TagCivil Liberties

Happiness, freedom, and control

Two quotes on my mind tonight:

1. From The Job interviews with William S. Burroughs:

Q: Are they happy anywhere?

A: They’re certainly happier in Spain with all the poverty than they are in Sweden with all the prosperity and their high living standard.

Q: But then, Spain is a good example of a highly controlled country with a repressive government, a religious bugbear – just about everything…

A: Just about everything. They have all sorts of troubles. But you see, poverty keeps people busy. You see happiness there in the faces of the people on the streets that you do not see on Swedish streets.

This interview took place in the 70s when Spain was still under Franco. With regard to the question of “being busy” read this and consider what many (most?) of us are “busy” doing in modern post-industrial society.

2. Reality Sandwich interview with R.U. Sirius:

Q: It seems equally possible that we will be thrust into some kind of totalitarian technological hell in which our every movement is watched and our perceptions are closely monitored, a la A Scanner Darkly or 1984. It’s interesting to observe how a force as powerful as technology can simultaneously invoke great dread or great hope in people based on different perspectives of its usefulness in our lives.

A: Yeah, I think that’s actually more of a parallel vision than an opposite vision. These technologies could solve problems and not be disastrous in a physical sense, but they seem to almost inevitably bring on the death of the Western concept of privacy. The scenario could be hellish, considering the current political dynamics: authoritarian tendencies married to paranoias about security are at war with authoritarian outsider anti-imperialists who hate technology and modernity.

But I don’t think the scenario will necessarily be particularly hellish. It could easily resolve into a very liberal control system. In some interview during the ’80s, someone asked William Burroughs about Brave New World and he said (in that great Burroughs voice), “I think it would be an improvement.” I can imagine a very liberal society – pampered by machines – in which people are free to carry on wild festivities in the hippie/pagan/Burning Man traditions, or do just about whatever pleases them, and where the margins on behavior are set really wide, but if you slip over those margins, everybody immediately knows about it and your brain is instantly corrected so that you can’t do that taboo thing again. Instant rehab!

Which of course makes me think of the movie Zardoz

Iowa gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

The Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage Friday in a unanimous and emphatic decision that makes Iowa the third state — and the first in the nation’s heartland — to allow same-sex couples to wed.

In its decision, the high court upheld a lower court’s ruling that found a state law restricting marriage to between a man and woman violated Iowa’s constitution.

“We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” the Supreme Court wrote in its decision. “The Legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”

MSNBC: Iowa gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional


Over 100 homosexuals to be executed in Iraq this week

More than 100 prisoners in Iraq are facing execution – and some of them are believed to have been convicted of a ‘gay crime’, the UK-based Iraqi-LGBT group revealed this afternoon.

According to Ali Hili of Iraqi-LGBT, the Iraqi authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 from this week. There is, said Mr. Hili, at least one member of Iraqi-LGBT who are among those to be put to death.

And the London-based group, which believes that a total of 128 executions are imminent, is calling on the UK Government, international human rights groups and the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva to intervene “with due speed” to prevent “this tragic miscarriage of justice” from going ahead.

“We have information and reports on members of our community whom been arrested and waiting for execution for the crimes of homosexuality,” Mr Hili told UK Gay News.

UK Gay News: Iraqi Gays Sentenced to Death for Their Sexuality Face Execution

(via The Agitator)

New Jersey considers banning Brazilian waxing

New Jersey is drawing the line when it comes to bikini waxing.

The state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling is moving toward a ban on genital waxing altogether after two women reported being injured in their quest for a smooth bikini line.

Both women were hospitalized for infections following so-called “Brazilian” bikini waxes; one of the women has filed a lawsuit, according to Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the cosmetology board.

Technically, genital waxing has never been allowed — only the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted — but because bare-it-all “Brazilians” weren’t specifically banned, state regulators haven’t enforced the law.

Full Story: AP

(via The Agitator)

Oregon church can brew hallucinogenic tea for services, judge rules

You can take drugs legally only if you pretend to believe in the right imaginary creatures:

An Ashland church can import and brew a hallucinogenic tea for its religious services, according to a U.S. District Court ruling.

Judge Owen M. Panner issued a permanent injunction Thursday barring the federal government from penalizing or prohibiting the Church of the Holy Light of the Queen from sacramental use of “Daime” tea.

The church, which blends Christian and indigenous religious beliefs in Brazil, uses tea brewed from the ayahuasca plant in their services. The tea contains trace amounts of the chemical dimethyltryptamine or DMT.

According to the church’s lawsuit, the tea is the central ritual and sacrament of the religion where members believe “only by taking the tea can a church member have direct experience with Jesus Christ.”

Full Story: the Oregonian

(via Thiebes)

Romania weighs decriminalizing consensual incest

Romania – Surprising as it may seem, incest is not always a crime in Europe.

Three European Union countries – France, Spain and Portugal – do not prosecute consenting adults for incest, and Romania is considering following suit. […]

In Romania, decriminalizing incest among consenting adults is being considered as part of a wide range of reforms to the country’s criminal code. No date has been set yet for a parliament vote on the bill, and opposition to the proposal is fervent even among some legislators in the ruling coalition.

Currently all forms of incest in Romania are punishable by up to seven years in prison. But Romania’s Justice Ministry suggests the new legislation would move the country – which joined the European Union two years ago – closer legally to some other EU members.

“Not everything that is immoral has to be illegal,” said Justice Ministry legal expert Valerian Cioclei. “We cannot help these people by turning them into criminals and punishing them.”

Full Story: Canoe.ca

(via Thiebes)

In Australia, banned hyperlinks could cost you $11,000 a day

The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks.

Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark’s list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA – an anti-abortion website.

Full Story: Sidney Morning Herald

(via Xtal)

Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed to Death in Her Own Home While They Planted Drugs in Her Basement, Then Threatening an Informant So He Would Lie To Cover It All Up

Radley Balko writes:

Kathryn Johnston’s death is tragic. But the real tragedy here is that had the cops found a stash of marijuana in her basement that actually did belong to her–say for pain treatment or nausea–her death would have faded quickly from the national news, these tactics would have been deemed by most to be wholly legitimate, and we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today.

These cops were evil. But they worked within an evil system that’s not only immoral on its face, but is rife with bad incentives and plays to the worst instincts in human nature.

Full Story: the Agitator

The pseudo-science of criminal forensics

From Radley Balko’s column:

A forthcoming study from the National Academy of Sciences on the poor quality of forensic science in America’s courtrooms is expected to send shockwaves through the criminal justice system. According to The New York Times:

“People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting. The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court.”

Law enforcement organizations have tried to derail the report nearly every step of the way, and with good reason. Police and prosecutors have been relying on bad science to get convictions for decades. It’s only recently, as the onset of DNA testing has begun uncovering a disturbing spate of wrongful convictions, that some of the criminal justice system’s cottage industry pseudo-sciences like “bite mark analysis” have been exposed for the quackery they are.

Read on for some proposals on what to do about the problem.

Full Story: Fox News

Sadly, this is Balko’s last column for Fox News.

Follow up post on Balko’s blog

Texas police commiting highway piracy

A two-decade-old state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in crimes is wielded by some agencies against people who never are charged with — much less convicted of — criminal activity.

Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a review of court documents by the San Antonio Express-News.

Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town.

Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.

Linda Dorman, an Akron, Ohio, great-grandmother had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through town after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van. She’s still hoping for the return of what she calls “her life savings.”

Dorman’s attorney, David Guillory, calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha “highway piracy,” undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what was seized.

Full Story: San Antonio News

(via The Agitator)

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