The Heretical Two

If a website is hosted in the United States but authored in another country, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? If a web site in favor of independence for Tibet were hosted in the United States but authored in China, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? What about a website in favor of women’s rights were hosted in the United States but authored in Iran? Most people I know would say that the free speech laws of the United States should trump the non-free speech laws of other countries. Most people I know would say that these websites should be allowed to continue to exist and that their authors should not be subject to criminal charges, either in the United States or in any other country. But when the free speech in question is in error or insulting then there are differences of opinion among those I know. Some laugh, some scowl and move on, some call for the free speech to be censored, some call for those practicing free speech to be punished.

England has laws that make ‘race hate’ literature illegal. The United States does not have such laws. Simon Sheppard [Wikipedia] of England publishes the website heretical.com out of Torrance, California. On Friday July 14, 2008 Sheppard was found guilty of eleven counts of ‘race hate’ relating to heretical.com. According to heretical.com the website was subject to British and not USA law because it was ‘available in England and Wales.’ What other websites originating in the USA are subject to British law because they are available in England and Wales? Perhaps my own, ovo127.com? Am I endangering my chances of visiting England again with this post?

OVO: The Heretical Two

I do not think that people should be jailed for hate speech. However, I believe a correction or clarification may be in order: Trevor quotes the claim that heretical.com is “‘irony, satire and parody of political correctness, intended in good humour and for the stimulation of debate.” Perhaps this is the case – hence their reprinting of Crumb’s clearly ironic comics. However, based on the general contents of the site, and Simon Sheppard’s background, it’s difficult to reach that conclusion. Which raises another issue – how does one differentiate between legitimate and ironic racist literature?

Moment of Silence Law Ruled Unconstitutional

I think that that a “moment of silence” would work as an option, but not if it’s “mandatory” (i.e. a law). If you called it “a moment of reflection” and not a “moment of prayer”, then I think this could be beneficial. Isn’t this what “recess” is all about?
Also, I’ve found that those who don’t take the opportunity to reflect are often the ones who need it the most.

“A federal judge has ruled unconstitutional a law passed by the Illinois legislature requiring the state’s schools to require a moment of prayer or reflection on the day’s activities.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman ruled Wednesday the law crosses the line separating church and state under the Constitution. He says in his ruling that the statute is a “subtle effort” to force students at “impressionable ages” to think about religion.”

(via The Daily Herald)

Headache for Mass. Cops: How to Enforce New Marijuana Law

“Back in November, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot measure — called Question 2 — that, on Jan. 2, will turn possession of an ounce or less of marijuana into an offense on par with a traffic violation. Now police and prosecutors are wondering how the heck they’re going to enforce it. Here’s the story from the Boston Globe.

Among the questions enforcers are trying to answer:

  • What should police do with people caught with several joints who refuse to identify themselves?
  • Will state-run laboratories that test drugs seized in criminal cases continue to do so for small quantities of marijuana?
  • Will police chiefs discipline officers who spark up a spliff after work?
  • Can a judge summarily revoke the probation of a convicted offender on the basis of a citation for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana?

“I’m not suggesting that officers are doing it,” David F. Capeless, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, told the Globe. “But what you’re doing, whether it’s officers or other public employees – transportation workers, bus drivers, teachers – you’re removing a disincentive by saying: ‘We won’t be able to do anything to you. You won’t get disciplined for this. It won’t mean your job. It may mean a $100 fine.’

Proponents of the change – including financier George Soros, who spent more than $400,000 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana – said it would ensure that those caught with small quantities would avoid the taint of a criminal record.”

(via WSJ Law Blog)

20% of teens say they’ve put nude pics of themselves online

A survey of 1,280 teenagers (users age 13-19) and young adults (age 20-26) conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com has revealed that one out of five (20 percent) teens overall have posted nude photos or video of themselves on the Internet—that number goes up to a third when young adults are included. While 71 percent of teen girls and 67 percent of teen guys who have sent these photos say they’ve sent them to a boyfriend or girlfriend, 15 percent overall said they’ve sent nude photos to people they only “knew” online. For women, that percentage stays the same when they turn into young adults, although the percentage of young adult men goes up to 23 percent.

