Wednesday News: SCOTUS on criminal threats, Google Photos, whitewashing Hawaii, and a history of the tampon
Supreme Court Overturns Conviction in Online Threats Case, Citing Intent – Although this opinion was released on Monday, I wanted the chance to skim the opinion before reporting on it, in part because the decision was being received as failing victims of online harassment. I disagree with that statement, at least in s far as we’re talking about criminal charges, which this case entailed. Elonis, if you remember, is a guy who created a faux rap persona to write a lot of disgusting things about his wife, co-workers, law enforcement, and even children. The problem came in regard to the interpretation of federal statute 18 U. S. C. §875(c), and more specifically whether there should be any intent or consciousness of the nature of the threats on the part of the perpetrator. Eloise’s conviction was secured on the basis of negligence, which is what the Court rejected, instead requiring at least some level of awareness that they are delivering a comment that would be interpreted as a threat by its recipient.
One interesting aspect of this case that the New York Times article comments on, is the way in which the Supreme Court holds in a very narrow way – rather than drawing a bright line to delineate what, precisely, the legal standard should be in all cases, the Court seems to be chipping away at what isn’t adequate, and by doing so, they were able to sidestep the First Amendment issues entirely, which I suspect was a huge relief to them. If anything, I think this decision may illustrate the discomfort the Court has with policing the Wild West of internet communication. Which in many ways is incredibly frustrating, but a bad and broadly applicable precedent would be even worse.
From the opinion (PDF):
The “central thought” is that a defendant must be “blameworthy in mind” before he can be found guilty, a concept courts have expressed over time through various terms such as mens rea, scienter, malice aforethought, guilty knowledge, and the like. Id., at 252; 1 W. LaFave, Substantive Criminal Law §5.1, pp. 332–333 (2d ed. 2003). Although there are exceptions, the “general rule” is that a guilty mind is “a necessary element in the indictment and proof of every crime.” United States v. Balint, 258 U. S. 250, 251 (1922). We therefore generally “interpret crim- inal statutes to include broadly applicable scienter re- quirements, even where the statute by its terms does not contain them.” United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U. S. 64, 70 (1994).
This is not to say that a defendant must know that his conduct is illegal before he may be found guilty. The familiar maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse” typi- cally holds true. Instead, our cases have explained that a defendant generally must “know the facts that make his conduct fit the definition of the offense,” Staples v. United States, 511 U. S. 600, 608, n. 3 (1994), even if he does not know that those facts give rise to a crime. –New York Times & SCOTUS
Google Photos unveiled as new home for photos and videos – If you are okay with the digital octopus that is Google, then their new photo app might be for you. Created as a solution to the problem of having too many digital photos in one place, without intuitive organization and an easy method for sharing groups of photos, Google Photos is available for both iOS and Android. And currently the app allows for unlimited photo storage.
“We want to take the work out of photos,” Sabharwal said, noting that it will automatically organize galleries by people, places and things. Inside the app, you can share directly to any service or app, such as Facebook or Twitter. One of my favorite features, however, is a new option that lets you drag and select a group of photos for quick sharing. If you share a gallery of photos, it will take you to Google’s Photos website, which won’t require any login or download on the receiver’s end to view the gallery. That person can then opt to save the entire gallery to his or her Photos app.–TechnoBuffalo
Here’s What People Are Saying About Racial Weirdness in ‘Aloha’ – NPR provides a good round up of opinions on the cinematic disaster that is Aloha, from the casting of Emma Stone as a bi-racial character to the use of Hawaiian language in the movie’s title, to the overall depiction of Hawaii, which some, including Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, who appears in the movie, have defended. Cameron Crowe weighed in with a (sort of) apology on his website. It’s a little hard to believe that he missed the memo that diversity matters, and his focus on Stone’s casting missed a bigger issue:
Finally, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans has released a statementcondemning the filmmaker’s decision to cast white actors in all the primary roles. “Sixty percent of Hawaii’s population is [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders],” says MANAA President Guy Aoki. “Caucasians only make up 30 percent of the population but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99 percent.”–NPR and Cameron Crowe
The Tampon: A History – This is one of those amazing pieces that make me want to quote almost every passage. Yes, it’s a history of the tampon (which is fascinating enough), but it’s also a commentary on the ongoing taboo that menstruation represents, as well as a searing commentary on the way in which a combination of ignorance and ignoring have imperiled women’s health for centuries. It wasn’t even until the 1990s that tampon makers actually concerned themselves with the actual anatomy of a woman, and how a tampon should be shaped to accommodate that. And the first “commercial” tampon applicator, designed in the 1930s, was engineered in part so that women would not (and should not) touch their own vaginas. When you think about whether women have true sexual and social equity, all you have to do is look at the way women’s health issues are still managed to realize how much women are still fighting the ‘purity myth.’
