Category: Law

You can’t be a proper gun nut unless you protect stalkers – even gay stalkers!

The NRA has sent an email to congress, denouncing Senate Bill S.1290 proposed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, because it could apply to same-sex couples – even unmarried couples.

…The bill would amend the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to revise the definition of “intimate partner” to include a “dating partner and any other person similarly situated to a spouse.” It would also revise the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include the “use or attempted use of physical force or a deadly weapon by a current or former intimate partner.” The bill is intended to close loopholes in the current law that allows stalkers and domestic abusers “in a current or former dating relationship who never lived together or had a child together” to purchase guns.

The bill has been gaining support in the Senate, perhaps too much support, because yesterday the NRA has decided to weigh in. They’re opposed. No surprise there. It’s the “why” they are opposed that is unusual. They fear the new language might keep gay men who were once in a stormy relationship from buying guns…

The NRA argues banning a gay man from buying a gun because of a past assault conviction on his partner would be totally unreasonable. (I would think that viewpoint probably depends on whether you’re the partner being beaten or the partner doing the beating.) The NRA email characterized S.1290 as a “bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions.”

Don’t feel too special that the NRA has decided to take a stand for gays and guns. In the same email, the NRA argued that stalkers should not be included in new federal restrictions, because stalking crimes “do not necessarily include violent or even threatening behavior.”

This is another one of those moments when you have to wonder what planet the NRA lives on?

The reality is that it doesn’t matter whether you live in a state that thinks it’s in the 19th Century or the 20th Century – or, perish the thought, even the 21st Century – violence against former partners, violence from stalkers fixated on a former partner, heterosexual or otherwise, is common.

And violence in America is often characterized by gun violence. Trying to kill your former spouse or partner with a gun is as American as you can get. Hardly makes a headline unless you take out a whole office full of people in the process.

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Japan’s new secrecy law focuses on journalists and free speech

“Abe colour” is an expression occasionally used in Japan’s domestic media. It means those government policies that reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s personal views, and the term relates to his hawkish security policies. Critics claim the secrecy bill passed into law in December 2013 is said to be one such example of “Abe colour”, and it will go into effect this December.

Proper safeguards and oversight bodies were supposed to be included, but critics say that this secrecy law is still far from adequate.

One of the strongest critics of the new law comes from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which has asked the government to completely reconsider the law. Yoichi Eto, its representative, told Al Jazeera that “this law simply provides new powers to the government officials. It says that they are authorised to do this or that. But it has nothing to say at all about what officials must not do…

The new Japanese secrecy law also specifically targets journalists. While there is language in the text that supposedly guarantees “normal” journalistic practice, it also says that reporters and others who utilise “inappropriate means” to learn a special secret may be subject to prosecution and up to five years in prison.

What exactly constitutes “inappropriate means” to gather the news? The law is silent on this point, suggesting once again that the government and police will decide for themselves what the law mandates, once they are faced with a specific case.

Japan’s freelance investigative journalists are at particular risk, as the government may not even recognise their status as being part of a legitimate news media…

Yu Terasawa, recently cited by Reporters Without Borders as one of the world’s “100 Information Heroes” – the only person in Japan given such an honor – sees the main purpose of the law as preventing the media from revealing embarrassing information to the public. “The present government has an unusually large number of things that it wants to hide,” Terasawa said.

“This includes issues surrounding the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as well as, looking forward, possible conflicts with China, Russia, or North Korea…”

Even in the absence of the new secrecy law, the Japanese government’s actual operations are often guarded from public view. Almost every major study of Japan’s mainstream media notes its tendency to shy away from investigative political reporting and to “reveal” to the Japanese public that information simply handed to them by the public relations officials of the various ministries and other government agencies.

As Morton Halperin, former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department, observed, “It is hard to imagine a country that less needs a secrecy law than Japan.”

I think it’s just another brick in the wall of militarism put in place by the stonemason in the White House. Obama works at what he thinks is his main task – propping up imperial America around the globe. He thinks Japan is a fitting junior partner. After all – they already have experience as part of an Axis.

Japanese artist jailed for kayak replicating her vagina


Click to enlarge

A Japanese artist who made figures of Lady Gaga and a kayak modeled on her vagina said on Wednesday from jail she was “outraged” by her arrest and vowed a court fight against obscenity charges.

Megumi Igarashi, 42, says she was challenging a culture of “discrimination” against discussion of the vagina in Japanese society.

Igarashi, who worked under the alias Rokudenashiko, which means “good-for-nothing girl” in Japanese, built a yellow kayak with a top shaped like her vagina after raising about $10,000 through crowdfunding.

Igarashi sent 3D printer data of her scanned vagina – the digital basis for her kayak project – as a thanks to a number of donors.

