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Pro-Palestinian campaign divides Jewish community

As Jewish college students headed home to celebrate Passover with their families on April 21, there was one topic on many of their minds with the potential to disrupt the joyous mood around their Seder tables: the BDS movement.

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — against Israel. It’s a growing movement on college campuses, where students are stepping up protests of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, as well as the nation’s continued occupation of land that BDS supporters say belongs to Palestinians.

BDS as proxy

The BDS movement — although focused primarily on human rights — has become a proxy for disagreements over a much wider and longer-standing set of issues. As such, the movement has pitted Jews against Jews, pro-Israelis versus anti-Israelis, and pro-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporters versus Netanyahu critics. It’s also created rifts in the progressive movement, which attracts Jewish followers because of the faith’s culture of tolerance and identification with the underdog.

Reform Judaism — the largest branch of Judaism — was the first major religious denomination to support same-sex marriage, and Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that recognizes same-sex marriages. It also is the most progressive nation in the region by far. Arab countries stone adulterers to death, throw gays off skyscrapers to their deaths and some do not allow women to drive or even show their faces.

Given the human rights abuses of other countries in the region, a lot of Jews believe Israel is singled out due to anti-Semitism, and they’re blaming the BDS movement for anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. While the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and fights anti-Semitic hate crimes, said it hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in such crimes on campuses, a spokesman said, “The BDS movement does fuel anti-Semitism. We have some serious concerns about BDS.”

He noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States routinely exceed anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said part of the problem she has with BDS is that “when we talk about Israel being grounded on injustice, we’re applying different standards to Israel than every other nation.”

The University of California-Davis held a hearing last month to consider divesting university holdings from companies that do business with Israel. After the meeting, the school’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi had its house defaced with swastikas. Fraternity leaders said they believed they had been targeted over their support for Israel. However, the coalition of student groups that supported divestment condemned the vandalism.

Fighting anti-Semitism on campus

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a report last year titled “Anti-Semitism on Campus: A clear–and-present danger.” The report called the growing rate of anti-Semitism on campuses “alarming” and “getting worse.” It referenced “grim examples of Jewish students being blocked from participation in student government and being harassed.”

Last month, the University of California’s Board of Regents became the first to adopt a “Principles Against Intolerance” policy in response to a series of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents — including swastikas found on Jewish fraternities and the attempted exclusion of a student government candidate because of her Jewish faith.

The document, which took months to prepare due to the charged political environment, states, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

But to many Jews, especially older ones, anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. “The well-being of Israel is really a critical part of what it means to be a Jew today,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at UW-Madison.

The reality is that living in peace in the Middle East is impossible in these times, said Matusof. As WiG was preparing this story, the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem injured 21 people, two of them critically. And, the same day, an Israeli military court charged a soldier with manslaughter after he was caught on video by an Israeli human rights group fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker.

“Israel doesn’t live in a friendly neighborhood,” Matusof said.

“What frustrates me now is the way we talk about Israel these days in America,” Kahn said. “We eliminate complexity. The problem is that real life is more complex than these really simple reductive narratives that people are drawing. They’re drawing cartoon characters. There’s good on one side and bad on the other. I would challenge people to find a place in their heart to care about Palestinians and Israeli Jews at the same time.”

While Kahn doesn’t believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic, she believes it’s “a magnet for people who hold Jews in great disdain.”

Jews against Israel

Most Jews, especially older ones, want a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. But many who support the BDS movement, including members of groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace, want Jews to abdicate their control of Israel. They reject the notion of Zionism, which guarantees a Jewish state in perpetuity.

“Anti-Zionism, non-Zionism is more common in Jewish history than Zionism,” said Rachel Ida Buff, faculty adviser to a recently formed JVP chapter on the UW-Milwaukee campus.

JVP is a pro-Palestinian campus group whose supporters believe the conditions that led to the creation of a Jewish state no longer exist and do not justify what JVP national media coordinator Naomi Dann called a situation that “privileges Jews at the expense of Palestinian lives.”

“The impact of Zionism … has been wide-scale displacement, dispossession of millions of Palestinians and nearly 50 years of a brutal military occupation,” Dann wrote to WiG in an email. She said her group values the fundamental equality of all people and cannot support Zionism because it devalues Palestinian lives.”

“This is a generational issue that I think is reaching the fever pitch that it is because the Zionists are beginning to be scared of it,” Buff said.

Buff said there’s a kind of McCarthyism in the Jewish community that stigmatizes and disavows Jews who speak out against Israeli military and social atrocities, as she does.

She said she’s stepped on the equivalent of a “third rail.” But she said she will not be silenced for her beliefs.

“It is up to me to decide what my government does with its tax dollars,” she said. “Stop arming the occupation. The Zionists are being played by Netanyahu. American Jews are a little bit mistaken if they think the State Department is supportive of Jews. Israel is on the brink of (becoming) a pariah state. American geopolitical involvement is not going to make the world safe for Jews.”

Progressive roots

The BDS movement in the United States is emerging “from the heart of the American left,” according to Cary Nelson, a retired English professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s co-editor of the book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.

BDS is the current cause célèbre of the left, and its presence can be seen at rallies and protests for virtually every grievance on the progressive agenda. Advocates for Palestinians have linked divestment to social justice movements against racism, militarization, globalization and other issues that are important to many college students.

Campus divestment advocates often come to student government hearings with the backing of student associations for blacks, South Asians, Mexican-Americans, gays and others. Last year, anti-Israeli protesters unraveled a sign several yards long behind speakers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The rally was intended to draw attention to the April 14, 2014, police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man.

The BDS sign was by far the largest at the rally. Jody Hirsh, a world-renown Jewish educator and WiG contributor who attended the rally, left because of it.

“I went to the rally because I really feel (police shootings) are an American problem that needs to be dealt with and the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Milwaukee, Ferguson, Palestine. Resistance to occupation is heroism,’” he said.

“I was so upset, because it’s not the same thing at all,” he continued. “I felt that this very important American issue was hijacked by something different and I felt that I couldn’t participate in the rally.”

Nevertheless, the BDS movement is growing on the backs of other issues.

“Drawing these connections cross-struggle has been huge for our movement,” said Tory Smith, a 2012 Earlham College graduate and member of National Students for Justice in Palestine.

UW students’ experience

While BDS activism is taking a toll on Jewish life on some campuses, that’s not happening on campuses in Wisconsin, multiple sources told WiG.

At UW-Madison, which reportedly has the nation’s eighth largest number of Jewish students — a statistic that Matusof questions — BDS is a very visible movement. Nonetheless, Jewish life on campus is thriving.

UW-Madison offers a major in Jewish Studies and it has a number of active Jewish organizations, including fraternities and sororities.

UW-Milwaukee has a small Jewish population of around 200, said Marc Cohen, interim executive director of Hillel Milwaukee. Hillel International supports Jewish life on campuses throughout the world. Cohen described Hillel in Milwaukee as a kind of “Switzerland,” where pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians can talk freely and openly in a neutral, non-threatening environment.

