The Eighth Circuit has handed down an important first amendment ruling in favor of Brain Johnson who was prevented from passing out Bibles at the Twin Cities Pride Festivals. United States District Court Judge Michael Davis had ruled last year that the Minneapolis Park Board could prevent him from passing out the Bibles so long as they gave him a place to do so. It was a troubling ruling because of the relative lack of support for the claim of the festival. The Eighth Circuit, with one dissent, reversed Davis’ ruling. The case is Johnson v. Minneapolis Park & Rec. Bd., No. 12-2419, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 18831.
Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
I’m an easy mark for those who want to approach me emotionally. My own life, with the normal tragedies of living seven decades has let me be attuned to others pain and to view that pain with an empathy born of my own suffering. Working out my own problems via years of therapy in my twenties and thirties, allowed me to finally let myself cry at the early death of my parent’s years before. I had put a “bottleneck” on tears since a teenager, choking sad emotions by constricting my throat and being in intellectual denial of the mourning I felt at their loss. This is not to say that I had no emotional outlets in my years prior to therapy, but they were limited to events far outside the ken of my life. Thus I could identify with wronged characters in movies and could cry at the death of Marin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In my personal life though, I acted out the role ascribed to me in my High School Yearbook “Mike thinks that life is just a snap of his fingers”. Therapy changed that and allowed me to let myself be aware of and be guided by my emotions.
Emotionally, I am as patriotic an American as you might find. I love this country and I love the fact that I’m a citizen of it. My tears well up at the playing of our National Anthem. The Constitution is a sacred document to me and the aspirations of our “Founding Fathers” seem noble and just. In sports I often find myself moved to tears when athletes or teams overcome adversity and triumph. My family knows this emotional side of me since I cry at movies like “The Little Mermaid”. In personal relationships I am also ruled by emotion. People who treat me with kindness are not only repaid in kind, but I find myself rooting for their happiness and sad at their sadness. It is therefore quite easy to become someone I consider to be a friend and difficult for me to note imperfections in the friendships I’ve made. However, that is on an emotional level and as all humans, I am far more than just my emotions. Intellect and experience play important roles in shaping who we are. On a personal level I have experienced betrayal by “friends” and lovers. In my career I’ve experienced betrayal by those I thought of as friends and co-workers. However, I think those “let downs” are merely a normal part of the human experience. We humans learn and grow from our social interactions, allowing them to inform our interactions with each other.
We humans co-exist though in a larger context than mere personal interactions and that is a society known as “country”. Through the norms and mores of that society we find that our emotions are stimulated by the commonality of our existence as part of a whole. We rely on that society to protect us from predators and from those from other society’s that would do us harm. We unite emotionally in times of crisis and we feel warmth and comfort from being part of the whole. The most emotionally jarring event of the past five decades was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized this country almost as one entity. We commemorated the twelfth anniversary of this overwhelmingly sad event this past week. I need not describe the effect of this event on all of us, since I know that we all have sharp personal memories of that day and the days of anger, fear and confusion that followed. The reactions politically that followed 9/11 has personally scarred those who lived through it and have done great harm to our country. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel betrayed by the events that followed 9/11. Some feel betrayed because the majority of the country no longer supports the military interventions that ensued. Others feel betrayed because there is clear evidence that our government “lied” us into a costly war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. We have become then a nation of cynics when it comes to our government and I will explore why this can be either good or bad for the future of our country. Continue reading ‘In Defense of Being a Political Cynic’
Lance Armstrong has succeeded this week in establishing a constitutional right that is tailored perfectly for his legacy: the constitutional right to lie. U.S. District Judge Morrison England dismissed a lawsuit by people who bought his books while he was lying about his use of performance enhancing drugs and attacking his critics. In a clearly correct decision, England ruled that such writing is squarely protected by the First Amendment. The case is Stutzman v. Armstrong, No. 2:13-CV-00116-MCE-KJN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129204, September 9, 2013
Federal Court Sentences Man To Eight Months In Jail For Advising People On How To Beat Lie DetectorsPublished 1, September 10, 2013 Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , Society 24 Comments
There is a troubling conviction in Alexandria, Virginia where Chad Dixon has been sentenced to eight months in jail for training people how to pass top-secret security polygraphs. The Administration prosecuted Dixon, a former Little League coach, obstruction and wire fraud for teaching between 70 and 100 people how to get past lie detector tests. He was paid $1000 a day and the Justice Department labelled him a “master of deceit.” However, if other people are actually giving false information or gaming the system, the question is whether this should be treated as a protected form of speech. It raises many of the same issues as the prosecution of people who encourage or advice others on how to commit suicide. [The picture is a file image of a test and not associated with Dixon or these underlying charges]
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
This is an update to a story originally posted here by Charlton Stanley, “Polygraphers trigger fear response in Federal prosecutors.“
Chad Dixon, a 34 year old Marion, Indiana little league coach who ran the “PolygraphExpert.net” website teaching people how to defeat polygraph tests, was sentenced to eight months in jail for threatening national security by teaching government job applicants how to beat lie-detector tests. Teaching such techniques and discussing them is not per se illegal. It is an admitted gray area in 1st Amendment jurisprudence. However, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady found the evidence compelling enough that Dixon had crossed the line when he advised some clients, including two undercover officers, to conceal what he taught them while undergoing government polygraphs. This is in addition to the charges of obstruction and wire fraud Dixon plead guilty to last year.
