Plots and Thoughts

Homophobic Mississippi School District Cancels Prom out of Spite

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on March 11, 2010

Straightforward story.  The little  school district that could discriminate but couldn’t handle queer folk at a school prom decided to just cancel it.  Here is the story.  I found the comments section to be rather fun:

I am sick to death of these “special individuals”, with “special needs” keep ruining it for the rest of us who are healthy minded, law abiding individuals.

Just say “NO” to this negative behavior, what is wrong with the truth?

Check out some of the replies!

omg, i totally agree! these special individuals who insist that everyone be *just like them* with their special need of having everyone be *just like them* keep ruining it for the rest of us who are healthy, law abiding INDIVIDUALs who don’t give a flying fudge who wants to date who.

The truth is, no one has the right to force people to live according to their own religious beliefs. If you don’t agree, then move to Iraq and allow yourself to be forced to live according to Islam. Oh wait, as long as it’s YOUR religion it’s okay. I see how you are: Anti-American.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if you’re being ironic or not. America is A REPUBLIC not a Democracy precisely because minority rights tend to get trampled in a a direct democracy. The Senate is built around the idea that “special individuals” (i.e. small states) get special treatment (i.e. a louder voice than they would otherwise.)

What “special need” are you talking about? The girl wanted to take her date to the prom. Just like hundreds of other students. Sorry, but the girl was well within her rights as a citizen of this country. Hope the School Board gets sued back to the middle ages it crawled out of.

Its always amusing watching the ignorant and the bigoted lose an argument.

English Libel Law – Shaming the Bullies

Posted in Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on February 24, 2010

The British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for writing a science column in which he called their claims “bogus”.  A judge ruled against him and he is currently appealing.  As the Libel Reform Campaign observes, their libel law is a global disgrace:

John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship:

If we don’t act we’re at risk of becoming a global pariah. There are US States who view English libel law as so damaging to free speech they have passed laws to effectively block the decisions of English judges. Our report is an important milestone in modernising our antiquated and chilling approach to free expression.

In the meantime, is there anything we can do to help?  I would like to propose a generalized strategy for dealing with those who use the law to oppress those with less power.  A Public Relations Denial of Service attack.  A DOS attack is – in essence – an attack on a network’s availability by request saturation.  Think of it as so many people calling into a hotline to complain the phone lines melt.  Imagine applying the same approach to a company’s reputation.  There could be no more ironic target than an organization misusing English libel law to penalize a critic.

This is political speech at its most raw and powerful.  The message we would send is clear.  If you attack free speech, we attack your reputation.  The British Chiropractic Association is using a law that is known to be a perversion to shut down criticism in the press.  This is morally repugnant and it deserves a response.

How would this work?

Large groups of people would criticize that association on their blogs, twitter, facebook, buzz, etc etc.  There are more than a few ways to do this (ironically engaging in actual libel as protest, calling them names, etc).  I would recommend one of two approaches:

  1. Put the Streisand Effect into play.  Repeat the claims they launched their lawsuit to silence.  This would entail some risk.
  2. Attack their honor.  Stomping out free speech is dishonorable, anti-democratic, and fundamentally against the code of ethics at the root of the free world.  Careful phrasing could make this approach rather risk free.

I could really use an example!

The BCA’s claims about curing asthma through chiropractic adjustment are bogus!  Talk to a real doctor today.

The BCA is silencing its critics.  Where do YOU stand on free speech?  Boycott BCA affiliated Chiropractors.

Doesn’t this put me at risk?

Perhaps.  But the more we band together, the more of us who take part, the harder it is for the offender to attack any more of us.  And with each lawsuit aimed at silencing further critics, the criticism would grow ever stronger.

What is so important about free speech anyway?

If a medical journalist cannot critique healthcare providers and methods it takes away a necessary level of protection for the public.

In situations where the law protects the powerful and punishes the weak, we need to come up with strategies to strike back.  Court costs and laws which favor corporations have made the legal world an unequal playing ground where individuals become victims.  There has to be a way for citizens to stand up for each other.  Perhaps that way can be found in grassroots public relations.

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Reasons Not to Help in Haiti

Posted in Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 4, 2010

I think what the 10 Baptists are accused of doing is wrong.  And the tragedy in Haiti is horrible.  But at the same time, this caught my eye:

Coq said that under Haiti’s legal system, there won’t be an open trial, but a judge will consider the evidence and could render a verdict in about three months.

Coq said a Haitian prosecutor told him the Americans were charged because they had the children in their possession. No one from the Haitian government could be reached immediately for comment.

Each kidnapping count carries a possible sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Each criminal association count has a potential sentence of three to nine years.

Haiti’s legal system is so backwards that anyone going in to help risks imprisonment or other punishment without a fair trial.

It provides a rather curious conundrum, one faced daily by people of immense bravery and compassion.  Women and Men who risk their lives to do human rights and aid work in hostile countries where their rights aren’t recognized.

While I don’t think we ought to refrain from helping in these instances, I believe they call out desperately for public shaming.  In a situation like this, while condemning the actions of the Baptists, we ought to with equal force and conviction condemn their legal system.

What do you think?

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Using Tasers on Children

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on November 18, 2009

Feministing reports that a taser had been used on a 10 year old girl.  From MyEyeWitnessNews:

A police officer in a small Arkansas town used a stun gun on an unruly 10-year-old girl after he said her mother gave him permission to do so. Now the town’s mayor is calling for an investigation into whether the Taser use was appropriate.

Uh, NO IT WAS NOT.  There, that was a quick investigation.

“We didn’t use the Taser to punish the child – just to bring the child under control so she wouldn’t hurt herself or somebody else,” Noggle said.

If the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg, Noggle said.

By using a taser the accident could very well have been death.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser, said it’s up to individual law enforcement agencies to decide when Taser use is appropriate.

In some cases, a Taser “presents the safer response to resistance compared with the alternatives such as fists, kicks, baton strikes, bean bag guns, chemical agents, or canine response,” Tuttle said in a statement.

Are we to suppose the police officer might have used chemical agents on a child of 10?!

The context in which the taser was used was complex and difficult, to be sure.  But it seems like as we learn more and more about how very deadly tasers are (to the point their manufacturer now warns about where on the body to target), we are becoming more cavalier about their use.

This when we need to become more critical, especially of their usage on vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

Keep in mind when reading that in this case, the mother of the child consented to the taser being used.

Stupak’s God in Our Government

Posted in Analysis, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on November 16, 2009

The problem with unifying Church and State is it becomes the unification not of some abstract Church, but specifically the Church of the ruling class.  In this case Bart Stupak’s efforts to hijack health care reform to push an anti-women agenda is part of a larger effort to put God into Government.

The health care bill is a series of very small steps towards meaningful reform.  We should be able to take those steps without them falling on the neck of women’s rights.

Mr Stupak’s threat is a serious one and it deserves a vicious rhetorical response.  His efforts cannot be seen as anything less than anti-reform, and anyone who is against reform at this point isn’t a Democrat.  This goes deeper than party loyalty however.  This battle is a real struggle between those who are truly pro-life and those who are pro-insurance-company-profits.  Theocratic forces have seen an opening and are standing with the paid-for anti-reformers to try and maneuver for power.

Given the weight of this battle we ought let fly without reserve.  From a rhetorical perspective we should hold nothing back and purposefully include the Stupak crowd in with the anti-reformers.  The tendencies towards binding US law to a strict interpretation of conservative Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with the separation of Church and State, the 1st amendment, and inclusion within the Democratic party.  Any elected official taking such a position needs to feel the heat directly under their feet if we are to drive home our position:

Health Care reform is vital.

Theocratic laws are never acceptable.

We will never sacrifice women’s rights to advance the “greater” progressive agenda.  Women’s rights are an irremovable part of the progressive agenda.

We are nowhere near victory but the very act of lifting up our heads to speak as we lay in the mud has conservatives frothing at the mouth and banging their spears against their shields.  If we are to survive much less win, we absolutely must stand united, tall and firm and let loose one hell of a roar.