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How to Lose Every Argument

Usually, I’m hesitant to lay ultimatums down saying that one tactic or another will never, ever work. That makes a lot of assumptions that I’m not qualified to make, However, I would say that with certain goals, being uncivil harms, not helps, the cause.

This is true for any cause. But it is especially true for the cause of human liberty and social peace.

Defining Civility

Civility has taken quite a beating recently. From being confused with “political correctness,” to being maligned as only the domain of losers, numerous public figures have decided that treating their opponents on either side of the aisle with respect is a thing of the past. In this fracas, civility has often been cast as another term for word policing and censorship.

Civility is a view that the human being you are talking to is your equal.

Yet this definition of civility misses the important reason we developed civil language in the first place.

Civility is a view that the human being you are talking to is your equal. The reason I treat you with respect is because I view you, your opinions, and your ideas as I view myself. No matter how evil or good, uninformed or smart I think you are, if I had your experiences, I could be in your position. I may very well have become you and held your views.

Without this understanding, some of the greatest accomplishments of civilization would have been prevented by the dividing lines of culture.

To put it another way, civility is the humility that if you were born in North Korea, you’d also think Kim-Jong Un had god-like wisdom and power. Reclaiming the position that all of us should be treated as equals to the other is the true definition of civility. The way we speak to each other is the respect developed from that.

As a tactic, though, some have argued that incivility has its uses. It gets attention. It shakes people out of their apathy. Some even contend it won Donald Trump the presidency. The blunt, honest, truth, they call it. I would argue that if our goals are peace and liberty, there are two big reasons incivility has no place in our movement.

Incivility Prevents the Spread of Ideas

Liberty and peace are primarily advanced through the spread of ideas. It was not too long ago that John Locke, arguing that the subjects of the king had inherent rights, refused to put his name on that book, the Second Treatise of Government, for fear he would be hanged for such a radical idea. A mere hundred years later, the Founding Fathers built an entire government based on those ideas. Today, even the word “libertarian” is mainstream, and more people believe in individual rights and self-ownership than ever.

Division prevents the spread of ideas.

Further, nearly every major advance in liberty has been preceded by an advance in our ability to communicate ideas. The printing press, the radio and television, and the internet each have advanced human liberty by leaps and bounds.

And this is where incivility becomes a major problem. Division prevents the spread of ideas, and I’m not sure it’s possible to be irascible, i.e. easily angered, or uncivil, without being divisive. When I divide you, set you apart, say you are not equal to me, you, rightly so, stop listening to me. And that stops the spread of ideas between us.

“Forget” Everything about You

These were the words (more explicit in real life) of Philadelphia woman as she urinated on the American flag this Fourth of July. It contained all the shock doctrine, attention, and brashness praised by opponents of civility. After she got death threats and had a contract put out on her head, the media responded, with everyone from the Daily Mail and The Sun to Breitbart and Fox News picking up the story.

In the face of such an overreaction, there is a tendency to respond in kind. And many writers did, some calling those who respect the American flag “flaggots” and “flag-worshipers” or “admirers of a piece of cloth.” One journalist wrote “you should be offended with your own damnable hypocrisy… calling for the bodily harm of someone committing a nonviolent act against a symbol.”

There’s no need to attack either side for us to agree that harming someone over a symbol is wrong.

This is laying a dividing line down, splitting those who support the flag for what it stands for to them, maybe American values like freedom, liberty, and equality under the law, maybe the only thing they recognized in a foreign country, maybe the last thing they saw draped over their grandfather’s coffin, from those people who see the American flag as a symbol of oppression, genocide, or war.

It is a dividing line that doesn’t need to be laid down, as there’s no need to attack either side for us to agree that harming someone over a symbol is wrong.

This is even a dividing line that doesn’t need to be laid down. Most who support the flag could be easily convinced against those who would cause bodily harm to someone for defacing it, were they not lumped into the same category. They would also be most likely, since they shared similar values, to be able to rein in those who were advocating violence.