Nina Ginsberg, Dixon’s attorney, accused prosecutors of trying to turn her client into a “poster child for its newly undertaken campaign” to stop people from using the polygraph disruption techniques. the prosecution had sought a two year sentence, but Judge O’Grady thought that eight months was sufficient. O’Grady said, “There’s nothing unlawful about maybe 95 percent of the business he conducted,” although he added that “a sentence of incarceration is absolutely necessary to deter others.”
As Charlton Stanley’s original column indicated, lie detectors are anything but a lie detector. “[L]ie detector technology has no known statistical properties with regard to detecting deception of any kind. It has not been accepted as science in the scientific community. The only thing scientists seem to agree on is most of these machines measure stress reactions in humans, and to that extent, they can measure stress in people who feel stress—that’s it.”
Deterrent based on legitimate concerns or chilling of free speech in the name of protecting a test of dubious value?
What do you think?
Source: Seattle Times
~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
Tags: ACLU, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Edward Snowden, encryption, FBI, FOIA, Internet Security, NSA, PRISM, Stingray, WikiLeaks
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe) Guest Blogger
First there was WikiLeaks, then there was Edward Snowden. The drip, drip, drip of information about secretive spy agencies continues. There have been bombshell revelations about the extent to which government agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA and others are invading our most private communications. Of course, spies do what spies do, and that is to spy on whoever or whatever they can get away with. Few people understood the implications of PRISM when news of the program was leaked. Additionally, I suspect that despite revelations of its existence, the full extent of its capability and reach will never be known by the public.
The NSA reportedly paid tech companies millions of dollars to cover the cost of compliance with their “requests” for back-door access to the software package.
Another program to keep in mind is the FBI Stingray operation that sucks up wireless telephone communications. Last May, in the first litigation where the government admitted having Stingray, Arizona Federal District Judge David Campbell dismissed a motion to suppress. Judge Campbell is a George W. Bush appointee. PDF of his ruling is here. Last July, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in the Northern District of California, in an effort to learn more about Stingray, and if it is scooping up domestic phone calls.
Continue reading ‘Encryption and the Spymasters: Is Privacy Dead?’
In its latest attack on the free speech, the Obama Administration has secured a gag order to prevent activist-journalist Barrett Brown and his lawyers from discussing his work exposing online surveillance by the Administration. On this occasion, however, Eric Holder and the Obama Administration convinced a federal judge to go along. U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay in Dallas Texas has issued a sweeping gag order to prevent not just Brown but his legal team from discussing the online surveillance. The Justice Department insisted on the order to protect Brown. That’s right, they insist that, if Brown discussed the abusive surveillance by the Obama Administration, it would endanger his right to a fair trial.
Despite the obvious free speech concerns, UCLA’s undergraduate student government unanimously passed a resolution last week to declare that any use of the term “illegal immigrant” is now deemed racist and offensive. It is an example of how anti-discrimination policies are cutting deeply into free speech. Millions of people in this country are indeed here illegally. While many would prefer to use “undocumented workers,” many others believe that these individuals are illegal by definition and should not be allowed to circumvent immigration laws. It is a worthy debate with arguments on both sides. However, I am very uncomfortable with students (who historically have been voiced for free speech) declaring that use of this descriptive term is now considered racist or prejudicial.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Most readers of Jonathan Turley’s blog are concerned with the direction that this country has taken of late. In truth the problems we see are merely the manifestations of a long term trend that has resulted in a lack of respect for our republican form of government as defined by our Constitution. One merely has to go through the range of stories covered only in this past week’s Jonathan Turley blogs, to understand that we are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. The issue to me is whether our country goes fully down the road towards empire. The phenomenon of a nation with overwhelming military superiority becoming imperial is a drama played out over and again over eons on the world’s stage. With empire perforce comes the trappings of an imperial state and with it the creation of an elite class defined by the term “nobility.” When a society defines an elite, whether called “the Nobility”; “the Cream of the Crop”; “The Upper Crust”; or even “Celebrities”; you can be certain the need to have an “underclass” becomes imperative. From a psychological standpoint once someone has the need to define themselves as being “elite”, they of necessity have to have people of “lesser worth” to compare themselves to and to differentiate their status. For a society to maintain this status hierarchy there then arises the necessity to have the “underclass” see ”their betters” as superior beings, living superior lives to their own. The “elite” must by definition be more beautiful, more wise and smarter than the “mob” beneath them. The “elite” set the trends and the fashions and it seems the “mob” is always one or two steps behind their lead. I believe that this is what we are observing today in our country. As an example within the past month we have been treated to the spectacle of one cable news network (CNN) devoting 24 hours of exclusive coverage to the birth of an heir to the English Throne.
To my mind there is no person in America who exemplifies the trend to establish a 21st Century nobility in this country, via celebrity, than the man now known as “The Donald”, the sadly ubiquitous Mr. Trump. As a New Yorker at the beginning of this man’s rise to fame, I watched with amusement and then disgust as he turned himself into a “brand” that to us common folk represented wealth, fame and its attendant luxury. Continue reading ‘Trumped!’
Russian police have shutdown an art gallery in the latest attack on free speech under President Vladimir Putin. The police declared a painting to be illegal and pornographic because it depicted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear and another of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church covered in tattoos. The paintings were seized from the Museum of Power. Last year, we saw how a protester was arrested for spitting on the image of Putin during a demonstration. It appears that after years of cultivating a cult of personality with action-hero photo ops and staged acts, Putin is not about to let a bunch of artists mock his well constructed image.
