Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

220px-Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svgTwo high school students at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Island have been suspended indefinitely after they walked into an after-hours sporting event wearing a Confederate flag draped over their shoulders. We recently discussed another suspension of a student involving a Confederate flag. I have the same free speech concerns in this case. The question is whether other flags would also be confiscated and the student suspended in my view. While I can certainly understand how this flag represents racism for many, others view the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and heroism. I often see them in Virginia and recoil a bit due to the association with slavery. However, my concern is where the school is drawing the line on speech.

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Islam for Journalistspintakl Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has written a controversial guide for journalists on how to cover stories without insulting Muslims. “Islam for Journalists” is an effort to educate reporters on the sensitivities of Muslims to avoid triggering protests or violence. Pintak writes that “Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen . . . can be just as lethal.” That line captures the controversy because it seems to suggest that reporters are a cause of violence when they fail to adhere to the demand of religious values or orthodoxy in their publications.

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220px-Rembrandt_-_Moses_with_the_Ten_Commandments_-_Google_Art_Projectrep6Usually the selection of a state bird or state song is not particularly divisive or even notable. The same goes for a state book (though it seems a bit odd to select a single book for a state unless it is written by a native son or daughter). Louisiana however could find itself in court as it moves to make the Bible the state book. Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, proposed the official adoption but insisted that it should not be viewed as any type of state endorsement. It is simply the selection of one faith’s religious book as the official book for the entire state. Who could possibly view that as a state endorsement?

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220px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_colorRespectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

I guess you don’t have to be from Chicago or Illinois to know who Rahm Emanuel is.  The current Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is the former chief of staff to President Obama and a former Congressman. He is also a former investment banker.  It has been alleged that this former investment banker has been crying poor since he entered office and proposing that city workers must pay more into their pension funds and get less pay and benefits.

“If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.

You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.” Pandodaily  (more…)

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220px-Brendan_Eich_Mozilla_Foundation_official_photoAs many on this blog know, I have long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and gay rights. However, I have qualms about a story this morning that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich has been forced to step down after a campaign by an online dating service. The campaign revealed that Eich had made a donated $1,000 in 2008 in support of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state before it was struck down in the federal courts. The controversy raises again the tension between free speech and corporate identity.

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1297543871302_ORIGINALIsrael’s Second Authority for Television and Radio has banned the Hoodies commercial below as containing “too many sexual insinuations.” The commercial shows a supermodel with Red Orbach, a famous puppet character, in bed with not so veiled references to puppet-human relations. It raises again the ongoing controversy over censorship in commercials to protect younger or more sensitive viewers.

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200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svgWhile the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Unless you have been in a coma the last few weeks, you have probably heard of or read about the Hobby Lobby case recently argued in front of the United States Supreme Court.  Hobby Lobby is challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide medical insurance for their employees or pay a fine.  The mandate also requires the insurance to include coverage for contraception services.  Services that its owners claim violates their religious beliefs.

“…. the battle for its Christian identity was revived this week when lawyers for the company argued before the Supreme Court that the company should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The issue, says Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green, isn’t that the company wants to meddle with women’s rights to take contraceptive drugs. “We’re not trying to control that,” she said. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.” ‘ Reader Supported News

Mrs. Green claims they are not trying to control their female employees use of contraceptives, but the network of causes that they are involved with seem to indicate that the Greens want to mix their religious views into everyone else’s business. (more…)

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of TurkeyTwitter LogoWe recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.

According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.

In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Columbian Newspaper Logo

Washington Senator Don Benton

Senator Don Benton

In what many see as a sign of attempting to control the press through legislative penalties a Washington state newspaper is crying foul after a state senator singled out a local newspaper by making it pay a $150,000-a-year fine for being “one of the top polluters in the county.” It just so happens that the lawmaker, state Senator Don Benton, had been the subject of a series of critical articles in the same newspaper.

The editor of The Columbian newspaper is now accusing Benton of playing hardball. Editor Lou Brancaccio said it is clear Benton’s “nonsensical” proposal is “silly on its face and in our view, retaliatory.”

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Speed Trap Warning SignAn Oklahoma citizen took his small town’s police department to federal court, claiming police clamped down on him when he put a sign on the curb warning of a speed trap ahead.

