Attack On Human Rights

Gun Rights

So we’re sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 


He’s reading three things:


– The Holy Bible


– Second Amendment Primer


– The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual’s right to bear arms for self defense in “federal enclaves”). 


So somebody says jokingly, “You think he’s a Republican?”


It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 


Even if we don’t necessary do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgement upon us. 


Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.


Speak you mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 


My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  


I’ve heard people say things like you’re eligible for X, Y, or Z, but your not entitled to it.


They confuse rights as eligibility, rather than entitlement. 


So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way–thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!


Yes, of course we all need to behave responsibility and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn’t mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people’s mood’s, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Freedom Is Worth It

Respect.jpeg

This was a photo I took of a sign in my daughter’s old high school.


It says, “Respect for Self, Others, and the Environment.”


That is a great principle, which I was reminded of today in sitting for an IT certification exam–how lucky we are to live in a country that affords us respect to be ourselves…to speak, write, and practice as we believe. 


In this case, the certification exam was typically given on Saturday, but as a Sabbath observer, I was able to provide a request for an accommodation, and was able to take the exam this morning, Sunday.


What was absolutely amazing to me though going for the exam at this designated fancy facility, in Washington, D.C.–and with two proctors–was that I was the only one taking the exam today.


This was not just some lip-service tolerance for differences, but rather true respect for diversity, even when it’s not convenient and it is costly. 


I have got to say, how grateful I am to be part of a society where we are free to be who we are–what can be more amazing than that?


I feel this all the more when we are at a time in history when still so many in the world are battling dictatorships, demagogues, terrorist and corrupt regimes that impose harsh restrictions, censorship, monitoring, and severe punishments on those who don’t follow the dictates of the authority holding power. 


When we fight those restrictive regimes–from ISIS to Communism–that are looking not just to hold, but to spread their clutches on power and abuses of freedom–we are really fighting to be who we are and that is a serious fight worth having. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Want It To Mean Something

We The People
So I took this photo in Starbucks–one of the Baristas in Washington, D.C showing his tattoo. 



Not that I am a tattoo guy myself (uh, I’m not!), but I thought this was really an interesting one. 



“We The People Of the United States” — our Constitution establishing our nation, freedom, democracy, and human rights here. 



Along with pictures of the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial (maybe more around the arm…I don’t know). 



When I asked him what made him choose this?



He immediately said, “I wasn’t originally thinking of a tattoo, but when I did, I wanted it to mean something!”



So this one wasn’t just a vanity thing, but has meaning to him and I bet to many others–very cool! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Is That Freedom?

Freedom
This was a funny (-sad) picture I took the other day.



“Freedom Septic”!!!



That’s what they name a port-o-potty?

Certainly a very strange and loose interpretation of what freedom means to some people 



(Uh, I prefer the Constitution/Bill of Rights version.)



Then again, check out this company’s website at the bottom of their signs–I won’t go there. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

March Of The Dangerous Penguins

March Of The Dangerous Penguins

This was a funny picture on the streets of Washington D.C.

Someone drew these “armed” and dangerous penguins on the back of a chair.

The chair is translucent, but with the snow coming down and covering it, you can see this crazy drawing.

Perhaps this is a message from the local NRA advocating for gun rights, who knows?

Anyway, these penguins are cute little fellows even carrying scoped rifles and staring down the everyday passerbys. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

2048–And The World Will Be As One

John Lennon sang the song Imagine—envisioning a time when everyone will be at peace “and the world will be as one.”

Perusing the bookstore, I came across a relatively new book that came out last year called 2048 by J. Kirk Boyd, Executive Director of the 2048 Project at the U.C. Berkeley Law School that carries a vision of peace, unity and human rights similar to the song.

By 2048, Boyd envisions a world with an “agreement to live together”—marked by an International Bill of Rights with five key freedoms:

1)   Freedom of Speech—includes freedoms of expression, media, assembly, and associations.

2)   Freedom of Religion—the right to worship in your own way and separation of church and state.

