Even though my blog is (edit: formerly) titled “Civil Liberties and World News,” I haven’t posted on either of these subjects in a month and a half. It’s time to return to that theme.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has started calling for the closure of Guantanamo. I fear it won’t be closed until we have a new president (and possibly not even then), but it’s nice to see that more people are standing up and saying that everyone should have a right to a trial. Moreover, a recent court decision stated that the US cannot indefinitely hold prisoners without trial. It would be fantastic if this kept up momentum. We’ll see what happens.
Also, the Massachusetts legislature defeated a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage (if the measure had passed, it would have gone to a public vote in 2008). There’s one tricky part left, though: a law almost a century old that states that non-Massachusetts residents can’t get married there unless the marriage would be legal in their home state. This was originally intended to fight interracial marriages. Let’s hope this law gets repealed soon!
In more worrying news, minorninth writes that national labs (including JPL) are putting tighter security clearances on all employees, including janitors and secretaries. They are now required to disclose
drug use (edit: apparently this is currently legal, although many people think it shouldn’t be), financial records, their armed services numbers, and other totally inappropriate things. If you actually work on a sensitive project, there’s even more: they want to know about your international vacations and medical history (edit: upon further inspection, this looks like this part might actually be an acceptable thing, too, since these people have been granted special clearance by the government). The worst part about this is that the mainstream media doesn’t seem to be picking up the story at all, which is really too bad. I hope more people find out about this before this becomes the de rigeur.
The news everyone seems to be talking about is that former US President Gerald Ford has died, presumably of something related to old age. Although I had always had the impression that he was a bumbling fool and everyone disliked him for pardoning Nixon (which apparently lead to his defeat in the next Presidential election), lots of people seem to be coming out of the woodwork and saying how great Ford was at bringing the nation together and healing them after the Watergate, Vietnam, and civil rights problems the country was experiencing.
In what I consider more interesting news, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that the state Senate must vote on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The legislature moved to recess without voting on it, which is against the state laws. However, the court aknowledges that they cannot force the lawmakers to vote on the issue (and the lawmakers have done this before). Assuming the amendment gets at least 25% of the Senate’s votes, it would go to a public election. This makes a lot of sense for constitutional amendments; it seems like they should be ratified by the people. However, it seems like a really bad idea to let the often ignorant, stupid, and bigoted masses decide on civil rights issues (can you imagine what would have happened if segregation had been put to a popular vote in 1954, instead of just letting Brown v. Board of Education stand?). We’ll see what happens, and although it would be nice if lawmakers followed the law, I really hope that gay marriages aren’t banned.
Finally, it looks like President Bush is considering changes in his Iraq policy, though I personally doubt he will set any sort of timetable. From what I’ve seen on CNN (Anderson Cooper is so awesome!), we need more troops over there to keep everything from collapsing into civil war (you know, more than it already has), but we don’t appear to have many more troops to send over. The whole thing is a disaster, but at least Bush is starting to consider new options instead of just burying his head in the sand. Time will tell how this turns out.
I’m back in MN for a week, and although it’s great to see friends from high school again (and hopefully play some more bridge with Jim), my mom is already driving me nuts. I think I just need to spend as much time as possible outside of the house, and I’ll be ok. If you’re in town, give me a call; my number is on Facebook (yes, psifer, it really is)!