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.
Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category
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’
Georgia Legislator Responds To Parody Of His Picture By Seeking To Criminalize Photoshopping Of ImagesPublished 1, February 14, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , Politics , Religion , Society 35 Comments
Rep. Earnest Smith has a curious understanding of the First Amendment. Smith is upset that someone photoshopped his picture by placing his head on the body of a porn star. He has responded by seeking to make such photoshopping a crime and insisting that “No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.” That is news to many of us.
An Egyptian court has ordered a one-month ban on YouTube due to the refusal of the company to remove material insulting to Islam — the latest example of the growing battle between religious orthodoxy and free speech. Hassouna Tawfiq has also ordered other sites banned if they show the controversial “The Innocence of Muslims.”
Continue reading ‘Egyptian Court Bans YouTube Over Anti-Islamic Film’
I’m No Book Burner, I Am A Book Banner: Virginia Mother Leads Effort To Ban Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”Published 1, February 8, 2013 Academics , Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Free Speech , Society 75 Comments
Laura Murphy wants people to know that she is no book burner . . . just a book banner. The Fairfax County mother of four has been campaigning to ban the Pulitzer-prize-winning American novel “Beloved” from the school system due to its depictions of bestiality, rape, and murder. She says that her teenage son read the book as a senior in his Advanced Placement English class and was traumatized with nightmares as a result. Now she wants to ban the book for any child to read.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Political Science Department at Brooklyn College voted to co-sponsor a forum on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. The BDS movement claims to be a campaign “to stop Israel’s rapacious occupation, colonization, and apartheid against the Palestinian people.” The all-but-unknown BDS movement has gained no traction in the U.S., but thanks to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, it has achieved a new amount of publicity.
Washington Father Investigated After Posting Facebook Comment Calling For Someone To Massacre Opposing School After Close Basketball GamePublished 1, January 29, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Free Speech , Society 27 Comments
We have previously seen parents who appear less mature than their children in responding to sporting events. We would have to add a father of a student with Vancouver (Wash.) Skyview High basketball team who responded to a contentious game with a call for someone to massacre students at Camas (Wash.) High. There are calls for criminal charges and the father, who has not yet been identified, is barred from the school grounds.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
One of the main concerns we Americans should have is about the state of our criminal justice system. How a society deals with the issue of criminality is one of the ways that we all can judge its freedom from oppression. This country has been selling our “democracy” to the world for 8 decades now as an example of how a modern nation should operate. Continue reading ‘Carmen Ortiz: Prosecution for Political Ego?’
“Stop Saying That!”: Qantas Flight Attendant Demands Passenger Change T-Shirt With Princess Bride QuotePublished 1, January 25, 2013 Bizarre , Free Speech , International 146 Comments
We have been following the increasing crackdown on passengers wearing T-Shirts on airlines deemed offensive or threatening. These cases often raise free speech questions, but also raise serious questions of the increasing irrationality of airline staff and some passengers. The t-shirt of Wynand Mullins is a good example. Mullins wore a t-shirt on a Qantas flight from Sydney with the well-known quote from Princess Bride by character Montoya (played in the film by Mandy Patinkin): “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.” Some passengers became alarmed by the t-shirt, presumably convinced that a terrorist would not only advertise his intent but choose a fictional character from a children’s book to represent his deep homicidal beliefs. Flight staff insisted that he change his shirt. Presumably, there was a passenger with five fingers that felt personally threatened by the quotation.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
While I’m not a lawyer, I do write for this legal blog by the invitation of its creator Jonathan Turley. I first arrived on the scene here many years ago because since the age of ten I have had been interested in the nature of the broad spectrum of civil rights issues faced by this country. My interest became an obsession at the age of ten. My parents, who were quite liberal, allowed me to stay up way past my bedtime to watch Ed Murrow bravely attack Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his Communist Witch Hunt, by documenting the anti-constitutional excesses he used to destroy people’s lives and careers. Months later they kept me home from school to watch the Army/McCarthy Hearings which directly led to McCarthy’s downfall. On our twelve inch, black and white TV I watched this famous scene:
“On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, McCarthy accused Fred Fisher, one of the junior attorneys at Welch’s law firm, of associating while in law school with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a group which J. Edgar Hoover sought to have the U.S. Attorney General designate as a Communist front organization. Welch had privately discussed the matter with Fisher and the two agreed Fisher should withdraw from the hearings. Welch dismissed Fisher’s association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and attacked McCarthy for naming the young man before a nationwide television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”
When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:
“Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:
“Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”
The gallery erupted in applause.”
