Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scott Moss Riffs on Barack Obama and the Supremes

Scott Moss, who teaches constitutional law at CU, was the guest speaker at the Colorado state ACLU annual meeting Feb. 21. I captured most of his speech in three segments: the one above, followed by Part 2 and Part 3. I ran out of memory for the last couple minutes of his speech, where he adds the final two elements of his Top Five Rights Issues:

4. Civil Rights Enforcement: will be aggressive, but could be severely limited by budget constraints.

5. Legislation on issues such as gay rights, union rights (Employee Free Choice Act) and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may be supported, but a lower priority due to the crisis in the economy.

Moss ended with a discussion of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full on state secrets. Obama's poor position on the fight with the British High Court over Binyam Mohamed has been followed up by disturbing signs on extraordinary rendition, secret bombing in Pakistan, and restrictions on National Security Agency information.

"When the information relates directly to a war being waged, secrets will be kept, though Obama will not adopt the kind of broad definitions we saw on the War On Terror," Moss said. "Remember, Obama was never part of the pacifist wing of the party. There will be interceptions, there will be detentions, but there will be limits on what is considered state secrets during time of war."

The ACLU meeting also heard from State Board Chairman Lino Lipinsky, who reminded attendees that without ACLU cases, the Denver police would have continued their common trend in 2005-2008 of locking up the wrong people in outstanding warrants (occasionally even mixing up race and legal status in the mistaken identity), and leaving innocent people in jail for days or weeks.

Cathy Hazouri, executive director of the state office, said that some members may have not liked the actions the ACLU took to defend demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention, but that the ACLU needs to be inherently contrarian with everyone, even its loyal members.

"We are the permanent loyal opposition," she said. "Sometimes, even we don't agree with what we do."

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