When a staffer told Mr. Lopez that she was a victim of a sexual assault in college and that his behavior was particularly upsetting to her, Mr. Lopez brought her head towards him, kissed her forehead and asked if she “felt guilty” about the attack. Lopez then asked her to massage his hand. As she massaged his hand, she began to cry and Mr. Lopez told her, “I like that you’re holding my hand.” She cried harder and Mr. Lopez eventually told her to stop massaging his hand. After the hand massage ended, Mr. Lopez said the staffer would have to “cuddle” with him in his Albany apartment. When the staffer resisted, Mr. Lopez threatened to terminate her, telling her that this would be her last trip to Albany.
At a Long Island restaurant, Mr. Lopez told the same staffer who had massaged his hand to do it again. This time, Mr. Lopez placed his hands on the staffer’s legs which she kept tightly crossed. Mr. Lopez pried her legs open and forced his hand between her legs and high up her inner thigh–in the words of the staffer: “all the way up.”
- Alexander Hamilton’s son dies in a duel that takes place in Weehawken, New Jersey in 1802.
- Alexander Hamilton responds by helping to pass a law that makes dueling illegal in New York.
- Alexander Hamilton dies in a duel that takes place in Weekhawken, New Jersey in 1804.
Sometimes I wonder if our federal officials have ever even heard of the Constitution. According to documents recently obtained by the ACLU, prosecutors at the Justice Department have argued that they do not need a warrant to search through any personal email or social media, public or private.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.
Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.
The U.S. attorney for Manhattan circulated internal instructions, for instance, saying a subpoena — a piece of paper signed by a prosecutor, not a judge — is sufficient to obtain nearly “all records from an ISP.” And the U.S. attorney in Houston recently obtained the “contents of stored communications” from an unnamed Internet service provider without securing a warrant signed by a judge first.
“We really can’t have this patchwork system anymore, where agencies get to decide on an ad hoc basis how privacy-protective they’re going to be,” says Nathan Wessler, an ACLU staff attorney specializing in privacy topics who obtained the documents through open government laws. “Courts and Congress need to step in.”
Like the rest of the bill of rights, the 4th amendment is as clear as a bell. Let’s review it:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In other words, the government cannot simply rummage through or obtain your personal property (digital or tangible) in any way without a warrant. It’s really quite simple. Doesn’t it seem like Eric Holder would know this?
The proper function and size of government is a seemingly infinite debate that, at least among politicians who favor rhetoric over reason, has made little headway. But it’s difficult to conceive how basic workplace safety regulations, assuming they are rigorously enforced and substantiated by solid evidence, could be anything but beneficial to the average worker, who is too often a victim of authoritarian employers solely concerned with financial profit. The recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh resulted in over 800 deaths that could have been easily prevented. Indeed, we here in the United States and specifically in the great state of New York have a historical model that demonstrates how government regulations can improve working conditions practically overnight.
On March 25, 1911, 146 workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in a building located one block from Washington Square Park in Manhattan. Historian Robert A. Slayton describes the horror of the event in Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith:
James McCadeen, a worker in a nearby building, “saw a girl come to the edge of the roof and stand for a minute. Her hair was in flames. I couldn’t look anymore.” That anonymous victim was joined by many more, who made the impossible choice between being burned alive or jumping to their deaths. Some of them, facing an alleyway, plunged onto a spiked wrought-iron fence and were imapled.
A New York Times reporter came upon a headless and charred trunk on the sidewalk and inquired of a nearby policeman if it was a man or a woman. The grizzled veteran, who claimed he had worked other New York calamities but they were nothing like this, responded, “It’s human, that’s all you can tell.”
Although it’s true that “accidents happen,” in this instance, the conditions of the factory virtually guaranteed that many workers could not escape in the event of a fire. The back entrance to the building was locked to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks. The door to the staircase opened the wrong way, thus making it difficult for a rushing horde of people to squeeze into the stairwell. The fire escape collapsed as soon as few people tried to step on it. No fire drills had ever been conducted because the factory owners didn’t want to waste time with safety precautions when they could be making money. There was a fire hose, but it barely worked. It took only 30 minutes for 146 workers, most of them women who earned meager pay, to die.
In June of 1911, the Factory Investigation Commission (FIC) was created and Robert Wagner (who would later serve as a U.S. Senator from 1927 to 1949) was named its Chairman and Al Smith (who later ran for President against Herbert Hoover in 1928) its Vice Chairman. The FIC traveled throughout the state, conducted hundreds of interviews, and compiled thousands of pages of testimony. The sweeping investigations discovered, among many other abuses, the horrendous conditions of the canning industry, in which young children, some of them only three years old, worked from 4am to as late as 10pm every day.
