Tag Archives: right

Site says New Balance official shoe for white supremacists

A white supremacist website has declared footwear manufacturer New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People.”

The Boston Globe reported the alt-right website The Daily Stormer made the proclamation over the weekend, after New Balance vice president of public affairs Matt LeBretton praised Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

LeBretton told the Wall Street Journal that the election of Trump was a move in the “right direction.”

New Balance, which is based in Boston, later said the comment was referencing Trump’s stance opposing a proposed international trade agreement.

“New Balance has a unique perspective on trade in that we want to make more shoes in the U.S., not less,” it said in a statement last week.

Still, LeBretton’s comment sparked protests.

People who don’t like Trump posted social media videos of themselves throwing their New Balance shoes in the trash or even burning them.

The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said he believes New Balance’s support of Trump could be a marketing scheme. But he said the website is campaigning to buy the company’s products and is encouraging others to do the same.

LeBretton didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the support from the white supremacist website.

New Balance, which also sells fitness apparel, said in a tweet during the burning-shoes protest that it believes in community, humanity and “acting with the utmost integrity” and that it welcomes “all walks of life.”

 

Anti-government militants acquitted on conspiracy charges

A federal court jury delivered a surprise verdict on Oct. 27, acquitting anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six followers of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover of a wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year.

The outcome marked a stinging defeat for federal prosecutors and law enforcement in a trial the defendants sought to turn into a pulpit for airing their opposition to government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West.

Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a patriotic act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors called it a lawless scheme to seize federal property by force.

Jubilant supporters of the Bundys thronged the courthouse after the verdict, hailing the trial’s outcome as vindication of a political ideology that is profoundly distrustful of federal authority and challenges its legitimacy.

“We’re so grateful to the jurors who weren’t swayed by the nonsense that was going on,” defendant Shawna Cox told reporters. “God said we weren’t guilty. We weren’t guilty of anything.”

As the seven-week-long trial in the U.S. District Court in Portland climaxed, U.S. marshals wrestled to the floor Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus Mumford, as he argued heatedly with the judge over the terms of his client’s continued detention.

The Bundys still face assault, conspiracy and other charges from a separate armed standoff in 2014 at the Nevada ranch of their father, Cliven Bundy, triggered when federal agents seized his cattle for his failure to pay grazing fees for his use of public land.

The outcome of the Oregon trial clearly shocked many in the packed courtroom. Attorneys exchanged looks of astonishment with the defendants, then hugged their clients as the not-guilty verdicts were read amid gasps from spectators.

Outside the courthouse, supporters celebrated by shouting “Hallelujah” and reading passages from the U.S. Constitution. One man rode his horse, named Lady Liberty, in front of the courthouse carrying an American flag.

The verdict came after four days of deliberations. One juror, a former federal employee, was dismissed over questions of bias on Wednesday and replaced by a substitute.

The 12-member panel found all seven defendants — six men and a woman — not guilty of the most serious charge, conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force. That charge alone carried a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

The defendants also were acquitted of illegal possession of firearms in a federal facility and theft of government property, except in the case of Ryan Bundy, for whom jurors were deadlocked on the charge of theft.

The takeover of the wildlife refuge was initially sparked by outrage over the plight of two imprisoned Oregon ranchers the occupiers believed had been unfairly treated in an arson case. But the militants said they were also protesting larger grievances at what they saw as government tyranny.

The standoff led to the shooting death of one protester, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, by police shortly after the Bundy brothers were arrested, and left parts of the refuge badly damaged.

More than two dozen people, in all, have been criminally charged in the occupation, and a second group of defendants is due to stand trial in February.

 

Activists protest Walker signing ban against local IDs

Civil rights advocates responded with protests and pledges to fight on after Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation that prohibits counties and towns from spending money on or issuing photo IDs.

The law also prohibits the use of city or village IDs to vote or obtain public benefits.

The legislation is the GOP’s response to the partnership forged between the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County — with strong support and leadership from progressive organizations — to issue IDs to residents who have difficulty obtaining other government IDs.

The coalition behind the partnership includes End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, GenderQueer Milwaukee, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, Project Return, St. Ben’s Community Meal, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Wisconsin Jobs Now and Voces de la Frontera.

