As the scandal over the attack on the press continues in the Associated Press investigation, another such attack has come to light. The Obama Administration in 2010 investigated Fox News correspondent Jeff Rosen and the FBI treated him as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” for merely speaking with a source. It was a perfectly Nixonian moment – yet another example of how Obama has adopted many of the same abuses as Richard Nixon. While journalists, public interest groups, and even Democratic members have denounced the attack on the media in the Associated Press investigation, Obama stepped forward to defend the investigation and praise the work of the Justice Department. He doubled down on those complaining about his Administration’s shocking record on whistleblowers and reporters by saying that he would make “no apologies” for the greatest attack on the media in decades.
Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category
That free speech is under attack by the governments local and Federal should be manifestly apparent from the stories that have appeared of the last few years here at Res Ipsa Loquitur. In articles from our host, myself and my fellow guest bloggers, we’ve seen open attacks on free speech as a right proper, attacks on anonymous political free speech, the prosecution and persecution of whistleblowers and the erosion of shield laws protecting reporters and attacks on free speech and pluralism in general in the form of blasphemy laws just to name a few of the threats that have come to our attention. What is most troubling is that the Federal government has stepped up their efforts to outright infringe upon the free speech rights of citizens and the press and chill the right however possible. Free speech is critical for the function of democracy. Without dissent, there can be no debate, only the dictates of the strong over the weak which is by definition tyranny. That is one of the reasons that it was so important that the Founders protected it in the 1st Amendment. However, they felt in particular that the freedom of the press was a not just free speech, but a very special kind of free speech that merited both special mention and protection in the 1st. The 1st Amendment reads in relevant part:
Congress shall make no law [. . .] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”.
As we know, there are legitimate reasonable restrictions on free speech such as defamation, incitement and threats (particularly threats of violence). So before we look at the two present instances of the chilling of free speech – one a local story about a graduation and one the national story concerning the DOJ accessing the phone records for hundreds of reporters working for the Associated Press – let us first ask examine what is meant by the term “chilling free speech”.
Satanic Tweets: Head of Saudi Religious Police Warns Citizens That Use of Twitter Destroys Chance For HeavenPublished 1, May 16, 2013 Constitutional Law , Free Speech , Politics , Religion , Society 46 Comments
Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police, has gone public with a renewed attack on the use of social media sites, particularly Twitter. He warned citizens that the use of sites like Twitter guarantees that the user “has lost this world and his afterlife.”
I recently published a column on how Barack Obama has publicly assumed many of the powers that were once cited as the basis for the investigation and attempted impeachment of Richard Nixon. One of those areas was the Obama Administration’s crackdown on journalists. This week Attorney General Eric Holder appears to have yet again added to this ignoble record. It appears that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. This disclosure follows another recent disclosure that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative groups associated with the Tea Party. Yet, once again, most Democrats remain silent in a type of cult of personality where principle is discarded in favor of loyalty to the President.
Oregon Man Acquitted After Arrest For Stripping Before TSA . . . TSA Responds By Bringing Its Own ChargePublished 1, May 13, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Free Speech , Lawyering , Media , Politics , Society 68 Comments
I have previously written about how the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) set out to create a crime never approved by Congress: the crime of making a joke in an airport about security issues. The TSA has long appeared to chafe at the notion of an agency dependent on Congress or the public for its authority. That appears the message being sent to John E. Brennan. You may recall Brennan from a story last year when he stripped in the Portland International Airport in protest of increasing invasive TSA security measures. He was cleared by a judge who found his stripping was a form of protest. However, the TSA was clearly miffed by decision of the judge, so Brennan was pulled into the administrative abyss by TSA with an agency charge. It appears that, if the law will not punish a citizen, TSA will.
by Gene Howington, Gust Blogger
As previously discussed in the column “Fantastic Plastic?“, the advent of cheap 3-D printing (or additive manufacturing) is changing the nature of how we can manufacture anything including guns. At the time the original column was written, a pioneer in additive manufacturing of guns – Defense Distributed of Austin, Texas – was making headlines for using this technology to make lower receivers for AR-15 style assault rifles. Although in the proof of concept stage, Defense Distributed had rapidly shown that they could make such a component capable of firing over 600 rounds before stress failure. I speculated that such a weapon was not as threatening due to size and some materials constraints and that even more dangerous was the possibility of all (or nearly all) plastic handguns and other easily concealable weapons that escape normal detection techniques.