I don’t know of a way you can be uncivil – to come from a place where you view the person you are talking about or to as lower than you – without being divisive. They are inherent to each other, as the person targeted is inherently pushed away by such damaging language. When that person is pushed away, rest assured they will lock down, the conversation about our ideas on peace and liberty will end.

The Roots of Tyranny

More importantly, though, we have to recognize the role incivility plays in the roots of tyranny. The roots of tyranny have always been in the beliefs that a group of people deserve fewer rights, are less intelligent, less noble, less pious, less moral than another group. The claim of the inferiority of the other is the one consistent thing that has justified tyranny and force from time immemorial.

We cannot impose tyranny on another person without believing they are lower than us.

Our wars in the Middle East were justified because the Muslims are “savages” and “uncivilized.” Our drug war at home was justified because drug users were considered lower beings than the rest of us. Labor regulations were justified on grounds that some people – you know, those people – just can’t manage their own lives. Chinese immigrants were ruthless and bent on poisoning people, blacks were thugs and uncivilized, and so on.

We cannot impose tyranny on another person without believing they are lower than us. Equality of rights is key to preserving any type of liberty. Equality is what civility starts to bring back. If many of the “proud boys” in the alt-right and members of Antifa sat down at the bar away from politics, they would find plenty to agree on. And both sides having seen the other as human, they would be less likely to use force against the other.

The odds are, if we sat Antifa and the “proud boys” down for a beer, the clash at Berkeley would never have happened. It is only when one group views the other as less than that they are willing to use violence on them.

Civility starts from a position of “we are equal in dignity.” Incivility starts from the opposite position. And all it does is reinforce the divide between whatever sides are in the conversation.

Walk Away

Do you know why we hate lawyers? Because they are the civilized form of a warrior. Prior to legal systems, you would just kill your neighbor if he wronged you. That civility prevents lots of unnecessary deaths.

Do you know why many people hate politics? Because they are on the modern day battlefields. Our ballot box is the pillbox, our elections the great battles across fields of blood, only instead of killing each other with weapons, we are using words.

Beating up your target just turns people on the fence against you.

Lose civility, make it so people think words aren’t enough, and we will go back to the violence of before. That is something I absolutely cannot bear to see happen here, and we are so, so close.

Some people confuse hard truths with a lack of civility. Look at Glenn Greenwald. He tells the truth. He doesn’t hold back. Yet he is still civil. He still commands the conversation always strives for clarity, honesty, sincerity. And because of this, he gains far more respect than if he just spit all over everyone who disagreed with him.

Hard-hitting journalism doesn’t mean you have to beat your target up, and often beating up your target just turns people on the fence against you, exacerbating the problem you were hoping to address in the first place.

Finally, there are people who have no interest in civility. They only want to insult, humiliate, smear, and get attention for doing so. They will always find sparring partners with others who desire the same. What can you do about them?

My suggestion: walk away. There is no good to be accomplished in this realm. Being civil to others, however, serves as a model for others, and a way to gradually change the world to one where there is greater peace and liberty.

Daniel Johnson


Daniel Johnson

Daniel is the Executive Director at Tax Revolution Institute, the President of the Solutions Institute, and an anti-partisan super activist.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Massachusetts School Suspends Black Girls With Braids

Two black female students attending a charter school in Massachusetts were recently kicked off their sports teams and prohibited from attending prom all because they wore their hair in braids. The Mystic Valley Charter School in Malden, about nine miles away from Boston, enforces a strict dress code preventing students from wearing their hair in any unnatural way, which includes braids.

Twin students Maya and Deanna Cook, African-American sophomores at the school, told local news outlets they were first told to take their braids out two weeks ago by school officials. The girls’ adoptive mother, Colleen Cook, told Boston’s 25 News that she received a call from the school informing her that students weren’t allowed to wear “anything artificial or unnatural in their hair.”

