Category Archives: educational

“Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek”, question and answer session at DC Environmental Film Festival

IMG_8700
I made six video clips from the Question and Answer session for the film “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek” at the Carnegie Institute for Science on 16th Street in Washington DC (happens to be right across the street from the First Baptist Church if the City of Washington DC, in which I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s).

The subject of the film is African American activist Derrick Evans, who had worked as a history teacher in Boston before starting to visit his homeland in Mississippi more often. The Turkey Creek bayou is a natural wetland and was settled by freed slaves during the Reconstruction, who were able to own land here in a segregated society.  The land is threatened by over-development, which makes it even more susceptible to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and then Rita in 2005. The film is directed by Leah Mahan and has been carried on Mississippi PBS.

Evans gave up his career (even as a teacher) to become an activist.  During the QA I asked him if he was economically OK now, and the answer seemed to be, not really.  Was this an OK question?

Another speaker said that more people needed to be willing to live in the Gulf area.  Saying that people shouldn’t “choose” to live in higher risk areas just doesn’t cut it morally.

Here are the clips

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Clip 4

Clip 5

Clip 6

“Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election”: another civics lesson from Greenwald; did the US experience a coup?

bocaraton3

I do recall the night of the 2000 election.  I was at a party in St. Paul, when NBC called Florida for Gore.  I was driving to another gathering with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota in Edina, stopped at a railroad crossing somewhere, when I heard on the radio that the Florida result had been pulled back into “Undecided”.  What the networks giveth, the networks taketh away. It turned out that the media would pull back Florida again even after giving it to Bush.

The 56-minute 2002 documentary from Public Interest Pictures and Robert Greenwald Productions, “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election”, directed by Richard Ray Perez and Joan Sekler, presents the sorry story of this affair.

There is a lot of attention to the Felony Purge list.  A company was hired to create the list for the polls, and with lenient matching standards, enormous numbers of African-Americans with names similar to those of felons were purged and had to prove individually they were not felons to vote.  On election day, many found they were not on the rolls.

The 2000 election in Florida played out in an environment where Jeb Bush (George W. Bush’s brother) had angered the black community by rolling back affirmative action.

tea1

The film summarizes the recount and hanging chad fiasco, which went through several steps with the Florida Supreme Court, and finally to the US Supreme Court, with the infamous Bush v. Gore opinion in December 2000.

newseum7

There is a contention that a manual recount of the entire state, which the Democrats actually didn’t want, would have put the state back in Gore’s column.

The film also presents the vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines, and the “conflict of interest” problem where companies manufacturing these systems (like Diebold) use copyright or trademark law to keep their systems from being audited.  Electronic Frontier Foundation has written about this problem in the past.

The DVD has five short films following: “The Voter Purge”, “Media Malfeasance,” “Response to a Stolen Election”, “Critical Perspectives”, and “Rise of Corporate Dominance”.  The fourth of these refers to  a “coup d’etat”, an illegal seizure of power.  Noam Chomsky speaks on that one.  The fifth discusses the idea that “corporations are persons” and an attack on “The Commons”, which includes our voting system.

Al Gore actually won the popular vote, which is a good sign that something is wrong with the Electoral College system.  The FEC has a link for the popular vote here.

The subject of campaign finance reform, and even its relation to blogging, would become controversial by 2002, a matter that would actually have an effect on my own life, as I will discuss again later.

The DVD can be rented from Netflix, and the film can be viewed “legally” for $2.99 on YouTube, Journeyman Pictures (and Shout!) as the owner.

The third of these pictures shows me playing Supreme Court reporter at the Newseum in Washington DC in 2008.

“U.S. Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments” from “Just the Facts” Learning Series: for me, deja vu

IMG_5893

When I watched the educational DVD from Goldhil and Full Circle Films, dating back to 2004, “United States Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments”, from its “Just the Facts Learning Series”, I felt like I was back in the public school system, substitute teaching as I did (in two periods) from 2004-2007.  This DVD could very well have been the “busywork” for the day in a Va, and US Government or even US History class.  I don’t recall it, however.  I rented it from Netflix. I could not find a current website for the company but here is a typical retail link for the DVD.

A narrator, and law professors Robert Hennig and Priscilola Zotti explain all the amendments to the US Constitution in straightforward fashion.

IMG_5894

Many people, for example, don’t know that many of the framers did not believe we needed a Bill of Rights, which were ratified in 1791.  Also, a lot of people don’t know that the 27th Amendment (giving District of Columbia residents the right to vote in presidential elections with as many electors as the least populous state) was written by James Madison, but could actually be ratified in 1992 because there is no time limit.

The film (running about forty minutes) takes no-nonsense positions on controversy, pointing out that the Second Amendment did originate in a climate where states had organized militia locally, and that it does not give people the right to arm themselves gratuitously with military-style weapons (or nuclear weapons, as mentioned specifically in the DVD).

The DVD attempts a beginner’s explanation of the “incorporation doctrine”, with the 14th Amendment, where the guarantee that the federal government cannot take away certain fundamental rights is extended to the states, but not consistently.

The DVD includes a 20-second multiple choice quiz, which one has to click through.  The detractors in the questions are tricky, so students would have to be careful.   It could be easy to get a bad grade in a public school with a typical 90-80-70-60 (or stiffer) grading scale.

On the cover of my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book, self-published in 1997, I had mistakenly said the Bill of Rights was 160 years old, when 200 years would have been much closer.  It’s not a good idea to put a number like this on the cover of a book. That problem was fixed with the 2000 iUniverse printing.

In my second DADT book (“When Liberty Is Stressed”, 2002), I discussed the idea of a “Bill of Rights 2” and talked about the constitutional amending process (not covered on the DVD), online link here.amendments could anchor the “right to privacy”.  In Chapter 6 of my first DADT book, I had proposed “28th” and “29th” amendments.  The “28th was structured to prevent any government from interfering with adult sexual privacy and had many provisions.  It was not as protective as free speech on the Internet as it might have been, as I explain in the book.  The 29th amendment was actually conceived as a 90s-era attempt to encourage states to experiment with gay marriage by putting DOMA-like limits on federal recognition, but we all know what happened to that idea with the Supreme Court in 2013.

As I have covered on other blogs, I think we have real potential issues with the question of whether unsupervised self-broadcast of one’s speech ought to be regarded as a fundamental right, as in the recent debate over Section 230.  But many court opinions, even in the Supreme Court, have tended to support this view, as with the litigation a few years ago over COPA, the Child Online Protection Act, against which I was an indirect plaintiff through Electronic Frontier Foundation