In this instance, we have a case of science rapidly catching up with speculation. Last week Defense Distributed released the following video of their plastic handgun design. The only metal component of the weapon is the firing pin. It is called (rather dramatically) the Liberator.
In a move that is not entirely unexpected as self-described crypto-anarchist Cody R. Wilson and his company Defense Distributed continue to push both the boundaries of the technology as well as gun laws, the government took action. It is no secret that escalation often begets escalation. Is this the first salvo by the government in their dealings with Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed?
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
Yesterday was the 43rd anniversary of the day when time stood still for me. As a freshmen in college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, I was stunned to learn of the killing of 4 young people by the Ohio National Guard during protests on the campus of Kent State University. The protestors were using their First Amendment rights to voice their opinion on the United States participation in the Vietnam War and the military’s recent incursion into Cambodia upon orders from then President Richard Nixon. Those events not only scarred me, but they also opened my eyes to the power of the government and more importantly, the power of the people. Continue reading ‘Kent State 43 Years Later’
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Ryan Rotella, a junior at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) said that his professor, Dr. Deandre Poole, of his Intercultural Communications class, asked students in the class to write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper, fold the paper, and step on it. By the time FOX News & Commentary got to the story, “asked” had become “directed,” “step” had become “stomp,” and the “Stomp on Jesus” firestorm was manufactured. FAU reacted by apologizing to those who were offended, immediately placing Poole on administrative leave, and banning him from FAU’s campuses.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
My opinion of the situation in this country is obviously grim if one looks at the themes I tend to write on. As I see it we are either fast becoming a Corporate Feudal Police State, or already have achieved that dubious distinction. I am in favor of a movement towards reversing this situation. There are some issues that can resonate with most Americans and any movement seeking to reverse the anti-Constitutional trends afoot in the U.S. today must find the means to go beyond the falseness of the Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative ideological inanity. We have a corporate two party system, run by an oligarchic elite, whose base disagreement is how to treat those 99% of us, who in their view are the American Peasantry. The Republican Corporatists in effect believe that the majority of Americans should be left to their own devices, while the Democratic Corporatists mildly look for palliatives that won’t disturb their benefactors who are really in charge. Some may say my viewpoint is a radical one and this is possibly so, though the definitions of “radical” have blurred through the years. In my life I’ve spent a number of years as a political activist in one form or another and as I approach the age of 70, I think that my experiences have taught me much about political activism and the potential dangers it brings to the people at large. Right now I find two issues that frighten me for the sake of the future and how my progeny will experience it. The first is the notion of a coming police state and the second is the prospect of a violent, revolutionary upheaval in reaction to it. In other words I see we the People of the United States being between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”. Continue reading ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’
Moroccan Student Reportedly In Hiding From Police After Posting With Sign Saying “I Am Proud To Be An Atheist.”Published 1, May 3, 2013 Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , International , Media , Politics , Religion , Society 23 Comments
Various atheist sites are reporting that Moroccan student Imad Eddin Habib, 22, is in hiding from police who are seeking him for rejecting Islam and espousing atheism. A Pew poll just showed overwhelming support among many Muslims nations — and allies of the United States — for executing people like Habib for apostasy. The Casablanca paramedical student has gone public as an atheist and police have now interviewed his family on his whereabouts and any foreign connections.
Continue reading ‘Moroccan Student Reportedly In Hiding From Police After Posting With Sign Saying “I Am Proud To Be An Atheist.”’
This video shows an extraordinary confrontation between cleric Yousuf Badri and host Riham Said over whether Riham Said needs to wear the veil. As Egypt becomes more radicalized, it takes considerable bravery to stand up in this way and charge a leading cleric with hypocrisy.
Tags: Academy of Model Aeronautics, Drones, FAA, First Person View, FPV, Patriot Act, Privacy, Radio Control Model Airplanes
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), guest blogger
This story started out in one place and ended somewhere else. I had been thinking about privacy issues for some time. A friend of mine, a forensic psychologist, like so many professionals, has gone to a (mostly) paperless office. Instead of taking a thick bulky file to court when called on to testify, he takes one dedicated laptop. As all our attorneys and anyone else who has had to testify as an expert knows, if you take your files to court, opposing attorneys are allowed to examine anything brought to the witness stand, such as the contents of a briefcase. My friend was concerned that he did not want anyone to rummage through his private files and other client files if he brought his regular laptop. So he bought an inexpensive laptop. When he goes to court, he simply downloads the files for that one case, as well as any emails associated with the case. That way he has everything at his fingertips, and counsel opposite can look at everything in that little laptop without compromising privacy or violating HIPAA rules.
