ACLU: Privacy for deviants only
Ladies have lots of things to do in front of restroom mirrors and would not at all like some weirdo leering at them while they do it. But too bad for them says the ACLU
The American Civil Liberties Union has argued in recent years that the right to privacy is so expansive it extends even to partial-birth abortion, in which a doctor kills a fully formed, almost-born child with scissors. "The ACLU has a long history of vigorously defending the right to privacy -- including the right to reproductive freedom," the organization told the Supreme Court last year in a brief arguing that partial-birth abortion is a constitutional right.
But two recent court cases demonstrate there is at least one place where the ACLU rejects the right to privacy -- at least for certain classes of people. It is in the bathroom. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge David Sam, who spurned the ACLU's claim that an anatomical male had a right to use women's restrooms.
Krsytal Etsitty, the plaintiff, had described herself, according to Judge Sam's opinion, as a "pre-operative transsexual." In 1999, Etsitty changed his name from Michael to Krystal and the sex designation on his driver's license from male to female. He took hormones that altered his "outward appearance in some ways." But he did not change his anatomy.
In 2001, the Utah Transit Authority hired him to be a bus driver. Judge Sam, who referred to Etsitty by the female pronoun, said: "At the time she applied for her job with UTA and throughout the training period, plaintiff dressed as a man and used the men's restroom." After he was hired, however, Etsitty informed his supervisor that "she was transsexual and that she would be appearing more traditionally female at work." This posed a logistical problem for the bus company. It had arranged for its drivers to have access to the public restrooms at certain businesses along its routes. Would Etsitty use the male or female restrooms?
Etsitty informed her supervisors, according to the court, "that she had some kind of written direction that required that she use female restrooms." The supervisors told Etsitty "they were concerned about potential liability from co-workers, customers and the general public as a result of plaintiff, a biological male, using female restrooms." The company let her go, notifying her, as reported by Findlaw, that she would be eligible for rehiring "once she completed the surgery." Etsitty sued, citing a federal law that bans discrimination based on "sex."
In the ACLU's view, not only was Etsitty's anatomy irrelevant, so, too, was the right to privacy of anyone who happened to be in a women's room Etsitty might use. "(N)o court has ever held that there is any legal right to privacy that would be violated simply by permitting a transgender person to use a public bathroom that corresponds to his or her gender identity," said the ACLU.
Besides, even if privacy was an issue in public restrooms, the ACLU suggested, the architecture in such facilities protects it. As Etsitty had explained to his supervisors, according to the ACLU, his anatomy would be shielded from others using the women's rooms "because there are stalls for privacy."
Alas, the ACLU published this brief two years ago -- apparently failing to anticipate that Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho would someday seek to withdraw his guilty plea for engaging in "disorderly conduct" in a men's room stall. In a brief submitted this month supporting Craig's claim, the ACLU argued that what the senator is alleged to have done in an airport bathroom is free speech protected by the First Amendment -- no matter what some guy seeking a little privacy in the next stall might think about it. "The government does not have a constitutionally sufficient justification for making private sex a crime," said the ACLU. "It follows that an invitation to have private sex is constitutionally protected and may not be made a crime. This is so even where the proposition occurs in a public place, whether in a bar or a restroom."
But then the ACLU went a step further, arguing that there is not only a right to solicit sex, but also to engage in it, in a public restroom. "The Minnesota Supreme Court," said the ACLU, "has already ruled that two men engaged in sexual activity in a department store restroom with the stall door closed had a reasonable expectation of privacy. They were, the Court held, therefore acting in a private, not a public place."
The conflated logic of the ACLU's bathroom briefs seems to be that someone entering a public restroom intending to use it for traditional purposes has no protection either from the gender sign posted at the door or from the otherwise vaunted right to privacy. Someone entering a public restroom intending to solicit and engage in sex, on the other hand, is protected by both the First Amendment and the right to privacy.
What else would you expect from a group that embraces an ideology that holds that partially born babies have no right to keep their skulls intact?
Politics should trump quality in poetry prize
So say some:
The cloistered community of American poetry has, in recent months, become a little less like Yeats's Land of Faery, where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue, and a little more like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." The board of the 97-year-old Poetry Society of America, whose members have included many of the most august names in verse, has been rocked by a string of resignations and accusations of McCarthyism, conservatism and simple bad management.
The recent turmoil was driven, partly, by fierce discussion among board members earlier this year after they voted to award the Frost Medal, an annual honor given by the society, to John Hollander, a prolific poet and critic. The concern was whether it was proper to take into consideration some past remarks made by Mr. Hollander - remarks that some felt were disturbing - in bestowing the medal. Of course, as with many a board squabble, personality disputes and misunderstandings also played their part in the fracas.
Last Friday, William Louis-Dreyfus, who had been president of the board for the last six years, officially stepped down and quit the board, becoming the fifth person on the 19-member board to resign this year. This spring Walter Mosley, the novelist, resigned, and he was later joined by Elizabeth Alexander, a poet and professor of African-American and American studies at Yale University; Rafael Campo, a poet and professor at Harvard Medical School; and Mary Jo Salter, a poet and a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, who runs an international commodities trading and shipping firm and dabbles in writing poetry, said he resigned partly to protest what he regarded as an "exercise of gross reactionary thinking" among the other board members who left in the wake of the award to Mr. Hollander, a retired English professor at Yale.
