Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Across the Nation, Parents and Teens are Taking Action

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on a high school in Mullica Hill, NJ, that is drawing criticism from concerned parents over their peer-education sex ed program. These parents have organized and even created a Web site for parents to sign a petition and get a look at the “very graphic” curriculum their teens are being subjected to. Some of the “disturbing” material chosen for its particularly lurid content, includes information on things that kids don’t know about (masturbation), things they should never know exist (condoms) and things they should never consider (tolerance of the LGBT community).

Depressing and intolerant as that may seem, students and parents in other communities are taking positive steps toward education, such as a group of teens in Utah who lobbied their senators for full disclosure in sex ed.

In addition, not all parents are as reactionary as those few in Mullica Hill, NJ. In fact, some open-minded and involved parents are becoming advocates themselves, such as a group of parents in Pittsburgh who have started a petition for comprehensive sex ed. They are supported in their efforts by the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In a warmer part of the country, Palm Beach County, FL, has realized that abstinence-only programming won’t help their state’s teen pregnancy woes; they are set to enact in April a sex-ed curriculum that teaches sixth graders about STD’s and seventh graders about condoms.

Peer education is taking off on the West Coast as well. In the San Fernando Valley, one program, Promoting Alternatives for Teen Health, is a peer-to-peer curriculum aimed mainly at poor Latinos. I wonder if the concerned New Jersey parents could look at the grim statistics on HIV infections and pregnancy rates amongst these teens and still insist they shouldn’t learn about condoms.

Another grim reason for increased sex education: unprotected oral sex may be more dangerous than originally thought. A recent study links unprotected oral sex to certain dangerous side-effects, including some rare throat and mouth cancers that previously were seen mainly in older heavy smokers. We can therefore expect to see such anomalous cancers in youth become more common if abstinence-only programs continue to preach a message where sex is shrouded in mystery and protection is never discussed.

Marshall at Duvall

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats.

Yesterday Lauri posted a link to a fearmongering video on FISA put together by, uh, some fearmongerers. Crooks and Liars has created an answer. (h/t Daily Kos)

Andy in Harrisburg

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Friday, February 22, 2008

ID folks lose another battle. And don't censor the bloggers

Wow. Is anybody else a little freaked out by the fact that Republicans want Jack Bauer to water board House Democrats? I just think that's going a little too far. And it seems everybody can't stop talking about that controversial article yesterday in the New York Times. You know the one I mean. Poor Ashton Kutcher. Having to call all up all those A-list guests like Madonna and Salma Hayek and tell them they needed to get Hepatitis shots? That must have really bummed out his birthday party.

So, perhaps I can be forgiven if a few stories may have escaped my attention.

So ... scientists in Florida are cautiously celebrating over the state Board of Education's changes earlier this week to its education curriculum. For the first time, the teaching of evolution is spelled out in Florida's science standards. Anti-evolutionists had hoped to take advantage of the revamping of the curriculum and had been leading a campaign to champion the latest incarnation of intelligent design. Since Dover, pro-ID groups have been pushing for their latest attack on the teaching of evolution - what is often referred to as "critical analysis" or "teach the controversy." The ploys are designed to raise doubt about the legitimacy of evolution and create opportunities to force creationist talking points into the classroom.

From the Sun-Sentinel:
The standards state that evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." That statement rankled opponents, some of whom had urged the board to add an academic freedom provision that would have allowed teachers to "engage students in a critical analysis of that evidence.

After a lengthy battle, the board rejected the ploy. Instead, it voted to include the words "theory of" in front of references to evolution as a concession to one of the board's vehement opponents to the standards. Yes, yes, we all know evolution is a scientific theory, so there is no harm to the truth. But some educators are a little concerned that the word theory will be used as a wedge by those who know so little about science - this level of ignorance continues to astound me - that they believe a scientific theory is merely a hunch.

Also, MSM take note: Here's an interesting article in the Guardian on what happens when the courts, ruling in the interests of a corporation, step on the First Amendment rights of the blogosphere.

Last week, Swiss-based Bank Julius Baer obtained a court order to stop the anonymously run website Wikileaks from posting internal company documents that purported to show the bank's Cayman Islands branch involved in money laundering and tax evasion. But the court order went even further, demanding that the entire website, which be shut down. (Wikileaks publishes leaked documents that often prove incriminating for governments and corporations.)