The drama of this distinguished lawyer chastising one of the most powerful men in the United States and silencing his cruelty was one of the defining moments of my life. It spurred a lifelong interest in the Constitution, the Law and the rights of the American People. Today, among other ills, I believe that our American Criminal Justice System is broken. Let me explain why I believe that. Continue reading ‘America’s Broken Criminal Justice System’
I am still in Salt Lake City, but we have had a great number of inquiries on yesterday’s hearing in the Sister Wives case. The two motions for summary judgment were argued with the state presenting its case through lead counsel Jerry Jenson and my presenting the case for the Brown family. Judge Clark Waddoups was obviously well-versed in the record and asked probing and fair questions to both sides. He has now taken the case under review for a final decision on the merits. I prefer not repeat or comment on statements in court from either myself or the judge. A few articles from the hearing are linked below.
Continue reading ‘Sister Wives Case Now Set For Final Ruling’
On Thursday, the federal court in Salt Lake City is set to hear final arguments in the Sister Wives case. The hearing on the motions for summary judgment will be heard on Thursday, January 17th at the federal courthouse in Room 102 before Judge Clark Waddoups. The Brown family has challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-101 (West 2010) under seven constitutional claims, including due process, equal protection, free speech, free association, free exercise, the establishment of religion, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As lead counsel, I am limited in what I can say about the case publicly beyond the statement below.
The Fault, Dear Brutus, Is In Our Stars: Depardieu and Chan Strike Out Against Human Rights Activists In China and RussiaPublished 1, January 14, 2013 Constitutional Law , Free Speech , International , Media , Politics , Society 11 Comments
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cassius tells Brutus,
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves.” When dealing with dictators and tyrants, that may often be the case but recently the fault in part seems to be our “stars.” In Russia, French actor Gerard Depardieu accepted Russian citizenship directly from the hands of Vladimir Putin after leaving France over its high taxes. Depardieu not only embraced the man who has destroyed the democratic movement in Russia but actually criticized Putin’s opposition which has risked jail and beatings to fight for free speech and other basic rights. In the meantime, actor Jackie Chan has again held forth in defense of China’s authoritarian government — telling Chinese that they need to stop criticizing the government in front of foreigners and that the U.S. is more corrupt than China.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Those who’ve read my comments here through the last two Presidential elections, know that I supported and voted for Barack Obama twice. Yet President Obama has been a disappointment to me throughout his Administration. His continuing support of what I consider extra-Constitutional intelligence gathering is a terrible thing. That Guantanamo Bay is still functioning is a continuing human rights violation. The continued American troop presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan is as disgraceful as the reasons that caused us to be there in the first place. Bradley Manning is an American hero that this country is illegally torturing with this President’s approval. The entire issue of the rising deficit and of a mythical “Fiscal Cliff” is one the President gives credit to, thus making it seem real to the public, while those decrying it merely are using it as a means of destroying America’s already frayed “social safety net”. The escape from criminal prosecution of the Bush Administration for War Crimes time has passed. The financial titans who collapsed our economy with their fraudulent manipulations will not be brought to justice, only become wealthier. The continuance of prosecuting the “War on Drugs” after we’ve seen marvelous public initiatives legalizing marijuana at State Levels, is a cruel hoax that destroys the lives of people in the name of protecting the citizenry. Need I go on to make the point of how disappointing this Administration has been? It would take tens of thousands of more words to do so, but then in this erudite group of those readers of this blog, it would be unnecessary, because so many here could do it on their own and perhaps better than I can.
