Posts Tagged ‘Law’

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Obama’s ‘State Secrets’ a Bigger Threat to Our Free Society than Health Care Ever Will

09.26.10

Those in the Tea Parties like to rally against government getting too big and usually cite the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, and the health care reform as tell-tale signs that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into socialism.

It seems that the size of government, regardless of what those programs intend to do or why they were enacted in the first place, trumps the content of the policy.  It’s a simple numbers game for them.  In their mind, the government has peaked that curve that tips us from capitalism into socialism in their own view of the world and that’s that.

But what about the real issue of government getting too big: the deprivation of American civil liberties. And it’s already been happening.  First under Bush with the warrantless wiretapping and torture of terror suspects and now with Obama’s declared execution of an American citizen without any formal charges or due process:

Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.

What’s a more egregious act of a too-powerful government: making everyone have health insurance or the ability for the president to kill Americans with total impunity?  Why aren’t more people on all sides of the political divide beyond outraged at this?!

Is it because Anwar Awlaki – an American citizen – is an alleged (not even accused, because there haven’t been formal charges even) terrorist and traitor?  Unfortunately it seems that a large swath of Americans – including most, if not all, of the GOP – feel that once someone is deemed a terror suspect, they lose all human rights — as evidenced by the support of torture, rendition, and imprisonment for indefinite amounts of time without trial, even for American citizens.

How anyone could be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government yet support any of these powers that the President has given to the executive branch lacks any and all intellectual honesty.  It’s downright baffling and oxymoronic.

It must be problematic for those on the right because their fostered hatred for all things Islam has them believing that all Muslims are “the other,” they’re not truly American – even if they are U.S. citizens – which lets them be okay with this because, after all, it’s not like Obama is attempting to assassinate Bubba Joe Thompson from South Carolina or something.  It’s Anwar Awlaki from New Mexico.  With a name like that and the government saying that he’s a terrorist, well, that’s all the evidence I need!

Sigh.

It’s all good when the President is using those extra-constitutional powers to get the bad guys when the bad guys aren’t you.  But what happens when some radical in your social, ethnic, or religious group ends up doing something awful and all of a sudden you’re lumped in with them and targeted by the government?  What then?  By then it’ll be too far gone to stop.

This is why it’s so dangerous to conflate Islamic, murderous radicals with all Muslims, of which they constitute a tiny minority.  We get these knee-jerk reactions that toss away our civil liberties that we fought so hard to gain centuries ago, all under the guise of security and safety and protecting the American way of life.

Unfortunately, it seems that by having Obama – who was elected to clean up government and end these atrocious violations of the Constitution – continue and expand them, it may be too late to change already.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele.

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Girls Gone Wild Uses “She Was Asking For It” Defense, Wins

07.24.10

In the latest legal woes for Joe Francis and his “Girls Gone Wild” pornglomerate franchise, he’s actually gotten off scot-free.

There’s been quite the backlash for the St. Louis, MO jury that ruled against a 26-year-old woman – known only as Jane Doe – who was filmed topless at a bar back in 2004.  I have not seen the video, but apparently Doe can be heard saying “no, no” when asked if she would take off her top; she only bares her breasts when someone comes up from behind her and pulls down her top.  The jury argued that she gave implicit consent by being in the bar during the taping.

Jury foreman Patrick O’Brien:

“Through her actions, she gave implied consent. She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing.”

Perverts, gropers, and rapists around the country rejoice!  All you have to do to get away with what would normally find you arrested for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or even attempted rape — all kinds of stigmatized offenses that could haunt you forever  — is to just bring a camcorder with you.  Yeah, that seems fair.

Looks like the whole “she was asking for it” defense still works after all.  Unreal.

(H/T Jezebel)

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Oklahoma Passes Strict Abortion Legislation Despite Vetoes

04.28.10

While Arizona passed the strictest immigration law in the nation, Oklahoma did their own clamping down, as well, enacting some of the country’s toughest abortion laws:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

My emphasis.

Let me repeat: No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

I can’t fathom the horror of being raped nor do I wish that upon anyone.  To find out that you’re now pregnant because of that abominable invasion must be something beyond comprehension.  On top of that, Oklahoma now requires doctors to then lecture and impose more guilt and shame upon that woman about her next decision, should that be an abortion.