This is, of course, despite the fact that almost three quarters of all teens and young adults surveyed say that sending sexually-suggestive content “can have serious negative consequences.” Clearly, this is an issue of “do as I say, not as I do.” And don’t for a minute think that your sexy recipient is necessarily keeping your photos private—a quarter of teen girls and a third of teen boys said that they’ve had nude images originally meant for someone else shared with them. Perhaps unsurprisingly (to me, anyway), that number stays about the same for young adult women, but 40 percent of young adult men say they’ve had images meant for someone else shared with them. Nothing, especially on the Internet, is sacred.

Full Story: ars technica

(via OVO)

Atheist Seeks Same Access to Altar as Fake Liberaces, Elvises

“In a city launched by shotgun weddings and quickie divorces, which offers the chance to be wed by faux Liberaces, King Tuts and Grim Reapers, there remains at least one nuptial taboo: you can’t be married by an atheist. Michael Jacobson, a 64-year-old retiree who calls himself a lifelong atheist, tried this year to get a license to perform weddings. Clark County rejected his application because he had no ties to a congregation, as state law requires. So Jacobson and attorneys from two national secular groups — the American Humanist Association and the Center for Inquiry — are trying to change things. If they can’t persuade the state Legislature to rework the law, they plan to sue.

Jacobson, who spends most afternoons reading online or dining at a nearby buffet, is an admittedly reluctant plaintiff. But he’s willing to fight on principle, recalling one time he couldn’t: In the 1960s, the Army demanded that his dogtags note his religion. He reluctantly chose Judaism, which reflected his ancestry if not his beliefs.

“One of the things I like to do is stand up and say I’m a non-believer, so you know you’re not alone,” he said recently. For years Mel Lipman, a friend of Jacobson’s and the American Humanist Association president, had presided over non-religious weddings in Las Vegas. But he belonged to the Humanist Society, a secular branch of the Humanist Association whose tax status as a religious group satisfied the clerk’s requirements.
When Lipman and his wife moved to Florida this spring, Jacobson decided to become the Las Vegas atheist celebrant. “But I’m not going to do it by saying I belong to a religious organization,” he said. “That’s a sham because atheists are not religious.”

(via The Chicago Tribune)

Political Corruption

(Picture via The Sun-Times News Group)

“The pathetic behavior of the Illinois governor – his brazen attempt to sell a Senate seat – raises the larger question of power and corruption, and whether having a position of power reliably leads to unethical behavior. (My first thought, upon hearing that Blagojevich had been recorded by the Feds, was that even the lowliest corner boys on the Barksdale crew were smart enough to not say incriminating stuff over the phone.) Here’s some suggestive evidence:

Researchers led by the psychologist Dacher Keltner took groups of three ordinary volunteers and randomly put one of them in charge. Each trio had a half-hour to work through a boring social survey. Then a researcher came in and left a plateful of precisely five cookies. Care to guess which volunteer typically grabbed an extra cookie? The volunteer who had randomly been assigned the power role was also more likely to eat it with his mouth open, spew crumbs on partners and get cookie detritus on his face and on the table.

Why does feeling a sense of power change our behavior? Part of the problem is that power is isolating. Our sense of fairness is innate, but it’s also fragile. As the Times notes:

Mr. Blagojevich had grown increasingly isolated in recent years, particularly from his own state’s Legislature and even from his father-in-law, Dick Mell, a powerful longtime Chicago alderman who showed him the political ropes as a younger man.The governor was rarely seen around his offices in Chicago and Springfield, preferring instead to spend time at home on the North Side.

“I believe he became a prisoner of his own home,” Mr. Jacobs said.”

