The United Stated Postal Service now offers a service called 'Informed Delivery.' With Informed Delivery, the USPS is able to scan your mail each day and send images directly to you.
Informed Delivery is Expanding Nationwide!
Informed Delivery was previously only available to eligible residential consumers in select ZIP Codes™ of several major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Northern Virginia, and Washington DC. Starting today, April 14th, Informed Delivery will be available in remaining ZIP Codes covering the majority of the United States, as shown on this map.
Informed delivery is free, but you must sign up for it and it is available only to residential consumers who have mail delivered to their homes and is not currently being provided to businesses.
New Form of Evidence
I'm looking forward to informed delivery which should prove to be a valuable new form of evidence in court cases.
Whenever pleadings, motions or other documents are filed in court, the opposing side is supposed to be given a copy of whatever is filed. A certificate of delivery is usually required to be attached to the court filed documents certifying that the opposing side was mailed, email, hand delivered or otherwise given an exact copy of the documents.
Some court documents, such as a motion for summary judgment must be responded to in writing and filed within a certain number of days; otherwise, the allegations contain within the motion for summary judgment are deemed admitted and the side that request the motion automatically wins.
I've had several situations as a pro se (self-represented) litigant, where an attorney has claimed to have mailed me documents that never arrived. I have suspected in certain instances that the documents were never actually mailed, most likely so that I wouldn't respond in a timely manner, resulting in the motion being granted, often resulting in the case being lost.
Before informed delivery, there was absolutely no evidence that the other side did not mail the documents, it was simply their word against mine. Additionally, the opposing side could argue that even if I hadn't received the mailed documents, they could have been misdelivered or otherwise lost. Now with informed delivery, if there is no record of the letter containing the documents, a stronger point can be made in court that the documents were never mailed and the certificate of service was a false statement.
It's been my experience that judges seem to be biased in favor of attorneys rather than pro se litigants and tend to side with the attorney who claims they did actually mail the documents. Informed delivery is a game changer.
At this time, images will be provided for letter-sized mailings that are processed through automated equipment. The plan is to include images of larger flat-sized mailings, such as magazines and catalogs, in the future. All USPS® customers have access to USPS Tracking® that enables them to track their household’s packages. Visit My USPS® for additional details on personalized package tracking.
An email will be generated each day your household receives mail that is processed through USPS®automation equipment. If no mail is processed through automation that day, you will not receive an Informed Delivery notification. Notifications are not sent on days when there is no mail to be delivered, or on Sundays or federal holidays.
Keep in mind it will also be harder for you to claim you mailed something if you didn't and it may be harder to deny you didn't receive certain mail if the post office has a record that it was scheduled to be delivered.
Only time will tell if judges or the rules of evidence will allow this new technology to be used as evidence.
Get up to 10 mail piece images in your morning email, which can be viewed on any computer or a smartphone. Get more mail than that? Additional images are available for viewing on your online dashboard – in the same place you track your packages! Don't worry if you are on travel; if you have email or online access, you can see much of the mail that will be delivered to your mailbox.
A while ago, Court.rchp.com commented on the Educational Oppression page how through misinformation and miseducation the richest 85 people in the world held as much wealth as the poorest half; now a tenth of that number controls the wealth. For a few to be rich, many must be poor.
Research and advocacy group Oxfam International released a new report on Monday that outlines the latest developments in global economic inequality. Unfortunately, the results validate previous concerns that these massive imbalances would only accelerate. The number of people who control more wealth than the poorest 50% went from 62 to 8 in just one year. With half the world’s net worth now in such few hands, it should be easier than ever to bring awareness to this ongoing trend — but finding a solution is far more complicated.
Oxfam used Forbes’ list of billionaires and new information from Credit Suisse to reach their conclusion. The eight individuals named are Bill Gates; Amancio Ortega, founder of fashion house Inditex; Warren Buffett; Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu; Jeff Bezos; Mark Zuckerberg; Oracle’s Larry Ellison; and Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
Although many people with resources like these have made tremendous contributions to society, the question of how obligated they are to contribute to the common good still remains. After all, their fortunes have the potential to completely reshape the world for the better, but the problem arises when government dictates how much should be taxed and where that money will go. The public sector’s track record of wasting and mismanaging funds is unmatched and can only be rationalized by the economically illiterate. In an ideal world, bureaucrats would be fiscally responsible and impervious to corruption, but reality is never so utopian.
The rapid consolidation of wealth by so few showcases who the current government policies have benefited most. Artificially low interest rates and money printing, which have sent stock markets soaring for nearly eight years, have only helped solidify the elite’s hold on the financial world. They can borrow money for next to nothing and buy up huge stakes in companies, all while enjoying profits courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s stimulus programs.
