Law and Disorder Radio – Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed Over Boycott of Israeli Goods – Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism with Rick Wolff, Part 1 – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

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 Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed Over Boycott of Israeli Goods

We follow up on the Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit filed over boycott of Israeli goods earlier this year. For listeners unfamiliar with the case, a judge in Olympia, Washington dismissed a lawsuit tailored to force the Olympia Food Co-op to rescind its boycott of Israeli goods. The judge ruled that the lawsuit brought by opponents of the boycott violated a Washington State law designed to prevent abusive lawsuits which are aimed at suppressing lawful public participation. Interestingly, an investigation by Electronic Intifada had unearthed that the lawsuit against individuals with the Olympia Food Co-op Board was also planned in collusion with a national anti-Palestinian organization called StandWithUs that was working with the Israeli government. Lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued that the lawsuit qualified as a SLAPP, Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.  SLAPPs are lawsuits that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern. The five Olympia Food Co-op members who had sued to overturn the store’s boycott of Israeli goods must now pay $160,000 in damages.

 

 

 

 

Attorney Barbara Harvey:

  • The judge had before him the issue of whether to assess a single statutory penalty of $10,000 on behalf of all 16 co-op board members who were sued by the defendants, or would the judge order each individual statutory penalty to each defendant?
  • He decided to order individual statutory penalties to each defendant for a total $160,000.
  • The plaintiff sued 16 board members, past and present. StandWithUs produced a Youtube video of the five plaintiffs just before they filed the litigation.
  • The five co-op members didn’t look upset given the judge’s decision. If they’re not upset, why not? – which suggests the costs will be covered but we really have no way of knowing that.
  • This victory discourages the opponents of the movement for Palestinian rights to engage in this kind of litigation.
  • TIAA-CREF, which manages financial assets of more than $470 billion, announced that they had decided to remove Caterpillar from their Socially Responsible Investing Accounts.
  • That’s because Caterpillar supplies Israel with these militarized bulldozers that are sold under Department of Defense contracts to Israel which are used to tear down civilian homes in Palestine.
  • Caterpillar is the poster child of divestment and boycott and TIAA-CREF has done that.
  • All other customers that use that SRIA account will be divesting from Caterpillar.
  • Our campaign is to persuade companies like TIAA-CREF to divest from companies around the world that profit from the occupation.

Guest – Barbara Harvey, a Detroit attorney who has worked with BDS activists and a former board member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism – PART 1

Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism is the title of Professor Rick Wolff’s new book. After more than a dozen interviews with Rick Wolff since 2008, the theme is consistent: beyond the corrupt banks and stock markets is a flawed economic system, a system that at minimum needed to change direction in the 1970s when wages stopped increasing and the cost of living continued to rise. As we look around, the collapse has been coming in stages, and many have been trying to dial back, save and prepare. This, as millions have lost their jobs, 401k’s, pensions, and homes. Overseas, the waves of austerity continue to roll through Europe as protests have erupted again in Spain.

Professor Rick Wolff:

  • The book is an interesting venture for me; it’s done with David Barsamian, with Alternative Radio.
  • He did 3 major interviews with me. The response was so heartwarming, we published a written version of them.
  • The book is an overview of how we got into this mess, why it’s lasting so long, why it’s hurting so badly, why government policies have not succeeded.
  • A number of the economies in Europe are on the edge of major breakdowns. Spain is already in that situation, Italy is right on its heels. This is not like Greece or Portugal, Ireland or Hungary who are smaller economies; these are major economies.
  • There is active debate in the highest circles of Europe, both critics of capitalism and its leaders, questioning whether the European Union can survive. It’s a measure of how serious the problem is.
  • China, by its own admission, running at a rate of growth of 7-8%, which is half of what it had very few years ago.
  • It can’t escape the effect of Europe, which is its second most important market.
  • China is trying to reorient the economy away from their dependence on exports to the rest of the world because frankly that’s not a reliable situation for them. To give you one index.
  • As wages in the United States stagnated, wages in China have gone up 20 percent.
  • The slowdown in India is very sharp. The slowdown in Brazil, also very sharp.
  • The consensus is what Bernanke said. Things are very poor, very weak and we really have to be alert.
  • The situation is only going to deteriorate over the rest of 2012 and into early 2013.
  • When a capitalist economic system begins to unravel… We’re in the fifth year of this crisis. It officially began in December 2007.
  • Every major government program, the bailouts, the stimulus, has not achieved the goals it said it could and would.
  • The biggest capitalist institutions in this country at this time, the banks, are in such trouble, are so worried about their own prospects in an economy in such difficulty that what they are doing is taking excessive risks, pushing the envelope of what’s ethical and moral and crossing the thin and blurry lines of legality.
  • LIBOR – London Interbank Offered Rate – Starting in the 1980s, London, which had been the financial center of the world economy, realized what we all understood at that time, which was that the world economy was becoming dependent on credit.
  • Every corporation was borrowing money all the time, every government was borrowing money on a scale we’ve never seen before; the really innovative thing was the development of consumer credit.
  • The LIBOR became the benchmark for the world.
  • Every day the British Bankers Association polls the 16 biggest banks who have offices in England, what they are charging each other.
  • It takes an average and it announces that. That number is a standard number–for example, variable rate mortgages in the US where the mortgage goes up and down those are based on LIBOR.
  • It’s factored into everybody’s borrowing. If you’re going into store to buy a pair of pants, that store also borrowed money which is also shaped by a relationship to LIBOR.
  • These banks are the biggest holders of debt instruments. Derivatives of all kinds, mortgages of all kinds. You are relying on information from somebody who has an active interest in the information they’re supplying.
  • What we now know is that these banks often reported an interest rate different from what they were actually charging.
  • There was no oversight.
  • The world of superbanking is a very cozy world. Barclay’s had admitted to reporting a number that wasn’t actually the case, and has paid fines now totaling $450 million to both US and British authorities.
  • To be blunt, they screwed everybody to save themselves.
  • How could we defend private banking on this scale ever again?
  • The big ones are Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
  • Both of them have both agreed to pay fines. Bank of America, $300 million. Wells Fargo, $175 million.
  • They went and charged African-American and Hispanic families more interest for mortgages than they did for whites who had identical credit scores.
  • Five of the biggest banks in the world–Barclays, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase–have all admitted major breaches of minimal ethics, minimal morality, legality, all to advantage themselves at the expense of the public.
  • Private monster banks are an unsafe way for any society to manage the credit that has now become central to the economy. It is inappropriate for us to have banks that have more money than the government supposedly regulating them.

Guest –  Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.