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Posts Tagged ‘ACLU

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”*…

 

An estimated 77 million Americans have a debt that has been turned over to a private collection agency. Thousands of these debtors are arrested and jailed each year because they owe money. Millions more are threatened with jail. The debts owed can be as small as a few dollars, and they can involve every kind of consumer debt, from car payments to utility bills to student loans to medical fees. These trends devastate communities across the country as unmanageable debt and household financial crisis become ubiquitous, and they impact Black and Latino communities most harshly due to longstanding racial and ethnic gaps in poverty and wealth.

Debtors’ prisons were abolished by Congress in 1833 and are thought to be a relic of the Dickensian past. In reality, private debt collectors — empowered by the courts and prosecutors’ offices — are using the criminal justice system to punish debtors and terrorize them into paying, even when a debt is in dispute or when the debtor has no ability to pay.

The criminalization of private debt happens when judges, at the request of collection agencies, issue arrest warrants for people who failed to appear in court to deal with unpaid civil debt judgments. In many cases, the debtors were unaware they were sued or had not received notice to show up in court…

Read this deeply-troubling story in toto at “The Criminalization of Private Debt“; then read the full ACLU report at “A Pound of Flesh.”

* Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1

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As we dust off the adjective “Dickensian,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1811, five days after the birth of the movement in Nottingham, that Luddites smashed over 100 machines intended to eliminate their textile industry jobs in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Kirby, Woodborough, Lambley, Bulwell, & Ilkeston in Derbyshire.

an 1812 illustration of “Ned Ludd,” a fictional apprentice who (per his legend) destroyed two weaving frames in 1779.

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Written by LW

March 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

“It’s not opinion polls that determine the outcome of elections, it’s votes in ballot boxes”*…

 

This Nov. 8, even if you manage to be registered in time and have the right identification, there is something else that could stop you from exercising your right to vote.

The ballot. Specifically, the ballot’s design.

Bad ballot design gained national attention almost 16 years ago when Americans became unwilling experts in butterflies and chads. The now-infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, which interlaced candidate names along a central column of punch holes, was so confusing that many voters accidentally voted for Patrick Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

We’ve made some progress since then, but we still likely lose hundreds of thousands of votes every election year due to poor ballot design and instructions. In 2008 and 2010 alone, almost half a million people did not have their votes counted due to mistakes filling out the ballot. Bad ballot design also contributes to long lines on election day. And the effects are not the same for all people: the disenfranchised are disproportionately poor, minority, elderly and disabled

More– with some encouraging examples of remedies– at “Disenfranchised by Bad Design.”

* Nicola Sturgeon

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As we pull the lever, we might spare a thought for Rex Todhunter Stout; he died on this date in 1975. A writer of detective fiction, he created master sleuth Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975– earning Stout the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.

But as importantly, Stout had a vital career as a public intellectual and activist: he was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity, and was active in promoting world federalism, and was the long-time president of the Authors Guild.

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Written by LW

October 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

Yes, but what *is* “a ball”?…

Sticking with yesterday’s focus on sports…

Coming to a stadium in North London this Sunday: a tribute/replay of Monty Python’s “The Philosophers’ Football Match,” featuring Socrates Wanderers vs. Nietzsche Albion, all in support of the Philosophy Shop’s “Four Rs” campaign (a movement to get “reasoning” added to “reading, writing. and ‘rithmetic”).  Great cause; great fun.

As we hear “Frege” and “Kant” exclaimed in response to a Yellow Card (…at least, that’s what it sounded like), we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that John T. Scopes was served the warrant that led to his being the defendant in Scopes vs. The State of Tennessee (aka “the Scopes Monkey Trial”).

Tennessee had responded to the urgings of William Bell Riley, head of the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, and passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution– the Butler Act; in response, The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone accused of violating the Act.  George Rappleyea, who managed several local mines, convinced a group of businessmen in Dayton, Tennessee, a town of 1,756, that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton some much needed publicity. With their agreement, he called in his friend, the 24-year-old Scopes, who taught High School biology in the local school– and who agreed to be the test case.

The rest is celebrity-filled history, and star-studded drama.

Scopes in 1925

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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