Voter ID Law Blocked By Feds In South Carolina, Texas C ...

From Huffington Post

 

Voter ID Law Blocked By Feds In South Carolina, Texas Could Be Next

Last week the Justice Department blocked a South Carolina law that would require voters to produce photo identification at the polls. Now a similar Texas voter ID law could very well be next to face a legal challenge.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas numbers among a few states, including South Carolina, that must have federal approval of any changes to its election laws because of its history of racial discrimination.

The Texas attorney general’s office is prepared to take all necessary legal action to defend the voter ID law enacted by the Texas Legislature,” Texas AG spokeswoman Lauren Bean told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the organization’s senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said he expects the Texas law to be blocked as well.

“Our hope is that we see the same thing happening with Texas,” Shelton told The Huffington Post’s Black Voices on Wednesday afternoon. “These very nasty, very strong photo ID laws have a desperate impact on racial minorities and other communities.”

The Texas law is very similar to the South Carolina law, Shelton said, and because of the requirement placed upon the state to get approval for election law changes, he believes it is all the more likely that the Justice Department will block it, as the department did in South Carolina.

“Having the Justice Department come in as an impartial third party and actually do the kind of analysis that it did, and its thorough assessment of the law and a thorough investigation into its possible impact; and to come out with what it did says an awful lot,” Shelton said.

The Justice Department’s decision was a rare victory for those fighting to stop what has been described as an effort to suppress turnout among minority voters and other groups that have historically supported Democrats. But the government’s intervention in South Carolina may also serve as a goad to those who support such laws. Proponents of voter ID laws say the measures are needed to protect against voter fraud.

Both sides seem poised for a prolonged legal fight, with South Carolina as the first battleground. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has vowed to take the case to federal court, if need be.

Gov. Nikki Haley denounced the decision as an act of political “bullying.”

“It is outrageous,” she said in reported statements. “We plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned.”

More than a dozen states have passed tough new voting restriction laws this year. Eight of those states, including Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, require photo identification. A handful of these laws — including the Texas law signed this summer by Gov. Rick Perry — are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.

In Texas, voters can present a gun permit but not college-issued identification.

The fight thus far has split along partisan lines, the debate tinged with elements of age, race and class. According to Democrats, about 25 percent of African Americans and 19 percent of Latinos do not have any form of government-issued identification. And the poor and many older Americans, reports suggest, are less able to pay various fees connected with acquiring the identification that would be required under many of the new laws.

A number of minority and labor groups, including the NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers, the health care workers’ union 1199SEIU, the National Council of La Raza, the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund and others have joined forces and continue to hold protests and rallies around the country.

Democrats have also launched an offensive of their own, much of it couched in a recently released report, “A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain,” and the launch of a website www.protectingthevote.org.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently gave a speech in Austin, Texas, in which he urged political parties “to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success.”

“Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of attempts to gain partisan advantage by keeping people away from the polls — from literacy tests and poll taxes, to misinformation campaigns telling people that Election Day has been moved, or that only one adult per household can cast a ballot,” Holder said during the Dec. 13 speech.

The debate has spread to the blogosphere and to the cable news shows.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, veteran activist and host of “Politics Nation” on MSNBC, said during a recent interview with The Huffington Post that the most important issues facing blacks today are jobs and the fight over the voter ID laws.

“Jobs, because people need to be able to feed their families,” he said. “Voter ID, because we need to be able to keep people empowered.”

Republicans have said the laws are necessary to protect against voter fraud, while Democrats contend that such fraud is extremely rare. Meanwhile, across the country, stories are emerging of citizens, many of them elderly and African American, being denied the required identification that would make them eligible to vote.

It has allegedly happened twice in Tennessee alone, including a 96-year-old woman who could not locate her marriage license, and a 93-year-old woman who had cleaned the state Capitol there for some 30 years. The latter woman, Thelma Johnson, was born in Alabama via midwife and was never issued a birth certificate, according to a report on the website thinkprogress.org.

Maria Cubria, an advocate with the Texas Public Interest Group, which opposes the laws, told The Huffington Post Wednesday that the fight in Texas over the voter ID laws has become an “over my dead body” issue.