Tulane Law Dean And Former U.S. Attorney Faces Questions Over Confrontation With Filmmaker On CampusPublished 1, August 27, 2013 Academics , Bizarre , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , Free Speech , Media , Politics , Society 82 Comments
There is a controversy brewing at Tulane Law School where I began my academic career. The law school was the scene of a confrontation between controversial conservative filmmaker and activist James O’Keefe and former U.S. Attorney James Letten whose office handled the prosecution of O’Keefe for his entry in the office of Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu under false pretenses. Letten is now an Assistant Dean at the law school. Letten never explained why he recused himself from the case but O’Keefe suggests that he was responsible for leaking confidential information to the media. In the video below posted and edited by O’Keefe, Letten confronted O’Keefe and accuses him of “terrorizing” his wife and violating state and federal law by appearing at the law school. Letten calls O’Keefe and his crew a bunch of “hobbits” and berates the filmmaker. While I am no fan of O’Keefe, I am afraid that I do not see the basis for the alleged crimes by O’Keefe or the basis for his being held by law enforcement outside of the law school. The school has banned O’Keefe from the campus after the confrontation with Letten.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
I have to admit that I knew very little about the sovereign citizen movement before I read a New York times article a couple of days ago that opened my eyes to the movement and how some in that movement have attacked government officials and civil service workers. To fully understand how members of the sovereign citizens movement think, one must know a little about their beliefs.
“Sovereign citizens believe that in the 1800s, the federal government was gradually subverted and replaced by an illegitimate government. They create their own driver’s licenses and include their thumbprints on documents to distinguish their flesh and blood person from a “straw man” persona that they say has been created by the false government. When writing their names, they often add punctuation marks like colons or hyphens.” New York Times Continue reading ‘Sovereign Citizens With a Penchant for Filing Liens’
Paula Deen Discrimination Suit Settled – Racism, Not [Updated w/ Incredible Statement From Lisa Jackson]Published 1, August 24, 2013 Bizarre , Courts , Free Speech , Justice , Media , Society 112 Comments
Tags: Bubba's, Discrimination, Food Network, Jr., Judge William T. Moore, Lady and Sons, Lisa jackson, N Word, Paula Deen, settlement
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
We’ve been following the discrimination suit brought by an employee of restaurants owned by food maven Paula Deen. Lisa Jackson, who is Caucasian, claimed that she was subjected to a racially hostile work environment at Deen’s Uncle Bubba’s and The Lady and Sons restaurants. Jackson alleged that Paula Deen’s brother, Bubba, routinely used derogatory racial epithets and sexually suggestive comments during her working hours as a manager at the restaurant. She also alleged that Deen acquiesced in the treatment and used racist comments herself. A firestorm of negative publicity formed after Deen’s deposition transcript was leaked to the media in which she admitted using the term “nigger” many years ago. Deem lost two national cable television shows and a host of endorsements following the story. Her two video apologies did little to assuage the sentiment that she was a racist.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a photography studio violated the the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding. Vanessa Willock was told that Elane Photography had a moral objection to her gay wedding and sued under the act, which “prohibits a public accommodation from refusing to offer its services to a person based on that person’s sexual orientation.” The case is the latest in a growing number of such conflicts between religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws. Because this is an expressive activity, it raises some difficult questions under the first amendment rights of the owners of Elane Photography, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin. As one justice noted in concurrence, this is “the price of citizenship.” However, there remains the question of the right of citizens not to be forced to express ideas or values with which they disagree. That concern rests on a distinction between an expressive activity like photography and a cab or a movie theater in public accommodation.
Tags: lie detector, Polygraph, Voice Stress Analysis
Submitted by Charlton Stanley, (aka Otteray Scribe) guest blogger
Polygraph tests are 20th-century witchcraft.
-Sen. Sam Ervin (1896-1995)
As the Obama administration and the Department of Justice ramps up the crackdown on security violators and leakers, the whole thing has taken a bizarre turn. There is an ongoing criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie-detector tests. The two men are Doug Williams, who operates Polygraph.com, and Chad Dixon, who had a website called “PolygraphExpert.net” which has been taken down. Chad Dixon has entered a guilty plea, but the charges against him are being kept secret under seal. Dixon faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison; however, prosecutors are asking for a two-year sentence. Williams has not been charged with any crime; at least not yet, but is said to be under investigation. His only publiccomment was to say he has done nothing wrong.
The criminal investigation has not been acknowledged publicly. What little news that has come out is the claim it is meant to discourage criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using so-called polygraph-beating techniques. Several current or former polygraph examiners are alleged to have been providing training materials and classes on how lie detector devices work and how to “beat” them.
Doug Williams and Chad Dixon’s business records were seized. The records are believed to include the names of as many as 5,000 persons who sought advice from the two men. The government claims about twenty of those people applied for positions with the government or government contractors. About half of that group was hired, including one or more getting jobs with the National Security Agency (NSA).
Federal officials have adopted a unique and controversial legal theory that teaching clients how lie detectors work and how to pass the test is a crime, and not protected under the First Amendment.
I find this more than curious. By way of full disclosure, I own a voice stress analysis machine and several biofeedback devices. I first became interested in the detection of malingering, dissimulation and outright lying when I was still in graduate school, and have maintained that interest ever since. Some people lie to look good, and some lie to look bad. Some lie and don’t even know they are lying. Some lie when the truth would serve them better.
In this piece, we will take a look at exactly what it is the Feds are talking about. And we will puzzle about why they want to make it a crime for anyone to teach people how the machines work. Or more accurately, don’t work.
Everyone is familiar with anxiety. Hands sweat, voice trembles, breathing may become more rapid, and the heart races. Many times trembling is visible to the naked eye. Anxiety is a fear reaction. Both the polygraph and voice stress analysis take advantage of these physiological reactions to fear, and take measurements of them. The theory behind both machines is that an anxious person will react. Practitioners of polygraphy and voice stress analysis operate on the assumption that telling a lie will result in a predictable and measurable physiological reaction.
