Tag Archives: corruption

The Supreme Court’s Ideology: More Money, Less Voting

The Supreme Court’s Ideology: More Money, Less Voting

“Now we have McCutcheon v. FEC, where the Court, in yet another controversial 5-4 opinionwritten by Roberts, struck down the limits on how much an individual can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees. So instead of an individual donor being allowed to give $117,000 to campaigns, parties and PACs in an election cycle (the aggregate limit in 2012), they can now give up to $3.5 million, Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports. 

The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.”


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In pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

In pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

In Mexico, a country home to powerful drug cartels, groups of armed vigilantes known as ‘fuerzas autodefensas’, or self-defence groups, have formed in the past year. In recent weeks, they have even taken over communities in the state of Michoacan; in one case surrounding a city thought to be a key stronghold for the Knights Templar cartel and taking over nearby towns after violent street clashes.

In these newly occupied towns the citizen militia have disarmed and detained local police, claiming that both police and government forces are corrupt and in league with the cartels. 

Mexico’s drug war has wreaked havoc on the country, bringing staggering levels of crime and violence. These civilians, armed with AK-47s, have been fighting back in what they see as a bid to liberate the country.”

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Turkey in crisis: understanding the Erdogan/Gulen split

Turkey in crisis: understanding the Erdogan/Gulen split

“In 2002, when the AKP Party came to power in Turkey, it was considered a new form of Islamic government. It was a marriage, some said, of neoliberalism and Islam. And this was going to be the alternative to the Iranian or even the al-Qaeda model. Turkey was headed, sooner or later, everyone thought, into the European Union. Certainly many forces on both sides within Turkey and Europe wanted it. Of course, there were many opponents. But it was a system, a government, an economy that was fully integrated into global capitalism, and increasingly with success.”

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Noam Chomsky: America’s infrastructure is broken

Noam Chomsky: America’s infrastructure is broken

“They were General Motors, Standard Oil of California and, I think, Firestone Rubber. The origins of suburbia reveal an attempt to take over a fairly efficient mass-transportation system in parts of California—the electric railways in Los Angeles and the like—and destroy them so as to shift energy use to fossil fuels and increase consumer demand for rubber, automobiles and trucks and so on. [29] It was a literal conspiracy. It went to court. The courts fined the corporations $5000, or something like that, probably equivalent to the cost of their victory dinner.[30]

But what happened in California started a process that then expanded—and in many ways. It included the interstate highway system. That was presented as part of the defense against the Russians. It was launched under the Interstate Defense Highway Act of 1956, and was intended to facilitate the movement of people and goods, troops and arms, and, allegedly, to prevent overpopulation in specific areas that could become the focus of nuclear attack. [31] The slogan of defense is the standard way of inducing the taxpayer to pay the cost of the next stage of the hi-tech economy of course.[32] That’s true whether it be computers, the Internet or, as in this case, a car-based transportation system.[33]

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‘What am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?’: Stop-and-Frisk’s Racial Profiling

Floyd v. the City of New York is a class-action trial where witnesses and officers are arguing that the New York Police Department does use race as a basis for its stop-and-frisk program. The stop-and-frisk program is a program where officers can stop and question a person when they have reasonable suspicion a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Only after that can they frisk the stopped person for weapons. In his article for The Nation, Ryan Deveraux writes that lawyers are trying to prove that people being stopped ‘for no reason’ is being done department-wide by the NYPD and that this violates both the 4th (protection against unreasonable search and seizure) and 14th Amendment (the equal protection clause).

Attorneys are trying to convince the judge to reign in millions of stops that they believe are unconstitutional. Many believed the stops have to do with racial profiling because more than 86% of the people stopped by the police were black or Latino. Almost 90% of these stops resulted in not one ticket or arrest. Officers have been testifying that they were pushed to meet quotas of 5 stop and frisks, 20 summons and 1 arrest every month. Police have been doing such an outstanding job at meeting their quotas that more young black men were stopped than the total number of young black men in all of New York City.

Adding to the controversy is the death of Kimani Gray, who was killed by two police officers in plain clothes. According the Patricia J. Williams in her article, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”, Mr. Gray was shot at eleven times, and was hit by 7. Witnesses say Gray pleaded for his life. The police that shot him were decorated for bravery, but also have cost the department more than $215,000 in payout for alleged civil rights violations. The officers maintained that the teenager had pointed a gun at them; however, witnesses strongly contradict the NYPD’s story. Many in the community are outraged and took to the streets where dozens were arrested. The stop-and-frisk program which is targeting men of color is done using brutal and even deadly force. There is an estimated 4.4 million people that have been stopped.