“We told them there’s nothing wrong with their hair the way it is. Their hair is beautiful, there’s no correcting that needs to be done,” Colleen Cook said, adding that the hair policy seems to only target students of color, who wear their hair in braids or extensions symbolic of their African-American culture.

The dress code policy listed on the school’s website says students can not wear “drastic or unnatural hair colors or styles such as shaved lines or shaved sides or have a hairstyle that could be distracting to other students (extra-long hair or hair more than 2 inch in thickness or height is not allowed). This means no coloring, dying, lightening (sun-in) or streaking of any sort. Hair extensions are not allowed. Hair elastics must be worn in the hair and not on the wrist.”

The Cook girls are just two of many black and biracial students that have been subjected to daily detention because of dress code violations at the school. Other parents told 25 News that their children had also been suspended for wearing braids, and following the Cook sisters’ latest incident, black students were singled out for a hair inspection.

“All the little black children were marched down for a hair inspection, whether they had braids or not, and asked, ‘are those extensions’ ‘are your braids real or not?’” Colleen Cook said.

Alexander J. Dan, the school’s interim director, said in a statement the dress code policy aims to serve a “diverse student population” that fosters “a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

The dress code policy is also enforced at Mystic Valley Charter Schools in Everett and Medford.

The Mystic Valley Charter School is just one of many that have come under fire for enforcing dress code policies that prohibit braids and other hairstyles representative of African-American culture. In 2016, Butler Traditional High school in Louisville, Kentucky was accused of purporting a racist dress code policy after it banned students from wearing dreadlocks, cornrows and braids. The school amended the controversial hair policy following a flood of outraged parents, including state Representative Attica Scott, a Democrat, who took to social media to condemn the school.

The U.S. military faced severe backlash in 2014 after banning natural hairstyles like dreadlocks and twists.

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Standing on the Backs of the Poor

Kitia Harris is a single mother raising her eight-year-old daughter in Detroit. Recently, she picked up a minor traffic ticket for “impeding traffic” totaling $276 in court fines and fees. Living off just $1,200 a month in disability payments—not enough to cover rent, utilities, food, clothing, and other basic needs—she was unable to pay her traffic fines.

Because she cannot afford her outstanding court debt, Michigan suspended her license.

Kitia has never committed a crime, and for many years she worked hard in low-wage jobs to support herself and her daughter. In 2014, she was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, a painful condition with no cure that prevents her from working.

Without a driver’s license, everything is more expensive. Kitia’s disability requires regular medical treatments. Now, instead of driving herself to her appointments, she must pay others to drive her. And because Detroit has the worst public transportation system of any major city in the country, she must also pay for rides for daily tasks like grocery shopping, or picking up her daughter. By forcing her to pay more just to get around, Michigan has trapped her in a cycle of poverty.

This is not fair, and it’s not justice.

Like Kitia, hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have lost their driver’s licenses simply because they are poor. In 2010 alone, Michigan suspended 397,826 licenses for failure to pay court debt or failure to appear.

These residents have not been judged too dangerous to drive; they are not a threat behind the wheel; they have not caused serious injuries while driving. In the vast majority of cases, their only “crime” is that they are too poor to pay.

Michigan’s model creates two different justice systems based on wealth status. For the rich, a minor infraction (like changing lanes without a turn signal) would result in a fine of maybe $135. For those who are poor and unable to pay, the same infraction could eventually lead to a license suspension. This suspension scheme violates our commonly held standards of justice: States should not dole out punishment simply based on wealth status.

But perhaps more importantly: Michigan’s scheme is terrible public policy.

These suspensions laws are trapping productive residents in a cycle of poverty. It’s crushing for Kitia and her daughter, and it is especially bad for Michigan. As a state famous for its poorly managed fiscal situation, Michigan should help its residents pay back their court debt. Instead, the state is making it much harder for them to do so.

