Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.
Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”Read more
Just days after stealing Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch is channeling Antonin Scalia. On April 20, the newly minted associate justice cast his first ballot. Gorsuch provided the fifth vote that allowed Arkansas to execute a likely innocent man.
Casting the Deciding Vote for Death
For 24 years, Ledell Lee maintained his innocence, and requested a DNA test that might have proven it. But five members of the high court, including Gorsuch, denied Lee’s request because Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, required for Lee’s lethal injection, was fast approaching its expiration date.
“In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random,” Justice Stephen Breyer penned in dissent.
The New York Times editorial board wrote, “Neil Gorsuch held the power of life and death in his hands…. His choice led to Ledell Lee’s execution, and gave the nation an early, and troubling, look into the mind-set of the high court’s newest member.”Read more
With 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each armed with over 1,000 pounds of explosives, Donald Trump went from scoundrel-in-chief to national hero, virtually overnight. The corporate media, the neoconservatives and most of Congress hailed Trump as strong and presidential for lobbing bombs into Syria, reportedly killing seven civilians and wounding nine.
“The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable,” wrote Glenn Greenwald. This sends Trump a frightening message: bombing makes you popular.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. The use of chemical weapons is illegal, immoral and intolerable. If it was an intentional attack, it constitutes a war crime. Anyone responsible for the horrific April 4 events in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed over 80 people, including at least 20 women and 30 children, should be brought to justice. But Trump’s bombing of Syria, a sovereign nation, was illegal, under both U.S. and international law.Read more
Just two and a half months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already distinguished himself as a war criminal. His administration is killing unusually large numbers of civilians, in violation of US and international law.
Killing Civilians in Record Numbers
The Trump administration began to kill civilians over inaugural weekend, with two drone strikes in Yemen that claimed 10 lives. One drone struck three people on a motorcycle. The other hit seven people riding in a car. Neither Trump nor Defense Secretary James Mattis admits to having approved the strikes. It is not clear who authorized them.
One week after his inauguration, Trump bemoaned the death of a US Navy Seal in a botched raid he personally ordered in southern Yemen. Trump made no mention of the 30 people, including at least 10 women and children, killed by the US bombers. The attack badly damaged a health facility, a school and a mosque.
Over the past month, the US-led coalition has killed an inordinate number of civilians.
“Almost 1,000 non-combatant deaths have already been alleged from coalition actions across Iraq and Syria in March — a record claim,” according to Airwars, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that monitors civilian casualties from airstrikes in the Middle East. “These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria.”Read more
On March 19, Israeli tax officials arrested Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Omar and his wife Safa, an Israeli citizen, were detained for 16 hours and have been subjected to daily interrogation sessions.
Barghouti’s arrest is indirect evidence of the growing strength of the BDS movement, a worldwide non-violent challenge to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, a protest campaign that the Israeli government has identified as an existential threat to Israel.
Israel is particularly sensitive in light of the new United Nations report concluding that it has established an “apartheid regime” and recommending that national governments support BDS activities to challenge Israel’s illegal system of oppression of the Palestinians. The report was co-authored by Richard Falk, an international law expert and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We will defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”Read more
When Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee in February, he identified two priorities of the administration: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and deregulation.
It turns out that elevating Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and achieving deregulation are inextricably linked.Read more
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says he’s an “originalist.” The late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch called “a lion of the law,” also championed originalism. Justice Clarence Thomas now stands alone on the high court as a self-proclaimed originalist.
Largely discredited by courts and legal scholars, originalism is ultimately a way to reach a right-wing result under the guise of following the original intent of the authors of the Constitution.Read more
After a federal district court judge and a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Trump’s Executive Order (EO) instituting a travel ban was likely illegal, the president suspended it and issued a new EO on March 6, 2017.
On March 15, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in Hawaii v. Trump et al., halting the operation of the new EO nationwide. US District Judge Derrick K. Watson found that plaintiffs met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.
When the case is heard on the merits, the legality of the new EO, which categorically suspends immigration from six Muslim majority countries to the United States, should be assessed in light of US treaty and customary international law, according to an amicus brief filed in the case.Read more
When Donald Trump learned that a federal district court had refused to reinstate his Muslim ban last week, he tweeted in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT!” Aside from this strange reaction to a court decision, Trump’s angry outburst raises the question: Is the president allowed to have whatever he wants? To better understand the limits of his power, let’s look back at his attempt to unilaterally impose the Muslim ban, and the ways in which it has been blocked so far.
A week after he was inaugurated, Trump created a constitutional showdown by issuing his executive order prohibiting nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
People from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan were banned from the US for 90 days. The executive order also indefinitely forbade Syrian refugees, even those granted visas, from entry into the US. And it suspended the resettlement of all refugees for 120 days.Read more
Rapper Busta Rhymes pegged it at the Grammy Awards when he referred to Donald Trump as “President Agent Orange.” While performing with A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson Paak, Rhymes used the opportunity to call out Trump for his Muslim ban and “all of the evil” Trump has perpetrated since assuming the presidency three weeks ago.
Rhymes said, “I just wanna thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetrating throughout the United States,” adding, “I wanna thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. Now we come together! We the people! We the people! We the people!”
For some younger readers who may not be familiar with the term, Agent Orange was an herbicidal chemical weapon sprayed over 12 percent of Vietnam by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971. The dioxin present in Agent Orange is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind.Read more