You are browsing the archive for 2018 December 01.

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How the Supreme Court Could Help Stop Police from Seizing Your Property with No Evidence of a Crime

December 1, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

In the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Indiana’s solicitor general
admitted under skeptical questioning from Justice Stephen Breyer
that his defense of Indiana’s civil forfeiture laws would allow his
state — or any state — in need of revenue to start
seizing the luxury cars of motorists caught speeding just five
miles over the limit if they simply passed a law allowing
themselves to do so.

Thankfully, that argument will not win at the court, but it
aptly illustrates how broadly police and prosecutors view their
prerogative to raise revenue and punish people via civil
forfeiture, often in ways of which the average American is

Wednesday’s case, Timbs v. Indiana, isn’t atypical of
how broadly civil forfeiture already plays out, with police seizing
property in furtherance of the continued War on Drugs. Tyson Timbs,
for instance, was convicted of selling a few grams of heroin worth
a few hundred dollars to an undercover police officer.

Police and prosecutors
have a broad view of their right to raise revenue and punish people
via civil forfeiture instead of criminal courts.

As a result, he received a six-year suspended sentence
(including a year of home confinement) and five years of probation.
In addition to the sentence levied by the court, the state of
Indiana seized his 2012 Land Rover, worth an estimated $42,000, in
a separate action under the state’s civil forfeiture law.
Timbs challenged the seizure as a violation of the Eighth
Amendment’s prohibition on excessive fines, as the value of his
vehicle was about four times the amount of the maximum fine the
trial court could have levied against him (but it did not).

Although Timbs’ lawsuit prevailed in two lower state
courts, the Indiana Supreme Court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court
had never explicitly applied the constitution’s prohibition
of excessive fines to the states and, therefore, he didn’t
have a right to sue. Oral arguments made clear that Timbs will
likely win – but only on the question of whether the law applies to
the states, rather than on whether or not civil asset forfeiture
violates the constitution.

Nevertheless, the case is notable because it may provide an
eventual avenue of relief for other individuals to challenge local
governments when they seize property by means of civil forfeiture.
Local governments and police departments have used civil forfeiture
— as well as other fines and fees — to raise billions
of dollars in revenue via law enforcement, leading to what some
have dubbed “policing for profit.”

And, while Timbs had been convicted of a crime, the law does not
require a criminal conviction or even an arrest to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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George H.W. Bush: America’s last foreign policy president

December 1, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

George H.W. Bush was the last person elected president of the United States with any prior foreign policy experience.

Bush, who has died at age 94, entered office with one of the most impressive resumes of any president, having served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, ambassador to the United Nations and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

He left office with an impressive list of achievements, including managing the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union and the unification of Germany. But a major high point of his presidency was also the harbinger of disappointments to come: the swift military victory that reversed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and seemed to herald a new era in world affairs – but left Saddam Hussein in power.

In 1991, it seemed America could do anything it wanted to in the world. Twenty-seven years after Bush left Saddam Hussein in power, United States forces are still engaged in Iraq, and the US is far less confident of its global role.

A New World Order? Bush with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at Camp David on June 2, 1990. AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander

A month after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, in September 1990, Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev issued a joint statement noting that “no peaceful international order is possible if larger states can devour their smaller neighbors.” That same month, Bush declared, “We’re now in sight of a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders.”

The problem was that while the United Nations was set up to prevent powerful states from invading weaker neighbors, as Germany and Japan had done in the 1930s and 1940s, the main challenges of the post-Cold War world – prior to Russia invading Ukraine in 2014 – were different. They were mainly internal challenges: failed states and civil wars in places like Somalia, Rwanda, Balkans, Afghanistan and eventually Iraq after the disastrous U.S. occupation following the 2003 war.

The U.S. effort to put together an international coalition against Iraq in 1990 was stunning. Secretary of State James Baker met with every head of state …read more


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Facebook admits that its Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg asked for research on George Soros

December 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Rachel Leah, Salon

The latest in the ongoing Facebook saga? Sandberg reportedly had direct involvement in company’s response to Soros

Ever since the New York Times ran an expansive investigation revealing that Facebook had hired the Republican-affiliated firm Definers Public Affair to conduct opposition research and to circulate negative stories about Facebook critics, among them the progressive billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the tech company's response has been steadily shifting.

