Archive for category Human Rights

Brawny, Brainy and Funny

The recent events in Ferguson have put a larger spotlight on racism then usual. I ran across this small portion of a 1971 interview with Muhammad Ali.

Ali is a special guy. He was arrogant to a fault, spit in the eye of the military industrial complex, denounced the power structure, religious leanings and bigotry of his country and is beloved by all.

This is why:

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Equal Justice Under the Law – NOT

Ferguson, MO

At the Bundy Ranch standoff, so-called right-wing militia members aimed assault weapons at law enforcement officers. No arrests were made, and Cliven Bundy remains a free man. Last night in Ferguson, Missouri, an overwhelming police force including SWAT teams rampaged through residential streets firing stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. They attacked peaceful, unarmed protesters and arrested reporters. The city never imposed a curfew, which means citizens were supposed to be allowed to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights.

Something is wrong. The media are blaming so-called “homeland security” and the militarization of even small-town police departments, which can buy a surplus MRAP from the Army for only $5,000 even if they don’t need one. Worse than that, there seems to be a trend of police use of deadly force against unarmed suspects – many of whom are being shot multiple times or shot in the back.

More info:
Ferguson Seeks Answers After Police Shooting Of Michael Brown
Does the Second Amendment Only Apply to White People?
Alderman, 2 reporters arrested as Ferguson erupts for 4th night
Did Police Use Excessive Force Against Ferguson Protesters?
Ferguson’s Police Got Free Military Gear Straight From The Pentagon

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the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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None of us should be surprised Wasatch High Officials are a bunch of sexist prudes

I suppose in all fairness, we should probably acknowledge that girls in small town Utah are all sluts. And in digitally altering their photos to make their clothing appear modest, school officials are actually doing them a favor so their slutdom won’t be memorialized. Right? Seriously? Amirite?

The contretemps over Wasatch High School’s decision to alter girls photos has gone national and as with many such stories out of Utah, has served to make the entire state look like a bunch of pearl-clutching prudes. Honestly, school officials should have known there was no way this would turn out well and have not done it in the first.

The free-range morons who run Wasatch High School have defended their decision to edit the photos. Their defense would be hilarious if it weren’t obvious that they’re serious about it. Their argument is that students were warned they should not violate dress code and photos might be edited – and that they feel bad it was inconsistently done. In other words, “Why won’t all you sluts shut up and stop causing trouble?”

The editing involved adding sleaves to sleeveless tops, removing tattoos and adding necklines that the bluenoses think are more fitting. Of course the whole sorry affair is about nothing more than slut-shaming and double standards. It’s about a religious culture that tries to convince girls to cover up lest they inflame male desire. It’s about a cult of modesty that distrusts women and disdains female sexuality. It’s about a double standard that says it’s women’s job to control male sexuality by not doing anything that might possibly make people think women are sexual beings.

That photos of boys weren’t edited at all is no surprise. Of course there’s a double standard at work. Of course it’s sexist. The problem with the girls’ outfits is entirely in the minds of school officials who deemed them too sexy, not in what the girls were wearing or what their tattoos said.

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The Godly Oppressors

Amidst the troubling and problematic trends in recent years has been the tendency of Christian conservatives to self-righteously declare themselves the victims and then support insanely discriminatory laws targeting gay people.

Witness, Kansas’ unfortunate drive to implement Jim Crow:

To put this simply, the Kansas House has just endorsed a comprehensive system of anti-gay discrimination. If it becomes law—which isn’t unlikely, given Republican control of the statehouse and governorship—it will yield a segregated world for gays and their allies, as they are forced to use businesses and other services that aren’t hostile to them.

When asked about the bill, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback toldThe Topeka Capital-Journal that “Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity.” The question is whether he thinks this applies to gays.

Looking at this bill, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a close cousin—if not sibling—of Jim Crow (natch, for black gays and lesbians in the state, there’s little difference). Like its Southern predecessors, this proposal is meant to isolate and stigmatize a despised minority, under of the guise of some higher priority (“religious liberty”).

Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect has this to say about it:

“The sovereign,” as John Paul Stevens observed, “must govern impartially.” This bill is a direct shot at this basic principle of democratic governance. It is bad enough to permit private businesses to discriminate; to allow public officials to discriminate is even worse. As the Daily Beast‘s Jamelle Bouie puts it, “[a]mbulances can refuse to come to the home of a gay couple, park managers can deny them entry, state hospitals can turn them away, and public welfare agencies can decline to work with them.” Allowing state officials to deny services to same-sex couples is about as stark a designation of second-class citizenship as one can imagine short of bringing back George Wallace to deny gays and lesbians access to the University of Kansas.[snip]

The pretext for this rollback of civil rights is the protection of religious freedom. But the Kansas law makes clear how hollow and dangerous such arguments are. It’s worth noting here that we’re talking about secular businesses and state officials. Acting as individuals, people are free for religious (or any other reason) not to associate with same-sex couples or support same-sex marriage. But—whether motivated by religious belief or not—homophobic beliefs cannot trump the rights of people to use public accommodations on equal terms. These arguments were bad when they were used to oppose civil-rights legislation to protect African-Americans and women, and they’re no better in this context. For state officials to be permitted to deny services to citizens based on private religious beliefs is simply unconscionable.

Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly:

You don’t have to completely buy the Jim Crow analogy to understand that this legislation—a logical extension from the claims made for blanket exemptions for religious-based objections to laws in the Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby case on which the Supreme Court will hear arguments next month—is designed to carve out a separatist zone of immunity for people who are willing to say their hostility to homosexuality or to same-sex marriage is religiously motivated.  The fact that even public employees would share this immunity shows that it isn’t designed to protect a tiny group of wedding planners or cake-bakers from the horror of being expected to peddle their services to same-sex couples—the hypothetical on which much of the “religious liberty” argument is being pegged—but to sanction discrimination generally.