“Gov. Walker and the Republicans in the state Legislature should be ashamed of themselves for taking away local governments’ ability to recognize and respond to the needs of some of their most vulnerable constituents and they will suffer consequences for their bigotry,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera.

Voces de la Frontera said activists would focus on the issue on May Day, which includes a march and a rally, beginning at 1027 S. Fifth St., Milwaukee, at 2 p.m.

The day also will bring a boycott of Menards.

“We made it clear that if this bill was passed we would call for a boycott of one of Gov. Walker’s largest corporate funders and, on May 1, in Milwaukee and throughout the nation, we will be calling on all people who believe in the dignity of all people to boycott Menards. SB533 has no value except to continue to affirm and institutionalize the politics of hate, division and scapegoating. We call on all people of conscience to not spend one dime in Menards for their home or business needs and to help us spread the word.”

The day he signed the legislation, Walker turned to Twitter to say that government IDs should be uniform throughout the state and that “state-issued photo ID cards are available for free upon request at DMV.”

However, state-issued ID cards are not as easy to obtain as Walker implied.

Letters recently released by Common Cause in Wisconsin indicate how the GOP enacted legislation mandating the use of certain government-issued photo IDs to vote but then failed to help under-served communities — particularly in rural areas — obtain the necessary IDs.

Last June, representatives of Common Cause in Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Voices, Fair Elections Legal Network, 9to5, Wisconsin African-American Roundtable, One Wisconsin Institute, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Our Democracy 2020 wrote to Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

They shared concerns that 300,000 eligible voters lacked an ID needed to cast a ballot in Wisconsin and that 60 of only 92 Division of Motor Vehicle centers in the state were open just two days a week or less. In some locations, the DMV centers were open just six days a year and only two centers were open after 5 p.m. on a weekday.

“The elderly, poor, those without cars, or handicapped persons — particularly those in rural and remote areas of the state — will have to travel a great distance to get to their nearest DMV center,” the letter read. “It is not only a cost to them to travel this distance, but may pose some safety risk. Those with limited mobility may be forced to seek out someone who would have the time and be kind enough to take them to a DMV. This is not how trying to vote should work.”

The writers asked Gottlieb to establish a mobile DMV service, but their letter and their suggestions went unanswered.

In March, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, wrote to Walker, noting that mobile DMV centers have been successful in Alabama, Indiana, Virginia and Texas. He urged a program in Wisconsin so the state would be “in a far better position to fully implement the new voter ID requirement.”

Heck received a response, from Gottlieb, on March 22, before the spring election and presidential primary. Gottlieb said the DMV expanded services and hours — a minimum of 20 hours per week in every county and offering Saturday morning hours in some locations.

Gottlieb, however, did not mention the request for mobile DMV operations in under-served communities.

Heck said in a statement, “The Walker administration has not now, nor has it ever … had any plans to make these required forms of ID needed to vote easier to procure by setting up a mobile program.”

Heck said this, along with the lack of state funding for a public information campaign, led him to conclude that Walker, Gottlieb and “the Republican –controlled Wisconsin Legislature are engaged in a widespread, coordinated, systematic campaign” of voter suppression.

Twenty-nine other states have a voter ID rule now in force.

In North Carolina, civil rights attorneys are appealing a recent U.S. district court ruling upholding a 2013 major rewrite of state voting laws.

The ruling rejected arguments by the state NAACP, the U.S. Justice Department, churches and individuals that the election changes approved by the GOP-led General Assembly disproportionately harmed minority voters.

Critics had sued, alleging that the voting law was passed to discriminate against poor and minority voters in violation of the Constitution and U.S. Voting Rights Act.

But District Judge Thomas Schroeder said, “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

Lawyers for the state NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and others filed notices of plans to appeal the 485-page ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP president, called the ruling “almost 500 pages of rationalization for the intentional race-based voter suppression law that everybody knows was written to suppress African-American votes.”

The AP contributed to this report.

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.”

For the record: Bernie Sanders’ remarks at conservative Christian college

Here are excerpts from prepared remarks by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for an address on Sept. 14 at Liberty University, an ultra-conservative Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Virginia:

I came here today because I believe that it is important for those with different views in our country to engage in civil discourse – not just to shout at each other or make fun of each other. It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us. I do that every day. It is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us and see where, if possible, we can find common ground and, in other words, to reach out of our zone of comfort.