But the shutdown order backfired as bloggers rushed to Wikileaks' defense, posting the very documents the bank was working to suppress. The Guardian article says, "mirror copies of the website sprouted like weeds."

"Clearly, the court and Bank Julius Baer underestimated the ingenuity of the web development community," the whistleblower protection group Project on Government Oversight wrote on its blog.

What makes this case especially interesting is that much of the Internet remains unexplored territory for issues like libel, privacy and even prior restraint. It will be interesting to watch how the courts handle these kinds of cases over the next several years.

Lauri in York

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oral Sex: The New Frontier

Although arguably more intimate than vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex is the new third and a half base. To put off taking their relationship to the next level and all of its risky consequences – including pregnancy and STDs – teens are giving their male partners blow jobs and eating out their female partners like it’s no big deal. Unfortunately, they do not realize that these behaviors can also lead to some unwanted party favors.

Between 1973 and 2004, the rate of HPV-related oral cancers among people in their 40s has almost doubled, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. By “bathing [their throats] with HPV-infected fluid” – possibly THE BEST description of oral sex, I might add – Dr. Bernadine Healy implies that teens are significantly increasing their chances of developing cancer in their tonsils and at the base of their tongues. This is based on the idea that the number of teens engaging in oral sex has significantly increased in recent years. However, sexperts at Guttmacher and SIECUS argue that this might be a misconception: it’s possible that this much oral masturbation has been around for a long time, but teens have just kept it to themselves. Regardless, it is known that rates of STDs are on the rise, and we must protect our youth.

According to Dr. Healy, the solution is simple: scare the beep out of them. In a recent U.S. News and World Report posting, Dr. Healy states that “providing our young people with graphic medical information and stern parental and medical guidance is long overdue.” That’s right, show them gruesome pictures of the worst cases of pharyngeal gonorrhea and oropharyngeal cancer ever documented and then try to convince them that this could happen to them. On top of that, have their parents remind them to abstain from any and all sexual activity, including oral sex, every time they leave their house. Right, that should totally work…

Wrong. As we all know, the scare tactics used by abstinence programs don’t work. Teens look at pictures of mouths, eyes, vaginas and penises with hideous blisters, patches of irritated skin, enflamed lumps, leaky pustules – well, you get the picture – and cannot conceive of the fact that their bodies would ever look like that after a few hookups. Although they need to be aware of the risks, it is more important to empower children to practice safe sex.

Also, what kid listens to everything their parents say? I mean, how many of you did things just because your parents told you not to, especially when their only explanation for not taking part in something seemingly fun was “Because it’s dangerous.” Does not the term adolescent refer to a developmental stage during which humans engage in rebellious acts? All hope it not lost, however; children do listen to their parents, but only when parents are truly willing to talk to them about things. Healy’s “stern guidance” is not the answer.

While Dr. Healy acknowledges that teaching safe sex is important, the doctor fails to recognize some of the less obvious downfalls of close-but-not-quite comprehensive sexuality education. The answer truly is a combination of comprehensive sexuality education for both parents and teens, including how to engage in open conversations regarding sexuality. Although some adults in positions of power do not know this, teens everywhere are beginning to fight the good fight. Just this week, junior high school students in Utah were lobbying lawmakers for better sex education. Because their parents know so little, they need teachers to tell them “how to have protected sex.” If children can understand that they will at some point need to know how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy, why can’t lawmakers?

Stephanie at Duvall

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Admit it. That was no doubt your first thought when you poked your head out from under the covers this morning, wasn't it? The Heritage Foundation's doomsday clock has been ticking for 15 hours, 12 min., 12 sec. (No. 32 sec...55 sec.! Oh God! Hold me!) and we've not yet been attacked.

Ah ha! Proof of an intelligent designer!

Because certainly, there can be no other explanation, which you know because, if you're like me, you had a discussion this past weekend with some family members, who shook their heads and moaned the danger we now face because of those soft-on-terror Democrats.

When you tried to explain to them that the fact that the Democrats have finally exhibited a spine and refused to give in immediately to the carte blanche demands of the Bush Administration's blanket immunity to the telecoms does not mean that we have handed over all weapons in the war on terror, these are also the same family members who suddenly turn blank faced and whimper, "It's all so complicated. I just don't know who to believe!" And then they inevitably follow up with such gems as, "But shouldn't we be willing to trust our government?" and "If people have nothing to hide, why should they care?"

