Friday, June 30, 2006

those unruly campers

AP writes,

U.S. Forest Service officers were hit, elbowed and pelted with a rock when they tried to arrest unruly campers at a gathering of the Rainbow Family, a free-spirited, loosely affiliated band of hippies, officials said.

The confrontation Monday night was one of at least three clashes between officers and campers as thousands of the Rainbow Family gather for a weeklong outing, which officially begins Saturday. None of the injuries was serious, Forest Service spokeswoman Kimberly Vogel said Thursday.

About 5,000 members of the group, which promotes non-violence and harmony with nature, have arrived at the campsite in the Routt National Forest about 50 kilometers north of Steamboat Springs in defiance of the Forest Service, which has refused to grant the group a permit, citing the fire danger.

About 200 campers surrounded 15 officers and became verbally abusive Monday night, Vogel said. As the officers tried to arrest some campers, the crowd surged forward, striking at least three officers and pulling the suspects free, Vogel said.

Campers piled on top of one suspect, blocking officers from making an arrest. One male officer was injured when someone dived at his knees, a second suffered bruises when a rock was thrown at his leg and a female officer was elbowed in the knee and face, she said.

Officers arrested one suspect, drew their batons and used pepper spray as they backed away, Vogel said.

In the previous two clashes, campers surrounded and intimidated Forest Service officers, she said.

Campers are spread out in 20 square kilometers of meadow and forest where up to 60 percent of the trees have been killed by a beetle infestation and are vulnerable to fire, officials said. Forestry officials worry that in a fire, the narrow dirt access road would become clogged and campers would be trapped.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mystery # 3 solved

For months, my 60-year-old pyromaniac neighbor used to light a match, toss it into the public garbage bin, and watch the flames. He did this almost every day. He would sit on a chair on the corner when the cops came by, talk to the firefighters, and watch. He wasn't trying to hurt anybody, he said, he just wanted to see how people reacted.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

the right to be cloned

A few weeks ago, Rabin-assassin Yigal Amir was caught on tape attempting to smuggle his seed from prison to his controversially betrothed, and continued to blast the Shin Bet for fabricating the report until he was sat down and shown the video himself.

Amir's smuggling attempt breached a High Court injunction prohibiting him from using in-vitro fertilization to impregnate his wife. Israel Prison Service had approved them for the procedure in March, but the court halted the proceedings after two former members of knesset petitioned to deny Amir the right to bear children.

In repayment, the High Court on Monday rejected their petition, and said although Amir "was and still is one of the most denounced criminals in Israeli national consciousness of recent generations, if not the most denounced of all," he nevertheless "has, as any other prisoner, basic human rights, from which he was not stripped upon entering the prison."

In a "proper constitutional regime," said the justices, "the human rights umbrella protects a person insofar as he is a person, including an imprisoned criminal."

The court ruled that "the considerations seeking to worsen the conditions of his imprisonment because of the severity of his crime, or to limit his human rights in revenge for his deeds, are not relevant and therefore invalid."

When would it be considered relevant and valid to limit a prisoner's human rights as punishment for the severity of his or her crime or deeds?

In legal systems that employ capital punishment, the convicted is denied the basic human right to survive. Thirty-eight out of 50 of the United States employ capital punishment. Israel, technically, does not have a death penalty, except in certain cases of war crimes or treason. It used it once, executing Adolph Eichmann for war crimes committed not geographically in Israel, but against members of the Jewish nation. The United States has a constitution of rights. Israel, technically, does not.

Yigal Amir used murder to fight a national process for peace and security. Israel condones the death penalty in certain cases of treason and war crimes. Amir struck a direct blow to Israel's security but was sentenced to multiple lives in prison, not capital punishment. He was guaranteed the human right to survive. Now he has been guaranteed the human right to procreate,

In a legal world of pick and choose, under which universal umbrella of human rights are these rights protected?

(High Court quotes from Haaretz)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

cafe hafuch

Haaretz writes,

The Musawa Center for Arab Rights in Israel on Wednesday submitted a complaint to the Trade and Labor Ministry charging that the Arcaffe chain discriminates against Arabs in its hiring policies.

Some 50 protesters also demonstrated Wednesday evening outside a Tel Aviv branch of the cafe.

A recent Army Radio investigation found that Nazareth student Wasim Kanaza was refused employment at three separate Arcaffe branches while reporter David Glick was hired using a resume similar to Kanaza's.

Musawa receives numerous complaints of employers discriminating against Arabs, but in most cases it is difficult for the group to prove that systemic discrimination or racism is involved.

The line between systemic discrimination and security is choking. There is no lack of justification for clear violations of civil rights. Historical precedent and fears have superceded human right and decency.

The reactions that come to mind, and their equally weighted justifications, are confounding. From indignation at this blatant national discrimination, an institution basing its hiring policies on ethnic favoritism and elitism, comes a clear understanding of proponent justification.

Fear is the justification. Inexcusable discrimination for a cause. It's a security measure, drawing flashbacks of numerous inside employees or acquaintances helping or architecting an attack.

Arcaffe denies that its hiring policies are based on race, creed, sexality, religion or anything other than ability.

Israelis don't like to call themselves discriminatory, though Israel's critics would say otherwise. Does that make me a critic of Israel? Israelis live in a world measured by our nation's relationship to others. There's the original divine appointment of Jews as chosen people, and there is the modern permeation of Israeli Jews feeling different from, if not superior to, the Arabs living here both as citizens and as outlaws.