Liberty University is a religious school. It is a school which tries to understand the meaning of morality and the words of the Bible within the context of a very complicated modern world. It is a school which tries to teach its students how to behave with decency and honesty and how to best relate to their fellow human beings. I applaud those goals.

So let me take a few moments to tell you what motivates me in the work that I do as a public servant and as an elected official. I am far, far from a perfect human being but I am motivated by a vision which exists in all of the great religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others – and which is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12. ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets.’ The Golden Rule. Do to others what you would have them do to you. Not very complicated.

Let me be very frank. I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those issues. I get that. But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.

It would, I think, be hard for anyone in this room to make the case that the United States today is a just society or anything close to a just society. In America today, there is massive injustice in terms of income and wealth inequality. Injustice is rampant.

There is no justice when the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is no justice when all over this country people are working longer hours for lower wages, while 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.

There is no justice when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires while, at the same time, the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. Twenty percent of all children – and 40 percent of African-American children – now live in poverty.

There is no justice when, in a rigged economy, the 15 wealthiest people in this country in the last two years saw their wealth increase by $170 billion. That is more wealth, acquired in a two-year period, than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans.

There is no justice when low-income and working-class mothers are forced to be separated from their new babies one or two weeks after giving birth because they must go back to work to sustain their family and because the United States is the only major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave.

There is no justice when thousands of people in this country die each year because they don’t have health insurance and don’t get to a doctor when they should.

Stop playing politics with women’s health

As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist for 40 years, I have dedicated my life to making women and families healthier. This commitment makes it all the more disheartening and disturbing to see Gov. Scott Walker commit to signing a ban on abortion that will put women’s health and safety at risk.

Abortion bans are opposed by the medical community, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, because they interfere with patient/physician trust and they prohibit women from making private, personal medical decision — even women facing medically complex pregnancies or those whose pregnancy will not survive.

Throughout my career, I’ve provided health care for thousands of women and families and have delivered thousands of babies. Unfortunately, not every pregnancy ends the way a family hopes. Miscarriage, pregnancy complications that threaten a woman’s health and life and fetal anomalies not compatible with life do occur. In these very difficult instances, a woman should have access to all medical options, including safe pregnancy termination.

Only women and doctors — not politicians — should have authority to make these deeply personal medical decisions.

Unlike politicians, who are often working in their best interest, I am trained and obligated to act on behalf of my patients’ best interests. The argument for abortion bans is not based on sound science and is an attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their patients. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is rare, but when it occurs, it’s often the kind of situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

Despite political efforts to restrict access, abortion remains a legal medical procedure — and it is safe because it is legal. Abortion is subject to rigorous safety standards and research is constantly evolving best practices and regulation at the local, state and national levels. Physicians who provide abortion services adhere to strict medical standards based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

But politicians in Wisconsin keep intruding into our doctors’ offices. They make laws that ignore sound science, best practices and the recommendations of doctors like me.

Walker’s vow to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion in difficult medical situations is dangerous. It would interfere with my ability to provide medical care in the best interest of my patients. It won’t make abortion go away, it will just make it dangerous.

As a physician, I must speak up to provide the expertise that lawmakers lack. I urge other medical professionals to join me in illuminating the facts before the Legislature overreaches even further into our field.

Dr. Doug Laube is former chair of the UW Medical School Obstetrics Department, former chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health and former president of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


Right ramps up push for religious refusal bills

A florist who refused service to a same-sex couple planning a wedding broke the law in Washington state. That’s the ruling of a circuit court judge in a case closely watched by marriage equality advocates and opponents across the country.

Benton County Superior Judge Alex Ekstrom, in a 60-page ruling issued on Feb. 18 in Richland, Washington, said the religious beliefs of the owner of Arlene’s Flowers are protected by the First Amendment, but actions based on those beliefs may not be protected.

“For over 135 years, the Supreme Court has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief,” wrote the judge. “The courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.”

Therefore, Ekstrom ruled, florist Barronell Stutzman violated Washington’s consumer protection and anti-discrimination law when she refused to sell Robert Ingersoll flowers for his wedding to Curt Freed in 2013.