A few days ago, he and I were discussing smart phones. Because of a recent article in the news, the question came up of who owns your cell phone if you use it for business purposes. Almost everyone I know uses their personal cell phone in relation to their employment. Texting, emails and file storage of all kinds. Suppose the employer is sued, and either the plaintiff or the defense attorney demands all cell phones used in the business be rounded up for evidence in discovery? What does one do in a case where your employer tells you to turn in your personal cell phone, and you may not delete anything, lest you be accused of spoliation of evidence.? Your employer and all the parties are now privy to your personal emails, photos and possibly even all your passwords. Furthermore, you may or may not get your $300+ smart phone back, and if you do, it may take weeks or months. You may find your memory card gone or erased if you ever do get it back.
That led me to thinking about the broader issue of privacy and new technology, especially regarding drones. Drones have been a hot item in the news recently. There has been as much misinformation as information, and I wanted to set some of the record straight. This story is probably going to scare some people. I must admit, I am a bit nervous about this new technology and the future of privacy myself the more I learn about research projects in the works.
Yesterday, the public interest community lost one of its brightest and most effective advocates: Robert W. Edgar, President of Common Cause. Bob collapsed while running on his treadmill at his home in Burke, Virginia. He was 69. I just recently saw Bob at the Watergate conference and we agreed to have lunch as soon as I got through my recent travels. I was going to call him this week. I will always regret missing that last opportunity to sit down with Bob Edgar who was an inspiration to so many, including myself. He was 69.
Stopping The Rant By Denying The Right: North Carolina School Shuts Down Radio Program After Complaint From State RepresentativePublished 1, April 23, 2013 Academics , Constitutional Law , Free Speech , Media , Politics , Society 21 Comments
State Rep. Mike C. Stone (R-NC), left, is being accused this week of pressuring the closure of a weekly radio program at the Central Carolina Community College called “The Rant.” Stone appears remarkably sensitive as a politician to criticism and contacted the school about the program and its funding. CCCC President T.E. “Bud” Marchant reportedly responded to the pressure by tossing out any notions of journalistic and academic independence, though he denies the program was shutdown over “content.”
There is good news and bad news in the latest Gallup poll on atheist politicians. For the second time in less than a year, Gallup reports that a majority of Americans would vote for an atheist for president. However, the 54 percent who would vote for an atheist are offset by 43 percent who said they would not vote for an atheist even if she or he was well-qualified.
There is an interesting free speech case brewing in West Virginia where Jared Marcum, 14, has been criminally charged for refusing to remove a T-shirt with National Rifle Association’s logo and hunting rifle. The T-shirt was found in violation of Logan Middle School’s dress code. However, regardless of how you feel about gun rights, the T-shirt was the expression of a recognized constitutional right and constitutes political speech.
Laura Curry, a professor of film at the University of Buffalo, has been arrested after she confronted a pro-life demonstration using profane language. In the video below, Curry objects to being asked to stop because of her language. She insists that she has a first amendment right to swear. In my view, she is correct. I do not see how this is any cognizable crime. One can certainly disagree with the tenor or public conduct of the professor, but this would seem protected speech. This is the second such arrest of a professor in a month for denouncing a campus demonstration. There are really two legal issues presented in such cases: a criminal case (which is quite weak) and an academic case (which is likely to be more substantial) against the professor.
In the aftermath of the explosion in Boston, Muslims again appear the target of arbitrary suspicion and detention. On a flight from Boston to Chicago, passengers became alarmed when two different passengers were heard speaking in Arabic. The two passengers were not traveling or seated together but the flight crew returned to the gate to have the two passengers detained.
Continue reading ‘Flying While Arab: Two Passengers Removed From Boston Flight After Speaking Arabic’
Musallam el-Barrak,a leading opposition politician and a former member of Parliament, has been sentenced to five years in prison for comments he made during a speech at a political rally in October. The conviction has sent a chilling message to those who oppose the autocratic rule of the ruling family. By Western standards, el-Barrak’s criticism was remarkably subdued. In the speech, el-Barrak repeated a phrase that would become a slogan of the protest movement — “We will not allow you” — and warned the ruler about “practicing autocracy.”