When Mr. Hollander was considered for the award three years ago, some members raised comments he had made in interviews, reviews and elsewhere that they felt should be examined when judging his candidacy. In one example, Mr. Hollander, writing a rave review in The New York Times Book Review of the collected poems of Jay Wright, an African-American poet, referred to "cultures without literatures - West African, Mexican and Central American." And in an interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," a reporter paraphrased Mr. Hollander as contending "there isn't much quality work coming from nonwhite poets today."
Other board members said they felt that such comments were not characteristic of Mr. Hollander's views or had been misinterpreted. Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said that even if the comments were representative, they were irrelevant criteria for judging the Frost Medal, just as he would argue that Ezra Pound's anti-Semitism should not detract from the literary appreciation of his work.
In some ways the questions about Mr. Hollander's remarks reflect a broader debate over whether the evaluation of artistic merit should be affected by the sometimes unsavory opinions or actions of the artist. Last year, for example, Germany was stunned when Guenter Grass, the Nobel Prize winner, confessed that he had joined the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazis, when he was 17. At the time, some people argued that he should renounce his Nobel.
At the Poetry Society the stakes are much lower, and nobody has suggested that Mr. Hollander should be stripped of the Frost Medal, which is given for "distinguished lifetime service to American poetry." Late last year, at the hastily called and poorly attended meeting where the board again discussed him as a finalist for the award, his previous remarks did not come up again.
But when an e-mail message went out to the board announcing that Mr. Hollander had won the vote, Mr. Mosley replied with his own succinct message: "My reaction to this decision is to announce my resignation." Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, who immediately assumed that Mr. Mosley was quitting because of objections to Mr. Hollander's previous comments, wrote a reply to Mr. Mosley that he copied to all members of the board. In an interview, Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said he objected to Mr. Mosley's resignation because "it seemed to me to be based on an inappropriate reason that didn't have anything to do with the quality of Hollander's work, which is what the Frost Medal is given for."
In an interview Mr. Mosley declined to comment on whether Mr. Hollander's remarks had influenced his decision. He said he resigned from the Poetry Society because the decision to give the medal to Mr. Hollander "represents a conservative trend on the board that I don't think is at all inclusive to all the elements of poetry and all the people of poetry." Since 1941, out of 38 winners of the Frost medal, only three have been nonwhite.
Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, however, focused on what he believed were Mr. Mosley's motives - namely, protesting Mr. Hollander's extra-poetic remarks. "It's as if you have to approve of the man's politics before you can praise his poetry," Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said. "I am terrified of McCarthyism in whatever clothes it wears."
Live free or die
Some people think they've got all the answers. These self-appointed guardians, modern-day puritans, and prohibitionists are rushing across America and the world to ban smoking and trans-fats from restaurants and tag from schoolyards. They propose mandatory visits to the doctor and a health system focused on "wellness." From every locality in America and beyond, frivolous laws are cropping up, which, taken as a whole, are undermining the liberty and independence of the American spirit.
The "infantilization of adults," as Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine puts it, has become such a common feature of modern politics that one often fails to recognize it as anything new or foreign to the American experience. The original understanding of our relationship to government was marked by a strong desire to maintain a firmly independent citizenry, which would be capable of making decisions without government interference. The role of government in this understanding of politics is to preserve and protect American liberty. The founding fathers, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, understood that there is an inverse proportion to government power and freedom.
Schools in Massachusetts and Colorado have banned schoolyard tag. An "Environmental Court" in Sweden has prohibited a woman from smoking in her own garden. In Britain, there is talk of creating a 17.5 percent "fat tax" on salty, sugary, and fatty foods. This year, Congress considered levying a $10 tax on cigars to pay for children's health insurance, while presidential candidate John Edwards would require mandatory visits to the doctor in his universal health care plan. The city of Chicago has done its part by banning foie gras.
Because of the proliferation of such laws, the American public is increasingly becoming fed up with what many people are dubbing "The Nanny State." A 2006 CNN poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the size and cost of government is intrusive. When asked about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of respondents said that "it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses." Only 37 percent believed that government should do more.
All these intrusions on our personal liberty have been made with our health in mind. The implication is that these paternalistic politicians know best and that they can run our lives for us better than we can run them ourselves. Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal put it best when she declared, "Governments always start out saying they're going to help, and always wind up pushing you around. They cannot help it. They say they want to help us live healthily and they mean it, but it ends with a guy in Queens getting arrested for trying to have a Marlboro Light with his Bud at the neighborhood bar." The modern-day Puritans reduce all of us to the status of children, incapable of making informed choice for ourselves.
David Harsanyi recently published Nanny State, a book in which he chronicles the concentrated efforts of a few "teetotaling do-gooders" and "food fascists" since the 1980s. In his book, Harsanyi states, "Nannyism is a dogma. The nanny state is a collective that may not share a single driving political purpose, but its proponents do share a belief that sticking their nose into your business is that fastest way to build a superior society."
