Indian Census Confirms One Billion Population Figure

It’s official — the population of India is now in excess of one billion people, second only to China as the most populous nation on Earth.

India recently conducted a nationwide census involving two million census workers who collected data from more than 5,000 towns and cities along with 600,000 villages.

According to preliminary census figures, India’s population grew by 180 million people in the last 10 years, though the rate of its population growth apparently declined in recent years.

Source:

Census confirms one billion Indians. The BBC, March 26, 2001.

'Nuremberg Files' Web Site Verdict Thrown Out – Victory for Animal Rights Activists

The Associated Press reports that a three-judge panel in the 9th District Court has thrown out the controversial civil lawsuit against the Nuremberg Files web site.

The Nuremberg Files was a web site set up by anti-abortion activists. Among other things, the site listed names and other personal information about doctors who performed abortions. It also included posters that mimicked wanted posters but included pictures of abortion providers which it referred to as “baby butchers.”

Three doctors whose names appeared on lists maintained by the Nuremberg Files were murdered. Planned Parenthood sued the Nuremberg Files in court under provisions of the |Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization| statute claiming that the web site was essentially the focal point of a criminal conspiracy. That nobody involved with the web site had committed or even planned any acts of violence was irrelevant — the contents of the web site itself made the Nuremberg Files responsible, in part, for abortion-related violence.

A jury agreed with Planned Parenthood and the proprietors of the site were ordered to pay damages to Planned Parenthood and several abortion doctors.

The 9th District Court unanimously agreed that the jury was wrong — what the Nuremberg Files did was speech protected by the First Amendment. In the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski wrote,

If defendants threatened to commit violent acts, by working alone or with others, then their [works] could properly support the verdict. But if their [works] merely encouraged unrelated terrorists, then their words are protected by the First Amendment.

This will have a major impact on a number of pending suits against animal rights activists.

First, this is going to end up in the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood has the deep pockets necessary to see this case through to the end. They will especially be encouraged to do so since the 9th Circuit Court’s decisions are often overturned by the Supreme Court. It has a reputation for rendering decisions that the Supreme Court later deems to be an excessively broad interpretation of the Constitution.

Second, if the verdict survives a Supreme Court challenge, the various RICO suits against animal rights activists are dead. If the 9th Circuit Court is correct, then an Animal Liberation Front site can list personal information about, say, federally-funded medical researchers, and cheer those who commit violent acts, but so long as they don’t directly threaten or engage in a conspiracy with those who commit violence, there is no legal recourse.

I suspect the Supreme Court will overturn the 9th District’s opinion, even if it ultimately sides with the Nuremberg Files, since the decision provides a gaping legal hole for people conspiring to commit murder.

Source:

Court: OK to Encourage Abortion Threat. David Kreats, Associated Press, March 28, 2001.

Animal Rights Activist Attack Peter Singer Over Bestiality Stance

Peter Singer still has not made any comments about his book review for Nerve which, on the most friendly interpretation, offered a weak argument against bestiality. While People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Ingrid Newkirk offered a defense of Singer, many animal rights activists were quick to pile on denunciations of Singer, many of which were posted to the Nerve web site as well as being distributed through Internet e-mail lists.

Friends of Animals president Priscillia Feral wrote,

Friends of Animals, an interntional non-profit organization with 200,000 members throughout the world dedicated to promoting the rights of animals and concern for wildlife and the environment, denounces Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer, for an essay in which Singer maintains that under some circumstances, it is acceptable for humans and animals to have sex with each other. FoA finds Singer’s position shocking and disgusting. Bestiality is wrong in part because the animal cannot meaningfully consent to sex with a human. In this sense, bestiality is wrong for the same reason pedophilia is wrong. Children cannot consent to sexual contact and neither can animals. Contrary to a statement from a spokesperson for PETA, Singer’s essay isn’t an intellectual issue, and his thinking isn’t logical. It’s a moral issue. Singer and his apologists just need to stop repeating every annoying idea they’ve developed for shock value.

Megan Metzellar, program coordinator for Friends of Animals weighed in as well,

Singer is basically condoning rape and molestation as long as one (presumably he?) can find a way to interpret the situation as being “mutually satisfying.” I suppose Mr. Singer can find a way to justify any base behavior in his mind via his meaningless hypotheticals. Singer has been put on a pedestal by the animal rights movement for a very long time but this essay is a wake-up call to those who have blindly idolized him. Moreover, since women are often sexually abused and exploited in conjunction with acts of bestiality, feminists should be outraged by his position on this issue. Child advocates should also be alarmed since Singer is condoning sex acts in which one party is basically incapable of giving consent. Singer is in dangerous territory here and if he has any sense left he will realize the potential fallout from this essay and retract his position.