(via The Frontal Cortex)

(“Rat sign vanishes from Blagojevich’s alley” via Chicago Breaking News)

U.S. Court Allows Abuse Case vs. Vatican

“A federal appeals court has permitted a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse to proceed against the Vatican, creating potential liability for the seat of the Roman Catholic faith for the activities of Catholic clergy in the U.S. Monday’s ruling, issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, marks the first time a court at so high a level has recognized that the Vatican could be liable for the negligence in sexual-abuse cases brought in the U.S.

The ruling is seen as a breakthrough by those allegedly abused by priests. Investigators and grand juries have found several instances where the church failed to report alleged abusers and covered up alleged misdeeds to protect them. Jeffrey S. Lena, the attorney for the Holy See, said he was not “presently inclined” to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. It remains to be seen whether the Vatican, which is a sovereign state recognized by the U.S. government, will make further arguments that it is immune from U.S. civil proceeding.

Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have paid out at least $1.5 billion to alleged abuse victims, most of this since the scandal broke open nationwide in 2002. The appeals court found that the church government may be held liable for actions taken in the U.S. based on the Vatican’s policies or directives.”

(via Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog)

Damien Echols Speaks


“It has been 15 years since Damien Echols was sentenced to die for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis. He claims he and the other two convicted of the heinous killings have what they need to prove they are innocent. Surrounded by guards in Arkansas’ only super-max prison, Damien Echols is shackled at the hands and feet. (Damien Echols, Death Row Inmate) “Every single morning for the past 15 years I’ve had to wake up in a prison cell knowing I should have never been there in the first place. They took from me the entire decade of my 20’s. I’m now in my 30’s. They are taking my 30’s. I’ve lost 15 Christmas’, 15 Thanksgivings… my son has had to grow up without his father.” Treated as one of the most dangerous criminals in the state, Echols is one of only about 40 inmates on Arkansas’ death row.

(Echols) “I can take exactly 4 steps from the back of the cell to the front of the cell. Everything is made out of concrete except for the door which is steel. .” Now 15 years after being locked up, as he spends day in and day out in solitary confinement, Echols believes he is the closest he has ever been to getting a new trial.

(Echols) “Ever since the minute I was arrested 15 years ago, I’ve tried to tell them that I did not do this and they just weren’t interested in listening. They said well that’s what everyone says. And that’s why for me the dna evidence is so important now because finally there is concrete forensic evidence that I can point to and say look I told you.”

(via KATV. Also: “Damien Echols Speaks”:Pt. 2)

Documentary- “Off The Grid: Life On The Mesa”

The current economic crisis has some people showing an an interest in survivalism, frugal lifestyles, etc. This fascinating documentary focuses on one particular group of people who live according to their own rules.

“Twenty-Five miles from town, a million miles from mainstream society, a loose-knit community of eco-pioneers, teenage runaways, war veterans and drop-outs, live on the fringe and off the grid, struggling to survive with little food, less water and no electricity, as they cling to their unique vision of the American dream…”

(“Off The Grid: Life On The Mesa” via Snag Films)

Patrick M. Byrne: “Deep Capture” the Movie

“Hey Friends.Two years ago I began a campaign to expose a massive circle of corruption on Wall Street involving something called ‘naked short selling.’ The financial press, which had previously been quite generous towards me, immediately began devoting a tremendous amount of energy to misrepresenting, dismissing, and downplaying my allegations. It began to seem as though they were taking part in a cover-up, especially given that I simultaneously became persona non gratis on Wall Street, so that the entire discourse about whether or not I was right went forward with precisely one person precluded from taking part: me. The lengths to which this cover-up was prosecuted astonished even me: for example, last year a large conference (‘Value Investors’ Congress’) invited me to speak, but some powerful hedge funds threatened to boycott if I were allowed to tell me side of the story, and the invitation was rescinded.Times are changing, however, and a few weeks ago I was invited to speak to an even bigger conference of hedge funds. I did so, and was finally able to connect the dots for the public.”

(“Deep Capture” the Movie. “Deep Capture”, The (very long) Story)

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