Government regulations may stem from good intentions, but they can easily create a dragnet that ends up targeting those they were intended to help. While normal people are losing their jobs, seeing rent skyrocket and health care costs explode, the State has been propping up those it really serves.
In the report, Oxfam vaguely lays the blame at the feet of corporations:
“Businesses are the lifeblood of a market economy, and when they work to the benefit of everyone they are vital to building fair and prosperous societies. But when corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most. In pursuit of delivering high returns to those at the top, corporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder – and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular.”
Since the financial crisis began, the 1% has been scapegoated continuously, but complaining about an abstract hierarchy won’t help the millions of people living on less than $2 a day. If substantial changes are going to be made, the focus needs to be on finding hard evidence of tax evasion and unethical business practices on an individual level rather than demonizing anyone with substantial wealth. Verifiable information is what sways public opinion, just like the Panama Papers did by taking the first step in exposing some of the world’s richest people for utilizing tax havens and loopholes to avoid being held responsible. Instead of indiscriminately blaming all those who have achieved success, reports like this could act as a blueprint to help put names and faces to those anonymous adversaries who have avoided accountability.
In this age of information, the opportunity to seek individual justice lays with every journalist and activist. When people group others into left-right, rich-poor, or privileged-oppressed, for example, the uniqueness of each individual experience is lost. The inequality seen across the planet is heartbreaking, and any person with a shred of empathy should want to help. Unfortunately, the solution is rarely State intervention. The tool used to remedy this situation must come from grassroots origins. As government’s management of resources demonstrates, there is no other viable alternative. By inspiring others to take action voluntarily, we can build a foundation that doesn’t rely on the threat of violence and use of force for progress.
Efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve accountability are likely to be dashed under Trump administration
Despite the protests, media scrutiny, and all around heightened national attention, young black men in 2016 continued to be the predominant victims of police violence in the United States.
According to year-end figures published Sunday by the Guardian database The Counted, "[b]lack males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers last year," and were "killed at four times the rate of young white men."
Overall, the number police killings fell slightly—1,091 last year, according to the Guardian tally, from 1,146 in 2015—but the pattern of brutality has remained consistent. (see footnote)
Of those, "officers were charged with crimes in relation to 18 deaths from 2016, along with several others from the previous year," the report noted. "These charges included the arrests of officers involved in the high-profile killings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Philando Castile near St Paul, Minnesota."
Following another troubling trend, many fatalities occurred when police were called in to help deescalate a conflict or situation.
"One in every five people killed by police in 2016 was mentally ill or in the midst of a mental health crisis when they were killed," the Guardian reported, and the same percentage of deaths "started with calls reporting domestic violence or some other domestic disturbance."
Further, almost 29 percent "developed from police trying to pull over a vehicle or approaching someone in public, including some potential suspects for crimes."
With a dearth of public accountability for such incidents, media efforts like The Counted and one by the Washington Post, have attempted to fill that void. But, as the Guardian observed, efforts by the Justice Department under President Barack Obama to improve its system are likely to be dashed with the incoming Trump administration.
Particularly concerning for many is the president-elect's nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, which both the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have vowed to fight.
An analysis published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law highlighted Session's regressive stance on criminal justice reform as well as his deep skepticism of federal involvement in state and local affairs, including policing. "As Attorney General, he could end or significantly curtail these investigations," the Center noted.
This article was republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.
"It owns all these not-at-all-important laws are smuggled into NDAAs that are signed on Christmas Eve with basically no public debate," wrote media critic Adam Johnson
In the final hours before the Christmas holiday weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday quietly signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law—and buried within the $619 billion military budget (pdf) is a controversial provision that establishes a national anti-propaganda center that critics warn could be dangerous for press freedoms.
The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, establishes the Global Engagement Center under the State Department which coordinates efforts to "recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests."
Further, the law authorizes grants to non-governmental agencies to help "collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda" directed at the U.S. and its allies, as well as "counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability" of the U.S. and allied nations.
The head of the center will be appointed by the president, which likely means the first director will be chosen by President-elect Donald Trump.
The new law comes weeks before the New York billionaire assumes the presidency, amid national outrage over the spread of fake news and what many say is foreign interference in the election, both which are accused of enabling Trump's victory.
Those combined forces have already contributed to the overt policing of media critical of U.S. foreign policy, such as the problematic "fake news blacklist" recently disseminated by the Washington Post.
And for those paying attention over the holiday weekend, the creation of the a new information agency under the Propaganda Act appears to be another worrisome development.
Billionaires have officially overthrown the government of the United States, after failing to do so by force over 80 years ago during the 1933 Business Plot conspiracy. They marched on Washington not with soldiers but with dollars. A handful of corporations and billionaires dominate almost every facet of American life including: Our food choices, entertainment, the economy, political candidate choices and many of the laws that govern us.