The latest revelation is that Facebook now admits that it not only examined Soros' motivations for castigating the social media platform but also inquired about his financial interests in such attacks, research that was reportedly directed by Facebook's second in command, Sheryl Sandberg. Initially, the social media giant's chief operating officer denied any knowledge of Facebook employing Definers, but Sandberg later admitted last week that some of the firm's work “had crossed my desk.”

“Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, asked for the information in an email to a senior executive in January that was forwarded to other senior communications and policy staff,” according to the New York Times, citing people with knowledge of the email. “The email came within days of a blistering speech Mr. Soros delivered that month at the World Economic Forum, attacking Facebook and Google as a 'menace' to society and calling for the companies to be regulated.”

In a statement, Facebook said it had already begun its probing into Soros prior to Sandberg's request, but the latest Times article implicates her direct involvement in the matter.

“Mr. Soros is a prominent investor, and we looked into his investments and trading activity related to Facebook,” the social media giant told the outlet. “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.” The company added that Sandberg “takes full responsibility for any activity that happened on her watch,” but she did not personally direct research on an anti-Facebook coalition, Freedom from Facebook, whose members were targeted in the Definers' work for the company. (Facebook fired the Definers after The Times' investigation.)

The Times reported that, while Sandberg was at the forum, she was not in attendance at the …read more


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End Game: Mueller signaled this week that he’s ready. Is Trump?

December 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

Get ready for Mueller's end game.

It’s been axiomatic from the start of the Russia investigation that it is different from Watergate in one important way: the crimes that Nixon committed behind closed doors in the White House secretly, Trump is committing out in the open. Repeatedly lying to the American public? Every time Trump tweets or opens his mouth. Obstruction of justice? Firing Comey. Firing Sessions. Calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and calling for its end. Tampering with witnesses? Dangling pardons. Engaging in a cover-up of a crime? As he lives and breathes.

But there is one thing Donald Trump and his people have sought to keep secret from the earliest days of his campaign right up to the present moment: their connections with Russians. If, in the past, we thought we knew about most of the Russian contacts, events this week have taught us that we were wrong.

First there were new revelations about contacts between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks involving Jerome Corsi and others. The Guardian even reported that Stone had met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Then it was announced that the cooperation agreement between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had blown up. Incredibly, it was revealed that Manafort’s lawyers have maintained an open channel of communication with Trump’s legal team, presumably informing them of the focus of Mueller’s investigation and everything the FBI and prosecutors from Mueller’s team had asked Manafort. Mueller filed a document telling the same court that had signed off on Manafort’s plea bargain and cooperation agreement that he had lied to the FBI and withheld information in violation of his agreement with prosecutors.

On Thursday morning, Mueller sprang another surprise when his prosecutors marched into federal court in Manhattan with former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. patiently took Cohen through the steps of pleading guilty to lying to two congressional committees about the project initiated by Donald Trump to build a tower in Moscow. “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political …read more


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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow explains how we finally know why Mike Flynn lied

December 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Martin Cizmar, Raw Story

'Compromised by Russia from the very beginning.'

As the Mueller investigation has moved along, names like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have moved to center stage.

On Friday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow went back to the start of the saga, when Donald Trump staffers like Michael Flynn and his aide K. T. McFarland were the focus of investigation and speculation.

“The big question about Flynn—and this has been raised over and over again by critics of the Mueller investigation—why did Mike Flynn lie about this?” Maddow asked. “There's always been something hard to figure out about the Flynn case… why did Mike Flynn lie about this stuff?”

Flynn was fired from his job as national security adviser after he apparently lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his communication with Russian officials. But this was far from his only lie, Maddow said.

“Mike Flynn also lied about those conversations he had with Russia talking about sanctions,” she said. “He lied in public. He lied to reporters. He lied to the FBI. Why were they lying about it? I mean, on its face, they didn't need to. It would make sense that they'd be talking about sanctions to the Russian government conceivably. They're the top two security officials in the National Security Agency for the incoming administration. Obviously there is going to be a change on the policy. It's not that weird. But they lied about it.”

