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Junk Scientists blames ACLU effect for spike in Chicago’s violence

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Police Line  Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross

I’m with the ACLU on this:

A [questionable] new study blames Chicago’s sudden spike in gun violence in 2016 on the dramatic drop in street stops by Chicago police that year, but several crime experts quickly discounted its findings, particularly its conclusion that the Laquan McDonald scandal wasn’t a factor.

But the ACLU and several crime experts who reviewed the study at the Tribune’s request questioned its findings.

“They’re more or less suggesting that working in an unconstitutional police department is worth the trade-off,” said John Eterno, a criminal justice professor at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y., and a former captain with the City of New York Police Department. “If you’re going to be doing 40,000 stops a month … you have to have reasonable suspicion on every one of those 40,000 stops.”

Karen Sheley, an ACLU staff attorney who is overseeing the agreement with Chicago police, dismissed the study as “junk science.”

“This particular viewpoint is both insulting to officers who follow the law on a regular basis and ignores the harm, including the public safety, to the communities who are most impacted by police work,” she said.

The study’s authors are law professor Paul Cassell, a former federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, and economics professor Richard Fowles, who specializes in statistical analysis. The two also published a study last year arguing that the longstanding Miranda warnings for suspects in custody — that they have the right to remain silent — have “handcuffed” police officers across the country.

The experts who reviewed the study questioned its main conclusion — the strong link between street stops and homicides. In 2017, by comparison, street stops increased only slightly, yet homicides fell by more than 100.

“I’m very concerned about what they see from that one year and suddenly they make all these claims, which is just so wrong,” said Eterno, the Molloy College professor. “You can’t really make claims about any type of trend or anything that’s going on based on the one-year change.”

Others pointed to New York, where homicides remained low even when the number of stop-and-frisks fell sharply.

(click here to continue reading Study blames ‘ACLU effect’ for spike in Chicago’s violence in 2016, but experts differ – Chicago Tribune.)

I don’t want to live in a police state where basic civil liberties have been suspended, and a militarized armed police has free reign to terrorize each and every citizen with the assumption that this and only this is the way to reduce violent crime. That is not America, that is a totalitarian hellscape.

How about we reduce the number of guns held by citizens instead? Well regulated militia and all that.

You know the NRA and its allies in the media and in Congress will be citing Cassell/Fowles this month until their neck veins are bulging.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 26th, 2018 at 8:04 am

Posted in crime

Tagged with , ,

ACLU sues Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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No Photos - Gentlemen Please Remove Your Hats
No Photos – Gentlemen Please Remove Your Hats

Photography is not a crime, part the 234,642nd. Kudos to the ACLU…

The ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies Thursday alleging they harassed, detained and improperly searched photographers taking pictures legally in public places.

The federal lawsuit alleges the Sheriff’s Department and deputies “have repeatedly” subjected photographers “to detention, search and interrogation simply because they took pictures” from public streets of places such as Metro turnstiles, oil refineries or near a Long Beach courthouse.

“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

(click here to continue reading ACLU sues Sheriff’s Department, alleges photographers were harassed – latimes.com.)

Photography is Not A Crime
Photography is Not A Crime

and from the ACLU:

The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC) and the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP today sued the County of Los Angeles and individual Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies for detaining and searching photographers. The incidents of harassment occurred when photographers were taking pictures in public places where photography is not prohibited.

“Photography is not a crime. It’s protected First Amendment expression,” said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney at the ACLU/SC. “Sheriff’s deputies violate the Constitution’s core protections when they detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”

The complaint is filed on behalf of three plaintiffs, who between them have been detained or ordered not to photograph by Sheriff’s deputies on at least six occasions. The complaint details similar incidents involving others, from amateur photographers to veteran photojournalists.

(click here to continue reading ACLU/SC Challenges Sheriff’s Dept.’s Detention of Photographers.)

Written by Seth Anderson

October 28th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

ACLU and Others File Lawsuit Over Digital Border Searches

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Kudos, as this policy is contrary to the Bill of Rights and years of court rulings. You should throw a few dollars in the ACLU coffers if you can.

Pippin's New MBA

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Layers (NACDL) today filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy permitting border agents to search, copy and detain travelers’ electronic devices at the border without reasonable suspicion. DHS asserts the right to look though the contents of a traveler’s electronic devices – including laptops, cameras and cell phones – and to keep the devices or copy the contents in order to continue searching them once the traveler has been allowed to enter the U.S., regardless of whether the traveler is suspected of any wrongdoing.

“These days, almost everybody carries a cell phone or laptop when traveling, and almost everyone stores information they wouldn’t want to share with government officials – from financial records to love letters to family photos,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Innocent Americans should not be made to feel like the personal information they store on their laptops and cell phones is vulnerable to searches by government officials any time they travel out of the country.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), whose members include television and still photographers, editors, students and representatives of the photojournalism industry; NACDL, which is a plaintiff as well as counsel on the case; and Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen who had his laptop searched and confiscated at the Canadian border.

Abidor was travelling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in May when he had his laptop searched and confiscated by Custom and Border Patrol officers. Abidor, an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student, was questioned, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charge. When his laptop was returned 11 days later, there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.

“As an American, I’ve always been taught that the Constitution protects me against unreasonable searches and seizures. But having my laptop searched and then confiscated for no reason at all made me question how much privacy we actually have,” said Abidor. “This has had an extreme chilling effect on my work, studies and private life – now I will have to go to untenable lengths to assure that my academic sources remain confidential and my personal dignity is maintained when I travel.”

(click to continue reading Groups Sue Over Suspicionless Laptop Search Policy At The Border | American Civil Liberties Union.)

ACLU Constitution Free Zone

We’ve blogged about the DHS’s ridiculous policy a few times before

Written by Seth Anderson

September 7th, 2010 at 11:27 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

ACLU challenges Illinois eavesdropping act

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Continuous Video Recording in Progress

Kudos to the ACLU, the police shouldn’t have rights that citizens don’t.

It’s not unusual or illegal for police officers to flip on a camera as they get out of their squad car to talk to a driver they’ve pulled over.

But in Illinois, a civilian trying to make an audio recording of police in action is breaking the law.

“It’s an unfair and destructive double standard,” said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

On Wednesday, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago challenging the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which makes it criminal to record not only private but also public conversations made without consent of all parties.

With cell phones that record audio and video in almost every pocket, the ability to capture public conversations, including those involving the police, is only a click away. That raises the odds any police action could wind up being recorded for posterity.

Opponents of the act say that could be a good thing and certainly shouldn’t lead to criminal charges.