Knowing the law and having the ability to apply it in courts will become increasingly necessary as even more power and influence is gained by corporate interests. It's probably safe to assume that corporate rights will increase under a Trump administation at the expenses of individual liberties unless people learn how to defend their rights.
The Illusion of Choice
Ten Corporations Control the majority of the food brands that we eat.
By Carl Gibson
In a real democracy, like the constitutional republic in which we supposedly live, the people choose representatives through the election process to vote for their interests in government. In an oligarchy, like the one in which we actually live, corporations buy representatives through the election process to secure benefits for themselves and rig the game further in their favor. Here’s one $300 billion example. This infographic by Luke Keohane of Move to Amend lays it all out in detail.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sits on the Senate committees on foreign relations, armed services, and homeland security. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sits on the Senate subcommittee for defense appropriations. Collectively, these four committees are responsible for funding arms sales and foreign aid, the continued maintenance and development of the military, oversight for government contracts, and the allocation of the budget for the defense department. Through these four committees, $300 billion in taxpayer dollars, which is roughly $2000 per taxpayer, went to private military contractors in 2013.
These defense contractors were able to secure lavish contracts only through their extensive lobbying efforts, like hiring expensive lawyers with existing connections in government. The Hogan Lovell law firm, where Chief Justice John Roberts previously worked before joining the Supreme Court, explicitly boasts on its website about its expertise in helping corporate clients worm their way through the regulatory system:
Our interdisciplinary practice brings together lawyers with the corporate, commercial and regulatory experience to assist our clients in capitalizing on opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.… we know how to guide you through procurement and regulatory minefields as well as how to protect your interests effectively in disputes and government investigations.… Our clients include some of the largest and most established aerospace, defense, and government services companies in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
Justice Antonin Scalia also came from a law firm that lobbies for some of the biggest military contractors. Jones Day law firm’s client list includes war profiteers like Bechtel, General Electric, and Verizon. Scalia worked in Jones Day’s Cleveland office before Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. So what happens when veterans of law firms specializing in corporate lobbying make it all the way to the Supreme Court?
In 2010, both Scalia and Roberts voted to establish money as speech in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, which allowed for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections. And just recently, both justices voted that aggregate limits on individual campaign donations are unconstitutional in the McCutcheon vs. FEC decision. So not only can large military contractors use their influence in Congress to secure lucrative contracts, they also have influence in the courts to overturn laws that previously limited their ability to buy politicians outright.
Last Summer, when the Senate held a vote to authorize the use of military force in Syria, both John McCain and Dick Durbin voted YES. As Maplight shows, Senators McCain and Durbin received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from defense contractors between the two of them. Moreover, members of the Senate who voted YES for military intervention in Syria received 83 percent more in campaign donations from military contractors than those who voted NO. It’s expected that through the continued support of military contractors in their re-election campaigns, McCain and Durbin will continue to use their positions in the senate to give those same military contractors more government contracts.
It isn’t hard to see that our current system of unlimited money in politics, made possible through corporate “personhood” and money as political speech, is the reason both parties in Congress are so nakedly corrupt. Until we get a constitutional amendment establishing that corporations aren’t people and money is not speech, we can expect more of the same quid-pro-quo bribery in our politics.
Fascists are coming out of the closet. They may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired. That’s why we need you. Now.
Nazi salutes. White people demanding a white “homeland.” A speaker talking about how women like to be assaulted. Glowing remarks about Adolf Hitler. Reporters getting booed for asking tough questions. This was the scene inside a conference held at a downtown Washington DC government building this past weekend and at a local restaurant.
White supremacists drank champagne this weekend in our nation’s capital to celebrate Trump’s presidential victory. The mostly-male group, part of the “Alt Right” movement, wore suits, ties, and dubious smiles. I wondered if any of them also had white robes at home.
I was outside the building with a crowd of about 500 protesters. Our chants included, “Racists eating creme brûlée? You’re still the KKK,” and, “Fascists, we will shut you down.” We also chanted, “Love will prevail.” It was a diverse group of people from many backgrounds, identities, and ideologies. We held a dance protest on the sidewalk outside the restaurant hosting their meet-and-greet on Friday, after about 30 people protested inside the restaurant. We also occupied the street in an energized, spontaneous march outside of their conference on Saturday.
The conference was organized by the blandly-named “National Policy Institute,” a white supremacist organization that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It featured many white guys, such as neo-Nazi “academic” Kevin MacDonald, anti-immigration writer Peter Brimelow, and the head of the institute, professional racist Richard Spencer. Also, former TV personality Tila Tequila.