James Goad, of Meeker, Oklahoma, says the harassment that followed his action amounted to a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. In the suit against the Meeker Police Department and Police Chief Sam Byrd, Goad claims police arrested him and violated his civil rights to get back at him for his sign stunt.

“Mr. Goad was exercising his constitutional right to free speech when he posted the speed trap warning sign on the property,” Goad’s attorney, Jack Dawson, wrote.

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3434786_GI recently wrote about the declining free speech rights of students in the United States. There is another such case out of New Jersey this week where Gregory Vied, 17, has been suspended for refusing to remove a Confederate flag on his truck. In my view, it is a clear violation of free speech and an abuse of the rights of this student to express his views and associations by the administrators of Steinert High School in Hamilton Township.

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photo_youngmilleryoungincident2 We recently discussed the controversy surrounding a confrontation between Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, and Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young. Miller-Young has now been charged with criminal conduct including Theft of Person; Battery; and Vandalism. However, even that charge does not appear to have prompted an express and clear statement from the University denouncing Miller-Young or calling for the review of her academic position. To the contrary, in the first statement from the university, Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, appears to spend more time alluding to the victims as the problem than addressing the allegedly criminal abuse by a member of the faculty. The letter below contains a series of backhanded references to those engaging in free speech demonstrations on campus. The problem it would seem is not Miller-Young as much as these troublesome “outsiders” and “evangelical types” who come to “create discord” and “promote personal causes and agendas.” In the end, you are not sure if Miller-Young was the culprit or a victim in these alleged criminal acts. While there are good sentiments expressed in this letter, I can understand why the pro-life community would view this letter as basically saying “please don’t beat the protests no matter how much they may deserve it.”

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President_Barack_Obama220px-Nytimes_hqI recently wrote a column on the wholesale attack on press freedoms under President Obama that parallel his attack on other civil liberties and privacy principles (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). I testified on the erosion of press freedom under President George W. Bush but the assault on the free press has worsened under President Obama while Democratic members and supporters remain conspicuously silent. Reporters have not been so silent or reticent and have repeatedly tried to educate citizens of the danger to press freedoms under this President. Now one of the most respected journalists in the country, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Risen, has declared that the Obama Administration is the greatest threat to a free press in a generation.

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200px-Mariacorinamachado2500px-Seal_of_the_Organization_of_American_States.svgVenezuela has continued to assault on civil liberties started by the late Hugo Chavez under his “mini-me” President Nicolas Maduro. That legacy took a particularly menacing turn when opposition congresswomen Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her office after speaking to the Organisation of American States (OAS) about the violence in her country. The Venezuelan government insists that she “acted as a Panamanian official” by accepting the invitation and that her speech constituted a crime of “inciting violence”.

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President_Barack_Obama1-foam-fingerWe previously discussed the rapid drop of the United States in the protection of the free press. Now, the respected Reporters Without Borders has produced a separate report on Internet freedoms. In yet another dubious distinction for President Obama, the United States is now listed with such “Enemies of the Internet” as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. This is our first time on the infamous list — a true accomplishment for an Administration that has been denounced for its wholesale attacks on privacy and other core civil liberties.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize.  On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.

‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers

It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here?    Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell? (more…)

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, weekend contributor

TED2014 Edward SnowdenFor those not familiar with the TED Talks, they were the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer. TED was intended as a single presentation in Silicon Valley back in 1984. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The talks have grown from a handful of views and participants into millions of views. Presenters have come from every walk of life and culture, including entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and educators.

TED has recently redesigned their website, hosting their own original content videos. What does that mean? They are immune from copyright takedown demands. Many people livestream and record the videos. That means it is virtually impossible for anyone to censor or take down a TED Talk. Copies are out there in the wild. At least, they are out there until the Internet is destroyed, but even then, they will be circulated on film and digital media much like the pamphleteers of long ago. I am sure everyone recalls those troublemakers Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. I posted a story on February 1, entitled Edward Snowden Speaks. In that story, we discussed the mysterious takedowns of the German TV interview with Mr. Snowden on YouTube almost as fast as they appeared.

A few days ago, Edward Snowden was a guest speaker at the TED2014 annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2014 conference celebrated the 30th anniversary of TED.

