RSSCategory: Civil Rights

45% of Mississippians Vote That Dividing Cell Rights Should Trump Those of Women

November 9, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
45% of Mississippians Vote That Dividing Cell Rights Should Trump Those of Women

One of the more watched ballot initiative this week was the Mississippi Personhood initiative that would have granted full human civil rights to a fertilized human egg. Almost half of the voters were for this measure. Here’s the CBS report, but you can find it everywhere this week.

Basically, it would have outlawed most birth control and, of course, abortions.

The issue as I see it is the tension between the rights of a host and a guest. Should an unexpected guest be permitted to stay as long as they feel necessary, no matter how the host feels? What if the guest makes unreasonable demands, such as requiring up to half of your assets and most of your attention while living there? Note that the laws are set up to require you to support the guest for an additional 24 times as long as she stayed after she decides to move out.

At the root of this ballot initiative really was the need to make sure that Republicans get out to vote. It is a pity that the Democrats cannot figure out how to seed a ballot with an issue that will fire up their base in this manner. What about resurrecting the Equal Rights Ammendment?

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Bill Moyers explains the concerns of Occupy Wall Street

October 31, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Bill Moyers explains the concerns of Occupy Wall Street

Bill Moyers recently gave the keynote speech at Public Citizen’s 40th anniversary Gala. In addition to the video of that speech, I have transcribed various excerpts from his excellent speech. During his speech, he made it quite clear that he fully understands the concerns of the occupy Wall Street protesters.

Except for the bracketed material each of the following is a quote by Bill Moyers at the Public Citizen 40th Anniversary Gala:

While it’s important to cover the news, it’s more important to uncover the news. One of my mentors at the University of Texas told our class that “news” is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity. And when a student asked the journalist and historian Richard Reeves for his definition of real news, he answered, “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”

[We now have what historian Lawrence Goodwin has described as] “a mass resignation of people who believe the dogma of democracy at a superficial level, but who no longer believe it privately.”

We have a decline of individual self-respect on the part of millions of people.

We hold elections knowing that they are unlikely to produce the policies favored by a majority of Americans.

The property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the Constitution expressly feared as an unseemly veneration of wealth are now openly enforced, and the common denominator a public office, including for our judges, is a common deference to cash.

Barack Obama criticizes bankers as fat cats and then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 per person. And that’s the norm. They get away with it.

Let’s name it for what it is: Democratic deviancy, defined downward.

Politics today is little more than money laundering in the trafficking of power and policy.

Why are the occupiers there? They are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America

Citizens United: Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many.

[At the 12 minute mark of the video, Moyers discusses corporate personhood and the laws damaging public welfare resulting therefrom]

The Roberts Court has picked up the mantle: Money first, the public second, if at all.

[At the 14 minute mark: the damage done by Citizens United]

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Jeffrey Sachs describes his support for the Occupy movements

October 17, 2011 | By | Reply More
Jeffrey Sachs describes his support for the Occupy movements

Jeffrey Sachs recently appeared at an Occupy Wall Street protest and explained that there are still “normal” countries where companies merely do business and they don’t try to run the government.  That is what we need here in the United States, and Sachs believes that the People can take back their government. He has much else to say on sustainable living, media, corporate misinformation, campaign finance reform, warmongering, the top 99%, typical folks who are unwittingly doing the bidding of billionaires, candidates who need to swear off big money, and the fact that big money has thoroughly Barack Obama.  Sachs has just written a new book: The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity.

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Meet the protesters of Occupy St. Louis – October 14, 2011

October 15, 2011 | By | 10 Replies More

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because I consider it important to understand how it is that my views differ from those of people who oppose my views. Two days ago, I listened to Limbaugh bloviating about the people who are participating in the Occupy Protests springing up all over the United States.  By  some reports, there are more than 1,000 such protests ongoing, and they are actually occurring all over the world.   Limbaugh announced, without hesitation, that these protesters are mostly unemployed, lazy, dirty, amoral, socially irresponsible and ignorant young people. Those who rely on Rush Limbaugh for their facts might thus be highly likely to object to these protests (including Occupy Wall Street) based on Limbaugh’s description of the protesters.  But is the description he gave to his many (though dwindling number of) listeners accurate?  I had an opportunity to check this yesterday at the Occupy St. Louis protest in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the past few days, I’ve been quite occupied at my day job, and it was only while walking back to my law office from the federal courthouse at 4 pm yesterday that I spotted an organized march coming down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.  I would estimate that there were almost 1,000 people marching.  I didn’t have my video camera with me, but I did have my Canon S95 pocket camera, so I got to work taking hand-held video and still shots of the protesters.  Here’s the finished product, which will allow you to actually meet the types of people who are participating in the Saint Louis Occupy protest.  You can now be your own judge of what these protesters are like:

As you can see from the parade route pans and the interviews, none of these people fit the description given by Rush Limbaugh.  Off camera, I asked most of the protesters about their “day jobs,” and all of them indicated that they were gainfully employed, and in a wide variety of challenging fields.   These “young” protesters of Occupy St. Louis ranged in age from 20’s to their 80’s.   The on-camera statements of the people I interviewed show that they are well-informed, thoughtful, highly articulate and good-hearted.  Many of the people I spoke with indicated that they are not going away.  They have been waiting for a good time and place to express their deep concerns about the way our government works, and they have finally found what they’ve been looking for.