“There’s the usual partisan bickering back and forth, but it’s almost a wait-and-see attitude for people who are very encouraged by the Justice Department’s ruling [in South Carolina],” Cubria said. “However, it ultimately could be some time before the court makes a decision if this goes to court in Texas. So people are balancing their optimism with caution.”

The issue was a cornerstone for Texas Republicans in the 2010 elections, she said. When Republicans gained a super-majority in the state legislature, the law’s passage became a near certainty.

“Voting is one of our most basic, fundamental rights as Americans, and we should be doing everything we can to make it easier to vote, not putting up barriers and wasting taxpayer dollars fighting these battles in court,” Cubria said.

Lenny McAllister, a conservative talk-show host and a regular on cable news shows, called the Justice Department’s decision “political social engineering,” and explained to HuffPost that to suggest the laws disenfranchise minorities is “offensive” to blacks.

“There really isn’t an excuse in 2011 for black Americans to be so detached from the American mainstream that we are arguing over having photo IDs,” said McAllister, who is black. “Didn’t our people die, didn’t our people get killed, lynched and castrated for us to not have to have these arguments?”

Those who fought and died to enfranchise blacks are “rolling in their graves,” McAllister said. “It is an ignorant argument for us as black Americans to even have.”

He, like many other supporters of the laws, argue that so many routine transactions, from purchasing an airline ticket to renting a movie, require photo identification, that making it a requirement to vote is not an undue burden. McAllister said that America is suffering from an “illegal immigration” problem and that many cities serve as sanctuaries for immigrants. His fear is that many of these “illegal” immigrants will infiltrate the voting booths using little more than utility bills.

“We have to ensure that our elections mean what they say and say what they mean,” he said. “We can’t give [non-Americans] the opportunity to impact America without being American citizens. That’s just wrong.”

Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny ...

From Tech Dirt:

Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details…

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

Imagine if the US government, with no notice or warning, raided a small but popular magazine’s offices over a Thanksgiving weekend, seized the company’s printing presses, and told the world that the magazine was a criminal enterprise with a giant banner on their building. Then imagine that it never arrested anyone, never let a trial happen, and filed everything about the case under seal, not even letting the magazine’s lawyers talk to the judge presiding over the case. And it continued to deny any due process at all for over a year, before finally just handing everything back to the magazine and pretending nothing happened. I expect most people would be outraged. I expect that nearly all of you would say that’s a classic case of prior restraint, a massive First Amendment violation, and exactly the kind of thing that does not, or should not, happen in the United States.

But, in a story that’s been in the making for over a year, and which we’re exposing to the public for the first time now, this is exactly the scenario that has played out over the past year — with the only difference being that, rather than “a printing press” and a “magazine,” the story involved “a domain” and a “blog.”

There are so many things about this story that are crazy, it’s difficult to know where to start, so let’s give the most important point first: The US government has effectively admitted that it totally screwed up and falsely seized & censored a non-infringing domain of a popular blog, having falsely claimed that it was taking part in criminal copyright infringement. Then, after trying to hide behind a totally secretive court process with absolutely no due process whatsoever (in fact, not even serving papers on the lawyer for the site or providing timely notifications — or providing any documents at all), for over a year, the government has finally realized it couldn’t hide any more and has given up, and returned the domain name to its original owner. If you ever wanted to understand why ICE’s domain seizures violate the law — and why SOPA and PROTECT IP are almost certainly unconstitutional — look no further than what happened in this case.

Okay, now some details. First, remember Dajaz1.com? It was one of the sites seized over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend back in 2010 — a little over a year ago. Those seizures struck us as particularly interesting, because among the sites seized were a bunch of hip hop blogs, including a few that were highly ranked on Vibe’s list of the top hip hop blogs. These weren’t the kinds of things anyone would expect, when supporters of these domain seizures and laws like SOPA and PROTECT IP talk of “rogue sites.” Blogs would have lots of protected speech, and in the hip hop community these blogs, in particular, were like the new radio. Artists routinely leaked their works directly to these sites in order to promote their albums. We even pointed to a few cases of stars like Kanye West and Diddy tweeting links to some of the seized domains in the past.