So, when Uncle Mel starts to shake his head and pout the next time the subject of illegal wiretapping comes up (Just can't keep your mouth shut, can you?) send along this easy-to-understand video designed to make the complicated sound simple for even the least astute of your family relatives. Look Auntie Anna, it's a cartoon! With snuggly talking bears! (Warning: The viewer must be able to understand the concept of irony.)

Lauri in York

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Friday, February 15, 2008

This will be a day long remembered: House Ds stand up to Bush

The president has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA.

But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity.

No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the president at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies. --Senator Edward Kennedy

Finally, finally, finally. Like an abused spouse who finally says, "Enough," the House Democrats stood up to the fearmongers at the White House and went on a ten-day recess without approving a FISA modification bill. The bill that the White House wants would allow surveillance to take place without a court order and would grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies. As a result, the temporary Police America Act will expire tomorrow.

Glenn Greenwald has coverage here, and Daily Kos has coverage here and here.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

U.S. Senate does something right. Don't get used to it.

It wasn't all doom-and-gloom this week in Washington. Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed a bill to require the CIA to use the Army Field Manual as its guide on interrogations, effectively banning waterboarding. Senator Casey voted for the bill, Senators Specter and McCain- a victim of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese- voted against it, and Senators Clinton and Obama did not vote.

The bill passed, 51-45, but faces a veto threat from the Emperor, errr, the President.

Wait, wait, for the last year, I could have sworn it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate. (/snark)

Andy in Harrisburg

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A plague on both their houses: Senate Republicans, Democrats assault Constitution, pass bad FISA bill

Updated and bumped, Thursday at 10:50am: Good segment on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night featuring Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.

Turley: "The Senate is actively working with the White House to cover up a crime." Ouch.

Amnesty for mega-corporations and surveillance without a court order carried the day yesterday in the Democrat-led Senate. A majority of senators from both parties, who take an oath to uphold the Constitution when they are sworn into office, voted down all amendments that would have brought the FISA bill into line with that pesky ol' Fourth Amendment and would have held rich telecom companies responsible for breaking the law.

As we poke through the smoldering ruins, the burning question is, "How did Specter, Casey, and the three senators running for president vote?" Here's the breakdown:

The Dodd amendment: To strip telecom amnesty from the bill
Yeas: Casey, Obama
Nays: Specter, McCain
Not voting: Clinton
Failed, 31-67

Feingold-Dodd amendment: Ban on bulk collection, require individual court orders
Yeas: Casey, Obama
Nays: Specter, McCain
Not voting: Clinton
Failed, 37-60

Feingold-Webb-Tester amendment: Require a court order if the government knows one person is in the U.S., unless it is an emergency or a known terrorist
Yeas: Casey, Obama
Nays: Specter, McCain
Not voting: Clinton
Failed, 35-63

Final passage
Yeas: Specter, Casey, McCain
Not voting: Clinton, Obama
Passed, 68-29

Glenn Greenwald has more:
It's worth taking a step back and recalling that all of this is the result of the December, 2005 story by the New York Times which first reported that the Bush administration was illegally spying on Americans for many years without warrants of any kind. All sorts of "controversy" erupted from that story. Democrats everywhere expressed dramatic, unbridled outrage, vowing that this would not stand. James Risen and Eric Lichtblau were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for exposing this serious lawbreaking. All sorts of Committees were formed, papers written, speeches given, conferences convened, and editorials published to denounce this extreme abuse of presidential power. This was illegality and corruption at the highest level of government, on the grandest scale, and of the most transparent strain.

What was the outcome of all of that sturm und drang? What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing.

Now the ball is in the House's court, which is dealing with it today.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Are you pre-pregnant? Read this!

To any who would cry foul at the idea that sexism is still alive and well today, I would point to the latest tactics of th so-called “pro-life” movement. By shifting the attention to the fetus, they are trying to drive home the fact that the woman has, since conception, become a mere vessel for the child. Her life becomes secondary to that of the fetus she is now carrying. In fact, regulations by the CDC suggest that all women should consider themselves “pre-pregnant,” basically preparing her body, or baby factory, to be ready at all times to be taken over, her will or consent notwithstanding, by pregnancy.