The ACLU argues that the act violates the First Amendment and has been used to thwart people who simply want to monitor police activity.

(click to continue reading ACLU challenges Illinois eavesdropping act – chicagotribune.com.)

and isn’t this backwards?

Illinois is one of only a few states, including Massachusetts and Oregon, where it is illegal to record audio of conversations that take place in public settings without the permission of everyone involved.((unless you are a cop, of course))

Illinois’ eavesdropping ban was extended in 1994 to include open and obvious audio recording, even if it takes place on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists and in a volume audible to the “unassisted human ear.”

The police can record you without asking your permission, but even on a public street, you can’t video them? Ridiculous.

Miami blogger Carlos Miller has been advocating changing these sorts of laws for quite a while. If you read a few postings there, you’ll become progressively more angry at police state tactics.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

ACLU Sues over FISA

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Moments like this are why I’m happy to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU. I may not like lattes, don’t drive a Volvo, but the ACLU makes me proud to be a liberal.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Thursday over a controversial wiretapping law, challenging the constitutionality of the expanded spy powers Congress granted to the president on Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit was filed with the court just hours after Bush signed the bill into law.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of journalist and human rights groups, asking the court put a halt to Congress’s legalization of Bush’s formerly secret warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU contends (PDF) the expanded spying power violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

[From Bush Signs Spy Bill, ACLU Sues | Threat Level from Wired.com]

[snip]

The ACLU contends those blanket powers to grab international communications of Americans without specific court orders violate the Fourth Amendment and would stymie journalists who often speak to confidential sources outside the country. Plaintiff Naomi Klein, the liberal columnist and author, said the surveillance would compromise her writing about international issues.

“If the U.S. government is given unchecked surveillance power to monitor reporters’ confidential sources, my ability to do this work will be seriously compromised,” Klein said.

Throw some coins towards the ACLU, or read more details of this suit

“Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power – and that’s exactly what this law allows. The ACLU will not sit by and let this evisceration of the Fourth Amendment go unchallenged,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Electronic surveillance must be conducted in a constitutional manner that affords the greatest possible protection for individual privacy and free speech rights. The new wiretapping law fails to provide fundamental safeguards that the Constitution unambiguously requires.”

In today’s legal challenge, the ACLU argues that the new spying law violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The new law permits the government to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.

Plaintiffs in today’s case are:

  • The Nation and its contributing journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges
  • Amnesty International USA, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, Washington Office on Latin America, and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association
  • Defense attorneys Dan Arshack, David Nevin, Scott McKay and Sylvia Royce

Written by Seth Anderson

July 13th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports

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Everything If You Want Things

Everything If You Want Things

The Cheeto-in-Chief’s shoot from the hip governing style has struck again, this time screwing his big time buddies, the US coal industry. I giggled.

On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”

Today, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark dropped a bombshell tweet, saying, “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.” In a letter to Trudeau, she wrote:

For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.

Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.

Clark goes on to note the success of the Beyond Coal movement in shutting down coal terminals on the U.S. Pacific Coast:

As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.

Due to the lack of U.S. terminals, Clark says, U.S. exports through Canada have been increasing. Last year, she says, 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal moved through the Port of Vancouver, and the number was expected to increase in the future.

(click here to continue reading D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports | Sierra Club.)

Maybe If You Slowed Down
Maybe If You Slowed Down

a little background about the lumber dispute which led to the imposition of tariffs: doesn’t seem like it is that clear of a “win”.

The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply.

As a lumber producer, Canada enjoys a basic advantage over the United States: a timber inventory that’s 13 times greater, per capita, according to Daowei Zhang, a professor of forest economics and policy at Auburn University who has made a career of his own studying this never-ending kerfuffle. Canada’s resource endowment, plus exchange rates and many other economic factors, helps explain the rise of Canadian softwood-lumber imports from a mere 7 percent of the U.S. market during the Korean War to 30 percent or so in recent years.

U.S. producers emphasize the fact that Canada’s forests are government-owned, whereas most U.S. timber stands are on private land. Provincial agencies set the price loggers must pay — delightfully known as the “stumpage fee” — for cutting down pines and other conifers, a.k.a., “soft” wood. U.S. producers say that this results in below-market stumpage fees for Canadian loggers — or, as the U.S. industry contends, a subsidy.

A 2105 Congressional Research Service report called evidence on this point “widespread, but inconclusive.” The U.S. side has not fared well in international arbitration. Even so, Canada has agreed to a series of temporary market-sharing agreements, the most recent of which expired in the waning days of the Obama administration, thus freeing the Trump team to take its new position, whether in earnest or as posturing ahead of a NAFTA renegotiation remains to be seen.

The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!

Certainly, limiting imports of Canadian lumber, whether through tariffs or by negotiated agreement, will make U.S. housing more expensive, since Canada supplied roughly 31 percent of the U.S. market for softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood lumber accounts for about 7 percent of the construction cost of a home, according to the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB, another D.C. lobby that the softwood-lumber dispute periodically activates, estimates that the jobs that Trump’s latest move saves in American saw mills would be offset elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of 8,241 U.S. jobs, $498.3 million in wages and salaries, and $350.2 million in taxes and other government revenue.

No doubt the housing lobby is a dubious proxy for the public, given its own dependence on government market manipulation and subsidies. Yet, in this case, the NAHB study illustrates a valid point: The Trump administration is not proposing to protect America from Canada; it’s proposing to protect certain American special interests from certain Canadian special interests.

(click here to continue reading Trump has set out to protect lumber workers. Instead, he’s helping lobbyists. – The Washington Post.)

So Trump purses his lip, imposes a tariff on Canadian lumber to show how “tough” he is against those meanie Canadians, and ends up screwing his coal producing buddies. Doh! Coal is a dirty, dying business, and shouldn’t be propped up in any circumstance.

Oh, and since I had to look it up: thermal coal is coal used for power generation, as opposed to metallurgical coal used mostly for steel production.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 27th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in Business,environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Judge Blocks Part of Trump’s Immigration Order

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No Borders No Nations
No Borders No Nations! 

As you’ve probably heard, there was another poorly thought out Executive Order signed by the Lord Emperor Tiny Hands, suddenly banning travel to the US from several countries, quickly stayed by federal judges. One wonders how much thought went into the ban, was it crafted on the toilet using a non-secured Android phone

Around the country, people gathered at airports to protest the travel ban. The Chicago Tribune reported that protesters gathered at O’Hare International Airport after more than a dozen travelers were detained. The Star Tribune reported some 100 people protesting at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport although there were no reports of people detained there. In San Francisco, The Mercury New reported hundreds gathered at San Francisco International Airport as three travelers were detained. And at Kennedy International Airport in New York, The New York Times reported that thousands protesters spread along the parking apron and on three floors of a parking deck shouting their protests.