The trend of blasphemy convictions continues this week with the disturbing case of pianist and composer Fazil Say, who merely retweeted a verse from an 11th century poet on Islamic beliefs on Twitter last year. Under these laws, people are prohibited from speaking their doubts about religious orthodoxy and beliefs. Say was given a suspended 10-month jail term and a criminal record for speaking his mind in Turkey. It is the latest example of how the Islamic government in Turkey is destroying the secular traditions of the country and once gave the country greater freedom than its Muslim neighbors.
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Can laughing too loud in your own home make you a bully? Some neighbors in Long Island’s Rockville Centre think so and have called police to the home of 42-year-old Robert Schiavelli about 30 times. Robert, who suffers from a host of neurological problems and seizures, lives at home with his mother and has a distinctive laugh — with a timbre somewhere between the laughs of Woody Woodpecker’s and Curly Howard’s from the Three Stooges. Schiavelli claims the laugh is a defense mechanism against neighbors who routinely taunt him with screams of “retard,” and other epithets tied to his condition. Neighbors respond that Robert makes the annoying laugh at his bathroom window and that the noise can be heard across the street. They also claim it’s a form of bullying.
This week produced a reminder of the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel where the government routinely enforces Jewish religious laws. Tourists at the Western Wall watched as women were arrested in Jerusalem’s Old City for merely wearing prayer shawls in defiance of Orthodox beliefs. Orthodox laws govern the activities at the wall and Orthodox Jews believe that only men can wear shawls and pray at the wall.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, after she refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding. I have been writing about the tension between free exercise rights and anti-discrimination laws — a subject that I discussed at the conference this week at the Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies. This is now an issue that is arising with greater regularity, including conflicts over wedding cakes and other items.
Continue reading ‘Washington Attorney General Sues Florist Who Refused To Provide Flowers For Gay Wedding’
San Diego Police Tell Man That His Cellphone Is A Weapon And Arrest Him After He Refuses To Stop Filming Them In PublicPublished 1, April 11, 2013 Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , Society 38 Comments
We 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. Usually police claim that it is a crime to film them. San Diego police have been videotaped with a new and even more disturbing angle on these cases. Police officers were videotaped telling Adam Pringle that his cellphone was a weapon and then arresting him.
The Russian State Duma has reportedly moved forward with new legislation pushed by the Putin government to criminalize blasphemy — a measure designed to please the Russian Orthodox church. As we have discussed previously, Putin has reestablished the link with the Church to crack down on critics and nonbelievers. The new law purportedly protects religious feelings of believers.
Tags: Arkansas, environment, Exxon-Mobil, FAA, Mayflower, oil spill, Peagasus Pipeline, pollution
Submitted by Charlton Stanley, guest blogger
This is my first post as a Guest Blogger. I am honored and humbled to be invited to post at one of the most respected legal opinion blogs on the ‘net. I will try to maintain the high standards already set by the heavy hitters already posting here. Thank you, Professor Turley, and all the other guest bloggers and regulars here. I have been posting here and on other blogs under the username Otteray Scribe. Otteray is the Cherokee name for the Blue Ridge Mountains where I live. When in the fourth grade, I learned about the scribes of old Europe. The idea of someone actually having a job writing things down for people who were illiterate fascinated me. My username combined two of my favorite words. Blue Ridge writer. That’s me.
Just a bit of background about me. I am a forensic psychologist with about 41 years of trying to get it right. I am passionate about my work, aviation, photography and my family. Other interests include law enforcement and corrections. In future stories, I plan to write about all those subjects. Hopefully, over the past four decades I learned a few things worth sharing.
For my first effort, I wanted to focus on how people who know little of aviation get a news story, and then mangle it into something that it is not. This is not new. There was a time not long ago when any kind of general aviation airplane crashed, it was described in the press as a, “Piper Cub.” Cubs are seldom seen these days, so that descriptor has evolved to a, “small Cessna.” Perhaps this story will set the record straight, and tamp down some of the ‘Hair-On-Fire’ hyperbole about flight restrictions over the oil spill in Arkansas. This environmental disaster is personal to me. At one time, I lived and worked only a few miles from Mayflower, and have flown in and out of the Conway airport many times.
Misinformation, hyperbole and conspiracy theories have been rampant about the flight restrictions around the oil spill at Mayflower, Arkansas. The problem started when local news media referred to Exxon-Mobil getting the FAA to establish a “no-fly” zone around the oil spill. To be clear, this is a completely different issue than what is happening on the ground. Links to some of those stories are at the end of this piece.
