130 Years Ago Today: Statue Of Liberty Arrives In New York Harbor


Statue of Liberty, Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Today marks the one hundred and thirtieth year since the Statue of Liberty – the most iconic landmark representing freedom and democracy in the world – first arrived in New York Harbor. Sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who conceived the idea in 1870, “Lady Liberty” was originally intended as a gift from the people of France to celebrate America’s 100th birthday.

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi Sculpter Of The Statue of Liberty

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi

When 1876 rolled around, however, the Statue was not finished.  In fact, Bartholdi would not complete her until 1884, with some engineering assistance from Gustave Eiffel (the maker of the Eiffel Tower) who designed her internal structure. Bartholdi entitled his work, “Liberty Enlightening the World” (French, La Liberté éclairant le monde).  To most, however, she is now referred to simply as “the Statue of Liberty,” “Lady Liberty,” or even just “the Statue.”

To commemorate this 130-year anniversary, a number of Internet sources are featuring articles about the Statute of Liberty, many with stunning photographs of the landmark. Time’s online magazine, for example, has a marvelous set of photographs today, featuring 14 images taken from various vantage points and at various times.

Below are a couple of examples from the Time article.  The full set of photographs is truly worth viewing.

Statue of Liberty 1931

Statue of Liberty 1931

Statue of Liberty Unknown Date

Statue of Liberty Unknown Date

The Statue of Liberty was also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage monument in 1984.  Many additional photographs of the Statue, like the one below, can be found at the UNESCO site.

Statue of Liberty UNESCO World Heritage Monument

Statue of Liberty UNESCO World Heritage Monument

Fun Facts About The Statue Of Liberty

How good is your Statue of Liberty knowledge?  Here are 10 fun facts about the Statue, which you may not know:

  1. The robed, female figure represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom;
  2. She holds a torch in her right hand; in her left hand, she holds a tablet which is inscribed with the date July 4, 1776, the date of the American Declaration of Independence;
  3. Approximately 4 million people visit the Statue each year, climbing 354 stairs to reach the Statue’s crown;
  4. There are 7 spikes on the crown, representing the 7 continents.  This symbolizes the universal nature of liberty;
  5. The external surface of the Statue is made from copper, which required the use of 300 different types of hammers to complete;
  6. The cost of the Statue was funded by contributions in both France and America.  In America, the vast majority of contributions were in sums less than one dollar;
  7. The total cost of building the Statue and its pedestal amounted to over $500,000, the equivalent of more than $10 million today;
  8. In 1916, the Statue sustained damage to the torch-bearing arm due to a bomb exploded by World War I German saboteurs.  This explosion resulted in the closure of the stairs to the torch, which have remained closed ever since;
  9. The Statue was also closed temporarily as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and again in 2012 as a result of the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  The Statue was reopened on July 4, 2013;
  10. The famous poem associated with the Statue, entitled “The New Colossus,” was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883.  According to Wikipedia, the poem was written to raise money for the construction of the Statue’s pedestal.  The poem was engraved on a bronze plaque inside the pedestal’s lower level in 1903, and contains the well-known phrase, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

On this 130-year anniversary, take some time to re-acquaint yourself with America’s greatest civil rights landmark, the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty Against New York Skyline

Statue of Liberty Against New York Skyline

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California Bans State Judges From Joining Boy Scouts

By:  Eric G. Young, Esq.
California Supreme Court January 2015

California Supreme Court

On January 23rd, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided that state judges can no longer belong to the Boy Scouts of America.   Under a statewide judicial ethics provision, California’s judges are prohibited from belonging to an organization that “practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”  (Canon 2C, California Code of Judicial Ethics.)

Until the Court’s decision, this ethics provision was mitigated by two exceptions. First, California judges are permitted to belong to religious organizations notwithstanding those organizations’ discriminatory practices.  Second, judges were permitted to belong to nonprofit youth organizations, an exception implicitly benefiting the Boy Scouts and its member affiliates.

The Court eliminated this second exception, characterizing the Boy Scouts as an organization that practices “invidious discrimination” because it prohibits openly gay Scout leaders from participating in the organization.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court adopted the recommendation of the California Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics and the California Judges Association. The decision also brings California in line with a similar prohibition included in 1990 as part of the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

Though unstated in its decision, the underlying rationale for the Court’s decision is, apparently, a concern that state judges retain at least the appearance of impartiality in their conduct.  Such conduct includes the organizations in which state judges declare membership.

On its face, the Court’s decision seems well-founded.  Judicial fairness and impartiality are of paramount concern to society.  Without these, a core function of the judiciary is lost – the ability to follow the rule of law unscrupulously despite the pressures of political will.  And, it is not far-fetched to argue that a judge’s membership in a discriminatory organization like the Boy Scouts gives the appearance that the judge might not be fair and impartial, at least under certain circumstances.