(click here to continue reading Federal judge bars US from removing legal residents detained at Dulles | WTOP.)

A federal judge in Brooklyn came to the aid of scores of refugees and others who were trapped at airports across the United States on Saturday after an executive order signed by President Trump, which sought to keep many foreigners from entering the country, led to chaotic scenes across the globe.

The judge’s ruling blocked part of the president’s actions, preventing the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the presidential order. But it stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions.

The high-stakes legal case played out on Saturday amid global turmoil, as the executive order signed by the president on Friday afternoon slammed shut the borders of the United States for an Iranian scientist headed to a lab in Massachusetts, a Syrian refugee family headed to a new life in Ohio and countless others across the world.

Mr. Trump — in office just a week — found himself accused of constitutional and legal overreach by two Iraqi immigrants, defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile, large crowds of protesters turned out at airports around the country to denounce Mr. Trump’s ban on the entry of refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

(click here to continue reading Judge Blocks Part of Trump’s Immigration Order – The New York Times.)

Resist (hat)
Resist (hat)

The Executive Order didn’t go through normal vetting channels, so people were on flights that were perfectly legal when they began, but became forbidden by the time they landed. Incompetent White House, or chaos by design? Only Steve Bannon knows.

It wasn’t until Friday — the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days — that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said. The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well.

The policy team at the White House developed the executive order on refugees and visas, and largely avoided the traditional interagency process that would have allowed the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, according to numerous officials who spoke to CNN on Saturday.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said.
Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. 

…Before the President issued the order, the White House did not seek the legal guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that interprets the law for the executive branch. A source said the executive order did not follow the standard agency review process that’s typically overseen by the National Security Council, though the source couldn’t specifically say if that included the decision to not have the order go through the Office of Legal Counsel.

Separately, a person familiar with the matter said career officials in charge of enforcing the executive order were not fully briefed on the specifics until Friday. The officials were caught off guard by some of the specifics and raised questions about how to handle the new banned passengers on US-bound planes.

Regarding the green card holders and some of the confusion about whether they were impacted, the person familiar with the matter said if career officials had known more about the executive order earlier, some of the confusion could have been avoided and a better plan could be in place.

But even after the Friday afternoon announcement, administration officials at the White House took several hours to produce text of the action until several hours after it was signed. Adviser Kellyanne Conway even said at one point it was not going to be released before eventually it did get sent out.
Administration officials also seemed unsure at first who was covered in the action, and a list of impacted countries was only produced later on Friday night, hours after the President signed the document at the Pentagon.

(click here to continue reading Inside the confusion of the Trump executive order and travel ban – CNNPolitics.com.)

As an aside, usually I am content to read my news rather than some television talking head read it out loud to me; yet certain stories benefit from seeing live footage of the event as it unfolds. Natural disasters, perhaps, and certainly protests. Last night I flipped through all the news channels I could think of, and none had any live coverage of the raucous protests in airports around the country. Not MSNBC, PBS, CNN, BBC even. I didn’t try Fox, they were probably suggesting the protestors should all be rounded up into camps. Ironically, CNN was broadcasting its documentary on the 1980s, and as I flipped it on, Ted Turner was talking about what a disruption having a 24 hour network would be. Ironic since there was a genuine news story going on at that very moment, and CNN wasn’t broadcasting any live coverage.

Also, I was pleased that the ACLU jumped into action, and planned to give them another donation (even though I just had given them some money in December). Apparently, I wasn’t alone, as their website was being hammered by traffic…ACLU 2017 01 28 at 9 06 21 PM

ACLU 2017-01-28 at 9.06.21 PM

I’ll have to donate to them later in the week.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Saturday evening that a federal court in New York had issued an emergency stay on President Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The court’s decision, which will affect people who have been detained in airports, came after the ACLU and other activist groups filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqis who were held at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a result of the order.

“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing,” ACLU national political director Faiz Shakir told Yahoo News shortly after the decision was announced.

(click here to continue reading ACLU wins legal challenge against immigration ban: ‘Hope Trump enjoys losing’.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with ,

IL Supreme Court Weighs Whether Hospitals Can Avoid Property Tax

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Sun Setting On A Sacred Cow
Sun Setting On A Sacred Cow

Personally, I don’t think hospitals should be exempt from property tax. What exactly is the standard here, that if a corporation “does good” they don’t have to pay their fair share of tax? Who defines what the good is? Who monitors it? 

Lisa Schencker reports:

Illinois not-for-profit hospitals currently are exempt from having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes so long as the value of their charitable services is equal to or greater than their estimated tax liabilities.

But some municipalities argue that many not-for-profit hospitals are more like businesses, making handsome profits. They say hospitals should have to contribute their fair share of taxes to their communities, like any other business. A 2009 report by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said 47 Chicago-area not-for-profit hospitals had property tax exemptions worth a total of $279 million.

About 156 of Illinois’ more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.

In the case before the state Supreme Court, the city of Urbana and others argue that Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana should not be exempt from paying property taxes. They say the 2012 state law allowing hospitals to be exempt if they provide charity equal in value to their property tax liabilities is unconstitutional. The state constitution only allows such exemptions if the property in question is used exclusively for charitable purposes, they say.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said after oral arguments Thursday that regardless of what the court decides — or doesn’t decide — the issue is one the legislature should weigh.

The hospital association might work with lawmakers to craft a new law if the court strikes the current one down. Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi has said the group will “assess all options” once a ruling is made.

“Why should the most profitable companies in the state be shifting their burden onto every other business and homeowner?” Prussing asked.

Last year, a study published in the journal Health Affairs named Carle the 10th most profitable hospital in the country when it came to patient care services, with $163.5 million in profits in fiscal year 2013.

 

(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court weighs whether hospitals must pay property taxes – Chicago Tribune.)

There Are Some Things To Talk About
There Are Some Things To Talk About

I don’t believe that churches should be exempt either, unless they can scientifically prove that god exists. Are medical cannabis dispensaries tax exempt? Planned Parenthood clinics? Is Feeding America’s offices on Wacker Drive tax free? What about ACLU headquarters? Union halls? Bars and taverns? Wrigley Field? Seriously, where does it end? Our society would be much better off and more equitable if corporations didn’t get so many freebies from taxpayers. I’ve always liked the idea of a “mandatory minimum” for corporations above a certain size – the idea that Boeing and Archer Daniels Midland and all the rest can’t evade taxes by exploiting shell corporations and loopholes.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 16th, 2017 at 10:12 am

CPD Sued to Force Release Proof of Cell Phone Spying

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 City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle, probably with a Stingray device (taken at a Haymarket Riot Demonstration).

