You are browsing the archive for 2013 October 16.

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Supreme Court Teaches Students They're outside Constitution

October 16, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

I was furious to see this headline from civil liberties guardian the Rutherford Institute last week: “U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case of Student Subjected to Random Lockdown and Mass Search by Police in Public School.”

I was furious, but not shocked because, as I’ll explain, this has happened before.

Furthermore, there has been hardly any media attention to the outcome of this case, Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools, which Rutherford’s founder and president, constitutional lawyer John Whitehead, says has “long-term ramifications of treating young people as if they have no rights.”

Here are the facts of the case:

“On April 22, 2010, the principal of Central High School (in Springfield, Mo.) announced over the public address system that the school was going into ‘lockdown’ and that students were prohibited from leaving their classrooms.

“School officials and agents of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department thereafter ordered students in random classrooms to leave all personal belongings behind and exit the classrooms (despite the previous order). Dogs were also brought in to assist in the raid.

“Upon re-entering the classrooms, students allegedly discovered that their belongings had been rummaged through.”

Mellony and Doug Burlison, the parents of two kids enrolled in Central High School, sued the school district for violating the Fourth Amendment and the Missouri Constitution. (The Rutherford Institute, as usual, provided lawyers to the Burlisons at no charge to present their case.)

These searches were conducted without any individually cited suspicions of wrongdoing by any of the students, not to mention total disregard of due process.

But dig this: In March of this year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s concern with exposing drug use outweighed the privacy rights of the locked down students.

And, after an appeal to John Roberts’ Supreme Court, the plaintiffs got unpleasant news on Oct. 7: Among the court’s long list of cases for which certiorari, or review, was denied was Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools.

The Burlisons, effectively, have no case.

There was not one word about why our highest court couldn’t be bothered with this — and not a single, dissenting voice. Where were Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy?

It was Justice Kennedy, often known as “the swing vote” in decisions, who said years ago: “The Constitution needs renewal and understanding each generation, or else it’s not going to last” (from my book Living the Bill of Rights, Harper Collins and University of California …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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SNAP Failure: The Food Stamp Program Needs Reform

October 16, 2013 in Economics

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the food assistance program formerly known as food stamps, has become America’s fastest growing social welfare program. But a new paper from Cato scholar Michael D. Tanner looks at whether this growth has been justified and whether the program successfully addresses hunger in America. Tanner finds that SNAP is deeply troubled and argues, “The time has come to reform the food stamp program by reducing its spending and enrollment and, ultimately, by returning responsibility for its operation to the states.”

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Don't Tell an Atheist She's Not an Atheist

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Mary Elizabeth Williams,

Winfrey disputes Diana Nyad's atheism—and she's the one who's wrong.

Diana Nyad is a woman who knows intimately the power of the human spirit, and the fierce beauty of nature. Diana Nyad is also a woman who says she is an atheist. And Oprah Winfrey disagrees with her.

On a “Super Soul Sunday” with the 64-year-old long distance swimmer this weekend — just one month after Nyad’s extraordinary, triumphant swim from Cuba to Florida — Winfrey took strong issue with Nyad’s assertion that she’s “not a God person, but a person deeply in awe.” It’s true that perhaps appearing in a venue with the word “soul” in it might seem an unusual choice for a self-described atheist, but Nyad explained. “I don’t understand why anyone would find a contradiction in that,” she said. “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

Oprah quickly stepped in with some semantic disagreement. “Well, I don’t call you an atheist then,” she said. “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, that that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.” But Nyad, who knows a thing or two about being undeterred, pressed on, explaining her skepticism of a “creator or overseer.” Later, Oprah, still trying to pin Nyad down, asked her if she felt she was “spiritual,” Nyad replied, “I do. I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching Being who created all of this and sees over it. But there’s spirituality because we human beings, and we animals and maybe even we plants, but certainly the ocean and the moon and the stars, we all live with something that is cherished and we feel …read more