Archive for September, 2006

Gitmo Lawyer Threatened

28 September 2006

A lawyer for several inmates at Gunatanamo Bay is being threatened with imprisonment due to accusatins that he encouraged prisoners to commit suicide, according to Reporters Without Borders. This is odd because the people he apparently encouraged to commit suicide are people he does not so much as know the names of. Of course, it is impossible that the harsh conditions and lack of fair trial at Guantanamo Bay could have contributed to those inmates’ decisions.

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Public Expression of Religion Act

27 September 2006

The Public Expression of Religion Act would actually make it more difficult to challenge threats to freedom of or from religion, according to the ACLU. It would prevent individuals who went to court to protect their freedom of religion rights from recovering attorney’s fees, regardless of whether or not they won. That means that if someone’s rights were violated and they went to court to challenge it, and won the court case, they would have to pay the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to do so themselves.

Supporters of the bill have apparently suggested that if the bill is not passed, religious markers at military cemeteries would be threatened. Those markers, however, are constitutional and protected.

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SWIFT Without Checks or Balances

26 September 2006

The SWIFT program, which “monitors” people’s financial transactions, was never operated with checks and balances (ha), but it has now come to light that the company that was supposed to be providing the check to the government’s power was not exactly a unbiased group, according to the ACLU. “Booz Allen” was supposed to supervise the program, but its leadership is entwined with US security agencies. First, it is highly dependent on military contracts. It also was involved with the Total Information Awareness office, and its staff includes a former head of the CIA as well as a former head of the NSA.

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School Buses in Louisiana

25 September 2006

School bus driver Dolores Davis of Coushatta, Louisiana is facing termination due to her seating arrangements on her bus, according to News of the Weird, which she insists were “just a coincidence.” She had decided to assign seats on the bus, and it just so happens that all nine black kids were placed in the back two rows of the bus while the white kids were seated up front. She insists that she is not a racist.

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Canadian Imprisoned, Tortured for a Year

24 September 2006

“If ever there were a case that should turn the public against the Bush Administration’s push for broader powers to suspend due process and continue to torture terror suspects, it is the story of Maher Arar, a Canadian computer engineer who found himself caught up in post-9-11 law enforcement paranoia.” (The Progressive) He was swept into Bush’s “rendition” program, the one that Bush is concerned may have to end if decent human rights legislation is passed, and spent a year being tortured in Syria.

Apparently Arar met briefly with a man who was under surveillance as a possible terrorist, regarding the purchase of ink jet printer cartridges. Both the Canadians and the Syrians have determined that he is not a terrorist, but the US has refused to cooperate with the investigation. Nonetheless, he was taken to Syria for a year without the US notifying his family or the Canadian consulate. “It’s hard to imagine the panic his family must have felt, or the surreal horror of his ordeal.” (The Progressive)

The Bush administration has refused to comment on Arar’s case.

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Prisoner Deal Contradicts Itself

23 September 2006

Although the new detainee treatment legislation would create new legal requirements regarding the interrogation of prisoners, it would also prohibit courts from enforcing them, according to the New York Times. Ironically, while it would give additional rights to terrorist leaders, minor suspects would not be able to challenge their detentions under the bill, detentions which could last their entire lives. Some of those people came into US custody through bounty hunters.

There is no guarantee that the roughly 430 people at Guantanamo Bay will ever be tried.

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22 September 2006

OneWebDay, a celebration starting this year that will occur on September 22nd every year, is apparently about what the internet means to individuals, communities, etc. Since Senator Ted Stevens will probably not be posting to his blog about what the internet means to him, I’m letting people know about his views.

Some background: Ted Stevens is against net neutrality. If you are not familiar with this issue, there is information about it at Save the Internet. If you are familiar with the issue and Ted Stevens’ views on it and think it’s old already, I’m sorry.

Ted Stevens has some interesting views about the internet, he sees it a lot differently from the rest of us. For instance, he has realized what the internet is not: it is not “a big truck.” What is it, then, if not a truck? He has the answer to that as well: it is “a series of tubes.” Really big tubes, one would assume.

Senator Stevens has an explanation of how these tubes operate: “those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.” And so “ten movies streaming across that, that internet, and what happens to your own personal internet?” Well obviously this could cause some problems for one’s personal internet, such as his. “An internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why?” Because some people were clogging these massive tubes with their ten streaming movies. What is the solution to this, you ask. Well, there are two options. We could make those movies more streamlined, so that they would take up less space and allow other, smaller internets to pass. Alternatively, we could allow big companies to pay Providers of Internets to make their internets go faster through these tubes, maybe even give their internets their own personal tubes.

How do others feel about Senator Stevens’ views on the internet? Jon Stewart feels negatively. “Maybe it’s because you don’t seem to know jack sh*t about computers or the Internet — but that’s okay — you’re just the guy in charge of regulating it.”

The term “series of tubes” also has its own Wikipedia article.

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Immigration Bills Threaten Civil Liberties

21 September 2006

Two anti-immigration laws, H.R. 6094, the Community Protection Act, and H.R. 6095, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act, pose a threat to the civil liberties of both immigrants and Americans with citizenship, according to the ACLU. Both of them are being voted on today.

The Community Protection Act would expand the practice of indefinite detention, even though the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the practice raises constitutional issues. The Immigration Law Enforcement Act would allow low-level immigration officials to deport people instead of judges. Even the current deportation system has resulted in deportation of genuine refugees and U.S. citizens, so an expansion of that practice would likely not be helpful.

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Ohio Trying to Dismiss Voting Issues

20 September 2006

The State of Ohio is trying to dismiss concerns about the 2004 voting system and problems associated with it, according to the EFF. Many voters reported that the machines did not allow them to vote for who they wanted to and there were extremely long lines at polling sites. Ohio is apparently blaming the problems on poll workers.

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Parolee Practices Religion at Direction of Government

19 September 2006

First, William Stanley’s release was delayed three months, according to the ACLU. Apparently West Virginia has a prohibition on cohabitation if you’re unmarried (no joke), and since he had been planning on moving in with his fiancée, he couldn’t leave.

Then, he was placed in the Union Mission, where he attended religious classes and had to go to an approved church. “Being forced by the government to practice a religion is the antithesis of what it means to be an American,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the West Virginian branch of the ACLU.

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