Hilary Miller, a Milwaukeean enrolled in Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, contrasts the Wisconsin experience with that at other schools. She has attended conferences at UC-Berkeley and UC-Irvine, and she’s felt the tension on those campuses. There, she said, some people in the BDS movement are “absolutely using this as a wedge against Jews. … Sometimes it reminds me of what I’ve studied about anti-Jewish propaganda in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, critics of Israel often complain that Jews have all the power, money and influence in the region. The re-emergence of what sounds similar to the myth of Jewish wealth and secret control of society frightens older Jews, because it echoes Nazi propaganda.

But Miller said she’s encountered nothing like that sort of extremism at UW-Madison, which she described as a very comfortable environment for Jews. In fact, she’s highly engaged in Jewish activities.

Miller founded the independent group Student Alliance for Israel, which she said is apolitical and promotes understanding of Israel’s traditions and culture. She attends pro-Palestinian events and rallies because she “wants to understand the other side,” she said.

Miller identifies politically with progressives, but she feels almost apologetic at times in progressive circles about her involvement in Jewish activities. She knows Jewish students who are afraid to put such involvements on their resumes out of fear it might affect their job prospects, she said.

And, based on what she witnessed in California, she’s afraid the situation on campus could deteriorate if BDS becomes a stronger force at UW–Madison.

Ongoing internal conflict

There will always be Jews who say that precisely because of their history of persecution, Israel should be more compassionate.

But Jews such as Matusof and Kahn are alarmed “that the Jewish community is not seen anymore as a minority deserving of the same sensitivities that the progressive community really holds strong,” Matusof said. “Jews in America,” he added, “are seen as a white privileged class, while we still are a minority and there still is discrimination.”

At any rate, analyzing and arguing are essential elements in Jewish theology and culture. There’s an old joke that goes, “If you ask 10 Jews for advice, you’ll get 11 opinions.”

The number is probably higher.

Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland fits no easy mold

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, has been characterized as a moderate who, if confirmed, would nudge his divided colleagues slightly to the left because he would replace conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia.

But Garland will not necessarily come down with the more liberal justices in every area, particularly on criminal justice issues.

An Associated Press review of Garland’s record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — more than 5,000 rulings and 17,000 pages since 1997 — suggests he is a judge who only rarely, and perhaps reluctantly, has found himself at odds with the government agencies that appear before him.

On the Supreme Court, Garland probably would frustrate the political left and right on alternate days.

He is apt to infuriate conservatives as a champion of union rights, his court record indicates, and, as a believer in public access to government records, to annoy those who defend government secrecy.

He is likely to offend liberals with a readiness to turn back constitutional challenges to criminal prosecutions and perhaps claims of workplace discrimination.

He probably would frustrate partisans on both sides, regardless of which party controls the White House, with steadfast deference to the rules and interpretations of government bureaucrats, whatever their impact.

Summaries of Garland’s decisions on critical issues:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Many of Garland’s rulings in criminal cases reflect his 12 years as a federal prosecutor or a senior official in the Justice Department’s criminal division.

In dozens of decisions, he upheld lower court rulings that denied defendants’ attempts to suppress evidence because of alleged illegal search and seizure by police. He typically upheld prison sentences imposed by lower courts.

In a 1999 decision, for example, Garland wrote for the court’s majority that police in Washington, D.C., were within their rights to search a car after spotting a 6-inch dagger next to a front seat. They then found a loaded .45-caliber handgun. Defendant Morris Christian’s lawyers contended the search was unjustified.

“First, as appellate judges we do not second-guess a street officer’s assessment about the order in which he should secure potential threats,” Garland wrote. “To the contrary, we must defer to his quick decision as to how to protect himself and others from possible danger.”

Garland also found that U.S. Park Police were correct to have searched Warren Turner’s car trunk after they found a pot-filled “blunt” in the passenger compartment. Cocaine base was found in the trunk, leading to Turner’s conviction on drug distribution charges.

Turner claimed the only evidence officers had before the trunk search was marijuana he had for personal use, but Garland found that “too fine” a line. There was “a ‘fair probability’ that Turner may have hidden additional drugs not necessary for his current consumption in areas out of plain sight, including the trunk of his car,” he wrote.

In a 2000 case, Garland wrote that U.S. Customs agents were not required to get a warrant to install a tracking device in a package shipped from Thailand that contained heroin. The man who opened the package in a taxi in Washington, Abdul Gbemisola, claimed the drug evidence was obtained improperly.

Garland found that no warrant was required. “Adding the tracking device did not require any additional intrusion into anyone’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” he wrote. “One cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning an act performed within the visual range of a complete stranger.”

Sometimes, Garland wrote or joined rulings that sided with defendants.

In a 1999 case, Garland wrote the opinion vacating one of Andre Clark’s two gun-related convictions — one for possessing a gun and the second for the ammunition inside it. Garland reasoned that was two convictions for the same offense.

“Indeed, if the statute were read that way, it might just as readily permit 14 charges against Clark, one for the gun and one for each of its 13 bullets,” he wrote.

In a 2006 case, Garland wrote that prosecutors were wrong to pursue more than $63,000 in restitution from a man convicted of making a false statement to the FBI but acquitted of the main money-laundering charge. The ruling overturned a lower court’s decision that Daniel Dorcely of Washington should have to pay restitution despite the acquittal on the money count.

criminal justiceThe Supreme Court, Garland wrote, “made clear that a defendant charged with multiple offenses but convicted of only one offense cannot be ordered to pay restitution for losses resulting from the other charged offenses.”

A rare dissent in a criminal justice case came in 2007, when the full appeals court overturned the conviction of a D.C. police detective for accepting an illegal gratuity. The detective, Nelson Valdes, had been targeted in a federal sting operation for accepting money to look up license plates in a police database.

The majority found Valdes had not accepted money for an illegal act, so no crime was committed. Garland disagreed.

“A guy walks into a bar,” his dissent opens, referring to the first meeting between Valdes and a man who described himself as a “federal judge.”

“The detective cannot know who the ‘judge’ really is, or why he wants the information. He cannot know whether the ‘judge’ is a loan shark seeking to find and punish his debtors … nonetheless, in the end he takes the cash — repeatedly — and gives the ‘judge’ the information he seeks,” Garland wrote.

The majority’s decision overturning the conviction, he added, “undermines the prosecution of public corruption.”

GUN CASES

Garland’s votes in two gun cases have fueled opposition from gun rights advocates, who have announced they oppose his nomination.

In one, Garland voted to have the entire appeals court review a ruling by a three-judge panel that struck down the ban on handguns in the nation’s capital. Because the entire court declined to review the case, it’s unclear how Garland would have voted on the constitutionality of the gun ban.

The Supreme Court later sided with the three-judge panel, with the 5-4 majority opinion written by Scalia, who died Feb. 13.