On May 4, Equal Justice Under Law filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Michigan for this wealth-based suspension scheme. Our lawsuit seeks to return licenses to the hundreds of thousands of drivers who have had their licenses suspended solely for the inability to pay court debt, and it asks the state to cease poverty-based suspensions in the future. We are not asking Michigan to change the way it treats drivers who are truly a threat on the road. Nothing we’re asking would allow a driver to commit reckless driving offenses.

We’re only asking that the state stop punishing people for being poor.

We are also asking that Michigan consider alternatives that many other states successfully employ. There should be an ability-to-pay hearing before any license is suspended. If someone is unable to pay due to poverty status, they should be given alternatives, like community service or payment plans. Some states offer payment plans as low as $5 per month.

Some supporters of Michigan’s suspension law claim that those who cannot afford to pay traffic tickets should drive more carefully. But this argument is exactly the kind of unequal justice we must fight against. Our justice system should not be premised on the notion that the rich get to buy their way out of trouble while the poor live under a sword of Damocles for not using a turn signal.

Others say that it’s unfair for poor people to get out of fines just because they’re unable to pay. What I ask of those folks is empathy. For many people—including Kitia Harris—poverty is not a choice. Kitia was raised without a mother or father, spending the majority of her childhood in foster care.

Now 25, she has never had a reliable, supportive adult in her life. She has lived her life in poverty. Calling it “unfair” that Kitia keep her driver’s license even though she cannot pay her court debt misses the fact that Kitia is doing everything in her power to make ends meet.

If she could pay her court debt, she would.

Instead of punishing someone who cannot pay their court debt, Michigan—and every other state—would be better off if people like Kitia were helped to break the cycle of poverty and repay the debt they owe.

Phil Telfeyan

Rather than making life harder and more expensive for Kitia, Michigan could provide her with the tools she needs to get back on her feet. Especially in a place like Detroit, which offers no meaningful public transportation option, Kitia needs a way to get around.

She needs empathy from us, and justice from our justice system.

 

Phil Telfeyan is founding director of Equal Justice Under Law a Washington, DC based nonprofit that challenges “wealth-based discrimination.”  He served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice for five years, where he specialized in employment discrimination and immigrants’ rights. He welcomes comments from readers.

 

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ACLU Says Businesses Need to Also Start Hiring Ex-Criminals

A report issued last week by the American Civil Liberties Union implores the business community to help put people with criminal records–that’s one-third of adults in the U.S.– back to work, for the good of the economy.

According to a 2016 study by the Center for Economy and Policy Research, barriers to employment for people with a criminal history is costing the U.S. between $78 and $87 billion in annual GDP. And, as the ACLU points out, unemployment is the most significant factor in recidivism, leading to increased prison costs.

“By expanding the hiring pool to include people with criminal histories, companies can improve their bottom line, reduce recidivism and incarceration costs, avoid discriminatory practices, and increase public safety,” the report reads.

Several recent studies have found that people with a criminal record tend to keep their jobs longer, and can reduce a company’s rate of employee turnover. The latest literature includes a Northwestern University report on Criminal Background and Job Performance (2017), and an ongoing investigation by the Johns Hopkins Health Resource Center.

The ACLU cites Walmart and Koch Industries, both of whom have adopted ‘Ban-the-Box’ practices, as fair chance leaders in the business community. Companies that adhere to these policies do not ask job seekers to disclose criminal history until a conditional offer has been made. In the case of Walmart, a background check is only performed once someone has accepted an offer, and hiring teams and HR personnel are not made aware of any convictions disclosed– “only whether the candidate is eligible for hire or deferred for hire to a later date based on the final results of the report.” Candidates with a criminal history are allowed to participate in a review, providing additional information about education, and efforts at rehabilitation.

In addition to advocating for wider adoption of Ban-the-Box legislation, the ACLU advises companies to consider pair with local workforce development programs, whocan advise them on tax credits, offer case management for employees with criminal histories, and educate companies on state and local laws.