In case anyone is concerned that I intentionally skewed my sampling regarding who I interviewed, this was my method:  I simply walked up to someone nearby and asked whether he or she would be willing to give a short statement about why they were attending the protest.   I approached 12 people.  One woman sympathetic to the protest apologized and said she couldn’t talk on camera because she was a member of the news media. One man said that he supported the protest, but he’d rather not go on camera.  Another man said he had never been part of a protest before, but he read about this protest recently and then said to himself, “Yeah, these people are right on these issues.”   The other nine people I approached agreed to give statements on camera.  I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking the time to talk (I’ve listed their names in the order in which they appear in my video):

  • Al Vitale
  • Fred Raines (a retired economics professor, who said that he compiled the statistics displayed on one of the signs appearing on the video)
  • Apollonia Childs
  • Chrissy Kirchhoefer
  • Curtis Roberts
  • Michel Kiepe
  • Jeff Schaefer
  • Matt Ankney, and
  • Frances Madeson

Based on the above video, there is no lack of intellectual moorings for this protest. The focus is that our government, including politicians of both major parties, has been substantially bought by big business, and many destructive things are flowing from the consequent misuse of government power.

About a dozen protesters have have formed a camp in Kiener Plaza, a public gathering spot across the street from the towering downtown headquarters of Bank of America. I was told by several protesters that some of the camping protesters had been evicted from the camp over the past week, but that the intent is nonetheless maintain a presence in Kiener Plaza indefinitely. The Bank of America building has been the geographical focus of other recent protests, including this one in August, 2011. (A payday loan protest by a group called GRO occurred at this same bank last year–here’s video).  I should note that most of the people who work in the huge Bank of America building work for companies other than the Bank of America, yet the building remains a symbol of what has gone so very wrong with the political process.

I’d also like to mention that the St. Louis Police, who were out in the hundreds, were courteous and professional.   The protesters were there merely to protest-to get their message out.  There were no untoward incidents that would distract from the central message of the protests.

For more on yesterday’s protest, see this description by St. Louis blogger Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet. See also, this post by another St. Louis blogger, Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub.

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Non-private user data

October 11, 2011 | By | Reply More
Non-private user data

What’s a good strategy for a government to get a website user’s private data from that website without a search warrant? Just ask for it.

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Symbols, Fair Use, and Sensitivities

August 29, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

When you have a dream about an argument, maybe it has some weight and should be written about. Recently, I posted a photograph on my Google + page. This one, in fact (click on the photo for high-res version):

My caption for it was “What more is there to say?” Partly this was just to have a caption, but also to prompt potential discussion. As symbol, the photograph serves a number of functions, from melancholy to condemnation.

It did prompt a discussion, between two friends of mine who do not know each other, the core of which centers on the divergent meanings of such symbols for them and a question of sensitivity. I won’t reproduce the exchange here, because as far as I’m concerned the question that it prompted for me was one of the idea of “sacredness” and the appropriate use of symbols.

Which immediately sent me down a rabbit hole about the private versus public use of symbols.

Essentially, we all have proprietary relationships with certain symbols. Since I already posted the image, the sign of the cross is one, and not just for Christians. As a symbol it has achieved that universality advertisers dream of. It is instantly recognizable as the sign for a faith movement just about everywhere. It’s possible some aboriginal tribes in the beclouded valleys of New Zealand don’t know what it is, but on the level of international discourse it carries across all lines.

[More . . . ]

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Conservative Supreme Court Justice warned us about money as speech

August 26, 2011 | By | Reply More
Conservative Supreme Court Justice warned us about money as speech

Back in 1978, Justice William Renquist wrote a dissent that is extraordinary reading today. This nugget of jurisprudence was dug up by Linda Greenhouse, who write an excellent NYT Op-Ed titled “Over the Cliff.”

This dissenting justice did not take issue with a corporation’s status as a “person” in the eyes of the law (as Mitt Romney recently reminded a heckler at the Iowa State Fair). But corporate personhood was “artificial,” not “natural,” the justice observed. A corporation’s rights were not boundless but, rather, limited, and the place of “the right of political expression” on the list of corporate rights was highly questionable. “A state grants to a business corporation the blessings of potentially perpetual life and limited liability to enhance its efficiency as an economic entity,” the dissenting opinion continued. “It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere … Indeed, the states might reasonably fear that the corporation would use its economic power to obtain further benefits beyond those already bestowed.”

Noting that most states, along with the federal government, had placed limits on the ability of corporations to participate in politics, the dissenting justice concluded: “The judgment of such a broad consensus of governmental bodies expressed over a period of many decades is entitled to considerable deference from this Court.

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The Fourth Amendment continues to whither

August 3, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
The Fourth Amendment continues to whither

Have you ever heard of the “Internet Pornographers Act of 2011”? Until today, I hadn’t either. Here’s what this proposed law provides, according to Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic:

[U]nder language approved 19 to 10 by a House committee, the firm that sells you Internet access would be required to track all of your Internet activity and save it for 18 months, along with your name, the address where you live, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and IP addresses you’ve been assigned . . . As written, The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 doesn’t require that someone be under investigation on child pornography charges in order for police to access their Internet history — being suspected of any crime is enough.

No probable cause is even required. It’s Big Brothers’ dream come true. Now we’ll watch to see whether any Congressional representative who has the willingness to oppose this bill because it violates civil liberties will be accused of approving of child pornography. That is the kind of argument that one might expect in the modern-day Congress.

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The cost of free speech

July 25, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
The cost of free speech

An episode from an Arizona town:

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