University of Rochester economics professor Steven Landsburg is under fire this week for his discussion of rape in a blog post. UR students have demanded his censure and are planning protests while UR has correctly refused to discipline Landsburg for an exercise of academic freedom. Indeed, these students (like the French students discussed earlier on the subject of free speech) have lost their bearings in demanding punishment for the expression ideas or opinions by a faculty members in my view.
Republican North Carolina state legislators have proposed a bill that would allow the state to establish a state religion and further declares the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings. What is astonishing is that eleven GOP members are pushing the law, which rejects not just the core principles of our country but would move the state closer to the model of government currently ripping Egypt and other nations apart in mixing religion and government. The main sponsors, state Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury), seem to have little more judgment than they do knowledge of our Constitutional system. Obviously, the law is facially unconstitutional but it is the contempt for our separation of church and state that is truly unnerving in these members.
Satirist Bassem Youssef has sometimes been called Egypt’s Jon Stewart — a refreshing uninhibited commentators in the increasingly restricted Egyptian public discourse. That ended last week as Egypt’s Islamic government added him to the spate of blasphemy arrests in defense of Islam.
In recent weeks, Muslims in Bangladesh have marched on the capital demanding death for atheists who have simply openly blogged about their their beliefs. Islamic groups have denounced the blogs as an insult to Mohammad and Islam and demanded arrests. In the meantime, they have attacked atheists and engaged in violent attacks in the name of Islam. They have killed eight people as part of their moral crusade. Rather than arresting the culprits, the government has moved against the bloggers.
By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger
Lawyers who do commercial litigation are familiar with the concept known as “piercing the corporate veil.” A principal purpose for doing business in corporate form is to avoid personal liability for business debts. But the veil of protection afforded by the corporate entity can be lost under certain circumstances, exposing a controlling shareholder to personal liability. Although the application of the concept varies a bit from state to state, the general rule is that “courts will look through the screen of a corporate entity to the individuals who compose it in cases in which the corporation was a mere device or sham to accomplish some ulterior purpose, or is a mere instrumentality or agent of another corporation or individual owning all or most of its stock, or where the purpose is to evade some statute or to accomplish some fraud or illegal purpose.” Biscayne Realty & Insurance Co. v. Ostend Realty Co., 109 Fla. 1, 148 So. 460, 564 (1933).
In short, no majority shareholder would concede that his company is his alter ego. Right? Well, maybe not. Recently some shareholders have been arguing, and successfully, that their companies are indeed mere instrumentalities.
We have been following (here and here and here and here and here) the worsening situation in England concerning free speech. As noted in a recent column, free speech appears to be dying in the West with the increasing criminalization of speech under discrimination, hate, and blasphemy laws. Now, a French Jewish student group is adding its name to the movement to curtail free speech rights. The Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) is demanding 38.5 million euros after Twitter has declined to turn over the identity of people responsible for comments deemed anti-Semitic by the group. The students appear to have no concept or at least concern for the loss of anonymity in free speech. Like others, they are focused only on their insular grievance with no appreciation for the harm caused by such court orders.
An Adjunct Law Professor from the University of Oregon has been removed from teaching responsibilities after a confrontation with students that was partially filmed. James Olmsted had a confrontation with students protesting immigration policies on March 14th in which he and students exchange foul language and at one point Olmsted advises them to “start a war, get a gun, shoot me first.”
Just when you thought that blasphemy laws could not get any worse, the Muslim Brotherhood has come up with a new idea: citizen arrests of tourists for blasphemy. The Middle East is replete with cases of mobs killing people accused of the slightest offense toward Islam. Now, according to Internet reporting, the Egyptian prosecutor general for the Muslim Brotherhood has pushed through a new law permitting ordinary Egyptians to arrest those who offend Islamic law.
In what may be good news for civil libertarians in a decision released on Friday, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (District Court of Northern California, 9th Circuit, San Francisco) ordered the government to stop issuing National Security Letters (NSL) across the board, holding that issuing the NSLs violate the 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech and Right of Free Association. For those of you not familiar with NSLs, they are written demands from the FBI that compel phone companies, internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers. This information includes subscriber information, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, websites visited, physical local of mobile phones, etc. NSLs have been controversial from the start as they did not require court approval and they come with a built-in gag order that prevents recipients from disclosing to anyone that they have even received an NSL. FBI agents essentially self-issue an NSL with only the only oversight being a sign-off from the Special Agent in Charge of their office. There is no judicial oversight, no proof required, just the mere assertion by the Executive controlled FBI that the information is “relevant” to an investigation into international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities and their own Executive generated approval.