The problem with the California Supreme Court’s approach is that, no matter how laudable its intentions, it may be trampling on state judges’ First Amendment right to free association.  Although not expressly mentioned in the First Amendment, the right to free association was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958).  The Court also stressed the importance of the right of free association in Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984) , writing:

“Implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment” is “a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.”

As an article in BloombergView pointed out, me, you, all of us have a right to join whatever organizations we see fit.  Consequences may result from our decision to join an organization that discriminates against others.  Nevertheless, the freedom of association protects our right to make that decision.  Should the rule of law be different for state judges?  Might it depend on the organization the judge has joined?  For example, what if the case involved a judge who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

The answers to such questions are not necessarily clear in a case involving judges. The U.S. Supreme Court has limited government employees’ First Amendment rights under certain circumstances.  See, e.g., Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006) [district attorney had no free speech protection for statements made pursuant to his public duties].  The Court might well decide that similar limitations ought to apply to state judges – particularly when judicial impartiality is at issue – and leave regulation of such conduct up to the states.

On the other hand, in the first campaign finance case to involve the judiciary, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on January 20th in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar.  Williams-Yulee raises the issue whether state judicial candidates have a First Amendment right to solicit campaign contributions.  As an NPR article observed, 30 states currently have laws banning such solicitations. Like the ban announced by the California Supreme Court, the reasoning behind laws prohibiting judges from soliciting campaign contributions is to preserve judicial impartiality.

State laws banning campaign solicitations by judges, however, presumably have no more force than state ethics provisions pertaining to judges.  Therefore, if the U.S. Supreme Court disapproves of campaign finance bans and recognizes a First Amendment right among state judicial candidates to solicit campaign contributions – despite impartiality concerns – then state judges may have some right to free association under the First Amendment notwithstanding impartiality concerns.  If that is the case, then California’s ban may be of dubious constitutionality.

New Louisiana Law Would Force Brain Dead, Pregnant Women To Remain On Life Support

anti abortion protesters

Recently, and by an overwhelming majority, the Louisiana Legislature passed one of the most invasive anti-choice bills imaginable,  HB 1274.  The bill would require physicians and hospitals to keep brain dead, pregnant women on life support in order to keep their unborn fetus alive.

The proposed new law would apply even if remaining on life support is against the stated wishes of the woman or her immediate family.  The only time the law would not apply is if the incapacitated woman has a will in which she specifically and explicitly wrote that she does not wish to be resuscitated if incapacitated and pregnant – or – if the fetus is under 20 weeks old.

Ilyse Hogue, President of the NARAL Pro-Choice America, told MSNBC:

“Laws like this show the sinister underlying belief that anti-choice politicians hold – that women’s sole purpose is to have children, and once we are pregnant, our rights to make our own decisions fly right out the window regardless of what we think, our families think, and what medical experts think.”

Another article noted that HB 1274 would “codify the legal nightmare scenario that faced the Texas family of Marlise Munoz earlier this year.”  Munoz collapsed after suffering from either a blood clot or pulmonary embolism. She was declared legally dead two days later.  However, when her husband and grieving family asked to remove her from life support and allow her to die a natural death, the hospital refused because Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.  Even more shocking, the hospital refused to withdraw life support even after an ultrasound established that the fetus was severely deformed and fluid had built up in its brain.  

In the Munoz case, the grieving family was forced to file a lawsuit against the Texas hospital.  A judge subsequently ruled that the hospital had to respect the family’s wishes and ordered withdrawal of life support.

Louisiana’s HB 1274 is now in the hands of Governor Bobby Jindal.  All signs suggest that he will sign this restrictive bill into law.  If he does, this is yet another example of the political right invading women’s privacy protections and the rights of their immediate families.  HB 1274 is a CIVIL WRONG.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Calif. Video Game Law

Reprinted from my blog, Cyber-Esq.  The full Supreme Court opinion is in the Box under “Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Video Game Case:”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 opinion, that a 2005 California law aimed at banning the sale of violent video games to children went too far.  Created by California state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), the law imposed a fine of up to $1,000 on retailers found to be in violation.  However, because of the litigation, the law never went into effect.

This is the highest-level decision to date on the subject of legal restrictions on violent video games.  In the wake of the Court’s decision, one thing is now clear – video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as books, plays and movies.  Moreover, the Court emphasized that First Amendment protections are subject only to historically limited categories of speech such as obscenity, incitement or fighting words.  These protections do not wane with the advent of new technologies.  As a result, the state – as California did – cannot create a wholly new category of speech that is unlawful unless it can meet the “strict scrutiny” test; i.e., justify its law with a “compelling state interest.”

On the question of “strict scrutiny,” the Court found that California failed to meet its burden.  Of specific interest, the Court doubted the strength of psychological evidence that claims such games cause children to behave violently or aggressively, at least more than any other available media.  In addition, the Court found that the voluntary rating system – known as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board‘s (ESRB) classification system – already achieved the needs of parents without the government enacting legislation that infringes on free speech.