In the other case, Garland joined a ruling that upheld a Justice Department rule allowing the federal agency to temporarily save gun buyers’ records. The National Rifle Association had sued, arguing that the Brady Handgun Violence Act required immediate destruction of personal information related to gun purchases.

But the department said it was important to keep some of the information for six months at most to allow audits of the background check system to ensure both accuracy and privacy. A federal district court judge dismissed the NRA’s complaint, and the appeals court affirmed that decision.

GUANTANAMO DETAINEES

Garland played a central role in deciding cases concerning detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade. He largely deferred to the government’s arguments in preventing their access to the courts and their release — with one notable exception.

In 2003, Garland joined a majority opinion ruling that those held at Guantanamo could not access lawyers or challenge in federal court the legality of their detentions. The decision was based on Supreme Court precedent that dictated that U.S. civilian courts lacked jurisdiction to hear challenges brought by detainees who were foreigners not present on U.S. soil.

The Supreme Court would overturn that ruling the following year in Rasul v. Bush, finding that detainees were entitled to challenge their detention in federal court under the habeas corpus statute.

images - gun cases“Initially, Judge Garland was overly cautious in the detainee cases in not seeing the broader, fundamental interest at stake,” said Baher Azmy, legal director of the New York-based nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented numerous detainees before the district appeals court. “The D.C. Circuit has been so consistently reflexively pro-government, and overall Garland has not staked out a particularly helpful position there.”

In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration’s planned military commissions at Guantanamo violated U.S. and international law, allowing detainees to pursue their cases in federal courts. Congress and the Bush administration came up with new rules for the military trials later that year.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that foreigners held at Guantanamo had constitutional rights to challenge their detentions in civilian courts. By June of that year, Garland sat on the three-judge panel that was offered the first civilian judicial review of the government’s evidence for holding the detainees.

Garland wrote majority opinion in that case, brought by Huzaifa Parhat, a detainee who was a member of a Chinese Muslim minority group. Parhat should be released, transferred or be given a new military hearing, Garland wrote, because the government’s intelligence was unreliable.

“The government suggests that several of the assertions in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made in at least three different documents,” Garland wrote. “We are not persuaded.”

Attorneys for detainees filed a flurry of cases seeking their clients’ release following that ruling, but when government lawyers appealed, the D.C. Circuit typically came down on the side of continued detention.

For example, Garland wrote a majority opinion upholding a lower court’s denial of detainee Shawali Khan’s petition for habeas corpus in 2011, citing “particularly incriminating evidence” that linked Khan to a force associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Three years later, Garland joined a majority opinion upholding a Guantanamo policy that allowed guards to search the genitals of detainees meeting with their lawyers. The opinion said Supreme Court precedent required deference to the government’s view that such policies were “rationally related to security.”

“Garland essentially has been a moderate who applied the law as it existed at the time in a faithful manner,” said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown. “Some people may not like the law, but that is another story.”

GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

Garland often shows deference to federal agencies but has ruled against the government in some cases involving government regulations.

He was part of a 2010 decision limiting the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of electronic cigarettes. The appeals panel ruled that the devices, which create a nicotine vapor inhaled by users, should be regulated as tobacco products rather than as drug delivery devices.

“In the absence of an authoritative agency interpretation, I conclude that, unless a product derived from tobacco is marketed for therapeutic purposes, the FDA may regulate it only under the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act,” Garland wrote in a concurring opinion.

He has joined decisions that struck down a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission increase in rental fees for hydropower projects on federal land; vacated a Federal Communications Commission penalty against AT&T related to long-distance charges; and sided with the United Mine Workers, which alleged that the Mine Safety and Health Administration had withdrawn a proposed air quality rule without explanation.

There’s an occasional glimpse of humor in his regulatory writings for the court.

One came in an opinion that sided with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board when the agencies determined a pilot was not medically fit to fly due to a history of problems with consciousness and awareness. Garland wrote that the best the pilot’s own medical expert could say about one incident, which occurred on a Boeing 757, was that the pilot “was acting like a teenager.”

“Had the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believed that expert, it might well have taken away the ‘teenager’s’ jet keys on that ground alone,” he wrote.

In a case involving a transit system providing transportation to professional baseball games, Garland wrote, “This appeal raises the following question: Can Congress constitutionally permit a federally-subsidized transit system to take the residents of Seattle out to the ball game?” The appeals court, citing goals of accommodating disabled fans and restoring affordable service, allowed the transit system to resume services to Seattle Mariners games over the objections of private charter carriers.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

As an appeals judge, Garland has joined in decisions that protected water from boat sewage, families from lead paint and even an endangered toad from land development.

But he has not sided so much with environmentalists as with government regulators. His rulings have backed federal agencies that allowed mines to pollute the air, swans to be killed, landfill to foul wetlands and storage of hazardous waste without permits.

The AP found at least 19 Garland cases since 1997 that clearly leaned either toward or against environmental controls. Of those, 10 favored stronger regulation while nine did the opposite. Only three went against government agencies that were under challenge.

environmental issuesIn December 2006, Garland joined a ruling that upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on power plant pollution that forms haze over natural areas.

In November 2012, he again backed an EPA regulation in a ruling that said it was enough that the agency’s legal interpretation “was not plainly erroneous or inconsistent.” This time, though, the agency had decided against air pollution controls for leach fields and other waste sites at gold mines.

The pattern is the same in water pollution cases. In February 2003, Garland joined the court in letting the EPA impose radioactivity limits for drinking water. The rules had been challenged by industry groups.

Then, in November 2011, Garland was part of a ruling that supported the Army Corps of Engineers and generally sided with developers of a Florida shopping mall. The ruling allowed fill to be dumped into wetlands, despite the heated objections of conservationists, though it left a single question open on potential impact to rare eastern indigo snakes.

In April 2003, Garland wrote an opinion that upheld a Fish and Wildlife Service decision. This time, he unequivocally favored wildlife protection, blocking a plan to build a California housing development that threatened rare arroyo southwestern toads.

In December 2006, though, when conservationists tried to stop the killing of male mute swans to manage the Chesapeake Bay population, Garland backed an opinion approving the plan. As usual, he sided with the regulating agency, in this case the Interior Department.

THE GLOBAL VIEW

In several high-profile cases, Garland sided with victims and their families when they sued foreign governments, terrorist groups and others for war and terrorism-related damages.

In one of Garland’s strongest dissents, he sided with Iraqi nationals who sued two U.S. contractors involved in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison scandal. In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court in 2009 dismissed the lawsuit, saying the companies had immunity as government contractors.

But Garland disagreed, saying no act of Congress barred the plaintiffs from suing private contractors “who were neither soldiers nor civilian government employees.”

“The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they were beaten, electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs and otherwise abused by private contractors working as interpreters and interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison,” Garland wrote.

Garland said neither Presidents George W. Bush nor Barack Obama suggested the suit would “interfere with the nation’s foreign policy or the Executive’s ability to wage war.”

