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The Transformation of America into a “de facto” Apartheid State

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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The difference between “de jure” and “de facto” legislation is not one of semantics – if a law is discriminatory on its face, it is called “de jure.” However if an enacted law has the effect of being discriminatory, it is called “de facto.” Most de jure laws are thankfully illegal in the United States, however de facto discriminatory legislation is rampant throughout this country, with the effects often not seen for years, if not decades, on the populace.

This means that if a President or sitting Legislature passes a bad discriminatory law, the damages usually aren’t seen until a long time in the future, long after that leader has left office, usually after he has made millions if not billions in the private sector, using his past laurels as an American politician.

This is the ultimate mark of a true scoundrel – and unfortunately characterizes the vast majority of our political leaders.

The combined effect of this morass of discriminatory laws, regulations and ordinances, coupled with the actual encouragement of police departments to recruit low IQ racist applicants while rejecting higher scoring ones, or the awarding of complete and total immunity for unethical, dishonest, or politically motivated prosecutors and judges who selectively prosecute and punish based on racial/ethnic/political grounds, whether federal or state, ensures a Josef Stalin-style police state more reminiscent of the days of the SS/Gestapo NAZI political dragnet targeting political dissidents and minorities, than what the Founding Fathers probably envisioned. As famed criminal defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate aptly stated, “The average US Citizen now commits at least 3 felonies per day unknowingly.” And as Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s Secret Police Chief said, “Show me the man, and I will show you the crime.” Adding to this mix are recent admissions by FBI Chief James Comey that racist organizations have been infiltrating police departments for decades. Or that FBI Agents have been lying for decades in order to falsely convict people who may be innocent.

Because of this de facto American-style of segregation, not open and state-sanctioned, it has outlived the openly de jure segregationist state of South Africa which had an official governmental policy of apartheid, and because of its open and explicit state action, made it vulnerable to local and global anti-segregationist forces.

For example, when past Housing and Urban Development Commissioner Andrew Cuomo passed sweeping legislation reducing the credit requirements for people to buy or mortgage a home, this allowed tens of millions of minorities and poor people, who could not afford to buy a home, to buy into a financial albatross trap around their neck, and when the economy started to sputter in mid 2008, the vast majority of those people who couldn’t afford a house anyway, began to default, and then a huge avalanche of defaults ensued, causing the housing bubble to burst. Investment banks like Goldman Sachs actually betted against the people, and set up “credit swap derivatives” based solely on the cynical prediction that this housing mortgage bubble crisis would occur, and then they sickeningly made money off of this.

Adding insult to injury, then President Bill Clinton, bowing to pressure from ex-Goldman Sachs big-wigs Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Gene Sperling, who were in his Cabinet at the time in “government service,” repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, thus dissolving the wall between private checking/savings accounts of the people, and the wild and crazy gambling antics of the investment banks. This allowed these big banks to place high-stake, high-risk global investments using the American taxpayers’ hard-earned money. But of course, even though Bill Clinton dissolved Glass-Steagall in 1999, the American people of course did not feel its after effects until December 2008. And Andrew Cuomo was involved with HUD from 1993 to 2001, a full 7 years before his housing bubble mortgage crisis hit the fan.

Similarly, the Violence Against Womens’ Act (“VAWA”), written by then Senator Joe Biden and passed by then President Bill Clinton in 1994 seemed harmless, if not helpful, to battered women at that time, but the Trojan Horse of this very bad legislation allowed corrupt and racist local law enforcement, con-artist women, activist corrupt judges, money and power-hungry feminist womens’ groups, and others with a political agenda in the district attorneys office, to use the federal law’s ability to summarily suspend anyone’s 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 13th and 14th Amendment Rights whenever a complaint was made that someone engaged in some type of domestic dispute, even if no violence or evidence was found, arrest and charge that person, and then throw them into the abyss of the criminal justice system, where dishonest and unethical prosecutors, or activist judges “on the take” from various special interests and lobbying groups, could selectively prosecute or dismiss the case at their whim, with little to no recourse, or remedy for the accused. This means that after 20 years, marriage is at an all time low, more domestic violence has taken place, more children are growing up without parents, the Child Protective Services have grossly enlarged and are now being accused of being vehicles for child abduction/abuse/sexual trafficking, and other horrific crimes. Furthermore, the very fabric of the American family has been broken down into damaged components, while the “state machinery” operates to keep couples apart, even if they want to reconcile, thus further breaking down families and exposing innocent children to the wolves of providence and predators.