In fact, as the details came out, it became clear that ICE and the Justice Department were in way over their heads. ICE’s “investigation” was done by a technically inept recent college grad, who didn’t even seem to understand the basics of the technology. But it didn’t stop him from going to a judge and asking for a site to be completely censored with no due process.

The Dajaz1 case became particularly interesting to us, after we saw evidence showing that the songs that ICE used in its affidavit as “evidence” of criminal copyright infringement were songs sent by representatives of the copyright holder with the request that the site publicize the works — in one case, even coming from a VP at a major music label. Even worse, about the only evidence that ICE had that these songs were infringing was the word of the “VP of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs for the RIAA,” Carlos Linares, who was simply not in a position to know if the songs were infringing or authorized. In fact, one of the songs involved an artist not even represented by an RIAA label, and Linares clearly had absolutely no right to speak on behalf of that artist.

Despite all of this, the government simply seized the domain, put up a big scary warning graphic on the site, suggesting its operators were criminals, and then refused to comment at all about the case. Defenders of the seizures insisted that this was all perfectly legal and nothing to be worried about. They promised us that the government had every right to do this and plenty of additional evidence to back up its claims. They promised us that the government would allow for plenty of due process within a reasonable amount of time. They also insisted that, after hearing nothing happening in the case for many months, it meant that no attempt to object to the seizure had occurred. Turns out… none of that was true.

What happened next is a story that should never happen in the US. It’s like something out of Kafka or the movie Brazil, but it should never have happened under the US Constitution. First, you have to understand the two separate processes: there’s seizure and then there’s forfeiture. Under the seizure laws, the government has 60 days from seizure to “notify” those whose property it seized (imagine having the government swoop in and take away your property, and not even being told why for two whole months). Once notified, the property owner has 35 days to file a claim to request the return of the property. If that doesn’t happen, the government can effectively just keep the property, so it tends to rely on intimidation and threats towards anyone who indicates plans to ask for their property back (usually in the form of threatening to file charges). However, if such a claim is filed, the government then has 90 days to start the full “forfeiture” process, which would allow the government to keep the seized property and never have to give it back. If the claim to return the property is filed and the government does not file for forfeiture, it is required to return the property. Thus seizures are supposedly used as a temporary part of the investigation, to stop criminal activity or to prevent the destruction of evidence. However, that’s not how things always play out in real life.

As we’d heard with a number of domain names that had been seized, the government began stalling like mad when contacted by representatives for domain holders seeking to get their domains back. ICE even flat out lied to the public, stating that no one was challenging the seizures, when it knew full well that some sites were, in fact, challenging. Out of that came the Rojadirecta case, but what of Dajaz1?

After continuing to stall and refusing to respond to Dajaz1′s filing requesting the domain be returned, the government told Dajaz1′s lawyer, Andrew P. Bridges, that it would begin forfeiture procedures (as required by law if it wanted to keep the domain). Bridges made clear that Dajaz1 would challenge the forfeiture procedure and seek to get the domain name back at that time. Then, the deadline for the government to file for forfeiture came and went and nothing apparently happened. Absolutely nothing. Bridges contacted the government to ask what was going on, and was told that the government had received an extension from the court. Bridges, quite reasonably, asked how that was possible without him, as counsel for the site, being informed of it or given a chance to make the case for why such an extension was improper.

He also asked for a copy of the the court’s order allowing the extension. The government told him no and that the extension was filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

He asked for the motion papers asking for the extension. The government told him no and that the papers were filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

He again asked whether he would be notified about further filings for extensions. The government told him no.

He then asked the US attorney to inform the court that, if the government made another request for an extension, the domain owner opposed the extension and would like the opportunity to be heard. The government would not agree.

And file further extensions the government did. Repeatedly. Or, at least that’s what Bridges was told. He sent someone to investigate the docket at the court, but the docket itself was secret, meaning there was no record of any of this available.

The government was required to file for forfeiture by May. The initial (supposed) secret extension was until July. Then it got another one that went until September. And then another one until November… or so the government said. When Bridges asked the government for some proof that it had actually obtained the extensions in question, the government attorney told Bridges that he would just have “trust” him.

