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26 November 2011

Repudiation: Censorship of the Blogosphere

Less than a week ago I wrote about pending legislation that would potentially curtail Internet activity based on allegations of copyright infringement.  It should not be a surprise that this is only one of the ongoing threats to Freedom of Speech on the web.

Talking Point Memo has placed a letter online from Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman asking Google to provide censorship of terrorist activities on Blogger (and Blogspot). The impetus for this request is Jose Pimentel, perhaps better known as New York City's recent Lone Wolf Bomber, who ran a blog (no longer accessible) called

Mr. Lieberman claims that Mr. Pimentel wrote hate-filled entries on this blog, threats against the United States, and provided links to bomb-making instructions.
Pimentel's site is just one of the many examples of homegrown terrorists using Google-hosted sites to propagate their violent ideology.
The Senator goes on to complain that Google is inconsistent in how it limits content.
Unlike YouTube's Community Standards, Blogger's content policy does not expressly ban terrorist content nor does it provide a "flag" feature for such content.
If one reads my posts, it should be clear that I do not approve of violence.  Terrorism is (or should be) unacceptable behavior in any society.  This still troubles me.

How does one define terrorism in the case of a blog entry?  Does being classified as terrorism require more or less than an online threat?  The second question is germane because making threats online is already illegal.  YouTube's flag system is subject to criticism.  Perhaps it is too easy for YouTube video to be pulled due to allegation of copy violation.  Perhaps it is not easy enough.

Is it reasonable for me to protest about the threats to the LGBTQ Community from religious hate sites?  Can they ask that my content be pulled because I advocate what they call a threat to "traditional" marriage?

Freedom of Speech is a precarious right.  It must not be abused by threats of violence and it must not be limited due to paranoia.  Mr. Pinentel's site (which I never saw) was properly pulled if it contained the threats that are alleged.  But it is reasonable to be concerned about an overreach of flags and censorship for anything less.  Heated argument is healthy for a democratic republic.  Violence is not.

25 November 2011

Praise: Canadian Court Disproves Slippery Slope

One of the most common arguments against marriage equality is that if same gender marriage is legal than it will lead a slippery slope to polygamy, incest, bestiality, etcetera.  The arguments against these are quite simple.  Marriage equality is not about any of those things but allowing any two consenting adults to wed.  Incest laws are in place to prevent coercion, which is not proper consent anyway, and medical issues for potential offspring.  No creatures other than humans can consent.  Polygamy often involves coercion and is not about just two consenting adults. All of the hate groups seem to talk about the slippery slope.  Here are some examples.

From the National Organization for Marriage, in a paper directed at Jews.
“Is polygamy next?” Jonathan Yarbrough, part of the first couple to get a same-sex marriage in
Provincetown, Mass, said, “I think it’s possible to love more than one person and have more than one partner. . . . In our case, it is. We have an open marriage.” Once you rip a ship off its mooring who knows where it will drift next?
From the Family Research Council, in testimony in Rhode Island.
If the natural sexual complementarity of a man and a woman and the theoretical procreative capacity of an opposite-sex union are to be discarded as principles central to the definition of marriage, then what is left? If love and companionship are the only necessary elements of marriage, why should other relationships that provide love, companionship, and a lifelong commitment not also be recognized as "marriages"-including relationships between adults and children, or between close blood relatives, or between three or more adults?
There is far more precedent cross-culturally for polygamy as an accepted marital structure than there is for homosexual "marriage." There is also a genuine movement for polygamy or "polyamory" in some circles.
This argument is already being pressed in the courts. If homosexual "marriage" is not stopped now, we will be having the exact same debate about "plural" marriages only one generation from now.
From the American Family Association, a column fearing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
“But what about homosexuals?” you ask. The question would better be stated “what about people with homosexual desires?” Put that way, you can see the flaw. If sexual desires alone are the criteria by which we change our marriage (or military) laws to give people “equal rights,” then why not change them to include polygamy? After all, most men seem born with a desire for many women. How about those who desire their relatives? By the gay rights logic, such people don’t have “equal rights” because our marriage laws have no provision for incest. And bisexuals don’t have “equal rights” because existing marriage laws don’t allow them to marry a man and a woman.
From the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto for a "traditional" Christian society.
We understand that many of our fellow citizens, including some Christians, believe that the historic definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a denial of equality or civil rights. They wonder what to say in reply to the argument that asserts that no harm would be done to them or to anyone if the law of the community were to confer upon two men or two women who are living together in a sexual partnership the status of being "married." It would not, after all, affect their own marriages, would it? On inspection, however, the argument that laws governing one kind of marriage will not affect another cannot stand. Were it to prove anything, it would prove far too much: the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships.
One could easily find more examples from more anti-equality groups.  I trust those are sufficient.