The words “unchecked rubber stamp” come to mind.
This stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices as carried over from the Bush Administration in a power that was created by Congress in 1986 but greatly expanded by the controversial Patriot Act is good news, but not great news. Judge Illston concurrently issued a 90-day stay on her orders to allow the government to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the ruling is narrow in scope (see below). This case is not, however, the first swing at this question before the court(s) and it is unlikely to be the last.
Recently, I felt Vice President Joe Biden was unfairly quoted in a speech that he gave at the University of Maryland on domestic violence. I am less supportive however about what followed the speech. A Biden aide proceeded to threaten a student journalist about taking pictures of Biden and Dana Rosenzweig proceeded to demand that the student delete his pictures and show her his cellphone. While the Biden office has apologized to the university, it is unclear why this staffer still has a job after such a thuggish confrontation with a journalist. It is doubtful that she would have done this with someone from USA Today or the New York Times. The Biden staff have been accused of limiting press and interviews due to the Vice President’s reputation as a perpetual gaffe-machine in public comments.
The hope for reforms in Saudi Arabia remain a roller coaster ride for civil libertarians. On Saturday, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced two prominent political and human rights activists to at least 10 years in prison for protesting the policies of the Kingdom and speaking with the media. Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani (shown right) and Abdullah Hamad are founding members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, known as Acpra, which documents human rights abuses. The group also has called for a constitutional monarchy and elections. The exercise of basic rights of free speech and association that led to the banning of the group and now the sentencing of its leaders.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
This blog, like many others has an internal search function that will lead you to past stories. It is located beneath the smiling countenance of our proprietor on the upper right. If you enter SWAT into search, you see that the first archive page shows 19 stories involving SWAT raids that were unnecessary and/or unwarranted. In those raids 4 people and 9 dogs were shot in error by the SWAT Team. Just a catalog of the shootings belies the terror that these raids can instill in people who are merely residing within their homes. Many of the articles detail doors suddenly smashed open, flash grenades and gas grenades tossed into the home, people thrown to the floor handcuffed and left for hours in that position, by invading SWAT teams that either had the wrong house, faulty leads and or in some cases enforcing what were clearly civil warrants. In one instance in California a SWAT raid was carried out due to the suspicion of a defaulted student loan. http://jonathanturley.org/2011/06/08/california-family-hit-with-swat-raid-ordered-by-the-department-of-education/
I believe that the rise of these SWAT teams is leading this country towards martial law and what we all commonly understand is a “police state” as repressive as any we’ve seen in the past century. We have seen constant encroachment on our citizens Constitutional protections and a continued erosion of “the Bill of Rights”. Free Speech, the right to peacefully assemble, Habeas Corpus and safety from unwarranted intrusion in our own homes, among others, have been steadily eroded under various guises, be it the drug war, or national security. In my opinion the SWAT team concept, which militarizes our police forces, is leading this nation to what I see as a state of Martial Law. Despite ones place on the currently inflamed political spectrum, this is a problem that I think concerns us all as citizens, not as partisans. I will present to you sufficient proof of my belief, the majority of which will come from what can be fairly described as a “Libertarian Think Tank” and which was founded by Charles Koch, among others. When I find myself on the same side on an issue as the Cato Institute, then I know with certainty that my fears are well grounded and unrelated to any personal partisanship of my own. Continue reading ‘SWAT: Is America Coming Under Martial Law?’
Lech Wałęsa won the Noble Prize for fighting for Polish independence against the Soviet bloc, a move that ultimately helped bring down the wall dividing East from West. However, he seems to have rediscovered the comfort of a wall in his latest comments calling for homosexual members of parliament to be placed behind a wall to remind them that they are a minority and should adapt themselves to smaller things.”
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
You may recall the demonstrations against the NATO Summit that was taking place in Chicago in May of 2012. On May 16th, 2012, the Chicago Police Department made a military style raid on an apartment where several demonstrators were staying during the Summit.