In 1801, Thomas Jefferson defined good government as follows: "a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." Jefferson's notion about the purpose of government is as right today as it was 200 years ago. The essence of the America can be borrowed from the New Hampshire license plate: live free or die.
A Muslim legal assault on free speech
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Since March 2002, Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz has sued or threatened to sue in England at least 36 writers and publishers - including many Americans - who have documented his financial contributions to al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups, through his Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) foundation, and the Saudi National Commercial Bank he owned. Everyone settled with bin Mahfouz, - except me.
England's libel laws favor the individual's rights over the public. They allow bin Mahfouz and other terror financiers, known as "libel tourists," to veil in secrecy their funding of al Qaeda, other Islamic terror organizations and global propagation of radical Islam. British laws earned the U.K. the label-"libel capital of the Western world"-and rained wealth on Britain's libel bar.
Bin Mahfouz's legal "victories" in London had the desired effect he and other Saudi terror financiers sought - silencing of the media even in the U.S. where the First Amendment protects writers and publishers. But American book and newspaper publishers are not willing to risk expensive lawsuits in London. Many refuse to publish even the most comprehensively documented reports on alleged wealthy Middle Eastern funding terrorism.
Bin Mahfouz sued me in London in January 2004, shortly after the U.S. publication of my book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It. I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of a British court over a book published here; the court then ruled for bin Mahfouz by default, enjoined British publication of Funding Evil, awarded bin Mahfouz $225,900 in damages and expenses and ordered me to publicly apologize and destroy the book. I refuse to acknowledge the British Court or its ruling.
Bin Mahfouz would not enjoy success were he to sue me for libel in U.S. The facts in Funding Evil are well documented by the media and the U.S. Congress, courts and other official statements.
On October 12,2001 the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist, the director of bin Mahfouz's Muwafaq foundation, Yasin al-Qadi. The Treasury report described the direct support from Muwafaq to bin Laden, quoting the latter's statement that "The bin-Laden Establishment's aid.comes in particular from the Human Concern International Society [based, and operating in Gloucester, Ontario]. [and] includes Muwaffaq Society in Zagreb." The report continues, ."$3 million from the National Commercial Bank, which was run by Khalid bin Mahfouz, [were deposited] into the accounts of the Blessed Relief and other charities that serve as a front for bin Laden."
Further corroboration comes from the French General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), as reported last summer in the French daily, Le Monde. The DGSE reported that, in 1998, it knew bin Mahfouz to be an architect of the banking scheme built to benefit Osama bin Laden, and that both U.S. and British intelligence services knew it, too. Strangely, neither bin Mahfouz nor his foundation were designated by U.S. authorities as supporting terrorism.
Since British libel law favors suits such as bin Mahfouz's, and the First Amendment protects U.S. journalists reporting on public issues, I chose to fight his false claims in America. I sued in a New York federal court, for a declaration that bin Mahfouz' English default judgment is unenforceable in the United States, because it violates my First Amendment rights. Prominent civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate described it as "one of the most important First Amendment cases in the past 25 years." On June 8, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared my case is "ripe" for hearing in a U.S. court, noting that the case has implications for all U.S. authors and publishers, whose First Amendment rights are threatened by foreign libel rulings.
The ruling thus established that all U.S. writers and publishers sued for libel in other countries, can ask U.S. courts to rule the foreign decisions unenforceable here - provided they have jurisdiction over the person who sued for libel overseas. In my case, the New York Court of Appeals will hear arguments on November 15.
This important legal decision weakened bin Mahfouz' ability to threaten or sue U.S. authors and publishers. Shortly afterwards, bin Mahfouz threatened to sue Cambridge University Press (CUP), the publisher of Alms of Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, but refrained from including the book's two American writers, J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins.
Facing the mere threat of a lawsuit from Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, Cambridge University Press - the world's oldest publishing house - agreed in Britain's High Court on July 30, to pulp all the unsold copies. When the American authors rightfully refused to join, CUP issued a public apology, which in fact defamed the authors. CUP also paid substantial undisclosed damages, a huge "contribution" to a charity of bin Mahfouz' choice, and sent letters to more than 200 libraries worldwide, asking to pull the book off their shelves. CUP's capitulation handed an important victory to the Saudis' financial jihad against free speech.
Winning my case against bin Mahfouz will not change the British ruling against me. But judging by the impact my case has had already one can hope that U.K. writers and publishers would demand changing their libel laws, to allow the freedom of responsible publications without the fear of intimidating, expensive lawsuits.
If foreigners wish to sue Americans for exposing threats to our national security, they are welcome do so in the U.S., under the First Amendment laws. But Congress should terminate this form of Financial Jihad - silencing the media by intimidation - and costly foreign libel suits on matters governed by U.S. jurisdiction. To better protect our freedom of speech, Congress could reinforce the First Amendment with a new statute prohibiting enforcement of foreign libel judgments in the U.S., whenever American authors and publishers report responsibly on terror -related and other national security threats.
We are at war with enormously wealthy and determined enemies. We should prevent their use of their tremendous wealth to deprive American writers from exposing actions that threaten our safety and freedoms.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.