This is unconscionable.

I heard recently on the radio that in some Islamic societies, when a woman is raped, she’s actually committed a crime.  How nonsensical and judiciously bankrupt is that?  The victim is at fault for her own assault?  I shook my head at how backwards that line of thinking is, and yet, this law in Oklahoma makes me wonder just how far removed we are from that mentality.

As far as the second law goes: it essentially prevents doctors from being sued for breaking their Hippocratic Oath, rendering it useless.  If there is no threat of ramifications from not objectively giving a patient all of the information about her health and body, we have a completely broken health care system.  Talk about playing God.

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Same-Sex Marriages Recognized in Maryland

02.24.10

Gansler: Effective immediately Md. recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere

UPDATE 2:50 P.M.: Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) says effective immediately the state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and state agencies should begin giving gay couples the rights they were awarded elsewhere.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m.: Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who requested the opinion from Gansler, said in a brief interview that he was unsure whether there would be any immediate ramifications.

“It’s reaffirmation of what we thought, that Maryland can recognize gay marriage,” Madaleno said.

He said that changes in state policy could result from a court ruling, legislation or administrative action.

Original Post: A long-awaited opinion by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) out Wednesday morning concludes that the state’s highest court is likely to rule at some point that same-sex marriages performed in other states are valid in Maryland.

The policy implications of the opinion are not immediately clear, and Gansler says in a one-page summary that his conclusion “is not free from doubt.”

Gansler’s opinion concludes “that the Court of Appeals, when it ultimately rules on this question in a particular case, will likely apply the principle that a marriage that is valid in the place of celebration is valid in Maryland. The opinion reaches this conclusion in light of the evolving state policy, reflected in anti-discrimination laws, domestic partner laws and other legislation, that respects and supports committed intimate same-sex relationships.”

Maryland law currently limits marriages performed in the state to opposite-sex couples.

By John Wagner  |  February 24, 2010; 9:06 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner

This is great news. Now any couple legally married in any of the other five states that have legalized gay marriage will be recognized as a married couple in Maryland. This is an interested step forward – could more states go this route than actually pushing forward with legalizing themselves?

Posted via web from Agree to Disagree

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Michigan Passes Smoking Ban!

12.10.09

The Michigan Senate passed a bill today that bans smoking in public buildings – with a few exceptions, notably the three Detroit casinos. The House is expected to also pass the bill, which would mean that starting May 1, 2010, the law would go into effect.

This is a long time coming and well overdue.  Having been around the country a number of times while on tour, I frequented dozens and dozens of clubs and bars, and Michigan, hands down, had the smokiest, most disgustingly air-polluted venues in the nation.  In most establishments, it was like they had a fog machine churning smoke into the room.  Your eyes stung.  Your clothes reeked.  The smell of your hair completely nauseating.

Those of us who live on the coasts – or in one of the other 42 most-populated American cities that already have public smoking bans – can find it easy to forget that there are places where you can actually smoke inside a restaurant.  Most have designated smoking sections, but that usually just means that a handful of tables have ashtrays on them next to the condiments.  Rarely any other effort is made to separate the smoke from the rest of the air.  It’s like my mom always complained: “It’s not like the smoke knows to stay in its own section.”

This is a very welcomed law that will give the overwhelming majority (nearly 80% of the population of Michigan are non-smokers) a pleasant breathing experience, for once, when they decide to venture out either for a bite to eat or for a drink.  It’s unreal that the poisonous, deadly habit of a few could still be the law of the land anywhere these days, but it’s nice to see that Michigan has stepped up and joined the ranks of the 27 other states that have public smoking bans.

(Image courtesy Guido E. Alvarez)

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Free Polanski? UPDATED!

09.29.09

Recently arrested film director Roman Polanski has the support of much of Hollywood as he fights extradition to the United States from Switzerland to face charges of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl at Jack Nicholson’s house back in 1978 that he has evaded for over thirty years.

All signs point to him being guilty – including his own guilty plea – hence why he’s lived in France for the past three decades.  Yet Hollywood royalty like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen (although, I’m not sure what kind of endorsement it is coming from him), and even female actors Monica Bellucci and Tilda Swinton, support Polanski and don’t want him brought to America to be put on trial.

Why?