A major concern for employers is liability: in hiring someone with a criminal record, companies fear it will be difficult to get private malfeasance insurance for that individual, or that they will be found negligible if the employee harms someone else on the job. But according to the ACLU, liability risk is actually low for employers who follow the national Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. On the policy side, the ACLU advocates for the expansion of state laws that restrict employee liability. Several states have already adopted such legislation, including Texas, Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Tennessee.

Ultimately, argues the ACLU report, education is the key to reducing unemployment, recidivism, and prison costs: for every $1 spent on education, $5 is saved on correctional costs. The business community can help by partnering with local workforce development programs; offering tuition assistance; lobbying legislators to expand prison education programs, as well as educational institutions to ‘Ban the Box’ themselves.

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A Confederate Statue Surrenders after 133 Year

ATLANTA — Gen. Robert E. Lee stood erect, arms crossed over his chest, as workers in masks and protective vests gathered with power tools Friday to oust the statue from its prominent 133-year perch in the heart of New Orleans.

Just after dawn, a removal crew had converged around Lee Circle, a traffic roundabout between the city’s bustling central business district and the wealthy Garden District neighborhood of antebellum mansions.

Slowly, they prepared to dismantle the 16 ½ -foot bronze statue of the icon of the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” from its lofty 60-foot tall marble column.

Before long, the event took on the aura of a block party as residents settled in with lawn chairs, parasols, even mimosas. Some strutted and shimmied as a boombox blasted James Brown’s 1968 classic “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and Public Enemy’s 1990 anthem “Fight the Power.”

The sculpture of Lee, dedicated with great fanfare in 1884, was one of the first Confederate monuments erected in the South and the last of four contentious Civil War-related structures targeted for removal by the historic Southern city.

“For me, this landmark has always been a symbol of exploitation and oppression and white supremacy,” said Malcolm Suber, an adjunct professor at Southern University at New Orleans and organizer of Take ’Em Down NOLA. “Today is a sign that we are forcing New Orleans to have a conversation about race and economics and politics that has honestly not happened here in the city before.”

Not everyone agrees the monuments should be removed, which opponents say are part of history.

More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War — as fringe white nationalist groups have gained newfound prominence and activists with Black Lives Matter and other groups have stepped up to protest injustice — New Orleans is one of a string of Deep South cities and institutions moving to purge their public squares and streets of Confederate monuments.

About 700 Confederate-inspired monuments and statues remain on public property across the nation, with the majority dedicated or built before 1950, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. While public scrutiny of such memorials has intensified since white supremacist Dylann Roof’s June 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., the act of removing them is fraught with logistical, legal and ideological hurdles.

Relocating massive marble, bronze and granite monuments can cost tens and even hundreds of thousand dollars, money that some communities can ill afford. In many cases, cities and counties also face bitter resistance and lawsuits from historical groups and descendants of soldiers who accuse them of erasing history and disrespecting those who lost their lives fighting for the Confederacy.

Bitter disputes have erupted on New Orleans streets in recent weeks as the city has proceeded with its deeply contested plan to take down an equestrian statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and a bronze sculpture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Battle of Liberty Place obelisk, a marble monument that celebrates the 1874 uprising of a white supremacist militia against Louisiana’s Reconstruction state government, came down in April.

“It’s a sad day for Louisiana history,” Republican state Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in an interview Friday. “People come to Louisiana for our rich culture and our history. Some of it is unpleasant, but it is history. You’re not going to right a wrong by taking down a monument.”

Many Louisianans, Nungesser said, would prefer to put up plaques offering a fuller, more contextualized history of the sculptures, many of which still feature plaques that glorify white supremacist interpretations of history, or erect alternative statues paying tribute to historical black leaders.

“Do we take down the Washington monument because he had slaves? Do we tear down the White House? It was built with slaves!” Nungesser said. “No one believes this will help race relations.”