Where I get confused at times here is in the continuing surprise that is expressed with each new violation of our rights, with each new foreign incursion and with the continued militarization of this country as it “goosesteps” towards the creation of an Empire. I get confused because I fail to understand why people who know better, would think that someone else as President could prevent all of these atrocious occurrences. This confusion is re-enforced by the fact that this blog has continually presented evidence that this country is no longer, if indeed it has been, under the aegis of our beloved Constitution. Leading the evidence presented here was Jonathan Turley’s blog post ”10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free”. http://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/15/10-reasons-the-u-s-is-no-longer-the-land-of-the-free/ As our esteemed proprietor followed up this post was selected as one of the top ten articles in the Washington Post’s Outlook Section for 2012. At the end of this piece I will give links to my own guest blogs which have also reinforced the idea that we are no longer the country of freedom that our establishment claims we represent. Thus comes my somewhat confused question as to why would we the denizens of this blog think that barring action by the people, that our President, or any other governmental officials could single-highhandedly return us to the ideals of our constitution. Continue reading ‘President Obama Disappoints, Why the Surprise?’
Florida Professor Triggers Firestorm By Suggesting That Sandy Hook Massacre Might Not Have Occurred Or Was A Staged DrillPublished 1, January 9, 2013 Academics , Criminal law , Free Speech , Media 289 Comments
Florida Atlantic University has found itself embroiled in a national outcry over the views of James Tracy, an associate professor of media history. Tracy, 47, went to his blog, Memoryholeblog and held forth on his suspicion that the massacre in Connecticut might have been a government drill or may not even have actually occurred. In a blog entitled “The Sandy Hook Massacre: Unanswered Questions and Missing Information,” Tracy wrote “While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.” For those mourning the loss of the 20 children and six adults, it was both an outrageous and hurtful claim — leading many to call for the firing of Tracy. However, as correctly noted by the FAU administration, this was a personal blog and Tracy has every right to espouse such theories.
We have been following the continuing arrests and even prosecutions of citizens who film 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 has a different twist. Andrew Henderson not only had his camera taken from him by police in Little Canada, Minnesota but he was charged with violating the the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by filming officers responding to a call.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
It is always rare in Washington these days when a bipartisan majority passes any bill in the House of Representatives or the Senate. However, while most of the media interest last week was fixed on the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations and the subsequent legislation that was passed and signed into law, maybe the media missed the more important legislation. That missed legislation was a 5 year extension of the FISA amendments that was granted by the Senate in a bipartisan 72-23 vote last week. “The Senate voted 72-23 last week to extend the FISA Amendments Act another five years, which President Obama signed Sunday. Unfortunately, the public discussion of George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program may soon fade back into the shadows.” ACLU
This is a continuation of the same Bush-era FISA bill that was alleged to spy on almost anyone’s electronic communication, all without warrants. So, instead of sunshine being used to bring some accountability and transparency to this secret spying, for Five more years, American’s phone calls and text messages can be monitored almost at will by the government with little or no judicial restraint. What is Congress and the Intelligence community hiding from the American people? Continue reading ‘FISA Extension Gets a Bipartisan Pass’
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
While touring about America’s roadways, it’s not unusual to see a vanity plate or bumper sticker that says “God Is My Co-Pilot”. It’s not unusual to see someone with a dog as a co-pilot. Can a corporation be your co-pilot?
We’ll soon find out thanks to Citizens United and Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, California. Mr. Frieman was pulled over for driving alone in the carpool lane. He argued to the officer that he did actually have a passenger. In the form of articles of incorporation. Upset (and reasonably so) over the Citizens United ruling, Frieman says he had been trying for years to get pulled over, ticketed and get a chance to take his argument to court that corporations and people are not the same. His mission was accomplished in October when he was pulled over for driving alone in an HOV lane, ticketed and slapped with a $481 minimum fine.
