An Observation on the Martin/Zimmerman Case

I was living in Los Angeles during the O.J. Murder Trial, another dubious acquittal.

There is a commonality between the two cases.

One that would argue for the banning of trying cases in the media.

When cases are tried in the media it makes it almost impossible to have a fair trial that is not biased in one direction or the other.

A criminal case isn’t American Idol. The public does not get to vote on these matters using their smart phone.

From the start these highly publicized cases are media circuses, like the gladiatorial combats of ancient Rome.  Entertainment vehicles for people to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to.

This makes a mockery of the trial system and turns what should be a courtroom process into a popularity contest.

When the media circus is contested by loud voices on both sides it invariably seems to work in favor of the defendant be that defendant O.J. Simpson or George Zimmerman.

Reasonable doubt has been created by the media.

This becomes an acquittal that leaves one side cheering and the other angry and demonstrating.

At the same time the media can function as a lynch mob and make it impossible for a defendant to win an acquittal no matter how much evidence the defendant has in his/her favor.

I think it might be better if there were little or no pretrial discussion of criminal cases in the media when jury trials are supposedly based on having unbiased juries.

The media circus turns trials in to popularity contests for the talking heads who have weighed in prior to the trial.

The Many Shades of ‘Out’

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html?utm_hp_ref=transgender

07/14/2013

On a sultry June afternoon, as my husband and I strolled towards the White House East Entrance, I reflected back to the time of my gender transition, in 1968.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d been fired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

But this was June 13, 2013, and what a contrast it was. My husband Charlie and I, along with many other activists, advocates and allies, were about to join the President’s White House Reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. The atmosphere was full of joy and hope for the future. As we waited for the President, I reflected further.

I had been ‘out’ for 15 years now, or so I’d thought: out on the Internet to inform colleagues about my past, out as an advocate for transgender people, out as an activist against the psychiatric-pathologization of gender variance.

It was one thing to hide in the back-rooms of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center decades ago, launching innovations as the hidden-hand behind the VLSI microelectronics revolution in Silicon Valley – a revolution that’s changed the world forever. I didn’t mind being almost invisible in my field back then or that no one had a clue what I was really doing, much less who was doing it. I was thrilled to even have a job.

But ‘out’ has many shades of grey — and even in recent years I kept on partly covering, shyly holding back, lingering in the darker shadows. Although times had changed, I’d clung to old habits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html?utm_hp_ref=transgender

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Federal Government Decisions Mark A Changed Landscape For Transgender Workers

From Buzzfeed:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-goverment-decisions-mark-a-changed-landscape-for-tra

In cases against both government and private employers, transgender workers — with the federal government’s backing — are successfully using the Civil Rights Act’s sex discrimination protections to fight anti-transgender discrimination.

Chris Geidner
July 15, 2013

WASHINGTON —Transgender workers, backed by the federal government for the first time, are successfully using civil rights laws to challenge government and private employers accused of anti-transgender discrimination, BuzzFeed has learned.

The Department of Justice decided earlier this month in favor of a transgender woman, Mia Macy, who had been refused work at a laboratory of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). After an investigation into her claims, the Justice Department informed Macy July 8 that the bureau “discriminated against [her] based on her transgender status.”

Macy celebrated the decision as “validation.”

“I never thought in my life that it would be over, but to have it not only be over but to have them say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, your civil rights were violated. They did do this.’ To have that vindication, it’s surreal,” Macy said.

The changes coming about now are the result of a crucial legal decision made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Macy’s case back in 2012. The commission then ruled that anti-transgender discrimination is covered under the ban on sex discrimination found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That April 2012 decision in Macy’s case sent her complaint back to the Justice Department, which is charged with investigating discrimination complaints brought against agencies under its control such as ATF.

Macy isn’t alone. BuzzFeed has learned that the EEOC also acted on at least one similar complaint later in 2012, a claim brought against a private employer.