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
A recent study by Columbia University researchers may present a problem for civil libertarians basking in the defeat of Mayor Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban. As many of us know, the NYC mayor proposed and then passed a health rule prohibiting restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas from selling sugary drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces. The New York State appellate division upheld Judge Milton Tingling’s ruling that Bloomberg “eviscerated” the separation of powers doctrine by making an end run around the City Council and presenting the measure to the NYC Board of Health. The city plans to appeal but it is now armed with an important study concerning the effects of sugar on children.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
In what became a highly charged row, Time Magazine Reporter Michael Grunwald posted on twitter “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” After a frantic and very pointed response Mr. Grunwald deleted the post and issued an apology which read “It was a dumb tweet. I’m sorry. I deserve the backlash. (Maybe not the anti-Semitic stuff but otherwise I asked for it.”
Time Magazine issued a statement distancing itself from the controversial tweet. “Michael Grunwald posted an offensive tweet from his personal Twitter account that is in no way representative of TIME’s views. He regrets having tweeted it, and he removed it from his feed.”
The fact that a news reporter of a major publication in the United States advocates the extra-judicial assassination of another person who publishes information to the public is certainly disturbing in itself. But, is it also equally as disturbing that it might be an insight into the mindset of some reporters of their mode of being defenders of the U.S. Government’s and the administration’s practices?
There was a national controversy created recently when a rodeo clown, Tuffy Gessling, put together an act involving a President Barack Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair. The announcer reportedly called out “This bull’s going to get’cha, Obama! He’s gonna get’cha!” The reaction was fierce. Gessling was given a lifetime ban and the announcer, Mark Ficken, resigned. All clowns will now have to go through a “sensitivity training” course after the incident. However, The President of the Missouri Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Mary Radliff is calling for the prosecution of the key players for a hate crime. Radliff’s statements shows how broad this controversial crime has become and how it can now threaten free speech principles.
I have previously discussed the curiosity of California’s Democratic leaders in Congress leading the fight for massive warrantless surveillance and attacks on privacy. California Senator Dianne Feinstein has long been viewed as hazard to civil liberties from her knowledge of the torture program to consistent support for the expansion of a security state system. Feinstein is now back in that ignoble role this week, fighting to limit the meaning of journalist to prevent bloggers and others from being able to claim protections from surveillance or compelled testimony. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has joined Feinstein in seeking to define most people out of protections for media.
Below is my column this morning in USA Today on the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan. The trial raises the problem of when you have a defendant who states that he is as guilty as sin under our criminal law but who wants to talk about the sin rather than the crime. It is not the first time we have dealt with unhinged self-represented defendants but Hasan is more unsettling than just another fool for a lawyer.
We have been following the effort by countries like Iran and China to block access to particular sites viewed as anti-Islamic or anti-social. However, I have heard from a couple U.S. government employees that, since the Snowden disclosures, their agencies have blocked access to the Guardian website. When they try to get on to the site at the Energy Department for example it is simply blocked. I am trying to get answers from the Administration but wanted to ask some of our regulars for help on these reports.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As you know part of my contribution as a guest blogger has been the fact that I write much from personal experience. This particular blog is one that I’ve thought about for awhile and have had some trepidation in writing because as you will see it touches on a very sensitive topic for most males. As a boy coming of age in the 1950’s one of the unvoiced, but omnipresent topics was male homosexuality. For a male growing up in that period, among the most upsetting epithets you could be called was queer. This was especially disturbing for those entering puberty, which in the 50’s context was coming into the macho essence of your own self worth. If you were queer you were deemed to be less of a male, a wimp, a fag and most essentially a loathsome pervert who did disgusting things with other males. People were bullied and beaten at school while being called degrading names. Even though I was always big for my age, I was a gentle and sensitive boy and while when attacked I would always fight back, I would be throwing punches through tears of frustration and rage at the injustice of it all. As I cried and fought, all those demeaning epithets would be hurled at me by the jeering bystanders. If I had the temerity to be winning, then other boys would attack me from behind. Finally, a teacher or Administrator would break it up, many times though my rescuer would sneer at the fact that my crying was “unmanly”. Continue reading ‘Call Me Queer’
We have been following the threats to arrest gay athletes in Russia under the new anti-homosexual laws of the Putin regime — a threat repeated recently by a minister despite assurances from the International Olympic Committee. One official however suggested it may be suspended for the games. Now there are reports The Putin governments alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed itself in the abusive prosecution of the band Pussy Riot as well as the crackdown on gays and lesbians. Now these reports detail videotapes of gay men being forced to drink urine and abused as a “cure” of their homosexuality.
The Atlantic Magazine has an interesting article out this week on a little known effort by the Administration to stop Americans from listening to a speech in Mexico by Leon Trotsky that would be transmitted over a telephone line. Assistant Solicitor General Golden W. Bell wrote the memo below stating that the Administration had no such authority. That was before the Office of Legal Counsel and the rest of the Department became more ambitious and less principled. Today they can find interpretations to allow the circumvention of the separation of powers, the assassination of citizens, the establishment of a torture program, and the maintenance of an Imperial Presidency.
Russian Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov is promising to arrest Olympic athletes found to be in violation of the country’s new abusive anti-gay law. The “gay propaganda” law has led many to call for the games to be shifted from Russia since the host country would arrest athletes who are openly gay. In the meantime, a boycott of Russian vodka has picked up steam around the world in protest of the crackdown on gays and lesbians.