In response to their investigations, the FIC created 32 bills, many of which became law. The regulations are now commonplace across the United States. As Slayton explains,
Today doors must egress to the outside, and there is always a panic bar that can be slammed with a foot or shoulder. The commission required that all doors and windows leading to fire escapes be marked with crimson paint, although their original concept called for “a clearly painted sign marked ‘exit’…and in addition, a red light shall be placed over all such exits.” Today’s version is the bright red exit sign we see everywhere…
Fire drills…were also mandated for the first time [and]…sprinklers became mandatory in factories.
All of these new requirements were met with opposition from factory owners who claimed they could not afford the additional costs. Yet somehow, magically, hundreds of thousands of profitable factories still exist in the U.S. today.
Any conversation about individual liberty must acknowledge the tendency, both in the United States and throughout the world, both historically and in the present day, for some business owners to have little regard for their workers, sometimes even to the extent of killing them via negligence. If no powerful entity exists to combat this corporate authoritarianism, then all notions of liberty become mere fantasies totally divorced from everyday reality. The tragedy in Bangladesh is an important reminder of how far we’ve come and of how we went about bettering the lives of millions of workers across the country.
“We are at war” seems to be an excuse these days for nearly any instance of government misbehavior or illegality. It is generally acknowledged and accepted that during wartime, acts that would be unthinkable during a time of peace are easily excused. It is horrifying to reflect upon the bombing of Dresden, which claimed more than 20,000 lives, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which wiped over 150,000 souls off the face of the earth. In retrospect, we might question the wisdom of these attacks (Dwight Eisenhower, for instance, maintained that dropping the bomb on Japan “was completely unnecessary”), but most Americans generally believe these events, however horrifying the cost might have been, were essential to protect and restore democracy. The same holds true for the war on terror, in which a wide variety of government abuses are frequently justified with the old edict that “we are at war.” Perhaps the best way to combat this line of thinking is to declare, officially and unequivocally, that the war on terror is over. If the idea of ending the war on terror is advanced throughout the halls of Congress and the public at large, many of the issues we contend with today, such as the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the legal and moral complications of drone strikes, and the normalization of sweeping executive power, could lose popular support.
Although I almost entirely disagreed with this Atlantic piece on what drone policy dissenters supposedly “get wrong,” there was one salient point made:
As someone who has spent over two years in combat, I suggest that the main point of moral judgment comes before one asks which means are legitimate when attacking an enemy. The main turning point concerns the question of whether we should fight at all. This is the crucial decision, because once we engage in armed conflict, we must assume that there are going to be many casualties on all sides. When we deliberate whether or not to fight, we should assume that once we step on this escalator, it will carry us to places we would rather not go.
It is often said by advocates of the war on terror that the struggle to eliminate terrorism is a unique war without borders or, oftentimes, clearly identifiable enemies. But labeling the fight against Islamic terrorism a “war” is merely a rhetorical justification for the seemingly unrestricted powers claimed by the Bush and Obama administrations to, among other things, assassinate suspects without judicial oversight or even public disclosure of the suspect’s alleged crimes, imprison innocent people in torturous facilities indefinitely, and refuse to investigate high-ranking officials who literally adopted and implemented enemy torture tactics. Lawlessness now pervades much of our government and many citizens accept this as a necessary extreme to ward off terrorist attacks, which are about as likely to claim the life of a U.S. citizen as a bolt of lightening.
We’ve overreacted to the threat of Islamic terrorism to such an extreme and alarming degree that many of us now strain to remember the years in which one did not face the real possibility of being groped by security agents at airports or corresponding with friends without the knowledge that the conversations, like billions of others annually stored in government databases, might be monitored. And what of the terrified Muslim communities infiltrated by government spies? Or the innocent Muslim Americans subjected to physical and verbal abuse by any hotheaded fool who happens to pass them on the street? Or the Congressional hearings that regard nearly all Muslims as potential enemies? In our self-absorbed, self-righteous anger, we often forget that the primary victims of Islamic terrorist attacks are innocent Muslims. We’ve learned, as Robert F. Kennedy once said, “to hate and fear” Muslim Americans, often regarding them “not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest.” It is not difficult to see that by degrading Muslims around the world, we have also degraded ourselves and our nation.
The sooner we roll back this war, the sooner we can restore our nation to normal, and the sooner we can go on living our lives without allowing a pack of murderers to forever disrupt them. In attempting to defend our “values” and our “way of life” from terrorism, we have too often destroyed those things ourselves.
A survey of Republicans found nearly half agreed that “an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years.”
The poll, from Farleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind, surveyed a random sampling of 863 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.4 percentage points.
It found 44 percent of registered Republicans believed an armed rebellion could come in the next few years. But only 18 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents agreed.
I’ll see you all at the revolution atop my unicorn with fire-breathing dragons in tow.
Nothing says “party of Lincoln” like an armed rebellion against a President from Illinois.