The EEOC itself conducted an investigation into the actions of a private company in Maryland, concluding in September 2012 by finding that “reasonable cause” existed to believe the company had discriminated against a transgender woman employed by the company, which is a federal contractor. Although such findings often remain unpublicized, Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal, which represent the woman, presented the information about the case to BuzzFeed at this time because they have now reached a settlement with the company on behalf of the woman.

Continue reading at:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-goverment-decisions-mark-a-changed-landscape-for-tra

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Trans Women Win Employment Discrimination Suits Using Civil Rights Act

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2013/07/15/trans-woman-wins-employment-discrimination-suit-using-civil-rights

For the first time in history, the federal government is standing behind transgender employees who say they’ve been discriminated against because of their gender identity.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
July 15 2013

In what advocates hail as a historic first, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was subjected to physical and verbal harassment at her job with a federal contractor in Maryland.

After a full investigation, the EEOC ruled that supervisors failed to intervene even when they were informed of the harassment, creating a hostile workplace and violating the employee’s rights as protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, filed a complaint with the EEOC last year, following a landmark decision last April declaring that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extends to transgender people who are harassed on the basis of their sex. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

“We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment,” said Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. “Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.”

Complete article at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2013/07/15/trans-woman-wins-employment-discrimination-suit-using-civil-rights

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Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism

From The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/mission-creep-when-everything-is-terrorism/277844/

NSA apologists say spying is only used for menaces like “weapons of mass destruction” and “terror.” But those terms have been radically redefined.


Jul 16 2013

One of the assurances I keep hearing about the U.S. government’s spying on American citizens is that it’s only used in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is, of course, an extraordinary crime, and its horrific nature is supposed to justify permitting all sorts of excesses to prevent it. But there’s a problem with this line of reasoning: mission creep. The definitions of “terrorism” and “weapon of mass destruction” are broadening, and these extraordinary powers are being used, and will continue to be used, for crimes other than terrorism.

Back in 2002, the Patriot Act greatly broadened the definition of terrorism to include all sorts of “normal” violent acts as well as non-violent protests. The term “terrorist” is surprisingly broad; since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has been applied to people you wouldn’t normally consider terrorists.

The most egregious example of this are the three anti-nuclear pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, who cut through a chain-link fence at the Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons-production facility in 2012. While they were originally arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the government kept increasing their charges as the facility’s security lapses became more embarrassing. Now the protestors have been convicted of violent crimes of terrorism — and remain in jail.

Meanwhile, a Tennessee government official claimed that complaining about water quality could be considered an act of terrorism. To the government’s credit, he was subsequently demoted for those remarks.

The notion of making a terrorist threat is older than the current spate of anti-terrorism craziness. It basically means threatening people in order to terrorize them, and can include things like pointing a fake gun at someone, threatening to set off a bomb, and so on. A Texas high-school student recently spent five months in jail for writing the following on Facebook: “I think I’ma shoot up a kindergarten. And watch the blood of the innocent rain down. And eat the beating heart of one of them.” Last year, two Irish tourists were denied entry at the Los Angeles Airport because of some misunderstood tweets.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/mission-creep-when-everything-is-terrorism/277844/

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Oliver Stone on NSA Spying

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The crux of the NSA story in one phrase: ‘collect it all’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/crux-nsa-collect-it-all

The actual story that matters is not hard to see: the NSA is attempting to collect, monitor and store all forms of human communication


guardian.co.uk, Monday 15 July 2013

The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux – the heart and soul – of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story. It helpfully includes that crux right in the headline, in a single phrase:

For NSA Chief, Terrorist Threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ Observers say.

What does “collect it all” mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a “collect it all” surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one:

“At the time, more than 100 teams of US analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.

“‘Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ said one former senior US intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. ‘Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it. . . . .

“It also encapsulated Alexander’s controversial approach to safeguarding Americans from what he sees as a host of imminent threats, from terrorism to devastating cyberattacks.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/15/crux-nsa-collect-it-all

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