Raif Badawi, who started the ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to a Saudi “court” to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for his engaging in free speech. It is the latest outrage from our closest Arab ally. Yet, we continue to treat Iran as part of the axis of evil while our allies deny basic rights and enforce draconian Medieval laws against dissidents and non-believers.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
Most are aware of the situation Eric Snowden faces: stranded essentially in a legal and diplomatic limbo the result of a protracted effort by the US government to arrest him by pulling nearly all diplomatic stops out. To encourage the Russians to deny him asylum and convey him to the United States for trial, is a letter promising to provide Mr. Snowden due process of law from an administration widely criticized to respect those rights to be believed? Or is it that they can have credibility given the allegations of abuse of the rights to privacy of the American citizenry by data mining their private information, the activities of which Mr. Snowden is alleged to have revealed?
Continue reading ‘Mr. President, We Must Not Allow a Data-mine Credibility Gap.’
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
What does a large Oil Company do when it is ordered to pay a $19 Billion dollar judgment to a country and its indigenous communities that were ravaged by the drilling and leaks caused by the Oil Company? If that Oil Company is Chevron, it cries foul and does everything possible to avoid having to pay for its corporate sins.
“Advocates for the plaintiffs in the Chevron case say that subpoenaing the email records is the company’s latest nuclear tactic to win a lawsuit it keeps losing. Chevron was ordered to pay $9 billion in damages in 2011 and to issue a public apology. After the company refused, a judge ordered the damages to double. The Supreme Court has declined to hear Chevron’s appeal.” Mother Jones Continue reading ‘An Oil Company Just Spilled the First Amendment’
Tags: Anti-propaganda, Language, Propaganda
“Darkness isn’t the opposite of light, it is simply its absence.” – Terry Pratchett
As we’ve previously discussed in the Propaganda Series, The Sound of Silence, propaganda is not always language or images. Sometimes it is the lack of words. It is just as important to “listen to what is not said” as it is to “listen to what is said”. Sometimes though, propagandists try to time travel. They employ a tactic in an attempt to change the present by attempting to change the past. I say “attempt” for reasons that will be clear soon enough.
When a propagandist tries to pull off this particular trick, they don’t need a fancy machine or a black hole or a magic potion as is the staple trope of science fiction and fantasy time travel. They need nothing more complicated than a pen or a typewriter. In the present, a word processor and some basic HTML coding skills will serve that purpose. Maybe Photoshop or GIMP. When a propagandist tries to change the present by changing the past, they don’t call it time travel. No. They don’t call it anything, because they really hope you don’t notice what they are doing. Silence will work often, but they are not above a bit of misdirection. Well executed propaganda does, after all, have much in common with stage magic.
When we citizens and media consumers catch their slight of hand, we don’t call it time travel either. We call it historical revisionism. Just this week, the Obama Administration was caught red-handed doing precisely that in relation to the Edward Snowden case.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
There has been a large volume of discussion on this blog concerning the loss of our personal liberties and constitutional freedoms. One of the most important of those “freedoms” that seem to be at risk is the Freedom of the Press, especially in light of recent events.
“Following the amendment of a long-standing U.S. law, people in this country will now be exposed to news which is produced by the U.S. government. On Jul. 2, a change to the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act, also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, came into effect, reversing a ban on the State Department and U.S. international broadcasting agencies which had prevented them from disseminating their program materials within U.S. borders. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal government agency which oversees all U.S. government-supported media internationally, notes that individuals residing in the U.S. will now have access to vast amounts of new information.” Nation of Change Continue reading ‘Is Freedom of the Press Dead?’
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As erudite and informed as I pretend to be, the fact is that there is much that is important that I either miss, or fail to see any significance in. The death of investigative reporter Michael Hastings showed me that because my first reaction to the news flash was “who is Michael Hastings?” Reading further into the story I discovered that he was the reporter who brought down General William McChrystal and that he was considered to be one of America’s premier investigative journalists. As I read that original story, the thought occurred to me that possibly Hastings’s death in an auto “accident” was not simply a case of reckless driving, but I initially dismissed that as merely the operation of my cynical mindset. Nevertheless, the thought nagged at the back of my consciousness and then I saw a story on http://whowhatwhy.com/ , my favorite investigative website, run by the renowned Russ Baker. The stories title: “The Michael Hastings Wreck-Video Evidence Offers a few Clues” http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/07/14/the-michael-hastings-wreck-video-evidence-offers-a-few-clues/
For my own benefit and perhaps yours, I’ve done a little research into who Michael Hastings was and what he did that deserves attention. I explore the possibility that his death was no accident. I admit that I have no proof beyond speculation. Hopefully I can give you enough information to make your own judgments. In a world where American Presidents openly arrogate to themselves the right to kill people deemed enemies of the United States, all things suddenly become possible. When the basic right of habeas corpus can be denied to American citizens, based upon unproven allegations of their being threats to this country, isn’t it possible for those with the power to detain and to eliminate individuals, to make decisions as to someone’s existence doing harm to this country? Finally, doesn’t this unconstitutional expansion of powers give individuals with government connections the leeway to take revenge on those who expose them? While I’m not privy to knowledge of the actions of those in power and can claim no inside information, I certainly can speculate based on the experience of my lifetime. This then is my speculation about the death and life of Michael Hastings in the context of current life in these United States. Continue reading ‘What Happened to Michael Hastings?’