Because Flynn and McFarland lied, Maddow said, “they were both compromised by Russia from the very beginning.”

“Because, of course, Russia knew the truth, right?” she said. “Russia was on the other end of the phone. They knew that these guys had been having conversations about Russia, right? It wasn't secret from Russia. But it was being kept secret from the American public, the American press, the American Congress, and even the FBI.”

At this point, Maddow circled back to the Trump Tower Moscow project, which Cohen and others lied about—and which came to an abrupt halt on the very same day that it was revealed Russian hackers were seeking to influence the election.

“The story about Russian government …read more


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The center is not holding — and Trump is our proof

December 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig

If a devastating new report from The New York Times is to be believed, the falconer’s falcon is but one of the innumerable creatures wiped off the planet just in the past 50 years.

As the world’s pre-eminent heads of state gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this weekend for the annual G-20 summit, the postwar order has never looked more fragile. War threatens to break out at any moment between Russia and Ukraine, Britain is staring into the abyss of a failed Brexit negotiation and the U.S. faces a rising tide of ethno-nationalism, reinforced in no small part by Donald Trump’s presidency. Compounding this larger crisis, new research indicates we have just 12 years to radically reduce carbon emissions or risk climate catastrophe.

The center is not holding, and if a devastating new report from The New York Times is to be believed, the falconer’s falcon is but one of the innumerable creatures wiped off the planet just in the past 50 years. As Jonathan Aronson argues in his new book, “Digital DNA: Disruption and the Challenges for Global Governance,” we are living through a period of profound social and economic upheaval—one that threatens the very foundations of our political system.

“Last week, Sears declared bankruptcy,” Aronson tells Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “Sears, in many ways, was the Amazon of another age. They were the ones who distributed everything; they changed everything. So what has happened is the world has changed; the economies have changed; the companies have changed; but as usual, the rules have lagged behind.”

A professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Aronson examines what he refers to as a “hollowing out” of the working class and our elected officials. While the former has seen its jobs shipped overseas, the latter has grown increasingly beholden to multinationals, many of which now underwrite their campaigns. This, in turn, Aronson says, “pushes people left, it pushes people right. And at the same time you have an economic …read more


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The 3 Things Trump and Xi Must Focus on at the G20

December 1, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The much-anticipated bilateral session between President Donald
Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping at the G-20 meeting in
Buenos Aires has created a rather unique situation. There appears
to be more attention to that “sideline”
encounter than to the G-20 event itself. The prevailing assumption
is that the bilateral encounter is more significant, and
may represent the last opportunity to head off a full-blown trade
war between the United States and China that threatens to derail
the global economy.

There is no question that the trade issue is important, and that
both countries have engaged in dangerous posturing by implementing
escalating rounds of tariffs. However, there are two problems with
focusing so heavily on the trade issue as the central topic for
discussion between the two leaders. First, the bilateral economic
relationship is extremely complex, involving not only obvious
issues such as tariffs, but related matters including China’s
currency policies and Beijing’s stance regarding intellectual
property rights. Although a summit meeting might result in modest
progress on such differences, a true breakthrough on those issues
is unlikely from a single meeting, no matter how high level.
Observers may be investing too much hope in the outcome of the
summit despite the growing trade confrontation between the two
economic giants.

Second, the trade issue (and even the broader economic
relationship) is not the only worrisome source of trouble in the
bilateral relationship. The two leaders need to address their
differences on at least three important security matters: North
Korea, the South China Sea and Taiwan. Trends on all three topics
are increasingly troubling, if not alarming.

The widespread optimism that prevailed following President
Trump’s June 2018 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
in Singapore has faded markedly. Washington still insists that
North Korea must embrace complete denuclearization as the outcome of the
diplomatic process. A growing number of experts in the United
States and elsewhere conclude that such an objective is unrealistic , and that if Washington clings
to that position, a peaceful solution is not possible. Trump and Xi
should have a candid discussion about how to avoid such a
disastrous impasse.