Theodora Capaldo, president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, was worried about the damage that Singer’s views will have on the animal rights movement.

As someone who has played and continues to play a high profile and influential role in the animal rights movement, I believe your responsibility changes. The success of animal liberation depends not only on the ideology, the legal arguments, and the philosophical reasoning but perhaps more importantly on the sophisticated strategies that will allow mainstream populations to hear the message, accept the message and act on the message. Heavy Petting will come back to haunt us and is a step backwards. Unchallenged, this essay will serve to further marginalize and, therefore, damage the animal rights movement. The consequences of it will push us back into the bubble-gum bottomed recess of prejudice that hell hole of ridicule that remains our greatest obstacle and enemy. Some people may care about your thoughts on bestiality from some perverse unconscious desires. More significantly, however, many others will study your every word not to better ground their arguments in support of animal rights but rather to find new ways to discredit our efforts. They have been given new ammunition and new accusations with which to boost their arguments about the absurdity of our beliefs. Heavy Petting will be used against us. Have no doubt.

Live by the sound bite, die by the sound bite.

Gary Francione, who seems to have laid low after shutting down his animal law center, reminded animal rights activists that Singer’s argument is beside the point since the existence of pets is an abomination itself, regardless of whether or not anyone is having sex with the animals.

Even if animals can desire to have sexual contact with humans, that does not mean that they are “consenting” to that contact any more than does a child who can have sexual desires (or who even initiates sexual contact) can be said to consent to sex. Moreover, Peter ignores completely that bestiality is a phenomenon that occurs largely within the unnatural relationship of domestication; a domestic animal can no more consent to sex than could a human slave. Therefore, since the threshold requirement–informed consent–cannot be met, sexual contact with animals cannot be morally justified….It is bad enough that Peter defends the killing or other exploitation of those humans whose lives he regards as not worth living, and, through his pop media image, he has succeeded in connecting the issue of animal rights with the very ideas that were promoted by some academics as part of the theoretical basis for Nazism. It is bad enough that the “father of the animal rights movement” regards PETA’s sell-out liaison with McDonalds as “the biggest step forward for farm animals in America in the past quarter of a century” (a direct quote from Peter) and that PETAphiles are pointing to Peter’s approval as justification for the sell-out. It is bad enough that Peter continues to support and promote those whose unethical actions have actually harmed animals. Bestiality merits nothing more or less than our outright and unequivocal condemnation. Peter’s disturbing view that humans and nonhumans may enjoy sexual contact as part of “mutually satisfying activities” will only further harm the cause of animal rights, and I can only hope that those who care will register their strong dissent.

Aside from the animal rights movement, it will be interesting to see how the Princeton community reacts to Singer’s newly found views on sex with animals.

Intolerance Run Rampant

This is really unbelievable. Apparently the Pennsylvania State University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom had its constitution and mission statement censured by the PSU student government. According to the student government, the YAF constitution and mission statement were discriminatory.

How were they discriminatory? Both referred to upholding “God-given free will, whence derives the right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.” According to the student government, that wording reflected a “devotion to god” which was discriminatory. As a result, YAF was told to either change the wording or it would not longer be allowed as a student group.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education worked with the YAF and a university committee overruled the student government (for more information see FIRE’s press release about the incident).

Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing ambivalence to and even ignorance of the fundamental role that protection of free speech plays in civil society. The Christian Science Monitor reported some depressing news today on that front. It reports that in a recent study, 75 percent of teachers knew the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, but less than 25 percent of teachers could name the other rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

And, of course, administrators outright rejected the notion that high school students could be trusted with free speech. Less than a third said that students at public high schools should be allowed to report on controversial issues for their student newspapers without explicit permission from the administration.

NAACP Should Shut Up

Near the end of the 2000 political season, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ran a controversial advertisement implying that George W. Bush was responsible for the murder of James Byrd. The ads features Byrd’s daughter, Renee Mullins, doing a voice over saying that after seeing Bush oppose hate crime laws, “It was like my father was killed all over again.”

Conservatives were outraged by the ad, they need not worry much longer, because ultra-liberal Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone (Minnesota) has a solution — he wants to make that ad illegal.

The NAACP, like many such organizations, is incorporated as a nonprofit under IRS rules that forbid it from doing partisan political advocacy; if the NAACP itself had aired the ad, its tax exempt status could be jeopardized. To get around this limitation the NAACP exploited a “loophole” and created The NAACP Voter Fund. The Voter Fund is incorporated as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. A 501(c)(4) nonprofit is defined by the IRS as a nonprofit that is devoted to some sort of social welfare issue. Such organizations can’t endorse candidates without risking their tax exempt status, but they can run the sort of issue ads that the NAACP ran directed at Bush.

