Whoa! It seems I was totally wrong when I expected the California Supreme Court to uphold the ban on gay marriage. Instead, they struck down the ban as unconstitutional, allowing same sex marriage in the state. Conservatives are already rallying to try to get a constitutional amendment banning it on the ballots in November,
but it seems pretty unlikely that they’d be able to get the two thirds majority needed to pass it. Edit: it only takes a simple majority, which seems much easier. I don’t know if it is likely to pass. Hooray, progress!
Also, there is currently some finegaling in Congress these days over funding the Iraq invasion. It would be awesome if the legislators finally grew a spine and started passing bills that would, you know, stop wars of aggression and ban torture and provide education and medical benefits to veterans (admittedly, that last one is not related to Congress, but it’s despicable enough to mention along with the rest of this crap). but unfortunately I doubt this will actually go anywhere, and even if it did, Bush would almost certainly veto any such measure.
In natural disaster news, the cyclone that hit Burma and the earthquake in China have each left tens of thousands dead. Burma is in trouble because it is a poor country that doesn’t have the infrastructure to help the refugees or to rescue the people still trapped. China is in trouble because the areas worst hit are in hard-to-reach mountainous areas, and the earthquake coupled with heavy rains the next day wiped out most of the roads and airports, so it’s hard to send aid to the victims.
Hooray, getting my blog back onto the “Civil Liberties and World News” bit, rather than the “and computer science and stuff” part. I had begun to wonder if I needed to change the title of this blog.
I need to stop editing this and post it before it becomes out of date again.
Finally, after seven years, it appears that some of the democrats may have grown a spine. Congress has been fighting over surveillance bills concerning wiretapping and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. Although everyone in Congress unfortunately seems to think that warrantless wiretaps are a good idea, the main battle is currently over whether the telephone companies should be granted retroactive immunity for allowing such warrantless wiretaps back when it was illegal according to Federal law. You may recall that the Protect America Act of 2007 allowed the government to wiretap phones without court oversight, but it was set to expire in February 2008. Congress recently spent a lot of effort trying to renew it, but the retroactive immunity has become a sticking point. Bush and his cronies say that without it, the telecoms will be afraid to help the government with this stuff in the future (never mind the fact that if they just got the FISA court to review it, it’s very easy to get a warrant and then the telecoms are happy to comply). Consequently, the Senate passed a version of the bill that granted retroactive immunity to the telecoms (note that Obama voted against the immunity, while McCain voted for it and Clinton didn’t bother to show up; all three have claimed they were against such things when asked about it in the past). The House of Representatives, however, passed a copy of the bill that did not grant immunity. The two bills went to reconciliation (where they’re merged into one law that goes back to both groups again), and the version decided upon included the immunity. However, again the House did not pass the bill. In response, Republicans staged a walk-out in protest. Consequently, no bill was sent to Bush to be signed, and the PAA expired! We’re back to the (mostly sane) wiretapping rules described under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. I earnestly, desperately hope that the Democrats continue to hold strong, and I have written to my Representative to say this (he wrote back with a canned response about how he intends to fight this, but that doesn’t actually mean he’ll carry through). We’ll see.
In the meantime, bastions of freedom and privacy such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation continue to fight against the telephone companies that violated Federal law and our privacy. Sadly, the Supreme Court threw out the ACLU’s case with absolutely no comment about why they did that (a lower court had ruled that they can’t prove they were the victem of the warrantless wiretaps, because the evidence that shows they were was deemed to be a state secret and consequently thrown out of the case). However, I believe the EFF cases are still going through the legal process. This is a tough thing for the Supreme Court to tackle: if they rule in favor of the wiretaps, they significantly weaken the fourth amendment (see Berger v. New York, 1967). However, if the court makes warrantless wiretapping illegal, all hell breaks loose because the Bush administration has been conducting an unconstitutional program for years (and all hell breaking loose is not conducive to orderly government).
We’ll see what happens. If the past few years are any prediction, the Democrats are just going to roll over and grant the retroactive immunity, but I really, really hope this won’t transpire.
First off, you may recall that last week the Supreme Court ruled the Guantanamo tribunals unconstitutional. Urged on by this, Congress is gearing up to tackle the issue. It sounds like it’s possible Congress will just give the Bush Administration the blank check he needs to continue the same trials, but a more likely scenario is that legislation will be enacted that reaffirms the Geneva convention and gives prisoners a fair trial. Here’s hoping!
Japan is still pushing for a UN resolution enacting sanctions against North Korea. China will certainly not support the harsh language proposed, but if Russia abstains from the vote, China will be the only country with veto power to go against the measure, which puts them in an awkward spot. We shall see what happens.
The Pope made a visit to Spain to try to rally the people against gay marriage. Last year, Spain legalized it (as well as adoptions by gay couples), but the Pope seems to be mobilizing a lot of people against these laws. He apparently said that “acting as if (God) did not exist or relegating faith to the purely private sphere, undermines the truth” about the world. Whoa! I can understand if you want to believe in whatever deity you do (and if you want to believe that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong), but I have major issues with anyone trying to force their religion of choice onto others. and this guy is explicitly stating that making your religion a private choice is bad!? The Pope went on to yearn for the good old days when Spain was under Catholic rule (presumably this includes things like the Spanish Inquisition). The odd thing is that lots of Spaniards seem to agree with the Pope’s statements. Having never been to Spain, this all strikes me as kinda scary, but I could be getting a skewed viewpoint. Is this actually typical of the Spanish populace?