3)   Freedom from Want—everyone has a right to a useful and fairly paying job, a decent home, adequate medical care, and a good education.

4)   Freedom from Fear—freedom from repression, enabled by an independent judiciary and the enforcement of the rule of law.

5)   Freedom of the Environment—driven by preservation and sustainability for future generations.

I would see the freedoms in the U.S. Bill of Rights that are not explicitly mentioned here to be implicitly covered by the broad categories of Freedoms from Want and Fear.

For example, the right to bear arms and such could be covered under the Freedom of Want.  Similarly, the guarantees to a speedy, public trial and not to be put in double jeopardy or unreasonably searched etc. could be covered under Freedom from Fear. 

Boyd’s 2048 implementation of an International Bill of Rights carries forward the Declaration of Human Rights—that consists of 30 articles—by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948on it’s one hundred year anniversary—that has unfortunately not been fully realized yet. 

In a time when so much oppression, repression, and global poverty still exist, I am awed by this vision and call for human rights throughout the world.

I like the clarity and simplicity of Boyd’s five freedoms.  They can be easily understood and remembered.

The freedoms according to Boyd will enable us to focus together, think (and write) together, decide together, and move forward together. 

This is a far different world than the one we live in today that is driven by scarcity, power and politics and that keep people in seemingly perpetual fighting mode.

What will it take to reach a world architecture that brings peace, prosperity, and dignity to all?  A global catastrophe.  A common enemy.  A messianic fulfillment.  Or is it possible, with G-d’s help, to move today—incrementally—through our own planning, reason and devices to live in peace as one humankind?

>Architecture of Freedom

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In the United States, we have been blessed with tremendous freedom, and these freedoms are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, in many countries around the world, people do not share these basic freedoms and human rights.

Now in many countries, the limitation and subjugation of people has extended from the physical to the virtual world of the Internet. People are prevented through filtering software from freely “surfing” the Internet for information, news, research and so forth. And they are prohibited from freely communicating their thoughts and feelings in email, instant messages, blogs, social networks and other communications media, and if are identified and caught, they are punished often through rehabilitation by hard prison labor or maybe just disappear altogether.

In fact, many countries are now insisting that technology companies build in filtering software so that the government can control or block their citizen’s ability to view information or ideas that are unwanted or undesirable.

Now however, new technology is helping defend human rights around the world—this is the architecture for anonymity and circumvention technologies.

MIT Technology Review (May/June 2009) has an article entitled “Dissent Made Safer—how anonymity technology could save free speech on the Internet.”

An open source non-profit project called TOR has developed a peer to peer technology that enables users to encrypt communications and route data through multiple hops on a network of proxies. “This combination of routing and encryption mask a computer’s actual location and circumvent government filters; to prying eyes, the Internet traffic seems to be coming from the proxies.”

This creates a safe environment for user to browse the Internet and communicate anonymously and safely—“without them, people in these [repressive] countries might be unable to speak or read freely online.”

The OpenNet Initiative in 2006 “discovered some form of filtering in 25 of 46 nations tested. A more current study by OpenNet found “more than 36 countries are filtering one or more kinds of speech to varying degrees…it is a practice growing in scope, scale, and sophistication.”

Generally, filtering is done with some combination of “blocking IP addresses, domain names… and even Web pages containing certain keywords.”

Violations of Internet usage can result in prison or death for treason.

Aside from TOR, there are other tools for “beating surveillance and censorship” such as Psiphon, UltraReach, Anonymizer, and Dynaweb Freegate.

While TOR and these other tools can be used to help free people from repression around the world, these tools can also be used, unfortunately, by criminals and terrorists to hide their online activities—and this is a challenge that law enforcement must now understand and contend with.

The architecture of TOR is fascinating and freeing, and as they say, “the genie is out of the bottle” and we cannot hide our heads in the sand. We must be able to help those around the world who need our help in achieving basic human rights and freedoms, and at the same time, we need to work with the providers of these tools to keep those who would do us harm from taking advantage of a good thing.