Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

lil-miss-hot-mess-smallFacebook LogoThe LGBT community and Facebook are in the midst of a great controversy for Facebook requiring anonymous or aliased members of the Drag Queen community to provide their legal names for their user accounts. The community is concerned that the forced use of their “real” names could lead to discrimination, harassment and hate crimes and that their Drag names are an essential component of their personal identity. Facebook counters that its policy has been in place since the beginning and these policies are necessary to protect the integrity of its service and to bring accountability to its users by requiring actual names within the users’ profiles.

The controversy raised important questions about the role of privacy, anonymity, and free speech in an increasingly public world along with balancing the needs of different segments of our society, and individual choices.

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holderericBelow is my column on the resignation of Eric Holder as United States Attorney General. For civil libertarians, Holder’s tenure as Attorney General under President Obama has been one of the most damaging periods in our history with a comprehensive attack on various constitutional rights and principles from free speech to the free press to international law. In recent polling by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, Holder was the second most unpopular government official after the positively radioactive Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As someone who previously called for Holder’s firing after the investigation of various journalists under national security powers, I am hardly one who can offer congratulatory sentiments for such a record. However, much like President Obama, one has to wonder what could have been if Holder had chosen a more principled and less political approach to his office. Holder is resigning the same week that a federal judge ordered the release of “Fast and Furious” documents after the Justice Department was accused of a pattern of delay and obstruction. Holder was previously held in contempt by Congress for his withholding documents and conflicting accounts to an oversight committee looking into the scandal. Indeed, Holder was looking at an even more aggressive period with the possible loss of the Senate and increased GOP seats in the House.

Ironically, Holder came into office trying to distinguish himself from such disastrous predecessors as Alberto Gonzales but proved no less political or blindly loyal to his own president. Indeed, both men fought aggressively to expand the powers of the presidency and national security laws over countervailing individual rights and separation of powers principles. It will be civil liberties and not civil rights that will be the lasting, and troubling, legacy of Eric Holder. The column is below:

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225px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_scotus_photo_portraitI have been previously critical of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s public speeches and interviews (as well as those of some of her colleague’s like Justice Scalia). Ginsburg has again crossed the line of judicial decorum in my view with yet another interview. In this case, she openly discusses the danger of Republican influence on any replacement in the context of her decision to stay on the Court. The interview with Elle magazine is another public appearance that continues the corrosive influence of politics on the Court and the maintenance of political contingencies by some of the justices.

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225px-hamid_karzai_2004-06-14Outgoing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai denounced the United States in his farewell speech and insisted that, despite tens of thousands of wounded and dead American service personnel (and over a trillion dollars in aid), the United States has been a curse upon his country. Instead Karzai showered praise on Iran and China as great allies for Afghanistan. This is the man who the CIA openly gave regular suitcases of cash to and led a government where billions simply disappeared.

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Profesor_Ilham_TohtiChina has continued its crackdown on political speech with a truly disgraceful trial of Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti. The prominent scholar has written about the discontent in his region and lack of rights. The Chinese declared the writings as encouraging separatism. While that would not be a crime in any free nation, China handed him a life sentence after this supporters say that he was denied food and then denied copies of the evidence used against him.

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1411505445739_wps_3_Americans_weren_t_amused_It is being called “Semper Latte” and, if this is the biggest scandal that President Barack Obama has to worry about, his Administration is safe. Various people are denouncing the President for saluting his Marine guard while holding a cup of tea or coffee. From CNN to the Daily Mail to ABC to the New York Daily News to the Washington Post to the New York Post to NBC to CBS to countless others, the salute is generating heated comments across the country. YouTube clips show the salute over and over along with multiple postings expressing outrage. My reaction is a bit different. The President has launched another declared war that his aides say could last “years.” However, there seem more debate over this tempest in a tea [cup] than the fact that we are bombing another nation.

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1411228451636_Image_galleryImage_Django_Unchained_actress_There is an interesting backlash in California where civil rights leaders are condemning an African-American actress for alleging racism in her encounter with members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Actress Daniele Watts (who was in “Django Unchained”) accused the LAPD of detaining her and her boyfriend because they are a mixed race couple. Witnesses insisted that, in fact, they were having sex in a car in plain view on a street. An audio tape below has further undermined Watt’s claims of racism. She immediately claims that the only reason that they stopped them was race on the audiotape available here. In the midst of the tape, she freaks out in a conversation with her father but admits that they were “making out” in the course of the diatribe. In a true Hollywood moment, Watts is heard saying “I know my rights, I played a cop on TV and I know that when someone asks for ID you aren’t required to give it to them.”

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