Protect Our Right to Anonymity

JSPAN Newsletter - September 23, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: September 23, 2011
Save the Date - November 21, 2011 - JSPAN Social Justice Award Reception
JSPAN will confer its 2011 Social Justice Award to the firm of Langer Grogan & Diver on Monday, November 21 at a reception at the Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. The event, which brings together long-time JSPAN stakeholders, members and friends, along with new supporters, will take place from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The keynote speaker will be Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service.

Howard Langer and his colleagues, John Grogan, Ned Diver and Irv Ackelsberg, are being honored with the JSPAN Social Justice Award for the firm's deep and unflinching dedication to law in the public interest and their determination to fostering the same kind of life-long commitment among future generations of legal practitioners.

For more information and to become a member of the Event's Celebration Committee, or to purchase a ticket, contact JSPAN Executive Director Ruthanne Madway at (215) 546-3732 or

Invitations will be mailed in the first week of October. To receive recognition in the printed invitation for your support of the honoree Langer Grogan and for JSPAN, you need to act IMMEDIATELY.


Protect Our Right to Anonymity
Technology and ideology are eroding our rights to privacy and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Below are a column and an editorial detailing two current court cases that could set precedents in this area. - Ed.

The New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor Jeffrey Rosen
September 12, 2011

In November, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could redefine the scope of privacy in an age of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance technologies like GPS devices and face-recognition software.

The case, United States v. Jones, concerns a GPS device that the police, without a valid warrant, placed on the car of a suspected drug dealer in Washington, D.C. The police then tracked his movements for a month and used the information to convict him of conspiracy to sell cocaine. The question before the court is whether this violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of our "persons, houses, papers, and effects." It's imperative that the court says yes. Otherwise, Americans will no longer be able to expect the same degree of anonymity in public places that they have rightfully enjoyed since the founding era.

Two federal appellate courts have upheld the use of GPS devices without warrants in similar cases, on the grounds that we have no expectation of privacy when we are in public places and that tracking technology merely makes public surveillance easier and more effective. But in a visionary opinion in August 2010, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, disagreed. No reasonable person, he argued, expects that his public movements will be tracked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and therefore we do have an expectation of privacy in the "whole" of our public movements.


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Drug Test Law Deserves to be Overturned
St. Petersburg Times
September 12, 2011

The federal courts have a chance to end the wholesale assault on personal liberty by Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature and strike a blow against Big Brother government. A lawsuit filed last week by a U.S. Navy veteran seeks to overturn a new state law that requires welfare applicants to submit to a drug test before receiving cash assistance. The suit comes as preliminary results from the program suggest the scheme may not even result in significant taxpayer savings. What started as one of the governor's campaign gimmicks is simply bad policy, and Republican lawmakers should abandon it.

This infringement on constitutional rights now has a face: Orlando veteran Luis Lebron, a 35- year-old single father of a 4-year-old son. Lebron, who cares for his disabled mother and attends the University of Central Florida, was denied cash assistance in July after he refused to pay about $30 to submit to a required drug test. The lawsuit filed by Lebron and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida rightly contends the law is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ratified more than two centuries ago, which holds that government cannot subject people to "unreasonable searches and seizures."


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Nearly One in Six in Poverty in the U.S.; Children Hit Hard, Census Says
The Washington Post
By Michael A. Fletcher
September 13, 2011

Nearly one in six Americans was living in poverty last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, a development that is ensnaring growing numbers of children and offering vivid proof of the recession's devastating impact.

The report portrays a nation where many people are slipping backward in the wake of a downturn that left 14 million people out of work and pushed unemployment rates to levels not seen in decades.

As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997.

"Not only have we experienced severe deterioration in recent years, but knowing how weak the outlook is makes this report even more ugly," said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "We are staring high unemployment in the face for years to come."


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Our Hidden Government Benefits
The New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor Suzanne Mettler
September 19, 2011

DON'T take at face value the claims that Americans dislike government. Sure, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 56 percent of Americans said they wanted smaller government and fewer services. Tea Party activists, the most vocal citizens of our time, powerfully amplify those demands. Yet the reality is that the vast majority of Americans have at some point relied on government programs — and valued them — even though they often fail to recognize that government is the source of the assistance.

A 2008 poll of 1,400 Americans by the Cornell Survey Research Institute found that when people were asked whether they had "ever used a government social program," 57 percent said they had not. Respondents were then asked whether they had availed themselves of any of 21 different federal policies, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, the home-mortgage-interest deduction and student loans. It turned out that 94 percent of those who had denied using programs had benefited from at least one; the average respondent had used four.

Americans often fail to recognize government's role in society, even if they have experienced it in their own lives. That is because so much of what government does today is largely invisible.