Bill Clinton also passed the newly amended federal Child Support Enforcement Act in 1994 which also summarily tossed good men into jail without a trial or inquest, suspending their drivers and professional licenses, even if they missed a few child support payments due to disability, loss of a job, bankruptcy, personal tragedy, or other unforseen event. The effects of these two above laws re-instituted the Debtors’ Prison in America, and many would argue that Slavery was in fact re-instituted as well, in violation of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest triumph, the 13th Amendment prohibiting Indentured Servitude and Slavery. Many a con-artist in American society has taken advantage of these two laws with the full force and brute power of the state against that targeted individual. The same story applies to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, sponsored by U.S. Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, which bill was also originally written by then Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, passed by Congress, and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. And again, these laws target racial minorities much harder than their white counterparts.

Bill Clinton recently admitted in April 2015, more than 15 years after he left office, that mass incarceration on his watch “put too many people in prison.” He went on to further state that poor whites and minorities in America were victimized as a result of America’s unparalleled rate of imprisonment due to the horrific laws that he enacted. Ibid. More than 2 million people are still held in captivity in prisons and jails, giving the country 25% of the world’s prison numbers despite having only 5% of its overall population. Id. Bill Clinton’s drug enforcement laws of 1994 created a crime bill that laid down several of the foundations of the country’s current mass incarceration trends vowing to be “tough on crime” with his “triangulation” policy of creating incentives to individual states to build more prisons, put more people behind bars and to keep them there for longer, introducing a federal three-strikes law that brought in long sentences for habitual offenders, creating “truth in sentencing” states which sentenced people to long terms in prison with no chance of parole being rewarded with increased federal funds, and the Clinton COPS program, ie, the “Community Oriented Policing Services,” where federal money was provided to states to allow them vastly to increase the number of police officers on the streets and consequently resulting in more arrests and convictions of poor whites and minorities. Id.

In terms of real estate, buying homes and leases of property, the real estate market is notorious for working with local, city, state and federal “urban planners” to literally, under the color of law and authority, “zone entire areas” to create the de facto result of segregating whites and other minorities from living, working, or going to school together.

According to the seminal study “Spatial Segregation and Neighborhoods” by Carl Nightingale, “during the 1890s, the word segregation became the preferred term for the practice of coercing different groups of people, especially those designated by race, to live in separate and unequal urban residential neighborhoods. In the southern states of the United States, segregationists imported the word originally used in the British colonies of Asia—to describe Jim Crow laws, and, in 1910, whites in Baltimore passed a “segregation ordinance” mandating separate black and white urban neighborhoods. Copy-cat legislation sprang up in cities across the South and the Midwest. But in 1917, a multiracial team of lawyers from the fledgling National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mounted a successful legal challenge to these ordinances in the U.S. Supreme Court—even as urban segregation laws were adopted in other places in the world, most notably in South Africa. The collapse of the movement for legislated racial segregation in the United States occurred just as African Americans began migrating in large numbers into cities in all regions of the United States, resulting in waves of anti-black mob violence. Segregationists were forced to rely on non-statutory or formally nonracial techniques. In Chicago, an alliance of urban reformers and real estate professionals invented alternatives to explicitly racist segregation laws. The practices they promoted nationwide created one of the most successful forms of urban racial segregation in world history, rivaling and finally outliving South African apartheid. Understanding how this system came into being and how it persists today requires understanding both how the Chicago segregationists were connected to counterparts elsewhere in the world and how they adapted practices of city-splitting to suit the peculiarities of racial politics in the United States.”

These neo-segregationists escaped allegations of housing discrimination due to the relative lack of interest and enforcement of civil rights laws by the local, state, and federal government. Some claim that organizations like the NYS Division of Human Rights often do nothing more than provide an illusion of enforcement, while simply notifying or tipping off the offender so that they can cover themselves, and then retaliate against the complainer. In 2008 by a bipartisan federal commission on housing equity found that in the United States only about twenty thousand out of an estimated four million acts of housing discrimination receive any official attention in any given year.

As was described above, when in 1999 Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act dissolving the wall between investment banks and the peoples’ hard-earned money, three de facto racially discriminatory and apartheid-causing results occurred: predatory “subprime” loans to poor minorities; mortgage-backed securities consisting of predatory loans bundled with other loans and re-sliced into highly lucrative “tranches,” and “credit default swaps” meant to insure the mortgage-backed securities.

These three apartheid-spawning spiderwebs trapped huge numbers of minorities and poor people into bad mortgages using grossly fraudulent practices with guaranteed defaults.