According to an article in ZDNet:

“the majority of video game resellers in the United States – including major retailers like GameStop and Best Buy – support the use of the…(ESRB) classification system, which rates games based on content and applies an age rating, which is featured on the video game box. It’s a purely voluntary system modeled after the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings for movies.”

What do you think of the Court’s decision?  In particular, the Court mentioned the fact that California had not limited access to “Saturday morning cartoons” in support of its decision, indicating that this raised the possibility that the state was singling out a particular industry or speaker for sanction.  Is this a defensible analogy to violent video games?


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Thank You, Mr. President!

Citizens Thanking President Obama

Much is being written all over the Internet today about President Obama’s speech last night, what these events portend, who should take credit for bin Laden’s death, and whether credit should be apportioned for political gain.  I am re-printing here what I wrote in a Note to my friends on Facebook this morning, entitled “President Obama:  Getting The Job Done:”

I am reading with great interest some of the comments here and elsewhere in reaction to yesterday’s news from the President that Osama Bin Laden has been neutralized.

While I agree with the concerns that we not “rest on our laurels,” so to speak, simply because Bin Laden was taken out, I don’t think any reasonable person can deny that President Obama has achieved an extraordinary outcome benefiting our Nation.  He, and those around him, have done what the Bush Administration merely paid lip service to in order to advance their own distorted view of world order.

President Obama demonstrated to me the qualities of a true Commander-in-Chief — contemplative and cautious when he was presented with information about Bin Laden’s whereabouts; yet, determined and decisive, when it came down to striking out.

In everyday speak, folks, that’s called “Gettin’ ‘er done.” He deserves our praise, thanks, and respect.  Can you imagine what the press, the people, the Republicans would be saying had this mission gone the way of President Carter‘s failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages.  Remember that?

President Obama is not the kind of President who would, now, shrug his shoulders and say, “Guess that’s over and done with…We can all rest easy…Mission accomplished.”  Whatever doubts I may have from time to time about our President, who does not make me happy all of the time, my faith in him was strengthened immeasurably last night.

Beyond this Note, all I have to say, as a citizen of the United States, is thank you, Mr. President.  You make me proud of our Nation!

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Thank You, Thank You!

Another milestone was reached here at CRW this month.  The blog now has in excess of 20,000 unique page views.  I am so thankful to all of you who took time from your busy schedules to check out my blog.  Thank you!

Wisconsin Republicans Strip Workers’ Rights Without Open Meeting

Unless you have spent the last few weeks on Mars, or simply have no interest in the fact that democracy in the United States in under attack from extreme right-wing interests in many states, then you probably have heard something about the anti-democratic events unfolding in Wisconsin.  Right-wing governor, Scott Walker, in office less than a year, is attempting to completely abolish the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s public workers, including teachers.  The anti-union measures were part of a larger budget bill being considered by the Wisconsin Legislature.

In response to Walker’s efforts, the state’s 14 Democratic lawmakers fled to neighboring Illinois, thereby defeating the Legislature’s quorum.  Last night, however, the Republic majority voted to separate the issue of workers’ rights from the larger budget bill.  By invoking this rare procedural move, the Republicans, effectively, gave to themselves the right to proceed with a smaller quorum than was required to consider a budget bill.

More significantly, the vote took place without any public debate, which Wisconsin Democrats argue violates the state’s “open meeting laws.” For those of you interested in the specific issue of “open meeting laws” and “freedom of information” in the United States, a good starting point in your research would be this excellent Wikipedia article.

This morning, in response to the events, Governor Walker issued an interesting statement, saying in part:  “We cannot balance a budget on a hope and a prayer…”

What an interesting statement.  When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords nearly lost her life to a gunman’s bullet, right-wing radicals in this country – coming to the defense of Sarah Palin and the NRA‘s pro-gun stance – told us we should simply “pray” for a solution rather than look for secular solutions like gun control.  Prayer, apparently, was all we needed to magically undo the tragic – and avoidable – events that befell Giffords and others.

Now, another right-wing extremist, Gov. Walker, tells us that prayer is not enough to simply correct a balance sheet.  How convenient!  Of course, he is correct.  Prayer won’t do the trick.  Unfortunately, what he isn’t mentioning is that he and his cronies all across the Nation refuse to ask the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.

When are the People going to wake up?  If you are really hungry – even starving – what do you do?  You go to where the food is, be it a grocery store or a restaurant.  You don’t go to the dry cleaner down the street and ask them to give you food.  You don’t go to your kids’ third grade teacher and make her quench your thirst.  You go to where the food is!

Why do we not insist that our leaders to where the money is – the banks, the lending houses, the defense contractors, international mega-corps.?  What are we waiting for?  An Act of God?!?!?

Maybe we should just pray that the rich will pony up the funds on their own.  How’s that been working out so far?