We have been discussing the collapse of the American civil liberties movement and the attacks on the free press and privacy under the Obama Administration. As discussed in prior columns, we continue to refer to the United States as the “land of the free” despite a comprehensive reduction of civil liberties and due process in this country. The Snowden affair has put that record in sharp relief as the White House and Congress has joined together in barring the prosecution of perjury by high ranking officials and pursuing Snowden with close to unhinged rage. As previously discussed, our governing class has created a new American Animal farm. Long ago, American politicians adopted a type of dismissive paternalism toward the public as shepherds to so many sheep. Then one sheep goes and spooks the flock. The response has been bipartisan rage that has included demands to cut off aid to entire nations if they grant sanctuary to this whistleblower and even boycott the Olympics. The shepherds want Snowden made into mutton for stampeding the flock and no measure appears too extreme. Now Jimmy Carter has entered the fray and said what many citizens are saying in denouncing our duopoly. Carter told Spiegel “America has no functioning democracy.” Of course, you have to live in Germany to read such views.
We have interesting case this week out of Canada that raises the limits of free speech and the use of decency or morality laws. The Canadians have criminally charged the owner of a website for the posting of a horrific video showing the murder of an individual by Luka Magnotta (left) and then sexual relations with the corpse of Jun Lin (right). The concern is that the site owner is being charged with “corrupting morals” a largely undefined crime and has traditionally been used to impose and enforce the moral values of the majority on people who do not share them. It is the natural extension of laws prohibiting the publication or possession of obscene materials, a long controversy in this country as well.
Continue reading ‘Canadians Charge Website Operator With Obscenity Over Publication of Murder Video’
In a disappointing concession by Twitter, the company has agreed to hand over the details of people who post racist and anti-Semitic abuse anonymously on its site. We previously discussed the effort of Jewish students to strip anonymity from posters and punish people for using language that they consider anti-Semitic. It is in my view another major attack on free speech – part of a worldwide reduction of free speech rights.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
Would a future administration entertain the idea of making a fundamental break from some of the misdeeds of administrations past? That it would be substantial, or not, remains to be seen. One such topic for discussion can be the issue of Bradley Manning.
As most of the readers here are aware, Bradley Manning is a soldier who is imprisoned for his alleged leaking of vast numbers of diplomatic cables concerning the United States diplomatic service’s sensitive correspondence along with equally vast numbers of logs relating to the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has plead guilty to ten of these charges and is awaiting a verdict on several others having severe penalties such as Aiding the Enemy. Those documents found way to the website WikiLeaks and then to the public in various avenues, causing much embarrassment and alarm on behalf of the US Government and military.
A full spectrum of thought encompasses the reaction of this, with very vocal groups labeling him from a hero to a whistleblower to a traitor, often using the same information as supporting evidence. But with regard to a Greater Good, should Bradley Manning receive a pardon?
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As I write this I’ve just read a story in the New York Times about the U.S. threatening countries in South America to not grant asylum to Edward Snowden. In typical “Times” fashion these countries are characterized as “leftist” mavericks against the assumed U.S. hegemony in that vast continent. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/world/americas/us-is-pressing-latin-americans-to-reject-snowden.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp . The attitude of the story is that these countries by resisting our government’s pressure are acting in a petulant manner. This is typical of the mindset of many supposed journalists today who are unable to put in context the history behind the actions of certain players on the world stage. What it highlights for me is that there seems to be unprecedented pressure by our government to capture and punish Mr. Snowden for his “crimes”. With my admittedly jaundiced view of much of the history of my country in my lifetime, the attempt to take Snowden down for his “crimes” makes sense if you put into the context of American history with respect to foreign relations and how foreign relations has impacted the growing unconstitutional treatment of United States citizens at home and abroad. Since this is a huge topic deserving of many tomes and therefore doesn’t lend itself to the guest blog format, my piece will present my own impressionistic view of the interaction between foreign policy and the growth of the American Police State since World War II, which can be expanded, abetted or contradicted by you the reader.
For all practical purposes the Second World War began with the almost total loss of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. While it was known that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had actively been trying to aid Great Britain in its struggle against the Axis Powers in Europe, the American Congress was skeptical of foreign involvement and there was a large “isolationist” strain in the American people. The devastation of Pearl Harbor shocked the nation into realizing that it had to focus upon the rest of the world and awakened within the country a strong thirst for revenge. I say this not disparagingly since were I alive at the time, I would have been one with this national outrage and blood-lust. The problem with arousing such a strong emotional call for action in any society is that in the frenzy to act, societal norms are often breached in the name of expediency. In the case of our country World War II planted the seeds of the Corporate/Military/Intelligence Complex (CMIC) that is reaching full flower today. What follows is my personal overview of this development since that embattled time and why this government has such a great need to crush Edward Snowden for his deeds. Continue reading ‘Who Do You Trust, US or Your Lying Eyes?’
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
There is nothing more malleable than the mind of a child. Their minds are like sponges, absorbing everything they come in contact with. Previously, we’ve discussed the power of moving images as propaganda, including propaganda aimed at children. Film and video can also be used to educate as illustrated by excellent children’s programs such as Sesame Street. The benefits of this technology in that regard is unquestionable. But what happens when education becomes indoctrination? What happens when the lessons taught are hatred and intolerance? Does this cross the line from education into political propaganda? A recent story raises this very issue and others.
“The Andrew Show” is a crudely produced show viewable on YouTube. It’s not just crude in the sense of production values, although it is that. It is crude in content as well. Subtitled “A Show For White Kids”, the show promotes the White Supremacist views of the Ku Klux Klan. This is no surprise considering the young host of the show is Andrew Pendergraft, the grandson of Thomas Robb. If you don’t know Robb by name, he’s the National Director for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Pastor of the Christian Revival Center.