Furthermore according to Nightingale, black people were more than 2-3 times as likely as white people of the same income to be steered into subprime loans even though 2/3 were eligible for standard mortgages that on average cost $100,000 less over the life of the loan. The resulting racial disparities in housing foreclosures widened the large inequalities in wealth on either side of the American color line. Ibid. Furthermore, according to Nightingale, “in 2008, as the American mortgage bubble burst, bringing on a global recession, U.S. whites possessed a staggering ten times more wealth on average than blacks of equal income, largely because of segregation in the American housing market. Four years later, as Obama finished his first term, the black-white wealth gap had doubled to twenty to one.” Id.

Reflecting on the above, it is no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the United States of America, through the de facto manipulation of its laws, especially in the last 20 years, in the laboratory-like settings of the family, criminal, and civil courts, both federal and local, as well as in its House of Representatives and Senate, and capped off by the Executive Branch, has devolved into a fully functional Apartheid State. Not on its surface, but in its practice. And this is the essential difference between a de jure apartheid state, and a de facto one.

And as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe so eloquently stated, “None are more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsely believe they are free.”

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In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people come together to collectively form a state. Providing security is, therefore, one of the most basic functions of the state as a political and collective entity.

Last Friday, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) laughed during his daily morning press briefings over a national newspaper headline about 45 massacres during his presidency. This attitude summarises in a macabre way his approach to insecurity: it is not his top priority. This is not the first time that AMLO has showed some serious and deeply disturbing lack of empathy for victims of crimes. Before taking office, he knew that insecurity was one of Mexico’s biggest challenges, and he has come to realise that curbing it down will not be as simple as he predicted during his presidential campaign.

Since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006, Mexico has sunk into a deep and ever-growing spiral of violence and vigilantism as a result of the erosion of the capacity of the state to provide safety to citizens. Vigilantism is when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands in order to fill the vacuum left by the state, or to pursue their own very particular interests. Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz have over 50 vigilante organisations that pose substantial danger to the power of the state.

Vigilantism is not the only factor exacerbating the security crisis in Mexico: since 2006, young people have also started to join drug cartels and other criminal organisations. There are important sectors of the population who feel that the state has failed to represent them. They also feel betrayed because the state has not been able to provide them with the necessary means to better themselves. These frustrations make them vulnerable to the indoctrination of organised crime gangs who promise to give them some sort of ideological direction and solution to their problems.

As a result, it is not enough to carry out a kingpin arrest strategy and to preach on the moral duties we have as citizens as well as on human dignity. People need to be given enough means to find alternative livelihoods that are attractive enough to take them out of organised crime, Mexico can draw some important lessons from Sierra Leone who successfully demobilised and resettled ex-combatants after the armed conflict. Vigilantism, recruitment by organised crime, and insecurity have also flourished because of a lack of deterrence. The judicial system is weak and highly ineffective. A large proportion of the population does not trust the police, or the institutions in charge of the rule of law.

A long-term strategy requires linking security with politics. It needs to address not only the consequences but also the roots of unemployment and deep inequality. However, doing so requires decisive actions to root out widespread and vicious corruption. Corruption allows concentration of wealth and also prevents people from being held accountable. This perpetuates the circle of insecurity. Mexico has been slowly moving towards a borderline failed state. The current government is starting to lose legitimacy and the fragility of the state is further perpetuated by the undemocratic, and predatory governance of the current administration.

Creating a safer Mexico requires a strong, coherent, and stable leadership, AMLO’s administration is far from it. His popularity has consistently fallen as a result of his ineffective policies to tackle the pandemic, worsening insecurity, and the economic crisis. Mexico has reached over 72,000 Covid-19 deaths; during his initial 20 months as incumbent president, there has been 53,628 murders, among them 1800 children or teenagers, and 5888 women (11 women killed per day) This criminality rate is double than what it was during the same period in the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012); and 55% higher than with the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). Mexico is also experiencing its worst economic recession in 90 years.

Insecurity remains as the issue of most concern among Mexicans, seeing the president laughing about it, can only fill citizens with yet more despair and lack of trusts in the government and its institutions. AMLO’s catastrophic performance is not surprising, though. Much of his failures and shortcomings can be explained by both ideology and a narcissistic personality. Having someone with both of those traits ruling a country under normal, peaceful times is already dangerous enough, add an economic crisis and a pandemic to the mix and the result is utter chaos.

