Monday, December 10, 2007

Civil Liberties News In Review - week of 12/02/07

Here are some of the stories that stood out during this past week. Check back with Cap City Liberty to catch some of the stories that made the news this week on civil liberties issues in Madison and in the state of Wisconsin.

Federal Abuse of Power
Dean Koh’s lecture at the UW Law school highlights need to restore rule of law
Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh’s lecture at the UW Law schoo was excellent . He called for more citizen participation in the demand for federal accountability and a restoration of the rule of law. One of the easiest ways to do this, of course, would be to join the ACLU.

“Some of the things Congress can do to put things right, Koh said, include closing Guantanamo, revising the Military Commissions Act, demanding admission of the International Committee of the Red Cross into all U.S. operated or controlled detention facilities and placing a genuine ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by U.S. personnel and contractors everywhere in the world… He also argues that civil society, represented by citizens, the media and career officials, must stand up to what it sees as abuses of power and encroachments on freedom.” (Cap Times – 12/01/07)

Patriot Act
Feingold comments on Patriot Act during listening session in LaCrosse

An article on what Feingold said at the listening session was detailed in the Lacrosse Tribune.

Real ID
Article on out-of-state drivers and fines relates to interstate databases

Check out this article in the Cap Times on interstate databases to track down drivers from out of state who broke Wisconsin laws while driving on our roads. The intent of the database would be a great way to get lawbreakers to pay up, but the database is another step toward making Real ID happen in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also had an article on the issue.

Ex-Felon Enfranchisement
Ex-felons eligible to vote could still vote on election (or primary day) and prove their eligibility later if there is confusion at the polls, says the Dane County Clerk in an article in the Cap Times.

The Dane County clerk said it shouldn't make any difference if a former felon is mistakenly still on the list of felons. "Even if a felon was listed incorrectly and couldn't prove he was listed incorrectly, such as having his release papers with him, he still could vote," Ohlsen said. "The poll worker could challenge the felon voter, but the voter would still be able to vote and the challenge would be looked at later." (Cap Times)

Law Enforcement
Police reports available to the media dry up

The Wisconsin State Journal noted that the quantity of police reports in Madison has gotten really small, in contract to the spike in vocal concern of citizens about crime in their community. Keep an eye out for more details on this developing story. Full policy is available in a PDF version online (go to section 3-600)

Reproductive Rights
Emergency Contraception in the Emergency Room bill expected to pass

Read about the bill in the State Journal or in the Cap Times. The bill is controversial in that the original form of the bill would require all female rape victims to be informed of, and provided upon request, the option to take emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy. Opponents of the bill testified in a hearing before an Assembly committee that it would unfairly require ER doctors and nurses who might oppose the use of the drug on moral/religious grounds to provide the drug.

Read more about the ACLU’s position on the balance of religion and equal protection that is at the center of this debate. Or read the full report from the ACLU on Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy (the good stuff is on page 26).

Also, read about the support for the bill from the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Coalition, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

In more news about birth control, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health is calling for federal price fixing of birth control – an issue that will also have an impact on college students who get their birth control on campus.

LGBT Rights
Same-sex marriage ban referendum question might have been a double whammy

A UW-Oshkosh political science teacher is taking on the constitutionality of the referendum question and a Dane County circuit judge has given the challenge the green light to proceed.

Voting Rights
Another call for photo ID at the polls surfaces after a study on WI voting trends

The state Legislative Audit Bureau issued a report that says that our polling places have inadequate technology to help volunteers to deal with separating out valid voters from felons and dead people. The Accenture statewide voter list is still paid for yet M.I.A. But the LAB report actually says that there were few real problems with voting fraud, but still Sen. Mary Lazich says we need to show our photo ID at the polls. So does Sen. Joe Leibham. Rep. Joe Parisi responds in the context of his bill to enfranchise ex-felons which would not only promote voting rights for citizens who are no longer behind bars, but would also eliminate felon lists altogether.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign points to another study that includes some concerns about the WI system. So does the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Or you can read the original Ohio State press release.

Racial Justice
Court cases on controversial hate crimes wrap up

There was justice in the Frank Jude beating case. But not so much in the Cha Vang murder case that Hmong rights activists said should have had a stiffer penalty assigned to hate crimes cases.

Privacy Rights
An editorial in the Cap Times calls for a condition on Sen. Spencer Black’s robocall bill

Read the article here. This is a bill that the ACLU of Wisconsin opposes on the grounds that a blanket prohibition on the technology of automatic recordings on political issues is a violation of free expression and that adding political campaign calls to the “do not call list” would empower citizens to protect their own privacy.

Facebook backtracks on advertising policy
The Daily Cardinal published this story about how started using technology that would track the interests of users in order to craft targeted advertising methods. Facebook has since backtracked on their policy.

Recycling program in Madison drops pick up, state legislation may improve rules
Changing the law on electronics recycling statewide would be a good idea for landfills, but be sure to clean off your computer before you ditch it! Requiring companies to recycle old computers (and TVs and other big electronic items) could set up a great opportunity for identity thieves to strip your important info off of your hard drive. Stuff in your garbage or dropped off at recycling center is fair game for thieves and police alike, so be sure to take steps to protect your privacy.

Free Speech
Blog sarcasm lands teacher in hot water

Here’s an insane story about a teacher’s blog posting that got him ARRESTED. Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin posted his own sarcastic response to the issue on his blog which in turn angered bike riders across the country.

“Christmas” Tree in the Capitol
‘Tis the season – for squibbles around “Christmas” trees at the Capitol

Rep. Marlin Schneider, usually very good about civil liberties when it comes to issues like privacy rights, introduced a bill to rename the large pine tree in the Capitol Rotunda the “Christmas” tree in an attempt to fight what he sited as an excess of political correctness when the tree’s name was changed to a holiday tree. Our state legislators in the Senate will hopefully remember that expressions of one religion are best kept to private property such as houses and churches, and that naming the tree after one particular religious holiday would be pretty arrogant. More details on the issue were covered on NBC 15, Channel 3000 and by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

You can read more about the fictional “ACLU War on Christmas” or on what work the ACLU has done on the protection of the freedom of religion at the national website.

Fun Stuff
Keith Olbermann reads Tom Tomorrow’s take on Bill O’Riley

Check out Olbermann’s dramatic reading of the Tom Tomorrow cartoon

that portrays the O’Riley harshing on the ACLU and Christmas among other topics. Or view the original cartoon. Did you know that the ACLU of Wisconsin will be welcoming Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, at the annual Bill of Rights dinner in Milwaukee on February 16? Contact the ACLU of Wisconsin for the details on how to get tickets.