The institute’s flashy, meme-heavy materials call for a moratorium of up to 50 years on immigration from countries that are not European or white enough. They promote forced sterilization, which they’ve creepily called “programatic” contraception for “positive, eugenic effect,” to deny people of color the choice to have children. Their might-makes-right approach blends with their sexist views of a patriarchal society. They hype a whites-only nation, so that no white person will need to see a person of color. Their materials discuss eugenics and false, debunked science that is supposed to show the genetic superiority of people who are white. Their website reviews books written by actual Nazis. This organization and its members are fully fascist, fully racist, and not hiding it.
If anyone were looking for overt signs that fascists are coming out of the closet, this is it. The white supremacists celebrated Trump’s victory last week, and are taking a threatening victory lap. We are living in a dangerous time when they feel comfortable enough to bring their ideology of hate straight into our government buildings. And now that they have “fascie” haircuts and aren’t using so many slurs, have acquired some minor graphic design skills, and are trying their best to dress sharp, they are getting profiled by news outlets from Mother Jones to Rolling Stone. News outlets such as Vice News to The Atlantic were present for the conference.
These white supremacists may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired.
During the weekend conference, I had a cringe-worthy encounter with Spencer, head of the institute, and two other conference attendees. The three, accompanied by a small entourage, had burst out the doors of their Friday night event in the same way a gunslinging band of cattle thieves walks into a saloon in a cowboy movie. They were looking for a fight. What ensued was a ridiculous argument of sorts. They proceeded to call all of us communists (some of us were, some weren’t). They insisted that I was “self-hating” because I, a white woman, don’t want to live in an isolated whites-only world. They yelled over us, mostly, pausing only long enough to catch a phrase or two so that they could jump to their conclusions.
Richard Spencer, whose name is often accompanied by the fact that he has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, was displaying tactics he likely learned bullying other children on the playground, not in his graduate classes. (I suppose news outlets think it is fascinating that he is a white supremacist with a college education? They didn’t pause to consider the credentials of the protesters outside. I personally could have referred them to several people standing with me with master’s degrees and two with PhDs.) After the three had yelled and yelled for several minutes, as playground bullies are inclined to do, they insulted the physical appearance of all of us, calling us fat, ugly, or both, declared that they had “won,” and walked away. We laughed it off, but it was an interesting encounter that only illustrated the brutal ideology of force that we are up against.
I had started organizing the weekend’s protests months ago with a small group of committed antifascists. None of us thought then that we would be facing a Trump presidency. None of us thought then that a person who was so openly racist and sexist could be elected. None of us would have expected that Steve Bannon, who has said that his website Breitbart has been a platform for the Alt Right, could wind up a close advisor to president. None of us expected this deplorable conference to be some sort of celebration of victory. But now, that is what we’ve got.
Now, more than ever, the Alt Right, the white supremacists, and the fascists, are coming out of the woodwork to try to gain currency in the policy circles in Washington DC.
And now, more than ever, we must stand up to oppose them.
Standing up to fascism means standing for a world in which we celebrate diversity. We embrace the awesome symphony of differences that make the world a beautiful, colorful, engaging place to be. We do not wish to live in a world in which all of us are the same, because that is not only oppressive, it is boring. We wish to live in a world of creative expression, openness, and support for each other.
The philosophy that the National Policy Institute promotes sounds to me like the worldview of an antisocial, insecure hermit. Spencer, who coined the term Alt Right, promotes separating people based upon their identity, as if he were sorting laundry. The worldview he articulates is one of genetic determinism. It is a view that says that people who identify as white have genes that are somehow better than those of people of color. Using previously-debunked science on IQ test results and racial identity, books promoted on the institute’s site claim that white people are more intelligent than people of color. An article by Spencer on his own site depicts white culture as embattled, and says that “white culture” should have “the right to maintain its traditions, culture, and heritage.” And, in his own words, Spencer proposes doing all of this by force.
I’ve never seen anyone in the Alt Right mention the rights of American Indians or previously-enslaved black Americans, who were unwilling participants in the “American experiment.” The Alt Right seems to feel threatened by the freedom of the people who they previously enslaved. They seem to ignore the rights of indigenous people who have borne the brunt of imperialist foreign policy, who by the way are often the ones who immigrate here.
I have also never seen any discussion of how many cultural contributions people from other societies actually made to the cultures that surround us in the US. The food, technology, entertainment, and other cultural practices that the white boys of the Alt Right grew up in have been a product of a cultural milieu of globalization for a long time now.
Their meat and potatoes? Those potatoes were originally indigenous to the Andes mountains. Their salt and pepper? That pepper came from south India via the Mediterranean spice trade. Their numbers? Invented by Persians. Their bluegrass music? Developed by African slaves and indentured Celtic servants. Their aspirin? A medicine adopted from American Indians. Their Fourth of July fireworks? China. Their corn? Mexico. And the list goes on.
