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Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

Taking a Stand at Standing Rock

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David Archambault II writes in the NY Times:

It is a spectacular sight: thousands of Indians camped on the banks of the Cannonball River, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Our elders of the Seven Council Fires, as the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, is known, sit in deliberation and prayer, awaiting a federal court decision on whether construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline from the Bakken region to Southern Illinois will be halted.

The Sioux tribes have come together to oppose this project, which was approved by the State of North Dakota and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline, owned by a Texas oil company named Energy Transfer Partners, would snake across our treaty lands and through our ancestral burial grounds. Just a half-mile from our reservation boundary, the proposed route crosses the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans and irrigation water for thousands of acres of farming and ranching lands.

Our tribe has opposed the Dakota Access pipeline since we first learned about it in 2014. Although federal law requires the Corps of Engineers to consult with the tribe about its sovereign interests, permits for the project were approved and construction began without meaningful consultation. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe’s cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company’s assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.

The Dakota Access pipeline was fast-tracked from Day 1 using the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites. And unlike the better-known Keystone XL project, which was finally canceled by the Obama administration last year, the Dakota Access project does not cross an international border — the condition that mandated the more rigorous federal assessment of the Keystone pipeline’s economic justification and environmental impacts.

The Dakota Access route is only a few miles shorter than what was proposed for the Keystone project, yet the government’s environmental assessment addressed only the portion of the pipeline route that traverses federal land. Domestic projects of this magnitude should clearly be evaluated in their totality — but without closer scrutiny, the proposal breezed through the four state processes.

Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials, and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple, serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests. In recent weeks, the state has militarized my reservation, with road blocks and license-plate checks, low-flying aircraft and racial profiling of Indians. The local sheriff and the pipeline company have both called our protest “unlawful,” and Gov. Dalrymple has declared a state of emergency.

It’s a familiar story in Indian Country. This is the third time that the Sioux Nation’s lands and resources have been taken without regard for tribal interests. The Sioux peoples signed treaties in 1851 and 1868. The government broke them before the ink was dry.

When the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1958, it took our riverfront forests, fruit orchards and most fertile farmland to create Lake Oahe. Now the Corps is taking our clean water and sacred places by approving this river crossing. Whether it’s gold from the Black Hills or hydropower from the Missouri or oil pipelines that threaten our ancestral inheritance, the tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity.

Protecting water and our sacred places has always been at the center of our cause. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 3:18 pm

Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’

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Scott Shane reports in the NY Times:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,” the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence. On HBO, Bill Mahercalls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. There’s a lot more, and it shows how the Saudi initiative has unbalanced the role of Muslim in daily life in dozens of countries and cultures.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 3:13 pm

Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?

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Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.

That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.

The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by“the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.

Theoretically, one could say that these regimes — among the most repressive and regressive in the world — are donating because they deeply believe in the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation and want to help those in need. Is there a single person on the planet who actually believes this? Is Clinton loyalty really so strong that people are going to argue with a straight face that the reason the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Emirates regimes donated large amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation is because those regimes simply want to help the foundation achieve its magnanimous goals?

Here’s one of the Clinton Foundation’s principal objectives; decide for yourself if its tyrannical donors are acting with the motive of advancing that charitable goal: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 3:09 pm

Wall Street’s Protection Racket: Mandatory Arbitration

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

What people across Wall Street cannot figure out is why the Board of JPMorgan Chase, America’s biggest bank by assets, didn’t sack its CEO, Jamie Dimon, at some point between the bank’s first two felony counts in 2014 and its third felony count in 2015. Or, as two trial lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer point out on their web site, during the past five years as JPMorgan Chase racked up $35.7 billion in fines and settlements for “fraudulent and illegal practices.”

JPMorgan Chase’s abuses of its own customers are so vast that Chaitman and Gotthoffer had to create a Wheel of Misfortune to catalog the scams for ease of viewing by the public.

And here’s the worst part: those are just the frauds that the public is allowed to read about. JPMorgan Chase, along with other notoriously abusive banks on Wall Street, is allowed to force claims against it into a private justice system called mandatory arbitration. This system allows systemic abuses to avoid detection for years because claims made by both employees and customers are ushered into Star Chamber tribunals which lack the judicial protections afforded in a court of law.

JPMorgan Chase must be proud of its mandatory arbitration agreement for its employees because we found it at its web site. These are some of the salient points which show the stark contrasts between mandatory arbitration and a public courtroom proceeding where both the public and the press can observe the proceedings:

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2016 at 9:22 am

A Congressman Campaigns to “Stop the Madness” of U.S. Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen

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Ben Norton reports in The Intercept:

For months, a California congressman has been trying to get Obama administration officials to reconsider U.S. backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And for months, he has been given the runaround.

Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Los Angeles County, served in the Air Force and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. The brutal bombing of civilian areas with U.S.-supplied planes and weapons has led him to act when most of his colleagues have stayed silent.

“I taught the law of war when I was on active duty,” he told The Intercept. “You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients — those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians,” he said. “So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.”

But he and a very few other lawmakers who have tried to take bipartisan action to stop U.S. support for the campaign are a lonely bunch. “Many in Congress have been hesitant to criticize the Saudis’ operational conduct in Yemen,” Lieu said. He didn’t say more about that.

The matter has gotten ever more urgent since August 7, when the Saudi-led coalition relaunched an aggressive campaign of attacks after Houthi rebels in Yemen rejected a one-sided peace deal.

More than 60 Yemeni civilians have been killed in at least five attacks on civilian areas since the new bombing campaign began. On August 13, the coalition bombed a school in Haydan, Yemen, killing at least 10 children and injuring 28 more.

Lieu released a statement two days later, harshly condemning the attack. “The indiscriminate civilian killings by Saudi Arabia look like war crimes to me. In this case, children as young as 8 were killed by Saudi Arabian air strikes,” he wrote.

“By assisting Saudi Arabia, the United States is aiding and abetting what appears to be war crimes in Yemen,” Lieu added. “The administration must stop enabling this madness now.”

Then, mere minutes after his office sent out the statement about the August 13 attack, another tragedy started making headlines: The . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2016 at 11:04 am

Student Loan Debt Slaves Get the Runaround Seeking Promised Relief

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Last Thursday the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Student Loan Ombudsman released a report detailing the hurdles and outright barriers that college students who took out student loans face when they attempt to get Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. These plans allow student loan payments to be tied to income. The report found that the debt holders are reporting that they are facing prolonged processing delays and wrongful rejections by their private student loan servicing companies. Some facets of the report suggested that student debt holders are intentionally getting the runaround by the outside servicing company. The report noted:

Borrowers report being rejected because their application had missing information or because their servicer lost paperwork, without ever being notified by their servicer or being given a chance to fix the problem. Other borrowers report being rejected simply for checking the wrong box, without being given the opportunity to submit a corrected form. These errors discourage borrowers from restarting the application process, and some borrowers may choose to walk away from their loan, instead of remaining on the road to repayment.

We looked through the actual student complaints on which the report was based. One individual, calling him or herself, American Patriot, posed some important issues. We have excerpted from that complaint letter below. After you read these currentcomplaints, you may want to browse through our related articles listed below to gain a fuller understanding of how many of today’s finest young people have been turned into student debt slaves by the same Wall Street banks that blew up the U.S. economy in 2008 and were then bailed out with more than $13 trillion in cumulative secret Federal Reserve loans, frequently below 1 percent interest, a fraction of what student loans charge:

Excerpts from complaint letter to CFPB from “American Patriot”: . . .

Continue reading. The letter is worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2016 at 7:35 am

Like taking candy from a baby: It’s Children Against Federal Lawyers in Immigration Court

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The United States is losing its way. Fernanda Santos reports in the NY Times:

After a long, scary trek through three countries to escape the gang violence in El Salvador, a 15-year-old boy found himself scared again a few months back, this time in a federal immigration court here. There was an immigration judge in front of him and a federal prosecutor to his right. But there was no one helping him understand the charges against him.

“I was afraid I was going to make a mistake,” the boy said in Spanish from his uncle’s living room, in a modest cinder-block house on the south side of this city. “When the judge asked me questions, I just shook my head yes and no. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Every week in immigration courts around the country, thousands of children act as their own lawyers, pleading for asylum or other type of relief in a legal system they do not understand.

Suspected killers, kidnappers and others facing federal felony charges, no matter their ages, are entitled to court-appointed lawyers if they cannot afford them. But children accused of violating immigration laws, a civil offense, do not have the same right. In immigration court, people face charges from the government, but the government has no obligation to provide lawyers for poor children and adults, as it does in criminal cases, legal experts say.

Having a lawyer makes a difference. Between October 2004 and June of this year, more than half the children who did not have lawyers were deported. Only one in 10 children who had legal representation were sent back, according to federal data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group connected to Syracuse University.

“We have looked for any legal system in the United States where children are required to represent themselves against a government lawyer — child welfare proceedings, juvenile delinquency proceedings. We have not yet found one, and the government hasn’t found one either,” Stephen Kang, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Right Project, said in an interview.

A class-action lawsuit, filed by the A.C.L.U. and other civil rights organizations, is trying to change that.

In a brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth District, where the federal government is contesting the court’s authority to hear the case, Justice Department lawyers insisted that “aliens in civil administrative removal proceedings have the privilege of being represented by retained counsel, but do not possess either a constitutional or statutory right to appointed counsel at taxpayer expense.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2016 at 1:06 pm

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