Civil Liberties


Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

Norman SolomanBy Norman Soloman

A terrible formula has taken hold:
warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

"National security" agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. "Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors," the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

Justice in California: Raising Victims' Voices

By Lizzie Buchen

Flipping through this year's proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims' rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU's dominance in the media and in Sacramento, a new survey reveals that the group does not represent the majority of crime victims - who they are, what they need, or how they think about public safety.

Reshaping Education: New Opportunities for Teachers Unions

By Lisa Schiff

In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.

The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.

Five New Reasons Not to Buy Matzah at Walmart

By Danny Feingold

If you're like me, right now you may be scrambling to stock up on all of your Passover essentials. So what if I told you that you could get 12 boxes of matzah - more than enough to cover the eight days and nights of breadless revelry - for just over $40 bucks?

Ah, but there's a catch: You'll have to buy this miracle matzah pak at Walmart. Moral dilemma? You bet.

Last year I provided a short list of reasons you might want to think twice about a Walmart matzah binge. I wish I could report that Walmart had cleaned up its act since then, but alas, the world's largest retailer has racked up a series of alleged corporate crimes and indiscretions that would make a pharaoh blush.

The Atrophied Conscience of Apartheid America

By Mark Naison

Little by little, we have created an apartheid nation, a place where a profound spatial and moral divisions separate the lives of the privileged and the unfortunate. The boundaries are not strictly racial - though those on the lower side of the divide are overwhelmingly people of color - nor are they marked by gates and walls and fences. Rather, they are enforced by a complex set of codes followed by law enforcement authorities who have acquired immense power to assure public safety since the imposition of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, powers that have effectively prevented the poor from doing anything to prevent their marginalization, and which have given wealthy elites virtually immunity from threats to their well being coming either from political action, mass protest or street crime.

Clean Sweep for Tenants in Sacramento

By Dean Preston

In a highly successful legislative session for renters, the Governor signed into law every bill supported by Tenants Together this year. Starting January 1, 2013, California law will prevent unfair nonpayment evictions after ownership changes (AB 1953, Ammiano), require at least 90 day eviction notice for any tenant evicted after foreclosure (AB 2610, Skinner), prohibit landlords from imposing online only rent payment rules (SB 1055, Lieu), require landlords to notify tenants of foreclosure filings (SB 1191, Simitian), and bar landlords from requiring their tenants to declaw or devocalize their pets (SB 1229, Pavley). In a state capitol where renters' rights are so often ignored, times appear to be changing.

ACLU Sues Morgan Stanley, Targets Loan Securitizer Over Loan Originator

By David Dayen

The ACLU plans to sue Morgan Stanley on behalf of five named plaintiffs (they will seek class action status), for the investment bank's role in fueling what they view as a discriminatory subprime bubble. In doing so, the ACLU will try to pioneer a new legal strategy, by going after the securitizer of the loans instead of the now-defunct originator.

AB 2530: California Must Stop Shackling Pregnant Women

By Carolyn Sufrin, MD, MA

Late one night, I was helping a woman deliver her baby at a hospital in Pennsylvania. It was a familiar delivery room scene—except that the mother-to-be was shackled to the bed.

She was incarcerated at a nearby prison, and though I had no idea what got her there, I had some idea that the pangs of labor and the epidural's numbing effects precluded the need for restraints. I saw signs of fetal distress, and worried about the metal chains if we needed to do an emergency cesarean section. Thankfully, she pushed her baby out, and I placed the baby into mom's one unshackled arm.

I now practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist at the San Francisco County Jail and at San Francisco General Hospital, where jailed pregnant women deliver their babies.

Getting Healthy at Work: Who Do You Trust?

By Carl Finamore

Around 150 million Americans drag themselves out of bed each day and show up for work. You get your first cup of coffee, chit-chat a bit, punch in, and settle in for a long day on the job. But don't get too settled, because you might be asked to answer a few questions about your family medical history, your sexual orientation, and your use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. You also might be asked to take a blood test, have your cholesterol and blood pressure recorded, and get your body mass index checked. Only a few years ago, such probing, pricking, and pinching would only occur in the privacy of a doctor's office, but now these procedures are becoming more commonly prescribed in over half of American workplaces. And such "wellness" programs are growing rapidly.

Graduate Them, Don't Incarcerate Them!

By Diane Lefer

The problem isn’t a secret: California schools suspend more students than they graduate, tracking them to jail instead of to success. But Ramiro Rubalcaba was surprised when he found himself being part of the solution.

Rubalcaba told his story at a forum on school discipline held in Los Angeles on September 10, sponsored by the California Endowment, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torkalson, and the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.