Sure, the guy is really good at making movies.  Tinseltown even awarded him the high honor of Best Director for the film “The Pianist.”  But we didn’t see the music industry get behind Phil Spector when he was on trial for murder of actress Lana Clarkson.  I know Polanski didn’t kill anyone, but the rape of an unconscious seventh grader can’t be too far behind on the moral infraction scale.

Now, I don’t know anything about extradition or international law.  And I always thought that Switzerland was a neutral country.  But, in all honesty, I don’t even know what that means in terms of an American criminal getting caught there.  I also don’t know that those Hollywood supporters are the best people to listen to regarding the legality and ramifications of his capture in Zurich.  They’re filmmakers, not lawyers.

I’m curious to see how this plays out.  If it turns out that Polanski was arrested illegally and he gets to go back to France and live as a free man, well, it’s not like it’ll be all that different from how things have been for the past thirty-one years.  And if he ends up being extradited to California, he’ll get what he deserves.

It’s hard to really defend this guy.  Talented artist or not, international law or not, he forced himself on a 13-year-old girl.  His celebrity shouldn’t alleviate him of paying his debt to society like the rest of us.

UPDATE:

I’m not sure I really conveyed this as well as I wanted to.

Polanski deserves to get the maximum sentence for his crimes.  We shouldn’t even be having this conversation nor should there be any support for him.  Were he just a regular guy living in Michigan, everyone would be condemning him for his despicable and disgusting actions.  He’d be a brief blip on the news radar and then spend the next decade or more in prison with no one – especially no one of remote importance or celebrity – fighting for his release.  If reasonably intelligent (I guess that remains to be seen) and successful professionals like Scorsese can be blinded by Polanski’s talent and celebrity notoriety, it’s no wonder we have kids like OSU QB Terrelle Pryor calling everyone murderers and supporting Michael Vick.

Polanski committed a monstrous and heinous act that doesn’t soften or diminish in immorality simply by the passing of time.  What he did to that poor girl was, is, and always will be a hideous crime that deserves punishment no matter what country the coward flees to.

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It’s Not About Religion!

04.16.09

New York may be the next state in line to allow same-sex marriage.  Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) introduced a bill to follow in the footsteps of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

Of course, he’s got himself a lot of opposition.  Not surprisingly, this opposition consists of the religious community, particularly from Sen. Ruben Diaz of NY, who just so happens to also be an Evangelical pastor. (I’m sure he’s very fair in all of his decisions and doesn’t let his religious duties impair his governmental ones.)

“I think it’s a laugh in the face of the new archbishop,” Diaz said Thursday before the start of his meeting. “The Jews just finished their holy week. The Catholics just received the new archbishop. The evangelical Christians just celebrated Good Friday and resurrection. He comes out to do this at this time? It’s a challenge the governor is sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge.”

Please take note that the religious people are the ones who are making this about religion, not the secular population.  The governor of a state introducing a bill that would affect civil law has nothing to do with religious doctrine.  There is no infringement upon anyone’s personal beliefs here.  This is not about religion!  We don’t have a law for every single one of Moses’ commandments, or for all of Jewish kosher laws, or Muslim sharia law.  This is because we are not a nation ruled by religion.

Anyone who thinks that homosexuality is a sin and that it should be shunned and ignored and “cured,” deeply offends MY beliefs.  But those people are entitled to those beliefs.  And just as I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t need to agree with gay marriage.  It also means that they’ll just have to deal with it and realize that their belief system isn’t the rule of our secular, free country.

Eventually.

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The Backwards World of Religion

03.31.09

(Massoud Hossaini / AFP – Getty Images)

I would like to attribute something this grossly offensive and obviously a clear-cut attack on human rights to the sub-sect of fundamentalist radicals within the Muslim community.  But, when Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed, elected president of Afghanistan, a country that we invaded and “liberated,” forces legislation through that legalizes rape, I really can’t blame the fringe.

In a massive blow for women’s rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

Yes, legalized rape.  See, when it’s between a husband and a wife, the wife relinquishes her ability to say no.  In Afghanistan, at least.