There are differing accounts of the whens, wheres, and hows of the earliest tampon-like devices. Women in ancient Rome, it’s been said, fashioned their own tampons out of wool; Indonesian women are believed to have used vegetable fibers to staunch menstrual flow, while rolls of grass are said to have been used in parts of Africa. According to Nancy Friedman’s 1981 book Everything You Must Know About Tampons, Hawaiian women undertook the (presumably itchy) endeavor of using “the furry part of a native fern,” and ancient Japanese women, according to Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sport author Jaime Schultz, made tampons from paper, secured them with bandages, and changed these dressings between 10 and 12 times every day.
Some of the earliest tampons recognizable as we know them today—intra-vaginal devices made from a string and a wad of something absorbent—were documented in Europe in the 18th and 19th century. Curiously, these were more often used for purposes other than menstrual management. In some places, tampons were used as contraceptives, and Schultz cites a 1776 report from a French doctor that describes a tampon made from tightly rolled, vinegar-soaked linen that was used to stem the flow of hemorrhage and leucorrhea (non-menstrual vaginal discharge). In the late 19th century, the accomplished U.S. gynecologist Paul F. Munde’s 552-page oeuvre “Minor surgical gynecology: a treatise of uterine diagnosis” described eight distinct uses for the vaginal tampon, the first of which was as “a carrier for the application of medicinal agents to the cervix and vagina.” Only on item eight—after uses like retaining the shape of the cervix to prevent a relapse of a prolapsed ovary—was the absorption of “vaginal and uterine discharges” even mentioned, and nowhere in his section on tampons is menstruation mentioned specifically. –The Atlantic
So now being Chinese equates to being indigenous Hawaiian? Or is she supposed to be a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese? Honestly, Crowe’s “explanation” just makes it worse.
One thing to keep in mind with anything Google: it’s all about the data mining. http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/01/google-photos-reminder-smile-its-free-youre-the-product/ And when you upload pictures that have OTHER people in them, you’re now giving Google information about those people’s circles of connection, which they didn’t choose. Facial recognition is a technology that’s already been nailed.
The tampon article was a very interesting read. I have never used a tampon and I doubt at the age of 30 I ever will. However, I still feel that feminine hygiene products and diapers should not be so expensive considering how rapidly we change them.
@Ren – not only how rapidly we change them, but in the case of tampons, pennies to manufacture. It always angered me how much profit was made on sanitary napkins and tampons at the expense of women. And if you were poor…..
A lot goes into the manufacturing of a product then just materials used there is engineering, innovation, liability insurance, payroll, workers comp insurance, shipping, sales, customer service, benefits, vacation, etc, etc, on top of making a profit which is not a bad thing in itself.
@Jan: We are having an ongoing debate in Australia about tampons and other feminine hygiene products. Because reasons (?) they currently attract the GST but condoms and lubricants do not.
Another tampon/sanitary pad fact about Australia – we lock up asylum seekers who come here by boat, in offshore detention centres (which is deplorable and awful) – the women there have long complained that they have to ask staff for tampons/pads one at a time. They are not given any kind of supply. The people they ask are often men. It is humiliating for these women to have to beg for sanitary products. It’s just another way Australia is failing people who deserve better.
@Kaetrin: You beat me to it. The best part about why it is taxed is because the government views it as a “luxury” product. If you ask me its pretty damn luxurious to bleed once a month. Maybe if Hockey and Abbott try wearing something similiar for a week they’d change their minds faster.