The Dutch Uncle: Social Networking Concerns, George Zimmerman in Jail and DOMA Struck Down

posted Jun 8, 2012, 2:40 PM by Calan McConkey   [ updated Jun 8, 2012, 2:41 PM ]
*Guest post by John G. Bowen*

I learned a term this week that I think exemplifies the goal of this [hopefully recurring] blog post: "The Dutch Uncle." According to Wikipedia, "Dutch Uncle is a term for a person who issues frank, harsh, and severe comments and criticism to educate, encourage, or admonish someone." While I intend to avoid the parts about being harsh and admonishing someone, I do plan to provide brief legal tidbits with the hopes of education. So, with that said, here we go...

(A) Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released a list of keywords and phrases it monitors on some social networking sites (after a Freedom of Information Act suit). Obvious words like “assassination” and “Domestic Nuclear Detection” are on the list. But some of the words are less vicious, or at least way too vague, and I wonder why they made the list, including “gas,” “cloud,” “electric,” “ice,” “San Diego,” and “drug,” to name a few. It may raise privacy concerns that Big Brother is monitoring our social networking sites based on our usage of words with the smallest connection to terrorist activity. What concerns me more is how ineffective this system must be if it includes so many everyday words. More importantly, what kind of terrorist is going to tweet or post on Facebook about their abominable plans? It makes me think there is another reason for this monitoring.

                                                                                                Source: FORBES

(B) The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last week on equal protection and federalism grounds.  The court ruled that DOMA discriminates against married gay couples because it denies them federal benefits without support from an adequate federal interest. These federal benefits include the right to file joint federal tax returns, receive Social Security survivor benefits, and access to certain health insurance benefits for the spouses of government employees. The ruling was unanimous but did not reach the part of DOMA that says states cannot be forced to recognize gay marriages performed outside of that state. It seems very likely that this case will end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

                                                                                                Source: ABA JOURNAL

(C) George Zimmerman, who was charged with second degree murder after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, allegedly in self-defense, has now shot himself in the foot. His bond was revoked last week because the judge found out that he “allowed his financial situation to be misstated in court” back in April.  His wife, Shellie, essentially told the court they had no money, failing to mention the fact that they had a website that raised about $200,000 for his legal defense. He is back in custody now waiting for a new bond hearing. Because he is the only real witness to the shooting (that is alive, anyway), his self-defense claim rests heavily on his credibility to the jury, which he may have just flushed down the toilet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Source: MSNBC


*The Law Office of Calan T. McConkey specializes in providing intellectual property services to clients in the Kansas City area, along with representing clients in Jackson County, Clay County, Ray County and other surrounding areas. Please contact the office at 816.476.6400, or by using the "Contact Us" tab on the left for more information.*
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