It is a fallacy that “white culture” was developed in a vacuum in the first place. But Spencer’s organization wants to pretend that genes made our culture, not the interconnected reality that we all exist in.
But like the self-entitled white boys that they are, the Alt Right wants to make a grab for a country that they think they built, that they think they own. No. We immigrants, we women, we artistic culture-makers, we are the ones who built our communities. And our communities
And if racist imperialism weren’t enough, these white supremacists have plenty of sexism to deliver up. The movement has strong ties to the so-called “manosphere,” which holds the false, ugly notion that women actually want be dominated by men because of genetics. Many “manosphere” adherents don’t think a woman should have a right to divorce. When a reporter from The Guardian asked about the lack of women present at the conference this past weekend, the crowd booed. Then they cheered when Spencer responded with some comments about how women want a “strong” man.
Gross. He has also said, “At some part of every woman’s soul,” he said, “they want to be taken by a strong man.” What gives him this wisdom? He actually cited romance novels as evidence: “I’ve looked at a lot of romance novels that women read and I’ve noticed a distinct pattern,” Spencer said, according to The Guardian.
He also animatedly told the Rolling Stone, “I love empire, I love power, I love achievement,” and admitted to getting a “boner” when reading about Napolean.
So women, definitely don’t get stuck alone in an elevator with this person, especially if he has imperialist literature tucked under his arm. Or a romance novel that I am sure he is just looking at for research.
Womens rights are in a sad state of affairs in our country when the men who think they are qualified to make our policy — Trump, Bannon, and lurking predators like Spencer — don’t even show respect for a woman’s agency over her own body, let alone our agency in the government we are subject to. As a survivor of sexual assault and violence, I empathize with women who are triggered and bewildered right now by the state of our nation.
That is why we need to oppose fascism now. We all stand to lose our freedom if this hateful movement goes any further.
Their worldview holds that people have an innate fear of each other, especially those that are different, and that the politics of power are the only way. They believe that people should live in isolated communities in which everyone looks the same, acts the same, and has the same culture. I don’t think so.
I believe in the part of the human spirit based on love, inclusion, and acceptance. I believe in that impulse that all of us have, of compassionate curiosity towards each other. I believe in our shared humanity and our ability to find common ground. I believe that, in the end, we all want to live in a world of collaboration, not competition. I believe that we all want to live in a world of kindness, caring, and celebration of difference.
Many of us learned of the Holocaust and thought, “If I had been in Nazi Germany, I would have stood up against injustice.” Well, now is our chance to do that in the real world. All of us are needed to counter their fascist agenda. This kind of wild-eyed fascism will not go away by magic. It will go away thanks to you, your shoes marching for freedom, your voice speaking up for justice, and your words helping build political will. You cannot leave this to someone else. This is your problem too. Now is the time to get involved and start meeting in person to stand up for freedom.
After all, what did our cultural heroes Indiana Jones, Captain America, and Superman all have in common? They all fought Nazis. So be a hero, and join us.
This article was republished by permission under license from MintPress News.
President elect Donald Trump will most likely appoint the successor of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February and possibly three other Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Two of the court's liberals, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, are 83 and 78, respectively. Moderate conservative Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is 80.
Trump's Supreme Court appointments could certainly influence the legal direction of our nation for decades to come and that influence may not bode well for African-Americans. Voting rights, freedom of speech, and other basic liberties may be in jeopardy based on future decisions of Trump appointed justices.
Similar to the strategy of not allowing slaves to read, history indicates that freed blacks were discouraged or prevented from entering the legal profession. Since all rights and privileges come through law, denying access to legal information is the same a denying rights. Less than five percent of U.S. lawyers are black, however, black people are disproportionantly caught up in the legal and justice system. The only viable solution is for black people is to gain legal knowledge and be prepared to represent themselves in court.
The need for legal representation often occurs when people are least able to afford legal services especially during illness or job loss. Since half of all jobs in the U.S. are predicted to be eliminated, the need for legal services will be great. Although Trump has promised to return manufacturing jobs, that promise is not realistic. Manufacturing is increasingly becoming automated, so even if manufacturers open U.S. factories, those factories will not produce anywhere near the level of employment of traditional manufacturing in the past.
Donald Trumps Racist History
During the presidential campaign, the only agenda Donald Trump made clear was his racial, religious and gender intollerance. An early example of Trump's racist views was demonstrated in 1989 when Trump took out ads in New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for “criminals of every age” after five black and Latino teens were implicated in the Central Park jogger case
The young men, convicted and imprisoned, were later cleared by DNA evidence and the confession of a serial rapist
Below is a small sampling and other examples of Trumps racial and other biases.
