Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Three stories from this morning's New York Times

From this morning's New York Times, let's note Linda Greenhouse's "Supreme Court Ruling Bars Creditors From I.R.A. Assets:"

A unanimous Supreme Court on Monday ruled that federal bankruptcy law shields individual retirement accounts from creditors. The decision gives middle-income consumers, for whom an I.R.A. is often the most significant retirement asset, the same protection in bankruptcy that higher-paid workers receive for their 401(k) plans and company pensions.
[. . .]
The Supreme Court's decision overturning the Eighth Circuit will have only limited importance if the current bankruptcy bill becomes law. The bill, which passed the Senate last month and will be taken up later this week in the House of Representatives, generally makes federal bankruptcy law less protective of consumers. But it does contain a provision that generally addresses "protection of retirement savings in bankruptcy," which includes I.R.A.'s among the retirement accounts to be shielded from creditors.
Brady C. Williamson, a bankruptcy law specialist in Madison, Wis., said in an interview that this protection would become all the more important given the strictures placed on consumers by the overall bankruptcy bill being considered by the House. He opposes the bill.
Protecting I.R.A.'s, he said, "validates the core premise of bankruptcy law, which is that you get a fresh start, not from scratch, but with the ability to keep some core assets out of the hands of creditors."

That's an article that Lynda, Eli, Joan and Brad all noted in e-mails this morning.

The only article cited in more e-mails this morning is Eric Lichtblau's "Justice Dept. Defends Patriot Act Before Senate Hearings:"

On the eve of Senate hearings on the government's power to fight terrorism, the Justice Department on Monday defended the law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks as "an invaluable tool" and released new data showing increased use of a particularly controversial type of search warrant.
But critics of the law, the USA Patriot Act, strongly urged Congress to give it careful scrutiny before extending the government's powers to track terrorism suspects. Several critical provisions in the law are set to expire at the end of the year, and on Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first in a series of Congressional hearings on the question of whether to extend the law.
[. . .]
More than 375 governmental bodies, including five states, have expressed formal concerns and objections to the government's expanded authority under the law.
Last month, groups of liberal civil rights activists, conservative libertarians, advocates of medical privacy, supporters of gun rights and others formed an unusual coalition to urge close scrutiny of several provisions in the law that they said need to be scaled back.

Regarding that article, Krista asks that we highlight Congress.org -- a web site that will help you write your Senators and House Representative.

Krista: If you moved or just don't know who represents you, you just go to that site, enter your zip code and it will pull up the information for you and give you a form that will allow you to write all three with one e-mail. E-mailing all three is free. You can also print up your correspondence if you'd prefer to put it in an envelope and mail it in via the postal system. If you'd prefer to fax it to your Congressional represenatives, you can do that but on that service there is a cost.

Ben asks that we highlight the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. If you're unfamiliar with the organization, please check it out. It was created to protect our privacy rights. (Disclosure, I have volunteered with my local chapter of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.)

Doug would like us to refer to the ACLU for more information. Either many people are doing that right now or the site's being update because it won't display currently. But please check the site for more information.

Billy e-mailed asking how likely it was that we could win a battle against legislation that was rubber stamped? Good question. We can win this. There is broad opposition to the Patriot Act that goes beyond party lines. That's why so many chapters of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee have been able to work towards passing resolutions against the Patriot Act in their areas -- often despite the fact that various mouth pieces from Congress and the Justice Dept. have flown in and attempted to convince people to table the legislation.

Rob reminds us that librians have bravely stood up against the Patriot Act. The ALA (American Library Association) has a statement online regarding the Patriot Act. Excerpt from that statement:

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the American Library Association encourages all librarians, library administrators, library governing bodies, and library advocates to educate their users, staff, and communities about the process for compliance with the USA PATRIOT Act and other related measures and about the dangers to individual privacy and the confidentiality of library records resulting from those measures; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the American Library Association urges librarians everywhere to defend and support user privacy and free and open access to knowledge and information; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the American Library Association will work with other organizations, as appropriate, to protect the rights of inquiry and free expression; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the American Library Association will take actions as appropriate to obtain and publicize information about the surveillance of libraries and library users by law enforcement agencies and to assess the impact on library users and their communities; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the American Library Association urges all libraries to adopt and implement patron privacy and record retention policies that affirm that "the collection of personally identifiable information should only be a matter of routine or policy when necessary for the fulfillment of the mission of the library" (ALA
Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights); [. . .]

Rob is correct to note the ALA, and let's note once more, they have been on the frontlines of this issue.

Lloyd e-mails asking that we highlight Elisabetta Povoledo's "Berlusconi and the Right Lose in Regional Ballots:"

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition suffered a staggering setback in local elections on Monday, losing several regions.
Partial results released early Tuesday suggested that his center-right coalition had lost all but 2 of the 13 regions (of 20) where elections were held. The vote was widely seen as a litmus test for Mr. Berlusconi's four-year-old government.

Lloyd: The paper's silence or indifference on Giuliana Sgrena and the opposition to the war continue and it's appalling that an article on Berlusconi's loss could be printed without the paper feeling the need to comment on how both effected the election.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com. Note, there will be entries this evening, but immediately after work today, I have committed a few hours to working locally on the issue of opposing the extensions of sunset provisions of the Patriot Act so the first evening post may be up later than usual. When the evening posts start going up, one post will be highlighting your responses to a post from last night which the majority of e-mails feel was long overdue. I'll also note that Rebecca's e-mailed this morning to note that she's going to be volunteering time in her area today to get the word out and requests that the community be advised that she may or may not have a post up tonight as a result.

There are other stories in this morning's Times and many worth reading. But the three highlighted were the ones the community wanted highlighted and, as a community, we stand opposed to extending sunset provisions of the Patriot Act. Try to make a point to raise awareness today in your own areas.