Finally, the government decided that it would not file a forfeiture complaint — because there was no probable cause – and it let the last (supposed) extension expire. Only after Bridges asked again for the status of the domain did the government indicate that it would return the domain to its owner — something that finally happened today. Dajaz1.com is finally back in the hands of its rightful owner. This is really quite incredible, considering the “rush” with which it seized these domain names, claiming the urgency in stopping a crime in progress. But, of course, after realizing that it had no evidence to suggest a crime was ever in progress – there was absolutely no urgency to correct the error.

The level of secrecy in this case makes it sound like a terrorist investigation, not the censorship of a popular music blog. Normally, when there’s a lawsuit, the docket is available on PACER. Even in cases where things are filed under seal or everything is redacted, there’s at least a placeholder for them in PACER. This case does not exist anywhere that anyone can find. The docket was apparently kept hidden in a judge’s office in Los Angeles the whole time. No one knew this was going on, other than the US Attorney and the representatives of Dajaz1 (who still never saw the docket or the extension orders).

Let’s just take stock here for a second. We have the government clearly censoring free speech in the form of a blog that discussed the music world and was widely recognized for its influence in promoting new acts. The government seized the blog with no adversarial hearing and no initial due process. Then, rather than actually provide some sort of belated due process in the form of an adversarial hearing, it continued to deny any and all due process by secretly (even to Dajaz1′s own lawyer) extending the seizure without any way to challenge those extensions. All in all, the government completely censored a popular web site for over a year, when it had no real evidence for probable cause of infringement, as it had falsely claimed in the original rubber stamped affidavit. As we noted in reviewing the affidavit, the case had been put together by folks who clearly did not understand the law, the site or the music space. But to then double down on that and continue to hold the domain for a year in secret? That just compounds the error and takes it to new extremes.

This was flat out censorship for no reason, for an entire year, by the US government… Everyone should be horrified by this. It also shows what a joke the claims of supporters are that since “a judge reviewed the affidavit,” there’s due process. Without the other party, there is no real due process. Not only that, but the government made sure, at every step of the way, that the other party was not heard. That’s horrifying. It wasn’t just an act of omission in leaving out the party, but actively preventing the party from being heard.

And yet the feds and private companies continue to say we should just “trust them” to get these kinds of things right? Even more bizarre, they want to expand their ability to do this incontestable censorship through laws like PROTECT IP and SOPA? If anything, this massive screwup on the part of ICE, the Justice Department and the RIAA should lead us to go in the other direction. ICE and the DOJ should be investigated and reprimanded, if not directly penalized, for clear First Amendment violations, while the ICE program for seizing domains should be dismantled. John Morton, who led ICE’s domain seizure program, should tender his resignation or be fired. Victoria Espinel, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, who defended these seizures to Congress, should issue a public apology, and begin a process to revamp the government’s role in such enforcement actions (and consider tendering her resignation as well). The federal government should issue a huge apology to the operators of Dajaz1 and make it clear that it will no longer take such drastic censorship actions. The RIAA should be investigated for providing claims about the site that were not true, and which it had no right to make.

If Congress needs to do anything, it should be to investigate the lawless, unconstitutional, cowboy censorship and blocking of due process by both Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The last thing it should be doing is allowing more such actions. This whole thing has been a disgrace by the US government, starting with a bogus seizure, improper and illegal censorship, followed by denial of due process and unnecessary secrecy. Dajaz1 is currently reviewing its options in terms of whether it can or should take further action as a result of this, but at least it has its domain back. And people wonder why we’re so concerned about these seizures and new proposals to further such censorship.

Is Asylum Moral?

The current battles between Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria and the Syrian opposition protesters has been one of the top news stories in recent weeks.   It is believed that over 2,000 people have been killed in fighting as Assad attempts to keep power.

