initiatives such as the Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Council for Refugees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But, unions rarely extend their broader (class) vision of society to international affairs. In fact, sometimes they endorse unjust international policies.

To the extent that politicians’ “blathering” is restrained it is largely by other countries. The recent political conflict in the Ukraine provides an example. Canadian politicians have aggressively promoted a simplistic, self-serving, narrative that has dominated the media-sphere. But, there is a source of power countering this perspective. Moscow financed/controlled media such as RT, Sputnik and others have offered a corrective to the Western line. A comparatively wealthy and powerful state, Russia’s diplomats have also publicly challenged the Canadian media’s one-sided portrayal.

An important, if rarely mentioned, rule of foreign policy is the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do. The primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Haiti provides a stark example. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

A stark power imbalance between Ottawa and Port-au-Prince helps explain the gulf between Canadian government claims and reality in Haiti. Describing the country at the time of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, former Globe and Mail foreign editor Paul Knox observed, “obviously, in the poorest country of the Americas, the government is going to have fewer resources at its disposal to mount a PR exercise or offensive if it feels itself besieged.”

With a $300 US million total budget for a country of eight million, the Haitian government had limited means to explain their perspective to the world either directly or through international journalists. On the other hand, the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup triumvirate had great capacity to propagate their perspective (at the time the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs each spent 10 times the entire Haitian budget and the Department of National Defence 60 times). The large Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince worked to influence Canadian reporters in the country and their efforts were supplanted by the Haiti desks at CIDA and Foreign Affairs as well as the two ministries’ communications departments and Canadian military officials.

While an imbalance in communications resources partly explains the coverage, there is also a powerful ideological component. The media’s biased coverage of Haiti cannot be divorced from ‘righteous Canada’ assumptions widely held among the intelligentsia. As quoted in an MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis”, CBC reporter Neil McDonald told researcher Isabel McDonald the Canadian government was “one of the most authoritative sources on conflict resolution in the world.”

According to Isabel McDonald’s summary, the prominent correspondent also said, “it was crazy to imagine Canada would be involved in a coup” and that “Canadian values were incompatible with extreme inequality or race-based hegemony”, which Ottawa’s policies clearly exacerbated in Haiti. (Neil Macdonald also said his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably CIDA where his cousins worked. The CBC reporter also said he consulted the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

The Canadian Council on Africa provides another example of the rhetoric that results from vast power imbalances and paternalist assumptions. Run by Canadian corporations operating on the continent, the council said it “focuses on the future of the African economy and the positive role that Canada can play meeting some of the challenges in Africa.”

Similar to the Canadian Council on Africa, the Canadian American Business Council, Canada China Business Council and Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce also seek to advance members’ profit-making potential. But, the other lobby groups don’t claim humanitarian objectives. The primary difference between the Canadian Council on Africa and the other regional lobby organizations is the power imbalance between Canada/the West and African countries, as well as the anti-African paternalism that dominates Canadian political culture. A group of Canadian corporations claiming their aim was to meet the social challenges of the US or UK would sound bizarre and if they said as much about China they would be considered seditious. (Ironically the US-, Britain- and China-focused lobby groups can better claim the aid mantle since foreign investment generally has greater social spinoffs in more independent/better regulated countries.) But, paternalist assumptions are so strong — and Africans’ capacity to assert themselves within Canadian political culture so limited — that a lobby group largely representing corporations that displace impoverished communities to extract natural resources is, according to the Canadian Council on Africa’s previous mission statement, “committed to the economic development of a modern and competitive Africa.”

To counter the “fact free zone” individuals need to educate themselves on international issues, by seeking alternative sources of information. More important, we should strengthen internationalist social movements and left media consciously seeking to restrict politicians’ ability to “blather freely”.

by Yves Engler/DissidentVoice

Posted By The NON-Conformist

Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Offensive Trademarks

  A Washington Redskins helmet. (AP)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks, ruling in favor of an Asian-American rock band called the Slants and giving a major boost to the Washington Redskins in their separate legal fight over the team name.

The justices were unanimous in saying that the 71-year-old trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes free speech rights guaranteed in the Constitution’s First Amendment.

“It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Samuel Alito said in his opinion for the court.