For Wellstone and other extremist supporters of campaign finance reform, allowing the NAACP to take out such ads is an intolerable loophole in the law. As such Wellstone recently introduced an amendment to the campaign finance reform bill currently under consideration by the Senate which would forbid 501(c)(4) organizations from taking out any sort of ads within 60 days of a primary election.

Several opponents of any campaign finance reform, namely Republican Mitch McConnell, have actually signed on as supporters of Wellstone’s bill. Why? Because it is clearly an unconstitutional restriction of free speech, and there’s a good chance opponents of campaign finance reform will succeed in crafting any resulting bill in such a way that the Supreme Court will have to strike down the entire law rather than pick and choose to strike down just Wellstone’s amendment.

Wellstone, for his part, offers only the most pathetic of defenses in favor of his amendment. Despite the clear language from the Supreme Court on this matter, Wellstone thinks his amendment would survive legal challenge. And what about those NAACP ads? Don’t worry, Wellstone says, the Federal Elections Commission will be able to tell the good ads from the bad ads,

A comprehensive study conducted by the Brennan Center of ads run during the 1998 election found that only 2 genuine issue ads — out of the hundreds run — would have been inappropriately defined as a sham issue ad. Finally, in the event of constitutional problems, the Wellstone amendment is fully severable.

Hmmm. A sham issue ad, of course, is where the nonprofit claims to be just promoting an issue but, in fact, is really endorsing a candidate. Was the NAACP ad a sham issue ad? I would hazard a guess that it probably was. Moreover regardless of whether you think it was or not, the additional reporting costs and lawyers fees necessary to defend every advertisement would put everything back to square one — groups with large financial resources would still be in the game while the genuine grassroots efforts would get pushed out of the process entirely (Jesse Helmes once cleverly used the FEC to go after an ACT UP chapter that made the mistake of attacking him in a radio interview — few genuinely small groups can afford the risk of a protracted dispute with the FEC).

On Wellstone’s Senate web site there is some delightful Orwellian language with his office saying that these provisions are only fair,

Wellstone points out that limiting the issue ad ban just to corporations and labor will invite a shift in spending to non-profit groups in future elections, suggesting that in future years — even if this bill should pass — Congress will be forced to revisit sham issue ad regulation to close yet another loophole in federal election law.

Liberals used to trumpet this saying that the best response to speech with which they disagreed was simply more speech. Wellstone and others seem to have reversed this and decided that the less speech the better. It’s more than a bit weird to see a Democrat supporting efforts to outright ban political advertisements by labor unions. I guess they think that’s a small price to pay for an outright ban on corporate ads, but it seems like one immense Faustian bargain.

Hopefully the Supreme Court will still manage to save the soul of the country by invoking the ultimate loophole to this whole process, the First Amendment.

Source:

Wellstone Pushes to Close Sham Issue Ad Loophole In McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill. Paul Wellstone, Press Release, March 26, 2001

U.S. Steps Up Chemical Warfare Against Colombia

Environmental News Network reports that the Colombian government has begun fulfilling one of its obligations under a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package approved last summer and stepped up its aerial spraying of herbicides in southern Colombia.

The Colombian army estimates that about 75,000 acres of coca plants have been eradicated through intensive spraying of Roundup Ultra. ENN reports that the herbicide is being sprayed indiscriminately and so also wipes out non-narcotics crops as well including corn and yucca plantings.

Four Colombian governors recently traveled to the United States to demand an end to the program, with Guillermo Jaramillo Martinez, governor of Tolima, stating the obvious that, “The farmers are the weakest in the narcotics traffic chain. They are cultivating illegal crops because they have no other alternative.”

And, of course, even if the eradication program is effective it will still have a perverse effect on Colombian agriculture. Any resulting decline in cocaine supply to the United States would simply cause an increase in prices which would provide ever more incentive for farmers to find ways to grow coca in spite of the spraying (not to mention fueling more violent drug-related crime in the United States that usually accompanies increases in drug prices).

That economic theory of drug demand and supply is confirmed by the fact that since the eradication efforts began seriously in the early 1990s, the amount of land cultivated for coca has tripled.

Like an addict who thinks that just one more hit will make everything better, however, the U.S. government can’t seem to get enough of its attempts to use chemicals to make its domestic drug abuse problem go away.

Source:

War on drugs takes toll on environment. Margot Higgins, Environmental News Network, March 21, 2001.