Many Southern communities that have wanted to take down controversial monuments in recent years have found their efforts stall as they’ve struggled to find final resting places for symbols that many condemn as offensive.

Officials in Gainesville, Fla., and St. Louis have resolved to remove public Confederate monuments only to fail to find museums willing to house them. Officials in St. Louis this week set up a GoFundMe page to raise $25,000 to remove a monument and place it in storage.

New Orleans’ removal of four of its prominent sculptures marks a significant moment in the South’s history, a determination to challenge long-standing white supremacist symbols, said Martin Blatt, director of public history at Northeastern University and a former president of the National Council on Public History.

“All this debate and the controversy points to a history that we still badly need to confront and unearth and interrogate,” Blatt said.

He said he favored the idea of grouping the monuments at a new site, away from highly visible public space, and offering new context and interpretation.

The New Orleans movement to relocate some of the city’s most visible Confederate monuments began in earnest in 2015, shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council declared they were “public nuisances” that did not reflect the city’s diversity or full history.

The process was delayed for nearly two years by a succession of lawsuits from historic preservation groups and monument supporters. The original contractor hired by the city backed out after his employees received death threats and his car was set on fire. Workers dismantled the last three monuments in the cover of darkness, protecting themselves with masks and protective vests.

In contrast, the city announced the removal of the fourth statue, of Lee, in advance, with Landrieu planning an afternoon address at a nearby historic building.

Throughout the years, the Lee monument has served as a focal point for Civil War reunions and a host of civic celebrations. In 1891, it was a gathering spot for the mob responsible for the largest mass lynching in American history: the killing of 11 Italian American men for their alleged role in the murder of the city’s police chief, David Hennessy.

The ultimate fate of the Jim Crow-era sculptures is uncertain. The city has stated the monuments will remain in storage until officials find a museum or facility where they can be displayed in proper context.

On Thursday, Landrieu’s office said in a statement that it had received offers from public and private institutions to take individual monuments and would solicit proposals only from governmental entities and nonprofit groups.

“This should guarantee that wherever the statues end up, they are interpreted as they should be: as historical artifacts from a time when white Southerners believed it was acceptable to memorialize a lost-cause interpretation of the Civil War and ignore the historical record,” said Blain Roberts, a professor of history at Fresno State, who is working on a book about the memory of slavery.

Yet questions linger about how far New Orleans and other Southern cities will go to memorialize the Civil War and the historic legacy of slavery.

New Orleans officials have announced that Lee’s statue will be replaced by a water feature and public art, while a U.S. flag will be placed at the site of the Davis statue. The City Park Improvement Assn. will help decide what replaces the Beauregard statue.

“Putting the American flag in the spot where the Davis statue stood is fine, but I would urge the city to do more,” Roberts said. “Whatever replaces the removed statues should acknowledge the historical facts that those statues were designed to suppress: that enslaved labor generated the wealth of white New Orleanians, and that defending slavery was the reason they and other white Southerners seceded from the Union and fought the Civil War.”

By Jenny Jarvie

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Chelsea Manning Speaks Out Ahead of Release from Prison

Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier has issued her first statement since former President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year prison sentence for leaking intelligence, saying on Tuesday she wants to help others after she is released from prison next week.

Chelsea Manning has served nearly seven years in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being convicted of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010, the biggest such breach in U.S. history.

Her case became both the focus of debate over government secrecy and a rallying cause for civil liberties advocates, who saw the punishment as too severe and an attempt to chill whistleblowers from speaking up about government misdeeds.

“For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world,” Manning said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others,” she added, giving thanks for her upcoming release.

Obama granted Manning clemency in January, saying she had taken responsibility for her crime and her sentence was disproportionate to those received by other leakers. Congressional Republicans criticized the commutation as a dangerous precedent.

Manning’s clemency and appellate lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, said in a statement on Tuesday the sentence was “far too long, too severe, too draconian.”