Trump famously called Clinton, "Crooked Hillary", but ironically it's Trump who faces a trial on charges of fraud just weeks before taking the oath of office. According the the USA today, Trump has 75 pending lawsuits that could distract him from his presidential duties.
Don't wait until you're faced with a pending legal issue, start using court.rchp.com to increase your knowledge about the law.
Today and every year, “NEVER FORGET” echoes through the neighborhoods, cities, and Facebook statuses of America. In the face of Colin Kapernick's National Anthem Protest and 15 years after 9/11, Americans still bear the cross of a nation victimized and scorned after the brutal attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. While Americans — and politicians who are still intent on capitalizing on the tragedy — vow never to forget the fateful day, far too many citizens forget the liberties they have relinquished as a result. Lest today’s valiantly waving flags, government ceremonies, and TV news specials replaying the plane crashes coax you into forgetting, these nine essential freedoms have been usurped since 9/11:
1. The liberty to not be spied upon: Essential to a free society — at least as the founders of the United States saw it — was the freedom to be left alone. In the not too distant past, government agencies suspicious of citizens had to obtain warrants to investigate private citizens. They had to prove to a judge why they deserved to violate a person’s sacrosanct privacy from the State. Though surveillance programs were in place long before 9/11, the tragedy enabled much more far-reaching impositions. Multiple federal agencies — most notably the NSA — are enabled to surveil citizens, all the time — all around the world. The government’s paranoid desire for total surveillance has only grown since 9/11. The FBI, which built the NSA’s foundation for dragnet spying, continuously throws temper tantrums over its inability to spy on encrypted communications. The Department of “Justice” argued just this week that it should have access to all Americans’ emails. A separate court recently ruled that a case challenging NSA bulk data collection could not move forward because the plaintiff could not prove — due to government secrecy — that he was being surveilled.
2. The liberty to not be harassed by law enforcement: The federal government’s total surveillance state is a direct consequence of 9/11 — or rather, the political exploitation of it. However, at the local level, police departments not only conduct their own invasive spying with secret technology provided by the federal government — they pose a far greater danger. Where police officers were once trusted to protect life, they now threaten it. Currently, the risk of being killed by a police officer is anywhere from eight to 55 times greater than being killed by a terrorist. In 2015, police are on track to kill 1,100 Americans — and since 9/11, have killed more than died that day. This year, it was revealed that Chicago’s Homan Square operated as a black site without due process but replete with torture. Other violations by police, constitutionally speaking, include a basic protection against unwarranted searches and seizures. This makes unauthorized cavity searches on the side of the road and civil asset forfeiture — a policy by which police have stolen millions of dollars from unaccused citizens — an egregious seizure of the freedoms Americans still drunkenly celebrate on national holidays. Checkpoints, anyone?
3. The freedom of movement and travel without being treated like a criminal: Considering how traumatized the collective American populace continues to be by incessant, repeated clips of two planes flying into the World Trade Center, it is unsurprising that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), formed after 9/11, is accepted as a vital element of modern society. Millions of Americans routinely huddle in cramped airport security lines, removing their shoes and flashing their private parts to security agents via X-ray machines so as to avoid more invasive gropings. Recently, two agents were caught tag-teaming to grope attractive women. Theft of passenger belongings runs rampant among officers. Racial profiling is allowed by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA. Unsurprisingly, these practices fail to find terrorists 95% of the time. Meanwhile, children in wheelchairs, the elderly, and otherwise innocent Americans are forced to endure what would amount to sexual harassment in any other environment. But rest assured, if travelers pay a special fee, they can bypass security lines. For your safety.
4. Freedom of Speech: While no one (that the government admits to) has been black-bagged for criticizing the government yet, the State has spent years incrementally criminalizing this fundamental right. In addition to designating anti-government activists, hippie communes, and Americans with seed libraries as potential terrorists, the federal government has made a habit of punishing individuals who attempt to shed light on the government’s crimes. From Bradley (Chelsea) Manning to Edward Snowden and countless others, those who attempt to inform the American people of the atrocities their government commits are promptly silenced. Though the story received little mainstream attention, the military’s new operating procedures condone killing journalists. Further, the people’s right to free speech has been widely suppressed. During the Bush years, protesters were cordoned off into “free speech zones” to air their grievances. Today, protests are heavily patrolled by police, who do not shy away from pestering — if not abusing — people peacefully exercising their most essential constitutional right.