 

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

115px-CA_-_Oakland_PoliceThe city of Oakland has entered into an agreed order to pay former Marine and two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen $4.5 million. This is, as lawyers say, “to make him whole.” Unfortunately, Scott will never be whole again. The night of October 25, 2011 he was shot in the head by a police officer using a shotgun loaded with a “non-lethal” beanbag. Upon being hit, the former Marine went down like a sack of potatoes. His skull was fractured, he was bleeding heavily and his neck was broken.
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milleryoungincident2 We recently discussed the controversy surrounding a confrontation between Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, and Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young. Miller-Young has now been charged with criminal conduct including Theft of Person; Battery; and Vandalism. All are misdemeanors.

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220px-JamesBrokenshireHomeOfficeI have repeatedly written on the alarming erosion of free speech in the United Kingdom, particularly as a result of hate speech and anti-discriminatory regulations (here and here and here). Now, Security and Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has stated that the government is not content with censoring language viewed as terroristic but wants to remove “”unsavoury” content.” He acknowledges that such content is not illegal but express a desire to sanitize the web of such speech. Brokenshire is an example of the insatiable appetite for censorship that develops once you allow the government to control speech. You can almost hear the “harrumph” and “hear, hear” to get the diminishing measure of free speech in England.

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Uncwsealadams_000Yesterday a North Carolina jury handed down a major victory for free speech and academic freedom. It found that the University of North Carolina–Wilmington retaliated against criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams for his writing of conservative columns for the website Townhall.com and other forums. The decision culminates years of litigation, including a prior decision before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The treatment of Adams reaffirms for many conservatives that academia is hostile to their views and that conservative academics face a bias on promotion. The implications of the decision however could go beyond the issue of bias and raise countervailing issues of academic judgment and decision making.

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Submitted by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

180px-westboro_baptist_church_in_new_york_by_david_shankboneFred Phelps son, Nathan Phelps, has reported on his Facebook page that his father, Fred Phelps, Sr. is near death in a Topeka KS hospital.  Nathan himself has been estranged from his father and family for some time, and was “excommunicated” from the Westboro Baptist Church.  What few people knew, apparently, was that Fred Phelps himself was excommunicated from the “church” he founded in August of last year.

The immediate family, in their usual mean-spirited style, will not let Nathan and other former members of their “church” have a last visit with the old man. Of course, all or almost all, current church members are immediate family themselves, so they are keeping his son and other descendants from seeing him before he passes.

Nathan reported the news last night on his Facebook page.

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

No Quartering Association LogoA controversy is developing in Cornwallis, Washington where residents of a neighborhood bordering the army’s Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) say the city council’s latest ordinance is yet another example of an overreaching government.

During the Christmas recess the mayor called a midnight city council meeting, with no public notice, and reportedly of all places in a Seattle pub. After seven exhausting hours the council voted 5 to 4 to enact a law that was purportedly intended to ease the severe traffic jams along Interstate 5 which runs through JBLM. But these intentions some believe were not so benevolent.

The law allocated nine tracts of park land to build high density housing for military personnel and their families. The land is just west of the Berkeley Bridge and soldiers going to and from the base would not need to use I-5. However the land is platted within the realm of the Lafayette neighborhood and its homeowner’s association. Residents angrily objected to their former park being taken over by the city, and in response turned to a relatively unknown civil rights advocacy group, the No Quartering Association, (NQA) to seek redress for the city violating the Third Amendment’s prohibition of quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes. Unfortunately for them, the worst was yet to come.
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milleryoungincident2 We have recently discussed a number of incidents of professors acting badly in shouting down student protesters or journalists on campus. (here and here and here). This has include prior attacks on pro-life demonstrators. Now a teenage pro-life demonstrators has accused a University of California (Santa Barbar) professor of taking her sign and assaulting her on campus. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, have posted a videotape of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young walking away with their sign and getting into a confrontation with the teenagers.

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IMG_5886210px-FondDuLacHighSchoolEntranceWe have been discussing a variety of stories lately that reflect the rapidly shrinking free speech rights of students, including a recent column. A story out of Wisconsin shows just how arbitrary administrators have become in stomping out students engaging in free speech and student press rights. Fond du Lac High School senior Tanvi Kumar showed precisely the type of courage and creativity that we want to instill in the young. While other kids were at the Mall and fighting over fashions, Kumar wrote an investigative piece that documents what was described as a “rape culture” at the school. The school officials immediately moved to censor and block the publication — joining a growing population of draconian administrators teaching students to yield to arbitrary authority. In this case, Fond du Lac High School Principal Jon Wiltzius was able to gut principles of free speech and free press in one overarching authoritarian gesture.