Well, as a pre-pregnant female, I now spend my days crocheting baby booties and reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting (In The Next 10-20 Years) and signing up for Google alerts on fetal health, which is how this article found its way to my hands.

The author, Annie Murphy Paul, writes about recent developments in our understanding of fetal pain, namely, that it’s controversial. The article begins by citing how treatment of premature infants has changed since experiments measuring infant stress levels show that levels are significantly lower when they have been administered anesthesia.

Many leading scientists caution, however, that the way they measure pain is an imperfect science. We can never compare the way a fully developed human process brain signals to the way a fetus might. After all, as one scientist cautioned, “A fetus is not a baby who just hasn’t been born yet.”

But, of course, hanging over neonatal health developments is the specter of the pro-life movement, which appears to have latched on to this new and controversial science like a dog to a bone. While some scientists have decided that fetal pain, as much as we can understand it, develops at 20 weeks, others insist that it occurs “relatively late” in the pregnancy. Opponents to this “pain at 20 weeks” idea call such a concept “a shoddy, sentimental argument.”

Yet, shoddy and sentimental is just the kind of science the conservatives in Congress love. After all, need we reminisce long on Bill Frist’s air-tight diagnosis of Terri Schiavo from hundreds of miles away? Already, states, as well as the U.S. senate, have introduced legislation that, before an abortion, requires the doctor tell his patient the fetus can feel pain and offer (or require) the administration of anesthesia for the fetus.

The message from the Right is clear: the pain they are worried about is not the woman’s. The life they are worried about is not the woman’s. Hijacking science, they are trying to alter society’s perceptions of the fetus in dangerous ways.

Marshall Bright is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and an intern at the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, ACLU of Pennsylvania


Laughter is the best medicine

Ashcroft: Bush is "most respectful" ever of civil liberties

More from St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Bush "respects liberty so profoundly that he has protected it and has safeguarded civil liberties more than any other president in wartime that I know of,'' Ashcroft said.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Making Condoms Cool

Do you ever think, “Wow, I wish I was that cool in middle school”? Usually, I get that feeling when watching something like Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. I mean, have you seen that girl’s closet?

No, for me, middle school was a lot of time spent in Dr. Watlington’s office having my braces tightened (torture chamber for teeth) and a lot time spent hiding in bathrooms during “dances” (torture chambers for hormones). In few words, I was not very cool.

So I experienced an immediate sense of jealousy when I read about two teenagers - nay, middle schoolers- who were suspended for protesting their school’s abstinence-only “sex ed” program. And while my middle school protest against horrible abstinence-only programming was to swipe a bunch of virginity pledge cards from the classroom, these girls had the courage to put themselves in the direct line of fire.

Earlier this week, Tori Shoemaker and Cheyenne Byrd donned home-made shirts that read “Safe Sex or No Sex” and went into school, teaching their classmates more about safe sex than their school’s curriculum. And, naturally, they were suspended, because, as one school official said, the shirts were a “distraction.”

Teaching safe sex practices to middle schoolers is a testy subject. After all, Middle School is split between the girls who can and can’t wear denim miniskirts. I was not a girl who owned a denim miniskirt, but there were plenty of them in my class – and the boys noticed them. As unpleasant as it is, middle schoolers, yes, those youth who only a year ago professed their undying love for Hannah Montana, are having sex.

But what do you do? This problem confronted my alma mater, an all-girls school grades 6-12 when I was a student there. When they were redesigning (thank goodness) the horrible sex-“ed” curriculum I endured, they ran into the problem of explaining sex to those less mature girls in the class, for whom those lessons are not yet applicable.

Simple. Herd all the eighth graders in a room, weed them out by skirt length, and send the girls like me away, clutching our copies of Harry Potter under our arms, then keep everyone else there for a sex lesson. No, that’s a horrible idea.

Sex ed in Middle Schools isn’t just for the kids who need it now. It’s for the kids who will need it later. A study by the Guttmacher Institute states that many teens receiving sex education are getting it too late. WE HAVE TO CATCH THESE KIDS EARLY.
The Guttmacher Institute figured it out. Two eighth graders figured it out. You can’t just slide sex-ed into a high school curriculum midway through the year and hope you only missed a few. Sex ed has to start early. Because the kids who don’t need it in middle school become the kids who learn about it too late in high school, or not at all.

