RSSCategory: Civil Rights

The verdict is in on Pussy Riot

August 17, 2012 | By | Reply More

As reported by the NYT, the verdict against Pussy Riot is in, and the three young women have been sentenced to two years each. The verdict has been commemorated by cartoonist Ray Gregory.

While a guilty verdict against the three women, members of a band called Pussy Riot, was widely expected, suspense had built over how severe a punishment they would receive. . . . But the judge, Marina Syrova, showed little sympathy for the trio, and it was not immediately clear whether the sentences would prompt a reaction on Moscow’s streets.

“Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and for our being put on trial after the concert? The authoritarian political system is to blame. What Pussy Riot does is oppositional art or politics.”


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Military Voting Philosophy

August 16, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More

I remember the presidential election of 2004, during which the armed services were flooded with the message that it was seditious to speak out against your Commander in Chief, and certainly bad to consider voting against your own commander. Luminaries of the time like Ann Coulter published the principle that anyone who casts doubt on ones president is a traitor. This was a solidly accepted conservative plank.

But the message fed to members of the armed forces has changed for the 2012 election:

Not My President

This image has been going around on Facebook, among other sources. I suspect that the message they receive about their Commander in Chief is different than before. There also is a busy meme insinuating that Democrats are busily working to deny military members their right to absentee vote.

Does this mean that the military is a Republican organization? Or does it cleave to one of the Three Tea Party branches?


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How Rights Become Privileges: MO Amendment 2

August 8, 2012 | By | 15 Replies More

The 2012 Missouri primary had several important lessons to impart. The first, which I may have discussed in previous election years, is that the way to bring the “correct” voters to the polls is to have an apparently innocuous but important candidate or issue and a loud, contentious issue or candidate that only seems to matter to one side.

In this primary cycle, there was a preponderance of hotly contested Republican seats, and a very dangerous, never advertised Tea Party constitutional amendment. Republicans came out to vote overwhelmingly, and the Amendment passed resoundingly.

The full body of the amendment is at the bottom of this article.

Basically on the ballot it read as if it was just reinforcing the first clause of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • In reality, it says that people have the right to worship the (singular, Christian) Almighty God (but not all those others) including to pray whenever their conscience dictates (such as during science classes).
  • Public meetings can now be started with exclusionary prayers as long as the officiant is invited by someone.
  • I have not yet figured out how the mandatory publishing of the Bill of Rights in schools will be twisted, but I expect as a precedent to posting the Ten Commandments adjacent (as an alleged inspirational source)
  • Students cannot be punished for refusing to do assignments that might conflict with their faith (evolution, geology, astronomy, etc).

So I expect Missouri to soon be incurring legal fees on the order of replacing several major bridges, or (more likely) in lieu of funding science education for a decade.

[More (Including the language of the Amendment)]


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The real problem with Guantanamo

July 23, 2012 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald spells out the real problem with Guantanamo:

What made Guantanamo controversial was not its physical location: that it was located in the Caribbean Sea rather than on American soil (that’s especially true since the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over the camp). What made Guantanamo such a travesty — and what still makes it such — is that it is a system of indefinite detention whereby human beings are put in cages for years and years without ever being charged with a crime. President Obama’s so-called “plan to close Guantanamo” — even if it had been approved in full by Congress — did not seek to end that core injustice. It sought to do the opposite: Obama’s plan would have continued the system of indefinite detention, but simply re-located it from Guantanamo Bay onto American soil. Long before, and fully independent of, anything Congress did, President Obama made clear that he was going to preserve the indefinite detention system at Guantanamo even once he closed the camp.


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Jason Alexander on the recent massacre

July 22, 2012 | By | Reply More

Actor Jason Alexander had this to say with regard to the recent massacre:

These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.


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US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
US claims it is illegal to challenge illegal spy statute in court

We are definitely living in Orwellian times, based on the following article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which I am reprinting in its entirety (it is licensed by Creative Commons):

EFF Challenges National Security Letter Statute in Landmark Lawsuit

Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court — as far as we know — exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI’s NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI’s authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.