5.The liberty to simply know what the government does: When President Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, he decried George W. Bush’s cloak of secrecy shrouding government actions. Obama vowed to be more transparent, to make the government truly work for the people by allowing them to know what it does. His presidency is almost over, but any echo of that sentiment has been silenced. His administration, self-designated the “most transparent in history,” is one of the least transparent and denies more Freedom of Information Act requests than ever. Lawmakers refuse to reveal details of foreign policy, surveillance, and more, citing “national security” as a blanket excuse. This justification is how they perpetuated continued warrantless spying even after the Patriot Act expired. It is how they have instigated perpetual war with little explanation beyond “grave threats” to the American people. To say more would be to endanger the people further, of course. Whenever politicians feel threatened by real questions, they need only parrot the need for “public safety” and drum up memories of 9/11 to shirk accountability.
7. The right to a fair trial: When the near-mythical “founding fathers” crafted the Constitution, one of their greatest revolutions was ensuring fair trials to the accused. This banned cruel and unusual punishment while ensuring a speedy trial where the defendant was considered innocent until proven guilty — not the other way around, as had been practiced by despotic regimes throughout human history. However, this right to a fair trial has been increasingly eroded by autocratic elements within the so-called justice system, especially since 9/11. An Irish judge recently refused to extradite a terror suspect to the United States, citing fears he would endure cruel and unusual punishment. “Death by firing squad!” many patriots mourning 9/11 might chant. He is a terrorist, after all, and “innocent until proven guilty” is a moniker of the weak and those hell-bent on seeing Americans murdered.
But what about the American citizens presumed guilty before an actual verdict is reached? Prosecutors have been criticized for exercising racism in jury selection, biasing courts in favor of conviction. One mentally ill black man died languishing away in prison for months — awaiting a (non-speedy) trial for allegedly stealing less than five dollars worth of snacks from a convenience store. In more high-profile cases, the government and media go out of their way to ensure defendants are presumed guilty long before their trials start. Such was the case with Ross Ulbricht (where FBI agents were found to have committed criminal acts during investigations and key evidence was suppressed). Chelsea Manning and others have faced similar fates. The government also actively campaigns against activists attempting to educate jurors about their rights. None of these violations of due process compete with the indefinite detention provision of the 2012-present National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Language found in Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA allows the president to order the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, merely for being suspected of being a threat to national security.
8. The liberty of owning your body: Though not codified in the Constitution, a basic premise of liberty is self-ownership — that free individuals may choose what they want to do with and put in their bodies. Though the Drug War has been in full swing for decades, the events of 9/11 allowed the government to regulate people’s body chemistry more heavily. While the Patriot Act is widely associated with unwarranted surveillance — as it should be — it was used overwhelmingly to prosecute non-violent drug “crimes” and has helped to create the world’s largest prison population, because…freedom?
9. Economic liberty: While the state places many restrictions on economic freedom, it has done so for centuries through taxation, fees, fines, and regulations that favor corporations (such as the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership). Still, these policies have not been contingent on the 9/11 terror attacks. What 9/11 has allowed, however, are increased piles of tax dollars to fund military adventures throughout the world. Though the military chronically eats up trillions of dollars, every year it demands more money — and nearly every year it gets it. Without the jarring images of 9/11 branded into Americans’ brains, the military would have a much more difficult time securing funding. Those who disagree with such expenditures (whether out of fiscal responsibility or outrage at endless violence) must square off with the IRS — an entity more terrifying to most Americans than the government’s more murderous agencies.
While the events that transpired on 9/11 should never be forgotten — and should be commemorated — often, the nationalistic grandstanding that comes along with mourning the dead removes any possibility to mourn the freedoms lost — or the very literal lost and tortured lives of individuals around the world subjected to the aggressive foreign policy enabled by 9/11. While the government is categorically to blame for these violations, it is an unfortunate fact that Americans are guilty of creating an environment where crimes against humanity go unchecked and nearly every element of American life is regulated and surveilled. By allowing themselves to be manipulated by constant fear-mongering, Americans have allowed — if not applauded — this confiscation of their freedoms.
On July 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA a gathering of rival gang members, cops, gang interventionists, and the families and friends of gang victims took place to discuss ending violence. During the entire afternoon, not a single act of violence took place.
The gathering was the result of a call to action by rapper and actor The Game when he sent out the following Instagram invitation: “On behalf ofmyself@SnoopDogg, & the honorable @louisfarrakhan,” he called on “all CRIPS, BLOODS, ESE’s & all other gang members, major figures & GANG LEADERS from every hood in our city…to have the much needed conversation amongst ourselves about our influence on the youth in our respective neighborhoods & how we can serve as better role models to them & the brothers we stand beside daily.”
Over 2,500 people responded to the invitation. Minister Tony Muhammad called on all who want peace and unity to raise their fists, every arm was raised, and that led to a strategy session and conflict resolution workshop on July 21st, at the Scientology Community Center.