However, I want to bring in a piece of information from this saga that has gotten far less coverage.  According to El Pais (via Bloomberg News), Spain was prepared in July to offer Assad asylum as a way of ending the violence.  According to the story (2nd to last paragraph), “Spain sent a secret mission to Syria in July in an attempt to help end the violence and is prepared to offer asylum to Assad and his family, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported yesterday, citing unidentified diplomats.”
(Source:  Bloomberg News

Similarly, there are reports that Libya’s blood leader, Muammar Gaddafi, may also be ready to seek asylum.  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (via MEMRI) reported that there are planes ready to take Gaddafi to Venezuela as long as several of his conditions are met, such as NATO troops pulling out of Libya.  Like Assad, Gaddafi has thousands of deaths on his hands and he has been tied to supporting terrorists throughout the world.
(Source:  MEMRI Blog

So here is where I struggle with this.  On one hand, I understand that asylum allows for a quick and relatively painless end to violence.  On the other hand, it also guarantees that these two deadly leaders will never have to face justice for their crimes.  They will get to live happily ever after, likely in a life of luxury funded from money stolen from their own people.  I think most people want an end to the current murderous fighting but should Gaddafi and Assad be like the multitude of Nazis who evaded prosecution by escaping to foreign countries? Do the people of Libya and Syria deserve a chance to bring these men to trial or should they just be thankful that the fighting is over?

Further, what does this say about Venezuela and Spain?  Should we consider these countries morally admirable for their willingness to help or morally reprehensible for their willingness to protect known killers?

What do you think?  Talk back and give your opinion!

Would You Let Your Child Sleep In A Killer’s Hous ...

What would you do if your children were living in the same house of a man or woman who had killed their own kids a few years ago?  Sound like a story line for a Hollywood movie?  Think again.  And while the killer in question was acquited due to the claim that she had killed her children because of a drug reaction, it is inevitable this situation would be a nightmare for any parent.

 

Parents are naturally protective of their children, and are wont to do anything and everything to ensure their children’s safety.  But how does one protect their children if they are sleeping under the same roof of a woman who had previously shot her own children in their sleep?   How would you feel, and what lengths would you go to support or prevent this?  This article is from the New York Times.


  
(Manuel Valdes/Associated Press)

 

Fight to Keep Children Away From Killer Is Lost

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

SEATTLE (AP) — Trisha Conlon’s motherly instinct seems reasonable: she does not want her teenage boys living with a woman who shot and killed her own daughters in their sleep 20 years ago.

 

Trisha Conlon lost a court battle that will allow her two sons to live with their father and his first wife, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity of shooting her two children 20 years ago.
 

But that will happen on Sunday because of a bizarre and convoluted custody dispute with her former husband, John P. Cushing Jr., a retired Marine fighter pilot.

 

Mr. Cushing, who lives on Vashon Island south of Seattle, is back together with his first wife, Kristine, who used a .38-caliber handgun to kill their daughters, who were 4 and 8, at their home in Orange County, Calif., in 1991.

 

The killings shocked the well-to-do community of Laguna Niguel. Many wondered how Kristine Cushing — who seemed like a “super-mom,” ferrying the girls to music, soccer, dance and the orthodontist as her husband was on military assignments overseas — could snap so tragically. She blamed a bad reaction to Prozac for the killings, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and served nearly four years in a mental institution.

 

After a decade of psychiatric monitoring, Ms. Cushing received an unconditional release from the State of California in 2005, when the authorities determined that she posed no risk. But that has done little to soothe Ms. Conlon. After learning that Ms. Cushing had returned to Mr. Cushing’s home, Ms. Conlon went to court to alter the parenting plan for the two sons she had with him.

 

“I just don’t understand how a person could have marital relations with the person who killed their children,” Ms. Conlon said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

 

But the court ruled against Ms. Conlon.

 

Commissioner Leonid Ponomarchuk of King County Superior Court said that since the boys had been spending time with Ms. Cushing since 2008 with no problems — even if it was unknown to Ms. Conlon — there was not evidence of a change in situation that would warrant a change of the parenting plan.

 

“I have to look at this dispassionately,” Commissioner Ponomarchuk said. “Would I ever want my children around her? I would say no. But that is an emotional reaction coming from a parent.”

 

In court declarations, Mr. Cushing has emphasized that Ms. Cushing was considered temporarily insane, and thus “there was no crime committed.”

 

“There was a horrible tragedy that resulted in the deaths of our two daughters,” Mr. Cushing wrote. Ms. Conlon and her lawyer, he added, “seem to feel that anyone who suffers from temporary insanity is incapable of recovering from that condition. Kristine’s doctors disagree.”

