Posts tagged ‘freedom’

Inalienable rights

When I visited Hiroshima and the Peace museum there, I was blown away by the forgiveness exhibited by the Japanese people. Walking around that museum was one of the most moving experiences of my life. We called it the “cry museum”. There’s something wrong with you if you can walk through that museum without shedding a tear. The museum is a memorial for the atomic bomb victims and it shows the price of war in a very up-close and uncomfortable way.

Today I stumbled on this TED talk by George Takei on Why I love a country that once betrayed me:

Once again, I found myself blown away by the unbelievable amount of forgiveness by the Japanese people.

I was also reminded of how much I appreciate the ideals on which the United States was founded — the idea that all people are created equal. The idea that all people have an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Today there are countless examples of inequality in our country. It’s so easy to be discouraged. Takei’s story is certainly a solemn reminder of how easily we can slip away from these founding principles. Bono likes to talk about the “blind spots of our age”. We look back on the injustice we displayed to Japanese Americans with horror and disgrace. What are the things we’re accepting today that history will judge us for?

Those inalienable right are still worth defending.


Lest we forget…

The United States Bill of Rights is a remarkable document. Our founding fathers had incredible foresight about the need to limit the power of government and protect our rights of liberty. In recent years, many of these amendments have been under attack by our government. Some are being ignored altogether. The US Constitution and the principles behind it are a big part of what made us great. It made us a free country. We stood for something. These are our rights. We should read them more often and fight for them whenever necessary.

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

People gave their lives so we could have these rights. How hard are we willing to fight to keep them?


Join top sites in protesting censorship on the web

Recently many large sites on the web, like Reddit and Wikipedia have announced plans to black out their sites in opposition to the bills that have been proposed in the US House and Senate in the name of “stopping piracy”. The problem with these bills is that they would give the government the power to censor content on the web while breaking the underlying infrastructure of the internet. Corporate supporters of HR3261 (SOPA) and S968 (PIPA) demand the ability to take down any web site that affects their profits, without due process or judicial oversight. Hoping you wouldn’t notice or care, the majority of our elected representatives want to give them that right.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) act are just another instance of the government meddling in things they don’t understand while giving themselves more power.

While progress is being made at stopping these bills, it is important that we continue to raise awareness of what’s going on. There have already been illegal seizures by Homeland Security’s ICE that highlight the danger of allowing the government to block sites at will.

This weekend at Torbit, we built a JavaScript widget that makes it easy for any site to join the protest against SOPA, PIPA and other censorship on the web. Just paste a snippet of JavaScript into your website to add an interstitial to your site with information about SOPA and how to contact your local representatives. By default it will only be displayed on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC). It’s available as a WordPress plugin, Blogger widget, Typepad widget, as well as a simple javascript snippet. Check out the screenshot below to see what it looks like or click here to try it out.