Below is a video of Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck & The Game Unite to Stop the Violence
Everyone wants to live a long happy life, no one want to die violently. Many of our kids feel a sense of hopelessness because they believe that a "rigged system" has stolen their opportunity.
Hopefully some of our local St. Louis celebrities can get together with organizations such as Better Family Life and St. Louis City and County Police Chiefs and plan a similar gathering. It worked in Los Angeles, there's no reason why it can't work in St. Louis too!
Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer has spent much of his career reporting on criminal justice. For years he’d been frustrated by the secretive nature of the American private prison industry. Tired of old-fashioned document-hunting, he tried an unconventional approach. He went undercover, spending four months as a prison guard at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.
His 35,000-word story provides a rare, harrowing look at the closed world of private prisons — a system that holds 131,000 people nationwide. What he saw still haunts him: men stabbing each other with handmade knives as guards looked on; officers in tactical gear storming the prison’s dormitories; an assault victim writhing in panic as he pleaded for protection from a predatory inmate; a prisoner whose gangrene went untreated so long he had to have his legs amputated.
But of all the alarming things Bauer experienced, perhaps the most frightening was the transformation he noticed within himself. He entered the system intent on being a passive observer— a diligent reporter disguised as a laid-back, upstanding guard. But in time, he became aggressive, even vindictive, toward the prisoners. He squabbled with the men and sought reasons to punish them. His anger and paranoia metastasized and scared him.
“I wonder who I am becoming,” he wrote in the piece. “I feel ashamed of my lack of self-control, my growing thirst for punishment and vengeance. I’m getting afraid of the expanding distance between the person I am at home and the one behind the wire.”
Bauer had once been a prisoner himself. He was held captive in an Iranian prison for some 26 months during his time as a freelance correspondent in Syria in 2009. He spent four of those months in solitary confinement. But as a guard, he had to send men to what was known as “the dungeon” — Winn Correctional’s dreaded segregation unit.
Today, more than a year after his stint as a guard, he joins the ProPublica podcast and speaks candidly about his prison life. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Sapien: It seems clear that you enter the prison at a time of crisis. What precipitated that and how did it influence the job?
Bauer: While I was in training, there was an escape. A man just, in the middle of the day, climbed over the fence in view of the guard towers and ran into the woods. Nobody saw him, partially because there's no guards in the towers anymore. The company had removed those posts. They replaced them with cameras, presumably to save money. People didn't even know that he escaped for a few hours. That drew a lot of attention from the state. There were also a lot of stabbings. I witness stabbings myself, saw people get beaten. There were weeks that had multiple stabbings just in one week. It had the sense of getting out of control. The prison was locked down several times when I was there, which always raised the frustration level of the prisoners because they would just be stuck in their dorms. There was one time that they had been on lock down after a rash of stabbings for over a week, for 11 days, I think, and the prisoners in my unit threatened to riot.
Sapien: One thing that I think many investigative journalists struggle with is that some of the horrific things that we see make for great stories. The revelations are powerful, but at the same time, they're profoundly depressing. You must've felt that in an even more acute way considering that you'd experienced some of it yourself as a former prisoner. Can you walk us through what was happening for you internally over the course of these 4 months?
Bauer: Yeah, it was hard for me, really, to see the extent of it until I left. I was aware of how I was changing in the prison and how I was relating to prisoners differently and how I was turning off emotionally in order to cope with the situation. My wife came a couple of times for extended visits in Louisiana, and on her second time down, she told me, "You're changing." I was having nightmares at night. I was making sounds in my sleep. That was really apparent to her and also to my colleague, James West, who came down to shoot video. I was really aware that I could not really ever relax. I would try to decompress when I got off, but there was never enough time to do that. I noticed myself start drinking more. The kind of things that is really common for guards, in general. I noticed myself sometimes wishing that somebody would spark a fight with me so I could just get out some of that pent-up aggression.
Sapien: What is the key takeaway that you want people to take away from reading this?
Bauer: My experience at Winn, in so many ways, made clear how conditions were affected by the profit motive of this private prison company. They basically have to deal with this contradiction where they are required to provide care and safety, security to prisoners, but they also are obligated to turn a profit. Their stocks are traded on Wall Street. There is always going to be a tension there. One of the main ways that CCA saves money is in staffing. Sixty percent of the cost of running their prisons is in staffing, so they pay much lower than the state paid its guards. They also didn't fill their positions, even to the bare minimum of what the contract required. That has a serious impact. I saw the ways that impacted conditions in the prison in terms of safety, in terms of medical care, in terms of mental health care. Also, safety of the surrounding community. Somebody escaped while I was there. There's 131,000 people in private prisons right now in the United States, so this is not an issue that's limited to this one prison.