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imagesWe previously discussed the free speech implications of the arrest of a student for wearing a NRA tee shirt to school. Now we have another case of a student, Shane Kinney, 16, who has been disciplined for wearing his NRA tee-shirt to the Grand Island High School. Once again, it is not clear why this tee shirt falls under the school’s written prohibition and appears to be content-based censorship by the school.

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220px-Nytimes_hqSupreme CourtBelow is a longer version of my column that ran today in USA Today. The column was originally written for a longer format but had to be reduced to fight the page. The column looks at state of the Fourth Estate on the 50th anniversary of the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. I do not wish to understate the threat against the media in 1964 but it is hard to overstate the threat against the media in 2014.

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article-charlize8n-5-0307There is an interesting controversy in Arkansas where Circuit Judge Mike Maggio was revealed as an anonymous commenter known as “geauxjudge.” After being outed from online sites, Maggio apologized and withdrew from a race for the appellate court. The controversy however raises the question of whether such comments should be a subject for ethical discipline and whether judges should have the right to comment anonymously on such sites.

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130px-Mao_Zedong_portraitCan you say that five times? Well, not if you are online in China you can’t.

There was a delicious irony to the coverage of a speech by Zhang Chunxian, the party chief of Xinjiang, to journalists. In the authoritarian, one-party state, Chinese leaders speak matter-of-factly about censoring reporters and blocking free speech. In this case, Zhang spoke about the vulnerability of the system of censorship maintained by him and other party bosses. His remarks were then censored by his own censors. Just another day in the worker’s paradise.

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Text MessagingIn two precedent setting rulings, the Washington Supreme Court expanded the privacy expectation of text messages on both statutory and unlawful search and seizure grounds.

Washington’s Supreme Court Ruled on February 27th the people have a right to privacy in text messages even if the person cannot be certain someone is reading them the court held. In State v. Jonathan Nicholas Roden the defendant asked the court to decide whether Washington’s privacy act protects text messages intercepted by a detective who possessed the intended recipient’s cell phone after a warrantless seizure. In State v. Hinton the court held that a text message conversation was a “Private Affair” protected from warrantless searches as enacted in Article I Section 7 of the Washington Constitution.
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220px-Noah2014PosterCensor boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have sunk Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic, Noah. The Paramount movie is now banned because it allegedly contradicts Islam by portraying a prophet and no one in these countries can see an alternative account of religion other than Islam.

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Below is my column today in USA Today on the ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790.

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There is an interesting ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The court ruled in favor of the school out of concern for potential racial violence. We previously discussed this controversy. I strongly disagree with the holding and the logic. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790 .

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filmed27n-1-webWe have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. The latest case comes from Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland has been previously cited in abuses by police in this area as we discussed. In this case, the officer summed up too many such cases by telling the witness simply “you have not rights.” That simplifies things wonderfully for police and citizens alike.

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225px-Instagram_logo125px-Flag_of_Bahrain.svgThe crackdown on free speech continues among our Arab allies. This week, Dubai arrested four people for posting insults about companions of Prophet Mohammed on Instagram. Since the companions of Prophet Mohammed are revered by Sunni Muslims, the insults are particularly sensitive in the country with tensions between a majority of Shiites and a Sunni monarchy.

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maxresdefaultkozinskiA divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that Google must remove a low-budget YouTube film that prompted riots and killings in the Muslim world as insulting to Mohammad. The highly offensive film portrays Mohammad as a sexual deviate who invented a religion to serve his own desires. Google has been under pressure from President Obama and others to take down the film. While President Obama publicly insisted that the United States stood by the first amendment, his Administration repeatedly tried to privately force Google to yield to the demands. It correctly refused. However, the same result was achieved today by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film who was received considerable criticism and hate mail for appearing in the film. She insisted that she was tricked into the role and claimed a copyright violation. The decision in Garcia v. Google, Inc. was written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (right).

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

European Pariament LogoThe European Parliament is considering the notion of Net Neutrality in Europe, similar to a debate present in the United States.

Net Neutrality is in general the practice of prohibiting Internet Service Providers, Telecommunications Providers, and Networking Services from giving favorable access or download speeds to entities they wish to give advantage via preferential treatment relating to agreements or other considerations. End users would under Net Neutrality be afforded with equal access to material unconstrained by their service providers.