She was arrested for distributing indecent material on Saturday and faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Igarashi said about 10 police officers had arrived at her house on Saturday and initially, she thought they were only interested in confiscating work she has said is meant as a pop-art exploration of the “manko”, vulgar Japanese slang for vagina.

“I couldn’t stop myself from laughing a little as I explained to the grim-looking officers, ‘This is the Lady Gaga ‘manko’ figure’,” Igarashi told Reuters from across a plastic security divide in a central Tokyo jail.

“I did not expect to get arrested at all. Even as they were confiscating my works, I thought to myself, ‘This will be a good story’. Then they handcuffed and arrested me. Now, I just feel outraged…”

Igarashi has touched off a debate on both women’s rights and the freedom of artistic expression, said Kazuyuki Minami, her lead defense lawyer.

The legal definition of what counts as obscenity is vague in Japan, and the key point of debate will be deciding whether the vagina itself can be considered obscene, said Minami…

A 1951 Supreme Court case broadly defined obscenity as something that stimulates desire and violates an ordinary person’s sense of sexual shame and morality.

Just like political idjits, bigoted idjits, even musical idjits – every nation seems to have its share of sensual and sexual idjits. Japan, obviously, is no exception.

Court rules parents haven’t a right to send their unvaccinated kids to school

In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.

New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.

When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”

All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.

The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Q&A on legal pot in Washington state

Washington state’s first recreational marijuana stores open for business this week, more than a year and a half after voters decided to legalize, tax and regulate pot. Some questions and answers about the industry:

Q: When can I buy legal weed?

A: The state’s Liquor Control Board issued the first two dozen retail marijuana licenses in the wee hours Monday, and stores can open at 8 a.m. Tuesday if they’re ready…

Q: Where can I buy?

A: Washington issued its first 24 licenses Monday to shops to sell recreational marijuana, 14 stores in western Washington and 10 in eastern Washington. Spokane has three stores. Vancouver, Tacoma and Bellingham each have two. Seattle and the other cities on the list have one each…

Q: Will it be expensive?

A: Yes. Although some stores say they plan to sell some of their supply for as little as $10 or $12 a gram – comparable to what it sells for at the state’s unregulated medical dispensaries – others expect it to go for $25 or more. The issue is mainly supply

RTFA for more Q&A. Nice to see someone as stodgy as Associated Press turn this out as a fairly ordinary article.

Maybe, someday, Congress and the White House will catch on to the 21st Century.

Can Americans pass the US citizenship test?

In a video posted earlier this week, members of the Immigrant Archive Project — an oral history project that collects the stories of American immigrants — did a series of “man-on-the-street” interviews with passersby in Miami.

The twist: they asked questions from the US citizenship test that every immigrant is required to take in order to naturalize. Not to spoil anything, but the people they interviewed — all of whom are native-born American citizens — didn’t fare too well:

To put this in context, as of December 2013, 91 percent of immigrants who took the full citizenship test passed it by getting six of ten questions correct…

The 10 questions are chosen by examiners from a list of 100 that applicants are given to study.

By contrast, of the 15 people whom the Immigrant Archive Project people interviewed, only one got six out of ten questions correct: that’s a pass rate of less than 7 percent.

Now, it’s possible that the US citizens in the video weren’t representative of the country as a whole. But polls of the American public show that native-born citizens aren’t exactly A students in civics. When USA Today asked ten questions from the citizenship test in a poll in 2012, only 65 percent of Americans got a passing score. The year before that, Newsweek found just 62 percent of Americans could pass their own citizenship test.

Even more embarrassingly, in the video above, the interviewer himself gets one fact wrong. He says that George Washington signed the Declaration of Independence. Washington was busy fighting the Revolutionary War at the time, and wasn’t a signer.

The citizenship test is also one of the easiest parts of naturalization.

RTFA for details about classification of immigrants, more testing. The article doesn’t include the history of racism and economic discrimination limiting those who may apply to legally immigrate and become American citizens.

Everyone but complete idjits now supports background checks for all gun buyers

More than nine out of 10 U.S. voters support background checks for gun buyers and almost as many say the mentally ill should be barred from buying guns.

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found that gun owners are almost as likely as the general public to support background checks. And 89 percent of Republicans agree on the issue, only 3 percentage points lower than Democrats.

But only 50 percent said the country needs stricter laws to regulate guns, while 47 percent said they oppose such laws.

Which is a non sequitur.

“Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill,” said Tim Malloy, the Quinnipiac University Poll’s assistant director. “But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.’”

After Adam Lanza killed his mother and 20 students and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and then took his own life, there were calls for stricter gun regulations. But the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have lobbied successfully against new laws.