Remember those quaint old days when the United States had a Bill of Rights? And civil liberties were commonly respected?

Attorney Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy filed a suit against the Chicago Police Department last week. 

The Chicago Police Department was sued Friday to force release of evidence that the department has purchased equipment that allows them to covertly scan people’s cell phones for detecting telephone numbers dialed and texted, tracking their location, and cell phones’ unique device identification numbers.

Cell site simulators, also known as IMSI catchers or stingrays, masquerade as cellphone towers to obtain data secretly from nearby cellular user devices.

“Many believe that Chicago Police have already deployed this kind of technology at protests,” said Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, which represents Chicago resident Freddy Martinez in the suit.  “Local police departments in other states have widely used the technology, and have kept it secret, even to the courts, and even when it has been used to obtain evidence in a criminal case.”

“If the Chicago Police aren’t running afoul of the Fourth Amendment, they should have nothing to hide,” said Mr. Martinez. “This information will allow the public to learn the extent to which Chicago Police have this technology, and once we have that, we’ll pursue more information about how it is being used and whether Chicago Police are routinely using it to violate the Constitution.”

Mr. Martinez filed a FOIA request with Chicago Police looking for records documenting the purchase of this equipment.  “FOIA and the Illinois Constitution are clear that all records related to the use of public funds are subject to disclosure,” said Topic, “yet Chicago Police have stonewalled Mr. Martinez for months.”

(click here to continue reading CPD Sued to Force Release Proof of Cell Phone Spying | Blog | Loevy & Loevy.)

and as Mr. Martinez says:

“Should federal, state, or local law enforcement be allowed to trick your cell phone into sharing information like your location, the numbers your called or texted, or your unique device ID without your consent?” asked Martinez. “Should they be deploying this kind of technology in secret? We don’t think so.”

Copies of the suit, No. 2014CH09565, are available here: Freddie Martinez v. Chicago Police Department.

Officer with Blackberry
CPD Officer with Blackberry

From the suit, some additional background material, some of which we’ve blogged about, some not.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

December 9th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

F.B.I. Director James Comey Continues His Obfuscation Tour Re Encrypted Phones

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Old US Post Office building Toned
Old US Post Office building – used in Dark Knight

FBI Director James Comey continues his public obfuscation tour, blaming the upcoming Joker and Riddler crime spree in Gotham on the fairly new ability of consumers to encrypt data on their own phones against unwilling intrusions by governments and other entities.

The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, said on Thursday that the “post-Snowden pendulum” that has driven Apple and Google to offer fully encrypted cellphones had “gone too far.” He hinted that as a result, the administration might seek regulations and laws forcing companies to create a way for the government to unlock the photos, emails and contacts stored on the phones.

But Mr. Comey appeared to have few answers for critics who have argued that any portal created for the F.B.I. and the police could be exploited by the National Security Agency, or even Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies or criminals. And his position seemed to put him at odds with a White House advisory committee that recommended against any effort to weaken commercial encryption.

Apple and Google have announced new software that would automatically encrypt the contents of cellphones, using codes that even the companies could not crack. Their announcement followed a year of disclosures from Edward J. Snowden, the former government contractor who revealed many government programs that collect electronic data, including information on Americans.

The new encryption would hinder investigations involving phones taken from suspects, recovered at crime scenes or discovered on battlefields. But it would not affect information obtained by real-time wiretaps, such as phone conversations, emails or text messages. And the government could still get information that is stored elsewhere, including emails, call logs and, in some cases, old text messages.

(click here to continue reading James Comey, F.B.I. Director, Hints at Action as Cellphone Data Is Locked – NYTimes.com.)

Warrant - Not Found

You know what isn’t mentioned in this long article? Warrants. I wonder why that is? Could it be that most criminal masterminds do not store their plans to rob Gotham National Bank solely upon their encrypted cellphones, leaving law enforcement completely in the dark? Possibly The Joker leaves other traces of his plan elsewhere? Or discusses his machinations with co-conspirators? According to Mr. Comey, without the government retaining the ability to tap into each and every one of our cellphones at any time, The Joker will win. He’ll win! He’ll win, Batman!

or as Marcy Wheeler rightfully notes, this seems to really be about warrantless searching, especially at the US border:

Encrypting iPhones might have the biggest impact on law enforcement searches that don’t involve warrants, contrary to law enforcement claims this is about warranted searches. As early as 2010, Customs and Border Patrol was searching around 4,600 devices a year and seizing up to 300 using what is called a “border exception.” That is when CBP takes and searches devices from people it is questioning at the border. Just searching such devices does not even require probable cause (though seizing them requires some rationale). These searches increasingly involve smart phones like the iPhone.

These numbers suggest border searches of iPhones may be as common as warranted searches of the devices. Apple provided account content to U.S. law enforcement 155 times last year. It responded to 3,431 device requests, but the “vast majority” of those device requests involved customers seeking help with a lost or stolen phone, not law enforcement trying to get contents off a cell phone (Consumer Reports estimates that 3.1 million Americans will have their smart phones stolen this year). Given that Apple has by far the largest share of the smart phone market in the U.S., a significant number of border device searches involving a smart phone will be an iPhone. Apple’s default encryption will make it far harder for the government to do such searches without obtaining a warrant, which they often don’t have evidence to get.

If law enforcement wants to retain this access, they should be honest about what they might lose and why every iPhone user should be asked to carry a phone that is susceptible to criminal targeting as a result. Trading default encryption for a limited law enforcement purpose is just that — a trade-off — and officials should be prepared to discuss it as such. And, as forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski explains, there’s a mountain of other data still available to help law enforcement solve crimes. “There is such a mount of peripheral evidence out there that only a small handful of cases are even likely to have the iPhone be the sole smoking gun to begin with,” he explained. “Cops have iCloud data, iCloud backups, call records, voicemail records, text messages from the carrier (if obtained within a certain retention period), gmail, email, web logs, trap and trace, proxy logs, not to mention copies of data from other people involved or from the victims themselves, desktop backups (if available), sometimes even a desktop (as many criminals don’t use encryption at all). Add to that they’re eavesdropping on the whole damn Internet.”