Slants founder Simon Tam tried to trademark the band name in 2011, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the request on the ground that it disparages Asians. A federal appeals court in Washington later said the law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court agreed.

The Redskins made similar arguments after the trademark office ruled in 2014 that the name offends American Indians and canceled the team’s trademark. That case, before a federal appeals court in Richmond, had been on hold while the Supreme Court considered the Slants case.

Tam insisted he was not trying to be offensive, but wanted to transform a derisive term into a statement of pride. The Redskins also contend their name honors American Indians, but the team has faced decades of legal challenges from Indian groups that say the name is racist.

Tam said the band was “beyond humbled and thrilled” with the ruling.

“This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it’s been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what’s best for ourselves,” he said.

Despite intense public pressure to change the Redskins name, team owner Dan Snyder has refused, saying in the past that it “represents honor, respect and pride” for Native Americans.

Snyder issued a quick statement after Monday’s decision: “I am THRILLED. Hail to the Redskins.”

Redskins attorney Lisa Blatt said the court’s decision effectively resolves the Redskins’ longstanding dispute with the government.

“The Supreme Court vindicated the team’s position that the First Amendment blocks the government from denying or cancelling a trademark registration based on the government’s opinion,” Blatt said.

Trademark office spokesman Paul Fucito said officials are reviewing the court’s ruling and planned to issue further guidance on how they will review trademark applications.

Indian groups opposing the Redskins said the ruling does not change the fact that the name “is a dictionary-defined racial slur.”

“If the NFL wants to live up to its statements about placing importance on equality, then it shouldn’t hide behind these rulings, but should act to the end this hateful and degrading slur,” said a joint statement from the National Congress of American Indians and the group Change the Mascot.

The ruling means offensive trademarks can no longer be denied, even for names that intend to disparage individuals or groups of people, said Megan Carpenter, dean at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and an expert on trademark law.

While the justices all agreed on the outcome, they split in their rationale. Alito rejected arguments that the government has an interest in preventing speech that is offensive to certain groups.

“Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought we hate,” Alito said in a part of his opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer.

Writing separately, Justice Anthony Kennedy stressed that the ban on disparaging trademarks was a clear form of viewpoint discrimination forbidden under the First Amendment.

“A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all,” Kennedy said in an opinion joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.

Government officials said the law did not infringe on free speech rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark protection. The same is true for the Redskins, but the team did not want to lose the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark. The protections include blocking the sale of counterfeit merchandise and working to pursue a brand development strategy.

Critics of the law said the trademark office has been wildly inconsistent over the years in deciding what terms are too offensive to warrant trademark protection. The government has in the past rejected trademarks for the terms “Heeb” and “Injun,” but allowed those for companies such as Baked By A Negro bakery products, Midget Man condoms, and Dago Swagg clothing.

By Sam Hananel/Associated Pres

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Philadelphia Officers Are Illegally Searching Young Black Men’s Underwear

Philadelphia police officers have been stopping young Black men and illegally searching their underwear for years, according to the ACLU, which sued the city in 2011 over its stop-and-frisk policy.

After reading a May 25 article about two young men who were victims of the invasive searches, Asa Khalif and six other protesters stood outside the Philadelphia Police Department for hours on May 31 handing out underwear to the officers. According to Khalif, the activists settled on this particular action to drive home the point of how perverted it is to purposefully — and illegally — search somebody’s underwear.

“It encouraged a lot of people to come forward who have been in the situation to file a complaint and tell their story from the protest,” Khalif said. “I know it’s very difficult being a Black male having that image of being ‘stopped and frisked,’ especially when you’re young trying to figure out who you are as an individual.”

Khalif made sure the unusual and unprecedented protest was recorded in order to ensure that this gross violation of Black men’s human rights and dignity did not go undocumented.

 “This is a new generation of activist and we are not going to do business as usual, because we will confront you, put our bodies on the line at this point,” Khalif said, adding that modern-day activists like himself and the BLM movement were inspired by past civil rights leaders and the Black Panther organization.

“We will sacrifice that just to make sure to get change from how law enforcement treats Black and brown people.

Khalif said many of the young men who have been victims of the violation are now in therapy to deal with the emotional fallout.

By Desmond Andrews/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist