Saturday, August 13, 2011

BART shuts down cell phone use in subway stations

Cell phone use in San Francisco subway stations was halted Thursday. BART, the authority that operates the subways, “learned” that protests were planned in some of the stations. People wanted to express their anger over the shooting death of a man by BART police. So, electricity was cut off to cell phone towers in the stations from 4 to 7 pm on Thursday in response.

Communities are given the responsibility to protect its citizens. Collective self defense was one of the first reasons people gathered in communities. But, the defense of the community must be kept in balance with the rights of individuals.

According to news reports, it is illegal for people to assemble in subway stations in San Francisco to protest. The law to prevent these assemblies is a reasonable act. The dangers that would exist if many angry people were protesting on subway platforms would go beyond a mere inconvenience of commuters. It is reasonable to think that people would be injured or killed. Also, the law most likely doesn’t choose sides, it just simple states no protests of any kind. There are plenty of other places in the city for people to assemble to express their grievances without endangering the lives of people.

When BART authorities “learned” that something was planned, it sounds like they did develop a plan to protect commuters and prevent a violation of the law. But, sense the plan they developed involved the violation of everyone’s rights, not just those involved in the protests, they should have sought judicial review. This review would have allowed a public examination of the evidence and a evaluation of the dangers that would be presented if the protest were not preempted. (Courts would have responded quickly to a request from BART due to the nature of the issues.)

I used the word preempted about the plan to negate the protests. The plan that was developed by the BART authorities was based on what might happen, as opposed to what is happening. It is dangerous to image a community that would preempt political activity without judicial review. If political activity was allowed to be preempted communities would walk right in to the issues that were explored in “Minority Report”. It was a movie from a few years ago that arrested people based on what they might do, with convictions and confinement based on action they hadn’t taken.

This action by BART authorities is similar to laws that are being considered on a national level, the so called “internet kill switch.” This law would allow the president or some other authority to kill the internet in part or whole to prevent illegal or dangerous action by individuals or groups. In that law, I supported the law as long as there was a review of the intelligence that suggested great harm was going to happen if the internet was not shut down. Even then, the action should only take place temporarily.

If intelligence provides evidence that an illegal activity was going to happen, present the evidence to a court. If approved by the court, then stand ready to take action when the activity happens, as opposed to cutting everyone’s rights short.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Rick Perry and his call to prayer

Rick Perry may be the most politically dangerous man in America right now.

The Texas Governor’s call to prayer at Reliant stadium over this past weekend in Houston isn’t the reason. On his free time he can practice his religion with abandon. His deep faith in his religion isn’t the reason either. There have many religious people that have been public officials, including Presidents, in the past and present.

Rick Perry is a politically dangerous man because of many other reasons.

One is my concern that Perry’s beliefs will direct his decision making process. He would like government to a religious and spiritual guide. He, like strong and vocal groups of Americans, believe that this is a Christian nation. This, despite the fact that John Adams, one of three people that are credited with being the primary authors of the Constitution, and many others that helped create the Constitution, have said it is not. They have said this in writing many times. This government’s primary purpose, and what should be the primary purpose of any government, is to protect the rights of people regardless of their belief. The only time government should take action is when harm will or can happen to an individual. Perry, it seems from all of his campaigning up to this point, thinks that laws should be in place that protects morality. A morality in this case that is based on Perry’s own religious beliefs.

Another is my concern that Perry will attempt to excluded people that do not share his religious beliefs from the public forum. It’s hard to image that the governor will allow freedom of religion in American that isn’t Christian. This will mean more intense pressure will be applied to groups like the Muslims that are already having a difficult time building their own religious houses.

Another is that Rick Perry, if he becomes President, will be a divider. Those that don’t believe that Christian morality should be the guide for government’s action will be side lined. This will cause incredible strife between other religious groups and those that have no faith in a spiritual being. They will be forced to live under the religious mandates of a religion they don’t believe in. This is the very thing our nation finds so abhorrent in religious countries around the world. We call them terrorists when they take over a country and enforce a strict adherence to a religious doctrine.

Rick Perry is dangerous because those that support his campaign with money and infrastructure will demand and expect that their beliefs will become policy. Just one of the groups, The American Family Association, with over 200 radio stations under their control, provided a million dollars to the Houston rally. Another group, the Cornerstone Church lead by John Hagee, sent 700 members to help in the organizing for the Houston Rally. (Another blog will be posted on the Cornerstone Church’s leader John Hagee in the near future as soon as the research is completed.) With that kind of investment and the infrastructure of 200 radio stations and staff, they will expect a return. If you think that they won’t have a say in policy decisions, think again please.

Finally, because Rick Perry believes that the Christian God will deliver us from all the social ills that may befall us. Problems that we face as a nation will not be solved by deep faith but by critical action. To fall to our knees and pray may help us understand our inner selves better but will not provide the solutions. Hard work and cooperation between all individuals will solve our problems.

This blog post may sound anti-religious. It is not. Spiritually is a strong influence in the personal lives of every human. To allow our own spiritually to guide us as individuals is important for personal peace. But, to allow a single spiritually to be forced on all American citizens through government action will only cause dissension and conflict.