(click here to continue reading America’s huge iPhone lie: Why Apple is being accused of coddling child molesters – Salon.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2014 at 8:29 am

Posted in Apple,government

Tagged with , , , ,

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle was uploaded to Flickr

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I wonder if they have one of those Stingray devices to suck up all cellphone activity in the area? Probably, but maybe this is just a camera.

At the May Day rally at the Haymarket Riot Memorial Statue…

More on that surveillance tool: "’Stingray’: Increased and Secretive Cell Phone Surveillance by Local Police Raises Alarms
ACLU calls technology the "electronic equivalent of dragnet searches" prohibited by the Fourth Amendment"

http://ift.tt/1nQ3nHb

or

http://ift.tt/1nQ3nHg…

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/nt1FUe

I took City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle on May 01, 2014 at 02:54PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 02, 2014 at 03:37PM

Police Keep Quiet About Stingray A Cellphone Surveillance Tool

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

Ahh, our National Security State keeps chugging along, snatching us up in its tentacles…

Police across the country may be intercepting phone calls or text messages to find suspects using a technology tool known as Stingray. But they’re refusing to turn over details about its use or heavily censoring files when they do.

Police say Stingray, a suitcase-size device that pretends it’s a cell tower, is useful for catching criminals, but that’s about all they’ll say.

For example, they won’t disclose details about contracts with the device’s manufacturer, Harris Corp., insisting they are protecting both police tactics and commercial secrets. The secrecy – at times imposed by nondisclosure agreements signed by police – is pitting obligations under private contracts against government transparency laws.

Even in states with strong open records laws, including Florida and Arizona, little is known about police use of Stingray and any rules governing it.

A Stingray device tricks all cellphones in an area into electronically identifying themselves and transmitting data to police rather than the nearest phone company’s tower. Because documents about Stingrays are regularly censored, it’s not immediately clear what information the devices could capture, such as the contents of phone conversations and text messages, what they routinely do capture based on how they’re configured or how often they might be used.

(click here to continue reading POLICE KEEP QUIET ABOUT CELL-TRACKING TECHNOLOGY, BY JACK GILLUM, News from The Associated Press.)

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes on Cellphones

Note that this works on everyone’s cellphones, regardless if you are a criminal suspect, or just a teenage girl texting your friends. Who needs warrants, right? The old United States that celebrated civil liberties as a constitution right has been superseded by 9-11 and the War on Terra.

ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler writes:

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use.

So the ACLU and ACLU of Florida have teamed up to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding stingray use by law enforcement in the Sunshine State, last week filing a motion for public access to sealed records in state court, and submitting public records requests to nearly 30 police and sheriffs’ departments across Florida seeking information about their acquisition and use of stingrays.

As two judges noted during the oral argument, as of 2010 the Tallahassee Police Department had used stingrays a staggering 200 times without ever disclosing their use to a judge to get a warrant.

Potentially unconstitutional government surveillance on this scale should not remain hidden from the public just because a private corporation desires secrecy. And it certainly should not be concealed from judges. That’s why we have asked the Florida court that originally sealed the transcript to now make it available to the public. And that’s also why we have asked police departments throughout Florida to tell us whether they use stingrays, what rules they have in place to protect innocent third parties from unjustified invasions of privacy, and whether they obtain warrants from judges before deploying the devices.

Although secret stingray use has increasingly been exposed by the press (and by the ACLU), public details are still scant. Our new work in Florida is part of national efforts to understand how law enforcement is using these devices, and whether reforms are needed to protect our privacy from law enforcement overreach.

(click here to continue reading Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked | American Civil Liberties Union.)

Transformers 3 Soldier extra
Soldier on a Cellphone (Transformers 3)

via

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2014 at 9:04 am

Supreme Court To Decide If Corporations Are Religious People Too

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Jesus Hoards
Jesus Hoards

The Supreme Court inexplicably ruled recently that corporations are people when it comes to spending political money; now this same court is going to rule whether for-profit corporations have religious rights as well. Rights that then would trickle down to the employees, squashing the employee’s rights. If this law passes, the religious affiliation of businesses will have to become a factor for workers deciding where to work. Will the corporation have to disclose the religious affiliations of each and every shareholder? Just the C.E.O. and President? The Board of Directors? Who controls the “Corporate Personhood”? How does Hobby Lobby take communion wafers and confession? Does Hobby Wine only drink grape juice like some Protestants?

Buzzfeed needs to make a listicle: 23 Odd Religious Practices Your Boss Might Insist Upon. I can imagine some of them now, like what if your boss was a Rastafarian, and insisted you treat cannabis as a sacrament each and every day? A Christian Scientist? You couldn’t go to the doctor at all, only pray for God to intervene. Orthodox Jewish boss? Better keep kosher, including paying attention to Shatnez– meaning you cannot mix wool and other fibers in the same clothing. If you worked for Staples when Mitt Romney owned it, would you have to wear the magic underwear? And be forbidden from drinking coffee? How about if your company’s board has members of Digambara Jain? Would you have to be nude all the time after you reached a certain age? If you worked for a Jehovah’s Witness like Prince, could your boss prohibit you from getting a blood transfusion? A Scientologist boss would prohibit you from Prozac and other psychiatric drugs and treatment. A Quaker corporation might not want its taxes to go to support building of war machines, would that be ok for the Court? What about wearing ornaments? God has railed against the wearing of ornaments in Exodus 33.

These are jokes, almost, but depending upon how the Supreme Court rules, the joke might turn to ashes in our mouths. I know the prospect scares me, and I’m self-employed. I really don’t want to live in the Christian Theocracy these zealots are trying to create…

God Is Ugly

God Is Ugly 

Some coverage regarding this scary, scary issue that I read today, including this overview from Adam Liptak, New York Times:

In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, ruled for Hobby Lobby (PDF), a corporation owned by a family whose members have said they try to run the business on Christian principles. The company, which operates a chain of arts-and-crafts stores and has more than 15,000 full-time employees of many faiths, objected to a requirement in the health care law that large employers provide their workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception.

Hobby Lobby told the justices that it had no problem with offering coverage for many forms of contraception, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery. But drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb are another matter, and make it complicit in a form of abortion, the company said.

The law presents companies with difficult choices, Hobby Lobby told the justices. Failing to offer comprehensive coverage could subject it to fines of $1.3 million a day, it said, while dropping insurance coverage for its employees entirely could lead to fines of $26 million a year.

The Tenth Circuit ruled that Hobby Lobby was a “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and that its religious beliefs had been compromised without good reason.