Four years earlier, Garland wrote an opinion reinstating a suit against al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden filed by Kenyan victims of 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi. The victims sued bin Laden and his terrorist group for orchestrating the bombing that killed 200 people, including 12 Americans.

The district court had dismissed the suit, saying federal courts lacked jurisdiction. Garland disagreed. “The defendants engaged in ‘unabashedly malignant actions directed at (and) felt’ in this country. Bin Laden and al Qaeda should therefore ‘reasonably anticipate being hauled into court’ here by those injured as a result of those actions,” Garland wrote.

In another case, Garland was joined by two other justices, including now-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to allow the brother of a slain hostage to sue Libya for his killing.

Peter Kilburn had been an instructor and librarian at American University in Beirut, Lebanon, when he was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1984. Two years later, in retaliation for a Berlin nightclub bombing that killed two American soldiers, the U.S. bombed Libya — and Libya sought revenge.

A group linked to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi paid Hezbollah $3 million for Kilburn, then murdered Kilburn and left his body along a roadside near Beirut with the bodies of two British hostages.

Kilburn’s brother, Blake, later sued Libya, and the country tried to have the suit dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity. A federal court denied Libya’s motion and Garland’s court affirmed that ruling. His opinion held that the suit could go forward because of a terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Many of the civil rights cases that have come before Garland are about workplace discrimination, though some have had broader implications.

He was part of a 2004 decision that found a transit authority had waived its immunity from federal lawsuits under the Rehabilitation Act by accepting federal money.

The ruling came in a suit filed by an electrician who said he was fired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority because of his bipolar disorder. The transit authority countered that he had been fired for insubordination and other behavior.

The authority, created by an interstate compact among Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, argued that it was legally immune to a suit for disability-based discrimination.

The three-judge panel split 2-1, with Garland and Roberts saying the transit authority had waived immunity by accepting the funds. “Congress reasonably can insist that decisions regarding the expenditure of federal funds not be based on irrational discrimination,” Garland wrote.

In 2002, he was part of a panel that reversed a district court that had favored the government in a suit by Catholic prisoners who claimed they were being denied religious rights to drink small amounts of wine during Communion. The panel sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether the prisoners met the threshold of showing a substantial burden on the free exercise of their religion.

In the case of an inmate who sued for sexual harassment at the D.C. jail, Garland ruled to uphold part of her award, but threw out punitive damages. The prisoner said she had been sexually harassed by corrections officers and inmates, including allegations that she was forced by corrections officers to dance naked on a table in front of hundreds of chanting, jeering inmates.

She was awarded $350,000 in compensatory damages in a lower court as well as $5 million in punitive damages. But the punitive damages were reversed because Garland said the district was immune from such damages.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

When it comes to workers’ rights, many of Garland’s cases originated from the National Labor Relations Board. In a majority of those cases, he sided with labor board rulings, which usually supported pro-labor positions. When Garland dissented from his appeals court colleagues or disagreed with a regulatory ruling, it was usually in support of workers or a union.

His dissent in a 2009 case involving FedEx drivers and the shipping giant is a case in point. Drivers for FedEx’s home-delivery unit filed a complaint with the labor board after the company refused to negotiate with the union they elected to represent them in collective bargaining.

The company argued that the drivers were independent contractors, not employees. As evidence, FedEx showed that home-delivery drivers had the option of selling their routes and hiring helpers.

But the labor board held that the drivers were employees because they were an essential part of FedEx’s home-delivery business and because the company exercised substantial control over them.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court overturned the labor board, finding that FedEx home-delivery drivers were independent contractors because they have “entrepreneurial potential,” can operate multiple routes and sell routes.

Garland disagreed, saying the drivers had little “entrepreneurial opportunity” and noted that FedEx actually put limits on drivers’ ability to sell routes. He said FedEx showed only a rare case or two of “a driver seizing an entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Two years earlier, Garland ruled against a proposed federal rule to increase the driving hours for long-haul truck drivers, citing safety concerns. The consumer group Public Citizen had opposed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulation to increase truck drivers’ daily driving limits from 10 hours to 11 hours as well as a provision to permit an off-duty period of 34 hours to restart the weekly on-duty limits. It said the FMCSA failed to provide an opportunity to comment on the methodology of the crash risk.

images - workers rightsCiting mostly procedural shortcomings, the appeals court granted the group’s petition and vacated the contested portions of the rule. Garland added that the agency’s rules could not be upheld without important aspects of its methodology being fully examined.

In other rulings, Garland:

—Joined a 2004 decision upholding a NLRB finding against a company that refused to recognize its workers’ union after moving them to a different location.

—Upheld a NLRB finding in favor of a woman who handed out fliers at work after hours that expressed concern over how the company was handling layoffs.

—Was part of a 2011 decision that supported an NLRB decision in favor of two employees fired for verbal outbursts against a policy they opposed as unsafe.

OPEN GOVERNMENT

Garland has staked out strong views for keeping government transparent and accountable to the public.

He worried in one of his rare dissents in July 2004 that fellow judges might have given the impression that a Freedom of Information request cannot expose prices paid by federal agencies to contractors. He questioned whether the law really says that and added that, if so, it “should be an exception rather than the rule.”

In September 2009, Garland wrote a powerful defense of the public’s right to know who lobbies Congress. He noted that the Supreme Court long had championed this principle and added that “nothing has transpired in the last half century to suggest that the national interest in the public disclosure of lobbying information is any less vital.”

But he also supported agencies that failed to hand over records. Sometimes, he agreed that they did reasonable searches that simply failed to turn up anything relevant.

In 12 of at least 22 open government cases that came before him since 1997, he has leaned in favor of access, opening the door to release government documents, electronic calendars, audiotapes and other material.

In March 2013, Garland wrote an opinion forcing deeper review of the CIA’s refusal to turn over records on its drone attacks to a civil rights group. Garland said that the intelligence agency could not simply cite national security.

In another case, Garland did not let possible mistakes in records prevent any chance of a full release. In November 2006, he joined in ordering a lower court to reconsider denial of a request for names of people in the U.S. illegally and being held states on behalf of federal authorities. The Justice Department had said releasing such records might embarrass the detainees and unfairly brand misidentified people. But Garland and fellow judges said that risk needed to be formally evaluated — not just asserted.

In November 2005, Garland parted with the court majority in a case involving government scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was largely exonerated of spying accusations in a case that made headlines. Garland urged the court to reconsider a reporter’s effort to protect a confidential source of a leak about Lee, saying the court should be more mindful to the First Amendment and “the importance of a vigorous press.”

In May 2007, Garland voted with the losing side in a ruling in favor of Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner, who later became speaker of the House. Boehner had sued Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state, for releasing to reporters an illegal recording of a conference call among Republican politicians. Garland joined with other court dissenters who argued that, though the recording was illegally made, McDermott had not violated the law by accepting it.