 

“Kristine M. Cushing is doing well,” he wrote. “She is busy, enjoys life and loves me and my sons.”

 

Mr. Cushing noted that he stored his guns at a friend’s home when he was not using them at a range. Ms. Cushing said in her own declaration that she loved Mr. Cushing’s sons “very much” and has “a good relationship with both of them.”

 

Ms. Conlon lives in Silverton, Ore. She and Mr. Cushing married in 1995 and divorced in 2004. Their older son is 14 and lives with her during the school year, while the younger son, 13, lives with Mr. Cushing. The boys are together during holidays and vacations, which they split between their parents.

 

Mr. Cushing remarried his first wife in 2005. Ms. Conlon suspected that Ms. Cushing might be back in Mr. Cushing’s life, but said she did not learn it for certain until two years later, when she received a call from a Washington State Child Protective Services worker. The worker told her that the agency had just received a call from Ms. Cushing’s therapist, who reported that she was living with children again.

 

Ms. Conlon threatened then to go to court to seek a change in the boys’ parenting plan, court records show. Instead, Mr. Cushing told her not to worry about it; Ms. Cushing had decided to divorce him and move out.

 

But the divorce was never finalized. Ms. Cushing moved back in. According to a court declaration by Mr. Cushing, that was in March 2008.

 

For the next three years, Ms. Conlon said, she had no idea her boys were spending time with Ms. Cushing. Mr. Cushing deliberately concealed that fact, she claimed, by instructing the boys to refer to their stepmother by a different name — “Mrs. M.”

 

Ms. Conlon said she became suspicious early this year that Ms. Cushing was back in the house. She arrived at Mr. Cushing’s home to drop off her older son for spring break and saw a painting by Ms. Cushing hanging on a wall. It was dated 2010.

 

She and her lawyer, Todd DeVallance, hired a private investigator, who confirmed it.

 

Ms. Conlon went to court in mid-June and was granted full custody of the boys for 30 days, at which time she would have to make a showing in court that the parenting plan should be permanently modified. The hearing was on Monday.

 

Mr. DeVallance and Ms. Conlon are appealing the decision to the King County Superior Court judge assigned to the case. But they cannot get a hearing until Aug. 25.

 

In the meantime, Ms. Conlon will drop the boys off with the Cushings on Sunday, she said.

 

Biggest Losers In A Tragedy: Victims Or Survivors?

If you have ever wondered if our country is too litigous, no case is proof of that than the Diane Schuler tragedy.  For those of you who were unaware, on July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler was driving home from a camping trip upstate in a minivan with her two children and three nieces.  She took a wrong turn, and ended up driving on the wrong side of traffic, and crashing into another car

 

Diane swerved into oncoming traffic on the Taconic State Parkway, where she crashed head-on into an SUV carrying Michael Bastardi, his son Guy and family friend Daniel Longo. All three men were killed, along with Diane, her daughter Erin and her nieces Emma, Alyson and Kate. Only 5-year-old Bryan Schuler survived.

 

Nine days later, Diane’s toxicology report was released. Results found a high level of marijuana in her system, along with a blood alcohol level of 0.19—the equivalent of 10 drinks. A broken bottle of vodka was also found in the wreckage of her minivan.

 

Daniel Schuler denies that his wife drank or did drugs that day and believes an underlying medical condition contributed to her behavior. “She was a perfect wife, an outstanding mother,” he says. “I go to bed every night knowing my heart is clear. She did not drink. She’s not an alcoholic.”

 

HBO released a documentary about this tragedy only a few days ago.  While evidence shows that Diane Schuler was drunk and impaired by the use of marijuana, they did not believe she she was a regular drinker or alcoholic.  But she was witnessed stopped twice by the road, possibly throwing up.

 

State police investigators spent weeks digging, and documents from the case file on the crash contain much of what they uncovered. The documents were released to the families of the three Yonkers, N.Y. men who died when Diane Schuler smashed her minivan full of children head-on into their SUV.

 

“They want to know what happened that day,” said forensic investigator Michael Archer.

 

Archer, who works for the family of victim Daniel Longo, said the documents confirm much of what Schuler’s husband Daniel refuses to discuss: his wife Diane was a pothead.