“On May 16, 2012, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) conducted a violent midnight preemptive raid of an apartment housing 11 activists. Two of them, it would later be exposed, were actually undercover informants working on behalf of the CPD. Staying in an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, the activists were in town to protest the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, held May 20-21. The military-style raid led to the eventual charging of three of those activists in the Windy City to protest the NATO Summit with conspiracy to commit acts of domestic terrorism and other related charges – under Illinois’ terrorism statute – in the form of a legal bail proffer. It was the first time the law – passed in haste by the Illinois legislature after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – had ever been used.” Truthout Continue reading ‘The NATO 3 and Free Speech’
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
One of America’s greatest novels in my opinion is “The Great Gatsby” and I think many literary critics feel the same. If you’re not familiar with it, the short synopsis is that it is the tale of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious figure of self made wealth who arrives on Long Island’s North Shore, known as the “Gold Coast”, back in the “Roaring Twenties”. His life intertwines with Tom and Daisy Buchanan, a “golden” young couple with inherited wealth and the best social pedigrees. The interplay between these three leads to ultimate tragedy for Gatsby and more than a few other characters swept into the social vortex surrounding the Buchanan’s. On the last page of this magnificently crafted book, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator Nick runs into Tom and Daisy who are gaily embarking on a trip to Europe after some cataclysmic events of their causing and he says of them:
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Continue reading ‘“The rich are not like the rest of us”’
The United Nations this week heard of rising abuse against atheists, agnostics, and secularists around the world. A report on this abuse, including executions, was given to a panel including Pakistan, Mauritania and Maldives which impose the death penalty on blasphemers. Turkey used the opportunity to call for the protection of “people of faith.”
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
A topic that probably causes among the most heated discussions on this blog is the attempt to either displace evolution from Public School Curriculum, or to at least give “intelligent design” equal footing to evolution. My own opinion is that “intelligent design”, or “Creationism” as some call it, has no place in our public school system. Those who would force it on our schools would be destroying the Constitutional separation of Church and State. We saw a blog post by Professor Turley a week ago discussing some crazy State Legislator in Missouri introducing a bill to teach “Creationism” as a scientific theory and to teach “Evolution” as a philosophy, almost all who commented were not only outraged, but some disparaged Missouri as a backward state. A few of the comments belittled religion in general. http://jonathanturley.org/2013/02/15/missouri-legislator-introduces-bill-to-teach-creationism-as-a-scientific-theory-and-to-teach-evolution-as-a-philosophy/ . Another blog post by Professor Turley in October 2012, about Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin brought a firestorm of angry comments, also disparaging Missouri. http://jonathanturley.org/2012/10/15/akin-disproves-evolution/#comments Interestingly this Conservative State voted for Todd Akin’s opponent when Election Day came around. Continue reading ‘Evolution, Religion and Science’
Pakistan has been working with the Obama Administration in an effort to create an international blasphemy standard. Now one of its diplomats in Washington is accused of blasphemy herself. She has been accused of blasphemy by a businessman, an offense that carries the death penalty in Pakistan.
This morning, our blog passed our 15,000,000 viewers. Since just a few weeks ago that we passed the 14,000,000 mark, it is obvious that the blog continues to grow at an impressive rate. We continue to rank in the top ten most viewed legal blogs in the world and I would like to think that our civility policy adds to the appeal of the blog for new viewers.
Missouri Rep. Mike Leara has a curious concept of democracy, let alone free speech. Leara has proposed a law that would make it a crime for any of his colleagues to introduce gun control legislation.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
I must admit that I gave up watching CNN years ago, even before they attempted to become FOX News lite. Originally, as they created the standard for Cable News, they were an informative leader in providing television journalism. Because of their devotion to the news alone, they became the preferred alternative to Broadcast Network News, which at each network had been put under the “Entertainment Division” and thus viewed as a profit center, rather than a public information service. At the beginning and “golden age” of Television Network News, the FCC had mandated that each network was to provide “news” as a public service, in exchange for their license to control a band on the airways. The leader in this was CBS, a network under the aegis of William Paley, who hired war tested Journalists such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. CBS News was independent of the “Entertainment Division” and as a public service wasn’t expected to turn a profit. While it is true that there was an establishment bias on all news programming yet the coverage ranging from Joe McCarthy, to the Civil Rights Movement and to the Viet Nam War informed the public of great issues and brought home the realities through pictures indelibly imprinting horrific images on the public mind. Reactionary elements within the Corporate/Military Plutocracy viewed all of this with alarm. Their continued success depended upon an uninformed public, lulled by jingoistic propaganda and unaware of who really controlled our nation. There was a determination in these elite circles that the network news, the preferred means by which the public was informed on current affairs, must be reined in. William F. Buckley had already created the meme of a “liberal news bias” by this time as an explanation of why his philosophy of the supremacy of the elite was being bought by the general public. Building upon this meme networks were bought out by conservative corporations, news operations were put under the entertainment divisions and the FCC stop requiring news broadcasting as a condition of licensing.