Kyle Duncan, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, said he was pleased that the justices had agreed to resolve the split among the federal appeals courts. “We hope the Supreme Court will vindicate the rights of family business owners,” he said.

Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that “the right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions.”

“These for-profit companies,” she said, “are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”

In July, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation (PDF), which makes wood cabinets and is owned by a Mennonite family that had similar objections to the law. The Third Circuit concluded that “for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise.”

David Cortman, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the company and its owners, said the ruling was misguided. “The administration has no business forcing citizens to make a choice between making a living and living free,” he said.

The Third Circuit rejected an analogy to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech. Though the First Amendment also protects the free exercise of religion, Judge Robert E. Cowen wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel, “it does not automatically follow that all clauses of the First Amendment must be interpreted identically.”

But a five-judge majority of an eight-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit, in the Hobby Lobby case, said that “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United” extended to religious freedom.

“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the majority.

(click here to continue reading Justices to Hear Contraception Cases Challenging Health Law – NYTimes.com.)

I AM GOD YOU ARE GOD
I AM GOD YOU ARE GOD

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux notes that neither of these businesses are even Catholic, so why would they object to contraception?

Oddly enough, neither of the business owners involved are Catholic, even though the first objections to the contraception mandate were raised by Catholic leaders, who didn’t want religiously affiliated hospitals and schools to provide birth control, which the Catholic hierarchy considers taboo. One case—Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, documented extensively for the Prospect by Sarah Posner earlier this summer—deals with an arts-and-crafts chain owned by evangelical Christians. The other—Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius—hones in on a smaller, Mennonite-owned cabinet door manufacturer.

Neither of the plaintiffs’ arguments mention doctrinal objections to contraception. That’s because Protestants, unlike Catholics, don’t believe that birth control is immoral. In fact, the denominations’ divergent views on the two issues created a kind of intra-Christian culture war throughout much of the twentieth century. Haunted, in part, by neo-Malthusian fears about the world’s rapid descent into overpopulation, the Church of England officially moderated its stance on contraception in 1930. Over the course of the following decade, most American Protestant denominations followed suit. The Mennonite Church does not have an official stance on birth control.

When evangelical Christians decided to throw in their lot alongside the Catholic hospitals and schools seeking an exemption from the contraceptive mandate, their argument was, to put it mildly, a stretch. When Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois, asked the Obama administration for an emergency injunction against the contraception mandate last year, it emerged that the college was not eligible because it had “inadvertently” been including emergency contraception in its student health plan.

It should also be noted that neither of the cases that will appear before the Supreme Court are founded on sound science; both allege that emergency contraception—and, in the Hobby Lobby case, the IUD—is a form of abortion. This relies on the notion that pregnancy begins when the egg is fertilized—not, as the medical community contends, when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall. This means that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, the facts of the case will be based on junk science, not theology. The Catholic Church, whether you agree with it or not, has consistently maintained that birth control is a fundamental evil. Protestant attempts to overturn the contraception mandate aren’t about theological objections to birth control—they’re an effort to dramatically expand religious freedom rights for conservative Christians.

(click here to continue reading The Contraception-Mandate Cases Aren’t Really About Contraception.)

The Devil and Pope
The Devil and Pope

Jessica Valenti writes

Today the Supreme Court announced it will hear two cases concerning the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies’ insurance plans cover birth control. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties claim the mandate violates their belief against certain kinds of contraception—pitting female employees’ right to a nondiscriminatory health plan against a company’s religious freedom. (I also fervently hope these companies are fighting as hard to ensure that their unmarried male employees don’t have access to sin-pills like Viagra.)

Most American women—99 percent—will use birth control at some point in their lives. Twenty-seven million women are being covered by this provision right now. So I have to wonder what companies that don’t want to cover birth control will tell their female employees should the contraception mandate be struck down. Abstinence? Aspirin between the knees, perhaps?

There’s also an incredibly slippery slope here—if employees’ health plans have to adhere to company owners’ religious beliefs, what happens if your boss doesn’t believe in vaccinations? Or as Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic tweeted, “What if your blood transfusions violate your employer’s religious beliefs? No surgery coverage?” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement, “Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their bosses opens a door that won’t easily be shut.”

(click here to continue reading Birth Control Coverage: It’s the Misogyny, Stupid | The Nation.)

Katie McDonough: 

“The corporations that brought these cases have views that are far outside the mainstream, and the outcome of these cases could have extreme consequences for millions of Americans,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in response to the news. “For the first time ever, the court could decide that corporations have the right to opt out of a legal requirement — based entirely on the personal beliefs of their owners.”

“The right to religious freedom belongs to individuals, not for-profit institutions,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “These for-profit companies are no more entitled to deny women insurance coverage for essential health care than they are to dictate how any of us can and cannot spend our paychecks.”

But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, suggested it believes that the Supreme Court will rule to protect the so-called religious expression of for-profit corporations, citing the 2010 Citizens United decision as an example of the court defining corporate personhood. “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” the court wrote.

(click here to continue reading Supreme Court to hear cases challenging contraception mandate – Salon.com.)

I AM Temple Faux Lomo
I AM Temple Faux Lomo

The president of Hobby Lobby is a member of the Christian Taliban if there ever was one:

Among his more controversial beliefs: Gothard thinks he can determine a person’s character simply by staring into their eyes, that disease has spiritual causes and that men are the sovereign rulers of the household. His books provide detailed instructions on how women ought to stand, in addition to diagrams of the appropriate length of men’s pants and illustrations of suitable female hairstyles.

In 2002, Green, acting through his family trust, purchased and then leased a vacant college campus to Gothard’s ministry. A year later, Green, this time acting through Hobby Lobby itself, purchased a shuttered hospital in Little Rock, Ark., and donated it to Gothard for the purposes of building a local training center.

These weren’t mere business transactions, either. The website of one of Gothard’s many ministries features video of Steve Green describing Hobby Lobby’s “desire to share Christ and Disciple others.” And in a review of Gothard’s book, The Amazing Way, David Green, father of Steve Green and founder of Hobby Lobby, wrote that, “Through the example and teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, we have benefited both as a family and in our business. It is as we take those lessons from God s Word that Bill clearly articulates that we live the full life that God intends.”

Objective courses about the Bible are permissible in public schools, but Sunday School lessons are a different matter entirely. Green’s past statements and Religious Right connections indicate that he’s actually trying to promote a specific perspective on the Bible: his own.

(click here to continue reading Curricular Controversy: Hobby Lobby President Proposes Bible Elective in Okla. Public School | Americans United.)