Ingersoll had previously purchased flowers at the shop, but Stutzman, a Southern Baptist, told him she could not provide the flowers for the wedding because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ,” according to a deposition in the case.

The couple sued, with representation from the American Civil Liberties Union. The State of Washington also sued.

After Ekstrom’s ruling, Freed and Ingersoll issued a joint statement: “After two years, we are very pleased to have the court confirm that we were discriminated against under the law. We were hurt and saddened when we were denied service by Arlene’s Flowers after doing business with them for so many years. We respect everyone’s beliefs, but businesses that are open to the public have an obligation to serve everyone.”

Their lawyer, Sarah Dunne, legal director of the ACLU of Washington, said, “Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When gay people go to a business, they should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.”

Ekstrom, in the ruling, observed that “no court has ever held that religiously motivated conduct, expressive or otherwise, trumps state discrimination law in public accommodations.” 

However, efforts are underway in at least eight states to enact or amend statutes to allow businesses to refuse service based on the religious beliefs of the owner. Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal defense group, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential public policy organization with funding from right-wingers like Charles and David Koch, back the campaign.

Religious exemption or religious refusal bills have advanced in Indiana, Wyoming and Arkansas and were introduced in Utah, South Dakota, Georgia, Tennessee and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger has proposed legislation that would allow government employees to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on employees’ religious beliefs.

“Magistrates, pastors, bakers, photographers, business owners, event planners and others are being forced against their will to celebrate and assist in something against their deeply held religious beliefs,” said Liberty Council founder Mat Staver.

WiGWAG: Wonder who is not welcome in Reagan Nation?

Right-wing Reagan nation

A conservative columnist who worked in Ronald Reagan’s administration suggests that certain states in the South secede and form a new country. The name of the breakaway state would be “Reagan,” says  Douglas MacKinnon, the author of “The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country … Now.” He suggested that South Carolina, Georgia and Florida establish a new country based on the Christian right’s political agenda, which ultimately means rooted in racism and homophobia. MacKinnon, who speaks fondly of the Confederate South, says Texas isn’t wanted in the new country because “there have been a number of incursions into Texas and other places from some of the folks in Mexico.”

White noise tops charts

Canadians recently proved their love for Taylor Swift, but they might have wanted to click “preview” first. When Swift released a new track from her new album, titled “Track 3,” the song shot to No. 1 on iTunes in Canada. But the release was an accident, and the track contained nothing more than 8 seconds of white noise — at least one listener asked Swift via Twitter if the song was inspired by the ocean.

Unwelcome skit

Some administrators at Natrona County High School are in trouble for a back-to-school skit that contained language and actions violating the school’s sexual harassment policy. The skit, seen by student council members, involved administrators dressed up as cheerleaders and comparing new staff to sex offenders, drunks and serial killers. The skit contained references to masturbation, homosexuality and virginity. It had been previewed during an administrative meeting, which prompted an investigator to wonder why common sense didn’t lead to a cancelation.

Hey, yinz

Gawker released the results of its ugliest accent survey and named Pittsburgh’s as the worst in the U.S. In a brackets contest, Pittsburgh defeated Atlanta, Philadelphia and Boston in the Final Four. The accent, described as an odd amalgam of Southern twang and lazy East Coast diction, turns “downtown” into “dahntahn” and “you all” into “yinz.” 

The gentleman doth protest too much

One hospital patient’s unmentionables just got mentionable. Andrew Walls claims the surgeon performing his colonoscopy or co-workers dressed him in pink panties while he was under anesthesia. The suit seeks unspecified damages for what Walls’ attorney called an “outrageous” prank by Walls’ colleagues at the Delaware Surgery Center in Dover. “When the plaintiff initially presented for his colonoscopy he had not been wearing pink women’s underwear,” charges the civil suit, “and at no time did the plaintiff voluntarily, knowingly or intentionally place the pink women’s underwear upon himself.”

Heartbreak hotel

Apparently, getting hitched by an Elvis impersonator singing “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” is consistent with the dignity of marriage, but “Same Love” defiles the tradition in the capital of quickie weddings. Las Vegas’ 8 News Now informally surveyed 15 quickie wedding chapels and found that a number are still refusing same-sex couples, despite a law that bans anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations and marriage equality’s recent arrival in the state. Vegas’ tourism department doesn’t feel the same, though, promoting the city to same-sex couples with a full-page ad in USA Today.