Marshall Bright is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and an intern at the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, ACLU of Pennsylvania

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An open letter to David Zeeck, Executive Editor of The (Tacoma) News Tribune

Dear Mr. Zeeck:

I don't know all the requirements that go into being the executive editor of such an esteemed paper as The News Tribune, but I would think a basic understanding of the principles on which this nation was founded would be one of them.

Alas, that is evidently not the case. I write this regarding your recent arm-twisting directive to your newsroom staff that they are not to participate in Washington State's political primaries and caucuses.
Because both parties have real contests for their presidential nominations, and because Washington is the only Northwest state with an early primary, Washingtonians who vote in the primary or participate in caucuses here might actually have an impact on the nomination in one or both parties.

We'll cover the party caucuses and the primary votes with interest, but we're asking our news staff not to participate in either.

We have no restrictions on staffers voting in general or special elections. We ask them to check their preferences and biases at the door of the newsroom. But they're citizens, too, and we encourage them to exercise their rights in picking candidates and voting for or against ballot measures in open elections conducted by secret ballot.

But caucuses and party primaries aren't general elections – they're activities of political parties. One has to record allegiance to one party to participate. The caucuses and the primaries are set up for party members to decide who will represent the party in elections to follow or for party members to demonstrate who they favor.

We ask our newsroom staff not to participate in any party activities. For anyone covering anything even remotely political or for any supervising editor in the newsroom, participation in caucuses or primaries is prohibited.

Now, the issue is being discussed at other newspapers across the country. Should reporters vote? In all fairness, that's a legitimate matter of debate. But unfortunately, most of those folks weighing in on the issue are missing one very important point: Does your employer, does anyone, have the right to dictate your right to vote?

I am not a civil-rights lawyer, so I can't say whether or not this is legally defensible. But I can say, as a journalist, it's certainly not morally defensible.

I realize that you sent that memo for only the noblest of reasons: to limit, as you say, the "perception of bias." But I'm afraid your position stems from an utter ridiculous misunderstanding of objectivity. If journalists are doing their jobs, they're the best able to cast an informed vote. Yet, we're supposed to pretend we have no thoughts, opinions, knowledge, of the issues that we are supposed to devote ourselves to studying. That we are merely sponges that soak up information and wring it back out of ourselves, leaving us dry and unchanged.

And while I realize that journalists have to make some concessions, telling them that they may not participate in the selection of this nation's next leader in order to somehow create the appearance that they are neutral is both absurd and, with everything that has happened in the past eight years, obscene and represents so much of what is wrong with newspapers today.

That being said, I draw your attention to a terrific little book you might want to read: The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Seriously, you should read it.

There's actually a great passage in which the authors explain that when Walter Lippman coined the phrase "objectivity" in the 1920s, he wasn't saying that journalists didn't have opinions. Rather, he was calling on a unity of method, a way of setting aside our biases to get to the truth. Objectivity was never supposed to apply to the journalist, it was supposed to apply to the news gathering process.

Basically, he was saying that objectivity is the reporter's version of the scientific method. How cool is that?

But anyway, back to your mandate, in your column you wrote:
To be a journalist at The News Tribune, one surrenders some privileges.

Ummm, this privilege you speak of? Are you saying the rights of citizenship is something you get to dictate? I think that's what you're saying. May I point out to you the words of the 15th Amendment?
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Or how about the 19th Amendment?
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

See that? A right, not a privilege.

Oh yes, almost forgot, about your argument that these are the primaries of political parties. Employees may still, as you so generously wrote in your memo, participate in the general election. Let me clue you in on something, because I don't think you understand how these things work, for many people who live in areas heavily dominated by one or another party, voting in the primary is often the only opportunity to choose their elected representative.

See, sometimes the political battle is decided in the primary. By the time the general election comes around, the contest has already been decided. In York County, I know many people (and for years, I was one of them) who register Republican in order to have a voice in the outcome of the local elections.

Mr. Zeeck, you also write that "It seems to us a small price to limit the perception of bias by staffers."

A small price? You really think so? Wow. Because, even as I think about it, it's more than a right. It's a solemn responsibility based on our system of representational democracy.

