5 Basic Rights You Won't Believe We Still Have to Fight For
Over the past 100 years or so, for the most part, society has been all about progress. We've done away with whites-only water fountains and believing that letting a woman vote is an idea so ridiculous that it should be illegal. These days, we understand that all races are equal and that women voting is still a crazy idea but not enough so that we should legislate against it.
Silly broad, there aren't even any candidates named "Vote."
There's always progress to be made, though. Gay marriage is still outlawed in most states. That seems like a fight that should've been resolved by now. Once something is legal in Iowa, we should just go ahead and let people do it everywhere, you know?
But gay marriage isn't legal everywhere, and all around the world, people are fighting for the right to do lots of other simple things that most of us take for granted. Things like ...
The Right to Sell Your Stuff
Here's how the world is supposed to work. You buy something, you own it. Once you own it, that means you can sell it. You might sell it for a much lower price than what you paid for it, but you can't expect a Mad Men season one DVD to turn into a week's worth of malt liquor breakfasts without sacrificing something in the process.
It's a rule called the "first sale doctrine" that allows you to do this. If you're surprised to know that you need legal protection to hock your Blues Traveler CDs at a garage sale, you'll be even more surprised to know that a case before the Supreme Court right now could take that legal protection away.
Supap Kirtsaeng, a grad student at USC, was sued by textbook publisher John Wiley and Sons after he sold eight foreign editions of their textbooks on eBay. See, Wiley and Sons sell their textbooks overseas at well below the anal-rape price point that most textbooks are marketed at here in the States. Learning from a grossly inaccurate history book that Christopher Columbus invented America is only worth $300 if the people you're selling it to can afford to pay that much.
Like these dipshits.
You can pick up the exact same textbooks in Thailand for like two bucks and a copy of Maxim with Alyssa Milano on the cover, though. So Kirtsaeng had family members in that country buy the books at the lower foreign prices and sold them for substantially less than what they'd retail for in the States. He claimed he was in the clear to sell the books under the first sale doctrine. A federal jury in Manhattan disagreed, ruling that the first sale doctrine doesn't apply to products manufactured overseas. Wiley and Sons was awarded $600,000 in damages, which raises an obvious question. How much are they selling these fucking textbooks for?
This might sound like it has nothing to do with you, but as the Atlantic pointed out, that "manufactured overseas" loophole applies to just about everything these days. Your iPad was designed here in the U.S., but it was manufactured overseas.
Pictured: A supervisor discusses staffing issues with an employee outside an Apple plant in China.
Without the protection of the first sale doctrine, selling that iPad that you dropped in a sink full of water but only for a few seconds so it's totally cool and doesn't need to be disclosed on eBay wouldn't just be dishonest, it would be a violation of copyright law.
There's of course been no indication that gadget makers will act on this newfound power, but have they given you any reason in the past to think that they won't if the opportunity presents itself?
The Right to Pee
Inequality between men and women is still a problem all over the world, but India takes their gender discrimination to truly wacky levels. Take peeing, for example. Toilets are at a premium in India, where nearly half of the households don't even have one. If you want to use the bathroom, you take your business to either an open field (gross) or one of the many government provided public restrooms (way more gross) that dot the landscape in India. No matter who you are, both options blow ass when compared to the convenience of just pissing in the bathroom off your master bedroom. But women have it far worse than men.
For one thing, peeing in an open field for all the world to see is a great way to attract rapists if you're a woman. Waking up at 3 a.m. and realizing you need to piss is terrifying enough if you just have to walk to another room in your house. In India, the walk could take you to one of those aforementioned bathroom/sexual assault fields or to one of the terrifying public restrooms, which are typically housed in dark, filthy buildings staffed with male attendants who make sure everyone pays their fair share.
You don't just get this kind of convenience for nothing.
Wait, did I not mention that? Yeah, you have to pay to use these public restrooms. Dudes catch a break here in a major way, because just as it should be with any pay-for-potty system, you only have to pay if you poo. Peeing is completely free. That all you did was pee is easy to prove if you're a guy who just walked up to a urinal. It's far more difficult for ladies, who have to do all of their business behind closed doors. Because the only thing India loves more than bowel-destroying curry is petty corruption, women are regularly shaken down for public toilet cash even when all they made was yellow and the attendant should have been mellow.
On top of all this, despite there being 940 women to every 1,000 men in India, there is a huge disparity between men and women when it comes to who has the most bathrooms. In the national capital of New Delhi, there are 1,534 public bathrooms for men, compared to just 132 for women. When you factor urinals (which women obviously don't have) into the equation, men hoard a wealth-distribution-in-America level of available restroom space in India.
Finally, someone is taking steps to rectify the situation, "rectify" being a word that kind of caused me to giggle when I typed it just because we're talking about bathroom stuff and it kind of sounds like "rectum." Anyway, a social advocate named Minu Gandhi (probably no relation) started the aptly named "Right to Pee" campaign, with the goal of making the act of taking a leak at least as inconvenient for men as it is for women in India.
If you've ever needed to pee when a restroom was nowhere in sight, you know what side you must take in this particular fight.
The Right to Be Forgotten
Well, I never promised that these would all be rights you'd actually want people to have. To give you some background, "the right to be forgotten" refers to laws that have been popping up all over Europe that allow you to literally purge any embarrassing pictures or information you've uploaded to the Web. If you've ever posted a picture to Facebook or sent an email through Google, rest assured, it's sitting in one of their databases somewhere. The right to be forgotten dictates that you should have enough control over those timeless images of you passed out on the kitchen floor with cocks drawn on your face to delete them from history as we know it if you see fit.
It really doesn't look that bad.