But Garland did not always opt for openness in politically charged cases. In October 2001, he joined colleagues in blocking release of thousands of pages of Internal Revenue Service documents. A conservative nonprofit law firm wanted the records to examine claims that the agency had unfairly targeted conservative groups for audits.

Associated Press writers Garance Burke, Gene Johnson, Michael Graczyk and Larry Neumeister contributed to this story along with AP news researcher Rhonda Shafner.

 

Super PACs dole out cash, whether their candidates like it or not

Donald Trump calls them a “crooked business.” Bernie Sanders says they’re “corrupt” organizations “buying elections.”

But the barrage of insults hasn’t stopped the political groups known as super PACs and their donors from showing the two presidential candidates some love — no matter how loudly they may rail against their very existence.

“I’m not going to be deterred just by that alone,” said Joshua Grossman, president of Progressive Kick, of Sanders’ anti-super PAC message. His liberal super PAC, funded by donors who have written checks as large as $250,000, has endorsed Sanders and is planning to spend money helping to elect him.

Unlike formal campaigns for president, super PACs are allowed by law to accept donations of any size. That fact makes them a juicy political target for populist candidates such as Trump and Sanders.

Yet already, a super PAC allied with a nurses’ union that endorsed Sanders over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in August has put more than $600,000 into pro-Sanders digital and print ads in the important early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Billboards put up by the super PAC, National Nurses United for Patient Protection, proclaim: “Politics As Usual Won’t Guarantee Healthcare For All. Bernie Will.”

The union is only able to spend that kind of money because of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, a decision that ultimately led to the creation of super PACs. Sanders has decried it as corrosive to democracy.

That ruling also enabled unions to start spending member dues on political advertising in federal elections. Since that time, the nurses’ union has moved $3.4 million in dues into its super PAC, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. The group hasn’t raised money from anyone else.

“Anti-labor folks might say that these unions are extorting money from their dues-paying members to use on politics, whether those members like it or not,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, which advocates for stricter campaign finance rules.

RoseAnn DeMoro, the union’s executive director, said the super PAC has helped other candidates in previous elections and is assisting Sanders’ bid because “we’ve never seen a better messenger” for causes important to the union’s members, citing as an example his plan to expand Medicare.

“We are hoping to do as much as we can for him,” she said. “The nurses are extremely happy with what we’ve done with their money. He’s a vehicle for our voice. We laugh quietly among ourselves and say, ‘Bernie stole our issues.'”

The nurses’ early endorsement was seen as a political victory for Sanders, who filmed a 5-minute video thanking the group’s 185,000 members for their support. Nearly three months later, Sanders and his aides defended the group as “good” big money, drawing a contrast with the wealthy corporate donors he frequently vilifies on the campaign trail.

“They are nurses and they are fighting for the health care of their people,” Sanders said in an interview last week on CNN. “They are doing what they think is appropriate. I do not have a super PAC.”

Sanders has sought to distinguish himself from Clinton on the issue of big money.

While both say they’d like to limit money in politics by rolling back the Citizens United court ruling, Clinton deployed close aides to a super PAC that aims to at least triple the $80 million it raised to support President Barack Obama’s re-election. That group, Priorities USA, already has a half-dozen $1 million contributors.

Sanders has not authorized any similar effort. In fact, in June, Sanders’ campaign attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to a strategist who set up a “pro-Sanders” super PAC going by several names, including Bet on Bernie and Americans Socially United.

Cary Lee Peterson, the man who set up the group, has credit and legal problems in several states, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. A campaign finance report the group filed seven weeks late showed it was $50,000 in debt as of the end of June. The group is continuing to solicit money online.

On the other side of the aisle, Trump accuses his opponents of being controlled by the super PACs backing their bids – even calling some “puppets” of their donors.

But super PACs can’t seem to quit Trump. At one point his campaign identified nine that appeared to be raising money in the name of helping him. One, called Patriots for Trump, purchased Iowa and New Hampshire voter contact information as recently as late October, FEC records show.

Trump himself attended a several events for a group called Make America Great Again – his slogan. In October, The Washington Post reported on ties between the leader of Make America Great Again and Trump’s own aides.

Soon after, Trump asked the group to shut down, and they appeared to do so. At the same time, his campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to other supposedly pro-Trump super PACs, and he ramped up his anti-super-PAC rhetoric.

Many seem to have stopped raising money. One group, called Let’s Trump Politics, remains operational – at least online. It formed in late September, according to the FEC, and hasn’t yet had to file any fundraising information.

The group’s website includes a headline about how “Republicans support political outsiders” — and a disclaimer that its mission is “in no way a direct relation to Donald Trump or his 2016 presidential campaign.”

Sanders wants end to death penalty

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called on Oct. 29 for an end to the death penalty, a day after rival Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped short of saying the United States should end capital punishment.

“We are all shocked and disgusted by some of the horrific murders that we see in this country, seemingly every week,” said Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont. “And that is precisely why we should abolish the death penalty. At a time of rampant violence and murder, the state should not be part of that process.”

Clinton’s remark a day earlier to take a “hard look” at abolishing capital punishment gave Sanders an opening to distinguish himself from the former secretary of state, who is the party’s frontrunner in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders also called for reforming the criminal justice system, which he said puts more people in jail than any other country on Earth and makes it harder for Americans to get back on their feet once they’re out of jail.

“A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life-until the day he or she dies,” Sanders said. “If a person has a criminal record, it will be much harder for that person later in life to get a job. Many employers simply will not hire somebody with a criminal record. A criminal record destroys lives.”

Clinton said she thinks there are certain “egregious cases” in which the death penalty should be considered, “but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare.”

Clinton edges to Obama’s left on climate change

Hillary Rodham Clinton is voicing opposition to President Barack Obama’s authorization for oil drilling in the Alaska Arctic and his delays on Keystone XL, in some of the clearest signs of the Democratic front-runner distancing herself from the president.

Having agreed with him on most issues so far in her 2016 race, Clinton edged to Obama’s left on climate change this week. In the course of a few hours, she announced her disapproval of his move to allow Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean and her impatience for a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Clinton argued on Twitter that the Arctic is a unique treasure and “not worth the risk of drilling.” Then as she took questions from reporters later in Nevada, she said the U.S. should be focusing on cleaner sources of renewable energy, rather than risking “potential catastrophes” in the search for more oil.

“I think the very great difficulties that Shell encountered the last time they tried to do that should be a red flag for anybody,” Clinton said, referring to a setback that beset the oil giant when it tried to drill there in 2012, including a rig that ran aground.

One of Clinton’s challenges is winning enough support in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Her primary opponents like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have been vocal in their opposition to Keystone, Arctic drilling and other projects deemed risky for the environment. And in recent weeks, Clinton has sought subtle distinctions with Obama by suggesting that she could be more effective in working with Republicans to get things done.

Clinton’s comments on Arctic drilling came less than a day after the Obama administration, in a long-expected move, gave Shell the final permits needed to drill for oil off Alaska’s northwest coast, drawing consternation from environmentalists who warn about its effects on climate change and already vulnerable species in the region.