Since my sons were old enough to walk, I would take them into the voting booth to watch me participate in this sacred act. Behind the pulled curtain, I explained to them that by pulling this lever, I am saying that my voice matters. And that we all have a voice. It's a beautiful concept. And, I hope you know this, it's not one that exists in all countries.

I told my sons of those who stood up to men who would deny people their voice, of the people who were beaten with clubs and faced attacking dogs, who were humiliated, beaten, tortured, murdered, because they believed that the words of our founding fathers applied to all citizens.

I told them of how less than 100 years ago, their mother wouldn't have been standing in this voting booth – solely because I was a woman. And I told them of all the brave women who stood up to violence and dreadful slander, who made it possible for me to be here, who believed that we also had a right to choose our nation's leaders.

I told my sons that when they were old enough to vote, they would not disrespect the sacrifices made by these people. They would not shame this nation's history with apathy, or disinterest, or because they believed their voice didn't matter. They are now men in their 20s. On Tuesday, my youngest called me from California giddy with excitement after casting his vote in his first presidential primary.

If you have so little respect for your employees that you feel compelled to step all over their constitutional rights – Hey, it's you who signs the paychecks – at least have more respect for this nation's democratic principles and history.

Lauri from York


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Did Hazleton's lead attorney illegally suppress votes?

This is rich. The story is a little over a month old but needs to be posted. Kris Kobach is the lead attorney for the city of Hazleton in defending itself in our lawsuit challenging their anti-immigrant ordinance as unconstitutional. (That's worked out pretty well for the city.)

Kobach also happens to be the chair of the Kansas Republican Party. It seems around the holidays Señor Kobach sent a gleeful email to GOP supporters in Kansas gloating about the party's success in "caging" voters.
To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!

Caging voters is a ploy in which a party sends registered mail to people asking them to respond to verify their address. If they do not respond, the party then goes to the bureau of elections and challenges the person's voter registration. This is typically used against the poor, minorities, and college students.

Trouble is, it's illegal. Oops. In the 1980s, a consent decree banned this practice.

Apparently, the exact method used impacts the legality of the practice, so we cannot say for sure that the Kansas tactic was illegal. You can find more coverage at Blue Tide Rising, here and here. also has a thorough explanation of caging.

Aaah, it's an election year. And in some corners, it's that special time to keep minorities, the poor, and other marginalized folks away from the ballot box.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mission Creep: Surveillance Society

Once every few months, something new pops in our country's increasing movement toward a surveillance society. Yesterday CNN reported that the FBI has signed a ten-year, $1 billion contract to create a new database of physical characteristics of people.
"Fingerprints will still be the big player," Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told CNN.

But he added, "Whatever the biometric that comes down the road, we need to be able to plug that in and play."

As I read this article, the question I wanted answered was, "Who will be in this database?" Here's the answer:
You don't have to be a criminal or a terrorist to be checked against the database. More than 55 percent of the checks the FBI runs involve criminal background checks for people applying for sensitive jobs in government or jobs working with vulnerable people such as children and the elderly, according to the FBI.

The FBI says it hasn't been saving the fingerprints for those checks, but that may change. The FBI plans a so-called "rap-back" service in which an employer could ask the FBI to keep the prints for an employee on file and let the employer know if the person ever has a brush with the law.

To lift a phrase from our friends at Amnesty International USA, the America I believe in doesn't engage in intrusive surveillance of average Americans.

Andy in Harrisburg


Friday, February 01, 2008

Polite Euphemisms and Other Matters...

I'm recovering from the flu today, so I'm going to keep it short.

Glenn Greenwald has a post on Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and testimony from Attorney General Michael Mukasey. He makes some interesting observations about just how Orwellian things have gotten under this Administration.

Greenwald writes:
The Senators and Mukasey spoke all day long about torture with such dispassion that one would have thought it was nothing more than the latest bureaucratic HUD program. They don't even use the euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques" any more. That phrase has been so normalized that they now all know and use an abbreviation for it -- "EIT." So Senators ask questions about when "EITs" can be used and the Attorney General outlines the elusive formula he applies to determine its legality and all controversy, all passion, all intensity is completely drained out of the discussion in the U.S. Senate of our torture policies. "Torture" is now an EIT Unit.

Lauri in York

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