Even better, if the company in question doesn't comply, they're breaking the law. So you could, in theory, sue Google for not completely scrubbing their database of any damning evidence relating to that drunken night you spent bookmarking bestiality sites. That might sound pretty sweet, but critics of the law are calling it "the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet in the coming decade."
Their argument is that while you being able to delete your picture from your Facebook page may be a fine idea, what happens when the picture spreads to your friends' Facebook pages (or Tumblr blogs, or Twitter feeds)? Do those sites have to take the picture down everywhere you tell them to? Can you just cut out the middle man and sue your friend on Judge Judy?
If so, I'm fine with this law.
These are the kinds of questions that critics say the laws don't speak to, leaving sites to intervene in disputes that they don't have the resources or skills to address.
The right to be forgotten has already been used in a rather unsavory way in Germany (naturally). Two brothers, Wolfgang Werle and Manfred Lauber, were released from prison after a 1990 conviction for the murder of German actor Walter Sedlmayr, a talent who was clearly taken before he had a chance to make an impact in America, because I've never heard of him. Upon being released, the brothers sued Wikipedia to have any references to their involvement in the crime wiped from the site. And that was only after they had successfully sued several German publications and the German Wikipedia to have their crimes erased from memory. Now, they're suing the Wikimedia Foundation to get the info removed from the American (meaning important) Wikipedia.
Basically, Germany is bringing Internet fascism to America. Nothing shocking about that!
The Right to Lie
Rick Duncan was a war hero. After returning home to Colorado, wounded from a tour in Iraq, Rick made the rounds at local veterans groups and spoke out in support of returning veterans who were having a hard time readjusting to civilian life.
But Rick Duncan was also something else. Rick Duncan was Richard Strandlof, and that guy was just a shiftless drifter without so much as a day of military service to his name. His military-hero act caught the attention of the FBI, and he was eventually arrested and charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, a 2006 law that makes lying illegal.
Which, in turn, makes professional wrestling an organized crime syndicate.
Specifically, it makes lying about being a military hero a crime. Richard Strandlof totally did that. But here's the thing, that's all he did. All of this lying wasn't a scheme to milk the government for veteran's benefits or land a sweet job with the DoD. Nope, he just did it to meet a few prominent politicians.
That's exactly the defense that Strandlof is going with. Telling a lie, his lawyers argue, isn't necessarily a crime. In a shocking development when it comes to lawsuits against the government, Strandlof actually won! Score one for free speech!
Except the prosecutors are appealing, so don't get too comfortable in your ability to lie without ramification. There's still plenty of time for the Supreme Court to make throwing on a pair of camouflage pants and telling kids you work with G.I. Joe a punishable offense.
"If I'm lying, where'd I get this beret?"
Once that happens, your right to lie about pretty much anything is on the line.
Suddenly, excluding the "Technical College" part of that degree from "Northwestern" that you list on your resume just got a whole lot riskier.
The Right to Eat and Drink
Everybody's gotta eat. There's no getting around it. If you don't get some food in your stomach at some point, eventually, you're going to die. And if you don't have a soda the size of Delaware with that food, you might as well not be living.
Except New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't so much agree with that last part, so he's trying to pass a new law that would limit soda sizes in NYC restaurants to no more than 16 ounces. He's selling the restriction as a move designed to benefit public health, citing several studies that tie smaller plate sizes to eating less food. How in the holy hell we ended up needing a study conducted to tell us that smaller plates equal less food is a discussion for another time.
The point is, Michael Bloomberg is trying to take away your right to drink more than 16 ounces of sugary delicious in one sitting. Well, he has actually explained that diners are more than welcome to order more than 16 ounces of soda at once, they just have to use more than one cup. In other words, Michael Bloomberg is a condescending dick.
But he claims his smoking ban from a few years ago has led to New Yorkers having a life expectancy that's three years longer than the average American, and that banning barrel-sized sodas will only widen that gap.
"Approximately this wide."
So cheer up, New Yorkers, Bloomberg is just trying to give you a few extra years to bitch about how the city was so much better when everyone was too fat and out of shape from drinking gallon jugs of Mountain Dew and chain-smoking cigarettes in bars to outrun all the armed robbers who used to roam the streets back before that Giulani asshole cracked down on crime.
Nice tits, dude.
The war on America's right to eat shit that's bad for us isn't confined to Big Gulps and NYC, though. Federal agents recently raided a Venice, California, food co-op as part of a massive operation involving five different government agencies. So what were they looking for? Meth? Guns? Liam Neeson's daughter?
Nope, they were there for unpasteurized goat milk. According to the government, unpasteurized milk can cause all sorts of health problems. This is an argument I could totally get behind if drinking unpasteurized milk was strongly linked to some kind of infectious disease that would bring about the zombie apocalypse should it ever be released on mankind. And I only meant that last sentence as a joke until I learned that one of the bacteria unpasteurized milk can carry is E. coli. Everyone knows E. coli is like top five on the list of bacteria most likely to someday turn us into a society of extras from a George Romero movie.
To make matters even worse, after learning about the E. coli thing, I stumbled upon this story about cafeteria workers in Pennsylvania who had to fight their school district for the right to eat food that had passed its expiration date and could therefore not be sold to children or given to homeless shelters. "Nonsense!" the cafeteria workers cried. And they won, so now they get to eat all the expired food their hopefully steel-lined stomachs can handle. Great, right?
Wrong. Because then I read a story that's literally titled "'Zombie Apocalypse' Could Get a Boost From Spoiled Food," and even though the story never mentions zombies or even bothers to explain the meaning behind that sensational headline, I'm still pretty sure we should all stop eating or the zombies will get us.
So, I guess the feds aren't wasting everyone's time and money after all.
For more from Adam, check out 7 Hilariously Failed Attempts at Politically Correct Toys and 5 Retarded Health Campaigns That Backfired (Hilariously).