The vote is scheduled for February 24th of this year.
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Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

This past week, thousands of emails from within Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker’s inner circle were released as part of an appeal by his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch.  Ms. Rindfleisch is appealing her conviction on illegal campaign activities during the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race.

Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity for working on the 2010 lieutenant governor’s campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis while serving as Walker’s deputy chief of staff during his time as Milwaukee county executive. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for public employees to work on campaigns while on the clock and being paid to administer state services.

Prosecutors found that Rindfleisch traded more than 3,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, most of which were sent on county time from a secret email system in Walker’s office. Davis, who was Walker’s favored candidate, lost the race but was later appointed by the governor as head of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Rindfleisch was sentenced in 2012 to six months in jail, but her sentence has been stayed as she appeals. She unsuccessfully requested to keep her emails secret while attempting to have her conviction overturned.” Readersupportednews

Ms. Rindfleisch and five other Walker employees were convicted on various illegal campaign activity charges and the emails that were released this week laid bare the mentality of the Walker associates and their actions to work on political campaigns while being paid as state workers.  It is a bit amazing that Governor Walker has remained untouched by the prosecutors even though many of these emails that detail not only illegal campaign activities, but some alarming racist and sexist comments, were also sent to him.  (more…)

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Bumble Bee

They Hate Our Freedom

Statistical analysis has shown that in the past ten years a great threat has been lurking under every dandelion, apple blossom, and tulip growing in the United States, one that is seemingly innocent but is proven to be even more deadly than we could have imagined. And it is with us nearly everywhere during half the year. Your children playing in your back yard, they are especially at risk to this menacing brood. This threat is not to be taken lightly, as it is even greater than terrorism, which you all know is the worst threat our politicians tell us there is.

My fellow Americans we need to look at the degree our government has gone to protect us from terrorism. The NSA monitors seemingly every e-Mail, telephone call, video uplink, and cellphone record it can to address this threat along with billions and billions of dollars for nebulous programs, fought long wars, all to protect us from terrorism. But if this effort is warranted to protect us from terrorism, it is only reasonable that an even greater effort should be waged to protect us from a worse threat: Bees.
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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

SputnikWith many reports becoming all to familiar with state sponsored censorship of internet traffic users in these nations are engaged in a cat and mouse game with a government that is showing increasing levels of sophistication and legislative muscle. The tactics often used include filtering objectionable material, firewalling targeted IP addresses, tracing data back to individuals and sanctioning those individuals, and creating a system of fear generally in which the public is dissuaded into engaging in free speech.

The common element in these electronic censorship measures is that the government controls access via the physical structure of the network. They are able to do this through land based infrastructure. But what if these physical vulnerabilities to free speech and press were removed and instead replaced with broadcast satellite systems that are immune from filtering and geo-locating individuals?
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Comcast

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. If these two companies merge, Comcast would then become the cable service provider for one third of the households in the United States. It would also give Comcast “a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets.” In a press release dated February 13, 2014, Michael Copps, the special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and former FCC Commissioner, said, “This is soFCC-Seal_svg over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest.” Copps added that the $45 billion deal “would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service.”

Copps appeared on Democracy Now! recently. He told Amy Goodman the following:

…This is the whole shooting match. It’s broadband. It’s broadcast. It’s content. It’s distribution. It’s the medium and the message. It’s telecom, and it’s media, too. And it just would confer a degree of control over our news and information infrastructure that no company should be allowed to have. And all of this is happening in a market where consumer prices are going up and up and up, and competition is going down, down, down.

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1988_Salman_Rushdie_The_Satanic_Verses220px-Salman_Rushdie_2012_Shankbone-2Believe or not, it has been 25 years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death fatwa for Salman Rushdie — promising paradise and reward to anyone who killed the author simply because he wrote a book with what was viewed as blasphemous to Islam. For civil libertarians, it was a defining moment where Islam was pitted against the most basic and cherished values of free speech. The world was shocked by the decision even from the radical Iranian government. However, we have not heard much of the fatwa in years. Just to prove that the Islamic clerics remain as fanatical and anti-speech as they were in 1989, senior cleric Ahmad Khatami renewed the call to kill Rushdie and declared that the “historical fatwa” is “as fresh as ever.” What is clear is that, while the world views the fatwa as an example of religious extremism and insanity, the Islamic cleric remain proud of the death order as a pure expression of Islamic law and values.