I invite you to look for yourself at some of the videos below and ask yourself should there be additional limits to political free speech?
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
While I‘ve been trying to take a break from all politics and news as I bask in the glow of my family staying with me this week, I’ve nonetheless been fascinated by the fall of Egyptian President Morsi, in what must be described as a military coup. I’ve never been a fan of coups as I expect is true of most of us, yet the fall of Morsi has raises issues that I think are far more nuanced than appear on the surface. The salient facts are that after too many years the corruption of the government of Hosni Mubarak (who had been installed by the Egyptian military) led to severe economic issues and dissatisfaction with totalitarian rule. This then led to such massive protest that the military felt compelled, or justified to remove him. Mubarak’s removal was cheered, but then the clamor for free elections arose and after 18 months of martial law elections were held, as the first step towards transitioning to democracy and formulating a constitution.
The Society of Muslim Brothers, or Muslim Brotherhood was:“Founded in Egypt in 1928as a Pan-Islamic, religious, political, and social movement by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna,” It’s stated purposes was to: “to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for …ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood In a country such as Egypt, with its’ long history of totalitarian rule, the concept of political parties was not strong. Through its 85 years history the Brotherhood became the most stable opposition faction in the Egyptian political scene and was the main focus for opposition to whoever ruled Egypt by dint of the Egyptian Military’s backing. Such has been the success of the Muslim Brotherhood that it has branched out to have a significant presence in 20 nations around the world, many without a Muslim majority, such as the Russian Federation, the Indian Subcontinent, Great Britain and the United States. Therefore when the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 took place, the now legal “Brotherhood” was in an excellent position to vie for political power and formed the “Freedom and Justice Party” as its electoral arm. It won more than 40% of the parliamentary seats and its candidate Mohamed Morsi won election as President with 51.73% of the vote. His chief opponent had been a man who served as Mubarak’s Prime Minister. The Egyptian voters were faced, I think, with a “Hobson’s Choice” of Presidential candidates and chose what they perceived to be the lesser of two evils. Sound familiar? What I will attempt to examine here is a question which is framed as: “Are Religious Fundamentalists capable participating in a pluralistic democratic society?” Continue reading ‘Morsi, Democracy and Problem with Fundamentalist Politics’
We have previously discussed stolen valor cases where police arrest people for pretending to be former decorated veterans and heroes. But what if the man is not only the police but the police chief? When Robert Kerkorian joined the Waukegan, Ill., police department 26 years ago, he said that he was a Navy Seal (a common claim for stolen valor cases). That may have remained his secret until he was promoted to chief and a little checking led to a big embarrassment. Kerkorian was in the Navy for only six months and never even made it to Seal training.
We previously discussed the case of Jeff Olson, Chalk Menace. Olson, 40, was charged with an excessive 13 counts for writing a protest on the sidewalk in front of a Bank of America location. A former aide to the U.S. Senator from Washington, Olson used water-soluble statements like “Stop big banks,” and “Stop Bank Blight.com” outside Bank of America branches last year to protest the company’s practices. The bank’s security contractor (a former police officer) demanded charges from the police and prosecutor who hit the protester with charges that would have allowed 13 years in prison. After Olson was dragged into court, the judge barred him from even mentioned terms like “free speech” or “the first amendment.” I am happy to report that a California jury made quick work of this excessive prosecution and acquitted Olson. It appears that, even with the gag of the court, the jurors could recognize free speech when they saw it.
The Chalk Menace: Pennsylvania Man Charged With Writing On Public Sidewalk In Front Of Governor’s MansionPublished 1, June 28, 2013 Bizarre , Criminal law , Free Speech , Politics , Society 29 Comments
It appears there is a thin chalk line between us and anarchy. Police in various states are cracking down on a criminal epidemic sweeping the nation: sidewalk chalk protesters. We just discussed the case of a California man who was not only arrested but hit with 13 charges for writing protests in chalk in front of a Bank of America. Now in Pennsylvania, a blog is reporting that AJ Martin, a health care protester, has been arrested for disorderly conduct for writing the above statement on the public sidewalk in front of the home of Governor Tom Corbett.
After the historic victory in the Windsor case, gay state Rep. Brian Sims (left), D-Philadelphia, rose to speak about the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act on the floor of the Pennsylvania House. He did so during a time when members are allowed to discuss any subject of importance. However, he was blocked by Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe who objected on the basis that any such comments would constitute a “rebellion against . . . God.”
Amnesty International has issued a statement criticizing the Obama Administration’s prosecution of Edward Snowden. While the media has largely yielded to demands from the White House not to call Snowden a “whistleblower,” Amnesty International views him in this light and specifically objects to the use of the Espionage Act by the Obama Administration in this case. I discuss the charges against Snowden in a column today in USA Today.
A troubling conviction has now become a troubling precedent for the first amendment. A right-wing Internet radio host, Harold C. Turner, was earlier convicted of threatening three federal judges. Turner, 48, posted comments attacking the three appeals court judges who had upheld a ban of handguns in Chicago. He was charged with a single count of threatening to assault or kill the judges with the intent of impeding their official duties. The referenced judges testified against Turner. They are Judges Frank Easterbrook, William Bauer, and Richard Posner. Now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld the conviction in decision that could expose more speech to criminal penalties.
