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Civil Rights
  • 8 Things Shorter Than Rand Paul's Filibuster

    Rand Paul

    Speaking on the Senate floor for 12 hours and 52 minutes is an impressive accomplishment for both Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) mouth and his bladder.

    It's even more impressive when you consider all the things he could have been doing instead:

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    Tags: Civil Rights, Drones, Filibuster, Rand Paul, Senate
  • Our Endorsements: SNL's Royal OB-GYN

    * Martin Short and Bill Hader discuss the royal ladyparts.

    * From The Onion: Illegalize me!

    * Holiday guilt trips, from UCB Comedy.

    * Gifs make the fiscal cliff fun. No, really!

    * You have the right to read this Cracked article.

    * A little heavy, but an amazing series of 2012 photographs.

    * Jimmy Kimmel gets some surprising answers about the fiscal cliff.

    * These countries won't get fooled by fake news again (but fingers crossed!).

    * NASA is confident the world isn't going to end Friday. A little too confident.

    * Frank Conniff + Baratunde Thurston on the Beginnings podcast = very entertaining.

    Tags: Baratunde Thurston, Christmas, Civil Rights, Guns, Kate Middleton, Martin Short, NASA, Queen Elizabeth II, The Onion
  • Barack Obama Is Watching You

    It's never been clear what made President Obama such a fervent fan of the HBO series The Wire. Certainly, his administration didn't take the show's criticism of the drug war to heart.

    But thanks to the ACLU, which forced the government to reveal the scale of its surveillance activities  even though federal agencies are obligated to report their activities voluntarily, we finally have our answer: Obama is just a big fan of wiretaps.

    As seen in the above chart displaying the number of people subject to pen register and trap and trace surveillance, more people have been affected by techniques that allow the government to capture incoming and outgoing phone numbers and email addresses in the past two years than in the entire previous decade.

    With the bar set this slow, surely, Mitt Romney at least promises to be a better civil libertarian than the current president…

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    Tags: Barack Obama, Civil Rights, Mitt Romney, Torture
  • North Carolina Senate Blocks Compensation for Victims of Forced Sterilization

    Until its abolition in 1977, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina was responsible for thousands of forced sterilizations of thousands of persons found to be "mentally defective." Just to be clear, that's 1977, not 1937 and North Carolina, not Nazi Germany.

    The laws that authorized involuntary sterilization of the mentally ill were only formally repealed in 2003, but North Carolina was close to adopting a compensation scheme for the surviving victims

    North Carolina's attempt to become the first state to compensate people sterilized in a decades-long program ended Wednesday after Senate Republicans refused to support a bipartisan plan to give victims $50,000 each.

    The House put $10 million in the state budget to pay eugenics victims. But it didn't survive negotiations with the Senate, where conservative lawmakers disagreed on whether to compensate victims.

    "I'm sorry it happened," said Sen. Don East, a chief critic. "I just don't think money fixes it."

    Because nothing says "I'm sorry" like blocking modest compensation for a violation inflicted on citizens by their own government.

    Look on the bright side: just three decades ago, North Carolina locked away its most feeble-minded citizens in mental institutions and violated their basic human right to reproduction. Now its most feeble-minded citizens are serving in the state legislature. Progress!

    Tags: Civil Rights, Money, North Carolina
  • Massachusetts Town Adopts $20 Fine for Public Profanity

    While national politicians offer few solutions to deal with rising deficits, one Massachusetts town has a novel solution for the debt crisis. At last night's town meeting, following a unanimous voice vote in support of a "get off my lawn" resolution, the residents of Middleborough voted 183-50 in favor of a proposal to impose a $20 fine on public profanity. Now we wait for the end of the Red Sox' season and watch the coffers overflow.

    "Middleborough" and "Monday night" are strange ways of spelling "Salem" and "late 17th century," but we will just have to believe that the story came via the Associated Press and not Cotton Mather's Wonders of the Invisible World

    Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks…

    Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity. The ordinance gives police discretion over whether to ticket someone if they believe the cursing ban has been violated.

    The ACLU's freedom-mongering aside, treating swearing as a civil violation rather than a criminal offense, actually represents a libertarian step for the Plymouth County community. Since 1968, Middleborough has had a bylaw criminalizing public cursing, though the statute was rarely enforced due to the rigmarole of the "courts" and the "Constitution."

    As this move comes on the heels of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's decision to ban sugary soft drinks in containers over 16 ounces, some are wondering whether the cursing ban extends from the same feelings of personal inadequacy. Bloomberg's salt cravings are well documented; perhaps the soda ban allowed him to look down on unhealthy sugar consumers — the first time the 5 and half foot mayor has looked down on anyone. Meanwhile, Middleborough is home to Assawompset Pond. They too are probably overcompensating.

    Photo by Patrick Strattner/Getty Images

    Tags: Civil Rights, Extremely Local Politics, Massachusetts