The United States needs to exhibit more realism about the
denuclearization issue and display a greater willingness to proceed
toward more limited goals, such as negotiating a peace treaty
formally ending the Korean War, establishing diplomatic relations
with Pyongyang and extending the informal mutual moratorium on
North Korean nuclear and missile tests and U.S.-South Korean
military exercises. China needs to make clear what measures it is
willing to take to leash its North Korean client if America pursues
such conciliatory initiatives. Beyond that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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George H.W. Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94

December 1, 2018 in History

By Jesse Greenspan

A one-term president, Bush focused largely on foreign policy during his time in office.

George Herbert Walker Bush, a former oil man who was elected to the White House in 1988 after serving two terms as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, died Friday, November 30, at the age of 94. The longest-lived president in U.S. history, Bush passed away just seven and a half months after the death of his wife, Barbara, to whom he had been married for 73 years. He had faced a string of recent health complications in his latter years, including multiple hospitalizations in 2017 and 2018 for such ailments as pneumonia and bronchitis.

As commander in chief, Bush launched successful military operations in Panama and Iraq and steered the United States through the end of the Cold War. His domestic achievements were spotty, however, and with the economy floundering, he lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Bill Clinton. Widely considered a pragmatist, Bush came from one of the most prominent political families in the country. His father was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, and his oldest son, George W. Bush, served as the 43rd U.S. president. Another son, Jeb, was a two-term governor of Florida.

President George W. Bush talking with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, while sitting at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House for the first time on Inauguration Day.

Like much of the world, President Bush was caught off guard when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded oil-rich Kuwait in August 1990. Nonetheless, he quickly sprung into action, criticizing Hussein’s “naked act of aggression,” comparing him to Adolf Hitler and eventually winning congressional support for a military response. With the help of international contacts gleaned during many years of government service, Bush also built up a coalition of allies. Even the Soviet Union joined the United States in condemning the invasion, as did most Arab countries. Bush, a decorated World War II veteran, called the crisis a chance to forge “a new world order, where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.”

Once a United Nations deadline for Hussein’s withdrawal expired in mid-January 1991, U.S.-led coalition forces began an aerial bombardment of Iraqi targets. This, along with a 100-hour ground offensive, drove Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait, though not before they set fire …read more


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Frederick Douglass and Cesar Chavez Monuments Revitalized

December 1, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

When graffiti, skateboard skids and too many people touching take their toll, a little hydration goes a long way.

When sculptors design public monuments honoring historic figures, they often focus first on the medium, the message and the setting. Less likely on their mind? A build-up of bird poop.

Such monuments—carefully researched, painstakingly created and prominently displayed in parks and at public landmarks—help keep history’s heroes top of mind. But for many such artworks, years of abuse, from pollution to graffiti to bird droppings, often take their toll.

To help return these works of art to their former glory, Dove Men+Care, which takes as its mission the revitalization and protection of men’s skin, has partnered with HISTORY’s Save Our History campaign to restore two statues of American heroes adversely affected by the environment and other factors. The projects, located on opposite sides of the country, follow in the footsteps of earlier Save Our History campaigns, such as the restoration of the Highbridge Doughboy WWI monument near New York City’s Yankee Stadium.

Cesar Chavez

The first monument restored as part of the Dove-HISTORY partnership: Lisa Reinertson’s “Cesar Marching to Sacramento,” honoring Cesar Chavez, the union leader and civil-rights activist who worked tirelessly as a champion of migrant farm workers in America. Situated a few blocks from the state Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., the statue commemorates the historic 1966 march Chavez led there to protest years of poor pay and working conditions for Mexican and Filipino grape pickers. The months-long march brought national attention to his other major organizing activities—a strike and an international boycott of nonunion grapes—which together helped bring about the first-ever contract between growers and farmworkers in U.S. history.

Reinertson’s bronze work, located in the city’s Cesar Chavez Plaza, was restored in partnership with the City of Sacramento in November.

When the call was made to artists for the Chavez sculpture commission, Reinertson, who grew up in Sacramento, was excited, noting her personal connection to the leader. Her father, a dermatologist, had worked at a clinic with farmers who were having skin reactions to pesticides they were exposed to. Her mother volunteered to house and feed marchers, who were traveling 340 miles from Delano to the state capital in late 1965 and early 1966, when Reinertson was 11.

“I didn’t know the behind-the-scenes stuff at the time, but my family joined the marchers on weekends and [ultimately] …read more