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4.29.2004

A blast from the war build up past, courtesy of Common Dreams:

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths," Barbara Bush said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on March 18, 2003. "Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

?@#!! (words fail me).


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4.28.2004

There is a guy encouraging people to sign up to volunteer for the republican and democraic national conventions and then not show up. He calls his project the Shadow Protest. I think it's brilliant. According to the New York Times article, my source for the story, the RNC has only recruited 1400 out of the necessary 8000 volunteers for the convention. If enough people sign up and don't go, the disruption will be far more effective than people in the streets outside. Also, the RNC will then need to quickly hire (for pay) a ton of people to make up the difference. This project requires a lot of commitment, as you have to go to all the meetings and whatnot, but it seems worth the while. Pass it on.


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In January, the 7th circuit court of appeals ruled that curfew laws violate the first amendment rights of teenagers. Now the various towns named in the suit have changed their policies in order to allow exceptions for work, church, school and emergencies. (article here)

Legislated curfews seem to me to be a lazy and problemmatic approach to ensuring that 'teens' (a patronizing term used only by adults) don't 'get into trouble' (i.e., spend their time engaging in unstructured activities without adult suprevision). In very small towns, the community doesn't resort to the law to take care of its surveillance urges, as every parent knows the name and proper whereabouts of every child. Now that such personal supervision is impossible, people turn to the cops to keep kids in line. This turns on the presumption that kids who are out late are probably engaging in criminal activities, so it's appropriate to treat them like criminals, which makes sense after all, as kids now attend schools that look like prisons. It seems to me that the more you treat teenagers like they are trouble makers who can't look after themselves, the more likely you are to get that result.

I see two alternatives. One might be to change the nature of the police force so that it is no longer seen as an oppressive arm of 'The Man', hence removing the criminal stigma that would go along with their patroling the community to ensure its safety. Barring that, parents could stop trying to foist their responsibilities off onto the 'authorities', whoever they may be at the time.

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4.26.2004

Last weekend, I drove down to DC for the March For Women's Lives, an awesome event. There were about a million people there, representing all ages and backgrounds. I walked with my mother, who has always taught me that the battle for women's rights is a continuing one, and that any complacence is deeply dangerous to our future. So it was thrilling to see so many people showing their support. The march also led me to come up with a statement that encompasses my views on the subject:

I categorically reserve the right to control my body. Anything that takes place inside my skin is my business alone. The decision to carry a pregnancy to term will be one of the most important moments of my life. I am the sole arbitor of the circumstances under which I will undertake that responsibility. Only in this way can I provide best for my life and the life of my children. I will not be coerced into motherhood. I will not be a 'vessel', forced to relinquish my rights to a foetus. I am not a baby machine; I do not cease to be a person when I become pregnant.

John Stuart Mill wrote, "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." I assert that a woman is an individual too.


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Some excellent statistics on Wal-Mart here.

My favorite fact:

$420,750: Annual cost to U.S. taxpayers of a single 200-employee Wal-Mart store, because of support required for underpaid workers -- including subsidized school lunches, food stamps, housing credits, tax credits, energy assistance, and health care.




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4.22.2004

apparently, getting a voice lift in order to sound younger may not be safe. shocking.


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4.21.2004

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the Guantanamo Bay cases yesterday. Here is a good piece from the Telegraph, which makes the interesting point that the law does not speak about American citizens having rights to hearings, but rather "prisoners held under the authority of the United States."

I heard a talk yesterday from Charles Fried, a conservative constitutional scholar at Harvard Law. He suspected that the court would rule in favor of giving the detainees a hearing, and lamented the fact, because "Guantanamo just isn't under US jurisdiction. It just isn't." Not wanting to blow my cover, I didn't ask whether he thought it likely that Cuba should have the ability to control the fate of those detained. Needless to say, I think the government's argument is absurd, and that common law tradition states that the prisoners must have right of habeas corpus.

What I haven't done is look closely at what the Geneva Convention has to say about this. A cursory glance didn't turn anything up. Specifically, there doesn't seem to be anything about trials and also relations between prisoners. I gather that prisoners in Guantanamo are not allowed to communicate with one another, and didn't see anything about this in the Geneva document, but I could easily have missed it.
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Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times:

...Bush wants to expand the reach of the federal death penalty by making it applicable to "domestic terrorism."