The bottom line – despite all the hue and cry about religious freedom – is that these laws exist for the sole purpose of humiliating, shaming, harming, and stigmatizing gay and lesbian persons.  The people supporting and passing them are emotional and moral infants, squawling at a world that terrifies them.

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Gay Folks Are Going to the chapel, gonna get married . . . IN UTAH!

Take a minute to scroll through the pictures in this article from the Deseret News – the photos of Matt Barraza and Tony Milner were taken in my home congregation, Holladay United Church of Christ.  Our pastor, Tom Nordberg, has been with us exactly two weeks and this is the first wedding he’s performed in our congregation.  A legal, same sex wedding in Utah in a church by an honest to God real live ordained minister.  I  never thought I’d see it.  But I was there watching it.  This thing really happened.

There’s a petition at Move On urging the governor to let the Judge’s ruling stand.  Please take a minute and sign it.

If you want to get married in Utah, do it now.  I’m hearing that some county clerk’s offices are open today – call and find out and get down there and get married!

 

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Utah’s First Gay Married Couple (updated)

 

Looks like the honor goes to:

Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson

“Our application for a marriage license was just accepted by the state of Utah,” Ferguson wrote on his Facebook wall.

Saw this on KSL a couple minutes ago:

Within hours, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed that, in light of the ruling, he saw no reason to prohibit Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We’ve advised Sherrie Swensen that she should proceed — as of right now … she should be processing those applications like she would of anyone else,” Gill said around 3 p.m. “As of right now, if somebody gets in line and applies, there is no prohibition against it as a matter of law right now.”

Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#Qsfmk0VPCiOWHtut.99

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Amendment 3

I’m stunned.

A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”

And amazed:

“Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same- sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law,” the judge wrote. “The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.” Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#JEOfBdYmOobFv7r6.99

Apparently the judge didn’t stay the order which means . . . .

“A federal district court judge in Utah just issued a decision striking down Utah’s marriage ban on the grounds that it violates the fundamental right to marry and lacks even a rational basis. This is the first decision since Perry–and the first after Windsor–striking down a marriage ban under the federal constitution. The judge did not stay his decision, so same-sex couples in Utah are applying for marriage licenses now.”

I don’t think anybody saw this one coming.

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Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws?

Are conservative Christians harmed by compliance with nondiscrimination laws?   It’s a more complex question than it appears at first blush.

I’m glad I don’t have to adjudicate any of these cases.  Like people who want to ban books, conservative Christians who raise objections to non-discrimination laws as they apply to glbt persons are acting from a place of good intent, even if I disagree with their conclusions.  Book banners want to protect children from ideas they believe children aren’t ready to deal with; conservative Christians who object to complying with nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious freedom perceive themselves as the aggrieved party being asked to violate their conscience.

US law has long recognized the right of individuals to request exemptions from certain laws and practices based on questions of conscience and religious faith.  As I understand it, Quakers are not exempt military service, they are however exempt from participating as combatants.  A number of years ago, I helped a friend draft a statment requesting status as a conscientious objector and be granted exemption from combat duty (he was a veteran and member of the reserves at the time).  His statement was lengthy, thoughtful and carefully written; he was granted conscientious objector status and ultimately was not recalled to active duty.

US law has, also, long recognzied the right of individuals to be free from discrimination in the public square, which includes small businesses which are public accommodations.  Businesses are public accommodations, which means they are subject to generally applicable laws and those signs that many small businesses post that read “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” should have a huge asterisk that qualifies that statement.  You can’t legally refuse to serve someone because of their race, gender, religion, national origin and so on.  Increasingly, that list includes real or perceived sexual orientation.  To put it in simple terms, business owners have to make business decisions for business reasons not from animus toward a group of persons.

As more US cities, counties and states adopt nondiscrimination laws covering sexual and gender minorities, and as more states legalize same-sex marriage, I believe there are going to be more cases like that of Elane Photography and Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which small business owners seek exemption from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections.

What happened in these cases is instructive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nelson Mandela Died Today

Nelson Mandela:

Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, the civil rights activist would become the linchpin in South Africans’ move to end the country’s notorious apartheid regime. The impact of his efforts — to reconcile generosity with pragmatism and to find the common ground between humanity’s higher values and his own aspiration to power, as journalist John Carlin once described them — would ultimately reach well beyond South Africa’s borders, and earn him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend the book Mandela’s Way.

 

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Pope Francis: Don’t Believe ‘Trickle-Down Theories’

Pope Francis

h/t DSWright on Firedoglake

The most inspiring Pontiff since John Paul II has done it again. Pope Francis has issued a rigorous and comprehensive denunciation of trickle-down economics, the long-discredited theory that the best way to aid poor people is through policies that help the rich get richer.

Called his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) makes clear that Pope Francis regards modern capitalism and the political movement promoting it to be antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.

Among other things, Pope Francis wrote (emphasis added):

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Apostolic exhortations like Evangelii Gaudium are basically calls to carry out existing Church teachings, so in many ways there’s nothing unique about the sentiments expressed in the document. Roman Catholics grew up on stories like Jesus’ admonition that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-26).

UPDATE: How To Use The Pope’s Agenda To Make The World More Equal

How do we ensure that the Pope’s shift in focus to inequality and the well-being of the poor becomes a focus of actual politics and not just a bunch of nice words that make us feel like our philosophical principles got a nod from the Big Guy?

UPDATE: Obama cites Pope Francis to attack income inequality and call for minimum wage increase

“The combined trends of increasing inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream,” Obama said.

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