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The GOP Is Trying To Rig The Electoral College
The Washington Post
Opinion By Harold Meyerson
September 20, 2011

Like Poe's purloined letter, the Republican plan to heist the 2012 presidential election sits before us in plain view. And going Poe one better, it is perfectly legal.

The first part of the strategy has been unfolding for months. Since the 2010 elections brought Republicans to power in numerous swing states, officials in many of those states have made it harder for minority, poor and young voters to cast their ballots. GOP governments have been curtailing early voting (in Ohio and Florida) and requiring voters to produce official photo- identification cards (in Wisconsin). In South Carolina, the poll tax lives again: Voters who want an official photo-ID card must present a passport or a birth certificate, neither of which can be obtained for free.

Recently a new ploy has emerged, focused on the Electoral College. In Pennsylvania, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) has proposed changing the way the state's electoral votes are tallied in presidential elections. (A state's electoral votes reflect the number of its U.S. congressional districts, plus two more for its Senate seats.) Instead of having all of Pennsylvania's electoral votes go to the candidate who carries the state's popular vote, as is the long-standing practice in Pennsylvania and 47 other states, Pileggi wants to apportion those votes by congressional district.


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Does America Have a Future?
Book Review of "That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" By Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

New York Times Book Review
Review by David Frum
September 8, 2011

Failure after failure after failure. Bubbles that end in busts. Wars that aren't won. Stimuli that don't stimulate. All together plunging the United States into the worst economic slump since the 1930s. Meanwhile, across the Pacific, America faces a geopolitical rival that is also an effective economic competitor — a combination not seen since the kaiser's Germany.

Into this grim situation, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum step forward to offer hope. Or do they? For there is an unnerving tension at the core of "That Used to Be Us," a discordant emotional counterpoint. I don't think it's a disagreement between the authors so much as a disagreement within each of them. Friedman and Mandelbaum repeatedly describe themselves as "optimists," albeit "frustrated" optimists. Yet the stories they tell repeatedly suggest very different and less reassuring conclusions.

The main line of the book's argument will arrive with congenial familiarity. Friedman is one of America's most famous commentators, Mandelbaum one of its most distinguished academic experts on foreign policy. Their views — and their point of view — are well known. They speak from just slightly to the left of the battered American political center: for free trade, open immigration, balanced budgets, green energy, consumption taxes, health care reform, investments in education and infrastructure.



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The Israeli People, With a Capital 'P,' Demand Social Justice
Collective Action at the Heart of the Mass Demonstrations

The Forward
By Leonard Fein
September 16, 2011

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to watch, in the comfort of my air- conditioned living room in Boston, the entire September 3 protest rally in Tel Aviv via a live stream provided by the Israeli news website, YNet. (By way of contrast, my Israeli friends, who were there in the flesh, faded after an hour or two and then made their longish way home.)

I have several times quoted here the leading chant of the protesters, rendering it "The People demand social justice!" I need to call attention to and explain the capitalization of "People." The word "ahm" in Hebrew does not mean "people" (lower case), as, for example, anashim would convey. It is a specific reference to the collectivity. Hence it would be wrong to render the chant as "The people demand social justice," suggesting an aggregation rather than a specific entity. Accordingly, "The People."

And the collectivity was very much on the minds of those who addressed the rally, almost all of whom spoke of "solidarity" as one of the keys to its rousing success, which was nothing less than the largest rally in Israel's history, with crowds gathering not only in Tel Aviv but also in Jerusalem, in Haifa, in Kiryat Shmoneh and Afula and Bet She'an and Eilat and a dozen other places around the country, somewhere between 420,000-450,000 people in all.

I cannot report all this, as encouraging as it is, without wondering why there has been no comparable protest in the United States, where our political leadership seems no less out of touch than Israel's patently is. Here, income inequality is even more skewed than in Israel; here, since 1980 and Reagan's presidency, the welfare state has been dismantled, piece by piece, leaving the poor more locked out than ever and the middle class slipping into reverse; the data are a madness. Here, it seems, we, too live in a bubble.


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Sweet Season: Apples And Honey For Rosh Hashanah
By Sybil Kaplan
September 19, 2011

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Among the familiar customs of Rosh Hashanah is the dipping of apple pieces in honey -- but what is its origin? King David had a "cake made in a pan and a sweet cake" (II Samuel 6: 15, 19) given to everyone. Hosea 3:1 identifies the "sweet cake" as a raisin cake. Honey also may have been used in the cake, but the honey of ancient eretz Yisrael was made from dates or grapes or figs or raisins because the land at the time had no domestic bees, only Syrian bees. To extract honey from their combs, it had to be smoked. Still, honey was of importance in the biblical times because there was no sugar.

During the Roman period, Italian bees were introduced to the Middle East, and bee honey was more common. The Torah also describes Israel as "eretz zvat chalav u'dvash," the land flowing with milk and honey, although the honey was more than likely date honey, a custom retained by many Sephardic Jews to this day.


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