Unsurprisingly, the same groups that had criticized Obama praised Clinton for stating her opposition. “We applaud Secretary Clinton for standing up for what science, the will of the American people and common sense demand,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Clinton’s Republican opponents pushed back, working to portray the Democrat as hostile to U.S. energy development. “Wrong,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush responded on Twitter. “Being more-anti energy than Obama is extreme.”

Added New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: “Still waiting to hear your position on Keystone.”

Clinton has said she won’t take a stance on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada into the U.S., unless the decision is still pending if and when she’s elected. Citing her work on the issue as secretary of state, Clinton argued it would be imprudent for her to weigh in. But Keystone supporters and opponents alike have questioned her refusal to say what she believes about an issue important to voters.

Following a town hall this week in Nevada, Clinton sought to reframe the question as one about Obama and why the pipeline was even still an open question. She said she “would really hope” a decision would come soon, adding she felt some responsibility since she was involved in the process earlier.

“But I am getting impatient, because I feel that at some point a decision needs to be made,” Clinton said. “And I’m not comfortable saying, you know, `I have to keep my opinion to myself’ given the fact that I was involved in it. So at some point I may change my view on that.”

Sanders officially launches his presidential bid in Vermont, and to Clinton’s left

Challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off his presidential bid on May 26 with a pitch to liberals to join him in a “political revolution” to transform the nation’s economy and politics.

Sanders, who entered the Democratic race in late April, formally opened his White House campaign in Burlington, Vermont, where he was first elected mayor by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent by 10 votes. Three decades later, Sanders is the underdog again, vowing to campaign on an agenda to elevate issues like income inequality, campaign finance and climate change.

“With your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally,” Sanders declared to about 5,000 supporters along the shore of Lake Champlain.

“Now is not the time for thinking small,” he said. “Now is not the time for the same old-same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas.”

A self-described “democratic socialist,” the 73-year-old Sanders has a following among liberals that could push Clinton to the left. In a lengthy address, the white-haired senator said there is “something profoundly wrong” when so much of the nation’s income goes to the top 1 percent of all earners.

“This grotesque level of inequality is immoral,” he said. “It is bad economics. It is unsustainable.”

His campaign kickoff in Waterfront Park, built on industrial land reclaimed during Sanders’ stint as mayor, offered a quintessential Vermont backdrop: a sun-splashed Lake Champlain, where boaters took in the scene from sailboats and motorboats.

The senator was praised by a lineup of supporters, including the founders of Vermont’s popular ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s, and environmental activist Bill McKibben, who predicted the campaign might someday lead to a mountaintop named “Mount Sanders.”

Liberals, some who are wary of Clinton, have unsuccessfully sought to draw Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the race. But in Warren’s absence, Sanders hopes to fill the void as he proposes ways to rein in Wall Street banks, tackle mounting college debt and create a government-financed jobs program.

Clinton is in a commanding position by any measure, far in front of both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to get into the race this weekend. The Democratic field could also grow to include former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

But it remains to be seen if liberals will coalesce around a challenger to the former secretary of state or if that slice of the anti-Clinton electorate will splinter among several candidates.

Sanders, an independent in the Senate who often votes with the Democrats, has raised more than $4 million since announcing his campaign in late April and suggested in an interview with The Associated Press last week that raising $50 million for the primaries was a possibility.

In his address, Sanders made clear he would seek to be on the forefront of liberal causes. He described the economic system as “rigged” against middle-class families and vowed to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and to oppose trade deals that would ship jobs overseas. To counter big money in politics, he said he would push for the public financing of elections.

To build upon President Barack Obama’s health care law, Sanders supports a single-payer health care system. Instead of cutting Social Security, he said, the nation should expand Social Security benefits. To address climate change, he said, Congress should pass a carbon tax to help transition off fossil fuels.

Sanders has introduced legislation to make tuition free at public colleges and universities, a major piece of Warren’s agenda. Clinton’s campaign has signaled that she intends to make debt-free college a major piece of her campaign, too.

Richard Robinson, a Burlington retiree who attended the rally, said it was important for Sanders to be in the race, “just to get the power in the party to listen to him — particularly Hillary.”

Frustration with Latin America’s left on the rise

Venezuela’s socialist government is struggling to put food on the shelves amid runaway inflation. Brazil’s president is facing calls for impeachment. And even Cuba’s communist government, an iconic touchstone for generations of leftists, is embracing closer ties with the U.S.

Whether it’s because of corruption scandals or stagnant growth, the popularity of the crop of leftist Latin American governments that have been running the region since the start of the millennium appears to be waning. Voters who embraced what became known as the pink tide that swept away the pro-Washington, free-market policies dominant in the 1990s are increasingly turning against the populist firebrands they once rallied behind. 

Across the region, polling numbers are tanking and street protests are on the rise. 

Triggering the growing disenchantment are some serious economic headwinds. Most leaders came into power just as China’s economy was soaring and with it demand for South America’s abundant natural resources. Now that the world’s second-largest economy is cooling, the commodities boom that allowed governments to spread the wealth and endear themselves to the poor is ending.

“It’s not easy to govern in Latin America right now,” said Raul L. Madrid, co-editor of a 2010 book on leftist governments in the region. “Many of these governments rode frustration with high levels of inequality and corruption to power. But you can’t rail against the establishment as effectively as you once did when you are the establishment at this point.”

No leader has been harder hit than Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

When his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, took power in 1999, the international price of oil — which funds the bulk of spending in the oil-rich nation — was under $10 a barrel, and its rise to $100 created a boom that lasted several years. But prices have plunged by nearly half since July, exacerbating shortages and the world’s fastest inflation as the government tight-fists dollars needed to pay down debt and import basic goods.

Maduro’s approval ratings have tumbled to 28 percent, near the lowest in 16 years of socialist rule, and while there’s no sign the sometimes violent street protests that overwhelmed the country a year ago will return anytime soon, polls indicate that the opposition will coast to victory in legislative elections expected to take place by year end.

Perhaps sensing the troubles of his closest ally, Cuban President Raul Castro in December agreed to talks with the U.S. aimed at normalizing relations, a move expected to fuel growth in the communist-run economy. Currently, Venezuela provides Cuba with the bulk of the oil it consumes at subsidized prices.

A string of headline-grabbing corruption scandals are also exposing the ethical breaches that befall many parties after more than a decade in power. 

In Chile, the region’s best-managed economy but one highly dependent on copper exports, President Michelle Bachelet reshuffled her Cabinet recently to stem the fallout from revelations that her son used his influence to secure a favorable loan. It’s one of the scandals that have prompted widespread outrage at the sway of money over politics, both for her Socialist Party and the opposition.

When Bachelet, who served as president previously, left office for the first time in 2010 she enjoyed a whopping 84 percent approval rating. But now support has plunged to around 30 percent, a record low, and analysts say an ambitious agenda including a proposed constitutional reform and overhaul of the university education system are at risk. 