Many who are stopped by the NYPD feel degradation and humiliation. One 24 year-old African American stated he was stopped five times without cause, one was even at gunpoint. Some police officers have stated that there are internal incentives that motivate them. An officer testified that supervisors put a premium on stop-and frisk numbers, arrests and summons, but care little for anything else. These quotas are called “productivity”. One officer who gave testimony, officer Polanco, stated that supervisors don’t care about the quality, or how they were gotten, but the quantity. Polanco played a recording where senior officers (two sergeants, an inspector, a lieutenant and three police union delegates) give officers quotas. The punishments for not achieving their quotas were losing a longtime partner, low evaluation scores, retraining and denial of days off or overtime requests. According to Deveraux’s article, “Polanco testified that in 2009 he was asked more than twenty times to write a 250 attesting to an incident he did not observe.” Polanco stated that he had no discretion, that sometimes the superior officers would just tell him to 250 [stop-and-frisk], summons or arrest someone. Officer Polanco stated, ‘We were handcuffing kids for no reason.’

Another officer, officer Serrano, was told that because of the violence in his precinct carrying out too little stop and frisks, or 250s, and not meeting his quotas was ‘not fair to the public.’ He responded ‘What am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?’ The superior officer responded, ‘ I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male black 14 to 20, 21.’ Officer Serrano started to become emotional during his testimony, regretting the targeting of individuals based on their age, race and geographic location.

If you think 14 to 21 is young, one officer admitted to mocking a 13-year-old boy by telling him “stop crying like a little girl.” While the officer conceded that the taunt was wrong he claimed it was a lawful frisk because he was jaywalking and ‘yelling and making a scene’ when the officers tried to frisk him. Police were also sued in December for arresting a 7-year-old boy for stealing $5 from a classmate. Last year alone, $22 million was paid out for police misconduct.

According to Patricia Williams, although Bloomberg has praised the program for lowering the crime rate, criminologists and the New York Civil Liberties Union, dispute any causal connection since crime has gone down all over the US and in cities without such an antagonistic policy. Bloomberg and Kelley have admitted that abuses of power need to be addressed, but believe that the program is making NY streets safer. Interestingly though, Christie Thompson points out, “ . . . a gun was recovered in roughly .001% of the 685,724 stops conducted in 2011.”

In January a court ruling found that police stops conducted in front of several thousand private residential buildings in the Bronx were unconstitutional violating the fourth amendment–protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Although property managers asked police to patrol their building and to arrest trespassers, Judge Scheindlin said officers were routinely stopping people outside their buildings without reasonable suspicion that they were trespassing. Police need reasonable suspicion before stopping and questioning. The judge ruled that it is not enough to stop someone just because the building is in a high crime area and regardless of the time of day, or even because the person moved sneakily.

Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner believed the ruling gave the residents of the Bronx safety and that the landlords requested protection. He stated that the ruling interferes with efforts to use all necessary tools to fight crime.

What stop-and-frisk is doing is marginalizing young people of color. How is looking for black and Latino boys 14-20, 21 not racial profiling? By specifically targeting these people what police are saying is that if you live in poverty, are black and Latino you must be guilty of something. (Still think we live in a post-racial society?) This undermines our democratic principle of innocent until proven guilty. What stop-and-frisk is doing is creating a double standard, where if you’re white and affluent you have 4th and 14th Amendment rights, but if you’re poor, black and Latino you don’t. Police are supposed to serve and protect, not harass and antagonize. Just because these young men live in neighborhoods where there is crime, does not mean that they are criminals. As pointed out before, people’s skin color and geographic location is not what makes them criminals. As Kevin Powell writes, “In essence, we are demonizing and criminalizing an entire generation of black and latino teen boys and young men—many of them already mired in poverty, sub-par schools, and limited employment possibilities—for the rest of their lives. And before they even know what hit them.” To target such young boys–kids in poor neighborhoods, is to give them another impediment to success. Tacitly we’re saying then, that if you’re poor, black and Latino it is okay for police to harass you. Imagine if they were rich and white and being harassed this way? There’d be an uproar. This program allows officers to humiliate people and treat them like criminals before they’ve been found guilty. I understand the desire to prevent and stop crime, but it needs to be done justly and within the law, if not, then our police officers are criminals who are breaking the law too.