Tags: Food Network, N Word, Paula Deen
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
I never much liked Paula Deen’s cooking. Filled with butter and gravies and things like Krispy Creme Donuts for hamburger buns, Paula seemed too culinarily eccentric … to foodie excessive … too health oblivious even for a southern cook in 1813 much less 2013. Her story though, like her southern twang, had a certain charm to it: single mother of two left penniless makes ends meet by selling food-to-go out of her home kitchen and works her butt off until she reached the top of the sundae’s cherry with three shows on the Food Network and some spin off shows for her two sons.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
The election of Barack Obama, a Black Man, was certainly a landmark for this country with its history of slavery and of oppression of those considered non-Whites. That history includes the treatment of Native Americans which was replete with deception, broken treaties and examples of outright genocidal behavior. The history is also one of ethnic and religious prejudice that was heaped upon the waves of immigrants “welcomed” to our shores. The American heritage of bigotry in thought and language was never limited to the vile epithets of “Nigger”, “Spic”, “Savage” and “Chink” commonplace and accepted through the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. We also had “Mick”, “Polack”, “Heinie”, “Kike”, and “Wop” considered acceptable, common parlance. Many dismissed the use of these derogatory terms as being merely good natured banter and descriptive terminology. For those to which these terms were directed though, they stung deeply. These were people trying to become accepted in a new land and who had for the most part fled their native countries to escape poverty and oppression. They came to America seeking “freedom” and financial stability. These immigrants yearned for acceptance and each instance of others characterizing them by their ethnicity, or religion, came as a blow to their self-esteem.
While the majority of Americans no doubt look back upon the prejudices of those times with discomfort and embarrassment, it is human nature to try to diminish these histories and the unpleasant picture they paint of this country. My grandparents immigrated to America before the turn of the 20th Century. They came from Hungary or Poland depending on where the borders were set in different eras. They were Jews, born to poverty and oppression in Eastern Europe coming here to build a better life for themselves and for their children. My paternal grandfather was a tailor and came to this country with some children and with a marketable skill. I never met him, since he died before I was born, but was honored to be his first male namesake in the Jewish tradition of only naming after the dead. All the stories I heard about him told that he was intelligent, warm and gentle. My maternal grandfather was an orphan, who came to America at age 11. He was in the dry goods business at that age. He described to me how he had to literally fight his way towards success, which he achieved. Both my Maternal and Paternal families each had 9 children so I had a total of 16 Aunts and Uncles. Unlike some of his older siblings, my father was born in America. He described to me life in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and the ethnic warfare that took place between the various neighborhoods. My father was a large man and a brawler in his youth, which from his perspective was a necessity of his times. I was born near the end of World War Two into an America where the ongoing hatred of Jews was decreasing, nevertheless I did experience some of that prejudice even in Junior High School, where I was called a “Christ Killer” and subjected to various jokes ridiculing Jews.
pNo doubt many among our readers can relate similar histories of the tribulations suffered because of their heritage ethnicity and religion. Stories handed down to them by their families. This is a fact of the history of America and no euphemistic retelling of history can erase it. This was the true “melting pot” of our country. For the most part though, whether the ethnicity was Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, etc. there was one saving grace and that was the color of our skin. When I was younger I had blond hair, I still have blue eyes and my last name has little ethnic identity. Many people who’ve met me in my life have been surprised that I was Jewish, taking me for Irish or Scandinavian, which had become acceptable ethnicities. Those of European Heritage, born of immigrants, they were able to eventually escape that initial prejudice because they were White and they could further escape their ethnicity by changing their last names if they desired. This fluidity has never been available to non-Whites and to my mind it still isn’t fully available, despite those who would hold up our President as proof that such bigotry is a thing of the past and that non-Whites face life in our country on an equal footing. Continue reading ‘Post Racial America?’
We have seen a continuing array of spins by the White House and its allies to excuse the massive assault on privacy in the recently revealed warrantless surveillance programs. This effort has included perjury by high-ranking officials, an effort to redefine privacy in a new surveillance-friendly image, ever increasing claims of averting “plots” and misdirection toward other “threats” to privacy. However, one of the consistent claims has been that no content of communications was reviewed — an argument that itself is fallacious. Now however it appears that even that assurance is false. There are various reports that the content of the warrantless communications was accessible. Now, it has also been confirmed that there are two documents dated July 2009 and signed by Attorney General Holder allows the NSA to use “inadvertently acquired” communications.
Continue reading ‘Report: NSA Allowed To Use “Inadvertently Acquired” Communications’
We previously discussed the case of Jared Marcum, 14, who was suspended and arrested for wearing a t-shirt supporting the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association. While many of us derided the arrest of a student (and the continuation of a trend toward criminalizing our schools), most people assumed that some adult supervision would kick in at the police or prosecution offices and toss out the charges. Think again. We live in a world where adults no longer show such independent thought or discretion. Marcum is now formally charged with obstructing an officer and faces a $500 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.
This is one of those stories that can put some in a difficult position. On one hand, it seems like progress that a hateful Islamic Cleric was sentenced for destroying a Bible in light of the litany of prosecutions of people for insulting Islam. However, in the end, it is simply the same denial of free exercise and free speech under blasphemy laws. Whether it is a Koran or a Bible, the act (as hateful and obnoxious that it is) remains an exercise of free speech and should be protected as a basic human right.
Egypt Denies Basic Civil Liberties To Its People . . . The United States Responds With $1.3 Billion In Military Aid For GovernmentPublished 1, June 18, 2013 Constitutional Law , Free Speech , International , Society 95 Comments
This week President Barack Obama ordered the intervention into yet another war after Syria crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons against its own people. However, over in Egypt, denying civil liberties and free speech appears no barrier to U.S. aid. In the very same week as using human rights to justify another intervention, the Obama Administration quietly approved $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Egypt. Both Israel and Egypt continue to receive billions in such aid every year despite the reduction or termination of basic environmental, educational, and other programs in the United States.