Category Archives: civil rights

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

434px-Statue_of_Liberty_7

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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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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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?

All Progressive Roads Lead To Illinois? Illinois Bans Death Penalty

 

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Illinois is not precisely dead-center on a map of the United States, but it certainly forms part of what we Americans typically refer to as the Nation’s “Heartland.”  Bordered by Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin, Illinois – quite literally these days – forms a bastion of progressive ideals amidst a sea of conservatism.  So, do all progressive roads lead to Illinois?

 

For example, if you have been following at all the political debacle taking place in Wisconsin, then you probably know that Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state lawmakers recently fled to Illinois in protest over Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker’s, attempt to end the collective bargaining rights of public employees in that state.  The exodus by these lawmakers has effectively shut down Walker’s efforts by denying the Wisconsin Legislature a quorum, a move that is being hailed by progressives across the country.

Did you also happen to know that a similar exodus took place involving Indiana state lawmakers?  In late February, as events in Wisconsin unfolded, a similar fight was brewing in the Hoosier State.  There, over three dozen of Indiana’s Democratic lawmakers took to the broad, well-kept interstates that lead one into the Land of Lincoln.

As a New York Times article put it, “Illinois [has] suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills.”  In truth, Illinois has a long and proud tradition of progressive politics.

Obama Launches Presidential Bid At Illinois State Capital

U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, courtesy of Illinois Public Media

Though it is  the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, Illinois is also the state from which President Obama catapulted to national attention as a U.S. Senator.

Prior to Obama, Illinois was well-known as the home state of liberal U.S. Senator Paul Simon, pictured to the right.  Simon unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1988.

On a personal note, this writer is proud to say that I was an Intern Staff Assistant for Senator Simon in 1988.  Even now, I continue to revere Simon for his profound honesty, sense of purpose and overwhelming decency.

Simon was the kind of leader who believed it was wrong – morally and politically – for an elderly person, who had lived and worked all their life, to not be able to afford medical care.  He told you his beliefs, and he voted his beliefs.

Of course, Illinois also produced President Abraham Lincoln.  While Lincoln may have been a “Republican,” we should get real about his political leanings, people.  Lincoln would not be caught  in the same room as some of these modern-day, neo-fascists. Lincoln lived by a motto that included, “With malice towards none, with charity for all.”  Those are not the words of modern-day Republicans that hand out enormous financial breaks to the wealthiest, while fomenting discord to advance their regressive policies.

This writer is proud also to remark that my home state is continuing its progressive tradition.  Today, Illinois’ Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, outlawed the death penalty.  In a surprising show of bi-partisanship, Illinois’ death penalty was first called into serious question over a decade ago by former Republican Governor George Ryan.  Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared of the charges that led to their imprisonment on Illinois’ death row.

Quinn’s order takes effect on July 1.  However, the governor’s order immediately clears death row, so no executions can take place in Illinois.

The Dangerous Workings Of Sarah Palin

If you want to hear the real sound of “100% wacko,” then just listen to Sarah Palin.

In the wake of the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, many around the country blame Palin’s “incitement to violence”-style rhetoric and imagery which includes, among other techniques, use of the now-infamous “cross hairs” map that – rather literally – targets Democratic leaders.  The “cross hairs” map is pictured below:

At the time of writing this article, the “cross-hairs” map was still publicly posted on Palin’s Facebook page.  Furthermore, in response to criticism, Palin says that she (and her cronies) are being unjustly blamed for the attack; it is their right to free speech that is being trampled.

In other words – just in case you missed it – Palin is the real victim here.  It is not Congresswoman Giffords whom Palin targeted with her map and other violent-provoking rhetoric.  No way.  It is not the federal judge killed by the gunman.  Uh-uh. It is not even the 5 others that were killed in the shooting, including a 9 year-old girl who just happened to have been born on 9/11/2001.

Nope, Sister Sarah is the victim here – she, her cronies, and, well, I suppose the First Amendment.  You remember the good-ole No. 1, don’t you?  It is part of that pesky document called the Constitution that so many dangerous, half-crazed, ne0-con zealots can never seem to stomach – until it becomes useful to wrap themselves up in it for protection and justification.

Here’s a news bulletin for Sister Sarah – you can put lipstick on a pig, but in the end, you still got a pig.  And, in this case, a rather dangerous pig.  In this case, we have a pig willing to use this tragic event to transform herself into some kind of victim or martyr; or, at the very least,  Constitutional champion.  In so doing, Palin is revealing either a profound degree of psychological disturbance, or she is demonstrating her willingness to stoop deep to promote her own domination agenda.  Maybe both.

Also shocking are those that have publicly defended Palin.  For example, Barbara Walters feels Sister Sarah’s pain, saying that it is unfair to blame her for the shooting.  Although I normally regard Walters higher than most, not on this occasion.  As Lynn M. Paltrow noted in her “Open Letter to Sarah Palin,” Congresswoman Giffords – in particular – criticized Palin’s methods, including the “cross hairs” map.  What a coincidence, eh Babs?!?!

Walters is, of course, known for her own brand of “in your face” journalism.  However, as she should know, speech that promotes the public good by encouraging debate or controversy – even spirited or agitated – is not the same thing as the self-indulgent calculations of a demagogue trolling her cult of personality for violence with military-style words and imagery.  For example, evidence continues to mount suggesting that Palin’s racists comments aimed at President Obama has led to death threats against the President.

If Sarah Palin’s brand of “speech” is protected, then we ought to start now and re-write every Constitutional law textbook so that they feature the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones alongside Constitutional champions like Mary Beth Tinker (pictured below), Clarence Earl Gideon and Rosa Parks.  Hyperbole, you say?  Sarah Palin is nothing like Jim Jones?  How would we know that – until it is too late?

What if we suddenly learned that Sarah Palin had direct ties to a terrorist organization whose mission is to cause anarchy and civil unrest in the U.S. to destroy democracy?  What is the gunman in this case had ties to the same organization?  Suddenly, it might seem as though Palin’s comments were something less akin to pure free speech and something strikingly closer to conspiracy.

Even if Palin’s “speech” is protected, let us not dignify that which does not deserve dignity.   A lot of very undignified “speech” is legally protected by our Constitution, whether we like it or not.  That does not mean dignified citizens should go out of their way to be cheerleaders.

Mary Beth Tinker talks to students at Cardozo High about their constitutional rights. In eighth grade, Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband, inspiring a Supreme Court case that upheld students' freedom of expression. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

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Scalia To Women: Corporations Have Rights, Not You

Official portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ant...
Image via Wikipedia

Just how ridiculously narrow-minded and oppressive will U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia get?  It boggles the mind when you consider his latest rant.

In an interview with the online publication California Lawyer” this past week, Scalia declared that the 14th Amendment does not protect gays or women from discrimination.

Scalia stated:

Q. In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

A. Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.

If I understand the good Justice, taking into consideration his opinion in the recent Citizens United case, corporations have constitutional rights but women and other minorities are free game for discrimination, at least as far as the 14th Amendment goes.   Do you find it astounding that a jurist sitting on the Nation’s Court of Last Resort thinks that AT&T or Halliburton or BP has more rights than your mom does or your sister?  I do.

We all need to think very seriously about Justice Scalia’s comments.  Think about them in the context of this quote which I am re-printing from an excellent article in U.S. News’ Politics blog:

“…laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

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