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posnerMatthewKairisI previously blogged on an oral argument before Judge Richard Posner where I felt he had shown a surprising antagonism toward privacy and a civil liberties lawyer. Given my respect for Posner as a brilliant academic, I was surprised to read of his open dismissal of arguments that later prevailed in the court. Now, Posner is again the news with a heated exchange with a lawyer, Matthew Kairis, who he said was talking over his questions and refusing to direct questions with direct answers. The case is Univ. of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius. The oral argument tape below presents an interesting example of how lawyers respond to aggressive questioning from the bench in such arguments.

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LyndonJohnson_signs_Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Is there anything more fundamental to a democracy or democratic republic then the ability of its citizens to vote for their representatives at every level of government?  The privilege or as many state, the right to vote is essential for citizens to control who is running the local and state and national governments and controlling what direction they want their community and country to go in.

As I write this article, there are groups and indeed, national political parties attempting to restrict the right to vote and restrict the early voting opportunities and attempting to restrict the ability of registered citizens to vote at all.  In the past few national elections, we all witnessed the horror stories of people waiting for hours in line to vote on election day.  Instead of increasing early voting days and installing additional voting machines in crowded precincts, just the opposite seems to be happening.  (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
The following video was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore:

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Mildred_Richard_Loving_1967Somewhere out there Mildred Loving must be smiling and wondering how things could change so much since 1967.  You might recall Ms. Loving as the African-American and Virginia resident who had the audacity to marry a white man and then procreate in the Virginia of the 1960s. Charged with violating Virginia’s  Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an anti-miscegenation law which criminalized marriages between members of different races, the case was heard in Hanover Courthouse, where liberty’s most eloquent spokesman, Patrick Henry, once argued the famous Parson’s Case.  Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile, whose portrait still hangs in the hallway of the new courthouse, sentenced the couple to one year in prison suspended upon the condition they would leave their home state. In doing so, he announced to the world that Virginia would not step so quickly away from its historical racism:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Humanist EmblemWhile many, primarily Islamic, countries have received much press regarding flagrant abuses of religious and non-religious persons or views, seven of which have death penalty offenses for crimes such as apostasy, the true impact for most of the worlds citizens are not as stark but can be often a suffer a form of punishment, repression and imprisonment of some kind for their beliefs.

The international Humanist and Ethical Union published a broad and comprehensive study of world governments listing laws, social constraints, and customs of government for nearly each nation. The study provides a deep insight into how even subtle restrictions on atheists and subscribers to differing religions or non-religions can have a chilling effect on the expressions of their citizens and it is often this subtlety that can become a form of suppression of dissent in surprising areas.
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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Facebook LogoLGBT USA Pride FlagFacebook won much acclaim in the LGBT community by configuring their website to allow a great many choices their subscribers may use in their user profiles. Where most websites permit simply male or female, and perhaps a few all encompassing terms such as transgender or transsexual, Facebook consulted with the LBGT community to identify as many gender identities the community encompassed. Subscribers are also provided with additional tools such as which pronouns to use when they are referred to. Subscribers can use ten different options for gender or can choose to keep this information private.

Most outside the LGBT are not familiar with the nomenclature of these new identities but what Facebook is trying to accomplish is to provide as many choices for the individual to describe themselves in a manner as close as possible to what each of them can identify with. With as large a subscriber base as Facebook commands, many believe this will offer some insight and understanding of how analog gender is becoming.
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225px-Victorian-valentines-cards-two-cherubs-red-heartsIslamic leaders celebrated Valentine’s Day again this year by denouncing the holiday as anti-Islamic and calling for a “Modesty Day” instead that celebrates such items as burkas and veils. Students clashed today in Peshawar as dozens of liberal students sought to celebrate the holiday and defy orders from religious leaders to boycott the holiday. The result was an exchange of rocks and bricks between the pro-Valentine and anti-Valentine protesters. At least one student was shot and wounded. In Indonesia, warnings were issued that celebration of the holiday was an offense of Islam. In Malasysia religious monitors have been patrolling the streets looking for unIslamic practices. Valentine’s Day has been declared haram, or forbidden.

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