“When the economy is growing nobody pays attention to corruption,” said Patricio Navia, a political scientist who teaches at New York University and Chile’s Diego Portales University. “But when the pie stops growing, and voters see others profiting, they start to ask `where’s my piece?”’

The first major test of the shifting public mood will take place in October, when Argentines head to the polls in the region’s only major presidential election this year.

President Cristina Fernandez’s Peronist party is facing a tough battle to elect her successor as 30 percent inflation and a restriction on dollar purchases erode support. The president’s credibility has also been tainted by her sometimes erratic response to the shocking death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman as he was investigating an alleged cover-up deal between her government and Iran to shield the Islamic Republic from prosecution in the 1994 bombing of Jewish center. Several courts have questioned the probe. 

To be sure, it’s not just leftists. Incumbents across the ideological spectrum are facing the heat.

In Colombia, Harvard University-educated President Juan Manuel Santos’ approval rating is at the same level as Maduro’s as frustration builds over the slow pace of peace talks with leftist rebels. Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers.

The growing frustration with the left could prompt several leaders to moderate their policies and pivot toward the center. 

Already in Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, President Dilma Rousseff is starting to roll out a more conservative message of austerity, including cuts in unemployment and welfare benefits, to tame a record budget deficit widened by the biggest economic slowdown in 25 years.

With approval rating in the low teens just five months into her second term, Rousseff’s also struggling to win back the public trust amid Brazil’s biggest corruption investigation, an inquiry into a massive kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras. Rousseff served as chairwoman of Petrobras’ board as the graft took place, though there has been no evidence to show wrongdoing on her part. 

Navia says moderate governments that are more flexible will have an easier time attracting foreign investment and boosting savings while those pursuing a more transformative, ideology-driven agenda, like Argentina and Venezuela, will face a rougher time making adjustments.

Still, it may be too early to write the left’s political obituary, according to Madrid. While fatigue with the left is on the rise, many of the region’s charismatic leaders have a connection with voters that their right-wing opponents, who so far have failed to present an alternative vision of the future, are hard-pressed to replicate, he says. 

Mario Toer, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of Buenos Aires, says many of the scandals are being hyped by opposition-leaning media and that corruption, long rampant in Latin America, has actually been on the decline in the past decade. However he recognizes that the left is at a crossroads.

Popular frustration “is something inherent to the process,” says Toer. “But the global crisis and media offensive add a dimension that goes beyond the real difficulties governments are facing.”

AP writers Peter Prengaman from Buenos Aires and Bradley Brooks from Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.




Alberta election could boost fight against Keystone pipeline

Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, elected a left-of-center provincial government, ending a 44-year-old conservative party dynasty this week.

And that vote could be important in the fight against the Keystone pipeline project proposed to stretch from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

Voters in the western oil-rich province chose a New Democratic Party government that seeks a national climate policy in Canada and has a mixed record on pipeline projects. The incoming premier is not anti-pipeline, but she has opposed at least one pipeline project. She has not said she’s opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline project, but she has said she’d end lobbying for the proposal.

The stunning election had the federal Conservatives worried ahead of October’s federal election.

Alberta is the base of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative party but Deepak Obhrai, a federal Conservative lawmaker, said that so-called safe seats can’t be considered safe anymore.

The Conservatives hold 26 of Alberta’s 28 federal seats.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay described a Conservative party meeting on May 6 as being “like a morgue.”

“Someone said it was like Albertastan now,” MacKay said.

Alberta is sometimes called the Texas of the North. But Alberta did what was previously unthinkable — elect a social democrat party.

Few had predicted such a result just 29 days ago when the election was called by Progressive Conservative Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, a former top cabinet minister in Harper’s federal Conservative government. Prentice suffered a humiliating defeat and quit politics Tuesday night. He was previously considered a candidate to replace Harper one day.

Gaffes by Prentice during the campaign, voter fatigue with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party after 44 uninterrupted years of rule and a vote split on the right contributed to the Progressive Conservative party’s historic loss.

Federal New Democrats in Ottawa celebrated the victory by their provincial party mates. “They said the NDP could never win in Alberta. Canadians want change,” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said.

But Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, said the federal Conservatives needn’t worry about the NDP in Alberta, noting the party finished fourth and fifth in two federal by-elections last year and noting the federal conservatives don’t have to worry about a vote split on the right because there is no other federal conservative party.

“The Conservatives should be happy with NDP gains because, if they come, they will be overwhelmingly at the expense of the Liberals,” Wiseman said. Most analysts believe the opposition federal Liberals pose a bigger threat to Harper’s Conservatives than the NDP in October’s federal election.

Incoming Alberta New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley, in her first full day on the job, sought to reassure business leaders, saying she would call them and would work with them to build the province.

Notley has vowed to raise corporate tax rates and conduct a review of the province’s royalty structure to ensure that Albertans are getting a fair return for their oil and gas resources. Alberta has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.

Race is on, as Sanders raises $1.5 million during the 24 hours after announcing his campaign

The presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is off to a strong start, raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after he announced his plan on April 30 to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

That’s a hefty haul for the self-described democratic socialist. It exceeds donations received by Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio during the first 24 hours after they announced runs for the Republican nomination.

Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that 35,000 people contributed an average of $43 via his website — BernieSanders.com. In addition, more than 100,000 people offered to volunteer for his campaign.

In characteristic Sanders fashion, the opening page on his website states, “Paid for by Bernie 2016. (Not the Billionaires).”

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democratic. He’s by far the most liberal candidate to announce a 2016 campaign for the White House. Although largely dismissed as a fringe-left leader, Sanders’ first-day take suggests that it’s possible for him to raise the $50 million he’d need to stage a credible presidential campaign.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the $1 billion that Clinton plans to raise.

Sanders’ candidacy was long expected, with political insiders accurately predicting he’d wait for to announce, which she did earlier in April.

While others have shown an interest in seeking the Democratic nomination, Sanders’ announcement creates a contest. And his candidacy was cheered by leaders of many national and grassroots progressive organizations.

“With Sen. Sanders entering the Democratic primary, Americans can be sure that this election will include a robust and healthy discussion of fundamentally important challenges like tackling the climate crisis, getting big corporate money out of politics and investing to grow our clean energy economy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.4 million members and supporters, we welcome Senator Sanders to the 2016 race and look forward to the debate on these issues in the months to come.”

Ryan Greenwood of the National People’s Action Campaign, a network of 30 grassroots groups in 17 states, said Sanders’ “candidacy will shift the presidential debate toward meaningful measures to address growing economic and racial inequality, a democracy under attack, and a planet in peril. By running on a bold populist agenda, Sen. Sanders will not only help force candidates like Hillary Clinton to take sides, he will also create space for candidates running for office at every level to put people and the planet before corporate profits.”