I’m beyond tired of hearing about all of these so-called “family” laws that claim to protect any aspect of the nuclear family unit, which, according to certain religions, is THE only way to have a family.  We have plenty of these types of laws in America, too, so Afghanistan is not unique by any stretch.  Ours come in the form of DOMA and numerous generically titled groups and lobbyists.  I’m not saying that DOMA is equivalent to this Shia Family Law by any stretch.  But that’s not to say that DOMA doesn’t egregiously discriminate and deny rights to a specific group of people based on religious rhetoric.  The SFL goes even further to condone sexual abuse, which is too appalling to even capture in words.

This is a sad reminder of how far humanity still has to come as a species.  It makes me glad that here in America we have knocked over some of these boundaries that seem so archaic to us now yet still exist in many other places in the world.  But, at the same time, it also reminds me of how much work we still need to do here in the West.  I hate having to always bring up that less than 90 years ago women didn’t have the right to vote.  People of different ethnicities and races couldn’t vote less than 50 years ago.  We needed a full-blown civil war in order to stop the practice of people owning people.  Equality takes time and an immense amount of effort.  We can’t go into a different culture and just impose our way of life onto them and assume that it will just stick.  We need to continue to progress, better ourselves, and encourage widespread education.

The time for governing our lives based on ancient texts is over.  It’s time for the Next Renaissance.

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Stop Sending Them to Prison

02.19.09

Law Professor John Pfaff explains how the American prison system should be reformed.

We need to stop admitting many minor offenders, even if they’re serving only short sentences. We need to focus less on high-profile drug statutes and more on the ways small-fry drug convictions cause later crimes to result in longer sentences. Once we start admitting fewer people to prison, we should shift money from prisons to police.

Pfaff has some good ideas and, being a student of law, probably has a more educated and informed take than I do on how to fix the current situation.  But, I feel that he misses a huge issue:

The fact that if you have a felony on your record you’re immediately disqualified for countless jobs.

Whatever happened to the idea of prison being a rehabilitation center?  Or, at the very least, an adult-style “time-out” where you serve your punishment behind bars and, when you re-enter society, you’ve finished paying your debt to society?  To deny someone employment because of a previous infraction for which they’ve already paid basically means that the punishment never ends.  No wonder felons stick to a life of crime.

We need more than just not imprisoning small-time crooks.  We need to allow for some infractions to be dismissed after the punishment has been appropriately served.

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With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce

02.08.09

Hillary and Julie Goodridge, one of the first gay couples legally married in Massachusetts back in 2004, have gotten divorced.

And the anti-gay rights groups rejoice!

The writers at WorldNetDaily must love hearing this kind of news because it gives them the opportunity to fill an article full of inappropriate quotes around words.  It’s odd that in the first sentence, writer Chelsea Schilling opted to put quotes around the word “marriage,” implying that the lesbian couple was never really married in her definition of the word, yet left the word “divorce” untouched.  So it was a real divorce to a sham marriage?  How does that work exactly?  I suppose all divorces are equally sinful in her world, no matter how unnatural the nature of the marriage.

Schilling goes on to demean the Goodridge’s union by explaining that they lasted half as long as the “average straight marriages that end in divorce.”  I didn’t realize that if you divorce after a long time together that it somehow adds more justification to the marriage than if you divorce quickly.  I suppose this is meant to be rationale for not allowing gays to marry: they divorce even more quickly than us normal straight people do!

Naturally, Schilling got a solid anti-gay marriage quote to back up her one-sided shoddy journalism:

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, a public policy group that fought to repeal the legalization of “gay” unions, said their separation is confusing.

“Divorce is a very painful issue, but I also can’t help but reflect on the pain this couple has caused on the commonwealth and the nation to redefine marriage. And now they’re getting divorced? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Mineau said.

“Obviously, they don’t hold the institution in very high esteem.”

Give me a break.  This is just a nice way to deflect the high and rising rate of straight marriage divorces.  If divorce is a reason for a population of people to lose their right to marriage, straight people should’ve lost it years ago.  This isn’t a privilege like your driver’s license where if you get too many infractions you get it revoked, and the so-called protectors of marriage should be careful to not mistake the difference.  Although, clearly they already have.

Schilling never bothered to interview anyone on the side of marriage equality.  Perhaps no one bothered to speak to her and her biased publication masquerading as news.  Seems that she should’ve mentioned that no calls were returned.

She does, however, end with a quote from Boston divorce attorney Gerald Nissenbaum:

“And what a surprise: Gay people are like everyone else.”

It’s sad that it’s considered a surprise.