-Marina Espinoza

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The Revolving Door is Threatening Our Food Supply

In our efforts to fight obesity and be generally healthy individuals we watch what we eat, make sure to exercise and drink lots of water.  As a general rule we try and eat more vegetables as part of a balanced diet. What some of us tend to overlook is the quality of our food. We assume that because the fruits and veggies we eat are naturally grown there is nothing else to worry about. The problem is that we have been mislead into thinking that traditionally bred seeds and genetically modified (GM) seeds are the same, and thus both make same quality foods.  We also believe that washing our foods prior to consumption clears all the pesticides and harmful chemicals on them.  But, if it was that safe to consume GM foods and to clear out pesticides then why is there such an effort from our federal government to protect multinational biotech, chemical and GM seed producing companies from court rulings and concerned health activists who would like to see GM foods go through safety assessments to evaluate their safety? The more you look into GM foods and multinational biotech companies the more it seems that our government is more concerned with biotech companies like Monsanto and their profits, than the health and safety of our food supply. Our government’s concerns with the welfare of companies like Monsanto becomes apparent when there exists very little regulations protecting consumers from Monsanto’s products in comparison to the amount of protections for Monsanto’s welfare.

        Monsanto is a multinational chemical and Biotech Company and the world’s largest seed company.  It mostly works on developing chemical products for farming and landscaping.  Furthermore, it produces a number of synthetic pesticides such as DDT, PCBS, Agent Orange, rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) and RoundUp. Over the years its focus has shifted on bio-engineered seeds and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  In recent years scientific research has noted that many environmental and health related problems can develop with Monsanto’s products making them unsafe. For example, in resent studies French scientists announced that in their study of Monsanto’s GMO NK603 corn and the herbicide Roundup on rats, they discovered that these products were linked to severe organ damage, dramatic increases in mammary tumors and premature death. The results of this comprehensive peer-reviewed study led Russia to temporarily ban the sale and import of the GMO corn (Dave Murphy).  Countries like Brazil, Peru, Haiti, India, Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Switzerland have banned or have halted the use of Monsanto products.  However, Monsanto operates freely in the United States primarily due to its close ties to the FDA and its lobbying efforts.  Why else would countries around the world require that GM foods go through safety assessments, labeling and regulations except for the U.S?

 In fact, countries around the world require that GM foods be labeled as such, but not in the U.S. People with stakes at Monsanto and other biotech companies claim that there is nothing different between crops gown from their seeds and traditionally bred seeds, but are ready to pour money into preventing consumers to have transparency regarding their food.  Also, they make the claim that we need such technologies in order to feed our growing population, but as scientific research notes “GM seeds do not produce higher yields than conventional seeds. GM crops also require more chemical spraying than conventional crops, and weeds are developing tolerance to Monsanto’s own product RoundUp” (FoodFirst.com).

 One of the things that makes it easy for companies like Monsanto to succeed in not allowing for transparency regarding their products is the revolving door and multi-million dollar lobbying efforts and campaign donations that help skew our justice system to favor Monsanto’s business. For example Tommy Thompson, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Larry Combest, Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, and John Ashcroft, Attorney General, have all received hefty campaign donations from Monsanto.  The problem with food safety and transparency is that Monsanto’s lobbyists, lawyers and board of directors, have infiltrated our government, and now serve or have served as   Supreme Court Justices (Clarence Thomas), U.S. Secretary’s of Agriculture (Anne Veneman), and Secretaries of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld). The revolving door, is what is threatening our food supply and it is not an issue where republicans and democrats gravely differ.  In fact, in 2010 President Obama’s administration appointed Michael Taylor, a former vice president for Public Policy for Monsanto, as the deputy commissioner of foods for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

        Monsanto’s influence is very evident in our current affairs.  In the recent  budget deal there were a lot of losers; mainly working class people and the elderly.  Some of the winners were not people, but multinational corporations (surprise!).  In the case of genetically modified seeds this portion of the bill dubbed “The Monsanto Protection Bill” would have the US Department of Agriculture “approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if there is a court order saying the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate”. Furthermore, “[i]t will allow farmers to plant, harvest and sell genetically engineered plants even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court” (Takepart.com).  In times where important public safety nets are being tugged and pulled this portion of the budget deal seemed to have just crept up in there without anyone making a fuss over it. According to the Center for Food Safety, the Senate Appropriations Committee held no hearings on the Monsanto Protection Act.  Things such as these are made possible thanks to the multi- million lobbying efforts of biotech companies. Back room deals like this one succeed at the expense of the citizens of the United States and the environment for the sake of the corporate welfare of such companies and the campaign donations that will be and have been given to senators. 

The actions taken by government officials to say fuck the people and rule in favor of multinational corporations who care less about the long term implications of their products on people and the environment for the benefit of high profits speaks poorly of our government whose duty it is to protect us and not the interests of multinationals. But hey, when the money received for campaign donations is good, government officials are willing to threaten the safety and stability of our food supply. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that to counter the “Monsanto Protection Bill” our current administration will make the labeling of GM foods mandatory, because chances are it won’t happen, especially when so many of Monsanto’s former employees are now working from within our government. 


Takepart.com – Fri, Mar 22, 2013 http://news.yahoo.com/monsanto-protection-act-sneaks-spending-bill-180416331.html







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