The 73-year-old Sanders, a native of Brooklyn, New York, served four terms as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and has lived in the state since the mid-1960s. In college, he had been involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and joined the March on Washington. He then joined the influx of counterculture, back-to-the-land migrants to Vermont and held various jobs, including carpenter and filmmaker. He was elected mayor in 1981 and to Congress in 1990. Throughout his career, has focused on the shrinking middle class and growing wealth gaps in the United States.

Party leaders welcomed Sanders’ announcement.

Clinton tweeted, “I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee chair, tweeted, “Sanders has clearly demonstrated his commitment to the values we all share as members of the Democratic Party.”

CALLING CARD MOMENT

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor in December 2010 and thundered for more than eight hours about a tax-cut package and Congress’ failure to provide enough money, in his view, for education and social programs.

With his trademark sarcasm, he mocked the rich, yelling: “How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, 10 houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world!”

The speech was so popular it crashed the Senate video server. It was later printed in a small book.

Has Marquette University grown weary of John McAdams’ right-wing shenanigans?

A conservative professor at Marquette University remains “off duty” and “under review” more than two months after writing a blog post criticizing a graduate student for not permitting critique of same-sex marriage during her ethics class.

John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at the university and author of the right-wing blog Marquette Warrior, wrote that teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate stifled academic freedom by denying the student’s request, even though she said that same-sex marriage was off-topic for the class. After the blog post appeared, Abbate began receiving inflammatory emails from students accusing her of violating the First Amendment (see editorial, page 16) and trashing her with homophobic slurs.

Another blog site called Daily Nous presented the text of some particularly vicious emails sent to Abbate, along with a post from her Rate My Professor page that said, “If you don’t celebrate a sexual disorder called lesbianism … she will go after you.”

Daily Nous also reported that Abbate is leaving Marquette.

In the Nov. 9 post that apparently sparked the rancor, McAdams led his readers down a rhetorical path that’s quite familiar to them. The essence of his complaint against Abbate was the same one he levels at everyone at Marquette who refuses to genuflect to orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine, because Marquette is, as he repeatedly reminds everyone, a Roman Catholic institution.

“Abbate, of course, was just using a tactic typical among liberals now,” he wrote. “Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”

Abbate countered that McAdams was, in effect, harassing her.

“It is astounding to me that the university has not created some sort of policy that would prohibit this behavior which undoubtedly leads to a toxic environment for both students and faculty,” she told Inside Higher Ed. “I would hope that Marquette would do everything in its power to cultivate a climate where Marquette employees, especially students, are not publicly demeaned by tenured faculty.”

In mid-December, after several faculty members called for an investigation of McAdams’ behavior, he received a letter from Dean Richard Holz stating that the university was conducting a review of his conduct and, in the interim, he was “relieved of all teaching duties and all other faculty activities, including, but not limited to, advising, committee work, faculty meetings and any activity that would involve your interaction with Marquette students, faculty and staff.”

McAdams was told that he’d continue to receive his salary and benefits during the review process but he was not to visit campus without first obtaining permission. 

Noting that “our graduate student teaching assistants are students first,” Marquette senior communication director Brian Dorrington said via email that “the safety of our students and campus community is our top priority.”

“The university has a policy in which it clearly states that it does not tolerate harassment and will not stand for faculty members subjecting students to any form of abuse, putting them in harm’s way,” Dorrington added. “We take any situation where a student’s safety is compromised extremely seriously.  … They are learning their craft and it is our expectation that they are mentored and supported by our faculty. 

“It is important to note that under faculty conduct rules, a professor would not be subject to a review of this nature simply for voicing an opinion. The university has expectations of conduct, specifically as they relate to the faculty-student relationship. When concerns are raised that a line has been crossed, it is our responsibility to take action and conduct a review.”

Reporting about the letter on his blog, McAdams appeared stunned.

A hero on the religious right for his anti-intellectual rabble rousing, McAdams has been milking the latest 15 minutes of fame he’s received over Abbate for all it’s worth. For years, he’s been a frequent guest on Charlie Sykes’ talk radio program on WTMJ-620, where listeners savor his sexist, racist and homophobic rants. (Marquette Warrior links directly to Sykes’ blog Right Wisconsin.) 

But in recent weeks, McAdams also has appeared on Fox News and been lauded for his courage by The Christian Post. Ben Shapiro’s online watchdog group TruthRevolt trumpeted “Marquette Suspends Conservative Professor for Exposing Totalitarian Leftist Faculty.” Under that canonizing headline appeared a picture of the professor looking smug and raising a clenched fist.

The last time McAdams received this much attention, it was over a defining moment in Marquette’s history, one that could have set the university on the course that has finally collided with McAdams’ Dark Ages social views. 

In spring 2010, the university rescinded an offer to out lesbian scholar Jodi O’Brien to become dean of Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences. The university’s unprecedented cancellation of a signed contract prompted protests by students, condemnation from faculty members and a firestorm of controversy throughout higher education. The university’s action imperiled at least one state grant and nearly resulted in censure from numerous academic associations, even after Marquette President Fr. Robert A. Wild apologized to O’Brien and settled with her for an undisclosed amount of cash.

McAdams’ blog was ground zero for provoking the blowback over having a lesbian in leadership at the Roman Catholic university. But although McAdams won that battle, he lost his overriding anti-gay war.

In the wake of the O’Brien scandal, the university expanded its anti-discrimination policy to include LGBT students, staff and faculty. It also began offering domestic partner benefits to the partners of employees in same-sex relationships.

Gay-positive cultural events appeared on campus, including The Laramie Project, a play about the real-life killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. Lesléa Newman, the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, presented the 2011 Starshak Lecture on campus.

Predictably, McAdams responded to all of these progressive developments with a vitriolic sneer, proudly positioning himself as the Vatican’s unofficial on-campus representative. His efforts always received kudos from the right, particularly from the angry white men who listen to local hate radio.

So it’s not surprising that McAdams was taken aback by the university’s reaction over his latest anti-gay attack. On his blog, he acknowledges that he expected to get in more trouble over his statement that “feminists grossly exaggerate the incidence of campus date rape” than over Abbate.

Perhaps Marquette has simply had enough of McAdams’ divisiveness, his endless needling of colleagues and minority groups, his lack of collegiality and tolerance for secular thinkers.

The university has changed considerably during his 30 years there. Most recently, it named Michael Lovell, the highly praised former chancellor of UWM, as its first layman president. Has Lovell, who backed equality during his tenure at UWM, decided to clean house?

Marquette, the state’s largest private university, got quite a scare over its rescission of O’Brien’s contract. The censure it faced over the incident would have jeopardized its hard-won stature as a major research university.

Maybe Marquette’s new leadership is more interested in focusing on academic leadership and providing a quality education than in standing in the way of social progress. Maybe the distraction that is John McAdams has finally become too big a thorn in the side of the university’s future.

Or maybe the university simply wants to receive attention for scholarship instead of backward political vitriol that makes it harder for academics there to be taken seriously.