Manning, formerly known as U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman.

Manning has previously said she released the files in the interests of transparency and accountability.

She twice tried to kill herself and has struggled to cope as a transgender woman in the men’s military prison. In her statement, Manning said her time in prison included periods of solitary confinement and struggles with restricted healthcare.

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Conservatives Wants Law School’s Civil Rights’ Center to Stop Filing Civil Rights’ Lawsuits

The Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina’s law school will be barred from filing lawsuits if conservatives on the university’s policy-making board get their way.

Conservatives say lawsuits depart from the university’s educational mission, but former law dean Gene Nichol sees another motivation, The Associated Press reports. He tells the wire service in an email that the proposal is “strictly, certainly and undoubtedly ideological.”

Nichol, who remains a law professor at the school, had headed the university’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity before it was shut down about two years ago by the university’s board of governors. About two dozen other centers were also shut down.

Board member Steve Long denies an ideological motivation.

“Free enterprise, civil rights, protection of children’s rights—whatever the cause it doesn’t matter. Are you going to stay on mission as an educational institution or not?” he told the AP.

The issue isn’t money, however. The center is funded by grants, foundation money, and donations. It was founded in 2001 by civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers, who died in 2013.

 

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Georgia Lawmaker Gives Away Cannabis Oil on the Edge of the Law

Georgia State representative Allen Peake has been fighting for medical marijuana in his state for some time now, being instrumental in a recent expansion of Georgia’s cannabis oil law that made it through the state House and Senate.

The Associated Press recently sat down with Rep. Peake to talk about medical marijuana and his efforts to get cannabis oil to patients in Georgia who need it. Even though there are patients who are qualified for the medicine in the state, they have no way of accessing it.

So every month a box arrives from Colorado at Rep. Peake’s office, full of cannabis oil. Peake then distributes that oil to patients. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to be able to help get the product to these families, these citizens who have debilitating illnesses,” Peake told AP.

Peake gives away the oil, as selling it would be illegal in Georgia. The process that gets it to his office is a federal felony, but Peake maintains that he doesn’t inquire about that part. “Quite frankly, I don’t know how the product gets here,” Peake said.

When boxes arrive Peake makes donations to a foundation in Colorado that supports the research of medical marijuana, to the tune of about $100,000 a year (Peake is independently wealthy due to his ownership of more than 100 franchise restaurants). In this way, Peake stays (barely) within Georgia law.

He is also scrupulous when it comes to who gets the oil; patients must be among the roughly 1,300 that are registered with the state and are legally allowed to receive the oil. With the spotlight on his activities, Peake has to be careful. But he says it is worth it to be able to help sick people all over Georgia.

Rep. Peake even procured a medical marijuana card from the Georgia Department of Public Health to show to people as he promotes the state’s program. And even though he is not a qualified patient, “a card is a card, enabling Peake to legally possess the cannabis at his office,” according to AP.

From Peake the oil goes into an informal distribution network of patients and caregivers, people like Shannon Cloud, whose daughter suffers from the rare seizure disorder Dravet’s Syndrome. “It shouldn’t be this way,” she said to AP. “You shouldn’t be meeting at a gas station or a Target parking lot to get medicine to somebody. You should be going to the place where it is produced and tested to get it dispensed to you in a regulated manner, but this is what we’re forced to do.”

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Flint puts 8,000 people on notice for tax liens for unpaid water bills

FLINT, Mich. — Thousands of people in Flint are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure if they don’t pay up on their water bills. After recently putting out shut-off notices the city is now back to threatening tax liens on people’s homes.

“I got scared, for probably the first time since this all started this actually scared me,” said Melissa Mays, who is a mother and water activist who lives in Flint.

Mays received the notice in the mail Friday stating that she must pay nearly $900 by May 19 to avoid a lien being placed on her property.

The Mays Family is not alone. More than 8,000 people are also on the same notice. What gets them on this list is not paying a water bill for six months or more.