Ted Turner realized that the traditional network news had been reduced in size and homogenized into a rather unpalatable product. He founded CNN under the paradigm of a 24 hour network dedicated solely to examining the news. Following CNN was the entry of Rupert Murdoch and the “tabloidization” of Cable News along with FOX News becoming a propaganda provider for his Conservative views and allies. This was nothing new for Murdoch who bought out the New Post and the Village Voice, turning them both into neo-conservative propaganda operations, sensationalized with gossip and racy pictures. Sadly, in terms of return on investment, it was a winning strategy for cable news as FOX shot to the top of the ratings. CNN the former ratings leader faltered and tried to become “a little” more like Fox News in order to regain their stature. In the process they became a failure as a serious news provider and have become every bit as inane as shows like “Entertainment Tonight”, even in their coverage of “hard” news stories. At this time in our country’s history with so many serious problems that need to be dealt with, CNN has proven not only incapable, but uninterested in providing coverage of issues that affect us all and of which we the public require more information.
Today, as with many Americans who try to be informed, almost all of the “news” I pay attention to comes from the internet. While I occasionally will watch Rachel Maddow and MSNBC coverage of important events, their coverage too seems lacking of content or even intelligent analysis. There are exceptions at MSNBC when they go away from their usual pundit crew to have on original thinkers undaunted by the need to parrot the establishment. Indeed, the first time I became familiar with Jonathan Turley’s work was seeing him on MSNBC. Since this is the case I had to discover something about CNN’s recent coverage from two articles I read in the Huffington Post, one of which made me snort with amusement, while the other just made me shake my head in disgust as to the current state of CNN, as a representative of mainstream Cable News Continue reading ‘CNN Cruising Towards Inanity’
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
In August 2011 I wrote a guest blog titled: Tea Party and the Myth of a Grassroots Movement”. Using various newspaper and internet sources I showed that the meme created about the “Tea Party” that it was a “grassroots uprising” of ordinary citizens to take back their country from the out of control liberals, was simply not true. The “Tea Party” is a movement fabricated by certain plutocratic corporate interests to maintain themselves as relatively tax free and maintain control over the fiscal state of our country. I’m revisiting it today because of the guest blog I’ve just submitted about CNN and the rest of the news media, in light of a post by Al Gore at Huffington Post, publicizing his new book which deals with the back-story of the creation of the “Tea Party” and its negative influence upon our country. Some of Al Gores’ evidence and that forming the basis of my original guest blog overlap, but the important difference is he’s Al Gore, former Vice President and a centrist. I on the other hand am merely an aging ex-hippy, who remains a political radical. The truth of the “Tea Party’s” inception is not hidden from view and the facts are blatantly out there. What is important though is that the cable news media, press and the Washington punditry continue to describe the “Tea Party” in terms of its meme and myth as a grassroots entity and thus are complacent in a deception of the American people.
Daily we see stories about these “Tea Party” legislators elected to office on all levels of our government. They are falsely portrayed as populists, who are “fed up” and ran for office to “change things” and return to our Constitution. Large percentages of “Tea Party people in polls still believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa and is a Muslim intent on destroying Christianity and America. They see him as a communist, socialist and fascist simultaneously intent on dismantling our capitalist way of life and crushing American exceptionalism. I understand that one can be a reasonable person an oppose Barack Obama’s activity as President. I oppose some of his positions strongly and I voted for him. However, if you believe the “birthers” and those who call him radical names, then I must say in my opinion you are delusional. He is a slightly right of center Democrat, hawkish on foreign policy and deferential to the Corporate Plutocracy. He may be a Constitutional Scholar, but he certainly hasn’t done enough to protect our Constitutional Freedoms. Yet we see this ultra right wing faction of the Republican Party thinking Obama as the anti-Christ and believing they are part of a spontaneous revolution performed in the interests of “protecting” America. Here’s why that isn’t true. Continue reading ‘Tea Party: A Phony Movement Mantled as Legitimate’