The smoking gun

Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. is snuffing out smoking in its offices and buildings. The tobacco company informed employees that beginning next year, the use of traditional cigarettes, cigars or pipes will no longer be permitted at employee desks or offices, conference rooms, hallways and elevators, although indoor smoking areas will be built. Lighting up already is prohibited on factory floors and in cafeterias and fitness centers. But don’t worry, smoking is totally still not hazardous to your health or anything.

Bad time for a walk

A cockroach embarrassed a Chicago official in charge of pest control when it took a stroll near him in full view of some aldermen. The roach couldn’t have picked a worse time to show its antenna on the wall of the city council chambers: just as Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds was testifying during a budget hearing about how much money in the budget was devoted to pest control, a persistent problem in City Hall. After the hearing, Reynolds had his office call a private contractor to do some cockroach-busting.

Too much horsing around

A Florida man recently took a stuffed horse off a Walmart shelf and then used the toy to masturbate before returning the item to the shelf. The lewd act was captured by surveillance cameras and, while the man was able to flee the store before security could apprehend him, he was arrested by local police and charged with indecent exposure and criminal mischief. Hopefully the man makes an honest horse out of his next plush paramour and goes through the checkout first.

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The great divide: Political partisanship outgrows the voting booth

Political polarization in America has broken out of the voting booth.

A survey from the Pew Research Center finds Americans are divided by ideology and partisanship not only when they cast ballots, but also in choosing where to live, where to get their news and with whom to associate.

And peaceful coexistence is increasingly difficult.

According to the poll, the share of Americans who hold across-the-board conservative or liberal views has doubled in the last decade, from 10 percent in 2004 to 21 percent today. Only 39 percent of Americans have an even mix of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49 percent 10 years ago.

The numbers of ideological purists are larger among the politically engaged than the general public, suggesting the ideological stalemates that have become more common in Washington and statehouses around the country are likely to continue. A third of those who say they regularly vote in primaries have all-or-nothing ideological views, as do 41 percent who say they have donated money to a campaign.

And among partisans, ideological purity is now the standard. Majorities in both parties hold either uniformly liberal (on the Democratic side) or conservative (among the GOP) views.

The shift toward ideological purity has been more visible among Republicans due to the popularity of the tea party, seen most recently this week in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss to a tea party-based challenger in Virginia, but the survey found it’s happening in nearly equal measure among Democrats.

Those differences in visibility are partly due to the Democratic hold on the White House, according to Pew Research Center vice president Michael Dimock.

“Levels of alarm about the direction of the nation, and about the `threat’ the other party poses to the country, are substantially higher on the right than on the left right now, and at least in part this reflects the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House,” Dimock said.

But Democrats have expressed their share of distrust in the past, he noted in an email. “Democrats felt pretty passionately about George W. Bush and the GOP in his second term,” he said.

The survey used a battery of 10 questions on issues such as regulation of business, use of the military, the environment and immigration to assess ideological leanings. Across nine of the 10 issues tested, the views of Democrats and Republicans have grown further apart since 1994.

These ideological shifts have been accompanied by increasing animosity across party lines, and those on opposite sides of the partisan and ideological divide are now more apt to separate themselves in their personal lives as well.

About 8 in 10 Democrats say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, and for 82 percent of Republicans, the feeling is mutual. This cross-party dislike has increased by double digits on both sides.

Among those with ideologically consistent views in each party, many go further than dislike and say they see the other side as a threat to the nation’s well-being. Republicans with consistently conservative views are more apt than Democrats with a strictly liberal view to see the opposite party as a threat, however, 66 percent to 50 percent.

Amid all this rancor, partisans and those with clear ideological leanings are more often choosing to associate only with those who hold views similar to their own. Two-thirds of consistent conservatives and half of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. Three in 10 on each side of the divide say it’s important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views.

And one-quarter of consistent liberals say they’d be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Republican, 30 percent of consistent conservatives say the same about a union with a Democrat.

The findings are based on a telephone survey of 10,013 randomly selected adults nationwide, conducted between Jan. 23 and March 16. Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

On the Web…

Pew Research Center: HTTP://WWW.PEWRESEARCH.ORG