National security letter statutes — five in all — are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts and issue administrative letters on their own authority to telecommunications companies and financial institutions demanding information about their customers. The NSL statutes permit the FBI to permanently gag service providers from revealing the fact that the demand was made, preventing them from notifying either their customers or the public. While the statute has many deficiencies, one of the core constitutional issues (already recognized by one federal appeals court) is that it turns the First Amendment’s procedural prior restraint doctrine on its head by allowing the FBI to issue a never-ending prior restraint on its own, then requiring the recipient service provider to undertake a legal challenge. Another fundamental problem with the NSL statutes is that courts are all but written out of any part of the process: the FBI can issue demands for records and gag provisions without court authorization, and recipient telecommunications and financial companies have no way to determine whether and how the government might be overreaching or otherwise abusing its authority. Not surprisingly, given these significant structural barriers, legal challenges are extraordinarily rare.

EFF brought its challenge on behalf of its client in May of 2011, raising these and other fundamental due process and First Amendment concerns about the structure of these problematic statutes. In response, the Department of Justice promptly filed a civil complaint against the recipient, alleging that by “stat[ing] its objection to compliance with the provisions of” the NSL by “exercis[ing] its rights under” the NSL statute to challenge the NSL’s legality, the recipient was “interfer[ing] with the United States’ vindication of its sovereign interests in law enforcement, counterintelligence, and protecting national security.” While it ultimately agreed to a stay, temporarily suspending its suit against the recipient, the government has moved to compel disclosure of the subscriber information and to uphold the gag. The petition to set aside the NSL is currently pending before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Whether the recipient will be permitted to speak out about its specific experiences — and whether the FBI will be permitted to issue NSLs, at least in one district — should soon be known.


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What Being An American Means To Me

July 3, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
What Being An American Means To Me

I am not given to setting out pronouncements like this very often, but in light of the last several years I thought it might be worthwhile to do so on the occasion of the 236th anniversary of our declared independence.

I don’t think in terms of demonstrating my love of country. My affection for my home is simply a given, a background hum, a constant, foundational reality that is reflexively true. This is the house in which I grew up. I know its walls, its ceiling, its floors, the steps to the attic, the verge, and every shadow that moves with the sun through all the windows. I live here; its existence contours my thinking, is the starting place of my feelings.

The house itself is an old friend, a reliable companion, a welcoming space, both mental and physical, that I can no more dislike or reject than I can stop breathing.

But some of the furniture…that’s different.

I am an American.

I don’t have to prove that to anyone. I carry it with me, inside, my cells are suffused with it. I do not have to wear a flag on my lapel, hang one in front of my house, or publicly pledge an oath to it for the convenience of those who question my political sentiments. Anyone who says I should or ought or have to does not understand the nature of what they request or the substance of my refusal to accommodate them. They do not understand that public affirmations like that become a fetish and serve only to divide, to make people pass a test they should—because we are free—never have to take.

[More . . . ]


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Consider signing the Declaration of Internet Freedom

July 2, 2012 | By | Reply More
Consider signing the Declaration of Internet Freedom

Today I signed this clearly worded Declaration of Internet Freedom.

We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.

Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.

Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.

Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.

Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

I invite you to join me in signing this Declaration. The sponsoring organization, Free Press, has long been on the right side of media/Internet/speech issues. This one-page declaration captures what is critically important about net neutrality.


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A criminal act by Congress: cutting the budget for Legal Services

June 29, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
A criminal act by Congress: cutting the budget for Legal Services

Last week I attended the annual seminar my law firm (the Simon Law Firm) puts on for the benefit of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. We’ve done this for almost ten years, and I’m proud to be part of a firm that has raised a total of more than $100,000 for the St. Louis office of Legal Services.

What does Legal Services do for the folks it serves? The lawyers of Legal Services provide “high-quality legal assistance and equal access to justice to low-income people.” Consider this:

Our lawyers provide counsel, advice and representation to clients in a variety of domestic cases including orders of protection, dissolution of marriage, modifications, paternity establishments and child custody cases. Other legal needs are addressed as well, sometimes by bringing the expertise of lawyers in other specialty practice areas like public benefits, housing or consumer.


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