 

Police told WCBS that this information supports a new theory of the fateful night — that Schuler, who smoked marijuana regularly according to her sister-in-law, but did not drink often, was overcome by the 10 shots of vodka she is believed to have consumed during her deadly drive.

 

Authorities believe Schuler was not an alcoholic, according to the station.

 

Documents released Friday show that Schuler pulled over twice prior to the crash, where she was seen “bent over as if she was sick” at 11:45 a.m., and again 30 minutes later, outside the van, “like she’s getting sick,” WCBS reports.

 

And some investigations into the tragedy and Diane Schuler suggest that Diane may have been suffering from depression, and that the pressures of being a perfect wife may have what led to her drinking binge shortly before her death.

 

Diane Schuler’s friends also portray her as keeping her feelings — especially negative ones — to herself. One says, “I’ve never seen her mad or angry,” another, “she infrequently talked about personal feelings.” She never talked about her parents’ divorce, and refused to speak to her mother — some friends even thought her mother was dead. When Fishman asked Danny “how well he really knew” his wife, Danny answered, “She’d talk to me if things came up.” His examples: “The house needs painting, the gutters need to be cleaned.”

 

To hear Fishman tell it, the Schulers’ story seemed like a long, drawn-out, and bloody example of the consequences of secrets in a marriage. Did Diane Schuler feel pressured to be the perfect mom — Danny mentions her expertise with birthday cards and holiday decorations — and thus keep her substance problems to herself? Did she feel she couldn’t confide in her husband because their work schedules meant they were rarely home at the same time? Did her parents’ divorce make her feel she couldn’t rock the boat in her own marriage? Why didn’t her friends know more about her troubles? Probably these questions will never be answered, but if there’s a tragic flaw in the whole Schuler saga, it’s isolation.

 

It was therefore a suprise to hear that Diane Schuler’s husband was pursuing a number of lawsuits.  Her husband is suing the Department of Traffic and the owner of the minivan Diane Schuler was driving.  Victims in a third car who suffered minor injuries from the accident are suing the estate of Diane Schuler.  And the famlies of the three men who died in the second car are also involved, with  the family of the father and son considering  a lawsuit as well, while the family of a passenger in that same vehicle is suing not only the estate of Diane Schuler, the owner of the minivan Diane Schuler was driving, but also the sister of the son who died, and who was driving the car that the passenger died in, even though the son was not at fault.

 

The husband whose wife killed herself and seven others in a horrific wrong-way crash on the Taconic State Parkway is suing the state, claiming poor highway upkeep and signage are solely to blame.

 

 But her husband, Daniel Schuler, contends it was the state’s “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” in its design and maintenance of the highway that “solely” caused fatal injuries to his daughter, Erin, 2.

 

 One has to wonder what kind of argument Daniel Schuler is going to offer to support his claims.  Signage was incorrect?  How do you see the signage if you are driving down the wrong side of the road?  This occurred in the afternoon, so you cannot say it was too dark to see a sign or the road.  And reports indicated that Diane Schuler was driving for nearly 1.7 miles weaving through oncoming traffic at speeds of upwards of 85 miles per hour.

 

A sober person, seeing that they were driving into oncoming traffic, would have immediately pulled over to the side of the road, especially if they were driving five children in their vehicles.  Furthermore, the lawsuit against the owner of the minvan, who is the brother of Diane Schuler, is against the father of the three nieces who were also killed in the accident.  One can only wonder at the pain this has caused a father who has already grieved for the loss of all three of his children in the crash.

 

Clearly, this event was a tragedy, but a bigger tragedy is how our legal system has allowed for lawsuits like this, and for victims to turn on each other in the hopes of cashing in on the tragedy.  And as much as they may claim that the lawsuit is for the benefit of the survivors, one  has to wonder what the victims themselves would say, if they could voice their opinions.  Would they approve of the litigous response to the tragedy, or would they also look on with disapproval as well at the families who should be grieving together are now torn and fighting each other, and even amongst themselves.

 

Is this what America has become?  A nation whose only remedy for any and all problems is to file a lawsuit?

 

What Is A Life Worth? In Canada, It’s Worth $1,0 ...