Under the Patriot Act, the crime of "domestic terrorism" couldn't be more broadly written. Any criminal act intended to influence the government through "intimidation or coercion" involving "dangerous acts" qualifies. Aggressive protesters of all stripes from Greenpeace activists to abortion foes could easily fall within this definition, opening the door for politically motivated executions.

Bush also wants the death penalty for those convicted of providing "material support for terrorism," a law that can be violated even when people think they are giving money to a charity and don't know the group is a designated terrorist organization.

While Bush is working to undo more of our liberty, there are bipartisan efforts in Congress pushing back. Perhaps the most promising is the "Safety and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act" that would rollback some of the worst excesses of the Patriot Act....


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The ACLU is running a campaign to counter this: http://www.aclu.org/NationalSecurity/NationalSecurity.cfm?ID=15502&c=24

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4.16.2004

Bush press conference, cut down for size. Pass it on.

http://www.criticalviewer.com/archives/000057.html
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4.13.2004

Lately I've been plowing through various law books, some written by people I admire, others by people I intend to combat. The latter camp includes Richard Posner, a U Chicago law prof and seventh circuit appelate judge. He is best known for his work in the law and economics movement, which looks at the law in economic terms like 'wealth maximization'. A respected conservative, he is a good source for the kinds of arguments that I will attempt to refute in my constitutional law studies. At the moment, he's gotten me thinknig about the legal underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, which he discusses in an essay called "Top-Down and Bottom-Up Reasoning" in Overcoming Law.

Posner discusses various legal couchings for the Roe decision, which he calls the "Wandering Jew of consitutional law" (!). He opens by stating that Roe's original home lay in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states that one cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. This is problemmatic, he says, because of the due process clause's history as the basis of both the Dred Scott and Lochner decisions, the first of which declared that a slave was property and therefore could never be a citizen, and the second which declared that the state could not interfere with the liberty of a worker to contract with an employer, even if that contract produced unsafe working conditions. This and the fact that the clause is buried deep in the text of the 5th Amendment is enough for Posner to feel free to dispose of it.

Next, he cites the 9th Amendment, which states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This amendment tends to be avoided, as it might give the courts a "blank check" to rule on rights not to be infringed by the government. So that one's too vague, he says.

Next comes the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which has been used to argue that laws against abortion target women and not men, thus resulting in unequal treatment before the law. Such treatment can be upheld through the proof of a substantial government interest, which brings us to the root of the matter, that is, whether a fetus is a legal person, a member of the community with a right to legal protection equalling that of any other member.

I hold that a fetus is not a legal person. However, even if the courts or the legislature were to find otherwise, I think that rights to abortion can be preserved. In no other instance (that I can think of, and this is a continuing process) does the government force two people to associate with each other, even in the case that one depends on the other for survival. If a fetus is a person, and the government is keen to protect it, then the government must assume responsibility for its welfare, and not force the woman to care for it. If the fetus is unable to survive outside the woman's body, that does not amount to the woman committing murder for refusing to support it inside of her body. Of course, if you can enforce control over what is inside of a woman's body, you control the body itself. To what lengths will the government go to 'protect' the fetus? Perhaps pregnant woman should be forced to regulate their diets in certain ways, or not work or leave the house?

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Posner claims that "most of the academic brainpower is on the pro-abortion side. Not because that side is inehrently stronger, but because the material interests of highly educated women are served by abortion rights, and academics are either highly educated women or the spouses, friends, and professional colleagues of such women." So Posner thinks that the only reason that legions of moral and political philosophers (including heavyweights Rawls and Dworkin) have written in support of abortion rights is that they are associated with educated women who wish to defend their material interests. The only motive that a woman might have for seeking an abortion, according to Posner, is that having a child might inconvenience her materialistic existence. An argument left couched in these terms would be hard to beat. But I disagree with this formulation of the quesiton. A person's right to control his or her body is not a matter of convenience, but one of the basic tenants of liberty.
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