This cultural relativism is duly based on Israelis' recognition of Israel's unofficial and unconstitutional designation of its Arab sector as second-class, and on the inherent fear of a people under threat of attack whose neighbors are related to their oppressors. Both Palestinians and Israelis claim to be on the defensive, and it is the middle-man who bears the brunt.

Israeli Arabs are citizens with equal rights who have been served a rotten meal on a silver platter. They took on citizenship instead of refugee camps and were told that, according to democracy, they could freely practice their own religions and speak their own language.

They were given the right to run their own municipal authorities and run for a seat in federal parliament. They were given the right to control their own schools and facilities, and pay taxes and receive social benefits.

They were not given the right, at least in recent years, to see their families who chose differently. They were not given a high spot on the Knesset's lists of priorities. They were not given the right to feel like a desired part of Israeli nationalism.

Arab politicians cannot oppose Israel's national self-designation as Zionist and with a Jewish majority. They cannot identify with the Palestinian cause. There are legal repercussions for breaking this rule, like eviction from politics, detainment, and interrogation, and illegal repercussion such as threats from people like MK Avigdor Lieberman who calls for the execution of any Arabs MK who support Palestinians.

Arabs who live in the state of Israel agree to observe a status quo whereby they respect Israel's national character and abide by the laws as any other citizen, and in return they are granted full rights as citizens of a developed, western nation. Israeli Arabs who collaborate with Palestinians or amongst themselves to attack Israel break their end of the deal. Israeli Jews and governments who unofficially and unconstitutionally demote Arabs to second-class citizens break theirs.

The average Israeli Arab, like the average Israeli Jew and the average Palestinian, is a person trying to live his or her life with joy, comfort and a sense of achievement. Israeli Arabs took a much better deal than Palestinians, in that they are able to live as free citizens. In return, they are forced to live as second-class citizens under a state which wasn't their first choice and is now their rightful home.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

when kosher pigs fly...

There's either revolution or national suicide brewing in the Palestinian Authority. In the midst of an ensuing humanitarian crisis stemming from lack of aid and an only recent promise by Palestinian banks to pay government workers their long-delayed salaries, as a war of identity and land claims with Israel rages and a civil war between Fatah and Hamas escalates, Mahmoud Abbas has decided to show who's boss. He delivered an ultimatum to Hamas a few weeks ago, telling the ruling party either to accept a plan drafted by imprisoned Fatah men calling for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, or get ready for a national referendum on the issue.

Hamas refused. Abbas told them they had until midnight June 5 to make their choice. Hamas refused. Abbas held a 70-minute phone conversation with Haniyeh, and at the stroke of midnight, declared that talks had failed, and he was preparing within 48 hours to call a referendum. Hamas said it still wanted to talk.

A referendum is expected now for sometime in July. A useless referendum in practical terms that can achieve nothing but vainly demonstrate Palestinian opinion in a rigid Hamas system and flaunt worthless Fatah muscle. No matter the outcome, the Palestinian people cannot determine the borders of their own state without full agreement from Israel, or without the approval of the Hamas government.

It is a contradiction in democracy. Hamas won because the Palestinian people were fed up with Fatah's corruption, but their victory was further indicative of the general Palestinian desperation and approach to the conflict that rules their life. The Palestinian public voted for a party which holds as its mandate the destruction of Israel, the refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. The Palestinian people are entitled, and encouraged, to exercise their voice and change their approach by voting for a state based on 1967 borders. But there is no way to ensure that the results of such a referendum could be implemented as long as Hamas remains in power and refuses to give up the mission statement which won it its mandate in the Palestinian parliament.

ah, personal freedom

The Associated Press writes,

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Alaska Monday over a new law penalizing marijuana possession for personal use in the home.

The civil liberties group alleges the new law is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

"Is marijuana so dangerous that it justifies restricting a fundamental right? The state thinks it's yes, we think it's no," said Michael Macleod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska.

The lawsuit also claims the law allows prosecution of people who use marijuana for medical purposes, which the Alaska Department of Law disputes.

Along with the lawsuit, the ACLU is asking a Juneau Superior Court judge to block the law. Macleod-Ball said a judge set a Thursday hearing on a temporary restraining order.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Frank Murkowski on Friday, is an attempt to reverse a 30-year-old Alaska Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled the privacy rights of Alaskans trumped the harm the drug could cause.

Later court decisions set a legal limit of 4 ounces (113 grams) that an individual can keep in the home.

Murkowski for the past two years has been pushing through a bill to counter that ruling, understanding that the final decision would be up to the courts.

Under the new law, pot possession of 4 ounces (113 grams) or more is a felony, with possession of amounts less than that is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

"The issue of marijuana appears destined to be resolved by the courts," said Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones. "Now that there's some science behind it, we know a lot more about it now and its potency now than when the Ravin decision was decided."

Gearing up for the court fight, Murkowski and the Legislature included in the bill a set of findings meant to prove that marijuana has increased in potency since the original Supreme Court decision, and therefore has become more dangerous.

Joining the ACLU as a plaintiff is an anonymous 54-year-old woman referred to as Jane Doe who uses marijuana to treat pain caused by a neurological illness called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, according to the lawsuit.

She and another plaintiff, a 42-year-old woman referred to as Jane Roe, will not list their real names because they fear criminal prosecution under the new law, the lawsuit says.

Jane Doe and the ACLU claim there is no exception under the new law for medical marijuana patients. Morones said medical marijuana users are protected under the new law and will not be affected.