It’s a common sense argument based in the reality that corporations are a legal fiction and not a real person. We’ve seen this argument in play here and in other media since the controversial – many if not most might say ridiculously bad – decision of Citizens United was rendered in 2010. But will it work in traffic court?
Submitted by: Mike Spindell. guest blogger
On New Year’s Eve my wife and I saw the movie “Les Miserables”. We’d seen the musical on Broadway and had been enchanted by it. The music from it is superb and this musical fully deserves all the acclaim it has received through the years. As much as I loved the stage version of “Le Mis”, the movie took all of the greatness of the stage and added something to the mix that lifted it into subversive social commentary. That is what I’m going to write about, but first for those who are unfamiliar with either the source book, or the musical adaptation, a very brief synopsis is needed to set the scene.
The story begins after the French Revolution and the defeat of Napoleon. The Royal Dynasty has been restored to power and the freedoms of the Revolution have been lost. The protagonist of this work is Jean Valjean. He was sentenced to twenty years of hard labor because of the ramifications of his stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister. Imprisoned he is noticed by one of his Jailers, Javert, who notes Valjean for his almost super-human feats of strength. Valjean is paroled after serving his time and subsequently breaks parole. He is chased by Javert for the rest of the tale. The plot of the 1,900 page (in French) novel is summarized in detail at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables Details of the play and the movie are available here: http://www.lesmis.com/.
The ingredient added to the movie, which couldn’t have been done on stage were scenes depicting the abject poverty of the common people and the poor. With the visual nature of film and what will probably be Academy Award makeup, costuming and art direction, you can see a recreation of the life of the French lower classes in the 18th Century. These descriptions run true to the original novel which was so rich with detail. The book “Les Miserables” was intentionally revolutionary for its time as best summed up by the author Victor Hugo in the preface to the novel:
“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.”
Hugo’s eloquence above and its implications for our current time is the subject that I want to discuss. Continue reading ‘“Les Miserables” and the Shape of Things to Come’
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
It was brutally cold in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on 23 December 1776 when Thomas Paine released the first in a series of sixteen papers entitled The American Crisis. The first paper, which starts out “These are the times that try men’s souls,” inspired a despondent George Washington who ordered it read to his entire army on Christmas night. Later that night the army crossed the Delaware River and the next day won a small but psychologically important victory at the Battle of Trenton. This was the first time Washington’s forces had defeated a regular army in the field and the victory helped secure Washington’s command.
John Cusack and I had a dialogue last year about civil liberties and other issues. John has now run a second interview (actually half of a second interview) on Huffington Post. This interview focuses on the case of Julian Assange.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
If you are like me, you remember the violent response by the FBI, DHS and local police forces to the many “Occupy” movement protests last Fall. In those protests, the police used incredible force and firepower to break up peaceful protests and make a mockery of the First Amendment. The police responses always seemed to be coordinated from city to city and there were allegations that the FBI and other governmental agencies were aiding the local authorities in stamping down the First Amendment rights of the Occupy protestors. Now, a treasure trove of documents was released pursuant to a Freedom of Information request by a group called The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. Those documents expose a level of governmental intrusion into the privacy of protestors and governmental and private bank partnerships designed to crack down on legal protestors. Continue reading ‘Who Occupied the Occupy Movement?’
Best wishes to everyone celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. Continue reading ‘Merry Christmas!!!’
A Saudi court has ordered the editor of a Saudi Arabian website to be tried for apostasy, and possibly executed, due to his criticism of the role of religion in the Saudi Kingdom. Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June and originally charged with insulting Islam. The court has now upgraded the charge to apostasy.
Life under Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to return to the old Soviet standards this month after a Chechen newspaper was closed following an embarrassing comment by the editor-in-chief in the presence of the Russia strongman. Worse yet, people actually laughed when Belkis Dudayeva, the editor-in-chief of Kadyrov’s Path, asked a question that began with “Thank God that Chechnya has now become a region of peace and prosperity…”