And now it has been put to the test.  In 2003, British Columbia became the second Canadian region to enact marriage equality.  After eight years on this potentially slippery slope, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled against polygamy.
In a 335-page decision released on Wednesday, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled in favour of the section of the Criminal Code outlawing polygamous unions.
In his ruling, Bauman said while the law does infringe on religious freedom, it is justified given the harm polygamy causes to children, women and society.
The Chief Justice did not rule swiftly.  There was a huge amount of testimony and careful consideration.
Bauman spent several months hearing testimony and legal arguments about whether the 121-year-old ban on multiple marriages is constitutional.
The landmark hearings, which wrapped up in April, focused on the polygamous community of Bountiful, but the ruling is expected to have implications for polygamists in the Muslim community.
The constitutional test case was prompted by the failed prosecution of two men from Bountiful who were charged in 2009 with practising polygamy.
The B.C. government then asked the court to rule whether Canada's polygamy laws violated the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This won't stop hate groups in the United States from continuing to use fear and slippery slope arguments as they continue to fight against equality.  They continue to fear loss when equality promotes without demoting anything other than hate.  They continue to claim that they are for the family when they fight against the love and commitment of families.  Canada is offering evidence of the truth.  Equality and love will eventually win.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

Praise: GetUp! Austrailia Says It Is Time For Marriage

GetUp! Australia is calling for decency and equality in a beautiful fashion.  The group is
GetUp is an independent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation giving everyday Australians opportunities to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues.
They are not associated with any political party, but have caught the attention of more than half a million Australians.  Their message on marriage equality is simple and elegant.  Those of you who already favor marriage equality may require a tissue after this two minute video.
Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

23 November 2011

Praise: Thanksgiving and the American Foundation for Equal Rights

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is a collaboration of attornies David Boies, who argued on behalf of Al Gore before the United States Supreme Court in the 2000 Florida recount case known as Bush v. Gore, and Theodore Olson, who argued on behalf of George W. Bush in the same case.  Together they founded AFER.  From their website

The American Foundation for Equal Rights is dedicated to protecting and advancing equal rights for every American.
As the sole sponsor of the federal court challenge of California’s Proposition 8, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, AFER is leading the fight for marriage equality and equality under the law for every American.
Thanksgiving in the United States is often thought of in mythical terms, beginning with the Pilgrims and Native American Indians feasting together.  Wikipedia has an interesting page that includes the history going back to the Spanish (a few years before the Pilgrims).  Since 1863 Thanksgiving has been a national holiday in the United States.

Today the holiday is often celebrated with overeating and watching parades and sports.  The idea of thanks is one that many religious and civic organizations endeavor to remind us is at the heart of this holiday.  Despite political wrangling between the parties, the average person in the United States still enjoys many blessings.

The folks at AFER are making progress in gaining equality for all American citizens.  As their lawsuit progresses ever so slowly through the court system, the plaintiffs took time to record a Thanksgiving message worth sharing here.

As the plaintiffs said, may you and your families have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Praise: Protection for Beluga Whales

By 1998, the number of beluga whales had dropped to an estimated 347, a number dangerously close to extinction.  From Courthouse News Service, we learn that natives ceased hunting and that Alaska wanted the beluga removed from the endangered species list last year.
This ended in 1999 after Native Alaskans voluntarily curtailed their subsistence harvest. This became codified in a moratorium in 2000, and subsistence harvest continues to be regulated through co-management by tribes and federal agencies, Alaska claims.
Native American tribes have traditionally hunted whales and other Arctic animals to survive. Since fish-eating beluga whales are at the top of the food chain, they are also threatened by accumulation of toxins in their blubber.
Alaska claims that the 2008 listing of the Cook Inlet beluga as a distinct population segment did not consider that the stock is recovering due to conservation efforts.
The state wants the federal protections and endangered species listing set aside.
A lawsuit was filed by then-Governor Sarah Palin.
Alaska claims the federal protection will hurt the state's fishing, drilling and transportation industries, and interfere with public services.
In its federal complaint, Alaska claims that after the Cook Inlet beluga population plummeted in the second half of the 1990s, the state instituted conservation measured that stabilized the population.
On Monday, CBS News reports that the judge ruled and the whales won.
Judge Royce C. Lambeth of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the National Marine Fisheries Service properly followed requirements of the Endangered Species Act and used the best science available in making its determination.
Republicans in Alaska continue to attempt to put industry ahead of environmental concerns.
The state unsuccessfully sued to overturn the listing of polar bears as a threatened species and is suing to overturn restrictions on commercial mackerel and cod fishing in the western Aleutian Islands aimed at protecting endangered Steller sea lions.
Rebecca Noblin, an Anchorage attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of six environmental groups that intervened in the case, said Lambeth's beluga decision shows the state is wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous challenge.
National Geographic has some good data on the nature of the beluga whales, which may explain why they garner such attention.  The picture is from the National Geographic page.