Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ACLU’s Steve Brown: Nothing good came out of the 1986 Con-Con

Steven Frias
ACLU’s Steve Brown: Nothing good came out of the 1986 Con-Con

Felix Adler's tiny head

Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture, (what I like to think of as "Steampunk Humanism") was a small man. That's me next to Felix Adler's death mask, made of plaster and molded from the face of his corpse. This is one of two Adler death masks in the Adler library located at NYSEC (New York Society for Ethical Culture) in Manhattan.


R.I. Constitutional Convention has few fans at hearing

R.I. Constitutional Convention has few fans at hearing




Also opposed were Steven Ahlquist, president of the Humanists of Rhode Island, and Pablo Rodriguez, former medical director for Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island.  
... 
Ahlquist, meanwhile, said holding a convention would encourage out-of-state groups to invest large amounts of money to help their causes, here in Rhode Island.  
“Holding a Constitutional Convention is tantamount to putting a for-sale sign on the Rhode Island state Constitution,” he said. “The battles engendered will be costly, not only in terms of money, but in terms of the quality of discourse. Do we really need to re-litigate marriage equality? Should we be putting basic human rights up to a vote?”

Testifying against the Constitutional Convention

The Humanists of Rhode Island is a coalition partner with Citizens for Responsible Government, a coalition opposed to holding a Constitutional Convention. Here is the testimony I presented today:


The text:
My name is Steve Ahlquist, I am the president of the Humanists of Rhode Island. 
My group voted overwhelmingly to be a part of Citizens for Responsible Government, a coalition opposed to holding a Constitutional Convention, because we are dedicated to preserving and expanding human rights. In studying the effects of past constitutional conventions, both here in Rhode Island and in other states, we see little in the way of positive outcomes and much that gives us pause. 
In our view constitutional conventions become the tool by which legislation is advanced that seeks to curb or reverse hard won civil rights. It opens up battlegrounds on contentious issues, to the benefit of no one save for the advertising companies that stand to rake in millions of dollars as various PACs flood our state with flyers and television ads about the pros and cons of issues our state has already deliberated on and decided. 
Right now one of the single biggest issues facing our democracy is the power of big money to influence elections. Holding a constitutional convention is tantamount to putting a “For Sale” sign on the Rhode Island State Constitution. The battles engendered will be costly, not only in terms of money, but in terms of the quality of discourse. Do we really need to re-litigate marriage equality? Should we be putting basic human rights up to a vote? Do we want to be spending the next ten years in court, untangling the mess that certain legislation is bound to create?
Thank you for your time and attention.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

As the ceasefire fizzles: A rally for peace in PVD

As the ceasefire fizzles: A rally for peace in PVD

What is a progressive, really?

A piece I wrote about the importance of financial transparency and Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo's complete lack of interest in the idea spawned at least one response I felt merited a response. In the process, I produced a definition of "progressive" (courtesy of Andrew Tillet-Saks) that I think sets the parameters of the debate. I also discuss the importance of democracy.