AMLO embodies the prototypical narcissist: he has a grandiose self-image; an inflated ego; a constant need for admiration; and intolerance to criticism. He, like many other narcissists, thinks about himself too much and too often, making him incapable of considering the wellbeing of other and unable to pursue the public interest. He has a scapegoat ready to blame for his failures and mistakes: previous administrations, conservatives, neoliberalism, academics, writers, intellectuals, reporters, scientists, you name it, the list is long and keeps getting longer.

AMLO keeps contradicting himself and he does not realise it. He has been claiming for months that the pandemic is under control: it is not. He declares Mexico is ready to face the pandemic and we have enough tests and medical equipment: we do not. He says Mexico is on its way to economic recovery: it is not. He states corruption is a thing of the past: it is not. He says Mexico is now safer than ever before: it is not. When told the opposite he shrugs criticism off and laughs, the behaviour of a typical narcissist.

AMLO, alike narcissists, due to his inability to face criticism, has never cared about surrounding himself by the best and brightest. He chose a bunch of flunkies as members of his cabinet who try to please and not humiliate their leader. A further trait of narcissistic personalities is that they love conflict and division as this keeps them under control. The more destabilisation and antagonism, the better. AMLO since the start of his presidency has been setting states against states for resources and for pandemic responses, instead of coordinating a national response. He is also vindictive: playing favourites with those governors who follow him and punishing those that oppose him.

Deep down, narcissistic leaders are weak. AMLO is genuinely afraid to lead. He simply cannot bring himself to make decisions that are solely his. This is why he has relied on public referendums and consultations to cancel projects or advance legislation. He will not take any responsibility if something goes wrong: It was not him who decided, it was the people, blame them. He inherited a broken system that cannot be fixed during his term, blame the previous administrations, not him.

AMLO is a prime example of a textbook narcissist, unfortunately he is not the only one: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte are only a few more examples of what seems to be a normalised behaviour in contemporary politics. Every aspect of AMLO’s and other leaders presidencies have been heavily marked by their psychopathology. Narcissism, however, does not allow proper and realistic self-assessment, self-criticism, and self-appreciation therefore such leaders will simply ignore the red flags in their administration and have no clue how despicably and disgracefully they will be remembered.

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Minor Successes And The Coronavirus Disaster: Is Trump A Dead Duck?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That reminder from the Bible, ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ may give us pause — but not journalists who by all appearances assume exemption.  And the stones certainly bruise.

Evidence for the bruises lies in the latest poll numbers.  Overall, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 50 to 43 percent, a margin that has continued to increase since January.  It is also considerably wider than the few points lead Hillary Clinton had over Trump four years ago.  It gets worse for Trump. 

In the industrial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump in 2016 won by razor thin margins, he is losing by over 4 percent.  Also key to his victory was Wisconsin where, despite his success in getting dairy products into Canada, he is behind by a substantial 7 percent.  Key states Ohio and Florida are also going for the Democrats.

Trump was not doing so badly until the coronavirus struck and during the course of his news conferences he displayed an uncaring persona larded with incompetence.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man he fired for correcting Trumpian exaggerations became a hero and Trump the bully.

If that bullying nature won him small rewards with allies, he hit an impasse with China and Iran … while bringing the two closer to each other.  Then there is the border wall, a sore point for our southern neighbor Mexico.  President Lopez Obrador made sure the subject never came up at the July meeting with Trump,   Thus Mexico is not paying for it so far and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of what used to be the Trucial States under British hegemony. have agreed to formalize its already fairly close relations with Israel.  In return, Israel has postponed plans to annex the West Bank.  Whether or not it is in Israel’s long term interest to do so is a debatable question because it provides much more powerful ammunition to its critics who already accuse it of becoming an apartheid regime.  However, it had become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sop to the right wing who will have to wait.  Of course, the reality is that Israel is already the de facto ruler.

If Mr. Trump was crowing about the agreement signed on September 15, although it is akin to someone signing an agreement with Puerto Rico while the United States remains aloof.  As a postscript, the little island of Bahrain also signed a peace deal with Israel.  Bahrain has had its own problems in that a Sunni sheikh rules a Shia populace.  When the Shia had had enough, Saudi and UAE troops were used to end the rebellion.  Bahrain is thus indebted to the UAE.

How many among voters will know the real value of these historic (according to Trump) deals particularly when he starts twittering his accomplishments as the election nears?

There things stand.  As they say, there is nothing worse than peaking too early.  Bettors are still favoring Trump with their money.  The longer anyone has been in politics the more there is to mine, and for an opponent to use to his/her advantage.  Time it seems is on Trump’s side.  

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