Lobbying – to describe what the NRA does – is a farce. The word is “threaten”. Money changes hands to cajole what faint conscience may exist in Congress. But, when the only question is “How high should I jump, boss?” – we’re only discussing athletic ability as a measure of cowardice.

Like civil rights and other questions requiring backbone, it will take a mighty grassroots movement to nudge most of our elected officials into an upright position.

BTW, the Quinnipiac poll is battling the Rasmussen poll for the position as cheapskate Republican poll – when they can’t afford Gallup. The tell on that is clear enough if you wander back to their numbers for Romney. So what? Even when conservative polls support sensible regulation of access to guns, the nutball fringe and their industry pimps in the NRA still scare Congress enough to stonewall action.

New Mexico the leader of the pack – turning coppers into militia

If you think local police look increasingly like soldiers armed for battle instead of civil servants responsible for protecting you, it’s not your imagination.

As noted in the Journal’s recent three-part series analyzing “mission creep” at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the federal government funnels millions of tax dollars to local police departments in the form of grants used to buy high-powered paramilitary style weapons and other gear.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are also tapping into a military surplus program to acquire Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interestingly – some would say disturbingly – New Mexico police departments, representing one of the nation’s least populous states, have acquired more of these fearsome-looking armored vehicles than any other state, according to a New York Times analysis.

In an article published this month, the Times found that there are at least 42 MRAPs now stationed at New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

Texas – with 37 – had the second-largest number…

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report titled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” It’s a sobering analysis of the increasingly violent and invasive techniques police are using, especially in the war on drugs.

The ACLU report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The civil liberties group also asks that local, state and federal governments track the use of SWAT raids, and the guns, tanks and other military equipment that end up in police hands…

The national trend of police militarization is clearly felt here in New Mexico,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU of New Mexico. “We have towns like Farmington operating armored vehicles and the Albuquerque Police Department shooting civilians at alarming rates.

“This military mindset, coupled with assault-style tactics and weapons, positions the public as the enemy, rather than human beings they have sworn to serve and protect.”

Who is going to protect us from our police?

Fiery protest against militarist revision of Japan’s constitution

self-immolation Shinjuku

A man burned himself at crowded Shinjuku train station in Japan’s capital Tokyo in a move allegedly to protest against the Japanese government’s attempt to exercise the rights to collective self-defense…

The man, according to pictures, was in his 50s and reportedly had a speech opposing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and its efforts to lift the country’s self-imposed ban on collective self-defense rights before burning himself on a bridge connecting buildings at around 2:00 p.m. local time…

Local police has blocked the site and declined to provide details to Xinhua through a telephone interview, and the man’s condition after the suicidal attempt remains unknown.

The incident came after the Japanese government on Friday submitted the final version of the resolutions of exercising the “defense” rights to the ruling coalition…

The collective self-defense rights allow the Japanese Self- Defense Forces engage battles overseas, which run contrary against Japan’s war-renouncing pacifist constitution which bans the SDF to combat outside Japan.

According to the latest survey on the controversial issue by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, about 67 percent of Japanese opposed lifting the ban through constitution reinterpretation and 56 percent of Japanese oppose relaxing the ban through any means.

One of the most amazing feats of self-contradiction happened when the United States forced Japan to renounce any use of their military abroad to implement political policy. Quite reasonable in light of decades of Japan’s imperial ambitions, invasions.

Of course, we went ahead and did exactly what we forbade to the Japanese. At present, we still maintain hundreds of thousands of American troops in over 150 countries. We still suffer the effects of the wars we promoted around the world, small or large, Granada or Vietnam, Kuwait or Iraq, Americans try to recover the lives wasted in national-aggrandizement.

Court rules states can’t ban gay marriage


Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, winning plaintiffs — their dog’s name is Goji

A federal appeals court has ruled…that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same sex.

The judges added they don’t want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay marriage, but they said there is no reasonable objection to the practice.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the judges wrote, addressing arguments that the ruling could undermine traditional marriage.

The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. It becomes law in the six states covered by the court: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. However, gay marriages won’t be happening in the near future because the panel immediately put its ruling on hold pending an appeal…

And everyone knows we can count upon the intolerant and bigoted to appeal this decision.

The decision gives increased momentum to a legal cause that already has compiled an impressive record in the lower courts after the Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates…

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said blah, blah, blah, blah.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement on its website blah, blah, blah, blah.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert in a statement said blah, blah, blah, blah.

Now same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Recent polls show a majority of Americans support it.

Concepts advanced in times of ignorance need to be reexamined in the context of society, science and knowledge growing over time. Only fools accept textbooks as unchanging and fixed. Yet, the weakest among our species, the least educated and those who profit from fear would keep this nation and the world in darkness centuries old.

Oh yeah, you can count Indiana, now, too. :)