This was an interesting article that was on AOL News today.  While both parties were clearly in the wrong, you make exceptions based on the situation, and this was a situation where common sense dictates you do whatever is necessary to help a life in danger, including escorting the car at a faster but safer speed to the hospital.  Read on, and see if you don’t share the same outrage.


Man Gets $1,000 Speeding Ticket Trying To Save His Baby

Police had no sympathy for a father driving his family to hospital to avert tragedy

Rushing to save his baby’s life, David Weber was issued a huge speeding ticket (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS).

by: Michael Zak
 

A man in Manitoba, Canada has been given a whopping $1,000 ticket and a suspended driver’s license as punishment for speeding to the hospital in order to save the life of his pregnant wife and his unborn child, reported the Winnipeg Free Press.

David Weber and his wife Genevieve one day last March were on their way home from a day of shopping when she began to have contractions. Genevieve was 38 weeks pregnant and the couple knew, because of complications she incurred while giving birth to their first child, they had very little time to get her to the hospital for a Caesarean section.

In what is described as an adrenaline-filled panic, Mr. Weber mashed the gas pedal of his Honda Civic, and began speeding towards the hospital on “lightly trafficked roads,” the newspaper reported, at more than 105 MPH.

Unfortunately, the couple flew right by a police officer.

The couple’s first reaction was that of relief, thinking the officer would hear their situation and offer them an escort to the hospital. Forget it.

“[The officer] said, ‘If you go to [the hospital], I don’t want to see you guys speeding,’” David told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I was half-crying… I said, ‘We don’t have time for a lecture.’ (I was) trying to save my wife and baby’s life.”

After a 15-minute delay, the Weber’s were back on the road, but with a baby-gift of a $1,000 speeding ticket, and time running out.

Mr. Weber knew the delay had made it even more imperative that they get to the hospital, so he again mashed the gas pedal. But 30 minutes later, incredibly, the couple was stopped by another police officer who had actually been alerted by the first that the Webers might be speeding again in the direction of the hospital.

The second officer also ignored the situation, started another lecture on speeding, and called an ambulance instead of allowing Mr. Weber to continue to the hospital, or escorting him there. Genevieve suffered through yet another 15 minute delay in pain and agony as they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Fortunately, the Weber’s baby was born healthy at the hospital, but it was a dangerously close call. According to the couple’s doctor, Genevieve’s uterus was very nearly ruptured.

Mr. Weber decided to fight the ticket with the support of the doctor that delivered the couple’s baby. But in spite of the doctor’s testimony that speeding was absolutely necessary to save Mrs. Weber and her baby, the police refused to drop the ticket. They did, however, reduce the fine to $400.

And take a suspended license too!

Last month, Mr. Weber attended a hearing about the speeding incident, and in early July received even more appalling news: His license would be suspended for five months.

Only upon the completion of a safe-driving course will Mr. Weber be able to legally drive again. Even after his 5-month suspension is up, he’ll also likely incur a heavy financial burden from higher auto insurance premiums.

Police officials would not comment to the Free Press on the situation due to privacy concerns, but maintained that protocols designed for keeping the roads safe were followed in this instance.

David Weber still is holding on to hope that the authorities will grant him some slack due to the obviously special circumstances surrounding his traffic violation. David told the Free Press that he has taken his situation to the media in the hopes of garnering public support.

For the time being, David Weber is left wondering what might have happened had he been delayed even longer. Perhaps a Canadian solicitor will show interest in the case and charge the police with endangering the lives of Mrs. Weber and her baby?

But the larger question is why the police were such sticklers for official procedure in the face of a medical emergency. Certainly, there are many officers who would react differently in the face of the same circumstances.

Obama Declares Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

 Could this mean the legalization of gay marriage?  Is this a question of family values?  Or a question of human rights?  More soon…

From [url=http://amfix.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/24/justice-department-will-no-longer-defend-defense-of-marriage-act/]CNN.com[/url]:

Justice Department will no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act
Posted: 07:51 AM ET
by Rebecca Hillman

In a major policy shift, the Obama administration has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Passed in 1996, The Defense of Marriage Act prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriage and defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Though the administration is now saying the Act is unconstitutional, the Act remains in the books as a law.