I know I’m never setting foot in a Hobby Lobby again:

Hobby Lobby, the giant craft retailer known for providing knitting wool, holiday trinkets, fake flowers, and just about any other craft-centric material one could need, balks at providing certain types of medical care for its employees. That is because the company, which has 559 stores across the country and brings in $3 billion in revenue each year, is owned by the Green family—devout Christians who believe that human life begins at conception and that using certain types of birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The Greens, who often have Hobby Lobby buy newspaper ads encouraging people to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior,” also think that their religious beliefs should be imposed on Hobby Lobby’s 22,000 employees. Because of their religious convictions, the Greens have asked a federal court, in a case called Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, to exempt their for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer health plans covering contraception.

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that minimum standards for employer health plans would include preventive care for women, including mammograms, cervical-cancer screenings, prenatal care, and contraceptives—all services that are vital to women’s health and well-being. The Obama administration provided an exemption from the contraception-coverage requirement for “religious employers”—churches and nonprofit religious organizations—but not for for-profit, secular corporations such as Hobby Lobby. 

Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius is one of 40 lawsuits filed across the country asking federal courts to exempt a for-profit corporation from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement. It is also one part of a coordinated effort led by conservative legal groups to undermine the Affordable Care Act and avoid complying with other laws.

(click here to continue reading Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius: Crafting a Dangerous Precedent | Center for American Progress.)

 Iota Eta Sigma

Iota Eta Sigma

So if a for-profit corporation is religious, is it based on its board members? Share holders? Founders? Who gets to decide what religion a company is?

Even if one assumes that the mandate represents a “substantial burden,” another problem with the argument being made against the mandate is that the free exercise of religion is an inherently individual act. As Sarah Posner argued, the idea that a secular, for-profit corporation can “exercise” religion is a strange concept that would be inconsistent with a substantial body of precedent. Some have argued that the Court’s Citizens United decision should be seen as changing the legal context, the issues involved are very different. Corporations must have some free speech rights because the dissemination of speech often involves corporate entities—Congress cannot ban the showing of Masters of Sex just because it’s distributed by Viacom. Religious exercise, conversely, is inherently personal. Some shareholders in the Hobby Lobby may have religious beliefs that contradict the religious mandate, but the corporation itself cannot.

What about closely held corporations?

One potential argument, recently made by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is that a corporation itself cannot exercise religion, but a corporation’s owners can. Since one argument made by Conestoga Wood is that the religious rights of the company’s owners have been violated even if those of the company cannot be, the case is presumably a vehicle for the Court to examine this legal question as well. In my judgement, this argument is no more convincing than Hobby Lobby’s. The owner of a business cannot obtain the advantages of a corporate form (including substantial insulation from personal liability) while remaining an individual when it is advantageous to do so. Nonetheless, it would not be surprising for the Supreme Court to split the baby by rejecting the Hobbby Lobby’s claim while accepting the ones raised by the owners of Conestoga.

(click here to continue reading The Affordable Care Act v. Supreme Court, Round 2.)

Jill Filipovic of the Guardian, U.K.

On its face, it seems odd to even consider the question seriously. After all, no one is forcing the owners of the company to take contraception or purchase contraception. The belief in question – that certain types of contraception are “abortifacients” – is also far from scientific fact. Also, the company owners issue their employees a pay check and have no say over how the employees spend it; they have no say over the activities their employees participate in on a vacation day.

It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use the money paid to them by the company for a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including buying contraception. It’s certainly not violating the company’s religious freedom for an employee to use a company-issued vacation day to enjoy a whole series of things that the company owner may find religiously objectionable, including, say, a full-day contracepted sex-fest, a trip to Mecca or a pork barbecue.

So why is it a problem for employees to use their health insurance for the care they and their doctors agree upon?

The cases the supreme court will hear were brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which bars the government from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is justified by a “compelling reason”. Free religious exercise is burdened when the government forces an individual to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs, but not every infringement on religious beliefs is a substantial burden. As the ACLU points out in their amicus brief to the supreme court, the contraception law doesn’t force the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store to violate their own religious beliefs. It requires them to cover health insurance, which may subsidize someone else’s activities that violate the Hobby Lobby owners’ religious values – but again, the same could be said for issuing a pay check.

By refusing to cover contraception, the Hobby Lobby owners (and the owners of the other companies claiming the healthcare law infringes upon their religious freedom) are in fact using their own religious beliefs to deny benefits to their employees who may not share those beliefs at all. That’s not religious freedom; it’s religious tyranny.

The company heads bringing these claims want to have it both ways. By incorporating, owners and shareholders create separate entities and are not personally liable for their employees’ salaries or health insurance costs – the entire point of incorporating is to create a legal entity separate from the individuals who created it. Yet these owners and shareholders want the court to consider their personal religious beliefs indistinguishable from those of the corporation, and allow those beliefs to dictate the kind of healthcare coverage their employees receive.

(click here to continue reading Get real: covering contraception doesn’t violate employers’ religious freedom | Jill Filipovic | Comment is free | theguardian.com.)

At least my corporation is atheist (because I am)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 27th, 2013 at 10:53 am

GPS and the 4th Amendment

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Shoveling snow apparently optional
Shoveling snow apparently optional

Our erosion of civil liberties continues apace, the police increasingly don’t even bother to get warrants before they put you in their surveillance net. For instance, in the case of suspect Antoine Jones, the police installed a GPS tracking device on his (or his wife’s) Jeep.

Jordan Smith reports on this troubling case:

When are electronic or other forms of surveillance of an individual considered a search under the Fourth Amendment — thus requiring a valid warrant to conduct such surveillance in a manner that protects the individual from “unlawful search and seizure”?

How the U.S. Supreme Court answers that question, in a case on its docket for the term starting in October, will have far-reaching implications for the power of government and for the privacy of individuals, according to lawyers and privacy rights advocates.

If the Court holds that warrants are not required for this type of surveillance, it could mean “the technological death of the Fourth Amendment,” warns Arkansas-based attorney John Wesley Hall, a leading Fourth Amendment expert…

The officers obtained a judicial warrant providing for a 10-day tracking period inside the District of Columbia. However, they actually installed the device after the 10-day window had expired — the reasons have not been brought out in court — and they did so while the Jeep was parked in a public lot in Maryland. The GPS data provided a 24/7 record of all of Jones’ movements in the Jeep over the next month — including, at times, the movements of his wife and family.

(click here to continue reading Big Brother is tracking you: GPS and the 4th Amendment – Obama’s Supreme Court Nominees | Supreme Court Justices – Salon.com.)