After May 19, for those who do not pay, a lengthy process begins which could end in foreclosure.

Mays now plans to go against what she believes and pay up so she can keep her family’s home.

“While I understand this is the way the law reads we are in a totally different situation,” said Mays.
City leaders say they are in a bind and they need the cash.

“We have to have revenue coming in, so we can’t give people revenue, I mean excuse me, give people water at the tap and not get revenue coming in to pay those bills,” said Al Mooney, City of Flint Treasury Department.

Mooney says the shut offs are already working in the city’s favor. Last month Flint brought in nearly $3 million for water. That is nearly $1 million more from the month prior when they only collected $2.1 million.

Mooney hopes the 8,000 tax lien notices that went out with prompt even more people to pay their water bills. If all of those were paid up that would bring in nearly $6 million for the city.

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Sessions’ Dream of Resurrecting Reefer Madness Foiled by Congress

If ever one feels the need to dole out criticisms, Congress is reliably low-hanging fruit. But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, once in a blue moon Congress does something that is not a complete affront to liberty.

Having Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General in the era of Trump has had civil liberty advocates on edge from the get-go. As one of the last remaining champions of marijuana prohibition, Sessions would erase all progress made toward decriminalization over the last several years—if given the chance.

Luckily, Congress has taken precautionary measures to ensure that the Trump appointee cannot get his regulatory claws on medical marijuana legislation passed by 29 states.

Congress is drawing a line in the sand on the issue of marijuana legalization. Saved by the Amendment 

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was included in the newly revealed Congressional budget, would block any federal impediment on state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana by barring any federal dollars from being spent on enforcing national drug laws.

Slipped into the budget bill that would keep the government sufficiently funded until September, the text of the amendment clarifies that states that have legalized medical marijuana  are safe from federal intrusion, specifying:

“None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana

Nothing about this amendment is particularly out of the ordinary since medical marijuana has been subtly protected in budget bills since 2014. However, this year’s inclusion represents more than a symbolic gesture, given Attorney General Sessions’ outdated views on marijuana legalization.

Sessions had the audacity to call pot “slightly” less terrible than heroine. In a rare turn of events Congress, the governing body known for having little to no respect for American civil liberties is drawing a line in the sand on the issue of marijuana legalization, at least for medical purposes.

Sessions’ track record on the issue has done little to assure opponents of the drug war that states will continue to make strides towards allowing patients to seek and use marijuana for medical purposes.

Reefer Madness

As recently as February, Sessions made comments expressing his dissatisfaction with states exerting their sovereign right to make laws in the best interests of their constituents. Clarifying his stance he stated:

“States, they can pass the laws they choose, I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

Demonstrating just how out of touch he is on the issue and denying medical research to the contrary Sessions also had the audacity to call pot “slightly” less terrible than heroine.

As more states have legalized pot, opiate use is down nationwide. While this statement would be outlandishly false regardless, to make say such things while an opiate epidemic is plaguing the country is not only ignorant, it’s especially dangerous considering Sessions’ powerful position when it comes to enforcing federal drug laws.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

In fact, as more states have legalized marijuana, opiate usage is down nationwide. But apparently, Sessions does not see this as a positive development even though heroine is estimated to have been the cause of over 13,000 deaths in America in 2016.

Fortunately, this move represents Congress’ reluctance to roll back any victories seen on the marijuana legalization front, at least medically-speaking, which, albeit small, is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, this amendment only protects medical marijuana laws, meaning Sessions could potentially make a power grab and go after the eight states that have legalized pot on a recreational level, nine including the nation’s capital, although doing so would be wildly unpopular and out of line with an American public that now largely skews in favor of marijuana legalization.

While Sessions is surely the personification of the uneducated reefer madness era, he has yet to act on the issue aside from veiled threats that rhetorically resurrect an archaic sentiment.

Brittany Hunter


Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.