ACLU Constitution Free Zone
ACLU Constitution Free Zone

I’d be very surprised if the Roberts Court rules against the police, shocked in fact. Even the fact that some gun rights organizations have filed briefs decrying this destruction of the Fourth Amendment will probably not sway the Court, if history is any guide.

As Leckar told the Crime Report, a beeper is a “simple sense-augmenting device,” while a GPS tracking device, designed by the government for military use and only made available since 2000 for civilian applications, is “not sense augmenting; it’s sense supplanting.”

And that is one of the main reasons that in order to pass the Fourth Amendment’s legal standard a warrant is needed to conduct GPS surveillance, Leckar argues.
The “D.C. Circuit was correct to hold that pattern information is dramatically more intrusive than mere information about an individual’s discrete journeys,” his brief argued. “Indeed, the distinction between discrete bits of information and patterns of conduct is well-accepted.”

To privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates, the distinction is crucial.

In a brief supporting Jones before the D.C. Circuit, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the ACLU, and which they are expected to revive before the Supremes, argued that GPS technology now gives police extraordinary new powers to remotely track individuals over long periods in both public and private realms.

“Without a warrant requirement, an individual’s every movement could be subject to remote monitoring, and permanent recording, at the sole discretion of any police officer,” the brief said.
Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, and several other conservative groups have already filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging it to restore “the Fourth Amendment to its original text and purpose.”

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2011 at 8:14 am

Coal Subsidies and Congressional Liars

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Withered and Died

Speaking of hidden costs and corporations getting a free ride, compare and contrast the coal-owned Congressman from West Virginia on the one hand…

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the newest member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed today that the coal industry doesn’t receive any government subsidies, unlike every other form of energy. The former governor of coal-state West Virginia, who famously fired a rifle at clean energy legislation in a campaign ad, argued that the Obama administration has “villainized” coal. In a hearing on energy markets, Manchin went on to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency — which has issued regulations to limit the catastrophic impact of mountaintop removal mining and the existential threat of global warming pollution — for putting up “roadblocks” on the “greatest source” of energy in the nation:

What I don’t understand is the subsidies. The subsidies of energy, whether it be to oil, gas, wind, solar, biofuels, ethanol. The only energy source — which is the greatest source that we have so far as we’re dependent on — is coal. It doesn’t get a penny of subsidies. But it’s been villainized by this administration and so many people and it’s the one we depend on the most. It gives back more than it takes. I can’t figure it out.

We’re trying to use it in so many different forms, in super-critical heating, and things of this sort. We’re running into roadblocks with the EPA from every turn that we go. We’re trying to use it in conjunction with our natural gas productions, and trying to look at the changing the fleet to compressed natural gas, I think that’s very doable. Do you all have a comment on why that one source of energy which is the most dependent upon in this nation has no types of subsidies but the others demand so many subsidies?

(click here to continue reading Wonk Room » Manchin Claims Coal ‘Doesn’t Get A Penny Of Subsidies’.)

Satanic Gift

and on the other hand, facts:

In reality, the coal industry is heavily subsidized by the federal and state governments, enjoying explicit subsidies of billions of dollars a year, plus the indirect subsidy of free pollution that costs the United States 10,000 lives a year, destroys the land and water of mining communities, and destabilizes our climate. In September 2009, the Environmental Law Institute identified coal industry “subsidies of around $17 billion between 2002 and 2008″:

Credit for Production of Nonconventional Fuels ($14,097,000,000)– IRC Section 45K. This provision provides a tax credit for the production of certain fuels. Qualifying fuels include: oil from shale, tar sands; gas from geopressurized brine, Devonian shale, coal seams, tight formations, biomass, and coal-based synthetic fuels. This credit has historically primarily benefited coal producers.

Characterizing Coal Royalty Payments as Capital Gains ($986,000,000) – IRC Section 631(c). Income from the sale of coal under royalty contract may be treated as a capital gain rather than ordinary income for qualifying individuals.

Exclusion of Benefit Payments to Disabled Miners ($438,000,000) – 30 U.S.C. 922(c). Disability payments out of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund are not treated as income to the recipients.

Other-Fuel Excess of Percentage over Cost Depletion ($323,000,000)– IRC Section 613. Taxpayers may deduct 10 percent of gross income from coal production.

Credit for Clean Coal Investment ($186,000,000)– IRC Sections 48A and 48B. Available for 20 percent of the basis of integrated gasification combined cycle property and 15 percent of the basis for other advanced coal-based generation technologies.

Special Rules for Mining Reclamation Reserves ($159,000,000) – IRC Section 468. This deduction is available for early payments into reserve trusts, with eligibility determined by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Solid Waste Management Act. The amounts attributable to mines rather than solid-waste facilities are conservatively assumed to be one-half of the total.

84-month Amortization Period for Coal Pollution Control ($102,000,000) – IRC Section 169(d)(5). Extends the amortization period used in calculating the deduction from the generally applicable 60-month period available for other types of pollution control facilities.

Expensing Advanced Mine Safety Equipment ($32,000,000) – IRC Section 179E. The costs of qualifying mine safety equipment may be expensed rather than recovered through depreciation.

Black Lung Disability Trust Fund ($1,035,000,000)– As industry excise tax payments did not sufficiently cover early benefits payments, the BLDTF was given “indefinite authority to borrow” from the U.S. General Fund, and bailed out for $6.498 billion, 13 percent of which is relevant to the 2002-2008 period.

In addition, Synapse Energy Economics found that the government subsidizes the coal industry through several other avenues:

Financial support for the World Bank and other international financial institutions that finance fossil fuel use and extraction. Since 1994, these institutions have provided $137 billion in direct and indirect financial support for new coal-fired power plants.

U.S. Treasury Department’s backing of tax-exempt bonds and federally subsidized taxable Build America Bonds for use in the electric sector. $81 billion in tax-exempt debt was issued between 2002 and 2006 for electric power, most for coal plants.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service provision of loans, loan guarantees, and lien accommodations to public power companies that are investing in new or existing coal plants.

Tax credits, loans, and loan guarantees through the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2009, DOE issued $5.9 billion in loan guarantees for advanced coal projects.

Furthermore, cash-strapped state governments give millions of dollars in subsidies to coal, including $115 million from Kentucky, and $26 million from Virginia. In 2008, then-Gov. Manchin himself offered Appalachian Fuel $200 million in subsidies for a liquid coal plant.

So I guess you can do your own math and decide if these constitute pennies worth of government subsidies, or just pixie dust.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 3rd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,